Human Sexuality: Essential Definitions

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I found that many of the words associated with the topics of Human Sexuality and Redeemed Personhood have been altered to the point of having no real usefulness in communicating at all. Therefore, I begin with a post of essential definitions of the terms and words that will be used throughout this series.

Humanity

The term humanity refers to the collective whole of the human race. Humanity includes all of the human beings that have ever existed, do now exist, or will ever exist. I am using the word as a logical term representing a singular concept that encompasses all human-beings that have ever lived in all time and all places.

Human-Being

Being means existence. A human being, therefore, is one that has human-existence. Being can also mean the nature or essence of something. A human-being is any, all, and only creatures created in the image of God. A human being is composed of soul, spirit, and body (Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Thess. 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).

Person

By person, I mean a being or an individual that has moral, rational, volitional, and relational capabilities intrinsic to their essence – whether they are created (as in human-persons) or eternally self-existent (as in the Trinitarian Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Human persons are image-bearing creatures; that is,  they bear the image of God. The term human-person includes – both acknowledged-persons and embryonic-persons.

Acknowledged Person

By acknowledged persons, I mean individuals (people) that are philosophically acknowledged to be persons. I mean those individuals that have the capabilities of rationality, moral reason, volition, and consciousness/self-consciousness. By acknowledged persons, I also mean legal persons. Legal persons are individuals who are protected by the laws of nations, governments, legislation, and societies (Genesis 9:6).

Embryonic Persons

Embryonic persons are actual persons, but not always acknowledged persons. Embryonic persons are those persons that have not yet experienced their own intrinsic (essential to the nature of) personhood. Although an embryonic person exists in a ‘seed state’ of experiential personhood, within that seed is a human person created in the image of God that has moral, rational, volitional, and relational capabilities intrinsic to his or her essence (Psalm 139; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15).

From the outset it is crucial to understand that the image of God does not evolve or develop in a person – it is what makes a person – a person. God is the ultimate Person, the ultimate Being. He is the one that put the person into personhood, the being into a being human (human-beings). He did this by imprinting his image onto our souls. At the point in time in which a new-being that bears the image of God comes into existence – we have a human-person, a human-being. The defining trait of humanity is image-bearing. It is what separates us from the rest of the created order (Genesis 1:26-28,3:20, 5:1, 9:4-6).

It is obvious that an embryonic person has yet to develop into full experiential personhood. However, embryonic persons are no less real human-persons than fully matured persons are, since personhood is about bearing the image of God, and not about the full experiential expression of that image. (And really, an idea like unfulfilled experiential personhood makes sense, if we think about it. The only human-person that ever fully experienced or expressed the image of God in human form was Jesus Christ – the only Begotten of the Father, the Incarnate Word.) (Exodus 21:22-25; Judges 13:4-6; Psalm 139:13-16; Luke 1:15, 31-35, 44; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 1:1-4).

Human Sexuality

Human sexuality is one of the two divinely created sexual states-of-being (human being) that intrinsically and inextricably belong to a male human-being image-bearer or a female human-being image-bearer. Human sexuality is possessed from the point of conception. The term encompasses the biological (genetic/physical), psychological (mental/emotional), as well as the spiritual dimensions and properties uniquely and particularly characteristic to and of human-males and human-females. The term itself does not refer directly to the social, cultural, or functional expressions of the distinctions within the human-bisexuality (male / female distinction), but it may carry the connotation of such concepts (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:5-25).

Gender

Gender is technically the sexual state of either being male or female. However, the term carries with it the heavy connotation of the social and cultural out-workings of human sexuality. As such, the term is subject to changes in its meaning that correspond to the social and cultural constructions and deconstructions of sexuality and activity. Gender is frequently used in the context of a person’s sexual orientation, identity, preferences, behavior, or practices.

Sexual Essence.

Sexual essence has to do with the intrinsic nature and indispensable qualities of our sexuality – it specifically refers to the abstract dimension of our sexuality, but obviously the term includes the physical / biological implications of our sexuality as well.

Sexual Ethic

Sexual ethic has to do with how we affirm, deny, apply, and evaluate the moral appropriateness of our sexual practices and activities as sexual-relational beings. As Christians, we have God’s word as the standard by which we make those evaluations.

This post series is primarily concerned with the sexual essence of humanity – i.e., what it means to be a male image-bearer or a female image-bearer. I hope these definitions help us as we consider these topics.

Other posts in the  Human Sexuality & Redeemed Personhood Series:

Introduction

From Sexual Ambiguity to Ontological Uncertainty

Next Post: The Image of God 101.

From Sexual Ambiguity to Ontological Uncertainty

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This post was written as a prelude of sorts to the series Human Sexuality & Redeemed Image-Bearing Series. It is me sharing a little bit of my life experience and how it has fostered in me a particular desire to understand issues regarding human sexuality and female image bearing specifically. It is an explanation of my personal interest in this topic, it is not part of this study per se. But, for any who are interested, it is an opportunity to get an idea of where I am coming from on this issue and why I have made such efforts to understand this topic.

Sexual Ambiguity

Having been raised in a home deeply impacted and driven by a feministic agenda, I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to untangle the subtle strands of what I would call a psychological sexual ambiguity. In the home that I grew up in, there was no clear distinction between male and female. There were, of course, the obvious physical differences, but beyond that differences between the two sexes were neither acknowledged or encouraged. Generally, sexuality was understood to be a matter of sexual practice, and masculinity and femininity were defined in terms of lust and desirability.

My mother had more education, a better job, and made more money than my father did (at least in the early years). For the most part, my father was the more emotionally intuitive parent that often played the role of both mother and father – cooking dinner when he wasn’t working, doing the food shopping on the weekends, attending school meetings, and doing what he could to pull the family together. On the other hand, my mother was a tough, no-nonsense sort of woman that prioritized her career and education. Although she tried, she generally found that childcare, housework, and the domesticated life were frustrating, overwhelming, and boring. 

As a public-school student in the eighties, I was constantly bombarded with the message that girls could do anything boys could do – and probably even better than a boy could do it. Women’s rights, education, and the pay-scale divide between men and women in our country were common topics in literature, curriculum, and in the class-room. Women were tired of being ‘stuck’ with the kids, relegated to second-in-command, and making less money than their male counterparts for the same jobs. The repeated refrain for girls was ‘get your education’ and ‘do whatever you have to do to get a good job.

The Battle of the Sexes

Marriage and a family were the furthest things from my mind, and being a female seemed to me to mean that I was in a cosmic battle of the sexes. A battle that women had been losing for years – and it was on my generation ‘to right the ship’ and win the war! I think that we were supposed to become the men that our mothers wanted to marry….

Anyhow, after highschool, I enlisted in the army. And after taking the ASVAB test, I was given the option of becoming a chaplain, a police officer, or a fire-fighter. I chose fire-fighting. I had never thought about fire-fighting a day in my life, but I knew that I didn’t like church people or cops – so the choice was easy.

At that time the military had just made a transition in how they were training their fire-fighters – they had adopted the National Fire Protection Standards and built a new multi-military training facility. I was one of the first female recruits to be trained to the new standards. Unexpectedly, I became the first female recruit to complete the training with no interruptions in the training cycle or mandatory restarts. (Most females were not able to complete the arduous physical requirements of the training. Although, from what I understood, there was one experienced professional female firefighter that underwent the training program successfully.)

My success in the training – as well as my easy adjustment to military life- went right along with what I already believed about men and women: there were no real differences between them. For all intents and purposes, on an emotional and mental level, I was sexual ambiguous.

I believed that there was no male or female per se, we were all just people – people with guy-bodies and people with girl-bodies. And, if anyone had asked me if there was a difference between a man and a woman, I would probably have responded by saying that the only real difference was that women were unfairly treated by being underpaid and undervalued. Knowing how audacious I could be back then, I might have even added that as a female firefighter for the Army, I had just won a small but decisive victory in the battle of the sexes.

He Treated Me Like a Lady

However, the Lord had other plans for me.

Around that time, I became a Christian. When I started attending church, I noticed that among church people there seem to be an intentional difference in how men and women behaved. I felt out of place and not really part of this new sexually diverse world. I felt most comfortable in tight fitting jeans, a flannel shirt, and combat boots – not a dress, flower prints, and matching heels. I wasn’t offended by the difference between me and the ‘church girls’ – but I knew that I wasn’t one of them.

After about a year of avoiding people at church, I met my husband (to be). Ironically, he came from a family of fire-fighters. Our earliest conversations were about taking a civil service test for the Boston Fire Department. He was a Christian, respected what I said, and wasn’t insecure about my job in the Reserves as a firefighter.

Most significantly, he was gentlemen. He opened the door for me, helped me take my coat off, and pulled the chair out for me to sit at dinner. Something made him different than all the other men that I had ever known. He never said anything inappropriate and always paid for dinner when we went out (there was no ‘Going Dutch’). In short, he was a man, and he treated me like a lady.

And, much to my own surprise, something about me wanted to ‘be a lady’ when I was with him. I felt bashful when he opened the door for me and happy when he complimented “the red in my hair.” I was free to be quiet when I was with him, free to have strong opinions or free to have no opinion at all. It felt uncomfortable at first (being treated with such deference), but I didn’t want it to stop. And, something deep inside of me knew that I had finally met someone who was (as the song goes) ‘strong enough to be my man.’ It is no wonder that we were married less than six months later.

When I married, I wholeheartedly embraced the role of wife and mother – I was relieved that I didn’t have to prove myself by doing what men did. My husband provided for me to stay home and study the Word, pray, and serve in the church as I desired to do so. I quite happily stayed home! I cooked, cleaned, and enjoyed every minute of it. When I gave birth to my first child, a baby girl, I felt that I had finally discovered what I had been created to be. And all in a moment, there was no more sexual ambiguity. I was a wife and a mother. That is, somehow I had come to understand that I was a woman through and through.

Ontological Uncertainty

In the following years, I read many, many books on being a Christian woman. I listened to as many teachings as I could find on Biblical femininity and sought out mentors and older women to “Titus 2” me. All of this, in the hopes of becoming the woman that God had created me to be. But even though I knew that I was created to be a woman and longed to understand femininity, I still didn’t know exactly what being a woman meant.

All of the teaching on Biblical womanhood that I received could be boiled down to two words: biology and function. I became increasingly convinced that true femininity couldn’t be reduced to merely childbearing and submission. (Although in the Lord, I do believe both of those things are beautiful and fitting in their rightful place and time in a woman’s life). But, as the task of teaching my daughters what it meant to be a woman became more of a priority in my life, my desire to understand true womanhood became more important to me. I wondered, if femininity isn’t primarily biological and functional, what exactly is it?

In other words, I wondered what does it mean to be a woman at a soul level? What does it mean to be a female created in the image of God – distinct from being a male created in the image of God? I wondered, are there any essential-to-nature (dare I say ontological?) differences between men and women – differences that have their foundation in the creation account, are easily perceived throughout the Biblical narrative, culminate in the new creation work of Christ, and are present everywhere in all female-image-bearers in varying degrees regardless of their spiritual state?

And so, it was, that I had moved from a state of sexual ambiguity– to a state of ontological uncertainty. And here we are. The rest of the posts in this series are explaining the truths that have helped me move from a state of ontological uncertainty to a state of sanctified sexuality.

Other Posts in the Human Sexuality & Redeemed Image-Bearing Series:

Introduction

Foundations: Sexuality, Gender, Essence and Ethic

 

Human Sexuality & Redeemed Personhood

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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

It seems to me that when it comes to the topic of human sexuality, teaching in the church usually centers on biology and function. Some suggest that the only essential created difference between a man and a woman is the woman’s ability to bear children. Others emphasize the role-relationships between men and women as the only Biblical answer to questions regarding the male/female distinction. And still, others offer no legitimate answers at all to questions such as:

Why did God create humanity as a bisexual creature, i.e., with a male/female distinction?

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

What does it mean to be created in the image of God as distinctly male or female?

Are those differences only biological and functional – pertaining to matters of child-bearing or role-relationships (headship/submission)? Or are we male and female at a soul level?

What is the appropriate Christian perspective on the socially constructed cultural expressions of the sexual distinction between men and women?

Should we embrace, reject, ignore, or attempt to redefine cultural expressions of masculinity and femininity – or are they irrelevant? 

Questions like the ones that I have just listed have been the topic of intense personal study and contemplation for me for about two and a half years now. My increased interest in understanding human sexuality was triggered by a theological debate that at that time was raging in the evangelical world on some issues touching on complementarianism.*

However, the topics of human sexuality and female image-bearing have been something that I have wanted to understand since my earliest day as a Christian (more about this in the next post). But it was the eruption of the complementarian controversy which drove me to a more thoughtful consideration of the matter at hand. As a result of that dispute, I began to study the Trinity, the image of God in man and woman, human sexuality, gender, and other related topics with renewed diligence. You could say that the controversy opened my eyes to my own need to be more careful in my thinking and conversations regarding the male/female distinction.

Redeemed Image Bearing

About a year and a half or so after the genesis of this increased interest, I began to teach a ladies’ Bible study on sanctification. As the Lord so often does, He used my research on the topic of sanctification to drive me to search the Scriptures for a yet even deeper understanding of human sexuality. It was then that I began to search the Scriptures for answers to the following questions:

What does sanctification look like in a man as opposed to a woman?

What does being conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus look like in a woman? After all, Jesus is the God-man, and not a god-woman.

Does redeemed image-bearing look differently in a woman than a man?

What really is holy femininity?

This post-series on Human Sexuality & Redeemed Personhood is my first attempt at putting what I have learned and am learning in these two studies into a written format. Here I will attempt to answer the aforementioned questions (and other related ones) in the following order:

Foundational Thoughts on Human Sexuality and Gender

Why a Bisexual Humanity (a male/female distinction)?

Male and Female in the image of God:

What Is the Image of God?

Female Image-Bearing: Definitions & Implications

Male Image-Bearing: Definitions & Implications

Redeemed Image-bearing and

Redeemed  Personhood

Questions on Sexuality and the New Humanity

Sexual Ethic and Sexual Essence

And, finally,

Pursuing a Sanctified Sexuality.

The first post (after this introductory one) in the series is called From Sexual Ambiguity to Ontological Uncertainty. In this post, I share a little bit of my life experience and how it has fostered in me a desire to understand issues regarding human sexuality and female image bearing in particular. It is an explanation of my personal interest in this topic, it is not part of the study per se. But, for any who are interested, it is an opportunity to get an idea of where I am coming from on this issue.

The last post will include a book/resource list used in my study of this topic.

*2016 Complementarian Controversy Simplified

The controversy was  regarding the legitimacy of using the incorrect understanding of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father as an analogous model for teaching male and female interaction in the home and, by extension, in the church as well. As far as I know, this issue is no longer being discussed with such wild intensity. (It has been a few years. It took me a really long time to feel confident that I understood the issues at hand.) But, read on, if you care to.

There was no argument regarding the obedience of the Son in to the  Father throughout His earthly life (within the Economic Trinity) . Christ the God-man clearly was obedient to the Father and in taking on humanity He humbled himself (1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 2: 6-8; Hebrews 5:7-10).

Some complementarian theologians were saying that it is wrong:

  1. to look at the earthly ministry of Jesus as a means to understanding the  eternal Intra-Trinitarian relationships and conclude that the Son, i.e., the Word (John 1:1), has always been and will always be subordinate to the Father in a way that indicates a hierarchy or pre-eminence of the Father over the Son.
  2. And, thus, further conclude that this form of hierarchal subordination should be used as a social model (paradigm) for the husband / wife relationship (to teach headship / submission).

This would be wrong for a number of reasons, but most importantly, because it would eventually necessitate an essential (ontological) inferiority of the Son to the Father (which, among other things would bring into question the divinity of Christ, thus undermining the doctrine of justification). In other words, if the subordination of the Son to the Father existed in such a way that relegated the Son to anything less than being fully and eternally God in essence and being – than everything that we know about God, or that we thought we knew about God and salvation is for not.

All three members of the Trinity share in one essence equally – there is no second class member of the Trinity – they share equally in majesty, dominion, authority, and power because they are of the same essence. That is the Doctrine of the Trinity: the teaching that God is one in three : three in oneone essence (being) in three persons (personal relations) : three persons (personal relations) in one essence (being).

The church fathers and historic orthodox Christian creeds and confessions have always affirmed the total equality and perfect unity of all three persons of the Trinity: one eternal and undivided essence, one eternal and undivided being, one eternal and undivided will, one eternal and undivided mind, one eternal and undivided heart, etc. etc.

None the less, the same recognized an eternal order within the personal relations of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit. But as one Trinitarian theologian aptly states, “the true order is not a rank, but an orderly disposition. In that order, with no diminution of deity or severance of unity or identity, the Father begets the Son and spirates the Spirit.”

All that to say, the Bible tells us to model our marriages on the Gospel. Ephesians 5:25-33 explains that a man should love His wife as Christ loved the church and that a wife ought to reverence her husband as the church reverences Christ. That paradigm for marriage maybe (at times) hard to emulate in real life, but it is clearly God’s chosen pattern for teaching us how to glorify Him in marriage.

†Letham, Robert. The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship. Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2004. p. 483.

Read the following articles for a greater understanding of this and related issues.

Definitions and Resources:

Complementarianism is an understanding that God created men and women equally in His image, but with different and complementary roles, responsibilities, inclinations, and dispositions for accomplishing His work on earth. This understanding is typically juxtaposed with egalitarianism which is an understanding that that God created men and women equally in His image, but with no distinction of roles, responsibilities, inclinations, and dispositions between men and women. These are simplified definitions. For a more detailed answer see: CBMW.ORG

Immanent Trinity: The Triune God as He actually is, has been ,a nd always will be within Himself – i.e., the being, essence, and nature of the one in three, three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Economic Trinity: The Triune God with reference to the activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in creation, redemption, and human history.

These are simplified definitions. For a more detailed discussion of the Immanent / Economic Trinity, read this article by R.C. Sproul: What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity?

*** Byrd, Aimee (the Housewife Theologian). (2016 June 3). Is it Okay to Teach a Complementarianism Based on Eternal Subordination? and (2016 June 60. Reinventing God [Blog Posts written by Dr. Liam Goligher]. Retrieved 2019 February 25 from:

1.) http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/housewife-theologian/is-it-okay-to-teach-a-complementarianism-based-on-eternal-subordination#.XHP9TuTsZ9B

2.) http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/housewife-theologian/reinventing-god#.XHRO_OTsZ9

Emerson, Matt. (2016 June 20) We Talkin’ ‘Bout Taxis: Nyssa on Order in the Trinity. Retrieved 2019 March 2 from:

https://secundumscripturas.com/2016/06/20/we-talkin-bout-taxis-nyssa-on-order-in-the-trinity/

What We Need to Know

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  (Romans 8:28-29 ESV)
 

We need to know that God is at once supremely good and supremely sovereign, orchestrating everything in our lives to the very good end of being conformed to the image of Christ. I am not talking ‘Christianese’ here. I mean we need to really know it – deep in our souls. I do not mean that we need to ‘know’ this truth in the sense that we offer some thoughtless agreement to something that everyone at church says is true. I mean that we need to really contemplate it and believe it – i.e., hold the truth of God’s good and benevolent control over all things as virtuous, fitting, beautiful, life-giving, life-sustaining, dependable, glorious, lovely, comforting, and most importantly, true.

Knowing this makes living in a broken, fallen world possible for the Christian. It makes our work more meaningful and our relationships more valuable. It is an anchor on the stormy days and a powerful gust of wind in our sails on the bright, glorious days. It is the epic – in an epic life (and in a not-so-epic life, too). It is the absolute – in a life lived to the absolute fullest extent. The end for which the beginning begins, and the beginning which gives us grace for every end that we must endure.

Besides, what is there to hold on to if these things are not true of God? What is faith in Christ if it is detached from Who God has revealed Himself to be in Christ? Or, detached from what He has said He would do for those that are in Christ? Really, what is faith in God if that faith cannot withstand the winds of reality? The reality is that life is hard, this world is seriously messed up, and we don’t always feel like loving others or dying to ourselves. So, what do we do with this reality, if we cannot be assured that God is good and that He has it all under His control?

I mean what do we do when confronted with our frailty, failures, and folly – if we can’t trust that God is in complete control working all these sorts of things together for our good? Or, what do we do when we see the people that we love most in this world making really bad choices and really big mistakes – if we can’t rest in God’s good and wise bestowment of all of life’s providences? What do we do when we can’t do anymore, and yet we know that life requires us to sit up, put our two feet on the ground, and start the day? That is, how can we do this if we don’t believe God’s good promise and gracious power to sustain us, keep us, and provide for us all things needed for life and godliness?

We need to know that God is at once supremely good and supremely sovereign, do you know that? Do you know that He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32) Do you know that even in this moment, God is orchestrating everything in our lives to the very good end of conforming us to the image of Christ? (Rom. 8:28)  Do you believe this truth is virtuous, fitting, beautiful, life-giving, life-sustaining, dependable, glorious, lovely, comforting, and most importantly, true?

Saying Goodbye, For Now.

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On July 4, 2018 my dad passed away. I believe for him it truly was Independence Day – the day that he met his Savior. My dad was a really amazing person. He couldn’t read — until he was an adult. Some thought he was mentally inept, but he was a genius – a real genius. Scoring on the IQ Scale well over 140, he infuriated his teachers who thought that he was just being “lazy” in his studies as a boy. By the time that he retired, he had over 9 patents in his name and he was a self-taught physicist – one that worked for Brown University as a visiting scientist, working with and teaching physics majors.

I loved my dad.

He was an amazing man, and for most of his life, he walked in rebellion to God. But then, he came down with Pulmonary Fibrosis… a fatal disease, not yet well understood.

It was a severe mercy.

In the last year of his life, I was able to spend more than a few weekends with him. (I live about 5 hours from where he lived.) I use to share the gospel with him- sometimes at his bedside in a hospital, sometimes in the quietness of his home.

God  gave me courage. I was so scared, he would be angry with me – and cut me off in his final days ( I have a friend whose Dad did), but he never did. He would listen. Sometimes, I knew he was irritated with me. He wanted me to just “drop it”, just “stop with the Gospel stuff.” But, by God’s grace, I didn’t. I risked his rejection instead.

At the end of his life, he came to know the Lord. Now, I am a Lordship person. So, I do not say that lightly. I do not say that based on some empty “profession” (by the way, please do not send me hate email about my theological position on this matter).

Towards the end of his life,  I had told my dad, “You can be as the holiest man on the face of this earth.” And, (in tears and disbelief) he asked, “Me? How?” And. I responded, ” If you are really sorry for the things that you have done, get rid of you cable box, and spend the rest of your days confessing your sin and praying for the people that you love.”

You know what? The next time that I went to visit him, his cable box was gone.

Anyhow the following is a brief ‘word’ that I shared about my dad at his funeral. God knows that I can not wait to see him. My mother died nine years ago (she also died in July). All that I care about now is living every second for the glory of Christ. It is all that really matters.

And, I thank God for giving me the parents that He gave me, and for forgiving me for all my sin against Him. All that matters now is serving Christ.

I do not know if anyone will ever read this. But, I loved my dad. And, I will always thank God for him.

When I was a girl, I believed that the sun, the moon, and the stars all rose and set around my father. He was my world. If it isn’t too much to say, he was as a god to me. I was happy when he was home, and sad when he had to leave for work. I would pack him lunches for work, putting little notes inside just to tell him that I loved him. Since he worked second shift, I didn’t get to see him much during the week, therefore I often wrote him letters when he was at work, asking him to wake me up as soon as he returned, and then I’d cry myself to sleep while I waited. I have many memories of him waking me and saying, “It’s okay, honey, I’ m home.” And, it seemed to me, that everything was okay – when he was home.

I have so many happy memories with him. He loved to have fun: driving around in the back of his old brown Ford pick-up, bike-riding, kite-flying, trips to the beach, going to the Purple Cow to get an ice-cream, stopping in to see the cousins, visiting with Aunt Vick, Aunt Helen, or Uncle John. It was always something fun and exciting with Dad – (mind you, it wasn’t always something legal, but it was always fun). There was quarry jumping… and then there was the time that we were out riding on the motor-cycle and we happened upon a box of abandoned kittens. Of course, I was riding on back, and he could only fit so many of those little kitties in his coat, so he said, “Here, Beth, you hold these in one arm, and hold on to me with the other.” (I tell you, they were just little kittens, but they were holding on to me for dear life. I can almost feel their little claws digging into my arm and stomach and hear their terrified little meows, as I write this now…” I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything in this world.

Dad loved music – and he instilled in me a love for music, as well. I have so many memories of him playing the accordion and the organ in the front room, while us kids danced around like wild-imps singing and jumping and spinning. I have other memories of him introducing a new song to us that he had just heard – taking us out joy-riding in his Lincoln (He loved that car, didn’t he?), blasting the music and us all singing, “Stand by Me”:

“When the night has come, And the land is dark, And the moon is the only, Light we’ll see, No I won’t be afraid, No I won’t be afraid, Just as long as you stand, Stand by me.

If the sky we look upon, Should tumble and fall, Or the mountain should crumble, To the sea, I won’t cry, I won’t cry, No I won’t she’d a tear, Just as long as you stand, Stand by me.”

As you all know, he was truly one of the funniest people that this earth ever knew, certainly, that I have ever known. He had an incredible wit, he knew human nature, and he could draw a smile out of anyone. He seemed to always know the right thing to say at the right time – to deescalate a situation, or make the outcast feel welcome, or just to bring a smile to your face. He taught me that laughter is good, and that even in sorrow there can be joy.

As you know, he wasn’t a pretentious man. He was who he was. He was okay making mistakes, and he was okay with letting other people make mistakes. He wasn’t the type that was quick to judge, or to criticize unnecessarily. He would give the benefit of the doubt to people for as long as honesty allowed him to do so – and even then, he was slow to point out the faults of others. He always found a way to see the best in people – and overlook the worst.

He was an optimist through and through. I loved that he was an optimist. Last summer, my sons and husband were telling him about a recent experience that they had when they went cliff-jumping. And, he said, “Oh, I have to come out to Pennsylvania, and go cliff jumping with you guys.” Of course, he was on the oxygen tank at the time, but in his optimism, there was a chance that he was going to fix his motorcycle, hook-up his O2 tank to the bike, ride out to Pennsylvania and go cliff-jumping with Dan and the boys. So, even though I haven’t been cliff-jumping since I went with him over twenty-five years ago, I told him that if he really wanted to go jump with the boys, I was willing to jump with him and hold his oxygen tank. I am sure, if he could have figured out a way to do it – he would have.

And, if there was a way to figure out how to rig a motor-cycle with an oxygen tank, take a five hour drive to Pennsylvania, and then do a 50 foot jump into the Delaware River wearing a breathing mask – he would have been the man to figure it out. He was by far one of the most gifted and intelligent men that I have ever known. From him, I learned that there is a way to do almost anything that needs to be done. He intuitively understood things that other people take a life-time of education to begin to comprehend. I loved going into the university, and seeing his work, hearing him explain what he was learning, what his experimentation was teaching the students. His inventions truly did change the world – change technology and impacted our everyday lives in many ways that most of us could never even imagine. And, even though he had been given such an incredible mind and done such amazing things, he could be as humble as a child.

My Dad was one of the most supportive people in my life. When I enlisted in the army, he was sad to see me go – but glad that I went. When I met my husband, he loved him like a son, and he was proud of each of my children – so many memories of him traveling out to see us, laughing with us, and sharing his life and heart with us.

He was no stranger to pain and sorrow. He was a man that knew his own frailties. He was a man that experienced both sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure to their fullest. Several years ago, after one of the lowest times of his life, he had come to visit us. My husband gave him a copy of the Gospel of Luke to listen to on his car-ride home. He listened to the whole thing, and when he got home he decided to read through the New Testament (as you know, he was not a man that read much). Only a few weeks later he called us and told me how amazed he was at who Jesus was – how he never knew that Jesus spent all His free time with the sinners. He was so angry at how Herod and Pilate had betrayed the Lord – after all the wonderful things that the Lord had done for people in His life-time. He couldn’t understand how someone as wonderful as Jesus could die for poor sinners.

And, now Dad understands, better than any of us — better than those of us that have never thought about Christ for one second of our lives, and he understands better than me – someone who has given the last twenty years of my life (more than that, really) thinking about the wonder and the beauty of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for poor sinners like me.

What can I say? I loved my father deeply, and I will miss him terribly. I comfort myself with the knowledge that he has gone with God – and in time, I will go with God, and then I will see him again.”

Don’t ever stop sharing the Gospel. They need to hear it, they need to know the truth – Jesus Christ, God’s Son was crucified, buried, and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins that whoever would believe in Him will be saved. 

Responding Biblically to Power-Players

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“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20, ESV

Before we can respond Biblically to power-players in the church, we must be able to recognize power-play for what it is, and we must be able to resist the temptations of reacting to it in an unbiblical manner. In one sense, recognition and resistance is passive response. However, responding Biblically to sin in the church requires more than discerning recognition and passive resistance, it also calls for loving confrontation.

Not every situation in the church is going to warrant confrontation, and in some circumstances, we are not able to confront the problem as directly as we would like. However, when we can, we will do well to help a brother or sister in the Lord turn away from behavior that harms the church and grieves the Holy Spirit. The following are four steps to responding Biblically to power-play in the church.

  1. Take responsibility personally and corporately to deal with sin. The Word admonishes us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1 ESV). Of course, we must mind our own ‘p’s and ‘q’s first, but then we must be willing to make efforts to restore a brother or sister caught in sin. This takes prayerful confession of personal sin, humble vulnerability, and genuine love for the person that we are confronting.
  2. Reason frankly with your brother. Leviticus 19:17 says, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” This verse goes right along with the New Testament admonitions for conflict resolution among believers (See Matthew 18:15-20; Luke 17:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:15). I choose the Leviticus reference for this point because it emphasizes the truth that reasoning frankly with an offending party is a means to preventing bitterness from taking root in our hearts. We really do need to reason with our brothers and sisters when we are attempting to deal with issues of sin. We need to have concrete examples of sin patterns that the Scripture clearly identifies as sin, and then we must be willing to explain our concerns in a logical, sensible CALM manner. The New Testament teaches that ‘reasoning frankly’ with a brother should first be attempted privately and always in a spirit of meekness.
  3. Allow time for the seed of frank reasoning to germinate in the soul of your brother or sister. If after a reasonable amount of time, you see no change of behavior or attitude, the command of Christ requires that we attempt to confront the professing brother or sister again. The second confrontation should be handled as the first, except we are to take another believer with us (See Matthew 18:15-20). This step, of course, will require that we speak to another believer in the congregation about what we are seeing. In and of itself, it is not gossip or slander to talk about this sort of situation with another believer, but we should be careful that we do not use the necessity to share the details of the circumstance with another believer as an opportunity to sin.
  4. If still, the power-broker is unrepentant then we have no choice but to bring the offense to the church. The way in which we do this will differ from church to church. However, it will likely require bringing the situation to the attention of the leadership of the church and following their lead in the specifics of dealing with the situation from this point forward. Lord willing, all of this will ultimately result in the repentance of the erring brother and the return of harmony to the fellowship (Matthew 18:15-20).

It may be that the power-play is an issue within the leadership of the church. That is tacky and complicated. This is not a situation with which I am, personally, unfamiliar. If this is your situation, I want to encourage you – you are not without recourse. There is yet a higher court to which you can appeal. When Abraham appealed to the Lord on behalf of his nephew Lot, he asked, “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25 ESV). The obvious answer to his rhetorical question is, “Yes! He certainly will, in His own time and in His way.” Until then, we wait. We wait prayerfully, hopefully, humbly, and with wisdom (Luke 18:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 3:13-18; 1 Peter 5:10).

I close this post series with a quote from the 1689 London Baptist Confession. This passage was of great consolation to me when over a three-year period my family was tried in the fires of dealing with power-play in church leadership structures. At the height of our difficulty, my husband and I were counseled by our denominational pastor to read Psalm 55, 56, and 57 together each night. For several months we prayerfully read those Psalms, and they were of great comfort to our souls. But it was this quote from the 1689 that God used most to keep us committed to our church family, despite the very real temptation to throw in the towel and give up on the organized church.

“No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but are to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.” (1689 LBC, Chapter 26, Article 13)

This is the last article in a four post series.

Intro to Power-Play in the Church

Part 1: Recognizing the Satanic Strategies of Power-Play

Part 2: Resisting Power-Play in the Church

Part 3: Responding Biblically to Power-Players

Resisting Power-Play in the Church

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“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

As we saw in the last post, power-play in the church is a satanic scheme intended to bring division among God’s people. Paul says that we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs at work through sin, hurt and unforgiveness in the church (2 Corinthians 2:11). And, James exhorts us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8 ESV). We can resist the devil through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, dependence on the Word of God, and in the strength of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Ephesians 6:10-18; Revelation 12:11). But, what does resisting power-play in the church look like in practical terms?

As we attempt to resist the work of the enemy in our churches, we must first learn to be self-suspicious. We discipline ourselves by asking the hard questions, and then prayerfully answering them. Questions such as: ‘Am I bothered by this behavior because I think that this church or ministry is my kingdom-come?’ ‘Am I too easily offended by this person?’ ‘Is my evaluation of this situation rooted in my pettiness, jealousy, self-centeredness, or my desire for control?’ “Am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill?’ ‘Do I have the good of others and the glory of God in mind as I contemplate this circumstance?’ After honestly answering these questions, we stop meditating on the pettiness of power-brokers in our churches, and we intentionally meditate on our sovereign Lord and His control over all things. We remind ourselves that He is working in all circumstances to the end that He is glorified, and we are sanctified. (Romans 8:28)

Then we must resist all thoughts of taking counter-control measures. We also resist responding in kind to the people that have sinned against us. That is, we resist reacting with proud hostility and foolish carnality. We renounce manipulative behaviors and the tactics of self-pity, resentment, bitterness, outbursts of anger, gossip, or slander. We remind ourselves that both the church and vengeance belong to the Lord (Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 5:23-30). We intentionally choose to be more gracious than we think we should be with people who have hurt us. We maintain a spirit of forgiveness, and a desire to see power-players repent of their foolishness. We choose to love our neighbors and respond to the sins of others in the fear of God. This is hard to do because each denial of the impulses of our flesh is an act of self-mortification. Self-mortification is painful. It often feels humiliating and frustrating. However, by waiting on God in prayerful humility, we will see that God is faithful. He will deliver us at the perfect time, and in such a way that we will thank God for the trial that He has brought into our lives. We will see how God uses these types of painful situations to perfect us in holiness, purify our service, and increase our love for the true church.

At the same time, we must resist apathetic indifference to power-play in the church. We do this by not joining the clique or selling our souls to ‘be in the know’. We seek our commendation from the Lord, not from man. We immediately reprove divisive slander and gossip when exposed to it. We do not turn a blind eye to disappearing sheep. And, we refuse to crumble under the shame, humiliation, manipulation and other shunning tactics of power-players. Overall, we are cautious of developing an ‘if I can’t beat them – I might as well join them’ mentality. This temptation is great. But, the Lord would not have us bow before false Gods, or yield to false teachers for even a moment (Galatians 2:5). Submitting to people that are usurping the authority of Christ is usurping the authority of Christ. There is only one head of the church. There is only one Lord, and it is to Him that each of us will give an account. We must aim to be like Paul, who said, “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 ESV).

Most importantly, we resist the temptation to break covenant with our church family. If we are married women, the decision to stay or leave our church family does not ultimately fall to us. This truth, however, does not change the reality that God has given us the ability to influence our husbands and families for good or for ill. Therefore, so far as we can in the strength of Christ, we maintain a disposition of faith, love, and fidelity to our church families. We resist the urges to obsess, complain, nag, badger, pout, or use any other method in the effort of manipulating our husbands or embittering our children against the church. We also guard our hearts against the desire to break faith with our churches. We must be sober-minded and self-controlled, knowing that our “…adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV). We must resist him by believing the promise of God that “…after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10 ESV).

“How do good men become a part of the regime? They don’t believe in resistance.”         -Josh Garrels, The Resistance

Upcoming Post in this series:

Responding Biblically to Power-Players

More from this post series:

Intro to Power-Play in the Church

Part 1: Recognizing the Satanic Strategies of Power-Play  

Part 2: Resisting Power-Play in the Church

Part 3: Responding Biblically to Power-Players

Recognizing the Satanic Strategies of Power-Play

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“…Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Acts 8:18-24

Power-play in the church has demonic origins. Satan hates the church and is always seeking to destroy her. He has many strategies in this effort. The evil-one uses slander and deception to foster bitterness and unforgiveness among God’s people, thus bringing about division in the church (John 8:44, 10:10; 2 Corinthians 2:10-11, 11:3-4,14; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). Ephesians 6:12 teaches us that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Satan uses human beings in his warfare against God and the church, for he is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). He works through people and circumstances in his attempts to destroy the church (See 2 Corinthians 11: 12-15; 2 Timothy 3: 1-9; 2 Peter 2:1-3,12-16). The epistles of the New Testament are full of the apostolic response to people that were used by Satan to disrupt the church. Most of them were seeking to take positions of authority that God had not entrusted to them. From these accounts, we can begin to discern the satanic strategies of power-play in the church.

1. The Clique This strategy was being used in Galatia, when Peter “…drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party” (Galatians 2:11-16). Cliques in the church are a useful tool in the hands of the enemy. Power-Brokers often demand allegiance to their understanding and interpretation of doctrines, for no-one gets into the club who is unwilling to play by the power-broker’s rules.

2. Unnecessary Secrets I am not referring to private ‘church leadership’ issues that really are no-one’s business. This strategy is characterized by an attitude that is communicating demeaning secrecy and a presumptuous unilateral decision making. Power-Brokers love to be in the know, be the decision-makers and the dispensers of secrets. It seems that everyone that is not in their clique is on a need to know only basis. Unnecessary secrets and unilateral decision making on behalf of the church (or a ministry) is ill-advised and often fosters division within the church. The Lord did not ‘keep secrets’ from His disciples. In John 15:15 the Lord is recorded as saying, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

3. Commendation Experts Power-mongers tend to think that they are the ones that give commendation and approval to themselves and fellow-sheep. They are typically very competitive people. If you pray for forty minutes, they have prayed for forty-five minutes. If you have read three books on being a good wife, they have read five. They also seem to have a perspective that communicates that their approval is the last word on the Lord’s approval. But, the apostle Paul said, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” And, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:12, 17-18 ESV).

4. Disappearing Sheep Mark it down: if you see a pattern of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, whom you know to be mature in the Lord, ‘disappearing’ from the flock (with no real explanation from them or anyone else as to why), there is a problem. Most likely, they have been given the left-foot-of-fellowship by someone in the leadership. This is power-play in the church in its most blatant form. Ultimately, every power-broker is working with the presumption that ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ The apostle John wrote that someone in the early church refused, “…to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 10 ESV).

5. Undermining Trusted Leaders Power-brokers undermine trusted leaders through slander and raising doubts in the minds of the church membership. The apostle Paul and the apostle John dealt with this repeatedly. Come to think of it; this was Satan’s first known strategy… “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). John wrote that someone was talking wicked nonsense against him and the other apostles (3 John 10 ESV). And, Paul wrote that “…such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15 ESV). Wow. That’s scary.

6. Shunning Power-brokers know how to punish with the silent treatment and ostracization. Shame and isolation are very effective tools in power-play. Power-players exclude and humiliate to produce the obedience and respect that they feel they deserve. Paul saw this tactic being used in the Galatian church and said, “They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians 4:17 ESV).

7. Lack of Submission Power-People expect others to be subordinate to their wills but are not very submissive people themselves. They do not submit to budgets (time or money), or other external authoritative structures – such as church constitutions, by-laws, and doctrinal statements. They are characterized by an urgency of the moment mentality, excusing their unwillingness to wait upon God in prayer as a matter of necessity. This was King Saul’s sin, and it cost him the kingdom (See 1 Samuel 15). Waiting on God in prayer and seeking the input of others are both essential expressions of a submitted person. John said about one power-hungry man that he was dealing with, “I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9 ESV).

8. Emotional Manipulation It is not unusual to see a power-broker become demonstrably angry. If power-players are angry, they quickly become red-faced, raise their voices, and will even resort to tears to get their wills accomplished. This sort of behavior is particularly shocking since leaders in the church are supposed to set an example in godliness, holiness, and self-control. In Corinth, this manipulation may have even escalated to physical abuse! Paul wrote, “For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” (2 Corinthians 11:20-21 ESV).

9. Electioneering People serving Christ pour their lives out for the glory of God in the good of others. On the other hand, people running for office promote themselves, slander others, put themselves forward, capitalize on the victories of other people, and have a general demeanor of ambitious pursuit. Power-players in the church act more like politicians than servants. But, James says, “…if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:13-16 ESV).

10. Twisting Scripture Power-brokers prefer unilateral decision-making. The next best thing to that is setting up a system in which they know that they already have a majority vote on a church board for anything they want to do. Power-brokers specialize in the off-the-record conversation. They do not think that it is wrong to threaten some form of church discipline for non-conformists, and they feel no shame in twisting Scriptures to accomplish their wills. Anyone that disagrees with them or their methods can easily be accused of causing division and refusing to submit to their fellow brethren out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Peter spoke of the abuse of Scripture in this way, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

Intro: Power-Play in the Church

Part 1: Recognizing the Satanic Strategies of Power-Play

Part 2: Resisting Power-Play in the Church

Part 3: Responding Biblically to Power-Players

 

Power-Play in the Church

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“But I am among you as the one who serves.” -Our Lord Jesus, as recorded in Luke 22:27

Power-brokers, power-mongers, and power-players run our world. To some degree or another, most of us have come to accept that power-play is just part of living life in a fallen and corrupted world. We anticipate finding power-brokers in politics, business, and educational systems. Many of our industry leaders and elected officials are characterized by avarice, corruption, and the love of power. We know that fallen people crave the esteem and privilege that position and prestige afford them. And, we also know that too many are willing to sell their voice, their bodies or even their souls to experience just a few moments of the exhilarating rush that accompanies the realization that they are the ones to which everyone else is beholden. We realize that for fallen humanity power is like an aphrodisiac that climaxes in the control of circumstances and other people, an elixir that creates the irresistible illusions of preeminence and self-autonomy.

As Christians, we may reluctantly come to terms with the reality that the leadership structures of this fallen and fleeting world are overrun with the corruption of power hungry people. But may we never develop an indifference or come to terms with the problem of power-play in the church – which is to be both a pillar and a defense of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16). We must learn to recognize the satanic strategies of power-play, resist the urges to succumb to its temptations, and then respond Biblically to the power-brokers in our churches.

Lest we naively think that power-play in the church is not a problem, we should consider the record of the New Testament. Jesus dealt with it in nearly every interaction that he had with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, as well as, in his interaction with Herod and Pilate. Paul dealt with power-players, power-mongers, and power-brokers regularly– both in his interaction with the unsaved and in the church (e.g., Acts 13:45, 14:19, 22-25, 24:27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 2 Corinthians 11: 20-21; Galatians 1:6-10, 2:4-15; 6:11-13). Peter was a pawn in Herod’s power-play (Acts 12:1-3), almost succumbed to the pressure put on him by the power-brokers in Galatia (Galatians 2:11-14), and yet, he delivers one of the most stinging condemnations of power-mongering in the New Testament (2 Peter 2). John gave instructions to a pastor under his direction on dealing with a power-broker that had joined the church, apparently, one that had some level of authority in the early church (3 John 9-10). Time and space do not allow for us to survey, even briefly, the record of power politics in the established church over the last 1,900 years – it is far too vast. It will suffice to say that there would never have been a Reformation had there not first been a corruption of ecclesiastical power.

However, the Lord calls His church to humble-minded servant leadership. We are not to seek to be served or to seek preeminence. But, instead, the Lord has called us and equipped us to serve others and to pour out our lives for the good of others. For on the night that our Lord was betrayed, he said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27 ESV)

Links to the Power-Play in the Church Post Series:

Part 1: Recognizing the Satanic Strategies of Power-Play

Part 2: Resisting Power-Play in the Church

Part 3: Responding Biblically to Power-Players

Hadassah’s Words

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“I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, nor only the aged who understand what is right.”        
Job 32:6-9   
We all must bear the cross in our lives, as our Lord carried His for us. Perhaps we are not always given the choice as to which one we are willing to bear; but God, in His great mercy, knows what will bring about the greatest transformative work in our hearts, and I think that is what He is after. I would never have chosen my cross. I could not choose it. But I thank God with all my heart for using heartbreak and loss to teach me just how kind, loving, and gracious He is to all who reach out to Him from the darkest, lowest places.

My daughter, Hadassah, died when she was 18 years old. In her short life, the Lord took her on a high adventure that was fraught with peril and uncertainty; but as He promises, He swooped down at just the right time to rescue a dear heart who cried out to Him for mercy. His love, indeed, never fails.

And an incredible surprise awaited us on the other side of our daughter’s death. A gift of infinite comfort and grace. A hidden jewel that had been in the making for years. A month or two before Hadassah died she told me that she had felt compelled to write all her life. But no one had ever seen the treasure that she called her journals. They were carefully guarded so that no one would see them until the appointed hour. At first we thought that perhaps they were intended for us alone, her family, as a gift to aid us in our grief. But the more we read, the more we were sure that this hidden legacy was an offering of love from Hadassah to the One who said, “I’ve got you, my dear. I could never let a little one like you fall. And I will show you just how much I love you by what I will allow you to do for my kingdom and for my glory.”

That is when Hadassah’s Words were born. She tells her story, the story of a God who seeks to save that which was lost, who restores all that a dreaded enemy meant to steal, and who fights the final battle until the victory is won. Here are Hadassah’s Words. Here is the triumph that is found in God alone.

Hadassah’s Words