Things That Are Above

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Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

The Folly of Anger and the Wisdom of Jesus

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Yesterday I read Jonathan Parnell’s post, “That Angry Gentleman at the Restaurant,” at DesiringGod.org. Parnell’s anecdote about a man he saw blow his gasket recently at a restaurant serves to turn the tables onto us:

Then I realized it was me.

Okay, it wasn’t really me. I wasn’t the angry gentleman in the restaurant on this particular night. But I’ve been angry before, and I must look just as stupid.

That is the thing with anger, and the thing I needed to learn — perhaps we all could learn — from a scene like the one this angry gentleman put on. Unrighteous anger, no matter where it’s at, is silly.

Anger is always telling us something [link in original post, and I recommend reading that post, as well!], and most of the time, if we’re honest, it’s saying we’re ridiculous.

Those are words I needed to read. Those are words I need to lay to heart. When I get unrighteously angry, which is the case most of the times I’m angry, I’m being sinfully foolish. Solomon puts it this way in Prov. 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” God through Solomon is clear: anger is foolish. According to Solomon, wise people control their anger, whereas fools are controlled by their anger.

How often, to my shame, do I play the fool! How often, to my shame, do I let my anger control me, when I should be the one controlling it! The Holy Spirit convicts me: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20).

Unrighteous anger is silly and ridiculous. Worse still it is ugly. It is a perversion of the wisdom to be Christlike. When Christ was angry, his anger was perfectly righteous. He never sinned in his anger. And there’s the rub: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Easy words to say, some of the hardest words to put into action.

On my own, there’s no way for me to do this. On my own, it’s impossible for me to control my anger. Thankfully, the gospel brings me hope from despair.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:31–5:2)

How am I to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? How am I to put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander? By dwelling on the fact that God has forgiven me of much more than I will ever forgive anyone else. By imitating God as his beloved child. By walking in love because Christ loved me and gave himself up for me.

Enmity, strife, and fits of anger are fruits of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). It pains my heart that they remain in my heart and overflow from it all too often. But as a Christian I’m indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. And patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are fruits that he can bear in me (Gal. 5:22, 23).

O God, bear the fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me! Prune the enmity, strife, and anger from my life. Help me to imitate you and to walk in love, as Christ loved me and gave himself up for me. For your glory, in his name.

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Is God Anti-Gay? (Review Thursday #2)

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71gwlJNkHoLSam Allberry. Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction. The Good Book Company, 2013.

This short book, part of the Questions Christian Ask series published by The Good Book Company, is worth well over its weight in the wisdom it contains on homosexuality. Perhaps more than any other subject, homosexuality is the “hot topic” of recent years both in American evangelicalism and in the broader American culture at large. Not only unbelievers but also Christians have been asking the question, “Is God anti-gay?” So Allberry’s answer is timely. More importantly, Allberry’s answer is biblical.

Allberry’s biblical answer to the titular question is most evident in his constant grounding of the issue of the Bible (and God) on homosexuality in the gospel. In Allberry’s own words: “God’s message for gay people is the same as his message for everyone. Repent and believe. It is the same invitation to find fullness of life in God, the same offer of forgiveness and deep, wonderful, life-changing love” (10). No one is reducible to his or her sexuality, so the gospel–although it addresses our sexuality–addresses our whole persons. This truth resurfaces repeatedly in this book, most notably in the final chapter when Allberry answers the question, “What’s the best way to share Christ with a gay friend?” (75-76). The central strength of Is God Anti-Gay? is its tight focus on the gospel of Jesus, which is good news for both heterosexual and homosexual people.

Allberry’s book is superb from first to last. The introduction builds Allberry’s rapport with the reader: he is a Christian who has struggled with same-sex attraction (SSA) since his teenage years (10-13). Chapter one appropriately begins with the broader issue of which homosexuality is but a part: sexuality. Specifically, Allberry reviews how God ordained all people to express their sexuality exclusively in monogamous, heterosexual marriage. From there, Allberry notes how the Bible specifically addresses homosexuality in chapter two. After concluding that the Bible consistently condemns homosexuality, Allberry counsels Christians who struggle with SSA to pray, think about homosexuality biblically, and seek others’ support. He also affirms the application of the Bible’s teaching on sexuality for Christians who struggle with SSA. The sexual options for them, as for all people, are either heterosexual marriage or chaste celibacy. Himself celibate, Allberry does an excellent job highlighting the healthiness of singleness, going so far as to call singleness (rightly) a “blessing,” just as much a blessing as marriage is for married couples (54). The final two chapters of the book go hand-in-hand because Allberry offers practical advice to Christians on how to relate both to homosexuals within the church (whether visiting nonbelievers or Christians who struggle with SSA) and homosexuals in the world. Allberry concludes these chapters well:

It will be the quality of our community life as a church, as much as our ability to speak clearly into the public square, that will most visibly show a watching world that the Christian stance on sexuality is the most compelling. (79)

To reflect on the conclusion of the book is to return to the gospel-saturated nature of Is God Anti-Gay? because the conclusion is itself a meditation on John 6:35, where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (ESV). Allberry’s main point about this verse is that Jesus is the bread of life. In Allberry’s own words: “The great gift that Jesus gives us is himself” (83). Amen. The gospel is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, who promises everyone who repents–turning away from sin, whatever forms it takes in an individual’s life–and believes this good news that Jesus has given himself to us and for us to save us from our sins by his life, death, and resurrection.

For all these reasons, I cannot more highly recommend to Is God Anti-Gay? to every Christian I know. This book is accessible and gives great returns for the less than $10 investment to purchase it. The wisdom Allberry shares in this book is valuable because it is biblical–and being biblical, this book is first and foremost gospel-saturated. The gospel of Jesus Christ undergirds every page. May Is God Anti-Gay? help Christians respond biblically not only to the ideology of homosexuality but also to homosexuals. May this book help Christians “speak the truth in love” to homosexuals, for they are no worse sinners than we.

We Want to Be with Our Father

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Fatherlessness

We all want to be with our fathers. Biologically speaking, there is an inborn desire in each of us for the approval, love, and support of our earthly fathers. The various effects of either a father’s presence or absence in his child’s life corroborate this fact, as does the fact that a majority of even abused children describe their fathers positively. We all long for a father figure in our lives.

But as of 2009, 31.5% of all children living in the United States live apart from their father. In my own youth group, most of the kids live without a father. Some of them have suffered physical and/or emotional abuse at the hands of their fathers. All of the youth, both those with and those without their father in their lives, long for a father’s approval, love, and support just like you and I do.

How can we best minister to the fatherless in an increasingly fatherless society? 

My Joy as a Father

God has blessed me with a baby girl named Hadassah Joy who adores me, and I’m so grateful to him for her and for the joy she brings my wife, Abi, and me. All the time I see just how much Hadassah wants my approval, love, and support. She has learned how to do a lot of things the past couple of weeks, and when she demonstrates her new skills of waving and shaking her head either yes or no, she is so proud of herself when I say, “Good job, baby! You’re so smart!” She smiles and shows her dimples when I shower her with approval. If Hadassah is sitting down when I praise her, she sits up as high as she can and laughs through her nose while nodding yes.

I also see how Hadassah longs for my love and support. On the mornings that I get her up out of bed, she reaches for me to pick her up as I near her crib. When I give her a kiss, she giggles and squeals. When she cries, she wants me to hold her in my arms and pet her hair (or, more likely, feed her a bottle!).

This morning, I saw Hadassah’s desire to be with her dad in a whole new way. Abi, Hadassah, and I were eating breakfast before I left for Calvary. I finished before Hadassah did, and it was time for me to go. Although she was loving the “bites” Abigail was feeding her of scrambled eggs and biscuits, after I kissed her goodbye and was heading out the door, she started bawling. I looked back in before closing the door and she was looking back at me because she wanted to be with her father; she didn’t want me to leave her. (Of course, it then took me a lot longer to leave because I didn’t want her to be sad when I left!)

I can’t imagine life without Hadassah. I can’t imagine not being a father any more than I can imagine not being a husband, not being a preacher, or not being a Christian. My heart is burdened for my own youth who are in such desperate need for a father figure. My age limits me pretty much to an older brother figure at best for the kids in my youth group, but even when I’m old enough to be kids’ parents, the best way I can minister to the fatherless around me is by pointing them to the Father who is in heaven.

God’s Trinitarian “Family”

To defend this statement requires careful Trinitarian writing. John in his Gospel makes it clear that Jesus, God the Son, and God the Father are one God and yet distinct from one another. Jesus is the “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us,” whose “glory” is the “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As the Word, Jesus “was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2). Jesus is “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” who “has made him known” (1:18). Jesus and the Father are one God, but they are distinct Persons (to use Nicene language). Therefore, Jesus can say in one breath,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (10:27-30)

Jesus is both distinct from the Father in his person and one with the Father in his essence. Although Jesus is our older brother (Rom. 8:29), he can therefore say to his disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18). Although Jesus is distinct from God the Father, “he is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). “God [the Father] has chosen to dwell amongst his people in a yet more personal way, in the Word-became-flesh [God the Son]” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 127).

We, of course, live after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. He is no longer physically present among us as he was among his disciples. We, along with his original disciples, are the recipients of the promise he made them concerning how we will experience God’s Triune presence in between Jesus’ first and second comings.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. … If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:16-18, 23)

In these verses, Jesus promises his disciples that after his ascension, they will receive the indwelling presence of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit who dwelt among them before the ascension will dwell in them after the ascension (v. 18). Jesus also promised that he and God the Father would also indwell believers (v. 23). Christians have the indwelling presence of the entire Trinity.

Becoming a Member of God’s Family

God the Father is the best father you or I could ever present to anyone. Jesus Christ is the best “big brother” you or I could ever present to anyone. He embodies the saying, “Like father, like son.” And all of us, father or no father, family or no family, need God as our Father and Christ as our Brother. God is a Father to the fatherless; he is “the helper of the fatherless” who “upholds” them (Pss. 10:14; 146:9). God is the Father who always “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). And Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is coming back for us God’s children. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:27-28).

Is God your Father? Do you want to be with him for eternity? You can become his child right now by faith that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross saves you from your sin (John 1:12-13). Because my heart breaks not only for the physical fatherlessness of many of Calvary’s youth but also for the spiritual fatherlessness of so many of them, it is my prayer for them that they would reach repentance before the Lord comes back (2 Pet. 3:9) and thus become children of God. But my prayer is also that of John’s at the end of Revelation. I want to be with my Father. I want him to come back in the Person of Jesus Christ from heaven even more than Hadassah wants me to come home from work. I hope you can and will join me in the simple prayer, that honest heart’s cry: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

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