Dying for Sex

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Is this passage about mantises? Because it could be about men:

The mating rites of mantises are well known: a chemical produced in the head of the male insect says, in effect, “No, don’t go near her, you fool, she’ll eat you alive.” At the same time a chemical in his abdomen says, “Yes, by all means, now and forever yes.” While the male is making up what passes for his mind, the female tips the balance in her favor by eating his head. (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 59)

The rest is downhill from there, unless, of course, you’re the female mantis. She won’t stop until the male has been utterly devoured.

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death…. And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.  Keep your way from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed. (Proverbs 5:3-5, 7-11)

Heavenly Father, empower me and the men in my church – empower all men reading this post who bear the name of Christ – to put to death our lust and to walk in your light. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, who frees us from abdomen-thinking and gives us self-control. Train us in love to treat older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, and all women as persons rather than objects. Thank you for your gospel, in which you have washed us, sanctified us, and justified us. We want to honor you today as clean men who know how not to lose their heads. In the name of Jesus, Amen.  

Asp, Asparagus, Aspartame

Context is important. If you hear a woman screaming in the hospital, it makes all the difference whether she is in an oncology unit or Labor and Delivery. Failure to consider context in that moment will inevitably lead to a misinterpretation of reality. Both are screams of pain, but one is of death and the other of life.

Likewise, we need to consider context every time we pick up our Bible. Correct interpretation of truth is at stake. Is this your approach to the Bible?

When you use the encyclopedia you simply turn to the entry you are interested in, say “Asparagus.” The fact that the entry before “Asparagus” was on “Asps” (cobras) and the one after it was on “Aspartame” (an artificial sweetener) is irrelevant. In fact, you don’t even look at them, unless you get bored with reading about asparagus.

Imagine reading a novel in the same way: you open the book up halfway through, and read the third paragraph down. Try it if you like. We can guarantee it won’t make much sense. You don’t know who the characters are or how the plot is unfolding; you have no idea what is going on. That is why we read a novel from beginning to end.

(HT: Unashamed Workman)

The Bible isn’t exactly like a novel. But it is much more like a novel than an encyclopedia. If we are to interpret the Bible accurately, we will need to understand the difference. Being aware of the context surrounding the verse(s) under consideration will often make or break our interpretation.

So the next time you pick up God’s word, remember. Remember that the text you are reading is part of a larger section (almost always); that section is contributing to an overarching point being made in the book (e.g., all the sections of Mark’s Gospel are telling the good news of Jesus as “the Son of God” [1:1]); and that book is located somewhere in the grand biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation.

Sometimes you can grasp the context with little effort. Other times further reading and reflection will be required. At all times the effort is necessary.

Understanding the verse(s) you are reading within the context of the entire Bible won’t make you an infallible interpreter, but it will make you a better one.

Breaking Good

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I don’t regret the 90 seconds it took to read the following Q&A on God’s creation and providence. I don’t think you will regret it either. If you are in Christ, everything is breaking good.

Q. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.

God is able to do this because he is almighty God and desires to do this because is a faithful Father.

Q.  What do you understand by the providence of God?

A.  The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty–all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Q.  How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

A.  We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.

For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

(Q26, Q27, Q28, Heidelberg Catechism)

From Miracle to Providence

“Miracle rather shakes up our mental composure, reminding us that this world does not just drift along on its own, but is the place where a great person lives and acts. And that person’s influence is not only local and temporary. The God who brought...

Miracle rather shakes up our mental composure, reminding us that this world does not just drift along on its own, but is the place where a great person lives and acts. And that person’s influence is not only local and temporary. The God who brought the plagues on Egypt and divided the sea must be no less than the God of all nature. It is thus that our minds move from miracle to providence. (John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 275)

I love two things about this quote. (1) I think it’s right that our minds move from miracle to providence. If God is extraordinarily in control of nature, then he must be ordinarily in control of it too. (2) The description of the world as “the place where a great person lives and acts” is beautiful. God’s involvement in the world is not mechanical but personal. And if personal, then purposeful.

One Grand Providence

To the dim and bewildered vision of humanity, God’s care is more evident in some instances than in others; and upon such instances men seize, and call them providences. It is well that they can; but it would be gloriously better if they could believe that the whole matter is one grand providence.

George MacDonald

So, Be Ready

Nor is it given to any man to know whether, when evening comes, he will need boots for his body or slippers for his corpse.

Leo Tolstoy

Rooster Cogburn . . . On Parenting

One night, in the craziness of the bedtime routine with the kids, I happened to think of a quote from True Grit. Rooster wasn’t giving parenting advice, but his wisdom seems transferable. You parents know what I mean.

You go for a man hard enough and fast enough, he don’t have time to think about how many’s with him. He thinks about hisself, and how he might get clear of that wrath that’s about to set down on him.