Guaranteeing Time for Family in the Midst of Busyness

Sabbath Keeping-Big Picture PublishingI admit that I might be a work-a-holic, just a wee bit.

Perhaps this is partly because my work tends to be enjoyable and meaningful, and partly because I’ve rarely made enough income for our large family. Or maybe it’s just the way I am wired. I don’t really know.

At any rate, my wife once had a come-to-Jesus talk with me about this that proved to be a turning point for our marriage and family. Had she not called me out, I think I would’ve been too oblivious to make needed changes. After all, my time-sucking pursuits were good, and so were my intentions. I wouldn’t have guessed how important an intentional “work-free” day would turn out to be for all of us.

What started out as an experiment turned out to be a practice on which we have never looked back. In fact all five of our kids came to think of our practice of Sabbath-keeping as an expectation. My wife and I now consider it to be a weekly blessing that we wouldn’t want to do without.

Since it’s the beginning of a busy new school year for many of us, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my story, and hear from others on what works for them.

Before our experiment, here is how my life went: I worked full-time at as a Hallmark artist, and also did free-lance illustration work on the side. I also created a monthly comic strip for an alternative, free newspaper. Nights and weekends were a chance for me to work on my on-the-side stuff. So, on weekends, I would look around the house, and if everyone seemed to be occupied, and no kids were crying or poopy, I would tend to sneak off to my drawing board and get some work done.

Eventually my exasperated wife would come looking for me, usually holding a kid or two. She felt abandoned. We searched for a solution. We had already been toying with the idea of observing a formal Sabbath, but I had pretty much balked at the idea because I was too busy. (What a waste of time. A whole day – shot!) But I remember Mollie telling me, “If I knew I would get you for a full day on Sunday, I think I could live with you working the other six days.”

We decided to try it for one month. Sundays would be solely dedicated to church and family, and I wouldn’t do any paid work at all. Even if no one was poopy, I would be fully present and focused on Mollie and the kids. That was something like 20 years ago. Looking back, I shudder to think of what I almost missed.

Our Sabbath has taken various forms over the years. Mollie and I are interested in the Hebrew Roots of our faith, so for a time we observed a traditional, Saturday Jewish Sabbath as best we could, complete with the lighting of candles at sunset, challah bread, and citing a blessing over each child over dinner, (which my kids thought was weird.) At other times we tried formal family devotions on our Sabbath. But mostly, our Sabbaths have been very unstructured, with the focus being on taking a rest from work, eating together, and, at some point, doing something together as a whole family, usually playing games.

We have tried to not be religious and legalistic about this. As our kids grew older, sometimes they would have homework that had to be done, or there would be a birthday party or a meeting that had to be attended. But for the most part, our kids’ friends knew not to ask our kids to get together on Sunday because that was our family day. Eventually, our kids didn’t even mind that their friends thought our family was weird because they were having too much fun with us.

At times we had fight to keep our Sabbath set apart. We’d make an occasional exception, but we had to say “no” even to some good things. Once, our church’s youth group leadership was considering moving youth group meeting day to Sunday. We felt we had no choice but to decline participation should that change be made. Our Sabbath had become a non-negotiable priority. One parent argued that Sunday youth group could count as our family time, but I knew the dynamic would be different. Fortunately the change was never made.

Today all but one of our five children have left home, but they are closer now to each other, and to Mollie and I, than ever. We attribute this partly to regular, face-to-face time every week. Now that two of our kids are married, some of them decided that we should all get together every other Sunday; whoever can make it. On the off Sundays Mollie and I still observe a Sabbath, and we sometimes use this time to get together with people that we want to “get together with sometime.”

We believe that life is about relationships, and our Sabbath observance has become a practical application of this. (Though honestly, sometimes we’re too exhausted to entertain people!)

For those who may be wondering about my loss in productivity, I believe that observing a Sabbath has actually made me more productive, because I’m never burnt out, and I hit the ground running on Mondays. But even if it hasn’t made me more productive, if I could have all the money I lost because of keeping a Sabbath, I wouldn’t trade it for the wealth of relationship I have today with my family.

If you find yourself frazzled and frustrated by an overfull schedule, why not try keeping a weekly Sabbath for one month, just to see what good might come of it? I’d also love to hear your stories of how you ensure regular family time.

My latest book, Bear Island, reinforces family-time and our need for loving relationship. CLICK HERE for easy ordering!

Advertisements

The Proof That Religious Freedom Laws Are Not About Discriminating Against Gays

GLBTQ wedding cake topperYay! It’s time for another lesson in freedom and pluralism! Everybody get out your COEXISTENCE bumper stickers and let’s all celebrate diversity!

Remember?… Celebrating diversity?… Remember when that was the cool thing?

I know. “Nice try dude, but HATE is not an acceptable example of diversity. No one should be denied their full civil rights.”

I absolutely agree.

But if you followed the recent religious freedom story in Indiana, you know that opponents strenuously argued that Indiana’s bill would give businesses “a license to discriminate against gays.” The law did no such thing.

One would think that with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby vs. Burwell decision so recently in the news, people, especially the press, would remember what the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 actually does. It’s not a license to unlawfully discriminate. The Indiana bill was a state version of the federal RFRA, agreeing with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.

As a reminder, the RFRA simply requires the government to exercise restraint. Government may substantially burden the free exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that its action 1) furthers a compelling governmental interest, and 2) that it finds the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

The RFRA does not guarantee a result. It’s an attempt to balance First Amendment freedoms and governmental power. It’s not a license for religious people to pick and choose which laws they feel like obeying.

Since, for the most part, the news and entertainment media don’t understand the motives of people of faith, they are left with guessing at motives. So they assume bigotry and hatred, despite the evidence. They create a cartoonish portrayal of an idiotic, religious class of people, standing in the way of progress and equality. They “expose” religious freedom protections as the latest ploy to allow anti-gay hatred, as if Evangelicals favor hatred. This is a political strategy.

What motivates Evangelicals?
Religions address life’s fundamental questions about God, man, purpose, morality, marriage, family, life, and death. Beliefs dictate behavior. Evangelicals ultimately believe in truth and love, reflective of an objective, ultimate authority – God – who embodies and is the source of truth and love. Whether or not you agree with Evangelicals on this, try viewing the current debate through that lens. I contend that it makes much more sense, and is much less creepy, than believing that half the U.S. population consists of raving homophobes, driven by hatred toward a particular class of people. Do you really believe that Christians are clamoring for the right to refuse service to gay people simply because they are gay? If you do, I suggest you expand your circle of friends.

I grew up in Evangelical subculture. It’s impossible for followers of Jesus to hate gays, because Jesus commanded His followers to love people. At the same time, it’s just as impossible for followers of Jesus to redefine marriage so that it’s not a heterosexual institution, because Jesus affirmed the Torah’s definition of marriage in Genesis (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:5-9.) This is the crux of the issue today – the definition of marriage. It is not about discriminating against gay people, as gays, per se.

Two proofs:
First of all, the supposedly anti-gay business owners who have received national attention all knowingly and willingly served gay customers previous to the hoopla. No one is asking for a freaking “license to discriminate against gay people” as persons. Christians are not clamoring for the right to post a signs on their businesses that say, “THIS ESTABLISHMENT DOES NOT SERVE FAGS.” Once a news reporter knows this, and yet continues to refer to these business owners as “anti-gay,” or “denying service to gay customers,” then it’s fair to say that news reporter is misrepresenting the issue. Which is to say he or she is lying.

It wasn’t until these business owners were asked to provide services for gay wedding events that they declined. Across the board. The current issue is about the freedom for people of faith to refuse to participate in the redefining of a biblically defined concept of marriage.

Here’s the second proof: I will bet you a rainbow-colored gay wedding cake that these same business owners would decline to participate in a wedding event for a brother and sister wanting to unite in marriage. I’m pretty sure they would decline to participate in a marriage of two dudes and a woman. This would not make them or “anti-sibling” or “anti-hetero.” It’s not about the sexual orientation of the customer. These scenarios are not far-fetched, and there are sound, compassionate, and socially responsible reasons to protect the concept of marriage as the uniting of an unrelated man and woman, in a monogamous, lifelong commitment.

If you are a supporter of “marriage equality,” I have a question for you:
Do you support full marriage equality, or do you only support marriage equality for gays? Because if you don’t support full marriage equality, then you can’t say you support marriage equality.

What is the reasoning that expands the definition of marriage to include gays, but excludes siblings from marrying? How can you deny equal treatment to two siblings of any sex who simply want to get married like anyone else? Are you suggesting that gay marriage is somehow better than sibling marriage, or, let’s say, a marriage of a father and his adult daughter? Why? How is imposing a “marriage ban” on such couples not bigotry and discrimination? You can’t favor gays and deny equal treatment to other groups. It takes all the colors to make a rainbow, right?

I would especially like to know how you feel that legalizing incestuous marriages would harm you personally, since no one is forcing you to marry your mom, or dad, or sibling.

This is not a rhetorical question. The world really needs to hear a rational answer. Your reasoning can no longer rely on current law, the “ick factor,” or tradition.

Even now, some closeted incestuous couples are brave enough to speak out, emboldened by gay marriage gains. Here are some actual testimonies from a Full Marriage Equality blog site:

> By (sic) brother and I have been together for 3 years now. we’ve had many problems because of course it is a difficult situation. we want to get married and have a family. we’ve told some people and all of them have been very supportive. Here’s the thing, i always compare ourselves with the gay community, 20 years ago they couldn’t be seen in public, they were discriminated until finaly society stared to accept them (sic) and i think the same thing is going to happen for us. I dont understand why people is against this (sic)… I mean, we’re not hurting anyone, we are in love and love is a good thing. we are happy together and once again WE ARE NOT HURTING ANYONE. i think it’s nasty the way society behaves, most people will not support a couple that loves each other, but they will support war? way to go!! If you’re not dating your brother, you dont have to be nasty and bitchy about it, it’s not your problem and we’re not hurting you… (Anonymous)

> Of course I would marry my brother if I could. We want to spend our lives together, raise children together. And I know it’s not just us that wishes society would accept this kind of relationship. I’ve talked to many other people, and I know there are many incest couples that wish they didn’t have to hide either. True love should never have to be hidden, it should be celebrated. (Liz, living as “married” to her older brother, Ryan.)

 > If it weren’t for the possibilities of persecution for ourselves as well as those that support us, we would challenge anyone to observe our relationship and find one negative thing that is not present in any relationship. In fact, we have a loving home and rarely, very rarely, disagree. We take care of each other and trust each other. (Tony, age 54, secretly living as “married” with his 37 year old genetic daughter.)

 > Q: Would you get legally married if you could?
A: Of course we would. That’d be a dream. We’ve experienced physical and mental abuse due to our relationship, even in the workplace. Also the fact that we cannot have the marital benefits that many couples do have, even unrelated gay couples here in Canada. It’s very difficult. But so far we’d just like the ability to be together and feel safe doing so. (Corneilius, a bi-sexual male living as “married” to his homosexual, full blood brother.)

(All quotes are from Full Marriage Equality. Please be aware that these interviews are sexually explicit.)

In the same way that followers of Jesus don’t hate gays, we don’t hate these people either. However, we do disagree with them. We’re not going to agree to subvert what we see as God’s authority on the matter of what marriage is.

Conclusion
I would love to be wrong about this, but it looks like Full Marriage Equality is now inevitable, thanks to the redefining of marriage through the gay rights movement. As any meaningful definition of marriage goes swirling down the toilet of history, the world will become an ever less safe place for children, especially for girls. If the societal taboo of incestuous sex falls, it will change the relational dynamic for all families, for the worse, by introducing and normalizing possibilities that should not exist in familial relationships.

During the short span of my lifetime, I have watched the political agenda of the Left move from advocating coexistence and tolerance to forced participation of the general population into compliance with its political beliefs. It is accurate to use the term “forced,” since the political Left now favors using the courts of government to impose even things like cake baking, picture taking, and buying contraceptives. The RFRA at least gives people of faith the possibility of legal grounds for opting out of participating in the Left’s political agenda. But even this is too much to ask for “marriage equality” supporters. Apparently we must all be made to actively participate. The orchestrated hysteria around the Indiana religious freedom bill manipulated public opinion through dishonest talking points, and intimidation. Such irrational hysteria demonstrates exactly why America needs the First Amendment and the RFRA protecting religious liberty.

May political, business, and religious leaders find the backbone to support freedom, diversity, and pluralism in America.

Keep Watching – The New is Coming: One New Man.

One New Man

Ends at 2pm on Saturday…

The Hebrew author of the old testament book of Ecclesiastes stated that there is nothing new under the sun. At the time he was writing, I suppose this was true. However, the Torah and the prophets gave clear proclamation that something new and better would one day come with Israel’s Messiah.

The Judeo-Christian scriptures present a linear, unfolding revelation of our Creator’s spectacularly generous plan for humanity. When Jesus began to publicly speak, He spoke in terms of fulfillment: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of god is at hand…“ (Mk 1:15; Lk 4:17-21.) He spoke of new things – a new commandment, a new covenant, spiritual rebirth, a new life in His Spirit, the arrival of the long-awaited kingdom of God, resurrection and a new age to come.

Someone might object, “This is all old new stuff. Jesus said all of this 2000 years ago.”

Well, yes and no.

Our natural human condition hasn’t changed. All human beings continue to be born into a broken state, relationally separated from our Creator who is the source of life. It’s true that Jesus claimed to be the means to restore us to relational unity 2000 years ago, but the spiritual rebirth that He spoke of is new today for every modern person who chooses to believe and embrace Jesus and His gift of new life.

But there is another sense in which the works of Jesus are not ancient history, and this is what I want to focus on as we approach the Easter/Passover season.

Something new is happening, as we speak
Jesus and His apostles taught about something called “one new man;” something that could not have existed before the incarnation of Jesus (Eph 2:11-16; Jn 10:14-16.) One new man does not refer to individual regeneration and salvation. The one new man refers to both Jews and “the nations” (non-Jews) being fully united as equals, fully sharing in all of the blessings of the Jewish Messiah. Available recorded history indicates that this new and remarkable unity occurred only during a very brief time on a relatively small scale during the first century, during the time of the apostles. We can see the initial breakthrough described in Acts chapter 15, and elaborated in the writings of the apostles.

This is one of the great ironies of history: Contrary to first century Jewish tradition and expectation, the early Jewish followers of Jesus welcomed in non-Jewish believers as full brothers and sisters, without requiring them to become Jewish. They believed God had instructed them to do so. The Jewish apostolic leadership reached an agreement that “spiritually reborn” gentiles need not become circumcised and Torah-observant in order to be in right relationship to God, as this was now accomplished by faith in the salvific work of Jesus (Acts 15:7-11.) This full inclusion of non-Jews into the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12, Ro 11:13-36) changed the world, though not in ways anyone could have predicted. Certainly no one would have guessed that this would bring misfortune upon the Jewish people for centuries to come.

This is not to say that the inclusiveness of the early church leadership was wrong. Rather, it was the generations that followed who failed to abide by the teaching of the Rabbi Jesus and His Jewish apostles.

Many authors have documented the rift that grew between traditional Jews and the new church of Jesus, as it became increasingly gentile in composition. Eventually, as Roman rulers began to adopt “Christian” belief and identity, the situation became worse for Jews. Both civil law and church doctrine became increasingly hostile to Judaism, so that unity between Jews and gentiles was openly discouraged. In many times and places throughout Europe it became a punishable offense for a Christian to fellowship with or marry a professing Jew, or to participate in Jewish rituals. Both state and church leadership, (often one and the same,) sought to reinforce the establishment of two, separate religions – a triumphant Christianity and a subjugated Judaism. Religious times and seasons were changed accordingly as “Christian holidays” were established. For their part, traditional Jewish people were happy to comply with having nothing to do with the Jesus of the gentiles.

Today, the world accepts this status quo. Books and media dogmatically assume “three great Abrahamic religions” – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Christians have their holidays, and Jews have theirs. As far as Jewish people are concerned, if a Jewish person comes to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, that person ceases to become Jewish. Generations of intentional, religiously motivated segregation have reinforced this. The situation is now precisely upside-down: At the time of the Apostles, the question was, “Can a gentile become a follower of Jesus without becoming Jewish?” Today the question is, “Can a Jew become a follower of Jesus without becoming a gentile?!”

The answer to both questions is a joyful “YES!” The proof is that all of the first followers of Jesus were Jewish, and they rooted their recognition and belief in Jesus as God’s Messiah inseparably to the Hebrew Torah and prophets. The answer has always been yes, but anti-Jewish “Christian” theology made it almost impossible to see for the past 1900 years.

Nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus came to establish a new religion called “Christianity,” distinct from “Judaism.” Jesus clearly stated that He came to fulfill the Torah and the Prophets (Matt 5:17.) What is described in the New Testament is Jesus establishing a new covenant, and the kingdom of God – both Jewish concepts! In fact, the Jewish apostle Paul states that the gospel of Jesus is “to the Jew first, and also to the gentile.”

What has changed?
We live in a unique time in history. The Bible is now widely available to a widely literate international population. New generations of Jews, who have been taught that the New Testament is a Christian book having nothing to do with Judaism, can now open it up and see for themselves if this is true. New generations of gentile followers of Jesus have generally not grown up with anti-Semitic ideas such as Replacement Theology. More so than ever before, Jews and Christians can now openly dialogue with each other about these things without fear of persecution. Most importantly, more and more Jewish people are embracing Jesus as their Messiah, and as part of their heritage. And more and more gentile Christians are becoming aware of the essential historic Hebrew roots of their faith.

Is this the same as saying “more and more Jews are becoming Christians”? No.
Is this the same as saying “more and more gentile Christians are becoming Jewish? No.

The whole point of the one new man idea is Jews and gentiles being united in the Jewish Messiah. It’s true unity in diversity. It transcends religion and religious tradition in favor of relationship. It’s restored relational unity with our Creator, resulting in restored community within the creation. It must include truth, forgiveness, grace, and love. It’s already beginning to happen. I am so in.

Imagine the impact on our jaded and fractured world when this begins to happen on an undeniable, global scale. After nearly 2000 years of sometimes-violent, religious persecution, the walls are coming down. And this is not due to a more liberal reading of the Bible, but a more careful one.

What you can do
I’m not Jewish, and I don’t attend a Messianic congregation. I don’t own a shofar, or a kippah, or a tallit. However, I think it is clear that the God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures has chosen Israel to bring salvation to the world through Jesus. It grieves me that most Jews have been hindered from recognizing their own Messiah because of centuries of unbiblical religious practice on the part of the gentile church. It is time for the gentile church to educate itself as to the Hebrew foundation of our theology. It is time for the gentile church to put down any barriers that may hinder Jewish seekers from feeling welcome in our midst. It is time for us to go out of our way to love Jewish people.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can begin by clicking on the links in this post. If you live in Northern Colorado, I’d like to invite you to an event that my church puts on every Holy Week. It’s called the Holy Week Journey of Worship. The Journey of Worship is a self-guided, meditative event that takes place from 8am to 8pm (depending) in our darkened sanctuary from Wednesday through Saturday. Nine stations will walk you through the climactic events in the life of Jesus, explaining how the Hebrew feasts in the Torah of Moses foreshadowed each remarkable event. There is no speaker or program, but there is a fair amount of reading. I would suggest getting off the treadmill of normal life for an hour to go through it.

Following are comments:

“This was very beautiful. We were looking for a new way, a special way to celebrate this day. We were all moved, my husband, my teenage son, and myself. Thank you for opening this up to the public.”

“This was my first time coming to Journey of Worship and I LOVED IT. So great, cried my eyes out with the Lord. I love being that close to Him.”

“I just wanted to say that this has become such an important part of the Easter season in my life…It is a reminder of the intricate history tied to the awesome and supernatural events…Thanks.”

“This was a profoundly meaningful opportunity to worship and reflect. Thank you so much.”

 Watch this VIDEO to learn specific times for the Journey of Worship.

Biblical Worldview for Kids

Worldview-blgIn doing an online search for biblical worldview, I get the impression that most people think of worldview as a topic for adults. Yet as parents, consciously or not, we are shaping our children’s view of reality in our world every day. I say this is a good thing, and that we should be intentional about it!

Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could impart a true and sustainable view of reality to our children that would serve them well for the rest of their lives? A worldview that won’t need to be traded in later for something truer, better, and more compatible with the real world?

I think that’s precisely what a biblical worldview is: a view of reality that is true; that works in the real world; that is based on our Creator’s revelation to us about His world. How could such a view be improved upon by finite minds attempting to figure out the shape of reality based on their own incomplete understandings?

A worldview is a lens through which we view the world. No matter who we are, we all bring beliefs, assumptions, and preconceptions to our understanding of the world. Some of these beliefs are legit. Some are not. As followers of Jesus we can expect that the Bible will give us true presuppositions that will far surpass those derived from a strictly materialist viewpoint. Despite expectations to the contrary from my Bible skeptic friends, the case for the reliability of the Judeo-Christian scriptures is stronger than ever in the 21st century.

But how does a biblical worldview affect our day-to-day living? Following are just a few examples of truths from the Bible that must shape the way we live as disciples of Jesus. These concepts can easily be imparted to children.

First, a brief reminder about how the Bible is written.

Biblical revelation is both linear and progressive
It is important to recognize that God’s revelation in the scriptures is linear and progressive. That is, certain truths were not known or understood under the Torah of the Mosaic covenant that were understood later under the new covenant of Jesus. This is not to say that the earlier writings contain falsehoods, but that the new covenant of Jesus was new in substance, not merely in time.

One clear example is that the terms of the Mosaic covenant made no promise of a resurrection and an afterlife. The promises to Israel under the Mosaic covenant were physical in nature. So the writer of Ecclesiastes could correctly ask, “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” (Ecc 3:21.) The idea of an eternal soul had not yet been clearly articulated in the scriptures. Even at the time of Jesus this was not a settled question. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection, because they held to the written Torah only. It was Jesus who first spoke plainly about resurrection and eternal life.

It is important to remember that revelation in the Bible is both linear and progressive because Bible critics often attempt to discredit a biblical worldview by offering spurious arguments. For example, critics charge that a biblical worldview would require believers to execute adulterers and homosexuals. But the Torah was given uniquely to ancient Israel until the time was fulfilled for something better to appear. Paul explicitly states that the Torah was a “custodian” until Jesus came bringing salvation and new life in the Spirit (Gal 3:23-29; Ro 7:4-6; 2 Cor 3:5,6.) Read as a whole, the scriptures simply do not allow the random taking of Old Covenant commands, out of context, and applying them to a New Covenant situation.

Having said that, there is much of value in the Torah that we should impart to our kids. Here are a few worldview-shaping ideas:

Creation
The first few chapters of the Bible say much about the shape of reality in our world today.
1) Human beings were created, male and female, in the image of God. We are not an accidental result of mindless evolutionary processes. Therefore, all human beings have transcendent, innate value by virtue of bearing God’s image. This concept alone is worth the price of embracing a biblical worldview.
2) We see that being in the image of a triune God also means that we are relational beings. Even though man existed in paradise and in companionship with his Creator, God still declared it “not good” for him to be alone (Gen 2:18.)
3) We see that God designed the binary, heterosexual reproductive system in humanity, and called it very good (Gen 1:27-31.)
4) We see marriage described as the creation of a new family unit, with “oneness” as the ideal (2:24.) This unity in diversity is yet another reflection of God’s image.
5) We see that there was both work and rest before the fall, therefore both are good and have their place.

Fall
The Fall of humanity into a state of separation from God is central to understanding the human condition and the world we live in. Because of human sin, with the Fall, disunity, death, disease, violence, and corruption entered the world. In the Bible, everything that follows the Fall is part of the story of God making a way to restore humanity to relational unity with Himself.

Flood
The Noahic flood demonstrates that our Creator has the right and the will to judge evil in His creation. The flood described in the Torah would’ve been the most unforgettable and horrific catastrophe in human history, permanently altering the surface of the earth. There are some 500 legends from around the world that speak of a great flood, many of which bear similarities to the biblical account. There are millions of land and sea creatures buried in layers of sediment all over the world – an observable testament to this event.

Israel
With Abraham, and then Moses, the establishment of Israel shows that our relational Creator has taken initiative to establish covenants with humanity. Israel was created to be a blessing to the nations and to point to the one true God (Gen 12:2,3; Lev 26:45.) God has not left humanity to fend for itself, but has prepared the world for salvation through Israel. Through foreshadowings in the Torah and through Israel’s prophets, God promised that a Messiah would come from Israel who would bring salvation to the world and set up an eternal kingdom.

Savior
Jesus fulfilled these messianic promises, bringing salvation to humanity, and establishing a New Covenant and the promised kingdom of God. By His sacrificial death on a cross Jesus perfectly satisfied the judgment of God, while also perfectly expressing His love for humanity. This salvation and entrance into His covenant and kingdom is by faith in the work of Jesus, through spiritual rebirth. It is received as a gift undeserved, not as something God owes us.

Faith
Contrary to the claims of “New Atheism,” biblical faith is not “belief in spite of evidence” (Dawkins.) This may be true of other types of religious faith, but biblical faith is not described this way. Biblical faith is relational and evidential – it has an object, God, and He goes out of His way to demonstrate His trustworthiness. So the idea of faith being “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11) does not teach us to ignore observable evidence. Rather, read in context, one sees that this passage gives historical examples of people who believed what God had promised despite circumstances that made it difficult to trust Him. The point is relational in nature. There is no conflict between biblical faith and rationality.

Love
Love must be foremost for anyone embracing a biblical worldview. The Bible describes God as love, and as light in whom there is no darkness (1 Jn 1:5; 4:8.) Jesus declared the greatest commandment in the Torah to be love for God, and then love for neighbor, saying all of the Torah and the prophets depend upon these two commands (Matt 22:36-40.) He stated that the way people would recognize His disciples would be by their love for one another (Jn 13:34,35.) He claimed to have existed in perfect love with the Father before the creation existed (Jn 17:23-25.) His chosen apostle Paul exalted love above all else in His New Covenant writings. Paul stated that he would be nothing, and would gain nothing, without love (1Cor 13:1-3.) He called love the fulfilling of the Torah (Ro 13:8-10.) We are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15.) We are to walk in love, in the example of Jesus (Eph 5:1,2.)

Worldview and the critical role of kids’ storybooks
Storybooks are one of the best ways to instill a biblical worldview in small children because stories can show them, rather than merely tell them, how the world works. Stories engage the whole person – mind, will, and emotions. By engaging the mind and the heart in a non-abstract and enjoyable way, stories reach the deepest part in all of us. Bullet points and abstract principles do not engage the emotions. Stories do. And they stay with us. If you would like to be notified of new, creative storybooks for kids that are designed to instill, reinforce, and normalize a biblical worldview in the children you love, you can sign up HERE.

I’m hard at work on my next book! It’s about LLLLLOVE! Can’t wait!…Stay tuned!

Part 2: Five Things in the Bible that Once Embarrassed Me but that I Now Think are Freaking Profound

Thing 2 blg (2)

Thing #2: Adam & Eve
The creation story in Genesis is full of embarrassing things that a modern, educated, intelligent person is expected to run away from: Adam and Eve, Adam’s rib, the talking serpent, the magical tree…You simply can’t say you believe these stories are true and remain in good standing in a modern academic environment. Because academia has something much more modern and intelligent to believe. (Namely, the magical world of evolution, where life spontaneously springs from non-life, and the statistically impossible has accidentally happened millions of times over to bring us to where we are today.)

To be an academic, one must be intelligent, literate, and capable of rigorous thought. Academia is an elite and exclusive enterprise, to which one must earn entry. By contrast, the stories in the Torah read like children’s stories: God caused Adam to sleep, and while he slept took one of his ribs and made it into a woman. Really? A rib? How insulting to intelligent people. What could be more ridiculous? (I mean, other than the idea that the first woman accidentally evolved from dead matter as a result of non-directed, mindless processes.) Why must the creation account read like a children’s story?

Well, one reason might be that our relational Creator has universal truth that He wants to communicate to “every tribe, tongue, and nation” of the world. God is not elitist. The stories in the Torah deliver content very effectively.  There are some 1 billion illiterate adults in the world – about a quarter of the earth’s adult population. I know missionaries who are sharing God’s truth through Bible stories right now, with illiterate people groups.

But does the fact that the Bible can be understood by uneducated people mean that the Bible is anti-intellectual? Not at all. One of the amazing things about the Bible is that it makes sense at a literal, story level, but at the same time there is spectacular depth for those who bother to search it out. Centuries of Rabbinic Jewish scholarship recorded in the vast literature of the Talmud attests to this, for example.

The Genesis creation account contains way too much profundity for a single blog post, so I want to share one, big idea from the creation story that ties into my previous post on the triune, relational nature of God. After you read this, you may never view life the same way because this is one of the most profound ideas in the universe!

Here it is: According to the Bible, our relational Creator defines life and death in relational terms.

Please bear in mind that, regardless of whether or not you consider this to be true, I’m simply presenting an internally consistent idea that runs throughout the whole of scripture.

What is death?
In the creation account we are first presented with our relational Creator’s understanding of death:

  • God places Adam in the garden, giving him responsibility over it, but instructs Adam not to eat the fruit of a particular tree, saying, “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:17)
  • A very cunning creature tells Adam’s wife that, actually, God is essentially being selfish and arrogant, and is lying to them. He says, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4,5.)
  • So the first couple decides to eat the forbidden fruit. Then it later says that Adam lives to be 930 years old!

What’s the deal? The serpent is supposed to be evil, but it looks like he was the one speaking the truth! Not only did the man and woman come to know good and evil, they did not die that day. Furthermore, after this, God drives them out of the garden so that they can’t eat from a second tree, the tree of life, which apparently wasn’t even forbidden originally:

‘Then YHWH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore YHWH God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man…’ (Gen 3:22-24.)

It appears as though God is afraid of human beings becoming wise and eternal, like Himself.

The key to the story has to do with relational unity from start to finish. The biblical concept of death has to do with separation. Conversely, life has to do with unity, both on a spiritual and a physical level. On a physical/biological level we may think of death as the cessation of biological function. But every known culture also understands that this entails a separation of the physical body from some non-material part of us.  Certainly the Bible teaches the existence of a non-material soul/spirit that is separated from the body at physical death.

So death is separation. But for human beings, physical death is merely the inevitable result of a more fundamental, spiritual separation. In all of creation, human beings are unique in that we are both physical and spiritual beings. We were designed to live in relational unity with the fountainhead of life – our Creator. When the first couple chose to disregard God’s will regarding the tree, relational unity was broken. This is the death of which God spoke when He said, “…for in the day you eat of it you shall die.” In separating themselves from the source of life, the first couple did in fact die a spiritual death. The physical death that later followed was an eventual consequence.

Contrary to the serpent’s words, eating the fruit did not make Adam and Eve more like God at all. It made them more like the serpent – relationally cut-off from their Creator, and facing evil they were unequipped and unable to successfully deal with.

Is this view of death simply one possible interpretation? Does the Bible speak explicitly of humans being physically alive while spiritually dead? Yes – this is exactly how our state is described:

  • “And you He made alive, when you were dead through your trespasses and sins…” (Eph 2:1; also 2:5.)
  • “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all out transgressions…” (Col 2:13.)
  • “She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim 5:6.)

What is life?
If the Bible describes death in terms of relational separation from God, then we might reasonably expect the Bible to define life in terms of relational unity with God. This is exactly what we do see:

  • “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent” (Jn 17:3.) This is a key statement by Jesus, often overlooked. Here He defines eternal life – not as “living forever,” and not as “going to heaven.” He defines it in purely relational terms, while referencing His own relational unity with the Father (v 1,4,5.)
  • “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself” (Jn 5:26.)
  • And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying , ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6.)
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3.) It is this spiritual rebirth that reconnects us with our Creator, who is Spirit.

The problem of relational disunity is universally recognized. Every religion and ism that I can think of either seeks to bring about relational unity, or seeks to convince us that we are already one, and to live accordingly. But I contend that other religions and isms seek to accomplish unity by means of human effort, often by coercion. One can call to mind the efforts of Communism. Or Islam, which sees peace and unity as arriving only when the entire world is Muslim, and seeks to accomplish this through human effort. Only the Judeo-Christian scriptures present relational restoration with God as impossible through human effort. Instead, Salvation is something God Himself has accomplished for us, which He then offers to us freely as a gift (Eph 2:8,9.) Once relational/spiritual unity is restored, we then do good out of love and gratitude, not to earn points. This is the opposite of religions which require good deeds and sacrifices in hopes of earning God’s favor.

A word about resurrection.
In keeping with the above teaching of Jesus and His apostles, resurrection, then, is not some random, fairy tale hope about people coming back to life. Resurrection is part of what salvation means for the whole person, as humans are meant to be spirit, soul, and body, in unity. Resurrection follows logically from restored relational unity with God as God reverses events that occurred at the fall in Genesis:

  • Adam immediately died spiritually when right relationship with God was broken. Physical deterioration, death, and decay eventually followed as a result.
  • Today, when right relationship with God is restored through spiritual rebirth in His Messiah, we are made eternally alive immediately. Physical resurrection with imperishable bodies will eventually follow as a result.

“For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written,
‘Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death where is your victory?
O death where is your sting?’” (1 Cor 15:53-55)

By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…(1 Pet 1:3)