Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pride - Contentment

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
……They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
(Psalm 62:1-5)

The world is constantly telling me what it’s values are: the latest fashion, the newest technology, the trendiest restaurant, the sexiest look. There is, however, only one place I can know the values that are truly important: the Bible (Psalm 119:9). It takes time invested and mental work to delve into the Bible and deeply understand it, and often I’m quick to trade this in for the relative ease with which I can gain an education in worldly values. I would think my life was lived in vain if, with my God-given talents, I pursued money, status, power, or fame. Are not these things manifestations of the sin which initially cast humanity from fellowship with the Lord (Genesis 3:5,6)? Are not these things all facets of pride? When I take my eye from focusing on the Lord, it’s then I find myself malcontent and creeping towards desperation for the very things I claim to despise. A funny thing about our eyes: we can only focus on one thing at a time.

For my soul to wait in silence for the Lord, I must deeply believe the things I say I believe. If they are only words, my heart will betray me, for it will contradict my words. Hypocritical actions will follow shortly thereafter. My actions / words will not betray what I believe (Matthew 12:34) in my heart.

I have desires in my heart:
to be a Christ-like husband to a Godly wife,
to be a proper father to our children,
to be wise, in action more than my words,
to be a servant in medicine.

If these desires never came to fruition, would my soul wait in silence for the Lord, knowing that my hope comes from Him? I’m ashamed to think of the answer at present, if I were being honest. Lord, have mercy on me.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Unconditional Election

In salvation, who does the choosing? Man, or God? Is the person who hears the Gospel and rejects it somehow less intelligent than the one who hears it and responds by embracing it? Did the person who rejected the Gospel do so because the Christian presenting it to them forgot to share some vital piece of information with them? Is the one who accepts the Gospel as truth “luckier” because they happened to have a knowledgeable Christian presenting the Gospel to them? This seems like a lot of pressure on a reckless sinner, which we all are, by the way. Maybe it’s the other way around, as I’ve heard from people. Maybe it’s Christians who are less intelligent. Maybe we’re the “unlucky” ones, duped into believing a religion that takes away our opportunity for so much “fun” in life; I mean, what’s not fun about living for “me” all the time? I can’t explain this latter line of thought, though, after seeing numerous brilliant-minded Christians. In every line of work, they can be found. It doesn’t seem logical that these minds, who are reasonable in every other aspect of their lives, would somehow “shut down” this part of their minds when it comes to religion. No, I think the most plausible explanation, and the one Scripture supports most heavily, is that the sovereign Lord does all of the choosing, and man does no original choosing. I’ll explain what I mean by that in a moment. I know how I became a Christian; I chose Christ. I can clearly remember this happening. This is, I think, a normal way to understand it, since it’s how I perceived it, but it’s not entirely biblical because it excludes part of the process. I chose Christ because I desired to do so in my heart. However, I acted on desires the Lord placed in my heart. These desires are unnatural; no, it’s most natural to indulge myself and be greedily hedonistic in my lifestyle. If I chose God based on real desires in my heart, and these desires were not in my heart prior to becoming a Christian, and these desires are unnatural, they must have been placed there by someone. This someone would have to have the ability to conquer the rebellious heart, much like that of Saul, on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). This God would have to have the ability to melt the heart of an atheist who thought Christians were less intelligent, more gullible, and living a foolish lifestyle. Glory and praise be to God in the highest because He saved this wretch in 1999, who firmly believed He didn’t exist (this is “amazing grace”)! This is what I meant when I wrote that man does no original choosing: I didn’t come up with the desire within myself; rather, the Lord was the author of this desire within my dead heart. It seems what separates a believer from a non-believer is not anything inherent in the person, but rather it is the sole decision of God. Certainly, this will lead some people to the conclusion that since God does the choosing, man has no responsibility to do anything. This is fatalistic thinking, without Scriptural foundation. There are a multitude of verses calling men to repentance, to be holy, to cling to what is good. It’s just that the only people who are going to respond are those whose hearts are first changed by the Lord, to have this unnatural desire to seek Him. This is so devastatingly humbling to my heart, and I am left with the realization that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with my salvation. I am saved by the grace of God, through my faith in Him, but even this faith, “MY” faith, is not my own. No, it was placed in my heart by God, and He did this to remove any tendency to boast in my salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9)!

This verse (2 Chronicles 30:6-12) is great because it compares those who choose to obey God with those who don’t, and then it gives the reason for the difference in obedience.

Father, thank You for conquering my rebellious will, shattering my pride, and driving me to my knees in shameful repentance before You. When I hated You most, You reached out and humbled me by showing Your love for me. You kept my heart beating as I placed a crown of thorns on Your brow. You kept me strong, from fatigue, so I could beat you and rip flesh from your back more effectively. You maintained my coordination as I drove nails into your hands and feet. You hung on my cross, wearing my crown of thorns, and I thanked You by spitting in Your face and cursing You. You kept me alive, knowing all along that You would one day redeem me so I could have a proper relationship with You, rescuing me from Your wrath. Why?! My heart cries out for an answer, but it is too great for me. I have no reason why You should choose me, but I am thankful. My life is poured out before You, offering all that I have, which is everything You have given me. I have nothing to give You that is original in me. Thank You for providing me with everything I will ever need to worship You properly. Please forgive me for constantly trying to worship You from self-reliance, and teach me what it means to be humble before You. Because Your love is better, is worth more than my life, I will forever praise You and love You. Please sustain this faith because I am unable to do so apart from You. Teach me. Mold me. Break me. Who I am hates who I have been. Keep me on my knees before You.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

End of Life Thoughts - 02

Well, again I find myself in the position of wanting to write something, yet not being quite sure how to express it in words. I have been thinking off and on about this all day, but few cohesive thoughts have formed about it, at least in a manner that’s conducive to writing. CS has been constantly on my heart and in my prayers since I last wrote about him a couple of days ago. I learned, I think, more about prayer during this time. At times, I found it hard to pray for him. Not because I don’t know him, but because many times I’m not “good at prayer.” I found, with him, as with myself, I didn’t quite know what to pray for. I am eager to pray for the needs of others, and I really do try to, but it’s just I am inept at it (Romans 8:26). I am sure this is the direct result of my rebellious heart and desires being completely opposed to the Holy Lord. I think this is what makes it sometimes very difficult to come to the Father in prayer; because I know what a wretch I am, and I don’t feel like I should be at His feet asking for anything, but this is exactly where I want to be. By His grace alone, I lay at His feet, waiting for anything benevolent He might choose to do on my behalf. The Father is so much more than my feeble mind can imagine, though, because He is always choosing to do benevolent things on my behalf (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 7:9-11)! And I don’t deserve them! Anyway, when I got to the hospital this morning I decided to go see some of my other patients first, in hopes that I would then be able to spend more time with CS. I guess it was around 10am that I made it down to the CT-ICU, where he was. I looked in his room and saw a patient on a ventilator, but it wasn’t CS. My heart sank a bit. I guess I could’ve asked a nurse if they knew about him, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I didn’t want anyone to tell me what I already knew. I quickly located a computer over in the corner that wasn’t being used, and I logged on to look up my patients. When I checked his name, it said he had died the evening before (March 23). I just sat there looking at the screen, replaying the times I had seen him, replaying the things I had said to him, replaying the prayers I had prayed for him, the tears I had shed for him. Around me, the ICU was abuzz, but time was still, at least where I sat. I don’t know quite what I was feeling inside. Certainly, sadness was there. Joy, that he was at the feet of the Father. Disbelief. Awe, in the sovereignty of God, to take those whom He chooses to take, at the time He chooses to take them. I got up from the computer and retreated from the noise of the ICU to a back hallway that afforded me a little solace, at least for a few minutes. I briefly prayed for his family, and I tried to praise the Lord the best that I could, though I’m sure it sounded forced. I contemplated, what a crazy profession I am a part of. One minute, we’re trying to solve mysteries, treat problems, and save lives; death interrupts our best efforts, but only briefly, then we’re off to the next patient with all the fervor we can muster, as if nothing ever happened. Something about this just seems so wrong, so misdirected. It seems almost like we’re looking directly at the awesome power of God, yet we’re completely blind to it, or by it. The best mental picture I can think of is trying to look at a plane flying in the sky, next to the Sun, and saying, “gosh, it’s hard to see the plane because there’s some kind of bright light in my way.” My focus should be on the power of the Sun, not the plane! Ok, that was a bad analogy; don’t stare at the Sun. I am certainly not advocating that we neglect our responsibility to treat patients; our roles within the hospital, Christian or not, are given by God alone, and we are to carry out these with energy. I guess I just kind of wonder, am I the only one moved by the death of these patients?! Does no one else see the hand of God in this? Do any of them see the awesome power of God, and not tremble? I am so humbled in my heart by my experience in these situations, but I’m also thankful for them. I don’t have to save the world. I try my best to glorify the Lord at my job, by studying, by caring, by pressing forward, but only He can add the necessary “ingredients” to make my endeavors successful. As I sit here, I think of my other patients:

1) Mr. T: We were consulted to see this 86y/o man, who had broken his hip, to assess the likelihood of intra-op and post-op pulmonary complications, should he choose to have surgery. It was late in the afternoon a couple of days ago, when I first saw him, and I had been struggling with CS in my mind all day; I was emotionally drained. I was probably a bit curt with the concerned family, and if I wasn’t openly, I was in my heart. I’m such a wretch. It appeared clear-cut, by all of his medical problems, that if he had the surgery, he would likely not come off the ventilator, but the family was in denial, and was having difficulty coming to terms with end-of-life decisions. I’m normally patient in my heart regarding these conversations, but because I’m a wretch and I’m prone to wander from the God I love, I wasn’t this day. I don’t know if the family even noticed, but I did. This morning, shortly after I found out about the death of CS, I learned Mr. T had died from respiratory failure. I never got to see the family again. I failed to minister to them with patient love; I did not love my neighbor as myself (Romans 13:9).
2) Ms. B: I got an urgent call this afternoon from the vascular surgeons about this patient that was two days post-op from a L femoral – renal venous bypass, who had developed acute abdominal pain. Since they suspected mesenteric ischemia, they decided to take her to angiography to see if there was a clot they could break up. While she was there, she decompensated, and went into respiratory failure, hence the phone call to me. She was intubated and placed on a ventilator. After we got her back to the ICU, surgery came and decided they needed to emergently take her to surgery to explore her belly for dead bowel. This is a high-risk procedure, with very high intra-op mortality, but without it, the patient surely dies from sepsis.

Again, I’m amazed at the frailty of life in all situations, even though it is most clearly demonstrated in these medical situations. There is such a fine line between the “apparently healthy” people and those who are sick, barely clinging to life. Most of us never even see it, or realize it; we kind of walk along, happily convinced of our invincibility. In truth, it’s only the restraining hand of God that prevents us from death. Another thing I’m amazed at is my crappy attitude in so many situations. Do I work at my job in such a way that honestly is worship to the Lord? I can get all excited about spending time with the Lord, and praying with a patient, or a family; yet, I walk out of the room, and my heart has already started to wander, my faith has started to wane, and my thoughts are sinful. Is this ministry pleasing to the Lord? It’s the best I have to offer, which is nothing before Him; but I weakly hold up my heart to Him, not because I think He should take it and use it, but because I hope He will take it and use it for His glory. It is my prayer that I would walk worthy of the life to which I have been called (Ephesians 4:1-3; thanks Diana), with the humility, gentleness, and patience my weak condition mandates.

The Cry of a Convicted Sinner
Thou righteous and Holy Sovereign,
In whose hand is my life and whose are all my ways,
Keep me from fluttering about religion;
fix me firm in it,
for I am irresolute;
my decisions are smoke and vapor,
and I do not glorify thee,
or behave according to thy will;
Cut me not off before my thoughts grow to responses,
and the budding of my soul into full flower,
for thou art forbearing and good,
patient and kind.
Save me from myself,
from the artifices and deceits of sin,
from the treachery of my perverse nature,
from denying thy charge against my offenses,
from a life of continual rebellion against thee,
from wrong principles, views, and ends;
for I know that all my thoughts, affections, desires and pursuits are alienated from thee.
I have acted as if I hated thee, although thou art love itself;
have contrived to tempt thee to the uttermost, to wear out thy patience;
have lived evilly in word and action.
Had I been a prince, I would long ago have crushed such a rebel;
Had I been a father, I would long since have rejected my child.
O, thou Father of my spirit, thou King of my life,
cast me not into destruction,
drive me not from thy presence,
but wound my heart that it may be healed;
break it that thine own hand may make it whole.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Colossians 1v24

Colossians 1:24

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,…”

At first read, this appears to say that Paul somehow completes the works accomplished by the afflictions of Christ. Surely, there is nothing any person can do to contribute to the salvation of the elect, by the Lord. Hanging on the cross, would the Lord Jesus have announced, “it is finished,” were this not the case?

Filling up (#466) – antanaplērŏō “to supplement,” or “fill up”

Lacking (#5303) – hustĕrēma “deficit,” or “poverty”

I don’t think there is a great need to go into the meaning of these words at length, mainly because the meanings of them don’t really shed any new light on the verse. These words mean exactly what they appear to mean. Interestingly, the Greek text, though it reads a bit awkwardly, I think, sheds some light on what this verse might be trying to say.

From the Greek translation of the NT: v.24
“Now I rejoice in the sufferings on behalf of you and I fill up the lacks of the afflictions of the Christ in the flesh of me on behalf of the body of him, who is the assembly…”

Christ’s afflictions aren’t what is lacking! What is lacking is my partaking, as a believer, in those afflictions. When I become a believer, my flesh is “empty” in regards to the sufferings for Christ. As I am slowly sanctified throughout my life, however, my flesh becomes “filled” with the sufferings I’ve endured for the sake of Christ. The only thing lacking in any of this is my suffering on behalf of Christ. As I’ve previously written about, suffering is a part of being a Christian (Philippians 1:29,30; Acts 5:40,41; Romans 8:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4; 1 Peter 2:20; 3:14-17; 1 Peter 4:19; Revelation 2:10). If I’m not suffering sometimes for the sake of Christ, I am no Christian. Suffering comes at the hands of the world, when I oppose their views/values. If I’m never opposing these things, I’m no friend of Christ (1 John 2:15,16)!

Grace in Trials

Father of mercies,
Hear me for Jesus’ sake.
I am sinful even in my closest walk with thee;
it is of thy mercy I died not long ago;
Thy grace has given me faith in the cross
by which thou hast reconciled thyself to me and me to thee,
drawing me by thy great love,
reckoning me as innocent in Christ though guilty in myself.
Giver of all graces,
I look to thee for strength to maintain them in me,
for it is hard to practice what I believe.
Strengthen me against temptations.
My heart is an unexhausted fountain of sin,
a river of corruption since childhood days,
flowing on in every pattern of behavior;
Thou hast disarmed me of the means in which I trusted,
and I have no strength but in thee.
Thou alone canst hold back my evil ways,
but without thy grace to sustain me I fall.
Satan’s darts quickly inflame me,
and the shield that should quench them easily drops from my hand:
Empower me against his wiles and assaults.
Keep me sensible of my weakness,
and of my dependence upon thy strength.
Let every trial teach me more of thy peace, more of thy love.
Thy Holy Spirit is given to increase thy graces,
and I cannot preserve or improve them unless he works continually in me.
May he confirm my trust in thy promised help,
and let me walk humbly in dependence upon thee, for Jesus’ sake.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Colossians 1v15

Colossians 1:15 prōtŏtŏkŏs
ESV, NASB, NKJV, KJV – “firstborn”
NLT – “He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation.”

This verse, at first glance, seems to say that Christ was born, or created from God, however I know this interpretation is directly refuted in multiple places throughout Scripture, even in the very next verse [John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:16]. What, then, does firstborn mean? In the 9 times it is used in the NT and the 117 times the Hebrew word, bekôwr, is used in the OT, it is used to describe someone as being the chronologically first-born of someone; it is alternatively used to refer to the preeminence of one within a family. This firstborn enjoyed the greatest of the family’s blessings, and the bloodline was traced through this firstborn. When compared with what Scripture clearly teaches about the eternal, uncreated nature of Christ, it seems the NLT more directly states this in a way easily understood. What a danger it would be to think of Christ as a created being, no different, essentially from any of the angels!

It's amazing how the Lord directs my time spent in His Word. When I started to read this evening, I actually intended to study and reflect more on Colossians 2:14 because it is such a powerful verse. However, I never made it that far because of this verse. The Lord taught me how wonderful it is that Christ is the firstborn of all creation. He was present in the beginning (not created); He was with God; He was and is God; for Him, from Him, and through Him are all things; He rules creation at the right hand of God. There truly is none like Him.

If Christ were a created being (as some errantly advocate, in direct opposition to Scripture), born just like the rest of us, but living a perfect life, capable of atoning for the sins of His elect, why would there not have been anyone else in history to live amongst the wicked, yet be without sin? It would seem logical that if one created being did it, maybe another should have been able to. Not really a part of the rest of my study, but just a thought I was entertaining.

God Honored
Praise waiteth for thee, and to render it is my noblest exercise;
This is thy due from all thy creatures, for all thy works display thy
attributes and fulfill thy designs;
The sea, dry land, winter cold, summer heat, morning light, evening shade
are full of thee, and thou givest me them richly to enjoy.
Thou art King of kings and Lord of lords;
At thy pleasure empires rise and fall;
All thy works praise thee and thy saints bless thee;
Let me be numbered with thy holy ones, resemble them in character and
condition, sit with them at Jesus' feet.
May my religion be always firmly rooted in thy Word,
my understanding divinely informed
my affections holy and heavenly,
my motives simple and pure,
and my heart never wrong with thee.
Deliver me from the natural darkness of my own mind,
from the corruptions of my heart,
from the temptations to which I am exposed,
from the daily snares that attend me.
I am in constant danger while I am in this life;
Let thy watchful eye ever be upon me for my defense,
Save me from the power of my worldly and spiritual enemies and from all
painful evils to which I have exposed myself.
Until the day of life dawns above let there be unrestrained fellowship with
Until fruition comes, may I enjoy the earnest of my inheritance and the
firstfruits of the Spirit;
Until I finish my course with joy may I pursue it with diligence, in every
part display the resources of the Christian, and adorn the doctrine of thee
my God in all things.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

End of Life Thoughts

I’m not quite sure of what I want to say here, but I felt like something should be written, so here I am. I am unable to think of an appropriate word that conveys what I feel when I tell one of my patients they are expected to die. I think the word that probably comes closest in my mind, right now, is hurt. It hurts me to do this. It makes my heart hurt. I have struggled/am struggling through emotionally tough times within my own family, but there’s something different when you share a moment that intimate with someone you hardly know. The pain is different, but still very real. Prior to ever having done this, I thought it would be easier, since they were strangers…I could kind of emotionally disconnect myself from the situation. Well, it’s not easier, and I’m not able to emotionally disconnect any part of me from the situation.

CS is a 70 y/o man who was admitted about 3 weeks ago for shortness of breath that had itself been increasing for a couple of weeks previous to that. We were consulted for a bronchoscopy / biopsy of a lesion discovered on CT scan. The biopsy came back adenocarcinoma of the lung, with a tumor that was mostly obstructing one of the apical bronchioles in the left lung. Of the people who have this type of cancer, 99% are smokers….well, CS has never smoked in his entire life. He had always been around smokers, though. This was a new diagnosis, so we went to tell him that he had lung cancer, that it was partially obstructing, and that if he was agreeable, he needed to start chemo/radiation. Over the past couple of weeks since the diagnosis (he’s been in the hospital the entire time), his oxygen requirements have progressively increased, without expected increases in his pO2, the amount of oxygen actually in the blood. CS was transferred to the ICU, and we were again asked to perform a bronchoscopy because mucous plugging was the suspected culprit that had caused this rather acute decline in respiratory status, even since admission. Because of his increased oxygen requirements, we needed to intubate CS in order to safely perform the bronchoscopy. After much thought and what must have been difficult contemplation on his part, CS agreed, with the understanding that after the procedure we had 72hrs to get him off the ventilator and the breathing tube out of him. He didn’t want to be on a ventilator, and after 72hrs, he wants us to extubate him and just make him comfortable until he dies, which appears imminent, considering how much oxygen he’s requiring. Well, 72hrs is around lunchtime Wednesday, 03/22/06. I went to see CS this morning, to try to figure out why he’s still needing so much oxygen, and what makes it even more difficult is that he’s awake. He’s just laying there in bed with his eyes open, tracking me, watching me, and listening to me. He shakes his head, when appropriate; he’s “all there,” but just has a breathing tube in his throat, and we can’t safely remove it. It was cold and rainy outside. I could hear the soft pitter patter of the rain on the window. It was dim in the room, since I hadn’t turned on the light. I remember there was a lot of silence; it surprised me how quiet it was, despite being in the ICU; maybe it just felt that way. I normally like to talk, but not this morning. I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything. My heart hurt for this man. He made hand signals to me and mouthed that we had one day remaining, then he wanted the tube out. He knows what he’s asking…he knows he will likely not survive long after the extubation. I asked him if he knew the Lord, and he shook his head yes. I tried to encourage him the best I could with Scripture, challenging him to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer [Romans 12:12].” It’s so different, or at least it feels that way, when you’re there, actually having to cling to Scripture because that’s all you have in the situation. How many times have I read Scripture in a manner so far below the faith it demands of me? This man needed the promises of the Lord to be true, and I needed them to be true for him. I asked him if I could pray for him. CS shook his head, “yes.” I leaned over his bed, and prayed as honestly and as humbly as I was able for him, though I’m sure my words must have sounded contrite. I was struggling not to cry too much, and I kept it to a few tears here and there. At least I wasn’t dripping tears and boogers all over this man. At the end of the prayer, CS could see that I was tearing a bit, and he lifted his hand up to my face, patted me a couple of times on the cheek and mouthed the words, “thank you” around the breathing tube. I didn’t want to leave. I just stayed leaning over his bed, in silence, looking out the window and listening to the rain. I am learning a lot about faith, humanity, and the Lord, through medicine; I am not worthy to be where I am, but I am thankful for the opportunity to try to encourage & comfort patients and their families the best that I’m able, given my emotional weakness.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Philippians 2v12-13

Philippians 2:12
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,...”

work (# 2716) κατεργάζομαι [katĕgazŏmai] x22
x01: committed
x05: do / does / doing
x02: bring(s)
x07: produce(s)(d)
x01: actions
x04: has accomplished / has done / has prepared / is preparing
x01: having done
x01: were performed

Work thoroughly; to finish / fashion.
This word usually means to do something from which something else results. To toil in achievement.

salvation (# 4991) σωτηρίαν [sōtēria] x46
x37: salvation
x05: save(d)
x01: savior
x01: rescuing
x01: survive
x01: deliverance

In all of these instances, soteria is used to denote rescue, or salvation, from a danger, whether it is physical or spiritual. This danger is indeed real, and soteria is intended to mean a real rescue from it.

fear (# 5401) φόβον [phŏbŏs] x47
x34: fear
x04: awe / awestruck
x03: reverence
x02: terrified, respect
x01: alarm, deference

From the primary word “phĕbŏmai” (to be put in fear); alarm or fright. Phŏbŏs has the meaning of flight, caused by being scared.
(1) Fear, dread, terror: this is its meaning when used in the Gospels.
(2) Reverential fear: as a controlling motive of one’s life. This is not a mere fear of His wrath, but a complete dread of displeasing Him.

trembling (# 5156) τρόμον [trŏmŏs] x5
x04: trembling
x01: terror

Tromos, used in Scripture, is used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements in a task, but strives to fulfill his duty regardless.

Philippians 2:13
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

work (# 1754) ενεργεω [ĕnĕrgĕō] x20
x09: are (were)(is) at work
x02: activate(s)(d)
x01: experience
x05: work(ed)(ing)
x01: accomplishes
x01: powerfully
x01: effective

This word, energeo, is used of: 1)God, 2)the Holy Spirit, 3)the Word of God, 4)supernatural power, 5) faith, 6)example of patience and suffering, 7)physical death and spiritual life 8)sinful passions, 9)the spirit of the Evil One, 10)mystery of iniquity. This word implies that something is actually getting accomplished, unlike work (katĕgazŏmai, #2716), which emphasizes only the striving toward a goal, without necessarily achieving the desired result.

What these two verses (Philippians 2:12,13) are saying, I think, congruently with what Scripture teaches elsewhere, is this: strive (Hebrews 12:1) in the things that are necessary to inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), but understand that it is God, not man (Romans 7:18-23), who actually effects the good works that are becoming (Colossians 1:10) of one who is a child of the King, and which are necessary to escape the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). The fear and trembling comes not from fear of punishment (1 John 4:18), but rather from the knowledge that it is God who effectually works His will in us, despite who we are.

Fear and trembling are natural in me, I think, when I clearly see who God is (Revelation 1:17,18). What would it be like to lay at the feet of the Lord? To see the face of the King? I shudder to think that I will do this someday! What a joyful, terrifying day that will be! “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (Revelation 1:12-17). Do I really merit being able to see Him? No! Enter fear and trembling: … looking in awe at the One, realizing it is Him, alone, who has the power over the souls of men.

Praise God that Your ways are higher than mine, that Your power is unsurpassed, that You righteousness is perfect, that Your love is beyond measure, that Your grace is deeper than my sins. I am humbled when I consider Your creation; that You troubled Yourself to take the form of man, in order to purchase my life from Your just wrath, and not just my life, but the lives of Your elect. I will not fully understand, this side of eternity, the depth of Your love or the sacrifice You gave so I could know You, but I will humble myself before You, only by Your grace and power, that I would enjoy the sufficiency of Your Son. Reward my strivings with more of You.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ephesians 5v21-33

O Father,
Please forgive me for my many sins. I shudder when I think back through my day’s sins: the missed opportunities to show Your love to another; the times my thoughts dwell on things they ought not; elevation of myself at the expense of demonstrating Your glory and sufficiency in my life; the times I charge forward into sin, recklessly handling the grace that was so costly for You to provide me; the many times I respond to Your commandments with a defiant, “No”, instead trusting myself to carry out a plan. I wish I could say that I shudder because I’m that righteous, but that’s not why I shudder. I shudder because I’m amazed at how patient You are with me. I’m thankful Your ways are higher than mine, and that Your thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9). I would surely have perished in Your wrath were You any less. Please have mercy on my soul, for my sins are many, and my weakness is too much to bear at times. Please elevate Your name through me at the expense of my reputation, my ego, my “fame.” I know that I must decrease in order for Your name to rightly increase (John 3:30); I beg You to make this come to pass. You are worthy of all my praise, not only because You created everything that my eyes see to glorify Your name, but also because You purchased me with the costly blood of Your Son, of which there is nothing more precious. Please make this sink into my thick head. Thank You for being perfectly righteous in Your perfect love, grace, mercy, faithfulness, commandments, judgments, and wrath. Thank You for rescuing my heart and soul to a better inheritance (Hebrews 12:28,29), when I was unable to make this decision (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 2:14) because of the deadness of my sinful character. For the elevation of Your Son’s name, I ask these things as humbly as I am able.

I have been reading through Ephesians the past several nights, and I hit a snag tonight as I was reading. I actually came across it last night, but it was too late to dive into then. I have read this passage many times, and I don’t claim to understand it exactly, but I do know that it’s in the Word of God, therefore I have the responsibility to try to understand and apply it in my life. The specific Ephesians reference is: Ephesians 5:21-33; there are other verses in the Bible that re-iterate this point, but I just want to try to begin to understand this one for now, Lord willing. It’s so difficult even for my mind to grasp, because I recognize the incredible potential in the hearts of mankind to distort this design, and indeed many have; the uninformed will call Christianity a religion of bigots, of male domination, etc. Certainly there must be something more; surely the Lord of the universe wrote exactly what He meant to say in Ephesians and in other “difficult” passages in the Bible. I must think that my explanation, however well intended, will miss something; I believe there is still a huge component of the roles of marriage, as they were intended by God, that remains veiled because of my sin.

The most important, encompassing theme of this entire passage is the mystery of marriage revealed in v. 32. Marriage is intended to be a metaphor/parallel for the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage is intended not only to be an institution for our enjoyment, but it is also intended to teach men and women how to subject themselves to Christ and to each other out of reverence for Christ (v.21). Beginning in v.28, the passage relates the husband loving his wife as being the same thing as the husband loving himself. Because the man and woman have joined, becoming one flesh (v.31; Genesis 2:24), loving your spouse is the same thing, in the eyes of the Lord, as loving yourself. Husbands are called to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Christ lived a life of complete sacrifice (Philippians 2:5-11); is there any way to love more than this? John 15:13 clearly answers this question with an emphatic, “No!”

Society’s massive efforts to “reshape” (pervert) marriage roles are not done cautiously. In fact, the marriage roles shift only with the consequence of obscuring the Lord’s original design in marriage, to glorify Himself. This is the end of all that He does. The original roles of husband and wife are rooted in the distinct roles of Christ and His Church. This is clearly seen in v.23-25. Wives are to find their distinctive role in marriage by keying off the way the Church relates to Christ (v.24). Husbands are to find their distinctive role in marriage by keying off the way Christ relates to the Church (v. 23, 25). All throughout Scripture, it would seem that the same verse read by husband and wife could be understood from a slightly different perspective because of their different given marriage roles. What an incredible learning opportunity for both husband and wife as they share and understand the Word together!

The unfortunate consequence of man’s sinful fall is the perversion of marriage roles, not because it brought headship and submission into existence, but rather because it twisted man’s humble, loving leadership into hostile domination in some, and lazy indifference in others. In women, it twisted their will, intelligent submission in to a manipulative, cringing submission in some, and open insubordination in others. Headship and submission were already present in the initial design for marriage; sin distorted these themes, as it does everything it (sin) touches.

These Scripture verses guard against husbands abusing their charge in marriage by telling them to love like Jesus loved the Church, and it does the same thing to the charge of wives by telling them to respond the way the Church responds to Christ.

Headship: the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection and provision in the home.

Submission: the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

While the husband and wife are both submitting themselves to each other (Ephesians 5:21), this does not have to be in the exact same way, and in fact it is not in the same way. Christ submitted himself to the Church in a way that cost Him His life. The Church submits to Christ in quite another way, honoring His leadership and following Him.

Luke 22:26 calls for the leader to be as one who serves. This protects against the free-license for power abuse in marriage. There is no way to get around this verse and distort what has been written. All leadership by the husband is intended to be in the form of serving. This parallels Christ exactly!

Submission by the wife is not intended to elevate the husband to the place of Christ. Submission does not mean the wife surrenders her thoughts to the husband, nor does it mean the wife has no input into decision-making. Again, we must be reminded of the parallel between Christ and the Church.

I don’t know if this is any clearer, and I’m certain this will be something that I will continually have to review and pray over, lest I abuse my role, if the Lord wills that I marry. I know that I’m not called to shy away from “difficult” passages of Scripture, but only to pray that the Spirit reveal to me what Truth is in what I’m reading. I know that I cannot understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14) unless the Holy Spirit reveals them to my heart. I pray that happens.