Monday, December 31, 2007

The Other Image

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

This verse says that God created mankind in His own image, and that image is displayed in two different ways—male and female. This is not to say that God is a woman. All of inspired Scripture refers to Him in the masculine gender. What it does say is that the differences in the sexes that make them complimentary to one another are all found in God. I need not look to goddesses like Diana, Isis, or Ishtar to find someone who understands me. God knows what it is to give birth (John 1:13); nourish (Eph.5:29); and comfort (Isa.66:13).

God may have created Adam first, but you and I as women were not an afterthought with Him. Femininity, the real source of a woman’s beauty, comes directly from God. And when we deny it or neglect it, we deface that part of His image that He has stamped upon us uniquely. God saw fit to make someone who would be enough like Adam to make him feel comfortable, but different enough to arouse his interest. Fulfilling the purpose of God and catching the eye of “Adam”—who could ask for anything more?

“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.” (1Cor.11:11-12)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family, Friends, and Readers,

We have babies in our lives again. After nearly ten years, our great-grandchildren, two-year old Ethan, and his four-month old sister, Haley, are filling our hearts and cheering our lives as only a little child can do. They live nearly and hour and a half away, but we are still able to see them from time to time, and our granddaughter, Glory, keeps us well supplied (via e-mail) with pictures, bless her heart!

None of our children are close at hand now—Andrew nearly three hours; Josh and Charity, a good ten hours; and Leah, across the country, from us. Now Andrew and Leah are experiencing the mixed emotions of seeing their own children leave home; while both Josh and Charity’s children are either in, or nearing, their teens. Of course, this all leaves my husband and me wondering how 74 and 64 years (respectively) overtook us!

Because of our limited income—and seemingly limitless family—we have given up trying to buy Christmas gifts for them. Instead, our daily prayers for them are the love gifts we have tried to lavish upon them. I sometimes think that when someone coined the phrase, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” he or she was thinking of children, not sweethearts. Now that we as parents are more like invested observers than active participants in the lives of our children, it is our hearts and not our hands that hover over them.

My husband and I now look at one another across the room, and, thank God, we don’t see a stranger. For we have found, as dearly as we love them, it was not our children that bound us together all those years, but the love we share for Jesus Christ and one another. When our children left the nest, there were still three of us left!

As I write these words, we have family and friends for whom we are praying, who are battling a cancer that is threatening their lives. For that reason, our own sometimes debilitating maladies seem hardly worth mentioning. Suffice it to say, our testimony is that of the Psalmist: “The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness” (Psalm 41:3). We are able to report, as well, that God has supplied all our needs (and some of our wants), because of friends and loved ones who stand in the gap financially for us. For them, there are no words of gratitude that would ever suffice.

But there is another Baby in our lives, whose birthday Christmas is meant to commemorate. And just as our babies grew up, so did that Baby. There is an old gospel song I used to sing that asks, “Do you worship the Babe in the manger, but reject the Christ of the Cross?” It asks a legitimate question, because as sweet as that Baby was, it was the Man he became who purchased salvation for us all by His death, burial, and resurrection. I love babies, and if I had lived then, and could have been in the temple with Anna, I would probably have asked to hold Him (Luke 2:36-38). But it was the Man, Christ Jesus, whom I embraced all those years ago; and He is far dearer to me than the Baby ever could have been.

May your own Christmas be sweet because you are reminded once again that on that night in Bethlehem, a Savior was born; and may the coming year find all of us in His will, walking by faith.


Salle and Richard

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Perverted Pleasures

“Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forever more.” (Psl. 16:11)

Who among us does not like to be pleased? Besides our physical appetites—sustenance (Deut.23:24 & Esther 1:8) and sex (Gen.18:12 & Ezek.16:37)—there are individual wants that, when fulfilled, bring us delight and enjoyment. They satisfy a personal desire. For instance, when I have puzzled through an especially difficult and intricate problem, it gives me great pleasure. And finding a really great out-of-print book in an unexpected place can send me over the moon!

God, “who giveth us richly all things to enjoy,” has made provision for our pleasure. In fact, as the verse says, He keeps them close at hand—His right hand—ready to share with us. But like all things God has given us, Satan delights in seeing us pervert them. It pleases him, if you will. Perversion is distorting something good until it becomes something bad, changing the proper use into improper practice. Sometimes it is overt and obvious, as in sexual perversion; but sometimes it is unnoticed and subtle, as in tolerating questionable companions or developing all-consuming pastimes. Nearly anything can become perverted; and when that happens, it changes the way we live.

1. Perverted pleasures lead to careless, self-centered living.

“Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that
dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none
else beside me…” (Isa.47:8)

2. Perverted pleasures lead to fruitless living.

“And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they
have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and
pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14)

3. Perverted pleasures lead to (spiritual) adulterous living.

“… lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:4)

4. Perverted pleasures lead to hateful living.

“…serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy,
hateful, and hating one another.” (Tit. 3:3)

5. Perverted pleasures lead to short-sighted living.

“Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to
enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Heb. 11:25)

The end of allowing ourselves to pervert the pleasures God has given us to enjoy, is not a pretty picture. Sin never is. There is a difference between enjoying God’s gifts “richly” and enjoying them wrongly. This is one of those articles I write that calls for individual application. We each know what pleases us; and we must each decide if one or more of those things has become, or is in danger of becoming, perverted. To my mind, the most troubling verse I cited was 2 Timothy 3:4. Spiritual adultery—loving the pleasures of this world more than we love God—is a serious indictment. Some of us need to run quickly to the Lover of our souls, as He calls to us even now…

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:10)