I annoy my family every time we eat fresh strawberries or a ripe watermelon. “Are you kidding me?!! Did you taste these? How is this even possible?!!” Yes, they’ve tasted the strawberries; yes, they’re delicious; let’s talk about something more interesting. But let me annoy you with this for just a minute.

Think of everything that has to go into enjoying a strawberry. God had to first create a world in which strawberries could grow. Then he designed strawberries, but he did so with such an over-extravagant flare it’s ridiculous. They’re not black and white; they’re bright red. They have a unique shape and texture. They are capable of nourishing our bodies (which God also designed to receive nourishment from the fruit of the ground—unbelievable!). This would all be amazing even if they weren’t delicious.

Strawberries

But then God chose to give strawberries flavor. Think about what flavor entails. We’re talking about a whole language of subtleties and nuances. Wine and coffee snobs have their own jargon to try to capture some of these subtleties in flavor: sweet, acidic, smooth, robust, earthy, fruity, lingering, sharp, crisp, oaky, floral, etc. There is a world of information in every bite, so we grasp at a language that was not designed to describe such things and try to communicate what we’re tasting. Flavor is a full language, an incomprehensibly large set of data packed into the physical stuff we eat and drink.

God created this language of flavor. He encoded every edible thing with the appropriate data to make it taste as it should. Even if you’ve never eaten a fresh Oxnard strawberry, those strawberries are encoded with data by a loving Creator.

And then there’s your mouth. God had to give your mouth both the hardware (taste buds, teeth, saliva, etc.) and the software (flavor interpreters) so that you could decode the flavors that he has encoded in a strawberry. Your sense of smell is tied in as well. Every bite. Every strawberry. Every glass of wine. Every steak. Bursting with a flavor-language invented by God, decoded by the ingenious equipment God placed in your mouth.

It’s the same with your ears. We’re talking physical objects capable of producing sound waves that can carry unique timbres, flying through the air, smashing into your eardrums, travelling to your brain for interpretation. God encodes the world with a sound-language, and equips your body with decoding equipment.

It’s the same with your eyes. Multiple sources of light that cast unique visual opportunities at every moment. Objects that reflect and refract that light in a host of colors, shades, and textures, sending that light bouncing toward eyes and camera lenses. God encoded the world using an incredibly complex light-language. And he gave you light-decoding equipment that is mind-boggling in its complexity and brilliance.

Watermelon

It’s the same with your fingertips. A world encoded with textures, degrees of firmness, shapes, and all the incredible subtleties that make up the “feel” of the world. A touch-language that is infinitely explorable. And he covered you in skin capable of decoding this data with unbelievable sensitivity.

It’s the same with your nose. Particles everywhere encoded using God’s incredible scent-language. Winds that carry these scents. Noses that can pick them up and interpret them.

And here is the staggering part: ALL OF THIS IS ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY. From a certain standpoint, that is.

God could have made us purely spiritual beings, yet he chose to enflesh us. He made a physical world and loaded it with the potential for infinite sensory combinations. He gave us the equipment to utilize these five senses. He sends us out into the world to enjoy these sense experiences in all of their diversity, in all of their glory. God’s world is enjoyable—he made it that way, and he gave us the capacity to enjoy it. Truly, in enjoying this world, we are enjoying the God who made it, the God who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

I truly believe that God delights in my delight of strawberries. I can turn that taste into an idol, of course. I can use it for purposes that dishonor God. But when I bite into this unbelievable piece of God’s creation, my mind turns instantly to the Creator, and I thank him for being so lavish in encoding this world, and so gracious in providing me with the ability to decode it. I enjoy God by enjoying his creation. With every bite, I remember God’s goodness.

It’s as if the strawberries declare the glory of God; the watermelons proclaim his handiwork. It’s apologetic fruit, and it’s full of wonder.

I’ve written a bit about Francis and Lisa Chan’s new book, You & Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. The book is now available, and you definitely need to read it, whether you’re married, engaged, think you might someday be married, or know someone who is or will be. This book is perspective changing, and I’m excited for people everywhere to begin digging into it.

I just came across this 13 minute video that really conveys the heart of the book. The stories in this video are so powerful. They will inspire you to see your marriage as bigger than your own happiness. God has a purpose for you and your marriage. A mission to pursue. He wants to change lives through your marriage, and not just your own. I’m so thankful for people like this who challenge us to see our lives and marriages as God sees them.

Settle in with a box of tissues and watch this video, then order the book below.

You and Me Forever from You and Me Forever on Vimeo.

 

Order the book now at Amazon or at youandmeforever.org.

You & Me Forever Cover - Francis & Lisa Chan

 

Before you blast me for the very title, please hear me out. I’m posting this blog as a genuine invitation for good, logical, critical feedback. I don’t intend to be offensive and I don’t mean any harm by this post. Please hear me out; please read what I say.Luke and leah I’m inviting good, healthy, and humble push-back. If I’m wrong, please show me where.

A few months ago, I made an analogy between homosexual relations and incest, and I received quite a few negative comments. To be honest, I don’t remember receiving any logical refutations to the point that I was making, which has caused me to write this post. If I’m off, then please point out the error in my logic. Please correct me with texts, evidence, or logical fallacy.

In my previous post, I pointed out that the moral logic often used in justifying same-sex relations could also be used in justifying incest. That moral logic is: consensuality, mutuality, love, and commitment. That is, if two people love each other, are committed to a life-long relationship, and if their relationship doesn’t harm anyone else, and if such love is mutual, rich, and genuine—then why is it wrong? Why should these two people not consummate their relationship through marriage and sex?

Many people would say that nothing is wrong. If such criteria are met, then the two persons should get married. But in my previous blogs, I simply tried to show that such moral logic could also be used to justify incest. If the only criteria for marriage is mutual love, commitment, and lack of any potential harm to one’s neighbor, then the same criteria could be applied to both incest and homosexual unions.

Please hear me out: I am not saying that gay unions are the same as incest, nor am I saying that gay unions will lead to incest, nor am I saying that gay unions are as bad as incest. Again, I am only trying to analyze the moral logic for gay unions based on analogy.

Now, to justify the analogy, I have to point out that both Moses and Paul did the same thing.

In Leviticus 18, Moses discusses incest quite pervasively in vv. 6-18 and then homosexual relations in v. 22 (cf. 20:13). Paul also talked about homosexual relations (1 Cor 6:9) in the context of incest (1 Cor 5) and sex with prostitutes (1 Cor 6:12ff). This does not mean that incest is the same as homosexual relations, or that homosexual relations will lead to having sex with prostitutes. That’s not what I am saying. And that’s not what the biblical writers were saying. I’m only trying to point out that the biblical writers brought these up in the same contexts; and that’s all I’m trying to do.

So with that lengthy introduction, let me express my questions.

Why are some people so appalled at the analogy? People get upset at the incest analogy, but I’ve yet to hear why incest is so wrong. So my question is: why is incest wrong?

Because Leviticus 18 says so? Well, there are lots of laws in Leviticus that Christians don’t obey. So why should we obey this one?

It’s repeated in the NT? Yes, but only once (1 Cor 5) and there it’s only talking about a man having sex with his stepmother. Where is incest between consenting brother and sister prohibited? Why are we so appalled at incest? Because of Leviticus? Cultural taboos? One passage in the NT?

The same is often thrown at non-affirming Christians for not endorsing same-sex unions.

Leviticus. Cultural taboos. And a few debated passages in the NT.

“Affirming” advocates continue to abhor incestuous unions but I have yet to hear a good argument why. Why is incest wrong? Okay, so incest could produce genetically messed up kids (not that Moses or Paul knew anything about that). But what if the wife/sister is infertile, or what if they use protection? Why is incest wrong if it’s engaged in with committed and consensual love?

Again, I’m not saying that incest is the same as same-sex unions. They are different. I’m not even saying that if we as a culture embrace gay unions that this will lead to incest. This is logically fallacious and untrue. I’m only looking at the strength of the moral logic often used to justify same-sex unions. And I’m genuinely asking for some other criteria that rules out incest that does not also rule out same sex unions.

Let me be frank. If you are gay and reading this post, I would genuinely love to hear from you. I don’t want to offend you by using this analogy, so please excuse me  if I have done so. It’s not my intention.

I’m only wanting to know what’s wrong with this analogy—the analogy of the moral logic used to justify the action, not the analogy of actions. Having committed, consensual, and monogamous relations with your sister (or brother) that doesn’t harm anyone else is wrong—but why?

God Is Sovereign, But…

Mark Beuving —  August 25, 2014 — 4 Comments

God is in control of what happens in this world. “He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Dan. 4:35). He “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). Even the roll of the dice and wicked events of this world ultimately fall under his orchestration (Prov. 16:33; Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23, 4:27–28).

In other words, God is sovereign.

But…

We are terrible at interpreting his sovereign plan as it unfolds.

Every Christian can take comfort in knowing that at every moment, “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). So however unpredictable or devastating your circumstances, God knows, he sees, and he is weaving it all together into a beautiful tapestry that will one day illustrate true good, true glory. That is something we don’t have to second-guess. It’s a promise we can count on.

Magic 8 BallBut we often go further than trusting the promise. We want to know what it all means. It’s not enough to know that God is doing something in our circumstances, we want to know what he’s doing. So we interpret. “I lost that job because God wanted me in this other career.” “She broke up with me because God wants me to be single for awhile.” “I was late and missed the interview because God wants me somewhere else.” “We were the only two people who showed up at that group event because God wants us to get married.” God is sovereign.

But God’s sovereignty is not an excuse. Maybe you missed the interview because you’re a lazy procrastinator. How do you know God is telling you to switch careers? Maybe he’s showing you the consequences of your decisions so you’ll pursue discipline. Similarly, taking an unexpected one on one conversation with a member of the opposite sex as a sign from God that you should be together is sketchy.

When we over-interpret life events, saying that this or that circumstance means that God says _______ or God wants ________ , we’re doing something very similar to (or exactly like) putting words in God’s mouth. And he frowns on that:

“I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.” (Jeremiah 23:21)

“Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! …They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them… Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:3, 6–7)

We all do the best we can to discern the Lord’s leading day by day. It’s not wrong to wonder whether or not this or that turn of events means that God is directing you. He is certainly working in your life circumstances. But be careful about how much weight you give to your interpretation of events.

Joseph didn’t have a clue what God was doing through his twisted life story until his brothers walked into the room asking to buy grain. Job never got an explanation for the cataclysmic turn of affairs that struck his life—but his friends proved to be fools when they over-interpreted his circumstances and Job himself was rebuked for thinking he knew what should have been happening.

God’s sovereignty is a reality, not an excuse. It is a source of comfort, not a palm-reading. God will reveal what he’s up to when the time is right. Until then, trust that his plan is perfect, and that you know only what you need to know. God knows, and that’s enough.

FootballThe passion for college football in Arkansas amazes me. What happened the previous Saturday on the field and what will happen the next one saturates life in between. It even seeps into my classes. For instance, my first year as a prof, the Razorbacks and their new coach were having a lousy season. 1-6 in conference play! This particular week, the Hogs were scheduled to play their hated rivals: the infamous LSU Tigers.

We were covering Exodus 17 in class. It’s the chapter that recounts when the Amalekites ambushed the Israelites. As you remember, Joshua responds by taking up arms and leading Israel into the valley to fight. But Moses goes the other direction. He ascends the mountain and raises his arms. As long as Moses held his hands high, the Israelites were winning. Whenever he lowered his arms, however, the Amalekites got the upper hand.

I asked my students what they thought Moses was doing when he lifted his arms. Some suggested he was praying, while others suspected that he was worshipping the Lord.  Then one student—fueled with football frenzy—blurted: “I think he was calling the Hogs!” The student raised his hands and cheered the University’s trademarked cheer: “Woooooo! Pig Soooie!”[1]  As a longtime Hog fan, I appreciated the student’s enthusiasm. I also chuckled at the notion of Moses, the great Jewish lawgiver, praising pigs. I thanked the student and reinforced that the patriarch was more likely interceding on Israel’s behalf.

I used the droll distraction to inform the class that this student wasn’t the first to apply a little eisegesis[2] to Exodus 17. In the second century, an early church father filled with Christian passion wrote that Moses went upon the hill and raised his hands to form the symbol of the cross (Epistle of Barnabas 12:2). Rather than to tell of Joshua’s battle in the valley, the story was meant to foreshadow Jesus climb onto Golgotha’s hill.  Whereas in Exodus 17, Joshua[3] was introduced as a son of man, “the son of Nun”, Jesus would be declared the “Son of God.” Therefore, for this church father, Moses wasn’t so much worshipping the Lord or praying for Israel (or cheering for his favorite team): he was sharing the gospel of Christ. To be fair, the author of Barnabas read the entire Old Testament cross-eyed.[4]

I admitted to my students that as much as the New Testament scholar in me liked this interpretation, I am ultimately skeptical of this option as well. Of course, if we are going to allow something to influence our reading of the Old Testament, our love for Christ and the church are better options than football and nationalism.[5] I ended the discussion by saying that no matter what Moses was really doing, my prayer for believers is that—on this side of Moses and Jesus—we will be passionately and invariably involved in all three of our best interpretative options: worship, witness, and prayer.

(Nevertheless, maybe Moses was praying for the Razorbacks that week. In almost miraculous fashion, the Hogs went on to upset the Tigers.)[6]

 

[1] Here is an example of fans “Calling the Hogs”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyY8oUXaTio .

[2] OED: ‘The interpretation of a word or passage (of the Scriptures) by reading into it one’s own ideas.’

[3]Joshua is spelled the same as “Jesus” in Greek.

[4] Unfortunately, Barnabas’ resentment for the Jews sullied his reading too.

[5] If you’ve never read Richard Hays’s book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, I recommend it.

[6] Here’s are the highlights of that game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVlqcM2125s

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