It’s easy to prepare when we know what’s coming. The lord in Jesus’ parable entrusted his servants with money, expecting them to be wise stewards. Only two of the servants understood their purpose. The third decided it was easier to avoid the risk of investment; he feared failure and the wrath of his lord.
Obedience requires a measure of sacrifice. When God calls us to something new, we easily focus on the unknowns or the difficulty of the path. Like the third servant, we forget the rewards of serving our Lord and His purposes.
The truth is: We serve a generous God. He delights in giving us opportunities beyond our capabilities. He has promised to equip us, and remain with us through each bend in the road. Although we may not know what is around the corner, we can trust the One who called us. He is our comfort and courage, sustaining us through difficulty and rewarding us generously.
God does not delight in our sufferings. He brings only that which is necessary, but He does not shrink from that which will help us grow.
In the quest for purpose, we must distinguish between proximate and remote purposes. The proximate refers to that which is close at hand. The remote refers to the distant, far-off, ultimate purpose. The football player‘s proximate goal is to make a first down. The more remote goal is a touchdown. The even more remote goal is to win the game. The ultimate goal is to win a championship.
We remember the poignant meeting between Joseph and his brothers, when the brothers feared recriminations from their powerful brother for the treachery they had committed against him. But Joseph saw a remarkable concurrence at work between proximate and remote intentions. He said, ” You meant it for evil; God meant it for good.”
Here the proximate and the remote seemed to be mutually exclusive. The divine intention was the exact opposite of the human intention. Joseph’s brothers had one goal; God had a different one. The amazing truth here is that the remote purpose was served by the proximate one. This does not diminish the culpability of the brothers. Their intent and their actions were evil. Yet it seemed good to God to let it happen that His purpose might be fulfilled.
Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God
Think about how proximate purpose may be contributing to God’s remote purpose in your life.
For Further Study
Genesis 50:18-20: “Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.'”
And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived. —Genesis 45:27
Jacob’s love for Joseph aroused his ten older sons to jealousy, prompting them to sell Joseph into slavery and then to cover their deed with a lie. In the years that followed, Joseph rose from slavery to power in Egypt, while famine fell upon his family (Genesis 41:56-57).
As his sons journeyed to buy food in Egypt, Jacob looked around and saw his expectations for his sons and his land reduced to dry dust. But Jacob had God‘s Word. Day after day he reminded himself, “In blessing, I will bless thee and in multiplying, I will multiply thee” (Genesis 22:17).
One day he heard a sound—the wagons were coming! But they weren’t creaking and rattling like when they left. No! They were heavy and full of provision and promise! Hold on, don’t despair! The wagons are coming, overflowing with the goodness of God.
God’s provision is worth waiting for. Don’t settle for good. Wait for His best. His provisions last while worldly stuff rusts and corrodes. Don’t settle for rusty iron when He has silver and gold for you.
Lord, I desire Your best. Nothing else will do.
So I will wait for Your treasures and will
stop trying to make things
happen my way. Amen
“Meet local Christian swingers who believe that an open and honest relationship with each other will keep any marriage fresh and exciting.”
No, it’s not a late, sick-and-twisted April Fool’s joke—it’s a marketing line on a new immoral matchmaking site that makes a mockery out of marriage and sets up sexual deviants for a rude eternal awakening in the name of Jesus.
“For Christian Swingers things are not easy—often other religious people judge you, out of ignorance or envy, telling you that your lifestyle and love practices are wrong,” marketing copy onChristianSwingers.com reads.
“But the Bible teaches us ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ and there’s that verse about the first stone. … But if you’re keen on keeping your privacy, well—yours, and don’t want your friends, coworkers, other PTA members or just about anyone else to know that you don’t have a problem with faith and enjoying free love with other couples, this site can help you! It’s designed to cater to the needs of those like you: devout Christian couples who still want to have an active love life and share it with another, in good faith!”
As I read this, I kept waiting for the punch line. But, again, it’s not a late April Fool’s joke. And even if it were, it wouldn’t be funny. Call me naive, but this one shocked me! Apparently there’s a large enough population of self-proclaimed Christian swingers in the world that they can support an immoral matchmaking website that puts profits in the pockets of its creators even as they grieve their Creator.
Of course, Christian swingers have justified their immorality with Bible verses. One Christian swinger on Facebook wrote, “According to the book of Genesis, in the garden of Eden Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. That was God‘s original plan. If that plan had gone forward, we would all be naked in a paradise world. Having sex with someone would be as natural as shaking hands or eating food together.”
So, what do we do with Bible verses like Genesis 2:24, which precedes the “naked and ashamed” verse to which the swinging Facebooker eludes? Genesis 2:24 reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Should we white-out Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 7:2, which says, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband”? (No mention of having another man’s wife or another wife’s husband here.) Or what about Hebrews 13:4, which says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge”?
You can find adulterous, immoral hookups on ChristianSwingers.com for free, but if you want to actually hook up, you’ll have to pay this digital pimp a fee—and that’s not where the depravity ends. The site also arranges illicit encounters between gays, transsexuals and grannies—and promotes threesomes.
“Skip the swingers’ club and meetings where you can be seen and avoid bad reputation—your personal life is something shared between you and our partner; other couples willing to join you are probably having the same problems,” ChristianSwingers.com says. “Visiting this site might change your life for the better and increase the number of your potential dating partners.”
This is an aberration—even an abomination. But rather than condemning those in literal bondage to this sexual perversion, let’s identify and lay an ax to the root of the tree. Let’s concentrate on how to pray to set the captives free.
From a spiritual perspective, these swingers are deceived. Much like those in the gay agenda, Christian swingers have justified their stance with Scripture and tell others they are judgmental for suggesting immorality violates God’s Word.
Jesus pointed to a woman in the end times who was handing out a license to sin. He had something against the church at Thyatira because, He said to them, “You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20).
Whether or not you believe in a “spirit of Jezebel,” you have to admit there are certain dark forces at work to cloud the minds of believers in this hour. It’s not as if they are sinning, repenting and falling again—then getting back up and continuing the struggle with all sincerity of heart. They see nothing wrong with the behavior. Let’s pray for light to break in so these deceived ones can see the truth and put Jesus back in the center of their marriage so He can heal it.
From a practical perspective, I believe immorality is rooted in the lust of the flesh and a lack of the fear of the Lord. The Bible clearly tells us to not only abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3) but to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). The Bible also tells us, “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5).
I could go on and on about what the Bible says about sexual immorality. God put those verses in there to warn us of a destructive practice because “every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Where fear of the Lord is lacking, sin abounds. Let’s pray for the spirit of the fear of the Lord to fall on these “Christian” swingers so they can avoid the wages of unrepentant sin. Amen.
We were created to be stewards of God’s creation through our work. The opening two chapters of Genesis provide a foundation for how God sees work, culture, and our responsibility. This same perspective extends throughout the Scriptures.
Work is not a curse, but a gift from God given to us before the fall, although the effects of the fall make our work frustrating and difficult at times (Gen. 3:17–19). By our work, we employ useful skills to glorify God, love our neighbors, and further God’s kingdom.
The Original Worker
We can better understand our work assignment from God by studying the work that he did in creation, when he brought order out of chaos. A gardener does something similar when he creatively uses the materials at his disposal and rearranges them to produce additional resources for mankind.
We were created to be stewards of God’s creation through our work.
Thus, Adam’s work in the garden can be seen as a metaphor for all work. Tim Keller offers the following definition of work: “Rearranging the raw materials of a particular domain to draw out its potential for the flourishing of everyone.”
For example, an architect takes steel, wood, concrete, and glass and rearranges them for the flourishing of mankind. A musician rearranges the raw material of sound to produce music. That is what Adam was called to do in the garden, and that is what we are still called to do in our work today.
God’s Call to Work
In the opening chapter of Genesis, God gave Adam a job description. It is called the “cultural mandate,” also sometimes called the “creation mandate:” “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:28).
By our work, we employ useful skills to glorify God, love our neighbors, and further God’s kingdom.
Why is it called “the cultural mandate?” According to Merriam-Webster, a “mandate” is an “authoritative command; especially: a formal order from a superior court or official to an inferior one,” or “an authorization to act given to a representative.” This is clearly a command given directly by God the Creator to Adam and Eve, his creation.
The first phrase, “be fruitful and multiply,” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.
The cultural mandate was meant not only for Adam and Eve, but for us as well. To find satisfaction and meaning in our vocational callings, we must begin to understand the importance of the cultural mandate. It is the only way to see our work in a truly biblical framework.
The cultural mandate still stands as God’s directive for our stewardship of his creation. According to Dorothy Sayers, when we understand our work through the cultural mandate, we will finally see our work as “the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”
Because of the curse of the fall, work can be difficult, frustrating, and dull. But Christians must understand that work itself is not part of the curse; it was part of God’s original plan for humanity. It is an opportunity for us to exercise our creativity, gifts, and interests in order to be effective stewards of God’s creation. With a proper understanding of the cultural mandate, Christians can use their work as part of their broader calling as servants of Christ.
What about you? How does understanding work as a calling from God change how you approach your studies, your job, and your time?.
The Bible begins with God, the good Creator of all things and the One who rules the universe. His creative handiwork—everything from light to land to living creatures—is called “good.” But the crown of God’s good creation is humanity. We are made in the very image of God. And God declared: “behold it was very good”. As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature as we were created like God, by God, for God,and to be with God.
In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let Us make man in Our image.” The fact that our Creator gave us a remarkable title—“the image of God”—speaks of the inherent dignity of all human beings. The expression “image of God” designated human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe.
Immediately after making the man and woman, God granted them a special commission: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” This verse contains five commands: “be fruitful,” “multiply,” “fill,” “subdue,” and “have dominion.” These decrees reveal our most basic human responsibilities.
With the commission to multiply, Adam and Eve’s job was to produce so many images of God that they would cover the earth. Then God ordered them to have dominion over the earth, or exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God’s behalf, not dominating it, but being good stewards of creation and creators of culture.
Multiplication and dominion are deeply connected to our being the image of God. To be sure, God had no problem filling the earth with his presence, but God chose to establish His authority on earth in ways that humans could understand. God commanded His images to populate the landscape of His creation. In the command to “multiply,” God wanted His images spread to the ends of the earth. His command to “have dominion” is God giving humans authority to represent Him in His world.
Marital sex is the means by which we fulfill our calling of multiplying and taking dominion.
God’s plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with His image bearers, who were to glorify Him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God’s intended blessing and His wise rule, is called shalom. Cornelius Plantinga writes, “In the Bible,shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
Shalom means fullness of peace. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: “I will give you peace (shalom) in the land, and none shall make you afraid.”Shalom is a profound and comprehensive sort of well-being—abundant welfare—with its connotations of peace, justice, and the common good. Shalom means harmonious and responsible relationship with God, other human beings, and nature. In short, biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended.
In shalom, sex was also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one. God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy building in marriage.
This peaceful, loving relationship was shattered by the entrance of sin into the world. Sin has distorted this beautiful act of union, pleasure, calling, and worship.
Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. Sin wrecks the order and goodness of God’s world. One scholar calls sin is “the vandalism of shalom.”Instead of unashamed intimacy and trust, there is shame and mistrust. Instead of grace, there is disgrace.
A foundational element of paradise—sexual innocence in community—has been spoiled by the treachery of sin. Sex—the very expression of human union, intimacy, and peace—became a tool for pain, suffering, and destruction after the Fall.
But sin is not the last word on the world or us. God reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). By dealing with sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another.
The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. God’s redemption imparts grace and brings peace. The effects of grace include our sexual past, present, and future. There is healing, hope, cleansing, and forgiveness for all who trust in Jesus.
God does not leave things broken, and is always at work redeeming the sin, wounds, and brokenness involved in human sexuality. Where sin does its damage, God brings forgiveness and healing, which are part of God’s larger plan of restoring shalom.
Redemption removes and rectifies the alienation introduced by the fall, restoring humankind to fellowship with God (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 2:1-22) and with itself (Isa. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-7). Further, Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit offer hope even now to grow and become more sexually whole in Christ.
In Christ there is also great hope for human sexuality. Lewis Smedes writes:
“Jesus did not have to talk about sexuality to affirm it. Sexuality is affirmed by the route that God took for the redemption of humanity. The Resurrection, as well as the Incarnation, carries the body-life of humankind in a deep divine embrace. Redemption is not the promise of escape from the demands or appetites of the body. To confess that Jesus Christ arose from the grave bodily is to reiterate God’s good feelings about his own creation of human beings as body-persons; to celebrate the Resurrection includes a celebration of human sexuality. God did not become man to show us how to get out of our body by means of spiritual exercises. He created a community of resurrection hope and invites us to bring our total sexuality into it. Christ’s resurrection makes permanent God’s union with the whole of humanity, and it thus affirms sexuality as part of our hope for ultimate happiness and freedom.”
God and God’s People
In the New Testament we also learn that human sexuality paints one of the most moving pictures of God’s relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel is repeatedly portrayed as a wayward lover of God, who had redeemed her. In the New Testament, the church is referred to as Christ’s bride (e.g., Rev 19:7), and Paul explains that the one-flesh union of man and woman mentioned in Genesis is a picture of Christ and his church (Eph 5:28-33).
Jesus seems to imply that sex will not exist in heaven as it has on earth (Matt 22:30). Likely this is because the sexual union ultimately points to the relationship that Christ has with His people, which will be consummated upon His return. As we are the beloved of God, He promises always to satisfy all of our deepest longings and desires, allowing us to “drink from the river of Your delights” (Psalm 36:8; cf. Rev 22:1-2), now and forever in the age to come. Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest, director at Key Life, and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of Godand co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgraceand Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.
See the sevenfold use of “good”: Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31.
Cain was the first-born son of Adam and Eve, making him the first human child to be born in the Bible. Like his father Adam, he became a farmer and worked the soil. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Cain, yet we discover in a few short verses that Cain had a serious anger management problem.
The story of Cain and Abel begins with the two brothers bringing an offering to the Lord. The Bible says that God was pleased with Abel‘s sacrifice, but not with Cain’s. As a result Cain grew angry, dejected and jealous. Soon his fierce anger led him to commit murder.
This account leaves us wondering exactly why God looked with favor on Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. This mystery is often a point of confusion for believers. However, verse 6 and 7 of Genesis 4 contain the clue to solve the mystery. After seeing Cain’s anger over the rejection of his sacrifice, God said to him: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.(NIV)
Cain should not have been angry. Apparently both he and Abel knew what God expected as the “right” offering. God must have already explained it to them. Both Cain and God knew that he had given an unacceptable offering. Perhaps even more important, God knew that Cain had given with a wrong attitude of heart. Yet God still offered Cain a chance to make things right and warned him that the sin of anger would destroy him if he did not master it.
Cain was faced with a choice. He could turn from his anger, change his attitude and make things right with God, or he could intentionally give himself over to sin.
Cain was the first human child to be born in the Bible, and the first to follow after his father’s line of work, cultivating the soil and becoming a farmer.
Cain must have been physically strong to work the land. He attacked and overpowered his younger brother.
The brief story of Cain reveals several of his character weaknesses. When Cain faced disappointment, rather than turning to God for encouragement, he responded with anger andjealousy. When given a clear choice to correct his mistake, Cain chose to disobey and further entangle himself in sin’s trap. He let sin become his master and committed murder.
First we see that Cain did not respond properly to correction. He reacted in anger—rage even! We should consider carefully how we respond when corrected. The correction we receive may be God’s way of allowing us to make things right with him.
Just as he did with Cain, God always offers us a choice, a way of escape from sin, and an opportunity to make things right. Our choices to please and obey God will make available to us the power to master sin, but our choices to disobey him will leave us abandoned to sin’s control. God warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door, ready to destroy him. God continues to warn his children today. We must master sin through our obedience and submission to God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than let sin master us.
We also see in Cain’s story that God evaluates our offerings. He watches what and how we give. God not only cares about the quality of our gifts to him, but also the manner in which we offer them.
Rather than giving to God out of a heart of thankfulness and worship, Cain may have presented his offering with evil or selfish intentions. Maybe he had hoped to receive some special recognition. The Bible says to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) and to give freely (Luke 6:38; Matthew 10:8), knowing that everything we have comes from God. When we truly recognize all that he has done for us, we will want to offer ourselves wholly to God as a living sacrifice of worship to him (Romans 12:1).
Lastly, Cain received a severe punishment from God for his crime. He lost his profession as a farmer and became a wanderer. Even worse, he was sent away from the presence of the Lord. The consequences of sin are severe. We should allow God to correct us quickly when we sin so that fellowship with him can be swiftly restored.
Cain was born, raised, and farmed the soil just beyond the Garden of Eden in the Middle East, probably near modern-day Iran or Iraq. After killing his brother, Cain became a wanderer in the land of Nod, East of Eden.
Referenced in the Bible:
Genesis 4; Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11.
Farmer, worked the soil.
Father – Adam
Mother – Eve
Brothers & Sisters – Abel, Seth, and many more not named in Genesis.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Every new season from God seems to have a theme, catch phrase or byword that characterizes it. In a recent season, one catch phrase expressed a particular hunger in our hearts that became the theme of many of our prayer lives: “Increase our territory.”
The widespread appeal of that phrase and its message—that God wants to increase the territory of those who call out to Him—was apparent in the almost frenzied popularity of a slim, simple little book by Bruce Wilkinson called The Prayer of Jabez. The book expounds on Jabez’s prayer, recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10, which included a cry for an increase in territory. The Bible says that God granted his request.
Lift Up Your Eyes
God wants to grant our requests, too. But before He can increase our territory, He wants us to have a clear vision of what that territory is.
We can learn a great deal from the story of Lot and Abram in Genesis 12 and 13. When God called Abram to leave his homeland and begin a faith-journey to “a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1), Abram obeyed, taking his family—including his nephew, Lot—with him.
But at some point, God made it obvious that the two men needed to go their own ways. “Please separate from me,” Abram said to Lot in Genesis 13:9. “If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”
The Bible says that Lot looked out over the land and “chose for himself” what appeared to be the best part: the fertile, well-watered plain of Jordan to the east (vv. 10-11). He left Abram and headed for the plain, taking his family, flocks and herds with him.
Lot probably thought he’d gotten the better end of the deal. After all, he’d had first choice. But he was mistaken.
His land, it turned out, contained the hedonistic city of Sodom. And ultimately his decision cost him his family and all the blessings God wanted to pour out on him.
Lot made his choice based on what he could see in the natural. His sight was limited by what he could see with his eyes. He had a vision problem!
In contrast, when Abram staked out his territory, he did not survey the land, check the demographics or conduct a poll. He allowed God to show him the land that was right for him.
“Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward,” God told him, “for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (vv. 14-15).
Abram’s only requirement was to look. God had already given him everything he could see!
How do you find your territory? The real question is: How far can you see?
Abram’s territory was determined by what he saw. He looked where God told him to look, and he saw what God wanted him to possess. Of course, he could not physically see all the land or all the descendants still to come; but through faith he knew the extent of his territory.
Like Abram, your territory is limited only by your eyesight—your spiritual vision. When God tells you to look, you must do so with eyes of faith.
The nature of faith is to believe the impossible and see the invisible. That’s why visionaries are often misunderstood: They see what isn’t there—yet!
Your territory may not look like much in the natural—perhaps nothing more than a steamy valley full of sand and old bones. But appearances can be deceiving. Just as God blew into Elijah‘s valley of dry bones and brought a resurrection of life, so God can move through the barren areas of your territory and bring life and increase.
In Abram’s (Abraham’s) case, his territory was an actual, physical location. Even today, the city of Jerusalem is in conflict because it is part of the land that God promised to Abraham. His descendants must continue to fight to possess the territory that he saw with spiritual eyes so long ago.
For most of us, however, our territory is not land as much as it is our sphere of influence—the place and ministry God has chosen for each of us. Perhaps your territory is your home, your family, your church. Perhaps it’s the homeless shelter where you volunteer or the country God has prompted you to pray for.
Essentially, your territory is the call of God on your life. But your territory is not limited to your lifetime. Just as Abraham did, you must look beyond “right now” into the land of your descendants. You must occupy your land for the sake of your children and your children’s children. You cannot see the full extent of your inheritance unless you develop your spiritual sense of sight.
How’s Your Vision?
Recently, after a lifetime of perfect vision, I began wearing reading glasses. I have no problem seeing distances; it’s the little details that are hazy for me.
Our spiritual eyes are like our natural eyes in many ways. They both can suffer from a number of vision problems.
1. Spiritual farsightedness. According to my optometrist, I am farsighted. On a spiritual level, people can be farsighted too.
Those with this vision problem can see the big picture—the ministry, the calling, the sphere of influence God wants to give them—but they struggle with little details such as truthfulness, integrity, patience and so on. They see the landscape of future fulfillments and promises, but they stumble on the simple, close-up, day-to-day things that are necessary for success.
I know a number of wonderful, anointed ministers who will never see their visions come to pass because they suffer from spiritual farsightedness. I call these men and women empty dreamers.
Such people are always dreaming of the great possibilities ahead. But they fail to practice the unexciting, daily disciplines that bring about the fulfillment of those possibilities.
When we get a word of promise from the Lord, we are right to receive it with joy! But then we must begin to fine-tune that vision and walk out the process that is required to fulfill it.
2. Spiritual nearsightedness. The opposite of farsightedness is nearsightedness—the ability to see only the objects closest to you. The big, beautiful, panoramic views are lost on those who can’t see more than 10 feet in front of their noses!
People who are spiritually nearsighted focus on every tiny detail of life and ministry. Unable to look upward and outward, they miss the grand scope of all that God is doing and all that He wants to do in their lives.
When we allow the temporal details of daily living to dominate our attention, we fail to see the wonderful future God has planned for us. The result is that we become discouraged and lose hope. Yes, we must attend to the little things—but we must never lose sight of the big picture.
3. Spiritual astigmatism. For some time my husband was almost legally blind due to a condition known as astigmatism. Light did not refract properly through his eyes, making it difficult for him to see even with glasses. He was miserable.
But last year he underwent laser surgery. A very precise laser was used to surgically correct the structure and alignment of his eyes.
Now his eyes work the way they were meant to work. He has never seen better!
Astigmatism can be a problem on a spiritual level, too. When God reveals something to a person with spiritual astigmatism, they may not “get it” right away. They may need someone from outside their set of circumstances to bring alignment and clarity.
Sometimes spiritual astigmatism is caused by old hurts or wounds that act as filters through which every new vision passes. Because the spiritual light is refracted improperly, sight and understanding are hindered.
I know a woman who was raised in an abusive home. She often saw her father physically hurt her mother. Then she’d see him sober up, bring flowers to her mother and beg for forgiveness.
This woman survived her difficult childhood and grew up to marry a wonderful, godly man. Her husband would often bring her a bouquet to show his love. But every time she saw the flowers, she could see only a manipulating man trying to appease her.
She was suffering with a vision problem! Thankfully, with God’s help, she received healing, and she and her husband are happily married today.
4. Spiritually weak or lazy eyes. As a young child, my oldest daughter, Stephanie, loved to read. She was actually reading by kindergarten!
But a problem surfaced when she was in first grade. Her teacher called us one day and said that Stephanie had failed a sight test that had been given to all the students that afternoon.
Stephanie had a lazy eye, we were told. Unless something drastic was done to correct it, she would grow up to be blind in one eye. So for some time she had to wear a patch, like a pirate, to force the lazy eye to work.
You see, Stephanie could read, play, learn and do everything the other children were doing. But when she was faced with a test, she failed.
In America, one divorce happens every 13 seconds, equating to 6,646 divorces per day and 46,523 divorces per week.
One percent of first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
Three percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers.
Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these children, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage.
Sixty-five percent of altar-bound men and women live together before getting married. People who live together prior to getting married are 40 percent more likely to have marriages that end in divorce.
Divorces for couples over 65 years old have doubled since 1980.
The numbers are sobering. Our world is corrupting at an alarming rate. I read those numbers, look at the culture around me, hear the stories of moral failure among church leaders, and everything I see indicates we’re living in the last days. The spirit of the anti-Christ is palpable and growing in its manifested intolerance of anything that represents moral and spiritual absolutes, especially traditional Judeo-Christian values.
As the tide of spiritual and moral lawlessness rises, the church is left with a threefold dilemma:
How do we stand up for the truth without sounding like homophobic neanderthals?
How do we uphold the biblical standard for marriage when divorce is as common among Christians as it is for non-Christians, a growing number of couples in our churches are living together, and a majority of the population is sympathetic to gay marriage?
How do we heal the pain and devastation in people in our churches and communities in ways that will effect real change and not just treat the symptoms?
If the church is to be a redemptive force in society and accomplish the mission Jesus gave us to be salt and light, we must learn to understand and address these questions. And at the same time, we need to remember that though the problems around us are extremely real and ominous, our God is powerful—and our gospel is perfect for times like these. I truly believe we can change the world, but it will take a revolution—a marriage revolution!
Back to the Beginning
Solving any problem starts with getting to the root of it—not just treating the symptoms. Tragically, in America we’re spending trillions of dollars dealing with the symptoms of the breakdown of marriage: poverty, crime, juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy—just about any major cultural issue. It’s time to admit that the root or cause of all of these problems is the breakdown of the traditional family unit—and that the foundation of the family is marriage.
We can spend a lifetime dealing with the symptoms of the problem and never really change anything. And, by the way, I am all for helping hurting people regardless of whether it’s a symptom or the root issue. But as we minister mercy to those in need, we must also have a strategy to fix the real problem. Without it, there will never be true transformative change.
Remembering that it was God who created marriage in the first place is essential. Marriage appears first in Genesis 1, and its creation is detailed in Genesis 2. God created marriage first because it serves as the foundation for every other institution in society, including the church. Ultimately, world history shows us that a society never rises above the level of the health of its marriages and families.
America is a good example. When the American culture honored traditional values and considered marriage to be sacred, the nation thrived and became the greatest on earth. Then the social engineers showed up (they always do). They promised that liberal family laws would free us from the what they deemed were moral shackles that traditional Judeo-Christian morality had placed on society.
That was around 50 years ago. Since then, America has experienced nonstop moral degradation and societal devastation. Now the social engineers are furiously trying to solve the problems their predecessors created with more liberal laws and by spending trillions of dollars treating nothing but symptoms. It’s like trying to solve the problem of a hole in the ground by ordering more shovels.
Unfortunately, I see many denominations and churches mirroring the social engineers. In the midst of our culture’s moral upheaval and in the name of political correctness, a growing number of pastors and church leaders are abandoning the Bible as they resign themselves to a lifetime of spiritual symptom solving. I guess they believe that by appeasing and befriending the problem, somehow they can solve it. They couldn’t be more wrong.
God created marriage as the foundation of society—period. There is no plan B. Marriage reflects His nature and perpetuates the values and virtues of His Kingdom generationally. I’ve seen that even when unbelievers are married in a traditional union, it causes them to act in a manner consistent with the character of God and the values of His kingdom, such as fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, service and love.
As a leader in God’s church, remember that He has authorized and empowered you to make disciples and transform culture. You don’t have to give in or give up. By focusing on the problem (making the main thing the main thing), you and your church have the potential to revolutionize our communities, nation and world. We cannot focus on symptoms or secondary issues and make a significant difference culturally. With the exception of the gospel message, the most important message in the world today is marriage. Regardless of the condition of your own marriage or whether or not you feel qualified to teach or minister on this subject, we must reclaim this territory for God and consider it holy ground.
From here, the marriage revolution begins. To ensure victory, as church leaders we need to focus our thoughts and efforts on three things:
1. We must wake up to the devil’s schemes. As I said earlier, God created marriage as society’s first and essential foundation. It’s recorded in the first two chapters of Genesis. But then in the third chapter, Satan appears as a serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. We commonly refer to their sin as the “fall of man.”
Let me challenge that concept. Genesis 2 records that Adam (“man”) was created before Eve. In fact, Adam named all of the animals on the earth before Eve was created, and that had to have taken a while. I find it interesting that before God breathed life into Eve, the enemy never tempted Adam when he was alone. If he had, we could refer to that as the “fall of man.” Instead, the devil waited to attack until Eve—and therefore marriage—was created. Evidently, he knew Adam was no real threat on his own. But something changed when Eve showed up. Then Satan seduced them to sin. It wasn’t just the fall of man. It was the fall of marriage—a strategic attack designed to divide them and to neutralize their potential as a married couple.
You see, the devil is a strategist. He knows that if he can destroy marriage, he has by default destroyed society. Broken marriages result in broken men, women and children. They cause broken churches, schools, financial institutions and governments. All the devil has to do to win is attack marriage successfully—game, set, match. After the fall of marriage in Genesis 3, look at what happens to the world. Adam and Eve start a family that proves to be highly dysfunctional. By Genesis 6, the earth is full of rampant violence and immorality, just like our world today.
Fighting the Real Enemy
But let’s look at this in a different way. If the devil can break down society by attacking marriage, then what happens if we leverage the authority and revelation God has entrusted to us to reclaim and restore the institution of marriage? In a word, revolution! We can reverse the curse and truly restore individuals and institutions to their God-created purpose. I truly believe that healthy marriage is a game-changer for the world.
But to effect change, we must wake up and become strategic. We’ve spent too much time reeling from the problems of our society as we blame the government, Hollywood or someone else, when in truth we are not wrestling against flesh and blood. People are not the problem. This is a spiritual battle against Satan and his forces. We have been empowered by God to fight and win this war!
And we must be prepared, knowing that at some point every marriage will come under spiritual attack, especially the marriages of pastors and church leaders. You can expect to face temptation in your marriage because again, Satan is a strategist. He places a high priority on destroying church leaders’ marriages. He knows that when our own marriages are suffering, we won’t preach about marriage because we feel unqualified to lead in that area. He knows that if he can destroy our marriages, he can demoralize church members and discredit the work of Christ in the world. To date, he has been highly effective in that area. Sadly, the past and current failures of pastors’ marriages are why a growing number of people are leaving the church or not showing up in the first place.
It’s time for us to open our eyes and fight the real enemy, remembering that Satan’s stealth approach makes him most effective. Think about it: To tempt Eve, he took the form of a serpent. Serpents are dangerous, in part because they blend into their environment. By the time they strike, it’s too late. When the devil attacks our marriages, typically by the agency of demonic spirits, he doesn’t appear as the devil. He simply slithers up and begins his mind games, whispering thoughts of temptation, deception, accusation, confusion, fear and so on.
Chapter 10 of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians tells us: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
The battlefield of marriage is our thoughts, our minds. Consequently, we have to learn to take our thoughts captive as well as train those we lead to read, believe and meditate on God’s Word, specifically on what Scripture says about marriage. The sword of the Spirit easily vanquishes the devil’s every attack.
And we must learn to expose Satan’s lies as he takes advantage of our every weakness, failure, fallen desire and life disappointment. The devil and his minions are always up to no good, but when we’re going through difficulties in life and marriage, they are especially busy. At those times, it’s vital that we’re especially vigilant and accountable. We all struggle in marriage; we should never be ashamed of that. It’s how we struggle that determines if we will succeed or fail.
Marriage is the foundation of society, and the Word of God is the foundation of marriage. Our revolution begins when we put on the helmet of salvation and pick up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.
I wrote the original “Dear Guys” blog post for a few reasons. It has become exceedingly often that I see my friends, both in and out of the church, jumping from relationship to relationship, many of whom aren’t even old enough to get married.
Then, when I read the Bible, I see that the way we view dating doesn’t really line up with what the Bible has to say. How has dating become simply recreational? I mean, why else do most young adults date? To have fun or to fit in, right? I could be wrong.
In the beginning (yes, I’m quoting Genesis), God created man. God then recognized that it was not good for man to be alone. We can all agree on that one, I think. No one likes being alone. It’s no fun—but what did He do about it?
He created marriage. He didn’t create dating, He didn’t create courting. He created marriage.
So, where did dating come from? Well, not the Bible. Dating is never mentioned in the Bible, not once. Simply because we created it, it’s man-made.
No, I’m not saying that dating is a sin or that dating is evil. That’s not what this is about. What I am saying is that if we look to the Bible for specific answers on dating, we’re not going to find them. That’s not a problem, though, because the Bible has a lot to say about marriage, and when we figure out why God created marriage, we will figure out a lot about dating in return.
Believe it or not, God designed marriage to display His love. Marriage allows us to encounter and experience the love of Jesus more than any other thing in the world. It is deeply spiritual and deeply biblical. It is designed by God to point us to God.
How does marriage display Jesus’ love? Let’s see what the Bible has to say (I told you I would be pointing us back to the Bible a lot):
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herto make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:22-33).
Let me paraphrase that: Jesus married the church (Christians, you and me). The church is His literal bride. He laid His life down for the church. Husbands should love their wives in the same way that Jesus loved the church, and vice versa. Marriage was designed to display the love that Jesus has for the church. It’s the closest thing to experiencing the kind of love that He has for us—a sacrificing love, a serving love, a selfless love.
You know what that tells me? Marriage isn’t really about us; it’s about God. Why else would God create marriage? I mean, God knows that it’s still possible for us to love one another and reproduce with one another outside of marriage, but He designed marriage for something more than that. He designed marriage to reveal to us who He is.
Simply a Gateway
Knowing that marriage is deeply spiritual and deeply biblical helps me out a lot. It tells me that marriage isn’t designed to make us happy; it’s designed to make us holy. And since God didn’t create dating, we did, it doesn’t really model Jesus’ love like marriage does, and it doesn’t really provide any of the things that the gift of marriage does either.
When we figure out what marriage is biblically, we figure our what dating is biblically as well. What is that exactly? It’s a gateway to marriage. Dating is simply a gateway to marriage. When dating is anything more or less than that, it becomes a shallow attempt to provide for us what only marriage was designed to provide for us.
That’s really the foundation that I wanted to lay out for my book: Dating is only a gateway to marriage, a precursor to marriage, a preemptive to marriage, and if it is anything other than that, it’s not biblical. Dating wasn’t created to replace marriage. Dating wasn’t created to gain experience at marriage. Dating was created to be a road that ends in marriage.
“Dating with no intent to marry is like going to the grocery store with no money. You either leave unhappy or take something that isn’t yours.”
Cole Ryan is an up-and-coming Christian writer. You can find him on his blog (KingCohl.com) or on Twitter (@KingCohl) just about any time of the day. The preceding is the first chapter of his new eBook, Dear Guys: A New Way To Date, available now for just 99¢ wherever eBooks are sold.