Monday, February 25, 2013

There’s no “I” in Help-Meet

Back in college, I remember friends who spent long hours debating whether or not, in a wedding ceremony, the individual candles that were used to light the unity candle should be blown out after lighting said unity candle. They wanted to make sure the symbolism was just right. It was a few years before all the uproar caused by the “S” word – submission.

When the whole “Wives submit to you husbands” thing was big, I was about to be a newlywed in a military community in Germany. My about-to-be-husband and I attended a non-denominational home church made up of military families, and it seemed to me that the preacher spoke on that subject all the time. He had a phrase that he would use almost every time he spoke on the subject. I think he’d say it to try to dispel some of the tension rising in the room because I don’t remember him ever moving on to the husband’s part of the equation. Anyway, he’d smile and say, “You know, ladies, the man may be the head of the household, but you ladies are the neck…you tell us which way to turn. *chuckle, chuckle*”

It was usually at that moment I felt like punching him. Submission is hard for me to begin with but don’t be condescending while you’re telling me I have to do it. In retrospect, though, I realize what that pastor as well as many other well-meaning pastors of that era were talking about was not submission, but subjugation. There’s a huge difference. The problem is that even the dictionary overlaps the two words.
“sub·mit  [suhb-mit]
1. to yield oneself to the power or authority of another: to submit to a conqueror.
2. to allow oneself to be subjected to some kind of treatment: to submit to chemotherapy.
3. to defer to another's judgment, opinion, decision, etc.: I submit to your superior judgment.”[1]

“sub·ju·gate  [suhb-juh-geyt]
1. to bring under complete control or subjection; conquer; master.
2. to make submissive or subservient; enslave.”[2]
For me, the main difference is that you choose whether or not to submit, but you don’t have any choice about being subjugated. The enemy works really hard to make sure that when pastors speak on submission in the marriage relationship that we hear subjugate. It doesn’t help that often pastors dwell on the wives’ side of the texts and kind of zip right through the husbands’ part of the deal.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33
Paul spends a lot more time describing the husband’s responsibility to love his wife than the wife’s submission. The problem is that we live in a sinful world and most of us are afraid that if we submit to someone, they’ll subjugate us – and that’s not the relationship that Paul was talking about.

We forget that our example is Jesus. Yes, Jesus asks us to submit to Him, but look at what He’s done with us in mind. 
“The world’s Redeemer was treated as we deserve to be treated, in order that we might be treated as he deserved to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins upon his own divine soul, that we might receive his imputed righteousness. He was condemned for our sins, in which he had no share, that we might be justified by his righteousness, in which we had no share. The world’s Redeemer gave himself for us.” (E.G. White, The Review and Herald, March 21, 1893)
It’s just my opinion, but it seems like we spend quite a bit of time worrying about getting what we deserve. Advertising really pushes that button hard – that somehow we all deserve more than we’re getting. When we worry about what we think we deserve, we can’t submit to God or anyone else. But when we remember that Jesus gave up everything He deserved because we were more important to Him, we can see and begin to understand what a loving relationship should look like.

When God created Eve, He was giving Adam someone who could be equal – someone with whom he could share every experience. It was a relationship that was supposed to have demonstrated how God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are One and yet Three. God never intended that Adam should push Eve around or make her to feel “less than.” He never intended for Eve to fear or resent Adam because she had to quit doing the things she liked, to do what he liked. God made Adam and Eve to work as a unit with two equal parts. Each part was complete on its own but could only be fully successful when firmly bound to its other half. Two individuals joined so tightly together that each person’s first thought is not, “How can I get what I deserve,” but “What can I do for this person to show them how much I love them.” How did Jesus show us how much He loves us?
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7

[1] submit. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from website:
[2] subjugate. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from website:

Monday, February 18, 2013


Do you remember that old circus trick? The performer would have about 5 sticks standing up straight and he’d put a plate on the end of each of the sticks and start it spinning so that the centrifugal force would hold the plate up and on the end of the stick. As long as the plate kept spinning at a reasonable speed, the plate stayed up, but if it slowed down too much, it would fall off the stick and break on the floor. Keeping on plate spinning at that minimum speed was no “problem. Even two wasn’t too hard, but by the time the performer had four or five plates all spinning at the same time, it had become a real challenge. The performer had to hurry back and forth between all the plates making sure they kept spinning fast enough to keep them on the stick. The performer had to be in constant motion or his whole act would fall apart.

Playing a simulation game on the computer feels like very much the same principle. In a simulation (sim) game, the object is to build or create a specific community or civilization. There are sims for zoos, amusement parks, cities, high rise buildings, families, whole worlds – anything you could possibly be interesting in. Setting up your simulation is relatively easy, but pretty soon you’re getting notices from the game that you need more access to water for the plants in the north of your sim to survive while too many squirrels are causing tree damage in the east. Meanwhile, you have to maintain a certain amount of attention on the beings of your sim to make sure they remain ‘happy’ – That’s sim code for alive and well.

You’ll probably be able to maintain things for a while, but then, something out of the ordinary will demand all of you attention for a few extra seconds and your sim world is overwhelmed by entropy and falls apart. Entropy is what will finally get the spinning plates too. The performer will eventually have too many plates spinning and one will begin to slow down, wobble and fall to the ground.

When God created our world, it was perfect. There was no entropy to degenerate and weaken. When Adam and Eve sinned, though, everything began to die, slow down, and fall apart. It became God’s job, then, to keep it all going.

When you’re playing a sim game the whole operation becomes an exercise in maintenance. But in real life, God goes further than just maintenance to sustenance. What’s the difference, you ask? Let’s find out.
“ main·tain  [meyn-teyn]  verb (used with object)
1. to keep in existence or continuance; preserve; retain: to maintain good relations with neighboring countries.
2. to keep in an appropriate condition, operation, or force; keep unimpaired: to maintain order; to maintain public highways.
3. to keep in a specified state, position, etc.: to maintain a correct posture; to maintain good health. …
7. to provide for the upkeep or support of; carry the expenses of: to maintain a family.”[1]
“sus·tain  [suh-steyn]  verb (used with object)
1. to support, hold, or bear up from below; bear the weight of, as a structure.
2. to bear (a burden, charge, etc.).
3. to undergo, experience, or suffer (injury, loss, etc.); endure without giving way or yielding.
4. to keep (a person, the mind, the spirits, etc.) from giving way, as under trial or affliction.
5. to keep up or keep going, as an action or process: to sustain a conversation.
6. to supply with food, drink, and other necessities of life.” [2]
In spinning plates or playing sim games we maintain the momentum, but we don’t sustain anything – non-living  things really only need maintanence. On the other hand, God sustains every living thing on this planet while he also maintains all of the mechanical and physical properties of the universe.

There are those who believe that God created the universe and then sat back to watch what happened – that He’s no longer actively involved in what is going on with the universe, the planet or us. He’s just observing.

The problem with that theory, though, is that humans have proved, inadvertently, that that approach doesn’t work.
“Biosphere 2 was an attempt to set up an isolated living environment that would supply all the factors necessary for sustaining life. It was to be a self-contained microcosm of life on earth, containing soil, air, water, plants, and animals.
Biosphere 2 originally consisted of an air-tight enclosure covering 3.15 acres in Arizona. Despite an investment of about $200 million from 1984 to 1991, a multi-million dollar operating budget, almost unlimited technological support and heroic effort, it proved impossible to sustain eight human beings with adequate food, water, and air for two years.
“Just 1.3 years after enclosure in 1991, oxygen levels had fallen to the point that oxygen had to be added from the outside. Nineteen of twenty-five vertebrate species placed in the unit became extinct. All the species that could pollinate the plants became extinct, as did most insects. Water and air pollution became acute and temperature control was a problem.
“With all the intelligence put into the design of Biosphere 2, it couldn't be made to work, yet the wonderfully integrated ecosystems of Earth supposedly just happened without intelligent design!”[3]
True, Biosphere 2 is a powerful argument for intelligent design, but I believe it’s an even stronger argument for a God who is not only the Creator, but also the Sustainer of live. It proves that we are dependent on God for our every breath and every heartbeat.
“If He should set His heart on it, if He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” Job 34:14-15
I am so thankful that God holds each of us, and miraculously, all of us, in the palm of His mighty hand. He’s not some disinterested diety who watches the progress of His creation from a distance, but a God who is deeply interested and involved with every single one of us…to the extent that we allow Him access.

Let our constant prayer be that we invite Him into every part of our lives so that we will be sustained until He comes to take us home.

[1] maintain. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from website:
[2] sustain. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from website:
[3] "Lessons from Biosphere 2," Creation Ex Nihilo (June 1997), p. 8; submitted by Aaron Goerner, New Hartford, New York

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stickers, Thorns and other Blessings

I’m not sure what you call them in your neck of the woods, but where I grew up they were called sticker burs – little globes of pricklies that can cause large amounts of pain to the barefooted and the four footed. I’ve heard them called sand burs. They’re not like the polite but troublesome burs that are like Velcro, sticker burs are just mean.

I’m a barefoot person. My shoes come off at the earliest possible second after I’ve walked through the door and don’t go back on again until the last moment before I leave the house – summer or whatever passes for winter in Texas. I learned painfully that venturing outside without shoes is not a pleasant experience because of sticker burs. What I never expected was to have to learn that same lesson inside of my house. This year, however, I have found walking through my house almost as painful as walking in my yard. Why? Well, apparently sticker burs attach themselves in the fur of long haired dogs until they walk onto carpet and then somehow the stickers come out of the dogs’ hair and stick in the carpet. That is, until my foot finds one and then it sticks in me. I know, if I were wearing shoes, I wouldn’t have a problem … I've been ignoring that advice for fifty-some years.

Anyway, this problem led me to ask the question, “Why do we have sticker burs … or thorns, … or mosquitos, … or any other inconvenient, painful or bothersome thing you can think of?

The answer that all Christians know is, “Because Adam and Eve sinned.” OK, but why does their sin mean that I have to step on sticker burs stuck in my carpet? For a long time my answer would have been that at the moment that Adam and Eve sinned, entropy and genetic anomalies entered all life forms. I still believe that, but that doesn’t answer the why part of the question. “Why?”

But then, I noticed something I had never noticed before.
"To the woman He said: 'I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;  In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.'" Genesis 3:16-19
Did you catch it? “Cursed is the ground for your sake; …” Think for a minute. What are do you usually mean when you make a statement that includes the words “for your sake?” Are you going to help or hurt that person? Well, if you’re doing something for another person’s sake, you’re trying to help that person in some way, right?

So, how does making Adam work harder benefit him and by extension, us?

Consider this: 
“Only one professional football team that plays its home games in a domed stadium with artificial turf has ever won the Super Bowl: The St. Louis Rams in 2000.
“While a climate-controlled stadium protects players (and fans) from the misery of sleet, snow, mud, heat, and wind, players who brave the elements on a regular basis are disciplined to handle hardship wherever it's found. The Green Bay Packers were the 1996 Super Bowl champions, in part, because of the discipline gained from regularly playing in some of the worst weather in the country.
“Endure hardship as discipline. ... No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’ (Hebrews 12:7),(Hebrews 12:11).”[1]
Challenges make us stronger, but that’s not all. If we allow them to, they can help us focus on what’s really important. Many of us know that Beethoven, the great composer was deaf for a large part of his adult life. He was, in fact, completely deaf by the time he turned 47. The process of going deaf had taken 16 years. Can you imagine being aware that the sense most needed for your chosen occupation was leaving you and you couldn’t do anything to stop it?

Beethoven was severely depressed and actually admitted to thinking of suicide. But he never quit composing music that he could only hear in his imagination.

The best know piece that Beethoven wrote during the time he was completely deaf, is his Ninth Symphony. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Anyway, several years ago, my sons and I had an opportunity to hear the whole symphony performed in person. It was spectacular. As we discussed it on the way home, my oldest son made an observation that has changed my way of thinking about limitations.

I made some comment like, “Imagine if Beethoven could do that when he was deaf, what he could have done if he could still hear.” My son, a senior in high school at the time, and a musician, quickly disagreed with me. He pointed out his belief that Beethoven’s deafness had focused him more completely – so much so that my son felt that the Ninth Symphony was based on the one thing Beethoven could still “hear” – his heartbeat. See if you can’t hear it the next time you’re listening to the Ninth Symphony.

Why did God introduce struggles and challenges after the Fall? Well, for one thing, have you ever met a child who has no limits? Challenges teach us discipline. Like for Beethoven, they can help us block out the trivia and noise around us and help us focus on what’s important.

And, as Paul reminds us, learning to live within our limitations teaches us humility and our need for a Savior.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And finally, there’s this:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
Why do I have sticker burs in my carpet? Probably because I need to vacuum more. But God gave us thorns  for our sakes, because He wants us to stay close to Him

[1] Greg Asimakoupoulos, Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3

Monday, February 4, 2013


In his book, The Three Edwards, Thomas Costain tells the story of three kings of England from 1272 to 1377 all of whom were conveniently (and confusingly) named Edward. Anyway, according to a well-used illustration from Costain’s book, in the mid to late 1300s, there was a Duke Raynald III. He was extremely overweight. (How fat was he?) Well, he was so fat that people didn’t call him by his name anymore (that might not have been so awful since his name was Raynald), the called him by the nickname, Crassus, which means fat in Latin. So essentially everybody just called him fatso. Ouch!

His younger brother was one of the Edwards (the third one, I think), and somewhere along the way, Raynald and Edward had a huge disagreement and Edward led a revolt against Raynald. In most stories like this, the overthrown person was killed or, at the very least, locked away in some dungeon or tower never to be seen again. Edward had a better idea – he had a room built around Raynald, inside Raynald’s own castle. Edward told Raynald that he could take over his castle and his property just as soon as he could leave his new room.

There were no locks on the doors or windows…so what held Raynald in his room? Why didn’t he just walk out and take his castle back? Well, when Edward had the room built, he made sure that all the doors and windows were smaller than normal. They were big enough for someone who was thin to go in and out, but Raynald was too fat to get through the door. The only way he could leave the room was to lose weight.

So, why didn’t he do it? Well, I’m pretty sure every morning he woke up and said to himself, “Ok, today I’m going to only eat a little bit.” And maybe he could have done it, except that, every day, his brother, Edward made sure that all kinds of delicious and tempting food was sent into Raynald’s room. And Raynald got fatter and fatter all the time.

Some folks told Edward that he was being cruel to Raynald but Edward said, "My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills."

Raynald only got out of that room after Edward died in battle in 1371. By then it was too late for Raynald. His health was gone and he died later the same year.[1]

Raynald may not have been a prisoner, but he was held captive…not so much by his brother, but by his appetite.

If you think about it, we’re all a lot like Raynald and Satan is like Edward. Whatever our individual weaknesses are, he makes sure to keep those temptations coming so that we won’t be able to escape.
Unlike Raynald, though, we have Someone on our side who is willing to help us escape.
“The Word does not say that we are to count it all joy when we fall under temptation, but when we fall into temptation. It is not necessary to fall under temptation, for temptation comes upon us for the trying of our faith. And the trying of our faith worketh patience, not fretfulness and murmuring. If we put our trust in Jesus, He will keep us at all times, and will be our strength and shield. We are to learn valuable lessons from our trials. Paul says, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope ...” (Romans 5:3-5).
“Many seem to think that it is impossible not to fall under temptation, that they have no power to overcome, and they sin against God with their lips, talking discouragement and doubt instead of faith and courage. Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. He said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). What does this mean? It means that the prince of evil could find no vantage ground in Christ for his temptation. And so it may be with us....” (E.G. White, That I May Know Him, p. 279)
If, as Mrs. White says, “It is not necessary to fall under temptation …,” why do we continue to give in? Why is it so difficult to withstand temptation?

My theory is that we fall because our first thought when we’re tempted isn’t, “Help me Jesus,” but “Oh, that’s interesting.”

When Eve walked past the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, her first mistake was that she didn’t keep walking. She stopped to look at the tree. She may have already been thinking about how delicious the fruit looked and had the off-hand thought, “This fruit looks so good, I wonder why we can’t eat it,” even before the serpent spoke to her.

Was that thought, by itself, a sin? Could she have still walked on by at that point and everything be ok? Yes, I think so. But as she was thinking those thoughts, she stood by the tree admiring the fruit for just a little bit too long and then, with just a few words, the serpent had her.

In the C.S. Lewis book, Perelandra,  (2nd book of the Space Trilogy), Lewis explores the power of evil and temptation. The book takes place on newly peopled Venus. The innocent woman is pursued by someone who is trying to get her to commit a sin. The hero, named Ransom, tries to come between the woman and the evil presence and keep her from sinning. The pursuit goes on for days and Lewis is able to discuss the complexities of the conflict between good and evil. My only problem with the book (even though it’s one of my favorites on many other levels) is that the innocent woman comes off as clueless … and I don’t believe that Eve was that unaware. I believe that she knew she shouldn’t be around the tree…but she just wanted to look at it. And once she let that thought become an action, the next thought, “That fruit looks really yummy” becomes a question of God’s authority, “I wonder why we can’t eat it.” So that when the serpent showed up and asked her the same question, she had already fallen. Taking and eating the fruit was just the outward sign.

The battle is fought in our minds. That’s why Paul says, 
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 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,” 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5
With the help of the Holy Spirit we must take every thought captive and turn it over to God so that the temptations we experience all day every day don’t get caught in our minds and become something more.

Let’s not become captives of temptations like Raynald. God is just waiting to send each of us the help we need every single moment.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1Corinthians 10:13
[1] Thomas Costain, The Three Edwards, Buccaneer Books