Disillusionment: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing him.Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

-Luke 24:13-17

My favorite movie, growing up, was The Wizard of Oz.  And I was also a big fan of Elton John.

Elton John’s song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is about disillusionment.  That’s what The Wizard of Oz is about too.

We think that we need to go on a fantastic journey to find something.  But we find out that we we already have it, right at home.  We go on a journey, and get over our illusions.

In The Wizard of Oz, the key phrase is, “There’s no place like home.”  Dorothy had a dream about finding the answers outside her surroundings.  But, everything she needed, was right at home.

I get the idea that I need to be this to be happy.  And it does not do that.  That’s disillusionment.

We also get into a fantasy about how things are when they aren’t that way and that is an illusion.

People who have ‘stars in their eyes’, are people who are overly optimistic and idealistic and naive about set-backs, suffering, human depravity, perseverance, and real love that is sacrificial.  These folks are in for a rude awakening and disillusionment, when reality set in on them.

When disillusionment comes, it is an opportunity the get in touch with reality and grow in authenticity towards yourself, God and others.

We are supposed to dream.  Dreaming is natural.  We are supposed to have passion and follow it.  We do need to find our destiny.

But this is all natural with the supernatural.  Illusion is not natural or supernatural.  Illusion is not real.

Who I am, what God has made me to be, and where God is taking me is real.  My destiny in God is real.  And my inheritance in God is real.  God’s design for me is real.

Same thing with the church.  God’s design for the church is real and authentic, Jesus shaped you could say.

We get into illusions when we use our imaginations outside of God.  When we think about ourselves, the church, or God; outside of interaction with the living God, we might get into illusions.  Illusions are things that are not real and are not true.  They may be well-intentioned, but not real.

The two guys who were walking on the road to Emmaus were disillusioned.  Things did not turn out, they way they had imagined.  They were discouraged.

Jesus asked them why they were discouraged.  Then he was direct with them, calling them foolish and slow.  He taught them through the Old Testament, about how the Messiah had to suffer before his glorification.

Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked them.

So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third daysince these things happened. Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

He said to them, “How foolish and slow you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.

-Luke 24:17-27
Their illusion was that Jesus would redeem one way, but the reality was that he redeemed Israel another way.  We have a good goal in mind and think we will get there through a certain way, that becomes an illusion.  But there is another way that is the authentic way, without illusion.
An illusion is when we see something that is not there.  We say, “He fooled himself into thinking…”  That’s an illusion.
We fool ourselves into thinking something about someone that is not true.  We think they are good when they are actually bad.  When we find out the truth, we become disillusioned.
We enter into to a relationship.  Maybe a friendship, maybe a romance, maybe a business relationship.  We assume things are all good, but then something not good happens, maybe even a betrayal.  Then we get disillusioned.
This can happen with church.  We have high hopes and together we are engaged in a very nobel purpose.  Then bad things happen and we get disillusioned and don’t want to play anymore.
I was just thinking about all the pastors out there, who suffer failure, and go into disillusionment with the church.
Disillusionment is painful, but it is actually a good thing.  We need to not be illusioned.  We need to be in touch with reality.
Suffering is reality.  Betrayal is reality.  Love and forgiveness is reality.  Broken people is reality.

God has no illusions about us, so he never gets disillusioned about us. We walk with God without illusions.

There is a paradox in that the path is where we find ourselves, but it is at home where we are our authentic selves.

All of life is a journey towards our ultimate home in and with God.  Life is not a time of just waiting for the event, but becoming the person.  Life is about knowing God and knowing who you are.

To think that we are going on a journey to becoming famous or powerful is a misconception and illusion.

Being the person God created you to be and being loved by God and then loving other people, is the simple calling for everyone.  God can choose to elevate us or not, for a short time or for a long time.

Jesus would not allow himself to be lifted up into the illusions that some people had for him.  Think about it.  Jesus lived in the tension that each of us are called to, to be ourselves and to let God elevate us.

Negative disillusionment goes into cynicism and bitter criticism, that has its root in a distrust of self and a feeling of alienation.

Sometimes a rude awakening precedes a breakthrough into authenticity.  It requires humility.  Humility sometimes only comes through humiliation.

Much of the pain of disillusionment is self-inflicted.  We ran with something that really was a lie, it was not true; and we built our reality around it.

People constantly suffered from disillusionment towards Jesus.  He never caused it, but they did it to themselves.  We have Judas and we have the other eleven misunderstanding him.  We have the fact that at the very end of the gospel account, it says that some people, who had seen and heard him, still did not believe.  And then there is the fact that only a portion of the people that saw him, after the resurrection, made it to the room where the day of pentecost happened.

We can be disillusion with the church.  Jesus has no illusions or fantasies about ideal church life, and neither should we.  If we are idealists, we need to let that go, be disillusioned, and be realists, with Jesus; based on love.

Many of us are disillusioned, disappointed, and distrusting of the church right now.  A great dissatisfaction is out there, among people who are unhappy in church, done with church, or have no regular meeting of the church to call home today.

The danger, which is toxic and poisonous is for us to be overly idealistic, perfectionist, and under an illusion that is elitist about what church has to be like.  I think we have to take people where they are and stand between them and our living God.

The bare bones, simple, and foundation of church life is, Christ, you, and I.  One way or another, we will end up eating and talking together, and then praying together, then being grateful together, and serving each other and then spilling out to serve the world around us and welcome them the table, where Christ is among us.

These are some notes and quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his book about Christian community called Life Together.  Bonhoeffer says that God actually hates our idealist illusions about what church life should be.  These are my thoughts mixed in with what Dietrich wrote.

  • A ‘wishful image’ of church life will shatter Christian community, if that is the basis on which it is lived.  Idealism.
    • Serious Christians bring with them their ideas of what Christian community should be, when they enter into it, and are anxious for it to be realized.  One person says, we need to take communion, another says we must worship together, another says we must pray either laying on hands or interceding, and still another says that we should be evangelizing.
      • I have been in several groups where one member came on very strong about how, in order to be an authentic Christian community, we should be engaged in evangelism.  The majority of the community was not interested in that.  There was a tension around this and it would have been better if the group reached a consensus, but instead, the evangelists felt rejected and ‘vetoed’, instead of enfolded and loved.
  • The grace of God is at odds with our dreams often.  Our dreams often are not God’s dreams, not from God.  God is more concerned with our ‘one another’s’ than our success.  
    • Many church planters have started with a dream, encouraged, supported, and cheered on by others.  When things don’t work, when people resist, they have a lot of frustration.  In their disillusionment, they might get angry at the people, and even bitter with themselves and with God.
      • All through this, God is after something bigger and deeper, in grace.  God wants us to really know him and know his love and to know each other and know each other’s love.
  • God’s desire is for us to be disillusioned.  That means to let go of illusions and walk in the real.
    • Disillusionment is good, if it is riding us of our idealism.  Disillusionment is unpleasant and even appears evil, but it is the pathway to authenticity, reality, and durable community.
    • Every idealism is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up.
  • “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”
  • God hates our wishful dreams, that are really idealistic illusions, because they breed pride and pretense.  
    • Idealists carry a delusional sense of entitlement towards God and fellow Christians, demanding that they get on board with their vision.
      • Their ideal replaces the living Christ as the center of community, with themselves as ‘god’.
        • My vision.
        • My way.
        • I am the builder of it, the creator.
    • When things do not work, they accuse others, God, and themselves.
  • Disillusionment with our brothers or sisters should always drive us the Christ, from whom is the only way that we can live and function together.

(From Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Bonhoeffer; pp. 34-36)

Imposing your control on others, supposedly as a function of leadership, is the essence of spiritual abuse.  I thought of controlling leaders, as I read Bonhoeffer.  When your leadership goes to controlling, you have moved into the dark side.

I am an idealist.  I have gone through disillusionment over and over.  A number of times in my life, I thought that if I believed the word and prayed hard, I would get results.

No dice.  Disillusionment.  Back to reality and authenticity.  Suffering, cross bearing, death, burial, and resurrection.  Living with the risen Christ.

One of the most painful disillusionments for me was my parents divorce.  My ideal for them was shattered and the hurtful brokenness of that was all I could see or feel.  The only way I could see was escape.

I was praying for God to make the pain go away.  And then I got ministry from a beautiful group of  prayer warriors, who ministered Paul’s word from Jesus to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

I never really comprehended that verse before that.

Jesus has proven to me, over and over that in my disillusionment, he has grace for me to experience and be transformed by.  And to receive it, I must go low.  “Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.  Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

When we try to make the case for our ideal, in the midst of shattering brokenness, that is pride, bitterness, and cynicism.  We blame, complain, and judge; having no grace for others, ourselves, or God.  No gratefulness, no forgiveness, and no happiness.  Just anger, control, and narcissism.

Shattered illusions that do not give way to grace, which is had by humility, becomes cynicism.  Cynical people believe that all of us are only motivated by self-interest.  Cynical people project their own brokenness onto the whole world.

The back-story of a cynical person is a broken heart that did not heal right.  They became deceived, they began to believe a lie.  They made a choice to go on the wrong path, in the wrong direction.

And the only way to get back on the right path is to go back to where you made the wrong turn.

The man who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, was not always like that.  He may have once been a faithful shepherd, or a sheepdog.  But he got his heart broken and it did not heal right.

That is how a wolf is born that ends up hurting and destroying sheep in the church.  Disillusionment that did not give way to grace through humility, but stayed proud and went to cynicism.

Judas is an example of bad disillusionment.  Intimate with Jesus, but had a different ideal or ideal of who Jesus should be.  And in his cynicism, he betrayed Jesus.

When he realized his mistake, he again did not find grace, but judged himself and executed himself.  He made these decisions, for which he has responsibility.  Satan was involved with him, looked for and found a road into his life, from which he could tempt Judas to do wrong.

Every disciple is tempted to sin and betray Christ.  In our disillusionment, we can turn to the dark side or just give up.  That way of Christ is the receive grace, in humility.

God knows that we will be tempted to go for fame, fortune, success; or just finding ourselves or our destiny.  Maybe we just want to go to school, find a job, find a spouse, and have kids.  Maybe we just want to pay the bills and have a decent grocery store to go to.

Along the path of life, we need to stay grounded in reality, under no illusions about ourselves.

What happened next, in the story of the two men and Jesus, on the road to Emmaus?

They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther.  But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.

-Luke 24:28-31

There is something profound here, in when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, that at that moment, their eyes were opened.  He is the bread of life and his body was broken for our life.  When we receive his life, broken and raised from the dead, for us; we can see him and become disillusioned.

His life and he as the truth, is our reality.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, sung by Casey Crescenzo:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/RN87sNbMoIc?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

Happy Landings

So, at each stage refreshed, they will reach Sion, and have sight there of the God who is above all gods.
-Psalm 84:7 (Knox Bible)

On the 4th of July, we ran out of gas on the way home.  The gas gauge was reading wrong and it was a complete surprise.

The car sputtered and the warning lights came on.  I had less that ten seconds, more like four or five, to find a spot to pull over.  I pulled right into a spot in the neighborhood, beside the boulevard.

It was the one open spot.  It was as if that spot had been saved for us.  Hours earlier, that neighborhood had been jammed and packed with cars and people, who were there for the block parties.

When something like this happens to me, I don’t jump for joy or yell something out.  I just have a calm peace.

You know the one when people say they prayed for a good parking place at Target and there is it, one saved for them, up front, near the entrance?  I think God is with us even more, when we can’t find a spot or when we have to take the spot in the boonies.

Life is a journey with unexpected challenges.  We navigate each one, growing stronger and stronger.  And God, where God lives, is our destination.

When we ran out of gas, we were on Del Amo, which in Spanish means, “Of the master”.  There’s Del Amo Boulevard and just Del Amo, tucked in side-by-side.  So, we ran out of gas on Del Amo Blvd., and then landed the car, on Del Amo, the street, where there are houses, sidewalks and driveways.

The street that we pulled off on was Autry, named after the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  And our parking spot was right before Hersholt, named after Jean Hersholt, best known as a humanitarian, who set up a medical relief fund for people in the motion picture industry, who needed medical care, when they lacked funds.  He was an actor, famous for his Dr. Christian radio program, directed by Neil Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s brother.  And he did six Dr. Christian films.  As a side hobby, he translated 160 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales into English.

I share these things because I like to look up names and their meanings, histories and biographies of people.

Let’s just say that I am happy landing on the road of the master, between the streets named after these two men.  My son remarked that it was his best 4th of July ever and that he enjoyed the adventure.

This song clip below captures the spirit of Gene Autry that I love and also carry.

Headship: God, Christ, The Husband, and The Wife

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.

-1 Corinthians 11:3
What is the foundation of a Christian marriage?  Who is the key to a happy, joyful, abundant husband and wife relationship?  And what is the Christ-following husband’s role in regards to his wife?

These are questions that cross the minds of Christians who are married, thinking about being married, or have been married in the past and are looking back or looking forward.  In society, getting married is much easier to do, even though some single people who are searching or waiting might not agree with this; it is easier to do than getting a drivers licence or all sorts of other things we commonly do.

Being married and staying married are much, much harder.  Two people living in a space together, even with rings and the paperwork, does not a marriage make.

Christian marriage is a covenant between two people, both who are in Christ, that is held together by God.  The legal marriage certificate is a contract that in enforced by laws that will come into play if one of the spouses ends the marriage through divorce.

The covenant only works when we work with it.  God holds our marriage together, as we hold onto God.  It is all about our relationships to God and to one another.

We are all in a covenant, the New Covenant, in Christ, with God.  There are always two sides or two parties in a covenant.  Even though God does all the saving in our covenant with him, we must participate or be engaged in it to actualize the covenant in our lives.

We can’t say, “I’m saved”, and then go back to our lives, running our show.  Being saved means we have begun a journey with God, where we give up everything we have and God gives us everything we need.  That may not be the gospel message that you have heard or believed in, but this is the gospel of the kingdom.

When we say we are in the covenant of salvation or the covenant of marriage, the next step and life style is to live in the covenant relationship.  We don’t leave Christ or our spouse at the altar, so to speak, where we said “I do” and then go off on our own, saying, “see ya when I need ya!”.  But that is how some people live towards Christ and towards their spouse.

Before we look at this issue of head and headship, we need to make sure we are saved and look at our salvation.  If a man or a woman is not in a vital union with the living Christ, where they are dying to their selves and living to Christ, marriage will not work.

Many people are legally married, but not living in marriage.  The Bible gives clear instructions on how to live in marriage as Christians.  If you are not first living as a Christian, then you will not be able to or will have troubles participating in marriage, God’s way.

What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11, is, “this is the way it is and the way it is supposed to be”.  If you read the whole letter, you will see that the Corinthians had problems and Paul is addressing the problems and their questions.  Some of them were not doing great in their being in Christ.

Before Paul addresses the issues that were coming up regarding hair and head coverings, he says the statement that I am highlighting, as a foundation or backdrop to a discussion on hair and head coverings.  Paul could have said: “Thanks for remembering a lot of the stuff I taught you about being Christians.  Now, before I get into this issue of hair and covering or not covering one’s head, I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

In case you did not realize it, and the Bible translation, HCSB, that I quoted has a footnote to flag this: scholars say that Paul meant husband and wife, when he wrote man and woman, here.  The ESV, for example, does this without a footnote:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Before Paul gets into the hair and veil customs, he grounds things in Christ; and that is how we get this verse and that is the context, which we will go through broadly, in a moment.  The back story to Paul’s admonitions on head coverings, may have been questions or problems with this issue at Corinth.  And Paul brings them and all his readers from then till now, back to our relationship to God and each other.

Before we get into head and headship and the wife being under her husband’s head, we have to say this:  A married Christian woman is a person who is herself in Christ, under Christ, and living her life from Christ; while also being and living under her husband’s headship.  A married Christian man is a person in, under, and from Christ; while also the head of his wife.

There has been an ongoing discussion, a theological debate, about what “head” here means.  Over on one side, some scholars have said that head here means ‘source’ or ‘origin’; while the other side says that head means ‘chief’ or ‘ruler’.  Head (kelphale’) also means the ‘end-point’ of something: the top of a column or the end of a pole.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is also called the head of the year. 

Also, head (kelphale’) means controlling agent, but not preeminent.  Our physical heads, having our brain within, rules and has authority over our bodies: our head is the controlling agent of our bodies.  This has nothing to do with preeminence, but everything to do with function.  The head is the boss, from which control emanates, but is not bossy nor controlling.
A body without a head is dead.  It is normal for a body to be under the rule and control or authority of the head.  When we take headship as a metaphor, we see that Christians can and do live without being under Christ’s headship.

In Christ, there is life and outside of Christ there is not life.  If a Christian is not living in Christ, functionally, then they are not living in his life.  Imagine a person who is legally married, but does not live in a marriage.

Living as a room mate, living self centered, not sacrificing, not sharing everything you have, and not laying down your life for your wife; are examples of the husband who is not living under the headship of Christ.

Christ is head of the church, head over all things, the head corner stone, and head of man; and God is the head of Christ and husbands are heads of their wives.  The church can ignore, set aside, or give lip service to Christ being it’s head.  And wives can also not believe in or live under the headship of their husband; and both of these can be happening today, to our detriment.

After studying, reading, listening, looking things up, and reading some more; my conclusion is that ‘head’ (kephale) here in Paul, means ‘authority’, and not ‘preeminent’, ‘source’, or ‘origin’.  There are links to articles, in the bibliography at the bottom, for your further study, if desired.

There have been Christians who are confused about Christ and God, saying things like, “the man upstairs”, or “God is my co-pilot”.  The truth is that God and Christ is king and we need to bow and surrender our lives.  But God is also good, love, and full of mercy and grace.

Christians are the bride of Christ and the children of Father.  God and Christ are not this incredible religion or philosophy that we adhere to.  Being a believer means we give up everything and God gives us a different everything.

It means death and resurrection.  It means leaving our mother and father and getting married to Christ.  It means that we are no longer orphans, but get adopted and become God’s children.

If you do not have these basics, these staring points down; if you are not in and on the pathway of Christ; then having Christ as chief, head, authority, and boss of your life might be a strange and off-putting topic for you.  And it would follow, that if you are a wife, to have your husband over you in any chief, boss, or leader role would possibly be foreign, unwanted, incorrect, and rejected as archaic and bluntly crass.

God and Christ is and are our source, and that is a Pauline idea (Acts 17:28, Rom. 11:36).  But that is not what 1 Cor. 11:3 is saying.  It is also not saying that one is superior and one is inferior.  Paul is not saying the husband is the inferior to Christ and the wife is the inferior to the husband and Christ is inferior to God.

The text is neither saying that the husband is inferior to Christ nor is Christ inferior to God, and not that wives are inferior to husbands.  But it is saying that there is a hierarchy.  Some of us don’t like that word.

God’s headship of Christ gives us an example to follow.  Jesus lives under his father’s authority.  He did all the good things and said all the good things, under his father’s headship.

The husband lives out his life under Christ’s headship and his wife lives out her life under her husband’s headship.  The wife has her own walk under Christ, while also walking under the headship of her husband.  Christ is the wife’s savior and Lord, but she functions under the authority of her husband.

The husband has Christ as his model for leadership.  Christ’s leadership is sacrificially loving.  The husband is called to sacrificially love his wife, who he is head over.

Men and women are equal before God.  Husbands and wives are equal in value before God.  But husbands and wives have different roles in marriage.

Different positions in the hierarchy does not mean superior/inferior.  That is a worldly perspective and not part of Christ’s way.  Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus Christ is Lord, and not just a man who was a carpenter and a traveling teacher/prophet/healer, who had and still has followers.

“God is the head of Christ”, means God the Father has a role of authority over Christ.  It is a function and role issue.  While the husband is not God, Christ is also the head of him; and again it is a role and function.

Remember how in the great commission, Jesus says, “all authority has been given to me”?  Father gives authority to Christ and Christ gives authority to us.  The one is functionally over the other and gives authority to the other.  Jesus has a oneness with Father, but is also under his headship.

In marriage, the two become one; but the wife is under her husband’s headship.

This is an aside, but if Christ calls a woman, a married lady, to be a pastor; her husband is obviously still her head.  If she is married, a blurb on their church’s website might read, “Sue Jones is the pastor (or lead minister) of Tall Mountain Jesus Is Lord Fellowship, and her husband Larry Jones is the boss of her”.  For anyone worried that she is not under her husband’s headship, that settles it.

To every pastor, preacher, or standing up in front of people in a leadership role person; I would simply ask, “has Christ called you?”  If Christ calls a woman and if Christ gives a woman the desire to serve and teach and speak and minister, and gives her his authority to stand in leadership; who are we to argue with him?

If elders are men and the elders are the pastors, then it makes it difficult to be a woman pastor.  But if Christ not only gifts a woman with gifts and then calls her to serve as a leader, and there is much discernible fruit from her ministry, then we call her a pastor, agreeing that Christ has made her one and his.  He has ordained her and we bless his work in her life.

Also, it would be ideal for a woman pastor to have a qualified elder husband.  His being qualified as an elder actually is an endorsement or qualifier of her standing up and speaking and thereby leading other people.

However, most people don’t make it to the ideal, and being divorced or never married should not disqualify anyone who Jesus desires to use, and he does.

Is Christ the head of all Christians, male and female, husbands and wives, young and old?  Yes, of course.  This passage or section does not need to say that because Paul is talking about roles and functions.

Husbands and wives have equal value and standing before God, in Christ.  But they have different roles, and that is what this verse is saying.  Imagine a narrow path, where only one person can fit at a time and one goes first and the other follows.  That is a picture of roles, not about one person being valued more.

Think about a car, where there is one steering wheel in front of one seat that the driver sits in.  The one who drives and manages the wheel, is not superior, but only in the role, function, and service of driving.  Drivers who drive recklessly, speed, blare the radio, where headphones, text while driving, have their eyes off the road, tailgate, cut off other drivers, or drive the wrong way may be called bad drivers and get in trouble or hurt themselves or others, but being in the role, function, or service is not a bad thing.

And that is the way it is with bad husbands.  Their God given role of being head is not the problem, but what they are doing in their role is the problem that needs correction.  Egalitarianism might be saying that the role thing is the problem, so we need to get rid of that and be equal in the roles.

But the complimentary roles and functions, unique to each sex, are given by God; and are not the problem.  The problem are people who do bad things, act in bad ways, and are ungodly.  Egalitarianism seeks to set us free from ‘archaic’ roles, ‘patrimony’ and ‘misogyny’.

The Bible and the roles for husbands and wives are not wrong and don’t need a re-write.  We need to separate the people who have done wrong, lived sinfully, even while saying they are walking with God, from the God we serve, who has created man and woman, with equal value, but different roles as husband and wife, that compliment each other.

The only way to have a Christian marriage is in and through Christ.  We know that Christ is under the headship of God, but the husband must also be intimately aware of his being under Christ’s headship, for his wife to take her place under his headship.  It is about function and relationship.

But before the husband begins to exercise his authority, as head of his wife,there is something to check.  Is he under or functioning under the headship of Christ?  If he is not, then he needs to come under Christ and let Christ be his authority.

This is the subject I wanted to talk about.  Everything I have said up to this point is an introduction to what I am about to say.  There is a problem today, with Christian marriages failing or being dysfunctional, because the husband is not living under the headship of Christ.

I could and am tempted to give you a list of bad things that Christian husbands do.  I could also give you a list of problems that Christian wives have that are to an extent, the result or fruit of their husband not being under Christ’s headship.  Obviously, Christian wives may sin themselves in ways that are not the fruit of their husbands lack of relationship with Christ, but that is not what I am talking about.

This word, that I am focusing on, that says that, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ”, is found in the context of Paul’s words about hair and the covering of a person’s head.  It may be stating the obvious, but we know that Christ and his headship is for all time and universal; but the issues of hair length, and the covering of one’s head, in Corinthian, Grecian society are particular.  

The challenge for us with passages like this, is to find out how the passage applies to us today.  And we can broadly place many things in the Bible into two categories: custom and command.  The statement, that Christ is the head of the husband is a command, for all Christians: to obey.
But, the words that follow in 1 Corinthians 11, about hair length and veil wearing are in the custom category.  Paul is referring to the customs of their culture and  reflecting on how to be loving, in Christ, in the midst of their particular cultural customs.
The husband being the head of the wife is also in the command column.  If you place that piece into the custom column, then you must also place Christ and his headship over man  in the custom column as well.  And some people do that, who say that the whole Bible is just customs.
At the other side of the spectrum, some might say that this whole passage is of the command type, and we must strongly transpose Paul’s words then to our lives now.  And what this point of view would say, is that, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”.
What is funny, in an ironic way, is that if you were to grow up, or be raised up and discipled in a church culture today, where you were taught, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”, you would hear, and we could say, be indoctrinated, by an argument, that would lead you to believe that veils or head coverings are required by scripture, and the rest of Christianity and secular society that does not practice head coverings, is wrong.  Does that sound like any groups of people today?
This is why critical thinking and cross-pollination is so important and beneficial for Christian strength of learning.  Indoctrination and sectarianism are religion.  Christianity is centered in Christ.
Today, many Christians are centered on their beliefs, doctrine, and customs; rather than Christ.  They say they are centered on Christ.  But if they were centered on him, they would love what he loves, both the lost and all of his different flocks.
Now, here is the context of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11:

Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.

Now I praise you because you always remember me and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.

A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.

-1 Corinthians 11:1-16
If you use this passage to say that women should wear head coverings, I might say that is ok, but please do not try to force it on others.  It is interesting to note that in Paul’s day and today, in Judaism, in their worship; the men where the skull cap and women let their hair flow down and about.  How did Paul get from that to the other?

The answer is tradition or custom or culture.  If you look around the world, you will see different styles of dress.  In various cultures, women cover up their heads and even their faces.

Corinth and Greece at the time had a culture that the Corinthians lived in.  They had to live and witness for Christ within that culture.

This hair and head covering part is a cultural discussion that we can transpose and glean some wisdom from for today, which is what many even handed preachers try to do, when they speak on this passage.  But that is not the point of my message.

My message is this:  Christ is the center and Christ is the head of man and head of the husband.  The husband is head of his wife, but that will not work out very well, unless that husband is under the headship of Christ.  Any Christian husband who is not under the headship of Christ, needs to start living in and from that place, and any wife who in not under her husband’s headship needs to start living from, in, and through that place.

If we refuse this calling, we are living a double life that is exhausting and not in the peace of Christ.  We will do the religious things to feel good and then be selfish and lash out at others and even make disciples in this wrong way.  Please don’t do it.  Please come home to Christ.

___________________________________
Bibliography:

Brauch, Manfred T.; The Head of Woman is Man?, The Hard Sayings of Paul, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, pp. 559-602, (1989)

Bruce, F. F.; The New Century Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians; pp. 103-4, (1971)

Grudem, Wayne; Does Kefalh (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or“Authority Over” in Greek Literature?A Survey of 2,336 Examples (1985)

The meaning of κεφαλή (“head”):An evaluation of new evidence, real and alleged, (2002)

Kroger, Catherine; Head, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Hawthorne & Martin eds.; pp. 375-7, (1993)

Nathan, Rich; Why Vineyard Columbus Encourages Women To Preach, Pastor & Church Plant, (2014)


People Who Promote You For Themselves in Shame

Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Saul’s son Ish-bosheth and moved him to Mahanaim.  He made him king over Gilead, Asher, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin—over all Israel.
2 Samuel 2:8-9

Have you ever been in a situation where there is personal ambition and competition that got ugly?  Everyone is ambitious and we are all competitive.  But, certain people are so ambitious and competitive, that they behave in immoral, unethical, anti-social, deviant, or psychopathic ways with others, to get what they want.

The account here says that Abner made Ish-bosheth king.  Sounds sort of good.  Abner might have been the most powerful figure on the ‘Saul side’.

Unfortunately, the ‘Saul side’ is the wrong side.  We know that God wanted David.  But from a worldly perspective, it was Ish-bosheth’s turn and Abner knew that.

Because Ish-bosheth did not get it about David and stepped up into a kingship that was not his, there would be civil war, with a lot of blood spilled (2 Sam. 3:1).  Abner openly took a step, to show just how deep his lust for power and contempt for Ish-bosheth and the house of Saul went, when he took Saul’s concubine, Rizpah, and slept with her (2. Sam. 3:6-7).  In his weakness, Ish-bosheth, did nothing and showed everyone who had the power (2 Sam. 3:11).

Abner and Ish-bosheth will both be killed in 2 years.

What is the lesson here?

  • Be careful about taking a promotion that is not from the Lord.  God does promote us, but in his way and in his time.  
  • Sometimes in hierarchies, there is someone without the title who has the power and feels entitled to that power.
  • Beware of people in powerful positions who lack Christ’s character.
  • Be careful not to yoke yourself to someone ‘unequally’ (2. Cor. 6:14).
  • Being ambitious is good, but selfish ambition, where we run over other people is wrong (Phil. 2:3-4).

Ish-bosheth’s name means, ‘man of shame’.  Abner was shameful, in what he did, as was Saul.  At the very least, Ish-bosheth bore their shame and acted out on it.

From the little we know about Ish-bosheth, we can say that he had low self-esteem.  He was weak and might have even been a coward.  Yet, he took the throne, in the midst of a violent warrior culture.

Picture: Pixabay

The consensus opinion in the psychology/counseling/recovery community seems to be that shame is usually and commonly the result of lack of nurture in childhood.  We were not loved for who we are.  Our caregivers did crazy stuff, abused us, or neglected us; all resulting in the lack of nurturing of our authentic selves.  That is shame, in a nut-shell.

Folks who have this inner shame feel a ‘badness’ (“I am bad”), or even self-hate.  Many times, it is sub-conscious.  Either way, low self-esteem is the result and inauthentic, dysfunctional behavior patterns are developed and lived out; that are all the result of a self that was not loved unconditionally, that is off kilter and trying to “fake it to make it” as a survival mechanism.

But, at some point, we encounter the Love of God, the Father’s affection, the Love of Jesus, and the loving comfort of the Holy Spirit, that is real.  Then begins our journey to wholeness, our awakening to unconditional love.

In regards to promotion or getting something you want, there is a saying that goes something like, “Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it”.  The lesson is to be wise, be considerate, take consideration, look at the big picture, and count the cost before you take the job, the promotion, or get involved with a person.

Imagine being ushered into power by someone.  If someone tries to make you king, you should have a ‘red flag’ go off for you.  No man made David king.

I Want It That Way or Be Thou My Vision

There is a path that may seem straight to someone, but in the end it is a path to death.
-Proverbs 14:12

I was looking at a popular song from 1999, called “I Want It That Way”, that has a chorus that cries out, “tell me why?”

The song starts out with desire that sounds like the Song of Songs, in the Bible.

You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way

I read a book by CS Lewis, when I was in college and starting to struggle with this idea of romantic love, called The Four Loves.  Those 4 loves are affection, friendship, eros, and charity.  We need all four of these.  Charity is the hardest one, which has to do with unselfishness and sacrifice.

Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say
I want it that way

Maybe the reason why songs like this are so popular is that the experience of desire, love, and heartbreak are universal.  You want someone.  That is fine and normal.  But do they want you?

Unrequited love is stuck on ‘why?’  There may be a hundred reasons you will never know and the reasons may have nothing to do with you.  The person stuck on why is refusing to move on, grow, bury it, grieve it, and is stuck on selfishness.

‘Why’ questions are the wrong questions.  The ‘what’ is that you are lovable and somebody else loves you.  The answer to ‘why’ questions are not available to you, even from God.  Perhaps, part of the reason is that God does not want us looking backwards.  As the philosopher/theologian Kierkegaard said, we do understand our lives by looking back; but we don’t get ‘why’ questions answered.

The ‘what’ answer is that God has a unique destiny for you.  The ‘what’ answer is that God loves you.  Those are the answers that give us life and move us forward with meaning.

There are stages of grief, that don’t necessarily run logically, in order; and part of that is being upset and saying, “why?”  The answer is not to, “just get over it”.  The answer is to grieve it, let it go; and letting it go is a process.  The healing process involves letting go and holding on.

What about falling in love?  If you start to explore charity love, you will find real love that is reciprocal.  Love without charity is selfish.  That love wants what it wants and sees the object of it’s love as an object.  We objectify people.

Objects are like pictures or statues.  We posses them.  Selfish love treats people like objects.  Unselfish love, love tempered with charity or agape, treats people as people.  People decide, people have personalities, and real people can love you back how they decide to.

Something to think about is, are you seeing that person you want as a person or an object.  We go after, desire, and consume objects.  But we discover, listen to, invite, make a space for, and become acquainted with a person.

When I was pondering this song, I noticed that the tune had similarities to the old hymn. ‘Be Thou My Vision’.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

This song is about having God, in Christ, be the center of your life.  Make Christ the love of your life and then find the person who you will marry.  Pretty simple.

Sky Links, 7/13/13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

Here are my links to share, or Sky Links, for the week.

Holy Discontent

Gene Redlin wrote this word, that he says Father God spoke to him :

I have placed discontent in your heart.  It is designed to move you from complacency to action.  Only when you find yourself in that place where you no longer can abide circumstances as they are, will you be motivated to step into the destiny I designed for you.  I so loved the world I SENT. Holy Discontent has caused ME to reveal a new level for you.  Greater than you can think or imagine.  Don’t allow complacency to be misidentified as contentment.  Start again.  It is a new day.

Do you know ‘Holy Discontent’?  It’s when God is rustling the nest of your life.  Time to move on, time

to do something more, something different, time to grow, time to move up.  Your discontentment is not depression, but it is God lifting off a little bit of that feel good, snuggled in feeling.  You are like the teenager, who’s parent has had to turn on the light and pull off the covers, to get the child to wake up.

You are being poked and prodded.  It’s Holy Discontentment.  God is saying, “time to move”.  I remember experiencing this the first time, when I decided to go back to school.  God did such a 180 in my life, because I had been a poor student in high school and college.  I was the last person that I would imagine would be a graduate student, going on the earn two advanced degrees.

When you experience Holy Discontent, don’t be alarmed, but start your adventure.  Get up, look around, listen, and pray.  If God is prodding, God will lead you.  Remember that the “guidance system” does not come on until the rocket gets off the pad.  You must get up and go out, not knowing where you are going, as an act of faith.  Then God will guide you.  You can’t stay lying by your pool, complaining that no one will help you.

That is a picture above is of a labyrinth, which is symbolic of the unexpected twists and turns in our lives.  To me, the issue is grace.  We think we can’t do it, but God’s grace is enough.  We have failures, but do we receive or walk in grace?  We want our thorn in the flesh removed, but God says that his grace is sufficient.

Boundaries

I read Cloud & Townsend’s book on Boundaries and volunteered to facillitate a group on the topic, at my church, years ago.  What a topic that we all need to know and I need to grow in!  If you grew up in a dysfunctional home, your boundaries were probably violated.  You did not learn how to say, “no”.

It’s important to remember that family comes before ministry.  God comes before family, and your love for God is first lived out in your love and care for your family.  Love and care equal time and attention.  If you are an unmarried, celibate person; then you do have more time for ministry.

Kris Vallotton on Boundaries, posted on Facebook:

You might have learned what we call passive aggressive behavior.  In the church, especially in some forms of it when we put a lot of pressure and spotlight on individuals, boundaries come into play.  We need to set them and honor other’s space.  Good stuff here from

It’s really important to set boundaries with people. If you don’t learn to set boundaries in your life, other people will superimpose their priorities and values on you. The people who hate the fact that you’re setting boundaries are the very ones who need them the most!

Some people view boundaries as unloving or harsh. They think that you should run to every emergency, let people violate your values, and never say no to anyone or else you are not being loving.

Jesus loved people and yet he had no problem confronting them. Personally, I’m tired of marshmallow Believers. Doormat Don and Molly meek need to get some courage and leave the powerless, victim camp of spineless Christianity.

It’s funny, when I share things like this on my Facebook page people think I’m venting or I’m in a bad mood. I don’t need to be in a bad mood to set boundaries, I’ve had to learn to live with them or die without them. No public figure could survive very long without setting boundaries. For example, it’s common for people to talk to me while I’m in a bathroom stall or even slide a book under the stall for me to autograph. Often people will follow me out to my car after a 12 hour day of ministry to take a picture with me. All these people mean well, and it is really nice to be loved. But it takes a toll on you and soon you find yourself exhausted; not wanting to be around people. So you finally learn to set boundaries and risk being misunderstood. But it’s better to be misunderstood and fruitful, than to be burnout, broke down, and useless.

Touch

Janet Petersen wrote about the power of touch.

There have been times in my life when I’ve needed to hold on to someone’s hand.  It may sound kinda pitiful and needy to ask someone to hold my hand, but at those moments of heart wrenching pain I needed to feel the strength in the touch of someone’s hand.  Ever been there….??

I am so thankful that the church taught me to be a hugger.  To me, hugging means unconditional love.  Unconditional love is what the family of God is all about.  Hugging is a great equalizer.

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