Complaining

All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron,and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness!

-Numbers 14:2
We live in a complaining culture and most Christians complain constantly.  Have you ever wondered why complaining is a constant thing for many people?  I think it is one of the easiest ways for us to be taken off-track, off-point, fouled-out, de-commissioned or sidelined.
Many years ago, I went to a conference.  And between sessions, we heard people in the halls complaining that the bathrooms were not well stocked.  Many times, in later years I noticed that we could complain that the music was too loud, too soft; or that the a/c was too cold or too stuffy and a hundred other things.
And that is just complaining in church, where all sorts of good things are happening.  We complained a lot more during the other six days of the week.
There are many Bible verses that say that we must have faith.  God does many things, the biggest of which was sending Jesus.  And our little job is to have faith or believe.  We had a saying when I was a boy, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”
Complaining kills or puts a wet blanket on faith or ‘faith-ing’.  Two people are encountering the same difficulty.  One has faith, holding God in their heart; while the other complains, and turns away from God.
When we complain, we are not having faith, and we are making a choice that is turning away from God.  To pray to God about the difficulty is a whole different matter and is completely endorsed by God, because when we pray, we are exercising faith and turning towards God.
It is wise to turn your complaint into a prayer.  In the story cited in Numbers 14, all of the people complained about Moses and Aaron.  The ‘about’ is the problem.  The better way that would have been if they cried out to the Lord.
They could have said, “God, this looks impossible; what are we going to do!”, or anything along those lines.  And it is the same thing today, with us and our difficulties.  I always think of this line from the song, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

We are so accustomed to constantly complaining.  Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, podcasts, and ‘news’ articles; are often:

  • Complaints
  • Criticisms
  • Grievances
  • Taking umbrage
  • Seething discontent: murmuring or grumbling
So, as Christians, when we do life, we complain.  And then we wonder why our lives do not work, why we have no power and little authority.
When Christians gather, whether in a tiny group of two or three, or in a small group at a house, or with a larger group in a building; we come with our complaints and grievances, oftentimes against leaders or authority people.
The story told in Numbers 13 and 14 explores the themes of God offering a great gift, that to some seems too good to be true.  And unfortunately, some people take a gift from God a despise it.  They do not accept it and ridicule it as being a cruel joke.
A man or a woman hears about and is given the gospel of Jesus, including what He did on the cross and what that means about God and for us.  And that man or woman rejects the gospel and despises the gift of God.  We might say, “they don’t get it”, “they aren’t ready”, or even, “they aren’t chosen”; and we know that there is this issue of Satan blinding the hearts of people, so they can not see the truth of the gospel.
But what about people who are already saved and delivered from the spiritual blindness that Satan inflicts on non-believers?  What about people who cannot or will not grow up and move on to maturity in their Christian lives?  
What about the figurative mountain of maturity that people refuse to scale, that has gifts for them waiting on each higher level; and many believers choose to live their whole lives in the valley, looking at the mountain before them as being ‘too hard’?
All of Exodus and the first 13 chapters of Numbers, looks forward to the people of God getting into the promised land.  After all that build up and expectation, as a people, they say, “no”.  They turn God down and don’t believe.
They don’t trust God.  A foundation of the life is trusting God.  The Israelites had all those signs and wonders in their history, but when the final exam came or at the moment of truth, their trust was not there.
How does the story of the rejection of God and the promises of God that go all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, apply to Christians today who complain?  Maybe the common denominator is covenant.  They were in a covenant with God that they broke that day and we also are in a covenant with God.
In a covenant, each side promises to do certain things.  It boils down to God saving us and us saying, “yes”, or “yes, I will let you save me, which entails my surrendering my whole life to you”.
When they said, “It’s too hard!”, and when we say the same, we are forgetting the covenant where God says that He does the saving and we do the obeying.  When we begin to talk ‘about’ God and ‘about’ how what God is asking of us is ‘too hard’, we are in trouble.  Another way we do it, is that we talk ‘about’ all our problems and leave God out of the equation.  
We become ‘unbelieving believers’ (oxymoronic).  We do a whole variety of Christian activities, but we constantly express unbelief and covenant breaking through complaining.  We seethe with grievances.  We have little of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We belong to the community of believers, but we don’t believe.  The story of the Israelites refusing to go into their land of promise is a very tragic and sad story.  And why is it in the Bible, both for the pre-Jesus people and for us?
It is a lesson on faith and obedience.  It is a lesson called “Trust God”.  Back then, under the Old Covenant, and now, under the New Covenant; God brings us to Himself, for His glory; and we must in turn, reciprocally give over our lives to Him, in trust and obedience, by His grace and through faith.
Instead of complaining, pray.  If you are a ‘cry baby’, at least cry to God and let God love you.  If you are fearful, turn to God for comfort and strength.
When someone complains, love them and say, “let’s pray”.  If they have a story and praying with them just is not going to happen, then be like Jesus was with the woman at the well (John 4): listen to her and listen to what the Spirit of God is saying and gives you to say to her that will bring her closer to God.

God Cares, Watches and Provides

Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.

-Matthew 10:29

My pet cat died the other night.  I found his body, where he laid, on my neighbor’s backyard lawn.  The fact that I found him and that he passed away safely on a soft patch of grass, was comforting.

I was reminded of these verses that say to us that God cares, watches and provides, with timely preparation for future eventualities.  God is our provision.  God envisions and provides.

I am strangely encouraged, to a smaller extent than I was just a month ago, when my step-father passed away.  The encouragement or comfort comes from knowing that God cares and sees and is compassionate.  God is not indifferent, but is a caring Father.

Jesus tells us that our Father sees when each small animal dies, so how much more do you think he sees us and cares about us?  And the context of Jesus words here are being killed from persecution as the result of betrayal by one’s own family.  In these hardest of circumstances, Jesus says to not be afraid, because your Father is watching and has made provision for whatever befalls you.

There is a song, inspired by this verse, called, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”, written by Civilla Martin.  Civilla and her husband met a couple, who were both crippled, named Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle, who had remarkable joy and contentment, despite their physical challenges.  The Doolittle’s were light bearers of inspiration, comfort and hopefulness to everyone they came into contact with.  Civilla’s husband asked Mr. Doolittle what their secret was, and Mr. Doolittle remarked, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me!”  That statement gripped Civilla Martin’s imagination and she wrote the song.

His Eye In On The Sparrow
By Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


His Eye Is On the Sparrow, Wikipedia

The Deeper Life

Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.

-Psalm 42:7
I am a person who is interested in going deeper.  As a young man, I devoured books on the deeper Christian life.  My quest for depth took me into the experience of so much joy, that I smiled all the time.  I was also introduced to the experience of deep sorrow and pain.
I found out that deeper means the whole package: joy and sorrow.  I found out that the reason Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted is that many people, including me, have had broken hearts that need Jesus.  There is a tension in seeking the deeper life in God, in that when God takes you deeper, when you go deeper with God, you experience the depths of joy and sorrow.
When I first looked at Psalm 42, as a young man, I thought it was just about hunger for God.  And it is true that it is about hunger for God.  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you”, is about hunger, longing, and desire for God.  But the rest of the Psalm is harder to digest or face, because it is about deep pain and sorrow.
Psalm 42 is about weeping, loss and depression, along with seeking God.  “As the deer pants”, is a beautiful, poetic picture.  The deer is thirsty, and so are we.
Another interpretation, is that the deer is panting, longing for the protection of the stream, where it’s scent will be hidden from predators.  We also desire to be in God’s presence, which is the place of immunity from the enemy.  We want to escape the taunting, the attacks, the abuse and the temptations of the dark forces; so we seek to be closer to God, where we find safety and comfort.
Psalm 42 is about, “let is be over”, and the ‘it’ is the pain.  The Bible is a book filled with stories of victory and joy, but also defeat and sorrow.  The Bible teaches and models going through and experiencing both fully.
If we are full grown believers, we will know how to have full joy and full sorrow.  Most of us have not grown up into knowing how to experience either, and we might even judge those who do as ‘extreme’.  Many of us have learned to be stoic and even live out of touch with our emotions.
My desire is to experience the depths of joy and the depths of sorrow.  Let us be people who weep, grieve and groan, and people who  cry tears of joy, dance for joy and vocalize their joy with shouts and laughter.  This is what the authentic people of God have always been like and what we will be as we go deeper.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me”, is a picture of the deep life in God.  Whatever the depth of my sorrow, God goes there with me.  His presence is in my deepest sorrow, grief and loss.  I have always been asking for more joy and more love and more power too, but not more pain.
But I have immense pain, immense loss; and while I do not minimize it, I also do not inflate it and I know that others have had much worse tragedies and immeasurable suffering.  But pain is pain and loss is loss and suffering is suffering; and whatever mine or yours has been; the great revelation is that God goes there with us.  God wants to walk through the door and into the feelings of pain, sorrow, depression, loss, anger, grief, hopelessness and suicide.  
Yes God does want this for us.  He wants to come into the darkest, most painful places in our hearts, in our memories, and in our past that haunts us.  God wants to be there with us.
This is what the calling out is to, the prayer up is to and the cry of Psalm 42 is all about.  God wants to come into the painful places.  To all of our losses, suffering, disappointments and experiences of injustice is where God wants to go with us.
We often want suffering to just go away or disappear and we ask God for all the good things, the blessings, to replace all the bad things.  And God does lavish upon us many blessings and many good things and even joy and happiness.  But if we do not grieve our losses, mourn, feel, cry, and let it out; then we can not fully experience the good things, because part of us is missing and non-functional.
God wants to walk with us, through our sorrow and pain, so that we have the security to know we are loved in our ugliest, most shameful, depressed, hopeless, trapped rage places of our hearts.  We will see God there and know that he is Lord of the low and the high places.    When we live with and deeply experience God in sorrowful times, our lives in joyful and blessed times become richer, because we know we are loved at all times and in all places.

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.

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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)


Illusions

They say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets,” Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things. Prophesy illusions.”
-Isaiah 30:10 (HCSB)

An illusion is a false idea or belief.  It is a delusion, a self-deception, a fool’s paradise, misconception, or misapprehension.

We might have illusions about life.  When we accept the reality that the illusions are not true, we can become disillusioned.  Disillusionment is when we are angry or bitter or cynical about life.

God is neither under an illusion nor disillusioned about things.  Disillusionment carries with it the feeling of disappointment.  God can be disappointed, but not disillusioned, because God never was under any illusion.

Children are not born with wisdom about how the world works and how to function here.  Children grow in wisdom and understanding.  We expect children to be childish.  We expect children to live under some illusion.

As life goes on, we grow in wisdom and understanding.  We are not in an illusion or disillusioned, but see life in reality.

Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now”, expresses the idea, that after experiencing adult life, we can still choose the illusion over reality:

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

The sad state, reflected in her words, is like that of a “fools paradise“, or of a person who chooses to wear “rose colored glasses”.  Why?  Perhaps because the illusions  keep the pain away.

There is a person, who has had life experiences, in time, but has chosen not to assimilate them into wisdom and maturity, but has chosen the path of illusion.

What is tricky with a Christian is that we are supposed to be hopeful.  Dreamers are hopeful and hopeful people might be accused of being “overly optimistic”, looking at things unrealistically, or having “rose colored glasses on”.

But, being hopeful and being in denial are different.  The hopeful one does not deny reality and does see it.  Hopeful people deal with hard realities, and find a way, if there is a way; and they know when to go a different way.

Reinhold Niebuhr, wrote about something called, “A flight towards nothingness, where the primary concern it to escape the painful daylight of human consciousness.”(1)  People who stay in illusions are trying to avoid (painful) reality.  They want to be unconscious to it.

Addictive behavior in the sensual realm is used to avoid reality.  Sensuality is not just sexual.  Niebuhr wrote this in “Nature and Destiny of Man”:

Whether drunkenness, gluttony, sexual license, love of luxury, or any inordinate devotion to a mutable good, sensuality is always: (1) an extension of self-love to the point where it defeats its own ends; (2) an effort to escape the prison house of self by finding a god in a process or person outside the self; and (3) finally an effort to escape from the confusion which sin has created into some form of subconscious existence.(2)

The “sensual man” or woman is failing to trust God, as the bedrock of their life.  If you do not trust God, you put your trust in something or someone else.

When we rely on solutions, be they addictions, fantasies, or will-power; that are not an act of faith that expresses trust in God, we end up in pride, rather than humility, if we convince ourselves that, “it’s working”.  And that is the life of embracing illusion, rather than reality.

Reality involves painful truth and grace.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the person’s life who in living in illusions, is that they bring God into them.  They bring God into their fantasy world of denial, foolishness, and rebellion.  They engage in a “God is my co-pilot”, or “The Man upstairs”, skewed caricature of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Reality is found in and through Christ.  Finding out that he loves you and you are his will change your life and bring you out of illusion and into reality.  I want to know what’s real.  I want something real.  I want the real Jesus with no illusions.

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1. Sin, Pride, & Self-Acceptance; Terry D. Cooper, p. 63 
2. Nature and Destiny of Man, Reinhold Niebuhr,  vol. 1, pp.239-40
See also: Attaining true greatness – humility versus pride  By Don Schwager

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