The most overlooked doctrine?

One of the most overlooked doctrines today is that of God as Creator. You’d hardly think so with all words spent on the Creation v Evolution debate. However, one of the casualties of that debate is that when people hear the word “Creation,” they immediately think of what opposes it, rather than working out the positive practical everyday implications of having a Creator and being a creature. The doctrine of Creation is “hijacked” by the Apologetics department, while Practical Theology accelerates past it and on to “the Christian life.”

Yet, there’s a more fundamental and foundational life than the Christian life: that is, “creature life.” Before we are Christians, we are creatures; before God is our Savior, He is our Creator. And He’s not just made us, but in His Word (via sound interpretation) and in His world (via sound scientific research), He instructs us how to care for the apex of His creation – our body-and-soul humanity.

A renewed understanding of our full-orbed creatureliness, with due place given to the body, will produce safety, piety, productivity, and creativity.

Starting with salvation rather than creation results in a dualism that views the soul as the only important element of our humanity, the body being either a hindrance or an irrelevance. All our problems are “spiritual problems” and the almost exclusive focus is soul-health.

In general, those who cultivate healthy souls enjoy healthier bodies. However, God did not just give us souls to protect our bodies; He gave us bodies to protect our souls. If we sleep well, rest well, exercise well, eat well, and so on, our minds will be clearer, our resolve will be stronger, our emotions will be steadier, and our moral defenses will be higher. When we are tired or stressed, we are much more susceptible to temptation than when well-rested and well-fed. Why do you think the devil assaulted Christ after 40 days of fasting in the desert?

While we cannot neglect our bodies and expect our souls not to suffer serious consequences, conversely, increased body-care should boost soul-care too.

An excessively soul-focused Christianity also tends to end up with a narrow view of Christian piety and devotion, where worship becomes associated only with “soul” activities such as prayer, Bible reading, and praise.

However, when we include the body in our “spirituality,” the opportunities for piety and devotion are multiplied beyond church and quiet times. By caring for our bodies in accordance with God’s instructions we worship and serve our Creator rather than the creature. Restful Sabbaths, sensible sleeping and eating habits, regular exercising, etc., may then be transformed into conscious acts of worship.

Yes, that means a sleeping Christian may be worshipping God more sincerely than a pastor vainly burning the midnight oil to perfect his sermon (Ps. 127:1-2).

If living as a creature with a limited and needy body means taking a day off and working shorter hours, will my productivity not take a hit?

Apart from the fact that even secular research is now revealing significant productivity loss if we work more than 40 hours a week, we may find that trusting our Maker’s instructions for our bodies actually produces greater long-term productivity. The 19th century Presbyterian pastor, Thomas Murphy, wrote words about the ministry that apply to every walk of life:

The minister must have his resting day as well as other men or he will suffer the consequences. His physical constitution demands it. If it is denied, in time he will break down in health, as hundreds are doing. Nor must it be supposed that devoting one day of the week to absolute rest will be a loss of time in the end. No, the work of the other days will be more vigorous; the physical and mental tone will be kept up, and at the end of the year far more will be accomplished.

Also, although famous pastors who worked twenty-five hours a day, eight days a week are often held up as examples, what’s usually ignored is that long-term ill health or early death limited their productivity.

Human beings bear God’s image. Part of that means being creative in our callings, whether that be as teachers, parents, students, mechanics, gardeners, etc. We all have opportunities to invent, innovate, and improvise.

Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine! begins with an analysis of how the most creative people make breakthroughs. He found that most “Eureka” moments came during “downtime,” in periods of resting, relaxing, and recreation. It’s not called “re-creation” for nothing!

So, if you’re looking for fresh ideas, your first step should be to rest and refresh yourself. The more we live as dependent creatures, the more creative we will be.

An edited version of this article first appeared in Tabletalk, the monthly devotional from Ligonier Ministries.

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The Testimony of an Unlikely Convert

Download here.

There are some stories that just need to be told—some testimonies of the Lord’s grace that are so unusual and so encouraging that they will bless everyone who hears them. This is exactly the case with Rosaria Butterfield who recently authored The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Tim and I recently interviewed Butterfield for an episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast. At the very least, make sure you listen to the first ten minutes or so where she shares the way the Lord saved her. After hearing how she came to know the Lord, we also talk about issues related to the church and homosexuality.

If you would like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

A New Reformation Begins…On Our Own Doorstep

I’ve been closely following the Reformed African American Network (RAAN) since it was launched a year ago today. RAAN exists “to fuel modern reformation in the African American community and our multi-ethnic nation beyond.” Its enthusiastic founders, Jemar Tisby and Phillip Holmes, have chosen Reformation Day to release a video thanking God for all the progress that’s been made over the past year and to ask for support heading into the future.

I have huge admiration for Phillip, Jemar and others who work with them in this worthy cause and pray that you too will catch their passion and support this modern Reformation on our own doorstep. Apart from the salvation of my own family, there’s nothing I long for more than to see multi-ethnic Reformed churches established throughout the world. We’ve got a long, long way to go to achieve this, but I believe RAAN could be a tremendous catalyst to inspire and motivate churches and Christians to work and pray towards the realization of this brave and beautiful vision. Watch the video and catch the fire!

You can follow RAAN at their blog, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Is this the most sexist verse in the Bible?

I’ve preached quite a few sermons from Ecclesiastes 7. But I’ve always felt a little awkward when reading verse 28 in the pulpit:

One man among a thousand I have found,
But a woman among all these I have not found.

In the context it looks as if Solomon’s search for wisdom turned up a wise man now and again, but never a wise woman! It’s not exactly New-York-Times-speak, is it! Is Solomon a closet Republican conducting a “war on women?”

I’ve never found a commentary that either deals with the difficulty or solves it to my satisfaction. Until last Saturday, when I was preparing a sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:29, and I came across this in the ESV study Bible:

The term “found” here means “figured out, comprehended by study.” The Preacher is admitting that he is unable to “figure out” the vast majority of people he encounters, whether male or female; even his successes in understanding his own sex are extremely unimpressive (only “one man among a thousand”).

This explanation fits the Hebrew, the grammar, the immediate context, and the wider context of the whole Bible which honors women and elevates them above the cultural and societal norms of biblical times.

So, no, it’s not the most sexist verse in the Bible. If anything, you’d expect a man to have a much higher “figure out” rate among his own gender. But his stats are hardly impressive, are they.

The Bible reveals God’s saving love for women; it’s sin that’s sexist and wars against all women…and all men.