Book Plunge: Irresistible.

What do I think of Andy Stanley’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Andy Stanley has in the past made himself a controversial figure. It’s understandable why that is. He knows in his newest book that he’s putting himself in a risky position. The whole idea behind the book is how to make the faith irresistible and reclaiming what Jesus launched into the world.

At that start, I even wonder. Can we ever say that Christianity was truly irresistible? It seems like a lot of people did a pretty good job resisting it. So much so that Paul required a personal experience to stop murdering Christians and the Romans didn’t really hesitate to persecute them.

Stanley has been put under fire for statements he has made about the Old Testament and inerrancy. I do understand both. I have a lot more sympathy with the trouble he got into on the latter. My father-in-law, Mike Licona, got caught up in inerrancy debates just because he dared to interpret one passage differently and then a host of others were brought out. I think a lot of people got turned off on the topic of inerrancy because of that.

The Old Testament, I am a bit more cautious on. I think Stanley does make it right more towards the end. He shows that when people come to believe in Jesus in the New Testament, they do come to embrace and study the Old Testament more. Well and good. Still, I wonder if he thinks that Old Testament apologetics is all a waste.

I don’t think he does, but one can get that impression sometimes. I think there are many great and precious truths in the Old Testament. My wife came to know Jesus because of a passage in the Old Testament. Many of us know it. It’s Psalm 139 where God says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The Old Testament tells us we are in the image of God and begins the story of sacred space that God seeks to create. I am fully convinced that without understanding the Old Testament, your understanding of the New will be woefully inadequate. Sometimes, I do wonder if many doctrines I disagree with in the church fathers came up because none of them, as far as I know, were Jewish.

I think sometimes Stanley’s language of the Old Testament can be over the top. Yes. The book of Hebrews refers to the old covenant as obsolete. That does not mean the Old Testament is obsolete. The Testament contains the covenant, but it is more than the covenant.

Yes. The God of the Old Testament is seen as violent at times, but what about the God of the book of Revelation? Yes. The God of the Old Testament said things about slaves, but what about the fact that Jesus and Paul never told people to release their slaves en masse? The God of the Old Testament condemned homosexuality and so did Paul, but you know, Jesus didn’t say anything about it so maybe it’s okay.

I should clarify I think Jesus didn’t speak about it because in ancient Israel, it wasn’t an issue. It was just condemned and if anything, Jesus’s silence on the matter should be seen as tacit agreement with the principle. He didn’t hesitate to speak out in other places where he thought the law was not right, such as divorce.

This isn’t to say that I disagree with everything Stanley says in this book. Some material I think is quite helpful. I think it’s important to realize that a contradictin in the Bible does not spell the end of Christianity. I think it’s important to realize that we don’t have to answer every question about the Old Testament, or even the New for that matter. I think it’s important to realize that we can know moral truths apart from the Law.

I also think it’s a great point to say that we meet many people who say they want to get as close to that fine line without crossing over it as they can, which is a self-emphasis. On the other hand, there are many people who want to be full of God and the Holy Spirit and have a passion in prayer and such. Unfortunately, that can also still be just an emphasis on self. You want to have these things sometimes because you want to be sure you are in the right.

I think it’s a good insight to say that the love of God must not be just vertical, but it must be horizontal as well. I think though that Stanley can neglect the vertical in some cases. What about passages like Matthew 6 where you go into your prayer closet alone and don’t show people that you’re praying? Your Father who sees in secret rewards you.

Of course, if we do something just for a reward, that’s not good, but sometimes God tells us to do things and we will be blessed. The verse in question is one such case. Let’s face it. When a man starts dating a girl, you can say all you want the nobility of love and such, and many good men somewhere do, but yeah, he’s also thinking about the privilege of having sex with her.

I think it’s a great question to ask what love would require of us. What is the most loving thing we can do? It’s a good principle to look at if we want to study how it is a Christian should walk. It’s also noteworthy that the apostles repeatedly pointed to the example of Christ and walking like Jesus.

I also did enjoy the bit on eschatology and the destruction of the temple. I have been an orthodox Preterist for years and it’s good to see someone well-known like Stanley presenting this viewpoint. I hope more Christians will come to embrace it.

In the end, I have mixed feelings. I understand the motivation behind the book and why it is that way and for that, I agree, but I still fear we can be too dismissive. I wondered at times about how Stanley would answer if someone asked who was skeptical about Jesus, “Is the God of the Old Testament the Father of Jesus?” I don’t doubt that Stanley thinks such, but I just wondered.

But if Stanley wanted controversy, he’s certainly produced a work that will bring it about. If Stanley has overstated his case, then it could just be that this leads to the work that can bring about the necessary corrective that will be the balance without going to the extreme that the inerrancy witch hunt has gone. I am also thankful for excellent work in New Testament scholarship, but I hope we will see more in Old Testament as well, like Walton and Longman.

If you pick up this book and read it, you might agree with most of it, you might disagree. Either way, you will have an opinion. Most everyone who reads this will have something to think about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

5 Reasons Christians Should Celebrate Sex

Do we have a gift from God worth celebrating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my friend Sean McDowell wrote an excellent article on why our culture is so obsessed with sex. I have no dispute with it, but at the same time I thought it needed a contrast. After all, Chesterton said long ago that when a man knocks on the door of a brothel, he’s looking for God. The search for sex is often a search for transcendence. It’s amazing that in all the things we have made for pleasure since the dawn of civilization, that somehow God’s creation of sex is still our great obsession. We just can’t seem to beat that.

When we come to sex, there is a sense in which we are drawn out of ourselves. The most rational among us can become creatures of strong passion at that moment. Many men are willing to do most anything for sex. We could condemn this, or we could see it as a clue to reality.

Christians have a tendency to move in the opposite direction always of society and especially with sex. We’re the ones who often treat it as shameful and dirty. It’s instead sacred and beautiful. This is something God made. Let’s treat it that way. Thus, I have in contrast five reasons why we should celebrate sex.

#1, We should celebrate sex because we honor God.

Sex isn’t like a video game or a TV show we made up. It’s something that God created. It was His idea. He put all the joy into it for us. He designed it to be pleasurable. He designed it to unify a husband and wife in matrimony. Of course, He put barriers around it, but He did it not because it is dirty, but because it is sacred. If you have something like a safety-deposit box, you don’t put junk in it. You put valuables in it you want to keep safe. I often say sex is like nuclear energy. It works great if you handle it the right way and has wonderful effects. It’s powerfully explosive if you use it in the wrong way and has devastating effects.

God is not anti-sex. There’s a whole book of the Bible celebrating it, the Song of Songs. Christians don’t need to be either. We need to show the world that we are the ones who are doing it, pardon the pun, right. You won’t find joy in sex in just random encounters. The best way to find that joy is in a covenant relationship where the love grows and grows and grows.

#2. We believe in Immortality.

We believe that the body is a good thing. We believe that it is such a good thing, that God made it to last forever. God is going to recreate our bodies. We are not Gnostics. Our bodies are not shameful. They are gifts. They are temples. We need to treat them properly.

Thus, we have no need to exclude ourselves from the joys of the body necessarily. We can in the sense of a sacrifice, but not because we think they are wrong. I have a lifelong vow about drinking alcohol. I do not think it is wrong. If you drink a beer or wine in front of me, I do not think you are doing anything wrong. Of course, alcohol can be misused and abused and that is wrong, but it is no sin to drink and control your drinking. If you abstain from sex for reasons of focus and such, go ahead, but don’t look down on those who marry. After all, Paul said it is better to marry than to burn.

If we are going to be in our bodies forever, why not celebrate and rejoice in them? Sex is one way we do that. We honor the person with their bodies and soul. Some marriage traditions in other cultures have marriage vows that say “With my body, I thee worship.” The giving of the body is the giving of something sacred, and that sacredness of the body extends into eternity.

#3. We believe in the sacredness of sex.

This goes with the others. Sex is not just a pastime that we do together like playing video games, watching a movie, going to a concert, or playing a sport. We know this because many people will see something greater in having sex with someone else instead of going to the movies with someone else. Something about sex seems different. Sex does change everything in a relationship and even for couples who aren’t married, the idea is still that sex with anyone else is cheating.

Sex is holy and good because God made it for us. He wanted us to enjoy it. As I said, we have a whole book of the Bible for this. This is a lesson especially women need to hear. Too many women grow up being told that sex is just for men. It’s not. Bluntly speaking, God gave women a clitoris and as far as I know, the only purpose of this is so that you can enjoy sex.

Instead, we often say women are pure and pristine creatures who will never think about sex, and guys are these dirty ravenous animals who only think about sex and are just a big bundle of hormones. Both of us have hormones. Both of us have desires. We may experience them in different ways and to different degrees, but they are there. They are not shameful. Like any desire, they must be controlled and used at the proper time, but there is no sin in enjoying sex.

#4. We are made in the image of God.

One of the fascinating things that is said in the Bible right after man and woman are made in the image of God is to go forth and fill the Earth. Be fruitful and multiply. In other words, for us at the beginning, sex was part of the divine mandate. (Doesn’t that sound like a great job guys? God commands us to have sex, not like we really need the motivation.)

Of course, couples decide when they want to have children, but we are not opposed to them. This is one way we in fact spread the Kingdom. It’s no secret that one of the reasons Islam grows is fertility rates. The same can happen with Christianity.

Since we are in the image of God, we can celebrate that part of that is that we are to fill the Earth and subdue it. Naturally, this doesn’t mean everyone does it. Someone who doesn’t marry is not being disobedient to God, but humanity as a whole is supposed to do this.

#5. Because we love pleasure.

Yes. Christians are to love pleasure. There is nothing wrong with fun. Fun is God’s idea. We often picture holiness as something boring. Do we want to say that God is boring? God who created a world of variety and wonder is boring? Perish the thought!

I’ve been a gamer all my life. I remember back when the Super Nintendo was coming out, that the ads said it would have 32,000 colors. That’s quite a lot, and all of them are a gift from God. God did not make a world of black and white. God made us to need food. He did not have to make it taste good. He made us to need drink. He did not need to make it refreshing. He made us to reproduce. He did not need to make it an awesome time.

Sex is not just something we do for fun. It’s something we do also to unify a commitment between husband and wife. Can I stress this to you wives especially? You can do EVERYTHING ELSE in the world for your husbands, but if you neglect this area, it won’t matter. This is the area that for your man will scream love the loudest. This is the area where you can highly highly empower your husband. In fact, Scripture commands husbands to delight in and find joy in their wives. It’s hard for them to do this if their wives say no. It’s also to be remembered that this goes both ways. We are not to withhold our bodies from one another. There’s an old joke where a man says he’s been given many reasons by his wife to not have sex. Prayer and fasting have never been one of them.

Sex is fun. It is sacred. It is good. It is a gift from God. It is a shame that our culture acts like they are the ones that know how to have a good time. Every act of sex should be a sacred act. It is ideally a mutual giving between a man and a woman in a covenant who give freely of themselves and hold nothing back from the other. Both should treat one another as sacred beings in the image of God.

I look forward to a day when our culture turns to us on the issue of sex. I hope we do not turn and run from the topic. Sex is God’s idea. It is not the enemy. It is the gift.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To The Resurrection?

Have we forgotten the central Christian doctrine? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I was at a funeral for a small child and whenever I go to funerals, I often think about how much sadly Christianity is missing out on its central doctrine. You don’t hear talk about the resurrection at funerals. You hear plenty of talk about Heaven, but the resurrection is absent. When I got up to speak, I made resurrection absolutely central to what I said.

I gave two contrasts. I said that if Christianity is not true, then we can believe that the death of this child is just something we don’t like in a chaotic and accidental world, that she is dead and that is it. Game over. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. We can create a bunch of little joys for ourselves despite this, but they won’t matter because the universe will die itself anyway and all will be for naught.

However, if the resurrection is true, then this is not the end of the story. This girl will rise again. It means that death is in the process of being conquered once and for all and we can all participate in the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, I see the ignoring of the resurrection often at funerals. When my own grandmother died, I was one of three assigned to speak at her funeral. Her pastor went before me and said, “Right now, she is experiencing the power of the resurrection!” I wanted to say “I’m sorry Pastor, but I’m looking and I’m pretty sure I see a dead body right there.” No. She will experience the resurrection, but not right now. The resurrection is not just a spiritual reality, but a physical one.

Go forward a couple of years and I have an aunt who dies. I’m at her funeral and after the pastor speaks about how he came back from his vacation to do this funeral (Who cares Pastor?), he then goes on and on and never once mentions resurrection. After awhile, he then says we have that blessed hope that Paul spoke of in 1 Thess. 4.

I know this passage! I’m getting excited! Say it! Say it! Say it!

“That we will see our loved ones again in Heaven.”

I slumped in my seat defeated yet again. That’s not what 1 Thess. 4 is about. 1 Thess. 4 is about the resurrection. That was the great hope. Why don’t pastors get this?

I wish it was just funerals, but it isn’t. Scroll through Facebook. If you see something about asking if people are saved, it becomes “They won’t go to Heaven when they die!” Go to your average church service. What happens in the sinner’s prayer? “Forgive me of my sins so I can go to Heaven when I die.”

Whatever happened to the resurrection?

Some of you might think it hasn’t gone away. After all, I am in the business of defending the resurrection. My father-in-law is one of the best at it. His mentor is the best at it. Christian apologetics today emphasizes the resurrection. It’s not forgotten.

Yet even then, I wonder if we have let it sink in. You see, we often say that if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true, which I agree with, but then we don’t ask “And what does that mean?” Was the resurrection just one really awesome trick God pulled off to show what He can do?

No. Jesus’s life was based around a series of claims, mainly to be the Messiah of the people of Israel. This is why understanding the Old Testament is so important. We can often give a Gospel presentation where we start with Adam and Eve, good, and then skip straight from the fall to Jesus, as if the flood, the calling of Abraham, Moses, and the formation of the Kingdom of Israel is this superfluous part in the middle that we can just dispense with.

So what does it mean when the Messiah has come? It means the Kingdom of God has come. God is going to rule His Kingdom. What does that mean? Do we think God is building up a Kingdom here made of those who bow the knee to Him only to just do away with everything in the end and zipline us to Heaven?

No. This place is not a mistake. I do hold that one day the Earth will be reborn as it were undergoing its own resurrection, but I don’t think we will ever truly abandon it. Look at Revelation 21. Do you see the New Jerusalem going up to Heaven? No. You see it coming to Earth. It’s the marriage of Heaven and Earth.

What are some implications? For one thing, your body matters. One of the great heresies that first came to Christianity was Gnosticism which held that matter was some wicked evil thing. Christianity disagreed with this profusely because Jesus, who was and is fully God, lived in a human body, and I would contend still does.

Sometimes skeptics will look at our rules about sex and say “God sure seems to have a strange interest in what I do with my body.” Yes, and so do you. It’s no big deal supposedly where one puts their genitalia, until someone gets raped. Then it is a big deal. We all know it. A complete stranger grabs a random girl and kisses her? Okay. Sexual harrassment. The girl could be shaken for a bit, but she will be fine ultimately. If he rapes her, it’s something entirely different.

Christianity had to deal with this too. Some people said that sex should be avoided because it imprisons innocent souls in evil matter. Others said, sex makes no big deal because the body isn’t a big deal period. Christianity said both were wrong. There was nothing evil in being in matter, and that what you do with the body does matter. Sex was not an evil, but it was a good to be controlled and used in the right time and place, namely between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.

This also has something to say to ecology. This world is meant to be our home and a place for future generations. We should take care of it. This is the world God created. It’s not readily disposable. It’s to be stewarded. Now that doesn’t mean I embrace the environmentalist movement. Not at all. If one wants to help the environment, I recommend working with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

This also means that indeed Israel matters. When Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10, he tells the people that our ancestors went through the Red Sea. For the new Christians, Israel’s history was also their history. What happened to the Jews then mattered and we Christians should know about it. If all you understand is the New Testament, you essentially have the end of the story without seeing how it begins.

Of course, we can’t deny that this means that death is not the end, but it’s not that we float off to a disembodied existence and stay that way forevermore. Let’s also not say anything like that we become angels or something of that sort. We don’t. Angels are not your fallen relatives that have gone on. Humans and angels are different creatures.

What happens is we get raised to a newness of life. We overcome all forms of death, spiritual and physical. God does not grant the devil a victory. He does not give up on this creation. He made it to dwell with us in it forever and that is what He is going to do. If someone doesn’t want to participate in that, that is their choice.

Please people. I urge you to not lose sight of the resurrection. It is our central doctrine and it means a lot more than that Christianity is true. It means a lot more than even this short blog post can say. A whole book could be written on this kind of topic. The resurrection is not just joy for the future. It’s joy for right now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

What Is The Gospel?

When we speak about the Gospel, what are we talking about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, someone alerted me to something that was said on James White’s Facebook page which is the following:

Without using Google, who said the following, providing a classic example of what I call the “Mere Christianity” movement, which defines the faith *apart from* the Gospel itself:

While I’m an evangelical by choice, I recognize one does not need to be an evangelical to be a Christian. If one embraces the essentials of the Christian faith, I’m happy to call that person my brother or sister and work alongside them in ministry, whether they are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or whatever.

For some fun, I sent it to a few people that I know to see what they thought also. One of those people was Mike Licona. He told me that he read the statement and found that he agreed with it.

Which is good since he’s the one who made it.

I, however, will stay that I stand by that statement. There are a number of us who have supported Mike with what he went through with the accusations that he was denying inerrancy. In this number are Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. I have some of each on my Facebook friends list. I would have no problem having guests of either persuasion on my show and in fact I do know I have had Catholics on there before. All of these people I see as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now do I think they’re off on some doctrines? Yep. You bet. You know who else is? Most everyone I know. In fact, I’m off on some doctrines. Why do I hold to them then? Because I don’t know what they are! I just know that the field of Christianity is a complex field and it would be quite arrogant of me to think I’m the one person who got everything right.

But let’s look at this charge. What is this with defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. As I told my wife that evening, I think too often we misunderstand the Gospel. We think the Gospel is justification by faith. It’s not. I do not deny justification by faith, but justification by faith is I think a response to the Gospel and not the Gospel itself.

In a book I recently reviewed called One Gospel For All Nationsbiblical scholar Jackson Wu presents a viewpoint from China on how different cultures see different things in the Bible. Of course, this doesn’t change what the Bible says, but we all have a danger of reading our culture into the Bible. Consider a passage like Romans 7 with the supposed autobiography of Paul. We all read that as if it is Paul describing what we go through, but it isn’t. Most scholars agree this is not autobiographical and is more a speech in character. If we go this route in fact, we could be putting us in that position and making us opposed to the good news in Romans 8 unintentionally.

Wu says that wherever the Gospel is mentioned, you find at least one of these three themes in the text. Those are creation, covenant, and Kingdom. The problem for most of us is we can go straight from Genesis 3 to the Romans Road and think all that stuff isn’t important. I think of what N.T. Wright said when he hears the creed that talks about Jesus “Born of the Virgin Mary”, and then “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Wright says he can picture the four Gospel writers in the background saying “We spent a lot of time on that stuff in the middle and we think it’s important.”

I find it odd then to think about defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. Perhaps we should hear what the Gospel is. Romans 1 for instance begins this way.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Some commentators will think that the Gospel doesn’t really start until later around verse 16 or 17. This is false. It begins right here. What do we have? We have a descendant of David which points back to the covenant made with David. We then have the resurrection of Jesus by which Jesus was declared to the world to be the Son of God. Because of this, we have received grace.

If we make something like justification the Gospel, then really we have to ask “What is the point of Israel?” Does the Bible just have a lot of filler stuff in it? What is the point of Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God? Could it be that maybe He actually meant there was a Kingdom and He was the king?

So what is the purpose of justification then in all of this? It’s realizing that there is indeed a new king in town and He calls for your allegiance. Justification is admitting that God is in the right and you are in the wrong and submitting to the Lordship of Christ. In doing so, God welcomes you to His family. God then looks at you and pronounces you to be in the right.

So let’s look at the above list. Protestants. Catholics. Orthodox. Would these agree that God created the world and yet it fell into sin through our actions? Yep. Would they agree that God made covenants with Abraham, Israel, and David? Yep. Would they agree that God revealed Himself in Christ, the God-man, who physically rose from the dead? Yep. Would they agree that we should all submit to Jesus as Lord? Yep. (And would they all fall short still in that submission. Yep.)

With that, I have no problem calling any of them my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have no problem working alongside them in ministry. If I minister to someone and he comes to Jesus and wants to be Orthodox or Roman Catholic, okay. I don’t have a problem with that. I would hope my Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers would think likewise if he wanted to join the other community or be a Protestant after they evangelized him.

So if Mike Licona is in the wrong for being willing to see Christians outside of evangelicalism and to fellowship with Roman Catholics and Orthodox brothers and sisters, well I guess I’ll be in the wrong too. I just see us all as learning to submit to Jesus as Lord. Do we have some differences and can we discuss them? Yeah. We do and we can, but that should not stop us from doing the real Kingdom work together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: One Gospel For All Nations

What do I think of Jackson Wu’s book published by the William Carey Library? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Would you like to hear the good news of the Gospel? You would? Okay. Long ago our ancestors Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished from His presence. In order to bring us back, God sent His Son to us. He lived among us and died on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead and all who believe on Him can find forgiveness in His name.

Such is the way that a Gospel presentation can usually go. Now of course, when presenting the story of the Bible, one cannot give a full presentation of everything in the Bible, but isn’t it amazing how much is left out of this? Where is the history of Israel in this presentation? Does Israel have no purpose in God’s story? Where is the mention of Jesus being a king? You can see Him as savior, but will you see Him as King?

Jackson Wu is a Chinese scholar who writes about how to interact with Scripture in a more practical way to present the Gospel to all nations. After all, such an approach might work fine here in America to an extent (And that extent is lessening), but go to a more Eastern mindset and you could find it less effective. Wu primarily shows his own people of China as a different culture that contrasts heavily with our modern Western culture.

In doing so, Wu takes us back to Scripture and says we must look for the themes of covenant, creation, and kingdom. Whenever the Gospel is presented, we will find something of this there. You might not find all the themes, but you will find at least one of the themes.

This means also that when we go to another culture, that we can see how they interact with Scripture and find grounds of agreement first. We can disagree with the Marxist ideologically for instance, but could we find something we can agree on? We can agree with the desire to find a perfect society together. We can agree with the idea of removing distinctions that separate people. We can then show that these are also part of the new covenant in Christ.

The book also contains some interesting insight into Chinese culture where the goal is often to save face. How you look to the people around you means everything and if you don’t have a good reputation, it is as if you were already dead. There is also emphasis on how one treats their family, especially their parents. Picture going to this culture with the Gospel of the man who talks about how He must be more important to you than your own family and suddenly those ideas take on a whole new meaning.

Wu’s approach is contextualization. It means that we don’t just read the Scripture at face value alone, but try to interact and see the culture behind the Scripture as well. An honor-shame context is a better approach to understanding the Bible and as Wu shows by an example of Chinese culture, is still very much active in the world today.

Wu’s book is an excellent resource for missionaries or for anyone serious about evangelism. After all, to do missionary work today, you don’t have to go to another country. You can find people of another culture in our own neighborhood and you can turn on your computer and find people of a different culture. Wu’s book is one to read to better understand how Scripture and culture should interact together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What is Oneness In Marriage?

What does it mean that the two become one? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

He sat across from me at the table as we had lunch together. He had met me to discuss a situation with me that had put my wife in a great deal of pain. He was a former professor of mine and a good man I knew I could trust and to be sure, I still know that I can trust him.

And so naturally, we talked about marriage, and this is a professor who has led marriage retreats. The professor told me about how he remembered when I came to Bible College. I was quiet, didn’t look people in the eye, rushed past quickly when spoken to, etc. Yes. I was a weird kid. (Well that much hasn’t changed.) What I think got me to come out of my shell was apologetics. I found something I was good at and a niche I could fill.  The professor told me before too long I was hanging out with professors in offices cutting up and laughing.

And he had to agree with me.

The change in marriage had been much greater than that.

You see, we were at lunch in fact, and in the past my diet had been much more restricted. It was Allie who introduced me to a new world where I could actually go into a restaurant and order items. Now there’s still a lot of work to be done, but that is huge progress.

If that was the only advancement, you might say that’s not much. Fortunately, it isn’t. I can definitely say the most important advancement is character and it makes me think a lot about what it means to be one with the woman I love.

Of course, we could think about sex. We should some. In fact, one thing I told my professor was that when it comes to respect, there’s nothing that makes me feel respected more. Little tip here ladies. Want to have a happy man? This area is of supreme importance to him. I don’t care if you’re doing everything else right. If this area is neglected, your husband will feel neglected

And when we talk about that, there is no doubt a oneness there. It is this oneness that is made clear by the sex act. You see, in true sexuality, you have to give ultimate trust. You bear all to another person and especially in the case of a woman, the body has to be made completely vulnerable. If there is trust there, this is not a problem. This is why I say it should be reserved for a marriage. Only marriage is a bond powerful enough to contain this powerful force.

Speaking as a man ladies, this activity will bond your man to you. There’s something magical and transforming going on. I really hesitate to use the word magical because it sounds so corny, but magical is what it really is. I cannot explain it, but I tell me men about to marry that their world will never be the same.

In that bonding, I contend that more than bodies are being united. There is somehow a transcendent oneness taking place. Marriage has been described as one soul in two bodies and I’ve come to believe it. The actions that affect my wife affect not only her, but they affect me, and what affects me affects not only me, but her as well. Her joy is my joy. Her pain is my pain.

A few years ago, my wife entered a beauty contest here in Tennessee. It was actually a beauty contest for young women with disabilities known as the Miss Shining Star Pageant. It was the first ever and my wife had entered, but with great hesitation. She was scared she’d lose and feel miserable. There was also a talent contest and she worked with a friend of hers on singing. Our families worked together to get her a good dress and my sister, a beautician, came down and helped her with her hair and make-up.

There were four divisions and Allie was in the final one, the one for the oldest, the official Miss Shining Star. Everyone had to answer a question and Allie’s was about what it was like to be a Mrs. since she was the only woman in the pageant who was married. However, as I watched, I noticed a trend. The person who won Miss Shining Star in each category had also won the talent competition.

Allie had not won the talent competition in her category.

Then came the time to draw the name.

And yes, it was Mrs. Allie Peters who won it.

As I write it, my eyes start tearing up. There was only one of us crying the tears of joy that night actually. That was me. I felt Allie being vindicated from all the remarks of everyone else and what they said and did. It was wonderful.

Then there’s the pain.

You see, when someone hurts Allie, I hurt as well. I have noticed that since our marriage, most of my friendly interactions are with other husbands. I still have friends who are single, but a dynamic changed. At one point, I realized it wasn’t just me and some people hanging out. It was Nick and Allie coming together.

So if someone hurts Allie, it hurts me. You don’t get us individually in a sense. What’s done to one is done to the other. The greatest pain I have in life is often knowing that Allie is in pain. The greatest joy I often have is knowing that Allie has joy.

This is also why divorce should be something we should be fighting against regularly. Divorce isn’t like removing a cancerous growth from your body. It should be seen as cutting off not just a minor part of you but in essence, cutting your body in half. It is a tragedy and a rejection. There are some times I am afraid it can be a necessary evil, but we should still even then see it as a tragedy. It is a tragedy that promises of love and fidelity made at an altar before God and men come to naught at any time.

When you make a covenant, you make it for life. When I talk to men who are struggling in their marriages, I always start at the same place. Did you make a covenant? That’s the foundation. Do whatever it is in your power to keep the covenant.

Once you make that covenant, do all you can to build it up. Many of you if you see me on Facebook know that every day aside from Sunday, I’m posting from “I Love my Wife” for Allie. It’s for a reason. If you love your spouse, make sure people who are your Facebook friends know it. Let it be something people talk about. As I’ve told Allie many times, it’s good to hear compliments on apologetics ability and such, but the best compliment I ever get any more is being told I’m a good husband to my wife.

Be building up that oneness. Of course there’s oneness in the bedroom, but it goes beyond that. It’s a beautiful cycle that should be taking place constantly. Marriage is hard work. It’s sacrifice. It’s death to self.

But it is so worth it.

I love my Princess. I wouldn’t want to be one with anyone else.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Chosen People

What do I think of Chadwick Thornhill’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As an IVP reviewer who has a passion for the NT and thinks that our modern individualism so often misreads the text, I took notice when I saw a book come out about election in Second Temple Judaism. I try to avoid the Calvinism/Arminianism debate with everything I have and have surprised a lot of friends by not jumping onto the middle ground of molinism. Thornhill’s book then sounded like something right up my alley.

Thornhill writes to help us see what election would mean for Paul and what would it mean to be a Jew and how would you be included within the spectrum of Judaism. It’s often been said that it was not Judaism that existed at the time of Paul but rather Judaisms. We could compare it to many Christian denominations today. There are some who will have an incredibly wide umbrella and accept most anyone in. There are some who will make incredibly small. I’ve heard the joke many times about Saint Peter welcoming someone to heaven and having them go by a room where they’re told to be quiet and when asked why is told “Those are the (Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) and they’re somber because they think they’re the only ones here.

This is why Thornhill goes to the Jewish writings of the time to look and see how the Jews identified themselves. What were negotiables? What were non-negotiables? What did it mean to be elect and how did one maintain one’s role in the covenant with YHWH? Many times we have in the past thought that the law was this system put on Jews that they slaved under and struggled to follow and were just hoping that they were in the grace of God, but this really isn’t the case. Jews had quite different views and while no one would really say being born a Jew was a free pass, most were not trying to find a new way of salvation. Paul himself definitely wasn’t. After all, in Philippians, he writes that with regards to the Law, he was blameless.

Thornhill’s main thesis in all of this is that election is not about individuals but about rather a group and whether one is in the group or not. Today, we could say that there is only one who is truly elect in Christianity and that is Jesus and those who are elect are those who are in Jesus. For the Jews, it would have been recognizing who is truly in Israel and who isn’t. Our debates on free will and soteriology might in fact be a surprise to Jews if they were here today. Could it be that many of them would say “God is sovereign and man has free will and we just don’t know how that works out but that’s for God to do.”?

Thornhill does not speak on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue directly, but he does give food for thought. Could it be that perhaps we will move past this debate by realizing that our focus on individualism is something that we are reading into the text itself and try to approach it more the way the ancient reader would have read it, or dare I say it, more the way the apostle Paul would have been thinking when he wrote it?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Our Father Abraham

What does it mean to be children of Abraham? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few nights ago, I was reading in Matthew’s Gospel and got to the appearance of John the Baptist. If you remember, John warns the Jewish leaders to not say they have Abraham as their father and therefore they will be safe when God’s wrath comes. God could raise up children of Abraham from the very stones. It’s quite a fascinating remark and one that we don’t think about often, but as I read it this time, my mind went back in time decades ago to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

“Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”

Yeah. Many of us remember that song and remember the silly motions that we all did with it so much so that we were in hysterics, and yet I look back and see it as a wasted moment in many ways. Did we ever stop to think about what we were singing? I didn’t. (And it sure is a good thing when we reach the level of adulthood we start really thinking about all those songs that we sing and take the message of them very seriously!) Did any of my teachers bother to teach me how important the message of that song is? Not that I remember. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually change as we grow in the Christian faith if we are raised up in it. Education never gets serious.

What would it have been like if we had thought about that little song?

First, we would have thought that Abraham was a Jew, but it’s clear in Scripture that not everyone is a Jew, yet we’re supposedly children of Abraham? How does that work? Does that mean that we become Jewish? Perhaps in a sense we do. Look at 1 Cor. 10:1-5.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Some of you might be looking and saying “Yeah, and?” Well look at how it starts. “Our ancestors.” Paul is writing to a church consisting of Jew and Gentile both and yet he refers to the Israelites as our ancestors. In fact, some translators look at 1 Cor. 12:2 when it speaks about once being pagans as once being Gentiles. These people are no longer outsiders to the message of Christ. They are included in the one body that Paul speaks of in that same passage and the one tree that is spoken of in Romans 11. This should strike us also as a great call to unity not only with those of us who are Gentiles and Christians, but Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah of Israel.

You see, Paul says in Gal. 3:29 that if we belong to Christ, we are children of Abraham. We are inheritors of the promise that he received. If we are not, then we do not. Being a child of Abraham is incredibly important then. It means we are recipients of the promise that was made to Abraham. We are part of the covenant made so long ago and then part of the new covenant in Christ. This is how we are all one.

John the Baptist had a serious warning for the people of the time. Show yourselves to be true children of Abraham. It’s a shame the Jewish leaders would have been stunned back then and we hardly even think about it today. How far we’ve fallen from a good Biblical education. By all means, teach the song to your youth at church and have some fun with it. There is no objection to that. Make sure that fun is a vehicle to learning. There is much to be known about the way of Christ and that includes knowing how the promises found in the Old Testament thousands of years ago apply to us today thousands of years later.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Called To Love

What do I think of Carl Anderson and Jose Granados’s book published by Doubleday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Called To Love is an in-depth look at Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Now as readers know, I am not Catholic, but I do think there is much Catholic wisdom out there and I’m definitely interested in researching topics relating to our understanding of sexuality. This was a topic I did a lot of thinking on long before I got married and now that I am married, I can say experience brings to light a whole new way of looking at the equation.

The book starts with a look at the body and sees the body as an extension of the self, the way that you interact with the world. It is by your body that your presence is best made known to the world. Why do we say people like my grandmother, for instance, are no longer with us? Because their bodies are not here or they are absent from their bodies. In the case of a marriage, the body is the gift that each spouse brings to the other. It’s easy to look at your spouse and treat them as an object alone, such as a breadwinner or security or a household servant and even as a sexual object, but it’s something else to see them as not just a body but as a person dwelling in a body and realize that of all the gifts they give you, the greatest gift they give you is their body. It is not their body as an object, but them as a person and saying “I give you all that I am.”

Love for the other person then is being thankful that that other person exists. It is not just they exist for your sake, but you exist for theirs as well. When true spousal love takes place, the two spouses want to bring about the best of the other person and many times, this comes out in sex. Sex is the place of ultimate sacrifice and it is the reminder that we are made for connection. We are made to first be connected to our creator, but it is in a powerful connection to a person of the opposite sex, that we experience the totally unique love of the other. We experience someone who is so radically different from us and that person receives us as we are. In fact, this sexual love, especially since it has the ability to bring about new life, can be seen as the closest mirror we have to the Trinity.

Of course, this also ties in with the person of Jesus who came to show us how to live and by His embodiment, it is shown that the body is a good thing. This is further shown by His resurrection which is an indication of our future resurrection. The resurrection says we are made to dwell in bodies and that our bodies are good and holy things and we need to treat them like that. That God Himself becomes incarnate in a body should tell us that there is nothing wrong with having a body and today, we have God the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to show us that in this way God is also indwelling in a temple today and we should treat our bodies like that temple.

While I did not agree with a lot of the Catholic doctrine in the book, I can say that as a Protestant, it did get me more appreciative of the body and taking it seriously and I hope Protestants do catch on to this kind of reality. We do far too little talk on what sexuality is and how it matters and we pay far too little attention to our bodies and do not realize the grand place that they have been given in creation. Through any number of means, we treat our bodies just like they were machines or other purely material objects, when they are not. God did not make a mistake when He gave us our bodies. He meant for us to treasure them and use them in love. The great love is following Romans 12 and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. The earthly side of that is often going to our spouses and giving our bodies to them self-sacrificially as well.

We were Called To Love. Let’s fulfill our calling.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Importance of the Covenant

What does it mean to say you’ve formed a covenant? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Covenants. The term doesn’t really resonate much with us today. We don’t take it as seriously as we used to, and yet all our talk today is about covenants. What is the debate over marriage but a debate over covenants? What covenants are we going to hold up and affirm and what are we not going to affirm? Do we give some covenants greater recognition than others? Do some covenants require more than others?

On a minor level, we can think of a business contract. These are legally enforced by the law for example, but we will not put it on the same level as a covenant. A contract has two parties making an agreement to be sure, but a covenant involves a lifelong self-sacrificial commitment. Many of our best relationships are built on sacrifice. The greatest of friends are those who are willing to sacrifice for one another. Of course, this will not involve the same as the ultimate covenant that we know of in society today of marriage.

My wife recently blogged on this. I agree with much of what she said, but I’d like to add my own spin to it. The point is that in our society we too often have an idea of “Look out for #1.” In that case, we often treat marriage as a way to get what we want. Now naturally, all of us enter marriage wanting some things out of it and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the institution is greater than we realize and we do a dishonor to it when we treat it wrongly. We can rightly say that too many Christians have no basis arguing against redefining marriage when they’ve allowed no-fault divorce and living together before marriage to go on in their own lifestyles. Of course, many of us have not done these things, but unfortunately too many Christians have. I do think that our culture as a whole has dishonored marriage, but they have dishonored it because the Christians took the lead in dishonoring it first.

When you marry someone, you make a lifelong commitment to that someone. You make a commitment to do and live the way that you ought and you give yourself to that one person only. That is quite a severe oath to make. Consider that when we speak of it sexually, that that means that until the point of death, the only person you are going to have any sort of sexual relationship whatsoever with is that person that you are marrying. If you break that promise, then biblically, you are guilty of adultery. This is something that we should take extremely seriously, especially in light of a passage like 1 Cor. 6:9-10.

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Now in our current climate, we can rightly note that those who participate in homosexual acts are there. Who else is in there? How about those who commit adultery? Yep. That’s how seriously God takes it. Why does He say to not be deceived? Because this is something you are quite likely to be deceived on. In fact, Paul spends the rest of the chapter talking about the gravity of sexual sin. It is sin unlike any other because it is a sin against your own body and it is taking that which is supposed to be the temple of Christ and using it in a completely unholy manner. Robert Gagnon has compared it to having sex in the Holy of Holies right on top of the Ark of the Covenant.

Signing on the dotted line of marriage is a strong commitment to make and too many of us are breaking it way too easily. What are some of our favorite reasons?

“Well I don’t feel the same way any more.”

I hate to tell you this, but your life is not to be dependent on your feelings nor is right and wrong dependent on your feelings. If you become a parent and have a child, you can’t just say one day “I don’t feel like being a parent any more so I’m not going to take care of this child.” On a lesser level, try being in a business contract with someone and saying you’re not going to uphold it because you don’t feel like it. If you do that, hopefully you will feel like showing up in court because that is exactly where you will be going. If it applies to the lesser, how much more to the greater?

If your feelings aren’t there, well so what? It’s nice if they are, but you have a duty to do the right thing anyway and doing the right thing is not dependent on how you feel.

“We’re just not in love any more.”

In our modern day and age, marriage has been about love. This sounds perfectly normal to us, but we are the exceptions to the rule. Could love and affection have happened historically? Sure, but that was not the norm. Most of the time it was about survival. How are we going to make it in this world? Today, it is mostly about love, so what do you do when it looks like that spark is no longer there?

Simple. You love the person.

We often think of love as a feeling, but it is not. It is a verb. It is an action. It is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other. Sometimes this is soft and gentle. Sometimes it’s hard. We have to do things that are painful to the people we love at times because we love them, such as when a family has an intervention for a person who is getting caught up in behavior that they shouldn’t be caught up in. Sometimes when you act in loving ways, the feelings will follow and that’s great. Sometimes they won’t, but oh well. This isn’t about you and your feelings. This is about the good of the relationship.

So what are some ways you can improve the covenant?

For you men, your wife generally wants love and security. She wants a man that she can feel safe with and who she knows cares about her. If she doesn’t think any of these things is true, you really need to take a look at yourself. Peter tells us in his first epistle that we need to be gentle with our wives. That means even when you think she’s being crazy and makes no sense, you try to be understanding with her. A great way men usually fail at this is that women tell us about their problems and we don’t listen really. We go straight into fix-it mode. A lot of times, women want someone to just listen. They could be fine with advice later on, but at the start, listening is all they want.

Another great mistake is to treat your wife like a sex object. My Allie recently shared something that said that what Planned Parenthood and pornography have in common is that they treat people like objects. You can treat your wife the same way. Your wife is not just someone in your life whose purpose is to have sex with you. She is someone you are in fact to be willing to die for. Live your life as a life of love for your wife. My recommendation is that if you’re both on Facebook, make your Facebook page sizzle. Let it be obvious to the rest of the world that you love your wife. I share an image of love to my wife everyday on Facebook save Sunday when I take a break. Facebook has been the cause of many marriages being destroyed so guard yourself closely on Facebook.

Beyond that, be a gentleman. Manners go a long way. Hold open the door when your wife is going somewhere. Make sure she sits down first in a public place and if possible, pull her seat out for her. These are simple things, but they mean a great deal. Remember, your wife is asking every day “Do you still love me?”

So now women, here are my recommendations.

I’ve said before that men should not treat you as a sex object. This is true, but women need to realize how central this is to their men. This is not just an add-on to marriage. This is something that strikes at the very identity of your husband. If you are asking every day “Do you still love me?” your husband is asking “Am I still your man?” If you do everything else in the world for him and don’t give yourself to him sexually, he will go to bed at night saying “Nope. Guess I’m not her man.” I’m sure that makes no sense whatsoever to some of you, but really, that is the way it is.

Now of course, women do enjoy sex and they should, but it’s usually more central for the men. A man with sex is wanting to give you the gift of himself and be accepted as he is. Turning him down is a way of saying he’s not man enough for you. Now of course, I’m not saying jump into the bed every time he asks, but I am saying take this seriously. Perhaps you just can’t then. If you can’t, then my suggestion is that you give your man a time frame. Let’s picture a husband wanting to have a frisky morning with his wife before he leaves. She’s just not into it. What can she do? She could say “Honey. I love you, but I’m just not feeling it right now, but tell you what. You go to work and you do a good job and when you come home, I will be waiting for you and I’ll show you how much I appreciate what you do.”

Ladies. You say something like that and your husband will be thinking about you ALL DAY LONG.

In fact, you do this kind of thing and you will shoot his confidence level through the roof. It is extremely difficult for a married man to have confidence if he does not think that his wife accepts him. If he is sure his wife accepts him, everything changes. This man will be able to do anything. He can conquer the world. He will walk with an extra spring in his step. Whatever miserable situation your husband is in, you can always help it with sex. As one of my friends told me, a husband will never gift his wife a return receipt on sex. If she’s worried about performance, she needs to remember that for a man, sex is like pizza. Bad sex is good sex. As long as it’s sex, that’s enough.

Another great benefit this will give your man is your man is constantly tempted. When we see a woman approaching us, we are instantly aware that this is a woman we are dealing with and in our mind, we start immediately checking her out. It is instinctive on our part. Your husband is going to do this regardless. It is what he does next that matters the most. I have written about this some here. The temptation is very very real and if you have a good and honoring husband, he does not want it to be that way. He hates the fact that he is attracted to other women besides you, but he is and he wants you to remain in his mind at the forefront constantly. A great way to do that for him is to have it be that your body is constantly in his mind by giving yourself to him. The gift your husband wants most from you is you. Your husband is better able to withstand temptation if you are honoring him sexually.

Something else to be careful about is with respect, watch how you speak about your husband. If your husband makes a mistake, and he will, be careful that you’re respectful. Don’t berate him even in a way that seems harmless. Your husband might not know as much about shopping for groceries and cooking as you do. If you send him to the store and he gets the wrong thing, don’t say anything that could be interpreted as “What? Are you some kind of moron? Don’t you know better than this?” It can be guaranteed your husband will not want to do that again or will see it as a chore for you because that sting will be remembered.

Suppose your husband does something really nice for you and decides to wash the dishes. If you take a look and say “Don’t you know how you’re supposed to scrub these? There are stains still all over this!” then congratulations on emasculating your husband right there. He will quite likely not want to do this again. It would work better to say “Honey. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. I do want to show you this because there is a way to improve. You see, if you take the sponge and….” In fact, if you end it with “You know, I do appreciate what you did today and keep it up and I will REALLY appreciate it even more” then your husband will be begging to do the dishes for you. (Honestly women, if you want your husband to get up and do the vacuuming and things like that more often, seduce him. Seriously. You’ll have a husband lunging for that vacuum cleaner the moment you ask.)

This idea of nagging especially applies in public. Do not say something that is highly critical of your husband in public. If you’re at a couple’s event and you say something like that about your husband, he will instantly feel lowered. Believe it or not, men are very sensitive. You see, your man can brush off most everything everyone else in this world says. He cannot brush off what you say. He will take everything that you say and do extra seriously. Your man is still striving to be your knight in shining armor and he needs to know every day that that is how you view him and if you don’t feel that way at the moment, well tough. You would not give your husband a free pass on not being loving to you because he doesn’t feel like it. Give him the same courtesy back.

Ultimately, it is all about self-sacrifice. Now in your relationship, you might want to ask “Who makes the first move?” The answer to both parties who ask this is “You do.” The husband makes the first move. The wife makes the first move. You have no control over your spouse and how they’ll do at fulfilling their side of the covenant. You have great control over what you will do and how you will fulfill it. There is nothing in Ephesians that says “Husbands, love your wives, unless they don’t respect you and then you don’t love them.” It does not say “The wife must respect her husband, unless he’s being unloving and then don’t respect him.” Many struggles in marriage are because we are waiting for the other person to make the first move. I often tell people that it is better to be wronged than to do a wrong yourself. If you know the right thing to do, you simply do it.

Now many times, that could require patience on the part of someone else. For instance, I have a great phobia of water actually. As a child, the undertow dragged me under the water at the beach unexpectedly and I just don’t trust water. This makes it very hard for my wife who loves water in a pool with me because I absolutely panic to be away from the edge. I do require her patience, but I know that I must learn to overcome to some extent. (Of course, with the steel rod on my spine from earlier surgery, I will be limited anyway.) Where the other spouse is weak, be patient, but always try to be encouraging and enabling to them and let them know how much they’re capable of. Always try to realize that deep down, your spouse does want to please you.

Covenants are serious matters, but they can be a source of great joy and a wellspring of life if you cultivate them right. You know what you are to do. Your covenant is made before God and man. If you are wanting to honor God, you will honor your spouse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters