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4 Essentials for Your Broken World Survival Pack

Last Sunday night I received a call at 1:30 a.m. It was my son, Schaeffer.

Those are never “good news” calls. 

A little back story.

It was the last night of his spring break. He and some friends were enjoying a late night slice of pie at the City Cafe’ in Downtown Chattanooga. His Jeep had been in the shop for 2 ½ months having the engine replaced… twice.

It was 1:30 a.m… in downtown Chattanooga, and his Jeep wouldn’t start. All it could be was the engine again. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Would I have to drive up and have it towed? Would the engine have to be replaced again?

The stress kept me up all night. 

  • But it’s not just vehicles that break. Everything breaks.
  • Appliances. Electronics. Our bodies. Relationships. Dreams are shattered.
  • Just this week: Commercial airline crash. Midwest floods. The revelation of widespread academic corruption. A mass killing in New Zealand. 

How are we to survive our journey through such a broken world?

1 Corinthians 13:8b-13 provides an answer, giving us 4 Essentials to Include in Our Broken World Survival Pack.

13:8b Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part 10 but when the perfect comes, what is in part passes away.11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then, we shall see face to face. Now, I know in part; then, I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Essential #1: EMBRACE OUR CONTEXT

Paul says in verse 9, “When the perfect comes.”

The Greek word for perfect is telios.

Teleology (teleos + logos) is “the study of somethings purpose, goal, or end -- finality).

For example, the Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed that an acorn's telos is to become a fully grown oak tree.

Theologians call our present context “the already but not yet.”

The tree has sprouted but is not full grown.

We are living in the middle of history.

Like a story. There is a beginning/creation (Genesis) and a conclusion (Revelation). In the middle, there is struggle, strife, chaos, brokenness, and sin.

There is also redemption. There is grace. Because there is a cross in the middle of history.

We are living in the middle of history. Like a story. There is a beginning/creation (Genesis) and a conclusion (Revelation). In the middle, there is struggle, strife, chaos, brokenness, and sin.There is also redemption. There is grace. Because there is a cross in the middle of history.

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A glorious “conclusion” awaits those who receive the grace proclaimed by that cross → paradise restored.

Understanding life in the “now” is like putting a puzzle together and realizing that there are lots of pieces missing. God has all the pieces and will reveal them in due time. 

Essential #2: VALUE GOD’S GIFTS

While the Corinthians tended to overemphasize the three gifts Paul mentions in verse 8, prophecy, tongues, and words of knowledge, they were given by God to help us know him and grow closer to him in “the already but not yet.”

I spent the summer of 1989 in Spain. Kristy and I were dating at the time. Received letters almost daily from Kristy. This was pre-internet and cell phone.

We tried talking on the phone once, but at $10/minute (dollars, not cents!), we had to talk so fast we couldn’t understand each other. 🙂 So we wrote letters.

I cherished those letters. Read them and reread them.

This is what these gifts were given to help us understand and cherish -- God’s letters to us in the Bible, personally applied.

This is why Sundays together are designed to be a weekly oasis of grace, where God’s words to us are central to all we do, serving as a means of grace to help us know God more intimately as we journey through the brokenness.  

Essential #3: LOOK AHEAD

In verses 11-12, Paul uses two illustrations, not just for theological purposes to indicate when the temporariness of the spiritual gifts that would cease but to encourage us to look ahead to the day when the kingdom fully comes in all of its perfection and maturity. Twice he contrasts the “now” with the “then” to come.

Those of us who were taken by our parents on long road trips remember saying those words, “How much longer?”

That is still the cry of the soul, isn’t it? “How much longer?”

That is still the cry of the soul, isn’t it? “How much longer?”

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Romans 8:18, “I do not consider our present sufferings worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.”

It is in the context of that future glory that we will know God even as we are presently known.

While the Corinthians made really great mirrors, a reflection isn’t the same as the real thing. Kind of like our photographs. But an image of someone in a photo can never replace being with them in person.

When I was in Spain, I loved the letters, but I wanted more than letters! I wanted to be with Kristy in person.

But that is how we will experience Jesus. In person!

Psalm 16:11, “In your presence is the fullness of joy!” [GLORY]

Essential #4: CELEBRATE YOM HASHOAH

Say what? Let me explain.

Each spring in Israel, the nation observes a day of memorial called Yom HaShoah. In English, it is called Holocaust Remembrance Day, a commemoration of the genocidal execution of Jews under Nazi Germany during the second world war.

Have you ever wondered what Holocaust means?

The Hebrew noun olah (עֹלָה) occurs 289 times in the Old Testament. It usually is translated as a “burnt offering,” something which is consumed with fire and goes up in smoke.

In the Greek translation of the original Hebrew Old Testament (Septuagint), the word olah is translated with the Greek word ὁλόκαυστος (holókaustos), from hólos (“whole”) + kaustós, (“burnt”). We get the word “caustic” from kaustos.

You see, Christians celebrate Yom HaShoah, too. Not by focusing on the 20th-century holocaust, but by focusing on the 1st-century holocaust, when Jesus was executed in our place upon a cross.

As the incinerating fire of judgment fell upon the Savior, our sins went up in smoke. No longer recognizable. They cease to exist.

Some of us really, really need to remember and believe this.

I know that I do. It is the only way that I will survive MY BROKENNESS.

The holocaust of the cross means that you and I are free to be honest and real about our need for mercy.

The holocaust of the cross means that you and I are free to be honest and real about our need for mercy.

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In his book, Irresistible Faith, my friend Scott Sauls writes, “Let’s remember this for ourselves and also for those God places in front of us, [that] neither a foul mouth in front of the children, nor any amount of self-loathing, nor an addiction to heroin, nor self-destructive decision making (whether over-eating, over-drinking, over-shopping nor porn nor anger nor… anything) is any match for the kindness and mercy of Christ.”

Do you believe that? Will you believe it?

When we remember the implications of the cross, we experience the great triad of verse 13:

  • Faith → trusting in the finished work of Jesus
  • Hope → anchoring our souls to the finished work of Jesus
  • Love → resting our lives in the finished work of Jesus -- the love of God for us

They say that April showers bring May flowers. If that is the case, get ready for some serious blooms! This year it seems like it hasn’t stopped raining, which is an apt metaphor for some of our lives. Living in the “now” is like the rains of spring. But eventually, they really will produce sunny skies and flowered fields. 

4 Stops on the Road to Loving Like Jesus

Last week, we covered most of chapter 12, where Paul addressed was how the church is like a body, or a team, with many parts working together to achieve a common purpose. Each part has a gift to use -- a grace gift given by the Holy Spirit that enable each believer to play his or her part on the team as a part of the body.

Every part is valuable and necessary for the church to function at full capacity.

The church at Corinth was gifted. But then something happened that threatened an implosion. 

  • What can go wrong with a church that is so gifted?
  • How does such a gifted team implode? How does this happen to a family, a business, or a church?
  • How can each one of us can be part of the solution?

In this post, we are going to take a journey through 1 Corinthians 12:28-13:8

We'll make 4 stops along the way.

  1. A reality to face
  2. A question to ask
  3. A description to emulate
  4. A love to receive

Stop 1: A Reality to Face (12:28-31)

12:28 In the church, God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But you are desiring/coveting the greater gifts. But now I will show you the most excellent way.

There is a translation issue in v. 31 concerning the Greek word for “desire/strive/pursue/covet.” 

In the original Greek, the verb may be either an imperative or indicative. If it is imperative, Paul is commanding the Corinthians to pursue the greater gifts (those that edify the entire church). If indicative, he is rebuking them for coveting the greater gifts (Greater = Gk,megas - outwardly impressive, more “spiritual,” not better).

I lean toward option #2, which makes v. 31 a natural hinge that reveals the reality we need to face.  

There are two levels to this need.

  1. The surface level → Self-promotion/desire for personal recognition and praise/selfish ambition
  1. The deeper level → a lack of love

Stop 2: A Question to Ask (13:1-3)

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Did you guess the question to ask? Yeah, the question is "Am I loving well or not?"

In fact, love is a touchstone for everything we do. A touchstone is a fine grained stone like slate upon which a soft metal may be rubbed, leaving a mark of the metal (such as gold). The color reveals the purity or lack of purity of the metal. For instance, is the gold 14 or 24 karat? The line left on the touchstone will reveal the answer.

We may consider a number of examples.

  • What does a child need to know about sharing toys? Not that they are just supposed to share, but that sharing is a way to love their friend.
  • What should we say when they grab someone else’s toy? Not, “Say you are sorry,” but “I was selfish and unloving.”

It is the same way when we grow up.

  • Take date night for example.  Date night is not a rule to keep or obligation to fulfill but an opportunity to love by devoting focused time to listen.
  • What about our jobs? Am I seeking to promote myself or bless the team. Am I using others or loving them by helping them succeed.

Why do I do anything? To find out the motive under anything, try this challenge. Do something anonymously without drawing attention to it -- without getting credit. I am the worst at this. Every time time I mow the grass or do the dishes, I make such a big deal about it, making sure everyone knows and praises my effort.

Stop 3: A Description to Emulate (13:4-8) 

rocket

13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts [Gk idiom meaning “to give the benefit of the doubt”], always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

What do we learn about love as a verb in this short description?

  1. Love is not primarily an emotion; an action. 
  2. Love is not something we primarily feel but something we do.
  3. Love is not passive, but active.
  4. Love is selfless, sacrificial, and tenacious!

I also discover how unloving I am.

For example, try this exercise. Put your name in the place of love in the list.

4 [my name] is patient, [my name] is kind. [my name] does not envy, [he] does not boast, [my name] is not proud. 5 [my name] is not rude, [my name] is not self-seeking, [my name] is not easily angered, [my name] keeps no record of wrongs. 6 [my name] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 [my name] always protects, always gives “the benefit of the doubt”, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 [my name] never fails.

This is painfully convicting, isn't it? Why? Because it is not true about me. I don’t fit that description.

New Testament scholar David Prior writes about the significance of the word, agape, saying:

“It is well known that the Greek word for love in the New Testament, agapē, was not previously in common use. It was taken into the Greek of the New Testament specifically because the love of God, seen in Jesus of Nazareth, required a new word.”

What I discover on this journey is that I need someone to love me with true agape love.

Stop 4: A Love to Receive

PBS’ The Great American Read is an eight-part series that explores America’s 100 best novels. The series notes that one theme emerges often in these 100 best-loved novels is the quest for love--a love that is pure and that will endure. One commentator on the program reflected on this, saying,

“We want love to last. We want to know that you can’t just throw [it] away. As human beings… we want [love] to be so important that you would stick with it forever.”

The Bible tells just such a story.

Because 1 Corinthians 13 describes Jesus!

Jesus is the one who is patient and kind; not self-seeking, and keeps no record of wrongs. His love never fails. His love is tenacious! He is the one who will never let go.

To understand agape love, we look to the cross of Jesus.

  • Selfless -- he thought about us
  • Sacrificial -- he gave himself for us
  • Substitutionary -- in our place condemned / he became the object of the law's wrath so that we may be the object of the Father's mercy

David Prior reminds us that God’s love in Christ is “lavished on [us] without a thought of whether [we] are worthy to receive it or not. It [is a love that] proceeds from the nature of the lover, rather than from [the] merit in the beloved.”

  • Can you imagine being loved like that? Receive that love now!
  • Being loved like that is what it takes to love like that.
  • What if this kind of love were to become a reality in your marriage? With your kids? In our church… the tone of how I engaged with people on Facebook… what if the love of Jesus filled us to overflowing and ran all into our community?

I think we’d have to have 3 or 4 services or more!

Whatever it takes to magnify the love of God in Christ… let’s do it.

So, let's be loved well that we might love well.

If this helped you, maybe it will help someone else, too.
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It Takes a Team: 4 Foundational Truths About Spiritual Gifts


If you have attended our Creekstone 101 seminar, then you are familiar with the distinction between a traditional ministry model and a biblical ministry model.

In the traditional model, pastors and staff are hired to do the ministry for the members. But in the biblical model, the role of pastors and staff is to equip the members to do the ministry by using what we call “spiritual gifts.”

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-27, Paul lays the groundwork for team ministry. Your task today will be to determine what position on the team God has called you to play.

1 Corinthians 12:1-27

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Since each one of us has a position to play, our objective is to discover our roles on the team.

In view of that objective, I’ve titled this post, “It Takes a Team: 4 Fundamental Truths About Spiritual Gifts.”

The first fundamental truth is found in verses 1-7, where Paul shows us that…

1) The Holy Spirit, as the Source of All Spiritual Life, Endows Each Believer with a Spiritual Gift.

Just as the Holy is the source of someone’s spiritual life, as evidenced by their profession of faith in Jesus as Lord, the Spirit also is the source of a believer’s gifting for ministry as evidenced by their use of that gift in ministry.  

The Greek word for spiritual gift is charismata, which is the combination of two words meaning grace and gift. Therefore, a spiritual gift is literally a “grace gift” that is given by God for us to open and use as our special contribution to the mission of team.

This “gifting for ministry” is not something that is reserved for only a special class of Christian or for those who serve in “vocational” roles within the church.

It is for every one of us.

For those uncomfortable with the terminology of gifting, it may help to realize that a gift is something that is received, not earned nor deserved.

A reward is deserved. But not a gift.

This leads to the second fundamental truth, which is that...

2) There is a Vast Diversity of Gifts Among Believers.

Paul lists a number of these gifts in verses 8-11, which is not a comprehensive list.

For example, in Romans 12:6-8, Paul writes, 

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

The apostle Peter also mentions a diversity of gifts. Diving the gifts between speaking and serving, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, he says, 

10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

What we have seen so far is that God gives us each a unique role to play on the team. In verses 12-21, Paul shows us our third truth about spiritual gifts, which is that…

3) Just like Parts of the Human Body Function Interdependently, Spiritual Gifts Function Interdependently (for the accomplishment of a common purpose).

To illustrate this, Paul shows how a foot, ear, eye, and nose, while different parts of the body, function interdependently, moving, hearing, seeing, and smelling.

He could have used the image of a clock with it’s many moving parts.

The fact that the parts of a clock work interdependently means that they need each other. If one part is missing, the whole will suffer.

When we apply this to the church, we realize how much we need each other---how much the church needs every one of us playing our role on the team.

I mentioned our Creekstone 101 membership seminar. In each of those seminars, I tell a story about basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal. Over seven feet tall and weighing 300 plus pounds, he was a beast of a man and a force on a basketball court. But there was a season when he missed multiple games due to an injury. Not a back injury. He had not “pulled a hammie.” His hands were fine.

The injury was to one of his big toes. While Shaq’s big toes are really big, proportionally to the rest of his body, they were a small, and unseen, seemingly insignificant part. But without the use of one toe, the rest of his body was sidelined.

Shaq’s injury sets up our fourth truth, which is that…

4) Each Gift is Necessary, Valuable, and Indispensable for the Healthy Function of the Body.

Verses 22-27 highlight this hard to overstate principle, where Paul declares in verse 22, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

Consider our Sunday mornings together. It takes a team of people with various gifts to turn a high school into a place of worship, where there is childcare, a children’s teaching ministry during the service, a staffed and stocked welcome table, quality music, sound and lighting, visual aids during the sermon, road signage, and most critically, freshly brewed coffee.

There are also K-Group hosts and leaders, not to mention folks who minister to others through Creekstone SERVES.

During the week, men’s and women’s discipleship groups meet, youth ministry takes place, there is campus ministry at UNG, and folks participate in numerous outlets for service to the broader Dahlonega community.

Most of these people serving use ​​​​their gifts behind the scenes. You never see them do what they do. But without every role being filled, ministry suffers, requiring some to fulfill multiple roles and eventually burn out.

We don’t want that.

So how can you determine your particular gift? 

How can you discover your position on the team? 

It is a simple 4-part process.

  1. Review the gift lists, particularly 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12.
  2. Determine which gift most resonates with you.
  3. Identity which ministries in the church match that gift.
  4. Volunteer in that area.

Here is a Pro Tip: Don’t just volunteer to meet a need. Volunteer to use your gift.

Then, you will not view serving in ministry as an obligation but an opportunity.

I’m convinced that if we all served along the lines of our gifting, there would not be a need left unfilled.

Don’t just volunteer to meet a need. Volunteer to use your gift.

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Apollo 11 and Team Ministry

In her book, Team Moon, Catherine Thimmesh shares stories about the hidden heroes behind the Apollo 11 moon landing in June of 1969.

The Command Module pilot for Apollo 11 was Astronaut Michael Collins, who said, "All this [was] possible only through the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of people… All you see are the three of us, but underneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others."

Collins was right. According to Thimmesh there were about 400,000 people who contributed to the success of the Apollo 11 mission.

At Kennedy Space Center, it took 17,000 engineers, mechanics, soldiers, contractors and other workers to prepare the enormous rocket for the launch.

The computer code that ran all the systems was developed by a team of software engineers at MIT led by Margaret Hamilton.

It took 500 people to create the astronaut’s space suits, including one seamstress who commented, "We didn't worry too much until the guys on the moon started jumping up and down."

The mission of the church is like the Apollo 11 mission.

It takes a team.

But why do we do it?

Why give time, energy, financial resources?

Because we have been given a part to play in the greatest mission in the history of the world that began with that one small step.

Not a step on the moon but upon a cross---a step that  was the giant leap that secured our forgiveness, reconciling us to God and giving each of us a part to play, not in a space mission, but a grace mission—a mission that involves helping other people like us come alive to the wonder of God’s immeasurable grace to sinners like us through the cross of Christ.

Can you imagine standing on the moon and looking at the earth, covered with continents, clouds, and seas. Seeing our world from that perspective inspire a deep sense of awe and wonder.

To see ourselves from the perspective of the cross should evoke a similar reaction. To see yourself as fully forgiven—as the beloved of the Father. Perfectly righteous in his sight. Without any moral blemish remaining. Clean. Holy.

When I begin to see myself that way—the way the Father sees me—then I will understand the urgency of the mission and delight in the part I get to play on the team.

If this post helped you, maybe it will help someone else, too. 

A Goalie’s Sacrifice: When Authority is Responsibility and Submission is Grace

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE

Before you listen to the audio message or read this post, I want to make it explicit that there is absolutely no room whatsoever to excuse any form of marital abuse (emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.).


In a day when domestic violence and abuse is at epidemic levels, we need to let abused women know that the biblical teaching on this subject emphasizes mutual respect and submission as a husband loves his wife.


Physical control and manipulation, financial threats, and mental, emotional, or verbal abuse must not be tolerated. That is oppression not love.  It is abuse, not leadership, nor biblical headship. The model of biblical headship is Jesus, who loves by laying down his life for his bride, not by beating her. In fact, he allowed himself to be beaten so that she wouldn't be. 


If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you are not under obligation to stay but encouraged to escape to a safe place where you can be protected from oppression.


Facing an Interpretive Challenge

One of the most challenging hurdles we face when interpreting the Bible is the issue of culture.

In the same way the Old Testament takes place in a world with strange customs to our contemporary ears, there are customs in the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament that influence the context of what we read in the Scriptures.

This is true of the focus passage in today's study, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

As we approach this text, it will help us to recognize that, while cultural practices change over time, biblical principles do not. Human contexts may differ between our world and theirs, but the human condition is the very same.

This text describes a cultural practice that reveals an underlying principle. It is that principle we want to unearth and make clear so that we can make the appropriate application of the text for our own context.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have a symbol of authority over her head, because of the angels [messengers?].

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

The Question You Must be Asking

​Head coverings and hair length? Really?

Remember, cultural practices and customs may change but biblical principles and the human condition do not.

So, what is it about the head coverings that applies to our context today? What timeless truth can we draw from this passage?

Let’s find out as we address the first of six main headings in today’s message.

1) THE USE OF GENDER TERMS  

The Greek word used for man is aner, and woman is gune. These may be translated as either man and woman in a general sense, or as husband and wife in a more specific sense. With context being our guide for how to rightly interpret these Greek words, it is my opinion, as well as that of most evangelical commentators, that Paul has in mind here husbands and wives rather than men and women in general. Therefore, Paul is not describing women’s relationship to men in general but in the particular relationship of marriage.

2) THE CONCEPT OF HEADSHIP

The word translated “head” in verse 3 is kephale. While this word may mean “source,” the most likely meaning in this context is “authority.” But the more specific meaning is responsibility. It is not necessarily “who is in charge here,” but “who is responsible here.”

In that sense, God the Father has ultimate authority and responsibility for his world and his church, with Christ subordinate to the Father with regard to his specific role in the plan of redemption.[1]

While every orthodox creed in the history of the church affirms that God the Father, Son, and Spirit are equals, the functional subordination of Jesus teaches us that submission, or subordination does not imply inferiority. Rather, subordination has to do with one’s place in the order of fulfilling a mission. The word subordination means to order under, or literally to “sub order.” A sub-marine might function under the water but it still has a vital role to play in military operations.

In a similar fashion, submission by definition emphasizes mission, a common goal and purpose of life. But there is an order. Like on a team or an army. The ranks have positions.

The model for our understanding of subordination is the relationship between God the Father and the Son.[2]

When applied in the context of marriage, just as Jesus is subordinate to the Father, and a husband is subordinate to Jesus as Head of the church, so also the wife is subordinate to the husband as the head of the home.

This is what the head coverings are about.

IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS IMPORTANT MESSAGE

Before you listen to the audio message or read this post, I want to make it explicit that there is absolutely no room whatsoever to excuse any form of marital abuse (emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.).


In a day when domestic violence and abuse is at epidemic levels, we need to let abused women know that the biblical teaching on this subject emphasizes mutual respect and submission as a husband loves his wife.


Physical control and manipulation, financial threats, and mental, emotional, or verbal abuse must not be tolerated. That is oppression not love.  It is abuse, not leadership, nor biblical headship. The model of biblical headship is Jesus, who loves by laying down his life for his bride, not by beating her. In fact, he allowed himself to be beaten so that she wouldn't be. 


If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you are not under obligation to stay but encouraged to escape to a safe place where you can be protected from oppression.

3) A SYMBOLIC EXPRESSION OF RESPECT. 

The common outfit all Greek women wore included what is called a kalumma, which was a type of head scarf.[3]

Pretty much the only women who did not wear a kalumma were prostitutes from the temple of Aphrodite and female Roman slaves, who would have their heads shaved.[4]

In Corinthian culture, the kalumma represented a wife honoring her husband’s headship/leadership.[5]

Therefore, if a wife were to remove her kalumma in worship, it would have been a sign of disrespect. It would say, “I refuse to follow the leadership of my husband.”[6]

But in God’s design for the family someone has to steer the ship. This leads to...

4) The Concept of Responsibility

In verses 7-10, Paul is not saying that woman is not created in the image of God. He knew his Old Testament better than anyone. The concept he is working with is responsibility. The husband has been uniquely designated as responsible for the governance of the family.[7]

Adam was formed from the earth and Eve from a rib of Adam, near the heart--not from a foot bone. But from his side--not someone to walk upon to walk with.

But someone has to steer the ship. Someone has to take responsibility for the safety and direction of the vessel. This role has been given by God to the husband.

For example, when something goes wrong with a athletic team the fans hold the coach responsible. When something goes wrong with a business, the CEO can’t pass the buck. He must take ultimate responsibility for profits and losses.

The same is true in marriage. The Lord holds the husband responsible for the management of his marriage and family.

IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS IMPORTANT MESSAGE

Before you listen to the audio message or read this post, I want to make it explicit that there is absolutely no room whatsoever to excuse any form of marital abuse (emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.).


In a day when domestic violence and abuse is at epidemic levels, we need to let abused women know that the biblical teaching on this subject emphasizes mutual respect and submission as a husband loves his wife.


Physical control and manipulation, financial threats, and mental, emotional, or verbal abuse must not be tolerated. That is oppression not love.  It is abuse, not leadership, nor biblical headship. The model of biblical headship is Jesus, who loves by laying down his life for his bride, not by beating her. In fact, he allowed himself to be beaten so that she wouldn't be. 


If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you are not under obligation to stay but encouraged to escape to a safe place where you can be protected from oppression.

Nevertheless…

5) THE DESIGN OF COMPLEMENTARY ROLES.

In verses 11-12 Paul uses terminology of interdependency, revealing that, while God has designed someone to drive the car or steer the ship, it takes the two working together to get where they are going. While only one of the two people in the front seat can have hands on the wheel, they have to work together—as a complementary unit. One may steer while the other navigates.

The same thing is true for dancing. Someone has to lead. But when the two partners are in tandem, complementing each other, it is a beautiful thing.[8]

The perfect model of complementary interdependency is the Trinity, which serves as a model for the Christian home. Just like Jesus was willing to submit to the Father’s plan, and a husband submits to leadership of Jesus, the Corinthians wife would be willing to wear a head covering in worship as a symbol of her respect for her husband’s leadership.[9]

This doesn’t just apply to driving or dancing! It is applies to family finances and discipling the kids and where to connect with a local church.  

Remember, this is not about women following men. It is about a wife following the leadership of a chosen husband. 

But remember, this issue really isn’t about head coverings.

6) THE DEEPER ISSUE UNDER THE PRESENTING ISSUE

There is always a deeper issue (a heart issue) under the presenting (surface) issue.

In verse 13, the apostle challenges the Corinthians to “judge for yourselves” about the issue of head coverings and hair length.

His case was air tight.

He knew that even unbelieving Romans in Corinth would agree that the practice of wearing head coverings was symbolic of submission and headship.

Just as wearing a kalumma was cultural, so also was hair length.[10] And in the same way that wearing head coverings in worship is not our issue, neither is the length of one’s hair.[11]

This is why the issue is not ultimately about hair and hats.

The deeper issue under the presenting issue of head coverings is our sin nature’s resistance to authority. Additionally, so many people have abused authority as a form of power and manipulation, we may think of all authority as bad thing.

But the kind of authority that the gospel describes is not autocratic, abusive and controlling. Gospel authority is defined by self-sacrifice—just the opposite of what we have been trained to think of as authority.

Biblical authority is essentially responsibility— responsibility to bless someone else, even if the one in authority, the one given responsibility, has to sacrifice himself.

Like a goalie.

Those of you who have played soccer understand the role played by the goalie. The goalie is given the weighty responsibility guarding the “penalty box” or “goalie box,” which is a rectangular area marked off with a thick white chalk line right in front of each goal on the soccer field.

That box is the goalie’s zone. It is his house to protect.

In the box, he is the only player allowed to touch the ball with his hands. It is a unique role that bears a tremendous amount of responsibility.

In order to keep the ball out of the net, a goalie who takes his responsibility seriously may lay himself out, arms and legs extended in order to punch the ball away. Sometimes, that total body sacrifice results in sod being stuffed in the goalie’s eyes, nose, and mouth.

It is that kind of responsibility that Jesus embraced, not as a goalie, but as the Christ who would lay himself out in total body sacrifice in the penalty box we call the cross, securing victory for us over sin and death.

Upon the cross, Jesus totally re-wrote the script for authority. Not as power and control, but as self-sacrifice. With divine authority, he took responsibility for saving us from the law’s condemnation by submitting himself to the plan of the Father, which called for him to suffer death in our place, serving the penalty for our sin so that we could be free.

That is grace.

When I receive that grace for myself by faith, something happens. I discover that my resistance to the authority of Jesus weakens. Humility begins to grow. And from that place of humility beautiful things begin to bloom.

  • Husbands begin to confess that we haven’t loved well or led well. Some of us have abdicated responsibility. Other have abused our authority. In our brokenness, we confess with a repentance that leads to a breaking down of other walls of resistance.
  • For example, a wife may begin to recognize that her resistance to submission is really a resistance to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. While a husband’s submission to Jesus is deserved, a wife’s submission to her husband is not. He is a sinner.

If authority is a form of responsibility; submission is an act of grace.

The dynamic is that a wife’s respecting the leadership of her husband in practical ways—not by wearing a hat but by how she speaks, encourages, follows, and forgives—that kind of submission becomes an empowering grace in his life, enabling him to be a better leader for his family and lover of his wife.

The same is true in reverse. When a husband begins to love his wife tenderly and sacrificially like Jesus loves his bride the church, she feels secure and is empowered to show renewed respect to the husband's leadership.

What happens when we grasp the personal implications of the cross is that husband, wife, and all of us, have our hard hearts melted by God’s mercy, which paves the way for reconciliation with one another even as we have been reconciled to the Father through the submission of Jesus.

If this helped you, it may help someone else, too. 


Footnotes

[1] For example, in the order of salvation, God the Father chooses the elect, the Son redeems the elect, and the Spirit seals the elect. Each has a role to play in the plan of redemption. Subordination without inferiority.

[2] First, the Greek word for man is aner, and woman is gune. These may be translated as either man and woman in a general sense, or as husband and wife in a more specific sense. With context being our guide for how to rightly interpret these Greek words, it is my opinion, as well as that of most evangelical commentators, that Paul has in mind here husbands and wives rather than men and women in general.

[3] While women were to have their heads covered in Christian worship, in pagan Roman worship ceremonies, it was men who covered their heads. However, in ancient Jewish worship, men also wore head coverings, indicating that the practice of head coverings in Corinth really was a cultural issue.  The principle of wearing head coverings wasn’t a for-all-time practice for Christian worship. But the principle underneath the practice is for all time.

[4] David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 180.

[5] David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 181.

[6] David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 529. “It seems that the Corinthian slogan, “everything is permissible,” had been applied to meetings of the church as well, and the Corinthian women had expressed that principle by throwing off their distinguishing dress. More importantly they seem to have rejected the concept of subordination within the church (and perhaps in society) and with it any cultural symbol (e.g., a head-covering) which might have been attached to it. According to Paul, for a woman to throw off the covering was an act not of liberation but of degradation. She might as well shave her head, a sign of disgrace (Aristophanes Thesmophoriazysae 837). In doing so, she dishonors herself and her spiritual head, the man.”

[7] The civil government, while formerly a theocratic entity under the Old Covenant, is no longer wed to the ecclesiastical government. While there are three governments ordained by God, the civil, the ecclesiastical, and the familial, the distinction of gender roles as stated here applies to the church and family, not to the state.

[8] I love what Paul does here. With the phrase, “in the Lord,” he shows us how, when we genuinely know Jesus as Savior, there is a mutual dependency that fosters humility.

[9] David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 529.

[10] Spartan warriors were known to wear hair shoulder length, and no one thought them effeminate.

[11] David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 530. “Mankind instinctively distinguished between the sexes in various ways, one of which was length of hair. Exceptions to this general practice were due either to necessity (e.g., Apuleius The Golden Ass 7. 6, “to escape in disguise”) or perversity (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 6. 65). No abstract length of hair was in mind so much as male and female differentiation.”

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGEBefore you listen to the audio message or read this post, I want to make it explicit that there is absolutely no room whatsoever to excuse any form of marital abuse (emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.).In a day when domestic violence and abuse is at epidemic levels, we need to let abused women … Continue reading A Goalie’s Sacrifice: When Authority is Responsibility and Submission is Grace

4 Talking Points for Discussing Sex with Your Kids

My older two kids probably will tell you that I blew this conversation. There are several factors that contributed to my lack of paternal initiative to have this conversation. One, I was scared. Two, I was scared. Three, I was scared. 

Maybe you will find my struggle encouraging, knowing that you are not alone.

When the day came to “have the talk” with my third child, I still wasn’t the one to initiate the conversation. She did. She was curious and had questions.

I couldn’t avoid it this time.

What I discovered is that when we talk with our kids about sex, we are not introducing them to the subject. They know. They are curious. And they have questions that parents need to be equipped to answer.

The main question for me is whether I would let the culture dictate their understanding of sex or whether I would impart a biblical worldview through which they can process the details.

Looking back, it may have been that I just didn't know where to start. We are all afraid to mess this up. But starting the conversation is the biggest hurdle. Once you begin, you got this!

This is what I want to help you do. Just find a place to start the conversation.

Here are four talking points to get it going.

#1 - God Created Sex.

It may seem odd to begin sex with God, but historical, biological, cultural, social, and intellectual integrity demands it.

For example, if we talk about the automobile there must be a connection to Henry Ford. If we discuss the telephone, we will name Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor, in the same way we would give credit to Thomas Edison for the creation of the light bulb.

When it comes to the cosmos, God is the Creator. Not only did he design the entirety of the material universe, he designed every function within it, from gravity to precipitation to human reproduction.

Not only did God design the entirety of the material universe, he designed every function within it, from gravity to precipitation to human reproduction.

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Yes, God created sex.

God even designed the way sex works, including how it feels.

The fact that sexual intercourse produces a feeling of physical and emotional euphoria does not make the act a sinful thing. Where did we get the idea that pleasure is sub-spiritual or anti-God?

Psalm 16:11 says, ”In your presence, O God is the fullness of joy; there are pleasures forevermore at your right hand.”

According to the Bible, God himself is the mastermind behind the climactic, sexual sensation we call orgasm. He designed it. Yes, God intended for sex to feel good.

The point is that God likes sex and likes that we like it. In fact, he encourages it.

It may surprise some to discover that the first command he gave the first two humans for their married life together was the exhortation to be fruitful and multiply.

How does a couple multiply? You guessed it.

It was a command to have sex! To enjoy what God intended sex to be for the human race.

#2 - Sex was created to be a good, beautiful thing.

Although our culture has trained many of us to think of sex as a bad, dirty thing, human sexuality as expressed between a man and a woman was created by God to be good and beautiful.

Although our culture has trained many of us to think of sex as a bad, dirty thing, human sexuality as expressed between a man and a woman was created by God to be good and beautiful.

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There actually is an entire book of the Bible devoted to the joy of sexual fulfillment, the Song of Songs, which also is called the Song of Solomon.

It shouldn't surprise us that the primary textual description of sex is in a song. Music in practically every generation has been a common means by which people have expressed the deep emotions connected with physical intimacy.

Years ago I did an experiment while driving on a road trip. The experiment entailed listening to 20 songs on the radio and determining how many of them were about romantic love. While this was not a scientifically verifiable study, 19 of the 20 songs, in some way or another, were “love songs.” Seriously!

But then again, that doesn’t surprise us. Sexuality is hard-wired into the human framework. We are sexual beings.

We don’t talk about this as much as we probably should.

After all, there are not many children’s Sunday School lessons taken from Solomon’s Song. Why? It is explicitly erotic, and that scares us.

“Certainly,” we say to ourselves, “the images in the Song of Solomon are metaphorical, alluding to the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church.”

Yes, a redemptive understanding of Scripture demands that we see the shadow of Jesus on every page teaching us about our need for a Savior and God’s provision of a Savior. The Song shows us in vivid, graphic detail what inexpressible joy is available to those who know the Savior with the kind of intimacy that is described as indwelling and as a union, words that we often use when speaking of marital intimacy.

But the Song is not merely a metaphor or to be read as a parable or allegory. Solomon wrote it in the context of his very real, physical relationship with a wife. Therefore, while the book does reflect the depth of intimacy between a believer and Jesus, it also gives us a road-map for enjoying the human analogy of our spiritual union--which is marital union, as the groom indwells his bride unto oneness and joy.

In the opening chapters of Genesis, we read that Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. This is what every human desires. To be fully known and fully loved… at the same time.

God designed the sexual relationship to be the opportunity where that is known on a physio-emotio-spiritual level, where we are not only physically connected but emotionally connected; and not only emotionally connected but spiritually connected.

This is the “one flesh” design of God. It was created to be good and beautiful.  

#3 - Sex has been corrupted.

So, our sexual being-ness is a good, beautiful thing. At least that is how God painted it on the original canvas.

But we humans have sprayed graffiti on the canvas, making what was beautiful, scarred, ugly, and shameful.

The influence of internet pornography it's practically destroying the possibility for us to see sex as good and beautiful. The way sex is depicted in popular movies makes it is easy to understand why discussing the topic feels taboo.

The result is that sex has become a ruined masterpiece.

But the graffiti is not new. Humans have been vandalizing sexuality ever since Adam and Eve left the garden.

The solution to rampant sexual immorality is not to build a wall between an individual and sexual connection but to build a wall around two people who are to experience and enjoy that connection in the context of marriage.

The solution to rampant sexual immorality is not to build a wall between an individual and sexual connection but to build a wall around two people who are to experience and enjoy that connection in the context of marriage.

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#4 - The proper context for sex is marriage.

A good place to start understanding the fullness of the goodness and beauty of human sexuality is to recognize the context in which God designed human intimacy to flourish.

Just like a fish was designed to flourish in water, so also sex was designed to flourish in marriage.

Just like a fish was designed to flourish in water, so also sex was designed to flourish in marriage.

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Our cultural perspective on sex largely has taken it out of the context for which it was intended. The results have been catastrophic, like a fish languishing and suffocating after it jumps out of its bowl and onto the carpet in order to roll around with the family dog because that looks like more fun than living in the tank.

Take the fish out of the water and there will be problems. Take sex out of marriage and there will be problems, too.

Hollywood has attempted to depict the goldfish on the floor that's having much more sexual enjoyment than those remaining in the tank. Pornography is influencing young men with the idea that women enjoy being treated like animals. Our own sin natures do the job of corrupting sex well enough. But coupled with external forces just exacerbates the problem.

Some may see the corruption of sex as a strategy of the enemy, taking something that God designed as something for us to enjoy and turning it into something harmful. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul connects Satan to sexual temptation outside of marriage.

Not only does the enemy want to distort and destroy what God had made beautiful and good, Satan does not want Christians to enjoy sex in marriage. He knows that if we are abstinent long enough, he can tempt us with what Paul calls porneia (the Greek word that is translated “sexual immorality,” which is any form of sex outside the context of marriage).

This is why it is so important for us to reclaim and redeem human sexuality, reinstituting its design and purpose under the Lordship of Jesus.

Where do we start? How do we fight back?

With four talking points:

  1. God created sex.
  2. God created sex to be good and beautiful.
  3. We have corrupted sex.
  4. The proper context for sex is marriage.

What about the technical questions of sex technique? How the body changes in response to sexual stimuli and stuff like that. What about the actual, well, process of intercourse?

I drew a picture. 🙂

Biology class helps, too.

Help keep the conversation going! Post your thoughts, questions, and suggestions in the comments below.

If this article was helpful for you, maybe it will help someone else, too?

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You need to know that I blew this big-time with my older two kids. I just waited until they had biology. Of course, by that time, they knew. Peers talk. A lot. There are several factors that contributed to my lack of paternal initiative to have this conversation. One, I was scared. Two, I was … Continue reading 4 Talking Points for Discussing Sex with Your Kids