If you were asking for a “sign” what would be powerful enough to convince you God is real?

2500 years ago, the sign offered was a young woman. This young woman would be of sufficient sexual maturity that she would be able to conceive, but did not have any sexual relationship with any man before she would actually conceive a child.

In a world where lineage matters, that is a sign. It is a sign because everyone knew who their father was. It was essential in the world where property was passed on by inheritance and family ties. For a child to be born with no known father was anathema. It was both impossible and contrary to their way of life.

If you were to offer this as a sign today, I believe folks would be impressed not so much about the parthenogenesis as they would about a young woman still being a virgin. There are scores of young women who “don’t know who the father is.” That isn’t the same as a virgin birth, but has the same consequences socially. Many would have taken Mary as a soiled woman with her claims of “virgin” conception. Even today she is accused of getting with a Roman Soldier named Parthenos to conceive Jesus. Parthenos is the the Greek word for virgin. Odd name for a Roman Soldier, don’t you think?

So why is her virginity so important? It is essential for the character and person of Jesus Christ, the Immanuel (God with us). In order for God to truly love with us, He must be conceived in Mary. Only God can introduce Himself into the world. Therefore God alone was the male contribution to the young woman, Mary. There was no act of sex, no taking away her virginity in some horrid act of sexual violence. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and created within here by divine act that portion of DNA necessary to complete a particular egg to be deposited within her womb. It was an act of Creation so small that she herself wouldn’t feel it for weeks.

Yet within her swelling belly was a Divine Presence, the Second Person of God in Jesus Christ. God truly dwelt among us, from the very first cell division. Jesus experienced what it was to be human from the very start. But it was this one life that would change the world.

You may be looking for a sign this season. Look no further. This one sign, the creation of something new, the God-Man, will be enough to rock your world. Jesus took on human form, so that we could be like Him, and live forever with Him. God became like one of us so that we could become children of God. Wow.

God bless you today.

Act Like a Man

Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every action must be done with love.
(1Co 16:13-14)

Ok, so I wouldn’t have caught this if I hadn’t looked into some other translations. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul uses a single word, andrizomai, which is translated in the HCSB as “act like a man”. In the verse in the image, it is translated, “be courageous.” I can attest that those aren’t always the same thing. I suppose in this context, that is it’s intent, for men are supposed the stronger sex, the more courageous sex, and so this verse assumes those qualities. I find it interesting in the text of the verse image, that instead of using “act like a man” it gets to the point of what “act like a man” is intended to mean, to be courageous, lest anyone mistake “act like a man” to be anything else.

But what else could it mean? These days, that is open to interpretation. To act like a man may be an incentive for women to cross gender barriers and act like a man in every way. I had a conversation with a mother a few weeks ago who lamented her daughter’s transition to manhood. She said her daughter had taken up chewing tobacco and considered it a mark of manhood to spit wherever she/ he chose. I doubt Paul had in mind, “spit your tobacco like a man” in this context. I have no doubt some would consider “act like a man” could mean to take on the “macho” persona, much like the above, but to include not caring for others, being fiercely independent (“I don’t need to read the instructions!”) or being a lecherous jerk. In the case of those transitioning to the opposite gender, it is not uncommon to take in the extreme stereotypes (extremely macho or extremely femme) as the standard to shoot for, so that men who are transsexual will put on beautiful dresses and thick makeup, neither of which most normal women do.

Rather, Paul employs this word, used alone here in the New Testament, to describe something else. If you are familiar with the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also used in an area around Joshua 1 (Dt 31:6-7; Jos 1:6, 9; 10:25) and is translated “be strong and courageous.” In context, this is what God tells Joshua as he is preparing to take the people of Israel into the Promised Land, despite the dangers that he faces. God is telling Joshua to “Act Like a Man” as he prepares for this role of leadership. Besides that use, only Paul uses the word here. The Complete Word Study (AMG International) also supplies this definition on this word here: “to behave oneself with the wisdom and courage of a man, as opposed to a babe or child in Christ.” In other words, behave yourself as a mature adult and not as a child.

I don’t believe that men have the corner on courage necessarily. We apply this virtue to men historically because the dangers of past centuries required men who stood up to evil and fought for good. We still need men like that. And men still need to aspire to this because this is a man’s role in society. He is to defend the home while the woman’s role is to care for the home. But even as I say that, I know that there are always exceptions. And today’s society had blurred the lines between the classical roles. But that really isn’t what Paul is after here.

This command isn’t given to the men in the church, but to the church as a whole. The church includes women. To be alert is something all must do. Likewise to stand firm in the faith and to be strong. To act like men is to be mature and to be courageous in defending the faith, especially against false teachers and in persecution. But he also says that every action must be done in love. This qualifies everything he just said. We must stand firm, but in love. We must be alert to dangers, but in love. We must be courageous but in love. Does this apply to the men in the church? At the very least! Does this mean the women are off the hook? By no means. All are responsible to carry out these instructions because the Christian faith is everyone’s responsibility.

So church, it’s time to man up. It’s time to put on the armor and stand for the faith. If we don’t, who will? God bless you today!

A Divide Between the Man and the Woman

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

Our culture is trying to divide men and women, actually trying to make us homogeneous, rather than heterogeneous. Gone is the macho man, here is the metro-sexual. Gone is the mother, housewife, and vixen, here is the career woman, who can do it all and can do it all better. Men are told to sit down and shut up. Boys are told to behave and given medicine to keep them from being rowdy. Girls are told to burn their aprons, put on their shoes, and go get a real job.

And by trying to make us all the same, some have tried to be homosexual. Men have given up their natural urges, and felt justified in doing so. They give up trying to be men and stay boys, never becoming Dads, or the real men we knew 50 years ago. Women attempt to take up the slack, and try to be Dads and Moms, some feeling utter guilt for being away from home, but guilt at home for being away from work.

These gender-based issues plague the church, for these attitudes infect us everywhere. Men are content to sit on their hands and let the women run the church. The women are frustrated, because they don’t know who they are supposed to be. The men are frustrated because they are not allowed to be what they are. There is friction in the home, in the workplace, and in our country as a whole. But this is an old problem. Society’s answer to the problem of man and women is only creating bigger problems. No one knows what they are supposed to do anymore.

So why did God create man and woman? Why did He create them both? That’s the heart of the of all the complaints we have, men about women, women about men. Why did God in His infinite wisdom make men and women? Did He make them to be unique in role and function? Or did He make them from the same mold?

May I put forward that the reason God made men and women was to teach us to love and be loved in return. Man was not created for the woman, though they were created the same day, maybe even hours apart. Man was created first, from dust, from the inanimate earth, while woman was created from the man, the very machine of his biology.

Man was created in isolation, given time to learn loneliness, despite all the glory expressed in creation. God gave him time to learn that he was alone. Adam did not know that God would create a woman. What he did know is that despite all the wonderful and perfect things God had created, there was no one else like him. This should seem strange to our ears, because surely Adam had the companionship of God. Didn’t God walk the garden in the cool of the day? Couldn’t God fulfill all the needs for companionship that Adam had? And yet it is God who says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Woman was created in answer to this. While Adam slept, God took a “rib”, which was more likely Adam’s baculum, or, “penis-bone”, and from it created the woman, that which literally completed him, and this through the physical act of intimacy and reproduction. The woman was brought to the man, so that she was never lonely. But to say that woman was created so that Adam could have sex is overstating the idea. What did Eve bring to the relationship? God calls her a “helpmeet” or a companion to Adam. Some theorize that her role was more than just a companion, but a fellow warrior, someone to watch his back. Others suggest that Adam was the hunter and explorer, while Eve was the nurturer and homebuilder, that their abilities complemented each other.

But it seems to me that making a man and a woman, God has Himself in mind. God exists in a Trinity, three Persons who exist as One Being. The man and the woman, especially in a marriage relationship, reflect this. Alone, they feel incomplete, even lonely. Yet while they are still two persons, they reflect a common commitment, and common direction and agenda. In many cases, only the companionship of another of the equal yet opposite gender will satisfy and fulfill that need.

Men and Women are unique, but similar, different, but their parts and processes are complementary. We cannot expect men to act like women nor vice versa. To do so is to cause depression, anxiety and guilt that shouldn’t be caused in the first place. Men. Is it ok to be masculine. Women, it is ok to be feminine. That is what you were built for, and why your heavenly Father endowed you with these gifts.

Let us praise God for our differences, and yet for our common need in Christ. Let us praise His holy name.

Gender and Identity

In this culture where gender seems to be optional, perhaps it would help us to answer the question: Does God have a gender? This may seem silly, since God is God, but in the vast majority of occasions in the Bible, God identifies as male. “I am He” Is this simply because the masculine gender was the one created with such authority. God himself is not a man (Nu 23:19; Hos 11:9) but He identifies Himself to men as a Male authority figure. When we approach God, it is always appropriate to identify Him as the Father, or He.

However, on some occasions, God employs feminine images to illustrate His point (Is 66:13; Job 38:29) A few years ago you might remember the Shack, a novel about one man’s struggle with his daughter’s violent death. The story received a lot of flack from Christian circles because in the Trinity was represented by three characters: God the Father as a large black woman, God the Son and the traditional male Carpenter from Nazareth, and God the Holy Spirit as a lithe and mysterious Asian woman. This untraditional depiction seemed to touch a lot of people, but its theology was grossly unbiblical.

God does not have gender, for He is God, not man. God is spirit, and spirits have no gender (implied in Matthew 22:30). God also created gender, thus He Himself is not subject to the characteristics of a particular gender.

Only when Jesus walked the earth was God subject to the characteristics of a gender, but the gender He chose was male, for much the same reasons as above. Being male was more appropriate to His mission as Teacher and Savior.

Ask yourself if it would have made a difference if Jesus was a woman. A woman was subject to her father’s household, and would not be free from him unless she married a man outside that household, and then be subject to him. He would have had to get married, subject to His father’s and family’s wishes, borne children for the provision of His house, all of which would have at least delayed if not derailed His mission. He would not be able to travel as He pleased, much less expected 12 men to gather around Him without suspicion. Later, He would more likely be stoned for heresy than crucified.

We can be confident that the One who created genders knew exactly what He was doing, and didn’t make mistakes as the gender-confused culture today would have us believe. “God created them male and female” (Gen 1:27) and nothing else.