No Place Like Home

www.bible.com/72/deu.30.16.hcsb

As Moses was preparing the people to move in to their new land, he reminded them of a few caveats that would be essential to their extended stay, their attention to the covenant they had received from God. God’s promises to protect them and prosper them was dependent (to a degree) on their ability to keep the law and obey the Lord. If they wanted to stay in the land of promise, they were required to keep the law they had been given. Their ability to raise their families and maintain their property was based on their ability to obey the commandments.

My ability to stay in my home and raise my family is dependent on my agreement with the bank, and my ability to pay my mortgage. Actually today is the day they tap me on the shoulder and ask for their monthly contribution. Now if I ignore them, I might get another month or two, but the days of my stay here would definitely be numbered. More than this, the state of Kentucky demands a certain fee for owning property every year. As a landowner in this state, they might overlook a delay in payment, but I could not go long before they would take action to collect what they are owed.

For the people of Israel, God was a landlord, as much as any rent collector, but His rent was collected in personal ethics, living up to the standard of behavior He had called them. Dues were received as sacrifices for sin, resisting temptation and obedience. If they failed to obey, the Rent collector would come by in judgment, and eventually, they were oppressed by actual overlords of other nations, even evicted when their sins became too great.

So how does this apply to us? Are you enjoying the blessings of God? If so, be thankful. But note that Jesus also said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Our blessings are not dependent upon our ability to obey, as much as God’s grace to give. But like the Israelites, if you in the community of blessing, there is an expectation of obedience. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” “Should we go on sinning that grace may abound? May it never be!” If as Christians we do it obey and continue to sin, then there has been no change in us. Why should God continue to bless us? Will He not spew is out of His mouth? We should never take the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ for granted, but be thankful and actively obedient every day in our gratitude for saving us from sin. It is in this way that we know we will never be evicted.

God bless you today!

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0101 – Source Code 5 -Why Parents Still Matter

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exo 20:12)

This fifth commandment is familiar to most, though its counterpart in Deuteronomy is perhaps less well known.

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deu 5:16)

Notice the additions (I have in bold) that add just a little bit to the original commandment, both the reinforcement of the original command with the authority of the Lord, but also an additional blessing of not only long life but a good long life, conditional upon obedience to this command. The Apostle Paul quotes from this second iteration in his letter to the Ephesians.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Eph 6:1-3)

When I started this series, I started with this commandment in mind, thinking that in all of us, there is a need for our parents. In my initial post on the subject, “Source Code” I wrote the following on Bart Millard’s conversion story, “I Can Only Imagine”.

“That moment also got me to thinking about father-son issues, in which this movie traded heavily. Even if our parents, mothers or fathers, treat us horribly, even if we hate every fiber of their being, every breath of their body, there is still a part of us that cares. There is still a part that longs for reconciliation, even if it’s no longer possible. That’s why this moment is so powerful in the movie, because it resonates. Everyone has a father, and everyone desires approval from that father. We all want our fathers to be proud of us because it is built into us to care what our fathers think of us.

“We can’t explain it, because it isn’t part of the intellect. In fact, it defies the intellect. It is part of what I liken to “source code”, or more exactly, that code that a computer has burned in to its motherboard that tells it how to read a hard disk, before it ever loads the first bit of the operating system and everything its ever learned. It’s the BIOS of the human psyche. It is built into us as human beings to have a relationship with our parents. When that relationship isn’t “right” it leads to a host of other problems, “daddy issues”, psychological syndromes and traumas later on. As described in the movie, Bart couldn’t have a close relationship with his girlfriend until he resolved his relationship with his father. How many people labor today in horrible marriages, live-in situations even same-sex relationships because that one aspect of their being was wrong?”

And that’s what’s intriguing about the whole “source code” concept. I counsel a host of people who have trauma issues, family issues and and problems in relationships. I also live in an area where the roles of parents and children are in distress due to the prevalent drug culture. I see grandparents laboring to raise grandchildren, even great-grandchildren even when they are physically unable. I see adults ignoring their responsibilities and children who don’t even know who they are and are desperate to figure it out.

It is as if when children do not know who their parents are, they can’t define themselves either or that task becomes a great deal harder.

While the scriptures counsel us against pursuing “endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:4) they do tell us to mind our elders, and respect our parents. Let us give respect and honor to those ancestors that we still see alive, rather than pursue the dead. There is some importance to knowing where we came from. For we either align ourselves with the traditions of our ancestors, or we set ourselves intentionally against them, saying, “never again!” The legacy of drug and alcohol abuse is certainly something to resist. The legacy or womanizing, divorce, abuse and the like are other things we might stand and say, “not in my generation!” But legacies of faith, honesty, and leadership, are qualities to be admired. If your grandfather was a minister, or a soldier, or an honest man, those are qualities to emulate. Service never goes out of style. Honesty is always valued. Integrity is respected.

To walk into a place and tell someone your name, and then to be automatically credited with respect, that’s not something to cast aside. The so-called “white privilege” is what those who don’t have this kind of history complain about. If your father or grandfather (or for that matter, your mother or grandmother) were recognized and respected in your community, “white privilege” is afforded to children and grandchildren. The children of the honorable and respectable are automatically extended that same respect (and always have been throughout history). By the same token, the children of the dishonored and infamous are afforded that same level of suspicion.

If your life is to “go well with you” and God promises, then we ought to follow the good choices of our parents and grandparents. Savings ourselves for marriage (to avoid unwanted pregnancies and complicated sexual entanglements), using our finances responsibly, raising our own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those who fail to heed the lessons of our parents (some learned the hard way), Will be forced to learn those same lessons. God’s word describes the family as a husband, a wife, and children. That is the core unit of the family. Yes, life happens and interrupts even God’s perfect blueprint. But that doesn’t mean the blueprint is invalid.

I want to encourage you today to take a serious look at your family. What are the good things you remember about your parents? Those are things you want to emulate and give respect to. What were the bad choices they made? Those are things you want to avoid in your own life. How can you improve on what has come before you? Every parent wants their child to be better than they were. To learn from their mistakes and have a good name.

How are you doing?

God bless!

0001 – Source Code 1–No Other Gods

“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exo 20:3)

So I’ve been binge watching Babylon 5, and I am struck by the degree to which this show involves religion, even a more accurate understanding that not all Christians are Catholic. One of the leads, played by the lovely Claudia Christian, is a Russian Jew. still observant when it fits the plot. Now, somewhere in Season 2, Dr. Franklin, the station’s chief medical officer, remarks that he is a “foundationist”, that is, he believes in God, but that every time we try to define God, He is always bigger. This intrigued me because that is a very humbling idea. When we try to define God, we must realize that our definitions will always fall short, because we cannot conceive God in our finite minds.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1Co 2:9-10)

In reading this first commandment, it seems like a simple thing. We don’t build or worship blocks of stone or wooden idols. We don’t sacrifice animals to the sky or the sun. However, I think there is more to this verse than meets the eye.

I have what may be considered a peculiar view of history. I take the Scripture seriously wherever it leads. When I read of the accounts of the Creation and the Flood, to the Tower of Babel, it seems a much better fit than the millions of years of evolutionary history I’ve been spoon-fed for years. Thus it seems to me that while the Bible tells us the essential truths of history, the secular world also passed down to us in the form of folklore and myth another history, much diluted by time and retelling. Where the Bible had the benefit of Divine shepherding over the centuries, the stories of myth did not. Myth tells of great deeds and great heroes, even gods, who lived ages ago. What should amaze us is that these stories exist at all, that there is something rather than nothing. What inspired these stories?

There are a few works that follow this line of inquiry, but the field has been ignored for centuries, especially now that the theory of Evolution has taken over academia. Isaac Newton wrote a book on history that made a serious attempt to reconcile the stories of myth and the ancient world with the Bible, called, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended To which is Prefix’d, A Short Chronicle from the First Memory of Things in Europe, to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great (see On Amazon for Kindle). More recently I’ve seen it in Brian Forbes’ From Noah to Hercules (see Noah to Hercules on Amazon). I encourage you to take a look at some of these sources for yourself. 

It seems fiction as we know it today simply was unknown in the ancient world. While there were certainly story tellers, our modern methods of printing and inexpensive materials, electronic distribution and so on didn’t exist. Thus anyone who committed a story to stone or clay did so because they believed it was true, or at least worth recording. They simply didn’t have time to invest or money to pay a scribe to write out what everyone knew was fiction (because everyone knew the stories as well as he did). We also know that stories were more often transmitted orally long before they were ever committed to writing and bear evidence of this in their patterns and forms. Whole epics were memorized. Thus while many of the mythologies we know today from the ancient world are grossly exaggerated, they have some basis in truth. Two cases help illustrate this.

One fantastic epic from the ancient world is Gilgamesh. Inscribed on an incomplete series of clay tablets and found in a ruined library of Ashurbanipal in 1849, the epic is the story of an ancient king, Gilgamesh, who lived in a historically verifiable place, Uruk, probably sometime in the 29th-24th centuries BC. Gilgamesh is famous for destroying a number of monsters in the ancient world, and built many cities. He met fascinating characters like Utnashpashtim, the survivor of the world-destroying Flood. Though the story of Gilgamesh is exaggerated, there may be pieces of it that can be verified.

Another is Homer’s works of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Many of the events of the Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, have only recently been understood as more accurate than we gave credit. Many ancients believed that the war against Troy to be a defining date in history, so that events were understood before the war and after the war. Troy itself, its ruins anyway, are believed to be verified on the west coast of Turkey. Troy VII (layer 7 of Hesilik) is believed to match the destruction of Troy in about the 12th century BC. Biblical Troas was located not far from the original Troy. Troy was a real place. The evidence for its destruction is real. When Homer (or the Homeric poets) wrote down the narrative at a much later date, it was a story told and retold, memorized for generations and shared as a morality tale and entertainment. However modern investigations into the story, including elements of its descriptions of geography have been verified as accurate. Extending credibility to the Iliad is easier than to the Odyssey, but being works from the same period should allow us to give Odyssey the benefit of the doubt.

Ancient history seems to be divided into roughly three periods, 1) the age of Titans (“of old”, Creation to 1689 AC at the Flood), 2) the age of gods (“of former times”, after the Flood, approx 4000 BC to about 2500 BC), and 3) the age of Heroes (2500 BC- to the fall of Troy). In each successive age, glory and honor diminishes. And this is why primarily we are not taught this, and why we favor Evolution. Evolution teaches that each successive generation is better than the last, so that our generation is certainly better than those of the ancient world. We have computers, after all. But we forget, even if our only evidence is the ancient structures like the pyramids, the problems we solve today with computers, they solved in their heads. Contrary to Evolution, when we study the Scriptures we find that ancient man was far more intelligent than we are today, not the knuckle-draggers we’ve been taught.

If we were to line this up against the Biblical record, I believe that the age of the Titans was the period before the Flood. The atmosphere was pressurized far more than now due to a canopy of water that lay over the whole earth. Animals didn’t need great lung capacities to support massive bodies and they grew to tremendous size, as did the rest of the natural world. People too took advantage of this highly oxygenated atmosphere and likewise grew to unusual sizes, even “titanic” proportions, to the point “there were giants (or, Nephilim) in those days.” Whether you believe they were giants, the result of genetic manipulation by the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, or that the Nephilim were the mighty offspring of their unions with human women, people were larger than life in those days. “These were the he mighty men who were of old.” God need not call them anymore than that. “Of old” (or, time before time) seems to be the Bible’s way of describing this time before the Flood.

The men and women who emerged from the Ark became the basis for the pantheons of gods told by their great-grandchildren, as these were not only taller than most, but lived extremely long lives, compared to their descendants. I find it interesting that Noah had three sons. In Greek mythology, the Titan Kronos had three sons, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. In Egyptian mythology, the world emerged from the Flood-waters and eight primary gods were responsible for the creation of the world. Strangely, it was eight souls that emerged from the Ark to repopulate the world. I believe the first few generations that emerged from the Ark became the basis for the mythologies the developed in the ancient world. While the Bible says little about the exploits of these ancients, focusing instead on the family of the promise, the mythologies are filled with their exaggerated exploits. Gilgamesh may well the secular name of a king mentioned in Scripture, Nimrod. (See http://davelivingston.com/nimrod.htm)

In the Bible, there is a curious proverb attached to the “ancients” in 1 Samuel 24:13. The proverb is, “out of the wicked comes forth wickedness”. But the word used for the ancients is more closely defined as “men of former times” or “of the east”. This is a curious designation, since the people who emerged from the Ark traveled south along the mountain ridges while the flood waters receded and the plains dried out, then they descended west from the mountain ridge and gathered in the plain of Shinar, the site of the original Babel. This site is considerably further south than the Ararat mountains where the Ark landed.  The Bible has a sense of its own antiquity.

The age of Heroes follows on and describes the generations that followed the gods. The Iliad and the Odyssey takes place in the age of Heroes, but not in the age of the gods. The Exodus takes place in the age of Heroes (1440-1400 BC) as does the stories of Joshua, Samson and David. It is into this time that Scripture takes us into the story of Israel in earnest. When God gathers His people at Sinai, He first warns them about worshiping other gods. God isn’t worried about a cabal of imaginary or fictional deities that hold the attention of men for a time. I believe he is referring to the pantheon of men and women who lived after the Flood and were at first revered by their progeny, and were later worshiped, their stories told and retold, until they were no longer recognized as merely human.

We are prone to honor our heroes. We build statues in their honor. We put their faces on our currency. We tell and retell their stories until they pass into legend. Did George Washington really cut down a cherry tree to show he couldn’t tell a lie, or did someone invent the story, using that name, to teach a moral lesson (ironically, since the story wasn’t true)? How often today do we invoke the authority of those long dead to establish a point? (“Lincoln once said . . .”)

It seems that God had more in mind here than telling us not to make up gods and then serve them, but to resist our natural tendency to honor and glorify the dead (um, Catholic saints?), venerate them in our memory and eventually make them an authority in our thought-lives (Charles Darwin anyone?). It is a challenge to us to whom we give authority to in our thinking, and a challenge to our worship.

Who are the gods in your life? Your parents? Why does Jesus say:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luk 14:26)

‘Why does Jesus challenge the authority of those in our own lives? Who do you give permission to guide your thoughts?

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2Co 10:5)

Some say they worship reason, but how do they define reason? But there are lots of ways to define reason, and sometimes, it is simply what makes a person happy at any particular time. By whose definition do they define it? For someone somewhere gave them the idea that Reason ought to prevail. And if it is not Reason that guides your actions, then what does? Who holds sway over your mind if not God?

“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:20-22)

I believe with this first commandment, we’ve been taught for generations and lulled into thinking that the Israelites were ordered to stop worshiping fictions, but I am afraid the truth is much more unsettling. These statues, rituals and ideas of men were based on real people of the distant past, whose stories and legends passed down to them, but without the fact-checking of divine inspiration. Instead, their stories were conflated and padded with the desires of sinful men, to manipulate and coerce others for the sake of power. Who were the priests and soothsayers if not the most powerful men of their age? If we are not aware of this, our ancestors may become the same for us, our overlords from the grave, because we were not careful to “have no other gods” before Him.

God knew this tendency was within all of us to make sacred those we revere, to honor our heroes and glorify their memory. Thus even in the midst of idolatry, there a grain of truth. 1 Corinthians 10:10 says that sacrifices to idols are sacrifices to actual demons, real spiritual powers. Why wouldn’t the demons rejoice when God and His transcendent nature, greater than all we can ask or imagine is ignored in favor of finite, limited creatures (Romans 1:23)?

Thus His first commandment is very simple, “Have no other gods before Me.”

The Big Ten

A long time ago I learned that we use the ten digit system because we have ten digits: eight fingers and two thumbs. Now we may wonder why God so designed us this way. Everything we do that involves numbers is based on the Base 10 system, meaning that we have 10 numbers, 0-9, for which we apply value. For example, when someone says, “I have 123 friends on Facebook!” they mean that they have one times one hundred (ten times ten) plus 2 times ten plus 3 parts of ten in counting their friends. It’s as old as using our fingers to count. The Base 10 system drives everything we do, from getting gas at the gas pump ($3.74/ gallon!) to paying our bills. It is the very foundation of our number system, and so it is with our law.

God gave the Israelites ten basic laws to govern their behavior with one another. The first five deal with the subject of the first great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Those first five explain what loving God means: Not to worship other gods, not to build idols of God, Not to misuse God’s name, Not to misuse God’s day, and not to ignore God’s representatives. The second five explain what God meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Don’t kill your neighbor, don’t break up your neighbor’s marriage, don’t steal from your neighbor, don’t lie about your neighbor, and don’t desire your neighbor’s stuff. Is it any surprise when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He chose these two? (Mark 12:28-31)

More recently, the Ten Commandments have come under fire for being posted in public places (forget the fact they are etched in stone in the U.S. Supreme Court) because they advocate a particular religion, though Jesus is nowhere mentioned in the Ten. It has been the foundation for English and America law for centuries, and has never needed explaining, because everyone knows them, either inherently, or by faith. Of particular concern for us is where Christians ought to stand on the issue. Since we stand on Christ and the New Testament, should we support the movement to post the Ten Commandments? What do the Commandments represent?

Take a moment and consider the Ten Commandments written positively.

#1 – Respect the One True God

#2 – Respect God’s Uniqueness

#3 – Respect the Name

#4 – Respect the Sabbath

#5 – Respect Your Parents

#6 – Respect One Another’s Life

#7 – Respect One Another’s Marriage

#8 – Respect One Another’s Property

#9 – Respect the Truth

#10 – Respect Your Neighbor

A few nights ago our dog got out. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s a challenge to get him back. I could tell where he was by the sound of other dogs barking for all they’re worth. My dog tends to attract the attention, and one of my neighbors was furious, for his dogs were barking ferociously at my canine intruder, and he was no less fierce. What he shouted to me over the creek was not especially encouraging, and included language I’ll not include here. But all I could say in response to his especially sage advice about keeping my dog on a leash was simply, “Thank you!”

As much as these laws help us understand our relationship to God, they also govern our relationship to one another. What happens when these laws are ignored? Our neighbors are strangers, who feel no compunction to shouting profanity across a creek at you when they don’t even know your name. Not only do these laws govern civil behavior, but they provide an important basis of interaction between neighbors. When we all know what the basic rules are, we don’t have to live in fear, but in freedom. Even when I don’t know who you are, I know there will be a certain civility in our conversation and a reasonable expectation of mutual respect.

It’s difficult for us to love our neighbors when we live in fear of them. We dare not tread on their property because they will lean out the back porch and shout at us. We dare not touch their front door, or they will warn us off the property. If we lose the Ten, we stand to lose so much more. What can you do to make sure the Ten are a part of your life? And encourage it in others?

If you had to put together a top ten list of laws and commands for people to follow, what would you list? Maybe common sense would be on that list somewhere, along with getting a job and supporting your family. Maybe you would add something in there about marriage and divorce, and who ought to participate in it. But would we have come up with the list that God gave us?

0111 – Source Code 7 – What God Joined Together

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“So they are no longer two, but one, therefore what God has joined together let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)

When God created human beings, he created marriage. God created them male and female, and the first picture we see of their relationship is one of marriage. In Genesis 2, God created Adam “from the dust of the ground” and after a time, “no suitable helper was found” for him (Gen 2:20). That’s when God put Adam into a deep sleep and fashioned from him just such a helper. Her name became Eve, and the first marriage took place at the moment of their meeting.

For those readers unfamiliar with the “birds and the bees”, you probably ought to read no further. Trust me.

I am amazed that a book considered so holy and pure that children ought to be encouraged to read it (and they should, don’t get me wrong) contains information that children ought not to be familiar with at younger ages. It seems to me that children need to carefully exposed to Biblical content until their life experience can prepare them for it. Just sayin’.

Ziony Zevit’s book What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden (Yale University Press, 2013) suggests that this surgery for Adam isn’t what we’ve always been taught. We’ve always been taught that Adam’s rib was removed from his side. From this rib,  Eve was formed.

From this I’ve always associated Matthew Henry’s beautiful quote:

“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”

I’ve even used this quote, because it speaks to the beauty of the relationship between men and women. However, Zevit suggests a different part of the anatomy was involved. There goes centuries of beautiful word pictures, right? Well, rather than a rib, Zevit suggests that Adam’s baculum was removed. This because the original Hebrew speaks not of a rib specifically, but a part of the body that sticks out from the rest. This contradicts the story I was told as a child that men have one fewer set of ribs than women. According to Wikipedia, “The baculum (also penis bone, penile bone, or os penis, or os priapi) is a bone found in the penis of many placental mammals. It is absent in the human penis, but present in the penises of other primates, such as the gorilla and chimpanzee.” What a curious absence. Physicians have long known that the number of ribs on men and women are the same.  But one bone absent among humans is the baculum, a bone present in primates. Curious, isn’t it?

Read this way, we see: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the baculum he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Gen 2:22)

The single most important physical point of contact for the man in the act of intimacy involves the penis, powerful in the number of nerve endings it hosts, and its complementary physical opposite within women. Without this bone in our skeleton, it is much more difficult for women to achieve the apex of her sexual pleasure. Thus the man disciplines his mind and his sexual energy out of his love for his wife. This is a picture of sacrificial love, to keep himself from his own physical climax until his wife has enjoyed the experience. God intentionally removed this particular bone in order to fashion the woman, to demand upon the husband a discipline of mind, to give place to her needs, to give her pleasure. And it is upon this singular relationship, dare I say this singular act of love between them, between the husband and the wife in marriage that all of society is built upon it. He removed the bone that would have kept the masculine member erect at all times and fashioned it into a feminine person. And when the masculine and the feminine come together, the male and the female become “one flesh.”

Paul emphasizes this point warning the Christians in Corinth about having sex with prostitutes:

“Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”” (1Co 6:16)

This explains why men and women have such an unexplainable infatuation with each other, why “love at first sight” is a thing. It is such a basic, even elemental force in our being that we can’t explain it. It is part of our source code. And just as men long to be united with women, so women long to be united with men. We call it “sex drive” or “libido” but it comes from from long ago separation, a separate but equal creation, in the garden of Eden.

This is not to say that some aren’t completely satisfied being single. Jesus says that sometimes, this drive is not present, and sometimes it is forcibly removed:

“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” (Mat 19:12)

Not many are able. Because of this, Sex comes with a warning label.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1Co 7:1-2)

The drive to unite sexually is so powerful, that unless it is carefully guarded and contained within a marriage, it can destroy everything else. It is something that ought only to be experienced by mature adults, and not by children. Children who are awakened too early reflect many immature attitudes towards sexuality when they mature. Hence, source code 7, “Do not commit adultery”. At its essence, it is about guarding the sexual perimeter of marriage. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4) It about maintaining the purity of the marriage relationship. Any sexual experience that takes place outside the covenanted heterosexual marriage relationship is “fornication” and “sexual immorality”. Those comes with many other warnings. Jesus adds in Matthew 5:28 that even to internalize and fantasize about a sexual relationship outside this marriage covenant violates the commandment against adultery. Adultery isn’t just about violating the covenant with your present wife, but as unmarrieds, your future spouse. Keeping yourself pure is essential because marriage is the only place that sex can be safely practiced. All others must abstain. Why?

Marriage is the foundational community. Before God created government, before He created the family, before He created the Church, He created marriage. Marriage precedes and thus helps to define all other human relationships. This isn’t about living together, one-night stands, or any of the other euphemisms we apply to fornication. This isn’t about same-sex committed relationships either, or the faux marriage many trapped in such lifestyles pretend. This is marriage as defined as one man and one woman covenanted to each other as long they both shall live.

Marriage defines family. Duh, but let it be said that many believe families can be composed of any group of people. While this is possible, it’s not the ideal. A family composed of a group of people not related to each other are bound only by the strength of that commitment, time spent normalizes it. Traditional families are bound not only by this, but the biological component, bound by blood and DNA, behaviors and mannerisms that reflect one’s upbringing. Children are born in the image of their parents (and grandparents) and are more strongly bound. Even if those parents are awful people, there is still a piece of of a child’s heart that will always be bound to them. Marriage is the foundation of a family, providing the DNA and the stable household in which children are born, raised, and developed into mature adults. Unlike animals, of which most are ready to fend for themselves at birth, humans require time in a protected environment, so that their more complex brains not only learn language and essential life skills (going to the potty), but develop social and emotional intelligence. Children who do not have this either “grow up too fast” or don’t grow up at all, and are emotionally or intellectually stunted.

Marriage defines community. Stable communities are composed of stable families. Sexual relationships are confined within the boundaries of male-female covenanted relationships. The lines of descent, who is the father of who, as it were, are clearly defined. Children know who their parents are, and there is no one who questions their parentage. Neighbors are not seeking one another for sexual favors. Household integrity remains strong. In this environment, Families work together toward common goals, agree on boundaries, have their kids play together in an environment of trust. Families socialize without worry. The community is strong when household sexual boundaries are sacrosanct.

Marriage defines government. As communities grow, they require governance. In time they will seek out those who can govern, who can judge fairly between households, and give wise counsel. How a man’s marriage goes defines his worth as a ruler and a judge. How an officer treats his children is an example of how he treats his people. If a man cannot be faithful to his wife, how will be be faithful to his oath of office? When recommending men for eldership in the church, Paul says to look at their marriage record. (See 1 Timothy 3:2). Deuteronomy 17:17 warns that a king ought not to have many wives, or his heart will turn away (from his proper duty as ruler). If he cannot be a good father to his children, how can he be so to his community? (See 1 Timothy 3:5)

Marriage defines the Church. Marriage is the model for Christ and the Church. Many passages employ this metaphor:

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
(Joh 3:29)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Eph 5:22-33)

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(1Co 11:3)

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
(Rev 19:6-9)

Do not make the mistake that the Church invented marriage. Rather, marriage precedes the Church by nearly 1700 years. God invented marriage to be a sacred relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus reaffirms this in Matthew 19. He says that the marriage relationship isn’t simply the attraction of a man to a woman (and vice versa), but it is the God-enhanced covenant that keeps them together.

This is why Satan is so keen on redefining marriage. If he can undermine marriage, he can undermine all of the human community. If one pulls at this one thread long enough, the entire fabric of our society is undone. When we cannot tell who our fathers are, or who our mothers are anymore, we lose our connection to the past, and our concern with it. History is one of our best teachers, and when we lose it, we are doomed to repeat its mistakes. If we say we are nothing special because we came from nothing and go to nothing, then what motivation have we to do something? The first step toward this oblivion was adultery, which is why God placed this sign right there at the beginning. If sexual desire is within out source code, then source code 7 is our guardrail, to keep up from going over the cliff.

0010 – Source Code 2 – Are You Beautiful?

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It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And many understand the wisdom of that sentiment. We tend to see beauty in those similar to ourselves, and only begin to see beauty in those unlike ourselves when we mature. Yet beauty is a quality we recognize without realizing it. We are engineered to recognize beauty (often as symmetry of design) as perfection. We often pair the word “flawless” with beauty, as a way to describe it. If something is faultless or flawless, we more likely recognize it as beautiful. We also recognize order as beauty. A house free from clutter with well-trimmed landscape would be considered beautiful. Well-brushed hair and manicured nails are beautiful.

Even small children do not have to be taught beauty, for they automatically recognize it. Our eyes recognize symmetry, perfection, and order without having to be taught what they are. This is part of our source code, for God is the ultimate Perfection, Order, and Designer of all things. Truly beautiful subjects remind us of awe and wonder. Yet God refuses to let others take credit for His work.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exo 20:4-6)

If it is built within us to recognize beauty, then we are also designed to react to beauty. We react with awe and wonder. And we react with adoration. When we look at the night sky, we are amazed at its vastness, in awe of the power it took to create it, and we just gaze at it, adoring such mighty handiwork. When we see a spectacular piece of art, we are in awe of the skill of the artist and adore the artwork. It is a short step from awe and adoration to worship.

God not only recognizes our propensity to be in awe and adore beauty, but warns us off of worship when our adoration calls away from Himself to someone or something else.

Aspiring to beauty sometimes comes at great personal cost, and can lead to anorexia, bulimia, and even suicide. We have our own personal ideal. I recall in the Matrix some years ago when Neo first enters the computer world (after having escaped it), Morpheus tells him that what he sees of himself is his “residual self-image”. It is how he sees himself. I know exactly what he is talking about, because the guy I see in the mirror every morning isn’t the guy I see myself as (and that’s probably a mental issue right there). But each of us has a “residual self-image” or an ideal self-image that we feel is the way we ought to look. This sometimes leads to making ourselves the idol, an unrealistic obsession with the way we look and how we feel, which is definitely a mental illness called narcissism.  And yet even this “illness” can be rectified with a proper understanding of who we are before God.

Anyone can make an idol of anything, including themselves. It is an idol when it takes our focus off of God. Idols of our own making make few demands of us. Our favorite musicians or movie stars, atheletes or even preachers may only ask for time, some cash, or a donation. That’s far easier that re-ordering your life after the perfection of a perfect God.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 5:48) or “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1Pe 1:16)

God makes demands on us. He is not content to let us wallow in our imperfection. He calls us to Himself, through His son Christ Jesus. Jesus is the one who renews us and washes us to be pure and holy.

that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:26-27)

Christ wants to make us beautiful in His sight, not just to make us beautiful, but to cleanse us from sin:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9)

God is just as interested in our beauty as we are, to restore us to the beauty we had before the Fall in the garden, when we had a perfect relationship with Him. God love us so much that he molds us, like clay, into vessels worthy of His use. He molds us, refines us, perfects us through trial and sometimes through suffering, until we are beautiful vessels, so shiny He can see His face in us.

We may recognize beauty in others and in things, but God sees our beauty when He sees Himself in us.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1Pe 3:3-4)

This is why no image, no graven image can ever be formed before God. All of them are meagre and stupid before the holiness and beauty of the Almighty God. No idol, no Greek statue, no modern Olympian, no self-made man can even hope to be compared with the awesomeness that is God.

Are you beautiful to God?

1010 – Source Code 10 – Community and Consequences

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“Thou shalt not covet”

From the beginning we were taught, “It is not good for man to be alone” and so God created a woman, and the first community was born. We start with this last commandment, one often neglected in the list, because I want to work from the least to the greatest. In a sense, this is God’s Top Ten List. At the tenth position we find this principle of community. Why do people congregate together? We practice it without really being aware of it, and think it strange when someone chooses to separate themselves and be a “loner”. It is built within us to be together, rather than apart, even in the sweltering jungles that are farthest from civilization. Human beings congregate, pool resources, fight alongside one another. We do this without thinking because it lies beneath our thinking in our BIOS. With this tenth code comes a warning. Because we congregate together, we compare ourselves to others. If your spear is longer than mine, your hut bigger, your wife prettier, I will notice those things. What I choose to do with this comparison is the subject of this Code.

“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’ (Deu 5:21)

Deuteronomy uses two words to describe envy. The first “covet” has more of a sexual overtone, like “lust”, hence, wife is moved to the first clause (where in Exodus 20, wife is placed second, after house). The other word, “desire” has more of a general sense of envy. This fresh emphasis may be in light of the Sin at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1), and the daughters of Moab. Sexual desire is given special attention because even to look upon a woman, to lust after her, is to commit adultery with her. Jesus re-emphasizes this in the New Testament:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:27-28)

This kind of envy, which we call lust is just as dangerous as the act itself. Has not many a man been consumed with desire for a woman? Does this not explain the destructive nature of porn?

Add to this the power of envy often used in marketing. When you watch or listen to a commercial, the whole point of this tiny piece of media is to entice you spend your money on something you do not have. Often it is demonstrated that such an item will improve you life, make you feel better, or impress your friends. Several years ago, my folks came down to visit us. We have an HDTV, just like many others. Its not a huge TV, but enough to get the job done. But my folks did not have one. They really enjoyed watching TV on this High-Definition Screen. As soon as they got home, Dad went and got himself a new HDTV. For good or ill, seeing what someone else has automatically, without our even really thinking about it, demands comparison. You notice when you visit someone whether their house is cleaner than yours. Whether their kitchen appliances are more up to date than yours, whether your car has as many bells and whistles as theirs. And that is exactly what this commandment is designed to curb. How do you react when you see someone else’s stuff, even their spouse? Does this comparison lead to discontentment, or even envy?

So, for what purpose is this code built within us?

First, that we would seek others so that we would not be alone. This reinforces our need for accountability. This code is our automatic nature to be in companionship with others. Companionship has consequences. For two to walk together, they must agree to go the same direction. There are rules about companionship that are often unstated. So in our relationships, we build a system of rules that makes sure everyone gets along. There are things we talk about, and things we don’t. There is an unstated agreement that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours, and we do not take without asking. This is my property and that is your property. This is my spouse and that is your spouse, and we do not trade. (I.e., Swingers, who swap spouses, grate on me personally because they violate this code. The same goes for Communism.) Thus we are accountable to each other if we wish to maintain that relationship.

Second, that in our capacity for comparison we understand that many times we do not measure up and need to improve. If we unconsciously compare ourselves to one another, there must be a reason for it. We recognize people who are more righteous than we are, and as sinful people, this naturally grates on us. This contributed in large part to why Jesus was crucified, because of a world of lost sinners couldn’t stand One who was not. Jesus is our model for righteousness. When we take up His righteousness upon ourselves through salvation and sanctification, our capacity for comparison to Him works for us, and we practice our capacity for judgment (based on this code). Don’t discount your ability to judge, because it comes from this capacity for comparison (between what is right and what is wrong) and leads to a spiritually enhanced ability called “discernment”. When we use Christ as our standard of comparison, it is much easier to see what is “not-Christ”.

Third, we receive validation and approval from others (an important emotional need) when we succeed. From the right sources, that can be valuable empowerment to do what we are supposed to do. I cannot emphasize this enough. If we fail to receive validation (from our parents, our peers, even our kids to an extent) there is a deep disconnect within us, a breach of the BIOS, and odd behaviors begin to emerge. Validation-seeking behaviors will take the lead, desires for approval, trying to be the best to the exclusion of other needs, to the exclusion of common sense, i.e., taking steroids to be the best athlete against better judgment. Trying to be the best student, or the best musician, practicing and practicing because validation one did not receive from mom and dad (especially dad) will be sought from others. Consider obsession with Facebook (and WordPress) likes, seeking validation from strangers. Coveting comes into this when we see the validation others receive and desire it for ourselves, and sometimes this will lead to murderous behavior (Lee Harvey Oswald?). The desire to “make a name for myself” comes from this.

The last commandment is the only commandment to deal with an attitude, a starting point for which many of the other commandments follow. Please follow and like as we continue to work through the Source Code.