Zoom out: Purpose, Providence and Persian Rugs

Zoom out. I mean really far out. Now look down and look back. Like maximizing the zoom on Google Maps from the globe to the shrub next to your garage, there is a lot to take in when one considers their life in space and time. This is only as far as the human mind can go when we attempt to fathom who we are, where we are going and what we are meant for along the way through the eyes of an Omnipotent and Omniscient God of the universe.

Zoom out. Stare at a beautifully woven multi-colored Persian rug which gleams in craftsmanship and quality. Take in the patterns, colors, shapes, sizes and textures of this one of a kind work of art. Only the craftsman knows what will become of each fiber when he gathers thread by thread and color by color. Over and under and back, repeat until it is finished. Before the strands were, silk was. Before silk, was the silkworm. Did the silkworm know how they would contribute to this masterpiece?

Now zoom further out and see the mind of God who created the silkworm and an environment in which it would thrive, the craftsman, the dye, and the eyes in men to behold the combined beauty of a masterpiece of millions of fibers and seemingly unrelated circumstances and factors to make a timeless heirloom of silk.

Rugs are nothing special in themselves but when considered all that God has done to allow Persian rugs to exist, then it behooves us to appreciate God’s hand in them. Rugs, books, meals, and our lives are all part of God’s overwhelming genius and his intimate interaction as we live out our tiny contribution to the Creator’s meta narrative. Staring at the rug and thinking of the fibers is meant to remind us that God has written and is writing a beautiful story, lines big or small, we get to be a part of it.

Zoom out. Really far out. Realize the perfect providence of God that has orchestrated everything, every circumstance, occasion and cause for His purpose of gloriously ruling and reigning of all of everything. Yes all.

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Christ-centered Counsel After Combat: Emotions, Pain and The Chief End of Man

He reluctantly walked into the church. The only reason he went was because his neighbor, an old salty Vietnam Vet named Jim who still flew the Marine Corps Colors high on the pole every morning, has been on his case to just go with him.

The moment the moving truck showed up in 2007 and Jim noticed the small sticker with an Eagle, Globe and Anchor in the middle pointing inboard on the SUV full of clothes and pillows, Jim knew he was going to have a neighbor that would be a brother.

Jim didn’t get along with many folks, as a matter of fact, the truth was that he was more comfortable alone except in the company of his immediate family and his “brothers” for the longest time. So for Jim to see images of his brotherhood move in across the street, it was like homecoming. It gave him an opportunity to try these new waters of “being social”.

He walked across the street and looked at the guy who was still somewhat trim and had the remnants of a very low reg haircut indicative of his short-timer status. “What’s your MOS?” – Jim barked with a gravely voice scared by years of drinking, smoking and yelling obscenities at anyone in his path. “What?” The new neighbor was caught off guard. All he wanted to do was run as far away from the Marine Corps as he could and here is some old guy asking about his MOS. He still believes that he never ran so fast in his entire enlistment as he did the day he turned in his checkout sheet and now someone wants to talk shop. “Why, did you serve?”  Jim replied, “Grunt from ’68-’73”. “I was a tracker in 2nd AAV, I hauled your butts around so you didn’t have to hump everywhere.”

That introduction and acknowledgement of each other glued an instant bond, not so much like a brother, but like a father to a son. Jim was now a Marine vet whose identity as a Marine had been replaced as a child of God, redeemed by Christ who had been providentially placed in the path of a younger Marine whose identity had still been wrapped up in his title as a Marine and his experience and trauma from war. God is sovereign like that. God is mysterious like that. God works miracles like that.

The tiny development of condominiums where they lived left little room for hiding noise or offering cover and concealment from how one really lived. Jim could see him drinking and yelling, storming out at all hours of the night. Jim could see hear him on the phone with his buddies from the Corps telling jokes and making fun of each other. Jim would go days and weeks and not see anything of him, and when he would peak out to get the mail or something he would look like he hadn’t bathed, shaved or slept in weeks.

Jim saw a little bit of himself across the street and he hurt for him. He saw brokenness, hopelessness, anger and pain. But unlike him, Jim was fighting a new kind of war. One that already had a certain victory but the battle enraged daily. Jim was on the winning side of the battle for his soul.

Just a few years back Jim lost his job ultimately because of his drinking and angry outbursts at his nasty civilian co-workers. All he wanted to do was drive deep into the forest and eat a .45 long colt but for some reason he couldn’t help but remember the verse on a church sign that he would pass almost daily that week as he would go to the store . “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” Those words from The Gospel of Matthew resonated in his heart and was just the little shimmer of hope that he needed to turn back home instead of toward the forest. That next Sunday, with every bit of resolve and fortitude he could muster Jim showered, shaved and put clothes on for church and at 10:40 am he sneaked in the back avoiding eye contact, and staring at his pamphlet the silver haired old man gave to him on the way in. He hadn’t been to a church since his kids were baptized in a Catholic parish years ago and he was too drunk to remember his daughter’s wedding. He was unsure of what to do, so he sat there and eavesdropped and patiently awaited through the formalities of the order of service and then the pastor began to preach a message from the end of Matthew 11 and he was shown a picture of burden lifting grace in Christ that withdrew the weight of the world from his soul. By God’s grace he saw that he spent an entire lifetime trying to own the circumstances and results of something that was cosmically orchestrated so that God would ultimately be seen as the treasure that He truly is.

Jim did not know it, but those days of driving to and from the store to buy another bottle of Johnny Walker Black after he lost his umpteenth job were the days that God would begin to invade his life and engulf him with grace and the purpose for which all of his life has occurred, God’s glory. He saw that God is most glorified when we are most weak without Him. Jim saw that his emotions of pain and grief over loss and anger at those who do not understand him were meant to cause him to cry to Abba Father for shelter, and forgiveness and the cool waters of relief from Satan taught expectation of a carefree holiday-filled life. Jim learned that when he still struggles that he need only remind himself of the gospel of Jesus Christ, dead and alive again, that even today when he cannot see beyond his fallen distorted perception of reality that beckons him to see his trauma and sin as the center of his existence, that God reigns supreme and that is truth!

As stated in Does Grace Grow Best in the Winter? God does not waste his children’s suffering. This flew in the face of everything Jim expected. All he heard from his church going acquaintances was that they were just blessed to be there, life was always a blessing, and Jesus just brought smiles to their faces. Essentially Jim needed to learn how to deal with the reality that life was a struggle. Life was not all smiles, hugs and rainbows. Christians need to be authentic and true as the Bible they teach. His perception was that a “real Christian” wouldn’t have feelings of despair, depression and fear. Truthfully, death, loss and sorrow have been part of the lives of God’s people since the first act of war in The Garden of Eden.

So how does one help Jim? How does Jim help his neighbor? What got him to the point that he knew the only answer for his neighbor was the same burden lifting grace of God that he experienced?

He must be shown that trauma and the emotions he is experiencing are certainly normal for someone with his life experiences as a result of the broken state of God’s creation.Then he should be pointed to the overwhelming glory of God as displayed throughout Scripture and demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ in all of its magnificent details and the hope of a New Heavens and New Earth where these burdens are but a distant memory as believers fixate upon the Throne of The King.

If the chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then certainly veterans suffering from post traumatic experiences do not get a free pass, but instead their lives must be saturated with that purpose. The exchange on The Cross is what points hopeless veterans to the truth that He will deliver us.

The burden lifting grace of God reshapes the purpose of the memory of a fallen brother being carried away on a litter and rushed toward a medivac to one that can cause you to glorify God with gratitude because any action or inaction on your part was not only forgiven at The Cross but also orchestrated by the Author of Life so that ultimately He would be glorified in forgiving you.

The fear of imminent danger around crowds and alertness while laying in bed trying to fall sleep can be used to glorify God when you remind yourself of the eternal safety of the New Creation when pain, hurt and harm no longer exist.

The depression of wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself again, as all of us veterans do, is swallowed up in praise as you realize that you have been adopted literally into Christ as a child of God and you are part of a global Body whose purpose is to shine the spotlight on the forgiving power of The Creator.

Ultimately, remind yourself of what Jesus’s blood has bought on your behalf. He has purchased your verdict that will read thus before the Judge: “Has this person lived in a manner that has always enjoyed God and glorified Him forever?” On this side of The Cross, the answer is a resounding yes!

The Beauty of God’s Purpose in Family

by Marc Mullins, January 21, 2012

Rev. 3/29/2013

These days the definition of what a human family is can be harder to nail down than the actual day Christ will return for His bride. Of course dozens of people have false notions of what that date might be, also many claim to define family then go to lengths to avoid the historical, logical, or Biblical definition for family. Both of course, can only be truly defined by God. Thankfully, He has communicated to us in His inerrant and living word, so it can only do us well to pay attention to God’s word on the matter.

The world’s definition:

fam·i·ly[fam-uh-lee, fam-lee] noun,plural -lies, adjective
noun
1.
a. a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family.
b. a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family.
2. the children of one person or one couple collectively: We want a large family.
3. the spouse and children of one person: We’re taking the family on vacation next week.
4. any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents,children, 
uncles, aunts, and cousins: to marry into a socially prominent family.
5. all those persons considered as descendants of a common progenitor. 1

Modern Family (2009) PosterAs we can easily see, contemporary culture sees family consisting of two types of individuals: adults and children, in almost any combination. There are no requisite qualifications physically, emotionally, economically, psychologically and specifically spiritually.  The family is merely defined as a utilitarian social construct that is part of the economic equation of modern society.  The worldview presented in this definition is startling to the Christian and antithetical to the Gospel display, the Trinitarian hierarchy, and the ultimate purpose of family set forth by God since the first family was created. That purpose is to extend His glory to the ends of the earth as the water covers the sea.

God Created Man to Extend His Glory

God created mankind, specifically families, to extend his glory. After creating mankind in his own image, God then asserted creative order in Genesis to the first man and woman.  That order is to have dominion over all creation, to subdue it by being fruitful and multiplying. (Gen 1:26-28)

Humanity is God’s means to subdue creation under his feet so that the earth will become the created Temple of God.  In the perfect world, God willed for humans to join together in worship of himself by giving them the ability to relate to and commune with each other and to worship their Creator, as the unique creatures that bear his likeness which are his essence manifested in human flesh.2

If the purpose of creation was to create a temple in which God would dwell in relationship with his creatures flourishing and extending their dominion outside the original borders of the garden, then it is important to understand how this helps to define family.  Family is the resulting relationship in which God’s image on display in the creation while remaining exiled from the first garden until Christ returns for his bride and safely delivers them to the new garden where an eternal communing relationship bonded by His blood will never be severed.3

The family is God’s means for dominion over his created temple. As man and woman were joined together to become one flesh, God’s means to cover the earth became reality.  God created the first family, first he made Adam out of dust to work and tend the garden and secondly Eve, made from Adam’s own flesh and bone, given of himself to himself by God to be his helpmate. They were to join together, become one flesh, literally inseparable, and be fruitful and multiply to the praise of their father. They were to multiply humanity, made in the image of God, so that God’s image would subdue creation and blanket it with God on display, God’s glory.

That the Next Generation Might Know

God has uniquely created humans, as the only relational, moral, and creative beings that have the ability to worship, learn and think, all driven by the soul which has set in motion by God’s common grace among all humans and his Saving Grace among his elect.  As God chose to use human families as the means to fill his temple, God also provided the how and why for humans to accomplish God’s will.

Human Families were to display God’s glorious gospel. Man was to find supreme pleasure in serving and worshiping God in Christ. Since our first Father and Mother brought us all into a pattern of sin and spiritual death, God in his mercy and grace gave mankind instruction to quicken the dead hearts of man. God commanded fathers to lead their families in the worship of God our Creator, wives to submit to their husbands as unto Christ and children under the instruction and authority of both parents. Man was to continuously tell the next generation of the wonders of the one true God and recount the stories of humanities failures and God’s redeeming grace. ( Psalm 78)

The Gospel is on display as man is to sacrificially give himself over to his bride as Christ died for the church (Eph 5:22-6:4) and as Adam gave of himself for the creation of his lifelong helpmate. The woman is to joyously submit to the leadership of the husband as the church does to Christ and as Eve was created to submit to Adam until the serpent thwarted God’s design for family order in creation.  Through the submission and leadership to the instruction of God, they were to be fruitful and as Deuteronomy teaches us they were to desire God above all things and from sun up to sun down, they were to teach their children the ways of God, train them in the fear of God, worshiping him with all of their heart, soul and might.4

The Family Continuing God’s Redemptive Plan

Even today we still find the biblical family as the bedrock foundation for the extension of God’s glory around the globe in the midst of a relentless enemy.  God has commissioned man, woman and every generation he blesses us with to cover the earth, making new disciples in each family who will continue the mission. In some countries the institution of family has been eternally altered from God’s design. Some places,  the definition of family has nothing to do with being fruitful or multiplying. Even so God’s sovereign will cannot be stopped. God continues to bring man and woman together under his authority who will bring up coming generations, sharing the gracious Gospel and until the Bride of Christ The Savior is gathered, generation by generation, church by church, and nation by nation.

Until He Returns

“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.
(Revelation 19:6-8 ESV)

____________________________________________

1 Definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/family

2 Many ideas were considered from Dr. James Hamilton’s article, “The Mystery of Marriage,” pages 253-71 in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

3 Ibid.

4 I owe a debt of gratitude for the insights provided by Dr. Hamilton in his article “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,” Journal of Family Ministry 1.1 (2010): 10-17.
Also published as: “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord: Family Discipleship in the Old Testament,” pages 33–43 in Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective, ed. Timothy Paul Jones and Randy Stinson. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011.  The content of this entire book has been instrumental in my theology of family as I see it developed in the vast story line of God’s redemptive plan in scripture.

Image Credit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1442437/