The Heidelberg Catechism on The Ascension

This coming Lord’s Day, we will be considering Luke 24:50-53 in the preaching of God’s Word. Most weeks, as we profess the Apostles’ Creed in worship, we declare that “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” The Ascension is a cardinal Christian doctrine, but we often overlook its significance for our daily life as believers. The language of the Heidelberg Catechism is helpful in understanding the comfort this doctrine brings to our lives and to our deaths. For your edification, consider these words below.

46. How dost thou understand the words: He ascended into Heaven? 
That Christ, in sight of His disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven; and in our behalf there continues, until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

47. Is not then Christ with us even unto the end of the world, as He has promised? 
Christ is true Man and true God: according to His human nature, He is now not on earth; but according to His Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us.

49. What benefit do we receive from Christ’s ascension into heaven? 
First, that He is our Advocate in the presence of His Father in heaven. Secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven, as a sure pledge, that He, as the Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself. Thirdly, that He sends us His Spirit, as an earnest, by whose power we seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on the earth.

All Widows Young and Old

I have always appreciated the Apostle Peter’s comment as he closes his Second Letter.

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16

Indeed, there are some things in Paul’s letters which are hard to understand.  One of these hard things is the instruction he gives to the Ephesian Church, via Timothy, regarding the long-term care of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.

I always appreciate that my wife and children are very careful listeners to the preaching of the Word of God.  After preaching from this passage last night, on the ride home they shared with me that I had been very effective at creating opportunities for greater clarity on this passage.   So the following is an attempt to bring more clarity to some of the things which Paul says in this passage which are “hard to understand.”

The Enrollment

Paul twice uses the word, translated by the ESV, “enroll” in this passage, once, of those who are to be enrolled, and a second time when speaking of “younger widows” who are not to be enrolled.  Which begs the question, “what is the significance of this enrollment or list of widows?”

It is clear that the criteria for “enrollment” are different from those specified in 1 Timothy 5:3-8 which define the church’s responsibility to support “widows who are truly widows.”   So, to clarify this distinction, widows did not have to be enrolled in order to receive support from the church.   Enrollment is not analogous to being a “widow who is truly a widow.”  The criteria for enrollment are NOT a narrowing of the conditions of help for widows in need, young or old.  Rather, those who are “enrolled” are a subset of “widows who are truly widows.”  These are widows who, in the estimation of the elders, will require permanent support.  The witness of their lives, i.e. their “reputation for good works” demonstrates that they meet the criteria for support outlined in 1 Timothy 5:5-6.

The criteria that enrolled widows be at least 60 years old, spoke to the improbability that a widow’s need for continued support from the church would change.  According to J. N. D. Kelley, 60 was considered “in antiquity when one became an “old’ man or woman and a woman’s sexual passions might be deemed to have lost their dangers.”   It seems reasonable to conclude that this age requirement not a hard and fast rule for all times and places, but a culturally specific way to determine the likelihood of ongoing need.

One writer pointed out that 1 Timothy 5:3-8 focuses on the widow’s need while 5:9-16 focuses on the widow’s work.  This is a good observation as it seems that this enrollment carries with it more than the idea of mere support.  The reputation of these particular widows for faithful care of their own families and the household of God points to an expectation that with this support they will continue this ministry to the body of Christ.   Without this support they would be consumed with desperate attempts to survive in a world that showed little mercy to women without means.

Ministry in the body of Christ is organic and personal.  Our modern tendency is to institutionalize every avenue of ministry in to a program of the church, but this is not the picture that we see emerge in the pages of the New Testament.   These older widows have a track record of effective ministry within their own families, to other families in the church, and to widows and orphans (cf. Timothy 5:10, 16).  They are the “older women” Paul speaks of in Titus 2:3-5.  Consider how that passage mirrors this one.

Most probably these women were placed on the list, not only to ensure that they were not overlooked in the daily distributions of food (cf. Acts 6:1-2), but also because they assisted the elders and deacons in carrying out effective pastoral care to women within the congregation.  William Hendrikson notes in his commentary on this passage that “there is sufficient evidence to show that the early church had a body of widows with definite functions.  They were called intercessors or “keepers of the door.”  Their duties seem to be giving good counsel to younger women, praying and fasting, visiting the sick, preparing women for baptism, taken them to communion and giving guidance and direction to widows and orphans who were supported by the church.”

It would be a mistake to conclude as some have, that this enrollment was a form of employment, that the church was providing support in exchange for service.  The past tense forms of all the verbs describing the older widow’s good works speak of a settled habit of service.  Their support is not the motive to serve as they have, but rather their support empowers them to continue to serve as they have.   Consider how pastorally important this would be for grief care.  These women have experienced the grief of losing of a beloved husband and facing grave uncertainty.  To be bereaved of their ministry to others in the church would only compound their grief.  One of the key emphases of this passage is the empowerment of widows, both young and old, to serve Christ effectively according to their callings.  This is done through material support for older widows and through spiritual oversight and exhortation to marriage and family for younger widows.

The Younger Widows

One of the most difficult parts of this passage is Paul’s instructions regarding the younger widows.  At first glance, Paul seems overly harsh, like an old man who exalts the virtues of the old and despises the young.   A cursory reading might lead us to the following false conclusions that:

  • Paul does not want to support younger widows in need,
  • Paul views younger widows as lazy, self-serving and promiscuous
  • Paul views marriage, at the least, as a lesser expression of Christian life or, at the worst, as tantamount to apostasy and a denial of the faith.

But as wise mentor once said, “a text without a context is a pretext.”  The immediate and the larger context of Paul’s inspired writing in the New Testament clarifies these misconceptions considerably.

First, as noted above, refusal to enroll on the list of widows, did not mean that the church was unwilling to provide for “widows that are truly widows.”  Younger widows who had no means of support and who were not living self-serving, profligate lives received help from the church.  Paul is not commanding the church to ignore the plight of widows.  This would be utterly opposed to the character of God described in the Old Testament and the overwhelming concern Paul shows for the poor and oppressed throughout the New Testament.   What Paul is saying is not to enroll them as permanent and perpetual wards of the church since, being young, they may well desire to be remarried.

Paul does not despise remarriage, nor does he forbid it.   He holds a high view of marriage.  In his letter to the Ephesians, he uses marriage to illustrate Christ’s love for the church and instructs husbands in how to love their wives (cf. Ephesians 5:22ff).  Also, much of Paul’s teaching about life in the church is drawn from the imagery of family life.  Consider how frequently he refers to the church as the household of God.  And many of the exemplary qualities of the older widows he mentions are related to the care of husband and family.   Paul’s language here can hardly be understood as a condemnation of marriage as apostasy or second-rate Christianity.

But Paul does note that singleness affords an availability for Christian service that married life does not.  Timothy would have been very familiar with Paul’s words to the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 7 addressing these same concerns.  Two passages are particularly significant.

To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.  1 Corinthians 7:8-9

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Here we see Paul’s concerns regarding how marriage and family commitments affect our service in the church.  What husband or wife has not felt the tension between the needs of the church and the demands of family life?  While it is true that the care of our family has priority and that maintaining this priority is a key qualification for elders and deacons, this is a very real tension, nonetheless.  Every pastor has felt this keenly, as has his wife.  And how many young mothers have been made to feel guilty because of external or internal pressure that they need to be at church every-time the doors are open, despite knowing that this will spread them thin, compromise their care of husband and home, and exhaust their toddlers?

Did you notice Paul’s concern in the Corinthians passage?  It is not the effectiveness of church programs or ministries, but feelings of anxiety and the tension of divided loyalties in the lives of those who are contemplating marriage or who are already married.  Paul is not forbidding marriage or remarriage.  Far from it!  But he is acknowledging that marriage and family changes the contexts and the availability of our service to Christ.  This can create anxiety, guilt or exhaustion, leading some to walk away from the church wasted and weary.  How many people have left the church because they felt used up and burned out?   Paul’s concern is borne out of practical love for those who are single, not any disparaging of younger widows as unreliable apostates.

So moving back to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 5:11-15, Paul seems to imply that while being enrolled on the list of widows is not a vow of perpetual singleness or employment as pastoral care assistants, there is an expectation that those on the list will continue the pattern of service that characterized their lives as wives and mothers, but with greater availability.   Though no requirement is placed on them, this expectation would certainly be felt.  For older women, they will likely remain undivided in this work.   But for younger women it is probable they will desire to marry.  Paul is concerned that this desire will then create the kind of anxiety described in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35.  On the one hand feeling guilt that remarriage would amount to abandonment of their calling or on the other hand refusing marriage out of a sense of obligation.  Obligation which might lead to bitterness toward the Lord, the church, and even those they serve.

Furthermore, note what 1 Timothy 5:15 says, “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.”   Paul does not want these young widows to be constrained by anxiety and refuse remarriage which is a very important avenue of full and fruitful Christian service, and trains them to do what the older widows have done.   But notice the last phrase, “to give the adversary no occasion for slander.”   Who is this adversary?  Satan is described as an adversary and he is referenced in the following phrase, but there are also “flesh and blood” adversaries who are animated by Satan to discredit and divide the church.  Those young widows who seemed initially to commit themselves to single-minded devotion to the care of others and then leave to find joy in husband and home, may be the subject of slanderous criticism from the church’s enemies and also provoke grumblers in the church.

The condemnation they incur is the condemnation of others as well as that of their own consciences.  Though they do not sin when their passions stir them to desire remarriage, it does create a crisis of expectation and commitment, which will no doubt provoke a faith crisis.  Notice that Paul speaks of “abandoning their former faith.”  The ancient language says “first faith.”   This brings to mind Christ’s word of condemnation to this very church of Ephesus in the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation 2.

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5

In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul speaks of professing believers who refuse to care for their needy relatives as “denying the faith.”  But that is not the language he uses here.  This is not apostasy, but the crisis of faith that arises when they abandon the life of singleness and service implicit in being enrolled by the church for marriage and family.  We must remember that the command here is given to the church, and in particular the leadership, to “refuse to enroll” the young widows so as not to place them in the situation of an internal crisis of faith and guilt or of external condemnation and accusation.  The church is not to make enrollment on the list of widows a condition for its help.  Likewise, the church must not lose sight of its larger responsibility to encourage them to be settled as wives and mothers.

But what about Paul’s characterization of young widows as idlers, gossips and busybodies?   It is important to note a key verb in verse 13 – “learn.”  Paul warns the church that perpetual provision for young widows poses a threat to their character.  Freed from any concerns for support and without ingrained habits of service, the church’s support, rather than empowering them for productive ministry, threatens to enable them in idleness.  Paul does not say that young widows are idle gossips and busybodies, but that the learn to be these things, precisely because the church has made them permanent wards, without clear accountability or direction.   Of course, this is not true for every young widow.  Some will remain in singleness and may need prolonged support from the church.  Paul is not forbidding this, per se, but setting forth practical principles so that the spiritual lives of young widows can be guarded from the well-meaning, but potentially destructive benevolence of the church.

There is perhaps a final concern here was well.   Paul’s polemic against the dangers of false teachers is pervasive in the Pastoral Epistles (see also Acts 20).  In 2 Timothy 3, he warns that in the last days (i.e. all the times from the Resurrection until the Return of Christ) there would be those “who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions.”   If the younger widows are added to the list and learn to be idlers, gossips, and busybodies then they are extremely vulnerable to every sensational speculation, myth, endless genealogy and false teaching.   Paul seems particularly concerned in 1 and 2 Timothy with the vulnerability of the Ephesian women to the influence of the false teachers.  If these young widows fall prey and spread heresy as they “go about from house to house,” the church will suffer irreparable harm and division.

Far from showing contempt or a lack of concern for the younger widows, Paul’s instructions display great insight into the tensions and temptations they will face as they move through the grief process.  He also shows tender concern for their character and growth in godliness.   His abiding concern in this passage is for these widows, young and old to recover a sense of purpose and meaning as they travel through the valley of the shadow of grief and loss.

Application

Paul says some things here that are hard to understand.  But God’s Word is meant to be applied.  So how do we apply this passage?

First, Paul’s overwhelming concern here is not to multiply centralized church ministries which must be administered, structured, funded and staffed.   He is instructing the church that in its support of widows through material provision and spiritual oversight, it is not only exercising benevolence, but empowering organic, personal, ministry.    In so doing, the Church also provides good pastoral care for those who are experiencing the grief of devastating personal loss by helping them restore a sense of purpose when life seems untethered and unstable.

Second, the Church’s call to provide temporary and perpetual material support for widows implies an ongoing and sacrificial commitment to personal giving on the part of the members.   Our household budgets reflect careful consideration of our own needs and wants, but what do they reveal about our ongoing commitment to the widow and the orphan?  The idea of “enrollment” here challenges the congregation to personal responsibility with both material resources as well as time.   Paul says elsewhere, “let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt of love you owe to one another.”  Our care for widows and orphans has no expiration date.

Finally, the instruction to refuse to enroll younger widows makes huge demands on pastors and elders to exercise substantive spiritual oversight and direction and not just “throw resources” at a need.  The easiest thing to do for someone in dire straits is to give them money.  But often this is the most destructive thing we can do.  We need look no further than the lives of past lottery winners or those enslaved in the labyrinth of government support to see this.   While giving a needy person money seems compassionate and easily discharges the pangs of our conscience and duty, pastors, elders and deacons are called to do the hard work of shepherding.

Throughout the Old Testament God is characterized not as a “provider for widows” but as a “defender of widows and a father to the fatherless.”  Let this give us a larger view of our tender love and care for those “widows who are truly widows,” both young and old.

Arguing with a Madman

“If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by clarity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”

—G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Co., 1909), p. 32

A Tribute to Rev. Nale Falls

It is a custom at the meetings of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to read a tribute to all pastors who died since the last meeting of the Synod.   This year we lost the Rev. Nale Falls at the tender age of 100.   Several of my fellow pastors in the Synod asked if I had authored the tribute read by Vice Moderator Patrick Malphrus at the opening meeting.   As I did write it, I offer it below to those who might be interested.

The Life of Nale Falls

On Sunday, November 27, 2016, at the young age of 100 years old, the Reverend William Nale Falls of Little Rock, Arkansas entered peacefully into the presence of the Lord.

Nale was born in Pottsville, Arkansas on February 24, 1916, the son of Thomas Boston Falls and Sally (Evans) Falls. He spent his early years helping work the family’s farm, and loved to tell stories about growing up with his brother and three sisters in Pottsville. After graduating from Pottsville High School in 1933, he went on to Erskine College in South Carolina where he graduated in 1939 and then Erskine Theological Seminary in 1941. He received his master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1959. In World War II, Nale served as chaplain in the Army from July 1944 to December 1945, which included a tour of duty in Germany.

As an ordained minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Nale served churches in Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas. He met his wife, Mable Finley Falls, at his first church, in Elsberry, Missouri, and they were married in 1942. Mable and Nale had four children: Phylis, Sarah, Nale Jr. and Katie.

Nale loved being a minister. He enjoyed ministering to all, whether it be at the church, at a hospital bedside or in members’ homes. He was proud to be the oldest living ARP minister.  Nale was a man who exhibited the joy of his salvation.   He loved to laugh and was rarely seen without a smile or his trademark bow tie.   Always quick with a joke, often at his own expense, or in reference to the peculiarity of his name, Nale used humor to connect with others.  While the arduous work of pastoral care often brings a particular weariness to a shepherd towards sheep, Nale truly loved to care for Christ’s sheep in the pulpit, in the living room and in the place of affliction.

Nale also loved to sing the songs of Zion.  He grew up in the tradition of exclusive psalmnody at the ARP Church in Pottsville, Arkansas.   He loved good hymnody, but his preference was always for the old Bible Songs.  He once wrote of returning home after spending a summer away from Pottsville.

“That first Lord’s Day I was home, I was late getting to Sabbath School.… One should be late for worship at least once to have the joy of hearing the singing of God’s praise as he approaches the House of Worship.  The metrical version of Psalm 122 says it perfectly.  “I was glad, I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go, let us go, go to the house of the Lord.”

Even in his hundredth year, when friends would visit Nale to share a psalm, a song and a word of prayer, he could remember all the verses to his favorite Bible Songs and add the deep and resonant harmonies of his clear and strong baritone voice.

Nale was also a man committed to the pastoral duty of encouraging others in ministry.  No doubt many ARP pastors and elders present here today have received a letter from Nale Falls, always handwritten and in large letters with a black sharpie.  Reminiscent of Paul’s comment in Galatians, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand,” these pastoral letters were an amalgam of curious aphorisms, humorous anecdotes and solid encouragement for young ministers.

Nale was committed to preach the gospel in season and out.  Following a faithful and fruitful pastoral ministry, he continued to preach “unseasonably” even in his twilight years at the nursing home in Little Rock where he was a resident. If you visited with him there, it was clear that he preached the word out of season to his CNAs, nurses and anyone else who would listen.   Despite his confusion in these years, any visit with him would involve conversation about the work of the churches in Mississippi Valley Presbytery, recitation of portions of the catechism, the singing and reading of a Psalm and a time of prayer which always concluded with Nale pronouncing a benediction over his guest.  Anyone who visited to minister to Nale Falls, left receiving ministry themselves.

Nale lived a long life.  The Bible speaks of long life as a blessing for the one who spends it following Christ, but makes it clear to us that this life is not our home.  Our encouragement is to “seek a better country, that is the heavenly one” and to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   This is the long life God calls us to live.   It is a life that begins with a new birth through faith in Christ Jesus.

None of us knows exactly when the Holy Spirit began to effectually call a young Nale Falls to follow Christ, but according to the records of the Pottsville ARP Church, he made a profession of faith on August 9, 1925 at the age of 9.   He served his Lord for 91 years on this earth.  What a great blessing for Nale to lay aside the mantle of oldest living ARP minister in the Church Militant to enter into the joy of His Master in the Church Triumphant.

 

A Caution to Aging Men

John Calvin’s commentaries are rich in both biblical exposition and social commentary.  In preparing to preach in Genesis 7 this coming Lord’s Day at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, I came across this comment regarding Genesis 7:6 which resonated with me.

 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. Genesis 7:6

“It is not without reason that he again mentions the age of Noah.  For old age has this among other evils – that it renders men more indolent and morose.   Whence the faith of Noah was the more conspicuous, because it did not fail him in that advanced period of life.”

For more hard words about growing older, check out my review of  A Word to the Aged by William Bridge.

Liberty to the Captives

It is of the essence of the gospel to proclaim liberty to the captives.   At Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18-19

In reading Arthur Pink’s Gleanings in Genesis, regarding Abram’s rescue of Lot, I found the following passage a good reminder of our calling to proclaim liberty to captive, not tell him “I told you so.”

It is beautiful to observe the effect of this intelligence [regarding Lot’s capture] upon our patriarch. Abram was not indifferent to his nephew’s well-being. There was no root of bitterness in him. There was no callous, “Well, this is none of my doing: he must reap what he has sown.” Promptly he goes to the aid of the one in distress. But note it was not in the energy of the flesh that he acted. It was no mere tie of nature that prompted Abram here — “When Abram heard that his brother (not his ‘nephew’) was taken captive.’’ A brother — a spiritual brother — was in need, and so he

“armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan” (Genesis 14:14).

And has this no voice for us today? Surely the spiritual application is obvious. How often is a “brother” taken captive by the enemy, and the word comes,

“Ye, which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

The Lesser of Two Weevils

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!   Isaiah 5:20-21

The recent election cycle renewed vigorous discussion regarding whether Christian ethics may employ “the lesser of two evils” when faced with apparently competing ethical demands in the moral law.  To hold such a view, however, accepts as a given that there are, in fact, truly competing moral demands.  Ethicists call these “conflicts of duty” or “tragic moral choices.”   We often simply refer to them as “the lesser of two evils.”

But is it valid to assume that such “conflicts of duty” actually exist in a truly biblical ethic?   Are there situations in which our only option is disobedience to some biblical command in order to obey the lesser or two evils?   Does our fallen condition create situations in which obedience to God’s revealed will is not even a possibility?

Many ethicists hold it as a given that such “conflicts of duty” exist and contend that there are times in which it is right to do what God has forbidden or right to fail to do what God has required?   Christian ethicists who hold this view attempt to mitigate the obvious concern over calling evil good, by noting that such necessary sins still require God’s forgiveness.

In his book, Medical Ethics: Principles, Persons and Problems, Dr. John Frame refutes this position on the following points.

  1. In Scripture it is never right to disobey a command of God and never sinful to do what is right.   [To do so] is ethically confused at a basic level.
  2. According to this view, the Scriptures, our fundamental ethical standard, would be contradictory; they would be telling us to do two incompatible things.
  3. Consider the christological implications of this view.  Did Jesus face “conflict of duties?”  If so, then He too was guilty of sin; He too ought to have asked God’s forgiveness…. But if Jesus did not face such conflicts, then how can we say with the author of Hebrews that he was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin (4:15)?   Either alternative is unacceptable, so the premise must be wrong.  There are no “tragic moral choices.”
  4. And 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that Christians need never fall into sin, a promise that is incompatible with the view under discussion.

Given the belief that there are no “tragic moral choices” and no need to choose the “lesser of two evils,” our ethical task ought to be cut and dried, right?  Yet Frame notes Christians must often struggle longer than situational ethicists to find the consistent answer, biblically, to our ethical questions.  Frame notes several reasons this struggle is difficult.

“Sometimes we don’t understand Scripture adequately.  Sometimes we have an inadequate understanding of the situation to which Scripture is to be applied.  And sometimes our own spiritual immaturity obscures matters in our minds and hearts.”

Situational ethicists often accuse Christians of taking the easy way out by denying “conflicts of duty,” but the reality is that the unwillingness to call good evil and evil good or to put darkness for light and light for darkness makes Christian ethics far more challenging and indeed impossible without the illumining work of the Holy Spirit shining on the Word of God.

The Sower’s Song

Oh God, I am furrowed like the field
Torn open like the dirt
And I know that to be healed
That I must be broken first
I am aching for the yield
That You will harvest from this hurt

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
As I abide in You

So I kneel
At the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn
At the glowing edge of spring
When the winter’s edge is gone
And I can see the color green
I can hear the sower’s song

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
Let Your word take root
Remove in me
The branch that bears no fruit
And move in me, Lord
As I abide in You

Andrew Peterson from The Sower’s Song on The Burning Edge of Dawn