About Paul Alexander

I was senior pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama, from June 1958 until June 2001, I was director and then Resource Pastor of of our PCA mission to Ukraine from 20o1 to 2012, and now serve as occasional preacher in several churches in Missouri.

Letters to Our*1 Dear Children #1 God’s Gift of Persons

Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,

Your Mother and I see the four of you as wonderful gifts of God to us.  We have loved each of you from the moment we knew that you were on the way to our house.  What an amazing thing it is for a baby to be born!  For a new person to come into a family!  Only God can do this wonderful thing.  And of all the remarkable things that God does in this world, this has to rank up there right near the top.

Greg, when your first baby was born, Mom and I had the high privilege of being there at the hospital with you and Rachel in Carollton, Georgia. I will never forget the expression on your face when you saw baby Gabrielle for the first time.  I forget the exact words you used, but you said something like, “Daddy, this is a real person!” It wasn’t so much the words you said as it was the unforgettable way you spoke them, all aglow with the pure delight of this grandest of grand occasions.

I believe we should recognize two wonderful things that happen at the same time whenever a baby is born.

First, is simply the arrival of the baby, that “real person”.  The natural process which God uses to bring this new little “personal” being into our world is absolutely phenomenal.  Eve got it right when she remarked at the birth of her first son, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man”, Genesis 4:1. 2.

We make a bad mistake if we read these simple words as if they were rather boring and common-place.  Simple words they are, indeed, but there is every reason to hear in them the sheer wonder that Eve must have felt.  She was the first person in history to experience the natural but awesome process of conception, gestation and birth.  She had to be amazed, astounded, and delighted all at once.

Like other women after her who would bear children, Eve may have experienced excruciating pain and may have wondered whether she would live through the ordeal.  Then, when she saw that amazing little creature outside her body, heard him cry and felt him move, a great torrent of joy and thanksgiving to God must have filled her whole being.  Yes, those words she speaks are simple, but they were surely filled with a towering reverence and thanksgiving for the God who had helped her bring forth a man.

This was the first wonderful thing that happened to Adam and Eve, the birth of their baby. Another “real person” entered their home, forever changing their lives by bringing them into the world of parenthood with all of its delights and challenges. There is so much more to say here, but for the moment I will hurry on to that second wonderful gift of God.

Second, God gave us the gift of love for all four of you. We did not generate that love in our own hearts. Because we are sinners, God had to work a miracle in our sinful hearts so that we could love you. That love which God gave us for you is magnificent beyond words. This gift of God is the key to our raising you.  Through this amazing gift, God enabled us to nurture and bless you in all the joys of living before God as His dear children.

Not that we did this perfectly!  The sin that remains in our nature made us stumble and err seriously many times.  We had to apologize often.  But God’s love for us, His great grace at work in our hearts, overcame our sin sufficiently to enable us to guide you to Godly maturity.  A wonderful result of His work both in us and in you is that we have become good friends. I believe that we are “best friends”, and that is one of the greatest blessings that parents could ever hope for.

How sad that so few parents today recognize the wonderful blessing this gift of God can be in their homes. Because of our fall into sin, parents can refuse to receive this great gift of God, His gift of love for their own children.  We see the unhappy results everywhere.  Parents do not live in a reverent and loving relationship with God, so it is impossible for them to live in a loving relationship with their own children. Fierce quarreling and hatred seems to characterize the lives of so many married couples and their whole families.  Parents abuse each other and their children, so that even murdering their own children has become increasingly common. The murderous act of inexcusable abortion has resulted in approximately 55,000,000 infant deaths in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision in 1974. This kind of abortion is now legal in most of the world.

In a future letter I will try to speak helpfully to these great sorrows so common in families today. I will mention the problem here, just to underline for all of us the great importance of receiving from God His wonderful gift of love for our children.

Now I want to tell you how our gracious Lord led your Mother and me to receive this wonderful gift from God. We see this as a “special providence” of God which He worked in our hearts.  This is the era of history when God works such miracles in the hearts of those who believe in Christ as Savior.

It happened this way:

We fell in love with each other during my second year in Faith seminary near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next summer in August, 1956, we were married in Sandstone, Minnesota, Mom’s hometown. We then moved to Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, arriving in that city with $8 in our pockets, a car payment coming due and no place to live.

We both got jobs, found an apartment, eked out a bare living (like many of our fellow students), and I began to study at the seminary.   That is where it happened!!

I discovered the love of God in a special way in what the Bible calls: THE COVENANT!

Dr. J. Oliver Buswell was the teacher who led me, along with other students, into this discovery.  “The Covenant” was just one of many subjects we learned under his able instruction from scripture. His teaching had the special value, moreover, of demonstrating that The Covenant is a central theme that binds the entire Bible and all of life together. The Covenant certainly included that gift of loving our children, but it was presented as far more than that.

I began to see The Covenant as a grand and glorious exercise of God’s love for the whole world. It was God’s means of saving lost people and then building them up in His own image.  It was God’s love at work in believers to hold them in His redemptive embrace, enabling us to love God “with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds,”…“and our neighbor as ourselves”.  The Covenant is beautifully summarized in the so-called “golden text” of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It was a great pleasure for me to bring Dr. Buswell’s teaching home with me. Your Mother and I had many valuable discussions on the Covenant and began to regard it as one of the keys to our life in the Lord. We also found these truths to be pervasive in the seminary. Because Mom had frequent contacts with the family of Professor Bill Sanderson, she became quite impressed by the way he and his wife were using Covenant teachings to train their children in the love of God.  We began to observe this beautiful kind of family life in other seminary leaders and other Christians in our church world.

I will conclude this initial letter by reminding you that our lives were profoundly and wonderfully changed, first, by your births into our family and second by our discovery of God’s Covenant love for us.

We pray daily that God will continue to work His wonders of grace in your hearts and lives.  And we rejoice daily in the evidence we see in you and your families that God is answering our prayers.

With all our love,

Mom and Dad Alexander

*1. Take note: I am changing the pronoun “My” to “Our” in this title.  My introductory letter proposed: “Letters to My Dear Children”.  I prefer that to be: “Letters to Our Dear Children”.

*2. Commentators on this first verse of Genesis 4 have frequently speculated on a variety of meanings that might be given to Cain’s birth here.  I stand with those who give the simplest explanation, that Eve is remarking with delight that a baby boy has been born.


      While the four of you were still living at our house, I started using a diagram in my Sunday evening preaching that you may remember.  I am still using that diagram in an effort to graphically portray the Covenant at work in Jesus.  Before I explain it, however, I want to mention a side trip I took during my own high school and college years.

During those high school years I became quite interested in Edgar Allen Poe, a writer whose message stood out in sharp contrast to “the Covenant” truth that I learned under Dr. Buswell.  I believe it will be helpful for us to see the Covenant from that contrasting perspective, Poe’s perspective.

To be perfectly honest I became genuinely fascinated with both the poetry and the short stories of Poe. His mastery of the English language was amazing to me, but it was his preoccupation with the morose aspects of death and dying that truly captivated me.  I got so interested in his “The Raven” that I memorized part of it. Then I found his “The Fall of the House of Usher” to be an unforgettable adventure into the macabre.  In college I memorized my own abbreviated version of his “The Black Cat” and occasionally recited it at Halloween parties.

Why all this interest in this sadly unchristian author?

My interest in Poe took a somewhat psychological/spiritual turn.  Throughout his life the poor man suffered one disappointment and sorrow after another. Through all this pain he never seemed to have meaningful contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ or the church.  The joy of living under the care of a loving God, therefore, never touched his brief life (1809-1849). To the contrary his fascination with the morose, the terrifying, and the downright horrible got such a grip on the man that the brighter side of life never occurred to him as a subject worthy of his literary efforts.

Here I want to make my own private and abrupt observation.

Edgar Allen Poe desperately needed to discover the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave!

Poe’s life and writing might have been so different if this grand reality of the gospel had come into his life.  If he had heard good preaching of this gospel truth or had been befriended by a Christian brother or sister who had given him clear witness of it, things could have been different.

Permit me an observation about our own present historical situation.

A sad reality of our present culture is that Poe’s dark, unhappy writing seems to be prophetic of much that is happening in the artistic, the literary and the film-making world today.  The highly gifted artists who are leading in these important ventures today reflect a kind of “Poeism”.  Like Poe, they desperately need a clear view of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Through that grand miracle they could witness the whole gospel of our Lord Jesus, transforming both their lives and their art.

This is the point that I hope we will see in our consideration of the Covenant.  The Covenant is God’s means of leading us into the gospel, into the forgiveness of our sins, into a grand view of Jesus rising triumphantly from the grave in order to create a new world.  That is the climax of the Covenant. I want to give a fuller definition of the Covenant in the next letter, but for the moment it is sufficient to see the Covenant as a promise of God’s love for us. It is a promise of His love which comes to glorious climax in the Savior’s redeeming work on our behalf.

On the next page, I am giving you that diagram I mentioned above. It is based on II Corinthians 4:6. Here I am using the “face of Christ” as a figure of speech for five redeeming acts of Jesus.  The first four are His (1) Crucifixion, (2) Resurrection, (3) Ascension, and (4) Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church.  Number (5) is His promised Second Coming.   I call these five things “the face of Christ” because we recognize Christ in them.  These five redeeming acts are His face “shining” the glory of God into our lives.  By faith we receive God’s Covenant love for us through these loving acts of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do I need to clarify that?  Drop me a note if you think I need to say more.  Meanwhile, I will doubtless say more myself, because the truth I am trying to demonstrate in this picture is so central to my thinking and teaching even today.





Pastor Paul Alexander Announcing:



Your Cordial Invitation to Eavesdrop

Dear Friends,

I am embarking on a letter writing adventure!

I plan to write a series of letters to my own four children.  The Lord has wonderfully blessed me and my dear wife Lorraine through all the years of our marriage and I want to pass on to my own dear children a small part of the counsel our gracious Lord has given us over these years.  Our Risen Lord and Savior has enabled us to discover His grace over our years together.  Through His written word and by the power of his Holy Spirit He has been speaking the life of His gracious word into our hearts.

Now I am praying that the Risen One will empower my humble effort to “pass it on”.  I hope to strengthen our own beloved children in their ministries to their own children and grandchildren and to their fellow church members and friends wherever they may meet.   Our Savior-King has commissioned all of us with this Royal task of spreading life through His Word to any and all whom we may meet.

And you are cordially invited to eavesdrop!

I want to send these letters to anyone who might be interested, and I will also put them on my clay2glory.com   blog. Though the letters are first addressed to our own four children, they will be appropriate for members of our WIDER family to read.  That WIDER family especially includes all our dear brothers and sisters who served alongside us both at Westminster Presbyterian Church and at Westminster Christian Academy in Huntsville, Alabama.  You are especially dear to us because of those 43 years we spent among you.

Our WIDER family also includes our Ukrainian Christian brothers and sisters whom we dearly love.  You blesse us greatly while we were serving among you and hope these letters might be some blessing to you.  Then while I was Interim Pastor at North Hills in Huntsville and finally Assistant Pastor at Trinity in Union, Missouri, we were privileged to minister alongside some of God’s choice servants.   May our gracious Lord bless all of you and ANY others who may receive these “LETTERS TO MY DEAR CHILDREN”.

Below are two recent pictures [only in email version] of our children, grand-children and great-grand-children.  We hope you will join them in reading these letters.  We will not try to give you names which were printed in our Christmas letter.  I give you both pictures because we were not able to get everyone there at once.

What You May Expect in My Letters

 I believe it may be helpful to you if I divide my letters into two distinct parts for easier understanding:

FIRST, I will try to give you a “main thought” that will run through both sections.  In the first part I will develop that  ”main thought” in a popular style for easy reading  adapted to children and adults alike.  Hopefully this first section of each letter will be uncluttered by theological or other kinds of technical terminology.  It might even be read as a part of “family worship” because of its adaptability to all maturity levels.

SECOND, I will (usually if not always) add a section simply entitled: REFLEXIONS.  In this “reflexions” section I will try to lead you through the Biblical and Theological basis for what I have just said in the FIRST section.   This might be a bit technical so that it could be helpful to give quotes from other writers, even documented quotes so that you could pursue the sources on which I base my remarks.

Prepare for a Recurring Emphasis

My own pilgrimage through life and through the Bible has led me to deepening convictions on the importance of  the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This reflects my conviction that Peter, Paul and John had this emphasis in all their writing and preaching.   Not that they ever minimized the cross or the crucifixion.  They just saw the resurrection and ascension as illuminating the crucifixion and the whole gospel message.   This resurrection/ascension emphasis characterizes the entire New Testament, and it comes to a beautiful climax first in Acts 2 and then in the whole book of Revelation.

This emphasis has become an increasing joy to me as I have discovered it in scripture.  I hope it will help meet the needs of your heart and the hearts of those whom you may influence for Christ.

 And I want to invite your response.  You are welcome to correspond with me about these letters.  I will do my best to reply and might even do so by writing one of these letters so that everyone might benefit from your question.

But please pray for me in this new adventure in the ministry.  I sincerely want to be a blessing first to my own dear children, then to any and all who may read these “LETTERS”.

May our ever gracious Lord continue to bless our KINGDOM MINISTRIES while we wait with joyful anticipation for our great King to return for the perfection of His Kingdom in eternal glory.

For the glory of the Lion/Lamb

Pastor Paul Alexander











Alexander Family Chronicle 2016

“Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3

The names below can be fitted to the main picture that we sent by email.  You may be able to match these if you go to the website noted in the first paragraph.  Happy  providence on that effort.  Other names are in the body of the letter.

Standing in back rows: Sisi, David holding Lydia Spanogle, Rachel and Greg, Heather and Jeff Spanogle, Ethan and Brian Yount, Adam Hancock; Seated adults: Junia Haas, Lorraine, Paul, DeAnn Yount; Seated children: Greg and Rachel’s five – Adrienne, Ben, Gabriele, Natalie holding Vivienne.  Happy Providence on names in other pictures.

Dear Family and Friends,

The annual Christmas picture above does not include everyone.  Some arrived later; so I am also sending you a web-site: https://goo.gl/photos/BgHoYZruef644qt26.  This will have a variety of shots including nearly all family members for 4 generations.  Our gracious Lord continues to bless our growing tribe.  I will mention just a few things about each family to help you pray for us as we do for you.  You have blessed us with many pictures and special greetings in your Christmas cards and we hope that our letter to you will lift you up in praise to our dear Savior.

David and Junia Haas continue their service to our Lord through their ministries in our Spring Hills Presbyterian church where Junia is Music Director and David is a Ruling elder and teaches an adult Sunday school class.  David is in his 35th year of teaching math at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis.  Boarding with them to attend WCA this year is “Sisi” from mainland China and Kris (not in picture) from Korea. Junia also remains active in teaching piano to children and youth.

Charysse Alexander continues to serve as executive director in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta, Georgia where she is also active in All Souls Fellowship church, now part of the EPC. Along with her office duties in Atlanta, she frequently travels to give lectures to fellow lawyers on various aspects of the law.  Runing is her key hobby these days.  She has run both the New York and Boston marathons, a number of half-marathons and runs in other events that keep her challenged and in shape. Her nieces and nephews greatly enjoy her periodic visit to their home cities.

Brian and DeAnn Yount live nearby and are active in Trinity Presbyterian church with us in Union, Missouri.  Brian continues his labors as an architect, though he has now completed his Master’s degree in a field that qualifies him to work in government intelligence.  DeAnn teaches counselling at UMSL and does part time family and child counselling in public schools.  Son Ethan just turned 16 and is enrolled with his 13 year old brother Jacob at Heritage Christian school.  Jacob has been suffering from undiagnosed health problems that have kept him out of school this year.  Please pray for him.

Greg and Rachel Alexander are still living in Sugarland, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where Greg is employed in the senior management of engineering firm, CDI.  His job demands are enormous, demanding much more travel than he likes.  Though the family was all active in a PCA church, they are now considering a move to another congregation where they see opportunities for fuller involvement.   The three older girls are now enrolled in public school and Gabrielle works part time as a hostess in a nearby restaurant.   The girls are all superb swimmers and I was privileged to watch them competing in events when I visited there last June.

A glimpse at David and Junia’s family: Heather (Haas) Spanogle and her husband Jeff now live in Wheaton, Illinois, where Jeff is working to get his Th.D. in Old Testament at Trinity Seminary.  Heather works at ESL, teaching English to foreign nationals and helping them get citizenship.  Joanna (Haas) Hancock and her husband Adam, live a few miles from us in St. Louis, where Joanna works as a nurse in a clinic.  Adam was recently elected a Deacon in their small PCA congregation and has an interesting job as a “bullet salesman” (don’t ask me to explain that).  Sarah Haas continues to work in films, a job that keeps her travelling to interesting places like Utah and nearby Colombia, Missouri.  She is promising to publish that documentary film on my last trip to Ukraine and we are waiting with baited breath.  Since his recent graduation from college, Philip Haas travelled for a year with a Sony contracted Christian music group that performed for churches, camps and conferences.  He tells us that changes are coming for him and we are enjoying watching where his “percussionist” career will take him.

Lorraine and I are also busy.  We stay fully engaged in the lives of our children and grandchildren who live near the Louis area.  It seemed wise to me to resign as Assistant Pastor at Trinity church, though we remain fully involved in that congregation.  I am now more free to write and blog and pursue a fascinating reading regimen.  I frequently teach Sunday school classes and supply the pulpit both at Trinity and at other nearby churches.   Lorraine’s back remains a problem but that hardly ever keeps her from participating both in church activities and family events – birthday parties, holiday dinners, school musicals etc.

The current election campaigns remind me of a great Christmas text from Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” This grand text is telling us that we are not limited to whatever these campaigners promise us. When Jesus came at Christmas, He came both to die for our sins, and to “increase His government and peace” throughout this sinful world.  Mysterious and almost unbelievable as this seems to us in our current historical circumstances, scripture authorizes us to believe that our “wonderful counsellor (Is. 9:6)” is at this very moment “governing”  this whole historical process toward His own ultimate Triumph and our ultimate Joy.


For the glory of the Lion/Lamb,

Paul and Lorraine Alexander


Conclusion: Many Splendored Thing #40

Conclusion: Many Splendored Thing #38


            What a magnificent provision God has made for man!

            He has loved us with a love so immense and so completely adapted to our needs that simple gratitude requires an eternal song of praise from “All people that on earth do dwell”, Psalm 100:1.     My prayer is that everyone reading these first 3 chapters is becoming more and more aware of the sheer greatness of God and His glorious provision for His beloved creature made in His image: mankind.

Yet there is such widespread misery, profound sorrow, and dreadful hatred among these persons made in His image. I have used my dear sister Georgianna and beloved brother Jim as examples. To me these dear ones have been something like a lens through which I have seen the struggling world, congregations to which I preach and foreign nations where I have traveled as a missionary. These are all people in such enormous need that we feel overwhelmed and desperate when we try to help.  A real danger is that we can become cynical, so intimidated by the horrors we see all around us that we sink into despair.  Why should we even try to do anything about it?

There is a good and Biblical answer to that despairing question.

The Holy Spirit keeps speaking to us through scripture, reminding us that He is presently at work.  He is telling us wonderful things in the Bible about Jesus working right now to restore all things to its original glory. Remember what God the Father said to Jesus, His only begotten Son, in Hebrews 1:13.  He said to Him  “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  We should not have to scratch our heads long to figure out that this verse is telling us that there is an active conspiracy within the Trinity itself to transform our whole world.

Wonderful, optimistic texts like this abound in our Bibles, but I am not going to quote anymore, just advise you to be on the lookout for them.  Fill your heart with this kind of expectation and then you will be able to do whatever little thing that helps you help those struggling people, knowing you are part of that divine conspiracy. What we accomplish may seem small, but it is part of God’s sweeping plan to restore all things.

This optimistic approach which the Bible itself encourages is my own personal reason for being hopeful in behalf of people like my sister Georgiana and my brother Jim. It is why I keep right on preaching and teaching the “wonderful words of life” that I find in the Bible. Let’s join together in our hope and in our ongoing efforts to be a blessing to struggling people.

And stay with this book!

            We have just got started.

Next we are going to look at a man whom God used to change the course of history.

Chapter 4 will focus primarily on God’s work in the life of Abram/Abraham.  God loved Abram/Abraham and took a grand initiative with him, drawing him into a Covenantal Relationship with Himself.  Then God began using Abram and his descendants to bless our whole world.  The COVENANT takes on powerful new meaning through God’s amazing use of this sinner called Abram/Abraham.

            Chapter 4 will also begin to suggest some reasons why my sister Georgianna and brother Jim had to deal with the great sorrows that plagued their lives. It  will begin to show us how our Lord works by his miraculous grace through sinners like Abraham and like you and me to help our fellow sinners through these crises into “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).”





I see Genesis 2 as the inspired account of God revealing the three Covenantal Relationships of mankind created in the image of God.  This is a bit lengthy, but it seems best to me to keep  it all together so that you can see the scope of God’s amazing work here: 

Root #2: The Splendor of Our Three Covenantal Relationships -Genesis 2

Though Genesis 2 covers a variety of subjects, I want to focus on a particular phenomenon that deserves more attention than it seems to have received to date. That phenomenon is the pattern of Covenantal Personal Relationships which I believe we should regard as key to this chapter. There are three of these, all of them characterized by God’s great love for His people.  These relationships occur in an order that is important in itself.  We will note this order as we study these Covenantal Relationships revealed in chapter 2.  The diagram on the facing page corresponds to the three Covenantal Relationships described here.

  1. Covenantal Relationship #1 – Covenantal Communion With God: 2:2-3

            “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” 

            God’s completion of creation called for a Celebration – a day of celebrative rest. Though Adam is not even mentioned in this text, it is unthinkable that God would have ignored him and left Adam out of His life on this 7th Day, the first day after God had created him.  We are fully justified in assuming that this God who “is love” (I John 4:8 and 16) would have, in effect, taken Adam by the hand on this seventh day and led him into the awesome joy of keeping the Sabbath holy with Him.

Though the full meaning of this wonderful reality is only implied in this passage, later scripture such as Exodus 20: 11-18 and the whole 23rd chapter of Leviticus make this implication abundantly clear: On the first full day of his life, Adam is drawn into celebration of Sabbath life and joy right alongside God Himself.  This is an absolutely remarkable reality.  Clearly, at this point, Adam is already in Covenantal Communion with God!  That means that God’s love for Adam and Adam’s love for God are the key dynamics in their relationship with one another.

This is a wonder of absolutely immense proportions. For a mere creature to live in loving Communion with God is the highest privilege imaginable. God had lifted this creature made of dirt into the heavenly realms! From creation onward Adam was promoted into the eternal glory. What a wonder of God’s infinite love!

Surely we should see this as an important part of God’s plan, impressing Adam/Mankind with the grand reality that COVENANTAL COMMUNION WITH GOD was the very foundation on which his whole life would be built. This is an important measure of God’s love for mankind.  For God Himself is recognizing man as the primary object of His love and therefore a central figure in the whole of Creation. For fuller treatment of this important truth, I heartily recommend the reading of chapter 12 of Creation and Change, Dr. Douglas Kelly’s excellent study of the “incomparable significance of the Sabbath day.”  By drawing mankind into His Sabbath, God is distinguishing man from everything else he created, crowning man with this key COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIP.

  1. Covenantal Relationship #2 – Covenantal Dominion For God: 2:15, 19-20

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

In this passage of scripture we see God assigning Adam his key task – DOMINION over the earth.  Because Adam lives in COMMUNION WITH GOD, he can be trusted to exercise DOMINION FOR GOD. In his book Far as the Curse Is Found, Dr. Michael Williams repeatedly refers to mankind as God’s “steward” *18.  Williams also frequently uses the word “Priest” (pages 113, 138, et. al.) to describe the role God has given mankind in relation to the world *19.  As God’s designated Steward, he is more than a farmer.  He is a Priest

mediating the glory and majesty of God to every creature and to every part of the world, making our world into a Temple filled with the awesome presence of God .

With these considerations in mind it becomes clear to us that mankind’s DOMINION task is the logical extension of the COMMUNION WITH GOD dynamic at work in the heart and life of Adam/Mankind.   The Garden of Eden would have been the perfect work environment.  Collins remarks, “such work under suchconditions must have been sheer delight for the man!”*20.  Adam’s work of naming the animals and cultivating the garden would be a great pleasure to him – something like an extension of the Sabbath, a different kind of celebration, but still a celebration. We might say that Adam moved from CLEBRATIVE REST to CLEBRATIVE WORK.  Life without sin was a continuous celebration of the pure joy of living in the presence of God and finding pleasure in doing the will of this high and holy Being, the living God.  Sabbath set the tone and Work extended the celebration into every day of Adam’s week.

Living, as WE do in this period after the moral disaster of Adam’s Fall into sin, we tend to paint work with a tar brush, seeing it only in terms of the frustration and drudgery that characterize work since the Fall.  This was not God’s original idea of work.  God intended Adam’s work to be the means of beautifying Eden first and then to continue what we might call the “Edenizing” process throughout the world.  God’s command to “have dominion, vs 26” and “subdue the earth” in vs 28 was not limited to Eden, but extended to the whole world which could become God’s Temple under the sinless Adam.

  1. Covenantal Relationship #3- Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman: 2:23-24

23 The man said,“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

                The marriage of Adam and Eve is a fitting climax to chapter 2 of Genesis. It may even be seen as the climax of God’s entire work of Creation. As the first chapter rises to a kind of preparatory climax in the creation of man in God’s image, so the second chapter rises even higher to a full climax in the uniting of Adam and Eve in marriage. Though the word “covenant” is not used here, the Bible identifies marriage as a covenantal relationship in a text like Malachi 2:14, rebuking a man for forsaking his marriage partner because she is “the wife of your marriage covenant.”  We are pleased to recognize, therefore that Adam and Eve were joined in that beautiful covenantal relationship which we call marriage and that God Himself presided over this grand event.
There can be no question that the marriage of the man and the woman was a part of God’s original plan.             Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman was necessary to complete the “Covenantal Relationships Plan” evident in Genesis 2. We should see “marriage love” as a unique creation of God.  This love establishes a bond between the genders and personalities of man and woman that goes beyond human ability to define.  It is another one of the mysterious wonders that God has created for us to celebrate with joy, though there is no way we can fully understand it.

As wonderful and mysterious as marriage love is, moreover, we should see it as a cornerstone of all human society. Families are the building blocks in all human culture.  It is the quality of love that exists in Biblical marriage that gives grace to our relationships in all of civil society – schools, governments, industry, science, art, music and athletics, all our endeavors that include human relationships. This God-created wonder of  “marriage love” then reaches out from the family and embraces the whole world, creating in turn all the tenderness, gentle care and thoughtfulness that characterizes Godly people and ennobles all human life.

In a beautiful and powerful way, “marriage love” speaks to us two other remarkable realities which God reveals to us in scripture.

First: We should see human marriage as A Reflection of Trinitarian Relationships.

            Relationships within the Trinity are relationships of perfect love enduring through all eternity. John 17 is a beautiful statement of this kind of love. The love of God the Father for God the Son, and of God the Son for God the Father.  In verse 24 of this chapter Jesus is telling his Father in Heaven that he wants his disciples “…to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”  That glory that Jesus wants his disciples to see is the glory of that perfect love between the members of the Godhead.

Though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, there is every Biblical reason to believe that the love the Father and Son shared was normative for all three members of the blessed Trinity.  I John 4:9 and 16 both tell us that God IS Loveand this obviously includes all three persons within the Godhead.  We may conclude that the three persons of the Trinity are bound together in an eternal bond of perfect Love.  What a wonderful, truly glorious model this is for human relationships as reflected in the quote from Anthony Hoekema  (footnote 16 above).  And this is exactly what God intended to be the keynote of marriage.

Yes, there are 3 persons in the Trinity and only 2 in Marriage.  But we are not saying that there is anything like identity between Biblical marriage and Trinitarian love, only that there is similarity.  And this similarity is the grand reality of that eternal love that binds Father, Son and Holy Spirit together.  This kind of loving marriage is the cornerstone of human society and a model not just for marriage but for all relationships throughout the world.  It is the reason why God says in Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce”.  The fact is that God hates not only divorce but all distortions of Biblical marriage.

The first reason, therefore, that marriage is the climax to this second chapter is because it is such a beautiful picture of God’s loving COVENANTAL relationship with man.

Second: We should see human marriage as An Eschatological Model.

            Sorry, but I cannot apologize for using that long theological word – Eschatological.  Rather than apologize, I want to explain it as another “theological shorthand term”.  It really isn’t hard to learn what it means. Eschatological – is theological shorthand for “the doctrines of last things, all the things that are going to happen because the Kingdom of God is coming.”  Writers and speakers use the word Eschatological so they will not have to constantly repeat everything included in the bold print between the quotation marks. I hope that explanation helps to show the value of using this word.

Then I am ready to say that marriage which we find in this 2nd chapter of Genesis is given a truly grand eschatological significance in the 19th chapter of Revelation.  The point is that the gift of marriage which God gave to Adam and Eve at the very beginning of history is once again featured in a most beautiful way at the very end of human history. These two uses are like book-ends around history!!  What a wonder this is!  When God needed his highest and best symbolic language to communicate the glories of Heaven, he chose marriage to convey his meaning. .  This is why we must recognize marriage between a man and a woman  as so unspeakably grand and agree with all our hearts that it is the great climax, not only of Genesis 2 but of the whole of creation and finally of the whole of history.  We read in Revelation 19, verses 6-8:

“Then I heard what seemed like 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 glory, For the MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB has come,   And his bride has made herself ready; It was granted her to clothe herself with white linen, bright and pure”

Then and angel appears to John the Apostle who is writing these amazing words and says to John:  “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”

But history does not end with the wedding invitation mentioned here.  History ends with the wedding itself and the marriage supper of the lamb that lasts for all eternity.  This is the glorious future of all who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  All the wars, all the troubles and sorrows of history, all the pain and grief and even all the joyful occasions of our earthly lives are completely swallowed up in this grand ESCHATOLOGICAL occasion. We will enter the fabulous “city foursquare” (Revelation 21) with its pearly gates, its golden streets, its bejeweled walls and then we will and spend all eternity delighting ourselves in the company of our great God, three in one, one in three. HALLELUJAH!

            There are no words in any human language that can even approximate the grandeur and the glory of our eternal sojourn in that city of eternal Joy.

(Next blog will be my conclusion of this third chapter)


Key Theological Note on Root 1 #38

Moses had a special “axe to grind” when he spoke of God creating man in His own image.   Moses was preparing Israel for a wonderful event that would inaugurate the New Testament epoch.  Don’t forget that I am sending these parts of my book to you so that you will critique them.  Notice carefully what I am saying here and then send me an email of your critique.

Key Theological Note on Root #1

            Moses wrote about the image of God in man in order to prepare us for the coming of Jesus Christ.

Does that statement surprise you?  You are not alone if it does.  Even some Biblical scholars are not adequately aware of how Moses, in writing the book of Genesis is anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ.  But this is a part of that splendor that we find in the COVENANT OF GRACE.

Dr. J. V. Fesko is following this Christ-centered way of interpreting Moses when he says: “Genesis 1-3 sets forth the theological significance of the failed work of the first Adam, which serves as the entry point for the successful work of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  Genesis 1-3 must be approached in the light of Christ.  17* (emphasis mine).”

Fesko’s point here is that Moses was a prophet who could see the coming Savior through God’s revelations to him. There is strong evidence for this fact which I will briefly describe here.

It is not that God revealed to Moses the historic details of Christ’s coming.  But from the moment God began speaking to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3) God was revealing to him in various ways, that an

epochal event was rising like the sun on the horizon of history. Through such a celebration as the Passover with its sacrificial lambs, for instance, God was revealing to Moses “the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.”  Then, when God opened the Red Sea for Israel’s miraculous escape from the Egyptian army, God was revealing to Moses (and to all Israel, for that matter) that a time would come when God would perform a greater work of Redemption for them.  He would redeem them, not just from Egyptian bondage, but from an infinitely deeper bondage, the bondage of sin! This is God’s love reaching out to Israel in their desperate need, promising that the Messiah would redeem them in the fullest sense of that word.

Surely the greatest and most spectacular forecast of the Savior’s redeeming work was given through Moses in the miracle at Mt. Sinai.  From the heights of this flaming mountain God revealed to Moses and all Israel both the 10 Commandments and a design for building the Tabernacle. These 10 laws and the Tabernacle were a composite picture of Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus would personify those laws and perfectly obey all of them, qualifying himself to offer himself as the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. The Tabernacle was designed to reflect Jesus as our great high priest entering the Holy of Holies to redeem us from sin and present us to God as holy,  qualified to live in that Tabernacle in communion with a holy God.  In this supreme act of obedience to His Father, Jesus would display His redeeming love for all the world to see.

The manna was a picture of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and feeding his whole church with the “bread of life”.  The Shekinah Glory overshadowing the Tabernacle was nothing less than the radiant beauty of Christ illuminating the desert wilderness and leading Israel to the Promised Land.

The point is that Moses was a prophet commissioned by God to reveal these amazing pictures of the coming Savior to Israel.  The Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea, the revelations from Mount Sinai, the Manna and the Shekinah glory were Videos that Moses was showing to Israel to help them lift their eyes to a heavenly Savior that God was promising to send to them by way of His Covenant love for them.

Moses had told them about Adam being made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26) so that when they read of Adam’s fall into sin, his utter failure to please God, they could look forward to this greater Adam to be revealed in later history, this Jesus-Adam who would be able to succeed where Adam had failed.  As the apostle Paul would explain this in Romans 5:12 and I Corinthians 15:21-22, Adam as the “image of God” had represented Israel and all mankind when he fell into sin.  But Jesus would come, the new and perfect “image of God” in order to represent all of us fallen sinners.  He would not only die to cover our sins, He would also rise from the dead to restore us to perfect life in the “image of God” Colossians 3:10.  Then He would Ascend to the Father, there to display Himself as our Crucified and Risen Savior and secure for us a place in that same glory.

Of course Moses could not have explained that as Paul did because he did not know the historic details of Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension.  BUT, and here is the point that many miss in the Old Testament, Moses did understand the  unfolding Drama of Redemption so wonderfully anticipated in the books he wrote.  The words and actions of Moses were the VIDEOS mentioned above, enabling Israel to trust in a coming Savior and follow Him to the promised land.

In this way Moses helped Israel see the magnificent potential that they possessed in their “image of God” nature.  Then they would be both shamed by their failure to live up to their potential, and at the same time hopeful for a glorious restoration to the full powers of the “image” through the second Adam, the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.  This is the SPLENDOR of God’s love, the SPLENDOR of GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE shining through Moses’ words.

Two Roots of the Covenant #37

    This is the THIRD part of Chapter 3: Many Splendored Thing.  Speaking here of the “Roots of the Covenant”, I am hoping readers will be developing an appreciation for the loving care that God exercised in drawing us into His Covenant.  It is remarkable beyond anyone’s ability to describe.  

My development of the first two chapters of Genesis is a bit unique here.  I have found it valuable to point out that there are two key truths presented in these two chapters.  These two truths are the ROOTS of the Covenant.  Seeing the way these two roots functioned both before and after the Fall is helpful to our understanding of the wonderful thing God was doing when he created man into Covenantal Relationship with Him.  Here is a preliminary glimpse of these two roots in outline form.       

(1) Mankind’s creation in the image of God, Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7,

(2) Mankind’s establishment in three Covenantal Relationships, Genesis 2.

  1. Covenantal Worship of God: 2:2-3
  2. Covenantal Dominion over Creation: 2:15-17, 19 -20
  3. Covenantal Marriage between Man and Woman: 2:18 & 20b – 25

In the rest of this chapter I will describe the first root as given in Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:7.  In the final part of this chapter we will look at the second root described in Genesis 2. The evidence continues to grow that God’s love for us is amazing at every level of his relationship with us.

These two roots themselves are full of the splendor of God and the splendor of his love for us.  The second root branches out into 3 “sub-roots” as we might call them.  While studying these two roots we will discover the climactic pattern present in this Covenantal plan.  At first glance this may seem a bit complex, but it is really the wonderfully simple plan that God made for us.  It is full of His amazing love and anticipates even greater wonders as history moves to its grand conclusion.

 Root #1: The Splendor of Our Creation in the Image of God

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  Genesis 1:26

            This is a simple but magnificent statement. In this verse we are overhearing God planning to create man as a being like himself.  This was the grand climax of the whole process of Creation.  Every act of creation is filled with the glory of God, but his creation of man is at the very pinnacle of it all.   It is truly a surpassing wonder, opening our hearts in adoring worship as we begin to understand what God has done in the act of creating us.  That creation itself is an awesome act of love, covenantal love for mankind.

There can be some value in comparing God’s act of creating us to the physical wonders we are discovering today.  The Hubble telescope, for instance has helped us discover that there are at least 100 billion galaxies whirling around us with an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy, billions of light years separating these galactic marvels.  The sheer magnitude of such vastness takes our breath away.  Just this last week in Missouri we were able to see a magnificent display of meteor showers filling the skies (August 2015).  We are reminded that this was just the tiniest part of God’s vast “wonder of the skies.”

Then, after looking through the Hubble telescope at the glories above us, we turn to look down into our computer enhanced microscopes to examine the incredible complexities of the human genome with its billions of miles of DNA; our minds reel in a vain effort to get some kind of a grasp of these infinitesimally small and intricately amazing realities.

BUT, after looking first through our telescopes and then into our computerized microscopes, we must insist that these incredible physical realities pale into insignificance before the wonder of God’s creating us in his image.  There are no words adequate to describe this miraculous act of God, this amazing display of His love for the creature He formed in His own image and likeness.

John Calvin states that in creating man “Our Lord wanted to create a Masterpiece”*9.  E. J. Young calls man the “crown” of creation*10, and R. Kent Hughes calls this event “the apex of the narrative.*11”.   That sense of climax is then heightened by the straightforward statement in verse 27 of the manner in which God carries out the proposal he made in verse 26:

“So God created man in his own image,

                 In the image of God he created him;

              Male and female he created them.”

Both men and women are created in the glorious image of God.  They share equally in the dignity and honor of that image.  The sheer grandeur of this wonder increases as we consider our next point.

Trinitarian Origins Debate

There is a question here, a debate among Godly scholars:  “Why did God use the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ in verse 26?  It was as if there were more than one person involved in His deliberation?”

You cannot believe the amount of scholarly debate that this question has caused.  I hesitate to take you into this kind of complexities when we are trying to concentrate simply on the SPLENDOR of the COVENANT, but I believe it is necessary here, and adds measurably to this very SPLENDOR which I am describing in God’s love, His covenantal love.

The debate has centered on whether the ‘us’ and the ‘our’ reflect the Trinity deliberating on this issue.  Are the three divine persons having a discussion among themselves or is there some other explanation for those plural pronouns?

On the negative side, Old Testament scholar Gordon J. Wenham insists that the Trinity is not reflected in this text. He contends, ‘it is now universally admitted that this is not what the plural [pronouns] meant*12.

Other scholars like Delitzsch and Waltke agree with Wenham*13.

But the tide may be turning against this negative opinion.

In his fine commentary on Genesis 1-4, Dr. C. John Collins gives a valuable exegetical study of relevant Biblical texts and studies of trustworthy scholars.  Then Collins concludes that “ the ‘us’ in Genesis 1:26 has God speaking to himself. I think we can go further and say that God is deliberating with himself; after all, we have already seen the Spirit of God in verse 2.” *14

In good scholarly form, Collins refuses to dogmatize, insisting only that the Genesis “narration allows it.” Collins is saying that the “narration” permits a Trinitarian interpretation but does not demand it.  At the same time, it seems to me that his commentary clearly favors the Trinitarian position.

In his book Last Things First, however, Old Testament scholar Dr. J.V. Fesko goes a short step beyond Collins, stating plainly, “Genesis 1:26 is a reference to the Trinity.  15*,” (emphasis mine) and alleging support for his opinion in a lengthy footnote. Fesko then quotes Dr. Anthony Hoekema as follows:

“Human beings reflect God, who exists not as a solitary being, but a being in fellowship – a fellowship that is described at a later stage of divine revelation as that between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 16*”

This is a truly amazing idea, based on the scholarly reasoning of a number of Godly thinkers.  Notice how the Psalmist David sums it up as he reflects on God’s creation in Psalm 8:3-5

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

            The moon and the stars which you have set in place

What is man that you are mindful of him

And the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

            And crowned him with glory and honor.”

We will have much more to say about these “image of God” features which God has built into mankind.  We will interact with humanistic and atheistic philosophers whose faulty reasoning leads them to deny that God had any part in man’s creation or his present life.  And then we will rejoice together in the strong evidence we find for God’s gracious work of creating us in his image.  Yes, we will rejoice especially in the love of God revealed in GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE.  That love rescued us after our Fall into sin. At this point we need to pause for what we might call a key theological note.

God’s Covenant: A Powerful Force #36

Here is the second section of Chapter 3, A MANY SPLENDORED THING.  I am trying to define the Covenant here.  Please Help me if you think I have left gaps. 

God’s Covenant: A Powerful Force at Work

As I conclude my initial remarks about the definition/description of GOD’S COVENANT, I must insist on one other point, an important point which we should regard as an absolutely incontrovertible fact.  That fact is that GOD’S COVENANT is the most powerful force at work in our world today!  I emphasize it this way because the humanistic worldly mind wants to reduce God’s love, His Covenant love to a pale religious sentiment. The fact that the COVENANT is driven by the love of God, makes it not only the most beautiful but also the most powerful force at work in our entire universe. This is most encouraging to us.  It is also true that our Lord Jesus Christ is the living personification of the almighty power of God.  He, our Lord Jesus, excels all things in the sheer power of His love, drawing us to Himself irresistibly. Continue reading

Chap 3: A Many Splendored Thing #35

Here is the first part of chapter 3.  I must give it to you one piece at a time because it is too long for one blog. This is the part that may especially need your “brutal critique”.  Please let me hear from you.

“God Himself will be with them as their God” Revelation 21:3

In the Bible God’s love for us sinners is truly A Many Splendored Thing!  I see His love for us as the single most beautiful part of the Bible and its grand story of salvation.  It is a breath-taking wonder that dazzles our hearts with sheer glory and lifts us by faith into the joys of eternal life.

Students of scripture understand that God’s love for us comes in the setting of what they call THE COVENANT OF GRACE.             I hope you will see that theological term as valuable.  As I noted in the last chapter, it is kind of a shorthand way of describing the various aspects of God’s love in brief form. It is a brief but comprehensive description of God’s love for us.  We will take a step toward understanding it through the definition I am suggesting here.  I will begin with a question.

How would you “define” a diamond?

I bet you have never been asked to do that.  We are only asked to describe diamonds, never to define them.  When I was in London I remember gazing in amazement at the various displays of jewels imbedded in the crowns of previous kings and queens of England, fabulous diamonds alongside rubies and emeralds and gems I cannot even name.  Later, I made a few feeble attempts to describe those truly splendid displays, but I never tried to define them.  I was giving “descriptions” not “definitions”.

God’s love for us in this Covenantal setting is like those English crowns – a Many Splendored Thing.

While I recognize the difficulty in defining something as “many splendored” as the COVENANT OF GRACE, I believe there is value in making the effort.  I commend to you Dr. O. Palmer Robertson’s definition which he gives in his book, THE CHRIST OF THE COVENANTS*1.  He uses the entire first chapter of his book to develop his definition, showing that the word cannot mean “testament” as Dr. J. Barton Payne*2 proposed, nor can it mean a kind of “dynastic succession document” or “suzerainty treaty” as Dr. Meredith Kline*3 argued.  Robertson concludes with this very simple definition:


Though Robertson comments that this is “like asking for a definition of ‘mother’”, he suggests this definition. It seems to me that it qualifies as Biblical and it certainly fits the requirement for brevity.  So thank you Dr. Robertson for your book!  I have used it often when I teach or preach about the Covenant in recent years, occasionally referring to your definition.

While recognizing the real value of this definition, however, I prefer a more lengthy version. My definition is in full harmony with Dr. Robertson’s but simply amplifies it, incorporating elements found both in later chapters of his book and in other studies I have done on the COVENANT over the years. My definition is based on the entire Bible, promises found in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in the New Testament:

The COVENANT OF GRACE is God’s promise to fallen man to lovingly restore us to glory through the redemptive work of our lord jesus christ.

Yes, this is a bit too long for a good definition.  It may qualify more as a “description”, as I suggested above. Sorry, but I must define the Covenant in this way.  I am compelled to get all of this even into a definition simply because of the sheer “splendor” of this “many splendored thing.”

The wonderful fact about the COVENANT is that it is a product of the love of God both for lost sinners and for struggling saints. This is what makes it just too grand for a brief definition.  The Gospel itself unfolds from this definition.  Then the gospel breathes the life-giving love of God into our lives through this splendid wonder of God: His COVENANT OF GRACE.  Perhaps it is also helpful to notice that the Covenant and the love of God are so closely intertwined that you cannot really define one without including the other.


It is also important to recognize Genesis 3:15 as the first expression of GOD’S COVENANT OF GRACE.  Some Godly scholars fail to see this, primarily because the word “covenant” is not used in this text.  Many careful students of scripture, however, see this text as God’s initial statement of the COVENANT.  I will  postpone fuller development of this important fact until later in our study, but it is valuable to note at this point that GOD’S COVENANT develops out of Genesis 3:15. Then the Covenant simply adds other significant features as the story of our redemption unfolds.   It is the beautiful story of God’s love for us.

I am proposing this definition as a means to help us develop a practical understanding of God’s love for us, a practical understanding of His Covenant of Grace at work in our lives, our marriages, our families, our churches, our entire world.  In this way we can continue the process of Discovering God’s Love as we work and pray our way through this life.  Notice the Revelation 21:3 text cited above in this regard.

This verse from Revelation 21 is the last specific allusion in the Bible to the Covenant.   Occurring so late in scripture it is pointing to the ultimate goal of this promise, that glorious point in history when “God himself will be with them as their God.”  This will be the ultimate success of the COVENANT, the moment when God will draw us into perfect communion with Himself forever.  G.K. Beale appropriately calls this the “consummate blessing of God’s people”*5.  God’s love for us will triumph through His COVENANT OF GRACE.  What a challenge just to attempt a definition!  We must cry out with the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.” II Corinthians 9:15

Chapter 2: Of Songs and of Sorrows #34

“Come, Let us sing for joy to the Lord;

                    “Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1

               Most of my childhood memories are quite happy.  My sisters and I were gifted with wild imaginations and we enjoyed enacting dramatic events that we invented.  I remember spreading a blanket under the elm tree in the front yard of our home in rural Kansas, and pretending that the blanket was the deck of a ship under attack by fierce pirates.  With swords held between our teeth (lathe sticks) we would leap onto the ship of the desperate foe and utterly destroy the wicked villains.  I think C.S. Lewis would have approved.

            Then we would frequently be in our little country church because we were the preacher’s kids. Along with attacking imaginary pirates, we learned to sing real hymns.  Singing became one of our great pleasures.  We sang in church, we sang at family devotions and we sang riding along in the car on trips.  I remember walking home alone at night down a dark dirt road on the Kansas prairies and singing at the top of my lungs to keep the coyotes at bay.  I am convinced that this kind of singing is characteristic of those who believe God loves them.  God’s love for us flows out of our heats in joyful singing as reflected in so many of the Psalms.

I believe that our singing was a key to our childhood happiness, far surpassing our involvement with those pirates.  Not just singing any kind of songs but singing hymns, songs that celebrated our faith in God.   In singing these songs we were being carried along by those “thermals of God” which I described in the first chapter.  We soared together on the wings of those hymns which we had learned in our earliest years.  Without even knowing what the word “covenant” meant we were celebrating together God’s great “covenant love” for us.  I still cherish the memory of our singing together as a family.  It is precious to me.

A Growing Sorrow

But our family also had its problems, problems that would bring us great sorrow.

There were six of us children and I was the second, born two and half years after my sister Georgianna.  Georgianna was my favorite childhood companion. She taught me how to make mud-pies, climb trees and catch frogs. She taught me how to run through mud puddles and how to escape getting a spanking when I had misbehaved.  She was my best friend.

But as the years passed, Georgianna began to have problems with a kind of moodiness that I could not understand.  When she was 17 and a junior in high school, her dark moods led to serious maladjustments in social relationships and inability to cope with school life.  She ate less and less, could not sleep well and seemed to lose all capacity to function normally.  My parents had no idea how to handle this and we children were completely dumbfounded. She had been my best friend but now I was out of touch with her.   I began to feel utterly unable to relate to her or help her in any way.

After consulting with our doctors and other friends, my parents decided that it would be best for Georgianna to be admitted to a mental hospital many miles distant from us.  Under the care of psychiatrists she was subjected to the kind of treatment current in psychiatric hospitals at that time, the mid 1940’s.  She underwent many hours of psychotherapy and periodic electroshock treatments as well as drug therapy with  heavy doses of thorazine and other such anti-depressants.  She was diagnosed as schizophrenic with periodic alternating episodes of manic and depressive moods. The doctors informed us that her prognosis was uncertain and that she would have to stay on the drugs they had prescribed.

About three months later, Georgianna seemed well enough to return home.   She was genuinely delighted to be back with the family and we all enjoyed our reunion.  She was able to return to High School,  graduate, and then begin a college career.

But things were never quite the same after that.  Georgianna had to stay on drugs, suffered the manic-depressive episodes the doctors had predicted and struggled hard with maintaining healthy relationships with others. About 3 years after her first episode in the mental hospital, she had to return.  There was another round of psychiatric counselling, electro-shock treatments and strong drugs.

And there was deep consternation both in the hearts of my parents and in our whole family.

 The Snake Pit

During this time of our sorrow, my father discovered a book entitled, The Snake Pit, written by   Mary Jane Ward and published in 1946, shortly before my sister’s illness.  Dad was captivated by this book and drew us into many conversations referencing the sad, even terrifying details of mental illness and the kinds of treatments psychiatrists were using with patients at this time in history.

Before writing her book, Ms. Ward had spent eight months at Rockland State Mental Hospital in Orangeburg, New York, where she had been diagnosed as a Schizophrenic.  Though she denied that her book had been an autobiographical account of that experience, literary critics disagreed, seeing too many specifics reflecting the realities of her stay in the hospital.  Ward’s references to scalding baths and electroshock treatments were the methods used in these hospitals at this time and my Dad’s description of these practices were most impressive, even terrifying.  Wikipedia reports that Ward’s book became the basis for an Oscar-winning film The Snake Pit, starring Olivia de Haviland. A flurry of reforms occurred in state mental hospitals resulting from the book and film.  A journalist, Herb Stein, wrote in the Daily Variety that Wisconsin had become “the seventh state to institute reforms in its mental hospitals as a result of The Snake Pit.”

Of course this was no comfort for our family.  We continued to be deeply troubled about Georgianna’s perplexing problem and about the hospitals where she had to stay in search of relief and healing.  Though we had been a happy family, we ourselves seemed to be sinking into a kind of “snake pit” of despair that allowed little hope.  I believe it was true that our singing was not quite as bright and full of Christian joy as it had been before this sorrow came upon us. We still sang, but with nagging sorrow in our hearts.  God’s Covenant love for us was not as deeply felt or as fully enjoyed.

My Own State of Mind/Heart

I must go back to Georgianna’s second stay in the mental hospital.  It was January of 1952 when my parents called to inform me that she had been hospitalized again.  I was a sophomore at Bob Jones University and had already known that her condition had been deteriorating.  To hear that she had been incarcerated again in one of those “snake pits” was more than I was able to handle easily.  I did nothing particularly demonstrative but was unable to concentrate on my college work.  My grades suffered.

This was not just because of my sympathy for Georgianna.  It was for fear that I would be overcome by the same conditions that were destroying her.  I was from the same family with the same genetic makeup and the same environment.  Why wasn’t I just as vulnerable to the mental illness “snake pit” as she was?

In a kind of despairing hope to find an answer for myself, I turned to reading psychology.  I found a copy of Sigmund Freud’s “Oedipus Myth and Complex” (book now out of print)  in the BJU library. The version I was reading included brief accounts of the writings of Freud’s early associates, Otto Rank and Gustav Jung.  At first I was absolutely fascinated by what I was discovering in these early practitioners of psychoanalysis.  It seemed to me that these men were uncovering the “mysteries of the unconscious mind” through their study of dreams and their speculations about “depth psychology.”  My admiration for these men soon began to fade, however, as it began to dawn on me that there was so little evidence for their proposed answers to the problems of what they called “mental illness”.

The proposals of Freud himself seemed utterly outlandish to my untrained 19 year old mind.  Suggesting, as Freud seemed to be doing, that every boy was born with an innate desire to murder his father and marry his mother was an outrageous proposal and I began to understand why both Rank and Jung soon abandoned their master to form their own separate schools of psychology and psychotherapy.  It appeared to me also that this was an ongoing kind of divisiveness that was continuing to plague the psychiatric world and discredit its practitioners.

At the same time all this was going on in my mind/heart, I was struggling with a terrible uncertainty about my relationship with God.  At one point I became convinced that if I, Paul Alexander, were to try to find hope in Christ by acknowledging Jesus as my Savior and Lord, this would be nothing more than an act of self-centered desperation which God would not honor.  In other words, I could not become a new creation in Christ because a profession of faith from such a self-centered egotist as I was could not possibly be genuine.  It would just be another selfish grasping after hope.  God would not respect such selfishness and I would be doomed to die in my sins, mean-while deteriorating into schizophrenic madness in the process.   This was a truly titanic struggle in my mind and heart.  I would sit for hours in a dark room in the alumni building mulling over the horror of my condition, convinced that I was beyond any kind of redemption.

A Surprising Dawn

            It was not much more than six weeks or two months that I endured this kind of Hell.  But I felt like it was going to go on forever.  I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.  How my hopelessness changed to hope is still a mystery for me, a wonderful mystery, a wonderful surprise.

To this day, I cannot understand how it began to happen, but for some reason the words of Romans 5:1 pressed themselves into my consciousness as I lay sleepless one night in my dorm room. It would have been about mid-March of 1952, around 11:30 at night when those remarkable words began to captivate me:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 This is not a particularly personal text, full of evangelistic appeal, urging me to take action.  Rather, it is a flat statement of fact about the doctrine of justification by faith.  And the Apostle Paul is not using verbal pyrotechnics or fiery oratory in this verse, just stating a plain reality.

But it gripped my heart! I was astounded by what God seemed to be saying to me here.  God by His Holy Spirit was using this plain old ordinary and familiar text to assure me that He loved me and was giving me peace in my heart “through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

As I said above, “I cannot understand how it began to happen”.  But I am absolutely convinced that it was the Holy Spirit Who “pressed these words into my consciousness.”  This was nothing short of an act of God.  The Holy Spirit had performed a miracle in my heart against the determined resistance of my self-centered will.  By that simple unadorned text in Romans 5:1 the Holy Spirit slew my sinful nature and created a new nature in me, after the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:10).

Outwardly this was not a dramatic event at all.  I was lying on the flat of my back in bed, not going forward in an evangelistic meeting after an emotional appeal.  I never got out of bed that night.  I just lay there marveling at what I knew had happened in my heart.  Finally, after all my struggles I had genuine “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It was the kind of peace that let me sleep well.  And I did.

I am not really sure my experience was a conversion.  It may have simply been God talking to me to assure me that I had already been converted, I already belonged to Him and He just had to remind me.  That fits better with my experience of those thermals in chapter 1.  I had already known God and his love for me, but desperately needed Him to remind me.  At any rate, it gave me peace, lasting peace that is still in my heart these 63 years later.  I was wonderfully surprised and still am.

Dawn is seldom a loud event.  The next morning was no exception. That morning came quietly, no fanfare.  But it found me with new and deep peace in my troubled heart.

 Call to Pastoral Ministry

This was a major turning point in my life.   Though a quiet, private experience I was convinced that the Holy Spirit had spoken to me from Romans 5:1. Before this crucial experience I had been uncertain about whether I should study for medicine or for the ministry.  That uncertainty vanished and I began to feel certain that God had called me to the ministry.  It seemed completely certain to me that I now had an obligation to everybody I saw to tell them the wonderful reality which I had discovered in this great text: “ We can be certain that we belong to Christ who died for our sins and rose again to give us eternal life.”  I was hearing God call me to proclaim this grand truth.

The fact is that God was calling me to a ministry that was also informed by my sister’s awful problem.  During her worst times it was sadly evident that she had no hope in God.  She had no awareness that God loved her or cared for her.  She was hopelessly lost in a sea of meaninglessness and endless conflict.  And I was becoming aware that Georgianna’s problem was no rarity in our society.  From such a heart of hopelessness springs every variety of sin, every kind of pain and misery – alcoholism, drug addiction, pornographic involvement, sexual immorality, divorce, crime of all sorts – the list goes on and on.   My  call to preach the gospel was a call to tell poor sinners how to find their way out of this terrible darkness into the light of God’s love, the light of his Grace, the light of His provision for all of their real needs.   It is a wonderful calling.  My calling itself began to fill my heart with joy that made me want to sing.

From Sorrows Back to Songs

            Yes! It is true!  During the darkness of my time of dreadful doubt in early 1952, I nearly forgot how to sing.  In this sad period of my life, I was barely able to open my mouth when the church stood to sing.  But when the Holy Spirit assured me that I belonged to Christ, hymn-singing became a great delight to me again.  I used all those grand old songs to vent my joy, celebrating the wonders of eternal life.  I believe the Holy Spirit lifted me out of my dreadful sorrows and enabled me to “shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.”  I have been singing joyfully ever since and hope to enter heaven “shouting glory.”

But why had this happened to my sister?  Why was joyful singing left so far behind in her life?  Why the many years of Thorazine, Zoloft, and  psychiatric treatment of many varieties?

Through all my years in the ministry I have puzzled over the fact that Georgianna came into all her dreadful sorrows right while she was living in a Christian home.  How could what psychiatrists call “mental illness” overtake her when she was hearing the gospel preached every Sunday and hearing hymn’s sung and prayers prayed every day of her life.  My parents were faithful in habitually conducting family worship.  How could first my sister Georgian and then my brother Jim both fall into the inconsolable miseries of schizophrenia?

I have lived with this question all my life and pursued the answer as faithfully as I know how.  I have regarded this issue in a very personal way.  It is as though God gave me a personal assignment to study preaching from the point of view of Georgianna’s particular problem, and my brother Jim’s almost identical struggles.  Our Fall into sin is at the root of all such pain and struggle. I but for all those who struggle against sin and its consequences.

I am further convinced that God called me to preach his precious gospel in order to help deliver my fellow suffering sinners out of those miseries.  But how do I do that in a way that really reaches the hearts and needs of the Jills and Carls out there? The Georgiannas and my brother Jim?

To get at this question has been a great challenge for me.  And it has been very rewarding.  The Lord has helped me “Discover His love” through my study of His Word, the Bible and through the study of the life that surrounds me.  My next chapter is my best shot at helping you define God’s love, discover it in such a way that it becomes the key means by which we gain peace with God and enter into the eternal life He is offering us.

This may take a little work on your part.  I am going to define God’s love in the light of His COVENANT OF GRACE.  That is a theological term, but it is not complicated or difficult to understand.  I am going to describe again as “theological short-hand”, a brief phrase that may help you get grasp on this beautiful and comprehensive way God offers His love to sinners.

Maybe you will struggle a bit with some of the terms and phrases, but you will discover that it will be well worth your while to focus on this key to understanding God’s love.   My prayer is that my explanation will help you get a firm hold on the Love of God and then that the Love of God will get a firm hold on you.

So here we go.