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Recovering Masculine Friendship

Gavin Peacock

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The picture above is of me with my former teammate Paul Furlong after one of his goals during our Chelsea days! One of the things I miss most about playing football is the camaraderie in the dressing room, where men are friends together in a common cause with big risk and big reward. Those playing days are over for me, but against the press of the sexual revolution in our culture today there is a great need to encourage masculine friendship: to cultivate godly virtue and noble manhood – for ourselves, our families and for the church and its mission. This is the first of a series of articles I am writing on this topic.

In the September 2005 edition of Touchstone magazine, Anthony Esolen Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, wrote an article entitled: A Reqiuem For Friendship: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys & Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution. In it he proposes that the breakdown in natural sexual order and relationships has led to the death of friendship and particularly masculine friendship.

Here’s an excerpt of the article where he reflects on a scene from Lord of the Rings:

“Sam Gamgee has been fool enough to follow his beloved master Frodo into Mordor, the realm of death. To rescue Frodo from the orcs who have taken him captive and who will slay him as soon as he ceases to be of use in finding the Ring, Sam has fought the monstrous spider Shelob, has eluded the pursuit of the orcs, and has dispatched a few of them to their merited deaths.

Finally he finds Frodo in the upper room of a small filthy cell, naked, half-conscious, lying in a heap in a corner. “Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!” he cries. “It’s Sam, I’ve come!” With a bluff tenderness he clasps him to his breast, assuring him that it is really he, Sam, in the flesh….He cradles Frodo’s head, as one would comfort a troubled child.

At that a snigger rises from the audience in the theater. “What, are they gay?”

Esolen goes on to attribute a redefinition of language to a pansexual agenda. He asserts that if you redefine words like “male”, “female”, “friend” and “love”, you can normalize “sexual confusion and anarchy”.

In other words, if you redefine sex, and gender is fluid, and masculinity has no fixed meaning, and the sphere for sexual intercourse is not marriage alone between a man and a woman, and transgenderism and homosexuality is normalized, then you distort or lose proper masculine friendship.

I think Esolen is right. And one result of this loss of true masculine friendship is that insecure boys then view women as potential sexual conquests that prove their manhood. And those who don’t follow that pattern are considered effeminate or sexually repressed and are then marginalized. Surely being effeminate is wrong for a man. But in today's sexual confusion manhood gets morphed to machismo or passivity. 

In Puritan New England the most significant social relationship was between a father and his sons. Anne Lombard (Making Manhood: Growing Up Male In Colonial New England) says, “Because of this bond most Anglo-American boys in New England learned to become men by learning to identify with their fathers or other adult male mentors”. Friendships with older men cultivated manhood in younger men.

And so we need to teach the next generation of boys what masculine friendship looks like, because too many are left fearfully scrambling around in the dark. In order to do this today’s men must step up and cultivate a father’s heart for younger men. Furthermore we must recover true masculine friendship in our own generation, so we might teach and model it for the next.

King David was a warrior – a fighter - but he was also a musician – an artist. He also shows us that it can be good and true to say to another man that you love him, and to show culturally appropriate physical expressions of that love: a handshake, a hug, an arm around the shoulder, a cradle for the head that weeps. Masculine friendship can speak like David spoke on the occasion of the death of Jonathan. “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).

This is not homosexual love as some suggest. It is normal non-sexual brotherly friendship. The kind that makes winning teams. The kind that gives strength to families and churches. The kind that honors God and benefits the world. And the kind that follows after the ultimate friend and true man – Jesus Christ, who laid his life down for his friends (John 15:13). There is no greater love or friendship than this.

Next time we’ll look at aspects of masculine friendship.

Biblical Headship

Gavin Peacock

The Greek for “head” is kephale which conveys the meaning of “authority”; you could say, “a leadership with authority”. It is very doubtful that it means “source” as some scholars have suggested. But how can we know this without being Greek scholars? Well, let’s look at three texts in Ephesians.

 

Ephesians 1:22, “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the church.”

Here Paul is not talking about Jesus being the source of things, including demonic powers, but the authority over all things; things in heaven and on earth that will be subjected to him.

 

Ephesians 4:15- 16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Paul speaks of the church as the body and Christ as its head. The logic is clear. The head is the authority and command center for the body not the source. The brain is located in the head and gives direction to the other parts of the body. The eyes give the body vision and guidance; the ears listen and keep watch in order to protect from the body from incoming danger and the mouth takes in food to give the body nourishment.

 

Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”

With respect to his wife, the husband is her head - the authority over her not her source. His authority is shown in the way he nourishes and cherishes her (Eph. 5:29). The word for nourish, ektrepho, is also found in Ephesians 6:4 where Paul tells fathers not to provoke their children to anger but to "bring them up" (ektrepho) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. A husband is not to think of his wife as a child. She is his peer. She does not need to be brought to maturity the way a child does. But a husband is responsible for his wife's ongoing spiritual and emotional growth. She is in his care, which means he is to shepherd her. The nourishment he provides is both physical and spiritual. Men who fail to provide for the physical needs of their families are worse than unbelievers (see 1 Timothy 5:8). But a husband must also provide spiritually for his wife, washing her with the Word (Eph. 5:26).

 

Also, a wife is to be cherished. Paul uses the word, thalpo here and only one other time in the New Testament, in 1 Thessalonians. where he writes that he and his men had "proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7). It denotes, tender care, meaning literally "to keep warm." A husband should make his wife his first priority and create a warm, safe, secure environment, in order that she might flourish and grow in a Godward direction.

 

In the same passage in Ephesians, Paul points again to the inseparable one flesh union of the husband and wife, head- body, which reflects the head-body relationship of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:28-32). And the Apostle encapsulates the husband’s headship over his wife as an authority that expresses sacrificial love and responsibility. He is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church and give himself for her (Eph. 5:25).

 

In summary the authority of headship is expressed in a wholehearted, sacrificial giving of oneself for the good of the one(s) divinely appointed to your care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God, Friendship And Sport

Gavin Peacock

Stuart Weir has been my good friend for nearly 30 years; from when he worked for Christians in Sport in the 1980s to now in his current role as Executive Director of Verite Sport. His insights into Christianity and sport are always astute and accessible.

Here's a short article he recently penned on God, friendship and sport:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). God lives in relationship. When he created people he knew that we would work better in relationship with others, that it was not good for us to be alone.  Jesus said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Ask a retired sportsperson what they miss most about their playing days and the answer is likely to be the banter, the camaraderie. Being part of a team over a period of years, sharing the successes and disappointments creates a bond between people like very little else.  You are bound so tightly together because of the immediacy of victory and defeat. You learn very quickly to be blunt with each other because competition demands it. You learn to critique and to praise each other much more often and at a deeper level than in everyday life. 

The sense of team spirit among the players is a unique experience. For many people the closest, longest lasting friendships of their lives started on the sports field. Those who play team sport understand this but those who do an individual sport, may feel the same about their training group. I recently asked an elite athlete how well she knew another athlete.  She replied that they ran 5-10 miles together most days. I guess they know each other quite well!

Drew Hyland in an article, Competition and Friendship, states that we are often “at our most competitive while playing against a close friend” and that "this greater intensity enhances rather than diminishes the positive strength of the relationship." I am sure he is right.

Friendship is a great gift from God and also a great opportunity to give input – the input of encouragement or challenge to another person.

Professional Football (Soccer) Was My God

Gavin Peacock

Exactly ten years ago, I was preparing to go to Berlin and broadcast the World Cup. The World Cup final is the most-watched sporting event on the planet—in 2014, the final game drew 1 billion viewers. I was in Germany as an ex-professional soccer player pursuing a career as a broadcaster/analyst. I never could have predicted that two years after that, I would give it all up and move to the Canadian Rockies with my wife and children.

Read the rest of my testimony on Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/julaug/professional-soccer-was-my-god.html

The Lost Art of Fatherly Discipline

Gavin Peacock

Much of fatherhood depends on a man’s understanding and application of discipline. In an anti-authority and undisciplined culture even the word is not well liked. Even when many men try to apply this they seem to lack perseverance or consistency.  It seems like fatherly discipline is a lost art. Owen Strachan and I deal with this aspect of fatherhood in our book The Grand Design. Here’s an excerpt.

 

Discipline is essential

"David’s regular failure to discipline his children is highlighted in First Kings 1:6. Speaking with reference to Adonijah, the author says: “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’” (1 Kings 1:6). David indulged Adonijah. He sinned by omission in not correcting him and training him. The result was a spoiled and disobedient son who eventually turned into an entitled young man.

Acting early prevents ruinous consequences later because a child left undisciplined today will become the bane of society tomorrow. When he exercises justice, a father shows care for the child he disciplines, and (if it is the case), for the one his child sins against. However, too often fathers are afraid to “displease” their children: they are afraid of pushback, or a bad reaction. Especially with teenagers there is often a fear that they will run away or indulge further in sin if a father imposes correction and restrictions.

Ultimately, a father who doesn’t discipline is seeking his own comfort. In that case, the father has forgotten his responsibility as head of the home and as the primary authority over his children. But too often the authority structure is reversed. Discipline sometimes requires spanking, but it always involves training and correction. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Discipline is essential to the training of a child.

 

Coddling for comfort

Fathers who coddle their children and will not exercise biblically mandated authority sin by their omission, and do harm to their children and others through them. This may also provoke their children to anger and resentment through their lack of loving correction. A man who says, “I’m a softie—I could never spank my disobedient child” is, without knowing it, robbing his children of essential spiritual formation. Though he thinks he is being loving, he is actually being cruel, for children need to learn obedience (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 6:4-9; Prov. 13:24). To be taught to obey in a loving home is a gracious gift of the Father who himself must be obeyed as an expression of love (1 John 5:3).

 

Aim for the heart

Nevertheless, fathers must discipline with the right attitude—not being harsh or domineering, which will provoke children to anger (Eph. 6:4). In other words, the impatient self-serving, severe father can cause a child to become disheartened. Fathers must discipline their children by dealing with the heart issue behind their sin. They should direct their children towards what pleases the Lord, not simply their father or mother. They must display the displeasure of God (He is holy and hates sin) and the mercy of God (He is merciful and offers forgiveness). This way a father shepherds his child’s heart and directs it towards the grace of the cross of Christ. Behavior modification is superficial.

 

In sum, discipline should be consistent, loving, and wise. This is true of both parents: a Christian mother’s teaching is kindness to be received and wisdom to be heeded (Prov. 31:26). Nevertheless, as we are at pains to say, fathers have a unique role as head of the household to lead in the discipline and instruction of their children (Eph. 6:4). A godly father uniquely displays the Fatherhood of God (Heb. 12).

So much of a father’s work is heart-work in order to produce repentance and faith in his children. In his autobiography, John G. Paton tells of his father’s loving discipline. With serious issues he would go to private prayer. Paton recalls, “...we boys got to understand that he was laying the whole matter before God; and that was the severest punishment for me to bear... We loved him all the more when we saw how much it cost him to punish us...we were ruled by love far more than by fear.”"

 

So fathers, let us take courage and lovingly train our children with that aim. And let us rediscover the lost art of fatherly discipline.

 

Modified from The Grand Design (pp.106-108).

Cultivating Thankfulness

Gavin Peacock

When I was a child, whenever we went to visit someone else’s house, my parents always used to tell my sister and me, “Don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’”. Of course that sometimes simply meant we were polite not truly thankful. And we can be like that in the church, polite on the outside, seemingly grateful, but quite the opposite within. 

 

Creation calls out for thankfulness

 It is crystal clear that creation is God’s self expression and that ought to lead us to acknowledge him and give him thanks. The Apostle Paul tell us:

"Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Romans 1:20 cf. Ps. 19:1-2). “

Creation calls out for thanksgiving. It seems to me that Albertans should be some of the most grateful people alive. Blues skies, gushing rivers and the Rocky Mountains ought to make thanking God very easy. (Brits have got an excuse to moan; it’s cloudy and rainy most of the year!)

However, in addition to starry galaxies and oceans, forests, birds and animals, God made us - the pinnacle of creation (Gen. 1:27). People are image bearers of Almighty God, which should give cause for thanks even as we look across the breakfast table, out into our street, across the pew or around the office. God is telling us, “I made this, all of it, including you with air in your lungs and the ability to know and reflect me. What do you say? ‘Thank you’, perhaps?” (Cf. Acts 17:25)

He made us, so he owns us and this demands our gratitude. Do you think about the simple fact that God made you and brought you into existence? Once you were not, and now you are. It’s an amazing privilege. So a fundamental part of glorifying God is giving him thanks, being Godward with our gratitude.

 

Sin is a lack of thankfulness

But we are not Godward with our gratitude; in fact the heart of sin is a thankless heart.

Paul points out the link between glory, thanks and sin:

"Although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks to him" (Romans 1:21). And then he says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

No one is innocent here.  All of us have marred God’s glory in our souls. Instead of living lives of thankfuful, glorifying obedience to God we have been entitled, proud, and wise in our own eyes and we have made a great exchange.

"Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images" (Romans 1:22–23).

So thanklessness is at the root of idolatry in the heart.  Like Adam and Eve in the Garden we don’t think God is good and in our wisdom we think he owes us more. We think he’s stingy. And so we proudly and foolishly take what we want. We go beyond his prohibitions and boundaries and that leads to all kinds of evil. We exchange what is supremely valuable for that which is less.

Paul unpacks a litany of sins including the sexual sin of homosexuality in Romans 1 (vv. 24-32). Thanklessness to God for the created body leads to a dishonoring of the body, even worship of the creature instead of the Creator: in the heart, the mind, the mouth and the eyes (Ro. 1:28-31). We even call good evil and evil good (Ro. 1:32).

Have you ever thought that sexual sin is a result of a lack of thanksgiving? Paul thinks so. He says it again in Ephesians 5:3-4:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Being ungrateful for what we have and ungrateful for God’s boundaries, we overreach. So we need to replace sexual immorality and all sin with thanksgiving. Christians can do that, because they are new creations with and affections and have been saved by the mercy of God in Christ on the cross. 

 

The cross compels thankfulness

Therefore, the cross compels thanksgiving. A once proud heart didn’t want to thank God because it didn’t want to recognize the value of his grace. But in repenting and believing the gospel we are humbled and we receive grace gratefully. In fact a new Christian’s first breath is thanks to God his Father (Ro. 8:15).

Proud people don’t say thanks, nor ask for help in case they have to say thanks. They don’t want to be beholden to anyone or think they have a need that they themselves cannot meet. But thankfulness is the flavor of the humble Christian. He knows that only Christ can meet his deepest need and he has. So every day is cause for thanksgiving as he continues to meet needs through his Word, Spirit and church.

Thankless people are stingy because they feel they deserve more. Thankful people are generous because they are grateful that they have so much in Christ.

Thankless people grumble and complain when they are sinned against. Thankful people forgive and forbear because they know they are the worst of sinners who have received unmerited favor from God.

Thankless people always expect others to come to them. Thankful people feel obligated to go to others even as Christ came towards them.

Creation calls out for thankfulness, the fall shows sin to be a lack of thankfulness but the cross compels us to cultivate thankfulness.

 

So begin to do it. Replace sinful ingratitude with a life of thanks to God in what you say, what you do with your body, how you manage your resources and how you love other people.

 

 

What Lies Beneath The Grand Design

Gavin Peacock

Next month, April 2016, Christian Focus is publishing a book I co-authored with Owen Strachan. It’s called The Grand Design: Male And Female He Made Them and it is an introduction to biblical complementarity. What lies beneath The Grand Design? Read on.

On January 5, 2015 I was working late preparing a message on marriage for the annual winter conference at the church where I pastor. Just before I went to bed I tweeted out a few thoughts that I was going to include in the message. I thought nothing more of it. However, the next morning I awoke to a torrent of Twitter abuse. Some of the national papers in the UK had reacted adversely.

The notifications came in waves and did not stop for 24 hours. I was called “a sexist pig”, “a moron”, “a misogynist” and many other unprintable things. And although this was mainly from a secular public there were many abusive comments from those who professed to be Christian. My Twitter feed was hit over 1 million times that week.

Why the big deal? Well here are the tweets:

“God’s design for marriage in male and female headship and submission is complementary not competitive.”

‘Wives: one of the primary ways you are to respect your husband is by gladly submitting to and encouraging his leadership.”

“Husbands: one of your primary duties in loving your wife is to feed her with the Word of God daily”

You see I hit on the current hot topic: biblical sexuality and particularly the complementarity truth about men and women in marriage. It was straight out of Ephesians 5 and the beauty of headship and submission. I didn’t set out to create a storm. I simply stood (and still stand) on the Word of God as authoritative, inerrant and sufficient for all things especially such fundamental, creation realities like manhood and womanhood. Yet we live in an age where these foundational truths are being ignored and rewritten according to what fits with our fallen desires. And so we even call good evil and evil good as our culture morally crumbles around us.

In every age Satan wants to attack the authority of God’s Word because he hates God’s glory. It was that way from the beginning (Gen. 3). In our day this one verse in particular is where the Word confronts the culture and what Satan wants to undermine.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27)

The sheer beauty of binary sexes created in the image of God with complementary physical and functional differences is thrilling. Yet this verse has been trampled in society and downplayed in the church.

This is why I am so thankful for the humble, bold and visionary leadership of Owen Strachan, the President of CBMW, and who invited me on as Director of international Outreach. Owen is also an extremely gifted teacher and writer and when he asked me to co-author The Grand Design with him, I jumped at the opportunity.

Let me give three reasons why we wrote the book:

ONE: We want to lay out the truth about manhood and womanhood and to proclaim that this is what the Lord says. And that should be enough. The Creator’s Word is always enough. But we also want to proclaim that his Word is good and beautiful. We simply want to show that his design for men and women is indeed grand. It is about his glory in creation (Gen.1: 27), redemption (Eph. 5: 31-32) and consummation (Rev. 19:7-9). It also reveals something about his triune nature (1 Cor. 11:3). So complementarity is not a tertiary issue. We want people to be thrilled with God and his divine design.

TWO: We also want to be a clear, encouraging and helpful voice to the church. This book is theological, practical and pastoral. It is not abstract it is accessible. We need to be clear on these issues in the days ahead and help Christians work it out in their lives as single or married in the home, church or workplace. These are the issues that will test churches and prove their faithfulness (or not). And, in an increasingly gender-neutral society, these are the issues that the church must live out. We have to be able to defend and display the truth about complementarity.

THREE: We want to show that complementarity is a mission moment for the church. It is the point at which the battle for God’s authority rages most in a secular world. The UK Twitter storm was indicative of the heat this topic receives. But to avoid engaging with the culture here is to relinquish a gospel opportunity. We want souls won for Christ and human beings to flourish. We want men and women to find their identity in Jesus and his Word. We want marriages to display the gospel. We want to vividly draw the lines and contours of masculinity and femininity. And gospel redeemed biblical manhood and womanhood in the home and church and workplace sets forth this attractive counter culture. So we desire to affirm the equality of the sexes, delineate the difference and celebrate both. That is the tone of this book. And that is the tone of CBMW’s 2016 T4G pre-conference where Owen and I will be speaking next month, along with complementarian leaders like John Piper, Alistair Begg, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and Kevin DeYoung.

Make no mistake it will cost a person to be Christian in our day. It always has. Jesus tells to expect it (Matt. 5:11-12). The Apostle Paul echoes the sentiment (Acts 14:22). The history of the suffering church bears witness to this truth. It cost me as a Christian footballer in different ways throughout my 18-year career. It will cost all of us in various ways: reputation, family, friends, career, and money. It might also mean public vilification in big and small ways. In some countries Christians fear a raised fist. In our day it is a raised eyebrow or trial by Twitter.

In all of this, there is one thing I have learned more deeply over the past year. The Word of God is rock. And the Word of God works. Complementarity is both true and good. I took a few hits in the press as a footballer but nothing quite like that of January 2015. However, the Word of God is worth it! It always is. Honor it and he will honor you.

This article was originally published at cbmw.org.

Permanent Union

Gavin Peacock



I recently officiated the marriage ceremony of my son, Jake, and his bride, Christa. In one part of the  sermon I emphasised the permanent nature of the union. Here's an excerpt...


Marriage is God's design and God's doing

In marriage God is joining one man and one woman together for life, because marriage is God’s design and God's doing just like all of creation is God’s design and God’s doing.

We know this because Genesis tells us that God created the universe and everything in it including Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:1, 27). He made them in his image, not as a product of chemical explosions of evolution, but in his divine likeness with an ability to reason and reflect his character morally and functionally.

But God didn’t create them at the same time. He made Adam first and then said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). He then put him into a sleep and fashioned the woman from one of his ribs and it says God, “brought her to the man” (Gen. 2: 22). Here we have God, the first Father of the bride, giving her to her husband and joining them together.(That’s why, traditionally, the bride's father gives her away. It was that way at the first wedding in the beginning).

The we read the declaration:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

So marriage is God’s design and God’s doing which means that…


Marriage is one man and one woman for life

Jesus himself refers to this text as his cornerstone, his foundation verse for marriage. In Matthew 19, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female.’" (Matt. 19:4). He is quoting Genesis 1:27.

The point is God created man and made only two sexes.

He continues, "‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).

When a couple make their vows, it is not the man or woman, or parent or pastor who is the main actor. God is. God is doing the joining of a husband and wife (to paraphrase John Piper). That’s why Jesus says, what God has joined together let no man separate – permanence.

God ordained marriage at the creation of the world before sin entered. And it was between one man and one woman: not two men or two women, or one man with many women, or one woman with many men. It was between two people created by God with absolutely equal value and dignity any yet very different. A man and a woman were made to fit together physically in a one flesh union. However, that is pointing to something higher - a permanent spiritual union between two people, and ultimately a relational union with God.

So when a couple vows they make a promise or a covenant with each other and before God to stay together. This is a covenant not a contract (in which you have caveats to escape). This is a God ordained covenant of companionship. It is a solemn final act. That’s why on the marriage license it is called the solemnization of marriage. That’s why the pastor asks if anyone knows any cause why a couple shouldn’t be married. He asks the couple the same. Why? Because this is a weighty thing, which has holy significance.


Marriage is about making vows. Many couples nowadays often want to write their own vows. But often they are based on feelings not promises – emotions, not acts of the will. Nowhere in the Bible do we see feelings as the basis for marriage. When the feeling is fading or gone and the body submits to the effects of gravity and the health gives way, what will the marriage stand upon, feelings or promises? When a marriage is grounded in committed friendship, companionship and a permanent covenant the chances of survival are good. Promises, vows, provide the foundation and protection for the marriage when the storms hit. The joining of a man and a woman in holy matrimony is not a tenuous arrangement that can be changed or forsaken.

Marriage is God’s design and God’s doing so that makes it a permanent union in this life. "Till death us do part".

My Thoughts On Pavel

Gavin Peacock



 A humble man with a big heart

Words fail to express my sadness at the death of my former Newcastle Utd. room mate Pavel Srnicek yesterday. You see, he and I joined the club within a few weeks of each other and stayed together at the New Kent Hotel in Jesmond in those early days. Those days in the early 1990s were tough days on the field and not easy for any of us let alone a young man in a new country trying to understand a new language… and of course a new Geordie accent!

But Pavel’s character prevailed. We roomed together for a while and got to know each other quite well. He was a gentleman, a kind man with that elusive virtue… humility. This is why he endeared himself to everyone. He never thought too highly of himself. And this is also why he learned to become a very good goalkeeper. He came as a raw talent and left the club as a fine talent. He came to grow and to be taught and he left as a man respected by all of his peers and who became a teacher and mentor of many, including Steve Harper who wrote a heartfelt tribute on Twitter: “A truly beautiful soul has left this world far too early!! Thank you so much for everything you did for me Pav”.

Even more than that, Pavel captured the hearts of the Geordie fans. I love the Geordies. My father’s mum and dad, my grandparents, were born and bred in the North East, which makes me half Geordie. I grew up going to South Shields for holidays. My first kit was a Newcastle one and I loved playing for the club. I’ll always remember my late granddad Tom, a WWII Navy veteran, telling me, “Bread and jam on Tyneside is better than fillet steak anywhere in the world”. It was one of the proudest days of his life when I first pulled on that black and white shirt. But before I signed for the club he told me another thing, “Remember, Gavin, the fans would sweat blood for that team if they could. So if they see that you would die for the club then they will forgive you many errors.” This is where Pav won the Geordie hearts. He loved their club, he loved them, they loved him back and he became a hero, even one of the famous Entertainers in Kevin Keegan’s era. Yet through it all, Pavel remained a humble man with a big heart.


A brief life

That is why it is so tragic that the heart of a man, so young, fit and strong gave way and he eventually lost his life at 47 years old. When we are faced with the death of family or friends it automatically turns our minds to a couple of things: the first is the person you’ve lost, the second is the brevity and fragility of your own life. The fact is that everyone who reads this article will die one day. Actually none of us knows whether he or she will live through the next day. Much like Pavel, we may be strong and fit and yet be struck down in an instant by illness or accident. And even if we live a long life, we will grow old, gravity will take its toll and we will lose our vigor and strength. You can’t cheat death. Life is brief.


The question

This brings up the question: for what do you live? What is the meaning of life? The common response is, “Just live each day to the full and make the most of loved ones around you.” But it offers no hope. The secular mindset says you're born, you live, and you die. That’s it. So eat drink and be merry. Get what you can out of it. That’s selfish. However, the Christian mindset says, you're born, you live, you die, and yet you live. That’s hope. So you can give your life away for others, knowing what you have can never be lost. That’s selfless.

The Bible’s view of man is that he is of great worth. He is created in God’s image with the capacity to know him and obey him. He is not, as some would say, an accident of nature, chemical explosions or animal evolution. The Bible starts with God not man. He creates us, which means we are obligated to him. And that is a good thing. But ever since Adam sinned by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, all men and women “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God must judge sin because God is holy and just. And who doesn’t want a just Judge in charge of the universe? If he is a just Judge then he must punish sinners, which means we also need to God to be gracious and merciful.

Our sin is the reason for suffering, sickness and death. Our sin is the reason for divorce and war, rape and child abuse, poverty and famine and the fractured world in which we live. We have elevated ourselves above God, so each one does what is right in his own eyes and every opinion is valid, until that opinion says ours is wrong. Autonomy, relational breakdown and chaos ensues.

Furthermore, the Bible tells us that sin is not just a sickness; man is not a victim, he is a rebel against God. That’s a problem which humanity throughout history has not been able to solve no matter how many attempts at social reform we make. So Christianity is about God taking the initiative to love and reconcile sinful people to himself. How? Remember the banner you see at so many World Cups and major sporting events? John 3:16:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.

This is why we traditionally celebrate Christmas. It’s about that moment when God became a man in history's greatest rescue act because man can’t save himself. The Gospel of Matthew puts it like this,

“And you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Jesus saves by living the perfect life that we can’t and by taking the punishment of God in the place of anyone who would turn from living their way and trust in him. In other words, he is the perfect substitute who steps onto the field for us, rescues us from defeat, and secures victory. Jesus frees us from guilt and condemnation. And when he rose from the dead he promised to return and he promised an eternal future in heaven with no more, sin, suffering or sorrow. To ignore this offer and die means to remain under judgment forever. So the question is not so much for what are you living as for whom are you living: yourself or Christ? He came to die so people like us could live.


Identity, belonging, acceptance and worship

You might think this is crazy, untrue and delusional, but this is the testimony of the Bible. It is the testimony of historic Christianity. It is the testimony of millions of Christians in churches worldwide today and throughout the ages. And it logically explains the reason why we exist, the reason why we die and the reason for real hope. Christianity is the only religion that satisfactorily deals with the problem of our reconciliation to God and to each other. Because it is the only religion where God comes down as a man to freely save man. That’s called grace. All you need to do is turn and believe.

In all of us there is a desire for identity, a desire to belong and be accepted, and a desire to worship. We see echoes of this particularly in football. Football fans find an identity in the team they support. They find pleasure in the sense of belonging and camaraderie as they find acceptance simply because they support the same team. And their desire for worship of the big and beautiful and thrilling is found in the players who become their heroes.

Football is a great game. The best. But if you look to football for ultimate purpose it won’t last, it won’t satisfy and it won’t eventually save you. It can only treat the symptoms without addressing the problem of sin in the heart of each man and woman, which separates us from God.


Memories

I have been thinking about Pavel for days now, especially yesterday as I was out jogging much like he was a few days ago. We haven’t seen each other for years. That often happens in football when you move clubs and then retire. I was hoping I might see him at a Newcastle v Manchester ex pros game at St James’ Park next year. Sadly this will not happen and so I am left with memories.

My first memory of Pavel was of a smiling, gentle giant walking into the Benwell training ground. My final playing memory of him was taking a penalty for Chelsea in an FA Cup shoot out at St James’ in 1996. We looked at each other, a twinkle in our eyes even in the heat of the moment. He knew which way I used to put them. I scored that day and Chelsea won. But he went on with the “Entertainers” and became a Newcastle legend.

However, my abiding memory of him will always be on a beautiful day in May 1993. We beat Leicester 7-1. We won the championship and promotion to the Premier League. We walked around the pitch on a lap of honor, and then in a special moment the big man took of his top revealing a t-shirt underneath that read, “Pavel is a Geordie”. And so he will always remain in my heart, in our hearts – “Pav the Geordie” to teammates, coaches and fans alike. As Tyneside mourns let us remember the man, let us remember his family. And may Pavel’s brief life give us cause to ask what we truly live for and where true hope can be found.



Husbands, Love Your Wives

Gavin Peacock

In a world where same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, how should men continue to stand firm on marriage? We stand firm, as men, by pursuing our God-given wife, endlessly loving our children in a biblical way, and by rebuilding a marriage culture–Nehemiah style–that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ and is in turn used for our great good.
If SCOTUS will redefine and destroy marriage, then the church must build a marriage culture.
First call: Husbands love your wives! I have three exhortations for men:

1. Love your wife because God commands it.
2. Love your wife in all ways, for all ways and above all others.
3. Love your wife with manly authority and manly tenderness.

Six Principles of Closet Communion: The Key to Christian Life and Growth.

Gavin Peacock


 There is no doubt that the key to Christian life and growth is communion with God…on your own! You’ll hear many people say that they pray throughout the day with arrow prayers or they pray with other people. This is good but this is not the foundation. Jesus constantly went to be with his Father in prayer (Matt. 26:36; Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42, 5:16, 6:12) If he did this, how much more should we? Don Whitney says, “The two most important personal devotional practices are the intake of the Word of God and prayer”.

This is the most difficult thing for Christians. Why? Because both Satan and our sin hate life and growth. The devil will do anything to distract us from the task and our flesh will weaken in the task.

So here are six principles for cultivating closet communion:


1.    Don’t wait to feel like it before you do it.

Closet communion is duty. Jesus commands it (Matt. 5:6). Obedience will often come before feeling. Commitment not emotion is the basis of covenant love. We do not always wake up with a heart on fire for God, but we do wake up knowing his command for us to pray. Even when your feelings waver you have objective truth, which tells you what to do.

Let the Word stir you and ask him to make you feel: “Lord, Hallow your name in my heart.”

But covenant love is not without emotion. God is an emotional God and we should delight in him. It is a sin not to delight in the source of all joy (Ps. 16:11). Paul even exhorts us to be joyful, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Closet communion won’t always begin with joyful feelings but it can begin with joyful obedience.


2.  Make it regular.

Train your self for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Training means repetition and regularity. Reading and praying for half a day once a week is not as good as reading and praying for half an hour once a day. Begin small but be regular.

Find a regular place and go there on your own. I spend it in my study. It’s where I know I can be away from everyone for a season. Also, find a regular time. In general, don’t fit communion with God into your day, fit your day around communion with God. Decide whether you need to get up early before work or stay up a little later in the evening to do it. If you are a busy, tired mum, perhaps your husband will offer to watch the children while you spend time in the Word and prayer.

I know that the most important thing for my wife, children and church is my personal holiness and this begins with regular time in closet communion.


3.   Prepare to meet with God not tick a box.

Even before you begin to read the Word or open your mouth in prayer, reorient yourself to whom you are dealing with. He is “Our Father in heaven.”

Attitude is crucial. Do you approach with bold reverence seeking to receive, repent and worship? Do you want to get things or get God? In the midst of trials David said, “Your face do I seek” (Ps. 27:8). We don’t simply want God to fix our problems (not that we shouldn’t ask him) we need experiential knowledge of him.

Praying “Make me like Jesus” is a dangerous prayer. It will involve repentance and that’s hard. How are you repenting during your daily devotional times as the Word is applied to your heart? Repentance should always be followed by worship. Praise him for what he has done in the gospel. You are a new creation. You have a Father in heaven. Christ is for you. The Spirit is in you. Change occurs in the heart first. Then go out and act accordingly.

Remember, you are going to meet with the living God not tick a box. You can’t breathe without him. This is the most important part of your day. Fear to miss closet communion. Not just because you fear God’s rebuke, but also because you don’t get to see him.


4.   Let the word govern your prayer.

Supplication should not be dull and same old. Repetition of prayer doesn’t mean repetitive prayer. Boredom in prayer makes for wandering minds, which means a lack of fervency. Letting the Word govern your prayers prevents us praying the same words for the same people and things. Whitney has some good advice here:

“If you pray through Psalm 23 and pray for your family, for example, you’re going to pray for God to shepherd your family. It is different than any other prayer. Then if you pray the next time from Psalm 51, you may pray asking God to forgive you for yelling at your family. If it is Psalm 138 the next day then it’s “Lord, I pray would sense your presence today wherever they go.” If you look back up it’s really the same prayer: “Bless my family.” Instead of saying, “bless my family” half-heartedly, mindlessly, every day, you are saying “bless my family” through Psalm 23 and it comes out as “shepherd my family.”

Personally, I let the Word I read in the morning not only govern my closet communion but my whole day. God has something particular for me each day in his living Word. My task is to find it and be led by it throughout that day.


5.  Dig for gold; don’t rake for leaves.

Many people try and read too much Scripture at once. Now, reading the Bible in a year demands as much as four portions per day (as per McCheyne’s plan). But most people forget what they’ve read by the time they come to pray or they’ve read so much they don’t know which part should govern their prayers. They’ve read the Word but they’ve raked for leaves instead of digging for gold.

Digging for gold in God’s Word demands time. One way of solving this problem is to read smaller portions, working through one book for your daily communion, and reading the larger portions at another time in the day. Reading smaller portions allows you to dig deep.

Here’s what I do when I’m alone with God. I take a chapter of a book I’m working through (sometimes its only half a chapter). I ask God to open my eyes to His Word, to show me Jesus, ignite my affections for him and supply his Spirit for illumination. Then I look at the passage. First I’m looking for the authorial meaning, not just what stands out for me. I’ll chew on repeated words or phrases and see how they connect to the flow passage whether it is poetry, narrative, law, history, prophecy etc.

Once I get the meaning (I may use a commentary to help), I’m looking to see how it points to Christ and what it means for me as a Christian. I’m renewing my mind in the Word (Ro. 12:2), and having that Word shape my affections and direction. But prayerful meditation is the key (Ps. 1:2). That’s when like the miner in Job 28 you are going down into the depths of God’s wisdom and staying there until you come up with treasure.

My aim is not just to get treasure for me but for my wife, whom I lead daily in devotions. A tip for husbands here: in your personal devotions mine for gold so you can wash your wife with the Word (Eph. 5:26). Don’t drown her with an hour-long doctrinal dissertation. Give her a nugget and make application to her life as you live with her in an understanding way.

But all of us can practice this. This way the gold you discover is not only for you but also for others. Your closet communion should have an inward and an outward effect.


6.  Persevere.

Finally, persevere in these things. Perseverance shows faith (Luke 18:1-8). Many times the difference between some Christians and others is fight! In an age of instant gratification, we have become lazy and complacent and when we don’t see immediate results or it becomes hard work we get discouraged and give up.

Perseverance is the sign of a Christian. We need to rediscover a theology not simply of physical work but spiritual work. Times are coming when being an evangelical will become increasingly more difficult. We need to be fit for the conflict or we’ll be trying get fit during it.

Closet communion is the key to life and growth. Let’s encourage one another to cultivate this over the summer.




Go Forth And Multiply: How Many Children Should I Have?

Gavin Peacock

My wife, Amanda, wrote on the important issue of the temptations, pressures and expectations of having children and how many. It was published by CBMW this morning. Here is the full article.


In the beginning God said, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth…” (Gen. 1: 28). The blessing of children was given in the context of Eden where God walked with Adam and Eve in uncorrupted communion. Everything was good and purposeful; nothing was tainted by sin.
These words have recently given me pause for thought as my husband and I consider adopting. You see, the research and red tape that has delayed the process, and the departure of our two children to university, seems only to have increased my desire to adopt.
I look around our church; I love what I see—large families, children being raised in the fear and instruction of the Lord. This too, serves to intensify my desire, and I wonder if as a mother with only two children, I have missed the mark to multiply—I mean really multiply!
So just how many children should a woman have?
Here are a few things to consider:
Know Your Motivation
After the blessing came the fall, and the subsequent corruption of creation includes our desires for God’s gifts. The prophet Jeremiah warned that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), so I question my motivation even in something good like adoption: Why do I want to adopt?
Heart corruption is deep. Sin is multi-faceted, and locating the motivating, underlying thoughts and actions is like peeling the layers of an onion—and the more you peel the more you want to cry. Here are some questions to think through:
What’s your motivation for having children? Is it gospel-centered? Or, is it personal preference? Do you feel pressure to have more children? By what standard are you measuring yourself? Is it the ever-expanding evangelical family sub-culture, where even reproduction has become a competition of sorts? Or is it in God’s provision of children as a blessing?
Understanding your motivation for having children is a key component to deciding when to have children and how many you choose to have.
Know Your Identity
God’s mandate to multiply is the same now as then, children are an assumed blessing. But God’s promise to Abraham, to make him the father of many nations, is fulfilled in Christ, expanding the blessing beyond mere physical procreation (John 1:13)
Therefore a woman is not diminished by her lack of children because procreation is no longer the means of producing worshippers of God. It comes through regeneration, producing spiritual children for the family of God. Whether you are married or single, God gives all women ability to mother spiritual children. This identity is crucial to understand because this will keep us from the temptation towards greed and comparison, the fruit of a covetous heart. Knowing our identity as wives and mothers helps in understanding our limitations. We are all identified as mothers, capable and equipped to produce spiritual children by proclaiming Christ’s finished work to those in darkness and discipling them in the faith.
Know Your Limitations
So, how many children is enough? Originally my husband and I thought we’d have four children, and then we had the first two. They were lively individuals, and that, coupled with the fact that I am one of those women who is physically tired a lot of the time, were the reasons we stopped at two.
Things took a turn for the worse when, after our second was born, I began to experience insomnia. It lasted 15 years. I knew pretty early on that I couldn’t be the wife God called me to be and have lots of children. This was just one of my particular limitations.
We all have limitations. They might be physical, mental, or financial. But they remind us that we are creatures, not the Creator. We are sinners living in a fallen world. Eden is long gone and in its absence husbands struggle to love sacrificially, wives struggle to respect joyfully, children rebel, and parents struggle to shepherd their children’s hearts with the gospel. Scripture is replete with human limitations—it’s humbling.
God sets limitations so that we might remain dependent upon him. But covetous hearts lead to discontentment and the temptation to exceed those limitations. We covet when we seek satisfaction in something created rather than in Christ. A covetous heart would have me believe I can only truly be satisfied when I have another child. That’s greed.
Know Your Primary Function
Also, know your primary function as a wife. Being a helper to your husband should dictate what other roles you assume and to what extent you assume them. This is my consideration as we pray about adoption, because the number of children a woman has will impact her relationship with God and her husband. Wives can forget that their primary ministry is their husband, especially when children arrive. The most important thing children will learn is gospel love through their father’s sacrificial headship and their mother’s glad submission.
In a fallen world some women have the ability to function as excellent wives, care for four children, and keep a household running like a well-oiled machine, while others find this prospect overwhelming. The important thing is to understand your primary function as a wife to your husband and evaluate your ability in light of that relationship.
Know God’s Sovereignty
Finally children are not our right. They belong to God and are a gift from him. And they are not ultimate, Christ is. Being conformed to his image is God’s purpose for all women. Resting in his sovereign love will drive out anxiety, increase gratitude, and protect against covetousness.
We would have loved more children, but as I reflect on our 25-year marriage I thank God that we made the right decision for us at the time. Maybe the Lord will see fit to give us another child through adoption, but if not I trust he has something even better in mind.
Some women struggle with infertility and post-partum depression, while others fall pregnant instantly, sailing through pregnancy and motherhood. Some women can have multiple children and not be overwhelmed by it all. We are all different. And our families are different. Wise womanhood involves knowing our motivations, our identity, our limitations, our primary function as a wife, and most importantly, that our God is sovereign over the good blessing of children.

Quit you like men!

Gavin Peacock

One of the greatest needs of our day is men of weight and substance: men of moral courage and fortitude, who will stand on God's Word against a contrary culture. We need men to act like men, not women. Let both sexes be who God gloriously made them to be in his image, male and female. Women and children will flourish in the home and church to the extent that godly men take the lead in creating the culture in which they can grow.

Men must know what biblical manhood looks like and men must step out of the comfort zone and into the risk zone for Christ and for the good of others. We need men who are not macho but mature; not sombre minded but sober minded; not driven by comfort but by conviction; not lovers of self but lovers of Christ. We need divines not dudes; who like the men of old feel the weight of God's glory upon them and carry the responsibility for leadership despite what it may personally cost. We need holy men. Hear the words of, Horatius Bonar, who lived in the way of a divine and hear the call, "Quit you like men"! (The word "quit" here bears the idea of "conduct" or "acquit").

Quit you like men.—Be men! 
In courage; not cowards, turning our back on the foe, or giving way in danger, or reproach, or evil days. 
In solidity; not shifting or shadowy, but immoveable as the rock. 
In strength. As the man is, so is his strength. Be strong! 
In wisdom. Foolishness is with childhood, wisdom with manhood. Speak and act with wisdom, as men. 
In ripeness. The faculties of men are ripe, both for thinking and working. They speak ripe words, think ripe thoughts, plan and execute ripe things. In understanding be men! 
In all things;—what you do, and what you refrain from doing, be men. Act the manly part;—let nothing effeminate, luxurious, sickly, childish, puny, little, narrow, be seen about you. Christianity makes men, not babes. Adorn the doctrine of Christ by your manliness. 
In the Church, in the world, in business, in conversation,—in prosperity and adversity,—quit you like men! Let no man despise thee; and let no man despise the Gospel because of thee.

- Christ is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar, Eds. M. Haykin, D. Brooker, p. 105-6, Taken from The Christian Treasury, Bible Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, 1864. 

Gay-Straight Alliances: the sky is falling in!

Gavin Peacock


On March 10th, Bill 10 was passed in Alberta (where I live), allowing Gay-Straight Alliances for any students who want them in any Alberta schools. The GSA network says that these are student-run clubs in middle or high school. They are “a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.” 

As Christians who believe God’s Word is truth, how should we view the new introductions of Gay-Straight Alliances, and more importantly, how should we be moved to action because of this?

Here's my article for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Gay-Straight Alliances: the sky is falling in!




Email: gpeacock@cbmw.org
Twitter: GPeacock8

When Your Husband is in the Line of Fire

Gavin Peacock

After the Twitter storm in January when I tweeted about male and female roles in marriage, my wife wrote an article, alongside one I did earlier, that has been published in today's Winter 2015 9Marks Journal.


Here's an excerpt from When Your Husband in the Line of Fire:


"No woman should want a coward by her side. Yet many women cultivate cowardly men when they usurp the roles God designed in headship and submission. As Christian women, we should instead stand with our husbands and pastors in the line of fire against the prevailing culture that erodes the biblical distinctions between men and women. If wives are called to be suitable helpers, we ought to be their biggest supporters on the battlefield. We can encourage and respect our husbands, drawing out their leadership qualities, by our speech and actions. And, as women, we can teach younger women biblical femininity, and what to look for in a man worthy to be her spiritual leader."

Email: gpeacock@cbmw.org
Twitter: GPeacock8

Four Truths About Complementarian Marriage

Gavin Peacock


My wife, Amanda, and I recently celebrated 25 years of marriage. As I reflect on the past quarter of a century, there are four enduring biblical truths about marriage that stand the test of time. Here they are in an article published by 9Marks for their upcoming journal.


The 9Marks Journal aims to equip pastors with tools for their trade, both practical and theological. Articles and book reviews cover everything from church discipline, to the missional church, to elder training, to marriage & divorce matters, to preaching Christ from the Old Testament, to much more. Click here for the 9Marks Journal.



Email: gpeacock@cbmw.org
Twitter:GPeacock8