Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
An article posted on the liberal website salon.com shows the tragedy of a society that lost its conscience 44 years ago and has now murdered 55 million innocent citizens for pure selfishness and convenience.
The author, Mary Williams, unashamedly says that she knows and has always known that human life begins at conception but that she is ardently pro-abortion and could care less. Her basic argument that she tries to make in a horrendously written piece filled with logical fallacies is that since we treat life in different segments of society differently (ie, criminals, terminally ill, war victims), then it is the same thing with unborn “fetus” human life. Her final argument is that the rights of some human life trumps the life of other human life and so abortion is a not tragic in any sense. It is simply a matter of societal structure that needs to be understood.
The title of Miss Williams’ article explains the disgusting content of the article “So what if abortion ends life?” and although it will infuriate those with a conscience, especially Christians, it is an important read. It is rather easy to find quality, dependable information arguing the pro-life position, and so I am not going to write about that. Many great blogs have been written this week challenging us to embrace life as this is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, so I do not need to write concerning that. But I do want to address the rhetoric and arguments Miss Williams makes from the perspective of philosophy and worldview.
Miss Williams begins her article with the following:
Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word “life.” Life! Who wants to argue with that? Who wants be on the side of … not-life?
I was fascinated by her opening line. This is a common tactic in rhetoric, frame your opponent as not playing by the rules-not playing fair. But she even goes further, she not only says that “Pro-life” people don’t play fair, they are guilty of evil moves and they are lobbyists. She ignores the fact, that most pro-life groups are privately funded and are made up of moms and dads who work normal jobs, but value life. She labels them as faceless lobbyists filled with diabolical schemes to only cares about getting people on their side. This rhetoric tries to create sympathy before an opinion or position is even stated. It is an obvious tactic…that works most of the time. It was sadly comical to read the article further as Miss Williams seemingly pleads for dialogue and “fearless and empathetic” conversation, while at the same time calling those who disagree with her as “wingnuts,” “archconservatives who browbeat us,” “push for indefensible violations like [gasp] forced ultrasounds,” and “bullies.” So much for empathetic dialogue!
The content of Miss Williams article was also lacking in other areas as well. She never did answer the question, “So what if abortion ends life?” She assumed the answer, obviously her answer is that is no big deal. She took a complex issue, life, and dumbed it down to “Meh, life shmife” [my words not hers]. What if we did that with other complex issues? Thousands of people die in wars, “So what if war ends life?” Or the brutal killing of the teachers and students in Newtown, CT, “So what if those kindergartners lost their life, the shooter was older his life had more value?” Now, I am not suggesting that Miss Williams would ever say such a thing, but this is the essence of her argument.
But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise.
This too is a logical fallacy, to apply particular choices in one instance to another unrelated instance. She is saying that since we make choices about others life in going to war then we can decide to kill the human life of an unborn baby. Since we make decisions as to whether or not a criminal can die, then we can kill a baby in the womb. Since we may choose to unplug a terminally ill patient from life support, then we can have abortions. This is lunacy rhetorically speaking. The complexity of pregnancy and the formation of life in the womb is not of the same type as arguments about war. One glaring difference in all these examples, Miss Williams thinks she deftly proves her case with (this is the only argument she gives), is that in each of these situations, the “victim” has a voice. Possibly with a comatose patient, the person does not have a choice (and I am not saying euthanasia is acceptable), but this is why such cases become so prevalent in the public sector, and most of the time, someone close to the person has some idea of the unresponsive person’s choice in the matter. Who is advocating for the human life in the womb. Even in our penal system, we give representation to advocate for serial killers, but the courts do not appoint an advocate for the innocent child in the womb. Miss Williams, your logic is astounding and your supposed argument is baseless.
The closing argument of the piece is astounding.
And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.
Miss Williams often comes back to the reality that the “fetus” is life, but she honestly admits that it is a life of lesser importance and worth sacrificing so that the woman can have life. Some might think, but that is a difficult decision, life of the baby or the life of the mother. But wait, Miss Williams is not talking about the “life of the mother” in the terms of death, but rather in the quality of life, the love of life, the fullness of life, the happiness of life. Earlier in the article she said that she is over 40 and if she got pregnant, she would not hesitate to have the “World’s Greatest Abortion.” She is redefining life for women and comparing it to the real meaning of life for a baby. This too is a clever logical fallacy. Who wants to say that they do not cherish life for the mother. But wait, one cannot use the word life to mean to clearly different things in one sentence, that is intellectually dishonest and deceitful. In essence she is talking about trading a beating heart, creative mind, fingers and toes, a smiling face, legs and hands, personality and human life for the convenience of being able to have your cup of coffee every day, being able to go to the store whenever you want, being comfortable and conveniently unhindered by the troubles of a child. Miss Williams, what makes that baby’s life worth sacrificing, but your life not worth sacrificing. You have indeed assigned value to human life, but really only your life–and that is the essence of narcissistic sadism.
When we consider the divine process of sanctification, we often fail to realize the unique and necessary tension that the Scripture presents in walking in truth and obedience. Individuals and groups routinely find themselves pitting two necessary truths of the Christian life one against the other and taking sides in the issue. It has been said that ideas have consequences, and they do, most notably in the practical outworking of living the life of faith as a result of an idea.
One particular idea that has been a part of the thinking and teaching of evangelicalism (including all strains of evangelicalism, even fundamental strains) is that in order to progress in Christian growth, one must “try harder.” Trotting out Daniel as having “purposed in his heart,” this idea purports that the path to fidelity and purity lies in setting standards, goals and guidelines and making every effort to reach those standards. Faithfulness is attained by will-power and determination to serve God, to go to church, to read the Bible and to pray (and many more guidelines are needed in order to attain the necessary holiness). If one is struggling to be obedient in a walk of faith, then what is needed is more effort to read the Bible an hour a day and pray for thirty minutes. If lust seems to be working overtime in the mind, then the mind and eyes need to work overtime in spiritual disciplines–take a walk, breath deeply, pray a prayer over and over again, quote Scripture. . . just try harder and at some point, you will gain that spiritual victory and be able to live the victorious Christian life.
To the devoted disciple, some of this sounds good and well, but a lot of it just does not satisfy what we know is a walk of faith. It loudly smacks of a works-based sanctification and growth dependent upon my effort and will. Quickly to our mind rushes the text of Galatians where Paul is condemning the saints for being “bewitched” into thinking that grace saves, but works sanctifies. Therefore, there arises an idea that throws out the “try harder” mentality and embraces an idea that says, “Don’t try harder, just rest harder.” Verses that emphasize faith spring to the mind and then a familiar phrase we heard years ago seems to be the answer, “Just let go and let God.” So this idea suggests that the path to holiness and growth lies in doing nothing, just loving God and trusting that God is going to work it out. A person or group with this mentality shies away from Scripture that talks about action and work and emphasizes rest. You are having trouble with lust? Rest more in Jesus. Are you struggling to love your wife? Then rest more in Jesus. Habitual sin is beating you, it is because you are trying, stop trying and let God take over. Often those who are “trying hard” in sanctification are called legalists by the “rest more” side. And those who are not trying but “resting” are called antinomian by “try harder” side.
Having existed in an environment where “try harder” was commended more readily than “rest more,” I find myself attracted to the “rest more” side of things, but that is a mistake. It is a mistake because there are ideological tensions found in Scripture that God intended to remain taut. The union of God and man in Jesus’ one nature is one such tension. The responsibility of man to respond to God’s sovereign will is another. In the work of sanctification, there is a tension that we must be careful not to allow to slacken. Philippians 2:12 provides the most well-known discussion of this tension in Christian growth. The text tells us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” meaning to put into practice by working at the ramifications of justification in sanctification with the hope of glorification. This working includes fear and trembling, which is more than an emotional response but seems to include effort. The next phrase says, “For it is God who works in you both to do and to will of his good pleasure.” Here is the rest of the tension, God is working in you as you are working out his work of grace. We have many commands in Scripture to work and provide effort in sanctification. “Be holy as I am holy,” Peter references God as demanding. “Do good unto all men,” Paul says. James says that faith is characterized by work, and the author of Hebrews describes effort in resisting sin “unto blood.” Ephesians and Colossians say to “Put off the old and put on the new.” Probably the most obvious text that speaks of the effort needed and the work in sanctification is Romans 6. Many times in this text on sanctification, the command rings clearly to “put to death the deeds of the flesh.” But then we also find several Scriptures that teach us to rest in Christ and could seem to some to imply no work at all. “Faith is the victory” Paul says. Classic Ephesians emphasizes that salvation (all of it, including sanctification) is by grace through faith. Hebrews says, “Strive to enter into rest.” Jesus says, to “abide in me.”
I cannot pretend to understand the mystery of sanctification fully, but I do understand that God intends us to rest in him fully for our sanctification while at the same time exerting holy effort to walk in the Spirit through discipline and labor. A passage of Scripture that has helped me understand this tension better is Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Prior to Jesus speaking these words, he prayed to the Father thanking Him for hiding the mysteries of repentance and faith and the gospel from the worldly wise and arrogant, but has revealed them with childlike dependence and humility. He reaffirmed for everyone’s hearing that only the Father truly knows the Son and only the Son truly knows the Father, but also those whom the Son chooses to reveal to the Father. Jesus was expressing what he says in many different ways. The only way to know God the Father is through the Son and if the Son should make this possible to you, then you are most blessed having the opportunity to truly know God in a way that Jesus eternally knows him. Then comes the famous invitation to “Come unto me.” This helps us understand that the invitation is not a call to come and get your needs met, or to have your burdens lifted, or to have a better life. It is a call to come to know the Father. Jesus is saying, “If you want to know God, I am the way to know God, so come to me and I will give you rest.” Rest from what? Rest from your constant searching to know God, but your inability to know him because of your sinful nature and wicked heart. The call to salvation is ultimately a call to know God, therefore in giving this tremendously encouraging promise, Jesus says, “If you want to know God, come to me, I will provide rest for your weary souls. It will not be without pain and effort even on your part (take my yoke upon you), but that effort is not “trying harder” it is “learning of me.” The yoke and burden that Jesus promises to put upon all who come to him in order to know God is learning of him. This is a light and easy yoke, not because it is without effort, but because it is a delight and rest for the soul. This is what I believe to be the path to spiritual victory and the balance of the tension of effort and rest in sanctification. Make effort effort (do not forget that all effort is a gift of the grace of God anyways) to learn of Christ, to know God by knowing Jesus, and you will find rest for your soul. Practically, the idea is this, the grace and discipline we need, the effort we must exert is not one of primarily resisting sin, nor of trying to be righteous, nor of trying to rest more, but the “effort” (although I understand the reluctance to use this word) is in knowing God and delighting in his person and work so fully, that we are preoccupied with the perfection, beauty and worth of Christ. This will produce by God’s gracious willingness and Spirit a growing hatred for sin, a growing downward in humility and a growing appreciation and adoration and obedience in the commands and principles found in the revelation of God, the Bible. This is how the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and fleshly lusts, but making us so enamored with the person and work of God as fully revealed in the entirety of the Word of God, that we have no longing for another. This knowing God creates in us a hunger and thirst after righteousness. This knowing God demands our absolute allegiance and we willingly will present our bodies as living sacrifices if we truly understand who this God is. This does not mean that our flesh will go quietly into the night, but it does mean that we are no longer under the bondage of sin and self and that we can know God in a way that is only spiritually and supernaturally known.
The commands like “put to death the flesh” flow readily from a desire to bathe in the beauty and splendor of a holy, righteous, gracious, priestly, loving and perfect God. So today, are you loving God more than you are loving anything or anyone else? Are you struggling to obey God’s holy and perfect will? Bask in the beauty of Christ in the Word and commune with him. Make it your ambition to know God to walk in his presence, ask God for the grace to know him more. Overcome evil with ultimate good, and there is none better than God. This is simplistic, but I have discovered that I can trace all of my treasonous thoughts and rebellions since being regenerated to a failure to “learn of him.” When I am meditating upon the beauty of Christ, the glory of God, the perfections of his character, obedience flows, but when I am “trying harder” and making every effort to not sin by shear will, or trying to “rest more” by putting out of my mind the struggle and fight, I am losing and sinning. May God give us the grace, to understand this tension and in the midst of the struggle, to “learn of him.”
The title of this post did not originate with me. You have probably seen it or heard people say it as a twist on the popular children’s song “Jesus Loves Me, This I know.” I have no beef with the children’s song. Although some strong Calvinists feel that the popular song is not consistent with New Testament doctrine, and whereas I agree with Calvinist doctrine, I think some go too far in denying the fact that God does indeed love all mankind. God’s love like his anger is manifest in degrees and kind, much like our expressions of love and anger. The capacity to love and to be angry in degrees is a result of being created in the image of God. So I find no problem saying that God loves all mankind generally and compassionately, while still believing that God loves uniquely and particularly his chosen children, adopted as sons and co-heirs with Jesus Christ, his unique Son. I do not believe that John 3:16 means God loves the “elect” world. But rather that God loves the world–all the world; Jews, Gentiles, Germans, Nigerians, Americans, Japanese, etc. This love is expressed in sending his own unique Son to die for sinners in this world, because it is not his desire that any should perish. Christ’s atonement accomplished through is satisfactory and substitutionary death, however is only applied to those who are chosen or particularly called of God, and graced by God with repentance and faith. Those who believe are the elect of God, therefore all who believe can have confidence that God will forgive and free them from the slavery of sin and the condemnation of eternal death.
I digress a bit, yet the point of this post is to say that the children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me” is not wrong doctrinally and teaches a valid point found in the Scriptures concerning the love of God even for sinners (yes, children are sinners inheriting absolute depravity from their parents). The tune of “Jesus Loves Me” is very catchy, this is possibly why it resonates with children so well. They easily memorize simple tunes. Composing lyrics to this tune is not a difficult task. I propose adding some verses to this popular children’s tune, in an attempt to further the Biblical understanding of our children concerning salvation. Once someone gets on a roll, the number of verses that can fit this little tune are endless, but I have written a few suggestions. I am planning to teach these verses to our children and possibly the children of our church. Tell me what you think and feel free to add your own verses in the comment section (that applies to the two of you who read this blog.)
Jesus knows me, this I love
He has come from heaven above
Those he calls he surely saves
All because He’s the God of Grace.
Yes, Jesus knows me
Yes, Jesus calls me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Saved by grace alone
Jesus called men by the sea
They must followe was his plea
Jesus loved them he would give
Holy Spirit to in them live.
Jesus died for sinner’s need
Though in him no evil deed
I the sinner Christ the King
In my place, he’s my offering
Jesus rose triumphantly
Now he lives victoriously
Those who call upon his name
Never will be put to shame.
Now he lives to intercede
For my sin, he ever pleads
My own sin he takes away
He’s the truth the life the way.
Soon he’s coming back to claim
All his chosen ones to reign
Ever kneeling at his throne
Hallelujah, Heavens my home .
Good leaders, whether in the church, the family, education, government, or business have several qualities in common. Each of these areas of community must function differently and different gifts and skills accompany leadership in these places of service. Yet there are some basic truths concerning leadership that applies across the board in all these areas of life. Of course, the greatest kind of leader is one who is first a follower of Jesus Christ. All leaders would do well to head the words of the Apostle Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” This is the first and greatest obligation of any leader, “Does he submit himself to the authority of Christ and subsequently submit himself to the leadership God has placed over him?” But after that, I believe there are three aspects of good leadership that need to be better cultivated in my life as well as in the lives and service of all supposed leaders in every possible venue. Simply put, good leaders think deeply, act decisively and react humbly.
Good Leaders Think Deeply.
This is the first task of leadership to think clearly, deeply and sufficiently. This not only prepares the leader for what may or may not happen as they encourage others to follow, but it also prepares them for possible opposition, and gives them confidence (passing that on to those following) that they as a leader is competent to lead. In a parenting context, fathers need to think clearly (and I believe Biblically) about the negatives and positives that accompany any decisions, the loss and reward, what is to be gained and what is to be lost in certain choices and decisions, and how to implement certain ideas and actions. A father ought to think about the immediate ramifications of decisions as well as the long-term effects of decisions. A father needs to think more than his children and his wife about decisions, so that he is ready to lead when it is time to act. The same is true regarding church leadership. The pastor ought to “out-think” the entire congregation, staff, and/or deacons in proposals, ministry plans, staff decisions, and ministries or projects. This must not be confused with leadership by oppression or force or tyranny. It is not that the leader does not listen to those he is leading and even change his plans and decisions at times based on other’s counsel. In fact, thinking deeply requires at its most basic level listening intently to others. Receiving trusted counsel, bouncing ideas off of others, asking for input, prayer and continually searching the Scriptures and how other mature individuals understand the Scriptures (living or deceased) is all a part of thinking deeply. This thinking deeply is the opposite of running over people to accomplish plans, but considering everyone who will be impacted by a decision. It is considering, most importantly, what God thinks about a certain issue or decision. Of course most people in this age struggle to think deeply on account of all the distractions that infest our lives. This is why it is so important that godly leaders spend much time in solitude with the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and their God-entrenched thoughts. At the same time, it is necessary to know the people we are leading so that we can think deeply concerning how our decisions will both temporarily and eternally impact them. On a personal note as a pastor, any individual who desires to be a leader in the church must be willing to spend hours upon hours thinking, meditating, reading, listening, and learning. If he is not willing to do that, then he is not yet fit for leadership in the assembly.
Good Leaders Act Decisively
Do not be mistaken, this is not the same thing as stubborn or impetuous leadership. Remember that we have already explained that the first step is to think deeply. When a decisions must be made, whether difficult or not; and when the thinking has been largely done, because Scripture has been counseled, people have been considered, effects have been weighed and clarity seems to be opening; then a leader must act decisively, but not necessarily hastily. Mark Dever, an excellent teacher on pastoral leadership in the church, has often written that a serious mistake made by pastors is not in making wrong decisions, but in making right decisions as the wrong time. His illustration is driving 80 mph when the particular congregation’s speed limit is 35 mph. There is a distinction between acting decisively and acting hastily. Decisive action is knowing the right choice and timing (because the thinking, listening and instruction has been done) and then acting with confidence on that matter. This also does not mean that once a decision is made and further clarity emerges, that one cannot go back and alter their decision. But what it does mean is that men make choices based upon correct thinking and then speak and act with boldness in those choices. Our society, for some reason, has made decisive actions and propositional statements of truth into a weakness while elevating uncertainty and ambiguity as true leadership. What we need are leaders of integrity who will have thought long and hard and Biblically and then who will act decisively and prudently…unafraid to speak boldly for what they believe to be right. Men who will gently and patiently instruct and stand with authority of God’s Word are needed in our families and assemblies. This used to be called being a “man of action.” But now being a ”man of inaction” is considered humility. I disagree, there is no humility in being unwilling to study, think and then act with conviction and conscience. Which brings us to our third point of basic leadership principles.
Good Leaders React Humbly
There is no leader on the face of this earth (except Jesus, the God-man) who has not been required to admit that a decision he made was not the best (or worse, destructive) and to go back and re-examine the issue thinking through it all over again. That is what the term “react” implies – to act again. Two reasons we might need to “act again” is because we were wrong or someone else was wrong in their actions against us. In either case, if we as leaders are not willing to humbly react, either at our own wrongs or someone else’s wrongs, we are not leading well. Humility is a very simple concept, yet none of us do it well. Humility simply implies that I embrace my weakness and acknowledge to myself as well as others that I am not the end of all knowledge and answers. Reacting with humility is being willing to say with sincerity and freely, “I am wrong, you are right, will you forgive me?” Good leadership is not seen in the ability to maneuver oneself through mistakes never fully admitting guilt (so as to save face) while still retaining the confidence of the populous. It seems though that this is the definition of humility in modern politics. Good leadership is seen in a readiness, even an eagerness to admit wrong even when it may destroy future leadership opportunity. At times however, leaders will have thought deeply, acted decisively, been absolutely correct and still refused to be followed by those they are leading. What then, what do good leaders do when they are not wrong, but those following them are convinced they are in error? Good leaders take a page out of the greatest leaders handbook. Jesus Christ was always right, but at times everyone thought he was wrong. So what did he do? Well, he had a benefit we do not have, he saw into the heart of man. What Jesus did with his disciples is the best example we have as to how we should lead when others think we are wrong, but we know we are correct. Jesus kept teaching and leading. He did not give up. He was gentle and compassionate and patiently explained himself once again. Jesus should have only had to tell the disciples what he was going to do one time, but he explained it over and over to them; and then only after his death did they get it. Are we willing to lead like that? Are we willing to not live to see the fruit of our leadership? (Of course Jesus rising again and being God meant that he did see the fruit of his leadership, but all examples using Jesus break down, do they not?) A humble reaction comes when we submit our leadership, whether desired leadership or leadership thrust upon us, to be used for the glory of God and not for our advancement; humbly being willing to either admit wrong if we are wrong or to gently continue to teach and lead if we are right.
There is a lot more that could be said about leadership. I pray that God gives me grace in this life to be able to increase in these three basic areas for the glory of God. Leader, the closer we follow Jesus, gazing upon his glory and grace, the more we will be equipped to lead others how God desires us to lead.
The greatest threat to true brotherhood and Christian unity as desired by Jesus, and described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 14, is personal pride that causes us to elevate our personal opinions and “right to be right” above the unity found in Jesus Christ. “Only by pride comes contention,” says the poet in the Book of Proverbs. Pride within a community of saints is devastating to the cause of Christ for great commission living and yet worse, pride keeps the focus on men (either ourselves or others) instead of drawing our eyes to Jesus Christ. When Christians get more concerned about being right than about exalting God, they no longer are living within God’s eternal purposes for them. This is not to fallaciously pit being right and glorifying God against one each other. It is essential that we are correct in our doctrine and practice and it is possible to be right and gracious at the same time, therefore glorifying God. One frustrating thing in today’s post-modernity is the fear that so many have about making a definitive statement or speaking in propositional statements. But we err when our propositional statements are not sourced in and clearly supported by the infallible, written Word of God, and we do further damage when we defend our ideas and positions that are weakly supported by Scripture (or not supported at all) simply because we are too embarrassed, proud, or ….whatever to simply say, “That is an interesting argument, I think I will have a second look.” When we defend the Emperors new clothes (if you remember the children’s story, his new clothes were non-existent) because of the clout we will lose, the pain we will experience, or the embarrassment we might endure, we have made being right not about purity and holiness but about personal success in the church. This is dangerous and all rooted in the sin of pride.
So pride is the chief hindrance to causing saints within a community of faith (the church) to receive one another, to readily admit wrongs, to pursue unity, and to encourage one another in the faith. But in all relationships (although I am thinking particularly about the church relationships), how does this pride manifest itself? Manifestations of pride are too manifold to count; but in my experience both with observations as well as, to my shame, in my own sinful behaviors, we all have tendencies toward certain manifestations of pride. One chief way pride is manifested among Christians in church relationships, is by making assumptions about others.
We often tend to make assumptions about others based upon how they looked at us (or didn’t look at us), the tone of voice, body language, smile (or no smile), questions they ask, and the list could go on. We are constantly in a state of making discernments and determinations while we are relating to those around us. Often it is not what is said that is the most detrimental, but what is left unsaid. A brother or sister makes a comment, we read into what they meant by that comment assuming there is an underlying issue going on. An elder or pastor has not visited a certain church member, and so the church member assumes that elder doesn’t like them or is against them. As a pastor, I have experienced times when I have studied a text of Scripture thoroughly, prayed earnestly about the text, written a sermon…and all this because it is simply the next 5 verses in the chapter we are going through, then stood to preach and suddenly become seized with fear, certain that someone hearing is going to assume that I am personally attacking them because three weeks before, they told me of a specific struggle or problem on this very issue. But even here, if the church member is assuming that I am making it personal, that isn’t good, but my assuming they will take offense is also not good. We often lay awake at night unable to sleep because we are certain that someone made that comment to hurt us in some fashion or because they don’t like us, or “fill in the blank.” And of course, we assume that the person we are thinking about is lying awake themselves thinking up new and cruel ways to cause us pain or to “teach us a lesson.” We are by nature incredibly self-absorbed people and that is where assumption finds its roots-self-absorption. The Scripture does say something about love in the assembly and assumption. “Love seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil . . .Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13). Writing to a Corinthian church that was having some trouble getting along since they were elevating personalities, and pet doctrines and practices over truth, Paul corrects the wrong doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit and His gifts, then he urges them to pursue unity in correct doctrine. The three descriptions of Love manifested that seem to be the most applicable to the issue of making assumptions are as follows:
1.) Living in Love means we are not quickly offended (not easily provoked). If we have the love of Christ within us and we are pursuing love with one another, then we will not be quick to assume that what we heard our brother say or what our brother did was intended to hurt us. We will not rush to provocation when there is disagreement. On the other, hand, we will rush to peace when we feel we have been hurt. To the Spirit-filled saint, it takes a lot to provoke us. But when there is self-absorbed assumption, we immediately take offense when we feel slighted.
2.) Living in Love means we are not programmed to assume evil intent or motives (thinks no evil). We give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt. When they say something that could be taken as slight, we assume they made a mistake withe their words, that they meant something different. Self-absorbed assumption hears insult in everything said, every look given is assumed to be negative. Finding out that we were right sometimes only tends to embolden our self-absorption and although we may be right 40% of the time, this seems to give us a sense of license to be gifted with “discernment.” Oh, how adept we become at justifying pride.
3. Living in Love means we are desiring to believe that the Spirit of God is working and sanctifying our brothers and sisters. Isn’t it strange that we can pray for God to grow and purify each other and we can act as if we are really looking out for one another’s growth in godliness, yet still find some kind of perverted glee when a brother or sister doesn’t live up to our standards or even God’s standards of holiness. We are people of faith, so why do we at times, tend to disbelieve the work of God in another’s life. Do they not have the same Spirit of Grace? Is he not sanctifying them? Why do we respond with “I saw that coming” when we hear of a brother or sister who has fallen into sin? or “I am not surprised” when another is overtaken in a fault? I mean, should it not bother us no only that they have fallen, but that we expected them to fall? Genuine love believes in the work of God in the church. They look at the church as being victorious. They are expecting God to do great things and so they attempt great things for God. This is the mark of one who is impacted by the Love of God. The gospel wins, and so a saint who is convinced of this looks for those believing in the Gospel to win, not fail, and encourages and urges each other on toward good growth in God. We know we all fall, we all fail, but we must not become “Eeyore’s” just waiting to be offended, banking on being disappointed by the church, or expecting the negative in the church to be the norm. Let each failure in the walk of a Christian seem like the first as we “believe all things.”
Are our assumptions concerning one another hindering unity within the community of faith, the church God has placed us? Do our assumptions about other’s intentions, motives, or actions give us perverse pleasure “when we are found to be right”? Or do we make much of Christ and assume that he is doing a great work among his people?
I love going on trips with my family. Sometimes I get the urge to just pack everyone up into the car and start driving in no particular direction. My wife thinks I am crazy…she is probably right. This would probably become a regular occurrence for our family if that pesky money issue would not get in the way. Over the years, I have learned something about myself; I enjoy change. I like living in a climate where the weather changes four times a year. I prefer to have different meals and like coming up with new palatable concoctions. I like to have rooms painted different colors every so often. People often ask me what my favorite food or restaurant is, but I can’t say because I like to try a variety of restaurants (except sushi…that’s disgusting). I am certain that this roaming, changing, dance around impatiently-behavior is a real nuisance to my family, but it is me none the less. I resist this urge regarding some of the more important things of life. For example, I get the urge every four to five years to relocate my family. I realize that this is an area of change that I cannot be so flippant about, as God’s will and God’s direction must take precedents over my intemperate spirit. However much I may resist the careless desire for change in some of these more important areas, it is inevitable that ever several years, these strange feelings come over me.
This desire for persistent change has to be tempered with reality and God’s direction, and I recognize this clearly. However, I am looking forward to a change that is going to take place unlike any other. I am looking forward to that time when I will take an eternal trip to the heavens. Oh, how I long for that eternal change. But why is it that we, redeemed Christians, can become so enamored with the glamor and glitz of this temporary existence that we allow the pains, joys, successes, and failures of this life to occupy our minds and hearts? Why do we stop looking for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God? Why are we tossed back and forth by the circumstances of this life when we know that we are not home yet? Is it because we have forgotten that this life is not our end game? Is it because we seek satisfaction and comfort in the thrills and delights of a passing planet? Saints whose minds are not set upon the the eternal city of God are very little eternal good while in this temporary abode. But we persist, we continue to forget that a great change is coming, and we begin to look at the wind and waves around us and our eyes move further from the tender gaze of our Savior, the one who died for us. And thus we begin to sink. We sink beneath the pressures of our ever-changing feelings. We bow to the pressures of this passing age. We allow our minds and hearts to be trodden down under the tyrannical rule of circumstances of life.
Oh that God would give us the eyes of Abraham, to look for that city, to seek after the eternal habitation of God. To yearn for the presence of our dear Lord and God. Thinking back to my strange desire to get into a car with my family and just drive. We have done that at times, and as we are going home later in the evening, I look back in the back seat and I see three beautiful, little ones, fast asleep. They are unaware of the dangers of other drivers, the storms that may be raging, or the reliability of the automobile. Daddy is going to get them home, nothing else has entered their minds, and so the rest. And in my heart, I think, “Almost home, we’re almost home.” Praise God, that we are almost home.
July 21, 2001, I married the love of my life and my best friend. Speaking earthly, it was the most enjoyable day of my life. Simply put, we had so much fun! I remember clearly standing at the front of that large church building waiting with sweat on my neck for the service to begin. I also remember just moments before I heard the wedding march a strange sensation in my stomach. I suddenly thought, “What if she doesn’t want to marry me? What if she has changed her mind? What if I have changed my mind? A lifetime is a long time.” (I know, sounds real romantic, huh?) But as soon as I saw my soon to be wife start walking down the aisle of that church on that Saturday afternoon, my heart slowed down, all fears vanished and a massive smile swept across my face. She was beautiful! Being the sort who is contrary to tradition, we had already taken pictures and so I had seen her in her lovely gown. I had admired her styled hair, and I had smelled her intoxicating scent. It seemed, however, that now, at that moment, I was seeing her again for the first time. Everything was different that moment. What gripped me the most about my beloved that day was her smile. Our eyes locked from across the building and she smiled! Oh that smile still appears to me in my dreams. Whereas before I had a momentary lapse into fear of the unknown, now I was delighted, comfortable, joyful, and at peace because my beloved accepted me.
Of course you know that I intend to apply this spiritually. Please do not become distracted with the inability of my wedding day experience to perfectly mirror the spiritual. I know all illustrations fail at some point. While recognizing this, I also cannot help but remember that at times, my heart is gripped with doubts. Yes, I am being painfully honest. I have been driving down the road minding my own business, when suddenly out of nowhere, a thought comes to me, “What if all that I believe about God and salvation is not real?” Panic might set in, and if I listen to my weak fleshly thoughts, there is no peace and comfort. I believe it is normal for Christians to experience this. We live in a world where the entire culture and environment is under the dominion of sin and fear. I believe God gives us grace to rise above those fears and doubts while we are connected to Christ, but the flesh and fear do exercise their wicked muscles at times. We struggle with doubts, fears, panics not because we are not good enough, but because we are saints living in a hostile world. We struggle with screams of fear because although we are in Christ, related to God, and forgiven; we are walking by faith, yet without sight. But one day, dear beleaguered Christian, one day-our faith will be sight. We can see the smile of God, his acceptance of us because of Christ’s propitious sacrifice through the lens of faith, but I am so thankful that one day, I will see the smile of God with these eyes. Yes I will endure pains and death will bring this to pass, but I know I shall live again and my Creator and Redeemer will smile and I will finally know what it means in actual realized fulfillment–”Accepted in the Beloved.”
I thank God for my earthly love and companion, my wife. And I thank God for my eternal advocate and friend, Jesus Christ-far surpassing grace than any earthly companion.
This Thursday, July 21, 2011, my dear wife and I will celebrate 10 years of mutually delightful wedded joy with God as the witness between us in our covenant of marriage. In my previous post, I mentioned how blessed I was to be associated with a godly young woman with the courage to tell me, “no” regarding our future. I thank God for that monumental event for it was a watershed moment in my life leading me to utter abandonment in the will and service to King Jesus. But I would be lying if I didn’t say it was one of the hardest relational events I have ever dealt with. I was crushed emotionally, physically, and even spiritually when she said, “no.” But I needed that crushing to be one step (believe me, there are many more to come) of my sanctification. But this post is about a much more delightful event: the day my sweet one said, “Yes.” I can still remember the trembling in my voice, the uncertainty in my mind (although we had already talked about the big event of marriage and she had assured me she wanted to marry me), and the beating drum-line of my heart. As I fell to one knee, I blurted out the words, “Bonnyiluvuwithallmyhartwuldjumrryme????” Yep, I was that classy and graceful. Later she would recount that she didn’t understand a word I said, but saw the ring and figured out what I was very hopelessly trying to communicate. But let me back up and indulge me a moment as I tell the back story of this tremendous event in our lives (for those of you who hate listening to engagement stories, skip down to the last paragraph where things will get a little less cheesy).
After our short stint of being apart from one another (see the previous post), we reunited and began to pursue a romantic relationship once again. This time, however, I was intent on not blowing it. I determined that she was going to like me, not just dutifully love me. We had a wonderful conclusion of our junior year of college, but as God would ordain it. We were destined for different summers. I was to serve at a Bible camp for the summer with no phone or internet service and she was to serve a mission down in Argentina. When she was going to be home, I was going to be away; and vice versa. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, it makes it grow jealous, foolish, and idiotic. That summer was very difficult. Finally, we both believed we knew that our future was to be discovered together, but we couldn’t communicate. God used that time apart to teach us about the art of communication…well, what not to do anyways. It was good for us to be apart though and having as our primary mode of communication the lost art of handwritten letters. I tried my hand at ridiculous poetry (so did she, so stop laughing) and we did the best we could as silly love-struck fools to keep it together. Finally, we were going back to finish our senior years at college. Looking back on it now, both of us say that that summer was hard in a lot of ways, but very important in forming the future of our ministry lives together. We learned better how to be patient with one another, but also to not let our love for one another consume us in ministry. To look outside of our relationship in service to others and not to become one of those annoying couples who sat and gazed longingly in each others eyes while needy people passed by (I think I might throw up a little just writing about it).
I had planned to go a week early to visit her and then to drive her and her friend to college. I arrived at her house and we spent lovely days playing games with and visiting her family and friends and spending some relaxing afternoons on the beach of Lake Michigan. Then came the day. I hadn’t planned it this way, but I woke up one morning in the “guest room” and decided today was the day I would ask her to marry me. I had planned to wait about a month (you know, to keep it a surprise), but just decided now was as good as any. So we planned a little picnic on the beach (I know cliche’ huh?). We were walking along the shore (okay, this gets a little silly, sorry) and I pretended that I had dropped something. I bent down to “get it” and then pulled out a ring, opened my mouth and poured out an awful mess of words strung together in one breath with no sense of order or intelligence. As I said before, neither she nor I could understand the words coming out of my mouth, but she got the idea and she said, “Yes!” Even though we had talked about it, I was still in shock that she was willing to marry me. I don’t remember anything that happened after that for the next few days because I was up in the clouds. I came down soon, though because school was ready to start and we would be engaged for a year before the second most important day of my life took place.
Every time I think of this event, it makes me chuckle of how awkward I was (am??). But it also reminds me of how Christ chose his bride, the church. Nothing good in us caused him to choose us. Not because of good or evil, but that the purposes of God according to election might stand. I did not deserve the gracious affirmation given by this beautiful bride-to-be. But neither do any of us deserve the gracious offer of salvation and love God has mercifully bestowed upon his people. The grace of my wife in loving me pales in comparison to the grace of God in providing salvation to my soul. Praise the King of kings.
Monumental Event #2
Since my dear wife and I have been married for 10 years this July 21, I am writing a series of posts about monumental events in our relationship. Last post I wrote about when we met. It was love at first site…for me. Which, of course, makes sense if you know my wife well and know me well. No one and I mean no one has ever denied that I married up. A lot of people say that as kind of a little joke, but I mean it sincerely. She was (and is) out of my league. So it should not surprise anyone that I had decided that this was the woman I was going to marry fairly soon in our relationship while she still needed “a little convincing.” The problem was that I was pretty immature and selfish and at times could be a royal jerk. But we did have a connection after our fateful date at the run-down amusement park and so the relationship began to progress.
We were both in attendance at a fairly conservative (pretty strict really) Bible college and therefore dating is a little unusual. We were very interested in knowing each other better and so she came home to visit my family and to see the West for a few days after our freshman year of college. We had a great time and when we met up again for our sophomore year of college, I officially became her boyfriend. Lurking deep within my soul, however, was a bitterness and selfishness gnawing at me. I was a pretty good kid, but my interest in spiritual matters was mostly external. Another way to say it was that I was more knowledgeable concerning theological things and spiritual matters than many of my age, but my heart had very little relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. I was blind to how this was being evidenced in my life, but my dear girlfriend was not blind to my weak character. I was very opinionated (was???) and had already planned out our future together. So you can imagine my surprise when I sought to deepen our involvement and was rebuffed with “no.” Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t mean but very gentle and in her own way let me know that there were some serious character defects that were not obvious to me that needed to be taken care of before we could move any further in our relationship-just like that the relationship was cut. I was devastated. One reason being that I thought I had lost the love of my life. But the more prominent reason was that I just couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to be with me.
During a particular intense sermon that I was listening to, I became so overwhelmed with my own insufficiency and pride that I left the worship service. I just had to get out of there. I found a dark room and for several hours met with God. The best way I can express this time is like to that of Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord. I just could not leave that room until I knew that God would bless me. If you don’t understand what I am talking about, let me explain how I am like Jacob, the Patriarch. Just like Jacob, I had spent my life putting myself in favorable positions. I wanted a job-I got a job. I wanted a raise-I got a raise. I wanted a girl-I got the girl. I worked hard to bless myself just as Jacob had done. But it wasn’t until Jacob, empty and alone realized that life has no meaning unless God is the source of all blessing. That night, upon my knees, I wouldn’t let go in prayer until I had emptied myself and found my life in Christ alone. I had been justified many years ago by grace through faith as a young boy. But this moment was different. It was a moment where in the sanctification process God helped me see that I must live my life with one purpose only, that purpose being to exalt God alone and to enjoy him as my only sufficiency and blessing. The verse that echoed through my mind was, “My grace is sufficient.” It is still a daily battle to rest in Christ alone, but when I rose in the dark of that classroom, I believed in my heart of hearts, that even if I never got the girl, the job, the life I had wanted-the truth that God’s gracious love was poured out upon me was sufficient for the rest of my life. My life radically changed. Before I would have an intense desire to read the Word and know God, but that would be followed by months of apathy and disregard for spiritual things. But now, I hungered, truly hungered to be conformed to the image of Christ. I read the Scripture differently. Instead of reading with the prayer of “teach me truths.” I now read with the prayer of “change me with your truth.”
God was so gracious to allow my girlfriend to begin to see a change in me. It was gradual and there are still many pitfalls and weaknesses of flesh that I struggle with. But God was changing me and I didn’t even see it, but she did. I remember with joy when we were visiting one evening (we still maintained a friendship throughout this time) and she said, “You’re different, you’ve changed.” I didn’t know how to respond to that because I didn’t feel different nor did I see the change very much. But then she informed me that she wanted to start dating again. Needless to say, I was elated!
I thank my God often that he sent me a wife who had the discernment, the godliness, and the moral courage to tell me “no.” God used my wife while we were in these infant stages of our relationship to open my eyes to a vibrant, genuine relationship with the King of kings. And she hasn’t stopped doing this same thing. I praise God for my Bonnie.
This year, my wife and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. It has been the most wonderful ten years of my life, and I don’t say that flippantly or out of a sense of duty, I mean that with every sincere bone in my body. Those who read this blog and know me personally, know very well that there is nothing within me that deserves the wife I have. Those who know my wife, probably often mutter with amazement, “How could she be with him?” My dear wife’s character is a great encouragement and rebuke to me. She takes care of three wild boys under the age of five and yet is certain to wake up every morning before the hooligans are roused to spend time with God. Her character is laced with Divine grace. Her personality also is exactly what I need. She is the most “maintenance-free” woman I have ever met. I am so blessed because I am usually pretty tactless and stupid with remarks, but she is not easily offended. I have rarely seen her get angry at another human being, and we gel well together. What a blessed man I am, to have found a virtuous woman whose price is far above rubies. The author of Proverbs 31 asks “who can find her?” And I respond, I have her! Obviously she is a sinner like the rest of us, but I can truly say without reservation that God gave me an unsearchable measure of grace when he bestowed upon me my wife. In light of or tenth anniversary and in contemplating how blessed I am. I have decided to recount some monumental moments in our life together. These moments of great grace by God evoke great gratitude in how God has blessed me with a suitable-help for my life.
It was a Saturday morning at a small Bible college in the northern woods of Wisconsin when I first met my bride to be. I was a silly Freshman in college with a friend looking to have some fun with a group of other students. We were headed down to a really cheesy and probably unsafe mini-amusement park. It was a school sponsored function so we loaded up into an old bus to make the hour and one-half drive south (yes I said south) to Green Bay, WI. My friend, Tim, and I were seated on the bus being our usual foolish selves, when this blond girl sat right across from us. (I didn’t know it at the time, but she was trying to avoid a guy who was pursuing her and so she sat next to us). We hit it off right away and got to know each other pretty quickly. I remember all kinds of crazy events that day. I remember that when we got to the little amusement park, we kept bumping into each other. I remember that it rained for part of the time, and I remember sitting next to each other on a death-trap of a carnival ride that malfunctioned while spinning at top-speed and would not cease. I thought we were going to die (or at least I was going to vomit all over everyone), but I was okay with that, because in my mind there was no better place to be than right next to this beautiful blond girl from Michigan. The rest of the day went as normal as could be, but I remember feeling very sad that I could not sit next to my new friend on the way back to school because the guy who was after her, finally found a way to weasel his way in. Oh, well, I know how that turned out and I won! This was one of the most monumental days in my life. It was the day that God providentially opened up a seat on a bus next to me for this girl to sit down. It was the day that God graciously allowed us to keep “running into one another.” It was the day that God forever would change my life by gracing me with the presence of one I would spend the rest of my life with. Thank you God for your providential blessing and care in even the most obscure moments of our lives, and thank you for my wife.
More events to come….