walking with others

In our first year of marriage, my wife and I took a hiking trip together in the Rockies. We got new packs and packed light. We planned our trip well. When the day came to walk the 6 miles up the mountain we knew it would be a difficult climb. It was a good thing that we were together because it would have been much more difficult to walk alone. We were able to encourage each other steps and help carry ones pack when tired.

Walking with others in the church is both beautiful and arduous. Those two characteristics cannot be separated. As we struggle to do life with one another the old adage is true—it’s hard to live with them but we can’t live without them. The way we walk with one another demonstrates the beauty of Christ and the hard work of striving to make him famous.

There are three encouragements the author of Hebrews gives for walking with others. First, love like a brother. Brotherly love is a family-like intimacy (v.1). A family member shares blood and dirt. You know things about one another that most do not. In the community of faith, we have the blood of Jesus in common, we are adopted into the family of God, and we share a level of intimacy that is otherworldly. It is a relationship we will share into eternity. This is good reason to get along in the here and now.

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” – Hebrews 13:1-3, ESV

Second, show hospitality. Typically hospitality provides room and board to strangers, but it also demonstrates a willingness to place someones needs above your own. Jesus is our example of what hospitality looks like. He came to serve not to be served. Like Jesus we are all strangers in this world. Showing hospitality can surprise those we serve with a bountiful meal inside out and in the process we might even entertain angels (v.2).

Third, remember the persecuted (v.3). You may know brothers and sisters who are suffering for the Name of Jesus. By ministering to those who are mistreated you are pouring on them encouragement and strength (cf. 11:25,37). We will all suffer for the sake of Christ. That is a promise from the mouth of Jesus himself. It is our badge, but we’re in this together. It is a mutual blessing to carry your brothers burden, especially when he is facing mistreatment for the Name as he will likely carry yours one day too.

Walking with others is hard because walking with Jesus is hard. Yet walking through the fire together produces a beautiful Body that you are a member.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What makes people hard to love? What makes you hard to love sometimes? Who is someone that is hard for you to love? How can you demonstrate brotherly love to them?
  • How does Jesus demonstrate brotherly love? Who are some hard to love people he loved well? What do you learn from him about how to love well?
  • What do you think of the you think of hospitality? Does hospitality natural or unnatural for you? When is it hard for you to show hospitality? What is the battle to serve and be served like within you? Can you think of a time you were shown hospitality? How did that bless you inside out?
  • Do you know someone suffering right now for Christ? How are they being mistreated? How can you minister to them? We are a Body, so as they suffer how are you suffering with them?
  • As you walk with others this week, which of these characteristics do you want to grow in most? Why?
Advertisements

the good God

good God

“How can you believe in three gods?”  asks my Muslim neighbor.  It’s then that I come face to face with a common misunderstanding about God as I understand him.

Recently, I was given the book, The Good God (Michael Reeves, Paternoster, UK, 2012) from a pastor friend in London, England.  It is a small book.  And after a brief thumbing, it appeared to be packed with theology and quotes from church fathers.  I shrugged it off as another colorless treatise on the Trinity.  However, as I began to delve into the pages they began to delve into me.  I gained a fresh veneration and love for my God in a book I’d dub as both practical and devotional.  The fog surrounding the Trinity vanished and what appeared was God’s incomparable beauty and love.

The thrust of the book is that God is love because God is Trinity.  It goes on to say that if God was not Father he would not be loving.  “It is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.” (vii)  The love between the persons of God help one to understand the triune God better.

What was God doing before creation?

A Christians understanding of God is built on the Son who reveals him (4). God as Father helps you to know how he loves.  If you don’t start with Jesus the Son, you end up with a different God who is not Father.  Richard the Scot said, “If God was just one person, he could not be intrinsically loving, since for all eternity (before creation) he would have had nobody to love…being triune, God is a sharing God, a God who loves to include. His love is not for keeping but for spreading.” (14-15)  Luther said, “Only when God is known as a loving Father is he known aright.” (60) And John Owen said, “God is our most loving Father…The greatest unkindness you can do to him is to refuse to believe that he loves you.” (77)

Over the past few years, I have observed a culture of a single-person god among Muslims in North Africa.  I can echo Reeves observations when he says,

“Oneness for the single-person God would mean sameness. Alone for eternity without any beside him, why would he value others and their differences? Think how it works out for Allah: under his influence, the once-diverse cultures of Nigeria, Persia and Indonesia are made deliberately and increasingly, the same. Islam presents a complete way of life for individuals, nations, and cultures, binding them into one way of praying, one way of marrying, buying, fighting, relating—even, some would say, one way of eating and dressing.  Oneness for the triune God means unity. As the Father is absolutely one with his Son, and yet is not his Son, so Jesus prays that believers might be one, but not that they might all be the same.  Created male and female, in the image of God, and with many other good differences between us, we come together valuing the way the triune God has made us each unique.” (84; also see 1 Corinthians 12:4,17-20)

Single-person gods—having spent eternity alone—are inevitably self-centered beings.  If this is the kind of god one worships, they become like what they worship.  “If God is not triune it gets even worse: for if God is not triune, it becomes difficult, not only to account for the goodness of creation (as we have seen), but also to account for the existence of evil within it.” (39)  Thus how God the Father loves the Son helps one to understand how God loves creation, hates evil, and his love does something about it.

What is God’s work in salvation?

It is because God is triune that the cross is such good news.  Friedrich Nietzsche boldly said, “God is dead.”  By this he meant that belief in God is simply no longer viable and faith is no longer needed.  However, Reeves adds “‘God is dead’ is where true faith begins. For, on the cross, Christ the Glory puts to death all false ideas of God; and as he cries out to his Father and offers himself up by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), breathing out his last, he reveals a God beyond our dreams.” (105)  At the cross we see a God who is infinitely better: unconditionally loving, darkness hating, tremendously glorious.

Since God is a lover from before creation (of his Son), he created humans to be lovers too.  Created to love God, we turn to love ourselves and anything but God.  This is when sin entered the world.  Naturally, man is bent in on himself and takes hellish delight in his own supposed independence.  However, God as the supreme lover atones for sin himself via the Son. God gives himself.  What single-person god would do this? Especially when you think of the reckless and storied lives of the Greeks and Romans.

“Strip down God and make him lean and you must strip down his salvation and make it mean.  Instead of a life bursting with love, joy, and fellowship, all you will be left with is the watery gruel of religion. Instead of a loving Father, a distant potentate; instead of fellowship, contract. No security in the beloved Son, no heart-change, no joy in God could that spirit bring.” (82)

Without the Son, God cannot truly be a Father.  If God is alone, he is not truly loving. Thus he has no fellowship to share with us, no Son to bring us close, no Spirit through whom we might know him.

Reeves says, “My new life began when the Spirit first opened my eyes (light) and won my heart (heat) to Christ… And as he stirs me to think ever more on Christ, he makes me more and more God-like: less self-obsessed and more Christ-obsessed.” (73)  Again, we become like what we worship.

When I go and share the knowledge of God’s great love with others I reflect something very important about who God is.  I share the missional, generous, image of God.  As Reeves continues, “The mission (of God) comes from overflow of love, from the uncontainable enjoyment of fellowship (with himself and others).” (86) Who is to love?  What is my example to be loving to others?  It is found in God as Father.

I would highly recommend this book to a new believer, seminary student, small group, and missionary to Muslims.  It is a book that fosters love for God and greater appreciation for his love for us.  This truly speaks more to my Muslim neighbors than a powerful apologetic.  As I think of God as Father and relish in the love of the Son and the life with the Spirit, it sincerely affects my love for my neighbor.  My only caution is for those who desire a beefy book with slam-dunk comments to defeat opponents of the Trinity, it’s not that kind of book.  Neither is it an exhaustive book on the Trinity.  It is sufficient enough to give a good defense why God is triune.  It satisfies ones longing to know and love God better.

Note: The book also goes by the title Delighting in the Trinity for those who live on the US side of the pond.

daughters, daddy’s, and God’s glory

daughters

I have three little jewels. They came to me as blessed gifts from above.  Each jewel has unique facets and glimmer with unending beauty.  Their beauty rises from within and shines throughout, mixing the temporal and eternal.  I simply enjoy holding my jewels and can look at them for hours upon hours.  I cherish them.  I take time to let them know how much I adore them and do whatever it takes to help them keep their beauty.  For their beauty reflects a greater beauty to a beauty-stricken world.  My jewel are my daughters.

Dads and daughters. It’s a uniquely special relationship. I know, since I have three daughters. Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade my daughters for any son. My daughters are my pint-sized princesses. They were born with a natural ability to pirouette, a spirit bent on loveliness, and contagious giggles. I delight to watch my girls be girls and crush them with squeezes and douse them affectionate words like “Sweetheart,” “Snuggle Bums,” or “Beautiful one”. I even have special, silly songs for them that I like to sing only over them.

Where does the delight that daddy’s have for their daughters originate? It is eternal.  It came before time began.  It originated from another Father.  You see it first in his love for the eternal Son.  But it spreads to his creation which he lavishes with his embrace, pours out affectionate words, even sings overs.  There are many songs God has written for his children.  Zephaniah 3:14-17 is perhaps the most enchanting.

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

God has a daughter?

Did you know God had a daughter too?  Did you think God only had a Son?  It might come to you as a surprise, but God’s daughter is Israel (v.14).  God calls an entire nation his daughter.  He chose Israel from among all nations of the world and adopted her as his own.  He favors her, treasures her, sings to her, and loves her deeply.  Israel is the apple of his eye.  His heart melts for her, even when aa Zephaniah tells us how bad his daughter had become (see 3:1-5).

God is his daughter’s keeper

Daughters are precious jewels and there is within a good father a God-given inclination to protect her and keep her from evil (v.15).  Most daughters do not like this about their fathers at first or at all because some father tend to be either passive or overprotect.  However, good fathers are aware of the enemies that steal and destroy the hearts of daughters such as vanity, seductiveness, and self-image.

The enemy and the world are clever at redefining and distorting beauty and says, “This is what beauty looks like. Follow this way, and you will be known and liked and loved.”  Most daughters or women will tell you that  way is shallow and is an endless pursuit leading to much frustration and regret.  Therefore good fathers go to great lengths to remind their daughters where the well of beauty is found and strive to lead them there.

God warned Israel over and over, “Do not turn away from my voice and follow other gods (or faux-fathers).”  He is jealous for his daughter.  He delights in his daughter as the apple of his eye, but knows they were a surrounded by rotten apples.  Yet God assures them that though there was much to fear around them they had nothing to fear because God was with them.  God is his daughter’s keeper (vs.15-16; cf. Psalm 91:14ff; 59:1-2).

I remember when I first brought my girls to Chad, Justus in particular, was afraid and intimidated to talk to people. She was surrounded by many new faces she did not know.  There was so many new fears.  She would cling to her mom or me.  Sometimes when I would lead her outside the gate for a walk she would ask for me to hold her and she would hug my neck tight.  She thought is was safe to be near to me.

The safest place for you to be is with your Father.  Cling to him.  Hear his words.  Trust he is near.  Clasp onto his strong hands.  Do not fear.  He is your protector.  He will keep you.

Fathers, keep your daughters.  Teach them about the love of God.  Guard them from enemies and teach her his lies.  Stand in the line of attack so that your daughter sees how you fight against the enemy when the day comes when she doesn’t have you nearby to protect her.

No father wants to see their daughter fall or get hurt because they walked outside the umbrella of your counsel.  That’s when it becomes a temptation to overprotect, but an overprotective father is not a loving father.  Overprotection seeks control your daughter.  A father cannot control everything.  And when you do you play god, but don’t play god very well.  The intended result of overprotect is often the opposite.  Instead of your daughter running to you for counsel, they will be repelled by it.

Fathers, trust God to protect your daughters when they venture out on their own.  Pick them up when they fall and embrace them when they return to you.  Remember, even Israel became a harlot and shamed God, but she was still God’s daughter and he keeps all his promises to her and loves her deeply.  God is like the father of the prodigal, full of grace and love.

Daughters, maybe your view of God the Father is tainted because you’ve had an abusive or passive earthly father.  This happens.  But God the Father is not like this.  He is a good Father.  Yet if you have an earthly father, trust him as he seeks to protect you.  He might not always be the best at it.  He may have many holes in their armor.  He might miss an enemy or two, but God has called them to protect you.  If you step outside their protection the enemy has better aim at you.  For your own protection heed the words of your father and your God and learn how to fight the enemy from him.  There is nothing to fear.

God is his daughter’s warrior and songwriter

God often fought many battles for Israel, but sometimes he let her go out to battle alone.  This was a test to her faith and resolve.  Sometime Israel would fear and flee.  Sometimes she would call on the Father for help and he would rescue.  Sometimes she would make an alliance with the enemy and not listen to the Father’s words.  But always, God was there with her.  He was with her on good and bad and ugly days. Loving her, soothing her, holding her, rejoicing over her, and singing over her (v.17).

When are daughters most afraid?  I find that my daughter is most afraid when she feels alone or unsure or she has done wrong.  In those moments, my daughter is looking for a warrior, a fighter, someone to champion her fear.  It is then that I remind her that I love her (even if I must discipline her) and sing over her.

Fathers, rejoice over your children.  Sing praises over them.  For real!  Even if you sound silly or think you look stupid or sing severely out of tune.  As God sings over you with loud frivolous exultations, mirror that to your daughters.  Your daughter will remember this the rest of her life.  These will be her battle songs.

Daughters, encourage your father to be a strong warrior.  He needs to hear this from you.  Ask him to help you, pray with you, and advise you through your battles.  Also, don’t be embarrassed when he sings silly songs of praises over you.  He loves you because you are his jewel. the apple of his eye.  He cannot help but sing over you.

God quiets us with His singing, its a singing that drowns out all other competing noises of life that clamor for our attentions and do what they can do to distract us.  He is drowning out the noisy lies of the enemy and quieting our raging heart with his beautiful songs of praise.

What does God sing over us?  He sings songs of truth.  He sings his promises over us.  He reminds us of his faithfulness, that as we abide in Him, He abides in us and keeps us in his love.  He sings to remind us that as we draw near to him, he will draw near to us.  He is for us and not against us.  How wonderful it is that our good good Father sings over us.

Sons and daughters of God.  Run into your Daddies arms.  Listen for his songs of praise over you.  Know that you are his precious jewel…

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

loving your brother while living in a messy world

mess worth making

You just don’t let anyone in your fridge. Why is that? It could be that there is a mess in there or something you wouldn’t want just anybody to see. That might embarrass some. Yet for those privileged few you give permission to find something to drink or eat from your fridge you have reached a certain level of comfort. Even though there might be a mess, you are comfortable showing your mess because you have nothing to hide.

I’ve been walking through 1 Corinthians, a letter written to a messy church (and what church isn’t?). Looking at the church in Corinth is like looking into a messy fridge. It’s a little embarrassing. We see all the faults and fears.  Yet it is somewhat comforting looking at Corinth because it’s somewhat normal church.

The question I’ve been asking while reading 1 Corinthians is: How can I make much of Christ in a messy church in a messy world? There is no mistake that Paul brings every question and every concern of the church back to Christ (so important!). For Christ is the solution and the center of the church, and if not, the center becomes the mess not the Messiah. Christ has come to be the Messiah of the mess we have made.

As I enter 1 Corinthians 8, the question becomes specific: How do I follow Christ (or exercise my rights and freedoms in Christ) while living in a messy world without bringing more messes into the church? To this the Bible gives a mosaic of wisdom that when pieced together helps me to see how I am to live in a messy world.

First, seek His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:31-33). Jesus wants me to think of God’s kingdom and righteousness as two lanes of a oneway street. To seek God’s kingdom is to honor His authority, not usurp it. To usurp God is to veer off the left shoulder of the road. To seek God’s righteousness is to honor His standards, not disobey them. To disobey God is to veer off the right shoulder of the road. Together seeking both God’s kingdom and righteousness help me to walk the road of freedom in Christ when everyone else around me is abusing that freedom.

Second, be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus says I live in this world by default. I cannot escape it. Therefore since the world is my temporary home, I must choose to live purely (salt) and shine brightly (light). In the process, by God’s grace, I display the gospel of Christ to a messy and darkened world.

Now it is possible to seek God’s kingdom, to seek His righteousness, and to be salt and light, but there is still a missing piece of the mosaic, which is thirdly, love God and your [brother] as yourself (Luke 10:27). This piece is seen in 1 Corinthians 8, which in reality, is that Great Commandment made practical. Loving your brother or considering others in your community of Christ, makes much of Christ. Our text today gives three truths towards loving your brother while living in a messy world.

1) Love your brother, love not what you know (vs.1-3).

Paul introduces the issue, “Now concerning food offered to idols” (v.1a) but before dealing with the question of food sacrificed to idols, He comments on related matters: 1) the danger of knowledge about such things and 2) the primacy of love over knowledge as the guiding principle for Christ-like behavior.

Knowledge is good, but dangerous. Paul begins by quoting certain Corinthians who thought they were ‘in-the-know’ who said, “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1b) The ‘knowledge’ quoted here is a specific kind of knowledge related to the idols who they knew were nothing compared to the One True God (see: v.4). Their knowledge was theologically spot on. Paul had no disagreement, but what he did disagree with their application of that knowledge to those not in-the-know. Paul saw their knowledge or know-it-all-ness as a danger sign.

It is said, “knowledge is power.” Have you ever known someone who was really knowledgeable, knew it and flaunted it? Have you ever possessed a little bit of knowledge and felt it’s dangerous affect? Sometimes the most dangerous Christians are those who gain a little bit of knowledge and wield it with reckless tactlessness like a kid with an broadsword who’s just watch Braveheart. The Corinthians knew a few things about Christian theology, but they became so full of pride and they lost sight of more important teachings, such as loving and edifying others.

Love over knowledge is our guiding principle. Paul warns those in-the-know that “knowledge puffs up” (inflates), “but love builds up” (deflates). Knowledge makes us feel important, but it is love that strengthens the church. There is absolutely no room for arrogance in the Christian community. Paul will not put up with it. Not because he is anti-knowledge, but because he is anti-knowledge that is anti-loving. For a swollen head does not equal a swollen heart.

Recently, I met a grand marabou at a friends house. Once that he found out I was a Christian he railroaded our conversation by waxing eloquent his view of Islam and the Quran. He might have some good things to say, but it had no effect on me. For anytime I tried to ask a question he refused to answer and anytime I tried to insert a comment he interrupted. After 30 minutes of talking and chanting he finally asked my opinion. I said, “You love hearing yourself talk more than you love me or your God.” I told him I’d like to talk more later, but that I’d come to be with my friend.

True knowledge humbles those in-the-know because they realize how little they know. “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (v.2). Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.

After seminary, I was a know-it-all. I graduated from Bible College with a small piece of paper and a big fat head. Then I began to pastor and went to seminary. It was then that realized I really didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. When I compared my faint and fragment knowledge with the infinite knowledge of God, there was a humbling that went on within me that was good. I never really know enough until I recognize that God alone knows it all.

This text hits me hard because I love what people think of me more than I’d like to think that I love them. That is so anti Christ and it’s an extremely dangerous attitude in the community of Christ. Maybe, you, like me, need to take a moment to reflect upon the infinite knowledge of God and the incomprehensible love of Christ.

Love is redeeming. Paul illustrates this by saying, “If anyone loves God, he is known by God” (v.3). The expression “known by God” appears elsewhere in Paul’s writings (cf. Galatians 4:9) as a description of redemption. Paul meant that, unlike the prideful people who center their religious lives around knowledge, those who focus on love demonstrate that they have been redeemed. Christian love is always constructive. It builds up. It encourages. It shows people a picture of Christ who Himself possessed all knowledge yet loved his brothers to the death. He knew-it-all, yet He was the most humble man. // Love your brother, love not what you know.

2) Unite around what you know about God (vs.4-6).

Since Paul has laid a foundation for love over knowledge, he now returns to the main topic of concern: “eating food offered to idols” (v.4). He affirms to theological truths those in-the-know knew, first, “an idol has no real existence” (cf. Isaiah 40, Psalm 115) and second  “that there is no God but one.” With these statements he resolves the issue that there was no problem with eating idol meat since it had been offered to something that did not really exist.

Now Paul is not minimizing idols, rather he is magnifying the God of Israel. The One True God compared to every other god is a non-comparison (vs.5-6a). Moreover, there is but “one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (v.6b). These verses take the form of an early catechism or hymn of praise to God the Father and God the Son that all Christians could unite around.

How should theology unite us rather than divide us? For example, as we see how the Father and Son relate to one another, we also see how we in the church must relate to one another. That’s practical and applicable theology! It will get even more so next.

3) Be willing to sacrifice your rights for your brother (vs.7-13)

Next, Paul shares a case study (vs.7-13). He introduces us to someone “not” in-the-know (revealing a wrong assessment of the church; v.1). Likely a young Christian recently saved out of a life connected to the pagan temple. To this new Christian, eating idol meat poses a serious concern, if not sin. For him, every shopping trip to the market, every town festival, every dinner party or BBQ with the locals presented a quandary. And one day, he sees a strong and respected Christian at a local restaurant likely affixed to a pagan temple and he has a bigger quandary, “If it’s okay for him to eat idol meat, then it must be okay for me to sin too.” He then syncretizes his new found faith in Christ with his former lifestyle in idolatry.

In case you did not know, there are varying opinions and consciences within the Body of Christ. That’s okay. The church will always be filled with new, old, mature, immature, strong or weak believers. Even though we have great freedom in the gospel and our freedom grows as our understanding grows, we must be willing to sacrifice freedoms for the sake of one another. It is no trivial thing, for when we cause other brothers to sin, we ultimately sin against Christ.

Remember when God asked Cain where his brother Abel was and he responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Essentially, that is the type of attitude Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 8-10. Paul responds to the Cain’s who bring their offerings and worship to church, but do not love their fellow brothers rather they lead their brothers to destruction.

Notice the emphasis in this text isn’t on with the weaker brother who needs to know more about his unfound freedom. The emphasis is on the stronger brother who is thoughtless towards the weaker Christian (cf. Romans 14). By insisting their rights, even Christian rights, it is a sign that something else other than the One True God is being worshiped. The problem for the stronger brother is that his right to use freedom is more important than relinquishing it for his brother. He is not willing to sacrifice his rights for his brother. (How is this text applicable for us in Chad?)

Paul is willing to become a vegetarian to protect his brothers growth in Christ. He expresses in words how love trumps knowledge. Wouldn’t you be willing to give up going to dinner for your brother? Would you be willing to sacrifice your opinion of the style of worship service or social rights for your brother? Are you willing to follow the example of Christ who Himself gave up everything? Remember, it always comes back to making much of Christ.

Can you think of a church member or brother or sister in Christ you have a hard time loving? What about them is hard to love? How could you love them better? Would you take a moment to pray for them and a God-given love towards them?

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11)

Lord Jesus, we are delighted that you were so principled that you cared about the lost, the weak, and the worldly. We are so grateful for your tender mercy and unconditional love. Now, O Lord, give us the same love for others, that we may honor both you and them. In Jesus name, Amen.

thumb licks [4.20.13]

My daughter’s Beauty.

The Danger in Talking About Why We Should be Involved in a Church.

Nebula’s in 3-D. The Creator’s art.

7 Ways to support your pastor.

Where are the honest atheists?

Godly lessons from sports.

Bigger than we think. The doctrine of Creation.

Debunking 3 common myths about the resurrection.

How to interpret Christianese.

What is Love?

Jesus forgives risky women

Lightbulb

A few years ago, my wife served at Vision of Hope, a residential treatment center for women at risk. During her time on staff, we met many gals from backgrounds of horrific abuse, numbing addictions, and life-debilitating decisions. These gals came wrecked and desperate for change. Miraculously many of those gals intersected with Jesus, began listening to the Bible, and transformed from inside out. You would never know today the history many of these gals had because Jesus had forgiven them and set them free. Jesus loves rescuing risky women.

In the gospel of Luke, we see Jesus mingling with some risky characters like Levi the tax collector who invites Jesus to a party with his buddies (5:27-32), a leper (5:12-26), and a crazed demon possessed man (4:31-44). Jesus reaches out to people most would consider keeping at a distance. In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus intersect with a risky woman in the oddest of places, a religious leaders home. This story begs us to ask the question, which character do I most resemble?

Let’s meet Simon. Simon is a Pharisee. He’s an elite Jewish leader who is known for being a stickler about the law, sort or like the religious rules police. For an unknown reason he invites Jesus over to his house for a meal. Jesus accepts. As Jesus arrives Simon insults Jesus by ignoring to greet Him or give Him water to wash His feet. Simon has a some chip on his shoulder.

It’s not just Jesus he disrespects, he labels a woman. Sure, she’s an unexpected guest and a ‘woman of the city’ who would never be invited to Simon’s house or these kind of parties. He makes a rash judgment about the woman saying, “She is a sinner.” (v.39) Simon has no sympathy for sinners.

Religious people are slow to see others needs, but they are quick to spot others sins before their own

Simon thinks that since he keeps the rules he’s a good man. Compared to his uninvited guest he appears pretty good. Simon is good; good at seeing the flaws in others. He can spy a sinner miles away, all the while camouflage his soul to the public. He does not see himself as a sinner nor his own need of forgiveness. However, Jesus has x-ray vision and sees the condition of Simon’s heart. It’s inhospitable, unloving, irreverent, and unforgiven.

In what ways are you like Simon the Pharisee? Be honest. Is your standard of goodness comparing yourself to others? Have you held back the gospel from ‘sinners’? Are you quick to judge and slow to compassion? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions you have some similarities to Simon.

Simon blew an opportunity to show grace and compassion to this woman. He could have said, “Welcome! I want to be the first to introduce you to Jesus!” Instead, he labels, judges, and belittles her. He despises both woman and Jesus. He despises her despicable reputation and Jesus’ growing reputation. He despises the way the woman worships Jesus because he doesn’t know who Jesus really is.

Those who know who Jesus really is are not ashamed to respond to Him with humble, generous, repentant worship

luke7This woman has a lot to be ashamed about, but she unashamedly approaches Jesus at Simon’s house. She risks her pride and already diminished reputation to see Him there in public, of all places. It is obvious she put thought her actions. She kisses Jesus’ feet, washes them with her tears, and puts ointment on them (vs.37-38). It might appear to be an awkward or offensive situation, but to Jesus it’s beautiful, generous, humble, repentant worship.

Jesus does not rebuke the woman, instead He approves of her humble extravagance. Jesus loves worship. The only thing that matters in worship is God’s approval. He created you for His glory and praise. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.” (Romans 11:36) “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16) “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory.” (Isaiah 43:7)

In response to the woman, Jesus shows love and gives her the most hopeful words, “Your sins are forgiven” (v.48). Can you imagine what those four words meant to her? How life-altering they would be?

In what ways are you like the woman of the city? She does not hold back from worshiping Jesus. She knows who Jesus is and what He can do for her. What she needs is forgiveness. She faces her sin. She does not run or hide. She finds forgiveness in Jesus.

Jesus came to earth to challenge the religious status quo and transform you from the inside out

As I said in the beginning, this story begs us to ask the question, which character do I most resemble? It is common to compare yourself with Simon or the woman, but in what ways are you like Jesus? Jesus is the main character of this story. He’s the star of the whole Bible. In this particular story there is a lot to be learned from Jesus. He accepts both the sinner and the saint. He gives both what they need. To the sinner He gives her forgiveness and assurance. To the one who thinks he’s a saint he gives truth in love. Jesus challenges the the religious status quo. Here’s how:

First, Jesus challenges our flawed perception of our own goodness (vs.41-42). Simon thought he was a good man, especially compared to the woman, but compared to Jesus he looked quite putrid. Jesus reveals the condition of Simon’s heart: polished on the outside, but tarnished on the inside. By the worlds standard’s the Simon is a good man and the woman is bad, but Jesus sees them both equally as sinful and needing forgiveness. Remember, Jesus is our standard of goodness not another sinner.

Second, Jesus challenges our shallow values (vs.44-47). The Pharisee sees himself as an important person. In contrast, the woman humbles herself to show what she deems important. The woman gives Jesus her most precious object in the world because she believes Jesus is the gift of forgiveness will be the most precious gift to her. By breaking the alabaster flask, she is handing over everything that is important to her. Jesus becomes her most valued treasure.

Third, Jesus challenges our sense of safety and certainty (vs.48-50). Simon finds safety and security in his religious system. Following rules is the easy part, but it settles for a lesser status quo than following the way of Jesus. Jesus sets the bar. He shows how you can love the law, yet love others who don’t measure up to it. Jesus’ love for the woman trumps the label Simon puts on her.

If you are into safety and certainty, you will miss God and will miss an opportunity to speak the gospel into a persons life. Religious systems call for conformity to the system, but the gospel calls for transformation through Christ alone. The one thing that is certain in this world is Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to God but by Him. He is the standard of goodness. And no one measures up. But by His grace you can be saved because Jesus took all your badness on the cross. Come to Him and be forgiven. Let Him change you from the inside out.

Who do you most resemble in this story? You are the pharisee when you forget you are like the woman. Do you believe you are a sinner, or do you think you’re basically a good person? Do you know that Jesus has forgiven your sins? If so, how can you be loving and serving Jesus, at home, at school, in your neighborhood?

walking like Christ

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

The game Simon Says is a game we play as children. But it is a game that we are never too old to play. The idea of following a leader is ingrained in our core being. We are hardwired to imitate from the womb.

Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) What can we learn about imitating from children? Children are natural born imitators. They are masters at mimicking their parent’s. Often children imitate quickly, enthusiastically, and without embarrassment. God loves children, especially His children. Therefore, Paul is challenging adult followers, as a child adopted into the family of God, imitate your Father.

Let’s look at what God says to imitate and copy. This text is especially important for ministry partners, church members, and doing life with other Christians. Read Ephesians 5:1-2. Within these two verses I have three questions and two application:

Q1: What about God are we called to imitate?

We are called to “walk in love” (cf. 3:17-19). That’s our goal. What does it look like to walk in love? “When He had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples (you smell like Christ), if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

Q2: Who is my model for walking in love?

Jesus. Ephesians 5:2 is God’s list of values. #1 on God’s list of personal values is Jesus. He values Himself. Since He values Himself, He desires His children to walk like Him. The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.”

Q3: How is the example of Christ a good enough motivation to walk in love?

I asked this question to a group of children this week. Without hesitation a six-year old Eden raised her hand and said with a sweet smile, “God’s love.” In the simple words of a child she was so on target. God’s love is enough. The love God gives His children is demonstrated in the sacrificial love of His Son. Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.1 He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. You and I have received that love as beloved children. Being receivers of His love is motivation enough to continue living in His love, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Bind on your heart this truth: God is my Father and I am His child.

Since it is clear that God values His Son and desires His community of followers to walk like His Son, I have two applications for us as ministry partners:

1. Remember, the way we walk models the gospel.

How we deal with our difference speaks loudly (cf. Ephesians 4:25-32; 5:3-5). Sooner or later what you think about someone in your heart will come out of your mouth. It might be a small jab, behind the back slander, the silent treatment, or an outburst of rage, Usually it starts with a small personality or preferential issue that builds over time until it becomes big and ugly and out of control. Deal with it before before the rash spreads.

4 years I got the the worst case of poison ivy. The problem was, I did not know what it was at first. I thought it was a small bug bite. Within 48-hours a rash covered my body and I was a miserable itchy pussy mess. It was so bad that I wore pajama pants to work for 2-weeks. If I only caught it early, it would not have been bad at all. So it is with differences between ministry partners: deal with it quickly and biblical.

Last year Sarah and I were talking to long time missionaries to Brazil. They openly shared about a season of conflict on their team. They were part of a multicultural team and misunderstanding between one another were common. At one point the differences were so great they considered leaving the team, but were torn because they loved the people to whom they were ministering and did not want to abandon the work. Sadly, their differences were also known by the people. The testimony of the gospel was tarnished by the missionaries conflict.

The team decided rather than splitting ways to deal with the heart of the issue. They gathered together for a meeting. Outside the locals had also gathered around to see what would happen expecting tempers to flare and machetes to fly. The meeting began with prayer, then they read Scripture, confessed their sin to one another, had communion, and in tears embraced one another. The community watched dumbfounded.

Fast forward 20 years. The missionaries stayed the course and a church is planted. The church has hundreds of members and strong leadership. Time comes the new church an issue between its own leaders. A certain sect of the church is committed to leave the church. Tempers are flared and machetes are ready to fly. Until one leader stepped in and said, “Do you remember that evening 20-years ago, when we gathered around the missionaries meeting and we saw the pray, read Scripture, have communion, weep and reconcile?” So God desires to use our differences for unity and the glory of the gospel.

2. Let us encourage one another to value Christ supremely more than anything.

He is the treasure of our church. He is the One we adore. He is our goal for missions. It is His fame we desire to spread. Together let us make Him great. Even greater than ourselves and the things we value that are lesser than Him. He is supreme. He is the value we hold high.

thumb licks [9.25.11]

Baptizing Heathen Words. What words have Christians redefined?

How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching.

50 Rules for Dads of Daughters. As a new father for a daughter these perked my attention.

Acts and Baptism: Implications for Parents. Before baptizing your children consider this.

Four Steps to Kill Sin. Sinclair Ferguson tackles the mortification of sin.

Homeschooling Blindspots. Some interesting insights as we consider homeschooling overseas.

Love Tap. Encouragement for the timid [watch video below].

doctrine of original sin and the church

The doctrine of original sin teaches that every single human being who ever was, is, or shall be inherited from Adam a sinful nature that makes us predisposed to wickedness and rebellion against God. Because of the fall, we are hardwired towards evil. We sinned in Adam and died through his trespass, inheriting his guilt and a corrupt nature (see Romans 5:12-21). We are born into the world with a bent towards evil and in need of a Savior.

If the doctrine of original sin can give us a more accurate view of our own history, it can also give us a more realistic appraisal of the world’s future.

The doctrine of original sin can also help the church from drifting away from what matters most. The danger of incessant polling and trend watching is that the church’s target will always be changing. We will be forever doomed to chase relevance, manage people’s perceptions of the church, and catch up with the cutting edge. The nice thing about the doctrine of original sin is that it focuses our attention on issues that are a little more timeless. People will always be sinners. So our main problem is not lack of integration or balance, or lack of success or education, or even poverty and injustice, as serious as these problems can be. Our main problem will always be sin. And hence, we are always in need of a Savior.

The doctrine of original sin forces us to take a more honest look at ourselves and our remaining indwelling sin. This goes for all of us church goers and church leavers. Church goers need to admit that they don’t always look much like Christ. Many of them need to own some responsibility for the negative impression people have of the church. Others need to see that they live in a wacky Christian subculture that, for all its blessings, looks strange to outsiders. Churches need to realize they have often been more adept at welcoming clean-cut, suburban families than pierced, indie-rocker, artist types. The church needs to follow up with those who leave and be patient and humble enough to hear their complaints, whether they prove to be justified or not. And disgruntled “church stinks” crowd needs to be careful that their disillusionment does not become an idol, that they do not find their identity in being jaded. And ask yourself, “What am I not disgruntled about?”

The church will be full of sin so long as she is full of sinners. But as sinful and mess as the church makes itself to be it is still the beautiful Bride of Jesus Christ.

The church is not an accidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an antirelgion, antidoctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and reintegration. To be sure, He showed people how to live. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). If we truly love the church we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. I still believe the church is the hope of the world–not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me.

This is adapted from the book, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion [Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Moody Publishers Chicago, IL. 2009] pgs.208-226.

thumb licks [6.23.11]

My Problem with Love

Recently, I read a Christian commentator, who had fallen heads and heels in love, trying to draw a connection between romantic love and divine love. The parallels are tempting to make, but are fundamentally erroneous. The main reason is that the modern/post-modern notion of romantic love as manifested in contemporary western culture is a far cry from the love that Christ taught about and that God has for humanity. Here are a few of the important distinctions.

6 difficulties atheists encounter

Atheists often like to give the impression that they hold the rights to rational living because they reject the existence of God. Don’t be fooled by this. Atheism is an irrational conclusion on many levels. Consider 6 difficulties atheists encounter.

Gospel-Driven Effort

Growing in godliness is a fight of faith–a fight to believe the truth about our justification, our adoption, a fight to believe all that God says about us by virtue of our union with Christ. But growing in godliness is more than trusting; it is also trusting enough to obey. The New Testament gives us commands, and these commands involve more than remembering, revisiting, and rediscovering the reality of our justification. We must also put on, put off, put to death, strive, and make every effort.

Reminders Are More Effective Than Rebukes

Are you tired of being told that if you’re really serious about God, you must be in an “accountability group?” You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where you and a small group of “friends” arrange for a time each week to get together and pick each other apart–uncovering layer after layer after layer of sin? The ones where all parties involved believe that the guiltier we feel the more holy we are? The ones where you confess your sin to your friends but it’s never enough? No matter what you unveil, they’re always looking for you to uncover something deeper, darker, and more embarrassing than what you’ve fessed up to. It’s usually done with such persistent invasion that you get the feeling they’re desperately looking for something in you that will make them feel better about themselves.

Great Questions for Married Couples

What are some questions a wife can ask her husband to know how to encourage him?

What questions can a husband ask his wife to encourage needed discussions?

My Favorite Sesame Street Classic!

lessons learned from my second year of marriage

Marriage is still sanctifying. I would lie if I were to say, “Marriage is easy.” Put two sinners in a room and you will have conflict, but we have both so benefitted from the spiritual growth in Christ.

My brides beauty is accelerating. Every day my wife becomes more and more beautiful to me. Sarah is the most beautiful woman I know.

Sorry is a cheap substitute for forgiveness. I have learned that saying sorry is not all that effective. Seeking forgiveness is more meaningful and biblical.

Sarah is more than this man’s best friend. Sarah is my closest companion. I love talking, playing games, reading books, watching documentaries and biographies, and taking walks with this wonderful woman. She is more than a friend. She is a lover I love and long to be with.

Study your wife [1 Peter 3:7]. Although I have only taken 2 steps in this mile long journey and still have 5278 more steps to go, I enjoy the new discoveries and territories yet to be explored. I feel like Christopher Columbus charting the course toward a new land or Jacque Cousteau diving depths the seas anticipating to see, hear, and learn about the mysteries beyond the surface of the deep.

Encourage creativity. Stiffing creativity sours a marriage. Sarah is a wonderful writer, song writer, and artist. Giving her freedom to devote time and energy to these talents not only benefits her, but also her husband. I love it when Sarah makes new dinner dishes. They do not always turn out [i.e. mystery stew], but at least she does not have fear of trying. I have learned to choke it down and then tactfully tell her to try something different next time.

Watching my wife transform into a mother has been a great privelage. I had no doubt Sarah would be a great young mother. She has grown so much in the last few month as she cares for an utterly dependent young girl.

Eating dinner together and sitting together afterwards is important time. I am normally a fast eater and I never enter the military. Taking time to eat around the table to talk about our day, pray, and spend quality time together has tremendous value for our marriage relationship.

Submitting to Christ is the source of true love in marriage [Ephesians 5:21ff]. It is helpful that Sarah reminds me that she loves her Savior. I love it that she desires and encourages me to be like Him than being like some other example of man.

hell, wrath of God, and eternal judgment

When Jesus mentions hell it is not a joke, myth, or suggestion about what life is like on earth. When He speaks about hell His words are not vicious  or bloodthirsty, but chocked with tears. He loves and cares for people too much therefore He takes a lot of time in His teaching to warn us to avoid it.

When Jesus teaches about hell it is often graphic and vivid. He relates to hell as a place of eternal punishment, eternal fire, the fiery furnace, the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place reserved for those who rebel against God. Jesus shares with a story about two men who have very different ends to their lives. From this story there is a lot of insights about hell:

1.  Hell is real (Luke 16:19-23a).

Hell is not a land-of-make-believe for those who are more evil than Mr. Rogers. “Hades” is a real place. So real is hell that Jesus talks about it a lot. Sometimes more than heaven. If God the Son talks about hell, it’s real.

2.  Hell is really not fun (16:23b-24).

I enjoy Billy Joel’s music, but it is ignorant to say that “I would rather party with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Hell is not a party or place that anyone should desire. The rich man in Jesus’ story says “in torment”, “I am in agony in this fire.”

3.  Hell is real eternal separation from God (16:25-26).

It is a wonderful comfort to know that at any moment, place and time God is with us. He is our Immanuel. I could not imagine being in a place without God, but that is how hell is described, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed…none may cross from there to us.”

4.  Hell is for rejects (16:27-31).

Hell is for those who reject God and His redemptive plans in Christ. It does not matter if you were a good person, paid your taxes on time, live by the Golden Rule or follow most of the10 Commandments. Just one breech of the law is rejection of all of it. There is no rescue for rejects postmortem. You must chose to follow Christ today, in your one lifetime. In the story Jesus shares about the rich man, the man pleads for his family who are still alive that someone would warn them. Yet he does not remember and chose to forget that many had warned him. If he or his family does not listen to the warnings from God’s teachers [i.e.  Moses and the Prophets] they will not listen to a dead man.

A parent’s have concern over their children’s safety therefore they say, “Look both ways before you cross the street,” “Don’t stick your figure in a light socket,” “Do not drink Drain-O.” This is what Jesus is saying when He speaks about hell. Jesus is pointing out the signs of clear and present danger if you continue to ignore God’s plan. He doesn’t use the scare-tactic, but speaks plainly as a parent who care often do when warning their children of matters of life or death.

Love is what motivates Jesus to talk about hell.

Jesus wants you to listen to Him and avoid it. The cross is where His motive of love led, and there He bore the wrath of God for your sin. Gods love is often misunderstood. “God is love,” (1 John 4), but just because God is love doesn’t mean He loves everything or that His love is His chief attribute. He is also holy, gracious, merciful, just and righteous. God does not love sin (Ps.5:4-6), in fact, He hates it.

God would not be loving if He left sin unpunished.

Imagine living in a world where sin, injustice, and lawlessness reigned. Imagine if police officers let thieves and rapists roam the streets free. Imagine if judges and juries let murders and molesters be dismissed without charge from the courtroom. You would not say those law enforcers were just or right. If God did not deal with sin, He would not be a just Judge or good authority.

Hell is a loving necessity.

It is a place where evil is to be locked up. God created hell to deal with evil. He made it to be a final, inescapable prison where all evil, rebellion against God will be confined never to poison men again. Given all the evil in the world today it is a great assurance to know that God notices it and has a plan to do something about it. God does not overlook evil.

Hell seems unloving when you do not have a good understanding of what sin is against God.

God is holy and without sin. Sin cannot go unpunished from a perfect God. God’s holiness and our sin are infinitely great, therefore, the greater the crime, the greater the punishment. Sin is an eternal offense against God therefore it deserves an eternal punishment. Sin against God is treason. If you were to disobey a king in the Middle Ages you were receive the death penalty. Thus it is so with the King of the Universe who seeks to care for His creation (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

Hell is real. It is no joke or laughing matter. Since Jesus was serious about its future realities, you must be serious about it today too. Rather than asking God, why He would send anyone to hell, you must ask: How can it be that you have been so merciful to a sinner like me?

Hell, Rob Bell, and reviews of the book Love Wins

There has been much stir over Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell will tell you he does not want to be labeled a universalist [check out Bell’s interview’s with MSNBC and Relevant], however his book seriously and dangerously advances the cause of universalism from a popular and influential level.

Yesterday, I perused Love Wins at a local bookstore because I was unsure I wanted to buy it. To say it simply, Bell promotes an unbiblical picture of a God without wrath and a skewed portray of His love and justice. He gives unclear indication that man needs salvation from God’s wrath now, nor faith in Jesus Christ in this life to have salvation in eternal life. Bell states his beliefs in heaven, hell, judgment, the cross, and salvation, but takes a quasi-philosophical approach rather than biblical approach to Jesus’ teaching on the subjects.

Bell historically likes to ask questions and create discussions, but again leaves you unsatisfied with answers and in this book leaves you with more questions about God, salvation, and His understanding of the authority of God’s Word. I am not one to bash people particularly other pastors, however, as a pastor it is my obligation to protect Christ’s church from potential false teaching that could distract His sheep. Rather than writing another review, I thought I’d pass along some great reviews already circling around from faithful followers of Christ and intricate exegetes of God’s Word.

Great Reviews of Rob Bell’s, Love Wins:

Great article on Hell:

Great Books on Hell:

extreme makeover: marriage edition

Most people have seen the show Extreme Makeover. On the reality show a family in desperate need of home renovation is surprised with the opportunity it receive the needed renovations. The show usually destroys the old home and rebuilds a new one. We love the show because in the end the family has a wonderful new home.

When it comes to our real homes—marriage. There are times when an extreme makeover is needed. For whatever reason the home has become rundown over time, bad habits, or weak foundation, and you do not have the resources or know-how to fix it. Building a solid marriage can be difficult. It takes hard work to build or renovate a marriage into God’s kind of marriage. The Church in Ephesians is compared to a: body [1:22, 23], building [2:20-22], and now a bride [5:31-32]. Let’s begin by looking at the foundations of a solid marriage through the roles of each partner within the marriage relationship.

The Role of the Wife [Ephesians 5:22-24]

The primary role of the wife is submission [v.22]. Submission sounds like a dirty word. Submission is a willingness to lovingly, joyfully, and freely follow authority. Submission is not an option, but a command to lovingly, joyfully and freely follow her husband as she would follow Christ.

Is submission for wives only? No. Submission is a concept for all believers [5:21]. Everyone is summoned to submit to some kind of authority. You submit to your spouses [Ephesians 5:22], parents [6:1-4], government [Romans 13:1], church [Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5], and ultimately God. Submission is a spiritual matter because all submission is obedience to God’s authority. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:15]

Why is submission a difficult command for people to obey? It is an authority issue. Your natural reaction is buck against any authority that tells you how to live. It started when Satan rebelled against God’s authority and continued in the hearts of men from the Garden of Eden until now [Romans 3:10-18]. A lack of submission originates from a desire to be king of your domain rather than letting God be King of His domain.

Headship is the motivation for submission [v.23a]. In Ephesians, headship refers to Christ [1:22; 4:15], but here it is being implied on the husband. Headship has the biblical idea of ruler or leader. Without the headship of Christ over the church the building would not have a cornerstone, and without a cornerstone would crumble. Have you heard it said, “There are too many chiefs and no Indians?” This is a common phrase to say that there are too many people demanding control, but too few willing to follow another persons lead. In Genesis 3:16, woman is cursed with the desire to rule over their husbands [cf. 4:7]. Two chiefs in a marriage can become a two-headed monster. It is a monster that needs to be slain. The church submits to Christ because she knows the benefits of being united with Him. Likewise the wife submits to the headship of her husband.

Submission to authority, especially within marriage, sometimes becomes abused. Submission does not mean the wife becomes a slave or inferior to the husband [Proverbs 31:10-31]. The Bible never commands a husband to force his wife to submit; rather the wife is commanded to make herself submissive as her husband’s helper [cf. 1 Peter 3:1; Genesis 2:18]. Since Christ is the example of headship, the husband is to be as loving and life-giving in their marriage relationship as Christ is over the church. God created men and women equally within the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27; 2:23; Galatians 3:28], but He has given them distinct roles to fulfill that are for their good and God’s glory.

Christ is the model for submission [v.23b-24]. How can a wife submit to her husband? Simply by following the example of the church’s submission to Christ: speak the truth in love [cf. 4:15; 4:25; Proverbs 9:3], point him to Christ with your actions [1 Peter 3:1-6], extend the forgiveness of Christ when he sins, and affirm his leadership.

The Role of the Husband [Ephesians 5:25-30]

The husband’s primary role is a commitment to love his wife like Christ loves His church [v.25; cf. Genesis 2:19-20; 3:20]. He is to be a lover, leader [Matthew 20] and learner [1 Peter 3:7]. He loves her enough to lead her to walk with God as He models it himself for her. As the husband seeks to humbly serve God, it is reflected in the way he loves, leads, and learns to his wife.

Why is it important for a husband to follow the example of Christ? Christ was a servant leader [Matthew 20]. He came not to be served, but to serve. He was a king that gave Himself sacrificially for His Bride. It is not that the church deserves to be given His love, but His love is an expression of His grace. He did not give 50/50 waiting for the church to love Him back. He gave it all, 100%. Husbands do not hold back from loving sacrificially to your wife.

The Bible gives many words for love: The first word is erao, which is a physical or sexual love. Erao is where you get the word erotic. It is a pleasurable love to be saved for the marriage bed only. The second word is phileo, which is an emotional love. This is the love you share with a brother or close friend. Phileo will see objects as worthy of love. Peter used this word of Jesus [John 21:20ff]. The third word for love in the Bible is agapao, which is an intellectual and volitional love. Agapao is a committed, God-like love. Jesus used this word of Peter and God uses it toward sinful mankind [John 3:16].

In relationships, these words for love have a proper order. If you start with sexual love it will be almost impossible to have true committed love because the relationship is built on physicality rather than friendship and commitment. If you begin with committed and brotherly love, it will create the best atmosphere for sexual love and additional loves grow. A husband’s Christlike love has a sanctifying effect on marriage [vs.26-27].

Why is important for a husband to view his wife’s body as part of his own? [vs.28-30] No man treats his own body in an unloving way, therefore a husband who views his wife’s body as his own will treat his wife lovingly as well. A loving husband will protect and provide for his wife as his most prized possession. A husband protects and provides for his wife is with his time, careful ear, encouragement, and appreciation for her inner and outer beauty.

Reviewing the Biblical Basis for Marriage [Ephesians 5:31-33]

Marriage is a picture of oneness [v.31]. Oneness is the miracle of marriage—when two people become one flesh [cf. Genesis 2:24]. Oneness in marriage means your spouse becomes priority above my career, friends, sinful habits, and hobby’s.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church [v.32]. What does Paul mean by mystery? [cf.3:9] The symbol of marriage was hidden, but is now revealed. Why is marriage a mystery? Marriage is a picture of salvation through Christ’s sacrificial relationship with the church, which is made up of both Jew and Gentile. Marriage is a typology of marriage that shows the unity of Christ [Bridegroom] with His church [Bride]. This gives marriage a divine significance.

Marriage glorifies God when the husband and wife are fulfilling their roles [v.33]. The purpose of marriage is not my happiness, fulfillment, or love, although these can be fruits of a godly marriage. Marriage is bigger than just my spouse and me, but it is about a display of Christ-like love and obedience to the world.

love & relationships 101

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WITHIN RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Who’s in your drivers seat?
  2. Why preparing for marriage matters?
  3. What about sex before marriage?
  4. Dating, courting, or waiting?
  5. Is true love possible?
  6. How to choose the right relationship?

GOD’S ANSWER & HIS HIGH STANDARDS FOR RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Both of you must be faithful followers committed to Jesus Christ
  2. Marriage is a picture of a divine and permanent relationship
  3. Sexual intimacy is for the marriage bed only
  4. Every relationship is to be viewed as sacred
  5. You cannot get a refund on your relationships
  6. Seek someone with Christlike character

JUST FOR FUN

When Vince Lombardi took over the Green Bay Packers as Head Coach the team was a mess. The team did not function as a team. They were confused by complicated schemes and lack of discipline. During one of the first practices Lombardi gathered the men together and said, “This is a football.” It is not that they didn’t know what a football was, but they had forgotten the basics of the game. That summer Lombardi gave his men a 101 course in the fundamentals of football and their dedication helped them to become world champions.

Bookstores are lined with relationship advice. The internet is bogged down with sites sharing the newest dating and marital tips. You could spend over a thousand lifetimes reading all the love and relationship information in the saturated media-sphere until every orifice of your body is oozing relationship factoids. You might be a self-proclaimed expert on relationships and win the love and romance categories on Jeopardy, but in real life your relationships are flunking.

More information is not the answer, rather it is living as your were called within your relationships. Let’s make it simple, pull off your dusty Bible from the shelf and see what the wise inventor of human relationships has to say. God has high and helpful standards for our relationships. If God’s has a high standard for relationships so should you.

how to choose the right relationship?

“…and they lived happily ever after. The End.” These are the magical words every human wants within the relationship chapters of their real life love story. We go goo-goo over happy endings. Last week we looked at the story or Hosea and Gomer. It was a story that didn’t appear to have a happy ending, but God can restore any broken relationship to a point that it can be better than it ever was before. Today we will look at another love story from the Book of Ruth.

The story of Ruth begins with a family tragedy. Naomi’s family line has ended with the death of her husband. Naomi’s son dies from sickness, leaving his wife Ruth without a husband or children. To make it worse, both of Naomi’s sons die. So Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth are left as widows without home, without personal property, wandering in a foreign land, and without hope of marrying again. However, this sober scene of emptiness and hopelessness sets the stage for one of the worlds most wonderful and powerful love stories.

Throughout the story of Ruth you will see some quality characteristics arise that are essential to securing a godly future mate. I will use Ruth as a grid for excellent questions when considering and preparing for your future relationships.

excellent questions to ask a potential mate before you begin a relationship:

Are they stuck in sin? [Ruth 1:16-18] When Naomi heard that the famine had lifted in her homeland she decided it was best to go back home. Naomi gave permission for Ruth to stay and perhaps get married again, but Ruth does something very peculiar, she decides to go with Naomi. It can be easy to make more out of this situation than there is, but it could have been easy for Ruth to stay put and continue life in Moab. She decided to make the move away from Moab. In a sense Ruth moves from her home, culture, past, and gods to follow her mother-in-law and ultimately her God.

When pursuing a potential mate it is good get a panorama of their life to see if they are stuck in their sin. In order to understand if this is the case you will have to ask some vulnerable questions: Do they live in the past? Do they hang around people, places and things that keep them living in a virtual Moab? If the answer is yes to these questions then proceed with caution because in most cases these people will not change within a relationship with you. If there is good evidence that they have left these things behind to follow God you have the makings of a great mate.

Are they willing to put in the hard work? [Ruth 2:1-7] Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem on time for the yearly harvest. Though they were single and homeless they did not sulk or feel sorry for themselves. Ruth found work on a farm owned by Boaz, who was related to Naomi’s husband. It was a low level job, as respectable as flipping burgers or cleaning toilets. To Ruth it was a job that supported her and Naomi. She worked hard and did not complain. Boaz saw her working in the field and was attracted to her. He watched her work hard. He observed her character from afar. This is the turning point of the story for Ruth.

Before I began a relationship Sarah, I watched her in action. I was certainly attracted to Sarah. I was attracted to more than her beauty for she was a woman marked by her love for God, sensitivity to sin, hard work ethic, and contagious care for ordinary people.  How do you tackle a tough job? Do you tackle tasks with tenacity? Have you ever thought these tasks might be a test where someone is watching you to size up you character?

Are they loyal and committed to relationships? [Ruth 2:11-12] Ruth continued to care for Naomi even though there was nothing Naomi could do in return for Ruth. Ruth was loyal and committed to her relationship with Naomi. She listened to Naomi and respected her mentoring. This loyalty and commitment to support her only surviving family made her all the more attractive to Boaz [vs.11-12].

When looking for a potential mate it is wise to observe if they have a good track record of relationships, especially with their parents, family, and friends. If the person you are pursuing plays dodge ball by running and jumping in and out of relationships, beware you just might be the next target to get hit.

Are they willing to protect your purity? [3:7-14] The scene to follow might sound a little risqué. Ruth comes into the threshing floor and lies down at Boaz’s feet. Why did she lay at his feet? It was Ruth’s way of telling him that she really wanted to marry him. It appears she is making herself available to him. They are alone, it’s late, and the opportunity to compromise by having sex could have come easily, but Boaz protects Ruth’s purity and loves her enough to wait.

What Women Want is a movie about a chauvinistic man who gains the ability to hear what women are thinking. Women went crazy over him because finally a man was listening. Most wish this was a reality, but the Bible is on track with what women and men want in a potential mate. What men really want is a woman with godly character [3:11]. What women really want is true love that protects [2:4], provides, praises, and honors their purity.

Waiting to have sex until marriage is part of God’s plan. God created sex to be beautiful, lovely, and too exhilarating for words, but He also commanded you to save sex for the marriage bed. It is important to adhere to God’s counsel concerning sex because the choices you make before the wedding will impact your marriage after the wedding. Couples who disobey God by having sex before marriage are at higher risk of divorce, adultery and serious sin struggles within their marriage. Seek a mate that will protect your purity.

Are they willing to consider wise counsel in difficult situations? [Ruth 4:13-17] Low and behold, Boaz is not the closest relative, which means he could be relinquished of the right to claim Ruth’s property to Ruth’s closer relative. Boaz does his homework and makes the arrangements to meet this man. As a result, Boaz is waived, redeemed, and is given the right to marry Ruth. They are blessed with a wonderful marriage, a newborn son, Naomi’s family is restored, and they lived happily ever after. The End.

the story of Ruth is about less about human relationships & more about a divine relationship

After a quick skim through Ruth it would be easy to conclude that this book is a Divine Guide to Dating for Dummies, or a thesis on all types of relationships from parenting, singleness, courtship, marriage, to grand parenting. Although read Ruth again and you will notice relationships are a secondary theme to the gospel theme. The Bible as a whole from cover to cover paints a beautiful picture of hesed—the loving kindness of Incarnation, resurrection, ascension, and kingly Return of Christ [i.e. the gospel]. This is the golden thread that weaves though the story of Ruth.

When you turn to the genealogy of Jesus you will see Ruth mentioned as the great grandmother of King David [Matthew 1:5-6], which ultimately is the royal line that leads to Jesus. Throughout the book of Ruth the hidden hand of God is present preserving His promises of a Savior even in the most unlikely situation. God uses Ruth [a foreigner] and Boaz to carry out His promised plan. Imagine if Ruth stay in Moab and never met Boaz. This story might not have been as glorious and God-centered. The lesson for you and me in this story is to follow God no matter how the present emptiness and hopelessness because God is at work. For you will be the most happy when you are in His hands.

wise resources to look at before settling on a future mate:

A Sweet and Bitter Providence [John Piper]

Redeeming Ruth