Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The primacy of our marriages

Today is my wife and I's anniversary. We usually take some time off every year to get away for a day or three and just spend concentrated time together. Since we are still working with newborns we thought it prudent to delay taking some time off. But in honor of the great gift that God has given us in marriage it seemed appropriate to step back and dwell a bit on what it so appropriately draws our hearts to do. The married couple have a great responsibility before God. They are supposed to love each other. The husband's love should manifest itself in loving her as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). The wife's love should manifest itself in submission to and respect for her husband as she would submit to and respect Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24). Why do these two things need to be so primarily in place??? Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:31-32 that the primary reason for marriage even existing in the first place is to reflect or be a shadow of Christ relationship to His bride the church. Because marriage and Christian marriage in particular reflects Christ relationship to His bride then the Christian married couple should be concerned about what their actions say about the church. You see our marriages are primary in reflecting the diversity and unity that is found in the God head. This is a sacred and honorable opportunity. How we personally pursue God will impact our understanding of how important this symbol is to God and ultimately how important this symbol is to us. You see if we men as part of Christ's bride love and respect who He is then what He says will be of vital importance to us. We will be looking to do what we know pleases God because if we really love someone we are always looking to do what pleases them. Do we love God? Are we living a life where everything we do is seen through a focus on our Lord Jesus Christ? If we are doing this then our desire will be to see our marriages as primary. What this means is that our marriages are more important because of what they symbolize than just about any other relationship we have. Our children and friends, our jobs, our hobbies, should all come as a second place finish at best when compared to our marriage. We must guard the symbol because it speaks to those around us about the greatness of our Lord Jesus. It shows them that our relationship with Him is important because our relationship with our wives is important. You see the thing that should drive this enhanced pursuit of the relationship is the relationship with Jesus. In knowing and loving our spouses we show the world that we value things as important that God Himself values as important. Lets work on having a passionate Biblical love in our marriages this is another way in which we can love God.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 the glory of God?

With newborn twins my wife and I have had an increased lack of sleep. The sleep deprivation reminds me of how much sleep brings glory to God. God does not sleep (Psalm 121:3-4). He has no need of it. He never grows weary (Isaiah 40:28). The way that sleep brings glory to God is that it demonstrates physically our own inability to be completely self-sufficient. We physically need a break. We are dependent upon sleep to help us function properly. It is a reminder every day that we are not God. For the Christian it is a means of committing our way to God and physically demonstrating our utter need by entering into sleep meditating on Him. We commit our way to Him and trust that He will bring it pass. As a matter of fact our weariness should be a thing that drives us to greater dependence upon God. Isaiah 40:31 promises that if we wait on the Lord we will find Him renewing our strength. By focusing our minds and hearts on Him in the midst of weariness He promises to strengthen us so that we make it through. Join me in embracing our blessed rest in God to the glory of His name.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Meeting anticipation

We had relatives come for a visit today. They had not yet had a chance to meet our twin girls that joined us about 5 and 1/2 weeks ago. While we anticipated their visit and looked forward to it I was struck by the joy and obvious anticipation they had in meeting our new additions. As I reflected on this I realized that this type of anticipation is the same as what we will experience as we cross into eternity and have the chance to finally meet our Lord Jesus and our Heavenly Father. Only the anticipation and joy in meeting Him should exceed anything that we long for here. Why? Because it is only in Him that all things that we experience even exist. It is only in Jesus that we have any hope of eternity at all. It is only in Jesus that we will be made sons and daughters of God. It is a grand and glorious desire. To see Him and to be able to know Him is truly more magnificent than we can comprehend. It exceeds our wildest dreams or expectations. It is the grandest hope of all hopes. If your heart does not burn with a longing for Him, then seek Him. Ask Him to instill in your heart a greater desire. We are in a battle against the flesh (Romans 8:13). It is truly a battle to set our hearts and minds on God (Romans 13:14). So take on the battle. Become engaged in the fray. Turn your heart and mind to a focus on our Lord Jesus. It is only in Him that we will gain an anticipation and longing that will drive us toward eternal life and health and peace.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Infant dependency

My wife recently gave birth to twins. This has caused me once again to spend some time reflecting on the marvelous grace of God poured out to us through the experiences of life. Infants remind me of how much He is a supplying and sustaining God.
One of the ways that I see this revealed is in how God caused human infants to be so dependent and helpless. In Matthew 11:25-28 Jesus starts out the passage by thanking the Father that He had revealed these things to children. In the context what is revealed is the mighty power of God in Jesus. He has just denounced a list of cities for rejecting Him after seeing the mighty work of God. There is an innocent acceptance in children. In infants there is an absolute assumption of acceptance. They do not try to win our hearts with any showing of specialness. The cry because they are hungry and it lets us know that they are hungry. They cry sometimes just because they want to be held. There is no doing something for us so that we will do something for them. And quite frankly the idea of quid pro quo here is ridiculous. They are helpless and need our care. The reason that I am drawn to this passage where Jesus thanks God that these things (His majesty and power) have been revealed to children is because of the way it ends. Jesus says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." To understand a little better what Jesus is saying here we can look at His interaction with children recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17). This story is the one where the disciples are shooing the children away. (As a side note according to Matthew's account this follows the disciples dispute about who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In that dispute Jesus said that they needed to become like children to enter the Kingdom (Matthew 18:1-3).) Jesus said to the disciples who were sending the children away that they needed to become like children to enter the kingdom of Heaven. What is a child like? They are dependent. Our idea of children is influenced by our culture. In Jesus' day a boy became a man at his bar-mitzah. A 12 year old would have been an older child. Little children in Jesus day would have been those who were probably six and under. Little children are dependent. They have great needs. They anticipate our love. I think that Jesus' call to come to Him and He would give us rest is in essence a call to become like children. We should remember that we have great needs. We should come with needs depending on Him. We should embrace the unchanging love He's given. Until we become like children we will always be bringing our wood hay and stubble to Jesus. We seem to always be impressed by what we have to offer. None of us has anything to offer. Our best efforts appear as polluted garments (Isaiah 64:6). All we have or ever will have that is of any value comes from Jesus. We truly are like dependent infants producing nothing but poop (Philippians 3:8) and in need of everything. The best we can do in this life is turn our focus to Jesus and bask in the love of our supplying and sustaining God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why do we need Dads?

There are a lot of articles on the web in the last couple of weeks about fatherhood and dads. There is one thing that I did not see and really did not expect to see. The most crucial reason that children need dads is spiritual. Spirituality is about warfare. It is warfare for the souls of our fellowman and our children. It requires a man to take on this role because it is men who by and large are the warriors in our society. Unfortunately what has happened over the last one hundred years has been the feminization of our Christianity. Men have gradually taken a back seat to women leading spiritually in the home. Shame on us for allowing this to happen. We have young boys growing up associating spirituality with women but not men. These young men have a hard time seeing this role as something they can effectively take on. We need to awaken the warrior inside of us. We need to realize that the battle we are engaged in is eternal and it is for the very soul of our children. Paul calls the Bible the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) for a reason, and the reason is that it cuts to the heart and will ultimately free us from sin (Hebrews 4:12). We need to fortify our souls and overcome the opposition to standing as a spiritual warrior for our children. Men we must immerse ourselves in pursuing God with all that you are. We must cultivate a passionate and vibrant relationship with our Lord Jesus. Extremism in the pursuit of Jesus is no vice and mediocrity in the pursuit of Jesus is no virtue.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why the God focused life is the best one to hire

I am going through a job search. I was struck by the emphasis on what your online profile says about you in a job search. What came to mind is the number of people I know that are really web savvy. These people could put an outstanding profile out there but that does not make them a good worker. What drives a person to become a good working is more important that what they look like online. The person who lives their life everyday realizing that God is there and their actions are performed before Him is going to be an excellent employee. There goal will always be to perform in an excellent manner. Why? Because they realize that they are representing God to the world. They understand that it is by God's grace that they even have their job. This person will be passionate about seeking to be excellent to the glory of God. I am not saying that all people who call themselves Christians fall into the category of living lives as if they are living before the face of God. What I am saying is that the Christian who lives their lives before the gracious God who has forgiven their sin and granted them eternity will be an excellent employee. They will not steal because that would be an offense to God. They will be encouragers. They will work hard and extraordinary results will follow. But most of all they will be focused on bringing glory to God by their life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why a common news story is an indictment of Christianity

On FoxNews there is a story called, "Should the West Ban the Burqa?" Article's like this point out the freedom of religion we enjoy in this country should allow women to dress in this manner. While I agree with the principle, the bigger issue for me is the failure of Christianity to be a relevant source of informed thinking. God has gotten pushed out of the public square. I think most Christians struggle with how we go about bringing a Christian World view to bear on issues in a relevant way. More often than not the Christian response is seen as a political one. This has been an utter failure. God's kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Jesus said in the previous John passage that if His kingdom were of this world His servants would have been fighting. So if we are Jesus servants and His kingdom is not of this world, why are we fighting? About 4 years ago we did a survey in our local town and with about 90 responses we discovered that roughly 40% of the people we got to fill out surveys did not know why Jesus come to earth. They have heard Jesus talked about because He is very politicized. They just don't know why He came to earth. This problem of lack of information has one source. A failure of the church to train for and encourage outreach. We do not know how to bring a Christian world view to bear on the issues before us today because we have failed to teach people how to live God focused lives. We must help people to move from head knowledge to loving and pursuing Him with all of our hearts. It is only in loving God in the midst of life as it happens that we will begin to once again bring the word of God to bear in a relevant and meaningful way. Should the west ban the burqa? I don't know, but what I can tell you is that this might not even be a question we would be entertaining if the church had not failed to pass along the good news of the gospel to the next generation in a way that is relevant and meaningful to life and living.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why where sin resides is important

Sin is never a thing outside of man. This is an important distinction to make. Sin cannot be an object that God has made. In a sense all objects of God's creation are completely neutral in regard to being sin in and of themselves. Where does sin come from? It issues from the heart of man (Proverbs 23:7a). Another way of describing the issue at hand would be that sin is man's abuse of something or being taken captive by something. Alcohol by itself is not sin in an object. Drunkenness or the abuse of alcohol is sin (Ephesians 5:18). Opiates were created by God and are not sin. They are used by the medical community to ease great pain without inducing other experiences or feelings. But opiates that are abused and used in other manners by man are sin because of how man uses them. In this case man is being controlled by the opiate instead of controlling it. This is an important principle because it is about living a God focused life.
Sin is an issue of the heart and as such true freedom is found when we see sin for what it is and where it resides. For example: (I am not super familiar with Alcoholics anonymous but I think this has a bit of application there.) In alcoholics anonymous they stand up and introduce themselves by name and say that they are an alcoholic. This can be good and this can be a potential problem for the recovering addict. You see alcohol is not sin. My experience with alcoholics is that they can easily start to view alcohol as sin. Their problem is not really an alcohol problem their problem is a heart problem. Their heart has come to be ruled by alcohol. This is no different than the sex addict whose heart has come to be ruled by sexual fantasies. The solution for the sex addict is not to mutilate the flesh so that they do not have to deal with the problem. The solution is to deal with the problem in the heart. The problem an addict has is that they have allowed their heart to be ruled by something. That something might be sexuality, alcohol, work, music, you name it almost anything can come to rule our hearts (Proverbs 23:7). The problem with seeing sin as a thing out side of us is that we never end up dealing with our hearts. We are called to love the Lord with all of our hearts (Matthew 22:37). If we would come to do this our hearts would begin to be consumed by God. This is what our flesh fights against. It will prompt you to be ruled by anything but God. But if an alcoholic or any kind of addict for that matter comes to be ruled by God and to see sin as an issue of the heart they will be freed. They will not go around avoiding an object out side of themselves but they will go to God seeking to be consumed by Him in all that they do. In this case they are freed to be addicted to God which frees them from addiction to sin (Romans 12:1-2). Let's prompt one another toward love and good deeds to the glory of God and it might be a really good thing if we became so addicted to God that we could not live without Him.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sometimes even pagans acknowledge the wisdom of God

There is a social article on called, "I believe in evolution, he doesn't". The article is in a "dear Abby" like column where Wendy Atterberry (aka: the Frisky) weighs in on peoples questions about life. What caught my attention about the article is the way that the Frisky ends up advising the couple. She basically says, "that beliefs are the basis for entire life philosophies values and behavior." She goes on to say that, "if the couple can't talk nicely about it (evolution vs. creation) now, it won't get any better later." She says that if she is not willing to accept him as an equal and back off then she should probably move on. Wow!! I almost could not believe what I was reading. God tells us in His word to not be unequally yolked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). This woman is basically saying something similar but not exactly the same. She is pragmatically pointing out that it probably will not work and she would be better moving on. As a Christian I would be saying to the guy, "Do you really love God more than your evolutionist girlfriend?" Because at the end of the day if you really love God more, then the girlfriends beliefs will have to change or there will always be dissension, which is not pleasing to God. But what is really going on is that the guy probably really loves the girl more than God. So the issue is that he is trying to reconcile it all into one package. You may say that this is hard but Jesus is the one who said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37-38).” In this case the guy has chosen the girl over the cross, and it is the girl getting the good advice from a pagan source. This is one more indication of how far a Christian can drift from the mooring of glorifying God in whatever they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). What is the solution? We need to get people to turn back to pursing God passionately with all that they are.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How fears point us to God

CNN has an article on their site called, "Who's afraid of snakes, spiders, vomit?" While the article deals with phobias it brings up a good point for Christians to consider. The very first time that we see fear mentioned in the Bible is when Adam tells the God that he heard Him and was afraid and hid himself (Genesis 3:10). Fear is a result of the fall and I think that in all of eternity this will be borne out. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear but God gave us a spirit of power, love and self-control. The main thing here is that power, love and self-control are all things that put fear to death. It is even this idea of self-control that counselors use to treat phobias. What should our goal be as Christian living a God focused life? To be so consumed with a desire for God and His kingdom that the things of this earth that produce fear in us are minimized. To put it another way we can say that we do not fear man or beast because God has ordained the day of our death (Hebrews 9:27). Men may try to intimidate us but we do not fear them because the power of God is greater than that of any man. Ultimately the thing that will fill our heart with the confidence we need to face and overcome fears of all kinds is the love of God filling and permeating our hearts. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The love of God experienced in the context of a relationship with Him will fortify our hearts against fear.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What are we looking for in the search for freedom?

Today's blog has been triggered by an article on CNN called, "Bikini or headscarf -- which offers more freedom?" In it the woman who is being interviewed by Oprah is discussing how she married a muslim and how her daughter has taken to wearing a head scarf. She talks about the way that wearing a bikini as a young woman gave her a sense of power and freedom. She goes on to speak of how that same thing is happening for her daughter in a different way through the head scarf. What I find interesting in all of this is the base assumption that everyone tacitly understands. That assumption is that we need to be freed. No one really talks about what we are seeking to be freed from, just that we need to be freed. What kind of freedom does a woman in a bikini get? She gets the freedom to control the attention of men. She gets the freedom to express (or expose as the case may be) herself. This is essentially a grabbing of attention using her body. It is man centered. It is a re-enacting of the lie the serpent told Eve in the garden. You shall be as god's (Genesis 3:5). The head scarf is the same sort of thing turned inside out. The woman in the head scarf is submitting herself to Allah and essentially working her way to heaven. The same lie out of Genesis applies here. She is seeing herself as capable of appeasing god somehow. She has power with god because of what she does. Romans 3:10-12 sums it up nicely by saying no one does  good not even one. When people do things in the flesh that are for the sake of personal freedom pay attention. In most instances what they want freedom from is freedom from a righteous and holy God. The girl in the bikini wants to be free of moral restraint. The woman in the head scarf wants freedom from a God that you cannot please or satisfy with your actions. You see God has written His law on our hearts (Romans 2:15). Our consciences seek to accuse us or excuse us. Our hearts should go out to these people. We have found freedom in Christ (Galatians 2:4, 5:1). As we pursue a God focused life it is my prayer that God would cause us to share our freedom in Christ with those who have not yet come to experience that freedom.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Righteous anger what it is and isn't

What is righteous anger? Jesus had righteous anger when He made a whip of reeds and drove out the money changers and the sellers of animals from the temple courtyard (John 2:15). 2 Samuel 12:1-6 tells us the story that Nathan told to David about the stolen lamb. In the story it tells us that David became angry at the injustice that was done. I believe that we could call David's anger at the injustice done to someone else a righteous anger. The same David refused to get angry and take vengeance on Saul when he had the opportunity (1 Samuel 24). David spoke to Saul who was after him to kill him and he told Saul that he would not strike back and take vengeance but that he would look to God to avenge him (1 Samuel 24:12). Romans 12:19 exhorts us to not take vengeance but leave it to the Lord to do.
I take from these instances a general principle that I believe holds these tensions in balance. If there is a wrong done against me or my rights as in the case of the state or a company I will not retaliate. Why? Because in this case it is God's to avenge me. If there is a wrong done to a child, a woman or the poor and oppressed and it is within my power to be a defender of the defenseless then I will give vent to my righteous anger on behalf of someone else. Lets put it like this:
If it is against me I should flee, 
but against a defenseless other 
I should become a defending brother
This would take care of all the time wasted seeking our own rights and free us up to seek the well fare of those in need. We can discern these things easier in the context of living a God focused life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking God for granted

I am sitting here in my living room with my wife. We had twins a little over three weeks ago. It's late and as I sit here it suddenly struck me how much of God's grace has been poured out on us that we take for granted. We are not wealthy by the world's standards but we have a comfrotable couch and a recliner that would have been the envy of the wealthy 100 years ago. A color TV hangs on my wall and 100 years ago that sort of thing was not even thought of. Electricity powers lights that let me see what I type. A fish aquarium churnes away in the corner maintaining a fish habitat for our viewing pleasure. Color photographs in frames crowd the top of our piano. Some of them were captured with a digital camera. Our newborn daughters rest comfortably in warm clothes that were acquired from virtually limitless choices at an abundance of stores. What we experience is truly amazing, and especially so when we remember John 1:3, "All things were made by Him (Jesus...God)." That puts an amazing perspective on it all. There is not one thing that we have that is not derived from something that God made. The life that we experience comes from God and all that we have comes from God. All the things that I see in my home exist because God allowed someone somewhere to have the mental capacity to figure out how to make it. 1 Corinthians 8:6 reminds us that all things are God's. All the things we take for granted are actually little signpost that should cause our hearts to cry out to God in wonder at His mercy and grace. We really deserve God's wrath because of our corruption and sinfulness. What we have received even in the common things of life is truly astounding. Because of Jesus one day I will dwell in Heaven with my God. But on the journey to that celestial city God has surrounded me and you with signpost to point out His abundant mercy and grace. So whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do we could do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). May God grant us the grace to not take Him for granted but to live a more God focused life than ever.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The God who establishes our steps

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to share my faith with a couple of guys at a street fair in Pleasanton. It was a great conversation and time of interaction. The guys I was speaking with did not believe that there is a God but walked away with a gospel of John (pray that they read it). One of the reasons that I believe I was speaking with them on Wednesday evening is found in Proverbs 16:9  “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” It is easy to see God establishing our steps for things like interactions where we get to share our faith. But how about the things that don't seem so kingdom of God oriented. Did God establish your steps to the grocery store? Did God establish your vacation? Did God establish the car accident you were in? How about the cancer you were diagnosed with? You see if we really believe that God establishes all of our steps and all of our interactions then the things we see as challenging that happen are to shape, restrain us, mold us and ultimately cause us to depend on God more. When we really see God as the establisher of our steps we come to realize that no matter what we have planned God has something more. So that little interruption that messed up your train of thought or the traffic that made you late all are God's hand directing us to trust in Him and the way that He establishes our steps.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why the tea party movement will not save us

The reason that the tea party movement will not save us is the same reason that Obama and the democrats cannot save us. In both cases we are looking to a political movement to solve our problems. Lets think about what some of our problems are? (These are just a few of the general ways in which the public is talking.)

  • Man is basically good and just needs a break - so lets have the government give him a hand out.
  • Sexuality and what I do is my business and does not affect anyone else - so lets have the government protect my freedom of sexual expression.
  • My rights of expression are being threatened - so lets have some laws enacted to protect them.
Freedom is essentially a moral issue (Romans 6:16-18). The ultimate question we need to ask is not which political movement will save us, but what must we do to be saved (Acts 16:31). The tragedy is that our society has drifted so far from a Biblical moral base that the first statement in my informal list is generally accepted everywhere. Man is fallen and born in sin and the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually (Romans 5:12, Genesis 6:5, Psalm 140 ). Government cannot save fallen man from himself no matter what programs they start. Sexuality was created by God for the sake of His glory (Ephesians 5:31-32). Perversion of God's intention for sexuality is man assaulting the God's picture of Jesus relationship with His bride the church. If you want to assault God's picture don't be surprised when He responds in retribution. Only faith in Christ and a love for Him can help us get our bearings in the sea of sexual perversion on which we drift. The extreme emphasis on personal rights within our society exist because we  are a self centered society. Only in the love of Jesus do we gain the freedom to die to self and minister to others as if we are ministering to Christ. A political movement will never be able to solve these problems. These problems need a real Savior to restore our hearts back to God. Lets pray that God will give more hearts a Godward focus on Christ and a desire to pray. For only when God steps in and hears our prayers will our nation be healed (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Monday, June 7, 2010

How a God focused life can save a marriage

The news has had several articles about the Al and Tipper Gore's separation. If you have not heard you can find out more in an article on Foxnews called "What Hasn't Been Said About the Gores' Split". There is a lot of speculation about the changes that have entered their lives since 2000 and the loss of the election. Al has made a lot of money since then and has become very popular especially with the environmental crowd. Most people conclude that the success and money has put a huge amount of stress on the marriage. Whether it has or not the reality is that God calls men to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). This should be the second priority for any man who claims to know Jesus as his Lord. The first should be to love God (Matthew 22:37). If these things are in place then any money earned is a blessing and gift from God. Any success in life that is granted to us becomes a position that God has placed us in for the sake of advancing His kingdom. The way that fame and money destroys marriages is evidence that man centered solutions do not work. Even Tony Robbins the secular guru of personal achievement has not been able to make marriage work. In a day and age when everyone is looking for the quick fix and the perfect solution. There is no better time to turn to and follow the direction and calling of God. After all He designed marriage it would seem that following His advice would be the best thing we could do.