What does it matter if our own plans are frustrated?

“What does it matter if our own plans are frustrated? Is it not better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way?”— Dietrcih Bonhoeffer, “Life Together” pg. 95

What Is Marriage?

Our country is in the midst of an important debate about the definition of marriage. I appreciate the way that Matthew Schmitz’s blog post on First Things articulated the fundamental question behind the current debate about gay marriage.

“Beneath this political circus, of course, a real moral and philosophical question lies. What is marriage? Is it merely a way of signaling our social approval of committed love between any ordering of two (or more) people? Or is it a definite institution ordered toward the rearing of children and defined by permanence, exclusivity, and sexual complementarity?”

If marriage is a social construction designed to signal cultural approval of committed love then the definition of marriage can and should change along with the society.  If however marriage is a divine construction designed to lead people and societies into the blessings of God in which they will thrive, then the essence of what marriage is will not change  because God does not change.

If marriage is a divine construction then the implications of the divine definition of marriage apply equally to everyone regardless of the time and culture in which they live.  If marriage is a divine construct that is based on the character and creation of God, then the implications of that definition go far beyond the issue of gay marriage and impact the way everyone defines friendship, marriage and singleness.

Throughout the Bible we see that marriage was God’s idea, and was designed by God for His glory and our good.  Some of the many passages of scripture that address this are Genesis 2:18-24, 1 Corinthians 11:8-12 and Ephesians 5:21-31.

Andreas Kostenberger in his excellent book “God, Marriage and Family” states:

“Paul’s comments clearly indicate that he considered this account to be historical (rather than mythical or fictional): at the beginning of human history God made the first man, endowed him with life, and placed him in a garden (Gen. 2:7-8,15). Moreover, God addressed to man certain moral commands (2:16-17). Prior to the creation of the woman, the man had already begun exercising the divine mandate to subdue the earth, naming the animals (2:19-20). In order to supply his need for companionship, God created the woman to be Adam’s wife.

 

God’s creation of Eve demonstrates that God’s plan for Adam’s marriage, as well as for all subsequent marriages, involves a monogamous heterosexual relationship. God only made one “suitable helper” for Adam, and she was female.  What is more, it was God who perceived Adam’s aloneness and hence created the woman.  The biblical text gives no indication that Adam himself was even conscious of being alone or discontent in his singleness. Rather, God is shown to take the initiative in fashioning a compatible human companion for the man. For this reason it can truly be said that marriage is God’s idea and that it was God who made the woman of his own sovereign will as a “suitable helper” for the man (Gen. 2:18,20).

Regardless of what relationships are called “marriages” the only way people will experience the blessings that God designed marriage for, is through a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. Therefore, to redefine marriage in any other way for any other reason cuts people off from the blessings that God has created marriage to bring about.

While redefining marriage to express commitment from our current cultural viewpoint may alleviate some of the frustrations felt by those who are unhappy with their current spouse and those who are gay, it will create an even deeper frustration that will be accompanied by even more difficulties.  That frustration will come from the unmet expectation that marital infidelity, serial divorce, and gay marriage can lead to the kind of blessings that only God’s design for marriage can bring.

Some of the blessings that God gives in marriage are the deep companionship of joint accomplishments through excellent teamwork, the blessedness of the intimacy of being naked and unashamed, and the mysterious blessing of reflecting the glory of the relationship of the Trinity and the relationship of Christ and the Church.  These blessings are wonderful and good, and can only be found in marriage as God defines it.  These are the blessings that we should help our married friends pursue.

While the blessings of marriage are good they are not the only blessings of God that allow people to thrive. There are numerous blessings that are also wonderful and good that come from an undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). These blessings are only experienced by those who are single. Therefore, our gay friends would be far better off seeking to remain single and living with an undivided devotion to God than to abandon those blessings to enter into the frustration of looking for the blessings of marriage in a relationship where they cannot be found.

God is good. His creation reflects His goodness and His commands invite us into it. Let us trust in God’s goodness and help each other to pursue the many blessings He has made available for us.

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross. BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; page 241

I wish everyone the daring peace that comes from giving ourselves completely to God.  Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Merry Christmas my friends.

Speaking Truth to Yourself

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. `Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: `Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have had but little experience. .. The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: `Why art thou cast down’-what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: `Hope thou in God’-instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: `I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’. .. Martyn Lloyd-Jones;D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Kindle Locations 204-214). Kindle Edition.

Happy Mother’s Day

The Value of a Career in Motherhood.

Adapted from G.K. Chesterton’s essay, What’s Wrong with the World.

Mothers are quickly thrust into a career of immanent importance.  Their babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to the world.  To put the matter shortly, a mother is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he or she asks all the questions that there are and even some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says this duty of enlightenment is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view.  I can only answer that God has thought it wise to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.  But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not only difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up on the question.  For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination understand what they mean.

When Motherhood, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word.  If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work I admit the mother drudges in the home.  But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trivial, colorless and of small importance to the soul, then I say, I give up; I do not know what you mean.

To be the Queen within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be in business in a certain area, providing a certain expertise or service; to be Aristotle, teaching within a certain area, morals, manners and philosophy; I can understand how this can exhaust the mind, but how can it not also narrow it?  How can it be an important career to tell others about the Rule of Three, and an unimportant career to tell ones own children about everything in the universe?  How can it be more meaningful to tell the same thing to everyone, and less meaningful to be everything to someone?  No; a mothers career is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.  I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

Phil’s Personal Bible Study Suggestions.

Reading and re-reading 1 book of the Bible for several months is my favorite way to study the Bible. For those just starting out I recommend starting with the Gospel of John, Genesis, Philippians, or Romans. A very good, and free, source for notes that can help explain thing you don’t understand about the Bible can be found at: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes.htm

Here is how I typically work my way through passages of the Bible.

 

Step 1. Understand What The Passage Is Saying

Read a chapter or section of scripture carefully and prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to make the truth clear.  Summarize each paragraph looking for things that are repeated, things that are alike, things that contrast, and things that are emphasized.

Go deeper by answering the questions:

1. Where are things happening?

2. Who is involved?

3. When is the action/argument taking place?

4. What is happening in this section?

5. How is God working?

6. Why does God want us to know about this?

Step 2. Understand What The Passage Means

Answer the questions:

  1. What do I learn about God in this passage?
  2. What do I learn about myself in this passage?
  3. What are the truths that stand out to me in this passage?

Step 3. Prayerfully ask,  “What Does God Want Me to Do?”

Answer the questions:

  1. What does this passage tell me about God?
  2. What does this passage tell me about living for God rather than myself?

Go deeper by asking:

  • Is there an example for me to follow?
  • Is there a sin for me to avoid?
  • Is there a promise I can be assured by?
  • Is there a prayer I can be praying?
  • Is there an attitude I need to change?
  • Is there a command for me to obey?

Step 4. Pray.

Adoration: Praise God for what this reveals about him.

Confession: Repent for wrong behavior, and wrong attitudes and thank God for Christ’s grace to forgive and cleanse you.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for His amazingly faithful love and kindness.

Supplication:  Ask for God’s will to be done in specific challenges in the lives of others,in our city and/or around the world.

Additional Tools

Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks

30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion – without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

Thy love let it my heart over power

Give me a faith which can remove
And sink the mountain to a plain;
Give me the childlike praying love
Which longs to build thy house again;
Thy love, let it my heart o’erpower,
Let it my ransomed soul devour.
I would the precious time redeem
And longer live for this alone—
To spend and to be spent for them
Who have not yet my Savior known;
Fully on these my mission prove,
And only breath, to breath thy love.
My talents, gifts and graces, Lord,
Into Thy blessed hands receive;
And let me live to preach thy word,
And let me to thy glory live;
My every sacred moment spend
In publishing the sinner’s Friend.’
Enlarge, inflame and fill my heart
With boundless charity divine;
So shall I all my strength exert,
And love them with a zeal like Thine;
And lead them to Thine open side,
The sheep for whom their shepherd died.
Charles Wesley

Never Waste Your Time Looking for Justice

One of the great stirring truths of the Bible is that the man who looks for justice from others is a fool. In moral and spiritual life if a man has a sense of injustice, he ceases to be of use to his fellowmen.  Never waste your time looking for justice; if you do you will soon put yourself in bandages and give way to self-pity.  Our business is to see that no one suffers from our injustice.

Oswald Chambers, Shade of His Hand, pg. 48

Caution vs. Love

C.S. Lewis on being careful rather than loving.

“Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’

… When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” 

CS Lewis The Four Loves