A Case for Grief and Bitterness

We live in an age of incredible advances in technology. To contrast the changes over the last one hundred years to those of the previous century is astounding.  These advances have had ripple effects that have changed the way society does nearly everything.  However, some things never change.  Godly parents love for their children is the same now as it was in the beginning.  Nearly three thousand years ago King Solomon spoke his wisdom for our benefit.  The Proverbs are full of truths which are just as, if not more, relative today as ever before.  Edward Lawrence, who I introduced in the last post, lived in a relatively modern age (mid 17th century) as compared to Solomon, however he saw the contemporary wisdom and truisms that the Proverbs supplied.  Three hundred and fifty years later many of us today can empathize with Lawrence and King Solomon when we read Proverbs 17:25 “A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.”

I love the style of instruction from the Puritan era.  When these men taught and preached they did so with authority.  I can’t imagine these men sitting around in a circle with their pupils asking them, “What does this passage mean to you?  How does this make you feel?”  They were really good at laying out the facts.  Lawrence began the lesson in his treatise “Parent’s Groans Over Their Wicked Children”  with a few explicative points.  He reminds us that both genders are capable of fitting into the category of wicked and ungodly, sons and daughters.  Secondly it is ordinary for godly parents to have wicked children.  I remember the moniker PK, preacher’s kids, tagged on the infamous children of the local ministers. For some reason preachers seemed to have the worst kids, or was it that for some reason we expect theirs to be good little saints, like ours of course.  Lastly he shows that the terms wicked and foolish can be used interchangeably in scripture when identifying the unregenerate or unsaved.  From Lawrence’s perspective you most likely have wicked children.  Here is a quote that struck me as a wonderful tool to help us measure the climate of our children’s condition.  Lawrence says, “Wicked children think themselves wise, wiser than parents, masters(teachers, bosses, coaches, etc.), or ministers.” Try that on for size.  How does that fit?

Now for some of you I am not presenting any new information here.  Those who have a good handle on the nature of man outside of the life giving  power of the Holy Spirit can easily digest the fact that little Johnny most likely is dead in his trespasses and sin. Still it is hard to see our children as wicked or dead.  If we would choose one of scripture’s terms we might rather use foolish.  However, as I mentioned in my post last week, “I’m Not the Villain Here,”  foolishness is not a benign condition.  God uses foolishness to identify the worst of the worst in those whom he has given over to their desires in Romans 1:18-32.  For the sake of time I’ll let you decide if you want to read this passage and see if you would list your children in the same category as Paul does when he characterized even disobedient children as wicked fools.  Just saying!

Lawrence loved his children.  All the work that went into this booklet was originally intended as an inheritance for his children, to give them a legacy to remember what he desired most for them.  He did not speak of their success in the world, their education, nor their comforts.  His desire was to see them enter the Kingdom of Heaven on the judgement day.

So as we push ahead, and I do mean push because of the dreadful nature of the topic, I challenge you not to give up on my efforts.  After darkness, light must be our reward.  Covenant Theology does not teach that God will save every child of every saint.  But it does teach that God generally elects from within his tribe those who will serve him.  In the next post I will give some examples of God’s exceptions to the rule from scripture and the lessons he teaches through them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tha tbeing said

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The Promise Keeper

In the previous post I mentioned that I did not wish to tread on your belief system regarding the issue of the age at which young children can come to faith in Christ and be saved.  We may differ doctrinally and still dwell in unity.  However, in order to differ there must be some understanding of our differences.  My system of belief regarding the salvation of our children hinges upon Covenant Theology.  Now don’t go googling Covenant Theology because what you will find is subject to error.  Wikipedia is all over the place on Covenant Theology.  For our purpose, just understand that the key to this theology is God’s righteousness in and faithfulness to his promises.  God is a covenant keeper.

God made covenants with various people in scripture.  Most notably for our purposes, regarding the salvation of the children of believing parents, God made a covenant with Abraham.  Paul explains the significance of this covenant in Romans 4.   What is often described as the Covenant of Circumcision is laid out in Genesis 17.  We in the Covenant Community believe that the promise to redeem a people for the Kingdom of God is signified in the sign and seal of circumcision before the crucifixion of Christ.  Since the death and resurrection of Christ, the last bloody sacrifice, the sign and seal of this promise is signified in baptism.  Therefore we baptize our infant children just as Abraham circumcised his.  We believe that just as Abraham was saved by faith, his offspring for generations were saved by faith.  Subsequently, as the promise, salvation by faith, was given to those of us outside of the genealogy of Abraham, the gentile, that promise includes our children also.

Once understood correctly, Covenant Theology is truly comfort food.  We believe that our children will be saved.  We even believe that our children can be born in a regenerate state.  My pastor has one of the most beautiful expressions of this that he prays in his intercessory prayer during our worship. When praying by name for our expectant mothers and their unborn children he asks God, “May you grant these children their second birth even before their first birth.”

So if you are a Baptist, don’t click off.  I don’t want to loose any by the wayside because we differ on baptism.  Even the apostles bickered over similar issues.  I hate bickering so I tend to avoid these differences when I speak to my Baptist friends.  In fact, I refuse to debate the point anymore.  I prefer to stick to the encouragement arena.

God’s plan of salvation for you, whatever you believe doctrinally, is not dependent upon your promise keeping ability.  I think we can at least agree that we are pretty rotten promise keepers.  Unless we see some advantage in or obligation to a promise we won’t keep promises.  Therefore, we can safely assume that, your children will be fairly inept promise keepers as well.  The foolishness bound up in the heart of your child is a constant reminder of their need for the same mercy God showed you for your foolishness.  God has no advantage in or obligation to keep his promise.  He just does it.  It is inherent in his being.  In fact some theologians would say that the summation of God’s attribute of righteousness is his promise keeping.  I’m certainly glad that our righteousness is not determinate upon our promise keeping.

A text that I have chosen for assistance in this series of posts is a work by a 17th century preacher named Edward Lawrence (1623-1665).  Lawrence began his pastoral ministry in the Church of England until he refused to submit to Parliament on the issue of using the Book of Common Prayer as the rule of doctrinal authority.  In 1666 he was banished from his Parish under the Five Mile Act, where he had to move five miles from the boundary of the Parish and was labeled a nonconformist.  He got a better deal than an ancestor of mine who was beheaded for the same thing.  The Scots always got a raw deal.

Lawrence preached a series of sermons on Proverbs 17:25 “A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.”  Later he would compile a short book from the sermon notes specifically to give to his children, who apparently were  unregenerate.  Later he would publish the book titled “Parent’s Groans Over Their Wicked Children.”  I told you I was not a fan of self-help books.  I will make an exception for this one, reprinted and edited by Soli Deo Gloria publishing in 2003 under the title “Parent’s Concerns for Their Unsaved Children.”

In the next few posts I will draw out some key points Lawrence makes such as the nature of unregenerate children, God’s exceptions to the rule in growing his Church by natural generation,  the calamity of parents having unsaved children, and playing Pollyanna in the face of this desperate situation.  Some things never change.  Children have always been fore most concerns for the godly parent.  Lawrence shares some of his concerns and how to rightly bear those concerns.

 

 

 

I’m Not the Villain Here!

My favorite movie of all time was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it as a child and with my own children.  One interesting fact that really says much about the quality of the film, is that it is based on a book by Ian Fleming, the former British Naval Intelligence officer and the author of the James Bond 007 spy novels.  The film was only loosely adapted from Fleming’s successful children’s book but the production by Albert R. Broccoli, who also produced many of the Bond films, made the story pop in the screen play.   Dick Van Dyke solidified the success of the film with an encore performance, after starring in the fantastical “Mary Poppins” four years earlier.   Okay, where am I going with this?  Do you remember Baron and Baroness Bomburst?  Do you remember what they hated the most?  They despised children.  To combat the problem of children in their kingdom they employed the Child Catcher.   The scene where the Potts children were hiding at the toymaker’s shop while the Child Catcher menacingly rides into the village in the Kingdom of Vulgaria on his horse drawn carriage with his child catching net still scares me.  Voted by Entertainment Weekly in 2008 as one of the top 50 most vile villains in screen history, the Child Catcher ranked above the Wicked Witch of the West . However, though you may think so after this article, I am not he who hates children.  I love children, but I see them for what they are.  As I began this series, and told you that it was designed not to instruct but to encourage. I knew I would have to tread on a topic that some might think a little harsh.  Just like boot camp, we must be broken down before we are built back up.  Okay, here goes!  Children are generally hated by God before they are loved by God.

Who in their right mind could have hated Jeremy and Jemima Potts.  Just watch the movie and you will see two of the sweetest, most pure, harmless… enough with the adjectives, but you get the picture.  The “Toot Sweet” scene with the lovely Truly Scrumptious was adorable, right.   Of course, they had to be portrayed as such to create the antithesis for the Baron’s and Baroness’ antagonism.  Who would want to injure these adorable little children?  Let us leave the fantasy land and enter the world in which we live.  How do you view the spiritual nature of your children?  Is it from the world’s perspective where, more like the film, children are seen as innocent, not responsible for their imperfections and transgressions?  When a child misbehaves is it sinful or simply childish?  Is your child’s relentless energy or, stated another way, running, talking, wiggling, et cetera, when they’ve been told not to, benign or malignant?  Is their failure to follow instruction foolishness or ignorance?

If you are a follower of Christ, your answers to these questions are very important.  I am aware that there may be some doctrinal differences amongst those who read this blog.  I do not wish to tread on your belief system, as far as, when a child comes to faith or is saved, at least not today.

Let’s work in reverse order of the questions I just asked.  Are your children foolish or ignorant?  Let’s define the terms as we know them to be.  Foolishness is the lack of good sense or judgement.  Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or awareness.  God tells us, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Prov. 22:15)  Do you see the desparate situation here.  The soul of the child is enslaved to poor judgement.  Solomon, the foremost child psychologist, does not say that a lack of information is the problem with the child’s behavior.  Neither is it a retention issue. It’s not that he forgot you told him to stop running in the Church building,  so he does not lack the information.  He simply uses poor judgement by choosing what he wants to do over what you told him to do.  For those of us who took a little psychology in college, we could argue the lack of development of the prefrontal cortex, the executive decision or judgement making portion of the brain. All right, props for that observation. The prefrontal cortex is supposedly fully functional by age 25.  I know a lot of foolish adults and my horses don’t even have a prefrontal cortex and they have pretty good judgement. I digress.

Next, is your energizer bunny’s behavior benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful)?  We’ll according to God, if it is caused by foolishness, and in the very next portion of the Proverb he says that “only the rod of discipline” will remove it, foolishness, from him, then it must be judged to be malignant.  God would not recommend the use of corporal punishment for something benign or harmless.  What your children are doing is what Paul called “suppressing the truth by their wickedness.”  Remember, they are not ignorant of the fact that you have told them five times today not to run in the Church building, and five hundred times since they began to understand language.  They know what you told them, they just refuse to do it.  They suppress it.  Read on in Paul’s introductory chapter of Romans (1:19-32.)  Go read it! Several times he refers to the foolishness of men, not their ignorance.  But you say, “This is bad stuff they are doing!  These are some nasty people!”  What does this have to do with my little darling.  Well, little Johnny is capable of all this stuff, eventually. Currently, however, he is included in the same category of them whom God has revealed his wrath upon by the implications of verse 30, “they disobey their parents.”  Now, is their behavior malignant or benign?  Use your prefrontal cortex.  You be the judge because Paul already did.  He called it foolishness.

Lastly, is their misbehavior sin or is it just being children?  If we still have to answer this question then I have failed and you might as well click off. The Westminster Divines defined sin as any lack of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.  I think we can make a sound argument for a sinful condition. Your child is, just like you, and just like the vilest of the vile, a sinner, justly deserving God’s displeasure, and without hope save in God’s sovereign mercy.

This is quite a picture of desperation.  Some may believe that God gives children a pass,  an age of responsibility at which somehow magically, children move form one category of person to another.  Haven’t found that one in scripture yet, but I’m not an exhaustive source.  What I have found is that God has provided a remedy for the problem of sin in our children.  He has also provided that wicked little viper an advocate. You being a godly parent is the most typical means that God grows his kingdom. Your child is born with its own personal priest. Your first duty in the Great Commission is not a mission trip to Uganda, but rather the evangelization of your child, whether they are infants or adults.  Your child has you to lead them to claiming God’s promises as their own and to assist them in inheriting the kingdom you inherited.  Acknowledging that your child is tenuously dangling over the fires of Hell is the first step in invoking the mercies of God in Christ Jesus.

More Things Near and Dear

As my last two posts, “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Lean On Your Lover,” dealt with the topic of our temporal and our eternal marriages, I thought that the next few posts should deal with something else that is also near and dear to our hearts, children.  Many  experienced teachers and counselors are available that far outweigh me in the area of advice on raising children.  The raising of children is not my area of expertise so I do not intend to offer my two cents worth on that topic.  The only weight I carry is that, like many of you, I’ve been there done that, and  I claim no certification.  Also, as many of you have already raised your children, these posts and my two cents may seem passe.  However looking backward without vain regrets is heathy for us all.  As some of you may only be children and far from being parents, you can benefit by reading these posts from which you may see a need for reorientation of your views toward being children of God.

I’m not a big fan of self-help books or programs.  You know the type.  The author usually has a bunch of letters before or behind his name and he is eager to let you know that he is an expert and you are an imbecile.  They go around promoting their work speaking at conferences and selling their potions like the snake oil salesmen that they usually are.  Hind sight is usually your only defense against their snares.  Quite often, only time will tell that they nor their advice were particularly effective at solving your problem.  Remember there is nothing new under the sun, just repackaging.

When we started our family, I remember the popular books and programs that were recommended to us.  How we were raised wasn’t right, so here’s how you fix how poorly your parents messed you up.  I was always mesmerized to hear and see how these plans resulted in all these perfect little angels who walked in lockstep to their parents direction.  One plan in particular, let’s call it, “Raise Your Children Our Way” by Godly George and Saintly Susan, promoted having your children voice there concerns over the justness of your directions to them by giving them the opportunity to appeal your decisions.  Literally the child was taught to say, “May I appeal” when you ruled on matters of behavior .  For example, Dad comes home and the child’s bike is in the driveway and he has to get out of his car and move it.   The child had been told not to leave their bike in the driveway.  Dad would then go to the child and say, “I told you not to leave your bike in the driveway and therefore you will not be able to ride your bike for two days.”  The child could then say, “May I appeal?”  Dad could then grant an appeal to the child but he would qualify the appeal request by stipulating that the child must introduce “new information” in his defense. In other words, stuff Dad couldn’t have possibly known, due to his self absorbed awareness of only that which was Dad stuff.  For example, the child could make the argument that the fact that a terrible electrical storm arose out of nowhere as he was riding and as he raced home he crashed into the fence and fell causing great bodily injury, and by the time he regained consciousness he was so disoriented that he could not locate the garage, and when he finally did get his bearings, he found that  the power had been lost due to a tree falling on the electrical service connection, and the garage door would not open, and after locating his mother, who was diligently making bread in the kitchen, sewing  new clothes for the other fifteen children, singing hymns and oblivious to the hurricane outside, she was unable to manually open the garage door, due to the fact that pulling the red handle on the cord hanging from the latch was a “man” thing and out of her sphere of wifely responsibility, he was providentially hindered from completing the duty of putting his bike away.  The child would then sum up his defense in a closing argument that due to the totality of the circumstances he did not feel as though he was guilty of the crime of negligent bike putting away and was therefore suing for mercy.  Dad would then evaluate the “new information” and make his ruling.  Everyone could then have a group hug.

What a wonderful system this is. We should by the six DVD set and accompanying book, workbook, quick reference guide and charts to stick on the refrigerator,  take it home and try it out on our little brood, right!  This will solve all our problems!  We will have perfect little children too and everyone at Church will think we are the super sanctified duo.  They might even let us teach the parenting class next season.  We still laugh about that one.  I’m pretty sure that my wife saw through that scam but I bought it hook, line, and sinker. There were several along the way and I do not disparage anyone who has a successful plan that works for them.  However, there is no one size fits all system developed by man.

My chief point in all this is to say, in God’s plan for parents, he assumes one fact that we don’t often factor in.  His plan is perfect and was implemented before the dawn of time, specifically suited for your individual good and His triune Glory.  Your successes and your failures were predetermined by the counsel His will.  Your weakness and dependence upon his sovereignty in raising your children is for His Glory.

That’s why the series of posts forthcoming will not be about raising our children.  Rather it will be about the nature of God’s raising His children.  I plan to use examples of God’s sovereign grace, righteousness (promise keeping),  justice and truth to make the case for our trusting in him.  Stay tuned.

“Lean On Your Lover” the Song of Songs

Yesterday’s post “Some kind of Wonderful” seemed to really hit the mark, resulting in the highest number of hits in the blogs history. My wife and Jesus as the main characters obviously had a lot to do with its success.  They are my favorite topics as well.  As things go, I normally don’t post again for a few days.  However, in the providence of the Lord, that really weird thing happened this morning where God puts before me, without any effort on my part, more information on the same theme I had been thinking about.  God continues the conversation to make sure I get the message.

If you have been following me you know of my relationship with Thomas Boston.  Well at least posthumously.  As God would have it, the sermon I read this morning, delivered  to his Congregation in the summer of 1721, fell perfectly in line with the topic of yesterday’s post, marriages, both humanly and spiritually.  He preached a series that summer on Song of Songs 8:5 “Who is this coming from the wilderness leaning on her lover?”  The summer sermon series in rural Scotland in the 18th Century was the highlight of preachers efforts.  Good weather and long days meant that everyone in the congregation could attend, because they would not generally be hindered by bad weather or sickness.  Unlike today, the pastor nor the congregation were taking vacations, so the pews were full.  Now I wouldn’t expect to see this verse on the marque of the typical Church building you drive by today, with the catch phrase “Lean On Your Lover.”  For Boston, however, there was much to unpack in this fragment of one verse.

The ancient customs of the Jews had some traditions about the wedding ceremony that we might find a little strange today.  The betrothed would go out into a field, or woods or some place away from the eyes and ears of attendees and express to one another their nuptial-song.  Something like the exchanging of that sappy stuff where modern couples make up their own little “I love you because” spiels and say them to each other nervously in front of the very uncomfortable spectators, at least from the men’s pespective.  Not my cup of tea, but each to his own.  In this culture that stuff was done privately.  Their return to the wedding guests signified that the marriage was official, in that the bride would be physically leaning on and being led by the husband as they walked back from the wilderness..  They would walk straight to the house of the bridegroom’s father and not return publically until the next day.  I suppose I left out what they would be doing there, but you get the idea.  He was leading the bride to her new home, her new family, under his care and responsibility, and she was going willingly, dependently, faithfully, and permanently.

Do you see the beauty of this?  Do you get the significance?  I’m afraid this ancient near east tradition gets lost in translation today.  Spiritually this is the picture of Christ leading us home as his most treasured possession.  He has said his nuptial song to us by his word, the gospel, and being applied by the Holy Spirit.  His covenant cannot be broken.  We are betrothed, wed, vowed to by him, and sealed in his blood.  As his bride, like the bride at this wedding, we should not be looking back at the world we are leaving and not blindly following behind him like a train of servants trailing some earthly prince.  Rather we should lean on him, being supported, and never wanting to fall behind.  Our home now is his father’s kingdom, a place he has prepared for us full of our new relations, the Church.

God speaks to us often in scripture in the framework of marriage.  The prophet Hosea, speaking for God about the reconciliation of the children of Israel, says, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” (Hosea 2:19)  A betrothal was a contractual agreement, typically involving the paying of the bride-price to the future father in-law.  Do you get the picture?  Christ paid the bride price to our adoptive Father, and bought us for himself and the promissory note was his righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.  We are given to Christ to be his bride because of his covenant made with God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  This is no partnership, where we share responsibility to uphold the contractual agreement or the contract becomes void. In fact partnerships are not biblical.  Abraham did not form an LLC with Lot.  He gave him the land he wanted and he took what was left.  No chance of falling out over who profited most from which fleece.   Do you even see where we, the bride, even play a role in the negotiations?   We are responsive to the contractors, in that their faithfulness to uphold the terms elicits our loving devotion.  Isn’t that convenient because we are by nature contract breakers and our signing the contract would be no guarantee of surety.  We have no dowery. I love the legalese of Scripture.

Practically, is this the picture you get of marriage today, even “Christian” marriage?  I think, more often than not, marriage today doesn’t even resemble biblical marriage.  For example, the picture of this ancient Jewish wedding, with the bride leaning on the bride-groom, her lover, as Solomon puts it, is only symbolically reproduced when the bride takes the arm of the groom as they recede down the aisle.  How does any of this square today?  Why is she leaning? She is trusting where he’s leading her. This is how the scriptural command of submission by the wife is defined. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Wives submit to your husbands.” (5:22) A commentary on this passage defines submission as living in grateful acknowledgement of her husband’s care and leadership.  The picture in the Jewish wedding is not the husband dragging the bride by her hair, nor is she blindfolded and gagged.  In contrast neither are they holding hands skipping down the isle.  She is allowing herself to be gently led and willingly walking.

Recently I found out that someone I knew was in the process of a divorce.  I attended this couple’s wedding and witnessed their vows.  When the minister got to the bride’s vow, he led her to promise to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death do us part.  Wait, did my ears deceive me? Did their Pastor have a senior moment? Something was missing. A four letter word was left out. Was it intentional?  It should have been right between the cherishing part and the death part.  Did you catch it?  What happened to the “obey” part.  Me being me, I had to find out.  Later on I cornered the unsuspecting padre and asked him about his omission.  “I’m a little curious,”, I lied to him, I was a lot curious.  “Did you mean to leave out of the vows for her to obey her husband?”  The Pastor’s response floored me.  He said that the vow to obey was not required “anymore.”  I had to bid him adieu before I came unglued.  Where did he come off saying that God no longer required, as if the scriptures had an appendix, the wife to obey her husband?  Wasn’t this a Protestant and evangelical denomination?  How did we come to this point?

For one thing, it’s just plain bad theology.  The Roman Catholic church has never required the obedience vow. Don’t call yourself a protestant if you’re not willing to protest the Roman Catholic traditions. The Roman Empire brought about mutual consent marriages. That is, they did away with betrothal for commoners.   Anyone could marry anyone and if it didn’t work out they could have a do-over. They allowed the publicans to do about anything they wanted as long as there allegiance to the emperor was maintained.  Well you know what happened to the Romans.

A poor definition of obedience is another reason for the deletion of the vow.  Go back to the picture of the Jewish ceremony.  Does that look like oppression or tyranny?  The definition of obedience is even more clearly explained by Paul when he tells the Ephesian wives why they must submit.  “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephes. 5:22) I’m obviously not a wife.  I tread on dangerous ground here as I am quite aware that yesterday’s post was mostly read by my wife’s facebook friends, and if you are following with this post you may be ready to click off.  Just hang on I’m coming to the best part.

In Paul’s reasoning for the wife’s required obedience he says more to husbands than wives. Husbands you must be Christ to your wife.  What does that entail?  In simple terms, when Paul goes on to husbands in verse 25 he says to love your wives as Christ loved the church.  You know the story.  You are to sacrifice yourself for her up to and including death.  Do you know what that entails?  Read the gospel accounts of Christ’s life.  From birth in a dirty animal pen, to an agonizing death at the hands of his oppressors, as Christ you must love her actively by your willingness to sacrifice. You must be willing to live a life of a man without status, tempted by Satan and the world, rejected by men, even your own family, for the sake of your wife.  You must even be willing to endure the scorn of those who you are sacrificing for as Christ endures our scorn manifested in our disobedience. Why did Christ give up a throne in heaven, to condescend to human form?  Not for himself but for the Glory of the Father and the good of his bride.  Are you willing to make her obedience easy?  Christ did ours.  Her ability to obey you is directly dependent on your willingness to love her. We love Christ because he first loved us, and gave himself as a propitiation , a covering to shield us from the wrath of God.  You are her shield.  In fact you are to love her in spite of her obedience. Now man up!  Ok ladies. You may now share this post with your husbands?  They can hate me more now than yesterday.

For those of you who are old hats at this marriage thing, you know what I’m saying.  You know the lows and highs of it.  For some of you this may all be new and overwhelming.  For some of you God may intend that you not be distracted by living in union with another sinner, but rather he intends for you to live as his bride only.  Regardless of your situation, the picture of marriage in the Song of Songs, the prophets, the histories and law, the visions, the Psalms, the Proverbs, the gospel accounts, and the epistles all apply to you and me.  I am not qualified to counsel you on this topic but God is.  Use the word of God to guide you through this pilgrimage in this wilderness and lean on you lover, Christ our Lord.

God willing, I rest my case.

Some Kind of Wonderful

Some songs are timeless and can pass across generational and genre boundaries with ease. In 1967 the rhythm and blues band Soul Brothers Six released the song “Some Kind of Wonderful.”  The name of the band tells it all.  The lyrics come from the soul.  R & B music, which was born out of a quest for freedom and joy by a disadvantaged culture in the middle 20th century, was the source for many future songwriter’s material across multiple genres, primarily because the common man could relate to the message and the insistent beat made it a catchy tune.  Over the next generation this title would be reproduced by the rock super group Grand Funk Railroad (1974), country music legend Conway Twitty (1977), the German metal band Viva (1982), pop star Huey Lewis (1994), British rock vocalist Paul Rodgers, formally of Bad Company, accompanied by blues guitar great Buddy Guy (1997), and England’s BBC actress and singer Joss Stone (2003), though she changed the gender pronouns.

Why was this song so special that so many artists borrowed it to speak to their followers?  Simply put, it appeals to one of the most basic desires that a man has in his soul, whether he knows it or not, which is to have a good wife.  The creation mandate, how things were created to be in a perfect world, was that man would have a helpmeet.  He would call her his wife and he would treasure her above all things on earth. God describes this gift in her perfection in Proverbs 31.  She was to be a rare jewel.  The rarity made her precious.

I am partial to the Grand Funk version of “Some Kind of Wonderful”. As a Billboard topper in the 70s and a classic rock pernnial, I have always liked the moderate rock shuffle beat and the jazz style licks.  However just the other day while riding on the tractor mowing pastures, my preferred music theory classroom, I had a revelation about the lyrics.  What the songwriter was saying,  I already knew and just needed reminding.  My wife is “some kind of wonderful.” She is what the writer was describing that he had. Just check out the first stanza and chorus:

I don’t need a whole lots of money,
I don’t need a big fine car.
I got everything that a man could want,
I got more than I could ask for.
I don’t have to run around,
I don’t have to stay out all night.
‘Cause I got me a sweet… a sweet, lovin’ woman,
And she knows just how to treat me right.

Well my baby, she’s alright,
Well my baby, she’s clean out-of-sight.
Don’t you know that she’s… she’s some kind of wonderful.
She’s some kind of wonderful… yes she is, she’s,
She’s some kind of wonderful, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhh

Today is my 27th wedding anniversary and this post is intended to express how thankful I am for my wife and for God’s providence in her.  He has seen fit to give me what I need and what I want all wrapped up in one little package.  He does not always give you what you want and what you need.  In fact it is rather rare that he does because quite often the two are antithetical.  It was actually 34 years ago that I determined that she was what I wanted.  My first experience with high school romance was it.  No playing the field for me.  My mission was to secure for myself that one perfect girl. I was playing for keeps.  Well, as things went initially, I was the only one on board with this plan, not surprisingly of course.  You might say I was a little overbearing.  What on earth was I thinking?  She was a smart, pretty, popular girl and a cheerleader.  I was, well, none of the above.  In my defense,  I’m not sure I was allowed to be a cheerleader, discrimination and all that.  As things normally go, in a world that doesn’t appreciate the possibility of a fairy tale ending, life got in the way.  High school, college, finding a job, and many hurdles along the way, were, by God’s hand, put behind us and our union was complete.  I was completed seven years later.  We tied the knot.

There is, in a certain sense, a rarity to our story.  I quite often am very pleased with myself for “making” this marriage happen.  I guess I should be, although I was obviously such a wonderful catch that she shouldn’t have needed convincing.  In God’s economy, however, he chose for us this path, modeled after the union of Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5), with a few exceptions I suppose. Not the least of which is my poor portrayal of Christ. Rather than prophet, priest, and king, I was agitator, aggravator, and royal pain in the butt.

The truth is that God, in his goodness and mercy, has made the “fairy tale romance” attainable for all of his children.  The true story is found in the union of believers and Christ, and that can be real for anyone whom he has called. The Song of Solomon describes the romantic beauty of our regenerate union with Christ. You may or may not have the spouse you always wanted or have a spouse at all. In the counsel of God’s will he decides what is best for you.  Whether you have a perfect marriage or none at all, you have the opportunity to say you have the perfect husband in Christ, for he is your true love, your first place love and object of your affection.  Take what ever situation you have been given and use it for the Glory of your savior.  Cling to your true, faultless, and always faithful spouse who will not and cannot ever forsake you. He’s some kind of wonderful!

In the words of the Soul Brothers Six:
Can I get a witness?
Can I get a witness? Yeah…
Can I get a witness? Ohhh…
Can I get a witness? Yeah…
Can I get a witness? Yes

 

God’s Favor Grounds Us

My life has been relatively free from trouble and pain.  I say relatively because when I compare my issues with many other people, I don’t have much to complain about.  One might say I am blessed.  Well, from the true meaning of the word, as it is used in the scriptures, often defined as made happy or blissful, I’m not certain that the word applies to me.  Though it certainly should,  my self esteem gets in the way and causes me trouble.  My old self is constantly informing me of what I “deserve.”  I suppose you might say I get conceited.  We deserve easy passage in this life, right?  However, God does not abandon me when I start thinking like this.   Before long he brings my feet right back down to earth.

God sometimes uses a most effective means of helping us with conceit.  Paul called it a thorn in the flesh.  2 Corinthians 12:7 is where Paul says, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.”  I won’t begin to deal with some of the difficulties of this passage like what his thorn was or who or what the messenger of Satan was.  That really doesn’t matter for now. Whatever they were, they were given by God for the purpose of regulating his self-esteem.

In a sermon on the topic of a Christian obtaining favor from God, Thomas Boston points out that sometimes God’s favor is not what we would call a gift.  You’ve heard it said “Don’t do me any favors” when someone does something for you or to you that they deem good but appear bad to you.  We say that very same thing to God when he meets out to us that which we determine to be one of those frowning providences.  Here is how Boston puts it.  “It is no small favor to the Christian to have a thorn of uneasiness put under him while he is here to keep him from lying down in a lions den.  Every rub that a Christian meets with in his way through the world is a memorandum for him that this is not his rest.”  At times God will chasten you by his very obvious works of providence.  When you dabble in ways directly contrary to God’s commands, he may smite you harshly.  Other times he may simply give you the nagging sensation that something is just not right.  Sometimes he may cause you to feel no pleasure in what others find enjoyable.  Most commonly God just causes you to take little comfort in the things of this world.  All of which are blessings because your joy must come in Him.

Spend some time today applying the Haggai technique.  Meditate on how God uses a thorn of uneasiness or lack of ease in your life.  Ask God to show you why.  Look to Christ who is the author and finisher of your faith to help you identify these lions dens he wants you to avoid and to find where your help comes from.  I’m certain you will see his favor towards you.