Be Logical

While attending my music theory class a few months ago, you know, riding on the tractor with my ear buds, I had one of my lyrical discovery moments.  I wasn’t sure what I would do with my thoughts, but now seems as good of a time as any to pontificate.  So here is an attempt to spew a little vitriol without alienating anyone.  Bordering on the edge of cynicism, or maybe from your perspective full-blown criticism, I possibly leave the safe harbor of encouragement for the believer.  However encouragement can come in different forms.  My brother taught me to dive from the diving board by pushing me off.  He encouraged me by helping me see how much better a self-controlled decent would be than a flailing plunge.

The song I heard that spoke volumes to me was “The Logical Song” by the 70’s British band Supertramp.  Written by keyboardist Roger Hodgson and released in 1979, this song turned out to be the biggest hit for the band.  Going to the top ten in the U.S. and the U.K.  There was much more accomplished by this song than charting.  A message behind the music spoken from a truly broken heart.

Supertramp – The Logical Song Lyrics
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
Acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

At night, when all the world’s asleep,
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.
The Logical Song lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Obviously I’m no existentialist,  but as a follower of Christ to ask oneself, “Who am I,” is a necessary question.  To delve into the deep discoveries of origins, causes, and forces and how I relate to them is an age-old practice of all man. The recurring theme for Hodgson is “Who am I.”  What is the meaning of life and how do I fit in?  Shakespeare asked the binary question, “To be or not to be?”  The fallacy is in the premise of our “being” anything.  We are “becoming.”  He should have asked the question, “How to be or not to be?”  That is the question that everyone asks at some point in their life.  You really don’t even have to ask because it is presumed that you wish to know and there is no shortage of people and institutions out there to answer it for you.

The point I, and to some level Hodgson, want to make is who do you want answering this question for your children or grandchildren.  Hodgson made it plain that the institution given to him to implant wisdom and knowledge was not best choice.  He spent ten years of his childhood in an English boarding school.  This was not out for the norm for a child growing up in mid 20th century England.  Though the public school system was sufficient, boarding school was the best of both worlds for parents.  They had someone else educate, feed, cloth, shelter and everything in between, in their stead.  For Hodgson, it was a most regrettable experience.

You can feel his pain as you read the first stanza.  The sweet things of youth, the safety and security of home and family are taken away and you are plunged into a foreign world, dark and foreboding.  Life as the child knows it is over.  New standards, quite alien, are thrust into their life.  You might say, “Okay, I can agree that sending a child off to boarding school is horrid, I would never do that, but what is wrong with teaching the child to be sensible, logical, responsible, dependable, clinical, or intellectual?  Weren’t most of the greatest thinkers, including theologians, educated in boarding schools?  Wasn’t your hero, Thomas Boston, attending college at 15?”

You make a very good argument for sending your budding scholar to school.  However, what other option did oppressed, turn of the 18th century Scottish villagers have if the opportunity presented itself?  Take Boston for instance. His father, a cooper, a man who builds wooden barrels and buckets, working from before until after the sun, looses most of his customers due to his position on Church polity.  He is imprisoned even for his belief.  They live in a world where in order to worship, they have to meet secretly in a barn, half a day’s wagon ride from their home.  Oh, and no internet. No Amazon. No public library. Kind of a difficult situation.  I’m certain, had I been the father of young Thomas, I would have elected to send my son to get an education away from that mess too.  For what good is an apprentice cooper who could potentially speak four languages, three of which are dead and have a command for the forth that exceeds rare?  He had a just cause for sinking all of his savings in his sons education.  What is our justiufication today?

In an interview Hodgson says, “Throughout childhood we are taught to behave, yet we are taught very little about the deeper purpose of life.  We go from the wonder of childhood to the confusion of adolescence to the disillusionment of adulthood.”  Do you see the underlying helplessness in the tone of this man.  During his time away he would also feel the destruction of the last vestiges of security when his parents divorced.

I don’t know anyone personally who sends their children to boarding school.  However, I know mostly people who send their children away every day to have their question about who the are, and what is the origin and meaning of life, addressed by someone who they can only hope has the truth.  I am not against public school.  I am not against Christian schools.  I am not against college. They are all perfectly viable means of educating children.  In fact they are all very effective ways to educate.  That’s the problem.  If you send your children to school, any school, there is a 100% probability that they will be educated.  Schools have a perfect success rate. Children will have their questions answered.  That’s the problem.  What will those answers be?  Will they be the truth?  How will you know?

Seems to me like a good place to stop.




The Larger Issue

In the Reformed and Covenant Theology community we rely heavily upon the various confessions, compiled by counsels of Churchmen centuries before our time, to provide guidance into what are the truths that scripture teaches.  Edward Lawrence preached during the time of the publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).  His subsequent run in with the Church of England was an outworking of his strong belief in what was taught by these doctrinal positions.  His hope for the eventual conversion of his children was bolstered by what the confession taught concerning baptism.  His strong desire for his children to claim their inheritance in Christ was dependant on baptism, infant baptism.  Chapter 25 Section 2 tells us that according to scripture the visible church, those who profess true religion, includes our children.  From the days of the Apostolic Church until the middle of the 16th century, the mass majority of the Christian Church baptized their infant children as an expression of their promised inclusion in the Body of Christ.  It was not until the late 1500’s that the Anabaptist doctrines of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands began spread and the idea of not baptizing infants was popularized.

Without going into the details of the confessional position on baptism, for the purposes of encouragement to parents, one point is clear.  The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment it is administered (WCF 28.6).  Rather it is the promise signified by baptism that God’s Grace will be conferred in His appointed time according to the counsel of His will.

If you don’t come from a confessional background you may tend not to place much importance in these old reformed confessions.  What did they know back then anyway, right?  They did not have Wikipedia or all of the bible commentaries we have today.  Well, how about Peter?  Speaking under the inspiration of God,  Peter told the early church, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off; for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38,39)  He told the Jewish believers to turn from your belief in your Jewish traditions, be baptized, and like you would circumcise your 8 day old baby boy, baptize all you children as a sign and seal of God’s covenant with Abraham and all his generations. On top of that we are going to tell the whole world that this same promise that was given to you in the old covenant, will be given to those of the gentile world whom God will call to repentance and faith.  We are going to baptize them and their children too as a sign and seal of God’s Covenant faithfulness to them.

This was some radical stuff for these early Jewish believers to grasp.  Radical in the sense that Peter was introducing the concept of a new sign and seal.  Not radical in the sense of their inclusion in the covenant of grace.  They were very familiar with God’s covenants to the patriarchs in their ancestral tree.  They were also very aware that God used these recipients of his Covenant of Grace as examples of exceptions to his covenants.  You might say, God used the children of these renown covenant characters as examples of what being outside of his covenant looked like.

The first members of “Grace Church” were Adam and Eve. Their children would have been the first covenant children.  However, in God’s providence, in order to accomplish his sovereign will, he chose only to include one of the boys in the covenant.  Not because of anything Abel had done nor would do, but rather for His own Glory, Abel would inherit the promise given to his parents.  Cain did not just go bad, or fall away, or fail to keep the law.  He was never of the family of God.  In 1 John 3:12 the warning to the visible Church is “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one.

There were none as faithful as Noah among the prediluvian world.  Genesis 6:8-9 made this plain saying, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God.”  This was said of him before he took the abuse of a scornful public for building an ark, and before he floated around for weeks without complaining about the cruise amenities.  He was later the recipient of another of God’s Covenant promises.  But you know the story.  God made an example of Ham as the one son who was cursed of God.  You might think that Ham’s indiscretion was not worthy of cursing him and his posterity forever.  That wasn’t the point.  Ham was never in the Covenant.

Isaac greatly loved Esau. He was his prized son and the heir to his family heritage.  However, God hated Esau.  God hated Esau and loved Jacob and made that decision based not upon their deeds but upon his right to choose to whom he will show mercy. Romans 9 is the go to scripture in matters of the sovereignty of God in the election of his followers.  Esau is used as the example of God’s right to choose not depending upon anything man can do.

David, the man after God’s own heart, was the father of Absalom, another fraternal murderer.  Absalom, like the others, was not included in the covenant family of God.  All their exclusion being left to the hidden wisdom of God, and not because he foreknew their actions or inactions.

All of the parents of these children who were outside of the redeeming grace of God must have been full of grief and bitterness.  We must all consider the possibility that our children may be in this category.  Though, looking at the larger issue, here we have more cause to believe that God will bring them to himself.  God does nothing arbitrarily.  He did not make a promise to grow his kingdom through the Church so that he may then cause you to doubt him by placing more weight on the examples of those he has shown us.  In fact, if you want to offend the righteousness of God in the most vile way, then doubt the righteousness in his promise keeping ability.  You are screaming mutiny.

We may be bitter, we may be grieved, but we may not doubt.  We will go through a myriad of emotions over the course of our lives as parents.  We may even see signs of the working of the Spirit in our children and then have some great disappointment when those signs fade.  Once again, we must not doubt God’s promise to work, relying on our lack of decerning vision.  If you are truthful with yourself in looking back on your own journey, you cannot declare the point of your rebirth.  If you can you are rare.  You may recount a time in which you discovered marks of your faith, but that may have been some time after God breathed life into your dead heart.   The mystery of God’s work of regeneration is outside of our realm of comprehension.  Likewise trying to weigh the behavior of our children to determine their conversion can be a roller coaster endeavor.  To engage in the work of identifying the presence of regenerative work by the Holy Spirit in the heart of your children, young or old, is folly.  Rather, focus your energy in identifying the truths of scripture that tell of God’s faithfulness to his promises.  I am not saying, “let go and let God.”  On the contrary, take hold of God’s word, wrestle with these concepts, and extract from these the power of His righteousness in His covenant keeping.  Simultaneously, never stop evangelizing your children, for they are the heirs of your inheritance, and co-heirs with Christ.  Treat them as such.

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.




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.

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.

The Haggai Technique for Finding Christ

The Great Commission is a passage in scripture that we often attribute to evangelism, the telling of the good news of Jesus Christ.  Most often it is attributed to Christ’s parting instructions to his disciple’s on a mountain in Galilee.  However, there is so much more in his parting words.  This once lost but now found God tells you he will not be lost again.  God’s final words given in Christ’s human form are, as recorded by Matthew, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(28:20b)

As aliens in a foreign land, these have to be the most comforting words we can be given.  They are the words that should be in the forefront of our thoughts at all times for our comfort and strengthening.  However we lose those words so easily that our faith is weakened and doubt enters in.  To contemplate that we have lost Christ or have never even found him is common among believers.  I often run across those who, not wanting to share the depths of their experience in this dark venture, simply say they are not growing spiritually or in some lull.  If the truth be told they too are having an episode of losing Christ.

Even if we have been saved we are still fallible creatures prone to periods of spiritual illness.  We, while following our Savior, tend to look away, admiring the sights along the roadside.  When we look up again Christ seems to be nowhere in sight.  Did you ever get lost when you were a child?  I have a vivid memory of losing my mother in the Family Dollar.  Now that’s pretty pathetic as most Family Dollars are not very large.  Anyway I did and it was terrible.  I recall the horror looking down isle after isle unable to find my comfort.  I’m sure she was looking for me at the same time on the other end, but we were missing each other.  The key here was that we knew where to look, where we had last seen each other, and knowing that Mother would not leave the store without me, gave me some comfort that on one of the isles we would reunite.  If you were to lose sight of Christ, do you know where to find him?

Happily for us, Christ has left us very obvious clues as to his whereabouts.  Physically Christ, the Son of God, is in heaven.  Spiritually he is everywhere.  Sometimes he is more present than in other times.  But according to his instructions he may always be found in differing measures by his means of grace.  Typically, the revealed means of grace are prayer, the scriptures, his ordinances such as worship services, preaching and the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, and communal fellowship.  However one place where he is to be found and we often overlook, is in ourselves.

Now for those of you who know me, don’t think that I have been picking magic mushrooms in my pasture this morning.  Though in this July humidity they grow quite abundantly amongst the manure.  I am in no way referring to any charismatic experiencing of Christ.  What I am advocating is meditation.  No, you are not required to assume the lotus position, I couldn’t if  I tried,  or burn incense.  Though if these things help, and you’re into that stuff, go for it.  What I am suggesting is the Haggai Technique.  Hmm, you say, haven’t heard of that one.  Well don’t google it, it’s my invention.  At least the catchy name is anyway.  You may need google to find the book of Haggai though.  Sandwiched between Zephaniah and Zechariah, the prophet Haggai tells the leadership of Judah to do some meditation, he tells them to THINK.  “Now this is what the LORD almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways.”(1:5)  The prophet is telling you to evaluate what you are doing.

There is a fine line between healthy and harmful introspection.  If you spend all of your time considering yourself it is definitely not healthy.  The entire book of Haggai is only two chapters.  If you only took half the time “considering your ways” in light of the word of God, as it takes to read Haggai, I’m certain you will relocate Christ.  This practice of meditating on your ways is exactly what Paul tells the Corinthians to do prior to coming and partaking in the Lord’s Supper.  He says “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself.”(1 Cor. 11:28,29) Basically, if you expect to find Christ in the ordinance and you haven’t confirmed his presence in yourself, by realizing that your sin requires his sacrificial body and blood, then the Lord’s Supper is not going to provide for you the nourishment it is intended to give.  Meditate on your relationship with Christ before you come to the observance of the Sacrament. The Haggai Technique can be used anytime.  Psalm 4:4 tells of David’s anger over his betrayal.  God tells him to meditate.  “In your anger do not sin.  When you are on your beds, search your heart and be silent.”(4:4)  The Prodigal Son meditated in a pig pen.  When he considered his ways he saw himself starving, not even eating as well as the pigs.  Christ said that he “came to his senses.”  Meditation will do that.

Whenever you approach any means of God’s meeting out his grace, whether it be attendance on the Sacraments or just meeting with another believer for fellowship, consider your ways, and look for Christ in yourself.   Find him in yourself and he will magnify your view of him in the other ways he reveals himself.  Now you go chew on that magic shroom.