Archive for June 2, 2012
Tags: Abba, God, Israel, Jesus, Lord, New International Version, Psalm, TLC
When we purchased this home two years ago, we knew there was much TLC needed, not least of which is adequate shelter from the elements as we exit from the side door: this presently has a flimsy porch cover. Cover is not really an adequate description of the roof of this appendage, because it leaks – big time!
This morning I opened the door, stepped out and got drenched, even though I was standing under the supposed shelter! There was a torrential downpour happening outside and this canopy was failing its function. It was not providing physical protection for me.
Sin causes our spirits to become flimsy. Our spiritual cover is flawed as we choose earthly shelter or comfort from the storms of daily living.
God’s cover is all encompassing. There are no leaky spots. No weak spots, just complete shelter from the storms of life and His reassurance that He will never change or fail us. God does not deteriorate as time goes by; as do the things of this earth. His shelter never fades, nor does He forsake us in our times of need.
Hebrews 13:5a I will never leave you, nor forsake you. (NIV)
This is God’s promise to us. He will be our shelter through all the bad times. He will not leave us without adequate protection ever.
Prayer: Abba, we need you in our lives. We need Your strength and power, and we need the shelter of Your loving arms around us and over us. Please remove the flaws in our lives, our hearts, our minds and cover us with a canopy of Your provision. In Jesus Name, Amen!
Tags: Affair, Apostle Paul, Christ, Christian, God, Marriage, Same-sex marriage, Sex
The Christian worldview must direct all consideration of sexuality to the institution of marriage. Marriage is not merely the arena for sexual activity, it is presented in Scripture as the divinely-designed arena for the display of God’s glory on earth as a man and a wife come together in a one-flesh relationship within the marriage covenant. Rightly understood and rightly ordered, marriage is a picture of God’s own covenantal faithfulness. Marriage is to display God’s glory, reveal God’s good gifts to His creatures, and protect human beings from the inevitable disaster that follows when sexual passions are divorced from their rightful place.
The marginalization of marriage, and the open antipathy with which many in the culture elite approach the question of marriage, produces a context in which Christians committed to a marriage ethic appear hopelessly out of step with the larger culture. Whereas marriage is seen as a privatized contract to be made and unmade at will in the larger society, Christians must see marriage as an inviolable covenant made before God and man, that establishes both temporal and eternal realities.
Christians have no right to be embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality. An unhealthy reticence or embarrassment in dealing with these issues is a form of disrespect to God’s creation. Whatever God made is good, and every good thing God made has an intended purpose that ultimately reveals His own glory. When conservative Christians respond to sex with ambivalence or embarrassment, we slander the goodness of God and hide God’s glory which is intended to be revealed in the right use of creation’s gifts.
- The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part Two
- The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part One
- The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part One
- “The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage” (Audio)
- Same-Sex Marriage and the Integrity of Language
Therefore, our first responsibility is to point all persons toward the right use of God’s good gifts and the legitimacy of sex in marriage as one vital aspect of God’s intention in marriage from the beginning.
Many individuals–especially young men–hold a false expectation of what sex represents within the marriage relationship. Since the male sex drive is largely directed towards genital pleasure, men often assume that women are just the same. While physical pleasure is certainly an essential part of the female experience of sex, it is not as focused on the solitary goal of genital fulfillment as is the case with many men.
A biblical worldview understands that God has demonstrated His glory in both the sameness and the differences that mark men and women, male and female. Alike made in the image of God, men and women are literally made for each other. The physicality of the male and female bodies cries out for fulfillment in the other. The sex drive calls both men and women out of themselves and toward a covenantal relationship which is consummated in a one-flesh union.
By definition, sex within marriage is not merely the accomplishment of sexual fulfillment on the part of two individuals who happen to share the same bed. Rather, it is the mutual self-giving that reaches pleasures both physical and spiritual. The emotional aspect of sex cannot be divorced from the physical dimension of the sex act. Though men are often tempted to forget this, women possess more and less gentle means of making that need clear.
Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed. As the Apostle Paul states, the husband and wife no longer own their own bodies, but each now belongs to the other. At the same time, Paul instructed men to love their wives even as Christ has loved the church. Even as wives are commanded to submit to the authority of their husbands, the husband is called to a far higher standard of Christ-like love and devotion toward the wife.
Therefore, when I say that a husband must regularly “earn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection, and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex.
God’s gift of sexuality is inherently designed to pull us out of ourselves and toward our spouse. For men, this means that marriage calls us out of our self-focused concern for genital pleasure and toward the totality of the sex act within the marital relationship.
Put most bluntly, I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.
Perhaps specificity will help to illustrate this point. I am confident that God’s glory is seen in the fact that a married man, faithful to his wife, who loves her genuinely, will wake up in the morning driven by ambition and passion in order to make his wife proud, confident, and assured in her devotion to her husband. A husband who looks forward to sex with his wife will aim his life toward those things that will bring rightful pride to her heart, will direct himself to her with love as the foundation of their relationship, and will present himself to her as a man in whom she can take both pride and satisfaction.
Consider these two pictures. The first picture is of a man who has set himself toward a commitment to sexual purity, and is living in sexual integrity with his wife. In order to fulfill his wife’s rightful expectations and to maximize their mutual pleasure in the marriage bed, he is careful to live, to talk, to lead, and to love in such a way that his wife finds her fulfillment in giving herself to him in love. The sex act then becomes a fulfillment of their entire relationship, not an isolated physical act that is merely incidental to their love for each other. Neither uses sex as means of manipulation, neither is inordinately focused merely on self-centered personal pleasure, and both give themselves to each other in unapologetic and unhindered sexual passion. In this picture, there is no shame. Before God, this man can be confident that he is fulfilling his responsibilities both as a male and as a man. He is directing his sexuality, his sex drive, and his physical embodiment toward the one-flesh relationship that is the perfect paradigm of God’s intention in creation.
By contrast, consider another man. This man lives alone, or at least in a context other than holy marriage. Directed inwardly rather than outwardly, his sex drive has become an engine for lust and self-gratification. Pornography is the essence of his sexual interest and arousal. Rather than taking satisfaction in his wife, he looks at dirty pictures in order to be rewarded with sexual arousal that comes without responsibility, expectation, or demand. Arrayed before him are a seemingly endless variety of naked women, sexual images of explicit carnality, and a cornucopia of perversions intended to seduce the imagination and corrupt the soul.
This man need not be concerned with his physical appearance, his personal hygiene, or his moral character in the eyes of a wife. Without this structure and accountability, he is free to take his sexual pleasure without regard for his unshaved face, his slothfulness, his halitosis, his body odor, and his physical appearance. He faces no requirement of personal respect, and no eyes gaze upon him in order to evaluate the seriousness and worthiness of his sexual desire. Instead, his eyes roam across the images of unblinking faces, leering at women who make no demands upon him, who never speak back, and who can never say no. There is no exchange of respect, no exchange of love, and nothing more than the using of women as sex objects for his individual and inverted sexual pleasure.
These two pictures of male sexuality are deliberately intended to drive home the point that every man must decide who he will be, whom he will serve, and how he will love. In the end, a man’s decision about pornography is a decision about his soul, a decision about his marriage, a decision about his wife, and a decision about God.
Pornography is a slander against the goodness of God’s creation and a corruption of this good gift God has given his creatures out of his own self-giving love. To abuse this gift is to weaken, not only the institution of marriage, but the fabric of civilization itself. To choose lust over love is to debase humanity and to worship the false god Priapus in the most brazen form of modern idolatry.
The deliberate use of pornography is nothing less than the willful invitation of illicit lovers and objectified sex objects and forbidden knowledge into a man’s heart, mind, and soul. The damage to the man’s heart is beyond measure, and the cost in human misery will only be made clear on the Day of Judgment. From the moment a boy reaches puberty until the day he is lowered into the ground, every man will struggle with lust. Let us follow the biblical example and scriptural command that we make a covenant with our eyes lest we sin. In this society, we are called to be nothing less than a corps of the mutually accountable amidst a world that lives as if it will never be called to account.
Tags: Bible, God, Jeremiah, Jigsaw puzzle, Oreo, Psalm, Puzzle
There I was, minding my own business, shopping for an anniversary card for Martie when something on another shelf caught my eye. It was a box with a tantalizing picture of a mound of Oreo cookies surrounding a big glass of milk with cold condensation running down the glass. Just thinking about it made my blood sugar soar. I went over and grabbed the box off the shelf. It was a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.
I’m not really into jigsaw puzzles, but at that particular moment, I was a goner—so I bought the puzzle. When I got home, Martie and I opened the box and dumped the pieces out on the table. What had been such a beautiful picture on the box was now only a bunch of disconnected, upside-down parts.
Sometimes life is like that—a disappointing mess of confusing pieces. The longer we sit staring at the fragments, the more hopeless it all seems. But then we remember that it all makes sense on the box top. God is the “box top” of our lives. He—and He alone—knows how to make sense of the mess. He is the one who works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and who, in His sovereign grace, knows how He will make something beautiful out of the mess of our lives.
That’s why Psalm 46:10 instructs us to be still and know that He is God. The Hebrew phrase for “be still” literally means, “to put your hands down to the side; to relax.” Which leads us to this reading of the phrase: “Put your arms down and relax by knowing that I am God.”
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to just “relax” in the midst of confusing and disheartening seasons of life. When things go haywire, when dreams are demolished, when family is fragmented, when people have pulverized us, it’s hard to relax! Our instinct is to try to keep our hands on all the pieces at once. We want to manipulate and control them and force the outcome that we desire. But God says that we should do exactly the opposite—stop trying to force the issue and let go. If we don’t give up striving with the problems, our meddling usually just makes things worse.
Thankfully, Psalm 46:10 calls on us to let go. But it’s not letting go without knowing to whom we’re letting it go. Notice that the verse says, “Be still, and know.” Normally, when life is a confusing puzzle, what we know is overshadowed by what we feel. Our emotions threaten to drown us like a scary tsunami. It’s easy to get submerged in a wave of anxiety or a surge of self-pity. But notice that God says the only way we are going to be able to let go and relax is to remember who God is—and to know that He loves us, that He is not confused, that He is in the details, and that, as we obey and trust Him, He is working to make sense of it all.
When we allow ourselves to be taken in by the wonder of God’s work in the mess of our lives, we will be free to stop fretting over the pieces knowing that in the end God is putting the pieces together so that the beauty of the box top will become a reality in our lives!
Take a deep breath. God knows where the pieces go!
- Comb through the Bible to find out more about God. Write down what you learn. Here are a few attributes to give you a running start. God is: alive (Jeremiah 10:10), holy (Leviticus 19:2), faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9), eternal (Genesis 21:33), and just (Isaiah 30:18).
- Is your life a confusing array of scattered pieces? Pray and give the fragments over to Him. Ask the Lord to help you find peace in Him.
- Read Psalm 46:1-11. In your journal, write down 3-5 reasons to “relax” when your life is in pieces.
- Memorize Psalm 46:10. Commit to reciting it when you are overwhelmed by the pieces of your life.
Tags: Christ, Christian, Christianity, Epistle to the Colossians, God, Lord, Psalm, Religion and Spirituality
Who is the man that fears the Lord? —Psalm 25:12
If we are obsessed by God, nothing else can get into our lives— not concerns, nor tribulation, nor worries. And now we understand why our Lord so emphasized the sin of worrying. How can we dare to be so absolutely unbelieving when God totally surrounds us? To be obsessed by God is to have an effective barricade against all the assaults of the enemy.
“He himself shall dwell in prosperity . . .” (Psalm 25:13). God will cause us to “dwell in prosperity,” keeping us at ease, even in the midst of tribulation, misunderstanding, and slander, if our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We rob ourselves of the miraculous, revealed truth of this abiding companionship with God. “God is our refuge . . .” (Psalm 46:1). Nothing can break through His shelter of protection.
Tags: David, Eliab, God, Good Shepherd, Jesse, Samuel, Saul
Up amongst the hills, perched like the nest of a bird on one of the long low ridges, lies the little town of Bethlehem. It was but a small town at the time this story begins, and there was nothing about it to make it at all famous. It lay out of the beaten track, and any one wanting to visit it must needs climb the long winding road that led from the plain beneath, through olive groves and sheepfields, up to the city gate–a steep, difficult road, leading nowhere but to the little town itself.
It was in these fields on the slope of the hills that David, the shepherd boy of Bethlehem, spent his days watching his father’s flocks. That father, whose name was Jesse, was one of the chief men of the town, and David was the youngest of all his sons.
There were seven big brothers at home, and it was no wonder Jesse was proud of his sons. They were tall, splendid young men, all of them doing men’s work now, and taking very little notice of the youngest, who was still only a small boy, chiefly useful in looking after the sheep.
But though David was but little thought of, no one could say that he did not do his work well. There was not a more careful or watchful shepherd on all the hills around Bethlehem. He knew each one of his sheep, and never allowed one to stray. He always led them to the best pasture, and found the coolest and freshest water for them to drink. Then, too, he was as brave as a lion, and if any wild beast came lurking round hoping to snatch a lamb away, David was up at once and would attack the fiercest beast single-handed. Nothing could ever do any harm to his flock.
Now it happened that one day while David was, as usual, out in the fields that a sudden stir of excitement awoke in the little town of Bethlehem. Men gathered round the city gate, and with anxious, fearful eyes looked down the long white road that led up from the plain below. And yet there seemed nothing there to make them look so terrified and anxious. Only an old feeble man was slowly climbing up towards the town. He was driving a heifer before him, and carrying what looked like a horn in his hand.
But the people whispered together that the old man was none other than Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, who carried God‘s messages. He must be bringing a message to them, and who knew if it was good or evil. They tried with uneasy minds to remember if they had been doing anything wrong of late as they watched the old man drawing nearer and nearer. Then at last the chief men of the town went out to meet him.
“Comest thou peaceably?” they asked anxiously.
The old man lifted his head and looked at them kindly as he echoed their words.
“Peaceably,” he answered at once; “I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord.”
A great sigh of relief went up from the people. The visit was a mark of God’s favour and not of His displeasure.
It was true, indeed, that Samuel had come to offer sacrifice, but he had come also on a secret errand about which no man knew but himself. God had bidden him take his horn of oil and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be king over His people instead of Saul, the present king, who had displeased Him. But it was to be done secretly. Saul must not hear of it, or his vengeance would be swift.
It was in Jesse’s house that the feast of the sacrifice was prepared, and Samuel ordered that all the sons of the house should pass before him as they went to attend the sacrifice.
The first to come was Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son, and when Samuel saw him he felt sure that this was the man who was to be anointed king. He was a splendid young man, tall and strong and handsome, looking almost as kingly as Saul himself.
“Surely this is he,” murmured Samuel to himself. But God’s answer came quickly. No, this was not the man. Samuel saw only the outward signs of strength and beauty, but God saw deeper into the heart.
So the eldest son passed on, and one by one the six brothers followed, all sons that a father might well be proud of. But God sent no sign to show that any of them was the chosen king.
Samuel was puzzled. What could it mean? Then he turned again to Jesse.
“Are here all thy children?” he asked.
Surprised at the question, Jesse suddenly remembered the little lad, his youngest son, who was out in the fields tending the sheep. Was it possible that Samuel had any use for him?
“Send and fetch him,” ordered Samuel instantly, “for we will not sit down till he comes hither.”
So a messenger was sent in haste to bring David; and presently he came hurrying in, and as soon as Samuel saw him he knew his search was ended.
He was only a little shepherd lad with the breath of the hills about him, his golden hair tossed by the wind, his fair face flushed, and his sunburned hand holding his shepherd’s crook. But there was no doubt that God had chosen him.
“Arise and anoint him, for this is he,” said God’s voice in Samuel’s heart.
Slowly, then, the old man rose and held the oil aloft and poured it upon the boy’s bowed head, while the rest of the company looked silently on. They were puzzled to know what it all meant. Perhaps the elder brothers were envious, and wondered why this mere child should be singled out for special favour. But no one dared to question God’s messenger.
Nothing further happened just then. Samuel returned as he had come by the winding white road, and before long his visit was forgotten as the people settled to their work again.
Only David, out in the fields, thought more and more about what had happened, and grew more and more certain that it had been a call from God to do some special work for Him. The wonder of it filled his mind, but it never interfered with his work.
There was little time for idle dreaming in the boy’s life. He was as watchful as ever in his care for his sheep and as courageous as ever in guarding them from prowling beasts. Even in his leisure time he was busy too, and there was not one of the sunny hours of daylight that he wasted.
He loved music, and he taught himself to play on the harp, practising so carefully and patiently that his fingers grew most wonderfully skilful. Then he made songs to go to the music, some of the most beautiful songs that ever have been made in all the world. Almost every child to-day knows his beautiful song about the Good Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
There was another thing, too, that he learned to do with the same care and patient perseverance, and that was to use his shepherd’s sling. There was no boy in all Bethlehem who could shoot as straight as he could. He never missed his mark.
It was no great thing, perhaps, to make music and aim straight, but it was a great thing to do what lay nearest his hand with all his might. Perhaps some day God would make use of his singing or have some work for a boy who had a quick eye and a sure aim. Who could tell?
So David learned to do his very best, and before very long God’s call came to him.
Saul, the King of Israel, sat day after day in his darkened tent ill and full of misery. No one dared to go near him, and his servants whispered together, “It is an evil spirit from the Lord that troubles him.”
Then some one suggested that perhaps music might help to cheer him and drive the evil spirit from him.
“Let our lord now command thy servants to seek out a man who is a cunning player on a harp,” they said to the king, “and it shall come to pass that, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.”
Saul listened to their words, and hope crept into his heart.
“Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him unto me,” he said eagerly.
Now the fame of David’s playing and singing had spread even beyond Bethlehem. “We must send for David, the son of Jesse,” said the king’s servants at once. He was the very person they wanted. Not only could he sing and play, but he was a good boy, brave and fearless, and best of all, as the servants said, “The Lord is with him.”
So the shepherd boy was brought to the king’s darkened tent, ready to do his bidding. Sitting there in the dim light, he drew such magic music from his harp’s strings, and sang such sweet songs, that the very song of the birds seemed to be filling the tent. The king, as he listened, seemed to feel the breath of the mountain fields, to hear the call of the sheepfold and the murmur of the dancing streams. It acted like a charm. The black misery was lifted from his heart, and the evil spirit was put to flight by the song of the shepherd boy.
It was no wonder, then, that the king, for a time at least, loved the boy with his bright face and sunny hair, and wanted to keep him as his armour-bearer. But perhaps, as Saul grew well and had no further need of the music, David was no longer wanted, and so he went back again to the Bethlehem fields to look after his sheep.
God had made use of David’s skill in music, and before very long another call came to him. This time the need was for one who could aim straight, who had a quick eye and a steady hand.
Tags: Christianity, Evangelism, God, High Priest (Judaism), Jesu, Lord, Psalm, Religion and Spirituality
God is “a very present help in trouble.” But He permits trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, that we may be brought to the end of ourselves, and led to discover the treasure of darkness, the unmeasurable gains of tribulation. We may be sure that He who permits the suffering is with us in it. It may be that we shall see Him only when the trial is passing; but we must dare to believe that He never leaves the crucible. Our eyes are holden; and we cannot behold Him whom our soul loveth. It is dark–the bandages blind us so that we cannot see the form of our High Priest; but He is there, deeply touched. Let us not rely on feeling, but on faith in His unswerving fidelity; and though we see Him not, let us talk to Him. Directly we begin to speak to Jesus, as being literally present, though His presence is veiled, there comes an answering voice which shows that He is in the shadow, keeping watch upon His own. Your Father is as near when you journey through the dark tunnel as when under the open heaven!
–Daily Devotional Commentary
“What though the path be all unknown?
What though the way be drear?
Its shades I traverse not alone
When steps of Thine are near.”
Tags: Ancient Near East, God, Jerusalem
Psalm 133 envisions pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate a religious festival. Though they have come from diverse places throughout the Ancient Near East, the pilgrims experience profound unity in their expectations and in their shared faith in the Lord. Psalm 133 celebrates the solidarity among God’s traveling people: “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (133:1).
The Hebrew word translated here as “wonderful” is tob, the basic word meaning “good” or “beautiful.” The word translated as “pleasant” is na‘im. This word could be used to describe “sweet” music (Ps. 81:2) and human attractiveness (Song of Sol. 1:16) as well as the beauty of God’s name (Ps. 135:3). Unity among the people of God is not just a helpful thing or a theologically appropriate thing. It is wonderful to behold and to experience. In fact, it is pleasant!
Don’t we need this sort of pleasure today? It is far too common for Christians to experience disharmony. Sometimes our conflicts reflect significant theological disagreement. But often they flow from insignificant differences of opinion and style. No matter the cause, however, a lack of unity among God’s people is not pleasant. More importantly, it falls short of God’s intention for us (John 17:11; Eph. 4:1-6).
When conflict arises in the church, we should seek to be agents of reconciliation, people who speak the truth in love. When we experience the blessing of unity among God’s people, we should rejoice and offer thanks for this sublime pleasure.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you experienced harmony among the people of God? In what ways do you promote the unity of the church?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, indeed, it is wonderful when your people live together in harmony. There is something truly precious in the unity that is based on your nature, built upon your truth, and nurtured by your Spirit.
Thank you for the times I have experienced the unity of your people. Thank you for the ways we have been focused together on your mission. Thank you for those who have put aside petty differences in order to nurture our unity in you.
O Lord, your church today is so divided! Some of these divisions are not trivial, but reflect deep theological disagreements. Other conflicts would almost be laughable except for the damage they do to your “bride” and our witness in the world. Help us, dear Lord, to be unified, not just in niceness, but in Christ, in the Gospel, in your truth, and in the presence of your Spirit. Amen.