Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Did You Expect? Courtship, Part 1

As the wedding day drew nearer, my dad gave me two pieces of advice:
1. Marriage is the union of two selfish people who must learn to put one another ahead of themselves.
2. Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition; it's 100-100 proposition. Don't meet him halfway. Give him everything.

I love my dad. He's awesome. And his wise counsel has come back to me time and again as I have attempted to be a covenant keeper. He took his job seriously as protector and priest of his home. And I get to live the legacy of that. But one thing is for sure. Judging by the state of marriage among those who call themselves the Church, not every dad is having this conversation with his daughter or his son.

The requirements of marriage are fairly straightforward. They are propositional but not the way some claim them to be. Let's unpack those:
"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church." Propositional? Yes and no.
Biblical Proposition: IF you are a follower of Christ, THEN you will love your wife as Christ loved the Church.
Unbiblical Proposition:IF your wife refrains from being a shrew, THEN you love her as Christ loved the Church.

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." Propositional? Yes and no:
Biblical Proposition: IF you are a follower of Christ, THEN you will submit to your husband as to the Lord.
Unbiblical Proposition: IF your husband refrains from being a pinhead, THEN you will submit to your husband as to the Lord.

My dad was right. Marriage is the union of two selfish people. And it makes us think that we can barter before we behave. "I'll honor him IF he loves me. But there's no reason for me to submit to him if he's a rotten husband." Yes there is. You honor him because you covenanted with him, pinhead or not. "I'll love her when she becomes loveable." No. You love her because you told God you would, even (yea, especially) on those days when she's a shrew.

And he will be a pinhead.
And she will be a shrew.
More than you like.
And that's not a reason to be a covenant breaker.

In the words of Paul David Tripp in his book of the same name, what did you expect??? You are married to a sinner saved by grace whose default setting is "sinner."

Did you really think he'd always make wise decisions? always remember your birthday? always affirm your fears? never say unkind things to you? never hurt your feelings? never think of himself first?
Did you really think she'd always be your best cheerleader? always think you were brilliant? always affirm your ego? never laugh at you? never have a headache? never think of herself first?


This kind of self-absorbed thinking has got to stop in the Church. We have a trail of broken covenants scattered behind us. We have distorted, unbiblical expectations regarding this covenant called marriage. But we have a responsibility to the children in our stewardship to help set their expectations correctly.

It is a covenant, not a contract.
Your spouse will let you down.
You will let your spouse down.
When you say, "I do," you forfeit the right to say, "I quit."

And one of the first ways we can steer our children in the right direction is by encouraging and teaching courtship in our homes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adversity--A Lesson in Logic

I am reminded today of the charge I gave my daughter at her high school graduation this past May.

IF Lamentations 3:22-23 is true
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness.

AND Lamentations 3:38 is true
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?

THEN this must be true:
For the bringer of calamities' compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness.

I agree with David today. I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. God is sovereign and good.

Today, I am thankful for a humble husband who surrounds himself with wise friends whom he seeks for godly counsel. I am thankful for wise friends who love us and join us in our desire to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I can't think of a better chief end of man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I am on the Rock

I am reminded today of a vision I had some months ago during another recessionary period. Brett and I had been praying, and he started out with his usual, "Lord, thank you for today and all the pressures it brings."

Suddenly, in my mind's eye, I was transported. I could see angry black clouds swirling above. I could see my family, all twelve of us, huddled together with the wind whipping and my hair blowing across my face. I could see huge whitecaps rolling around us. I looked at the picture and said, "Yes, Lord, that's our life right now. Great picture. But where are YOU in this picture?!"

He said, "I am the rock you are standing on." It was as if the camera panned back, and I could see that though there was a mighty storm gusting about us, we were all on this huge rock keeping our feet dry, firm, and out of the water.

One good thing about adversity: it shows us Who God really is.
"Praise ye the Lord. His mercy endures for ever and ever."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10-26-10 Adversity

I'm learning things through adversity, just like I knew I would:

1. God doesn't always go for the obvious. I have never had a problem with money, budgeting, coveting, greed, keeping up with the Joneses. It boggles me that He continues to use this issue to get at things in me. If I were God...well, I'll stop right there. That's just a signifier that something stupid is going to come next out of my mouth.

2. It's ignorant to get my nose out of joint when someone well-intentioned offers advice for my situation. If we are believers, we are going to have adversity. And, though they may not have MY adversity, they've had their own pain. We're in this together. I need to shut up and listen.

3. My adversity is nothing compared to that of so many I love:
I've never lost a child.
I've never had a less than robustly healthy baby.
I've never had breast cancer and lost my hair and thrown up for weeks and had my body parts lopped off.
I've never been abandoned by my husband.
I've never had an abortion and been left with empty arms.
I've never been in a major car crash.
I've never been unloved.

May I glorify God through my adversity. His goodness and justice are beyond human comprehension.

Last night--Live and Uncut

(Note: this post is raw. Cleansing to write but not spit-shined like this writer would prefer for every post on this blog. But I am hoping that documenting this trial in real time will be beneficial to me and glorifying to God.)

I don't think I have ever awakened before with a racing heart. It was unsettling but not without cause. We are in a crisis, and I am finding it hard to rest. After laying there with my eyes open and my heart pounding in my head for about an hour, I finally went downstairs to pace and pray.

Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is not a completely new place for us, but it just seems bleaker right now.

I paced the living room last night to try to still my racing heart. Go back to what I know:
I know that my Redeemer lives.
I know that God is in control.
I know that all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
I know God is the author of calamity.
I know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I know that I am being conformed to His image.
I know God's faithfulness is great.
I know that His mercies are new every morning.

I am comforted by parents who love us and counsel us.
I am offended by those who have had relatively little adversity weighing in on areas beyond both their expertise and their experience.
I am mindful that I must keep my eyes on the Lord, not on the wind and the waves.
I am even thankful for adversity that creates the pressure that changes me.

As I began to thank God for this place He has brought us to, my heart began to still. There is no new news this morning. My job is to glorify God. I declare this morning that He is good. More later.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No More Sleepless Nights

Growing up, I spent agonizing sleepless nights wondering if I was really saved, wondering if I had finally done something to make God turn his back on me and walk away. Essentially, what I believed was a false gospel. And it came from not knowing what the Bible says about salvation. Probably, it came from the way my parents were raised. When a religion teaches that you must add your own merit to Christ's merit, it leaves one believing you can enter God's kingdom by your virtue and exit God's kingdom by your vice. That kind of thinking is not without consequences. It was not uncommon to hear phrases like, "He has fallen away" or "She's no longer walking with the Lord" or "He's a backslidden Christian." But all that did was to strike terror into my young heart. How, after all, does one fall away? And how close was I to that state of non-grace at any given time?

I remember having a discussion later with a Presbyterian friend in high school about losing one's salvation. When I said that's what I believed, she was scandalized. Standing on the basketball court behind the school, she tossed the ball away in disgust. "You can't lose your salvation, Noel. God throws your sins as far as the east is from the west. Where does the east meet the west?"

Could I dare to hope?

As an adult, I began to eschew the emotional, unverifiable approach to God. I've always been pretty consistent with my prayer and Bible reading times. But I had wasted countless hours of my life waiting for God to speak to me, then wondering if that was really Him. What a relief the day I realized that the Bible was God speaking to me! Thus began my love of theology, the study of God. Through this pursuit, God has had much compassion on me. And I began to discover that God preserves the saints. There it was, right there in the Bible!

God is the author and finisher of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
He who began a good work in me will bring it to the day of completion. (Philippians 1:6)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)

Why had I never seen this preservation and perseverance of the saints before? This was the comfort I had been looking for. This was the assurance a child of God so badly wants from her Father! My pillow ceased to be a place of terror and began to be a place of rest.

I've been on this theology adventure for ten years now. The more I know about God, the more I know God, and the more I am amazed and humbled by who He is in spite of who I am. Now, whenever someone makes a claim about Him, I simply get it in writing.
God's writing.
The Bible.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All Creation Groans :)

I got ready for bed and came into the bedroom to find Brett snuggled in bed with a good book...and a pair of reading glasses. Stopping dead in my tracks, I stared at him. "WHAT are you wearing?" I asked. He gave me some crazy line about needing to see the words on the page. I cracked up.

After about two weeks of the nightly ritual of me walking into the bedroom, him sitting in bed with the glasses perched at the end of his nose, me bursting into peals of laughter, and him glaring at me over the rim of said glasses, he finally turned to me and asked, "Will there be a night when you aren't laughing at my glasses?" I chewed my lip thoughtfully for a moment. Stifling a giggle, I replied, "Um, probably not." I smiled; he did not.

The next morning, he handed me a book and his glasses. "Just try this," he said. I rolled my eyes and, donning his spectacles, opened the book. "Wow!" I said. He smiled smugly. "This is amazing," I continued. "Yep," he nodded.

A few years ago, Brett threw me a surprise party for my 40th birthday. Some people get depressed when they turn 40. Not me. I was so excited to be finally turning a mature age. Being in my 40's rocks. I love it. But that's not to say that age doesn't have a price. I've now got graying hair. And gray hair is odd. It doesn't lay flat. It's wiry, like a poodle. It doesn't sprinkle evenly about the head. For me, it comes in stripes and reminds me of that annoying little Looney Tunes skunk, Pepe LePew. Alex and her friend Margaret remind me that gray hair is wisdom. Fine. Can't wisdom just lay flat and behave?

I was at a church retreat a few weeks ago, and there was a rope swing over the lake. One of the girls came up the hill and announced to me, "Eliza says her mom would go off this if she were here. And now you're here." Not one to back down from a challenge, I headed on down to the lake. (For some reason that mystifies me, my kids and their friends think I'm daring. Maybe it was the downhill sledding at six months pregnant?) Anyhow, I mounted the stairs to the swing and looked down.

It was way down.

It was way, way down.

And I said, "I don't think so."

The kids were all standing there, chanting, "Jump! Jump! Jump!..." And all I could think was, "There is no way that swing is going to hold me." "Aw, sure it is," all the kids reassured me. "It's perfectly safe." But, in the end, I chose to jump off the dock. I jumped again and again and again and had a blast with all the kids. But I had to admit that my age is starting to make me cautious.

Brett has been seeing a naturopath for various health issues. It seems that when he gets one licked, another one pops up. And it hit me. All creation groans, the Apostle Paul writes. Ain't that the truth? Our bodies age, slow down, become inefficient, and eventually just stop working. The truth is that we can eat organic, exercise, take a gazillion supplements, and drink only water from Parisian springs, but sin has still corrupted our bodies, and we will never be fully free from the effects of sin this side of heaven. No doctor in the world can beat sin. So we groan for our Redeemer, and we groan for Heaven. We're sick--homesick.

A month ago, Brett brought me a gift. It was three pairs of reading glasses, just for me, in various animal prints. I love them. They've become my constant accessory. When the time comes for me to groan with the rest of creation, at least I'll be doing it in style. :)

"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved." Romans 8: 23-24

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'd Rather Be Libertarian

What is the role of government? It's not there to regulate what you eat, drink, smoke, chew, ingest, or sniff. It's not there to feed the poor, take care of the sick and the elderly, pay for college tuition or retirement, insure your mortgage, or regulate air traffic. It's not there to provide jobs, monitor the weather, issue marriage licenses or driver' licenses, manipulate interest rates, take care of "national" parks, or educate our children.

Frankly, the problem we are having now is about jurisdiction. The family, the church, and the government each have different jurisdictions, and every time we get jurisdiction mixed up, we end up with a mess: social security, welfare, medicaid, the Fed, public education, and drug wars, to name a few.

So, Biblically speaking, what are the jurisdictions of each? The family is charged with child-rearing, provision for its own poor, elderly, and infirm, wealth-building, and dominion-taking. (Gen. 1:28, Deut 8:18, Eph 6:1-3, I Tim 5:8) The church is charged with spreading the Gospel, preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, administering church discipline, and feeding the poor. (Matt 28:16-20, Matt. 18, I Cor. 5, I Tim. 4:13-15) The government is charged with bearing the sword and punishing evil-doers. (Romans 13) When these entities cross their jurisdictions, we get trouble.

What trips up most of us believers is that we think it is the government's job to legislate morality. It is not; that is the church's job and then just among its members. It is not for the government to tell me how to treat my temple. That is for the church (the true church, of course, which is founded on the written Word of God). When we cross the line from harming ourselves to harming other people, then it becomes the jurisdiction of the government.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 (and Paul follows it up in I Cor. 5) how to handle one of our own who is morally failing. So, if a sheep is an addict, we don't want the police to show up and haul him off to jail. Instead, we begin the process of restoration/reconciliation. At every step, the goal is to reign in the wayward brother and bring him to a state of repentance over his sin of addiction. Note, however, that the final step is handled by the church government, not by individuals. Again, we must work with Biblical jurisdictions. But if a brother murders someone, that is the time for the government to come in and bear the sword. Even if the brother repents, he must pay for his crime. And a just government will make sure that he does.

So why am I a fan of the Libertarian Party? The Republican Party has become too much like the Democratic Party. Once upon a time, the GOP was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility. But their Patriot Act demonstrates their willingness to become as intrusive as the Democrats would like; and their spending at the end of the Bush administration demonstrates they are as fiscally irresponsible as the Dems. Runaway inflation, anyone? As for the Constitution Party, I have a problem with the theonomic views of many in that party.

The Libertarian Party is the only one that understands jurisdiction. But I'll settle for a Ron Paul Republican.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World--Part 3

Some resources we recommend for helping us succeed in raising kids who keep the faith:

1. If you can't find a church in your area whose preaching is expository, you can still get one on the internet:
John Piper
Mark Dever
Tim Keller
Ligon Duncan
John MacArthur
many, many more...
2. For teaching doctrine, we use:
Starting Points by David Quine: We use this as each child enters 8th grade. It takes one school year to cover seven basic worldview questions. We find we keep coming back to those questions time and again.
Thinkwells by Jeff Baldwin is a flip chart to teach sound bites for sound thinking.
3. For teaching systematic theology, we use:
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. It is very readable, and we get each kid a copy when they start their freshman year of high school. We do one chapter about every other week and meet to discuss what we're all learning. It takes about 5 years to get through it that way.
Louis Berkhof also writes a popular Systematic Theology. We own it but haven't used it much.
In addition, catechisms are a great way to teach doctrine even to the very young. We have used the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but the Heidelberg Catechism is also good. You can get these free on the internet or get them in book version. Training Hearts, Teaching Minds is one source that teaches the entire shorter catechism in two years.
Also, we use The Big Book of Questions about Jesus by Sinclair Ferguson for our younger ones.
The ONLY children's bible we recommend is the Big Picture Story Bible. I've never seen a kid's Bible like this one. From the very start, it makes a bee-line for the Cross, and it never stops. An excellent resource for showing your children the overarching theme of the Bible!!! You can get it at Westminster Books.
4. Worldview Academy Leadership Camp. We do this even when we don't know how to pay for groceries. :) It costs $650, (sometimes discounted for various reasons) and takes your teen through a week of intense classroom time, teaching them how to find the worldview of movies, books, and art; how to talk to an atheist or a post-modern; how to share the Gospel. EXCELLENT. We send the kids twice; if they want to go again, they have to fund it. They always want to go again.
Worldview Radio is a podcast hosted by Bill Jack and Jeff Baldwin. It's both funny and engaging, and it's a daily dose of thinking well.
5. Herman Who? AHermeneutics Primer by Todd Friel: This is a great way to learn how to interpret OT versus NT, descriptive versus prescriptive, what applies today, how to bridge the cultures. It is fantastic.
6. Grandparents!!! If you are blessed enough to have parents who walk with God, give your kids lots of exposure to the grandparents. All four of my kids' grandparents are very charismatic. They think our church is boring; we think their church is bouncy. We think they're crazy charismatics; they think we're crazy Calvinists. Remember those loud, lively dinner discussions? They are still happening. :) But the rich legacy that is created when the kids talk to the grandparents about their faith is priceless. My kids talk to my folks about worship, tongues, prayer, Kingdom issues. It's good for the kids to see serious faith across several generations.

Here's to Truth in a world that's dying to know.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World--Part 2

When my college sophomore transferred this past fall to a Christian college, I was concerned about the cost and the course load, but mostly, I was concerned that it was a Christian college. I went to Christian schools, lots of them. The label "Christian" really only means that it's not illegal to mention Jesus there. It does not guarantee there are real believers, either on staff or among the student body. So before he left, I reminded him to be vigilant. "I don't care what they say; watch what they do. Apply judgment."

How do we make our kids shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves? How do we prepare them for a post-modern world of tolerance, relativism, and emergents? Although it's disconcerting that 80% of kids raised in Christian homes walk away from their parents' faith, we think we have found some ways to give our kids a leg-up in a world that spells truth with a small "t."

1. Expose them often to good expository preaching. While there isn't anything wrong with topical preaching, it tends to focus more on the wisdom of the preacher than on the wisdom of God's Word. Our kids need the whole counsel of God, and a church that offers expository preaching is making sure its people are getting all the nutrients out of the Word. A good expositional preacher will demonstrate that all portions of scripture point to Jesus Christ and the work of the Cross.

2. Along those same lines, limit their involvement in children's church and youth group. The former tends to be gospel-lite, and our kids are capable of grasping so much more than we give them credit for. The latter tends to generate kids discussing "truth" with their peers and being led by a youth pastor who is often barely out of childhood himself and prefers to read "The Message." Better for the kids to be among diverse levels of spiritual maturity.

3. Teach them doctrine. I cannot emphasize this enough. They should be able to answer the following questions no later than eighth grade:
What is the nature of God?
What is the nature of man?
Where do evil and suffering come from?
And good doctrine also applies to worship music. Watch what you're singing in church. Do the words back up the truth of scripture, or are they a little off?

4. Teach them theology--systematic theology. Biblical theology is studying a verse at a time; systematic theology is studying what all of scripture has to say about a particular topic. And while you're doing that, teach them good hermeneutics. We watched a video that was less than one hour on how to rightly interpret scripture, and it has been priceless in helping us to accurately apply the Word.

5. Talk, eat together, watch movies, listen to music together, talk about the president, the news, their friends, the church. Talk, talk, talk. Growing up, we had a lively dinner table and often loud discussions. But it made me think critically. It was a gift from my parents to me.

6. Above all, PRAY. Pray with them. Pray for them. Teach them how to pray on their own.

It is quite possible to arm our kids with the Truth so they can combat the attacks of the disingenuous and answer the questions of the honest seekers. It is hard work, but my kids are worth it.