Category Archives: musings

Treat Ladies Right, part 1: Be a Solid Guy

Following from my last post, I have had a ton of conversations in the last ten years about courtship, dating, and almost everything having to do with relationships.  While I am far from an expert on the subject of how men and women should relate to each other, I figured I’d air out some of my thoughts here to see what you think, and hopefully start a useful conversation.  What follows is a collection of take-aways from those many conversations, and I am much indebted to my friends, pastors, and mentors for sharpening me in this specific area of my walk with Christ.

I will address the men first. Read more

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(singleness)

I honestly don’t know how many articles, books, videos, sermons, talks, and coffee-in-hand discussions I’ve consumed that have something to do with the topic of singleness-in-preparation-for-marriage.  But I can definitely tell you it’s a lot.

I can also tell you that my personality lends itself to obsessing over things in my darker times – and therefore I have spent many hours thinking and praying and worrying and overanalyzing and self-deprecating on a myriad of topics associated with my singleness.  From the hopelessly arrogant “How come they can’t realize that I actually am Mr. Darcy’s personality type?” [INTJ, by the way] to the sinfully presumptive “I’ll just do my own thing and not look around at all until God just sticks her right in front of me.”  The only trouble with those two thoughts is that first, Mr. Darcy is a fictional character dreamed up by Jane Austen, and I am hardly worth ten thousand pounds a year.  Second, I am trusting for God to provide a wife, true… but I am also trusting that he provides me food, and I don’t just pine away on my couch waiting for him to plunk down a pot roast or some oreos and milk (… mmm, oreos).  I go out and hit up the drive-thru get some food from the store and cook it at home.  Anyway, I could go on and on, but that’s not the point here. Read more

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Water Bucket

So my dog Jack loves to drink water.  But on occasion he assaults his water bucket, dumping out the water so he can slap the empty bucket with his paws and bark at it.  I don’t understand why he does this, other than the fact that he’s bored.  It is tiresome to say the least, and it is loud.

I scold him, tell him not to spill his water, and tell him not to bark at his bucket.  I wedge the bucket between his kennel and the fence so it’s hard to move.  I buy a bucket that doesn’t tip so easily.  I try basically anything to keep him from spilling his bucket over.  Nothing works – his desire to turn over his water bucket is unabated.

But I got to thinking – I behave much the same way with God.  Many times I see something that is good for me and healthy and given by God, yet I turn it over and waste it because of my search for entertainment, or comfort, or something else.  Even though God in his mercy ‘refills my bucket’ as it were, and makes it harder for me to sin, I am unabated in my pursuit of my own wants and desires.

This is sin.  It is wicked, it is ugly, and it is mine.

Like I do (imperfectly) with Jack, God perfectly disciplines me by letting me see the ends of my sin.  He allows me to experience the shame and awareness of rebellion against him. He also provides for me again and again – every time I spill my bucket he is right there with another one, making sure that I don’t run out of water.  He provides for me even though I sin against him, because his love is much greater than my sin. His provision far outlasts my waste of it.  I cannot use up his grace or outlast his patience with me.  His love is expressed in that while I am a constant sinner, he is a constant provider.

And this is exactly what we see with the cross – while we were yet sinners, and while we were in rebellion against him, God sent his Son to live a perfect life, be murdered on one of the most excruciating forms of execution ever invented. He died so that our sins would be paid for and our righteousness would be a perfect gift.  But the joy is that Jesus didn’t stay dead!  He lives! He intercedes for us, and he sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, teach, rebuke, and convict us of our sin!  So we need not be despairing – our hope lies in Christ’s perfect obedience, and in God’s great mercy to allow us sinners to draw near to him.

God, in his perfect sovereign will, gives us much more than we can ever spill out onto the ground or bark at.  His mercy is new every morning, and his love for us is unfading if he has given us the grace of having faith in Christ.

I pray that I rest in that promise today, and you as well.

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A Prophet and His Prostitute (Hosea part 1)

Recently I’ve been studying through the book of Hosea and God has taught me quite a bit about (in order) himself, his Son Jesus, his people, and myself.  This will be the first of quite a few posts involving the main themes and my take-aways from this precious book.  Join me in this journey, add your thoughts and comments, and see what God might teach us as we walk through what he would have for us.  I’m excited – let’s get started.

Introduction

Before we get dive into the text itself, let’s go over just a bit of basic background information about the book in general and its author.  Hosea was a prophet in Israel who wrote and ministered around latter part of the 8th century B.C. At this time Israel had already split after Solomon’s reign (the last king of the united monarchy), with two tribes in the north (Israel – capital city, Samaria) and the remaining ten tribes in the south (Judah – capital city, Jerusalem).  This was a very turbulent time for God’s people – they were engaging in open rebellion against God, and wicked spiritual practices were rampant.  In response, God disciplines them for their wickedness and sends the Assyrians to conquer Samaria in the north, but before he does, he sends a very hard, very peculiar rebuke to his people through the life of Hosea, one of his prophets.  We’ll pick up the account in Hosea chapter 1.

A Prophet and his Prostitute

The word of the Lord comes to Hosea and tells him to marry a hooker, have kids with her, and love her.  There is no condition (‘… as long as she is nice and stays faithful…’), there is no incentive (‘… and I’ll give you all kinds of cash…’), and there is no other comment, save for the reason:  that Israel has become a prostitute in following other gods and turning her back on God, her true king.  So God wants Hosea to live out an allegory and an object lesson in hopes of illustrating the dire circumstances so that Israel might come to repentance and return to her Lord.

I have to wonder about what is going through Hosea’s mind at this point.  Does he question God’s plan?  Is he (like so many prophets in the Old Testament) reflecting God’s heart for his people with sorrow and grief?  If I were in Hosea’s sandals, I would be a bit scared and anxious at the prospect of marrying a prostitute.  I mean, let’s think about it… she’s going to have some serious baggage, possibly any number of diseases, she’ll be a source of ridicule, scorn, and shame for him.  This is likely way different than he expected, to say the least.  Not having a wife myself, I must say I’d be pretty intimidated and would wrestle with the temptation to follow Jonah’s example more than I’d like to admit.  I think a precious grace in Hosea’s situation is that he has an unwavering faith in his God, and he knows why he must walk through this particular type of trial.

You see, God is jealous for his glory, and he loves his people even though they (we) do not love him back.  Israel at this point is chasing so many false gods and idols that she is a prostitute who, as God says, is whoring after them.  We Christians know at some base level exactly what is going on here, because we do the exact same thing.  We may not have temple prostitutes and pagan altars on which we sacrifice goats or other animals, but consider what you sacrifice on the altar of your wants or your ‘rights.’  Consider what you turn your affections, your heart, mind, body, and strength toward.  What do you want and what will you sacrifice anything to get?  These are the affections of your heart, and they were meant only for God.  If you can see that your affections are focused on anything other than God, you have begun to spot the idols in your life.  Keep digging and you’ll see sins behind sins – lust and gluttony will fade away and you’ll see pride and self-worship rearing is disgusting head in your life.  Laziness, envy, greed – they’re all expressions of a root sin that is fueled by pride.  These are what we must put to death by the power of the Spirit if we are to begin walking that road less taken – the precious road of sanctification that choose and even fewer complete.  Take that step of faith – begin the process of examining your life and if you’re anything like me you will find sin almost immediately.  This is where the process of repentance and our grasp on God’s grace and mercy begin.

I would also be really curious about what Gomer, Hosea’s prostitute wife, thought about this whole arrangement.  What might her reaction have been?  I’ll be honest – I don’t know any hookers, personally.  But I can’t imagine any of them taking too kindly to some holy man coming up to them and asking them to participate in some grandiose object lesson for God’s unrepentant people.  Would she be taken aback?  Offended, even?  Would she see Hosea as a bringer of God’s mercy to rescue and redeem her from her life of sin?  Or would she begin to scheme and plan how to take advantage of this man for her own benefit?  The reason I wonder with these specific examples is that in my experience these are but some of the reactions that people have toward God when confronted with his marvelous offer of grace in their lives.  Some are taken aback and offended at the offer because they don’t know their pitiful state.  Some respond with gratitude, humility, and worship at the immense grace that God gives us in himself.  And still others see an opportunity to take advantage of God’s gift of grace and run off to engage in even more sin because they have their ‘fire insurance.’

To boil it down to a more personal level, let’s be honest – we’re all Gomers in some manner of speaking.  We all live lives of sin and chase the affections of our hearts after some vain object of our own temporary (fleeting) delight.  We have all sinned whether we realize it or not.  We sin by doing things we shouldn’t, and we sin by not doing things we should.  We sin in the dark, and we sin in broad daylight.  We sin in crowds of people, and we sin when we’re all alone.  Sin is an ever-present reality in every relationship and every marriage, because they both involve people, and people are inherently sinful beings.  Now, to be sure, Hosea and Gomer is a bit of an extreme example of a particular kind of sin in a marriage… but honestly, I don’t think I can make the case that my sins cause any less pain, discord, or grief than Gomer’s did with Hosea.  So I’m left considering my sin and its effects – and I’m blown away at God’s grace in restraining my sin and redeeming it in spite of its ugliness in my life and my friends’ lives.  I praise God for the reconciliation I’ve received, and that I get to participate in that ministry of reconciliation as well.

Meet the Kids

At the close of this first post, let’s finish out the first chapter by meeting the kids, Hosea and Gomer’s offspring.  First, we have Jezreel, who serves as a pronouncement of judgment and imminent doom for Israel.  Excellent.  Next, we have Lo-Ruhama (or ‘no mercy’) who is a further clarification (as if any was needed) that God will have no more mercy or forgiveness for Israel.  Even better.  And their third child, another bouncing baby boy, they named Lo-Ammi (or ‘not my people’) because God has fully rejected Israel; they are not his, and he is not their God.  That’s pretty rough.  I can only imagine the ‘have-you-picked-out-a-name-yet’ conversations and embroidered baby blankets with those names on them… goodness.  But that’s neither here nor there.

We close this first installment with a precious truth: it isn’t as though God’s grace has failed – there is a bright note to close this dark chapter… a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Hosea’s readers.  Even though this is a bleak time for God’s people, his promise is still intact – starting in verse 10, a prophecy of future unity and prosperity is given.  Though the wrath of the Lord is coming down on Israel for this time, it will not always be so.  The judgments against Israel will come to an end, and he will welcome again those whom he has turned over to discipline.  There is a prospect of future repentance, future grace, future communion with God.  But we’ll get to that soon – stick with me and we’ll see how it plays out in due time.

Thank you for reading this long first post – and let me know what you think thus far.  I’m definitely excited about where we’re headed.

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Solomon

If you happened to read my post last week on my most influential authors, you may have noticed (if you know me well) one particular figure that was conspicuously absent.  He is my favorite biblical figure – a man of many strengths and weaknesses, and whose writings have taught me more about life and myself than any other.  His name is Solomon, and I dearly love him.

King Solomon was born around 1000 B.C. to King David and his wife Bathsheba (yes, that one), and we see in 2 Samuel 2:24 that ‘the LORD loved him,’ the only time that phrase is used in reference to a king in Scripture.  His name in Hebrew is more accurately pronounced “Shlomo” and comes from the word “Shalom” meaning ‘peace’ (Solomon’s name means ‘his peace’).

Solomon took over the throne of Israel from his father David around 970 B.C. and ruled for forty years.  The biblical accounts of his life are in 1 Kings 1-11, 1 Chronicles 28-29, and 2 Chronicles 1-9.  Solomon had many really cool parts to his life, beginning with his prayer for wisdom as a young king (1 Kings 3:3-14), which God grants him along with much wealth and power (1 Kings 4:20-34, 10:14-29).  God also had Solomon build his Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6-8), which his father David wanted to build, but God wouldn’t let him.  Solomon also wrote and/or contributed to three books of the Bible: Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.  He is also in the line of Christ (Matthew 1:6-7).

While he is a really cool king and accomplished many awesome things during his life, these are not the reasons I love Solomon.  I love him because he shows me what I’m capable of, no matter how good I think I am.  Let me explain.

So Solomon starts out doing really well – he’s crowned king, gets married to a pretty groovy chick (see Song of Solomon – especially chapter three when they… well, just read it), has a ton of cash, and starts building the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem.  But somewhere along the way he goes from seeing his bride as a lily among thorns whose love is better than wine (Song of Solomon 2:2, 4:9-10) to saying toward the end of his life that he finds a wicked woman more bitter than death (Ecclesiastes 7:25-29). We also see that in 1 Kings 11:1-8 he is led astray by his many wives (he had 700 wives and 300 concubines) who did not know the Lord.  So he turns away from the Lord and builds his wives pagan temples to worship at.  What happened to this once wise and mighty king?  I think we can get a pretty intimate glimpse into his life during that time in Proverbs 5 where he describes the way a woman can tempt and lead a man astray… it smacks of personal experience and sorrow.  It seems as though all of the wisdom, wealth, and sex in the world can’t make up for an ounce of obedience and fear of the Lord.

The consequences of Solomon’s sin are immense and wide-ranging.  Ultimately because of his disobedience the Kingdom of Israel is split into the north (Israel) and south (Judah), and is never reunited.  This is a dark time for Israel, recounted in Kings and Chronicles as well as the major and minor prophets – there are precious few bright spots during this period.  The divided monarchy is ultimately brought to an end by the Assyrians (who defeated Israel in 722 B.C.) and the Babylonians (who defeated Judah in 586 B.C.), ushering in the Babylonian Exile – a time of intense testing and discipline for God’s people.  So in a sense, Solomon’s sin begins the downfall for the nation of Israel, a spiraling descent into darker and darker times.

Now, Solomon does – I believe – come to repentance toward the end of his life, and despite the sorrow that his sin causes, returns to a faithful walk with the Lord.  His closing words of Ecclesiastes seem to bookend his life and spread precious wisdom to those who would have it.  He says that in the end, after all has been done and after he’s experienced everything to the utmost under this sun, the end of man’s life is to ‘fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).  This along with his other writings is a great encouragement and challenge to me personally.  Solomon writes with much passion, wisdom, and vulnerability so it seems like you’re sitting across the table from him sharing a cup of coffee and talking about life.  And the coolest part of it is that God inspired and wrote every bit of it, and the Spirit uses it to sharpen, rebuke, challenge, encourage, and grow me.  All of the works that he is accredited speak straight into my heart, but Ecclesiastes is without question my favorite – in fact, it is my favorite book of the Bible by a fairly healthy margin.  I’ve read it many times and as of late have enjoyed working through it in my Fight Club with dear brothers in Christ.

I think the thing that really makes me sit, think, pray, and work through my walk with Christ is that I know that anything is possible if I turn my back on Christ. There’s no end to my sin, my wickedness, and my depravity if I ignore the Spirit’s leading in my life and pursue my own wants and goals. So Solomon is a warning for me to continually confess, repent, and keep my focus on following Christ with a reverent fear.  He is also a model of a charmed life met with the bitterness of sin, which results in a repentant sinner of many years and experiences who passes along the wisdom God has granted him while he lived.

I am immensely thankful to God for Solomon’s life and writings – I pray that I glean the wisdom in them and that God allows me the grace of not having to experience the bitterness and sorrow that Solomon did.  I also pray that you find some encouragement in studying Solomon’s life and writings, and look forward to hopefully hearing if and when you do.

I would like to leave you with a few questions for consideration which have sparked many prayers and journal entries in my life over the past several years:

1. What would you do with 700 wives and 300 concubines?

2. Where would you be without Jesus?

3. What ‘foreign women’ (sins that you allow to lead you astray) are in your life right now?

4. What are some consequences of sin that you’ve seen in your life (and may be dealing with right now)?

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