Category Archives: family

July in Review

So now that I’ve had a little bit of time to breathe and collect my thoughts about last month, I’d like to review what God has seen fit to let me do these last few weeks.

July started off with a bang – I had the immense honor and pleasure to officiate my very first wedding for some dear friends Corey and Alli Claunch down in Austin, Texas.  It was a beautiful wedding, and despite the fact that I dropped the rings (twice) I felt as though things went really smoothly for my first time out.  I got to see lots of old friends and loved celebrating with them in such a worshipful atmosphere. During that trip I also had the joy of introducing Melissa (my girlfriend of three months now) to Texas history and culture.  We visited the Texas state capitol building and I recounted a few stories and nuggets from Texas history, and we had a great time together. 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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Accusation and Rebuke (Hosea Part 5)

Last week we walked through Hosea chapter 3: we saw that God pursues us in the midst of our sin and redeems us from it in a precious demonstration of his redemptive love.  Chapter 3 ends with a sweet promise of restoration and hope as we look forward to a coming King (Jesus) who will bring healing and unity to God’s people.  As we leave that brief glimpse of a bright future, God wrenches Israel’s heads back around to see their sin so that he can directly confront her leaders who have led her astray.  We’ll pick up the action in Chapter 4.

Accusation and Rebuke

God introduces the next section of Hosea by way of a ‘controversy’ that he has with the inhabitants of Israel (verses 1-3).  This does not bode well for those inhabitants.  And I don’t know if you know this or not, but God – who is all-knowing and all-sovereign and all-awesome doesn’t lose or give up ground to those he has controversies with in the Bible.  Ever.  Which is pretty cool, but also lends an utterly serious tone for where we’re going today.

The grounds of God’s contention with Israel is that there is no faithfulness, no honoring of the covenant, no love on Israel’s part.  Furthermore, there is no knowledge of God in the land, denoting that the leaders (parents and priests) have not commended the Lord to the next generations.   So the first thing that we can really dig into and run with Is that when there is a failure to lead spiritually, moral failure is close behind.  We can see this in families, churches, my own personal life, and a whole ton of other contexts.  Whenever those who lead abdicate their responsibilities, it’s only a matter of time before that one sin leads to whole host of others.  It’s what we see in the Garden of Eden (Adam not leading like he should), throughout Scripture with evil kings and priests, and we see it everywhere around us in daily life.

Who does God hold responsible for these sins?  Who does he call out to in the Garden of Eden?  Who does he say is the head of the household and the elders of the church?  Spiritual leaders, husbands, and elders, respectively.  God’s indictment is that Israel is full of inappropriate oaths, lies, murder, stealing, adultery, and many other generationally compounded sins.  He levels that indictment at the priests in this particular context – the spiritual leaders of Israel (verse 4).

Men, as the spiritual head of your household how are you leading your family? Single men, how are you preparing to lead your family? God tells us very plainly in the examples given and also in James 3:1 that we will be held to a higher standard, and that God expects us to lead well for his glory and the good of those under our leadership.  Let us act accordingly by the power of the Spirit under the authority of Christ.

So God announces a judgment for the spiritual leaders of Israel – he will punish those who have not led his people correctly.  To be clear, this isn’t God just being angry because of sin.  He is expressing the highest concern for his people, which isn’t reflected in the leaders’ lives.  Therefore God will bring the gravity of the situation to them by taking away what is most dear to them – their children (verse 6).  One very important aspect and reason for God’s judgment is the people’s (including the leaders) rejection of knowledge.  Rejection of knowledge in this context is a rejection of God because the people have no knowledge of God.  We must know our God!  And the primary means by which he has allowed us to know him (and the only authoritative one, I might add) is Scripture.  He has put himself in us, and we do live in community, and he has given us good minds with which we can worship him.  But the only authoritative self-revelation of God is his Word – the Bible.  So then, we as Christians must study, we must dig and learn and get to know our God more deeply so that we grow in him and reflect his glory in our lives.  This must not be seen as some legalistic pursuit for self-righteous purposes; quite the opposite, in fact.  Our pursuit of God’s self-revelation and self-expression in Christ and Scripture must be for the growth, for sanctification, for encouragement, for sharpening.  We study and we pursue that we may know him more deeply and be impacted by that relationship.

We know and learn about things that we love – think about what you know about your wife and/or girlfriend, your kids, your job whatever you’re passionate about… for me it’s history and theology and a bunch of other random stuff.  I study these things (to clarify I’m not talking about your wife or kids… I’m talking about history and theology and stuff), I enjoy knowing more about and keeping up with things that interest me.  So why do we who profess the name of Christ and claim his lordship over our life not take the time to know him more deeply in prayer and study of what he has spoken to us in Scripture?

Do you study the Word for the glory of God in your life?  Do you know Christ?  Are you conforming your life to Scripture, or are you bending Scripture to what you want it to be?

As a quick aside, I would also say that if you have absolutely no desire to study Scripture and know God more deeply, then your walk cannot be growing in a Scriptural way, and you will remain stagnant in your faith.

Getting back to Hosea, the accusation that God levels at the priests and his people is that they have forgotten the Law, which is the equivalent of forgetting God.  Now, even though we have the New Testament and Christ, we must be mindful not to repeat this sin and forget the Law that God has revealed himself in.  You see the Law expresses God’s character and holiness, and it is in the Law that God gives us our understanding of the need for Christ and the grace we receive in him.  Also, we have no biblical grounds to disregard or forget the Law – Christ fulfilled it; he in no way abolished it.

In verse 7 God declares that he will turn the priests’ glory (money, popularity, etc.) into shame by exposing the fleeting pleasures of their sin as ashes.  They’ve been feeding off the sin of the people (verse 8) – that is, literally getting fat from eating their portion of the sacrifices, fueling their greed and spiritually manipulating people for their own personal gain.  I wonder how this would read if God were to address the more modern examples of this idea: televangelists selling prayer shawls to ‘make people’s prayers more effective’ or even the pre-counter-reformation Catholic Church who profited from people’s sin by selling indulgences to free souls from purgatory and ‘absolve’ sins.

Or if I were to bring it closer to home for me (and many others), what about pastors of churches (the modern-day priests) who are caught up in scandals and moral failures?  Could we classify this as an example of those men having their own glory turned into shame?  Those men who thought they deserved the fleeting raptures of sin, or who considered themselves impenetrable bastions of God’s glory for the church – were they brought down because of that pride?

In the next part we’ll dig into the rest of the chapter and revisit the theme of God’s redemptive purposes in discipline.  So get excited!  Just kidding – tune in again soon, and let me know what you think and what questions you might have.

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Redemptive Love (Hosea Part 3)

So the last post was pretty tough in a that we saw a wife (Gomer and/or Israel by way of allegory) running back to her sin in spite of her husband’s faithfulness and protection.  Her husband then pursued her in a quite unusual way – he gave her over to her sin and let her run herself down but didn’t let her be satisfied apart from him.  We see that God’s jealousy sent his wife to her humiliation, despair, and pain – ultimately leading her to repentance and began the process of their reconciliation.

Today I’d like to finish out chapter two, which is, as we’ll see, quite different from yesterday.  We’re still in the middle of a section of heavy prophecies from the Lord to his prophet Hosea.  These prophecies have two aspects – one is an immediate message for Hosea with his wife Gomer and the second is a message for his people as a whole.  In the first part of chapter two we saw how he will discipline his people and hand them over to their sin; today we’ll see how he plans to redeem her from the rough place she’s taken herself, and we’ll see his covenant love expressed in his restoration of his bride.  It’s a precious text, so let’s dive in to Hosea 2:14-23.

Redemptive Love

The tone of chapter two shifts dramatically from the first thirteen verses to the last ten – God goes from expressing judgment and his bride’s future despair to working her out of her muck, expressing his faithful covenant love, and redeeming her to her former place of favor that she so willfully rejected.  He says in verse 14 that he will ‘allure her,’ that is, he will woo her and reclaim her affections by speaking tenderly to her in the wilderness, showing her his love in light of her disobedience.

He goes on to say that he will restore her vineyards and make her Valley of Achor a door of hope.  At first glance, this phrase seems a bit odd, but let’s backtrack to Joshua chapter 7 see exactly what the Valley of Achor was, and why it’s significant.  Honestly, this one verse is probably one of the most beautiful parts of Hosea to me.  Let’s dig into why.  Back when Israel was beginning the conquest of Canaan, they defeated Jericho (… ‘and the walls came tumbling down…’), and the Lord commanded that they destroy everything, including the pagan temple items.  One man named Achan didn’t obey – he kept several things for himself and hid them in his tent – nobody knew about it.  When Israel went out to their next battle at Ai, they were beaten soundly because the Lord wasn’t with them – he had withdrawn because of Achan’s sin.  So Joshua eventually finds out what happened, and everyone in Israel stoned Achan and his family for their sin and disobedience.  The place where he was buried under those stones was called the Valley of Achor – it was a blight on the history of Israel, and a reminder that secret sin was not to be tolerated.  Joshua then leads Israel to defeat Ai with the Lord’s blessing and the conquest continued.  So fast-forwarding into Hosea, when God says that he will make his bride’s Valley of Achor a door of hope, he means that Israel’s past sins will be redeemed and become a source of hope for her, that they will no longer be a reminder of shame, disobedience and punishment.  He will gain glory in spite of our sin because he will redeem it.

And this is where we sinners have much hope and peace – God will redeem and restore.  If we are God’s in Christ Jesus, we cannot out-sin his grace, and we cannot sin in such a way that he cannot redeem it.  Nothing is outside of his sovereignty.  This is definitely not a license to sin, but a precious hope in the midst of the message of condemnation from Satan that would lead us to despair in our sin.  I would remind you that “there is now NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).

Has God ever done this with/for you?  Has he redeemed your sin and made it a part of your story of redemption for his glory?  This is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus… our scars, like the death of Christ, though shameful, will be beautiful in light of God’s redemptive love.

So God will restore the sexually promiscuous and give them fruitful intimacy.  He will restore the disobedient and give them the perfect obedience of Christ.  He will redeem our idolatry and show us that our greatest treasure is in him because it is him.  This concept directly mirrors Christ – his scars are our victory, his shame is our boasting, and his death is our hope and life.

Do you believe this?  Do you have faith in the future grace and redemptive purposes of God?

What does this look like for you in your sin?  What does it look like to be redeemed?  Not just sin-free, but redeemed and Christ-focused?

The Lord goes on to give a prophecy of the restoration of his bride’s purity in verses 16-17.  He says that he will purify her theology and religious practices by removing her Baals (idols, false gods), and the memory of those idols.  He is essentially saying that the knowledge of past sins will stay, but the shame and pain are gone in light of the peace and joy in his redemption.  This comes with having the right perspective – that we will see our idols for the false gods that they are, and not our providers.  It also involves a realigning of our affections both toward God and away from our idols.

In verse 18 we see that God restores their relationship and brings ‘shalom’ (a holistic peace) between them to where everything is returned to the way it should be.  And in verses 19-20 we see that God will marry his whore; he will accept the unacceptable, redeem the unredeemable, and resurrect the dead (see also Ephesians 2).  This redemptive love is everlasting, displays his righteousness, justice, hesed (that faithful covenant love), and mercy.  He truly redeems every aspect of their covenant because his love is long-suffering, and it is perfect.  It also shows God’s faithfulness in light of his bride’s unfaithfulness.  He has never broken a covenant, but Israel has never kept one.

Another note of significance is that God is making the covenant for both of them – he acts, Israel receives.  Israel is incapable of making a covenant that she will stick to, so God steps in and takes on the weight of making their marital covenant and then empowers Israel, by his grace, to accomplish and fulfill it.  He restores Israel/us for his glory, for our good, and for our intimacy with him (see verse 20) so that we can and will glorify him in our daily lives.

And this isn’t just a redemption of his bride.  Remember the last post when God said his judgment would pass to Gomer’s children as well?  We now see that God’s redemptive love is expressed toward her whole family – her children are reconciled as well.  God will restore and reverse the judgment and curse that he placed on them (their names).  The heavens and earth are reconciled, and God will sow the seed of Israel for himself as an expression of his love and for his glory.  This is the gospel in our lives.  You see, just as Israel’s redemption wasn’t an end in and of itself – it was meant to show God’s infinite love and glory – our salvation and reconciliation as Christians is also not an end in and of itself.  To be sure, we do benefit very directly, but ultimately we are redeemed for God’s glory and to spread the gospel in this world.  2 Corinthians chapter 1 talks about how we as Christians participate in the ministry of reconciliation because we were reconciled.  So because we have been given grace, we give grace to others; because we’ve been saved, we help bring others to faith; because we have been given peace, we help spread peace in as much as we are able to.  We are indeed for God, for worship, to bear his image – he bought us with a price, and we are his.  But that isn’t the end goal.  His glory is.

Now, in a historical context, this passage foretells Israel’s exile and return.  In a contemporary context, this tells us about our own rebellion, discipline, and reconciliation (propitiation – turning from wrath to favor) to God.  This immediate context is for Hosea and Gomer – Hosea is redeeming and cultivating his wife for himself.  This is a beautiful biblical concept – a man’s wife is the barometer of his leadership, and in this God gives us the capability and the role of helping to reconcile and lead our wives to deeper walks with God.

Men, how are you cultivating your wife for yourself and for God’s glory?  Is  your marriage righteous, just, full of faithful covenant love, merciful, compassionate, and understanding?  How might you prepare yourself to lead this way, and how might you steward your marriage to reflect God’s glorious redemptive covenant in your own context?

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The Bride and her Groom (Guest Post)

I’m proud to announce (and host) this first guest post by a dear friend of mine, miss Leslie Sallee of Fort Worth, Texas.  I asked her to write about the Church’s submission to Christ from a single woman’s perspective… so here it is – enjoy.

Marriage is something I’ve wanted my whole life. No, there’s no binder in my room documenting every detail of my future wedding but if one of my relationships ever got past 3 months, it was difficult not to flip through wedding magazines at the news stand. Being married meant that someone would love me, make me feel beautiful, appreciated, and superior to everyone else around me. Who needs preparation for that?! Isn’t it just supposed to happen? What God made painfully obvious in my life over the past few years, was that was only a symptom of the state of my heart. Honestly, I thought that preparing to be a bride required little on my part. The guy has the responsibility of leading, so if I don’t follow him or I if I screw up then ultimately, the blame can be placed on him for not being a good enough leader—it’s not really my fault. Well, I would never say that out loud but that was the posture of my heart…and from conversations and off-hand comments by some married and unmarried women in my community, it has been or is a prevalent attitude. Think about the effects of that attitude, though. Think hard. What does that say about what’s truly in a woman’s heart?

Ok, let’s start with the word submission. Yes, yes—I can see the eye rolls and hear the groans signaling you’re about to throw counter punches. Or maybe you think you’ve got this part covered and I’m just preaching to myself (I am always preaching this to myself, by the way).  But just consider this. Submission colors every part of the church’s existence and it should be the most beautiful garment that a bride-in-preparation wears. Please don’t think I’m saying a woman should submit to every male in her life. The Bible never says that. According to Ephesians 5 and 6, we submit to our own husbands as to the Lord, our parents, and our employers.  Of course, this all comes with the disclaimer that these authorities aren’t asking us to contradict the commands of Christ. Our highest authority, and all-consuming point of submission is Christ.

As I wait and pray in expectation of a God-honoring, God-reflecting marriage, submission spreads to every point of my life and relationships. Do I submit to Christ as my Lord, my love? Do I submit to my husband, despite not knowing him yet, as my lover and leader? Think about who or what takes precedence over Christ—over your not-yet-revealed husband. In my own life, this has included dreams of a job or a certain style of living. Most often it has manifested itself (and still does at times) as a guy. Sometimes this guy is a real guy and sometimes he is the image of the “perfect” guy in my head. When you come down to it, these are idols—they are anything put above God.  What, or who, are you giving things up for other than Christ and a life with the husband he appoints? Here’s another example: Gomer in Hosea 1-3. She married Hosea but soon after, left and followed her other lovers. Just like Israel, like the Church, she had not submitted her desires to be for her husband alone and hadn’t done away with her idols. So what, don’t fall in love? Not at all! Fall in love with Christ. Fall in love with your husband. Know what attributes make a godly man and save your emotions for him (read about a godly man’s attributes in Nathan’s earlier posts). Keep yourself pure physically and emotionally. Avoid the emotional entanglements of friends with benefits, infatuations, the hot-brooding-guy-who-can’t-make-up-his-mind,…you get the picture. Emotional entanglements can become habits and lead to fear, wandering eyes, and mistrust. Practice purity in all its forms, ask forgiveness, and follow Christ’s leading.

So practically, what does practicing submission look like in everyday interactions? First, let me clarify that it’s not being a doormat or never speaking up during a conversation. Submission involves the laying down of your own wants, self-seeking glory, and pointing others to Christ lovingly. Practice submission in conversation by encouraging the men in your life. Encourage them to seek God harder by asking challenging questions. Let them plan events or outings while offering to serve for part of it. Ask their opinions without mocking or blowing them off if they say something you don’t like. This prepares you to be the helper God has called you to be and helps men by learning to lead, think, and seek God with the loving support of Christian sisters. Don’t forget to serve. That is so important! If you don’t know how to or who to serve, just look around. Ask somebody. Nurseries, shelters, schools, churches, your friends—pray that God would make you aware of the needs around you. Sometimes all it is, is being a listening ear. The Proverbs 31 woman embodied this and more. She was brilliant and all the while brought honor to her husband and children. She served, created, dealt, comforted, and provided for those in her sphere. Jesus can be glorified now and my future husband honored through the submission of my will to Christ’s commands.

One more thing—submission is trust for something beyond yourself that you can’t see right away. Trust in God’s time of preparation. As he “allure[d] her, and [brought] her into the wilderness” to purify and save her (Hosea 2:14-15), allow God to purify you of idols, mistrust, and selfishness. Pray for your future husband to be taught and brought under God’s glorifying purpose as Jesus was brought under God the Father’s in Gethsemane. Pray that this time of preparation opens your eyes and draws your heart to a man of godly character. Practice submission and serving now to better support and encourage your husband in God’s leading for both of your lives.

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