Monthly Archives: January 2011

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.

Share Button

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.

Share Button

Why Does God Allow Evil?

Question:
How can a loving God allow (if he’s truly sovereign) an innocent child to be molested? That doesn’t seem like love.

This is a great question, and I’ve wrestled with it in the past for sure. The short answer is that God doesn’t prevent evil – he is sovereign over it.  The long answer is as follows:

God created the world to reflect his glory, and it does in many ways.  Man did rebel, though, and sinned greatly, rejecting God’s will and headship over creation.  When that happened, the world was broken and man’s desires became only evil all the time.  Since then, everything we do is tainted by sin and produces more sin.  We can see this in Genesis 3, and also in Romans 1 – man sins against God and bears the just penalty for that sin.  God, in his grace, sent Jesus the Christ to die on the cross for those who love God and trust in Jesus.  So God is not the author of evil – rather, he is the author and creator of good, and his essence gives meaning to terms like justice, righteousness, love, grace, and holiness.  But that doesn’t answer the question.

Let’s get down to brass tacks here.  We know that God is loving and that he is sovereign – we see this throughout Scripture.  But we also know that evil exists and permeates our culture and our lives.  So I would submit to you that rather than evil being in opposition to God’s plan, it is well within it. By that I mean that even though evil exists, it does not mean that God has failed.  Quite the opposite – it means that he will redeem that evil and use it for his own glory.  To be sure, the instance above (an innocent child molested) is tragic and I hurt for you if that is part of your story.  But let’s raise our sights a bit and see that God is in the redemption business, not the evil prevention business. I can see two main things that I’d like to address here.

First is that God is a redeeming God.  What if, in light of the previously mentioned molestation this innocent child grows up in a life of sin and confusion and is given over to drugs, abuse, and heinous sin?  What if that child then becomes a Christian and understands the full weight of God’s immense grace in forgiving them of sin that was done to them, and the sins that they committed?  Would that child then not have a greater appreciation of grace?  I’ve heard many testimonies of those who have both endured and committed egregious sins, and to a person each one has always said something like “It has been a very hard road and I would not wish it on anyone, but I will also say that I am thankful because this has brought me to know Christ and his grace much more intimately – and for that I wouldn’t give up a single second.”  You see, for those who know and trust in Christ, God takes our darkest times and redeems them for his glory.  The former addict now has a recovery ministry.  The former porn star now shares the gospel to those in the sex industry.  Or, if we look biblically, the former murderer of Christians (Saul/Paul) gets saved and writes more than half of the New Testament.  Or the youngest brother sold into slavery by his brothers endures much sin, but ultimately fulfills God’s designs for his family and is able to provide for his family when they are in hard times.  You see, God does not prevent evil; he is sovereign over it.

We absolutely must weep with those who are enduring much pain and sin, and we must fight for justice and freedom because they are graces from God.  But we must also share Christ with them so that those dark times do not stay dark – so that they are redeemed for the glory of God and become a part of a beautiful testimony to the grace of God.  And I pray that those who, like me, do endure or commit many sins will (if not now) one day be able to say that what was meant for evil God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

Second, God is a holy God.  Another main point to consider is that God’s main goal is not the absence of evil, but the recognition of his holiness and glory.  So while sin does grieve God, it does not worry him or make him waver in his pursuit of his own glory.  In the case above, if an innocent child is molested that is a truly awful thing.  But his justice can and will be seen in the molester being punished – and not in some court system, but eternally for his/her sin and rebellion against God to another’s hurt.  Or his grace might be seen in that sinner coming to know the grace of Christ while in prison or at some point in his/her life.  Either way God will have his glory known.  We are not at liberty to dictate how, when, or why because he is the Potter and we are the clay (Romans 9).  We, with our finite minds and limited perspective during our short time on this earth cannot say to him who is infinite, sovereign, infallible, omniscient, and eternal, “You’re doing it wrong!”  It just doesn’t work that way.  [And even if he was doing it wrong, we wouldn’t know because his ways are infinitely higher than ours.]

Rather than question God’s goodness in the times when evil does rear its ugly head, we must, like Job, worship in God’s provision and in the lack thereof.   We must worship with tears of joy and tears of pain.  We worship not because it’s easy, but because our God is the one who is sovereign over evil, and who can and will redeem it in his time.  We worship not because of circumstances, but because he is holy and worthy.

I hope that I’ve shed at least some light on the subject… if you have any other questions, feel free to submit them here.

Lastly, for further reading on this topic, a great article by John Piper is available here.

 

Share Button

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)?

Share Button

Q&A: Fear and Abandonment

Question:
Do you have any thoughts on the fear of abandonment?

Answer:
The most important thing right off the bat is to realize that people are sinners, but God is good.  People do cause hurt and pain, and do mess things up, but God says that He will never leave or forsake us (Joshua 1:5, 2 Corinthians 4:9, Romans 8:28).  From there,  I’d say that you need to realize the issue(s) if you don’t already, so that you can begin understanding and working on them.  If you’re a Christian, forgiveness is key – this doesn’t mean forgetting or downplaying the consequences, but forgiveness is the first step toward reconciliation and healing.  Also, going to a good counselor is a huge step.  Counseling isn’t just for crazies (even though we are all crazy at some level), it’s for everyday people to work through issues and be able to live a more fulfilling life.

On the more practical side, I think you’ve got to realize how the fear influences thoughts and behaviors.  Are you emotionally manipulative to get people to stay and/or express their feelings of love?  Are you willing to compromise morally (sexually, etc.) in order to keep someone from leaving you?  Do you alter eating and/or sleeping patterns because of worry?  Once you get that out on the table, it’s good to go through these issues one-by-one and see that any of these behaviors are sinful because they aren’t born out of love, but rather fear and hurt (1 Cor. 13, 1 John 4:18).

Finally, I think trust plays a huge role in dealing with abandonment issues.  Trusting that God will get you through the pain and fear, trusting that your husband/wife will stay (this can be most achieved by them loving and having a holy fear of Jesus as well as a covenant of marriage with you).  The key isn’t to make sure nobody leaves you; it’s dealing with the original hurt and realizing that your hope is in Christ, not in humanity.  Along with a good counselor, I would recommend writing and then voicing your concerns to loved ones (after reviewing and revising them), letting them reassure you, and then having a good accountability partner and/or group to walk through life with so that you can mediate your thoughts and behaviors – not just on abandonment, but everything else.

Share Button
Recent Entries »