| More

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hindering Encouragement

I have been snowed in for the past few days. Kristian has been working a lot of evenings and weekends and we only have one working car at the moment. But thanks to our very dear friends, Wilson and Nora, I was able to go to church this morning and hear an awesome sermon on counting the cost of following Christ. Pastor Matt Bayley read this passage:

Matthew 16:13-28 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Something that really struck me today in hearing this passage were the strong and harsh words Jesus used with Peter when Peter tried to tell Jesus that he should not have to suffer the cross. Jesus actually called Peter “Satan”! That is about as harsh as it gets. Why would Jesus do that? Peter seems to have only been objecting to seeing his beloved Lord suffer. What kind of person would want to see their friend or loved one suffer?

We know more of the story than Peter did. We see that Jesus’ painful rejection, unfathomable suffering, and unjust murder constituted the ultimate act of loving obedience to the Father and loving rescue for us. While perhaps he meant well, Peter’s words were nothing less than satanic. Peter’s words were used of Satan to tempt Jesus into forgoing the act of denying Himself and paying the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile His people to our Righteous Heavenly Father. Peter’s words were death, and Jesus rebuked them fiercely.

Now before we start to look down on Peter for what he said to Jesus, we ought to consider how we give and receive encouraging and comforting words. Can our comforting and encouraging words to others or the comforting and encouraging words we receive from others actually be satanic? Can we give or receive comfort and encouragement that leads us away from the will of God and tempts or enables sin? Absolutely! That is a sobering thought. From Jesus’ response to Peter, we see how detrimental this can be. Let me be very clear here, this is not to say that all encouraging and comforting words are satanic. I hope this point is obvious. The Bible urges us to encourage and comfort one another. (for example see, 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Cor 14; 2 Cor 1:3-4; Romans 1:12; 2 Cor 13:11) Encouragement is even a precious spiritual gift (Romans 12:6-8). Obviously, there is an encouragement and comfort that is good and from the Lord. However, we must recognize that encouragement and comfort is not necessarily always from the Lord and we must be discerning in how we give and receive it.

How can we do this?

1) Pray in faith. We ought to pray for wisdom and discernment to know whether what we want to say and what we hear from others is actually from God or from Satan, recognizing that as Peter’s example suggests, even Christians can be taken captive to do the will of Satan (see also 2 Timothy 2:22-26). We ought to pray for God to guide the content of our words and counsel and also the timing of them. James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” In Matthew 6 when Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray, one of the things He tells them to pray is “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” In Matthew 26, when the disciples fall asleep while Jesus is praying in Gethsemane, Jesus tells them: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-21 says, “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

2) Compare what we want to say or what we hear to the Word of God. No advice, encouragement, or comfort should contradict what we know to be true from the Word of God. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5 says, “Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

3) Examine motives. What are our motives in saying or receiving comforting words and encouragement? Do our motives have anything to do with avoiding pain or discomfort or inconvenience for ourselves? Do we just want to be liked? Do our motives have anything to do with wanting to be praised by men rather than by God? Are we seeking to gain something for ourselves by our smooth words at the expense of truth and love? Are we trying to avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable for us? Are we afraid that the other person will lash out at us or reject us? Are we just being careless with our words, blurting out whatever comes to mind without even thinking about their implications? This is not honoring to God or loving to others. This is selfish. Let us not forget Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 & 25: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Earlier this year, I was talking to a dear friend about some very difficult things I was going through. Instead of urging me to take the easy way out of the situation or giving me false hope (i.e. hope in unpredictable circumstances), this friend actually led me to Matthew 16:24-25. It was the best thing she could have done for me. Even today, I was talking with another dear friend about a challenging conflict that I am facing. Rather than telling me that my motives were all right and that the person with whom I am in conflict was all wrong, my friend lovingly challenged me today to consider my own motives. This was the best thing she could have done for me. When I have talked to friends about the pain of infertility, the most helpful encouragement I have received is not that God will give me a child—no one knows if this is God’s will for my life! Rather, my friends who have been the most helpful are the ones who have encouraged me with Scripture (i.e. I don’t know if God will give me a child, but I do know that He works all things for my good—Romans 8:28). Instead of giving me false hope, they hugged me when I have needed comfort, loved me with thoughtful acts of service, and even lovingly rebuked me when I have needed it. Rather than helping me figure out how to avoid this trial that God has brought into my life for my good, they have lovingly walked with me through it.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that you do not leave us to ourselves. Thank you that you give us guidance and direction. Thank you that you show us truth in your word. Thank you that we can approach your throne of grace with confidence because of Jesus, and that you delight to guide us in your ways. Father, please guard our hearts against satanic encouragement. Protect us from being used by Satan and from listening to the lies Satan tries to get us to believe from encouragement that is not from you. Teach us to deny ourselves daily for your name sake. Help us to be unselfish in the words we speak to others, seeking to honor and glorify you and to love them in accordance with your truth. Help us to honor you in what advice and encouragement we receive from others, seeking your wisdom and discernment to know what is good and what is evil. We love you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tyrone Wells

Tyrone Wells' song "Remain" really ministered to me today. Here are the lyrics:

You feel the earth shake, you’ve never felt safe. Nothing stays the same, at all. I will remain. When everything changes and you think of the faces that all slipped away. I will remain. Afraid of the let down. You say I won’t stick around. You say people are made of glass and dust. But I will remain. I will remain……Feel my hands on your face. Look to the north star, see where the canyons are. Rest your head on my heart endlessly. I will remain. When everything changes, this truth will stay ageless. I’ll carve my name. I will remain…

You can listen to his songs here:
His new CD is out on iTunes and will be in stores next month. I actually love every song on it and that is a rare thing! You can preview it here:

Ouch and Thank You, Lord

This year has been a particularly trying and lonely year. Just when I thought I was finally starting to heal, we recently experienced another devastating blow. I feel knocked out. Lately, I have been indulging myself in self-pity and other sins like despair, bitterness, and apathy in response to trials. I have been listening to the lies of the enemy—“What is the point?,” “Your life is a fruitless waste,” “You have no future,” “No one loves you,” “There is no purpose to these trials,” “God doesn’t care about your trivial life”. Listening to these lies has led me to avoid my Bible and to avoid talking with my precious Lord. Thankfully (and amazingly—His grace and mercy still causes me to marvel), God still pursues me! I “stumbled” on this women’s teaching audio from Sovereign Grace in Fairfax: This was part of a three part teaching series entitled, “Hope is a Verb”. The session I listened to was by Lisa Gallo & Emma Sakaguchi. Lisa talked about having her 10-year-old daughter diagnosed with cancer. Emma talked about having her newborn diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a life threatening heart condition requiring surgery. In addition to facing these trials, these also ladies faced other trials at this time as well, including the death of a loved one, personal health problems, etc. These ladies spoke of God’s kindness, grace, and His glory in the midst of their deep, life-shattering, fear inducing pain. Talk about convicting! Here are some highlights:

Isaiah 41:8-10 “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners,saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;10 fear not, for I am with you;be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

From Lisa:

“We had a very long road ahead of us. This was not a cold that would go away in a day or two. We would walk a road—a road that I became very aware of was not meant to be walked alone. And we were not alone. Although there were times that my heart ran ahead and fear loomed like a dark cloud, I became increasingly grateful for the amazing grace that came to us—through scripture, our older children, friends, family and our care group”

“You learn a lot of what you believe when it is tested like this. I learned that God was ready to pour out His grace for each new day. But when I ran ahead in my mind, fear quickly came. All the ‘what ifs’ haunted me at times, but when I would realize that I didn’t have grace for those thoughts, just for this day, peace would come. Lou would remind me that there was no grace for fearful thoughts of the future and I found myself no longer just having one time with God in the morning but needing to have my Bible, or my little Spurgeon book ‘Besides Still Waters’--which is a devotional book—by my side at all times.”

She describes a time when her daughter was so nauseated from her treatment and needed to ingest a thick liquid medicine. Her daughter did not want to take it. Lisa cried out to God for help in prayer. The Lord led her to her Spurgeon devotional and this quote: “Not a drop of bitter falls into our cup unless the Heavenly Father’s wisdom places it there. We dwell where everything is ordered by God. Adversity is healing medicine and not a deadly poison.” Lisa read this quote to her daughter and her daughter took the medicine.

“Each day presented a new decision to believe what I knew to be absolutely true in the form of God’s Word or to hang onto the words of man or what I was seeing in our circumstances.”

I remember one day realizing that I did not like suffering. I realized that I was really a wimp and that I didn’t like it and I did not want it. I had sung about sharing in Christ’s sufferings but the truth was I didn’t want it.”

“An article by John Piper had a quote that struck me so deeply. It said: ‘If we would see God honored in each others’ lives as the supreme value, the highest treasure, and deepest satisfaction of our lives, then we would strive with all of our might to live and to show the meaning of suffering and to help others see the wisdom of the power and goodness of God behind it ordaining, above it governing, beneath it sustaining, and before it preparing.’”

“I began to see it as God way of using suffering for our good to conform us more and more to the image of His Son. I saw that suffering could deepen our faith and break our hearts so that we can better minister to those who are broken in spirit.”

“No matter what the future holds, it is a faithful Shepherd who holds it. The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

From Emma:

“I learned that God’s grace was available to me through other people, and most importantly through Scripture.”

“The Lord’s mercies are far greater than my trials.”

“Out of all of the help that we received from other people, the most helpful help that I received was from my husband [name]. He carefully led my soul by making sure that I was reading God’s word and asking me questions to make the connection between God’s sovereignty and the trials that we were facing. This kept me going back to my Bible and proved to be the greatest anchor I needed—God’s Word was an anchor for my soul.”

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

“The suffering that I endure is part of God’s active plan to show Himself sovereign.”

“Last year when I considered the circumstances it was easy for me to think that what I was going through was not good. It was a challenge to connect God’s goodness with the trials I was facing. I think this happened because I was defining God’s goodness by what served me—how I like things to happen, when I think things should happen, and what makes me happy. I realized that my definition of goodness was often self-serving and I took God and His sovereignty out of the picture. He has promised that for those who love God, all things work together for good. But we are not promised that we will always see the good in this life or be given the good according to what our definition of good is.”

“…He defines what is good for me and my trials are part of what He sees as good in my life—to make me more like Christ. This perspective helped me to resist the temptation to complain when things didn’t go the way that I wanted but instead to trust that God was working all things for my good.”

“Suffering is how God helped me see how big is His grace for me.”

Emma said that the contrasting views of our definition of goodness and God’s definition of goodness reveal something to us. It reveals what we treasure—often what we treasure is an easy life. It also reveals what God treasures. Ultimately everything is for His glory. He treasures that we are more Christ-like. The ultimate hope in this is that we get to spend eternity with God (in peace and joy), and what can be better than that? (my paraphrase of what she said)

Here is a quote from an article by David Powlison contained in the book, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”. It is about transitioning from the “Why me?” questions to God in suffering to the “Why not me?”:

“Finally, you are prepared to pose—and to mean—almost unimaginable questions: Why not me? Why not this? Why not now? If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me? If my suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, why not me? If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ? If he sanctifies to me my deepest distress? If I fear no evil? If he bears me in his arms? If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong? If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet? If my life becomes a source of hope for others? Why not me?”

Lyrics from a hymn by William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The Q and A from this audio teaching was also extremly helpful and worth listening to. (The ladies are honest about their temptations and sins. They talk about how in some ways, they have had a harder time dealing righteously with lesser trials in life than they have in these huge trials of life.)

In addition to the encouraging words from this audio teaching, God has also led me to start reading a book I bought awhile ago, “When People are Big and God is Small,” by Ed Welch. I think this will help me as I struggle with: 1) being vulnerable and real (a necessary part of walking in the light, experiencing true Christian fellowship, walking in humility, and allowing God’s light to shine through the clay pot of my life) and 2) pursuing others in sacrificial love at cost to myself as Christ did for me, while 3) absorbing the suffering that this combination brings in the form of rejection, abandonment, betrayal, loneliness etc. in a Biblical way. There is a way to suffer well, which does not mean tritely ignoring our pain, but does involving seeing God's glory in increasing measure and revealing it to others through love and grace that is enabled by the Holy Spirit. I see that the majority of my struggles in this area have to do with people being bigger than they should be and God being smaller than He should be in my life. I’m sure I’ll blog more on this topic as I journey through Welch's book.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for taking these sins I have confessed. I have sinned against you, my precious Lord. Thank you for your lovingkindness in forgiving me and pursuing me even while I was in my stubborn rebellion from you! Thank you, Jesus, for dying for all of my sins, past, present, and future. Please do a work in my heart and fill me afresh with your Spirit. Fill me with love for you and love for those around me. May this love be your love (genuine, Spirit-produced, Christ-following, Christ-exalting, sacrificial, scandalous, pursuing) and not just worldly love (selfish). Please continue to teach me your truth. Please get all the glory in my life. Please work for your glory in all of my circumstances--to conform me and others into your image, to show me and others your goodness and grace, and to enable me and others to believe in you and enjoy you. I pray that you would be with anyone who reads this blog, giving them whatever they need from you right now too--truth, rebuke, comfort, peace, hope, and joy. Thank you for Emma and Lisa and for their church that has provided this audio teaching for us. Please encourage them right now as they continue to walk through their trials. I pray all this in Jesus Mighty Name, Amen

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Year End Review

Circumstantially, this has been the worst year of my life. It has been full of the deepest of hurts and the loneliest of times. I have found myself with more unanswered questions than answers. In many ways, the worst hits keep on coming and the questions haunt me. Still, this has been a profoundly amazing year. This summer during one of the lowest times of this year, I remember standing in church among my brothers and sisters in Christ, tears streaming down my face. We were singing about the worthiness of Jesus. I remembered seeing so clearly, on a day of great loss, that Jesus IS worthy! He is worth losing EVERYTHING else (and I felt like I was losing practically everything else). I remembered the comforting words of a dear friend who gently led me to Matthew 10 after I told her that I felt like I was losing almost everything in life that was important to me. This was the passage:

Matthew 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

I am called to treasure the Lord above all else—above even every good and perfect gift that comes from Him--like family, friends, and everything else. This comes at a painful cost. I know that I have not even faced anything near to the costliest of costs in my short and blessed life, but still it has been very painful to me. Yet He has shown me all of my life, and most profoundly this year, that He is worthy of losing my life. He is worthy of my trust and worthy of my worship. He has shown me increasingly greater glimpses of the beauty and majesty of His character. Nothing compares. I am eternally grateful.

Psalm 84:1-12 "How lovely is your dwelling place,O Lord of hosts!2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.7 They go from strength to strength;each one appears before God in Zion. 8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah 9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!10 For a day in your courts is betterthan a thousand elsewhere.I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.12 O Lord of hosts,blessed is the one who trusts in you!"

Job 1:20-21 “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’”

Job 42:1-6
42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
2 “I know that you can do all things,and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;6 therefore I despise myself,and repent in dust and ashes.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive failand the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the foldand there be no herd in the stalls,18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Youthful Passions

In community group, we have been studying the book of 2 Timothy, which is a letter from Paul to Timothy. Paul is at the end of his life and ministry, and he is passing on the torch to Timothy, a young man who has been mentored by Paul and who has faithfully ministered alongside Paul. Like a loving father, Paul is exhorting Timothy to walk faithfully so as not to waste his life, his gifting, and his calling. This past week, 2 Timothy 2:22 really stood out to me. 2 Timothy 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. I like how the Message translates this as well: “Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God.” I have been thinking about what “youthful passions” are. The ESV Study Bible notes say that the word “passions” here is the word epithymia in Greek. It refers to sinful desires in general, not just sexual desire. Paul gives one example of youthful passion as being involved with “foolish, ignorant controversies” that “breed quarrels”. What I find significant about this, is that Paul’s words are getting at our hearts, not just at our actions. We can see this by reading more of the context of this passage:

2 Timothy 2:22-26 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

Paul links the fleeing to youthful passions to the pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, and peace. This makes sense because youthful passions have nothing to do with righteousness, faith, love and peace. When we quarrel, we are not concerned about the understanding, growth, or repentance of the hearer. In fact, earlier in verse 14, Paul tells us that quarreling about words ruins the hearers. We can imagine why. Quarreling usually has more to do with the pride of wanting to be right or wanting to look clever than it does with loving a person or loving God’s truth and holiness. When we quarrel, our hearts are not pursuing righteousness, faith, love or peace.

Our youthful passions exalt, comfort, and indulge ourselves instead of esteeming God’s holiness, trusting and obeying God’s direction for us, sacrificially loving those around us or uniting us in reconciliation in the body of Christ. Youthful passions have more to do with zealously loving ourselves rather than loving God or others. They have to do with loving our comfort, our pleasure, our autonomy, our independence, our will, our fame, our reputation, and our image. They have to do with entitlements that we feel that we have over people and even over God. In fact, we can have the appearance of godliness, but then when we do not receive the things to which we feel entitled (comfort, pleasure, autonomy, license to sin, independence, glory, praise, etc.), we feel entitled to give up. We feel entitled to be abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, slanderous, manipulative, malicious, unkind, and generally unloving, etc. We can even feel entitled to throw God and people away when they no longer meet our youthful passions or selfish desire. Instead of lovingly submitting to God and to those to whom He has entrusted us, we give God and the body of Christ the finger.

We all have youthful passions—desires in our flesh that are inconsistent with and sidetrack us from loving God and loving people. There are two aspects of Paul’s admonition to Timothy to flee youthful passions that ought to be particularly encouraging to us if we are truly God’s people (some are not, as we see in the following chapter of 2 Timothy where Paul talks about those who have the “appearance of godliness” but who also demonstrate that they do not love God or people by “denying its power”). Keep in mind that Paul is telling Timothy, yes Timothy, to flee youthful passions. Timothy is a godly man with sincere faith whom Paul loves as a son (see 2 Timothy chapter 1) and in whom Paul has deliberately invested and entrusted his ministry of spreading the gospel. Much more than that, Timothy is a man whom God Himself has called and gifted to lead. Still, Paul saw fit to exhort Timothy to flee youthful passions. This assumes that Timothy had youthful passions from which to flee. The fact that we have youthful passions from which to flee does not put us beyond hope! Another encouraging aspect of Paul’s admonition to Timothy is that he gives us a clue as to how we can flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace—that is “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” or how the Message puts it, “joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God.” Sincere, transparent, Christian community is a tool for us to flee our youthful passions. This involves confessing our sins and temptations to one another, submitting to one another (heeding godly counsel from the Body of Christ), praying for one another, encouraging one another, and serving one another.

James 5: 16-17 "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

Hebrews 3: 12 "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

Ephesians 5: 3 "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
'Awake, O sleeper,and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.'
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

God does not leave us alone to deal with our youthful passions! Rather, he gives us grace through His Spirit, through His Word, and through the body of Christ. The way to benefit from these is through humility and submission before God and before my brothers and sisters in Christ. Within the Body of Christ, we are to grow in our understanding of God’s love and grace for us so that we can have that same scandalous and sacrificial love and grace for others. There is no room in this for youthful passions! We can see this especially in 1 Corinthians 13:

The Message translation of 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. 11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

ESV translation of 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We simply can’t love God or people like this and still hold onto our youthful passions!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for not leaving us alone in our youthful passions. Thank you that there is hope in you. Thank you for giving us your example, your Spirit, your Word and the Body of Christ. Please give us hearts that are soft. Help us to humbly submit to you and to the Body of Christ so that we can flee our youthful passions. Help us to listen!!! We do not want to waste our lives, and even more so, we do not want to wake up one day to find that we never belonged to you!! By your grace, keep us from being hard hearted and from having the appearance of godliness while denying its power!!! Thank you for your redemption. Thank you for your faithfulness. Help us to love in increasing measure, not like the world does, but as you do and as you direct us to by your Word. In Jesus Name, Amen!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dear Lisa

Happy Birthday to my dear little sis, Lisa!

On your birthday, you will receive lots of gifts. I just wanted to take a moment to remind you of the most precious gift that was bought by the blood of our dear Lord so that we could have peace with God and the a new identity in Christ! This is the identity He bought us by His own righteousness according to Scripture!

I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)
I am God's child (John 1:12)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15)
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ's Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God's glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)
I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)
I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)
I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God's coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
I have been shown the incomparable riches of God's grace (Ephesians 2:7)
God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)
I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I have been brought near to God through Christ's blood (Ephesians 2:13)
I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
I am a member of God's household (Ephesians 2:19)
I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
God's power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)
I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)
I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ's love is (Ephesians 3:18)
I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)
I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others (Ephesians 4:2)
I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)
I can be certain of God's truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)
I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)
I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)
I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)
I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)
I can understand what God's will is (Ephesians 5:17)
I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
I don't have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)
I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)
I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)
I have God's power (Ephesians 6:10)
I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)
I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am growing (Colossians 2:7)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)
I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)
I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
I am victorious (I John 5:4)
My heart and mind is protected with God's peace (Philippians 4:7)
I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am safe (I John 5:18)
I am part of God's kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
I am protected (John 10:28)
I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Great Christmas Gift Ideas

ESV Study Bible—It was released this fall. I just skimmed through it at a bookstore and it looks awesome. I love the ESV translation for its accuracy and readability. This particular study Bible has 25,000 notes, and tons of charts and outlines from some of the greatest theological minds today. The best price I have found so far is from You’ll need to go the search menu on that website and scroll down to CBD stock #.

For the black genuine leather use stock # CE502385 ($54.99)
For burgundy genuine leather use CE502392 ($54.99)
For black premium calfskin leather use CE502439 ($139.99)

They also have a special offer now going so that it is free shipping if you order $50 worth or more.

“Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives” by Wendy Alsup—This book was released by Crossway this summer. I wrote a review of it, which you can access on the left side of this page under “Labels” by clicking under “book reviews”. This book takes basic theological principles and shows us how to apply them in everyday life, and particularly in the moments that are the hardest to do so. It is full of practical tips and illustrations. It is short, easy, and enjoyable to read, and the truths within are life-changing. You can order it here:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Receiving Grace and Giving Grace

This is a continuation of my blog posts on my journey through the book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence” by John Piper. The last year or so of marriage has been the best year of marriage because I think it finally occurred to Kristian and me that we ought to treat each other with the same grace that God has shown us as individuals (duh). We are both imperfect, sinful and have habits that annoy one another, but we realized that the beauty of loving someone is reflecting the sacrificial love of the gospel—laying down our lives for each other, not returning each other’s reviling for reviling, working for each other’s good unconditionally, and being patient with one another as we each grow and are transformed into who we are supposed to be. This is what gives God glory in marriages, and there is such freedom and joy in this! We are enjoying each other more than we ever have. We are learning to rely on and be rooted in God’s grace for each of us in order to give grace to each other. That’s what the next two chapters of “This Momentary Marriage” are all about. Here are my favorite quotes from Chapters 2 & 3.

Great Quotes from Chapter 3

“I asked my wife Noël if there was anything she wanted me to say at this point when I was preaching on this subject. She said, ‘You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church.’ I think she is right, and there are at least three reasons: 1) This lifts marriage out of the sordid sitcom images and it gives the magnificent meaning God meant it to have; 2) this gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ ordained and sustains his bride by grace alone; and 3) this shows that the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both, defined by Christ’s self-denying work on the cross so that their pride and slavishness are canceled.” P. 42 and 43

“…the main point of this chapter is that since Christ’s new covenant with his church is created by and sustained by blood-bought grace, therefore, human marriages are meant to showcase that new-covenant grace. And the way husbands and wives showcase it is by resting in the experience of God’s grace and bending it out from a vertical experience with God into a horizontal experience with their spouse. In other words, in marriage you live hour by hour in glad dependence on God’s forgiveness and justification and promised future grace, and you bend it out toward your spouse hour by hour—as an extension of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help.” P. 43

“I am aware that all Christians, not just married ones, are supposed to do this in all our relationships. All of us, married and single, are supposed to live hour by hour by the forgiving, justifying, all-supplying grace of God and then bend it out to all the others in our lives. Jesus says that all of life, not just marriage is a showcase of God’s glory…But marriage is designed to be a unique display of God’s covenant grace because, unlike all other human relationships, the husband and wife are bound by covenant into the closest possible relationships for a lifetime. There are unique roles of headship and submission in a biblical and gracious way, they must experience what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help, and then bend it out horizontally to their spouse. That’s the focus in this chapter…the key to being naked and not ashamed (Gen 2:25)—when, in fact, a husband and a wife do many things they should be ashamed of—is the experience of God’s vertical forgiving, justifying grace bent out horizontally to each other and displayed to the world.” P. 44

“A profound understanding and fear of God’s wrath is exactly what many marriages need, because without it, the gospel is diluted down to mere human relations and loses its biblical glory. Without a biblical view of God’s wrath, you will be tempted to think that your wrath—your anger—against your spouse is simply too big to overcome, because you have never really tasted what it is like to see an infinitely greater wrath overcome by grace, namely, God’s wrath against you. So we begin with the wrath of God and its removal. In Colossians 2:13–14, Paul writes one of the most wonderful things imaginable: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Those last words are the most crucial. “This—this record of debt that stood against us—God set aside, nailing it to the cross.” When did that happen? Two thousand years ago. It did not happen inside of us, and it did not happen with any help from us. God did it for us and outside of us before we were ever born. This is the great objectivity of our salvation. Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths: God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath (sins are offenses against God that bring down his wrath), and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the war­rant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt . . nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14). Whose sins were nailed to the cross? Answer: My sins. And Noël’s sins. My wife’s sins and my sins. The sins of all who despair of saving themselves and who trust in Christ alone. Whose hands were nailed to the cross? Jesus’ were. There is a beautiful name for this. It’s called a substitution. God condemned my sin in Christ’s flesh. “Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Husbands and wives cannot believe this too strongly. It is essential to our fulfilling the design of marriage.
” P. 44 & 45

Colossians 3:12–13: "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
"‘As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive’ your spouse. As the Lord ‘bears with’ you, so you should bear with your spouse. The Lord ‘bears with’ us every day as we fall short of his will. Indeed, the distance between what Christ expects of us and what we achieve is infinitely greater than the distance between what we expect of our spouse and what he or she achieves. Christ always forgives more and endures more than we do. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Bear with as he bears with you. This holds true whether you are married to a believer or an unbeliever. Let the measure of God’s grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse.” P. 46

“Besides this biblical truth, we need the Holy Spirit. We need prayer. We need to meditate on the Bible for ourselves. We need to read the insights of others. We need the counsel of wise friends who are seasoned with suffering. We need the church to support us when everything falls apart. So I have no illusions that I could say here all that needs to be said to help you.” P. 47

“This is the ideal to aim at in marriage: two people humbling themselves and seeking to change in godly ways that please their spouses and meet their physical and emotional needs—to please them in every good way. Yes. The relationship of Christ and the church includes all that. But the reasons I stress living vertically from the grace of God and then bending out horizontally in forgiveness and justification toward your spouse are: 1) because there is going to be conflict based on sin and strangeness (and you won’t be able even to agree with each other about what is simply strange about each other and what is sin); and 2) because the hard, rugged work of enduring and forgiving is what makes it possible for affections to flourish when they seem to have died; and 3) because God gets glory when two very different and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ.” P. 47-48

Great Quotes from Chapter 4

This chapter is based on

Colossians 3:12-19 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

“Let me say at the outset that I am aware—painfully aware—that there are sins that spouses commit against each other that can push forbearance and forgiveness across the line into the assisting of sin and may even warrant a redemptive separation—I choose the words carefully: a redemptive separation. I am thinking of things like assault, adultery, child abuse, drunken rage, addictive gambling or theft or lying that brings the family to ruin.” P. 53

“When Paul gets to Colossians 3:12, he has laid a massive foundation in the person and work of Christ on the cross. This is the foundation of marriage and all of life. The main battles in life and in marriage are battles to believe this person and this work. I mean really believe it—trust it, embrace it, cherish it, treasure it, bank on it, breathe it, shape your life by it. So when Paul gets to Colossians 3:12, he exhorts us with words that are explosive with emotion-awakening reality built on Christ and his saving work.” P.54

First, Piper goes into three descriptions of every believer:

Chosen—“We are God’s elect. Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ. You can hear how precious this is to Paul with his words from Romans 8:33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The answer is that absolutely nobody can make a charge stick against God’s elect. Paul wants us to feel the wonder of being elect as being invincibly loved. If you resist the truth of election, you resist being loved in the fullness and the sweetness of God’s love.” P. 54

Holy—“This is first a position and a destiny before it is a pattern of behavior. That is why he is telling us the kind of behavior to “put on.” He knows we are not there yet, practically. He is calling us to become holy in life because we are holy in Christ. Dress to fit who you are. Wear holiness.” P. 54

Loved—“If you are a believer in Christ, God, the maker of the universe, chose you, set you apart for himself, and loves you. He is for you and not against you. “ P. 55

“This is the beginning of how husbands and wives forbear and forgive. They are blown away by being chosen, set apart, and loved by God. Husbands, devote yourselves to seeing and savoring this. Wives, do the same. Get your life from this. Get your joy from this. Get your hope from this—that you are chosen, set apart, and loved by God. Plead with the Lord that this would be the heartbeat of your life and your marriage. On this basis now—on the basis of this profound, new, God-centered identity as chosen, holy, and loved—we are told what to “put on.” That is, we are told what kind of attitude and behavior fits with, and flows from, being chosen, set apart, and loved by God through Christ.” P. 55

He then goes on to say that out of this identity, the attitudes from Colossians 3:12-19 flow: “compassionate hearts and kindness, humility and meekness, patience and forbearance (and forgiveness).” P. 55

“Be merci­ful in your inmost being, and then out of that good ground grows the fruit of kindness. So husbands, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gos­pel until you become a more merciful person. Wives, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become a more merciful person. And then treat each other out of this tender mercy with kind­ness. The battle is with our own unmerciful inner person. Fight that battle by faith, through the gospel, in prayer. Be stunned and broken and built up and made glad and merciful because you are chosen, holy, loved.” P. 56-57

“So, husbands, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more lowly and humble. Wives, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more lowly and humble. The gospel of Christ’s painful death on our behalf has a way of breaking our pride and our sense of rightful demands and our frustration at not getting our way. It works lowliness into our souls. Then we treat each other with meekness flowing out of that lowliness. The battle is with our own proud, self-centered inner person. Fight that battle by faith, through the gospel, in prayer. Be stunned and broken and built up and made glad and humble because you are chosen, holy, loved.” P. 57

“Forbear or bear with: The word is literally endure—enduring each other. Jesus uses it in Luke 9:41: “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to bear with you?” Paul uses it again in 1 Corinthians 4:12: “When persecuted, we endure.” That’s the meaning here: Become long-suffering persons and endure each other. Forbear. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:7–8).” P. 57-58

\“There are at least two words for forgive in the New Testament. This one used here (charizomenoi) means “freely or graciously give.” The idea is that when we forgive, we do not exact a payment. We treat people better than they deserve. So in this sense, you forgive when someone has wronged you, and therefore they are in debt to you, and sheer justice says you have the right to exact some suffering from them in payment for the suffering they caused you. You not only don’t demand the payment, but you “freely give” good for evil. That is the meaning of this word forgive (charizomai). Your ordinary disposition is forgiving—you do not return evil for evil, but you bless (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Thess. 5:15).” P. 58

“Now what I find so helpful here is that Paul recognizes that both forgiv­ing and forbearing are crucial for life together—whether in church or marriage. Forgiveness says: I will not treat you badly because of your sins against me or your annoying habits. And forbearance acknowledges (usually to itself): Those sins against me and those annoying habits really bother me or hurt me! If there were nothing in the other person that really bothered us or hurt us, there would be no need for saying “endure one another.” P. 58

“We believe in the pursuit of personal change and holiness. We believe in small-group efforts to work on each other’s marriages. We believe in professional biblical counseling. But we are forty years into this glorious and maddening thing called marriage, and we are not naive. These two redeemed sinners will go to our graves imperfect and annoying. We are very comforted that Paul does not say, “Endure one another for the first ten years of your marriage till you have all the problems solved and all the sins overcome, then enjoy the green pastures of the last forty years of your marriage without the need for enduring each other.” Sorry to pop any bubbles out there. Well, actually, we’re not sorry. We would rather pop the bubble of naiveté and give you a possible way to endure and enjoy.” P. 60

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Intimacy and Covenant-Love

This series is a continuation of my journey though the book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence”. I am on Chapter 2.

I love what Piper draws out from Genesis 2 and 3 regarding marriage and being naked and unashamed. Prior to their rebellion against God, Adam and Eve experienced being naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2:24). After their fall, their nakedness caused them shame, so they sewed fig leaves together to make garments for themselves (Genesis 3:7). After the Lord confronted and rebuked Adam and Eve for their sin, He Himself clothed them with animal skins that He made for them (Genesis 3:21).

In Chapter 2 of “This Momentary Marriage”, Piper particularly examines Genesis 2:24 & 25: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Piper asks what is the point of the man and woman being naked and unashamed in Genesis 2:25? While Adam and Eve did have perfect bodies—free from the effects of sin, disease, pain, and death--Piper suggests that Adam and Eve’s unashamedness pre-fall had nothing to do with their perfect bodies. He points out that physical perfection is not enough to produce unashamedness: “…no matter how beautiful or handsome your spouse is, if you are cranky, unselfish, or unkind, you can make comments in a way that shames the other person. Not being ashamed in a marriage relationship takes more than being physically perfect; the one who is look at you must be morally upright and gracious. Otherwise he or she can find a way to shame you. So mere physical perfection would not be enough to eliminate the possibility of being shamed” P. 32

Rather than being a result of their perfect bodies, Piper suggests that Adam and Eve’s unashamedness about their nakedness was rooted in the security of covenant-love. He says, “The first way to be shame-free is to be perfect; the second way to be shame-free is based on the gracious nature of covenant love. In the first case, there is no shame because we’re flawless. In the second case, there is no shame because covenant love covers a multitude of flaws. (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Cor 13:6)” P. 33.

Upon breaking covenant with God and consequently with each other through the fall, Adam and Eve felt shame over their nakedness. I love this explanation from Piper: “The foundation of covenant-keeping love between a man and a woman is the unbroken covenant between them and God—God governing them for their good and they enjoying him in that security and relying on him. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that covenant was broken, and the foundation of their own covenant-keeping collapsed. They experienced this immediately in the corruption of their own covenant love for each other. It happened in two ways. And we experience it today in these same two ways. Both relate to the experience of shame. In the first case, the person viewing my nakedness is no longer trustworthy, so I am afraid I will be shamed. In the second, I myself am no longer at peace with God, and I feel guilty and defiled and unworthy—I deserve to be shamed….In the first case, I am self-conscious of my body and I feel vulnerable to shame because I know Eve has chosen to be independent from God. She has made herself central in the place of God. She is essentially now a selfish person. From this day forward, she will put herself first. She is no longer a servant. So she is not safe. And I feel vulnerable around her, because she is very likely to put me down if that puts her up. So suddenly my nakedness is precarious. I don’t trust her anymore to love me with pure, covenant-keeping love. That’s one source of shame and self-consciousness. The other source is that Adam himself, not just his spouse, has broken covenant with God. If she is rebellious and selfish, and therefore unsafe, so am I. But the way I experience it in myself is that I feel defiled and guilty and unworthy. That’s, in fact, what I am. Before the Fall, what and what ought to have been were the same. But now what is and what ought to be are not the same. I ought to be humbly and gladly submissive to God. But I am not. This huge gap between what I am and what I ought to be colors everything about me—including how I feel about my body. So my wife might be the safest person in the world, but now my own sense of guilt and unworthiness makes me feel vulnerable. The simple, open, nakedness of innocence now feels inconsistent with the guilty person that I am. I feel ashamed. ” P. 35-36

I loved this insight from Piper and I believe it speaks not just to the barriers to physical intimacy in marriage, but also to the barriers to emotional intimacy and transparency in any relationship. I believe that these barriers leaves us with two options: 1) hiding to cover up our sin, living in shame and guilt, and retreating from pursuing others; or 2) confessing and repenting of our sin, living in freedom with our identities in Christ, and engaging in pursuing sacrificial love in the face of our vulnerability before others.

Adam and Eve chose to hide, live in shame and guilt, and retreat from God and each other. Piper describes this process: “So they tried to close the gap between what they were and what they ought to be by covering what is and presenting themselves in a new way. From their standpoint, this was the origin of hypocrisy. It was the first attempted—and totally unsuccessful—snow job.” P.36

Piper then goes on to discuss the fact that God Himself makes Adam and Eve garments of animal skins. Piper asks the question of why God would do this, “Was God aiding and abetting their pretense?” Obviously, the answer to that is “No”. Piper suggests that in clothing Adam and Eve, God was affirming that Adam and Eve were not who they were or who they ought to be. As such, it is proper that we wear clothing now.

“God ordains clothes to witness to the glory we have lost, and it is added rebellion to throw them off. And for those who rebel in the other direction and make clothes themselves a means of power and prestige and attention-getting, God’s answer is not a return to nudity but a return to simplicity (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:4-5) Clothes are not a means to make people think about what is under the clothes. Clothes are means to direct attention to what is not under them: merciful hands that serve others in the name of Christ, beautiful feet that carry the gospel where it is needed, and the brightness of a face that has beheld the glory of Jesus.” P. 37

Piper also directs us to the compassionate and redemptive nature of God in the act of clothing Adam and Eve. God’s act of clothing them is “not only a witness to the glory we lost and a confession that we are not what we should be, but it is also a testimony that God himself would one day make us what we should be. God rejected their own self-clothing. Then he clothed them himself. He showed mercy with superior clothing. Together with the other hopeful signs in the context (like the defeat of the serpent in Gen. 3:15), God’s mercy points to the day when he will solve the problem of our shame decisively and permanently. He will do it with the blood of his own Son (as there was apparently blood shed in the killing of the animals of the skins). And he will do it with the clothing of righteousness and the radiance of his glory (Gal. 3:27; Phil 3:21). Which means that our clothes are a witness both to our past and present failure and to our future glory. They testify to the chasm between what we are and what we should be. And they testify to God’s merciful intention to bridge that chasm through Jesus Christ and his death for our sins. He will solve the problem of fear and pride and selfishness and shame between man and woman with his new blood-bought covenant.”


As Piper points out, God’s vision for marriage in this life is still oneness, even post-fall. He directs us to Mark 10, where Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 in speaking to the Pharisees about marriage: “6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Being naked and unashamed flows from covenant-love. Covenant-love enables intimacy and unity.

Taking Piper’s insights beyond marriage, I would say that the barrier to intimacy in every relationship is rooted in our inability to understand the pursuing, vulnerable, and sacrificial covenant-love that Jesus has for us and models for us to live out in relationships with others. Even while we broke covenant with God through our rebellion, God made a way for us by a new covenant with us through Jesus. We were poor, naked, wretched, and blind in our sins and our sin separated us from God. Because of our sinfulness, we were not as we ought to be. We needed to be clothed in order to be with our perfect God, and yet we could not clothe ourselves because all of our works are inadequate (they are fig leaves) and tainted with sin. So instead, the Son of God shed His blood to atone for our sin. Jesus is who He ought to be. Jesus has always been who He ought to be. Jesus was a worthy sacrifice to pay the price for our sin—to bring justice for the injustice we caused. If we trust in Jesus, we get to be clothed by God with the righteousness of Christ. If we trust in Jesus, we are part of God’s covenant people, lovingly adopted as God’s sons and daughters and co-heirs with Christ. This covenant-love is scandalous and its power transforms and empowers us! If we grow in our understanding of God’s covenant love for us, we will grow in intimacy with God and with others.

1 John 4

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

The beauty of growing in intimacy with God is that He shows us perfect love. He is the definition of perfect love. Perfect love drives out fear. We have no reason to fear knowing God and exposing ourselves to God because we will not be rejected, condemned, mocked, or despised by our perfectly loving God because our sin and shame is covered by Jesus. (Not only that--He already knows everything about us! We may try to hide ourselves from God, but He sees it all!) If we trust in Jesus, when He looks at us now, He sees Jesus’ Righteousness, not our imperfection and sin. How beautiful it is that we get to have honest, sincere, authentic, and true relationship with God because of Jesus!

Relationships with people, however, involve risk because we are not perfect and we do not love perfectly. We do not know how people will respond to our love. Sin makes us vulnerable to rejection, condemnation, mockery, apathy, and hatred from others. Our sin makes others vulnerable to these things when they open up and reach out to us. Yet, we are called to engage with people nonetheless. Jesus willingly made Himself vulnerable and indeed suffered rejection, condemnation, mockery, apathy and hatred from men. Jesus is our example of how to engage in risky love--pursuing, vulnerable and sacrificial love. Jesus was rooted in the glorious covenant love of His Father. In the same way, God’s love is our only solid foundation in enabling us to not only survive the damage that will inevitably be done to us by others as we risk ourselves in love, but to also keep loving in the face of it.

In this lifetime, marriage is the most intimate human relationship we will ever have, but it is still just a shadow. We are practicing for heaven where we will witness firsthand the glorious unity between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and we will get to participate in that unity with God and with each other!! I’ll leave you with John 17, which is one of my most favorite passages of Scripture. Read it with special note to: 1) the glorious oneness (intimacy, love, fellowship, submission/headship, equality, united vision, etc.) between Jesus and the Father; and 2) Jesus’ loving desire that we would be one as they are one.

John 17

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Friday, December 5, 2008


I mentioned in one of my recent blogs that my cousin has put me on a food and exercise plan to lose weight. This was week one. I eat 5 small meals each day and I exercise for at least a ½ hour 5 days per week. I e-mail a summary of what I ate and how I exercised to my cousin each day for accountability, advice, and prayer. My cousin and my husband have been a great help in being so supportive and encouraging to me. So far, it is going much better than I had thought. In fact, through this process, this passage from the Message translation of Matthew 11:27-29 has come to mind a lot:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
This section from the Message is one of the things God used in my husband Kristian to make him a Christian. Kristian always told me how much the "unforced rhythms of grace" spoke to him. I never really understood what this meant. I am starting to see the connection between this concept and sanctification. Yes, Jesus does give us a yoke. Yes, there are disciplines of grace (of grace!) to which He calls us. Yes, being with Jesus requires obedience. These things are not legalisms or white-knuckling. Jesus calls us to joyful submission. Jesus calls us to walk with Him in relationship and to work with Him along side of Him. He calls us to see how He does it. He doesn't beat us over the head. He doesn't leave us alone to figure out. He is patient with us. I just love what I see about God's patient and forebearing character in Psalm 103:
Psalm 103
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children- 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
I am experiencing the refreshing of the "unforced rhythms of grace" from Jesus' yoke in this training plan. There is no condemnation in this! God is so good to give me empowering grace and even joy in this journey that I have been dreading. He is teaching me so much about His goodness and His will for my life.
He is even using this struggle to teach me about other areas of my life in which I need to grow. One of the areas is prayer. I realize that there is a disconnect with my heart, theology, and belief (faith) when it comes to praying for help from God in many areas of my life. I have a feeling that prayer will be the subject of an upcoming blog. In the meantime, I would love your prayers about this for me. Praying for all of you too!
Hebrews 4:15-16 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

More on "This Momentary Marriage" coming soon!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This Momentary Marriage

This weekend we got a chance to hang out with a married couple who are our some of our dearest friends. We truly adore them and enjoy them. We always have a good time with them, laughing and talking. We’ve shared many memories together and they have been friends through good times and bad times. Because they are atheists/agnostics and we are Christians, we usually end up having a lot of interesting and passionate conversation. This weekend, we were talking about marriage and divorce. They were surprised to hear both Kristian and I say that we would not divorce one another even for infidelity. Kristian and I are committed to one another for as long as we both live, no matter what.

Last week, I received John Piper’s new book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence” in the mail. I actually won it from a Desiring God contest (thank you, Desiring God!). The conversation with our friends this weekend and reading this great book inspired me to post a series on this book.

You might think it strange that, on the one hand, I just said that my husband and I will never divorce, and on the other hand, I am reading (and highly recommending) a book called “This Momentary Marriage”. What I like about this book is that it puts Christian marriage in the perspective of eternity. On the one hand, marriage is profoundly holy because it is bond forged by God Himself and is crafted to glorify God by displaying the enduring covenant love of Christ for His bride, the church. Marriage (albeit imperfectly) mimics the intimacy, joy, love, and unity that already exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and also foreshadows the intimacy, joy, love, and unity that is increasingly experienced by God’s people in relationship with God and with His people. On the other hand, marriage is temporal and fleeting in that it is only a shadow of what is to come—the time when our intimacy, joy, love, and unity with God and with His people will be unfettered and uninhibited by sin. When that day has come in fullness, marriage will be obsolete. The image will be exchanged for the thing itself. The dress rehearsal will be over and the long awaited glorious day will be here!

Practically speaking, this view of marriage gives us much hope. Frankly, without the gospel, without knowing God and what He did for me, without knowing Jesus and His example, without experiencing the Holy Spirit, without knowing that there is a purpose in marriage that is bigger than Kristian and me, I don’t think we would stay married. (For more on what the gospel is, go to “labels” on the left side of this page and click on “the gospel”.) I will never forget what Pastor Mark Driscoll said at our wedding, “the only problem with marriage is the man and the woman”. This is so true! Marriage exposes the sinfulness and selfishness of human beings. As such, marriage requires forgiveness and sacrifice in order to survive. My husband cannot meet my needs perfectly nor can I meet his. I will (and have) failed him, and he will (and has) failed me. Marriage is hard and deeply painful. If there is no God, why shouldn’t I simply “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry”? Why shouldn’t I remain with Kristian while it suits me and then leave him when ceases to do so?

The reason why Kristian and I will be married for as long as we live is because we know that our bond is from God—our Sovereign God brought us together for a glorious purpose. Because of this, our love for each other is based on covenant and not on whether our needs or desires are being met by marriage. Our marriage is not the end-all and that we are not each other’s end-all. Yet, we are a gift from a gracious God to each other, and we get to delight in one another (indeed, God delights in our delighting in each other). We are able to sincerely love each other by the Holy Spirit as He teaches us how to sacrificially love and forgive through the Word and through the example of Christ’s sacrificial love and forgiveness for us. By God’s grace, we get to grow in love for and delight in one another. We are able to delight in how marriage brings us closer to God, while still recognizing that our joy now is only a foretaste of the even greater joy that is to come. We also get to be transformed by God’s grace together. As our sinfulness is continually exposed, we get to walk through repentance together, forgiving one another and helping one another. We get to serve others together, using the complimentary gifts God has given us as a team. There is a purpose in our marriage that is beyond ourselves. There is so much hope in that and this brings a sweetness to our marriage that I cannot describe.

“This Momentary Marriage” is all about the sacredness of marriage as being from God for the purpose of displaying the gospel of His glorious grace. (You can get the book “This Momentary Marriage” for $6.49 from Desiring God also has a $25 gift set that includes “This Momentary Marriage,” plus a book of Piper’s poems, and CDs of a sermon series he did on marriage. You can get the gift set here:

Here are some excerpts from “This Momentary Marriage” that I have enjoyed so far:

Thoughts from Noёl Piper in the foreword…

“I know some couples who think and feel so much alike that they can work together, minister together, live together, and raise children together with hardly any conflict. Well, there might be a couple like that. But it’s not us.” P.9
(Kristian and I can totally relate to that one!)

“In our real life, I swing somewhere between two extremes. At one end of the pendulum’s arc, I’m in wonder: ‘How in the world did I get such an amazing husband? What did I ever do that he should have paid me a bit of notice, never mind that he asked me to marry him?’….By contrast, when inertia and resistance are dragging us downward, I’m asking myself, “How in the world did we get into such a mess? What happened to make us feel this kind of disagreement and unhappiness?” P. 9-10

“The pendulum of our marriage oscillates and sometimes wobbles, but it is suspended from above and is firmly attached. By God’s grace, it will not crash to the ground.” P. 10

From the Introduction....
"There is no human marriage after death. The shadow of covenant-keeping between the husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key." P.14
"This covenant-keeping love reached its climax in the death of Christ for his church, his bride. That death was the ultimate expression of grace, which is hte ultimate expression of God's glory, which is of infinite value. Therefore, when Paul says that our great and first destiny is "the praise of [God's] glorious grace (Eph 1:6), he elevated marriage beyond measure, for here, uniquely, God displays the apex of the glory of his grace: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). P. 15 & P.16
"Romance, sex, and childbearing are temporary gifts of God. They are not part of the next life. And they are not guaranteed even for this life. They are one possible path along the narrow way to Paradise. Marriage passes through breathtaking heights and through swamps with choking vapors. It makes many things sweet, and with it come bitte providences." p. 17
From Chapter 1…

“The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God’s doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the bible about marriage is that it is for God’s glory. Those are the two points I have to make. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God.” P. 21

“So, in sum, the most foundational thing we can say about marriage is that it is God’s doing. It’s his doing: a. because it was his design in creation; b. because he personally gave away the first bride in marriage; c. because he spoke the design of marriage into existence: leave parents, hold fast to your wife, become one flesh; d. and because this one-flesh union is established by God himself in each marriage.” P. 23

“A glimpse into the magnificence of marriage comes from seeing in God’s word that God himself is the great doer. Marriage is his doing. It is from him and through him. That is the most foundational thing we can say about marriage. Now we turn to the most ultimate thing we can say about marriage. It is not only from him and through him. It is also for him.” P. 24

“Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part” or “As long as we both shall live” is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.” P. 25

“Jesus died for sinners. He forged a covenant in the white-hot heat of his suffering in our place. He made an imperfect bride his own with the price of his blood and covered her with the garments of his own righteousness. He said, “I am with you… to the end of the age…I will never leave nor forsake you” (Matt. 28:20; Heb 13:5). Marriage is meant by God to put that gospel reality on display in the world.” P. 26

I’ll post more as I get through the book.