Friday, August 31, 2007

Serious Men Hug, Too....

Christians who are "serious" can certainly enjoy a little laughter, too! In the past, our pastor has encouraged us to hug each other, something that in our part of the world doesn't go over well...especially between two men.'s a bit of help on the subject (thanks to Pastor Tim Bayly at the BaylyBlog).

P.S. Make sure you are in a place where you can laugh out loud before viewing this!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Love of God for His Bride

If you have listened to any of the links to the Paul Washer sermons I have provided both here and in my other blog, you have undoubtedly noticed that the content is generally fairly strong and in-your-face. Some in other venues have asked why he doesn't talk about the love of God.

Well...he does. The issue, though, is that to experience the love of God, one must first come through the deep, difficult pain of being convicted of one's sin and one's lostness and joy of being saved...and that is far more than a "decision" based on four "laws." But once you are soundly saved, oh...the love of God is deeper and wider and stronger than you can possibly imagine. If you aren't experiencing the love as Pastor Washer describes, you should again listen to his sermons on testing/examining yourself to see if you are in the faith (here). At the end of this post I will place two links (because the sermon is broken up into two clips) to a very lengthy, but extremely powerful sermon on the Song of Solomon as it illustrates God's love for His children. It requires an e-mail address and a zip code, but otherwise is free to download or to listen online.

Pastor Washer's sermon on God's love is so much deeper and more powerful than any you have probably ever heard. It is like comparing the following lyrics:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They and weak, but He is strong.

For the Christian, those lyrics are true, but compare what they say and the way they say it to the powerful words in this hymn...and you will get an idea of how Pastor Washer soaks you in the love of God versus most other preachers:

Oh the deep deep love of Jesus
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me,
underneath me, all around me,
is the current of thy love -
leading onward, leading homeward,
to my glorious rest above.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, never more.
How He watches o'er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watches o'er them from the throne.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of every love the best.
Still an ocean vast of blessing,
still a haven sweet of rest.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus,
'tis a heaven of heavens to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to thee.

Find a quiet place and prepare to have God's love pronounced over you, restoring your soul and lifting your spirit to heaven!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

BOLD!!! or humble....

Steve Camp over at CampOnThis has a very good post on the need for Bold Orthodoxy, especially in the light of the "emergence" of the Emergent Church. And while the thesis of his article is truth regarding salvation, many of his points relate well to the ideas about post-modernism that I wrote about in a recent post at my other blog. Warning: both Steve's article and mine are somewhat you might want to go get a cup of coffee and settle in before clicking! ;-)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Practical Word: Withholding Affection- Part III

I have written two posts with musings on First Corinthians 7:2-5 and the Lord's admonition to avoid withholding intimate relations from each other. The first post is HERE and the second is HERE. I am revisiting the subject because I have been both surprised and amazed at the number of people accessing those two posts via Google specifically searching for something on a spouse withholding affection. If my little blog gets that kind of attention on a specific subject, then I have to conclude it is something that is happening throughout our culture, and for this subject, that is not a good thing.

It seems that our culture has come to believe that withholding affection, often with the excuse that there is "hurt" involved, is a normal response to arguments and irritations between married couples. No one gives it a second thought and no one calls their friends to account when they know they have been using that weapon. Here we come back to the need for Christians to be different in order to live lives that magnify our Lord and Savior. We must recognize that withholding affection is anything but "normal" and that it does massive damage to the husband/wife relationship. We must recognize that this type of response is sin and must deal with it like any other sin: repentance and forgiveness. In general, "repentance" means to turn around or to turn away from. When we repent of a sin, we turn away from it, and in the power of the Holy Spirit vow to never revisit it again. And we look to the Cross for the forgiveness as God separates us from our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103).

I suspect that part of the reason we consider it normal to withhold affection is that we esteem individualism and devalue relationship. Anyone willing to engage in "silent treatment" or holding affection hostage to performance does not value the marriage relationship above all else but God. They are looking inwardly and holding themselves up as individuals supreme above the marriage, an institution designed by God where two are supposed to have become one. God is very serious about marriage, using it as an earthly example of the relationship between His Son and the Church. If God is that serious about marriage, then we should be as well. And the natural conclusion to that premise is to place a value on the husband/wife relationship that is so extremely high that one would do everything possible to never, ever do anything to intentionally harm it.

Don't let this make you think I don't realize both husband and wife are sinful humans at their core, and as such do hurt each other and act stupidly and rudely. I did this very thing to my wife just this past weekend. I was rude and stupid, but nothing I did was premeditated nor was it intended to cause her pain.

So what do we do? I think first and foremost we must make commitments to each other to always assume the best of the other spouse's intentions and love for you. This means you will take for granted that any slight or hurt caused by the other person is NOT premeditated or designed to harm you. Husbands and wives who think this way should be able to address and deal quickly with the problem at hand in a mature manner. If you aren't thinking this way, then it is all too easy to bring out the weapon of withholding affection. This weapon doesn't help...ever. It may allow you to "win" because the other spouse (men especially) can't stand in its path and will often cave to the other spouse's desires. But in the long run, using this weapon seriously damages your relationship by eroding trust, eroding communication, promoting secrecy, promoting a "walking on eggshells" relationship (just to name a few). If you value your relationship and if you value what God thinks of your relationship, you cannot, you will not use this weapon under any circumstances.

Secondly, as brothers and sisters in Christ, when we witness or are aware of one of our Christian friends using affection as a weapon, we must approach them and make them aware of their sin. If necessary, we should take it as far as Matthew 18 commands. This suggestion will probably never be pleasant, but it could help a brother or sister in their sanctification and it could stabilize and restore a marriage. These potential results alone illustrate how this confrontation is actually an act of love.

As Christians, our lives MUST glorify God. We can often hold out a false image to the outside world, but in reality, families in which withholding of affection is a common reaction to conflict cannot truly reflect the Christ/Church relationship. God sees and knows. And our children see and will grow to imitate!

Given the immense response to the first two posts, my prayer is for all who read this and employ the silent treatment and withholding of affection to be appropriately convicted, turn to our Lord in repentance and faith, and work to repair whatever damage has been done to your relationship by the wanton use of this horrid weapon. And may God be glorified by strengthened marriages as a result.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Are You Saved?

Someone took it upon themselves to condense one of Paul Washer's best sermons into a four-minute video. It is a phenomenal summary of the most important question a person can ask of himself..."How do I know I'm saved?"

The full sermon can be found here, free for listening online or for download.

Click, watch, consider, and apply these wise words...and know if you are saved!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Practical Word...Continued

After publishing the last post, I continued to ponder God's command to not withhold affection/sexual relations from your spouse. So...muse number 7...

Why would God place this command in His Word? Verse 2 indicates it is due to sexual temptation. I'm sure that is a big part of the case. At least from a man's perspective, when my wife has been close to me, the sultry, attractive woman I see out and about doesn't even cause a second glance. My mind is focused on the love of the woman God gave me. Thus the ability to avoid lust (and any other horrid temptations and sin) is drastically increased.

But I also have to believe that God places an importance upon the closeness of the physical relationship because of the resulting closeness of the emotional relationship. If a married couple quit showing physical affection for one another, it isn't long before the rest of the relationship suffers. The reasons could be myriad, from focusing on "good" things like children, work, ministry, church...and thus not having the time or energy to devote to a physical relationship. Or it could be from the habit of using deprivation as a weapon in the relationship. Either way, God obviously values the marriage relationship over all the other things in life but Himself, and asks us to do the same, putting the physical relationship (and thus the emotional/spiritual relationship) above the children, above work, above ministry, above church activities, and certainly above any disagreements you have with your spouse. In fact, if each spouse is secure in the knowledge that they are loved unconditionally, my guess is the disagreements will be able to be worked out much more quickly than otherwise would be the case.

May all my married readers both give and receive the unconditional love God has provided for you in your spouse...for His glory!

(Further thoughts on this subject can be found in a subsequent post by clicking here.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Word Is Practical!

In the past few weeks, I had the privilege of doing a little mentoring with a relative who is a new believer. One of the things that struck me as I looked anew at the Scripture from the perspective of a babe in Christ is how extremely relevant Scripture is to all aspects of real life, how practical, and how timeless. As I was looking for passages to discuss with him, I came upon this one: First Corinthians 7:2-5 (ESV) "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." It started a time of musing and consideration.

Muse #1: In verse 5, God is commanding both husband and wife to NEVER deprive one another of sexual relations. There is only one exception: mutual agreement for a limited time of prayer that always should end with sexual relations. That's it. No other excuses; no other reasons; no other exceptions. If anyone claims Jesus Christ as their Lord, they are under this commandment and to withhold sexual relations/affections from a spouse is sin.

Muse #2: If God is commanding husbands and wives to never withhold the ultimate form of intimacy from each other, then a strong implication is they also should never withhold less intimate forms of physical contact, either. No excuses; no exceptions.

Muse #3: One of the consequences of extended periods of time without sexual relations with your spouse is sexual temptation by Satan. I'm willing to guess that most of the time that temptation is aimed squarely at the man at least in the form of lust and anger, and possibly even as bad as temptation to adultery. Women: Your willing and happy and regular giving of yourself physically to your husband protects him and protects your marriage! If you love him, if you value your marriage, you will want to protect both.

Muse #4: I know that withdrawal of affection is often used by women as a HUGE club in a marriage. Since men almost always relate love to physical affection, a wife who chooses to wield this club will painfully shred a man's heart and soul, all the way to the core of his being; it is devastating to him in ways a woman can never understand. Most of the time he will respond in withdrawal, which is, in turn, devastating to the wife. And she clubs him again in withholding affection. And he withdraws more. And round and round it goes. Obedience to this command prevents this ugly cycle from ever occurring.

Muse #5: As an implication of #4...since the wielding of the club of withholding affection harms a man to the core of his being, if he has a wife who uses that club, he will, even in the good times, likely not discuss things of depth with her because things of depth often can be contentious...and he knows that she will bring out her club again if things get contentious. So you want conversations and discussions of important issues? Do you want deeper relationship with your husband? You have to ask yourself, "Have I used the club of withholding affection?" If you have, you need to see that for the sin it is, repent before your Lord, ask your husband for forgiveness, and cast that club down, vowing to him and to God to never, ever pick it up again for it is a wicked, evil weapon. Only when the husband knows he is safe...that he trusts you to never again pick up that club...only then will he open up to you, and will you receive the deep, intimate conversations and relationship you so desire.

Muse #6: It's really not comes from Beth Moore at her blog. "And, now, let's just go ahead and get it over with. You knew to expect it. They want more intimacy. You know what I'm talking about. Don't make me say it. And don't act like they're making you do it either. God agrees with them on this one. He's the very one who inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us not to withhold ourselves from one another except for brief seasons of prayer. (Apparently, some of you have been in prayer a LONG TIME.) My beloved Sisters, take it from a woman who's been married a long time and seen a whole lot of marriages go down the drain. PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT TO A DECENT MARRIAGE. With tremendous love and compassion, I will tell you what I told the women in the resulting session. You can say "no" or act miserable and disinterested so many times that you teach your man not to want you. But you can't teach him not to want. (Emphasis added) My man is going to want. That's the way he's wired. SO, I want him to want ME. Want yours to want you, too."

Dear readers, understand that God knows what is best for us in our lives and that His commandments are for our good and for His glory. Do not fall for the wisdom of this world that says to live by our emotions and by our feelings. Trust God to bless you in your obedience to all of His Word, growing you in Christlikeness and holiness. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, respect (and love) your husbands. (Ephesians 5:33) Husbands and wives...NEVER withhold affection. When you love and show affection to your spouse, you honor God and will ultimately build your marriage into a happy, Christ-exulting institution that witnesses to the world Jesus' love for His bride, the Church.

UPDATE: A continuation of thoughts on this subject can be found here and here.