Knotted – Faithfulness to One’s Wife

Slide2I was reading to our youth group the other evening from the Gospel of Matthew when Paul’s letter to the Ephesians fell out of my Bible onto the floor. A few moments later the 1 John through Revelations hit the ground.

The Bible I had been reading, highlighting, and marking for the past decade succumbed to the wear and tear. While I was a little sad, honestly, to “call it” for Bible, I was also a little excited about the prospect of getting a new unmarked Bible. I think I might be at a point in my spiritual life where I am hungry to read the scriptures with fresh eyes.

My new Bible arrived this past Friday and this morning I opened the still crisp pages to read the scriptures with a pencil (always a No. 2 Black Ticonderoga) in hand. Excited to discover the truth revealed in the pages of this magnificent and living book once more.

I began reading the first chapter of Genesis. After a few verses, I thought: “I always start at the beginning. Maybe I should read the two testaments in reverse…just to shake it up…”

I turned to the Book of Malachi and, once more, I began reading.

I was not looking for anything specific by turning to this Malachi. I was just looking for a good place to enter back into the story of God…

The book is short (there are only four chapters), but this brief oracle hits upon some seriously taboo topics. As specified by the prophet, “Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.” (3:7a) Malachi speaks to the waywardness of the people Israel with the hope of encouraging them to “return to [the Lord] and [the Lord] will return to you…” (3:7b)

Malachi identifies some of the ways in which the people of God had turned aside from the statutes of the Lord. He speaks to the faulty instruction of the Priests; adultery and divorce; improper tithing; “polluted” sacrificing; and, harsh speech against God among other things. At one point, Malachi speaks frankly about the failure of the people of God.

Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against sorcerers, against adultery, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, say the Lord of hosts. (3:5)

Yeah, there are certainly a few taboo subjects tucked securely into that one little verse: oppression of hired workers in their wages; thrusting aside the alien. But, I will refrain from adding my two cents on some of those issues.

Another section of the book caught my attention – The implied directive for husband to remain faithful to the wife of his youth.

Malachi begins his address of a husband’s faithlessness with a sobering image. He declares the faithlessness of these husbands have caused the altar of the Lord to be covered with tears.

And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offerings or accepts it with favor at your hand. (2:13)

The cause of the tears and weeping falls to the faithlessness of husbands who have not kept to the wives of their youth.

Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did God not make her? (2:14-15a)

Did God not make her?

Wow! That strikes at the heart.

Your bride. The woman you took as your wife from your youth. Did God not make her? What have you done to her? By failing to remain faithful to her, what have you done to this woman of God’s creation?

Here is the thing: Desire draws the eyes of man away from himself. This desire is the seed of his faithlessness. He looks outward to see the temptation before him. In another sense, however, looking outward is a redirection of his heart.

One might argue our passions are inward looking because they are self-serving. There is truth to that thought; but, let’s think along a different line.

A man and wife are knotted in marriage. Two become one through the unbreakable bond established within the covenant of marriage. Serving our passions is not merely self-serving; rather, it is something different. The self is no more through the covenant of marriage. The self becomes something new and different. And, ideally, through this knotting of two, the one becomes something stronger. To serve the good of self ought to mean to serve the good and the betterment the one formed from the knotting of two. 

When a husband is not faithful to his wife, he is equally unfaithful to himself. He is unfaithful to the beautiful thing to which he has been blessed to be bound.

Malachi chimes in with an instruction to the faithless husband. He declares,”So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth.” Look to your true self – the self God formed when you and your wife entered into the covenant of marriage.

You know the saying, “There is nothing wrong with looking!”

That’s just not true.

When you allow your passions to redirect your focus, your attention is no longer upon yourself. You are no longer looking to your true self. You are no longer focusing your attention of the self you became when you took to your wife in the covenant of marriage.

Did God not make her?

Look to yourself and see the wife to whom God formed.

Look to your self and live committed to the self God knotted between you and your wife.

 

Parenting in a World of Evil

I’m processing.

I woke up like many of you yesterday to the news of the horrendous attack upon vulnerable concert-goers at the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas. My wife and I sat down with our coffee and listened to the reporting.

I began working on the commentary for my Weekly Message post, where I post my message from the previous Sunday. While I was preparing the commentary for the post, I found myself running off on a tangent of reflection upon the recent mass shooting.

I wrote these words:

I woke up yesterday morning to the news of the horrendous attack in Las Vegas. I felt many things as I am sure all of you did. I’m tired of waking up to the news. I am absolutely exhausted of waking up to the breaking news – whether it be a mass casualty shooting; terrorism – foreign or domestic; rallies, marches, and protests utilizing violence or aggression. I, for one, am done! I’m burned out on the hatred on display in America and throughout our world! I’m just plain tired of it all; and, you should be, too! And, if you are not tired of it, then wake upbecause you are already asleep! 

The reports of the news out of Las Vegas were disturbing, but I did not realize the extent to which I had grown tired of tragedy, hate, and blatant displays of evil in our nation and in our global community.

I may have been a little more reactionary than responsive with those words, but I do believe they articulate the depth of my frustration and my pain.

My frustration is similar to that as a child learning to tie his shoe – the child knows the shoe is capable of being tied and that she is capable of tying it, only she does not know how a shoe is tied. She works with determination, but grows frustrated as she struggle against her lack of coordination. That’s how I feel about the world right now – we are a child that lacks coordination. And, I’m growing frustrated watching us fail to meet our potential. 

There is pain within me, too. I referred to this in my post this morning. I feel we are a what’s more society. We are a what’s more people. Our searching, possessing, and consuming of more comes with a cost. And, often, the cost is imposed upon others. For one to have more, another must have less. In the most extreme cases, say the mass shooting in Las Vegas, this man’s attempt to acquire more (whatever the hell more looked like to him) required everything to be taken from those who were killed, injured, and attending the festival. We do harm to one another. We are harming one another. And, it is incredibly painful to watch.

My wife asked me, “Ross, do you think the world is coming to and end?” She asks me this question whenever something devastating is reported on the news…I’ve gotten the question a lot over the last year.

I told her, “No!”

My explanation is simple: The nature of humanity has not altered since the beginning of time. Human beings feel, think, and act just as our earliest ancestors. While humanity has become more logical, rational, and enlightened, the nature of the human is still susceptible and influenced by evil. There is an inherent flaw, but it is there by design…

The flaw is a necessary consequence of the greater ability to love.

The ability to love is quite possibly the most baffling thing. Some might object, claiming love is nothing other than an animalistic instinct towards self-preservation. Love may serve that objective, but consider what else the capacity for love offers to humanity.

I believe love enables humanity to know the existence of a supreme being, who I believe to be the One, True God. Discerning the presence of God in the life of God’s creation would rely upon the capacity for God to self-express. God can only be known by way of revelation! And, primarily, the revelation of God, which is seen and felt, is categorically expressed as love. God’s self-expression to humanity is God’s love, which enables humanity to experience the presence and activity of the Creator within the creation.

If humanity inherently possesses the ability to know love, then they by design must also be susceptible to experience the absence of love.

And, if love is an expression of the divine, then the absence of love would disrupt the one’s encounter and, therefore, their experiential knowledge of the divine.

Oppositional forces play a necessary role in this cosmic drama of ours…

Right?

If you have the ability to love; than, what is the absence of love?

Likewise, if the God can be experienced, than what is it when God is rejected?

We live in a world of possibility. It is possible to know the divine through the revelation of God’s love. Equally so, it is possible to know the absence of God, where we have chosen to reject God’s revelation of love.

I do not believe the world is ending. I do not believe I will experience an apocalyptic event in my lifetime. Nor will my sons experience an apocalyptic event in their lifetime. Rather, like our fathers before us, my sons and I will both continue to experience the world’s susceptibility for evil. Trusting the world’s susceptibility for evil is a reminder that we exist in a reality where love is felt as an expression of the presence and activity of God.

An important distinction must be made, especially if one intends to rear children within our world – The world is not evil; rather, evil is in the world.

My sons will continue to grow and live in this world. The fear I hear expressed by many people is what will this world be like for our children? or, is it fair or good to bring a child into this world? In faith, I profess it is good to bring children into our twisted and broken world. I hold this position, because I have encountered God and God’s unique love for us in this world. I have discovered the life and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ, which has done more to reveal the authoritative power of God’s love for me and every other vessel blessed to receive the breath of God.

I have no way of knowing what the world will be like for my sons. I assume it will be like the world I have encountered and the world encountered by my fathers before me – a world where God is present and active; where love is real; and, therefore, a world susceptible to evil.

God has entrusted my sons to my wife and me. And, thanks be to God, my sons have also been entrusted to an incredible extended family and an amazing community of faith. My sons will inherit this world, but not before we have the opportunity to introduce them to the present and active God, who’s love can be felt and expressed.

I may not be able to change the world my sons will ultimately inherit, but I can influence the way they encounter the world. I can shape their perception. I can support them in their resistance of all things evil. I can encourage them to choose love and to live into the holy. Above all, I can show them how to see, hear, and feel the presence and activity of a loving God.

Parenting in a world of evil has its challenges, but it is none the less a privilege. We stride cautiously and with intention as we parent in a world of evil. But, it is only that – a world of evil. Ours is not an evil world; only, it is world susceptible to evil. Our world is susceptible to evil because it is a world where God is present, active, and available to us. Love is proof. But, for God to be present, active, and available, the opposite will be found, too. Where God is rejected, evil will reside.

The end of the world is not coming any time soon, but the time we have with our children is limited. The time we have is important. Our use of this time is critical. While we cannot change the world they will inherit, we can influence their perception of it. We can direct them in their approach of this world; and, we can teach them to encounter the present and active God, who is known by the power of love. Better still, we can demonstrate to our children the greater power of God’s love through our love of them and our love of others.

Untamed

My son has recently taken an interest into bugs and insects, reptiles, and all the many other creatures he has begun to discover in his little world!

Several weeks ago, my wife and I picked our son up from school on a Friday afternoon. Our budding tradition is to stop at the local BBQ restaurant after school on Fridays to celebrate another good week at school!

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My wife and I seated the boys at the table. We plated their food off the buffet. The boys began to enjoy their meal after we put their portions before them. In the midst of eating, our oldest son reached into his pocket. He said to his mother, as he brought his hand out from his pocket, “Look what I found on the playground,” and he placed a large black beetle on the table.

My wife shrieked!

She sent him to the restroom to clean his hands and I returned the beetle to the parking lot…

Our son is still very young, but we are able to begin giving him a little bit of freedom to explore – in other words, helicoptering is not necessary at all times. We are a little more inclined to let him explore the depths of the backyard – to dig for worms, to look for beetles, to catch bugs.

He had me trap a large Golden Silk Orb-Weaver the other day. We placed it in a Tupperware container with air holes cut into the top. My wife was sleeping at the time. He ran into the house to show her the impressive size of the spider. He placed the container before her on the couch as she opened her eyes from sleep. She nearly leapt off the couch! I thought it was funny.

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The natural world is an amazing place for him right now. He is discovering the depth of creativity in our world. He is not distracted by the non-sense of the manufactured world we  have built for ourselves. The beauty of the created order is enough.

At the same time that he is discovering the beauty in nature, he is beginning to experience the disruption of the heart in the nature of the human. As my son is growing older and discovering greater things, he is also learning to communicate his thoughts and his feelings. His friends, classmates, and church “siblings” are learning to communicate, as well.

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And, quite frankly, teaching a child healthy communication skills and instructing a child on how to speak to others or how to receive the words of others, is no where as easy as it is to catch a bug or capture a spider.

Helping a child to see the beauty in the words we speak, the influence they hold, and the effect they can have upon others is dreadfully difficult. It is easier to stand in awe at the web designed by the Golden Silk Orb-Weaver than it is to explain the beauty in speaking words of kindness to another.

I thought about the world into which my son is entering this morning as I read the third chapter of James:

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. James 5b-10a

Every species of beast, bird, reptile, and sea creature can be and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue!

The discussion of “good” vs. “bad” has come up a lot in our present “Jack Hanna” themed life. Which of the snakes are “good” and which are “bad”? Which of the spiders are “good” and which are “bad”? Which of the insects are “good” and which are “bad”? The deciding factor for us has been which of these creatures, if they bite you, could result in a trip to the doctor.giphy-1.gif

Venom and poison, therefore, have become part of our ongoing conversation.

It has been relatively easy to teach my son about the threat of venomous snakes or poisonous spiders or the other creatures that have harmful bites or stings! It has actually been pretty fun watching him learn. He’s learned about frogs, skinks, salamanders, caterpillars, butterflies, and so much more!

James offers an interesting observations about the harm done by the human tongue.

“No one can tame the tongue,” we read in James, for it is “a restless evil full of deadly poison.”

An evil full of deadly poison – Those words hit a chord with me.

I am so afraid of the stings and the bites that my son might receive in the natural world, but I’ve neglected the stings and bites he will receive from others. Even worse, I’ve negelcted the stings and bites he will impose upon others.

My concern should reside here, because the greater effect can come from the untamed tongue…

James says, “With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.”

You and I were created to glorify God. We were created to praise. Giving praise to God may be giving word to the beauty of the creatures in our midst; or, giving praise to God could be speaking words of truth, hope, and love to others. Giving praise can be many things, but it is not cursing those made in the likeness of God.

We offer stinging words and poisonous bites of the mouth when we could otherwise utilize the influence of our words to affect change in the hearts of others.

Teaching my son about the beauty of the natural world is important. It is also important to show my son there is beauty in the nature of the human, as well. I guess it starts with me. It begins with the words I speak. The words I speak to my wife, my sons, and those around me will have a far greater effect upon my son’s realization of the words he speaks and how he receives the words spoken to him.

Maybe if I speak words that bring glory to God, then my sons, who are learning to speak, will discover the power in their words, as well.

 

Influencing Moses, Part Two

Slide2Part Two of the series, Influencing Moses, extends our conversation on the women who influenced the earliest part of Moses life.

Part One of the series introduces Shiphrah and Puah and the influence they would offer because they’re grounded in a healthy fear of God.

The second message in the series looks to the powerful influence of the mother of Moses and the daughter of Pharaoh. These two women would have an influence upon Moses far beyond what we learn in the second chapter of Exodus, but we do learn the source of the influence. Continue reading

Mothers Moving Mountains

Mothers Moving MountainsWhat if your lack of patience is actually the presence of faith?

Parenting is difficult.

Parenting certainly requires patience.

Because parenting requires patience, there will be times when a parent’s patience feels a little thin…

The presumed lack of patience does not have to signal inadequacy as a parent! What if the lack of patience distracting a parent’s heart is actually the presence of her faith?!

Patience has its place within parenting, but it is not the most significant component of healthy parenting! The faith of the parent is the most influential aspect of healthy parenting – the parent’s faith in God; the parent’s faith in herself as a parent; and the parent’s faith in the potential of her child!

The thinning of patience may actually be the revelation of one’s faith in her child – the belief in the potential of her child to grow into an even more amazing person!

The faith of a parent – faith in God, self, and child – has the ability to do the impossible. A little faith has the power to move a mountain…faith has the ability to move a child into adulthood!!!

So, the next time you find yourself praying for patience…maybe don’t! Rather, ask God to strengthen your faith – in God, in yourself, and in your child.

If you would like to hear more, check out this week’s message, Mothers Moving Mountains. Consideration is given to the amazing influence mothers have upon the hearts of their children…and, the how faith strengthens a mother to move a mountain!

Children’s Bible: David & the Philistine Giant

96135f76-cc1e-4695-ad41-44fc62f8f87cThe epic story of young David’s courageous defeat of the philistine giant, Goliath, is one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. Even if one is unfamiliar with the details of the story, she likely knows its tribute to the “triumphant underdog.” Continue reading

Children’s Bible: Samuel & the Voice of God

96135f76-cc1e-4695-ad41-44fc62f8f87cThis week’s message is the first in the new series Children’s Bible. The concept of the series is simple: revisit familiar stories in the Bible – popularized children’s stories – to discover the real being revealed within them. Continue reading

The Source of the Thought

fontcandy-1Have you ever left your cell phone in the sun? Or, have you ever left your phone in the car on a hot day? If you have, you know your phone will automatically shut off if it overheats. For example, an iPhone will shut off once it reaches 115 degrees. The function protects internal components of the phone.

My brain does the same thing when I overwork it. Continue reading

Parenthood, Part 4 – Parenting by the grace of God, alone.

Parenthood, part 4 slide This week’s message is the fourth and the final message in the series, Parenthood: Raising our Children by Raising our Faith.

This message introduces us to another parent, who is desperate for Jesus to tend to the needs of his child. The royal official pleads Jesus to return to Capernaum to care for his son, who was ill and on the verge of death. Continue reading