Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Biblical Husband: Pretty Desirable, Eh?

It seems that sometimes, at least in the secular world, though even in the confused Christian world, there is the notion that a biblical husband is not really someone you would want.  It’s something maybe you should have, but not really someone you would want.  There’s the notion that he would be domineering and lordly, insensitive but providing, etc. Maybe you’ve felt this way, maybe you haven’t, but regardless, check out this list of attributes of a biblical husband and see what you think.  It is a brief, non-comprehensive, New Testament study of overt husband-oriented passages.  You could do SO much more in studying what it means to be a husband.  But this is a good start. =) (By the way, men, we can do this.)

The Biblical Husband:
-He Loves (agape) His wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25). (If you only understood the word agape this would in and of itself overwhelm any woman (or man).)
-He loves her to sanctify her.  His aim is for her to know Jesus perfectly and more, to be like the One they both love.  He gives himself up for her that she might be sanctified; he has great passion and self-sacrificing willingness behind his desire and acts to sanctify her and yet he loves her unconditionally, taking great delight in her regardless of anything in constant openness, hope, trust, and self-giving [agape] (Eph. 5:26a).(The extent of passion, intention, and desire behind the desire to sanctify is suggested by the fact that it says 'he loved her and gave himself for her, that she might be sanctified'.)  (The fact that he loves her να (in order that) she might be sanctified, shows that the aim of this love, at least in part, is not only just to exist, but in order to bring her closer to Jesus. With Christ and with a human husband, it is important to know that sanctification leads to greater intimacy, so that love can flow more fully and beautifully.)
-He washes her with the water of the word.  He pours the life of the Holy Spirit onto her, the essence of the Word. He aims to fill her with the truth of the Word of God.  He seeks to bring even greater beauty to her frame by washing her with truth regularly. (When you read this verse it is important to know that 'the word' did not mean to them what it means to us now.  It meant more profoundly the truth of God, the essence of Who He is.  Jesus was called the Word, which was an already established reality of the OT that involved the wisdom/truth/character/ways of God.)  (Eph. 5:26b)
-His aim is to present her to Christ in splendor, holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27)
-(Potential) He also aims to present her to himself in splendor, without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:27).
-He loves his wife as himself, as his own body (Jesus does this!) (Eph 5:33, 28).
-He nourishes her and cherishes her (Eph. 5:29).
-He is not harsh with her. (Col 3:19).
-The best husband has only one wife (1 Ti. 3:2, 3:12, Titus 1:6)
-He dwells with His wife in understanding.  He understands her and lives with her in this understanding (1 Pet 3:7).
-He honors her (1 Pet 3:7).
-His understanding of her and his honoring of her, at least in part, come from an understanding that she is an heir of the grace of life with him (1 Pet 3:7).
-He is able to talk to His wife about theological issues and would do so willingly if she had any questions (1 Cor. 14:35).
-He knows he does not have authority over his own body, but that his body belongs to his wife.  He does not treat his body as his own and therefore does not deny his wife access to it, except by agreement for  a limited time for the purpose of relationship with God (1 Cor 7:3-5).
-His 'justness' causes him to be unwilling to put her to shame (Mat 1:19, about Joseph).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

God’s Constant Wooing: A Perspective on Everything that You Feel.

       It’s Wednesday morning.  You wake up.  You feel kind of horrible, a tinge of worthlessness creeping around the corners of your consciousness.  Later in the day you are talking with a group of people, someone makes an off-handed comment that causes you to become suddenly angry.  What do you do?  What is your perspective on the way you felt when you woke up or on why you became angry? Do you just chalk it up to “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” or do you get mad “just because of what that person said”? What paradigm do you see the events of life through in order to interpret each day, week, month, or year?  Is it a paradigm that leads you into greater intimacy with God?
       I would like to put forth a rather bold idea that affects my life every day, almost insanely so: that everything that you feel or experience actually involves God’s attempts to draw you to Himself. It is not simply random situational events that you should try and respond well to.  Now maybe this sounds obvious to you at first or maybe it doesn’t, but when you examine it practically, it is normally quite different from one’s usual perspective, even controversial. 
       When you are suddenly angry at your friend who said whatever, do you actually think, “What is God trying to bring me into for relationship with Him?”  Normally not.  When you wake up feeling low, do you normally think excitedly, “How is God trying to woo me?”  Probably not. Human beings are normally very situational, reactionary, and self-protective.  At best, we tend to think of the events in our day as events to which we must try and respond righteously.  Now, this isn’t wrong but it is burdening and is a less-helpful way to live.  What if you dared to believe that God was in control of your life, so that when that person says some comment to you that causes anger to come up in you, you believed that God was trying to show you some place where you could know Him more.  What if your perspective turned the ordinary events of life (and often the difficult ones like getting angry) into entry ways to more greatly know God?
       At this point, you might be wondering, how does my anger at someone have to do with me knowing God more?  Everything about you is actually about how you relate to God.  If you are getting suddenly and sinfully angry at someone, it is not “just because they said something mean and you got mad.”  No, if you are getting suddenly and sinfully angry, it is because you do not know something about God.  Let me give you a personal example. 
       Just the week before last I was at home for Christmas.  My mom made an off-handed comment about one of my old friend’s mom.  She said, “She’ll never be a Christian.”  I found myself suddenly infuriated by what my mother had said.  Now, in honesty, my mom said something wrong and sinful, condemning a person to never be a Christian.  And yet, I could feel in my anger towards my mom something sinful.  I was hurt by what my mom said.  And even if she told me she was wrong, I did not want to forgive her.  These were my cues that my anger was sinful, that I was believing a lie about God. 
       I knew that this anger therefore wasn’t mostly about what had just happened.  It was about something between God and me.  I took some time to feel and see what I actually felt my mom had said.  Sitting there asking the Holy Spirit to help me, I discovered that I felt that my mom was condemning people, saying that they could reach some certain place where they became unworthy of hope or attention.  From there, I moved to realizing how the stuff that God had been revealing to me in general for the past week or two was related to this particular emotion, and that I actually felt that God felt this way towards others and me.  So, I looked at God and said, “God, you would never speak this way, you would never feel this way about people.  You constantly have hope and belief that people can be more, can change. You are so full of love.”  It is not always this fast, but right at that moment when I said those words, my emotions towards my mom changed.  I suddenly felt joy towards her and love and compassion. 
       The point of that story is to give you an example of how often the emotions we feel towards people are actually about ways we feel or believe God is. The point of this blog entry, however, is to use this true perspective coupled with the knowledge of God’s seeking of your heart to define your whole life.  Are the events in your life random?  Could you dare to believe that when you wake up in the morning feeling bad, that God is graciously trying to show you something you feel so that you can have the Holy Spirit change it, so that He can be with you more in truth?  Could you dare to believe that when your anger is suddenly flaring at a friend, that God is trying to show you a way that you do not know Him, so that you can then know Him more?  Can you dare to believe that God is more in control of your life than demons? Or even than your own weaknesses?
       Even concerning those things that are flagrantly from the kingdom of darkness or from the sin of human hearts, I think we should view our lives this way.  Whose agenda do you want to see as superior in your life?  Satan's agenda?  Your own weaknesses' agenda?  Or God's agenda?  Even when something clearly of Satan or clearly from human wickedness is occurring, you can still choose to view superiorly that which God is doing.  This is not to make the sins or acts of darkness okay.  For instance, when I felt anger at my mom, I was sinning, and the idea of simply permitting that sin to continue is wrong.  However, only looking at that sin at my mom as something that I should just try and not do or be is shallow and sad.  What if I not only looked at it as wrong but also looked at it as God saying, “Look!  Look at this way that you can know me more?!” 
       How different would your life feel if everything that you ever felt, good or bad, difficult or easy, was actually a window through which God was trying to show you ways you can know Him more?  How different would you feel if everything that happened to you was actually being employed by God to help you know Him more? 
       I recently spoke to a friend who was having a really hard time with her family.  Quite frankly, it is a very difficult situation that tears most families apart.  She has been so burdened down by it and God has such compassion towards her pain and her constant attempts to try and make the best out of the situation.  But in all her attempts, I asked her if she ever looked at it as anything other than a series of negative events to just try and get through, to just try and respond to as best as she could and then get by?  Even if she is still struggling, it was incredible to watch her face as hope came onto it, as love came onto it, as a lightness came onto it, when she thought of that whole series of events as actually involving God’s attempts to cause her to get to know Him more. 

       So, the next time you feel a negative feeling in your own self or the next time you are suddenly in a difficult situation, instead of just thinking that it is a random negative burst, try viewing it as God’s pursuit of your heart.  Try viewing it as God trying to highlight something for you to see, that you may know Him more.  At least in my life, as I have done this day in and day out, I have discovered how incredibly in control God actually is.  Events that might seem random to someone are actually all God’s handiwork.  For instance, that wrong view of God that was highlighted by my anger at my mom was actually another piece of the puzzle of what God had been trying to show me more generally for the previous two weeks. 

       God knows how to weave events and emotional bursts in a way that will cause you to learn certain things at certain times.  He is so good at leading, so good at teaching, so good at saving.  If you will simply look at the events of your life, as small as what you feel each day, you will see God’s  hand all over your life trying to pull you into certain revelations, certain pieces of Him you still do not know. 

Note: I do not believe God ordains sin.  I believe He ordains awareness of sin that has always been present.

Profound Self-Denial: the Permission of Love’s Entrance

       Stephen Venable, one of my favorite teachers at IHOP, recently gave a brief sermon at the 2010 OneThing Conference that the International House of Prayer-KC puts on every year.  His sermon was on a passage of Scripture that we all know of, found in Luke 9 (and Mark 8 and Mat 16).  In this passage Jesus calls the one who would come after Him to deny Himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him.  It is followed by “for whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (9:24). 

       Stephen’s message was a hammer blow.  It was profoundly challenging and offensive to anyone with a heartbeat.  He essentially asserted that western Christianity is fundamentally flawed in that it is built around what God can do for us instead of about what we can do for God.  As Stephen put it, “We are concerned with how Jesus can die for us so that we can have what we want instead of how we can die for Him so that He can have what He wants.  Jesus is not your butler! Jesus is not your vending machine!  Jesus is the King of glory to be glorified!” 

       There is profound truth in Stephen’s assessment of this unbiblical atrocity that underlies much of Christianity today, and he is devastatingly accurate in his assertion that much of that church will fall into apostasy and burn in a lake of fire forever through it.  As I said, it was an offensive message, one that I am sure many need to hear, myself included. 

       However, there was, at the least, a very important angle lacking in Stephen’s message.  Part of Stephen’s sermon entailed the seeming condemnation of sermon’s that are about “how much God loves us”, that are about “who we are” or “how great we are” or “how great we can be.”  Here, I feel that Stephen made an unbiblical detour, though I still applaud the spirit behind his sermon and the overarching punch of it.  The Bible is full of verses that define the believer as great or in God’s love (Eph. 2:19, 1 Jn 3:1, Luke 15, Jn 3:16).  Speaking the love of God over someone is not agreement with their self-obsession inherently and all the verses listed are in fact in line with Luke 9:23. 

       There are also verses that clearly call believers to seek rewards and greatness.  “But to him who by patiently doing good seeks for glory, honor, and immortality, there will be eternal life”, which is then contrasted in the next verse with “but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:7-8). Whatever it is that is this disobedient self-seeking and unrighteousness it is not seeking for glory, honor, and immortality unto eternal life.  Even Jesus Himself, our example, says that He laid down His life that He might take it up again, followed by the declaration that this makes the Father love Him (Jn 10:17).  We are commanded to look to the founder of our faith who endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2). 

       My point is that self-denial and taking up your cross cannot and does not mean biblically that you are to try and give your life to Jesus without an awareness of His love for you or without an awareness of the glory and joy set before you.  In fact, I will go as far as to say that any time you choose to suffer without a knowledge of His love and what you gain by it, you are operating in self-abuse.  My primary point in this blog, however, is not even this.  It is to go even further. 

       I believe that one of the greatest forms of self-denial, of taking up your cross daily, of losing your life, is actually permitting God to love you, to speak worth over you.  Oh, it slays the selfish.  It slays the prideful.  It consecrates the heart into meekness. There is, in my experience, nothing more humbling than the joyful reception of unconditional love.  It’s so hard! There is nothing more slaying of sinful self than the permission of the entrance of great mercy, of free gifts of affection and blessing.  Oh we hate it!  We rail against it! It is against the natural man to permit unconditional love. Can you feel how much easier it is to simply beat yourself and do everything for Jesus without ever thinking about yourself?  It feels better actually because it is in favor of the prideful self.

       I find in my own life and in my experience with the paradigm Stephen preached on that we can be very prone to believe that righteousness is to try and “live only for God with no benefit to self”, never letting ourselves for a second sit and receive love from God, to let God say to us, “You are beautiful to me.”  This phrase specifically is one that Stephen spoke of with a sardonic condemning tone, but I tell you truthfully, nothing will grant you poverty of spirit, so greatly glorifying to Christ, like letting Him tell you that you are beautiful.  Oh, it will knock you off every false throne you’ve ever imagined. 

       Have you felt it?  Can you feel the tension?  Can you feel how self-preserving and self-advancing it is actually to try and “just glorify Christ by only doing everything for His sake and never doing anything for yourself?”  Obviously, these quoted words could communicate truth, but I have found that in many individuals, myself included, they actually harbor pride and sinful self advancement, the antithesis of Luke 9:23.  The religious self-denial actually promotes pride and is the opposite of self-denial.  In contrast, permitting God to love you, permitting Him to be focused on you is a cross like no other.  It will slay your sinful self in a second.