Thursday, April 28, 2005

My Path - Part 2

Yesterday I talked a bit about how I accepted Christ at an early age, and through my formative years hung to that belief without having fully answered the questions my friends started asking in high school. When I then moved on to college, I found myself adapting to the environment instead of staying true to what I'd held through my life up until then.

Needless to say, God doesn't take kindly to people turning their backs on Him. Fortunately for us, He cares too much to let us walk off the proverbial cliff. As school, work and relationships all started heading south, He was merciful. In fact, I think part of His mercy was allowing me to reap the fruits of my choices. The more I saw things fall apart, the more I realized I needed to return to my faith of old. Not because I wanted things to be sunshine and roses (though I usually do.) Rather, I realized that it was right to be with God and wrong to put Him aside.

So I took a bold step. With the encouragement of my girlfriend (now wife) and family, I left the secular environment of the U of M for the restorative environment of Northwestern College. This coincided with a change in my major from business to communication, and Northwestern has a very good program in that area. In addition, all Northwestern students are required to major in Bible along with their major of choice (my degree from there is a double major in Bible and Communication - Broadcasting emphasis.) I finally started to get answers to some of those questions I'd been asking, from some very sharp professors and my fellow students.

Soon thereafter I took another bold step (though it was a very easy decision on my part) to marry my beloved girlfriend of 3 years. We began attending a good Bible believing/preaching church. Through all of this, I began to pay more attention to the scripture again. I saw that my faith need not be based on Dad's preaching, wonderful though that may be. It became clear that, contrary to popular belief, Christianity was a rational religion. I didn't have to check my mind at the door to believe. This was important to me; I have little patience for superstition and folly. In addition, I realized the depth of the truth of Christianity - truth became the focal point for me, and the importance of truth became evident.

None of this resolved some of my problems though. Returning to faith, this time my own and earned through study and reasoning through problems, didn't remove the financial or work woes, and it didn't bring back friendships that had ended. That took time, and a great deal more work. In some respects, over a decade later, I'm still dealing with the fallout of a few years walking on my own. God didn't let me off the hook where the consequences of my actions was concerned. But I knew through it that I was no longer "alone."

This isn't a terribly exciting story. I wasn't a drug-using-adulterer-abuser-violent-guy-turned-angel. I didn't lose all my worldly posessions, only to have them immediately restored when I came back as a prodigal son. To the outsider, I was just, more or less, a decent guy who changed his worldview a couple of times and had to deal with some rough times.

But when I came back, I know that Jesus found it exciting. I was welcomed back to the family. And in truth, when anyone is saved, even from a "boringly good" life, Heaven rejoices. What seems dull to us is really important to God. I have a friend who was saved from a very rough background who tells me he is almost envious of my testimony. I think mine is less, well...impressive than his. But God performs a miracle of grace each time He redeems one of us from our chosen rebellion. Nothing about that is boring, no matter how dull we human folk find it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

My Path...Part I

It's quite typical in Evangelical circles to share one's "testimony" of how one came to have a relationship with God. Everyone has a testimony, and no two are the same. That's the beauty of testimonies: God works uniquely in the lives of each person. He is not a God who is into generalizations; He is a God who loves each of us on an individual level.

I'm not sure how God works through these testimonies, or how frequently. But I know that if He can use a donkey He can use my relatively boring story too. So, I thought I'd share it here.

As anyone who's read my profile knows, my father is a pastor. He and my mother were obviously the strongest influences on me during my early childhood, and so I "asked Jesus into my heart" at a very young age. And I meant it. I believe that from that moment, I was truly a child of God.

However. I soon enough hit teen-dom, and through exposure to high school students, and opposing viewpoints, started running into questions for which I didn't have answers. The media and academic circles to which I was exposed were largely agnostic about, or hostile to, my faith. Nevertheless, thanks to the quality preaching of dear old Dad, I was able to cling to my faith despite not having enough questions answered to satisfy my more skeptical friends.

Then came college. Whoo, boy. Send a kid away from home to a university very hostile to all things conservative (except in isolated pockets) and you're asking for a heap o'trouble. Which is what I got. It was easy to sleep in Sundays and skip church. It was easy to get tied up with homework, and neglect God's word. It was easy to start hanging around with friends who had interests other than book learnin'. It was easy to forget God.

Couple this with an openly anti-Christian philosophy permeating the classes (or, the overall environment) and I "backslid" - hard. Not that I joined a cult, murdered anyone, or opened a brothel. No, my rebellion was more subtle. I stopped seeking Him, I stopped defending Him (not that He needs my help!), and I stopped following Him. Oh, if asked I'd confess I believed He was there, and that the Bible was true. And I didn't seek to actively disobey God; it just "happened."

I was still a good guy, from outside appearances. But I wasn't where I was supposed to be. God got my attention, though, and brought me back. Well, part of the way, since I won't be perfected this side of Heaven. A friend of mine died in an accident during finals week one year. Grades suffered. Relationships soured. My job situation (and associated economic situation) went by the wayside. I was running out of reasons to be positive. Not a good thing for an honor student, multiple-letter-winner-athlete in high school who'd entered college with the world as his oyster. None of it meant anything, really, but it was especially meaningless in keeping me from reaping the fruits of my subtle rebellion against God.

And here my story for today stops. I'll finish tomorrow, but for now I have to go teach Awana. Joy of joys I am now back on God's side, and more about that tomorrow. Sharing the joy of the Lord is a wonderful gift, and sharing it with children is especially sweet. Hopefully they can avoid some of the problems I caused for myself.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Wrong Time to be Eating a Donut

I just had to have a donut on my plate when I read this post from Kristen, didn't I?

Truth is, this is something that's been on my mind lately, and not just because my own soon-to-be-five-years-old daughter commented on my "build."

The Bible is quite clear: we are to avoid gluttony. Truth be told, we are to take care of our bodies becauase they are of use to God Himself. We are His temple, the handiwork of the Father. Abuse of our bodies, whether sexually, violently, or 'over-indulgently' keeps us from being fully able to carry out the tasks to which God has called us.

As Kristen says, "I hope this doesn't sound at all condemning...[l]ike most things I post about, I notice it in my own life too, and want to change." I like that. We should all want to be changed by God, and God has been moving in my life in this area. Gluttony is a problem, and should be addressed. Not at the expense of turning the body into an idol, or worshipping fitness, of course, but it should be addressed.

What God has created deserves our faithful stewardship. That includes our bodies, and what we feed them. And this responsibility to care for ourselves without resorting to greed or gluttony is not reduced just because we live in a culture that makes it too easy to give in to temptation.

With that, I'll echo Kristen's close: "Anyone want to join me and Jim in trying to do better? Jim's already fighting his flesh in this area. Let's encourage him and one another."

Sign me up.

God bless!

Monday, April 25, 2005


Please pray for this family often. As a father of two young children, I can't imagine anything worse.

Reminder for God-bloggers out there. I won't be able to make it, though there was for a time a chance I would. For those who can go, I'd love to hear a status report...

Why do we have a filibuster at all? I don't care for it as a matter of principle. If you don't want to stifle debate, then make sure everyone has time to argue. But if you don't have anything new to say other than "we don't like this legislation/nominee" then move along. That's not debating, nor is it allowing the representatives of the people to do their duty and vote. I'm with the 19 Democrats who wanted the practice ended in 1995. And thus ends a short toe-dip in the cesspool of politics:-)

Ah the joys of springtime in Minnesota. Our second softball game last evening was played in temps ~40 degrees. Fortunately I was able to avoid stinging my hands by hitting pathetically. I'd call it a mulligan, but we won both games and I don't want to relive the weather. 18 more games, plus playoffs and the State tournament. I LOVE this time of year.

You may notice little of interest here this week, or I may blog prolifically. Just giving fair warning I will be less predictable than my less-than-predictable self as I wrap up the last week of my Marketing class. I will be very glad to leave this course in my rearview mirror.

What's on my iTunes right now? The last five pieces have been, in order, Nicole Kidman (One Day I'll Fly Away) to Go Fish to Third Day to Placido Domingo to Bill Cosby. Eclecticism at its best, and I am working on increasing the playlist substantially. Something very fun about shifting gears every three minutes. And on that bit of information you probably never would have asked, I think I'll leave for today.

God bless!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/22 Edition

This boy may be able to date one of my daughters someday. Any boy who thinks differently about (my) girls in bikinis - or, come to think of it, thinks of my girls in bikinis at all - may not:-) [Editorial: my daughters are approaching their 5th and 3rd this is a pre-emptive warning to any boys out there.]

I loved this post about why pastors leave the ministry. I'm a PK (preacher's kid to the uninitiated) and can vouch for Scott's observations. (H/T: Rev-ed.)

About time they asked this question.

I love this contest.

Go Big Ten (eleven?). Four schools - including the U of M Gophers! - in the top 10 and 8 in the top 25? Methinks the conference remains strong. Go Gophers! (But really, Wisconsin at #3??????)

I'm torn. I'm nearing the end of my Marketing class, and I need to spend a lot of time on my final project. Well, I don't really, but I do like the idea of graduating. Then I see Not Crunchy went out and posted on a topic near and dear to my heart. Sigh. I feel another series pulling at me, but I'm not sure I want to deep dive on this one quite yet. I'll think on it this weekend.

Speaking of which, have a blessed one. I will, as long as my first softball games of the season aren't rained out.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

New Comments

I'm not fond of Blogger's ability to remain predictable in behavior, but I guess I'm getting what I (didn't) pay for. Which is fine. And I do sincerely appreciate the opportunity to play blogger at minimal cost.

However, I also enjoy the opportunity to discuss topics with readers, and as lately the comments haven't been working here, I decided to take Not Crunchy's advice and go the Haloscan route. It's not often I'm addressed by name in another blog's post title, so I figured it was something to take seriously.

This means that I have purposely "lost" old comments, at least for the time being. I believe there is a way to cut/paste the old ones into the new system, and I hope to do that in the near future - at least for more recent posts. I apologize for this, but I do hope that this change adds benefits going forward. Otherwise I would not have made the change.

Meanwhile, I also decided to start trackbacks, if for no other reason than my geek side likes more toys. I don't know if I'll keep 'em, but for now feel free to use 'em.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - I Sum Up

Throughout this series I've attempted to look at what it means for husbands to love their wives as commanded in Ephesians 5:25, and other passages. I started out talking about what interested me about the topic. I then dove into a short survey off applicable scripture, followed by an exploration of agape love.

From here I branched off to look at specific examples from Jesus' ministry relating to this topic. The series then moved to a compare/contrast of the passages in question, a post on what agape love "ain't", and an ever-controversial (brief) look at submission.

That's more posts than I think I intended to give this topic, but that's okay. At least for me, if not for you dear reader:) Before I leave the topic, though, I'd like to make a couple more brief points.

First, the Bible sets a very high standard. I fail to reach it often enough. Fortunately, my wife is very gracious in forgiving me at those times. Regardless of how hard it is to live up to this standard, though, we husbands need to strive towards it constantly. There is no justification for giving up.

Second, loving our wives as Christ loves the church is not something which we need to "feel" in order to do. In fact, agape love demands the treatment described in I Cor. 13 regardless of how we feel.

Finally, loving our wives this way is in no way dependent upon how our wives act towards us. For richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health until death do you part, you have a responsibility to love your wife. If she's loving you in return, this is easy. If she's not...if she's mean, or bitter, or impatient, or unfaithful, or difficult...loving her can be hard. But we have no excuse to stop.

Love your wife as Christ loves the church. There are no excuses not to, and there is no reason to use a lack of "loving feelings" as permission to bail. Christ loves the church, and gave Himself up for it. Christ also loves your wife, and gave up Himself up so that she may have the opportunity to grasp grace by her faith. Someone that precious to God deserves your best love.

May God bless all the husbands striving to love their wives this way!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/19 Edition

Vox Apologia is up. Next week's topic is "The Objections: How can God allow sin? That should prove an interesting discussion point. Directions on entering a submission are here.

Adrian Warnock has a little social style survey going. I have no idea what my score means, but if you keep checking back Adrian's promised to explain a bit more about the results.

Want a free ESV Bible? Don't blame me if they're gone by the time you see this. I like the idea of publishers and corporations using blogs as a medium of communication to customers. (HT: Adrian Warnock.)

Dave (aka Mr. Dumpling) alerts us to an interesting physics discovery that brings to mind Genesis 1:2 here.

A survey instead of a symposium for Lennie this week.

Christian Carnival dealine approaching!

God bless!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/18 Edition

Happy Birthday Kristin! (Sorry it's late - was up near Canada this past weekend without Internet access.)

Siris has posted the poetry carnival.

Interesting.... I'm an least in this incarnation of the test. (HT: Rebecca Writes.)

Couldn't. Agree. More. (Registration probably required. Sorry.) (BTW, for those of you who haven't seen it, a pic of the building in question is here.

Nice to get an insider's view on the GMA awards.

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - Marriage Roles

Last week I left my series (on how men should love their wives) with a description of what love "ain't." Poor grammar aside, this is an important point of reminder.

Today I want to touch on marriage roles, specifically the issue raised in Ephesians 5:22-24: 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. This is a controversial passage, and I won't solve the controversy here. I expect someone reading this will be ticked off. I only ask that your critiques, welcome as they always are, be offered in a spirit of respectful correction.

This is, to say the least, among the most controversial scriptures around. In an era of feminist thought, where the term "submit" carries connotations of weakness and inferiority, many have undertaken to "re-interpret" this passage so as to remove the offense of it to modern ears. Others have attempted to hold more tightly to it, pushing it to mean male dominance over women, or that abuse is justified. Neither approach is correct.

I am not a woman. Shocker, no? As my gender is male, I cannot possibly empathize with women who read this passage and wonder if they're inferior to men. I can, though, sympathize with the plight. After all, I am commanded to submit to my government, run by politicians, few of whom I believe to be my betters. Likewise I'm to submit to my bosses, some of whom are Pointy Hair Bosses in training. So why are we to submit to these folks? And what does it mean to do so?

We are often told to submit so that we bring glory to God. Because it relfects well on Him that His children are selfless, seeking the betterment of others. Because it attracts notice, as being different, which leads to opportunities to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel before words are even used. Because it mirrors the ultimate submission of Christ to the cross so our debt could be paid.

Submission looks an awful lot like what a husband is to do for his wife. It is a selfless seeking to elevate the other, recognizing that God gave that person a role to play, and that you are there to help that person reach the goals for that role.

In this light, a wife's submission to her husband is recognizing that God put the husband in the role of "head of the household" as "Christ is head of the church." Wives are to help their husbands be this head, as husbands are to elevate the wife's needs to his central familial concern.

I'm not going to go much further into what this submission looks like. Kristen addresses this here and here better than I could (and from a more credible position.) However, I'd like to look at what this submission is not to look like.

Submission is not male superiority. All are equal, none are better than others. Likewise, submission does not equate to husband-dominance in decision making. If a husband truly loves his wife, he should not only be looking out for her best interests, he should actively engage her in discussion about decisions. Our wives are our helpmates, women who are equal partners in the work to which God has called us. They are not inferiors to be pitied, humored or ignored.

Submission doesn't mean women can't get jobs, have "stereotypical male" interests, or be involved in decision making. Women can have authority, as say Deborah did in the Bible. Women can be partners in ministry, teaching as did Priscilla.

The problem is that submission is seen as a negative thing, when in reality is a virtuous thing. It is serving others out of love and respect. It is recognizing that one person has to make a decision in a stalemate, and the selfless thing to do is to submit to the others' will (albeit when doing so doesn't mean going with a sinful decision.)

My wife has a job, has many hobbies, does many of the household management tasks. We each have different gifts and interests, and we each have different "areas of responsibilities" in the home. My wife is liberated by any reasonable definition of the word. I do much of the housework (I may be the only husband in America who's heard the phrase, "it's midnight, that's clean enough. Cut it out and go to bed.") My wife votes and works outside the home. We discuss major financial decisions, although she manages the checkbook.

But she allows me to make the decisions when we have a conflict (I think it has happened maybe once in 11+ years of marriage.) That is submission. I don't boss her around, and I take in her opinion eagerly. She is smarter than I in regards to many things, and I'm not foolish enough to ignore that. She has made more decisions for our family than I have by virtue of being right more often. But ultimate responsibility was given to me by God, and she recognizes that she has no business trying to rearrange what God has ordained.

My responsibility is to make that decision with her interests at heart even over mine: agape love. Not man dominating woman. Not woman having no role of authority or leadership. Rather, two people working together, equals before God, selflessly seeking the good of the other.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Poetry to my Wife

Okay, I'm taking a (short) break from my series on the Ephesians 5:25 Husband - how we're to love our wives as Christ loved the church. I'd like to leave you with this, though, which also serves as an entry to this poetry carnival. This is the first poem I wrote to my wife, and it relates to the Ephesians 5:25 series as it speaks of how I choose to love my wife. It isn't about feelings, it's about actively choosing to seek her benefit regardless of my feelings. Love is a choice; it's not something into, or out of, which you fall.

Without further ado...(Please forgive formatting issues w/Blogger template, and my hack approach to the art form)

I do not Choose to Love thee

I do not choose to love thee because you are beautiful,

Although a thousand fields of a thousand flowers are vile in comparison.

I do not choose to love thee because of your smile,

Although a thousand galaxies with a thousand suns could ne'er shine so bright.

I do not choose to love thee because you are passionate,

Although a thousand lovers in a thousand lifetimes could never move me as much.

I do not choose to love thee because you are faithful,

Although a thousand churches of a thousand saints would ne'er be less tempted to stray.

I do not choose to love thee because you love me,

Although a thousand worlds of a thousand seekers could never find a love more desirous.

I do not choose to love thee because of your intellect,

Although a thousand philosophers reading a thousand books could ne'er teach me so much.

I do not choose to love thee because of who you are,

Although a thousand Ruths and a thousand Esthers could ne'er have your spirit.

I choose to love thee because of all these things,

I choose to love thee because the sum of your parts is greater than the whole,

I choose to love thee because you make me laugh, and think, and cry,

I choose to love thee because you surpass the wonder of nature itself,

I choose to love thee because your presence makes me soar,

I choose to love thee because you are God's daughter, made for Him, yet lent to me,

I choose to love thee because.

Copyright Ron Stewart, 2001

Temporary Hiatus from Series

I'm going to take the rest of this weekend off from my series in order to enter some contributions to some carnivals that interest me. For those interested in more of my Ephesians 5:25 Husband series, I'll be back to that on Monday. In the meantime, I hope the other entries are of interest too!

God bless!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Christian Carnival is up... 64 Entries...should be a good way to spend the next day or two. Thanks to Anotherthink for hosting!

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - What Agape Love Ain't

Yesterday I talked a little about how the different emphases each passage puts on the command to "agape" our wives shows us a different need, or motivation, we are trying to meet. Today I'd like to talk about what agape love for our wives is not.

Passages like I Cor. 13 can provide a decent view of what love is. To help get a full picture, though, of how husbands are to love our wives, we should also discuss what love isn't. In light of our scriptural mandate, there are at least these four key "isn't" items of which we should be aware. Love isn't:

  1. A feeling. Agapao, as used in these passages, is a verb. It is an action, not an emotion. We are to actively love our wives regardless of emotion. We can't get out of the responsibility just because "we don't feel like it."

  2. A choice. These passages are not suggestions. They are phrased as imperatives, or commands. Paul didn't say, "husbands, it'd be good if you loved you wives, but if not, that's okay too." Husbands - love your wives.

  3. Abdication of a headship role. This one gets into submission, which I'll address later in the series. For now, though, suffice it to say that it is not a loving act to capitulate headship - even when it seems the "selfless" or "loving" thing to do. For more on this, see this excellent post at The Bible Archive.

  4. A means of manipulation. We are not to serve our wives in order to benefit ourselves. While we may realize benefits from it (e.g. our prayers won't be hindered), our motivation needs to be focused on our wives. When we seek to do something out of desire for a "reward," we set ourselves up for disappointment if the "return" isn't what we expected. That leads to less motivation the next time. No, it is better to keep our focus on our wives' well being, for their sake and ours.

There are a number of things love "isn't." Aside from these four items, look at I Cor. 13 and see that love is not in opposition to the attributes described there. Love isn't unkind, impatient, untrusting, demanding of its own way. Keeping in mind some of these things that love isn't helps us know better when our love for our wives is what it should be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - Passage Comparison

Yesterday I talked about some practical ways in which we can show love for our wives. It is admittedly an abbreviated list, but it basically comes down to the idea that we should be willing to step outside the traditional role of men and serve our wives. This service should even be in areas that some men may think is "beneath" them or "women's work." Truly, our love should be of the servant type since that is the example Christ set for us.

Today I'm going to touch on some of the differences between the three main passages we've been discussing:

  • Ephesians 5:25-28:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

  • Colossians 3:19:Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

  • 1 Peter 3:7:Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Notice first the similarities. In all cases, we are to treat our wives well; to love them (agape!). Notice too that these are phrased as imperatives, or commands. These are not suggestions. Loving our wives is not optional.

There are, though, some interesting differences between the three passages - though they don't conflict at all. In Ephesians, Paul gives us this reason why we should love them: to prepare them to be presented by Christ as part of His church. Our love for our wives is driven in part by a desire that they enjoy the fruits of His cleansing Spirit. This motivation for love is spiritual.

In Colossians, husbands are to love their wives so as to avoid being harsh with them. The word translated "harsh" here is pikraino, and means "to embitter, exasperate." Even when our wives sin, we are to remain patient and compassionate. (This makes sense - we'd hope they treat us the same way when we screw up!) When we are having a bad day, we are to still love them, and not take it out on them. The emphasis for love here is emotional.

And in I Peter, we are to love our wives because they are fellow heirs as believers, and because doing so does not hinder our prayers. Again, our motivation is spiritual in nature. Loving our wives leads to both spiritual blessing for them, and spiritual blessing for us. How amazing that selfless love actually provides benefits to the lover! Our wives (those who are "saved") will be with us in eternity. Loving them on earth prepares both of us for that eternal sharing of Heaven.

Peter also implies that we are to love our wives because, as in I Corinthians 13:7, love aims to protect. The word "asthenes" - translated as "weaker partner" - means weaker in strength. While this is not a universal statement about the power of women(I've known many women stronger and abler than I!), in general, we are to love our wives as a way to protect them from physical harm. Again, this isn't to say women can't protect themselves. But we husbands need to have the kind of love that seeks to protect our wives. And this includes protection from us.

In each of these three passages, the emphasis differs as to why we are to love our wives. There is an emotional, a spiritual and a physical rationale behind the commands to love our wives. This implies that our love is to be expressed to the benefit of our wives' emotional, spiritual and physical well being. I love the fact that God provides for a full accounting of our wives' well being, not focusing us just on the physical, or just on the spiritual. Through the diversity of emphasis in these scriptural passages God shows His desire that we love our wives completely and wholly. There is nothing about our wives we are to neglect, nor is there one area where we are to minimize our love. We are to love all of their being.

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/12 Edition

This week's Vox Apologia is up. Only one entry on the cosmological argument. Next week's topic is Pascal's Wager:Useful, or Useless? Entry deadline is 4/17.

Bob at I am a Christian Too makes some points I fully agree with (in regards to how the separation of church and state are misapplied to legislative action) here. I'm not sure I agree with where he's going on the judicial and executive branch implications, but it's food for thought.

The EO Symposium is still open for entries, through 4/15. Check out the one's already submitted and enter your own view.

The deadline is approaching for this week's Christian Carnival at If the host blog's name is any indication, should be a good display. You have until midnight tonight to submit your posts (though read the submission guidelines here first.)

Speaking of deadlines, entries to the poetry carnival hosted at Siris is coming due. I'm planning on entering a poem soon to be included in my series on the Ephesians 5:25 Husband. I hope it all ties together nicely; I'm too lazy to create another post just for the poem:-)

And, speaking of the Ephesians 5:25 Husband, The Bible Archive has a few posts touching on the subject as well. You can find them here, here, and here.

God bless!

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - Jesus' Example

As we saw in Friday's post, we husbands are called to exhibit agape love towards our wives. At an abstract level, as described in I Corinthians 13, this is a pretty idealistic command. In some ways this is discouraging. As a husband, I flinch every time I read this chapter. I Corinthians 13 was the text from which my father preached at my wedding. (And yes, it was very cool to have Dad perform the wedding ceremony for us!) Reading from it makes me realize how often I've failed to live up to the ideal.

Part of the problem with the ideal, though, is that it provides little in the way of practical guidelines, or examples. It doesn't give any examples of how we can be kind, for instance. Now, yes, it is true that we should be able to discern whether we are acting kindly or not. But. Actual examples of how we are to treat our wives would add to our general knowledge of proper behavior, and provide a frame of reference within which we can better work.

Fortunately, Paul gives us such an example whenhe points out that we are to love our wives as "Christ also loved the church." Jesus Himself can be our example of ways to love our wives! How exciting! (And yes, a tad scary...there's NO WAY I can live up to His example 24x7.)

So let's take a look at some of the ways Jesus loved His church, especially through His interaction with the Apostles. First, and most obvious, Jesus died for the church. While we cannot take on our wife's sins and bring them redemption, we most certainly need to be willing to die for them. We are supposed to love our wives with agape love, and there is no agape love greater than laying down our lives for our (best!) friends. This ties back to the I Corinthians 13 claim that love "always protects" (v. 7.) We need to be willing to protect them, even with our very lives; their well-being comes first. Fortunately, this type of decision doesn't come up too often - but for darn sure I'm the one who gets up to explore strange sounds in the night. If it's a burglar, I'd rather it be me beat about the head than her. The purpose of Jesus' giving of His life is different from the (potential) giving of mine; but they both are the result of agape love.

This is, fortunately, not the only example Christ set for us. He also provided a couple of more mundane examples for how we can show love to our wives. I'm not sure how popular they'll be, since it may mean that some of the "traditional" chore assignments are rearranged, but they are ways that Jesus showed love to His disciples. First, Jesus made breakfast for them. This is seemingly a small thing, but the disciples had been out working (fishing), getting at first discouraged with the absence of fish, then working hard when Jesus provided a huge catch. Tell me there aren't times your wife puts in a hard day, at work or with kids, and wouldn't feel deeply loved if you cooked dinner for her and the family. Or watched the kids and gave her some peace and quiet. Or cleaned the house. The seemingly mundane can be a huge blessing to someone who's weary. (Admitted: general stereotyping above - but statistically, women still do most of the household chores. Guys too often lack the servant heart we should have in this area especially.)

The second example was when Jesus washed the disciples' feet. This is a beautifully humble picture of servant love. Jesus did a task that was beneath Him; this was normally a task for servants. This isn't a task we are often called to, and I've only seen it done symbolically. But the principle is much broader. Jesus humbled Himself to serve His disciples. We need to humble ourselves and dig in with tasks that are "beneath" us, or outside our normal role.

There are other examples. Jesus taught the church, and so we should show love in teaching our wives on the (rare) occassions they don't know as much as us. Jesus healed the sick; we should care for our wives when they are hurting. Jesus was compassionate towards sinners, and we need to shower compassion and forgiveness on our wives when they sin.

Jesus outserved the church, as Wellington Boone said. There's no way we could do more for Him than He did for us. If we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, guys, we have to serve them more than they serve us. Is it possible? Not always, in my experience...though I have my moments. I've married a servant-hearted woman, and it's hard to keep up with her, let alone outserve her. But scripture leaves me no choice. To truly love her as I ought, I must serve her as Christ served His church.

Friday, April 08, 2005

NC's Most Recent Questions of Interest

Not Crunchy (NC) posted some more good discussion fodder. Instead of consuming her comments section, I thought I'd compose my verbose response here.

NC's post centers on the concept of "innate morality." The basic assertion is that many moral distinctions are shared across myriad religions. This points to an innate sense of right and wrong, which is sometimes (if I can put words in NC's mouth) expressed through a religious worldview.

This is not a unique perspective. C.S. Lewis, discusses a similar concept in Mere Christianity. To me this "innate morality" seems to indicate there is a sensible reason many moral questions are answered the same in various cultures and religions (i.e. murder = bad, robbery = bad): We are all created by the same maker, who has left His "fingerprints" within us.

From this observation, that many "taboos" are found in disparate cultures, NC asks some questions, and draws a couple of conclusions. I'd like to address them here. Starting with...

First, "why does one need a detailed philosophy to understand how to live a righteous life? "

One doesn't. But when one is trying to live based on truth it behooves one to seek the truth, philosophically. This in turn can lead one to a certain religion in which one can more efficiently or effectively seek truth. Religion, in one sense, is a framework for truth seeking. Obviously, there is more to following a religion than simply seeking truth (such as fellowship with others, support during hard times, etc.) but it provides a way to seek for what is true. Insofar as religion points to truth (instead of error) it is useful for those seeking how to live a righteous life.

In addition, religion helps us define what constitutes a righteous life. Outside of religion, there is really no foundation for deeming one act righteous and another evil. Righteousness is an absurd concept if moral decision making is not based on an objective foundation. No such foundation can exist in naturalism; righteousness is entirely a religious concept.

Next question: "What kind of God would allow only a tiny percentage of His creation to have everlasting life?"

The answer is a just and holy God who cannot abide imperfection because His nature is perfection. But I'd change the perspective a bit. From a Christian perspective, God doesn't "allow" only a tiny portion to have everlasting life: He freely offers salvation from our rebellion, and only a tiny portion accept it. The rest choose their own damnation. God respects our free will too much to force us into Heaven. In truth, it is we who do not avail ourselves of the opportunity, offered to all, to receive God's grace.

Finally, a comment or two. NC writes that, "Christianity is one religion with hundreds of flavors. Each flavor's members seem to think that they are living the true path of righteousness. Islam - same thing." What I read from this is that exclusivity claims are bad (NC ties this to the question above regarding God only saving a few people.) What I see, though, is that the existence of these differences in no way negates the idea that only one true religious view can exist. Either orthodox Christianity is true or it is not. Either Islam is true or it is not. Both cannot be true, and neither can be true if atheistic worldviews are true. Instead of seeing problems in exclusive beliefs, I think it is better to seek out which of the competing claims is true. Don't reject all exclusivity claims because "everyone thinks their ways are right and everyone else is wrong." Instead, find out why people claim exclusivity, and investigate whether their claims are reasonable. The problem isn't that I disagree with an atheist, a muslim and a hindu. Rather, the problem is that at most only one of us has a true worldview and the rest of us are in trouble.

Finally, the ending comment from NC reads as "[t]here is beauty in our differences, but also a dark side to choosing sides." I don't see a dark side to choosing sides. I see a dark side to choosing the wrong side. Everyone chooses sides. The question is, will you choose the right one? Worldview and religion decisions have the possibility of impacting eternity if we theists are right. Such questions need to be investigated seriously and honestly. Don't worry that people differ, worry instead that you are seeking the truth regardless of the different opinions that others have.

God bless!

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - Agape Love

In my last post in this series, I started describing the key Biblical texts talking about how a husband is to love his wife. Specifically, I called out three passages from the NT in which Paul and Peter exhort husbands to "love" their wives. In each case, the love called for is of the "agape" type. Paul specifically uses the word "agapao" in Ephesians 5 and Colossians, and Peter implies this type of love in I Peter 3.

To English speakers, this may seem somewhat odd. Agape love? What's that? As we pretty much have one word for 'love' (which is often misused, by the way) this differentiation of types of love via words is strange. The Greeks, however, had multiple words for love. Eros, for instance, is the term from which we derive the english word "erotic" and deals with passionate love. Philia speaks of brotherly, or friendly, love. Storge speaks of familial love. And Agape is sometimes called "Christian" love - it speaks of unselfishness, and a desire to seek the best interests of others above your own. This is the love that drove God to send His Son to pay the price for our redemption.

Agape love is the type described in the famous "love chapter" of I Corinthians 13.

1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not selfseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

So husbands are to "agape" their wives. And agape love is certainly a high calling. A husband having agape love for his wife does not seek to raise himself up, but rather seeks to lift up his wife. Such a husband does not lie to her, does not abuse her, does not lose faith in her, does not seek his own good over hers. The agape loving man protects his wife, both from the outside world and from his own selfish or sinful self. He is kind and patient, not because he gains by this, but because his wife does.

I don't know of a single man who lives up to this every second of every day. I certainly don't. But this is not an excuse, nor does the reality of our sin nature evidence that we cannot live up to this ideal. We have no excuse for not loving our wives in this way.

This focus on agape love does not also mean we can't exhibit eros, philia or storge love at different times - in fact, it could be argued that God's command in Genesis 1:28 - to be fruitful and multiply - is a command (for the married folk) to exhibit eros love. (And I think I just heard an amen! from some of my brothers in the audience). Likewise, there is nothing wrong with sharing familial and friendly love with our wives. But our entire marriage should focus on loving our wives unselfishly, with a continuous search for ways to bless them.

In my next post (which could be Monday or could be June, depending on Blogger's availability) I'll talk about how Jesus showed agape love for His disciples, and how that applies to these passages. Following that, I'll talk a bit about the differences between the three passages, and what agape love isn't (i.e a feeling) before wrapping up with a post on the larger issue of marriage roles and a summary. This outline subject to change as God leads me:-)

God bless!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/7 Edition

Kristen's post on judging folks is spot on; the cries of intolerance, and incidences of "judge not" being used sans the inconvenience of context, are red herrings tossed up when people don't like being critiqued. There is a place for discernment, and a time when judging others is an act of love and compassion.

Lennie, at Cross Blogging has posted the new symposium question. The discussion will center on the culture of life and absolutism.

Good question from Echo Zoe. Best answer I can come up with is this. It seems to me there may be some parallels between sexual misbehavior and illicit drug use: namely, both increase the risk of damage to the temple of the Spirit. Then again, for the non-Spirit filled, this may not be an issue. Otherwise, maybe this covers it. Getting drunk, or stoned, involves giving up some level of control, and increases the risk of, well, debauchery. Better to be filled with the Spirit IMO. Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - Biblical Background

Yesterday I kicked off a new series (hopefully a short one!) dealing with the husband's responsibility to love his wife. In summary, a number of events have combined to peak my interest in the topic, and so I thought I'd see if I can explain how I see my role, as a husband, as defined by scripture.

Starting at the very beginning, then (as I've heard, it's a very good place to start - HT: The Sound of Music) we should be aware of what the Bible says about this responsibility of a husband towards his wife. (And yes, I am limiting the scope of this series to that relationship, unless specified differently for a specific instance.)

Why should we care what the Bible says, as opposed to what society says? Well, first of all, God Himself created the institution of marriage, and so should have some not insignificant role in defining how spouses should interact. Second, the marriage relationship involves unique social and moral considerations, and the Bible speaks often and clearly to those moral issues. Finally, society of late has proven quite unable to even agree on what the millenia-old institution should be. Our culture is not a sufficient source of information in regards to marriage, even if it's not as bad as the standard assumption makes it seem.

In my opinion, the Bible is as clear on the marriage relationship as on vritually any other topic. Besides describing the origin and procreative purpose of marriage (Genesis 2), the roles of husband and wife are passed along to us, and the spiritual purpose of marriage are revealed. It is to these last two points that I would like to direct the rest of this already-longer-than-I'd-planned post. In the NT, Paul and Peter give the following Apostolic commands regarding marriage:

  • Ephesians 5:25-28:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

  • Colossians 3:19:Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

  • 1 Peter 3:7:Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Pretty high standards. But what does it mean to love our wives "as Christ loved the church"? What does it mean to treat them "as the weaker partner"? And how do verses like these impact the associated verses, usually instructing women to be submissive? These are the questions I'll be answering over the next few days. If you have additional questions, please use the comments or email me. This marriage relationship is a very important one, and I want to make sure that (a) I'm not teaching error, and (b) that I'm teaching clearly. If our marriages are reflections, or types, of the relationship between Jesus and His church, it behooves us to try and get them right.

God bless!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/6 Edition

Lots going on, and I've been unable to get my entries in to a few of these carnivals/symposiums. That probably means the quality is higher!

Christian Carnival is up at Proverbs Daily. Another long list of entries. Favorites (so far) include this one from Crossroads (close to my heart as a Sunday School teacher and AWANA teacher), and The Bible Archive's look at denominational, er, culinary differences.

Vox Apologia is up for those interested in the ontological argument. Next week's topic: The Cosmological Argument: Strengths and Weaknesses.

Latest Out of the Wilderness introduces us to Thoughts of a Stranger and Stand Up and Walk.

Tim Challies has another book giveaway. This one includes a DVD (on the "Dangers of Rock and Roll" - sounds...well, dunno) and Blog by Hugh Hewitt. Good luck!

Joe at Evangelical Outpost is hosting another quarterly EO Blog Symposium. The topic for this one is "Judeo-Christian Morality in an Ethically Pluralistic Society." The deadline is midnight 4/15, but unlike the other 4/15 deadline, this one comes with the possibility of a prize.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband

Kristen recently posted a couple of items (here and here) dealing with the submission of wives to their husbands. She left it up to us guys to "admonish each other" about the "love your wife" part of the formula, and since I'm a glutton for punishment I thought I might take that on.

This is also a timely question, as the recent controversy over Terri Schiavo raises vital questions, I believe, about how a husband is to love his wife. Namely, what does it mean for a man to love his wife, through thick and thin, in a way that lives up to the wedding vows ("in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, forsaking all others, until death do us part")? Do we need to take those vows more seriously? What is the nature of this "love" we are supposed to have for our spouses? These are some of the questions I've been thinking about lately, and not because I am seeking answers; I think the Bible is pretty clear on how this is supposed to look. Rather, I've been thinking about these things because there seem to be so many men who are completely missing the boat in this area.

This also means I'm kicking off another series. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but the whole "glutton for punishment" thing comes back into play. This topic is going to take multiple posts to work through. I'm sure some readers (like the emailer who expressed interest in my view of this topic) will wonder whether I'm going to take the misogynist approach, the feminist approach, or some hybrid. I hope I'm going to be taking a Biblical approach, which is far from misogynistic, yet doesn't quite match the current philosophy of liberal feminism either.

In the meantime, here are some articles that touch on some of the things I'll be posting:

Excerpt from "Your Wife is Not Your Mama" by Wellington Boone.
Christianity Today article touching on domestic violence issues
Some thoughts from Ladies Against Feminism.

God bless!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/4 Edition

Light blogging today as the weather is far too nice to ignore, and Eldest daughter is anxious to get the tee set up so she can play t-ball in the backyard. Plus, root beer floats are on the agenda! But rather than leave this place blank for yet another day (sorry 'bout the lack of a 'net connection - should be a resolved issue) thought I'd highlight some things I found in the past few days.

Amy has some new digs which are worth a look-see (as if the content alone isn't enough to commend the site). Kudos to Tim Challies for his work getting the site set up for her.

Opening day!

Proverbs Daily has the Christian Carnival this week. Get the entries in, oh ye of Christian minds.

Siris is hosting a poetry carnival. I'm a hack poet, but the wife seems to like it enough that mayhaps I'll submit a poem to the carnival. As an avid believer in the impact believers can make through the arts (and an avid believer that those with talent can have more impact than those like me who have none) I find this to be a wonderful endeavor. (HT: Rebecca Writes.)