Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Theology of Children

Here is a little study I did on a basic Scriptural perspective of how we are to view children. Our Bible Study was truly moved as we reflected on what miracles children really are.

I. God wants us to be interested in children.

A. There are more than 8,000 references to children and family related terms in the Bible.

B. There are many stories of children (Samuel, Samson, Ishmael, Isaac, widow’s son, Timothy, Daniel).

II. Children Are Miraculous Gifts From the Lord

A. Miraculous pottery (Eccles 11:5; Job 10:8-12; 31:15; Psa 139:13-16; Isa 29:16; 41:25; 45:9; 64:8; Zech 12:1).

B. God’s good design for filling the earth (Gen 1:28; 9:1)

C. Many children is a sign of God’s blessing (Ps 127:3-5; 128:3-4; Gen 15:5; 16:10; 17:16; 22:17; 24:60; 25:21; 26:4; 28:3; 30:6, 11, 17, 18, 22; 49:25; Exod 23:25-26; Deut 7:13-14; 28:11; 30:9; Ruth 4:11; 1 Sam 1:10-11, 19-20; Job 5:25; Lk 1:13).

D. Having children is seen as desirable (Gen 18:12; 25:21; 30:1; Prov 30:15-16).

E. Parenthood is seen as joyful (Job 29:5; Ps 113:9; Gen 30:13; Jer 20:15; John 16:21; Hosea 9:16; Luke 1:14, 58).

F. It is desirable to have one’s name and family continued on earth (Ruth 4:10; 2 Sam 14:7; 2 Sam 18:18; Jer 11:19).

G. It is good to have children to support parents in their old age (Ruth 4:15; Gen 47:11-12; 1 Timothy 5)

H. They are precious gifts (Gen 4:25; 17:16; 30:6, 20; 33:5)

I. God enables conception (Ruth 4:13; Gen 29:31; 30:22; Ps 71:6; Isa 66;9)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Learning Parenting From the Fatherhood of God

I. The Concept of God’s Fatherhood

We know theologically from the doctrine of the Trinity that God is a being who exists simultaneously as three coeternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We know that God the Father is a father to the second person of the Trinity, the Son. He also becomes the father through adoption to all who are in Christ. The Spirit within us causes us to cry out to the Father as our Abba, Father.

It is interesting to note also that the other two persons of the trinity operate in ways that can be described as fatherly. Consider the Son. Of Him in Isaiah 9:6 it is said, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

The last part of the verse are titles or descriptions that those under the reign of Jesus as King are prophesied to give him. As they take counsel from him He will be seen as wonderful. His power will give him the title of mighty God, the result of his reign will establish him as prince of peace, but his care over his people as children will cause them to ascribe to him the title “Eternal Father.” Jesus also tells his disciples in John 14:18 that he would not leave them as orphans. This is interesting in light of the fact that he had just indicated that he would send His Spirit to comfort them and dwell in them. He follows with an indication that he and the father would dwell in them.

So we see in many ways that Fatherhood is integral to who God is and how he treats his people.

It is important for us to realize that human fatherhood is a derived concept. It is not as if God’s fatherhood is merely an anthropomorphic way of communicating with us, but rather that our fathering is reflective of the image of God in man.

It is no surprise that He would bid us in Eph 5:1 to be imitators of God as beloved children. Later in chapter 6 verse 4 when he instructs fathers on how to treat their children that the model for parenting would be God himself. This is similar to the fact that when He instructs husbands and wives on how to live in marriage, that the model they are to follow is Christ in His relationship to the church. God’s plan of redemption comes first and marriage is designed to reflect that Gospel covenant love.

Likewise, in parenting we are mostly called to reflect God’s fatherly care of His children in living out our duties.

This study seeks to learn from God’s Fatherhood the characteristics of parenting. I simply gathered all of the passages that speak of God’s fatherhood and deduced a characteristic about his fatherhood. Amazingly, it turned out to be 26, one for each letter of the alphabet. So, here’s the A to Z.

II. The Characteristics of God’s Fatherhood.

A. God is a compassionate father.

This is seen in direct statements (Psalm 103).

This is seen in his treatment of those in need of compassion.

Psalm 68:5-6 5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. 6 God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

B. God is a delivering father.

Isaiah 63:15-16 15 Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation; Where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds? The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me. 16 For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.

C. God is a molding, shaping father so that his children are the works of his hands.

Isaiah 64:8-9 8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

D. God is a father who expects the obedience of his children.

Jeremiah 3:19 19 "Then I said, 'How I would set you among My sons And give you a pleasant land, The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!' And I said, 'You shall call Me, My Father, And not turn away from following Me.'

E. God is a father who desires his children’s works to reflect well on Him.

Matthew 5:16 16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:44-45 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

F. God is a father who rewards obedience.

Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:4 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

G. God is a father who knows the needs of His children.

Matthew 6:8 8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

H. God is a father who is available and approachable for requests.

Matthew 6:9-11 Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 'Give us this day our daily bread.

John 15:16 so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Romans 8:15 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

I. God is a father who is forgiving.

Matthew 6:14 14 "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

J. God is a father who takes care of His children’s needs.

Matthew 6:26-33 26 "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

K. God is a father who is giving and gives good gifts.

Matthew 7:11 11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

John 16:23 23 "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.

James 1:17 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

L. God is a father who gives spiritual things.

Ephesians 1:17 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

M. God is a father who gives responsibility.

Matthew 11:27 27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father;

N. God is a father who reveals truth to His children.

John 15:15 for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

O. God is a father who is able & ready to protect His children.

Matthew 26:53 53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

P. God is a father who is kind, merciful and comforting.

Luke 6:35-36 35 "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

1 Peter 1:3 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Q. God is a father who loves.

John 3:35 35 "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.

John 10:17 17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.

John 14:21-23 21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

John 15:9 9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

John 16:26-27 26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.

1 John 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.

R. God is a father who wants to be honored and imitated.

John 5:19-27 19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

S. God is a father who teaches.

John 8:28 28 So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.

T. God is a father who knows and is known by His children.

John 10:15 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

1 John 2:13 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.

U. God is a father who is concerned to bring forth fruit in His children.

John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:8 8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

V. God is a father who shares.

John 16:15 15 "All things that the Father has are Mine;

W. God is a father who makes promises and keeps them.

Acts 1:4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me;

Acts 2:33 33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

X. God is a father who exercises authority.

Acts 1:7 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;

Y. God is a father who impartially judges.

1 Peter 1:17 17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

Z. God is a father who has fellowship with His children.

1 John 1:3 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Loving Others When Differing on Christian Liberties

I recently started a series on parenting, but in the first two lessons I covered principles of Christian liberties because there are so many issues where people have strong disagreements on parenting that can cause division. We need to recognize when CL is in play and determine to love each other and strive for unity.

Principles for Christian Liberties

1. You need to decide whether the practice is a Christian liberty.
i. Does the Bible address this issue?
ii. Is it contrary to a command of Scripture (1 John 3:4; Ps 119:105)?
iii. Is it contrary to a principle of Scripture?
iv. Is it consistent with having Christ as my Lord? (1 Cor 6:19-20)
v. Is it consistent with Biblical examples? (1 Cor 11:1)

2. You need to decide whether or not you can practice the liberty yourself.

a. You need to determine your own view about the liberty (Rom 14:5).

Helpful questions to consider?
1. Is it beneficial? (1 Cor 6:12)
2. Is it potentially enslaving? (1 Cor 6:12)
3. Will it tend to lead me into sin? (Rom 13:14)
4. Is it beneficial to others? (Rom 14:20; 1 Cor 10:33)

b. You need to make sure that you have the faith to do it (Rom 14:14, 22-23).
c. You need to make sure not to violate your conscience ( 1 Cor 8:7).
d. Can you practice this liberty unto the Lord? (Rom 14:6-9; 1 Cor 10:31).

3. You must recognize that this liberty might not be viewed the same way by others (14:5).

4. You need to give those who differ on this issue the benefit of the doubt that they are able to practice what they do as to the Lord (Rom 14:5-9).

5. You shouldn’t judge or despise your brother for his practice, leave that to God (Rom 14:1-4, 10-13).

6. You shouldn’t argue about Christian liberties (Rom 14:1, 1 Cor 13:5; Phil 2:13; 1 Cor 3:3; 2 Cor 12:20; 2 Tim 2:14, 23-26).

7. You need to use wisdom and discretion in when and where to practice your liberties.

8. You need to have sensitivity for the views of others and a willingness to limit your freedoms for the sake of others.

9. You usually need to make sure that you do not do anything in public that would cause your brother to stumble (Rom 14:13, 21; 1 Cor 8:9-13).

10. You usually shouldn’t practice in public something that another person’s conscience condemns (1 Cor 10:27-33)

11. Make sure to be most interested in edifying others (Rom 14:15, 19; 1 Cor 8:1; 10:24).

12. It is important to try to inform the conscience of the weak and not allow the weak to lead the church.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Praying for Your Children

One of the ways that we can love our children is by praying for them prayers that are really important. The following is an outline of a study I just led on praying for your children. It also includes the prayers of Paul as models.

I. Pray for Their Salvation (Romans 10:1)

II. Give Thanks

A. For the faith you see (2 Thess 1:3)

3We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged,

B. For the love you see.

and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

C. For the perseverance you see.

4therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.

III. Pray for Christ to be glorified in their lives.

11To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

IV. Pray for their completion in sanctification.

1 Thess 3:9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, 10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?

V. Pray for them to love.

1 Thess 3: 11Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

VI. Pray for spiritual knowledge, wisdom & understanding.

Col 1:9For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

VII. Pray for their walk.

Col 1: 10so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

VIII. Pray like this.

Phil 1:9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Eph 1:15For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Eph 3:14-21 14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Well, I'm finally back to blogging. Thanks for your patience with me. The last quarter of school was overwhelming for me, but by God's grace we all got through it. The good thing about not blogging quickly though was that I have had 4 months to think and meditate on patience. I have always been amazed that in saving me God has taken a person who was essentially on death row and had no inclination to please him; not only paid my penalty and justified me, but adopted me into His family and is now patiently raising me as His child.

That thought has really intrigued me of late. As sophisticated, intelligent, or strong I may sometimes fancy myself, in reality, to Him I'm always a child. And He is patiently raising me to grow up into a mature man of the stature and image of Christ. His patience is the pattern of patience that my love must display to others.

I find that there are many challenges to patience, and I am speaking of patience toward people, not circumstances. I spend most of my time in an educational environment. It of course requires contact with people on many levels. Patience is the ability to restrain from becoming angry, provoked, or acting toward anyone in an unloving manner no matter what they do.

Challenges to patience take many forms. In evaluating my tendency toward impatience I find that it is not always the same thing that someone does that sets me off. It is rather that it has to do with the state of my heart at any given moment.

As an educator and administrator in theological circles I naturally have requests of all sorts from students, pastors, pulpit committees, other faculty and administration, board members, applicants, donors, potential donors, information seekers, creditors, vendors, etc.

Then as a father of eight I can add requests concerning homeschool, athletic activities, music lessons, hobbies, discipline, desires, college, driving, entertainment, wet pants, bloddy noses, sicknesses, etc.

As a husband I add the desires and needs of my wife and inlaws. As a son and brother there are always considerations for my parents, brothers, neices, nephews, etc.

As a shepherd in the church there is always the constant concern for the many needs of the flock. As a board member for a missionary organization, there are the needs of missionaries, teaching at conferences, fund raising, etc.

As a friend there are friendship considerations; and as a neighbor there are all of those issues that neighbors bring like concern over lawns and fences, parking, trees, parties, children, etc.

And then there are all of those people we encounter through our daily existence, UPS man, postal worker, bank teller, door-to-door salesmen, JWs, Mormans, Store clerks, other drivers, DMV personel, etc.

I am probably forgetting some people, but the point is that there are so many people in my life (which I absolutely love by the way) that there is always going to be someone who does something that is provoking, irritating, demanding, or in some other way calls me to be unselfish. And that is really what it all boils down to. At every moment in relationship to other people I have a choice to make: Am I going to be selfish or am I going to serve?

In my heart I need to continue to go to the Lord, see Christ patiently enduring the cross for me, see the Father's patience for me, depend upon the Holy Spirit, pray to the Lord regularly, especially in those trying circumstances, dying to my own selfish desires.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meditations on Loving from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (#1)

Today I'm meditating on the idea from verse 4 that "Love is patient." What does this mean? This is the passive or restrained side of love. This is a temperament that patiently accepts injuries without a desire for revenge. It speaks literally of being long-tempered, this is a spirit controlled ability to endure the provocations and injustices of people and still be in control of yourself; not responding to people with anger or contempt or any evil impulse. Love can take whatever an enemy commits against them without responding in bitterness.

How do I need to be more patient with reference to people?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Heart of the Problem Is the Problem of the Heart

In Judges 16:15 Delilah pointed out that the failure to love in action was a heart problem. I know that is the problem I have. There is something in the way I think or the way I feel that often keeps me from having that commited will to act lovingly in the moment.

Jesus put it this way, "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, slanders. These are the things which defile the man. I can readily admit that I have at least had thoughts of all of these sins. It shows me that there is something wretched and vile within me. As Jesus says, I'm defiled.

Meditating on that for awhile is a real eye opener. I have really stopped being amazed at how often evil thoughts or impulses arise. Yet, I also know that the Gospel gives us hope. I am not given the impression anywhere in Scripture that I just have to consign myself to a life of defeat and depression over continually being plagued by and falling to sin. That would be antithetical to the Gospel.

The Gospel offers hope to sinners. And that hope is not just justification and forgiveness of sin. I know that in more defeated times of my life I certainly have found comfort in the doctrine of justification; and what Christ has done for me is certainly motivation to live for Him. But I find that the Gospel also holds out hope for real change in this life as well.

The Bible speaks of transformation. 2 Cor 3:18 says, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

This verse indicates that as I gaze into the glory of Christ I am continually being transformed into Christlikeness. This is the ultimate goal of the believer in regards to change, to be like Christ in heart and thus, speech and action--love.

Paul tells us that he has confidence that God will carry this work on to completion (Phil 1:6). So, we can be sure that God is changing us and that we can change.

I know also that God has given us His Spirit to enable us to manifest this Christlikeness and produce love (Gal 5:22-23). What must change then is our hearts. By the Spirit the heart must be controlled, made gentle, faithful, good, kind, patient, peaceful, joyful, and loving.

The process of change is called repentance. More on that later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Does Biblical Love Look Like in Marriage?

Recently I was asked about what headship & submission look like in marriage and how I would counsel a couple going through certain problems. Here was my reply that I hope will be helpful to anyone pursuing love.

My counseling these days is very simple. Every problem in marriage boils down to one simple thing: a failure to love. I would not start with role relationships. The glue that holds marriage together, the oil that makes it work without friction, and the cleanser that makes it shine is love. Colossians 3:14 says that love is the perfect bond of unity.

What we all need more than anything is to learn how to love God and our neighbor. Our most opportune neighbor to love is our spouse. What I would do first is work through what biblical love is. There are many places to go for that, but my favorite place is 1 Cor 13:4-8a.

This passage is very familiar to us all, but I think that the key to our lives is to really see the beauty in what is described and desire it, evaluate our lives by it to see where we need to change to be more loving, request the gift of repentance, resolve and try to change, and rely upon God to sanctify us into more perfect lovers. And I would add that love is seen here as actions. Paul makes clear that if you just say you have love, but you don't really have the active love he is talking about then you are just making noise (clanging gong, clashing cymbal).

There are a lot of things listed in this passage, but the first two descriptions of love are the summary of all the others. Love is patient and love is kind. If we could just be patient with each other through no matter what we do and be kind in every action toward others, we would have wonderful marriages.

Patience involves basically putting up with the other person no matter what they do (now of course there are things that have to have legal or discipline, or other types of consequences, but short of those), the overarching passive response is patience. It involves restraint, self-control, and unselfishness. Patience also involves believing the best and hoping for change.

The other side of love is kindness. This is the active side of love. It should characterize our speech and actions. It involves gentleness, tenderness, compassion, mercy, loyalty, faithfulness, etc. It is just treating someone nice in all of the ways that you can do that.

Now the way that Paul proceeds shows us that if we are going to be patient and kind it is going to involve self-denial, a death to self has to occur. This is what I constantly bear in mind each day. How do I need to die right now so that I can love better next time? Just as Jesus' love was displayed in death, I must die to my selfish desires.

He gives eight ways:

1) Love is not jealous, so I need to die to my desires to have what others have or to have no objects of shared affection.
2) Love does not brag, so I need to die to my desire to talk about myself in a way that I get the glory or look better than others.
3) Love is not arrogant, so I need to die to my desire to be made much of or to think of myself as better than others in anything.
4) Love does not behave rudely, so I need die to my desire to act in a way that unnecessarily offends others.
5) Love does not seek its on way, so I need to die to the desire to be dominated by my own preferences.
6) Love is not provoked, so I need to die to the desire to live a frustration free life.
7) Love does not keep a record of wrongs, so I need to die to my desire to hold a grudge, bring up past wrongs, or not forgive.
8) Love does not rejoice in iniquity, so I need to die to my desire to enjoy any sinful attitude or action against anyone.

Finally Paul ends with 4 statements of hyperbole to emphasize that love must dominate our lives by bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things. Again these are just patience & kindness.

Once I have a couple really working on loving each other by examining themselves, dying to selfishness, and practicing love by patience & kindness, then I show them that God's will for our lives involves being imitators of Him. Ephesians 5 starts with that. Then it goes on to teach how we are to imitate Him in His love, His light (or holiness), and His wisdom. This imitation is accomplished in our lives as we pursue it by being filled by the Holy Spirit (5:18). It is in this context of Spirit produced love, light, and wisdom, being imitators of God and His Son Jesus Christ that we then finally can enter into a discussion of roles. And these roles are simply examples he gives of Spirit filled imitation of God in His wisdom, light, and love.

It is no wonder then that as God says that a husband is his wife's head he simply commands him to love her. I certainly believe that being head in the context implies authority, and there are other passages that make him responsible to lead, protect, manage, oversee, take care of, etc., but what a man first needs to grasp is that his ultimate leadership is to lead in loving--that is--being patient and kind. Then in the context he needs to lead in wisdom and holiness.

I think a crucial thing which is part of that is for him to value his wife as his helper. God providentially arranged that his wife would be packaged with certain wisdom, knowledge, gifts, abilities, talents, interests, and insights, that he would need to accomplish what God has called him to do for the glory of Christ. He must become skilled at drawing these things out of her and unleashing her full potential or he is acting foolishly. This is what I strive for. I don't want to miss anything she has to give.

Now, after all of this, (and even more I would go into), we can talk about submission. I think it is essential to see that in the Greek the word for submit is actually a participle that is in a string of participles that all go back to modify being filled with the Spirit. These are all results of the Spirit's filling. A wife's submission is simply one of God's designed results of her walking in love, wisdom, & light being filled by the Spirit.

She simply treats her husband with love, manifested by patience and kindness, as she understands that God has placed her in a relationship where her husband has authority over her and she is called to respect him as that authority, but it should be kept in mind that she is really ultimately serving the Lord by doing so.

One very important thing to point out is that it is NOT the husbands responsibility to make his wife submit. She must do this voluntarily. This is her responsibility. He is simply called to love her. Likewise, it is not the wife's responsibility to make her husband love her. He has to do that. When a husband will not love her properly she should follow 1 Peter 3:1-6 and seek to win him through love, wisdom, and holiness which manifests itself there by a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God.

What is ultimately at stake in our loving headship and loving submission is the picture of the gospel to the world. Eph 5:32 indicates that marriage is really ultimately about portraying the relationship of Christ to His Church.

So, finally I think that headship looks like this: a husband loving his wife with patience and kindness, leading in loving God and loving others, walking in love, light and wisdom, seeking to promote her growth in grace and wanting to gain from her in every way that God designed her to be a helpmate, recognizing her value as a gift, partner, and co-laborer. Submission relies upon the Holy Spirit to see her husband as her God ordained leader, respect him as that, and in love, light, and wisdom, submitting all that she has and all that she is to her husband to help him in all that God has called him to do. Letting him know all of her wisdom, knowledge, talents, gifts, resources, strengths, weaknesses etc, to complete him yet being willing to let him bear the ultimate responsibility for their family's leadership.

In practice it involves a lot of communication, listening, reading the word and prayer together as we seek to simply treat each other with patience and kindness. There have been a few times where I have had to ask her to just trust me in certain decisions and to ultimately trust God to lead her through me and to deal with me whatever the consequences, but most of the time it involves a mutual agreement.

Friday, March 7, 2008

An Opportunity to Love the Government God Has Given Us

A California Court just made a ruling that basically outlaws homeschooling in California. This of course affects us and we will be very interested to see what happens regarding the law and the appeals process. Already various homeschool families and legal entities are responding with outrage, fear, legal action, etc. It is understandable. But what is so important is to see that this is an opportunity to love those in authority over us and love those who may not understand why we do what we do. How do we manifest patience & kindness toward the courts, truancy officers, reporters, lawyers, legislators, etc.?

I have posted Al Mohler's blog about this situation below:

A Bolt From the Blue -- A Homeschooling Decision in California

Posted: Friday, March 07, 2008 at 4:08 am ET
Like a bolt from the blue, a California appeals court has ruled that the state's parents have no constitutional right to homeschool their own children. In a flash, a child welfare case that no one had noticed has become a flash point of controversy in the nation. Will homeschooling be ruled illegal in California?

Here is how The San Francisco Chronicle introduced the story:

A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution.

The homeschooling movement never saw the case coming.

"At first, there was a sense of, 'No way,'" said homeschool parent Loren Mavromati, a resident of Redondo Beach (Los Angeles County) who is active with a homeschool association. "Then there was a little bit of fear. I think it has moved now into indignation."

From The Los Angeles Times:

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families. Advocates for the families vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Enforcement until then appears unlikely, but if the ruling stands, home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation. "This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the Sunland Christian School, which specializes in religious home schooling. "If the state Supreme Court does not reverse this . . . there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state of California."

The court's decision states that California's compulsory education statute does not allow for parents to teach their own children as an exemption. Instead, the only teachers qualified to teach children under the law are those with official teaching credentials.

The decision is sending shockwaves across the homeschooling movement nationwide. In California alone, over 160,000 families homeschool their own children. Some believe that the number is actually far higher.

In any event, the requirement of teacher credentials has long been used by the public school systems and teacher unions as a ploy to shut down competition.

In the most important section of the court's ruling, the 3-judge panel ruled that California parents have no constitutional right to educate their own children. As the decision reads [see
full text here]:

The trial court's reason for declining to order public or private schooling for the
children was its belief that parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home. However, California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children. Thus, while the petition for extraordinary writ asserts that the trial court's refusal to order attendance in a public or private school was an abuse of discretion, we find the refusal was actually an error of law.
The words, "parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," are nothing less than explosive. Even as the court's decision is expected to be stayed pending appeal, some parents are already making clear that they will move their families from the state if necessary.

As The Los Angeles Times reports:
Glenn and Kathleen, a Sacramento-area couple who requested that their last name not be used for fear of prosecution, home school their 9-year-old son Hunter because their Christian beliefs would be contradicted in a public school setting, Glenn said. He is troubled by the idea that his son would be exposed to teachings about evolution, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and sex education ."I want to have control over what goes in my son's head, not what's put in there by people who might be on the far left who have their own ideas about indoctrinating kids," he said. If the ruling takes effect, Glenn vowed to move his family out of state. "If I can't home school my son in California, we're going to have to end up leaving California. That's how important it is to me."

This is a controversy that demands the attention of all parents. After all, if parents have no constitutional right to educate their own children, what other aspects of the parent's choices for their own children lack protection? This question reaches far beyond educational decisions.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Learning Love From A Can of Green Beans

As I sit at the dinner table tonight I know that there is a half empty can of green beans sitting on the kitchen counter that needs to be put away. I cannot quite see it from where I sit, but I know that it is probably still there. Of course there is no guarantee because you can never tell what will happen in this house. I am aware of the green bean can because it has taunted me all day long. I am not quite sure when it appeared or who opened it, who knows maybe I even opened it, but I have seen it several times today in passing and I have remembered it from a distance on numerous occasions.

You might be saying, "Why don't you just get up and put it away?" Well, the reason is that I am certain that between my departure from the table and my arrival at the kitchen there would be some interruption and a string of circumstances that would have my next conscious thought arise in some place like the back yard, garage, street, or head in the refrigerator wondering, "What am I doing here?" or "What was I looking for?"

No, I am not a total lunatic, nor do I have Alzheimer's, I have just been keeping seven of my children for the past five days while my wife is in Alabama visiting her parents. The green bean can has special significance for me for two reasons. First, it represents my own inadequacy and inability to accomplish all that I am called to do in this task. Second, because it teaches me how to love my wife in a more understanding way.

You see, I remember coming home from work one day a few months ago and seeing a half empty can of green beans sitting on the counter. As we were putting kids to bed I passed through the kitchen and mentioned to my wife the presence of the can and asked how long it has been out and whether it should still be put away. She said, "I think it has been there since lunchtime." I remember thinking, "I wonder why she didn't put it away," but I didn't say anything. I knew that she was extremely busy and decided that I would just be understanding and take care of it myself. I thought I understood then, but now I really do understand.

I serve as the Dean of a seminary where I also teach language classes. Last Wednesday I taught & administered seminary education from 7:30 AM to 5:40 PM. Then I took my son to basketball practice and headed home to teach my Bible study. After the study we put our children to bed and then I headed to the SF airport to send my wife to Alabama. I finally arrived home about 1:30 AM. So, needless to say, I started this whole adventure very tired. But that is okay. It dawned on me this week that my wife does this all the time. She is often up early and retires late, constantly working. I was simply feeling what she does regularly.

Then it started. I entered the adventure with the naive thought that I would still accomplish my work from home while homeschooling and taking care of the children. I soon relinquished that dream. Very quickly the realization that this was more than a full time endeavor seized me. Now, five days later as I prepare to pick up my dear wife from the airport I have come to understand her very much better. In 1 Peter 3:7 it says for husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. This is my endeavor by the power of the Spirit and the grace of Christ.

Walking a mile in someone else's shoes definitely goes a long way to help you understand them and learn how to love them better (being patient and kind). This week I have experienced the types of burdens my dear wife carries - the weight she feels of being concerned with homeschooling seven children . . . are they learning? . . . am I doing a good job . . . is CPS going to show up and take them away . . . am I doing what is the wisest? - the concern over their character . . . reading to them, disciplining, discussing -- holding them accountable for their responsibilities and chores, three meals a day . . . are they eating well . . . giving out medication . . . making sure the guinea pig and the fish don't die . . . the cooking . . . the cleaning . . . getting them to swim team and basketball practice, changing diapers (7 times a day), getting them up, putting them to bed, overseeing their hygiene (brushing teeth, doing hair, getting dressed, taking baths, wearing deodorant), managing the mountains of laundry, the washing, the drying, the sorting, the folding, the putting away . . . living through the very simple constant demands --the questions, the requests, the social agenda of each child, the whining, the rebellion, the hugs and kisses, the hurts, bumps, and bruises . . . being the nurse . . . going to buy necessary clothes, supplies, food, etc. . . . cleaning up spills and bathroom accidents . . . getting them up and ready for church on time, doing pew training, . . . And this list could go on and on. I found that often I experienced unexplained fears and surges of emotion.

While I was at home I didn't even have to concern myself with homeschooling the youngest school age children because she had finished their work up through my days with them. I also did not have to be concerned with pleasing and serving a husband as she does.

Besides all of these things my wife also somehow does discipleship, ministers to people in various ways, answers e-mails, writes a blog, engages in photography, graciously handles interruptions, and TAKES CARE OF ME all while maintaining her spiritual devotion to Christ.

In the midst of my adventure many things went undone. The first thing that went out the window was any time or energy spent on myself. I didn't even think about shaving for four days. It was hard to find time to eat, get dressed or go to the bathroom. The newspapers piled up in the driveway, I cleaned no bathrooms, did not clean out the fridge, did very little yard work, and no extra things around the house. and there is the weight of looking at the things you cannot accomplish like putting away a green bean can. So it was easy to see how some things just never get done.

Let me say here, to exonerate my children, that they were very helpful throughout the five days. They have been taught to do many things, but even then there is the weight of overseeing their work in their responsibilities.

After all of this, it would be an understatement to say that I marvel at how well my wife takes care of all of her charge. She truly is an excellent wife far more valuable than rubies. I feel that many daughters have done nobly, but she excels them all. I will praise her to her face, before the children, and in the gates. But I marvel even more at what Christ can do in a life. I marvel at His grace, because having experienced a small slice of her life I marvel that she would not only be able to do this and do it well all the time, but that it is her choice to do this and she loves it and would choose nothing else. She serves her Lord in this way every day with joy.

I think I understand my wife better and her needs. I need to be constantly vigilant in remembering to pray for my dear wife, to encourage her, to give her rest and breaks, to give her adult conversation, to rescue her out of her burdens, to treat her to dates, to find ways to help her, to support her with the children, to demand nothing, to treat her with extra special graciousness, gentleness, tenderness, and affection.

One last thought that occurred to me during this process was how difficult it must be to be a single parent. My heart is broken to think of doing this all without a partner. Again, how amazing the grace of our loving Lord must be to enable single parents to persevere and even have great joy in raising children without other help. Lord make us all more understanding and compassionate toward each other. Teach us how to minister to each other.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Learning Love From Samson and Delilah (Part 2)

Despite the fact that Samson's three recorded "love" relationships leave very little to be desired regarding an example to emulate, his third fling actually gives amazing insight into the key to genuine love. We have a cycle of Delilah asking Samson how he can be bound; he lies; she tries; he breaks loose. Then Delilah makes this statement: "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me?"

She sees an inconsistency between his saying, "I love you," and his lying. She diagnoses the problem with his inconsistency as related to the heart. It reminds me of Henry Krabbendam who I once heard say in his deep golden voice, "The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart."

Now never mind that the same thing could be said of Delilah, after all she is trying to betray him, but she really does get to the heart of the problem. If you look at the references to the heart in the OT you get the idea that the heart is a way of referring to your mission control center--the place in the core of your immaterial man that includes all of your thinking, willing, & feeling; and action comes from how you think, will, and feel. So we learn from Delilah that the kind of love that we want is one that will start in the heart. She wants Samson to think, will, and feel, about her in such a way that his actions are consistent with his profession of love towards her. Isn't that the kind of love we want to have? Isn't that the kind of love we want to give?

That is the kind of love God has toward us and the kind of love He calls us to and empowers believers to demonstrate in Christ by His Spirit.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Interim Post - Keeping Kids

I plan to follow up with the Samson story soon, but I am in the midst of keeping seven children while Myra goes to Alabama for five days to see her family. It is times like these when I am reminded what a wonderful, patient, incredibly hardworking woman she is -- a precious gift!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Learning Love From Samson and Delilah (Part 1)

The Grateful Dead sang a song called "Samson and Delilah," then the Pointer Sisters had a song called "Fire" where they put Samson and Delilah in the same league as Romeo and Juliet, having a love they could not deny. Yep, the Biblical couple has been enshrined as an example of a "love" story. But what was their love like?

To see this love story you have to go to the book of Judges (hee hee!). I recently did a Valentines banquet and got quite a look when I said, "Let's turn to the book of Judges." Well, its a fun story. Basically, we first learn about Samson's kind of love in chapter 14:1 when he "sees" a Philistine woman and tells his parents to go and get her for him. He makes three critical errors in my opinion. First, he spurns his parents counsel. Second, he chooses a wife that will be incompatible spritually. And third, he makes his decision based purely on physical attraction. He says, "She looks good to me" (v. 3).

Let's see how that worked out. Well, He makes his inlaws mad by gambling with them over a riddle. His wife tries to get the answer from him by manipulation through saying he hates her (16a). He puts his parents above his wife (16b) saying, "I haven't even told my parents why would I tell you?" She then manipulates him with tears, crying for seven days (17), which he gives in to. She betrays him to her people (18a). He calls her a heifer (18b).

Samson then demonstrates that he has an anger problem by killing 30 men and taking their clothes to pay off his bet (19); he ties torches to the tails of 300 foxes that burn up the grain fields and olive orchards (15:4-5). The Philistines retaliate by burning his wife and father-in-law, so he eventually kills 1000 with a donkey's jawbone.

Well let's see if his next relationship is any better. Judges 16:1 says that he saw a prostitute and went in to her. Okay, physical based and immoral.

Finally, we get to Delilah. It actually says that Samson "loved" her (16:4). But what does that mean? Let's see. Chapter 16 tells the tale of Delilah being bribed by the Philistines to find out the secret of Samson's strength so that they might know how to bind him to afflict him. Then there is this humorous cycle where she asks him, he tells her a lie, she tries what he tells her, the Philistines lie in wait to ambush him, whatever she tries fails, and he breaks the bonds. As you read the story you can just imagine the Philistines hiding in their house and seeing him awake breaking his bonds and them scurrying out the door.

So up to now we have relationships based on deceit, poor communication, favoring parents over spouse, immorality, majoring on the physical, name-calling, anger, manipulation, bribery--almost everything I've faced in marriage counseling. But I also see that every one of these areas could easily be a temptation for me. I'll explore that later.

Friday, February 22, 2008

About the Blog Title

Well, today I enter the blogosphere. My wife and oldest daughter preceded me into this world of contact. As I thought about a title that would really characterize my life and interests I was struck with my latest studies of Scripture. I have recently been stirred by the fact that the supreme thing that God calls us to is simply love. Love God, and love my neighbor, even love my enemy. Love my wife as Christ loved the church. Scriptural commands. My love for my brothers and sisters in Christ is supposed to be sooooo pronounced that all men will know I am a student and follower of Jesus by my love for them.

As I pondered these things it dawned on me that when you think of how we are called to be holy, righteous, perfect, blameless, wise, etc., love would fulfill all of these. The problem is that I know that at root I am not loving, I'm selfish. So I guess what I'm saying is that I see in me a deficiency when it comes to loving God or people. Yet, I see love as the most attractive thing I can think of. I do find within me a desire to love. So, what I am doing is getting busy finding out how to love.

Academically I have been in and out of school most of my life. In fact, I have just restarted pursuing a PhD. It will no doubt be helpful in many ways toward my profession, yet my title here is intended to emphasize that the pursuit that really matters most to me is to love God and people. I intend to share studies from Scripture and thoughts about what God is doing in my life toward this goal.

I invite you to join me on this journey as I ponder and pursue love to the highest degree, learning from Him who is the embodiment of love -- my Savior Jesus Christ.