The Dancing Puritan

Friday, February 5, 2016

14 Days of Love: Day 5: Read, Journal, Share, Remember.

Day One:Write a Song/Poem: Here
Day Two: Pray, Tell, Pray: Here
Day Three: Kiss: Here
Day Four: Meet: Here



A happy marriage is a wonderful gift but a terrible god. It is only when God is supreme in one's life, that His gifts can be received and enjoyed. Marriage, like everything else, is for the purpose of glorifying God. A godly marriage, glorifies God by positively displaying the gospel of Christ.

If you make a happy marriage the ultimate treasure of your life, then your marriage will never be as happy as it could be and your treasure will not satisfy. If God is the treasure of your life then, happy marriage or not, you can bring the aroma of God's joy and the sweetness of the gospel into your home, regardless of how your spouse responds to your acts of love. This is important to remember as you participate in the 14 Days of Love. Love flows from the gospel. When did Christ set his love on us? Christ loved us while we were sinners and enemies (Romans 5:6-11).
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also out to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (I John 4:7-12)

The only way that you can truly love your spouse is by embracing the gospel of God's love for you in Christ. The motive for loving your spouse is the gospel and not a response that you may desire from them. In other words, regardless of how your spouse responds to your acts of love, you are to keep on loving them. Ultimately, love for your spouse is not first of all about them, it is about God. You love them for God's glory, and you trust that God will supply your need for love through Christ.

With that foundation, here is today's activity.

1. Read chapter one from a godly book on intimacy in marriage. Several years ago I wrote a book, The Marriage Bed (available Here in paperback). You can also download it HereThe Marriage Bed is a very brief booklet that includes a seven-day-plan for cultivating intimacy in marriage. Ask your spouse if he/she will read the book with you. Perhaps you could read out loud before bedtime each evening.

Also read chapter one of The Song of Solomon.

2. Journal. For several years I have kept a marriage journal. Much of my journal is devoted to my reflections on The Song of Solomon (SOS). In days ahead, I will share with you practical ways to use SOS to cultivate joy and intimacy in your marriage. Some couples see SOS as a help to "Save Our Ship [marriage]." Others see it as a means to "Strengthen Our Ship." Everyone can learn how to "Sweeten Our Ship" through reading and applying Solomon's Song. Write your thoughts from SOS and from the marriage book in your journal.

In my journal I have personal notes to myself, thoughts about my wife Lori, various other applications from SOS, and poems.

3. Share. Share some of your affectionate thoughts with your beloved. Read to them a selection from your journal or write them a note with a few "nuggets of gold"  from your day's reading. Let them know of your love and of your desire to love them better.

4. Remember the Gospel. Look to Christ to supply your needs and from your faith in Christ, serve your spouse. What is one thing that you can do today that would encourage him/her? It may well be something that you do not want to do (Ladies: Shine his shoes. Guys: Vacuum the Den). Remember that your worth, hope, and life is found in Christ alone. Such knowledge frees you up to love and serve your spouse joyfully and sacrificially.

Tomorrow: A 30 Day Challenge.










Thursday, February 4, 2016

14 Days of Love: Day Four: Meet

Day One: Write a Song: Here
Day Two: Pray, Tell, Pray: Here
Day Three: Kiss: Here



In a letter dated December, 1855, Charles Spurgeon wrote to his fiancée Susannah: "Sweet one, How I love you! I long to see you and yet it is but half-an-hour since I left you. Comfort yourself in my absence by the thought that my heart is with you."

Separated only 30 minutes, Charles was already missing Susannah. 

The man and woman in The Song of Solomon longed to be together. 

She Says
Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions? (1:7)

He Says
If you do not know, O most beautiful among women, follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your young goats beside the shepherd's tents. (1:8) 
He says 
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. (2:13-14).

Later . . .
He says
Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields and lodge in the villages; let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. (7:12)

The final two verses of SOS further indicates their desire to be together.

He says
O you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice; let me hear it. 
She says
Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices. 
People, who love one another, want to spend time together. And they find creative ways to rendezvous.

Activity

Spend 10 minutes today planning a meeting. Share hints with your spouse without giving away all of the details of your plan. Be creative.

A Few Ideas

Write your beloved a note and say, in your own words, "I want to hear your voice and see your face." Write about flowers, vineyards, fruit, perfume, and gardens.

Meet your spouse during lunch break. Pack a picnic lunch and spread a blanket at a nearby park. Send him a text message with directions to your location. 

Surprise your husband when he comes home from work. If you have young children, consider hiring a babysitter. When your husband arrives at home, meet him at the door. Welcome him with a kiss. Have a candlelight dinner prepared. Take his hand and walk with him to the table. 

Surprise your wife. Send her a text early in the day. Tell her that you have plans with her for dinner and that she should not prepare a meal. Let her know how to dress for the evening and either take her out to dinner or bring a meal home. 

Throughout the day, text and email your beloved. Write handwritten notes and strategically place them where your husband/wife will see them. Be descriptive. 

Have fun and don't forget the music. I recommend Norah Jones or Jazz Piano Radio on Pandora.  








Wednesday, February 3, 2016

14 Days of Love: Day Three: Kiss

Day One: Write a Song/Poem for your Spouse. Here
Day Two: Pray, Tell, and Pray. Here

Day Three: Kiss!
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. The Song of Solomon (SOS) 1:2-4.
Isn't it wonderful that Solomon's best song opens with a stanza about kissing? The lady in SOS daydreams about kissing: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth." And then she speaks directly to her man: "For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out . . ."

Let him . . .

For your . . .

Kissing is a big deal in SOS. Is it a big deal in your marriage? How often do you go through an entire day without giving or receiving a kiss? Really, that often?

It has often been surmised that kissing is a more intimate act than full sexual intimacy. Lip-to-lip kissing connects at the point of communication, the mouth. Kissing is the natural precursor to complete sexual expression because it says, "I care about you. I want to communicate with you. I want to be near to you."

Kissing, though the natural precursor to sexual intimacy, is good all by itself.

In the first chapter of SOS, there is no hint of sexual expression. Yet kissing is there. Love is described. Beauty is communicated. Perfume fills the air and poetry, along with kissing, is on the lips.

Kissing is sacred. Let me put it like this: It is a godly thing to kiss your spouse. It is spoken of in the most positive of terms in SOS.
Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. (4:11).
The woman in SOS desires to be kissed by the man who loves her. His love for her is "better than wine." Wine was a precious commodity in Solomon's day. It was rich and sweet. Before wine could touch the lips, vines had been carefully cared for and pruned. The grapes were then gathered, pressed, and aged.

Love and joyful kissing go together. That is one reason why sexual immorality is so foolish. When a person engages in sexual immorality they are bypassing love and focusing only on physical and/or emotional pleasure. But true love is cultivated by hard work, pressed by trials, and matures over time. As love grows deeper, kissing becomes sweeter and richer. And kissing can continue even when   other aspects of intimacy diminish due to physical disabilities.

Activity

Kiss.  Try the "15 Second Kiss" experiment. Link Here: KISS

Get in the pathway of your spouse, face them, and kiss them. Kiss them several times a day and let one of those kisses be for at least 15 seconds.

Love.  Loving your spouse is not predicated on them displaying love to you. Loving your spouse is predicated on knowing and loving the gospel (I John 4:19).

Desire. If your desire for your spouse is not very strong right now, ask God to help you. Often you will find that praying for and doing loving things for your spouse will help to stir up desire. The lady in SOS longed to be kissed by the king because his love for her was strong. Perhaps your "king" is not displaying love towards you. If that is the case, remember the KING. His love is everlasting, overflowing, and is truly better than the best things of life.

Remember, marriage is about the gospel. Look to Christ, bathe in the gospel, and kiss your spouse.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is President of Nourished in the Word Ministries.





Tuesday, February 2, 2016

14 Days of Love: Day Two: Pray and Tell



Do you pray for your spouse? Do they know? Do you pray with your spouse? Today's activity in our 14 Days of Love emphasis (join here on Facebook by message) is praying, telling, and praying again.

One reason that more couples do not pray together is that they do not understand how essential prayer is to a godly and joyful marriage. Tim Keller writes about studying prayer in the Psalms. His research helped to prepare him for challenges after 9/11 that he would face as a pastor in New York and also for family trials. Tim's wife Kathy was suffering from the effects of Crohn's disease and Keller himself was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. (1).

Keller writes: "At one point during all this, my wife urged me to do something with her we had never been able to muster the self-discipline to do regularly. She asked me to pray with her every night. Every night." Kathy urged her husband "if we don't pray together to God, we're not going to make it because of all we are facing. I'm certainly not. We have to pray, we can't let it just slip our minds." (2).

Keller reflected:
For both of us the penny dropped; we realized the seriousness of the issue, and we admitted that anything that was truly a nonnegotiable necessity was something we could do. That was more than twelve years ago, and Kathy and I can't remember missing a single evening of praying together, at least by phone, even when we've been apart in different hemispheres.  (3)
Kathy Keller, in the midst trials, knew, what many of us fail to see, that without prayer we are not going to make it. At least, we are not going to make it in a joyful, productive, Christ-exalting and marriage-building way. Prayer is God's chosen means to imprint his character upon our hearts. It is also his way of providing enabling grace for every trial and windfall.

The Song of Solomon does not directly reference prayer. However, it does illustrate the importance of tenderly loving one's spouse. To the woman, her husband was the one "whom my soul loves." (3:1). For the husband his wife was "my love." (4:1) Marriage is about Jesus and his love relationship with his church. Jesus prayed for his church: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)  Later the apostle Paul wrote: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." (Ephesians 5:25-26)  It is obvious in Scripture that when one loves another, they will pray for them.

Let me ask you again. Do you pray for your spouse? Do they know? Do you pray with your spouse? If you really believe that you are not going to make it, in the way God intended, unless you pray for one another, then you will pray.

Activity

1. Stop what you are doing and pray for your spouse.
2. Tell your beloved that you are committed to praying for him/her each day.
3. Ask your spouse if he/she will pray with you before retiring to bed at night.
4. If they say yes, pray with them. If they say no, still pray for them and for your marriage.

Question from wives: Is it ok for me to ask my husband to pray with me? Yes, of course. A Christian husband should not mind you asking and, though he may feel inadequate for some reason, he will ultimately not mind praying with you. Be patient, kind, sensitive, and encouraging.

Another Question from wives: Is it ok for me to lead prayer if my husband does not want to pray, or if my husband simply wants me to sometimes lead the prayer, or if my husband is not a Christian? Some women feel as if they are never to initiate intimacy, Bible reading, or prayer. If your attitude is godly, humble, and submissive, then there is no reason why you cannot lead the prayer, on occasion. Certainly husbands are to lead their wives in all things, but that does not mean that wives are to be passive regarding practicing spiritual disciplines in the family. In many marriages both husband and wife pray together each morning and/or evening. If your husband is not a Christian then ask him if you can pray with him (and you lead the prayer) regularly. It is interesting to note in The Song of Solomon, that the lady speaks more than the man. She is portrayed as sometimes initiating physical intimacy.  She is not afraid to make her requests known to her husband concerning her desires. While a wife should never attempt to usurp her husband's authority in the home, there is no reason why she should not be actively engaged is promoting spiritual disciplines in her home.

Now, I have to be honest, confess, and make some changes in my marriage. I pray for my wife. I pray with my wife during family worship times and meal-time blessings. However, I rarely pray with my wife--just the two of us. Three ways that I will love my wife today: 1. I will pray for her. 2. I will tell her that I prayed for her. 3. Before we go to bed tonight, I will pray with her.

One more thing. Be biblical and be brief. Use the Bible (especially Psalms to help you to pray) and offer up a simple prayer to God for your spouse, your marriage, and your family.

1. Tim Keller, Prayer. (New York: Penguin, 2014), 9.
2. IBID., 10.
3. IBID.

Ray Rhodes is President of Nourished in the Word Ministries.



Monday, February 1, 2016

14 Days of Love: Day One: Write A Song




February's economic crown jewel is Valentine's Day. The merging of fact and fiction connected to St. Valentine is difficult to navigate, nevertheless, the venerable Saint is now forever connected to love. Regardless of whether St. Valentine was truly notable for love, or not, the day that bears his name can serve good purposes. As a friend of mine often suggests, "leverage the holidays."

That being said, I have decided to offer 14 brief posts about love. Allow my thoughts to stir up the creative juices in your tired brain and encourage you to a more romantic life. Over the next 14 days I will help you to get started, but after that its up to you. The Song of Solomon will serve as my primary text to draw a few points of application.

Day One: What is The Song of Solomon? This is not a trick question. The Song of Solomon is a song! Solomon collected and wrote a lot of songs: "He [Solomon] also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005." (I Kings 4:32). Most of Solomon's songs are lost to us. However, the most played song on his ancient I-Pod was The Song of Solomon (SOS).

Here is what I want you to do today. No excuses. Write a love song to your spouse. You do not need to be conversant with the rules of poetry to do this. You will not likely submit your song to a Nashville publishing house. Your love song is just between you and your beloved. Following are a couple of suggestions to get your started:


1. Read from The Song of Solomon (do a quick read of portions of the first seven chapters). Note creative phrases used by both the woman and the man. To the guy his special girl does not just have lovely eyes but he her eyes are "doves." (4:1)  To the girl, her manly man is not just a sweet guy but: "As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men." (2:3).  Saturate your mind with lovely expressions that are found throughout SOS.

2. Write. Borrow from Solomon or, better yet, create your own expressions. An example from Victorian England is helpful. Arguably, Charles Spurgeon's favorite book of the Bible was SOS. Spurgeon was a very Solomon-like character. Trees, animals, and birds fascinated Solomon (I Kings 4:33) as they did Spurgeon. Solomon knew a lot about romance. So did Spurgeon. Enough is known about the romance of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon to make one blush. However, unlike Solomon, Spurgeon was faithful to one woman. During one of Spurgeon's many trips away from home, he was missing Susannah. He wrote her a song titled, "Married Love." Here is stanza one.

Over the space which parts us, my wife,
I’ll cast me a bridge of song.
Our hearts shall meet, O joy of my life,
                On its arch, unseen, but strong.

Susannah was impressed. She said of Spurgeons poetry: "I was far more proud of them[Spurgeon's "sweet verses."] than I should have been of chains of gold or strings of pearls." 

You don't need to spend a lot of money this Valentine's Day. Just pick up a pen and write your beloved a love song.  Though I cannot make any promises, chances are that they will treasure your sweet words. 

See you tomorrow!

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries (NITW) and author of The Marriage Bed. With NITW, Ray teaches for marriage retreats and Bible conferences. 
 



Friday, November 6, 2015

Spurgeon's Study: A Place for Susannah to Pray

January of 1893, a year after Charles Spurgeon died, his wife Susannah described a tender scene from  her husband's study. Susannah, the caretaker of the Pastor's Book Fund, was at Spurgeon's desk to write a report about the Fund. (1) Her words reveal her heart, take the reader deep into her thoughts, and raise the curtain on her marriage to Charles. 
 I am writing in my husband’s study, where he thought, and prayed, and wrote. Every inch of the place is sacred ground. Everything remains precisely as he left it. His books (now my most precious possessions), stand in shining rows upon the shelves, in exactly the order in which he placed them, and one might almost fancy the room was ready and waiting for its master. But oh! That empty chair! That grave portrait over the door! The strange, solemn silence which pervades the place now that he is no longer on earth! I kneel sometimes by his chair, and laying my head on the cushioned arms which so long supported his dear form, I pour out my grief before the Lord, and tell Him again that. Though I am left alone, yet I know that ‘He hath done all things well.’ Then wandering from room to room, looking with tear-dimmed eyes at the home treasures my dear one loved and admired, almost expecting to hear the sound of his footsteps behind me, and the sweet tones of his tender voice in loving greeting,--I have, alas! to realize afresh how true were King David’s words when he said in his sorrow, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.’ (2)

Spurgeon was a man of prayer and the books that surrounded his desk helped him in his preaching, writing, and understanding of Scripture.  As Susannah worked from his study (as she often did) she remembered her beloved husband and cried out to God in prayer. Prayer was Charles and Susannah's response to difficulty while he was alive, and nothing changed on that front for Susannah after he died. As she knelt beside his chair and prayed from a grieving heart, her faith was strengthened as she remembered the faithfulness of God. While Susannah "wandered from room to room" she brought words from the Bible to her mind and was comforted.

Where do you go with your grief? God's Word is available to you just it was to Susannah Spurgeon in her grief. God's ears are ready to receive your humble cries.

1.The Pastor's Book Fund began in the summer of 1875 after Charles Spurgeon completed the first volume of Lectures to My Students. Susannah Spurgeon was so moved after reading it that she articulated to Charles her desire to give a copy to "every minister in England." He responded, "Then why not do so?" He then challenged her to be the first donor to the fund, which she did. She supplied the money to send out the first hundred copies of Lectures and "the Book Fund was inugurated."  Charles Ray, The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1903), 370.

2. Mrs. C.H.  Spurgeon, Ten Years After!: A Sequel to 'Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund,' (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1895), 213.

Ray Rhodes is President of Nourished in the Word Ministries (NITW). NITW is a teaching, writing, and resource ministry. Ray is married to Lori and they live in North Georgia. Ray is a doctoral student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Birth Announcement



Today is the birthday of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (June 19, 1834).  

One of the benefits in reading biography is that you can always go back to the beginning. A couple of days ago Spurgeon died (in my reading). I was sad. It was not the actual historical day of his death, but it seemed to me like Spurgeon had just died. Today is a much happier day. 

If I could go back in time today, I would travel to the little cottage at Kelvedon, in Essex, where Spurgeon was born. So, let me try. "It is June 19, 1834, June 19, 1834, June 19, 1834, June 19, 1834." It worked for Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) in the movie Somewhere in Time. By dressing in period attire, traveling to the The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Michigan, and repeating "Its June 27, 1912, Its June 27, 1912," Collier attempted time travel. Eventually he succeeded and found Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) waiting. 

Enough of that. We assume that time travel is not possible, EXCEPT, through reading. It is indeed possible to be so absorbed in a book and character that it seems that you are back in time. You know like Rush Revere who is always "rush, rush, rushing, into history." 

Enough rabbit trails.

It is Spurgeon's Birthday. Today is a day of celebration. So bring out the cigars (Spurgeon's doctor told him that cigars were good for his health), take a walk at Mentone, visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, watch the Spurgeon movie, listen to Shai Linne rap Spurgeon, or best of all, read a Spurgeon biography.

Who was Charles Haddon Spurgeon? J. Manton Smith wrote a book titled, The Essex Lad Who Became England's Greatest Preacher. Spurgeon was not only, "England's greatest preacher" he was one of the greatest preachers in all of history.

However, Spurgeon would have chaffed beneath such a descriptor. His single-focus was Christ. If he were here today, he might say:

What the hand is to the lute,
What the breath is to the flute,
What fragrance is to the smell,
What the spring is to the well,
What the flower is to the bee,
That is Jesus Christ to me.
                                                                                           Arranged by Spurgeon.

Today shouts of joy are heard in my office. Thank God for raising up Spurgeon. Spurgeon, though dead, still speaks.