The Dancing Puritan

Monday, January 12, 2015

Beauty



Do you have a category for beauty in your philosophy of life; or do you see life primarily through utilitarian eyes? If you are a teenage boy then you might see food as something to be consumed as quickly as possible so that you can get ready for the next adventure. If so, then you are not thinking much about the beauty of food. You have a utilitarian view of food. Did you know that food is for smelling, tasting, appreciating, and describing? Food and eating do have utilitarian purposes but they are also about beauty.

You should care about beauty. Think about it? When you read a great book, what makes it great? Do you read primarily for entertainment? Do you read so that you can learn? Perhaps you read because someone is requiring you to read (parent, college professor).  All of the above are legitimate reasons to read. However, do you ever read a book and say when you are done, "That was a beautiful book." You can ask the same question of music, food, or even of your spouse.

What about love and marriage? How do you think about your spouse? Do you ever notice their beauty? Do you ever ask beautiful questions about them?

Think of your husband's lips. What are they for? Well, we need lips to talk correctly. We need lips to help us to eat. We need lips to properly use a straw. Tap into your romantic self for a minute and think a bit deeper.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. (Song of Solomon 1:2).
Do you see it? Lips are for kissing! That is why God gave lips (one beautiful reason, at least).

Think about your husband's smell when he is all cleaned up and has splashed his face with aftershave and cologne. What is aftershave and cologne for anyway? To cover up odor? Because that's just what men do?
Your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out (3).
Your husband smells good so that you can savor his aroma!

Husband, have you noticed your wife's perfume lately? What's the purpose of perfume? Again, a utilitarian purpose, especially in some cultures and climates, may be to cover up unpleasant odor. However, perfume has a more sacred purpose.

While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi. (12-14)
Have you ever said to your wife, "You smell beautiful?" Have you ever considered that one reason (probably the primary reason) that she wears perfume is for you? Aha, that is a beautiful thought.

What about communication? What is its purpose? Perhaps you are the pragmatic utilitarian when it comes to speech. You talk so that things will be accomplished. One of the reasons that God gave beauty is so that it can be described with pen and lips.

Behold you are beautiful, my love; behold you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful (15-17).

Yep, you got it. One of the purposes of beauty is for poetry and song. We admire true beauty but admiration alone does not properly do justice to beauty. Real beauty must be described. Real beauty calls us to see the truth behind the facts and to talk about it. Real beauty demands a poem and a song.

My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in mild, sitting beside a full pool. His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. his mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend. (5:10-16). 

Think about beauty. Write about beauty! Look beyond the utilitarian value of your spouse and see and sing about his/her beauty.

God is glorified when we use our lips for eating and when we use them for kissing and for singing.

Ray Rhodes is the president of Nourished in the Word Ministries. Ray is married to Lori and he leads marriage retreats, Bible conferences, and other events.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Simple Pathway to Happiness

Are you on the pathway to true happiness? Biblical happiness is described by the word "blessed." (Psalm 1:1, Matthew 5:1-11) It is a happiness that is not much dependent on circumstances:
 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)
Sometimes the road to happiness takes you through the city of persecution. The last waters that many of us want to be swimming in are troubled waters. We don't often have the mindset of the apostle Paul who wrote, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake." (Colossians 1:24) His joy was not dependent on the removal of suffering. In the midst of trials, he rejoiced.

Understanding that happiness is not dependent on the absence of conflict, what are some ways that we can keep our hearts happy in God in times of ease or trouble?

Meditation

I am not referring to the sort of empty-your-mind meditation that requires pretzel-like-positioning. What I am referencing is biblical meditation such as described by David. The blessed man is one who "delights in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2) Meditation requires reading and internalizing the Bible and then purposefully recalling and thinking about God's Word "day and night."Meditating on Scripture does not mean that Scripture is all that you read and think about. It does mean that you can readily recall Scripture for immediate application.

Point of Application

Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, used HWLW (His Word, the Last Word) as a reminder to close out every day with Scripture. Consider HWFW (His Word, the First Word) and HWCW (His Word, the Constant Word) as well. Begin your day with Scripture (HWFW). Write down one verse on a note card and carry it with you. Refer to that card throughout the day (HWCW), and close your day with that verse (HWLW).

Music

How many hymns are on your play list? Take a look. How long did it take? It is hip in Christian circles to have an open mind about music. If you don't listen to Cash then you are not much of a thinking Christian, right? I get that and my play list includes a variety-pack of music and musicians. David said of God, He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Man will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:3) Would you say that your music is of such a nature that other people could be led to trust God through your songs? The glad, joyful, and happy person comes before the Lord "with singing." (Psalm 100:2) Give it a try. Make music and singing a part of your healthy spiritual diet.

Point of Application

Purchase a copy (or several copies) of the hymnbook that your church uses. Sing hymns during family devotion times. Consider purchasing music from Sovereign Grace Music (www.sovereigngracemusic.org), Keith and Kristyn Getty (www.gettymusic.com), or (www.fernandoortega.com) for your digital player. Listen throughout the day.

Message

The happy person is one who does not "walk in the counsel of the wicked." (Psalm 1:1) I am convinced that much of the misery of miserable people is the fruit of listening to the wrong message. The godly person finds his "delight in the law of the LORD." (2)  Hearing godly counsel includes putting yourself in the pathway of biblical preaching. When the word is proclaimed there is instruction, exhortation, correction, and training (2 Timothy 4:1-3). It is essential that you regularly attend the preaching of the word at a God-centered church. It should be very rare that you miss the Lord's Day worship services.

Point of Application

In addition to being a member of a godly church where you hear preaching regularly, discipline yourself to listen to two or three sermons from the Internet each week. You can download sermons by John MacArthur, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and many others. Perhaps your daily commute is long enough to listen to a sermon a day. Remember the happy person is the one who listens to godly counsel.

Meeting

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) Greg Spraul, in an article on the 9marks website  writes of meeting with at least one person each day to either disciple, be discipled, or to share the gospel. We are not created to be hermits. Though we must regularly withdraw from people for prayer and study, we must develop deliberate relationships. Happiness is at stake. "Two are better than one." Ecclesiastes 4:9

Point of Application

Think of and contact a person to have a cup of coffee with this week and consider ways that you can be an encouragement to them in a discipleship way (perhaps you could read a book of the Bible together and discuss). Think of another person that you could benefit from spiritually. Set an appointment and make a list of questions for discussion. Be discipled. Think of another person that you know who needs the gospel and set up a time to share Christ with them.

Do you want to be happy? A simple pathway to happiness includes meditation, music, message, and meeting. Enjoy the journey.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Only Christ Can Satisfy


Lori and I were returning home from a day of Christmas shopping. We had just finished dinner at a popular soup and salad restaurant and I was stuffed to capacity. Our once-a-year shopping day is looked forward to by both of us. Most of our Christmas shopping is done in one day (with a little help from Amazon). We had been in the van about five minutes after dinner when suddenly I had sharp pain on the left side of my chest. It got my attention. For a moment I felt like Fred Sanford and thought, "This is the big one." Interestingly, my breathing was fine, so I had some level of confidence that I was not having a heart attack. Lori unwrapped a peppermint and gave it to me. Amazingly, after just a couple of minutes the pain subsided. It was indigestion after all and the probability increased that I would live to shop another day.

The sharp pain was not heart related but it did remind me that one day my heart will fail. Ultimately everyone dies of heart failure. The chest pain was a stark reminder that physical life cannot be counted on. But it is not just physical life that can't be trusted. Look around. A rich businessman. who once had a strong financial standing, lost his wealth. A family down the street, who once was the picture of happiness, now has a "prodigal son." You know the stories.

I spent the past two years digging into the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a honest book about the vanity of life. Vanity does not mean worthlessness, it refers to the fleeting nature of all things "under the sun." Even the best things of life are fleeting. They cannot be captured and brought to the chest in a permanent way. They leave. They blow through our hands like a puff of wind. They are here today, gone tomorrow.

Solomon knew it. He tried everything. He built houses, planted vineyards, gardens, and parks. He surrounded himself with people who answered to his every command. He collected silver and gold and was renowned around the world. He collected musicians, music, wine, and women (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). His conclusion: Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (2:11).

The problem for Solomon was not that he possessed silver and gold. The problem was that the good life possessed him. He knew that gifts were to be enjoyed as from God. He learned that good gifts make terrible gods. It is a lesson that all of us need to learn. Anything or anyone can be worshipped.

It is challenging to grow older and to see the remnants of youth fading away. The world is strewn with men my age who are constantly grasping for their glory years (which probably were not as glorious as they are now romanticized to be). Such men often do foolish things. Sometimes they abandon the "wife of their youth" in search for that pretty-little-thing across town. In their vain attempt to show themselves strong they become pitiful in their attempts to be young again. You have seen them. You have felt sorry for them and for those who have felt the impact of their wind chasing. Hollywood is an example. It is plastered across grocery store magazine covers. Hollywood is a lie. Take a look behind the face lifts and multiple marriages that are draped in fine clothes and flashy smiles.You don't have to look very hard to see the utter emptiness of life without God.

Our family went to the local mall the day after Christmas to exchange imperfect gifts. The parking lot was beyond capacity. Christmas Day brought gifts that were not quite right so we rushed to the stores to make them right, knowing full well that the replacements will soon be broken or out of style. The problem is not with shoes, shirts, tech, and movies. The problem is much deeper. Once again, millions of people tried to capture the wind on Christmas morning. They looked to the gifts and overlooked the baby. They didn't know or they failed to remember that all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16). The wind is refreshing but it cannot be captured. It is time to stop chasing the wind and find the meaning of life in the one whom "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." (1:19). Let the next chest pain, sick child, lost business venture, and even your next success remind you of what really matters.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shadow Chasing and Christmas



Many of us are chasing shadows and never feel the warm breath that pushes forth from living lungs. It is easy to miss the truth in the midst of consuming shadows. But it is there, in the eyes and behind the eyes of those who are being remade in the image of God.

That the mansion is broken-down is obvious by its warts, failures, and blemishes. Rather than dealing with the brokenness it is easier to look away, to chase after shadows, and never really embrace truth, purity, and reality. 

Christmas decorations are storytellers. For the person whose heart strays from God, decorations are a vain attempt to dress up a mirage, to hope against hope that a shadow will bring warmth. However, like a virtual fireplace, a mirage lacks oxygen. For the person who loves God decorations are flowers planted in good soil, they indicate reality, a deep reality with a beating heart.

Think about Christmas shopping. Do you shop from real hope? Or do you hope in your shopping? What about your decorating? Do you decorate from hope or do you look for hope in the decorations? Does the decorated tree cheer your heart? It might, for a moment. Or does the cheer in your heart result in a beautifully decorated tree?

Lost by those who get tangled up in heated debates about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Christmas holiday, is a real understanding of joy.

C.S. Lewis wrote a letter on August 19th, 1945 to a Mrs. Ellis. This letter was recently discovered in a secondhand book. In this letter Lewis describes his view of joy:
It shocks one awake when the other (pleasure) puts one to sleep. My private table is one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure. I think you really quite agree with me. (From The Guardian).
Did you catch it? Lewis wrote, "one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure." That’s it, you know. Pleasure is the shadow that many a lost soul is chasing, except it is a bit more tangible than a shadow. Pleasure can be brought to the breast and held for a moment but it will ultimately bring drowsiness and sleep. In the end pleasure is a shadow that flees so that it can refuel and be chased again. Every captured moment of pleasure always runs out of gass.  If you look for pleasure to cheer your heart, then your heart will feel cheered for a moment but soon the cheer seeps out like a punctured balloon, and you are left flat. 

The problem is in seeking pleasure rather than joy. Joy is weighty, substantive, and real.

Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory: "You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness." We are often enchanted by worldliness and imagine that shadow-collecting, with all of its pleasures, is what we were made for.

What were we made for?
For by him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16). 
The "him" above is Christ. We were created by and for Christ. It’s all about Christ. He is the source of our joy. When we know him, and find our joy in him alone, then we can rejoice in him and enjoy his good gifts to us without thinking that we deserve better than we are getting. Grace abounds because God sent his Son to rescue sinners. From that base-line truth we can look into the eyes of our tired spouse, challenging children, and difficult boss and engage them with love and hope. Why? Because we have seen, touched, tasted, and embraced the reality. We can also look at a world drowning in Christmas chaos and decorate a tree from joy and not for joy.

Seeking pleasure outside of the boundary of Scripture is grabbing for the wind. Yes, there is a refreshing puff of air that brings giddiness for a moment but the thrill will soon pass. Moses knew that, rejected the "fleeting pleasures of sin," and chose Christ.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11: 24-28) 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving and Contentment



Are you in the school of contentment? The Apostle Paul suffered much in his ministry. He was imprisoned, beaten multiple times, stoned, shipwrecked, and faced a variety of dangers. Sometimes he was hungry and thirsty. Paul also carried on his grace-strengthened-back the pressures of caring for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:16-28).  Yet, even with his troubles, he was able to say:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to aboutnd. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger and abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13).

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599–1646) was a faithful preacher of the gospel and a prolific writer. He suffered much in his ministry. A wonderful book that came from his pen is The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. One of the chapters is titled, "Aggravations of the Sin of Murmuring." In the first heading of this chapter Burroughs writes, "To murmur when we enjoy an abundance of mercy; the greater and more abundant the mercy that we enjoy, the greater and viler is the sin of murmuring."  He encourages his readers to call to mind the great mercies of God and weigh those mercies beside one's sufferings. He then offers an objection and an answer:

Objection: 

"You will say, yes, but you do not know what our afflictions are; our afflictions are such as you do not conceive of because you do not feel them."

Answer:
Though I cannot know what your afflictions are, yet I know what your mercies are, and I know that they are so great that I am sure there can be no afflictions in the world as great as the mercies that you have. If it were only this mercy that you have this day of grace and salvation continued to you: it is a greater mercy than any affliction. That you have the grace and salvation that you are not now in hell, is a greater mercy. That you have the sound of the Gospel still in your ears, that you have the use of your reason: this is a greater mercy than your afflictions . . . .

Burroughs continues on with this line of Biblical reasoning and quotes passages from both the Old and New Testaments. It is important to note that Burroughs did not write from a bed of ease but he personally experienced much suffering in his ministry.

What about you?

Giving thanks to God is not dependent on one's personal comfort and earthly satisfaction. Just as Paul learned contentment  in both times of plenty and times of poverty, he also learned to be thankful. A person who has found his contentment in Christ will necessarily be a thankful person. When Paul writes, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" he is saying that he can do all things with contentment through Christ. He was confident that regardless of his circumstances that he could be content, because of Jesus. Since that was true of Paul, it should be true of you.

Pay attention in the School of Contentment and learn to be increasingly thankful.

The above is adapted from Family Worship for the Thanksgiving Season by Ray Rhodes.

The section on Jermiah Burroughs is from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment published by The Banner of Truth.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Saving Christmas





David Shannon
Thanks to the generosity of a good friend, my family and I got to see Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas. My friend appears in the movie credits but I will not drop his name (because you might expect him to give you such a present). Check him out here! So in the spirit of full disclosure, I know a couple of people who had a part in SC. Sadly, they did not pay me to write this analysis. One of my friends, David Shannon (a.k.a. known as The Chocolate Knox) has an important role (I am really hoping that the folks in charge will commission a David Shannon bobble head). I should also mention that a few years ago I wrote a Christmas book. You can get it here. I am an advocate of celebrating Christmas. So enough already of full disclosure. 

Overwhelmingly, the reports about SC have been negative. Here is an excerpt from one brutal review:
Doing nothing but preaching to the converted—literally and badly to boot—"Saving Christmas" is a terrible movie regardless of one's eschatological mindset. And while it may not be the worst Christmas-related movie ever (a title I believe is still held by the vile "Christmas with the Kranks"), it certainly does the genre no favors.  Peter Sobczynski: Ebert

Ok, Ebert and his guys are the experts, I suppose. I don't make my living reviewing movies so, what do I know? Well, I think that I know more than Sobezynski, at least about Saving Christmas. Here is my fresh-out-of-the-movie-theatre instant analysis.

1. I don't have a technical name for what kind of movie SC is but I know what it is not. SC is not really a traditional Christmas movie (like Christmas Vacation, Its a Wonderful Life, or White Christmas). It is not precisely a documentary such as Ken Burns might have produced. It is not exactly a docudrama. SC is a message movie rooted in history, engaging the culture, and seeking to be Biblical. Understanding what the movie is not will help you to enjoy it more. Remember that SC is not Citizen Kane. I actually fell asleep on CK but with SC, not only was I awake, I got teary-eyed once or twice and I laughed out loud several times.

2. The overall production and acting are very good (I don't care what almost everyone else says). I have read so many bad comments about SC ("worst movie of 2014") that I cannot remember who said what. One reviewer said that SC looked like it was filmed with a video camera (the sort that you might use to film your children opening their Christmas presents). I am no expert on movie technology and production but I do have a few folks around me who are quite savvy on such matters. The filming, acting, and overall production is not bad and actually is a perfect fit for SC. Remember point #1!

3. Theologically the movie is pretty much on target on essential issues. Cameron craftily weaves a clear presentation of the gospel into SC. The theological outlook on Christmas (and life) in SC is mostly on target. I recently wrapped up a yearlong sermon series at my church from the book of Ecclesiastes. Since the theme of Ecclesiastes is joy, I titled the series: "Occupied with Joy" (based on Ecclesiastes 5:20). Ecclesiastes is a reminder that God has given us one life to be lived "under the sun" and he is most glorified when we live joyfully to his glory. Reflecting on my 52 years under the sun, I have too often been a killjoy. However, God is not the cosmic killjoy. God is generous and is honored when his people rejoice in him. His generosity is most wonderfully displayed in the sending of his Son. The reason for writing that "the movie is pretty much on target" is because I think that, while the movie argued persuasively for  the importance of living for God's glory and enjoying Him forever, it could have done a better job dealing with the problem of sin. Towards the end of the movie Cameron makes an argument in support of giving Christmas gifts on the basis that Jesus became a material being (flesh and blood). I think Cameron is attempting to refute an ancient (but still present) heresy that teaches spirit is good but matter is evil. What SC does not seem to sufficiently take into account is our temptation to turn material things (or even family traditions) into a golden calf. We need often to hear the command: "Worship God."

With Cameron I want us to see Christmas through new eyes. However, we need to remember that in our struggle with sin we will attempt to turn good things (the good gifts of God such as food, drink-- material things) into little gods. We must receive good treasures (including material things) as gifts from God and glorify him by enjoying his provision. Cameron could have dealt with more depth (after all the movie was only about 80 minutes) with the struggle that Christians and non-Christians have with the sins of idolatry and materialism. His reminder that we should not max out our credit cards was insufficient. That being said, material things are not evil. The Apostle Paul writes, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." (I Timothy 4:4) God created trees, Saint Nickolas, and all things. We get to make those things holy via Scripture and prayer.

There is nothing better for a person that that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? Ecclesiastes 2:24
Our problem is not that we enjoy material things too much but that we enjoy material things in an unsanctified way. Christians have the opportunity to seize the season with gusto. You know the way George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), in Its a Wonderful Life, responded to the old man on the porch who is disgusted that Bailey didn't kiss Mary (Donna Reed). George responds: "Well, just come back here, Mister. I'll give her a kiss that'll put hair back on your head!" So whether you kiss your wife or celebrate Christmas, do so in a George Bailey "put hair back on your head" kind of way.

4. The movie is entertaining and David Shannon is fantastic. David Shannon in his first acting role (at least on the big screen, I think) is worth the price of admission. He is a natural talent who seemed to be genuinely having fun. Hopefully I can talk him into doing an interview with us here at the DP. David interviewed me one time. You can see it here!

5. You might want to know that Postmillennialism and Christian Reconstructionism are introduced in a couple of different ways in SC (a song, front matter, and general outlook of the movie). If you don't understand what those terms mean, join the crowd. A lot of us struggle to grasp what is going on in the CR world-view. Advocates of the PM/CR perspective have a positive outlook about the spread of the Kingdom of God prior to the return of Christ. It is the goal of the PM/CR adherent to see Christ exalted in every sphere of life. Certainly no Christian would disagree with that vision. However, one does not have to buy into PM/CR in order to have a Biblically-minded and optimistic world-view. I am a premillennialist (the more historic variety--not dispensational). And it is my conviction that a true Biblical eschatology is always optimistic. Christ does reign, Christ will reign, and Christ does win. As citizens of his kingdom we must bring our heavenly citizenship to bear in every earthly endeavor. If you are a maintenance man then bring the aroma of heaven to your work. Whatever you do should smell more like heaven because you do it.

Though the movie presents an optimistic view of the Kingdom of God, it perhaps assumes too much from those who celebrate Christmas. One not especially versed in the possible meaning of swaddling cloths, the significance of trees in Scripture, or Saint Nicholas (the ancient heavy-weight champion of the world, who reportedly landed a good punch against a heretic who denied the deity of Jesus) are not going to figure out Christmas by the way it is mostly celebrated today. So if Christmas is about making all things right, preaching the gospel and its implications for all of life must be front and center. If you talk to folks about the symbols of Christmas, don't stretch to make the symbols fit (if they don't fit) into Biblical categories. Some of the symbolic connections in SC were probably stretched a bit too far. That being said, I am pro-Christmas trees, pro-Christmas lights, pro-Christmas music, and pro-Christmas symbols. I believe that all lawful things can be enjoyed to the glory of God. I am also confident that none of my readers who deck the halls, the roof, or their car are secretly trying to identify with paganism.

Saving Christmas is a good movie with a great message that is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not a connoisseur of faith based movies." It would take a team of 10 mules to pull me into a living room or theatre where Heaven is For Real is playing. Many faith based movies are just bad. They are bad in quality, bad in acting, bad in presentation of the message, and they often get the message wrong. Saving Christmas is very different. I think when you walk out of the theatre or eject the disc that you will have a smile on your face and a bit more excitement about celebrating Christmas.  But what do I know? I like Christmas with the Kranks.

The Dancing Puritan gives Saving Christmas 4.5 stars! See it! We think Kirk Cameron is the real deal and is doing good work. Head up to the attic, bring the decorations down, and be all in to Christmas this year. Just make sure that you use your new eyes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reading Together Can Change Your Marriage

Have you ever read to and with your spouse?

Early in our marriage Lori and I read The Pursuit of God  by A.W. Tozer together. That experience was a rich time of fellowship and growth. Since then we have read many books individually, but few books together (out-loud).  I am not sure why that is.

I want to read with Lori again. Reading together would be a good use of our time. It would be enjoyable, edifying, and instructive. Reading together would allow us the opportunity to interact as we read, discuss points, laugh, learn new things, be reminded of old things, and find ways to grow together in knowledge, wisdom and friendship.

A few years ago I wrote a book, Family Worship for the Thanksgiving Season. In that book I provided a biographical sketch of Sarah Hale, the lady who worked tirelessly to promote a federally recognized Thanksgiving Day. Sarah was a prolific writer/editor for a ladies magazine and she also wrote numerous books. She flourished as a writer after her husband David died and she was left to support her five children.

Sarah and David had a wonderful marriage.  One fascinating practice that they engaged in was that David read to Sarah each evening.

We commenced soon after our marriage, a system of study and reading, which we pursued while he (David) lived. The hours allotted were from eight o'clock until ten--two hours in twenty-four.  How I enjoyed those hours! In this manner we studied French, Botany--then almost a new science in this country but for which my husband had an uncommon taste; and obtained some knowledge of Mineralogy, Geology, etc., besides pursuing a long and instructive course of reading.  In all of our mental pursuits, it seemed the aim of my husband to enlighten my reason, strengthen my judgment, and give me confidence in my own powers of mind, which he estimated more highly than I did.  I equalled him in imagination, but in no other faculty. Yet the approbation which he bestowed on my talents has been of great encouragement to me in attempting the duties which were to be my portion. To me the period of our union was one of unbroken happiness... (pp 35-36: The Lady of Godey's  by Ruth Finley, 1931)

It may not be possible for you and your spouse to read together for two hours each evening. However, could you not spend some time reading? David and Sarah Hale's marriage was strengthened through those reading times and as a result she was better able to care for their family after David's death. Day after day they employed two hours for "a system of study and reading." Much more was gained through those times than mere intellectual knowledge. The story of David and Sarah Hale is a tender love story, strengthened by spending time together in the worthy pursuit of reading.

Why don't you give it a try? Choose an interesting book. Read a section with your spouse each morning or evening. Engage one another in conversation as you read. Laugh together when the book is funny. Pray when you are convicted. Make a note of principles that you learn and seek to put them into practice in your marriage.

I think reading together with your spouse can help your marriage. What do you think?

Ray Rhodes is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries. He is married to Lori (27 years) and they have six children, one son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Ray is a conference and retreat speaker, pastor of Grace Community Church of North Georgia, and author of numerous books on marriage and family. Ray was recently interviewed by Adam McManus on the Generations with Vision radio show. You can listen here: Interview. To learn more about Ray send him a message here: Nourished in the Word.