The Dancing Puritan

Friday, July 25, 2014

You have to Eat Before You Can Do Missions

Are you a Christian? God has big work for you to do. Do you imagine an exotic location where you will give your life to missions? Or perhaps you are dreaming of a political career where you can influence many people. Perhaps God has such a plan for your life. However, great and godly work happens every day, by average people, in average every-day-ways.

Do you want to make a difference before you die? Don't just take up space, get in the game. In Ecclesiastes chapter nine, Solomon writes that death is coming for every person. He also makes it clear that we can use death to our advantage (5). Death can be dreaded or death can be redeemed. Which do you prefer? Here is the logic: Death is coming like a freight train on the fast track. You have a very brief period of time to live. God put you here to glorify him and to love others. Therefore, get to work.

What you are to do?

1. You have to learn how to eat and drink. You might be saying to yourself, "what a waste of digital ink." No, I am just repeating what the Bible teaches.
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. (Ecclesiastes 9:7). 

Since God has already approved of what you do, then you are free to eat and drink.  If you are reading this post, you have been eating and drinking for at least five years. But have you been eating and drinking from a position of God's approval? You are commanded to eat with a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and joy in your heart. See, savor, and let each bite of food dance on your tastebuds. One thing that a non-Christian can't do is eat and drink in a Christian way. The pagan cannot bring positive glory to God because he cannot receive God's gifts with true biblical thanksgiving. You, however,  must learn to eat and drink as a Christian. How can you be a missionary if you don't even know how to eat?
Since food and drink are gifts from our heavenly Father, we should enjoy them. If we do not enjoy God's gifts, we dishonor the Giver. Then we are like children who receive gifts at Christmas, take off the wrapping, and simply toss the gifts aside. Our enjoyment of God's gifts is an expression of our gratitude to him.  Sidney Greidanus in Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes (237).

2. You have to learn how to dress. Solomon is not writing about modesty. Modesty is important but that is not Solomon's point.  He says, "Let your garments be always white, Let not oil be lacking on your head." (8)

What does that mean? Think about it. Trouble is everywhere. Life does not make much sense. Evil people prosper. Godly people often are oppressed. Madness is on the run (think Putin, Miley Cyrus, Harry Reid, your five-year-old, or why you keep doing stupid things). Death is just around the corner. Time is of the essence. Put on some white clothes and pour oil over your head. Don't delay! Christians are often portrayed as sour, somber, and dutiful as they wait for their heavenly transport to arrive. They are not much interested in earthly things. If that is your attitude then you are not being very Christ-like. For Jesus, spirituality involved not only the "sweet by-and-by" but it involved weddings, feasts, and healing sick people. The early Christians were noted for eating and drinking with a glad heart (Acts 2).

White garments and anointing oil made life more comfortable in a hot climate, the latter relieving the irritations of dry skin. Food, clothing, and ointment are mentioned in a number of ancient texts as necessities of life (Hosea 2:5; Luke 7:38,46).  Michael Eaton in Ecclesiastes: An Introduction and Commentary (127).

Solomon is not advocating a life of sinful hedonism but the kind of Christian hedonism that John Piper writes about:
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. 

The Christian hedonistic life is lived by receiving the good gifts of God and using them in a liberating, thankful-to-God kind of way. Living life in the face of approaching death should drive you to pursue joy now in what you eat, what you drink, and what you wear.
Wearing white garments indicates the attire of celebration and comfort. The fragrant oil calls to mind welcome hospitality (Psalm 23:5), unity and blessing (Psalm 133:1-3), and gladness (Isaiah 61:3). William Barrick in Ecclesiastes: The Phillipians of the Old Testament (160).
The idea is that you should joyfully dress and dress joyfully. White is a picture of purity and oil can represent the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit produces fruit, He produces joy! Solomon is not saying that you need to wear white clothes every day but that your outward expression should reflect the joy of the Lord. How can you be a missionary if you don't even know how to dress?

There has always been within the Christian tradition an ascetic tendency that understands true spirituality as involving the shunning of created things (e.g., food, wine, sex) rather than the enjoyment of these things in thankfulness to God who has blessed us with them. Iain Provan in The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs (185-86). 

3. You have to learn how to love a woman. Solomon puts it like this: "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because this is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun." (9) This, of course, assumes marriage and is written to husbands. He could have said, "Enjoy life with your husband." Or to singles, "Enjoy life!" But Solomon's point concerns marriage. Enjoy your spouse to the glory of God.  Marriage is a good gift and it is one of the ways that God provides rest in the midst of a tiring world. It is designed to bring strength, encouragement, hope, and happiness into a world of madness.  Listen to me guys! You have one opportunity, on the earth, to love your wife. Are you, with great delight and faith in God, working for her joy? Are you enjoying life with her?

. . . listen to your wife's voice, hold her hand, wash the dishes together, plan your life, learn to make wondrous love, work redemptively through your pains together, help the kids, do not deny how much you love her, embrace this. Zack Eswine in Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes (110). 
You are doing something great when you love your wife, even greater than feeding the poor. Marital love is a top-shelf priority. A lot of marriages go south because the husband (or wife) does not focus on joy. Solomon says, "Get after it, time is of the essence." Do you want to do great things for God? If so then you must learn how to eat, drink, dress, and love a woman.

4. You have to learn how to work. Work is a burden, right? Not so fast. The frustrations associated with work are a result of sin but work is a blessing. If you are ever going to do anything great for God then you have to learn how to work. Solomon writes, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." (10). Solomon is not dismissing life beyond the grave. What he is saying is that to glorify God under the sun you have to remember that you only have one life under the sun. Today is the day to get to work, not tomorrow. Procrastination is a sin.

Doing great things for God means learning how to use your strength, seize your opportunities, and to do so with urgency because the grave is waiting and God wants you to do something meaningful before you get there. The only shot that you have to make a difference is right now. There is only one opportunity to love your wife,  love your children, eat and drink with friends, invest in your church, and love your parents. There is only one shot to be creative and make a difference on this earth. Are you an artist? Get after it. Are you a writer? Write hard, write fast, and write often. Are you a mechanic? Be a good one. Don't hold back on the ball-field or in the bedroom. Give life your all because you love God.

You want to do something great, like becoming a missionary? First of all you have to learn how to eat, drink, dress, love a woman, and work. What if you do not become a missionary? Greatness is found in knowing that you are approved of by God (through faith in Christ) and greatness is displayed in the ordinary things of life; things like eating, drinking, dressing, marriage, and work.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

16 Ways to Love Your Wife


Here are a few thoughts, gathered from the Song of Solomon, to help you better love your wife. Loving her begins with understanding and embracing the gospel of Christ. If you do not know Jesus, look unto him and be saved (Read John 3 and Ephesians 5:22-33). 

Be desirable by being the kind of man she WANTS to be with (1:1-4). Work on your lips, your smell, and your character. Bathe, shave, dress nicely, put on cologne, brush your teeth and use mouthwash.

Tell her she is beautiful and exciting (1:9-10, 15). Use comparative language. NOTICE her hair, new dress, painted nails, zest for life, passion for God, and tell her.

Learn about Vineyards and Take Her to One (2:4). Read a book together about vines, grapes, and winemaking. Stop being so boring and predictable. Dinner and a movie is a great date, sometimes. However, maybe there is more to romance than dinner and a movie? 

Never get intoxicated with alcohol; be intoxicated with her (5:1) Drunkenness is a sin. It makes you look foolish. Be drunk on the love of your wife.

Make it clear to everyone that you love her (2:4). Stop checking out other women on the Internet and at the store. Stop dismissing your wife in public or private. Fly a love banner over her (2:4).

Cultivate Beautiful Speech (2:10-14)- Learn how to talk. Read poetry. Listen to music. Read books. Go to a classic play. Practice in your journal. Write her a letter.

Make Sure the Interior of Your Life is Inlaid with Love (3:10). It is all about character. Say what you will but if your heart is not pure your words will be empty. Solomon had a chariot inlaid with love. Much better to have such a heart.

Talk about your wedding day as a day of gladness (3:11). Look at your wedding pictures, watch the video, laugh as you recall your wedding day.

From head to toe, tell her how beautiful she is (4:1-8). Be specific, creative, and loving. Don't miss her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, neck, etc.

Be captivated by her and tell her (4:9). Put the stupid phone down and look into her eyes. Tell her that you are captivated by her. Tell her why. If you are not captivated by her then repent.

Point out something beautiful in her character (4:10). Dig deeper than the skin and point out character qualities."How beautiful is your love . . . Your love is better than wine."

Enjoy her in marital intimacy (5:1, 6:2-3, 7:6-9). Don't act bored. Drink a cup of coffee if you are tired. See, savor, speak, and enjoy. 

Be Overwhelmed by Her (6:5). Don't make everything about you. Talk about her, look at her, think about her, talk to her.

From toe to head, tell her how beautiful she is (7:1-5). Start with her feet this time. Are her toe-nails painted? Notice. Work your way up.

Be exclusive about her in words, thoughts, and deeds.(7:10). Provoke her by your good life to say, "I am my beloved's and his desire is for me." Don't leave any room for her to doubt that you are anything but totally faithful to her.

Long for her voice and listen to her. (8:13). Tell her that you want to hear her voice and then listen. Turn away from the computer, the television, the phone, and all others. Look into her eyes and listen intently.

There are a lot more such thoughts in Solomon's Song. See if you can find them.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is the President of Nourished in the Word. He leads marriage events for churches, organizations, and small groups. 

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Seeing Beauty, Speaking Beautifully (Part Two)

Have you taken the opportunity to practice seeing beauty and speaking beautifully? As I was reading Song of Solomon this morning, a few thoughts came to mind. Here is a rough draft. I am not a poet but I do want to better see beauty and speak beautifully. 

Ink to paper, he is writing today.
Searching his mind, for thoughts to convey.
A gentle distraction, he lifts his eyes.
Fragrance in the air, a pleasant surprise.

He hears a noise, a room away.
Graceful steps, they seem to say;
"Come and see, visit this place."
He follows perfume, he sees her face.

Simply stunning, such delight;
A sweet aroma, a lovely sight.
Ink to paper, he is writing today.
His mind is now filled with thoughts to convey.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully

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Do you struggle, amidst the burdens and challenges of your life, to see beauty and to speak beautifully? John Piper's sixth offering in The Swans are not Silent series will help you. In this book Piper looks at the poetic effort of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.  Piper writes: “This is a book about the interrelationship between seeing beauty and saying it beautifully—and the impact that the effort has on our lives” (p. 12).

Put this book on your summer reading list, you will not be disappointed.

This post is not a book review. I can cut through the chase by telling you that it is fantastic (as are all of the books in this series). I simply want you to think about Piper's book title and and ask yourself the question: "How can I see beauty more clearly and speak more beautifully?"

Here are a few suggestions to get you started. 

Read good books from various genres. The authors that Piper chose are very different in background, personality, and writing style. Herbert communicates the beauty that he sees, via poetry. Whitfield was a preacher vivid in his descriptions and in his presentation. Lewis helps his readers to see pictures. He writes: "All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures."

Take a Second Look.
So many images pass before our eyes each day. Most of them are just a blur. Train yourself to focus in on some of the good images. Take a second look at your child at play, your wife at work, your cat sleeping lazily under a tree, and the the way your boss arranges his desk. What do you see? Can you find a story and a vocabulary to communicate the beauty around you?

Pause before Speaking/Writing.
Think of older writers who had to dip their quill in an ink-well numerous times over the course of writing a single letter. That kind of writing required pauses between sentences (or individual words in some cases). Tony Reinke, describing C.S. Lewis using a dip pen, writes,"The dip pen created the quiet space Lewis needed to speak and edit and sharpen and shape his next four or five words"( Jack's Typewriter). When speaking to someone, take a breath, look them in the eye, think for a second, and then speak. Such a practice can help you to "sharpen and shape" your next words.

I teach and write a fair amount on the subject of marriage. I find a lot of help in the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon. I am journaling my way again through that wonderful, descriptive, and language-expanding book. My present practice is to write at the top of each day's page, "Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully." I take a few verses and look for the beauty and how the various characters in the Song express things beautifully. Regardless of whether you follow my plan, journaling can help you to think more clearly and communicate more beautifully. For example, sometimes all that I need to say to my wife is, "You look stunning." At other times it is better to say, "Oh, most beautiful among women." Song of Solomon helps me to think in more creative ways.

Piper gives the theological foundation for seeing and expressing beauty. He wonderfully illustrates the theology of beauty by considering George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.

I always enjoy hearing from you. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Welcome Josiah!

Josiah: "What's Up?"

We have been welcoming babies to our family for a long time. I should say that we have been welcoming girl babies. Yesterday, we welcomed a boy.

We have not needed to step up our home child-safety-system with the girls. I hear that may change now that we will have a young man in the house.

I probably should mention that the new baby boy actually belongs to my son-in-law Adrian, my daughter Rachel, and their daughter (his sister) Susannah. I am merely the elderly granddaddy. You know the old guy who wears funny clothes and who gets to break the family rules when no one is watching.

I tried to sell Adrian and Rachel on the idea that they should loan Josiah to me for, at least six years. After all, Charles Spurgeon's grandparents raised little Charles for that long, and look how he turned out. They are not buying into the WWSD philosophy.
The Rinks: Adrian, Rachel, Susannah, and Josiah

Enough of that.

Today at the Dancing Puritan, I want to officially welcome Josiah Ray Rink to the family. Josiah "popped out" (as two-year-old Aunt Abigail would say) at a manly 8 pounds and 7 ounces. At that size he will soon be ready for some grass mowing duties. YES!!!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am for Adrian, Rachel, and Susannah. I am also delighted for his extended family here and in Minnesota. I am excited for me. Finally there is someone else nearby to help me remove the spiders and to join me in utter bewilderment at the girls crying over something like a bad hair day. Little boys often have bad hair days. And old grandpas never really get the hair thing just right.

I am thankful to our Lord for hearing our prayers for Rachel and Josiah's safe delivery day (and for many other answered prayers).

Sometimes folks will say something like, "I wouldn't want to bring children into this bad old world." A person with a God-centered worldview sees great opportunity with the birth of a child. A child, by God's saving grace, can be a straight arrow. They are to be shaped, sharpened, and launched into the world towards the target of God's glory.

Josiah is born to godly parents where he will have every opportunity to hear the gospel (in family worship) and to join with the family of God in congregational worship. He will be "acquainted with the sacred writings." Those writings are sufficient to make Josiah "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).

We will be praying that indeed God will open Josiah's heart and bring him to saving faith. As his parents, grandparents, church family, and others seek to use the means (Scripture, prayer, and preaching) that God has chosen to bless, then we have every reason to be hopeful.

Little Josiah you will learn from King Josiah. He became King at age eight. By 15 he was seeking God. During his temple-remodeling project the Bible was found. Josiah read it. He feared for Israel since they had departed from God's Word. He started working for reform and stood strong against pagan nations (read more: 2 Kings 22:1 - 23; 2 Chronicles 34:1 - 35). Let King Josiah be a pointer to King Jesus!

I am honored that you also carry my middle name. I share it with my dad who left it in excellent condition when he died. I hope to do the same for you.

Josiah, welcome to my girl's world. And be nice to sweet Susannah. She was here first, so she will soon be marking out her territory. You will do fine, just move slowly. By the way, I find her quite delightful. I am sure that you will as well.

Today your eye-sight will be much better than yesterday when you "popped out." What will you think as you look around the room and see your mom Rachel, your grandmother Lori, your aunts: Hannah, Sarah, Mary, Lydia, and Abigail? Hopefully, while you are looking around, you will spot your dad (he is easy to see) and your old granddaddy. I imagine that you will figure, "If they made it with all of these girls, perhaps I can as well."

You will make it Josiah and learn to appreciate all of the beauty that surrounds you. And just to be safe, God has given you a grandpa and some uncles back in Minnesota who will come to your aid, just in case the girl's tears threaten to overflow the banks.

I love you little man. Lets do this together. Enjoy the perfume in the air; it will help cover the smell of your sweat.



Thursday, June 19, 2014

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 to travel in time. 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 in 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.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Spurgeon Died Today. I Am Fighting Back The Tears

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon died today.

Actually he died on January 31, 1892 at 11:05 P.M. He was 57.

However, it seems as if  he died today.

I have just completed 1500 plus pages of the Autobiography of Spurgeon, which was put together by his wife Susannah and his secretary Joseph Harrald. The original work was in four volumes. Every word of the original is retained in the massive two volume set by Pilgrim Publications.

Charles Spurgeon was characterized in many ways. It was his son Thomas who first referred to him as the Prince of Preachers. He was that. Some have concluded that Spurgeon was the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul.  He was a roaring lion to be sure.

It is not at all uncommon for me to find one of my daughters weeping while they are holding a book. When I enquire about the reason for their tears, it is often that an important character, in whatever book that they are reading, has died. Too often I have made an insensitive comment. Today, I feel their pain.

I remember hearing a lecture on C-Span in 1997 by James I. Robertson, Jr.  He had just completed his book, Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend. That excellent biography of Jackson is almost 1,000 pages. When he turned in his final edits to the publisher, Robertson said that it was hard to give Jackson up.

I had to give Spurgeon up today, but just for a little while.

I have read numerous biographies of Spurgeon but never the original 4-vol Autobiography. I must say, that I was not ready for him to die. However he will live again. I will pick up another biography and read of his birth, childhood, teenage years, ministry, and marriage. I will again visit the Crystal Palace on that evening when Charles slyly made his intentions known to Susannah by asking her: "Do you pray for him who is to be your husband?"

I will travel with him as he journeys from town-to-town and church-to-church, preaching the gospel that he so loved. I will be with him on his trips to Mentone where he sought rest and healing. I will join Charles and his family as they gather for family worship. I will listen intently, along with thousands of others, as he opens the Bible to preach.

And once again, in the books, Charles Haddon Spurgeon will die. And my lips will quiver.

His last written words were a letter that was sent to his church in London, the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He closed the letter with these words: "Love to all friends."

A few days earlier he told his secretary, "My work is done."

Spurgeon was a Christ-saturated man. At his funeral service, Dr. Archibald Brown said:
Champion of God, thy battle long and nobly fought is over! The sword, which clave to thine hand, has dropped at last; the palm branch takes its place. No longer does the helmet press thy brow, oft weary with its surging thoughts of battle; the victor's wreath from the Great Commander's hand has already proved thy full reward.

Spurgeon died today. I find myself fighting back the tears.