The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Romance Becomes Holy

One might think, with all of the spilled ink on the subject, that marriage surpasses everything else.  On the one hand there is, indeed, more to life and more to the Bible than marriage. After all, the Bible's purpose is to display the greatness of God. The Bible is about God. It tells us about creation, redemption and eternity. In between the Bible tells us a lot more. It tells us how the knowledge of God impacts everything else, including romance. Life, romance, and ice cream are about God. Life is not all about marriage, it is all about God.

On the other hand the Bible really is about marriage. God created marriage in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:22-25) and one of the final stories in the Bible is about marriage (Revelation 19:6-9). The Bible even tells us that marriage is about the gospel (Ephesians 5:31). From Genesis through Revelation, marriage is a big deal. It reflects the power of God as Creator, the grace of God in redemption and the glory of God in the culmination of all things. So, in a sense, we could say that the Bible is all about marriage. Even marriage is about marriage.  The marriage  between a man and a woman is about the marriage of Christ and his church. Even the gift of singleness is about marriage.  The godly single person is nevertheless married to Christ.

Now one might fall into error concerning marriage. It is possible to so glorify the marriage relationship that it becomes an idol. If marriage is the end all, then what about God and what about the gift of singleness? Any good gift might be inappropriately glorified. A sweet-smelling meal is to be enjoyed but it did not just appear.  Someone dressed it in the kitchen.  Someone served it hot.  The meal did not cook itself.

Some people fall into the trap of thinking that marriage is not a big deal at all. The folks at Pew Research tell us that marriage has been on the decline over the past 50 years while cohabitation is on the rise. Marriage is in trouble through redefinition (homosexual unions), cohabitation and simple disinterest and self-centered interest.

The Bible gives us the real story. God created marriage.  Marriage is a covenant relationship between God, a man and a woman.  Divorce is an aberration. Marriage is about another marriage (Christ and the church). Marriage comes to an end at death. The marriage of Christ and his church is eternal.

Marriage is a big deal. But what about dating, romance, friendship and the like? Do we not trivialize marriage when we write of walking through fields, visiting vineyards, wearing perfume and kissing? It is possible that we  trivialize marriage if we imagine that perfume, kissing, dancing, clusters of grapes and sexual expression are ends in themselves. However, perfume and kissing are holy when understood beneath the ultimate purpose of marriage--to glorify God.

Doctrine is important.  In fact right doctrine is the difference between life and death. But one can be so busy building the foundation to stand on and walls and roof to protect that they forget the house is designed to hold people who breath, talk, eat, drink, and worship.

People are important. But one can be so busy contemplating communication, romance and intimacy that they give little time to the structural things. Such can be the case in romance and marriage. Jane Austen, Tony Bennett and silky sheets are nice--but without a foundation the walls crash down. Ask the folks most concerned about the Boy Scouts. Tying knots and building fires are great things for boys to know--but manhood needs foundational truth or the knots will come undone.

Built on the rock of God as Creator and Redeemer we set about building, and through Christ, redeeming a marriage. After Paul writes that marriage is about Christ and his church he immediately follows with, However, let each one of you so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Do you know why you get to romance your wife? Do you know why you get to respect your husband?  Because Christ loved the church and marriage is to display the gospel. The gospel is built on fundamental facts but it is not dry data. It is about God taking a bride and lavishing her with love.

When I pursue my wife and she puts on perfume and we go on a date, we have opportunity to breathe out the gospel. When the structure of marriage is in place it can then be populated by a couple who live, breath, kiss, dance, sing, walk, read and date. Romance becomes holy when God and his gospel are supreme.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.  How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!  How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice (Song of Solomon 4:9-10).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Someone to Be Creative With: Thoughts on Marriage

17 Ways to Know Your Lover

Here are 17 creative ways (quickly produced) to know your spouse and to cultivate romance. These are adapted from The Song of Solomon (SOS).  Enjoy and apply.

1.  Imagine kissing (1:1). The best dates sometimes begin with imagination. It is proper to fantasize about your spouse. Imagine their lips pressed to yours. In the South we call it Suuggarr.

2.  Compare your spouse to wonderful, lovely, exciting things (1:,2,9-10) and tell them that they are like no other (2:2-3). Comparison is healthy when you describe something wonderful and let your spouse know that they are even better than the best things in life.

3.  Smell-sweet (2:2,12). This is a matter of being thoughtful. Don't take your spouse for granted and foolishly imagine that since you are married that there is no longer any need to comb your hair, dress decently and smell good.

4.  Tell her that she is beautiful and describe her features (2:15). Telling your wife that she is beautiful is a great start but go further and describe her features in the most positive of ways.

5.  Delight in one another (2:3). Enjoy the company of your spouse more than anyone else. Enjoy them more than your buddies at work, the ladies at church and even more than your children. Learn what it is to delight in one another.

6.  Take her out to a nice dinner and let her know your love (2:14). The SOS lady described the dinner place as a banqueting house.  Be creative. Lori and I enjoy discovering new places to eat. I am growing in my abilities to try new foods.

7.  Embrace (2:6). Lots of people talk about the value of hugging. Embrace your spouse! Picture this, His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me!  Try that!

8.  Listen for his voice and call him "my beloved" (2:8). Listen for the sound of your husband coming home. Be ready for him.  Greet him at the door.  Consider giving him a few minutes to get settled in before unloading the day's problems. Learn to love his voice.

9.  Tell her to come away with you and describe what you will see and where you will go (2:10-14). To me this is one of the most beautiful expressions in the Song of Solomon. Arise my love, my beautiful one and come away..(2:10). Then describe the flowers, the fig trees, the vineyards and all that you plan to see and do.  One of my favorite songs is, Come Away With Me by Norah Jones. I am not sure that she had The Song of Solomon in mind but her song is appropriate.

Come away with me and we'll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I'll never stop loving you

And I want to wake up with the rain
Falling on a tin roof
While I'm safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me
Words and Music by Norah Jones

10. Speak of one another with clarity that the relationship is exclusive (2:16). You and your spouse need to have no doubts that your relationship is exclusive. Regardless of how exciting you might hear that it is to have an open relationship, it is a lie. You belong to her and she belongs to you. Let that be clear.

11.  Invite him to your garden to enjoy the precious fruits (4:16).  It is very appropriate to invite your husband, in descriptive ways, to come to the garden (lovemaking).  This will get his attention, stay on his mind and encourage him in all the right ways. Make sure that the garden is open and that your husband feels welcome. It is wrong to lock the gates and post security around the entrance so that your husband feels that if he visits the garden that he is allowed in reluctantly.

12.  Go to the garden, eat and drink and be intoxicated with love (5:1). Though it may be hard to believe, some guys decline the invitation to the garden. I am not talking about the occasional legitimate reason but regularly declining the invitation. A biblical counselor told me that abstinence in marriage is epidemic even in the church.  Accept the invitation with a smile.

13.  Talk lovingly about hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, body, legs, mouth in great detail (all of SOS). Both the man and the woman do this in SOS. He likes her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, cheeks, neck, breasts etc. etc (4:1ff) and she says, His arms are rods of gold set with jewels.  His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires.  His legs are alabaster columns (5:14-15). He will like hearing that he is strong, manly and beautiful. She will appreciate having her beauty described.  Don't hold back. Don't save up for a special day. Tell her, tell!

14.  Remind him that he is your best friend (5:16). As we have discussed in previous posts on this blog; a friend is someone to walk with, talk with, laugh with, cry with worship with, etc.  Your spouse is to be your best friend.  Cultivate friendship.

15.  Tell her what you plan to do when you are alone together (7:6-9). You have told her how beautiful that she is. You have shared with her your plans (meaning that you have a plan). You have talked of fields and vineyards. Now get even more specific. Fruit awaits--describe your journey to the fruit.

16.  Let one another know that you desire each other (7:10). Let your spouse know, in no uncertain terms, that you desire him/her. Communicating desire builds stability (he wants me) and cultivates excitement.

17.  Be creative on your dates.  Go to fields, villages, vineyards, gardens, mountains and streams (all). Do you do the same old things the same old ways--day after day?  Have you ever wondered why God gave us various colors, foods and scenery?  Think!  Enjoy many different things.  Sometimes the evening may call for Jazz.  Other nights are perfect for country music.  Some times a waltz is in order.  Change the pace and try something different on your dates.

Would a marriage retreat be a help to you?  Join us in Toccoa, GA on March 16th and 17th for Knowing: The Joy of Discovery in Marriage.  Contact us for information (see contact information on the main page of The Dancing Puritan).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Someone to Know (Pt. 3): Thoughts on Marriage

Einstein at Princeton 1935

Einstein was well versed in mathematics and physics. His knowledge was vast. He was called the embodiment of pure intellect. His brain was removed shortly after he died in the hope that some insight might be gained into the brilliance of the man. Einstein knew things.

I once attended a lecture where the speaker taught the importance of being a general practitioner but the necessity of being a specialist. Know everything that you can possibly know about anything; be it a brick, a tree, Shakespeare, classical music and you will never lack for an audience.

What does that have to do with marriage? For a marriage to be successful there must be knowledge about many things from cars to check-books. Of most importance is the knowledge of God. John Piper said that, "the scholar must become a lover to know God." The lover has a passion to know the one that loves him and that he loves.

From this knowledge of God (initially at conversion and then a growing knowledge), there is cultivated a passion to know one's spouse. You must major in knowing your lover. The word know is often used in the Bible to refer to intimate knowledge. It is the key Old Testament word to describe sexual intimacy. Intimacy is knowledge but not isolated knowledge. It is knowledge from knowledge. Knowledge that springs from knowing one's spouse.

Knowledge is a fundamental tenet of a healthy marriage.  The lover does not think I have to know, but I get to know. Knowledge in marriage involves the joy of discovery.  It is a life-long pursuit of discovering one's spouse.

The Song of Solomon is a song about the love between a man and a woman. It is a fascinating, descriptive and beautiful love song. It is the music behind the relationship. It is the smile, the dance and the uninhibited expressions of a couple in love. One of the many striking features of the song is the way the couple knows one another.

She knows his kiss, his love, his smell and his character. He knows her cheeks, her neck and all of her features. He knows how to speak of and to her. She knows how to respond. They know by sight, sound, taste and touch. She knows his voice. They know one another like they know no other. In intricate detail they describe one another. They have studied (as a lover) one another and they long to walk through fields, to eat fruit, to talk, to touch and to see their marriage culminated in full sexual intimacy. The kind of abandonment that they had to one another was evident of a deep trust, intense passion and great knowledge.

Do you know your spouse like that?

Husbands there is an adventure awaiting you. You live with a multifaceted person filled with hopes, dreams, opinions and challenges. They may be feeling a bit low right now. They may wonder if you have lost interest in them?  They need to see your eyes light up when you look at them. They long for you to touch them in non-erotic ways so that they will feel loved when you reach out to them sexually.  They need to hear you express your thoughts and feelings for them. They need to hear music, taste fruit, walk in fields, visit vineyards and smell flowers. They need you to help them with the children and relieve them of a chore or two.  They need to know that you love them enough to know them.

Ladies, your husband needs for you to know him. Learn what he likes and what encourages him. There is not a man in the world who does not like to hear from his wife what she admires about him. He needs to know that you respect him, that you understand his challenges and that you want to help him. Mostly he wants to know that you want to be with him. He longs to feel that he is the priority (human) relationship in your life.  He likes it when you are more excited about him than the person who calls, the chores that need attending to and even the child demanding your attention.

Husbands and wives it is not the knowledge of Einstein that you need but the knowledge of a lover.

Practical suggestions next time and please see former posts: Someone to Know Pt 1 and 2.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Someone to Set Sail With: Thoughts on Marriage

Love, romance and marriage must be grounded in grace.  The loveliness of marriage is depended on the proper foundation of marriage, which is the gospel. A sturdy house must be founded on a rock.

Marriage, as God intended, is not a grit your teeth and bear it endeavor. Though it will involve soldiering through hard times with a dogged determination, it must not be divorced from the smile. The muscles of marriage require breath. Marriage was not created to be robotic, existing solely to move from point to point. Stiffness is a perversion of both the design and the objective of marriage. The movement of marriage must set sail beneath the wind of grace if marriage is to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3b). Marriage can only be rightly enjoyed when founded on the gospel. Those who receive it with proper thanksgiving are those who believe and know the truth (3c). The gospel requires that one taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
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Romance divorced from the Christian faith, paints flowers without aroma and creates wind mechanically. It airbrushes beauty and drapes pretty exteriors over graceless interiors.

The gospel is not some added insight to secular ideas about love. The gospel is the power of God that delivers marriage from the chains of secular superficiality and gives it a vision that transforms and transcends time and space. The gospel reminds that marriage is a big deal. It is first of all about a man and a woman. It is about the God/Man (Jesus Christ) and a woman (his church).  Jesus lived without sinning, died for sinners and was raised again so that the woman (church) could be joined to him in a blessed union of peace, joy and righteousness. That greatest love (Christ for his church) transforms, informs and transcends the earthly love between a man and a woman. Marriage, we learn is about Christ and his love for the church. It is about his glory and his plan to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing...(Ephesians 5:27).

The gospel gives power and life to that which was robotic and dead. It brings reconciliation with God and enables  man to be reconciled with woman.  It provides the foundation for a marriage of love, forgiveness and hope.  The wife can forgive her husband and the husband his wife because of the forgiveness that Christ has given them. Husband and wife can bear with one another patiently because Christ has shown (and shows) great patience towards them. The husband and wife can and should do more than move from point to point. They have a vision of ultimate glory. Marriage is sweet, beautiful and full of real aroma because, in a Christian marriage, the husband and wife have tasted that the Lord is good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lord's Day Meditation: Psalm 3

The hot breath of enemies could often be smelled by David. He was a hated and hunted man. He wrote, O LORD, how many are my foes!  Many are rising against me... (Psalm 3:1). David's enemies spoke against him and sometimes they sought to kill him. As far as I know, though people have spoken against me, I don't think that anyone has ever tried to kill me. What would it be like to know that around the next corner an enemy was ready to take your life? David understood that kind of danger.

Even if no one pursues us to murder us, hateful words have a murderous effect. Hatred in the heart is a form of murder and often spills out with slander on the lips. Words hurt. Sometimes hateful words and ungodly attitudes come from the lips of those that we considered to be trusted friends. David was surrounded by blood-thirsty men. They were men of hatred and slander and some wanted his blood.

Yet it is not just active hatred that tears at a man's heart. Sometimes it is being counted as irrelevant or being treated as unneeded. In our culture many thousands of people (born and in the womb) have been discarded (mentally or actually) because they are are counted as a major inconvenience. That is the philosophy of Gloria Steinem who with hands raised high, proudly displays her, I had an abortion tee-shirt. After all, or so the philosophy goes, why inconvenience yourself for the next 18 years? It is always the most vulnerable (babies, the sick and the elderly) that are first casualties of a culture that bows before the idol of convenience. Yet it is not just the vulnerable that are hated. David was strong and powerful. He was hated by those who wanted his strength and power and by those who hated his God. There are plenty of reasons to be hated, right?

David knew hatred of various sorts. He faced it as a boy standing against the taunting Goliath, and he knew it as an old man when his son sought to overthrow him. He was hated, discounted, slandered and pursued.

Yet, David uses a little word, just three letters, that is filled with hope. It is the word, but.  He wrote, But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill (Psalm 3:2).

How do you respond when you are hated, treated as irrelevant, dismissed or neglected?

David cried out to God and anchored his heart on truth.  He declared God to be his shield, glory, exalter and sovereign over his life, rest, sustenance and death. He leaned hard on God his Savior (3-8).

How must we respond?

1.  Bring your heart to God (1). God knows you but invites you to come to him and spill your heart.
2.  Declare to God your convictions about him (3). David declared  that God was his shield, glory, encourager, prayer answerer, sustainer, protector and deliverer.
3.  Cry to God in your need (4).  God sent his Son. Jesus is sympathetic to your plight. Cry to him!
4. Trust in the Lord (5). David said, I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. To know God is to be able, even with enemies all around, to rest.  If you are a Christian then to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
5.  Be strong and courageous (6-7). David had many thousands of people who hated him and wanted him dead. Your situation is probably not as dreadful. Yet he said, I will not be afraid...(6).
6.  Cry to the Lord again (7). David knew God as savior and he cried to God to save him.
7. Praise the Lord (8). In every prayer and every breath and every situation give praise to God.

Perhaps the prayer below is reflective of your heart.

A Lord's Day Prayer

Almighty God, my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head, I come to you. It is not that there are many thousands of people who have set their hearts against me, that I come to you.  I come to you with a sense of my great neediness.  I am weak amidst the troubles that I face. My strength gives way in battle. Loneliness, grief and the multiplied challenges of life overwhelm me. I have not the ability, within myself to fight on. If I am to survive and thrive with thousands of challenges in my way then it will only be because you have chosen to lift me up.

Forgive my sense of despair.  Thank you for being a God to whom I can bring my heart. I declare that you are my shield, glory and the lifter of my head. You are the one who hears and answers my prayers.  You are the one who gives rest to my soul, my mind, my body.  You are the one who wakes me in the morning and sustains me through the day. You are the one who gives me courage to face the many thousands of challenges in the pathway of this temporal journey.  You are my hope and my salvation.  

On this Lord's Day use the prayers and songs of your people as worship acceptable in your sight and as a balm to my heart.  Use the preaching of the Word to honor your name and to build up your people. Rise up in your church and be exalted among your people for your glory and our good.  Help our church to trust in your protection, declare your greatness and to be courageous.  You are my God and you are our God! Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Co-Exist (but not like the bumper-sticker)

As a person grows in the gospel they grow in their appreciation for freedom. They breathe the air of grace in fresh ways. Their eyes are opened to see the beauty of God, their ears to hear the music of God and their tongue sensitized to taste the goodness of God. They increasingly appreciate the breath of God in a fall breeze, and experience the pleasure of God in the laughter of a child and the kiss of their spouse. They become a dancing Puritan, rooted in God-centered theology that overflows in the joy of the Lord. They are free to love the Lord and to delight in his law.

Christian freedom impacts even the mundane things of life like eating and drinking. In fact, the grace of God makes the mundane sacred. Normal duties are holy. Work, homemaking, recreation and dating one's spouse are sacred. Growth in grace is growth in understanding of how to play basketball, wash dishes, mow lawns, play with children and build houses to the glory of God. It is growth in learning that anything, (that is not sin), is an arena for the worship of God. As a Christian grows the wall between the sacred and the secular (not the sacred and the sinful) falls down and his vision is clarified so that all of life is seen as an arena for worship.

Most of the time when we speak of Christian freedom or liberty we are referring to, matters indifferent. Those are things that the Bible does not prohibit and Christians are free to enjoy.  In Romans 14  indifferent matters included eating meat and drinking wine (2,21). Paul said, the kingdom of God is not focused on such things--but on righteousness, peace and joy (17).  So if your focus is on what you think a person should or should not eat or drink and you are connecting their spirituality to either engaging or abstaining then you are way off base. On matters indifferent we have one compelling responsibility and that is to love without judgment (10).

Meat and wine (and a thousand other things) are not matters to divide the church over. Meat eaters, vegetarians, wine drinkers and tee-totalers should be able to co-exist with deep affection and love for one another. Pork and chardonnay are not real issues like the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the hypostatic union, the substitutionary death of Christ and his bodily resurrection. Food and drink become sin issues when one's god is their belly (Philippians 3:19) and they become gluttons or drunkards (Proverbs 23:20-21). Eating and drinking are issues in the positive sense that Christians are to eat and drink to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).


The strong believer wants to enjoy his freedom to eat and drink, sing and dance, work and play to the delight and honor of the God who has set him free from oppression. The weak believer (meaning that he does not have the assurance of faith to engage in some of activities the strong believer enjoys) also wants to honor God (Romans 14:5-7). He believes that he does so by abstaining from certain activities that he associates (on some level) with sin. The association is probably connected to his pre-conversion life. His conscience tells him that to drink wine would be sinful. If he pops the cork in opposition to his conscience then he sins. The weaker believer, interestingly, is the Christian with the most scruples about such things. He needs to learn that nothing is unclean in itself (14). However, until he becomes strong in such assurance he needs to heed the voice of his conscience.

The strong believer must be careful not to provoke the weak believer to violate his conscience. He must be willing to restrict his liberties (in the presence of the weak believer), if by engaging in them his weaker brother is tempted to sin. The reason that he is willing to do so is because he is driven by a desire to honor God via loving his weaker brother. The weaker brother must be careful not to judge the stronger brother as wicked for enjoying certain foods and drinks. The weaker brother, out of desire to honor God loves his brother. Therefore he will not demand the restraint of liberty by his stronger brother. Paul's desire in Romans 14, is for both the weaker brother and the stronger brother to love one another and for the weaker brother to become a stronger brother. There should be no walls of division in their fellowship with one another.

Keep in mind that the weaker brother is a true Christian. He loves the Lord and is having genuine struggles of the conscience. He is not a self-righteous professing believer that  has a haughty and holier than thou attitude. The stronger brother must make a decision that he will not willingly or thoughtlessly put anything in the pathway of the weaker brother that might provoke him to violate his conscience. The weaker and the stronger brothers must be willing to have their consciences informed by the word of God.

At the end of the day, it is all about love!  Engaging in or abstaining from matters indifferent  are not about the violation of God's law, it is all about loving one's brother enough to give them preference in such matters. Don't make a big deal if they engage and don't make it a big deal if they abstain.  God's kingdom is about much more substantive matters.

If you don't eat and drink then let it be because your single passion is to honor God. If you do eat and drink then make sure you do so to the glory of God.  Love God and love your brothers and sisters and you will do your duty. Join hands (around the campfire of sound doctrine and love for God) and co-exist (but not like the message of the bumper-sticker).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Someone to Date Pt. 3: Thoughts on Marriage

"Daddy, please remove your pant leg from your sock." "Honey, those purple sweat pants do not match that red dress shirt." There is a tendency, the older we get and the longer we have been married, to be less than thoughtful in our appearance and demeanor.

Does it really matter? After all, Matthew 6:25 in the King James Version says, take no thought...for your body what ye shall put on. Maybe you are so heart focused that you couldn't care less about appearance. Is that a good line of thinking? Have you considered that your outward appearance can be a heart reflector? That a loving heart towards your spouse might be displayed in a nice appearance?

Does thinking about appearance make you uncomfortable? The passage in Matthew teaches that we are not to worry about clothes (and we are not to worry about anything else). God takes care of his people! So, don't worry about whether you will have food to eat or clothes to wear.

Does your appearance matter? Some people only focus on the outside and they fail to cultivate the heart. There were a lot of religious people in Jesus day like that (Luke 11:39).  Some people give an inordinate amount of time to exercise and sports. They forget that ... bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (I Timothy 4:8). Bodily exercise has some benefits but our driving passion must be for godliness.

That being said, we should give at least a little bit of attention to the body, it's health and it's appearance. The body is decaying and dying but it is headed for resurrection and renewal. Future vision should always change our trajectory. The body is to be used for God's glory and the good of others.

Let's think in terms of dating your spouse. Does it matter if you exercise and give reasonable amount of time to your health and appearance? Does it really matter what you look like?

Part of our mission is to try and bring order out of chaos in this fallen world. One way we do that is by ordering the body.  ...Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hear and gold or pearls and costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works (1 Timothy 2:9).  Let me give you a loose translation, women order yourselves in an orderly way so that your outward appearance reflects a godly heart. Paul does not prohibit jewelry and makeup (I Peter 3:3-4) but he does prohibit immodesty that betrays one's profession of faith. He uses various forms of the word cosmos, from which we understand the order of the universe, to describe how a woman is to dress.  She is to dress orderly reflecting an ordered heart!

What do you owe your spouse? You owe them love. It is a loving thing to have an ordered appearance and godly character. It is your duty to be attractive. You are not loving towards your spouse if you do not care a whit about how you look and smell!  Here are some thoughts from The Song of Solomon (SOS) about appearance, attitude, smell, speech and character. These things, put into practice, will help you to date your spouse and to live with them in love. As you read the list guys, imagine that you are about to take your wife on a date!

1.  Be kissable.  Your spouse should want to kiss you!  Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth (SOS 1:1.).  Don't make it hard for your wife to get her lips to yours because of bad breath.  Fight for good breath and enjoy the spoils of the war!
2. Be lovable. The lady in The Song of Solomon (SOS) said of her lover, ...your love is better than wine. Wine and romance are friends throughout SOS. Greater than even wine to the lady was the love of her man.
3. Be attractive.  Part of the attraction of the lady towards the man in SOS was that he smelled good (3). The lady also smelled sweet (1:12). Smell is more important than you may think. Your smell should draw your wife to you rather than repel her. Both the man and the woman described one another in glowing terms that indicated beauty and fitness (4:1-16, 5:10-16).  Don't let it be a stretch for your wife (or husband) to say such things about you!
4. Cultivate good character. The lady said of the man, your name is poured out; therefore virgins love you (1:3). You might be winsome and beautiful but without godly character you will not be truly lovely.
5. Be a wordsmith. Read through SOS and notice the creative ways that both the man and the woman talk about and to one another.  You may not be a poet but you can improve on your creativity in speech!  Listening to good music and reading poetry will help you.

More to come...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Someone to Date Pt. 2: Thoughts on Marriage

Can the romance that has settled on the floor of your heart be stirred up again? Can the windows be opened so that the wind might reignite the flames that once burned so brightly? If so, then how?

Embedded within those questions are the assumptions that: 1. The romance has settled.  2. The flames are not burning brightly. Those assumptions may be entirely flawed.  Romance may be dancing in your heart and burning strong like a hearty fire in mid-winter. Though all around you there is coldness, your marriage may be glowing. Great!

For most of us it is a mixed bag, isn't it?  We love our spouse.  We have the occasional big events that stir us from slumber, but something is lost in our daily encounters.  That is not to imply that every day in a marriage should be like a page ripped from a romance novel (not a good place to look for real romance anyway). However, every day there are opportunities to stir up God-given desires and to invest in the person across the bed.

It is easier for romance to spark on special occasions. Why is that?  One reason (maybe the main reason) is that we tend to be more thoughtful during those times.  We tend to be more creative and more unselfish when our anniversary or some other special occasion rolls around.

Can that thoughtfulness be transferred to Monday morning?  Wednesday afternoon?  Saturday night?  Is there any reason that, while sometimes we may dress up and go to a ball, that we cannot in jeans and tee-shirt dance across the living room floor (stepping over a few toys left behind)?  Is there any reason why, though there are times we may swirl the juice across a table draped in white, that we cannot toast our partner thirty-minutes before bed (in a paper cup)? Is there any law against patting the knees to the sound of blue-grass, though we might prefer the big band in a banquet hall?  Sometimes it is just a smile, a touch or a kind word that keeps the fire going.

Obviously most of us cannot visit fancy restaurants or travel the oceans each day. Those dates are reserved for special occasions.  And if we could dine and travel in a bit of extravagance every day--then much would be lost.  If it is Christmas everyday, is it really Christmas any day?

But everyday can be special!  Everyday can be thoughtful.  Every intimate encounter may not be "rockets red glare with bombs bursting in air" but every encounter can be loving and romantic. Are we going to miss the mark? Yes, of course.  But should we not at least aim for the mark?

So how do we raise the window to let the winds of romance in?  Sometimes the window is a bit stuck. Consider a few suggestions that might help to pry the window a bit:


1. Kiss regularly. Kiss when you wake up and when you go to bed and every time you come home.  Kiss at other times also.

2. Invite.  Invite your spouse to sit with you, read with you, walk with you, snuggle with you and help you with a project.

3. Speak with kindness.  "A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself" (Proverbs 11:17). "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue"(Proverbs 31:26). Real romance is often sparked by asking questions such as, "what was your favorite dessert when you were a child?"

4. Show creativity.  To be creative requires thinking.  Think about ways to sprinkle romance into the mundane things of your day (eating and drinking).  Twice a week prepare a bed-time snack of cheese and crackers (or whatever) to be enjoyed thirty minutes before going to sleep.  Look forward to those times. Think of other things that you can do to add spice to blandness.

5. Engage.  Don't be afraid to take the initiative in romance.  Read the Song of Solomon and you will find that both the woman and the man initiate romance. Engage your spouse with thoughtful expressions. Engage them by taking their hand, rubbing their back, doing something for them that they enjoy. Read to and with them.  Read the book: Date Your Wife.

6. Date. Dates do not have to be expensive but they should be regular.  The best thing about a date is not where you go but who you go with.  I once had a guy tell me that he packed a table cloth and candle and took his date to McDonald's where he spread the cloth and lit the candle.  Have a regular time (preferably each week) where you either leave the house for a while or retreat to a private place in your house to date.

Make your own list and get started, like--right now!  More to come!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Someone to Date: Thoughts on Marriage

Picture from

It was a crisp enough morning to move the couple inside of the dessertery. The quaint little eatery on the historic town square was the beginning of a thee-day dating experience for the couple married twenty-five years. The menu offered a different twist on the regular breakfast fare. The homemade croissant embraced a lightly fried egg and was decorated with fruit on the side. And he, to the surprise of his wife, chose quiche.

It was a delightful morning. Laughter and conversation filled the room. The husband planned several days of short excursions to spend with his wife as they celebrated their anniversary. Interestingly there had been a different place on the schedule for that morning, yet it was closed. The couple considered it a sweet providence as they enjoyed a more suitable and a bit more romantic setting to begin their short journey.

Over the days, gifts were exchanged at various places.  Sometimes they would dress up and other times they chose casual.  It was an adventure. She did not know where he was taking her, which seemed to delight her and to excite him. They ate, they walked and they talked.  Twenty-five years was capsuled into three days.

This was not the first time they had marked big events.  On year ten it was she who did the planning.  In many ways the tenth year felt like the first.  Both were young and the marriage was young. They set sail across the ocean and boarded together in a little cabin--perfect for a couple in love.

Such occasions marked year fifteen and other key dates connected to their marriage. And sprinkled along the journey were special nights, days or weekend trips that delighted the couple.

They were never disappointed in any of their trips (short or long). They were together and their marriage was renewed. Each date had a way of infusing the marriage with fresh vision and new ideas--like the meal at the dessertery on the unusually cool late summer's day.

Perhaps you are now recalling such experiences in your marriage. Remembering great dates on special occasions brings a smile to your face. But what about the regular days when there are no anniversaries, birthdays or other events to mark? The weeks when all is normal (meaning school, chores, work and chaos)?  Do you ever open the windows so that refreshing air can stir the romance that tends to settle on your heart's floor?  Yes, a thousand times yes, there is joy to be found in the daily duties of life.  Eat and drink to the pleasure of God and let your taste-buds dance with every peanut butter sandwich. It is a gift, not to be missed.  Enjoy every hug, appreciate every time the mountains of clothes are folded and the office is organized.

But...don't stop there.  In marriage love needs to be awakened.  It needs to be called to the front in fresh and creative ways. Music must be added to the daily fare--music that invites a dance, a waltz.

Sabbath's are needed every week--to rest, reflect, refocus and to swim in God's grace. You read your Bible throughout the week but on Sunday's (at least) you need preaching, congregational singing and the fellowship of the saints.

Perhaps your marriage is in the proverbial rut.  It is characterized by going through the motions but is missing the song, the dance, the laugh and the kiss---the real kiss.

What do you do?  How do you open the windows to allow the fresh air in? Can you stir up again the romance that seems to have disappeared into the normal routine?  Tomorrow we will seek to answer those questions. For now find a quiet place and meditate on these verses:

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 grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom.  There I will give you my love.  The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and beside our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved (Song of Solomon 7:11-13).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Someone to Know Pt. 2: Thoughts on Marriage

I am in one of my periodical fits of loathing the food at South Parks Road, which is unfair enough!  But does anyone ever say, at 9:30, 'Wouldn't you like something to eat?'  No. I miss even working to the sound of someone doing things about the place, and even being interrupted by a voice saying: 'Darling, what about a cup of tea?'  These things have been nine-tenths of my life.' (Charles Williams in a letter to his wife Michal, during a time of separation due to work. From the book, The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter).

Charles Williams was a contemporary of C.S. Lewis.  His marriage to Michal was strained and not a model to be imitated. However, as you read their story, it is evident that there were drops of grace sprinkled throughout their marriage that are instructive to us today.

During their five-day a week separation, Williams missed his domestic life with Michal.

Charles Williams Writing
Carpenter writes of the letters that Charles wrote to Michal, ...letters that were full of affection and of nostalgia for the domesticity of their flat. Nor was this simply a pose adopted to placate Michal, for he really did miss that domesticity, and in particular the small snacks of tea and cake and sandwiches on which she had so often fed him while he was working late in the evening.

In Michal's act of leaving snacks for her husband she was displaying thoughtfulness and sensitivity to him. Perhaps much of the brilliance in his work can be attributed to Michal's keen insight into her husband, her caring enough to know that tea, cake and sandwiches after dinner would delight him. Michal knew her husband in ways that those who cared for him during their separation did not. Her thoughtfulness in this little thing was large.  It made him miss home, his wife and the affection that they shared together. Michal knew Charles would be encouraged in his writing by the snacks of tea and cake and sandwiches that were offered to him as tokens of love.

Isn't it interesting the sorts of things that encourage others?  The only way to know those things is to know the person.  That sort of knowledge comes through observation, interaction and conversation.  For some its a look, for others it is a cup of tea offered at various times, for some it might be chocolate, and for others it might be little snacks strategically placed that makes the house more of a home.

The place where Charles Williams lodged at Oxford, while his wife was sixty miles away, insisted on regular meal times. That was no big problem, but Charles was accustomed to the tokens of affection, left by his wife for him, at various times in the evening.  Michal's knowledge of Charles in this area helped to keep his heart close to home.

Do you know your spouse?  Do you know how you might encourage them in their work, their play and in their normal duties?  Do you love them enough to know? At the very heart of marriage is knowledge. Marriage is having someone to know.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Someone to Know Pt. 1: Thoughts on Marriage

Do you know your spouse?  Really?  Do you know how they think and feel?  Do you know their views?  Do you know what they enjoy and what they detest?  Do you know their dreams? Are you in touch with their heart? Do you know their greatest fears and doubts?  Do you care? Are you willing to know your spouse and enter into the joy of discovery?

Marriage is about knowing, knowing involves discovery and discovery is inseparable from intimacy.

Order Book
We first learn of knowing in marriage from the book of Genesis.  Now Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, 'I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD' (Genesis 4:1).

What does it mean that Adam knew Eve?  Knowing Eve meant more than simply knowing that she existed.  Indeed Adam knew that she existed.  In fact he had initially been rather emotional about her existence. This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:23).  The language is expressive and indicates that Adam was very excited about the woman. Adam knew about Eve. She was the helper fit for him (2:18) that God had made.

Genesis 4:1 introduces a word that tells us more about Adam and Eve's relationship.  It tells us that Adam knew Eve his wife.  He already knew her, but the foundational knowledge of existence and knowing things about her, became something more. Adam knew Eve intimately.

Genesis 4:1 connects knowledge with conception.  Adam knew Eve and Eve conceived.  They were physically intimate. Knowledge is again connected to conception a few verses later, Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch (17). Then again, And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth... (25).

One might say, I know Sally, she works as a clerk at the store.  That is different from, Adam knew Eve and she conceived. So there is knowledge and there is knowing.  Knowing (in the sense of this column) is the knowledge of intimacy. Dr. R.C. Sproul, in his book, The Intimate Marriage, wrote: when the Old Testament speaks of sexual union in terms of knowing, it is because knowing, in every sense of the word, is at the heart of marriage.  To be known and still be loved is one of the supreme goals of marriage.

Marriage is all about knowing. This knowledge includes sexual intimacy but is more. It is to know your spouse intimately and to be known by them. To know is to love and to be loved. It is to express that love in the most intimate of ways, in a unique, reserved, particular and exclusive relationship.

Sproul wrote, a synonym for verbal communication. Communication involves a kind of nakedness. In some situations, nakedness can be very embarrassing.  At other times, it can be supremely exhilarating. So it is with communication.  When communication is carried on in a proper way in marriage, it yields unspeakable pleasure.  When it fails, the result is two people going back into hiding.

The best way to understand the depth of intimacy is by looking to our Lord.  ...I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of iniquity (Matthew 7:23).  The workers of iniquity are those who called Jesus Lord but who did not do God's will.  Jesus said about them, I never knew you. Of course he knew them.  He knew they existed.  He knew their claims. He knew their works. He did not know them intimately.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...(Romans 8:29).

God foreknew some people.  Foreknowledge is not simply knowing in advance but the word foreknew carries with it the idea of love and intimacy.  It speaks of God's love.  An amazing truth about God's love is that he loved people before he created them.

Think about it.  If you are married, a brand-new relationship has been created. Marriage constitutes the reason a man leaves his parents. He leaves parents so that he might cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24). To cleave to one's wife is to be welded to her, to be grafted to her bones and bound to her heart.

Do you know your spouse?  Do you really know them? Do you see your marriage as an exciting journey of discovery?  Are you willing to know your spouse in every sense of the word?  Are you willing to be known by them?  If so then you are on your way to understanding the joy of marriage.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lord's Day Meditation

We will continue our series on marriage and friendship tomorrow. 

In a scene from the movie Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee is walking early in the morning.  He is praying, Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;...Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down! (Psalm 144:1,5a).
Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee in Gettysburg
Though you may not be a warrior  you are in a battle. A part of the battle is fighting to trust God in the midst of trouble.

King David knew trouble.  He had enemies without and within and he learned to fight and to believe.

This morning I prayed through Psalm 144 and wrote down several points to remember:

1.  Glorify God as the One Who Equips (1).

David blessed God for training his hands for war and his fingers for battle. Whatever our skill set, talents, abilities or vocation, it is God that is to be honored for equipping us for our calling in life.  Yes, he used and is using means.  Yes, he uses our diligent efforts, but it is ultimately God that provides the life, energy, clarity, opportunity (and everything else) necessary for us to be equipped to do all that he has called us to do.

2.  Declare the Character of God (2).

Our love for God may appear weak and sometimes barely noticeable.  However, God's love for us is steadfast and strong. He is our deliverer, protector and refuge. Meditate deeply on the character of God.

3.  Be Humble Before God (3-4).

David said, ...what is man that you regard him...Man is like a breath; his days, are like a passing shadow.  We are so fragile and our time on the earth so temporary. Our time here is passing so rapidly. Do you feel it?  Whenever I feel pain I am reminded that life is brief. I am alive today but soon they will write my obituary. I prayed this morning, Lord teach me to redeem my days and to understand the brevity of life and the certainty of death and to rejoice that though I am weak you have regarded me.

4.  Seek God in Prayer (5-11).

Prayer is a declaration of our dependence on God.  Though we are low, fragile and dying; God is willing to bow down, touch, rescue, deliver and strengthen.

5.  Sing (9-10).

Do you ever, while engaged in private bible reading and prayer--start singing?  Is music a part of your regular devotion? Perhaps you cannot play a ten-stringed harp but you can play a CD and you can use your voice (untrained as it might be) to make a joyful noise to the Lord (Psalm 100).  Singing reflects a joyful heart that is confident in God.

6.  Vision (12-15).

Amidst high and powerful waters (7) and enemies (8), we must pray and sing.  As the sword is thrust towards us and trouble is on every side we must not lose a God-centered vision (11-12). What does David ask for? He asks for mature sons, stable daughters, full provision, fruitful labor and peace.

Though these things will only be fully realized in heaven it is appropriate to ask for them now and to work for them.

I prayed today, Lord would you grant us mature young men, godly husbands for our daughters, strong men for our church and nation?  Would you provide manly men to lead, protect and provide?  Lord, would you grant our churches, homes and nation stable daughters that will not be swept away by the fads and fashions of our culture and who will have the strength to stand against evil men and false teaching directed towards women? Would you fill our pantries and give us sufficient financial resources so that we will not only be able to take care of our own needs but that we might be a blessing to others? Would you bless our labors, open doors of opportunity, protect and bring fruit from our investments? Would you give us peace in our homes, churches and communities? Would you make our every struggle, failure, pain and challenge drive us closer to Jesus and long more for heaven? Every good gift comes from you, Lord.  You have blessed us.  We are blessed.  We are blessed because you are our God.  Give us strong faith to trust that you will provide mature young men, stable daughters, sufficient and abundant resources, blessed labor, fruitful investments and peace, even as we look to Jesus and long for heaven. You are our God!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Someone to Talk To (Pt.2): Thoughts on Marriage

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A smile and a wave from his wife.  They were all Reagan needed.
Peter Robinson

"He has a new voice, a fresh look, a spring to his step and is doing old things new again."  That observation was recently made about a person that had been gripped by deep loneliness only to be blessed with a friend to talk with.

Having someone to talk to has a way of changing things.  A peanut butter sandwich at noon is suddenly transformed to a meal for the ages, simply by the presence of an engaging friend.

There are few things that portray more sadness than a person alone with only the walls to talk to. There is something counter to the very nature of what it means to be a human that is obvious in chronic aloneness.

There are certain places that are sacred because of years of shared experiences. Being alone in those places can be haunting.  A while back I stopped for the night at Daytona Beach, Florida on my way to a speaking engagement.  I was alone. There are few places that I have enjoyed more in my lifetime than Daytona. It was the vacation place of my family when I was a boy. It is a place that Lori and I have often taken our children. It is designed for the laughter of family with sand covering the feet of little ones. It seemed odd being at Daytona without my family. I was lonely. There was no one to turn to and say, "look at that dolphin."

Marriage is having someone to be with and talk to. All talking is not communication. Intimate communication (beyond the necessary utilitarian communication that is necessary to make life work) says, "I want to know you." And fearful as it may seem, it says, "I want you to know me." It speaks of things beyond the daily duties of life (grass to be mowed, clothes to be folded, diapers to be changed).  Regular duties are important and are opportunities to glorify God and to engage in delightful communication. However, I am speaking of something a bit different.  

At the heart of marriage is knowing. "To know" in Scripture means more than mere intellectual knowledge. It is the knowledge of intimacy. We get married so that we can know another person in a unique, reserved and intimate way. Marriage should be a joyful quest of discovery. To know, we must discover.  We get to discover the person we married. We discover that they are a person of dreams and opinions, strengths and weaknesses, through conversation that goes beyond utilitarian communication.

Having someone to talk to sometimes means more than using words.  

One of my favorite books on Ronald Reagan is How Ronald Reagan Changed by Life by Peter Robinson.  Robinson was a speechwriter for Reagan.  He recounts a day when President Reagan was giving a speech (that Robinson had drafted). The setting was the Rose Garden.  Robinson writes:

Although his performance was fluid enough, his pacing was off.  He seemed perfunctory and detached.  For once, I thought, Ronald Reagan was having a bad day.  Then a movement on the second floor of the residence caught his eye.  He glanced up.  Mrs. Reagan was standing at a window.  She smiled.  The President beamed.  She waved.  He waved--then had everyone in the Rose Garden turn around to wave, too. When he returned to his remarks, the President picked up his pace, appearing more involved and energetic. Even--well, younger. A smile and a wave from his wife.  They were all Reagan needed...She waved and smiled--and suddenly he was more alive.

The smile and wave of Mrs. Reagan was powerful communication that encouraged.  How could that non-verbal communication reach his heart and change his demeanor?  No doubt it was because Ronald had found in his wife Nancy, someone to talk to.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Someone to Talk To (Pt. 1): Thoughts on Marriage

Your spouse should be your best friend and wisest counselor. It is often foolish to act without seeking their counsel.

Yesterday I spoke with a gentleman that is training for ministry. I was pleased to discover that he is interested in building a great library. It was also encouraging to learn that he is in a church where the gospel is proclaimed each Lord's Day. Something else stuck me about his training. He spends significant time with godly men in various settings, just talking. Regular conversation with those men has been invaluable to him.

I am not sure that we really talk, listen and communicate very often. Some of us have more virtual conversations than we do face-to-face communication. It is rare that we hear the stories of others. Even when people are in the same room their heads are often pointed downwards. Someone told me recently of a married couple that they noticed at a restaurant. The couple seldom looked up from their phones. They surfed the net, checked their email, sent texts to friends but there was little talk between the two actual people sitting at the table. It was suggested that perhaps they were texting one another.  Looking down has become the posture of our culture.

You see the posture of our culture on the streets, in the shopping malls, at restaurants, at work and at home. Texting, checking email and surfing the web occupies the attention of some people even at church. Something is very wrong.

Looking down may be the posture of our culture, but should it be? Is it the posture of your marriage?  Should we be concerned when we see children and teenagers constantly holding a phone and looking down? Will they become like the couple at the restaurant?  Will they occupy the same room with their spouse but have little in the way of face-to face-communication? Are they learning their posture from you?

Take a quick look at your marriage?  How often are you looking down at a gadget? How many times do you really need to check your email each day? How many times do you need to tell us how you feel via your posts on Facebook? How often do you really need to text?

This is not designed to be an anti-technology post. How could it be? I am typing this blog on a MacBook Pro. My phone is at my side. I want to be accessible to my wife, children, church and various other jobs that I am engaged in. Technology plays an important role in how I make a living and keep in touch with my family. But technology must not become an idol, an indispensable god without which I can't happily function.

What about your marriage?  Even if you have no phones, computers or other gadgets to distract you--do you really communicate with your spouse? You need heart-to-heart, face-to-face, thoughtful communication.

We need intimate conversation. God made us to know and to be known. Without wise communication we will wander from the path. Without meaningful conversation we will "go with our gut" way too often.

We see in God the essence of perfect communication. He spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1). He sent his Son---the Word (John 1:1) and He gave us the 66 books of the Bible, which reveal his character and the way of salvation. God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1-5).

Look for ways to trim back the time that you spend with technology and to increase the face-to-face communication with your spouse. Don't bring the phone to the dinner table?  Leave it somewhere during family worship time. Ask your spouse about their interests, their dreams, their views and their struggles. Ask them for counsel. Listen to them.  Though they may not know much about the specifics of engineering, mechanics or whatever you do, they will give you wise counsel. They will be used by God to keep you from many troubles and they will provide for you someone to talk to. After all, marriage is having someone to talk to.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Someone to Wake Up To: Thoughts on Marriage

"Why do you want to get married?" The minister, leading our premarital counseling, asked  that question to Lori and me 26 years ago. I think we looked dreamily into one another's eyes and said, "Because we love each other." The counselor just smiled.  He then encouraged us that in 20 years, if we followed Christ, that our love would be so much deeper and stronger that we would barely recognize the love of 20 years prior.

Why then did we want to get married? Our counselor said that we should get married if we want to wake up beside one another every day for the next 50 plus years.

I know there are deeper theological reasons to get married. After all, at the end of the day, marriage is not first and foremost about us but about Christ and his church (Ephesians 5). Yet growing out of the gospel are various reasons for marriage that are a part of God's design. One of those reasons is that it is not good that the man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). And so God created a helper fit for him (18).

The band, Three Dog Night reminded their audience in 1969, that one is the loneliness number. Unless God has given a special gift of singleness, it is his design that we get married and not be alone. And for those that he has called to singleness and those that are widowed (for example) they need friendships. Many people are lonely. For those people who are home bound we (all Christians) have a special obligation to visit them as a remedy to their loneliness. For others that are single it is important that they maintain godly friendships.

Marriage, as God has designed it, is one of the great means of eliminating loneliness.

I don't sleep well on those occasions when Lori and I are not together at night. The hotel bed or even my own bed without her is not the same. I toss and turn. I miss her beside me.

I reach for Lori numerous times throughout the night. I need to know that she is there. I am thankful when I wake in the morning that I have someone to wake up to.

26 years ago I did not really understand all of the reasons to get married. The testimony of our counselor has proven, in our case, to be accurate.  Even though marriage is challenging, we love one another more deeply than we could have ever imagined those years ago in that counselor's office.  One of the things that we both appreciate about marriage is waking up beside one another.

After all, though marriage is many things, it is having someone that we love to wake up to.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Someone to Live Out the Gospel With: Thoughts on Marriage

A few years ago I was preaching at a church in Florida. It was a Saturday evening and I had just completed my message. After church people kept telling me about the meal that I would enjoy on Sunday after the morning service. The Pastor was going to smoke chicken and he had a long-standing reputation for being a great cook.

Image From:
I stayed with the Pastor and his wife at their home. My room was upstairs. From my window I could see the patio and the smoker. From that smoker--smoke rose and danced around just outside my window.  The smell was fantastic and continued throughout the night. Going to sleep with the smell of  chicken smoking was a sweet way to drift off into a land of banqueting tables filled with beautiful arrangements and smoked chicken as the centerpiece.

I was not disappointed the next day when, after church, we came to the table and enjoyed a wonderful meal.  The chicken glorified the cook. The smell from the smoker had given a correct witness to the source of the smell.  The chicken was great because the cook had done his job well.

Marriage puts off an aroma. The smell wafts up, out and all around. You can smell it when you enter a home.  It reaches your senses when you see a couple at a restaurant.  Sometimes the smell is bitter and sometimes it is sweet.  The fact is that even the best marriages are bittersweet. Your marriage is putting off a smell?  The smell is designed to glorify the creator of marriage.  Is the aroma that flows from your marriage telling the truth about the one who created marriage?

What an arena marriage is for Christians to display the gospel! Two people struggling with sin issues live together in the midst of many challenges. There is ongoing sickness, trouble at work, trouble in relationships, fear and doubt. Sometimes we do not respond, as we ought.

How do you respond? The gospel informs, fuels, directs and is to saturate your every response. Is there any arena where you have more opportunity to display repentance, faith and forgiveness than in your marriage? Is there any arena where you need the power of the gospel any more than you do in your marriage? Is there any arena where you will have greater opportunity to impact others with the gospel than your marriage?

Your marriage provides an ongoing gospel platform. Your children will know, best of all, how you respond to frustration, stress and to being sinned against. Your neighbors will be able to smell the aroma that is coming from your home.The young couples at your church will learn much about marriage from watching your marriage. The folks that sit around your table will get more than a good meal they will get a living illustration of the gospel.

Why don't you sit down with your spouse today and clean the slate. Forgive one another. Thank God for your spouse. Ask God to display the gospel through your marriage. Find one way that you can serve your spouse today! Work hard to cultivate a sweet-smelling marriage. Get the gospel deep into your heart and mind.  Pray that your children, neighbors and friends at church will see something of the greatness of Christ and smell the sweet aroma of grace by watching your marriage.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Someone to Read With: Thoughts on Marriage

Have you ever read to your spouse?  Reading to someone is not an exclusive activity reserved only for marriage.  However, reading to your spouse can be a wonderful exercise to cultivate friendship.

Early in our marriage Lori and I read The Pursuit of God  by A.W. Tozer.  I remember that to be 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 change.  I want to start reading with my wife again.  I think that reading together will be a good use of our time. It can be enjoyable, edifying and instructive.  We can 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, among other things, I wrote about a lady (Sarah Hale) who worked tirelessly to promote an official, national Thanksgiving Day. Sarah Hale was a prolific writer for a ladies magazine but she also wrote numerous books and columns.  She became a writer after her husband David Hale died at a young age and she was left to support her family. She was able to provide through writing.

Sarah and David had a wonderful marriage.  One of the interesting activities of their marriage was that David would read to Sarah.

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 spend two hours each night reading together. However, could you not spend some time reading together?  It was no doubt the case that David and Sarah Hale's marriage was strengthened through those reading times and that she was better prepared to care for their family after David's death.  Day after day they enjoyed 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 classic and 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 am not suggesting that this take the place of family worship times or of reading the Bible and praying with your spouse. Though you may read a variety of books, and find in them ways to appreciate God's grace, don't neglect to read the Bible and pray with your family and spouse. I am most convicted that I need to be faithful in Bible reading with Lori even as we read books together on a variety of subjects.

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

After all marriage provides you with someone to read with.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Someone to Kiss: Thoughts on Marriage

Kissing is a Christian greeting, Greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16). It is also the chosen word that introduces the best song in all of Solomon's Treasury, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine (The Song of Solomon 1:2). That kind of kissing is romantic kissing.  It is distinguished from the mere greeting that characterized believers in the New Testament Churches.

There is something about a Song of Solomon kind of kiss. Such a kiss is intimate. It is a special kind of communication at the very point of communication, the mouth.

Wine was a treasured blessing in the Old Testament. It was considered a gift from God and cheered the heart (Psalm 104:15). Wine, like kissing, is directed first of all to the mouth. Wine instructors teach that to enjoy a glass of wine it is important to swirl the wine in the glass, smell the wine and then saturated the palate. After swirling, smelling and saturating then a person is prepared to drink.

Wine is generally to be paired with food.  The Song of Solomon has much to say about food as well as wine. And yet Solomon's lady said that kissing indicated love and that love "is better than even wine." Better than even one of the most treasured resources in Solomon's kingdom, that is how wonderful love is! Romantic, committed love is expressed with a kiss.

It is often believed that prostitutes don't kiss their clients because they are paid strictly for sex but not for the kind of personal intimacy that a kiss denotes. Though it may be a myth (that prostitutes generally do not kiss) it is an interesting thought. Kissing denotes intimacy, perhaps at a more personal level than full sexual expression.

Regardless, the lady in The Song of Solomon loved to be kissed. Kissing is one of the best expressions of love and love is better than even wine. Wow!

Written on my bedroom wall is a reminder that I should never need to read in order to heed. It simply says, "Always kiss me goodnight."

Something is missing if a couple bypasses the kiss and goes immediately to intercourse. Sexual intercourse without kissing seems to be something like talking without communication.  Kissing means that one looks into the eyes of their spouse. They are face to face. Brain to brain. Thought to thought. Mouth to mouth. The kiss is the culmination of real communication. The kiss says, "I want to know you." It indicates, "I care about you."  It communicates sweetness, relationship and commitment at the point of contact and it opens the door for full bodily expression of intimacy.

My thoughts may not be exact science but, when reading the Song of Solomon and all of it's sexual expressions, you just can't avoid the kiss.  In fact it kisses you in the second verse.  Kissing is at the heart of marriage.  After all marriage, in part, is having someone to kiss!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Someone to Worship With: Thoughts on Friendship

Baird's Baptist Church, Greene County, GA

A friend is someone to worship with.

The church is an amazing thing.  Folks from various backgrounds gather together in a covenant community to hear preaching, receive the ordinances, sing songs, offer prayers and share in the common life together.  The church consists of people that God has called into fellowship with him and with one another.  It is a community that is grounded on biblical truth and flourishes in an arena of love.  It is a one another community of love. To use the Quaker description; It is a "religious society of friends."

God has created us to live in accountable relationships.  Sometimes folks have a sentimental view of friendship.  They think of a friend as one who just lets them be and do whatever they want to be and do, without any sort of intervention.  That is not true friendship.  A true friend will hold you accountable.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).

If a person is kissing you, approving of you, telling you that you are wonderful all of the time--beware!  You are likely not dealing with a friend but with a flatterer. A man who flatters his neighbor, spreads a net for his feet (Proverbs 29:5). Don't fall into the net of the flatterer! The flatterer wants to use you for some independent gain but they do not love you.  A friend will give constant encouragement but they will seek to avoid empty flattery.

Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.—R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p. 139.

The church provides an arena for friends to walk together in love.  In the church the rich and the poor join hands to labor together in the gospel.  The powerful and the lowly sing, pray, hear, eat and worship  together.  The ranks and divisions that characterize business, politics and the military dissolve under the heading of friend, in the context of the gathered church.  We stand together beneath the cross of Christ.

...Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own—
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonor
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God...
Beneath the Cross of Jesus"
Words and Music by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music 

Though we are acquainted with many people and, at some level, we might call them our friends; it is only fellow followers of Jesus Christ that are our truest and deepest friends. We walk with them through the valley, we join them at the graveside, we celebrate with them at weddings, we break bread with them for meals and we worship God with them. We must be friendly to all sorts of people. We extend the hand of friendship to Christian and non-Christian alike. Yet it is with the family of God that we share the ultimate things of life, death and eternity. We are "one in the bond of love" having been united to Christ by faith. That faith is expressed as we gather together, in community, to lift our voices, open our ears and incline our hearts heavenward.  

Friendship is having someone to worship with!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Someone to Cry With: Thoughts on Friendship

“If you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you - you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The descriptions of friendship as having someone to walk, sit and laugh with, (see previous posts), are sweet to the imagination. However, on occasion those times of walking and sitting are not made up of laughter. Instead they are times when we feel the warm water of tears.

Where do you go when you cry?  We should always go to Jesus.  He is the sympathetic high priest (Hebrews 4:15).  We go to Jesus and cast our cares on him (I Peter 5:7).  No one loves us like Jesus.  No one understands our trials, temptations and troubles as he does.  As the hymn writer put it:

There’s not an hour that He is not near us,
  No, not one! no, not one!
No night so dark, but His love can cheer us,
  No, not one! no, not one!
Johnson Oatman (1895)

Jesus is strong enough to take our trials and is willing to comfort us through those trials.  If you are a Christian then nothing can remove you from the love and comfort of God (Romans 8:38-39). As a Christian you know Jesus as ...a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Unlike other friends, and even the closest of family members, Jesus is a friend who will never abandon us.  He will never leave us in a lurch and he will never leave us via death.  We can always rest in and on him.

One of the great gifts that God gives to us in our trials is friendships.  We, who are friends with God by grace, are given a community of friends that we might share life together (the church). We call such sharing, fellowship.  

True friendship is having someone to cry with.  In Galatians 6:2 we are commanded to bear one another's burdens..."  We are to, Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). If you have ever lost a child in miscarriage, experienced the death of a spouse, lost your job or came face to face with a spouse who was unfaithful (and a million more examples), then you know something of what it is to weep.  Weeping is attached to loss.  The loss of something or someone we treasure stirs up the pools of tears and drops them from the clouds of our eyes.

Certainly God is sufficient for our griefs. And certainly there could be occasions when a person is all alone on a deserted island without any true friends in sight. But mostly, one of the chief ways that God dries our tears, is through the hand of a friend. A friend comes to us in the night when it is not convenient.  They stay by our side through the storm.  They embrace us with confidence that we can go on. They say more than, "if you ever need me, give me a call."  The friend makes the call, writes the letter, offers the shoulder, sends the meal over and eats the meal with us.  

All friends fall short. We should not hold any friend up to a standard beyond reason.  We should know ourselves enough to understand that we fall short in extending the hand of friendship.  And so, when a friend fails to come through in the hour of need, it is not necessarily that they are no friend.  It is that they, like us, are feeble and frail. They, like us, depend on God's grace in the merits of Christ to measure up for them. They, like us, need encouragement, and sometimes they need it at the hour that we hurt most. It is then that our ability to be a friend will be most tested.

Where would we be without friends?  Where would we be without someone to walk with, sit with, laugh with and cry with. We do not have to wonder. God has provided friends. If you have not met them yet, my simple counsel to you is to be a friend by being friendly (Proverbs 18:24).

Friendship is many things. It is certainly having someone to cry with.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Someone to Laugh With: Thoughts on Friendship

C.S. Lewis laughing

A powerful adhesive that welds friends together is laughter.  Perhaps you can recall seeing a friend again, after years of being separated, and laughter was the first response.

What would life be without jovial outbursts? Yes, I know life is serious business.  It gets more serious as we get older.  The bills keep coming.  Something is always broken.  Sickness is a frequent companion. Relationships are often strained.  We would die sooner, I am convinced, without intervals of laughter.  Seriousness and humor are not at odds with one another.  They are friends that should hold hands.

Charles Spurgeon was told a joke by a friend as they walked together.  Spurgeon laughed uproariously.  He then paused and said, "Theodore, let us kneel down and thank God for laughter."

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven;...a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

Laughter is a good gift from God and may be accompanied by dancing.  It is a gift that brings healing to brittle bones and it is a medicine that revives dying hearts.

A joyful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).

Laughter is not something that can be forced into a schedule and placed on a "to do" list.  It is not a programed activity.  Rather it is rooted in the knowledge of God who... richly provides us all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).

C. S. Lewis wrote, "You cannot study pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humour while roaring with laughter."

A merry heart is evidenced through eyes that see, ears that hear, taste buds that taste, and feet that dance, all from a heart that has been set free by grace.  Perhaps this is best evidenced in friendships.  

God is portrayed in the Bible as a builder, protector and as one who gives refreshment (Psalm 127).  Life is not designed to be driven by anxious toil.  Faith in God is faith that he is good and part of that goodness is reflected in the gift of laughter.  Anxiety wars against the joyful heart.  It says that God cannot be trusted and that life is too hard and too short to waste on humor.  

Friendship comes to the aid and gives a release from building pressures, but more than that; friendships provide a spring to one's step and puts a song in one's heart.

A true friend will laugh with you and will give you reason to laugh.  They will also give freedom to laugh in their presence. The freedom to laugh with a friend is air to the lungs and wind beneath wings.

I have often been around people who seemed to have no ability to laugh. They portrayed a sense of perpetual sadness. The laughter, that perhaps they had once known, was dead.  You see it in marriages.  Couples that were drawn together in moments of tear producing laughter, no longer laugh. Part of the revival of such a marriage is the revival of laughter.

I remember a sort of nonsensical statement that a friend and I used to share when we were in college, "If you can't laugh, it's pretty sad."  That statement was followed by an outburst of laughter.

In friendship laughter is cultivated, welcomed and appreciated.  Like Spurgeon we should hit our knees more often after a good joke or funny occurrence and thank God for the gift of laughter.

Friendship, after all, is having someone to laugh with.