The Dancing Puritan

Friday, April 26, 2013

There is Nothing Better Than Eating, Drinking and Pleasure



George Beverly Shea died on April 17th at the age of 104. He now is in the presence of the one that he so beautifully sang about. Perhaps his most beloved song is I'd Rather Have Jesus.

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I'd rather be His than have riches untold
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I'd rather be led by His nail pierced hands


Than to be a king of a best domain
And be held in sin's dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus
Than anything this world affords today


I'd rather have Jesus than worldly applause
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
Yes, I'd rather be true to His holy name


Than to be a king of a best domain
And be held in sin's dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus
Than anything this world affords today


There is only one way to enjoy silver, gold, riches, houses, lands, marriage and serving with great power and influence. There is only one way to eat, dance, garden, labor, vacation, run a company and love a wife in a way that is delightful and meaningful.

People run from God in various ways.  They seek tranquility of heart by seeking out pleasure, laughter, wine, wisdom, building, houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, creativity, possessions, employment, music and sex (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). All of those things, in and of themselves, may bring exhilarating pleasure. Yet when viewed as ways to find ultimate peace, joy and tranquility they fail. When the wisest of men, Solomon, looked back over his life he saw the pursuit of all of those things as worse than meaningless.  He came to the point where he hated his work, his toil and he fell into despair (16-23). He had everything but at the end of the day he had trouble sleeping (23).

Then he had a great awakening. He opened the door, turned the key and the light came on. There is a way to eat, drink, sing, dance, garden, build, gather and have sex that is truly enjoyable. There is a way but only one way. And when one finds the way his heart is filled with dancing and singing.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy...(24-25).

From eating, drinking, pleasure and work being meaningless--to it being described as nothing better, is quite a turn of mind. Life can be lived to the fullest when God is savored, loved and seen as the giver of good gifts. When God is worshipped as supreme then life can and should be enjoyed.

Lets bend those thoughts to marriage.  When the lady of Song of Solomon is asked about her husband she says, My beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies (6:2-3).

The sheer pleasure of marriage that is described by Solomon in his Song is enjoyed to the utmost because it is received as from the hand of God.

Work, vacation, gardening and marriage can be enjoyed when we are able to sing I'd rather have Jesus than anything.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What do you do with your cravings?

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied (Proverbs 12:4).

The folks in history that we admire the most are those who were not content to merely desire various objectives but who were actually diligent in their pursuits. One might desire what they do not pursue and desire alone will not result in being richly supplied.

I am thinking, as I write, of people that I admire. Without exception they are people of unusual discipline. And they are people who find in that discipline a freedom. They are also people who are richly supplied with opportunity and various benefits. They have learned to not simply manage the clock but to use time in such a way that captures their imagination and move them towards specific objectives.

I am also thinking of people who often speak of hopes, dreams and desires and yet never seem to move in any meaningful way towards those desires. They have imagination but not the sort that fuels them to stretch themselves out towards their objectives.

There are also those who do seek after their goals and yet they are so unclear on how to prioritize so that they are like the proverbial man who jumps on his horse and takes off in all directions. The result of that is a busy but undirected life.

The diligent person in Proverbs is one that has learned to fear and know God and is in constant pursuit of gaining the wisdom of God.  He hears, learns and acts. He disciplines his mouth so as not to allow his speech to bring him to ruin. He avoids the forbidden woman and the wicked life. He sits down at the table of wisdom and enjoys a perpetual feast. He surrounds himself with wise folks and learns wisdom himself. Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20).

Herein is another mark of the diligent, they recognize their need for wise friends. They have no time to bring into their most intimate circles-- foolish people.  They call out to the unwise and exhort them to pursue wisdom but they cannot hang out with foolish people who are committed to foolishness.

Great folks surround themselves with great folks. They eat, drink, walk and talk with the wise.

What about you?  Do you have wise friends?  Are you content with desiring but not pursuing God-centered objectives? Do you crave (with full contentment in Christ) good things? Are you willing to be diligent with your cravings?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Saturating Your Heart With Your Spouse




Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.  Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love (Proverbs 5:18-19).

Do you rejoice in your spouse? Do you see the real beauty, creativity and grace in them? Are you looking? Do you fill yourselves at all times with delight from them? Are you intoxicated in their love?  If not, why not?

Some of you may offer up a myriad of reasons as to why you do not rejoice in your spouse. You will point to their failures and draw attention to how they have disappointed you time and again. Really?  God loved you when you were yet his enemy and bridged a humanly unbridgeable gulf between you and him through the cross of Christ. Can you then, by the power of the gospel, not forgive and be patient with your imperfect spouse? And, by the way, have you looked in the mirror lately? Are you really so perfect?

Some of you may have become frustrated and decided to leave home (in heart or reality) in pursuit of something or someone better. Hit the brakes! Turn around! Go home! On your way--repent and ask God to stir up your heart with love for your spouse. Ask with the intent to obey God. Commit not to separate yourself from your spouse--emotionally, physically or sexually. Ask God's help all the while you are running back to the arms of the person that you are in covenant relationship with. That is how you will know that your repentance is real. Simply saying that you are sorry without an intent to give yourself to the one that God has joined you to in marriage--is not real repentance or real Christianity.

You need to saturate your heart with your spouse. You need to be intoxicated with love.  How does one become intoxicated? They linger long at wine, beer or strong-drink. Of course the Bible is opposed to that sort of intoxication--but the illustration is clear. If you want to be intoxicated with your spouse (and you should want that, but not as an idol) then you need to linger long with them, drink deeply from their love, pour your love into them and focus on them above all other people or dreams.

Here are two suggestions!

1.  Speak Words of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Delight.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people with knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth (Ecclesiastes 12:10).

I have often imagined, how horrific it would be, to have all of my words that have been spoken to my wife in the course of a day recorded and then played back to me before bedtime. To hear the tones, the inflections and words would probably drive me to despair on some days. If that is true--imagine how they must have sounded to my dear wife. The Preacher sought to find words of delight... Think before your speak. Take a deep breath and even when confronted (unfairly you might imagine) look for words of delight. Find something that you can truthfully draw attention to that would encourage your spouse.

I am convinced that we never quite know the extent of the burdens that the people we love are carrying.  Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25). Your spouse is no doubt sometimes weighed down by heavy weights. A good word might lift their spirits and make them glad. It also lets them know that they are not alone in their burdens but have a ready support from the one who has made a covenant commitment to them.

2.  Write Words of Wisdom, Knowledge and Delight.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes carefully weighed, studied and arranged his words.  He sought to find words of delight and uprightly wrote words of truth (12:10).

Few things are more rare these days than a handwritten note. This week we received an anonymous handwritten note with a gift included. The note and gift brought great encouragement to our family. Communication via email, text and social media can be very helpful and efficient. One of the downsides is that with the rise of communication via high technology there has also been the decrease of both verbal and handwritten communication.

Even without scientific statistics to back me up, I can guarantee you that your spouse would appreciate a handwritten note. And may I suggest that you consider using a fountain pen? Write words of delight to your beloved. Write words of truth. Write words that will make them glad. They might even be encouraged to imagine that they are glad that they married such a thoughtful person.

In Alister McGrath's wonderful new biography of C.S. Lewis he writes:
Lewis himself never learned to type, always depending on pens. One reason for this was that the same 'native clumsiness' arising from Lewis's having only one joint in his thumbs prevented him from using a typewriter properly.

Yet there is more to it than this.  Lewis actively 'chose' not to type. This mechanical mode of writing, he believed, interfered with the creative process in that the incessant clacking of the typewriter keys dulled the writer's appreciation of the rhythms and cadences of the English language. When reading Milton or other poets, or composing a work of one's own, Lewis argued, it was essential to appreciate how the writing 'sounded."  From C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath (Tyndale) p.163.

I often write to my wife via my computer and send my letter to the printer. I then race to the printer (before she gets there) and write my name (with a pen) and then take it to our love-letter mailing room and place it on the towel rack (my chosen post-office box for her). However, more and more I am writing to her the old-fashioned way--with pen and paper.  And now that I am the proud owner of my first fountain pen--I enjoy handwriting even more.

Just some thoughts...

Ray

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Forbidden Woman and the Foolish Man: Remedies



One of the problems that we face with sin is that sin is so appealing. Temptation to sin does not generally show up as a leprous woman in a bikini. Sin is appealing to the eyes, desirable to the heart and offers exciting promises (Genesis 3:6). Therein is the great danger of sin. It looks good, feels good and offers good results.

Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant (Proverbs 9:17).

Sin is sweet and pleasant.  It was Moses who made the tough choice of being... mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25).

It is a tough choice on one level.  Sometimes avoiding sin might mean being mistreated in some form or fashion whereas sinning puts one on what appears to be a successful trajectory of friends, comforts, money, success and sexual pleasure. Sin is sweet. Sin is pleasant. And sin is deadly.

We have considered some of the remedies for fighting off the forbidden woman and the foolish man (see http://www.dancingpuritan.com/2013/04/the-forbidden-woman-and-foolish-man_17.html).

Here are a few more.

Cultivate an awareness that you live before the face of God

The Bible teaches, in connection with sexual sin, For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all of his paths (Proverbs 5:21). To know that the holy eyes of God are upon you at all times, and that his eyes are able to ponder the deepest recesses of your heart, should serve as a sufficient accountability. The sinner often looks for the cover of darkness to act our his sin.  The foolish young man walks close to temptation and he takes ...the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness (Proverbs 7:8-9). Sin and secrecy are friends but it is only the fool who thinks that he sins in secret.  God knows.  God sees. God watches. God is pondering your paths.  That is much more significant of a matter than if you are found out by a spouse or church member.

Consider the consequences of remaining on a sinful path

Another of the great deceptions of sin is that when one is being tempted they tend to forget the existence of God and imagine life only in the moment.  Futuristic thinking is not usually on the mind of the foolish man in the arms of the forbidden woman.  All he can see is her beautiful body. All he can smell is her sweet perfume. All he can imagine is taking his... fill of love till morning...(Proverbs 7:18). And any thought of future consequences for his actions are swept away by the alluring and seductive words of the forbidden woman.  She says that it will all be ok because she is religious (7:14) and her husband is out of town (19-20).  And so, With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him (21). He follows after her as an ox goes to the slaughter or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life (22-23). He may lose his health, his income, his reputation, his family and ultimately his soul.  In the house of the forbidden woman ...the dead are there, and her guests are in the depths of Sheol (9:18).

Captivate your heart with your spouse

Here is a very positive and delightful remedy.  Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.  Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love (5:18-19). One of the great reasons that you should read the Song of Solomon is for this purpose.  In Solomon's Song the man and the woman are intoxicated with one another (5:1, 2:5, 5:8, 7:2,8,9).  They are captivated with one another and they have an exclusive relationship. All sorts of non-exclusive relationships are promoted in our culture. Recently a celebrity bragged that she has an "open relationship" with her spouse. That means that though they are married that both are free to spend intimate time with others. The Song of Solomon paints another picture (as does all of Scripture). The most joyful, romantic, erotic of relationships happens in the context of marriage. There the most creative expressions of intimacy can be enjoyed by two people who understand and rejoice in the fact that they are in covenant relationship with one another.

I am my beloved's and his desire is for me.

How can you captivate your heart with your spouse?  We will look at that next time!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Forbidden Woman and the Foolish Man: Remedies



I am reading one of the finest books that I have read in a long time. The title is, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith. The author is Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.

Dr. Butterfield was a tenured professor at Syracuse University. She was a lesbian in a committed relationship. God saved her.

She writes with an uncommon insight into the heart issues connected with sexual sin.

What good Christians don't realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won't be 'healed' by redeeming the context of the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more or nothing less. I told my audience (she was speaking at Geneva College) that I think that too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin...Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They're wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus can do that. The audience seemed shocked to hear this (p.83).

How do we deal with sexual sin?

1.  Look to the right Savior.

The Bible gives us many reasons for marriage. Marriage is for partnership and is God's primary remedy for loneliness. Marriage is for procreation. In the context of marriage only are folks to give birth to children. Marriage is for the mutual pleasure of husband and wife. An entire book of the Bible, The Song of Solomon, was written to cultivate such pleasure. Marriage is for protection. I Corinthians chapter seven teaches that regular sexual intimacy with one's spouse is a protection against sexual immorality. The primary purpose of marriage is to display the gospel (Ephesians 5).  Marriage is not the gospel; it is a presentation of the gospel.  Marriage is not the Savior and does not redeem sin but it points to the Savior and how he redeems sinners.

It is essential that we look for salvation in the right person else marriage becomes an idol of the heart.

So, how do we deal with sexual sin?  We must first look to Christ and His gospel. And then we are to act in obedience. Lets go back to Proverbs for wisdom in the battles that we face with sexual temptation.

2.  We must hear and keep on hearing wisdom. This is the message throughout Proverbs on a variety of topics. It is underlined, highlighted and in every way emphasized when it comes to dealing with sexual immorality. All sin is bad, offensive to God and brings consequences. Sexual immorality brings a truckload of consequences into a person's life. The father in Proverbs wants to drive the point deep into the heart of his beloved son.  My son be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and that your lips may guard knowledge.  For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol...(5:1-5).

Wisdom is built on knowledge and has often been defined as the skill to apply knowledge. The young man (and woman) needs to know the truth and they need to know how to apply the truth. The Bible is a sword.  One might know the Bible and yet be unwise in applying the Bible. Just as one might own a sword but mere ownership of a sword is not guarantee of a victory in a sword-fight.  That is why Proverbs teaches that we should make every effort to find wisdom.  Know God's Word, listen to godly teachers and seek wise counsel. Turn over every stone. Hear every warning.  Learn every principle.

The young man that falls into the arms of the seductress is characterized as lacking sense (7:7). The person who commits adultery lacks sense (6:32).  Don't be a fool.  Get wisdom no matter the cost.

3.  Do not go near the house of the forbidden woman.

When I was a seminary student I had the opportunity to serve as the Campus Minister Intern at the Baptist Student Union of Georgia Tech. I led a weekly Bible study. Students would often come to me for counsel. Most of the counsel that they sought had to do with dating and relationships.  A question that I often heard went something like this: "How far can I go without stepping over the line." The question was in reference to being physical with the opposite sex. That was/is really the wrong question but it is a revealing question. What the question reveals is that we often do not think of sin as dangerous, destructive and deadly. We imagine that we can play close to the line of sin and yet not cross the line. The Bible gives the opposite counsel. The Bible says, Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house...( Proverbs 5:8).

The foolish man (or woman) wants to play close to the fire pit.

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness (Proverbs 7:6-9).

Some men and women are prowlers. They are not content at home and they are on the prowl--roaming the streets, visiting the bars, going to various places with their eyes open as they look for prey. Yet sexual sin is not just characterized by the street prowler.

Some men imagine that they can enjoy the pleasures of the Swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated and go no further. They can get close--but certainly they will not take the next step. The forbidden man or woman does not have to be physically present to capture one's attention.They are a click away. They call from billboards, magazines (not just magazines that are noted for pornography), from books, movies and of course the Internet.

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned.  Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife, none who touches her will go unpunished (6:27-29).

The ultimate problem is not even the forbidden man or woman. The problem is not the Internet, magazines or billboards. The problem is much deeper than that. The problem must be addressed as a heart issue. And the heart is only changed via the gospel.

More to come.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Forbidden Woman and The Foolish Man Part Two

This is part two of The Forbidden Woman and the Foolish Man. I had intended to write about how a person can protect their heart from falling into sexual sin by offering some biblical remedies. However, I felt more needed to be said about the forbidden woman and the foolish man today. More to come.



The forbidden woman of Proverbs is available, provocative, aggressive, religious, scheming, beautiful and desirable. She is also a guide that leads her prey to death and hell.

The wicked seductress may not live next door. She may not chase you down at the grocery store. But she is everywhere lurking. She is one mouse-click away from entering your heart. Don't go near her door.

She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, now at every corner she lies in wait (Proverbs 7:11-12).

Though the godly woman is not portrayed in the Bible as a prisoner of her home, she nevertheless finds the core of her life connected to her home (Proverbs 31; Psalm 128). She loves home. She loves rising early to care for husband and children and working diligently throughout the day to make sure that her family is clothed, fed and cared for. In her home she welcomes strangers and shows them hospitality.  She ministers to fellow Christians. She leaves her home to care for the sick. She shares the gospel and she disciples new Christians. She is on the go--but her on-the-go kind of life is one that finds its roots in God's calling for her at home.

The wicked woman is described by; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, now at every corner she lies in wait. It is not simply that she is restless with her home life while her husband travels for work. She is restless. But her heart churns up ideas for capturing young men. The senseless young man falls easily into her trap. One of the reasons that he is such easy prey is that he is searching for the forbidden woman. He is described as passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening at the time of night and darkness (7:7-8). The impression is that he too is restless, wandering and looking. He uses the cover of darkness in order to hide his intentions.

The provocatively dressed woman meets him (10). In today's terms she would be wearing a tight, form-fitting short skirt with a low-cut top. She is aggressive and seizes him and kisses him (13). She makes it all seem OK because she talks of her religious activities earlier in the day. She is deceived and she easily deceives the young man--he has found a beautiful, exciting, sexy, sweet-talking religious woman.  What could be better?

The forbidden woman then describes the scene in which she plans to be sexually intimate with the young man. But before she does she tells him, I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you (15). That makes the young man feel manly and special. Out of all of the men in the world, he imagines that this exciting, sexy, beautiful, sweet-talking religious woman--wants him!

I have spread my couch with coverings, colored lines from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home (16-20).

The guy is already captured. With a sweet and alluring voice she speaks. She describes a scene that captivates the young man's heart. It all seems so good, how could it be wrong? He can almost feel the silky sheets and smell the perfumed bed. And she says that it is all about love--love all night--delightful love. And, as she has described, this will be safe sex. It is safe because she has offered her sacrifices and paid her religious vows. She has worked this out with God. It is also safe because the husband is long gone and will not be home for days. The seductive woman and the senseless man can swim in love for as long as they like without any consequences, or so it is surmised.

Read Proverbs chapters two, five and seven for more context.  Think through what I have written and consider applications to your present situation.  Seek God's wisdom.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Forbidden Woman


For almost a month I have been sick with pneumonia. Praise the Lord I am recovering. One of the things that I cast aside during my sickness was this blog. I am delighted to restart it today. Thank you for your prayers.

Forbidden fruit is sweet and desirable. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of it’s fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).

God is a very generous God. He said to Adam and Eve you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17).

There was only one original prohibition. There was only one tree that was forbidden. Every other tree was for the enjoyment of Adam and Eve.

God was and is good. Adam and Eve chose to believe that he was not. They (and we) rejected generosity for something that they (and we) imagined was better than the goodness of God.

They chose the forbidden tree and they ate the forbidden fruit.  Disaster followed. They died. We died. The planet died. Death came and death spread because in Adam all sinned (Romans 5:12). Adam stood as such an exact representative of every person that would be born through his union with Eve that when Adam sinned we sinned.

We chose, in Adam, to reject the generosity of God and to eat the forbidden fruit.

We are born with a sin nature and under the sentence of death. We know that we have a sin nature because we continue to choose the forbidden fruit. It is only when we are set free by God’s grace and justified freely in Christ that we are enabled to choose not to take forbidden fruit. That being said, Christians still struggle with sin but are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:5-14).

We are still tempted by forbidden fruit.

The fruit is so tempting because it looks good, tastes good and is desirable.

Such is the case with the forbidden woman. 

Perhaps no fruit is so compelling to a man than the forbidden woman.

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil…(Proverbs 5:3).

The forbidden woman in Proverbs is beautiful (Proverbs 6:25). She is available (7:10,11,12). She dresses provocatively (10). She is religious (14). She is scheming (16 ff). She, a married woman, calls what she wants to do with the young man “love” (18).

The senseless young man is easily captured by her seductive speech and her smooth talk. He follows her mindlessly to the slaughterhouse (22-27).

The forbidden fruit is so dangerous because of its desirability, beauty, excitement and promises. 

What awaits the man (or woman) who walks down the street and goes near the house of that which is forbidden? They put themselves in grave danger of losing their honor, their resources, their family, their health, their life and ultimately their soul.

To paraphrase the Puritan Thomas Watson: For a cup of pleasure they drink a sea of wrath.

Be wise. Tomorrow we will look at some of the remedies that will help you to avoid sexual temptation.

For now remember that God has demonstrated ultimate generosity in sending his Son to live, die and rise for sinners.  There is hope even to the one who has fallen into the deadly sin of sexual immorality.