The Dancing Puritan

Friday, June 28, 2013

Does Your Marriage Require a Warning Label?



Is your marriage so passionate that it requires a warning label? The affection between the king and the country princess in The Song of Solomon was obvious and provocative. Their love for one another was strong enough to withstand floodwaters and it was as certain as death (8:6-7). So powerful was their passion that it was all that they could do to keep their hands off of one another, even in public.

In their culture public display of affection (PDA) was tempered. Yet the woman wanted to kiss the man publicly and without fear of what others would say (8:1). Did you get that?  She wanted to be able to show her affection for her husband at all times. She longed to kiss him privately and publicly (1:2; 8:1).

Yet--she pulls back the reigns and restrains herself from too much PDA. However, her love was so passionate that it required a warning label.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (8:4).

Virgins must be protected from having their desires stirred up before they are married (4,8-9). Yet the passions of a married couple are to be almost unrestrainable.  In other words--it is to be obvious to anyone who has eyes to see, that the married couple loves one another. When they go to the banqueting house everyone observes that the banner of love flies over the lady (2:4).

Marital love is to be intoxicating and should cause love sickness (2:5). It is always brimming to the point of overflowing. It is almost uncontainable--even in public.  Everyone knows. Everyone is talking.  They are saying, see how they love one another. It should provoke in others a joyful portrait of marriage.

A passionate marriage is one of the answers to a culture that is upside down on, even the definition of marriage. Too many marriages are lessons in coexistence. No one is in danger of being stirred up by such joyless marriages.  No one wants the emptiness in the eyes of those who have no passion, no joy, and no song in their love. The label on an unhappy marriage does contain a warning. It reads, Warning: Marriage will suck the joy out of your bones.  The godly marriage carries a different kind of warning: Warning: Don't let our passionate affection for one another stir you up inappropriately.

Your marriage carries a warning label.  What does it say?

To purchase our latest DVD/Download on love and marriage visit: http://nourishedintheword.org/love/

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Seeking Love



Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Stuart Scott, Martha Peace, John Crotts, and David Birch to discuss marriage and parenting. We talked about gospel-centered marriage and gospel-centered parenting. We looked at biblical teaching on the discipline of children. We considered how to cultivate joyful intimacy in marriage.

The result of our round-table-discussion is a 40 minute video produced by Yonderchild Media, distributed by Books That Nourish Publishers, and for Nourished in the Word Ministries. The DVD/download is great for individual, small group, or a church study. For the next week we are offering a pre-release special price on either the DVD or the download.  Take a look at the promo and let us know what you think. You can order at the pre-release price at the top link.






Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Strategy for Protecing and Nurturing Your Marriage

Each morning I seek to warm my heart by the fire of God's character and to saturate my mind with thoughts of and for my wife (Lori). I want to know God. Because I love God I want to better love Lori and protect our marriage.

What is my strategy?

1.  I read a Psalm each day. As I read, I write my thoughts and a prayer based on the Psalm in my journal. I once heard a speaker say that a great cure for the needy soul is to be locked up in a room for thirty days with nothing but Psalms. He also said have someone slip a sandwich under the door.

2.  I read from The Song of Solomon.  I have been doing this for a number of months. Recently I purchased a full-sized Piccadilly journal and have devoted it exclusively to Solomon's Song.  I make notes from the text of the day, write down questions and practical application points.

3. I seek to apply what I have learned to my marriage first and then to the other areas of my life.

 Lori and I have a shared journal. She has it some days and I have it other days. We write notes to one another in the journal and leave it on the bed when we are done.

Your marriage and mine are confronted daily with various temptations. Foxes seek to invade the vineyard and they must be been trapped and removed. Our hearts and minds are prone to wander. We need to load our hearts with strategies to fight effectively in the war against our souls. How will we think in a godly way? How will we protect our marriages? Psalms and The Song of Solomon are our friends in this battle.




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I See. Help Me to See!


Louis Armstrong

I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see em bloom, for me and for you.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, clouds of white.
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

The colors of a rainbow, so pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin 'how do you do.'
They're really sayin...'I love you.'

I hear babies cry. I watch them grow.
They'll learn much more, than I'll never know.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.


I never tire of hearing What a Wonderful World. Though I enjoy many versions, few singers can compare to Louis Armstrong.

Read the words above!  I see. I see. I think. I see. I think. I see. I hear. I think.

The song speaks of one who sees trees and roses and thinks that they bloom for me and for you. That leads him to think, what a wonderful world.  He sees skies of blue, clouds of white, bright blessed days and dark sacred nights. He sees the colors of a rainbow so pretty in the sky.  He sees those same colors on the faces of people going by. He sees friends shaking hands sayin how do you do? And he sees more than the handshakes. He knows that what they are saying is I love you. He hears babies cry and he watches them grow--and he is lead to the conclusion that this is a wonderful world. He sees and therefore speaks in a way that helps us to see. We see the colors. We see the friends shaking hands. We see because he saw. 

This morning as I was reading The Song of Solomon chapter one--I noticed that the lovers were able to see, to know, to smell, to hear, to taste, to think and to sing.  She could compare his love to wine because she had tasted and savored. She could speak of his love as anointing oils because she had felt and smelled those oils. He could compare her to the ornament-draped and jewel-decked mare because he had seen and admired the beautiful creature. She could compare her beloved to a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedie because she knew what those clusters of henna blossoms looked and smelled like. He could say that she had eyes like doves because he had noticed when the doves would fly by. He had seen a peacefulness and simple beauty in them. He saw that same peacefulness and beauty in the love-of-his-life.

The love of the man and the woman was enhanced because they could see trees, roses, skies, clouds, days, nights, the colors of the rainbow and people shaking hands. They did not simply glance and forget--they saw, thought and interpreted and then they used their experiences to communicate. Because they saw--they help us to see.

As I was reading, I wrote in my journal these words; What is something beautiful that I can compare my wife to today? As I pondered the question my heart sunk and I came to the sobering realization that I do not see very well. I mean I don't really see very clearly. I see trees, flowers and people shaking hands.  But I see them, too often, simply in passing and seldom without thinking to myself. Maybe I am too busy to see? Maybe I need to retrain my eyes?  

Lord please save me from a colorless, odorless, joyless, thoughtless and inexpressive marriage. Help me not to miss flowers, trees, birds, mountains, buildings and animals. Help me, therefore, not to lack the language of creative comparisons. Help me to see, to smell, to taste and to savor.

I was able to draw up a comparison today for my wife. I compare you my love to the sunshine at Daytona Beach and to the waters that gently splash at my feet. My comparison will not be added to a new edition of Solomon's Song but it does conjure up a refreshing and peaceful image in my mind. My wife brings refreshment and peace to my life--better even than Daytona Beach.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bedtime Prayers


One of the loveliest sights to me each evening is my daughter Lydia, beside her bed and on her knees praying.

Now one of the things that I know about Lydia is that she does not only pray at bedtime. She reads her bible and prays each morning as well. Prayer is essential to her.

Prayer is important. Even Jesus, when he walked on this earth, was faithful to pray. In his humanity--in some way--he needed communion with the Father that came via prayer. He also modeled prayer and he taught his disciples how to pray. Sometimes Jesus would pray all night. So important was prayer to him that he would leave needy people behind in order to pray. Prayer was more important than healing and other ministries (Mark 1:29-39).

It is easy to view prayer as less of a priority than other responsibilities. Perhaps we imagine that we can pray-as-we-go and that will be sufficient. Surely we must pray all the time. Yet there should be regular times of withdrawing to your room to pray in private.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret...(Matthew 6:6).

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:35).

Making prayer a priority--even over helping people, will sometimes draw criticism from others.

And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you' (Mark 1:36-37).

People needed the help of Jesus. He was praying and was not unnerved when Simon and the rest approached him seemingly in a bit of a panic.

Jesus was never anxious.  He never seemed rushed or forced into action due to a perceived emergency.

Jesus would not allow the emergencies of people to rob him of his time alone with the Father. He trusted the sovereignty of the Father and therefore he never allowed the pressures of life to press out his fellowship with God.

Is prayer a priority in your life?  Or is it something that you tack on to the end of a busy day?

C.S. Lewis in, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, wrote:

And, talking of sleepiness, I entirely agree with you that no one in his senses, if he has any power of ordering his own day, would reserve his chief prayers for bed-time--obviously the worst possible hour for any action which needs concentration. The trouble is that thousands of unfortunate people can hardly find any other. Even for us, who are the lucky ones, it is not always easy. My own plan, when hard pressed, is to seize any time, and place, however unsuitable, in preference to the last waking moment. On a day of travelling--with, perhaps, some ghastly meeting at the end of it--I'd rather pray sitting in a crowded train than put it off till midnight when one reaches a hotel bedroom with aching head and dry throat and one's mind partly in a stupor and partly in a whirl. On other, and slightly less crowded, days a bench in a park, or a back street where one can pace up and down, will do.

Pray at bedtime. Pray all of the time. Yet find times when you can especially concentrate on your "chief prayers." Prayer is not a nice additive to a busy life.  Prayer is like breathing.  In reading the Bible we hear from God. In prayer we meditate on God and bring our praises, thanksgivings and requests to our Father who delights to hear and to grant good gifts to his children.
 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thoughts on God and Prayer



Do the written prayers of others help you to better pray? Should all prayer be of the sort that springs from the heart spontaneously?  Is God so near that you might converse with him as you would a friend over coffee?

C.S. Lewis in reference to the words of prayer writes:

...they (words) are the movements of a conductor's baton: not the music. They serve to canalise the worship or penitence or petition which might without them--such are our minds--spread into wide and shallow puddles. It does not matter very much who first put them together. If they are our own words they will soon, by unavoidable repetition, harden into a formula. If they are someone else's, we shall continually pour into them our own meaning. At present--for one's practice changes and, I think, ought to change--I find it best to make 'my own words' the staple but introduce a modicum of the ready-made.

Lewis speaks of the benefits of using what he calls,  the ready-made modicum.

It keeps me in touch with sound doctrine.  Left to oneself, one could easily slide away from 'the faith once given' into a phantom called 'my religion."
It reminds me 'what things I ought to ask' (perhaps especially when I am praying for other people). The crisis of the present moment, like the nearest telegraph-post, will always loom largest. Isn't there a danger that our great, permanent, objective necessities--often more important--may get crowded out? 
They provide an element of the ceremonial.

On the last point Lewis is concerned that we keep a proper perspective of God and our relationship to him. Our relationship is both intimate and distant.  He wrote to his friend Malcom, You make things far too snug and confiding. Lewis thought that Malcom's sense of intimacy with God needed to be supplemented by I fell at his feet as one dead.

Lewis was opposed to devotion to apostles but he did view them, like Dante, as mountains. He said, There is lots to be said against devotions to saints; but at least they keep on reminding us that we are very small people compared with them. How much smaller before their master?

Lewis closes with these words:

A few formal, ready-made, prayers serve me as a corrective of-well, let's call it 'cheek.' They keep one side of the paradox alive. Of course it is only one side. It would be better not to be reverent at all than to have a reverence which denied the proximity.

What about you?  Do you use ready-made prayers?  Have you found a book such as The Valley of Vision to be useful?  Do you think that a prayer book helps you to stay grounded in truth, keeps fresh in your mind things that you should request in prayer and helps you to maintain a right perspective of God as both distant and near?

1. Let spontaneous prayer spring from a heart well cultivated by Scripture.

2. Use a good prayer book, on occasion, to help keep you grounded in sound doctrine, to remind you what to pray and to keep a right perspective on God.

3. Remember when you pray that God is very near but that he is also infinitely distant.

C.S. Lewis quotes from: Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joy is Everything



To fail to rejoice is unchristian. It would be better not to have been born than to not rejoice.

Why is joy so important?

Imagine that I gave my wife $500.00 and asked her to spend it all on herself--from head to foot. She then takes that money and buys me a set of books.  That sounds virtuous; but is it?  I like books.  She may have even bought me the very books that I wanted. But, there was something else that I wanted more. I wanted her dressed up. Knowing that she wanted new things--I gave her the money and expected that she would spend it all on herself. I gave her the money with a sense of happiness that she would use it as I asked and that she would show up--dressed up.

Her gift to me would be to receive my gift to her and to delight in it and therefore in me. I did not give her money to buy me something for my independent use. My vision was that the money would bring both delights to her and to me. She would be delighted because she spent as freely as $500 allowed on things she wanted and because I asked. I would be delighted in seeing her delighted and in seeing her in a new outfit. She honored me by using the money in a delightful way.

God gives good gifts to his people. He gives food, drink, work and family. And for his people he also gives a capacity to enjoy his good gifts. What if we take his gifts and do not use them for his glory?  We might imagine that the best Christian life is one that is somber and sad; that somehow if a smile graces our face that it disgraces the cause of Christ and makes us a lover of this world.

Loving this world has more to do with trying to suck out the pleasures that this world offers in a way that is independent from God.  Rejoicing in God is to take all of his good gifts and enjoy them with gusto. They have come from God who loves us. They are not to be squandered in riotous living but neither are they to be hidden beneath black draping.

Sackcloth and ashes are not to be worn by those who rejoice too much--but by those who rejoice too little and in the wrong way.

We give to God by enjoying his gifts.  Perhaps it is a great mystery but somehow our joy in God brings joy to him. Our using his gifts with great delight brings a smile to his face. We do not glorify God by receiving our food and then saying, Lord, I can't take this--I give it back to you, and then walking away from the table. We glorify God by eating the food, letting the taste buds dance, and saying, thank you God for your kindness--that was good!

See Ecclesiastes and Philippians for a defense of my position on joy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Eat, Drink and Rejoice

Write the year of your birth on the left side of a sheet of paper.  Add 75-85 years to your birth year and put that number on the right side of the paper.  Connect the two dates with a line. The line is your life. Write your present age on the line and subtract that number from your potential death date.

Perhaps you now have some context for the brevity of life.  The Bible says that life is a vapor.  It is fleeting. Solomon calls the span of a persons life, the few days of his life that God has given him (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

I was born in 1961. If I live the average length of life then somewhere around 2038 would be my death.  That gives me 25 years.  Of course that could be shortened significantly or lengthened a little bit.

25 years!  Without falling into a sea of regret over the time that has past, what should the next 25 years look like for me?  What should the remaining days of your life look like?  Since all of life is considered as but a few days--what should we consider the last few years of one's life? Minutes?

What, then, should the last few minutes of my life look like?  What about yours?

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.  Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil--this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. Ecclesiastes 6:18-20

According to Solomon, the remaining minutes of my life should be spent eating, drinking and finding enjoyment in my work. As the seconds tick away each tick of the clock should represent another moment of joy. If Solomon is right then I am to occupy my life with joy. In other words--God has given the gifts of life, food, drink, joy and I am to receive his gifts with a glad heart.

Jesus weighed in on this subject.

And he told them a parable, saying, 'The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God'  Luke 12:16-20.

Did Jesus and Solomon disagree with one another?

The key is found in two differing attitudes and perspectives.  In the parable of Luke 12 the rich man is self-focused.  Notice all of the usages of I. He is totally self-centered and views his grain and his goods as something that he independently produced and that he has independent control over. He is totally uninterested in God.

The passage in Ecclesiastes is about acknowledging and receiving gifts from God.  The way to bring God glory is to receive his gifts--and enjoy them.

In the past year I have been convicted. Over the years I have received a number of gifts from my wife and children that I did not enjoy. The most painful memory, in this regard, is of one of my daughters giving me a game.  She begged me to play the game with her. I was tired and put it aside. The days turned into weeks and eventually I misplaced the game. It is difficult for me to think back on that event.  Why did I not receive the gift with joy and stay up all night (if necessary) to spend time with my daughter playing the game?

God gives good gifts to his children. Sometimes we idolize the gifts and think only about them in a self-centered way.  Other times we discard his gifts. We often miss the purpose in the gifts. God's good gifts to us are to be received and enjoyed. When we receive and enjoy his gifts then we bring glory to him as the giver of every good gift.

Your birthday is past. Your death day is just minutes away. What will you do with the remaining seconds that are ticking away?