The Dancing Puritan

Saturday, May 24, 2014

To Hannah Rhodes: With Great Honor

Hannah and Friends
Dear Hannah,

I "picked up" a digital dictionary and discovered that magna cum laude means, "with great honor." You can tell, since I had to look it up, that I did not graduate with such honor.

Just yesterday, it seems, we celebrated your high school graduation. In a room packed with family and friends, we remembered and we looked ahead. In the midst of a day, bustling with activity, we paused to reflect. We stopped, for just a moment, to dream.

Hannah with Dr. Haynes
Both were given awards on this day.
Fast-forward four years. Here we are on the morning of your graduation from Truett-McConnell College. Soon we will do our part, to fill the graduation hall. There will be many proud parents and not a few relieved students in that hall. It is a significant day. It is significant because you stayed the course for four years and finished your studies. But, today is about much more than getting a diploma. Today we will be able to say that Hannah Rhodes graduated magna cum laude. Yes, you graduate with great honor.

You may be surprised by what I am about to say, so hang on to your mortarboard (define mortarboard, without using Google, for an additional graduation gift). You, I pray, know that I love you. Did you also know that I admire you, am inspired by you, and would like to be a lot more like you? Though you are still so very young, you are an example to me. You are an example in the way that you joyfully serve others. I think of the many hours that you volunteer to help needy children. You are an inspiration in your ability to focus like a laser beam on whatever task that you are tackling. When you laugh with your sisters, enjoy time with your friends, play games with your sweet mama, teach The Gospel-Project to the students at our church, and play your guitar, you inspire me.

I want to be more like you. I want to serve as you serve, focus as you focus, laugh as you laugh, play as you play, and teach with the quality of love that you display. Your example of following Christ encourages me in my own walk with Jesus.

You are a beautiful daughter (thankfully you look almost exactly like your mother, instead of me). You will be honored today. I think that we glorify God when we honor those who are due honor (Romans 13:7). I am thankful that you will receive great honor today because you will take your honor and give glory to God.

Today when your mom, sisters, extended family, friends, and I hear the words, "Hannah Rhodes graduates magna cum laude" we will know the rest of the story. We will delight in your almost perfect GPA. However, we will most rejoice because God has chosen, in his great grace, to mold a beautiful young woman into a person that lives with one-single-passion, to give God alone the highest honor.

With much love and honor to a wonderful daughter (my little bear),


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sleep well tonight . . . God is Awake

People respond to anxiety by sleeping, by avoiding sleep, eating junk food, constantly surfing through television channels, checking email or Facebook for the 100th time, or staring aimlessly into space. Sometimes people choose anger and other times sadness. There are many responses to anxiety that do nothing but deepen wrinkles, sap joy, paralyze effort, and lead to a sense of hopelessness. Are you anxious?

Perhaps anxiety is most recognizable by being unfocused and distracted. To be anxious is to have a divided mind. A mind not anchored drifts and is carried away by the winds of various troubles.

Why is anxiety such a problem?

Anxiety is a sin. Jesus said, "do not be anxious" (Matthew 6:25). Paul echoed the words of Jesus when he wrote, "Do not be anxious about anything . . ." (Phillipians 4:6). The bottom-line reason that anxiety is sinful is because it preaches a false doctrine. The anxious person is a false teacher. He says by his worry that God is not trustworthy. Anxiety is a terrible sin.

Anxiety is wasteful. It kills productivity and is ultimately useless. Jesus put it like this, "Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life" (Matthew 6:27). Worry cannot change anything in a positive way. Anxiety can change things but always for the worse. Anxiety is connected to numerous health problems, for example. Anxiety can take the life out of your marriage, the joy out of your family, the energy out of your work, and years off of your life. It also takes your eyes off of God.

Anxiety has a narrow focus. Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing (Matthew 6:25). The anxious person lives as if this life is all that there is. They may be so focused on trying to find their best life now (avoiding pain, obsessed with health, denying death, seeking escape from problems, gaining success) that they forget that life is more than right now. Jesus calls people to seek his kingdom (33) which embraces the life that now is and the life that is to come.

Knowing that anxiety is a sin, that it is wasteful, and that it has a narrow focus, what are we to do when tempted to be anxious?  After all, life is hard. Every day there are things that do not go our way, troubles that enter our pathway, and challenges that we really want to go away. Often problems are huge and through worry we magnify them even larger than they are. Psalm 4 provides answers.

Cry out to God (1a). Remember that in prayer you are crying out to the righteous, prayer-hearing, and gracious God who cares for flowers, sparrows, and especially for his people.

Recall God's faithfulness (1b). Notice how the Psalmist phrases his prayer, "You have given me relief when I was in distress." He remembers God's past faithfulness as a means of finding present comfort.

Understand the real need (1c). What is it that we really need in the midst of our troubles? We need God's enabling grace. We might imagine that the removal of our troubles is what is most needed but what we need even more is God's grace. We need the grace of being heard. "Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

Trust God (2-3). The Psalmist reminds himself that he belongs to God who hears his prayers. We have a small chicken house outside of our house. One afternoon one of our daughters got locked in the chicken house. She was crying out for help. I did not hear her. Thankfully one of our neighbors heard her and ran to set my daughter free. If I had heard then I would have sprinted to my daughter's aid. God always hears our cries and he always comes to our aid. What he brings is enduring grace that sets us free. A loving parent will run to help his child, much more will our heavenly Father help his children.

There are more principles in Psalm four. The Psalmist is committed to godly living (3), he ponders the truth about God (4), he worships God (5), and he delights in the face of God (6).

The Psalm closes with these words, "In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety" (8).

I have an old postcard that was given to me years ago. The front of the card is a picture of a city at night. The caption reads, "Sleep well tonight . . . Your National Guard is awake." The message on that card may or may not be comforting to you. However, if you know that God is watching over you, that he controls all things, and that he cares for you, then indeed you can sleep in peace even in the midst of trouble.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Loving Two Women

Tomorrow is the Lord's Day. It is also a day, set apart by our culture, to honor our mothers. Every single man has one woman in particular that he should honor. That woman is his mother. Every married man has two women in particular that he is to love uniquely. Those women are his wife and his mother. They are loved differently but both are to be loved. 

A married man is to leave his father and mother in order to cleave to his wife. Once married, he enters into a new priority relationship. That being said, he does not leave his mother to fend for herself. He has the lifelong privilege and honor of loving and providing for (when necessary) his mother. Leaving does not mean neglect. For the rest of the married man's life, while he cleaves to his wife, he continues to honor his mother. That is simply the way that God has designed it. When God is loved supremely then a godly man is able to love his wife and his mother without making them competitors for his affection.

Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-24).
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

Simply put a man is to cleave to his wife and honor his mother (Of course a wife is to cleave to her husband and honor her mother as well). Cleave and honor.

Without unpacking all of the implications of the following verses, every Christian man must wrestle with their application.  

A Man and His Wife

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ love the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:25-33).

A Man and His Mother

Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice (Proverbs 23:22,25). Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 19:3).


Let the godly man make his wife the seal on his heart (Song of Solomon 8:6). Let his love for his wife be strong. Let him love her voice, her face, her heart, her body, and her friendship. Let him lead her to the fountain of Scripture where she will be washed in its pure water.

Let the godly man revere his mother and love her in a way that gives her reason to rejoice. As her needs increase so do the tokens of his love.

What if your wife or mother does not reciprocate your love? Herein is an opportunity for the gospel to shine through you. Two truths will buttress you when loving anyone who does not reciprocate.

1.  Remember the gospel.

   . . . God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God loved us when we were weak, ungodly, and enemies of his. Remembering that truth enables us to love others.

2.  Apply the gospel.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Romans 4:32).

On Mother's Day and every day the vision of every godly man should be to cleave and to honor. He is to cleave to his wife and honor his mother. In the power of the gospel, loving two women is the joyful privilege of every godly man.