Category Archives: Love

Things Grand & Beautiful

[I must apologize in advance for all the baby content.  A father simply cannot hold back when talking about things that are beautiful and grand.]

More and more I’m beginning to realize I’m the luckiest guy on this blessed earth.  I am, and this summer has provided me some respite to dwell on what all is beautiful and grand in my life.

Most of all, I must say it is who I am in Christ.  That cuts to the core of what I was made to do and who I will be for eternity.  I was made to enjoy God, and all the things he’s made for us.  This simple life I have now is just a snapshot of what’s to come.

One of the more beautiful things I have witnessed this summer is my family’s love for each other.  It has been a joy to see my grandparents on my side of the family as well as those on my wife’s side, embrace with gladness their grandparent-hood with my son.

Anyways, I wanted to share with you my life, in hopes you’ll find things for yourself that are “grand and beautiful” in yours.  I had to work to find them.  I don’t always have this perspective, but that’s what I’m out to change.

The One Who Wears My Ring

The One Who Wears My Ring

The old Roman stones were rough,

The nearby streets hustling bustling,

With the downtown baazar filled with stuff,

I’m found wanting.

 

Though the blue sea and its warmth does please,

The carpets of Anatolia do spark wonder,

One can live life here quite at ease,

But still for one thing do I hunger.

 

Fascination is filling its appetite,

And my eyes are filled with new sights,

Curiosity is overwhelmed with the number

Of unexplored corners, and unknown streets.

But when all is still and well,

The buses and taxis have had their fill,

When the fishermen have no fish to sell,

I’m found wanting one thing, still.

 

If I could travel even more…

If I could try the world’s foods…

If I could meet the most interesting people…

If I could see the oldest ruin…

I would still be found wanting this one thing.

 

In man’s pursuit of beauty in all the land,

All he wants is to walk with her, hand in hand.

Though the world interest, curiosity, and fascination bring

Only let me be with the one who wears my ring.

“My wife married five men, all of which were me.”

I’m taking today to share with you just a golden video of wisdom from three great men I highly admire.  John Piper pastor of my youth, Tim Keller excellent author on making timeless truths relevant for the modern day man, and DA Carson one of the most respected scholars in my book.

Together they’re talking about the covenant of marriage, and how that covenant, not the feeling of being in love, will be sustaining power in a marriage.  So worth the listen.

Notable excerpts:

Tim Keller: “My wife married five men.  All of which were me….hes trying to get across the fact you change, and your spouses change….when you get married you change each other.”

John Piper: “[Covenant] is the ground where the flower grows.  If you are in a season where your flower is wilted and you think the solution is to pull the plant up out of the ground, thats not the solution.  The ground of covenant, the ground of promise, the ground of “no divorce, maybe murder” is the ground where the flower can flourish again.  And my life is a testimony of 42 years of falling in love with my wife all over again…”

The original link can be found here.

A Sacrifice that Commands Attention

Morris and Wendy Johnson work with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the US now (they used to work abroad), and from time to time I get an email from them about their whereabouts, their work or a story.  On Easter they sent out a wonderful Easter story!  It embodies how vital effectual translation is.

Linguists and Translators (which the Johnsons are) don’t just deal with words, but ideas, for ideas are communicated, seen, and felt through words.  But say you come to a culture in Paupau New Guinea who has never heard of Jesus Christ, never heard of Christianity, doesn’t even have a reference point of sacrificing things for their wrong-doings, how do you begin to communicate ideas like that to them.  This wonderful Easter story shows that struggle, and the surprising response of the people.

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A Sacrifice that Commands Attention

Adapted by Borghy Holm from an excerpt from In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore (Chapter 16: Broken Bodies).

“How could villagers in a Papua New Guinean rain forest grasp what it meant to “flog” someone? As our Folopa translation team was gathered one day, we became mired in a passage in Mark 10 where Jesus predicted what was about to happen to Him.

“…the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him, and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34, NIV).

We were stuck, I didn’t have a word for “flog.” What do you call it,” I asked, “if someone hits another, say an enemy, with something like a rope?”

That drew a blank. Apparently hitting someone with a rope was nothing that sounded familiar to them. But it was about to happen to Jesus and it was part of the passage, so I cast about for other ways to describe it.  My eyes fell on a piece of rattan vine left over from tying the thatch on the roof. It was lying on the old woodstove. The vine was about three feet long and as thick as my little finger. I picked it up, and instructed the men to imagine the vine was a piece of rope and the woodstove was the back of Jesus. Then with all my might I started beating the iron stovetop.

Immediately Owarap Ali – his eyes wild and his nostril flaring – shouted out: “That’s not hitting with a rope, that’s fokoso sirapo!”  He was indignant, staring up at me from his place on the floor.

Fokoso sirapo.  I wrote the words down. “Tell me more about it,” I said. But when I looked up, they were all just staring at me. It was as if it had taken them right back to the old days of revenge and bloodshed.  “Wait a minute,” someone said. “Do you mean they did that to Jesus?  But here it just said they were going to do it. Did they really do it to Him?”

Quiet fell on the room as I answered, “Yes.” Finally Eleke Whi Ali said, “We used to do that. But we only did it to our enemies, and then just before we were going to kill them.”  Yes,” I said, “that is coming, too.”

They hung their heads. In the corners, the large shell earrings of the old men swung back and forth in stunned sadness. The memory offokoso sirapo “floggings” was too fresh in their minds. They were seeing a deeper vision of the awful cruelty – the enormity of it all- than I had ever understood. And that this would happen to Jesus…someone they had grown to respect and like.  He was a Man who would put little children on His lap, who would reach out and heal those in need. These men knew what torturing and flogging were all about . That this Jesus would come to suffer like this was too much to take in.

We had to stop work for the morning. They couldn’t go on.”

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There are thousands of languages like this, that are largely unwritten and no one is doing work in.  Wycliffe needs your help should you chose to give it.

When I’m just not feeling it…

Last night was just one of those nights, and this morning was just not one I want to remember.  I was slightly less than romantic yesterday evening, and this morning, my attitude wasn’t exactly as bright as the morning sun.

I’m discouragingly finding myself insufficient to pursue my wife the way I want to the past day or so.  I’m sure husbands, wives and boyfriends, girlfriends everywhere know what I mean when I say, sometimes “its” just not there.  If everyday could be full of sailboat rides on balmy mornings, hours filled with my wife and I skipping down the Lake Shore trail hand in hand eating cotton candy, and watching a sunset from atop a mountain in the middle of nowhere.  But we know that’s not how things are.  Things scratch at our affection, and compete for our emotional energy.

Sometimes a rough night of sleep tears down your day.

Sometimes the stress of the unknown makes you a bit shaky and irritable.

Sometimes that crazy driver in front of you should just be blown to bits.

Sometimes everything just does NOT go your way….

And you find yourself insufficient to invest in the lives of those around you.  Sometimes you can’t go forward, so you slump into a chair and zone out, or take a nap, or just get out.  You want to stop everything…and be still!

This morning a word was impressed on me, and I want to share it with you.  It was simply this:

“I [God] am relentless for you!”

Relentless?  What does that mean?  It means unstoppable, unwilling to stop, and VERY willing to continue in perseverance.  Also, since one of the attributes of the very being of God, is perfect love, he can’t help but pursue us with His love!  He just can’t help it!  He pursues us!  Relentlessly!

He is so able to come alongside, and give you strength for the journey!

Like me this morning perhaps you need to pray this with me:

“Father I come to you broken and needy.  Indeed be glorified in my weakness, that as I come to you for help, you give it.  If my earthly father gives me bread when I ask, how much more will you give me good things when I ask you, my spiritual Father.  May your peace, your comfort settle on my life.  Enable me to be the co-worker, the friend, the husband, the servant you want me to be. Amen!”

“Stop playing the role of harlot! I love you!”

When someone sleeps deeply, loud voice and violent shakings are needed to wake them.  A slight whisper will not do.  So I also am about to use strong language, because many who may be reading this may be sleeping spiritually.  It is my goal to wake you.  I pray this may aid in waking you up to soberness!

The Bible often times uses strong language to communicate a point, to allow a message to awaken a people group, to shake sleepers from their slumber.  When one enters the spiritual lair of the evil one, every spiritual tool ought to be used to save.

What if God told you to marry the most beautiful woman in the land, but with one stipulation…she would become a harlot and break your heart?  This is what God told Hosea to do, during the reign of King Uzziah, a wicked king of Israel.  Israel had once again turned their backs on God, and God was through with it.  You ever wonder if God’s patience wears thin…well it does.  He said He had enough of this rebellion that He ordered the Assyrian peoples to come and invade and plunder the land of Israel.

Hosea was a prophet, and his message was not getting across to the Israelites of that time.  Repent!  Return to the Lord!  But no one would hear him.  God was about to ask Hosea to do a very hard thing.  He was asked by God to marry the most beautiful woman in the land, called Gomer.  Have three children by her, but God promised she would fall away and play the whore on the common streets.  What a way to start a marriage!!

The prophecy soon began to be fulfilled!  Gomer conceived a child and God told Hosea to name it “Not-Pitied” for God was done with pitying his people.  And soon after, Gomer gave birth to another child, and God told Hosea to name her “Not-My-People”.  If Israel would just repent, he would receive them back, but instead he embodied his sentiment with Israel in the common form of children.  Imagine what people were saying, “Isn’t that Hosea’s kid, Not-Pitied?”

And soon on queue, Gomer began to play the whore with various men while Hosea might have been gone on preaching trips.  Word got around, the most beautiful woman in Israel was now a prostitute, and could be found in the streets.  She herself was also embodying something profound; what Israel was doing to their relationship with God.  When Israel, or we who are found in Christ, pursue other gods, whether they be money, relationships, your children, anything that competes for the affection of God, we are in effect having an affair.  We are forsaking the love, the promises, the covenants we have with God, and pursuing other things.

The story doesn’t stay like this, just as God doesn’t stay at arms length from us, for those who repent.  God said in Hosea He would once again have pity on Not-Pitied, and he would once again call his people who were Not-My-People.

To me, this may be one of the most beautiful pictures of love in the Old Testament.  Embodying the sentiment of love and the desire for restoration, Hosea goes to Gomer in her low estate, as her recent lover couldn’t pay for her food or her clothes.  Even though a spear had been thrust through Hosea’s heart as he heard, rumor upon rumor, how unfaithful Gomer had been, love triumphed gloriously.  With strides of zeal for his bride who was still his, he rescued her!  He went to her!  He bought her back!  He called to her, “Gomer, you will be mine again, and you will NOT play the whore anymore.  I love you!  You will no longer be with any other man, and I promise the same to you.”  Here is how the book of Hosea puts it.

“And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” …. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.”

–         Hosea 3:1-3

Oh see how our God loves us?  It’s not like He loves someone who is lovable and is ready for His love.  Romans says we were actually in enmity with God, before he reached out to us.  We were enemies of God, when he considered to love us!  For His glory, lets be real.  We were not simply lost, like someone without a way.  We were actively pursuing other lovers.  We were enthralled with the world.  We were pleased with sin, therefore putting us in enmity with God.  We ourselves, like Israel were playing the role of harlot!

How great a love is this, that would choose to love harlots!  If that’s not a poor investment, I don’t know what is.  But God’s love is different…it changes us, it transforms us, and it readies us to be lovers of the not so lovable.

The scriptures say, Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.  What is God saying to you?

If you feel like talking with your Father and dealing with whatever is on your heart, please do so, and perhaps let this worship song aid your time with our loving God.

Marriage gap forming in America, based on new study

Original article is found here, on CNN.

The retreat from marriage in Middle America is not a retreat from bearing children. Wedding bands may be out of vogue, but in Middle America, women pushing strollers, diaper bags slung over their shoulders, infants hidden in bundles of blankets, are as common a sight as ever.

But children who grow up in Middle America today are far less likely to grow up with their own parents than they were 30 years ago. By contrast, a greater proportion of children in upscale America live with their mothers and fathers today than they did 30 years ago…..

What should we do?

We don’t go about insisting that the poor are better off left alone in their poverty — as if this were a state they chose and should remain in. Instead, we recognize poverty as an injustice. We set about helping the less fortunate find fortune.

It’s the same with the growing, class-based marriage gap. We can’t just put a bandage on the injustice by, for instance, providing support groups only to single parents, albeit support groups certainly can help. Instead, we should help couples, too, achieve the stability for which they long.”

In the article, she poses the question, “What should we do?”  Perhaps having big high-way banners that say, “Need a divorce?  Call us for help” making a decision like that as easy as calling a bill-board number.

What do you think?

Alcohol, love and the church

Jon Foreman, lead singer for Switchfoot wrote a very compelling article on RELEVANT Magazine online, here.

“I’ve played music in churches and bars all my life. In many ways, these two gatherings are very similar. Both sets of “regulars” are looking for meaning, carrying out a ritual of sorts—hoping to find purpose, something that makes sense of the pain.

At first glance, it might seem the Church is a better place to look for hope than the bottom of a bottle. Every day, alcoholism and drug abuse destroy families, ruin careers and wreck communities. On the other hand, theological beliefs and misunderstandings have been blamed for divisions, divorces and wars around the world. The trouble with each institution lies within us. True, alcohol feeds a different fire than pietism, but neither a drunk nor a hypocrite look very good in the daylight.

We carry our problems into the church the same way we carry them into a bar—they just react differently in each location. Unfortunately, the sins that exist within the walls of the Church are harder to spot.

Pride, for example, can hide incredibly well in the religious community. I rarely hear the words “I don’t know” uttered at church. And yet the triune Creator of time and space will always be wrapped in mystery and holiness. Why not start in the seat of humility? Surely all of us have gotten a few things wrong in our attempts at Christianity.

Isn’t it pride that causes divisions among us? When we begin to slander other believers in the name of God, we know we’ve gotten off course. Did our Master’s words fall on deaf ears? “Love each other as I have loved you.” “Let them be one, Father, even as we are one.” These are not optional thoughts on how things could be done, but rather prerequisites for entrance into Kingdom of Heaven life. Unity is serious business. The Church is called to be one even as the triune God is one. The comprehensive salvation of our planet is built on the final unity of the Church and her God: the bride and her Savior.

Unfortunately, unity within the ecclesial community is the exception, not the rule. It’s to our shame many folks looking for hope find more grace at the local bar than the local church. When we speak with a fire and anger that burns differently than the fresh air of the cross, we do the Gospel a disservice. We know deep down something is wrong. So we revolt against those fiery speeches. We say the method needs to change. We call the old model irrelevant. And yes! The fresh winds of the Spirit are ready to blow upon us, let us pray for new tongues of the same eternal flame.

And yet if I speak with the tongues of angels and of men but have not love, it profits me nothing. If I rise up against the cheesy Christian T-shirts but have not love, it helps no one. If I hate the legalistic hatred but have not love, it builds nothing. Has the enemy tricked us into a new form of legalism? Is not our judgment committing the same offense? Ah, we may have found a way, but it is not love.

Walking the line between the clubs and the Church, I’ve been misunderstood by both sides. I’m sure you’ve felt the same thing: people throw rocks at the things they don’t understand. But it hurts worst when it comes from well-intending brothers and sisters, the folks who are purportedly filled with the love of Christ. Our knee-jerk response is to retaliate, to fight back. And the cycle begins again. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. God will take care of the speck in my neighbor’s eye. The more faith I have in Him and His strong voice, the less I have to yell. The more faith I have in Him, the freer my hands become to serve those around me.

Washing feet is not extra credit. We are called to bear each other’s burdens. Unity is a miraculous achievement, but it’s intended for this side of the grave. Unity is the transforming work of the power of the cross in our lives. In the dark, blood-stained shadow of the cross, our boasting is laughable. Our differences are minute. Take another look at the cross. Look at how much He loves you. Look at His surrender, His sacrifice. Unity comes into focus only when we realize the magnificent grace of the Savior.

Let us acknowledge our neediness, our beautiful desperation. Yes, our unanswerable, aching, longing poverty is a prerequisite for the balm of salvation. We, the people—the failures, the losers, the outsiders—we have found our King. Christ, the King of the fools; the Lord of the sick, broken souls like us. Let us remain in continual awe of the love we have been shown. And let us love! Let us celebrate the reckless love of the one who risked all that we might be loved. And let us follow in the path of a God who loves us. The tax collectors and the rabbis. The prostitutes and the Sadducees. In the bars and in the churches. Yes, God even loves Christians.”

– John Foreman, Switchfoot

What else do you think the church can learn from the bar-scene?

The way to know if you really love God

Do you love God? Do you count him your all-in-all? There is one way by which to measure that love. The love you show to others.

Do you bravely love others? Do you selflessly love others? Do you love others without keeping accounts? Do you unconditionally love others?

Jesus said it quite plainly. John 21:15-19 narrates the account where Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peters response was “Of course I love you.” Jesus response was amazing! “Then feed my sheep.”

I find myself doing this and maybe you do too. I “love” God by praying to Him, by tithing to Him, by committing my life to Him…all these ways are legitimate ways to love Him, but its interesting Jesus said, “If you love me, you will love each other.”

Whats the big deal with Jesus and sex? REVISED

If God ate the food that he created, why is it such a big deal that Jesus could not have participated in a sexual act, which he also created.

The question really is, does it compromise Jesus as who he was? Fully God, yet fully man? Because if it doesn’t, then no I have no problem considering that. But does it compromise Him? Yes, absolutely! It actually makes him out to be a hypocrite. Bible memory 101 is John 3:16, “God so loved the world (but Mary Magdalene the most)…” Oh my bad, that’s not in the Bible. To think that Jesus “must have” had sex in the first place is such a human thing. “It just makes sense, that men everywhere have had the desire at least once, for a woman.” The people claiming this, purporting this, writing novels and making lay-readers’ minds spin with bewilderment, are those who simply don’t get the life of Christ in the first place. Here are a few points I’d like to make on this matter concerning the person Jesus Christ.

Jesus, the hypocrite?
Jesus’ message of love and salvation was equally for everyone. To admit that Jesus chose a favorite compromises his universal message and makes him out to be a hypocrite. To say “No, he didn’t love everyone equally, Mary the most, but pretty much equally, generally speaking” is worldly and finite thinking. Jesus was deity, in flesh. God incarnate! Immanuel!

Take Christ as the husband of the church model. Just as Christ is wed to his bride spiritually, us collectively the church, it would be selective, partial, theologically incongruous and hypocritical for him to actuate the spiritual understanding in physical form. The act of sex would be an infinitely insufficient act of union between Jesus and a woman, to exemplify his relationship with himself and the church. Why? Because eternity in perfect relationship with God himself, FAR ECLIPSES any sexual relationship one can ever have. That is what’s promised to us, his bride, the church. On top of that, there is no record, anywhere, that he ever got married. If he did have sex and never got married, obviously that is a sin, thus nullifying his ability to be offered as a perfect sacrifice, without blemish, as was Jewish law. If no atoning sacrifice, there would be no forgiveness of sin, and if no forgiveness of sin, God would be totally just in wiping out everything offensive (mainly, us) to his Holy presence. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” Colossians 3:5-6

Divine Lineage?
If Jesus had relations and a son birthed, that would create theological chaos, not to mention sexual immorality. What if the fountain of youth was found in a young woman, and the only way you could live forever was to have relations with her. She would be the most sought after young woman, the world would ever know. Men would do whatever they needed to get her to ensure their children were in the divine lineage, in order that they may secure life everlasting. This would be the case if salvation were by means of lineage, if Christ had relations and his offspring were the “sons and daughters” talked about in the gospels. When Paul said that we are adopted into the family of God, that could then come to mean, you are adopted by God, IF you insert yourself into the divine lineage. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6 The lines of theology would be blurred to utter confusion.

Jesus, the less-than sufficient God?
If Jesus had relations, it would admit that Christ had need. We are created, God is not. Everything comes FROM God. There was never, nor will there ever be an instance when God is not in need of something, when there is a void that we can fill for God. “Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” Isaiah 40:14 When God created Eve, it was because Adam was in need, he was lonely and had no way of expressing physical intimacy. We are beings who long for intimacy and companionship, and sex is one of those ways. “It is not good for man to be alone,” God himself said in Genesis. Crazy isn’t it? In the garden of Eden, when man had perfect relationship with God, one thing was missing. In the slightly modified words of a cheesy bygone movie, ladies “You complete [us].”

There are many other great resources out there on this subject. If this intrigues you, the person of Jesus Christ is worth digging deeper on. Read the gospels, read the heretical gospels (gospel of Thomas, Mary, Barnabas) and find out for yourself these things.