Archive

Archive for July, 2012

Do We Live Like We’re Moving?

July 30, 2012 Leave a comment

This past week, my wife, Abi, and I moved from our old one-bedroom apartment to our new two-bedroom apartment. And I do mean that we moved all last week! Last Monday, my dad and grandfather helped us move the heavy furniture (bed, dresser, couch, washer/dryer, etc.), and I’m thankful we got all that moved in just one (full) day! But just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, Abi and I didn’t move apartments in a day. All the rest of the week Abi and I were moving box after box of kitchen supplies, clothes, and other miscellaneous items from Tuscaloosa to Northport (about a fifteen minute drive one-way). I couldn’t tell you how many times I drove the Honda Pilot from one end of Highway 69 to the other! Each day was long and hard because we both worked really hard to move into our new apartment.

Thanks to my dad and his dad, Abi and I were able to sleep at our new apartment Monday night. But we didn’t get our last load from the old apartment until Saturday morning. (And to be honest, I haven’t unloaded that load from the Pilot yet!) As it was, we were living half in one apartment and half in another. We were already living in the new apartment, but we were not yet fully settled in. And that’s how the Christian life is: we Christians are already saved, but we have not yet experienced the consummation of our salvation. My question for all of us today, then, is this: are we living like we’re moving to heaven? Every one of us are physically dying right now. Our time is limited; our days are numbered. We Christians are in the process of moving to heaven. But are we working hard to get there? In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus puts it this way:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Yes, we Christians are still sleeping in our old apartment, so to speak: we’re still living on this earth. But are we laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven, as Jesus says, or are we spending most of our time and effort in our lives on this earth?

Living life as if this present world is all that matters is like accumulating more junk in a one bedroom apartment that you’re moving out of in less than a week. So let’s not live like that, because if “we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). When Paul wrote that, he was combating false teachers who claimed that the resurrection from the dead, the consummation of our salvation, had already happened. We Christians know and believe that this hasn’t happened yet, but do we live like it? Do we live like Jesus could come back at any moment to “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21)? We should because the salvation he has saved us to is not just for this present age but even more fully for the age to come! May we honestly say with Paul: “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). May we live like we’re in the process of moving to heaven, not like this present life is all we have to hope for.

“Set your minds on things that are above” because one day, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will come down from heaven just as he went up, in order to bring us into the new heavens and the new earth to be with him in glory forever. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The Prophet Who Feeds Us

July 18, 2012 1 comment

I’m excited to teach John 6:1-15 tonight to Calvary’s youth group. We’re working our way through The Gospel According to John, and tonight’s text is the account of Jesus feeding five thousand men (not including women and children). It is amazing to see how John depicts Jesus as a prophet greater than Elisha (see 2 Kings 4:42-44); indeed, Jesus is the Prophet, the Prophet to come after Moses (Deut. 18:15-19), the Prophet who says and does all that the Father tells him to do, perfectly (John 5:30; 12:49).

But as amazing as all this is, even more striking to me is Jesus’ mercy on an abandoning crowd. He is the Prophet, but he is the Prophet who feeds. Here in this miracle is a picture of God’s grace to all people, both believers and unbelievers. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:45, the Father “makes his sun shine on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In John 6:1-15, Jesus is doing this loving work of his Father’s: he is abundantly feeding a crowd that will later abandon him. The next day, many of these people “turned back and no longer walked” with Jesus (John 6:66) because, as Jesus points out to them, they were seeking him “not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v. 26).

And yet Jesus fed them anyway. Jesus knows people’s hearts perfectly (John 2:25), and he knows the crowd’s materialistic treachery (6:15). But he feeds them. As Matthew elaborates in his account of this miracle, Jesus “had compassion on them” (Matt. 14:14). He knew they were unbelieving (or, to put it another way, had demonic faith; cf. James 2:19), but he had mercy on them and fed them in their hunger. He later goes further and gives them truth, the ultimate truth that he is the bread of life, and in him alone is salvation (John 6:32-58). They reject it, and Jesus knew that they would, but he was merciful and fed them both physical and spiritual food anyway.

What a glorious picture of the gospel in our lives today. As Jesus himself says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Nevertheless, he proclaims the gospel offer of life in him for those who trust him for salvation to even these unbelievers: “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (v. 37). Our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Were it not for God’s grace in pursuing us when we were yet his unbelieving enemies, none of us would have come to saving faith in Christ and be in this filial relationship with him now.

Praise God that he pursues us even in our unbelief! Praise God that Jesus, the Prophet-King, died for us while we were yet sinners! Praise God that his Holy Spirit awakens us from our death in sin to new life in Christ! Praise God! Praise God!

Hotter than the Sun

July 13, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s my last day at the beach this year, so why am I blogging and not out on the beach? As always, I sunburn BAD at the beach. I was fine until yesterday, when the sun decided all of a sudden to shine just bright enough to get past my SPF 45 broad-spectrum sunscreen. My back is redder than the sweet and sour chicken I ate on my date with Abi last night, so I’m inside the condo this afternoon while the sun is at its hottest.

I’ve gone from reading Isaiah to reading Deuteronomy, so the hotness of the beach sun and its blistering effect on my skin makes me wonder at something that came up repeatedly in Deuteronomy 4-11: How hot and intimidating must God’s fire have been to the Israelites when they received the law at Mt. Sinai, or Horeb as it’s referred to in Deuteronomy?

In these chapters of Deuteronomy Moses recaps the events at Mt. Sinai and reiterates the ten commandments and the command to fear, love, and serve the Lord. He addresses these commands to a second generation of Israelites who had wandered in the wilderness, those who had been under the age of twenty when the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land because of the negative report of ten of the twelve spies (see Num. 13-14).

Although this is a new generation of Israelites, Moses insists that they were present at the giving of the law at Sinai (Deut. 4:9-11). Some of these undoubtedly were present, as children, but many had not been. Nevertheless, Moses says that they were there, in effect, because upon the giving of the law the Israelites as a people pledged, “we will hear and do” all that God commands them through Moses (Deut. 5:27). Because this new generation of Israelites are God’s people, they are just as obligated to obey God’s law as though they had been present at its giving, even if they had not been born yet.

And as Moses reiterates the law to these Israelites, he emphasizes the consuming fire of God. Indeed, “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God,” Moses tells the people (Deut. 4:24). And because “God is a consuming fire,” Mt. Sinai “burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and doom” when God gave the law to Moses (v. 11). Because the Lord spoke “out of the midst of the fire,” the Israelites are to

  • watch themselves “very carefully” (v. 15),
  • “beware” of making idols (vv. 16-19), and
  • “take care” to not “forget the covenant” that God has made with them (v. 23).

If they commit idolatry, however, they consequently “provoke him [God] to anger” and “will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed” (vv. 25, 26). God will scatter them to other nations, where they will be forced to serve idols in “tribulation” (vv. 27-29). But God is merciful; when they “return to the LORD [their] God and obey his voice,” God “will not leave [them] or destroy [them] or forget the covenant” because he “is a merciful God” (vv. 30, 31). And the Israelites know God’s mercy: “Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live?” Moses asks (v. 33). “Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” (v. 34).

But recall that this mercifulness is to any generation who repents of its wickedness: wicked, unrepentant generations are burned by the fire of God’s judgment. As Moses reiterates his statement from Deuteronomy 4:24 in Deuteronomy 6:15: since “the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God,” sin causes God’s anger to “be kindled” like a fire that will “destroy [sinning Israelites] from off the face of the earth.” Idolatry, particularly, causes God’s destructive, fiery anger to “be kindled” (Deut. 7:4). One specific consequence of Israelite idolatry would be that “the anger of the LORD will be kindled against [them], and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you” (11:17).

So the question for each generation of Israelites is this: will they love the Lord their God, serve him, and obey him; or will they forsake the Lord their God and follow idols? Will God be “a consuming fire” to their enemies, “destroy[ing] them and subdu[ing] them” (Deut. 9:3), or will God be “a consuming fire, a jealous God” toward them (4:24)?

But what does all this have to do with us Christians? The Israel of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament are not exactly the same. However, there are some striking correlations between the two. God’s people in the Old Testament were not all God’s people (e.g., Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6). Similarly, everyone who is a church member is not necessarily a member of the Church (e.g., Matt. 7:21-23; 18:15-17). This is how the author of Hebrews applies these warnings from Deuteronomy throughout his book. He quotes Deuteronomy 4:24 in Hebrews 12:29 as he warns his readers: “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. … for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:25, 29). The author of Hebrews elsewhere puts it this way:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. … For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? … And to whom did he [God] swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. …

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Heb. 3:12, 16, 18; 4:1, 11)

This is the author of Hebrews’s Holy Spirit-inspired argument: just as the first generation of Israelites failed to enter the promised land because of their disobedient unbelief, so also Christians must persevere in the faith because true faith is persevering faith, without which one will not enter God’s eternal rest. This is the stark picture the author of Hebrews paints later in his book:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay. And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (10:23-31)

Here the author of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 and 36 to determine that even people who claim Christ, if they sin deliberately (that is, habitually and as a pattern of life; cf. 1 John 3:4-10), prove that they are not saved, and consequently incur the fire of God’s judgment. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 13:5 are applicable here: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Every person who claims Christ as Savior and Lord must ask themselves if he really is their Lord, or if they are really serving the devil.

Is God’s consuming fire going to consume your enemies (those unsaved people who persecute or afflict you) at the Day of Judgment, or will God’s consuming fire consume you because you are not truly trusting Jesus Christ for salvation from sin? My prayer is Paul’s: “I hope you will find out that we [both you and I!] have not failed the test” (2 Cor. 13:6).

Isaiah’s Bookends of Judgment

July 12, 2012 1 comment

Isaiah is the longest prophetic book of the Bible and has as many chapters as there are books in the Bible. John’s words concerning Jesus’ works in John 21:25 are applicable to this book of the Bible: “the world itself could not contain the books that could be written” about the book of Isaiah. So since there’s no way I could write everything I’ve seen in Isaiah after reading it this time, I’ll focus on how judgment bookends the beginning and end of Isaiah and thus highlights God’s grace that also pervades the book. (God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment helped me better piece together how judgment and grace interrelate not only in Isaiah but in the whole Bible also.)

The First Bookend of Judgment

Consider how Isaiah begins. God indicts Israel:

“The ox knows its owner,
_____and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
_____my people do not understand.” (1:3)

Through Isaiah God describes his people as “a whore,” although they once were “full of justice”; his once righteous people have become “murderers” (1:21).

Everyone loves a bribe
_____and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
_____and the widow’s cause does not come to them.

Therefore the Lord declares,
_____the LORD of hosts,
_____the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
_____and avenge myself on my foes.
I will turn my and against you
_____and will smelt away your dross as with lye
_____and remove all your alloy.” (1:23-25)

God begins this oracle to his people by announcing judgment. Of course, with judgment, there is also the promise of salvation:

“And I will restore your judges as at the first,
_____and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
_____the faithful city.” (1:26).

As God had said earlier:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
_____they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
_____they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
_____you shall eat the good of the land,
but if you refuse and rebel,
_____you shall be eaten by the sword,
_____for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (1:18-20)

Though God judges his people, his is gracious to them and offers them salvation. Judgment is the consequence of disobedience and rebellion, of refusing God’s salvation and lordship. This is where the people of Israel were in their history. They had rebelled consistently against God, and God allows them to be conquered by foreigners (1:7-8). But just as rebellion brings promised judgment (1:20, 24-25), repentance brings promised salvation (1:18-19, 26). The judgment announced at Isaiah’s beginning is the first bookend to this book.

Pervasive Grace

Grace pervades the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 4:2-6 features God’s promise that in his Day of judgment, his righteous Branch shall reign, which means that God will dwell among his people. In Isaiah 6, God commissions Isaiah to be his prophet to Judah, although Isaiah is “a man of unclean lips” who “dwell[s] in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (v. 5). Isaiah 7:14 is a promise of redemption not only for Isaiah’s contemporary Judah (Isaiah 8) but to the whole world, as well (9:1-7), in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Isaiah 40, God comforts future exiles. In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, God announces the coming of a Servant, Jesus Christ, who will bear the griefs of God’s people, be crushed for their iniquities, and bring us peace by being chastised on the cross by God Most High. In Isaiah 54-56, God calls the barren to sing, (54:1-3), promises to protect the afflicted (54:11-17), calls all people to come to him for salvation (55:1-3), and promises to bless eunuchs with “a name better than sons and daughters” (56:4-5). God’s grace thus pervades Isaiah even as do promises of judgment, which bookend the prophecy and set the context for his grace.

The Second Bookend of Judgment

Like the first chapter of Isaiah, the last chapter of Isaiah is itself begun and ended with promises of judgment, and thus Isaiah as a whole begins and ends with proclamations of judgment. Isaiah 66:1-6 pronounces judgment on God’s proud enemies, specifically the legalistic (v. 3) and those who think they are serving him by persecuting his people (v. 5). But there is grace for the humble (v. 2). Those who love God’s people will find refuge in the New Jerusalem (vv. 10-14).

And this grace is followed by a renewed pronouncement of judgment. Indeed, God saves the humble lovers of his people because he judges their oppressors (vv. 15-17). God again renews his promise to save people from all the world over (vv. 18-23), but Isaiah ends with a grim depiction of eternal judgment:

And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (v. 24)

The Gospel and Isaiah: Grace or Judgment

To many Christians, this last verse of Isaiah brings to mind the Lord’s quotation of this verse (Mark 9:48). And the clear picture not only of Isaiah but fully clear by the gospel is that there are two eternal options for any person: either grace or judgment. Jesus makes clear that the way to enter into God’s grace is by faith and repentance (Mark 1:15). Apart from faith in Jesus Christ, the only end result is eternal punishment (Romans 6:23). Paul puts it well in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 when he writes,

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Paul is quoting Isaiah 49:8, which in its larger context reveals that God is bringing salvation to his imprisoned and oppressed people (Isa. 49:9-12). This eternal salvation will result in the singing and exultation of the new heavens and new earth (v. 13). God does not forget his people; he will save them, but this means judgment for their enemies (who are ultimately God’s enemies):

Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
_____or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
For thus says the LORD:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
_____and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
_____and I will save your children.
I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
_____and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
_____that I am the LORD your Savior,
_____and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (vv. 24-26)

It would be well for us to remember that throughout Isaiah, from beginning to end, judgment bookends grace. Grace is given in the context of judgment. Jesus bore our judgment, and those who trust in him receive grace. Those who don’t trust in him remain under judgment and will experience it for eternity. Oh, trust Christ for salvation! Trust that he has endured the judgment you deserve, and experience the eternal life found in trusting him for salvation!

Tough Guys and Drama Queens by Mark Gregston

July 11, 2012 1 comment

I may not be a parent of a teen (I will be in fourteen years, though!), but as a youth minister I’m working with teens every day, so I gave Mark Gregston’s new book, Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child’s Teen Years, a read. As his title suggests, Gregston’s goal is to give parents helpful hints in raising their teenagers well. From his knowledge of present issues and first-hand experience of raising two children of his own and helping sixty teens at a time through his ministry, Gregston tells parents to show their teens grace and gradually release control as their teens become independent adults. For the most part, Gregston succeeds in his aim; however, there were some concerns that I had as I read this new book.

I couldn’t agree more with Gregston in his discussion of how devastating parents’ demands of perfection in their teens can be. He sheds illuminating insight into teens’ thought processes when he explains how relationships can trump beliefs in their lives. His insistence upon being who teens need you to be rather than doing all the activities that are out there was also helpful. He’s right that parents should be honest and, at times, humble with their kids, even asking for genuine forgiveness when necessary.

His book shines regarding grace, but I found it lacking regarding discipline. He offers this central argument in his book’s last section: “Authority can’t be forced” (73). “Don’t force them to have to choose to follow your authority,” he explains; “instead, lead them to an understanding of your authority through the healthy, loving relationship you established with them” (77-78). Relationships are important, don’t get me wrong, but the Bible consistently defines the parent-child relationship in terms of authority, both inherent and exercised. Yes, authority should be exercised lovingly, but it must be exercised, even if a teen refuses to obey it, which he or she very well may even if he or she has a “healthy, loving relationship” with parents.

Similarly, although I agree that successful parenting of teens gradually increases their independence and gradually allows them to make their own decisions, I believe Gregston goes too far in this freedom he suggests:

When they’re seventeen years old and come downstairs on Sunday morning and say, “I don’t want to go to church today,” don’t shame them or make them feel second-class for not choosing what you want. Instead, let them know, “Sure … why don’t you meet us for lunch so we can spend some time together?” You must give your older teens the opportunity to exercise their freedom to choose and trust what you have taught them about the need for spiritual nourishment. (142-143)

Fathers are to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), which includes holding their children accountable to “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:25), which most churches observe on Sundays. It’s the Christian parent’s responsibility to ensure their children are churched and thus instructed in the Lord, and this responsibility doesn’t end until children have become adults. (Even then, parents can encourage their grown children to be involved in church!)

As a whole, this book was a helpful read. I agreed with many of Gregston’s principles, but I disagreed with him almost twice as much on his specific applications as I agreed with them. Consequently, I do not recommend this book. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

I thank BookSneeze for providing me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Reflections from Russell Moore’s Tempted and Tried

July 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Russell D. Moore. Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 208 pp.

Russ Moore’s Tempted and Tried is a helpful exegesis of Jesus’ wilderness temptation with regards to fighting temptation as a believer. Moore explains, “The same Spirit who led Jesus through the wilderness and empowered him to overcome the Evil One now surges through all of us who are joined by faith to Jesus. We overcome temptation the same way he did, by trusting in our Father and hearing his voice” (22).

Moore seems primarily to use Matthew’s account of Jesus’ wilderness temptation (Matt. 4:1-11), although he references Mark’s brief passing mention of Jesus’ temptation (Mark 1:12-13) and Luke’s account of the wilderness temptation (Luke 4:1-13). Thus, Moore identifies these three temptations as the temptations at the core of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness:

  1. the temptation of “consumption” and “self-provision” (63)
  2. the temptation to “self-protection” (109)
  3. the temptation to force “inheritance” and “exaltation” prematurely into the here and now (131)
Jesus overcame each of these temptations without sinning, but we don’t always fare so well in our struggles against Satan. As Moore explains in the second chapter of Tempted and Tried, we don’t always overcome temptation because temptation leads us to sin like cattleranchers lead cattle to a slaughterhouse. From James 1, Moore identifies three steps in “the cycle of temptation” (28):
  1. “the question of your identity” (28)
  2. “the confusion of desires” (37)
  3. “the challenging of your future” (50)
He concludes, “In many ways the more tranquil you feel, the more endangered you are. As you find yourself curving around the soft corneers of your life, maybe you should question the quietness of it all” (59). James puts it this way:
each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (1:14-15)

Temptation is like the lure at the end of a fishing rod. The fish doesn’t know there’s a hook until it’s too late. Even so with us and temptation: we have a desire and indulge it, perhaps not realizing that such sinful indulgence “brings forth death.”

So how are we supposed to fight temptation, if it’s so sneaky? We are to take our cues from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With each temptation, he quoted Scripture back at Satan. Recall the cycle to temptation, for there are three corresponding actions in the resistance of temptation:

  1. reclaim your identity (166)
  2. reorder your desires (176)
  3. reframe your future (185)

We must remember who we are in Christ Jesus: we are redeemed from sin, freed from the power of Satan. As a result, our desires are now in the process of conforming ever more to those of Christ, and our future is the redemption and glorification of our bodies upon Jesus’ return. By consciously keeping these things in mind that we learn in Scripture, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, strive against temptation. I can’t agree more with Moore’s conclusion to his book:

I want you to see how imperiled you are. I want you to see how fought for you are. And I want you to be prompted to drop the book and pray to the only One who knows how to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And I want to remember to do that too. (196)

Amen!

“Kiss the Girl”

July 9, 2012 2 comments

My wife, Abi, loves Disney movies. (Ok, I like them, too. But let’s keep that a secret between you and me!) One of her favorites is The Little Mermaid. And last summer at the beach I sang her a song from that movie: “Kiss the Girl.” I changed up the words a little bit, and she loved it:

There, I see her, sitting there across the way.
She’s sure got a lot to say, but I love that about her.
And I don’t know why but I’m dying to try,
I gotta kiss the girl!

Fellow husbands out there, our wives love it when we’re spontaneous, sweet, and romantic like that. I sang that little ditty to Abi quite a few times at the beach, but not so much since then. But before we left for the beach last weekend, Abi reminded me, “Please sing me the song you sang me last year!” Now, I was glad she wanted me to sing the song again, but I felt just a twinge of conviction: I hadn’t been singing it as much lately. Yeah, summer’s a busy time. I’m keeping office hours during the week at Calvary, she has doctor’s appointments every week for her pregnancy, we had at least one event going on every week in June for the youth group. But I should’ve sung Abi that song more than I have been. So I’ve been singing it to her, intentionally, now that we’re at the beach again. It makes her happy, and it makes me happy, too. So why don’t I sing it more when we’re back at home, just the two of us, in our normal daily routine? And what can I do to remember to sing it to her more often once we’re back home from this vacation? These are the questions I’ve been thinking about these past few days, and hopefully my thought processes will help all us husbands out there be at least a little more romantic for our wives every day.

Normalcy Stagnates Romance

Why aren’t I as romantic with Abi at home as when we’re on vacation? To put it simply: normalcy stagnates romance. What I mean is that the normalcy of daily life diminishes romance. Not love, but romance. Loving Abi in normal daily life looks like helping her with dishes or laundry or Mr. Darcy or her diabetes. And in my limited experience, this love by service replaces love by romance. But that  shouldn’t be the case. Don’t get me wrong: serving Abi in love is very important, not only for her sake but for mine. I want to love her by serving her. In fact, I told her when I proposed, “If you let me, I’ll love you and serve you the rest of our lives.” I meant it then, and I still mean it! Loving her by acts of service is vitally important, it mustn’t be neglected, but loving her by acts of romance is equally important. If the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach (and there’s at least some truth to that statement), then the quickest way to a woman’s heart is through her heart, through romancing her. It makes Abi unbelievingly happy when I either unload or reload the dishwasher, but you should see how her face glows when I ask her out on a date to a restaurant. Abi always thanks me whenever I take Darcy out to “go potty” or whenever I get her meter for her, but she smiles, turns her face down, and giggles whenever I sing a romantic song, such as “Kiss the Girl,” to her. When Abi and I are at home, living our normal daily lives, I sometimes neglect romantic love for serving love, but that shouldn’t be the case. I should serve Abi and romance Abi. Both-and, not either-or.

Stir Up Romance

Mom and I made a peanut cake the first night we were at the beach, but peanut cake is a challenging cake to make. Without giving away the secret family recipe, the trickiest part is making the peanut frosting. And the hardest part of making peanut frosting is getting the sugar water to boil down to the right consistency. You have to mix the sugar and water together and then boil it. You can’t turn the heat all the way up, but you can’t leave it too low. You have to constantly stir the boiling sugar water until it’s a fine thread (which you can’t see unless you’re stirring with a metal spoon, by the way) and then immediately take it off the heat and finish adding the other ingredients to the sugar water to make the frosting. Making peanut frosting is a very hands-on activity that takes a lot of care and attention. And that’s kind of how romance during normal daily life is. If you just live normal daily life, romance stagnates in all the normalcy. It’s like sugar crusting against the wall of your pot if you don’t stir it with the water. We husbands need to stir up romance with our wives. On vacation, that’s easy. You’re not in “normal” mode; you’re in vacation mode, and consequently have more time to devote to your wife, and thus are more intentional about romancing her. But that’s how it has to be in normal daily life: I need to intentionally romance Abi, not just with dates and on dates, but before dates and after dates and on days without dates altogether. I need to sing her songs that make her smile. I need to sing “Kiss the Girl” to her because it’s not a chore, and she’ll know that only when I sing it to her, without her asking, and as a surprise.

The Gospel and Romancing Our Wives

This is where the gospel comes in. I obviously fail to romance Abi the way I ought to. But because Jesus Christ is my heavenly Bridegroom, I can love Abi not only in service but also in romance. This is how Paul in Ephesians 5:25-30 puts it:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved 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.

Right now, every day, whether vacation days or normal days, Christ “nourishes and cherishes” his body, the church, his bride. He thus “romances” his church, in a way. And this is how I should be with Abi (and you fellow husbands should be with your wives). Christ did for me what would bring me my greatest joy: he “gave himself up” for me, and he “cleansed me by the washing of water with the word” so that I could exult in him in the new heavens and the new earth for all eternity. Likewise I ought to show Abi my love for her by doing things that bring her joy and make her feel loved, like singing her “Kiss the Girl” and telling her stories and helping her during the day.

Husbands, may God help us love our wives not only by serving them but also by romancing them. May God help me love Abi so much that I not only remember to help her but also to romance her. I want to “Kiss the Girl,” so why don’t I  tell her that with song and make her feel extra special?

%d bloggers like this: