Dluxe's World

Monday, March 31

On display, not on stage

In preparing this section of Matthew 6 for our Bible study, one phrase/analogy kept ringing in my ears.

We are intending to be on display for Christ, rather than on stage for him.

When you go to an art museum, there are various works on display. None of them are shouting at you for your attention, none of them are clamoring for the best spot for display, and they do not speak a word to promote their own glory. They are silent, but at the same time plainly testify to something outside of themselves. Some are contemplative, others are beautiful, quirky, amusing, or even gaudy. But they are unaware of themselves in a wonderful way - simply 'being' what their maker made them... Reflecting the artists skill and personality which brought them into being.

An actor, on the other hand, consciously puts on a different face in every play. The person who appears when the lights may be loud and blaring even though the actor may be quiet and meek. Actors toil at their craft, and no doubt take pride in it. Most walk on stage thirsting for the applause and adulation of the curtain call. They gleefully sign autographs or grant interviews to reporters and critics who want to know them and their gifting. Playwrights write plays for them - having a particular person in mind for a particular role.

They must perform and be noticed, because their next role depends on them being valued and known. Far too often, the craving for attention spills over into a life that can no longer distinguish between the private and the public - never being able to escape the stage. Sure, they point to the mastery of the playwright (to the degree their acting allows them to 'disappear' into the plot), but they are not unconscious of it.

So, it shouldn't be surprising that the word for 'hypocrite' in our passage is the same word for an actor. The hypocrites were out to display themselves and their faux righteousness, stepping on stage and calling all eyes to rest on them. Whatever attention went to God for their giving, prayers, and fasting was secondary to them - a fortunate side-effect of their curtain call and evidence of God's grace surpassing our sin.

We must live our lives before God, humbly willing to take no credit and receive no praises while here on Earth. This doesn't mean we don't talk about our giving or pray in public ever... However, we must have hearts that are content with the Savior alone seeing our lives and being pleased.

Calvin, commenting on these verses puts it so well:
[Jesus] tells them, that God does not need a strong light to perceive good actions: for those things, which appear to be buried in darkness, are open to his view. We have no reason, therefore, to suppose that what escapes the notice, and receives not the testimony of men, is lost... A most appropriate remedy is thus applied for curing the disease of ambition, when he reminds us to fix our eye on God: for this banishes from our minds, and will utterly destroy, all vain-glory. — In the second clause, which immediately follows, Christ reminds us that, in looking for the reward of good works, we must wait patiently till the last day, the day of resurrection. Thy Father, says he, shall reward thee openly.

To express it in a few words, whether a man prays alone, or in the presence of others, he ought to have the same feelings, as if he were shut up in his closet, and had no other witness but God.

Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, [believers] pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things. God himself, on the other hand, has purposed freely, and without being asked, to bestow blessings upon us; but he promises that he will grant them to our prayers. We must, therefore, maintain both of these truths, that He freely anticipates our wishes, and yet that we obtain by prayer what we ask.

May God display His beauty and perfections in us, and remove all our ambition for the spotlight and the encores of the crowd.


Friday, March 28

Wisdom for the Weekend [4]

Give me a hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a bit whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.
John Wesley

I have but one candle of life to burn and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.
John Falconer

If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king.
Jordan Groom

Untold millions are still untold... Here, and abroad. Who will tell them?

Had a missions committee meeting last night... Can you tell?


Wednesday, March 26

Oh, what a beautiful WWWednesday...

I am hardly a fan of visual arts, but I recently stumbled across a video medium that seems to be 'hip' right now called kinetic typography. It's fascinating to me for some reason.

On a completely different note, how many other people agree that this experiment seems to headed for a bad end?

Let me be the first person to welcome our new hybrid-liger overlords.

Next week, a "Death [of] Chocolate" themed WWWednesday!!


Tuesday, March 25

What a day...

Sorry for the lack of blogging... Nothing new today, I'm afraid. We're moving offices at work. Lots of other stuff on the mind to think about while I'm waiting for the movers to come carry me away....

Come on WWWednesday!


Sunday, March 23

He is Risen!

[W]e are but dead men, we are like so many carcasses wrapped up in grave clothes, till that same Jesus who called Lazarus from his tomb, and at whose own resurrection many that slept arose, doth raise us also by his quickening Spirit from our natural death, in which we have so long lain, to a holy and heavenly life.

We might think ourselves happy, if we had seen the Holy Jesus after He was risen from the dead, and our hands had handled that Lord of life. But more happy are they who have not seen him, and yet having felt the power of his resurrection, therefore believe in him. For many saw our divine master, who were not saved by him; but whosoever has thus felt the power of his resurrection, has the earnest of his inheritance in his heart, he has passed from death to life, and shall never fall into final condemnation.

I am very sensible that this is foolishness to the natural man, as were many such like truths to our Lord’s own disciples, when only weak in faith, before he rose again... O that all unbelievers, all letter-learned masters of Israel, who now look upon the doctrine of the power of Christ’s resurrection, or our new birth, as an idle tale, and condemn the preachers of it as enthusiasts and madmen, did but thus feel the power of it in their souls, they would no longer ask, how this thing could be? But they would be convinced of it, as much as Thomas was, when he saw the Lord’s Christ; and like him, when Jesus bid him reach out his hands and thrust them into his side, in a holy confession they would cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

George Whitefield, The Power of Christ's Resurrection

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Friday, March 21

The Best Friday

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Is 53:3-6)

"Here we have a beautiful contrast. In ourselves we are scattered; in Christ we are gathered together. By nature we go astray, and are driven headlong to destruction; in Christ we find the course by which we are conducted to the harbor of salvation. Our sins are a heavy load; but they are laid on Christ, by whom we are freed from the load. Thus, when we were ruined, and, being estranged from God, were hastening to hell, Christ took upon him the filthiness of our iniquities, in order to rescue us from everlasting destruction. This must refer exclusively to guilt and punishment; for he was free from sin. (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22) Let every one, therefore, diligently consider his own iniquities, that he may have a true relish of that grace, and may obtain the benefit of the death of Christ." John Calvin

"Wonderful medicine! Marvelous healing! Where shall we find the like? The Physician drinks the bitter draught, and so cures the patient; whoever heard of such a wonder as this? The Physician is put to death, and that great sacrifice heals the patient; whoever heard of such a thing as this before? The whole gospel in a nutshell lies in this verse: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
There is no meaning at all in this chapter if it does not teach that Christ did take upon himself the sin of his people, and did suffer in their room and place and stead. Let who will object to this doctrine, it is the gospel, the very heart and marrow of it; and there is nothing that can make a heavy heart glad until it sees sin removed by the death of Christ: “He shall bear their iniquities.”" C.H. Spurgeon

Update: If you want to listen to a fantastic exposition of this passage in Isaiah, I don't think you can find better than C.J. Mahaney's address at last year's Resolved Conference. Tony has graciously posted it on the SGM Blog. Click here and check the audio.

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Thursday, March 20

Keller @ Google...

Last Friday's post was a video of Tim Keller speaking at UC-Berkeley. The next day, he delivered a similar speech at Google and the vid has finally found its way out onto the net.

Since I haven't said anything else original this week, I thought I'd keep up the tradition and post the new Keller vid for your edification.

Deef made an interesting point last night... Over a year ago, Keller delivered a speech at the Desiring God conference calling all our best theologians and thinkers to work on a compact Gospel presentation that would fit the rising postmodern mindset... The old 'pitches' (4 Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion, etc) assume a quasi-biblical worldview that just is less and less common in our culture today. Deef pointed out that Keller is answering his own call with his book and taking this presentation into places like google.

Anyway, enjoy the vid.

Tomorrow is Good Friday so I'll post something appropriately reflective, Lord willing.

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Wednesday, March 19

I am the WWWednesday. Koo Koo Katchoo!

With that out of the way, how's about some classic cinema?

Or maybe some cool science?


Tuesday, March 18


Read this. That's all for today. That link is enough.

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Monday, March 17

Happy Birthday, Cadie!

I'm home for the day to celebrate my daughter's birthday with family. We're blessed to have my parents up from Delaware and my mother-in-law freshly returned from Kenya.

Back to posting tomorrow, Lord willing.

Friday, March 14

Wisdom for the Weekend [3]

This is long, but just awesome. Sit, listen, chew, and discuss.

HT: Steve McCoy

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Thursday, March 13

The Limits of ID

As the previous post (well, the comment, actually) shows, I'm feeling 'ranty' today... I was exchanging emails with a good friend regarding teaching people in our church last night. In one message, he mentioned this:
I had a woman [at work] this week tell me that she did not matter and that she only lived to not disappoint her daughter. Her life ended when her husband left her 20 years ago. She said that she loved her husband and expected the same in return. She acknowledged that there was a design to marriage and family and that her husband had violated that design when he left her and now her life had no meaning. I said if there was a design then surely she must acknowledge a designer and that perhaps the designer was the origin of her meaning. Her reply was, "but my parents are dead." This is the kind of depressive thinking I see too often.

There's a lot to say about that. But, I just want to rant on one narrow slice for a moment. I think that Christians are being far too enthusiastic about embracing Intelligent Design as a gadget for evangelism.

I remember Ravi Zacharias mentioning that life has four big questions that we are seeking to answer:
  • Origin (Where did I come from?)
  • Meaning (Why am I here?)
  • Morality (What is right/wrong, or good/evil?)
  • Destiny (Where am I going?)
Using intelligent design as an apologetic platform is fundamentally flawed, in my opinion, because it only seeks to answer the first question. Let's assume that I am sitting down with a skeptic here at my office... Through a winsome presentation of ID theory, there is a breakthrough in their mind and they begin - perhaps for the first time - to see and acknowledge the presence and intervention of a Designer.

If I pick up my cup of coffee and go home now, what have I accomplished? This person is aware of a Designer with no idea of the Designer's identity or how to connect to him/her. I haven't gone far enough in bringing this person towards a revelation of who God is. Now, I understand that not everyone in the ID community picks up their coffee and leaves. Still, the stock mantra of ID doesn't go far enough.

ID is also universalist in nature. If my friend leaves our coffee time believing for the first time in a designer, what happens when the Mormon missionaries show up on his doorstep that evening? The argument for design in isolation is just as effective for them to use as a means of drawing my friend towards a false gospel as it could be towards drawing my friend to the true Gospel.

Two people in our church are doing biology studies here at the college. They informed me that a Muslim scholar, Harun Yahya, had produced a book called the Atlas of Creation and sent copies to nearly all the life sciences professors at major US universities. In the 'About the Author' section of the 1st edition, you read the following:
The Prophet's seal on his books' covers is symbolic and is linked to their contents. It represents the Qur'an (the Final Scripture) and Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace), last of the prophets. Under the guidance of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (teachings of the Prophet [may God bless him and grant him peace]), the author makes it his purpose to disprove each fundamental tenet of irreligious ideologies and to have the "last word," so as to completely silence the objections raised against religion. He uses the seal of the final Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), who attained ultimate wisdom and moral perfection, as a sign of his intention to offer the last word.
All of Harun Yahya's works share one single goal: to convey the Qur'an's message, encourage readers to consider basic faith-related issues such as God's existence and unity and the Hereafter; and to expose irreligious systems' feeble foundations and perverted ideologies.

What is to prevent me from following Allah as a result of ID argumentation? I read this book, was convinced, and it pointed me to Allah, right? Maybe the Designer was Allah. Or maybe Vishnu, or maybe even Xenu & L. Ron? Intelligent design points to our Creator, but leaves it up to our sinful minds to identify and seek Him.

The trick is that the Bible says we already know God and willfully suppress the knowledge of Him so we can go on in rebellion. What is to prevent that same sinful impulse from leading me to the altar of 'another god'?

Lastly, I fear that ID might allow us - or even motivate us - to escape from the offense of Christ's work on the cross. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men...

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:2, ESV)
I can't help but believe that there inside of every true Christian is a nagging voice which reminds us that, without the Gospel, people will perish. They need to hear, and they won't hear unless someone speaks to them (Romans 10). So, we feel that urge to speak but know that what we have to say will be offensive and uncomfortable. As a result, we selfishly look for ways to speak while not offending - to silence the nagging feeling inside without alienating the person in front of us. So, we speak in broad terms of a Creator and design without getting to the hard issues of our sin and need for redemption.

We must preach the Gospel. With only a knowledge of a Creator, people stand condemned in their sins. With only an acknowledgment of design, a hurting world is left to cast about in an attempt to find relationship with their Creator - all the while being driven apart from Him by their sin.

If we want to comfort the hurting and redeem the lost, we must bring the only message that truly can bring lasting change and fulfillment to someone's life.

Let's revisit the woman in our first example... When someone confesses their life has no meaning, can we please be bold enough to take them by the hand and say something like this:

Let me tell you what I believe... I believe that there is a loving God who made everything we see. He crafted the whole world, including every cell in your body, with His hand. But instead of running to Him, the Bible tells us that we have all rebelled against God. We have taken His laws, that He gave for our good, and broken them in our own selfish interests. God is just and pure, so our lawbreaking deserves punishment.

The incredibly good news is that God loves you so much that, rather than punish you for your rebellion, He chose to punish His only Son. So, Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again so we can be brought back to God. Our sentence has already been served by another.

If you want meaning, find life in the only one who can give you that... Look to the cross where God demonstrates His love for rebels like you and me, believe, and live!

Now, look. I say that as much out of aspiration as anyone. I certainly don't embrace evangelistic moments the way that I should... But my point is that I believe the Holy Spirit is just as capable of converting someone's heart with a 'naked' presentation of the Gospel as He is able to draw them using Intelligent Design arguments. If that's true (and it is), can't we just get to the main thing and trust the details to God?

ID, though awesome and cool, cannot being people to Christ. If we win people to Intelligent Design with no recognition of Jesus, then we haven't won them to anything yet. We must be faithful to answer all the important questions, and the Gospel in itself does that.

It's offensive, but it's true. And God honors to proclamation of the glory of His Son. So, let's speak boldly and rationally. Not the other way around.

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Welcome to the [Homeschool] California.

Al Mohler brings everyone up to speed on the California homeschool controversy.

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Wednesday, March 12

Whoa! A WWWednesday?!?!?!

What blog resurrection would be complete without restoring WWWednesdays to their former glory??

1) Chuck Norris has, not surprisingly, laid a whoopin' on Oprah. However, you might be surprised to know his whoopin' was of the theological variety. The pen is mightier than the roundhouse kick, you know. (HT: centuri0n)

2) Speaking of violence... Would you believe that Mark Driscoll tried to take down John Piper at the recent Text/Context conference? (BTW, the excellent conference audio is now online here!)

3) VIDEOS. We gots them.

First off, if these things aren't cool, I don't know what is.

Long time readers know I have a geek-thing for Japanese culture - particularly their advertising. In that spirit, this cracked me up:

This proved some Japanese have too much time on their hands:

And this proved Japanese animals are just spooky:

Tune in next week for more wwwackiness.


Tuesday, March 11

Continuing to Re-cease Continuationist Cessations

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a series of posts stating my position on the continuationist/cessationist debate. In the end, I landed (firmly) in the camp of the 'Reformed charismatics' though I've since come to strongly prefer the identifier of 'Reformed continuationist'. Same meaning, half the baggage!

Anyway, Nathan Busenitz started a string of posts interacting with the same material over on Pulpit Blog starting in January of '07. We interacted briefly in the comments over there, and I was looking forward to him continuing to offer his thoughts. Nathan is, as we say in New England, wicked smart (pronouced 'smahht') and I've learned much through his posts.

He's picked up the topic again, and so I thought I would point everyone to it. For the record, Nathan's arguments haven't moved me from my position. But if we aren't humble listening to the opinions of people we respect and evaluating our theology in light of their comments, it probably points past firm biblical convictions towards the idol of pride. So, let's read along and discuss... Shall we?

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Monday, March 10


Little political diversion, for a moment.

I just finished taking down the Huckabee poster that was on my bulletin board... Yes, I was in denial. Anyway, almost immediately thereafter a friend forwarded this to me and asked if I'd hop on the Obama-bandwagon.

Just to be clear, I think Senator Obama is an amazing, charisma-rich (charismatic has a dif'rnt meaning on this blog) candidate and may well be the best political communicator we've seen since Reagan...

Nonetheless, I'll pass on the bandwagon. I can't really stomach the Senator's economic policy, and definitely won't support his social/moral platform even with a gun to my head. So, go on without me... I guess I'll catch a different train.


Friday, March 7

Wisdom for the Weekend [2]

"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles." (Matthew 12:18)

And shall God love [Christ] and delight in him, and shall not our soul delight in Christ? ... Does Christ delight in us, and God delight in Christ, and shall not we delight in Christ that delights in us, and in whom God delights? In I Cor. 16:22, the apostle is bold to pronounce a bitter curse ... upon him that loves not the Lord Christ Jesus, a most bitter curse.

Christ shall [became] a servant to do our work for us, to suffer for us, to bear the burden of our sins upon the tree, to become our husband, to bestow his riches upon us, to raise us to the same condition with himself... God loves and delights in him for the work of salvation and redemption by his blood, and shall not we love and embrace him for his love which is for our good? What good has God by it but only the glory of his mercy, in saving our souls through Christ? Therefore if God love him for the good he does to us, much more should we love him for the fruit of it that we receive ourselves.

It should shame us therefore when we find dullness and coldness upon us, that we can hear of anything better than of Christ; and arguments concerning Christ are cold to us. Alas! Where is our love, and joy, and delight; and when we can make no better but a carnal use of the incarnation and other benefits by Christ? We should therefore desire God to shed the love of Christ into our hearts more and more, that we may feel in our souls the love that he bears to us, and may love God and Christ again, for that that he has done for us.

Richard Sibbes, A Description of Christ

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Thursday, March 6

(re)Marriage - Matthew 5:31-32 [3]

Building off these two posts, we're now at the point of trying to frame a Biblical response to the common 'application' questions that spring out of reading Matthew 5:31-32. I think there are three questions that we might need to answer:
  1. How do we counsel someone who is considering a divorce based on their husband/wife's infidelity?
  2. What obligations does a single person who previously was divorced (for any reason) have to their single, former spouse in light of this teaching?
  3. How does our counsel change if one or both parties have remarried?
These questions can obviously be situationally nuanced many ways... Still, I think this gives us broad categories that will be helpful. Also I'm assuming, for the purpose of this exercise, that we're dealing with professed believers on both sides of the relationship.

For illustration, let's create a fictitious couple - John and Suzy. John and Suzy are both professing Christians, valued members of a local church, and have exhibited evidences of God's grace (fruit) in their lives (though, as this picture demonstrates, that grace hasn't crossed into the area of 'fashion'). John, seemingly out of nowhere, is discovered to have entered into an affair with a woman from his office. Suzy is deeply grieved over this development but desires, above all, to honor Christ with her conduct towards John.

1) How do we counsel Suzy, who is considering a divorce due to John's marital infidelity?
I think, based on Scripture, that the over-arching theme that should be present in the interrelating of two Christians is that of 'grace'. While the pain of adultery is deep and very, very real, adultery is still a sin for which Christ died in order to secure forgiveness from God. As we each recognize the vast depth of our sin before God's holiness, we should see other people's failings in a completely different light than the rest of the world. Believers should also understand that, while we are profoundly impacted by these sins 'against us', the fact is that the core issue is the offense against our holy God.

I am convicted, given the deep meanings applied to marriage in the Old and New Testaments and given the grace we see displayed in Christ, that a Suzy should seek marital reconciliation - even facing John's adultery. The provision for divorce in the Law is just that - a provision, and not a command. If there is a even glimmer of hope that the marriage can be reconciled (that is, if the John attempts to stop his behavior and professes any repentance), then I think we must pursue the restoration. God is glorified in making right those things that seem completely beyond any human expectation of peace.

This kind of humility and commitment on the part of both husband and wife is, in itself, an evidence of grace. And those around the couple must join in crying out to God for His hand to be evidenced in the knitting back together of what has been torn. Without the miraculous work of God's Spirit in this marriage, true, Biblical restoration is humanly impossible.

That said, if John continues to chase after sin through repeated/continued infidelity and scornful indifference towards restoration of the marriage, I think there is ground for the Suzy to seek a divorce. In the OT, we noted that the penalty for adultery was death and that such a penalty ends earthly marriage. Similarly, a complete ly debased pattern of adultery and hardheartedness at least starts to release Suzy from her marital obligation. HOWEVER, this must never be seen as a 'good thing'. It is sad beyond words - the option of absolute last resort and cannot be taken without considerable attempts to extend grace/mercy and after much prayer. And even so, I can't help but hear overtones of 1 Corinthians 5 ringing that the ultimate purpose of this action would (hopefully) be to restore John and bring him back into right relationship with Christ.

2) John's continued pattern of sin results in Suzy pursuing a much-grieved divorce. Two years later, God graciously breaks John's heart over his sin and he leaves his lover. He finds that Suzy has still not remarried. What obligations do they now have to one another?

Assuming true repentance from John, the marriage should be restored. Period. The couple should seek Biblical counseling through, and in subjection to, their local church with a definite plan to work through the (undoubtedly) lingering issues and legally reconstitute the marriage.

In God's eyes, the covenant of marriage was clearly intended to be one man with one woman for one lifetime. Since restoration is possible, it must be pursued. As noted above, the mercy and grace required for these two people to truly knit themselves together again is massive - but God is able and we must place our trust in Him. There is a long, slow road ahead of John & Suzy, but it is the right road to be on.

3) Suzy and John's divorce has been final for several years. After a time, Suzy meets another man through her church and remarries. Later, John is crushed over his previous sin by the ministry of the Spirit. What obligations do John and Suzy have to one another?

I think the conduct here is straightforward... John should seek to communicate his (genuine!) sorrow and repentance to Suzy for the pain he caused in their marriage. True forgiveness should be extended to one another. However, under no circumstances should Suzy or John consider 'striking up the old band again'. Suzy has now married - with the full weight of the Biblical obligations - another man. The idea that some people have of tearing on marriage up to restore another is ludicrous!

I hope it is obvious that a massive amount of pastoral care and discernment will need to be applied here. For example, John should not contact Suzy directly. Instead, his peace-making overtures should be sent through Suzy's church/pastors or through her husband. Clearly, the emotionally-charged nature of the situation implies that contact through the church might be the better option. I would also think that Suzy's husband or one of her pastors should be present for any and all communication she has with John.

The purpose of these conversations is to allow both John and Suzy to repent to one another and extend forgiveness. Once that is done, I think it is wise for them to go their separate ways and not maintain contact for at least some time. Suzy is now another man's wife, and nothing in this reconciliation process should be allowed to deceptively compromise her marriage through stirring 'old flames' for her former husband. Indeed, I would say that if John had heard Suzy was 'newly married' he should just hold his peace until the new couple has firmly settled into their marriage. As it is (fictitiously, that is), John and Suzy must set clear, appropriate boundaries with discerning input from those people who keep watch over their souls.

I suppose it is possible that, in time, John and Suzy (and their new spouses) may build a friendship. If so, what a beautiful picture of how God's grace is able to restore and make new! Nonetheless, the purpose of repentance/reconciliation at this stage is different than before: Here, John's coming forward to seek reconciliation should be seen as a way to enable Suzy, his sister in Christ, to be a better wife to her new husband and freed from past guilt to serve her Savior. John's 'future' relationship with Suzy must be a distant afterthought in everyone's mind.

So, there are some thoughts that I pray are rooted in Scripture... I'd welcome your thoughts and counsel, dear readers.

Wednesday, March 5

YadsendeWWW Teppum


Tuesday, March 4

(re)Marriage - Matthew 5:31-32 [2]

So, here's the first question that came up when we read Matthew 5:31-32 :

Is Jesus removing/rescinding the allowance for divorce on the grounds of 'sexual immorality'?

Jesus is alluding to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which says:
"When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance." (ESV)
While this passage does mention divorce, it's more interesting because of what it does not say.
  • First off, the grounds for divorce here can't be adultery since that was previously outlined as punishable by death (see Deuteronomy 22).
  • You don't see any imperative word (shall, must, will) regarding divorce nor a suggestion (should, could, might). This issuance of a certificate of divorce is not a command from God for dealing with whatever impurity the wife has... There's nothing here to indicate the pleasure of God in the existence of divorce.
We must also balance these legal provisions with an understanding of the grace of God... Many erroneously think of the Old Testament as the 'angry God' side of the book. In so doing they miss the grace of God clearly displayed in sweet passages like this from Hosea:
"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.”" (Ho 3:1, ESV)
So, what do we take from all of this? When the Mosaic Law allows for divorce, it seems to be moderating the bad behavior of the people of Israel rather than lauding the practice of divorce. While the death penalty for certain crimes (including adultery) terminates an earthly marriage, it seems clear that God intended marriage to be a 'once for all' institution. If that is the case, we'd expect to find the New Testament upholding and even clarifying that view...

And, of course it does. Jesus again alludes to this section of the Law later in the Gospel of Matthew:
"They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”" (Mt 19:7-9)
Here we clearly have Jesus unpacking the context of Deuteronomy 24 for us. These divorces are to be seen as an accommodation for human sinfulness by a gracious God rather than a 'good option for us if we need it'.

We must recognize that we have seen the covenant of grace, wrought by Christ's blood, inaugurated where the Old Testament saints had not. The more I think about it, this nullifies the question of whether or not Jesus saw divorce as merely permissible!

For believers on this side of the Cross, we should recognize that the outward sin of adultery is not, fundamentally, worse or different than our sin. Just like in Hosea above, we know that we too have 'played the whore' relative to our relationship with God. If God has chosen to act towards us in kindness - fully revealed in the Cross - then shouldn't we be prepared to extend the same deep grace to a spouse even if they've sinned against us?

So, our first priority if we are sinned against should be to reconcile with our spouse and redeem the marriage (that should be our second, third, and fourth priorities as well)... In a marriage between two believers, such reconciliation is possible (by God's grace) though it's clearly not going to come easily. Repairing the rift created by infidelity will be immeasurably hard, but certainly not harder than what Christ did to redeem us from the idols to whom we were enslaved.

I am convinced that, biblically, a spouse would not be 'wicked' for seeking a divorce over a repeated, willful pattern of infidelity in their husband/wife that is coupled with a complete lack of interest in reconciliation. "Thanks that you want to make up, but I prefer to keep sleeping with so-and-so whether you like it or not." In such an extreme case, I think divorce is a permissible option for the believer, but only after significant prayer and fervent attempts to woo their spouse back. This consistent sin in effect 'kills' one spouse to the other. This is still not to be taken lightly, however.

Jesus' teaching in this section of Matthew reminds us that we take marriage far too lightly. Our marriages exist for our pleasure, to meet emotional and physical needs that we have. But, the truth is that marriage, rightly understood, is all about God! When we sin against a spouse, we deface the image of both unity in the Godhead and unity between Christ and his Church which marriage was intended to display to a watching world. Similarly, a desire to 'be done with a problem marriage' reveals that we don't understand the depth of our own sin and the magnitude of the the grace that has been given us.

"So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." (Mt 19:6)

Well, what counsel do we offer to people who have been divorced (for non-adultery reasons) and are now seeking to remarry? Or how should someone who is already remarried behave towards a former spouse in light of this verse? More fun next time.


Monday, March 3

(re)Marriage - Matthew 5:31-32

One of the great joys is my life is the small group we get together with on [most, or at least some] Sunday nights to study God's Word. It's a joy to fellowship with and be challenged by other believers with Scripture clearly at the center.

Over the past two meetings, we spent a fair amount of time staring at Matthew 5:31-32. There Jesus says:
It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (ESV)

This passage dominated conversation since we all know people, including believers, who have experienced a past divorce and are considering remarriage or have already remarried. And we seemed to have three questions that we moved through in our discussion:
  1. Is the construction of this passage 'supporting' (even if only in a limited way) the provision for divorce on the grounds of adultery or is the passage noting something else? For example, would a valid reading of the passage also be "everyone who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery, except on the ground of sexual immorality"?
  2. What counsel should we give Christians whose spouses have been unfaithful to their marriage?
  3. What obligations does someone considering remarriage have towards a former spouse in light of this text? What about if someone is already remarried? How does that change their responsibilities towards their former spouse?
The fact is, among many other things, I need to work on how to be a better teacher. I tend to be one of two ways: In order to spur discussion and not be dogmatic, I don't do the heavy lifting of study and so I am not prepared to teach/lead well. On the other hand, if I press into a text my tendency is to be 'preachy' and dogmatic and probably counterproductive to the dynamic a small study is supposed to create. (Let's leave aside the massive issue of the accuracy of my rigidly held exegesis for a moment, shall we?)

The nice thing about a blog is that I can work things through to my Type-A satisfaction without having to be preoccupied with my inability to lead discussion well. HOORAY INTARWEBS!!!

So, Lord willing, I'm going to spend a couple blog posts trying to answer those questions listed to my satisfaction. With grace, perhaps a kernel of what is said will be helpful to you too...