• The true nature of marriage

    I love being married to my wife and this quote by Don Carson encouraged me to continue to love her as Christ loves the Church:

    In God’s Word, marriage and love are for the tough minded. Marriage is a commitment; and, far from backing out when the going gets tough, marriage partners are to sort out their difficulties in the light of scripture. They are to hang in there, improving their relationship, working away at it, precisely because they have vowed before God and man to live together and love each other for better,m for worse, for richer, for poorer in sickness as in health, until death separates them. Love is the determined commitment to seek the other’s good, to cherish, shelter, nurture, edify, and show patience with one’s partner. And this commitment, worked out because of deep-rooted obedience to God, brings with it the emotional and sentimental aspects of love as well.

    D.A Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Pg. 49

    What do you find challenging/encouraging about this quote?

  • How to talk with a Christian who wants a divorce

    This Sunday at Resolved I am preaching on Matthew 5:27-32  where Jesus talks about lust and divorce. I am nervous to be speaking on such important and potentially painful topics. I have never preached on divorce before and have been reading widely on it this week. In my reading I found this brilliant piece of pastoral wisdom from John Stott about speaking with someone who wants to get divorced:

    “So, speaking personally as a Christian pastor, whenever somebody asks to speak to me about divorce, I have now for some years steadfastly refused to do so. I have made the rule never to speak with anybody about divorce, until I ahve first spoken to them with him (or her) about two other subjects, namely marriage and reconciliation. Sometimes a discussion on these topics makes a discussion on the other unnecessary. At the very least, it is only when a person has understood and accepted God’s view of marriage and God’s call to reconciliation that a possible context has been created within which one may regretfully go on to talk about divorce. This principle of pastoral priorities is, I believe, consistent with the teaching of Jesus.” 

    John R.W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7 pgs.98-99

    What do you think? Is he right? Would you follow his advice?

  • 9 things that Inform the way Christians Interact with the Gay Community

    Whether or not Gay people should be allowed to be married keeps getting splashed all over the media. It is a confusing time for all people especially Christians. Christians should love all gay people because God loves gay people and we are called to imitate God in his love. We also need to acknowledge that there are gay people in our churches. Some people are struggling with their orientation in silence, others are figuring out where they are at with Jesus while living as a practicing gay person and while others are open about their struggle and are seeking to conform to the image of Christ. The following are 9 things that I think Christians need to keep at the forefront of their mind when thinking about the current sexual climate. If you are reading this and you don’t call yourself a Christian the following is a summary of what (I think) Christians should believe about Gay people and being gay. My hope is that this belief that we Christians should have is worked out in love for the Gay community.
    1. All people are created in the image of God. Just because a person’s sexual orientation changes, it doesn’t change that they are made in the image of God. Therefore, Christians should treat homosexual people with love and respect knowing that, just like them, gay people are created in the image of God.
    2. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, are loved by God. When the Bible talks about the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom 5:6-8; etc.) we see that the love of God is open and knows no boundaries. Therefore, Christians need to biblically affirm that gay people are loved by God, and we, as Christians, should be known for our scandalous love for the Gay Community.
    3. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, can change. The Bible calls Christians ‘new creations’, which infers that people can be made new. This shows that through the power of the gospel all people, including gay people, can change. This does not mean gay people will automatically change their sexual orientation. That may change but just like a person who is arrogant will struggle with pride for the rest of their life we must not think that all gay people will change their orientation. This may change, but all people (married,single, gay, straight) are called to faithfulness to God. This is a tough pill to swallow but we all need to acknowledge that our humanity and identity is tied up with God and who he is and not our job, money, sexual orientation, etc.
    4. Biblical sexual ethics starts with Genesis 2:18-25 and this text is never superseded, but always remains foundational for biblical sexual ethics. This text affirms that the right context for sex is between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.
    5. Although Jesus did not talk about homosexuality specifically, he understood marriage as being between a man and a woman. In his conversation about divorce in Mark 10:1-12, Jesus uses Genesis 2:18-25 as foundational when he speaks of marriage. In using Genesis, Jesus is affirming biblical sexuality as being between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.  Also, in his teaching on divorce (Matt 5:31-32, 19:9; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:1-12) Jesus shows he is conservative on divorce, thus deconstructing the myth of the sexually-tolerant Jesus.
    6. People in the Roman world around the time of the New Testament had similar views on homosexuality, including long-term homosexual union, as the general population in the Western world has today. In Greco-roman literature[1] as well as art[2], homosexual activity was normal and sometimes was held up above heterosexual sex![3]
    7. We need to do careful word studies on the words the New Testament uses when speaking of Homosexual acts. We need to look at the Greek words ἀρσενοκοῖται and μαλακοὶ in their contexts in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Some scholars seek to show these words to have an extremely wide range of meaning and therefore render the words unusable because they lack specificity. But the overwhelming support from New Testament scholars is that ἀρσενοκοῖται should be translated something like ‘males who take other males to bed’[4] and μαλακοὶ should be translated something like ‘effeminate males who play the sexual role of females.’[5]
    8. The Bible is univocal in its condemnation of homosexual practice. Wink, a theologian who argues that Christians should fully accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation,[6] says this: ‘I have long insisted that the issue is one of hermeneutics, and that efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behaviour, and there is no getting around it. The issue is precisely what weight that judgment should have in the ethics of Christian life.’[7] Wink is saying that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behaviour but he asks what place the Bible has in speaking to Christian ethics. So, even a theologian who is agreeable to homosexual relationships recognises that the Bible clearly condemns all homosexual acts.
    9. Gay people, like straight people, need to hear the gospel first and foremost. Christians have a tendency to be moral warriors. But what the world needs to hear is the gospel. The world needs to hear the fact that God is there and he created them. The world needs to hear that we have all rejected God as our king. The world needs to hear that God, in his great love, sent Jesus to die and take the penalty for our rebellion. The world needs to hear  that Jesus has risen from the grave guaranteeing our Resurrection. The world needs to hear that God is inviting us all to know him and one day to be with him where  there is no more evil, pain or suffering. The world needs to know the gospel. Christians sometimes act like as if we get gay people to be straight we have won. But you don’t go to hell for being gay and you don’t go to heaven for being straight. You go to hell because you have rejected Jesus as the lord and saviour of your life. The world needs to hear the gospel from the lips of Christians who have their heart broken by the love of God for the world.
    What do you think?
    What would you add?
    What would you take away from this list?

    [1] See the discussion in Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 350-360 as well as Thomas K. Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: a Sourcebook of Basic Documents (University of California Press; 2003); and Marylin Skinner, Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture (Wiley-Blackwell 2005).

    [2] See John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 B.C. – A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 2001)

    [3] See Plutarch Dial, Love 750B-751B, 752B-C

    [4] This is how Gagnon takes ἀρσενοκοῖται. Some alternative translations from other scholars include ‘Men who take the female role in sex.’ Victor Furnish, The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues (Abingdon Press; April 2009); ‘Men who assume a passive sexual role with other men.’ Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (University Of Chicago Press; 1998).

    [5] This is how Gagnon translates μαλακοὶ.

    [6] Walter Wink, ‘Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality’, Christian Century, November 7, 1979, 1082

    [7] Walter Wink, ‘To Hell with Homosexuals: Sex and the Bible’,  The Christian Century, June 5-12, 2002, 32-34

  • Adultery, Homosexuality and the quest for grace and truth

    If you haven’t heard the latest blow up in the blogosphere here it is. Andy Stanley, a megachurch pastor from Atlanta in the States preached a message called “When Gracie Met Truthie” which was based on John 1:14. The point of the passage is that Christians and churches need to hold both to grace and truth. You can’t let go of one or the other, or you can’t lean to one or the other because Jesus embodied both grace and truth perfectly. Near the end of the sermon he has a killer line “The church is at its best when it embraces grace and truth and refuses to let go of either.” This is a line which all biblical Christians can embrace. Not only that, all Christians can embrace much of the sermon because Stanley spoke very powerfully of the grace and truth of the bible and Jesus’ ministry.

    The issue came with an illustration he used.  In the illustration he told of a couple with a daughter who divorced when the wife discovered that the husband was in a homosexual relationship. The woman then told her former husband and his gay partner to move to another church. They did move. Not to another church but to another North Point location where they volunteered on a welcoming team. The woman later told Andy Stanley that her former husband and his partner were now involved as volunteers in the other congregational location. She then told Stanley that her ex-husband’s gay partner was still married. Stanley then explained that the partner was actually committing adultery, and that the adultery was incompatible with him being on a welcoming team. Stanley told the two men that they could not serve on the welcoming team because one man was still married. The story ended with the former wife’s decision not to live in bitterness but to bring the whole new family (Her daughter, ex husband, his lover, her new boyfriend and her new boyfriend’s daughter) to a Christmas service.

    This is a confusing message, is adultery sin but homosexuality not? I am sure that Stanley would not say that homosexuality is fine. But to use this story and not be clear on all sin is a very confusing message. Would a person who is gay walk away being affirmed in their sexuality but a person who is caught in adultery not?

    The church needs to be welcoming to all people caught in all types of sin and folly but we don’t do it by soft-pedalling sin or telling stories that may show God’s love, but that don’t speak clearly into people’s lives. We need to hold onto both truth and grace. As Stanley himself said:

    “The church is at its best when it embraces grace and truth and refuses to let go of either.”

  • What I wished I knew before getting married: all the hard work is worth it

    As the last few days have shown marriage is hard work. The thought of two sinners committing their lives to each other and then coasting along is a recipe for disaster. Just like anything good in life we need to plan and work hard for our marriages to succeed.

    That being said it is all worth it. For all the tears, work and repentance that I have caused and had to go through because of my marriage to Kate I wouldn’t change a thing. I have thoroughly enjoyed marriage and have been changed into a better man as both Kate and God have worked on me in Kate and my marriage.

    I tell myself that it is all worth it when it is hard. Especially when my sin apparent for all to see and I need to deal with it. I never want to deal with my sin but when I start I keep telling myself that it will be all worth it and it always is!

    If you are married or you are single remember marriage is one of Gods greatest gifts that he has given us and all the hard work you put in is worth it!

     

  • What I wished I knew before I got married: We have to get into good routines early and fight to keep them

    The word routine can be a very ho-hum type word. It smacks of predictability and sameness. But all of us have routines and we can either fall into good routines that bring life or bad routines that suck our will to live and destroy us. This is the same for marriage.

    What routines do you have with your spouse?

    Kate and I have tried to put a few routines together. These routines are keeping our marriage strong now and we think we will reap huge dividends in the future. Here are a few of those routines:

    Date night: We have a weekly date night. Date night for us means no friends, no family, no one except us. It is time for us to chat and reconnect and have some time where it is just about us. As of recently we have a baby girl named Emma and so we have a few people who have offered to mind Emma. This gracious act has been an amazing way of serving us as it allows us to have a date night. With date night, it is not about the money that is spent, it is the time that is spent. We have a budget of $50 a week which we set aside because we think that fifty dollars is money very well spent because it allows us to get out of the house and spend time together on our marriage. Do you plan each week to have a date night with your spouse?

    We go to bed at the same time: this gives us time to pray and to chat at the end of the day. We share three things that we are thankful for and we commit the next day to God. This helps us connect at the end of a busy day.

    We take a day off: rest is important and so we take days off where it is just us regularly. Some of those days off we don’t go and see friends, we don’t go out to a party or a wedding, we just stay at home and rest. This also gives us more time to connect.

    We try to have one night at home together a week: Our weeks are very busy and so it is easy to put on something every night and meet up with people every night but we rail against this by scheduling in our diaries one night each week where we are just at home by ourselves. This is our time to relax and reconnect.

    Everyone has routines. Are your routines helping or hurting your marriage?

     

     

     

  • What I wished I knew before I got married: You will find other people attractive

    Being attracted to people is part of being human. It is easy to find a beautiful person or a funny person or an intelligent person attractive. It is also quite easy to want to spend more time with that said person or desire to enter into a relationship with that person. But what if that relationship is more than friendship and what if you are married while you want a relationship with that other person?

    I never thought I would be married and find other people attractive. Thankfully there hasn’t been anyone yet who I have been tempted to run off with, but older wiser people have told me that there will be at least one person at some point that will capture my eye, mind and possibly my heart. But there will also be many people that I will find myself being attracted to even though I love my wife. What do you do when you are attracted to someone you are not married to?

    Here is what I do when I am faced with the very rare situation where I find someone other than my wife desirable.

    1. I remind myself of the gospel and my marriage vows. I remind myself that just like God has been faithful to me in the gospel, I have made a covenant to be faithful to Kate and therefore the gospel and our marriage vows remind me who I am called to be.
    2. I remind myself of all the things I love about Kate. This is a very easy thing to do as there are so many things I can think of that I love about my beautiful, intelligent, godly, fun wife. After I have recalled the many things that I love about Kate, I pray thanking God for each one of them and I also ask for divine assistance to help me constantly see the many great qualities Kate has.
    3. I tell myself that the picture I have of this other person is distorted. When we are attracted to people we are generally only thinking of their good points like the way they look, their humour, their sporting ability, etc. We never really focus on or even remember their faults. This gives a distorted picture and so I need to tell myself what I am really attracted to is not a human with good points and bad points but a fantasy, and reality will be a lot less desirable. I also pray that God would give me a real picture of the person and not a fake one.
    4. I analyse what is happening in my life. It is not surprising that when I am down or feeling sorry for myself or that I am not as content as I should be that attraction to women other than my wife is more likely to happen. With that in mind I make sure when attraction to other women does come I analyse my situation and I then make myself understand the link between my circumstance and the attraction.
    5. I then confess my sin to a brother in Christ. I am blessed with brothers in Christ who will hold me accountable and who will remind me of how great Kate is and also how this other person will be nowhere near as good of a fit for me as Kate is.

    Every time I have gone through this process, I have found myself loving and appreciating Kate more and more and I have found my attraction to the other person to go away. I never thought I would be married and be attracted to other people but this process has helped me overcome it on the very rare occasions that it happens.

    Did you ever think you would be attracted to anyone other than your spouse?

     

  • What I wish I knew before I got married part 2: Your job is to fall in love with who they become

    People change. This is just a fact. A person enters a new job and the pressures of that job may change them; a person enters into a new relationship and that changes them. We, as people, are in a constant state of flux. This is the way God has made us.

    So we should expect that if we get married, the person we marry will change because they are human. Your spouse will be changed by the fact that they marry you, your spouse will change if they change jobs, your spouse will change if and when you have children.

    But here is the issue. So many people tell us that the secret to a happy marriage is to keep falling in love with the person we married. But the person we married might be a very different person to the person we are married to five years after our wedding.

    So what are we to do?

    Our job is not to keep falling in love with the person we married but to keep falling in love with who they become. That is, if they put on a heap of weight and don’t look like the thin person you married, you are called to love them. If they develop a mental illness and their personality changes, you are called to love them. If they lose their job and don’t have the drive they once had, you are called to love them. If they lose their faith and walk away from Jesus, you are called to love them.

    The model for this is God and his dealings with Israel. God loved Israel no matter who she was, no matter what she did. We are called to love in the same way.

    How do you do this? Kate and I have only been married for two years but there are a few things we do to make sure we keep falling in love with the person the other becomes.

    1. We have a weekly date night. Sometimes it is just a movie or a cheap dinner but we always have a weekly date night. This helps us unwind, catch up, reconnect and keep falling more and more in love with each other.
    2. We share about our day and pray at the end of each night. Kate seems to remember all the things she wanted to tell me right when we go to bed. This can be annoying when I just want to sleep but it has actually done wonders for our marriage. At the end of every night we make time to share about what God did today in our lives and share three great things about the day. These three great things can be little things like “I had an encouraging conversation with Fred today” or big like “Jemima who is a non-Christian agreed to read through a gospel with me today”. After sharing three things that were good about today we then pray. This ends the day on a high note.
    3. We work hard at saying positive things to each other about each other. This helps us remind ourselves about what we love in the other person but it also encourages the other person.

    My prayer is that I would be more in love with Kate in five, ten, twenty years time than I am now, no matter the person she becomes.

    Because my job is to keep falling in love with who she becomes.

     

  • What I wish I knew before I got married: You will always marry the wrong person!

    “You will always marry the wrong person” – Stanley Hauerwas

    When it comes to marriage, one of the most destructive myths that many people believe is the idea of “the one”. I have written about it before but it bears repeating that the idea of finding “the one” who is perfect for me in every way and will always make me feel special is a myth that is extremely destructive. What do we need to counter this myth with?

    We need to remember that we are sinful and so is the person we marry.

    I was asked in the first few months of marriage how married life was. I sarcastically quipped, “It is going great! Kate likes to cry and I seem to be able to make that happen!” The first few months of marriage were hard for me as I kept coming up against how sinful I was and how much my sin hurt my beautiful wife. I am sure if Kate had any notions of her marrying “the one” they were dashed in the first few weeks of marriage!

    Kate and I have a great marriage but we both do things that bug each other, we both communicate in ways where the other one doesn’t get what we mean, we have different likes and dislikes and different personalities. All these things can, and sometimes do, bring tension into the relationship and it is easy to think, ‘If I was with that other person I wouldn’t have these issues.’ That could be true but if I was with that other person we would have a bunch of other issues.

    Kate is the “wrong person” for me and I am the “wrong person” for her because neither of us are perfect for each other. But no one else is perfect for us either!  Realising that we are “wrong” for each other helps us not look to the other for contentment and identity but find our contentment and identity in Jesus. It also means that we work doubly hard on our marriage because we both realise that we need to, and that Satan wants to take our differences that are small and make them insurmountable. So we work hard. The result is that we are in love and that we talk openly about our issues and we ask for forgiveness a lot and we forgive readily. I think that because Kate and I realised very early on about our sinfulness and what that brings to our marriage it has helped us craft a stronger marriage than if we held onto the notion of the other having to be “the one”.

    The great thing about marrying the “wrong person” is that God will use that person to sanctify you and mould you so that you will be more like Jesus. It will also cause you to work on being a more loving person because sometimes you have to love when you don’t feel like it.

    I love that I have married the “wrong person”. If I knew on my wedding day what I know now, I would have still said ‘I do’ and I would have still said that I will be with Kate ‘for better, for worser!’[1]

    I love you Kate and am so thankful that you are my wife! I am the most blessed man in the world!

     


    [1] This is not a typo. We memorized our vows and I stuffed them up. I literally said “For better, For worser; For richer, for poorer!”

     

  • How to find “The One”

    So many of us who are single are trying to find “The One”. You know the one who I should marry, the one who will complete me, the one who God wants me to marry.

    It goes without saying that if I find “The One” I will have a great life that will be always full of love and joy and will have no tears or heartbreak. But, if I don’t find “The One” my life will be a disappointment and I will not live the happy life I deserve!

    Well let me tell you where you will find “The One”.

    You will find “The One” in Wonderland next to the pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow riding a unicorn!

    You know why you will find them there? Because just like pots of Gold at the end of the rainbow and unicorns “The One” is a myth.

    Because there is no one person who will make you feel great all the time. With whom you will never fight or get frustrated with.

    There is no perfect mate

    No soul mate

    No “The One”

    “The One” is a very dangerous concept. It is not found in the Bible and it frustrates me no end that Christians talk about “The One” without realising that they have got this concept from Hollywood and the media. It is dangerous because it gives people an over inflated sense of what a relationship or marriage is going to do for them.

    “The One” is also an impossible bar that no one will be able to clear. Imagine the pressure of being someone’s “The One”. You are there to make them happy, to fill them with joy all the time and to know what they are thinking and feeling without them or you saying anything. This not only impossible but a dangerous fantasy. I have been married to my beautiful wife for two and a bit years. I still need her to tell me what she is thinking. Sometimes she pulls a face and I am left thinking “Does she want me to get something?” or “Have I missed an important day?” or “Does she have gas?”  Holding onto the concept of “The One” will only end in tears.

    How do we get rid of the concept of “The One”? We do it by hearing what the Bible says about us all. The Bible says that we are all made in the image of God and therefore we are all to be loved and respected. But it also says that we are sinful and selfish and therefore when two sinful people come together in marriage or a dating relationship we will expect that there will be tension, there will be periods of frustration, it won’t always be the romantic comedy fantasy that we hoped for. The concept of “The One” doesn’t give us a realistic view of ourselves, the opposite sex, relationships and ultimately marriage.

    Marriage is a great thing and my life has been enriched by my marriage to my amazing wife in so many ways. It is truly a great gift of God. But let’s get rid of the unbiblical fantasy known as “The One” and lets have our relationships defined by God and not by Hollywood.