Adultery and Coveting – there’s a little bit of Hugh Hefner in my heart, sadly.

Come on guys – let’s visit the good news at Sinai: God says to not commit adultery and to not covet our neighbor’s wife (Exodus 20:14, 17). Why does God command me to be content with the wife that he gave me? Because God knows the propensity of my heart – he knows that I will not be content with the wife that he gave me. And God knows that if I allow discontent to swallow my heart, not only will I be discontent with Him, but my heart will grow and grow to become a selfish beast that will exploit women, turning them into toys for personal pleasure. To be truthful, as a man I can feel the temporal pleasure of what it would be like, as much as lies within me, to never allow my heart to feel discontent sexually. Like a hundred options for toothpaste at the department store: get tired of one, switch to another! Or better yet: buy them all!!

Hugh Hefner is famous, wealthy, and dripping with gorgeous seductive women all over him because this is the personification of a lustful heart that has been set free to be as covetousness as it pleases. It’s where your heart and mine would be but for the grace and peace of God that satisfies the discontented, coveting heart. God told me for my good not to covet my neighbor’s wife. In lovingly commanding me to obey him, he tells me that he sees what, I am at times unwilling to admit: and that is that there is a little bit of Hugh Hefner in my heart, sadly. Apart from restraining grace, there is an idol factory in the heart that is active enough to manufacture the ugly icon that this man has become. And at the same time, the lust of the flesh wants to know what it would be like to be an aging man with all the playmates that money can buy.

But do I believe, trust in Jesus more than my flesh? Do you believe that Jesus is dead-serious when he says that it would be better for you to go through life as a one-eyed, one-armed man and enter his eternal pleasures whole, than to live this life like Hugh Hefner and lose your soul? (Matthew 5:27-30). I trust Jesus. I not only trust Jesus, I turn to him for the righteousness that I am not capable of producing. On my own, I’ll never be able to live as I ought – so I need forgiveness of sins and I need his Spirit to produce godly affections that are in line with his.

BTW – if you don’t trust Jesus then you have to believe that Jesus is lying. Are you willing to bet your eternal soul on that? Dear Mr. Hefner, if I can be forgiven so can you. There’s more than enough grace at the cross for those who turn away from their sin and by faith turn to Christ for all the righteousness that is required. Turn away from coveting and taking what is not yours and believe that Christ is better than unbridled sexual fantasies. “At his right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

One of my most favorite quotes

Charles Spurgeon – 1834-1892

He was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for thirty years,  the most famous pastor of his day – and a Reformed Baptist.  His preaching was powerful to the winning of souls to Christ.  What was the gospel that he preached that brought thousands to Christ?  What was his life-long confession? Read what Spurgeon describes as his salvation at the age of 16.

When I was coming to Christ,  I thought I was doing it all myself,  and though I sought the Lord earnestly,  I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.  I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul – when they were,  as John Bunyan says,  burnt into my heart as with a hot iron.  One week-night,  when I was sitting in the house of God,  I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon,  for I did not believe it.  The thought struck me,  “How did you come to be a Christian?”  I sought the Lord.  “But how did you come to seek the Lord?”  The truth flashed across my mind in a moment – I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him.  I prayed,  thought I,  but then asked myself,  “How came I to pray?”  I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures.  “How came I to read the Scriptures?  I did read them,  but what led me to do so?”  Then,  in a moment,  I saw that God was at the bottom of it all,  and that He was the Author of my faith,  and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me,  and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day,  and I desire to make this my constant confession,

I ascribe my change wholly to God . . . I know nothing,  nothing again that is more humbling than this doctrine of election.  I have sometimes fallen prostrate before it when endeavoring to understand it.  But,  when I came near it,  and the one thought possessed me – ‘God hath from the beginning chosen you unto salvation’ – I was staggered with the mighty thought;  and from the dizzy elevation down came my soul,  prostrate and broken,  saying,  ‘Lord,  I am nothing,  I am less than nothing.  Why me?  Why me?




You Have Got to be Kidding Me?!

A few years ago as I was reflecting upon, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church,” (Eph. 5:22ff) I thought about Christ’s owning my guilt as an act of love. And then it hit me: “Ivan, if you are to love Cheryl, you are to own her guilt, in some part.” Astonished, I blurted, “You have got to be kidding me?!”

There is something unique that the husband bears that the wife doesn’t. In his headship, he is to so love his wife as Christ did/does the church, that he is willing to own her brokenness as his own. ”He bore our sins in his own body” – the innocent voluntarily became guilty so that the guilty may become innocent by faith = this is the gospel. How then does a husband fulfill his headship in this way, modeled after Christ?

1. With discernment and patience, he will assume the role of “guilty” so that through his voluntary self-humbling (Phil. 2:7ff), his wife will go free. It means owning her failures as your own. It means saying sorry for something that you believe you didn’t do. It means taking full responsibility for the broken condition or impasse that is in the marriage. It means to lay down your Lawyer License of Self-Defense and accept insult and injury – Jesus did all this and more for his wife! How many husbands have ever thought to apply 1 Peter 2:23 or Mt. 5:10, 11 to his marriage? Or Romans 12:14-21? The wife is called to this as well but not as head – which means the husband is to initiate – he is to lead the way so that his family follows Christ in owning the brokenness of the church.

2. Secondly, since they are one flesh and no man ever hated, rejected, turned away from his own flesh (Eph. 5), he will believe that he is not a healthy man unless his wife is healthy and whole, spiritually and emotionally. If she is sick and worn, then he is too. If she is hurting then he should be too. If she is weak and down-trodden, then he is too. If she believes that their marriage is in trouble, then he must believe it too. He cannot cut off his arm without bleeding to death. The husband simply cannot separate her pain, her brokenness from his own and then blame her for making their marriage a paraplegic. His must learn to either rise up with his wife or go down with her.

When he loves his wife this way by grace, and not perfectly of course, this love “sanctifies” her through the washing of the Word, cleansing her from the stains of the Fall. In the end, he gets the wife that he wanted all along, like Christ. Paul did not say, Husbands, “rule your wife,” he said to love her. Love sacrifices if it does anything at all. When husbands learn and apply the paradox to their marriage, “You lose your life, you keep it. You keep your life, you lose it” – they will find that what they wanted in a wife is right there. A man wants respect and admiration – he wants to feel like he is saving his wife from a wild beast that would harm her. He wants to know in his heart that his wife would follow him no matter what – but he can’t get this by lording over her. He has to pick up a cross and die for her. What Glorious Mystery!?

7 Steps to Murder Someone without Pulling the Trigger?

Have you ever got up in the morning and pondered,

“Who am I going to murder today with my tongue?” Of course not. But oh how often we slay fellow humans because we did not begin the day with pre-meditated love. To be sure, if our hearts are not set on love, they will nestle down into a justified bunker where we launch murderous words like grenades over a wall.

After reading Exodus 2:11-14 and Matthew 5:21-26, I come up with this:

7 Steps to Murder Someone without Pulling the Trigger?

1.     See or Perceive an Injustice. (like Moses did)

2.     Feel indignation and anger. (like Moses did)

(So far, you have not murdered. But here comes the cocking of the trigger in the heart and on the tongue. Anger can either go godly at this point or ungodly, depending on what one believes about the future justice of God, the humility of the heart, and the slowness to anger that tempers words and attitudes)

3.     Believe that you are innocent of what you judge. (like Moses did)

4.     Believe that you have a unique right to engage any wrong that you see or perceive. (like Moses did)

5.     Don’t Look Up at the one who sees and hears everything. Forget that Christ is Judge of all. (like Moses did not)

6.     Feel that your life, or the life of someone important to you, is more valuable than the life of others. (like Moses valued the life of his kindred over the life of the Egyptian. If Moses were consistent, he would not have verbally engaged his Hebrew brothers, he would have murdered the one who was guilty of picking the fight)

7.     Use speech that communicates that someone’s life is worthless. (Moses used his hands but Jesus saw the emotion that caused the hands to murder – that’s why the emotion itself is just as wrong as the act).

In his opening sermon, Jesus aims at the heart. The real intention of the Law was the pre-murderous emotions and dispositions that lie behind the act of murder. Sinful anger can be white-hot rage or cool and passive contempt. The kind of anger that Jesus is talking about here is the kind that ends up screaming at the referee who makes a judgment call that is harmful to our team and then with contempt we call him a name and treat his existence as a human as worthless or good for nothing. Then, when the same ref makes a bad call that actually turns good for our team, we celebrate his stupidity that adds to our score. God sees that kind of double-minded wickedness.

Still again, sinful anger can be silent, passive, and smug in its contempt towards others, seeing others as worthless rubbish because of wealth, education, race, gender, or anything that you use to feel superior over others.

We become offended at minor snubs, and minor acts of disrespect. We rage at people who cut us off in traffic and then hurl words that imply worthlessness.  Anger and contempt are interior states of the heart that can lead to murder. John says, Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). Behind murder lies the judgment, the conviction that someone who has failed us or wronged us deserves to die. (oops! I just convicted myself, for I have wronged God and deserve to die. Will I now extend the same mercy that I want?)

Sinful anger, that emotion gone wild and apart from God’s restraining grace would have led to physical murder, often pivots on the hearts belief about justice. It is not sinful to be angry over real sin. We’re commanded to be angry over falsehood and anything that is contrary to godliness (Psalm 4:4, 5; Eph. 5:25-27). But godly anger becomes murderous sinful anger when we feel justified to use words or actions that convey contempt and hatred because we refuse to wait for God’s justice upon the transgressor.

But see what God has done for us as the apostle Peter preaches the gospel:

Acts 2:22-24, 36-41

A.   God executes his son in our place

B.   And men murdered Jesus Christ

B`So that Murderers (Moses, Paul, you, and me)

A` May not be executed

Now that’s good news indeed!

She’s Married!


An outdoor country wedding, walking my daughter Anna to her soon-to-be husband Matthew.


Grandpa Truman will pronounce them Husband and Wife.


That was quick! But now begins a long life of living out a one-flesh union. May Christ be Praised.


Simple Elegance. Wondrous Mystery. Christ and the Church.


Now that’s a country wedding dessert table, with real moss from WV to boot. Thanks to so many friends who made this possible – and thanks Cheryl for making the wedding cake.


It’s all good.


She’s so beautiful! Anna’s kind of cute too.


Our grandson Joseph is so happy that it’s over – and so are we. Whew!

Today was my last day, Again.

Today was the last day that I own a stewardship, blessing, privilege, and joy: After today, I will no longer bear the sacrificial role of loving authority over and for my daughter – tomorrow she’ll be married. This is what my last discussion was like today with my future son-in-law. Like myself and all who say, “I Do,” he’ll come to learn little by little what this means. The hope for him is the same hope for me – I’m still learning what it means to be a husband. There simply is no fast track to sanctification. It’s long, hard, and steady. No amount of money, education, or years upon this earth can replace a teachable heart. You can have all the former, but without the latter, there is no hope. A know-it-all heart is doomed to failure. God promises if you go low, he’ll lift you up. You exalt yourself, he’ll oppose you and bring you down – for your good.

My prayer is that God would exalt his Son Jesus Christ over this union. When Sinners Say “I Do”, and know the bitterness of their own sin, Christ will become sweeter and sweeter as the years go by. The LORD alone must make this happen for all of us – may he do it for Matt and Anna. Without this supernatural sovereign work from Christ, no marriage has any hope for what it was intended to do – display the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in his Union with sinners.

I love you Anna – you’re almost not mine. But I’ll always love my baby girls.

Our daughter is getting married: This is how we pray for her and our future son-in-law

The Most Frightening Prayer I Could Pray for My Children

by Christina Fox | July 17, 2013

The most frightening prayer I could pray for my children is the one they need the most.

Now, I always pray about their behavior, their health, their progress in school, and their friendships. I also pray about their future and their jobs. I pray that my boys would marry “nice Christian girls.” But to be honest, when I pray for my children, it is easiest to ask that their lives be smooth and stress-free. It is easy to pray for their comfort and ease, for their lives to be absent of pain and grief.

When It Gets Uncomfortable

Yet when I reflect on my own life and look back on my faith journey, I see all the challenges and trials I have faced along the way, and the good God accomplished through them. I see the heartaches I’ve endured and the suffering that brought me to my knees. I also see the sins I’ve struggled with and the idols God graciously stripped from my hands. I see how God used all those valleys and painful circumstances to draw me closer to himself, to refine me, and to teach me to rely on him.

They have been the most important events in my life, but it’s not easy to ask this sort of thing for my children. It is hard to ask that God reveal their sin to them, that they see their need for a Savior, that they would be broken over their corruption and truly learn to cling to the gospel.

That kind of prayer is uncomfortable.

The Path to More of Him

It means that they will have to dig through rocky terrain like I’ve experienced before. They will have to walk through their own story of sin and repentance — of learning what it means to have empty hands. What’s frightening for me as a mom is to realize that their lives will not be smooth, comfortable, or safe — not if they will learn most deeply what it means to rely on God. In fact, my children may yet have to endure great trials, walk through dark valleys, and experience great sorrow. That could be God’s pathway to giving them more of himself.

I don’t want my children to treat God like a vending machine or like a fire insurance policy. I want them to have a passionate love for him that is alive and outgoing, bowing to his supremacy and anchored gladly in his gospel. I want them to love God’s word and hold to it firmly in times of uncertainty. I want them to show Jesus to the world. This is what I want.

Nothing More Important

And it will mean that my children have to see that they have sinned against a holy God and that it is only through the grace and sacrifice of his Son that they can be forgiven. Jesus said that those who have been forgiven little will love little (Luke 7:47). My children need to know what that means. They have to see the utter depths of their sinfulness and that without Jesus, they are without hope. And they have to trust in Jesus as their only source of hope and righteousness. Only as they acknowledge their need for him and his forgiveness will they grow to love God in the way I most want for them.

The path could be hard, and praying for this can be frightening, but there really is nothing more important. . . . Father, give my children more of you.