Nip that Pre-Nup Heart in the bud before it goes to seed in marriage!

First, let me define a pre-nup heart, blending the legal with the biblical:

“A pre-nup heart is one that wants financial assurances that in the event of divorce, or a dysfunctional on-going marriage, one may retain or garner reimbursement for any loss of expenditure due to sacrificial love.”

Here’s purely a legal definition:

“a written contract between two people who are about to marry, setting out the terms of possession of assets, treatment of future earnings, control of the property of each, and potential division if the marriage is later dissolved. These agreements are fairly common if either or both parties have substantial assets, children from a prior marriage, potential inheritances, high incomes, or have been “taken” by a prior spouse.”

And there are numerous responses in the media, like this gal who was informed that her guy wants a pre-nup or he won’t marry:

“Sometimes I cry when I think about it. I just don’t want to get married, get divorced and have a guy kick me to the curb or I move into an apartment. If a pre-nup let’s him keep all his money, then I’d rather not continue staying with someone like that. And if that’s what a pre-nup is, why get married at all? Not that I’m marrying for money, but I want a marriage to be one where we take care of each other in various ways, including sharing resources. I wonder if this is a deal-breaker and if I should bring it up with the risk it will end things between us. If he won’t get married without one, and I don’t know if I will sign one, what should I do?”

So, to the point: if you are single, are you nurturing a heart that wants to secure your investment, or get a return on your investment . . . just in case? You’re the kind to stoke the fire, but you don’t want to get burned. You want to make sure that if you invest in a relationship and things go south, that you will have structured things so securely that you can live independently – you don’t, or won’t need the other’s wealth, resources, or livelihood in any way. In other words, you are nurturing a heart that says, “I Don’t Need You. Marry Me.”

If you’re a gal reading this, would you want your guy to have this kind of heart for your marriage? Would you want him to feel so secure in his independency and self-sufficiency, that he could walk away at any time with nothing to lose? Would you want this kind of man . . . a man who protects what he has worked his rear off for, making sure that he’ll suffer no loss if things don’t work out?

If you’re a guy reading this, would you want your gal to feel so threatened by her own future “I Do,” that she will go to whatever length of defense to make sure that you don’t take advantage of her support of you throughout the years? Would you want to marry a gal who comes into the marriage with her radar so sensitive to personal loss that she will assume a marriage posture of withholding – just in case?

The truth is guys and gals – she/he, indeed, you, already have a heart that wants to “keep your life” so that you “don’t lose it,” as Jesus said. It sounds logical to withhold your life. It hurts to love. It’s risky to invest and trust – you’ll eventually be taken advantaged. But as Jesus also said, “You keep it to yourself – you lose it.” I’m not saying that one can’t pursue things that provide a measure of security before and after marriage; e.g., education and financial investments. But what will undermine the very love and trust that is needed in a marriage is a heart that is so defensive and self-protective that it will not risk loss so that the other may gain.

If you are a true Christian who has put your faith in the perfect work of Christ on the cross as your righteousness, what if Jesus wanted a pre-nup before he loved you and took you as his bride? What if he wanted assurances that if he gave his life for you, and things began to sour, he could walk away and not feel a thing? No loss. No scars. No nails. No crown of thorns. No blood. What if Jesus prepared his life to live independently from you, so that when he married you, and you left him – all of his investments were safe and sound? What if he did not give his all to you – just in case?

Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not saying a young lady shouldn’t go to school and make her self ready for employment. I’m saying that both the guy and the gal should go into their marriage ready to give their all, whatever that may mean. Can you imagine repeating this vow on the wedding day: “Only for richer and only in health . . . but if you make me poor or disturb my well-being in any way, that’s ok, I’m going into this thing with my investments secure.” But this is exactly what a pre-nup does. It provides a contingency plan, a safe way out, just in case one partner does not follow through. It sounds reasonable, but it doesn’t work for the marriage – only for the investments. Why does this approach not work? Because the heart is already so self-centered, self-reliant, self-sustaining, and unresponsive towards suffering and sacrifice for the sake of another that it’s like building a house on sand. The first massive wave of trial and heartache is going to further entrench the pre-nup heart into a defensive mode that it won’t take many more to fully galvanize the heart against the other. I’ve seen this over and over. I know what I’m looking at – and it breaks my heart. I don’t mean to gloss over some truly complex issues in a broken marriage; there is good and wise counsel for the spouse who is abandoned. But O that we would go into our marriages ready to abandon all for the sake of Christ and his gospel.

So, Nip it! Go to the gospel and look upon Christ. Take in his “emptying” (Phil. 2) into your own mind. Guard your single life from a heart that begins to feel more and more self-sufficient. You’ll see that Christ will not fail you. But if you’re married, like me, still the same advice for both of us! Nip it!

The Church is for Disordered People Like Me

Puritan Pastor Richard Baxter (1615-1691) once said,

It’s better that men should be disorderly saved than orderly damned, and that the Church be disorderly preserved than orderly destroyed,” quoted in Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Howel Harris: 1714-1773: The Last Enthusiast (Cardiff, 1965), page 42.

One of my heroes of the faith, Ray Ortlund, Jr., recently reminded me of Baxter’s powerful pastoral ministry. In seminary I read Baxter’s call to pastors, “The Reformed Pastor.” Having pastored the same body of believers now for 17 years (not the same ones of course), and having come to an agonizing realization that I am no better than those that I shepherd, it is however more than comforting to be reminded that it is better to be a little bit whacked in the head while going to heaven than having my shorts starched and pressed and still go to hell. What a damning shame it is to believe that if you’re clean and cut on the outside that Jesus is impressed. Better to just go ahead and fess up that you’re a fixer-upper that’s going to take a very, very long time to repair. But Jesus is the best carpenter that ever walked this broken-down world – he can do wonders on you.

The Christian Life is not one that is free from some serious messy stuff. The disciples were jockeying for a-head-by-a-nose advancement on being greater than the other right up to the wire when Jesus was crucified. It’s really hard to die to selfishness. That’s why Jesus did it for us, so that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who died and was raised for us (2 Cor. 5:15).

I’m thankful that I get to pastor a church where they love me not because I’m better than them, but because Christ is better than me. Whew’ – what a relief.

Praying for my grandsons according Psalm 8

P1030067

Psalm 8 (ESV)

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

My God, Our Father in heaven, more than Slogar and Truman is the majesty of your name. It is my solemn and heartfelt prayer that you cause these boys to cherish your name above their own earthly identity. Cause their hearts to pant after your reputation, and not for their last name on the back of a jersey.

Conquer strongholds of sin with Joseph and Gabriel in ways that others would know that it is you who have done great things. The weakness of man is the Lord’s right hand, and in your hand and by your hand, you have made babies and infants. May their mouths be used to further your majesty, but that won’t happen unless they become convinced that your character and your works are worthy of good conversation and song.

I’m speechless having considered the magnitude and majesty of the moon and stars that you fashioned effortlessly with a finger. To then look upon the tiny fingers and feet of this infant and his older brother who is but a baby – to see what detail you have troubled yourself with, to stare with wonder, mesmerized by something so far beyond human engineering – What Mindful Consideration That You Would Care So Deeply For Them?! Who are you that you would stoop so low from your throne and bother yourself with hair, fingernail, muscle, bone, organs and brain? Who are you to put a fluid in an infant that is like no other on the planet – full of all the necessary ingredients to insure life and breath? And what ingenious plumbing to circulate blood by a walnut-size pump that will out-work anything that man has ever made or could make. Astonished – absolutely Astonished?! O that you could send your son in human form that we might taste and see and behold with our own eyes just who this is that weaves skin and bone in the most sacred of places – the womb of a woman!

And what glorious ruin that you would set these boys to lovingly rule a few square feet of fallen earth to your glory. Lower than the angels and yet exalted with a kind of glory that reflects the image of God like no other kind of your creation. May whatever turf you have assigned them in the future be landscaped for your beauty.

I don’t know what lies ahead for Joseph and Gabriel. I don’t know what sufferings and sorrows you intend to use to draw their hearts to you. But O LORD, Our Lord, let not one tear from their eyes be wasted on the fleeting pleasures of sin or the passing away of this present world system. Cause every loss in their lives to awaken the knowledge of Christ as the surpassing treasure that a man could lay his hands on. Cause every provision and joy to further their love and obedience for you, to trust you, and to follow you. Quickly then, make them lovers of Jesus Christ, the one who fashioned them for his own glory.

Putting all my hope in your grace and mercy,

grandpa

“Contentment”

In our worship at Grace Community Church we regularly use, The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, for our corporate prayers. This one goes with our time spent on the tenth commandment, “You Shall Not Covet” (Ex. 20:17) because, discontent is the feeling that we have with God that leads to coveting something that God has not granted. I highly recommend using this collection of prayers for private and public worship. Below is the prayer on contentment, pgs. 294-95.

“Heavenly Father,

If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings.

It is thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to thee, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of thy love.

When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin, he became more dear to me than sin had formerly been; his kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny. Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labor to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and he must become to me more than vile lust had been; that his sweetness, power, life may be there.

Thus I must seek a grace from him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from himself. When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me

that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live;

that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace;

that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things.

Though now I have his graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where thou wilt show thyself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day.”

Why We Won’t Back Down

This was a very encouraging post by David Mathis at Desiring God Ministries. Enjoy and Be Resolved!

“What if Tom Petty wrote an anthem for 21st-century evangelicals?

In the increasingly post-Christian worlds of Europe and North America, society relentlessly pressures biblically faithful Christians to back down. Back down on your stance against abortion. Back down on your refusal to condone homosexual practice and so-called “gay marriage.” Back down on claiming your Bible is inerrant. Back down on male leadership in the church and the home. Back down on the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus’s person and work for salvation, and your claim that there is only one name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

“I Won’t Back Down”

It was the first hit from Petty’s first solo album in 1989. “I Won’t Back Down” had so much spine that he feared it might not fair well. “I kind of felt nervous about it,” he says, “like maybe I should take it back and disguise it a little bit, but I’m glad I didn’t.”

The song’s message is very unprogressive. Petty doesn’t sound ready to try new things or compromise for the sake of everyone getting along. Rather, he comes off as one deeply principled, if not stubborn, full of conviction, resolved not to bend. He will stand alone, if he must, against the pressure to give in. He won’t back down — against what, he doesn’t specify. The song is “a message of defiance against unnamed forces of difficulty and possibly oppression,” according to one source.

A Refrain for Evangelicals?

The risk of the song’s generic nature is that mindless conservatives and mere curmudgeons can draw strength from a ditty like this. But the corresponding virtue is that the song is ready-made for application to truly worthy causes, where the pressure to back down on something important needs to be met precisely with a calm but resolute declaration, “I won’t back down.”

The song popped in the wake of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and again following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Whether or not the song becomes a rallying cry for 21st-century, biblically faithful, evangelical Christians, it’s a fitting chorus to consider.

The Mood of Christian Resolve

What makes the song so powerful is not only the lyrical backbone which repeatedly declares, “I won’t back down,” but a mood that embodies an approach to not backing down which we desperately need in the post-Christian moment.

Not only do Petty’s lyrics echo the words of Matthew 16:18 (“You could stand me up at the gates of hell”), but they challenge us to “know what’s right,” take care to steward the “just one life” we have, “keep this world from draggin’ me down,” and not back down against “a world that keeps on pushin’ me around.”

Based on the nerve of the song’s message, you might expect something that sounds like a frenzy of zeal from Metallica. But Petty is not swollen with adrenaline. There’s no yelling, no rashness, no recklessness. The pace is smooth and melodic — composed and collected, but not sluggish. Deep inner strength meets with great self-control. It’s solid confidence on a mid-tempo beat. The song is both patiently reserved and full of resolve.

The Calling to Christian Resolve

Which is why it resonates with the church’s calling in an increasingly post-Christian society. Our lot is less the sprint, more the marathon. Less the energy from Red Bull, more the fruits and veggies. Less about bursts and big events, more about the long, arduous arc of disciplemaking.

For some, no doubt, the response that we won’t back down will be accompanied by circling the wagons; for others, by a fury of ill-conceived activity. But our portion in the days ahead should be with Petty, and more importantly, with the apostle Paul — knowing with deep confidence whom we have believed and being convinced that he is able to guard the gospel until that Day (2 Timothy 1:12). Which helps take the swagger out of Christian cultural influence.

The Reason for Christian Resolve

Of all people, biblically faithful evangelicals have something to stand for. We have a real reason to not back down. What you don’t get from Petty’s generic song is whether his cause is worth standing for — and whether his cause is unstoppable or already lost. Indications are that Petty is no Christian, and has no religion but music.

But the Christian has specificity. We have an indomitable, risen Jesus who promises to build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18) — that’s why we can stand against those gates and not back down. This is no mere stubbornness or determination of will. We have what Petty doesn’t — infinite power at work in us to will and to do for God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

The Legacy of Christian Resolve

It should be no surprise that Christ in us would lead us to take a stand and not back down. Jesus himself didn’t back down before Pharisees and Sadducees, before Zealots and Herodians, before scribes and priests. He made the good confession before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:12), and held his peace when he could have called twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53).

The apostle didn’t back down before Judaizers and Helenizers, before Felix and Festus and Caesar himself. The early church didn’t back down against Greek intellectual assaults and Roman capital punishment. Athanasius nearly stood against the whole world and held his ground on the deity of Christ. Luther and Zwingli and Calvin didn’t back down to Medieval nominalism and sacramentalism. Spurgeon and Machen and Henry and Graham didn’t back down to post-Enlightenment naturalism and ecclesiological liberalism, and paved the way for the day in which we carry the mantle and keep standing.

Calm and God-Confident

And unlike what may have been the case for Petty, we don’t stand alone. God, in his extraordinary grace, has given today’s Elijahs many more than 7,000 with which to not back down. We stand together. We stand on the Rock. And we can be confident to stand calmly, collectedly, with a gentle, sure voice, and unshaken resolve in our hearts, to take whatever comes at us in stride, knowing that, God willing, our feet aren’t moving. Because the one with whom we stand, for whom we stand, simply cannot be defeated.

Perhaps God would be pleased to plunder this tune from the Egyptians, fill its generic form with biblical contours, and inspire us for the composed and God-confident calling of “not backing down.””