Suffering and Sadness During Christmas – part 4



It’s Christmas, 2010.

I bought Cheryl a Replica Tiffany DragonFly Lamp (not a real one of course! – and now in the corner of our bedroom). I wanted her to have beauty in her room – something that instilled hope and peace, something to quiet the soul, to give light, to give her some of the colors that she loves. When someone is suffering, bring some beauty into their room. We have to remember that we are whole beings, both spiritual and physical, and often the one affects the other. When struggling spiritually, you can actually make yourself sick (Psalm 32:3). And when struggling physically, doubts, unbelief, hopelessness, cynicism and despair can begin to eat at the soul (Psalm 42 and 43). It is not a betrayal of God’s Word to use physical means that the Lord created to lift your spirits. We were made to behold beauty, to feel the smoothness of oil that heals the wounds, to smell aromas of lavender, cinnamon, amyris, red cedar-wood, vanilla, and tea tree.

When visiting people in the hospital I take two things with me: my bible and my guitar. To read scripture, pray, and play a soft piece of music, sometimes humming the melody gently, has stirred hope and healing in those who suffer. What a great mystery: God’s marvelous design of our humanity, weaving the tangible with the intangible.

All of this reminds me of the promise that we have in our Lord. One day, the body will never be interrupted with suffering. One day, the body will never experience the dissonance between hope and healing. One day, the body will never know the loss of senses as present aging stretches the simplest joys further and further out of our reach. One day, the agonizing tension of longing to be dead as a better alternative to living in pain will be gone. One day, for all who know themselves as crucified with Christ, will be raised with him (Galatians 2:20). One day, in Christ, we will be raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15). Not only will we not know sin, but its effects too. The reason why we light up our rooms with beauty is because we know deep down that that’s the way it’s supposed to be. One day . . .


TOOTHPASTE (sex appeal), MOTORCYCLE PARTS (sexy parts), AIR CONDITIONER (your wife is hot, better get your a/c fixed)

It’s all around us. No matter where you turn, where you go, what you do – sex is in your face because it sells. Even the title to this post will bring in more hits because of the subject. Is that why I used the word – to get more hits, to get your attention? What if God used sex to get your attention – would you be interested in what he wanted to say?

“That depends,” says the broken heart. The heart does not even want to hear about sex if sex is not object of sex. But sex is not ultimate – it’s penultimate. That is, sex serves to communicate, to sell you on something that is more satisfying than sex. Still interested?

I hope you are. In the image of God, “male and female he made them,” you were made a sexual being to know something of the one who made you. But our advertising industry is not stupid: they know how to market a product that will sell on the basis of temporary pleasure and beauty rather than eternal pleasure and beauty – which is what you need most! This is why they get it all wrong when it comes to sex. What mankind needs most is to know the one that created such pleasure. God created sex to point to a pleasurable relationship that he offers sinners, yes, sinners who would give anything to simply be cherished, held, comforted, forgiven, made alive, loved and taken care of forever. This is why God used sex to entice his people to see what he was offering them.

In, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, John Piper and Justin Taylor taught me this truth:

God used marital love-making to describe his relationship to his people:

“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, “Live!” I said to you in your blood, “Live!” I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. . .” (Ezekiel 16:4-10a) [note: clearly God likes his wife in leather!]

God also used sexual language to paint a picture of our love for lesser things than him:

“Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. . . .  Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings (Ezek. 16:13-16, 32, 33).

God uses sexual language to describe his response to our love affair with anything less than him:

“Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness” (Ezek. 16:35-37).

But Christ will pay the price for your sexual infidelity with his own blood.

“For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God. . . this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you” (Ezek. 16:59-63; Luke 22:20).

As Piper closes on this great truth:

“God created us in his image, male and female, with personhood and sexual passions so that when he comes to us in this world there would be these powerful words and images and feelings to describe the promises and the pleasures of our covenant relationship with him through Christ. God made us powerfully sexual so that he would be known deeply. We were given the power to know each other sexually so that we might have some hint of what it will be like to know Christ supremely. Therefore, all misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of God. God means for human sexual life to be a pointer and foretaste of our relationship with him.”

This is why God created sex: in giving us this kind of intimacy in marriage, he would use this gift to lure us to himself. This is why the advertising industry doesn’t have a clue as to what great misuse they are doing with God’s gift. They are selling sex as ultimate. But God created sex to show us something greater.

Wisdom for Another Year: “Wasted Beauty,” – #1 of 10.

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” – Proverbs 11:22

You put a ring an a pig’s honker to keep him from rooting up the ground. Any old metal ring will do and that’s why there’s no point in spending $500 when you could spend $1. The wise godly sage is not saying that nose rings in hogs are bad and he’s not saying that it is bad for a woman to be beautiful. He’s saying that it’s a shame to see beauty wasted on a foolish woman like gold is wasted on a hog’s ring.

The beauty industry exalts the outward appearance while mostly ignoring the inner character. This is unfortunate because it communicates the wrong thing: that the true value of a woman is in her outward beauty. But the answer is not to be as homely and disheveled as you can, rather, a woman is to concern herself first with the cosmetic of her character.

The power and influence of a beautiful woman can get a job, get someone fired, get a loan, get a man, get a discount, get out of a speeding ticket, get put to the front of the line, get a promotion, get a larger dip of ice-cream, get a parking spot, get a better grade – basically, get just about anything she wants if she’s beautiful enough. It’s just the way things work. “Lyin’ Eyes” was a song written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles and recorded in 1975. One of the lines goes, “City girls just seem to find out early. How to open doors with just a smile.” So true. But let’s not come down too hard on beauty and its power – this is not inherently evil. By its very nature, Beauty is supposed to affect and attract and bring a smile.

Have you ever been to Chicago on a summer day and hear some great outdoor, live, impromptu saxophone coming from somewhere? You follow the sound – you want to get closer, you want to hear better and see the action. Or smell some awesome BBQ? You follow your nose. You want to see and taste. Or your favorite artist – you buy the ticket to the show and you want to afford a seat as close as possible. We were made to seek after and enjoy Beauty. God made Beauty. He made women beautiful. Some, he made drop-dead gorgeous. Like Esther.

In the bible, Queen Esther “had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at” (Esther 2:7), which is why the King selected her. But Esther also had discretion. She did not allow her beauty to misguide her judgment of men, money, prestige, and power. Her beauty was not a waste because her discretion of life was guided by her love for the Lord, to the degree that she did not value her own life over courageous truth-telling and godly living. She approached the King uninvited to inform him of treachery in the kingdom (you could lose your life to approach uninvited). Her own family pleaded with her to not intrude and impose upon the King, but she said, “if I perish, I perish” (4:16). She did not perish. The King listened and admired her beautiful character. She saved her family and the Jewish people.

Here is godly wisdom. If you are a beautiful young girl/woman, do not waste your beauty by being foolish with your beauty. Just because you can open many doors with just a smile doesn’t mean you should. Not every door is for your good and not everyone who opens the door for you has your best interest in mind. Your beauty is a gift by God, to be used to show off a beautiful God. But you can’t do that if you’re acting like a fool in life. No one will see the one who made you. Your “in-discretionary” lifestyle is a distraction not only from the one who made you, but you too. Wisdom says, “Be Beautiful and Wise,” then your beauty will not be a shameful waste.