Isn’t She Lovely!?

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“A pretty wife who can find?” – is not praised in the Bible as a virtue. But neither is, “An ugly wife who can find?” True, “An excellent wife who can find?” is found in the Bible (Prov. 31:10). And furthermore, out of all 20+ accolades that you read from verse 10 through 30, not one verse even gets close to describing the outward beauty of a woman as a thing to be praised. In fact, as men, we are to heed the warning: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (vs. 30). So this begs the question:

Is it right for a godly Christian man to notice the physical beauty of a woman and let that outward, temporal appeal be a reason for an introduction? Or should we as godly men pursue a woman that was beaten with an ugly stick and say, “wow, what an ugly-yet-godly woman!”? Does Proverbs condemn outward beauty? I think not. What it does condemn is equating outward beauty with inward beauty. Not every woman who is deliriously gorgeous is a fine catch. And counter-wise, not every hag is a catch-and-release: you just might be a happier man married to a clock-stopper who yet is the most wonderful, dependable, godly, intelligent, wise, hard-working, gentle woman in town.

Proverbs, and all Biblical poetry assumes that physical beauty will be the first attraction for a man – it’s a given. That’s why wisdom goes over-board on seeking the inner qualities rather than the outward. The outward is easy: women are beautiful to men. But! Don’t let that beauty blind you from looking further, lest you find yourself married to a Victoria Secret cat-walk model but dread every nagging day of your miserable life; not one single night with a hottie can compensate for a week of “shut up – it’s all about meeeee.”

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. . . her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land . . . her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (Prov. 31:11, 23, 28). Cheryl has been my wife for almost 33 years now. I praise her by expressing my thanks to the Lord for giving me such a lovely companion. But there is something deeper going on here: she complements me and I her. It’s a dance of leading and following, of honoring each other for the place that we each have submitted ourselves to. I have submitted to “love her as Christ loves the church,” and she has submitted to “respect me” as the “church does Christ” (Eph. 5:21-33). As we each take our cue from Christ and his bride, we communicate to a culture that Jesus is so loving his bride that he will one day “present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:27).

The honey-suckle lilac that is at Cheryl’s side is from her grandma Robinson’s old homestead in southern Indiana. Its fragrance is mesmerizingly delightful, even erotic I might say. This is not gutter talk:

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil . . . Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely . . . your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle that graze among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense . . . you are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you . . . how beautiful is your love my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips drip nectar, my bride; nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices . . . Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow”      

(various verses in Song of Solomon 4). 

The reason why God created human marriage between a man and woman is so that there would be language and a picture to present to the world: Christ, the husband, is madly in love with his bride, the church. Any re-arrangement of human marriage away from a man and a woman becoming a one flesh union is an insult and a distraction from the original one made in heaven before the world was created.

Therefore, let all husbands say, “isn’t she lovely” – for that is the song of Christ singing to his bride, the church.

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Thankful to God for Time

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It’s February 24, 2016 – a mildly cool day upon this earth that Cheryl and I spent with my parents in WV. The Lord says,

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a). 

Overlooking the valley approaching Birch River, we are thankful for time together. Like a plant, we sprout up – but then, so quickly we go down; time is evasive – like grasping at wind. But when wind still blows upon your face, you enjoy and give thanks.

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Our turn. A second is a tick on the clock for everyone alike, young and old. But the older you get, the more precious life gets. And the more precious life gets, the quicker time goes by. It’s supposed to be that way. The more you see the value of something, the more you feel its presence slipping away from you. Mom and dad have been married for over 53 years, and we are approaching 32 years. May the following always be true:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” – (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

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At the grave-site of my dad’s grandpa: James William Truman (1882-1953). Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Are you ready? It’s coming you know. Sooner than you think – it will be your turn. Are you wasting your life fretting over (you fill in the blank)? Are you wasting your life loving God’s gifts more than Christ himself? Are you living a life right now that tells others: Walk this way – this is the way – “follow me as I follow Christ”? All the grace that you need to live for Christ is yours, purchased by the one that you follow.

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This may not seem to look like a big deal, but this is monumental – dad has the strength to get out and stop by Wally World (which he really does not care to ever venture in the first place). We picked up a few things to clean his guns. I told dad that this was his “bucket list” item: checking out the sports section.

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Back home, evening time in the garage. This past year dad got behind on cleaning his guns. All caught up. Ready for another year of hunting. Or whatever else is fun to do with these babies!

Thank you Lord for another day – you are very, very good.

Valentines Day: Hide Away in the Love of Jesus

For Valentines Day tomorrow (Feb. 14, 2016), we sing this in worship as one of our congregational songs. There is no greater love than the love that was demonstrated at the cross of Christ. The love that exists all around us is because there is a God who sent his son to propitiate, that is, to remove and exhaust the deserved wrath that was aimed at all who would believe upon Christ (1 John 4:7-11). The love that exists between a husband and wife is meant to display before the world that kind of sacrificial love. But loving others is exhausting; our own sin and limitations cause us to fall short. And there is the Good News for weary saints: Hide away in the love of Jesus – he never grows weary loving his bride.

Enjoy!

 

 

The Mystery of Losing a Spouse

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I’ve never lost a spouse, though I came close to it a few years ago. And though I can’t speak from personal experience, the mystery of losing a spouse can be cautiously searched out by taking the time to know a little more what a husband and wife is in the first place.

I have visited more widows than widowers in my time; hearing their sweet stories and catching a glimpse of what was, is a privilege.  It seems that it won’t be long that my own mother will join the lattice of widows upon the earth.

Before 1963, there were two distinct and separate adult persons, one male – Buddy James Truman, and the other, female – Drema Kay Hall. They each had their own identities, independent of the other. But then in May of 1963, something that is so mysterious to our comprehension, they became one flesh:

“This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall cleave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:23-25). Literally, and more accurately to Hebrew verb tense, for the man and the woman, “becoming, you shall become one flesh.” With the same verb tense that God warned to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “dying, you shall die”, marriage is a progressive cleaving, hardening-up, congealing over time of two distinct and separate persons who become something other than what they were as separate persons. Another whole and completely other person is formed and bonded.

Paul says this becoming one flesh union is a mystery and that this mystery refers to a more profound mystery, namely, Christ becoming one with his church (Eph. 5:28-32). Two persons become another person altogether. So the math does not look like this:

1 + 1 = 1.

But,

A + B = C.

Bud + Drema = (Mystery of One Flesh, Something Other Than What They Were Before).

This mystery is so profound that it is right for Drema to say, “that is my cancerous liver.” So profound that Bud can say, “that is my new hip replacement.” ONE FLESH!

“What you feel – I feel” is not what I am saying. See the independent “I” in that statement and the complete otherness of the referenced “you”? See how difficult it is to truly give a voice to what has happened? No one speaks to themselves like that unless you’re headed for the rubber-room. No one looks down at the cut in their own leg and speak in the second person, “I feel your pain” – as if, you, the person is separate from the leg-member. But in marriage, Bud and Drema Truman can truly look to the other, and say, “I hurt when you hurt because you are one flesh with me as much as my own arm is part of me”, not as two separate persons, but as a human body seamlessly feels all-over what is going on in the leg, “My body hurts.”

This is why in death, the mystery of losing a spouse is beyond understanding. Widowed and still alive, but at the same time, like the severance of your right arm, you are no longer altogether there. The mystery of losing a spouse is appreciated to the degree that you appreciate what a marriage is in the first place. That someone else who was/is you (remember, one flesh) is now gone. This is why the gospel is profoundly good: Those who are in Christ will be united to him forever, in such a way that when Bud and Drema see each other again, that one-flesh-union for over 52 years (and counting:) will find its fulfillment and purpose: “so this was what it was all about – our one flesh union was a primer course for a deeper level of joy, knowledge, fulfillment, and friendship with Jesus, our true husband – united to him as one – forever!”

The reason why there is no human marriage in heaven between a man and a woman is not because there is no marriage at all, but because there is one already between Christ and his church. What awaits us is so far above and beyond this earthly marriage that there is no comparison on earth to help us. Only insofar that we awe the mystery of a one-flesh union over many years that we are compelled to believe that, well, if Jesus borrowed a line from one of my favorite 70’s rock bands, I think he would say to his bride-in-progress, “B b b b baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The Ear Cavity is Not Meant for Storing Pennies

If someone told you that they are storing pennies in their ear, I doubt that you would say, “That is what the ear is for – good for you!” We seem to know what all our body parts are for, except our genitals. Just as an observation, the female sexual body part and the male sexual body part seem to be made for the other. And as another observation, it seems that the male anus, “the opening at the end of the alimentary canal through which solid waste matter leaves the body,” was not made to be inserted by the male sexual body part. That would be like driving up an exit ramp – that’s not what it’s for. (see the intro to Making Gay Okay, by Robert Reilly)

I do not mean to be insensitive, crass or crude in stating it this way. I find the same reasoning in God’s Word, to a church that is living its life in a culture where every kind of sexual penetration is endorsed:

“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written,

“The two will become one flesh.”

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:13b-20)

Yesterday, June 29, Cheryl and I celebrated our 31st Wedding Anniversary, starting here under the Pergola in our back yard, and then on to Chicago for some delicious food, and, sights and sounds from some of our favorite venues.

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According to the passage above (since union comes from the male body part fitting with the female body part, the meaning of “the two will become one flesh” cited from Genesis 2), by God’s grace and with his endorsement, we are not forcing Jesus to bed a prostitute as we unite ourselves. However, if I have sex with anyone else, male or female, then I am not using my body for the Lord (the word for sexual immorality in the Greek is for all forms of sexual activity outside of a married male and female, which includes all hetero and homo sexual hookups – see 1 Cor. 6:9-11). But if I am a married man to Cheryl, keeping in step with “the two will become one flesh” marriage license, then Jesus’ union with us as his members is holy. A majority of the Supreme Court might sanitize your bedroom, but not Jesus. The above passage therefore, teaches me to celebrate these realities:

1. No matter what I feel in my body, it is not meant for any sexual activity with any other than my wife, any more than if I feel like punching someone, that’s not what the fist was made for.

2. Jesus is Holy. He will never endorse a threesome between you, him, and a prostitute, male or female. Jesus will only endorse his members if they are “one spirit with him” – and you cannot be one spirit with Jesus if you use your body for any sexual activity outside of “the two shall become one flesh” union of male and female.

3. Jesus was meant for the body (“. . . and the Lord for the body”). This means that before the world was created, there was a plan to send the Son of God into a male body, so that it would be crucified and “raised” up by his Father. Take-away: therefore glorify God in your body in the way that you live your sexual life. Jesus killed the hetero and homo sexual sins as he died and was raised for them. Now we have the same resurrection power to “put off the sinful deeds of the body” and use our bodies for their intended purpose – glorifying the God who made us as male and female, to showcase the union of Christ with his Church.

4. My body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This is why all sins except sexual sins are outside the body. This does not diminish the seriousness of non-sexual sins, it only highlights the profound mystery of what it means to be a sexual being, male or female. Point: all hetero and homo sexual activity outside of a male and female marriage union is “against the body” because the body was not made to be vandalized and scandalized by spiritual self-mutilation. I am more than my body parts – I am a spiritual being. But if I use my body parts in a way that is contrary to the holiness of the Holy Spirit, then I have become my own enemy – I will destroy my soul.

5. Finally, I trust what God, his Son, and his Holy Spirit have to say about sex than what my feelings, my desires, my world, and my government say about sex, and even what my church have to say about sexual expressions, if my church happens to steer away from what God has given me in his Word. As an observation, any church that endorses sexual activity outside the one that Jesus approves, then that is not what a church is for. The church was founded on the person and work of Christ so that the world could see the Savior. This is why I’m so blessed to belong to a set of “members of Christ” who know what their church is for – it is for Jesus, first. That means we’ll love sinners of all kinds and show them the way, the truth, and the life that is found in Jesus alone.

“No Grey Area”

Here is Kevin DeYoung’s recent post from the gospel coalition site – as always, worth reading.

“There is nothing gray about whether a follower of Christ should see 50 Shades of Grey. This is a black and white issue. Don’t go. Don’t watch it. Don’t read it. Don’t rent it.

I don’t even want to talk about it. Another blogger and I went back and forth for several weeks about how we could write a satirical review panning the movie and skewering those who think they need to see it in order to be relevant. We couldn’t do it. There was no way to make the humor weighty enough to sufficiently condemn such a vile film.

And no, I haven’t seen the movie. I haven’t watched the trailer either. I haven’t read a single page from the book. Reading about the premise from Wikipedia and the IMDb for two minutes convinced me I didn’t need to know any more. Sex is a wonderful gift from God, but like all God’s gifts it can be opened in the wrong context and repackaged in ugly wrapping.  Violence against women is not acceptable just because she’s open to the suggestion, and sex is not open to all permutations, even in an adult relationship. Mutual consent does not a moral philosophy make.

Sex is a private matter to be shared in the privacy and sanctity of the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). Sex, as God designed it, is not meant for actors who pretend (or not) that they are making “love.” The act of conjugal union is what married couples do behind closed doors, not what disciples of Jesus Christ pay money to watch on a screen the size of your house.

As I’ve said before, we have to take a hard look at what we put in front of our eyes as men and women seated in the heavenly places (Col. 3:1-2). If 50 Shades is a problem, by what standard do we give ourselves a pass on the rest of the sensuality we freely consume? To be sure, awareness of sin is not by itself the problem. The Bible is full of rank immorality. It would be simplistic and morally untenable—even unbiblical—to suggest you cannot watch sin or read about sin without sinning yourself. But the Bible never titil­lates with its description of sin. It never paints vice with virtue’s colors. It does not entertain with evil (unless to mock it). The Bible does not dull the conscience by making sin look normal and righteousness look strange.

Christians shouldn’t try to “redeem” 50 Shades of Grey. We should not get cutesy and advertize a new sermon series on “50 Shades of Grace.” We should not give both art and holiness a bad name by thinking that somehow something as dark as 50 Shades is worth viewing or worth reviewing. According to Paul’s logic, it is possible to expose sin and keep it hidden at the same time (Eph. 5:11-12). “A good man is ashamed to speak that which many people are not ashamed to act” (Matthew Henry).

Some movies do not deserve sophisticated analysis. They deserve sober repudiation. If the church cannot extend grace to sexual sinners, we’ve lost the heart of the gospel. And if we cannot tell people to stay away from 50 Shades of Grey, we’ve lost our minds.”