Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trustworthiness According to the Bible

Detail of the Verduner altarpiece in Klosterne...

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One of the strange things about the area of trustworthiness is that I takes many things to build it, but it only takes a few things (sometimes only one) to destroy it.  think about building a tower of blocks.  If you keep taking blocks out from the base the tower is going to collapse.  It is the same with trustworthiness.  But what is trustworthy and how do I know when I have it or have found it. 

According to the Bible a trustworthy person...

hates bribes Exodus 18:21
is responsible Nehemiah 13:13
keeps a confidence (not gossiping) Proverbs 11:13
brings healing words Proverbs 13:17
brings refreshing words Proverbs 25:13
is honest with a friend even if means the subject is unpleasant Proverbs 27:6
is above reproach, not negligent Daniel 6:4
has friends willing to stand up for them 1 Samuel 22:14
believes in God and His word 2 Chronicles 20:20
has faith in God Psalms 27:13
waits for God Psalms 27:14
is a good steward (responsible with other's money) Matthew 25:22-23
is given more responsibility based on faithfulness Luke 19:16-17
is a servant of God and managers of God's mystery (gospel message) 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
See also Colossians 1:26-27
is respectful, not slanderous, self-controlled 1 Timothy 3:11
is an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity 1 Timothy 4:12
takes care of their family 1 Timothy 5:16
holds on with hope and without wavering Hebrews 10:23
is concerned about others, promotes love, promotes good works, attends worship with other believers, encourages others Hebrews 10:24-25
walks in truth (integrity) and supports others (even strangers) 3 John 1:3-8
is faithful during affliction Revelation 2:10

Here is an interesting lesson on faithfulness.  Jonah the faithful prophet of God became unfaithful, yet God used him in spite of Jonah's unfaithfulness.  Albeit Jonah needed a little convincing in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights.  He still did not get it at the end so one wonders whether he ever got it turned around.  Probably otherwise we would not have the book.  Even more interesting is that the Ninevites whom enriched themselves with the plunder of wars became trustworthy in a moment through repentance at God's Word (Jonah 3:5-9).  Jesus even used them of an example of trustworthiness (Luke 11:32).    So the bloodthirsty Ninevites gain trustworthiness through the wonderful grace of God.  And that same grace is available to us through Christ.  Praise God for His wonderful mercy and grace.  Praise God for new beginnings. 

The story of Jonah along with the verses above have shown me that trustworthiness is first based on a relationship with God followed by a commitment to grow in Him.  A trustworthy Christian is one that is growing in his or her relationship with Christ.  One problem with thinking of trustworthiness as a category or a goal to achieve is that it lends itself to the belief that we can arrive at trustworthiness and then our work is done.  Not so.  These passages I have shared with you make it clear to me that trustworthiness is a life long pursuit and requires persistence to grow in this way. 

I encourage you to make faithfulness a goal of your daily walk with Christ.  Do not let neglect become your weakness leading to unfaithfulness ending in broken trust.  God Bless you.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Interaction of Three Dimensions of Trust

These tables gives an idea of how the three dimensions Trustworthiness, Confidence, and Entrusting interact with each other and personality characteristics from my perspective.  The risk of such a chart is that it implies categories.  Let me just say that most of these are on a continuum (scale).  For example you could say high medium or low confidence.  You could also make the case for high, medium, and low trustworthiness.  However, for these charts I am going to stick to two levels on each dimension. 

Warning: these tables are speculative and should be taken with a healthy degree of skepticism.  I do welcome feedback below about your degree of agreement or disagreement with what I have put here as well as any suggestions to improve the model.

Choice Not to Entrust

  High Trustworthiness Low Trustworthiness
High Confidence in other Pre-trust (cautious optimism)

Self
Other fears (eg fear of commitment)
Low or unresolved trauma
Low self-worth

Other
Confusion
Gentle attempts to understand
Naive Distrust 

Self
High risk for being hurt if trust is given
Poor boundary
Naive

Other
Looking for right moment to take advantage
predatory
Self-interest
Low Confidence In other Fear Based Distrust 

Self
Fear of being hurt
Possible History of trauma relationship(s)
Need for healing
Looking for evidence to not trust

Other
Regretted breaking of trust
High levels of frustration
Feeling attacked (defensive)
Desire to redeem self
Feeling helpless at times
Appropriate Distrust

Self

Healthy Boundary
Healthy sense of self
Good Judge of Character



Other
Likely to move on once it is realized one is not entrusted 
Anger
Can be vengeful

Choice to Entrust

  High Trustworthiness Low Trustworthiness
High Confidence in other Appropriate Trust (Healthy Relationship)

Self
Love and Respect
Feeling secure
Openness
High intimacy




Other
Satisfied in relationship
Mutual Love and respect
Aware of others needs
Blind Trust


Self
Possibly blind to other's Character
Poor self-image
low self esteem
Victim stance
"Need" to be in a relationship
Poor judge of Character

Other
Taking advantage
deception for personal gain
Self-focused
High need for control
Low Confidence in other Appropriate Risk taking


Self
Trust can quickly removed at slightest offense
Lack of intimacy
seems to hold back something
Desire to control risks 

Other
Mild to moderate frustration
Moments of impatience otherwise gentle
longing for greater intimacy
willing to wait for restored confidence
Sensitive to needs
Sadomasochistic relationship
(High likelihood of abuse)

Self
self-hatred turned inward
Distorted sense of relationships
Belief in deserve to be punished
feeling trapped or no alternatives


Other
Self Hatred turned outward
Controlling
See others as objects not people
Openly hostile
Lack of respect
Disregard for needs of others

In my next posts I will deal more practically with the tree dimensions of trust. 

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Three sides of Trust.

Wedding

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Trust can be a very difficult thing to understand let alone have.  In my experience there are three side to trust: The quality of trust (trustworthiness), the ability to trust (confidence), and the act of trust (entrusting).  I frequently hear the question, "Why don't you trust me!"  It is a painful moment when distrust has become a part of a relationship.  I hope to present some ideas about building trust (or rebuilding it if it has been lost).  Let's start with some definitions.  

trust-wor-thy(trust'w�r'the)
Warranting trust; reliable.
trustworthy. (n.d.) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved February 24 2010 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/trustworthy

trust (trust)
n.
1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
2. Custody; care.
3. Something committed into the care of another; charge.
4.
     a. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one: violated a public trust.
     b. One in which confidence is placed.
5. Reliance on something in the future; hope.
v. trust-ed, trust-ing, trusts
v.intr.
1. To have or place reliance; depend: Trust in the Lord. Trust to destiny.
2. To be confident; hope.
v.tr.
1. To have or place confidence in; depend on.
2. To expect with assurance; assume: I trust that you will be on time.
3. To believe: I trust what you say.
4. To place in the care of another; entrust.
5. To grant discretion to confidently: Can I trust them with the boat?
6. To extend credit to.
trust. (n.d.) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved February 24 2010 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/trust

con-fi-dence (kon'fi-d?ns)
n.
1. Trust or faith in a person or thing.
2. A trusting relationship: I took them into my confidence.
3.
    
a. That which is confided; a secret: A friend does not betray confidences.
     b. A feeling of assurance that a confidant will keep a secret: I am telling you this in strict confidence.
4. A feeling of assurance, especially of self-assurance.
5. The state or quality of being certain: I have every confidence in your ability to succeed.
confidence. (n.d.) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved February 24 2010 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/confidence

en-trust (en-trust')
tr.v. en-trust-ed also in-trust-ed, en-trust-ing also in-trust-ing, en-trusts also in-trusts
1. To give over (something) to another for care, protection, or performance: "He still has the aura of the priest to whom you would entrust your darkest secrets" (James Carroll).
2. To give as a trust to (someone): entrusted his aides with the task.
entrust. (n.d.) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved February 24 2010 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/entrust

I will be posting more on these three in upcoming posts.  Let me offer an introduction here.  Trust takes two.  What is more the responsibility for trust in a relationship is shared if it is going to be a healthy relationship. 

Both parties have a responsibility to behave in a trustworthy manner.  When there are inconsistencies in this regard it is destructive to trust.  Behaving trustworthy is something that is definitely within your control.  However, let me just say that it is not possible to be perfect.  Trustworthiness is always tempered by our own brokenness.  Brokenness is not an excuse to behave untrustworthy.  You have to make things right if there is going to be trust in your relationship.  On the flipside if you are waiting for perfected trustworthiness before extending confidence to someone you will be waiting a long time as no one has perfection this side of heaven.  Or if you do find someone to trust eventually they will let you down "Familiarity breeds contempt" and you will always be able to find reasons to distrust someone. 

If the relationship is going to be trusting then both parties have to reach a place where they place their confidence in the other.  This involves recognizing and accepting the risk of vulnerability in the relationship.  It involves the possibility and likelihood of being hurt.  No one can hurt us more than those we put our trust in.  Why would we do it then?  Well without the possibility of pain and suffering then we lose out on the possibility of true companionship, intimacy, and joy that comes from a trusting relationship.  Stated a different way you cannot have true companionship, intimacy, and joy from someone you have only a casual acquaintance with and for whom you have not placed confidence in. 

When a measure of trustworthiness and confidence have been established then the act of entrusting the other is the next step.  Trustworthiness is acting in a manner worthy of trust, confidence is an internal decision to trust, and entrusting is the action of trust in the relationship. 

Let me offer a non-interpersonal example.  I have a need of a checking account.  I have banked with the same bank since I started working some 20 + years ago.  Why?  First the Bank is trustworthy (by my estimation).  I cannot say they have been perfect, but they have always been honorable.  They are sound.  They are insured.  I have confidence in my bank's ability to provide checking account services.  As a result I entrust my money to them.   As a result I have a trusting relationship with my bank. 

I have much more I want to share on this subject, but I think this might be a good stopping point for this post.  More to come. 

God Bless You

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Blessedness of Guilt

Despair

Image by fakelvis via Flickr

I am sure glad that God created the capacity for us to feel guilt. Yes you heard me right.  Guilt is a wonderful gift of God.  I believe all of our emotions are a gift from God.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  However, just like other emotions, guilt because of sin can lead to increased suffering if not properly handled.  I preached a sermon on this subject a while back on The Usefulness of Sorrow which lays out the basis of my thinking on the benefit of sorrow.  Though the issue of guilt is not directly addressed in this sermon I believe that guilt can be a type of sorrow that is addressed in the passage from 2 Corinthians 7:5-16.  I want to focus specifically on the feeling of guilt. 

Three types of guilt that are soul killers (2 Cor 7:10). 

The first type of guilt that kills the spirit is the guilt of unmerited self-reproach.  In this type of guilt literally everything becomes his/her fault in her/his mind.  A person becomes sorry for everything.  He is sorry for having an opinion.  She is sorry for something over which she had no hand in nor has the ability to control or change.  He is sorry over breathing air.  She is sorry for being an inconvenience.  Everything becomes a opportunity for self reproach and makes the person feel defeated and deflated.  This type of sorrow is very easy to identify.  People that struggle with this type of sorrow almost always start (or end) their sentences on serious matters with the words, "I am sorry..."  Being overly apologetic is a good sign that you suffer from the guilt of self-reproach. 

The second type of guilt is the guilt of being caught.  There are some people who feel this intensely.  Often this type of guilt starts off with projecting blame on to someone or something else.  It then moves on to avoiding the subject all together.  It is pushed away from awareness.  In some respects all forms of guilt touch on this type in some manner.  But for those that struggle with this type of guilt they never move forward.  The are forever feeling badly about being found out.  Many times the guilty behaviors lead them deeper into the thing they were caught doing or a superficial change that is later revealed to not be genuine.  If the truth be told these people would not have considered changing their misdeeds if they were never caught.  Before we start throwing stones we should realize that we all have the capacity to be this way. 

The third type of guilt is one of melancholic guilt.  In this guilt a person feels a deep sense of remorse.  They recount over and over their misdeeds.  "How have I wronged you let me recount the ways."  They cry (with or without actual tears) and carry on for a long time.   This guilt is one of feeling a deep personal loss of self-respect.  It becomes a form of perpetual self-punishment with no relief.  The person believes she deserves to feel this way and so she is going to wallow in her self-pity. 

The problem with these forms of guilt is that none lead to relief or lasting change.  They are soul killers.  They drag a person ever deeper into spiritual death.   They are as destructive if not more than the event/act that triggered the feeling in the first place.  Many times it leads a person to avoid whatever or whomever makes them feel guilty with out a change of heart.  It leads a person to think, "If I can avoid this situation then I never have to deal with or be aware of my guilt."  This avoidance then perpetuates the root issue that is leading to the guilty state.  So what can we do about it?

Godly Guilt

Paul was rejoicing that his words of confrontation led to a feeling of grief dare I say guilt (2 Cor 7:9).  He felt this way because the confrontation led them to feel guilty and then led them to repentance.  Godly guilt is one that brings about change.  Not the superficial change that is seen in the guilt of getting caught, but a true desire to make things right (2 Cor 7:11).  Repentance is a change in heart that leads to a change in action.  This is the true usefulness of guilt.  It leads a person down a road that will reap a harvest of righteousness when God's Grace is applied to the situation. 

Godly Guilt Applied

May I suggest the follow practical application of this:

  1. When ever you feel that familiar feeling of guilt stop and ask these questions:  1) Is this a situation that I should indeed feel guilty about?  Do I have culpability? -Or- am I engaging in unmerited self-reproach?  2) OK I have been caught so do I truly feel remorse or is it just unpleasant that I have been caught? 3) I feel sorrow, but am I willing to turn this around?  Notice that the way out of the worldly guilt starts with acknowledging that you have guilty feelings and then proceeds to look at the issue at hand rather than avoid it.  By asking these questions you evaluate if this is unmerited self-reproach, guilt of being caught, or melancholic guilt. 
  2. The next step then is to turn this guilt into action.  First let it sink down into your soul.  Yes I said let it sink down which is similar to Melancholic guilt, but with one distinction let it produce a desire to change the state of affairs.  Guilt that changes the heart is a precious gift of God.  Repentance starts in the heart.  Let the guilt grow to produce a desire to clear yourselves,  indignation, fear, deep longing, zeal, and desire for just living (2 Cor 7:11)! 
  3. Next offer up a prayer to God and ask with the deepest sincerity, "God what would you have me change?"  Reflect on the matter and see what God reveals to you. 
  4. Then Identify the first step that you need to take to change and do it.  Don't stay stuck in worldly guilt allow Godly guilt to move you to repentance of heart leading to a change in direction.  Do not let one moment of guilt escape you so as to produce inaction and thereby worldly sorrow and spirit death.  In every way seek to commend yourselves to be pure in the matter (2 Cor 7:11).  By doing this you will move into the blessing of guilt. 

If you are able to turn it around (with God's help and guidance) then you will be able to experience the true change and genuine relief from suffering that guilt produces.  In doing this you will be able to produce diligence, comfort, joy, refreshing, removal of embarrassment, affection, obedience, and confidence in your life and the lives of others around you (2 Cor 7:12-16). 

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This is for the Romances that Make it and Those Romantics that Aspire to do the Same.

I am going to only post once or twice this week.  I am trying to catch up on other things in life.  God Bless You

~BJ

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Check out the Tri-City Herald

There is a wonderful story in the Tri-City Herald today February 14.   It is about a 90 year old couple that has been married for almost 72 years.  It is heart warming and inspirational.  You can see A picture of the couple here: Donald Barnard smooches Ruth, his bride of nearly 72 years and the story here: Kennewick couple celebrating 71st Valentine's Day.  Yes they did quote me for the article about 2/3rds of the way down.  Thank you Sara for sharing their story this is an example for all of us. 

If you missed the series on Marriage here is the table of contents. Have a blessed day with those that you love. 

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1 Corinthians 13: What is Love? (repost)

scan0003
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1; NKJV)
How often we speak not in love, but out of some other motive. Often we speak from a point of self-centeredness. It seems that this is the easiest thing to do. "I want..." "I need..." "I..." The ego is on the throne of our hearts. When we speak from this vantage point Love is not in our hearts. Passion perhaps, desire most definitely, longing, lust, but love is missing. Selfish desire and love can not cohabitate within the heart they are incompatible. Without love our speech becomes loud and obnoxious to the hearer.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
Most Christians desire to do great things for God. We are thankful for the salvation from our sin. There was a young rich ruler (Mark 10:17-22) that lived in Jesus' day that wanted to be saved. He had reached the panicle of success at a young age and was ready to be great for God. Jesus informed him of the one thing that still prevented him from giving his life to the Lord.
Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, "You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." (Mark 10:21; HCSB)
Notice that Jesus "loved" him. It is an unfortunate that so many fail to realize the love of God. They miss receiving this love into their hearts and so they go away empty. Unfortunately this young man could not bring himself to give up the worldly things that held his heart. You can have all the things of world. But if you do not have the love of God in you then it profits you nothing! In his heart he loved things of this world more than God or people. Is there anything that you love more than God or people?
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; NKJV)
Love is... Love is not...
Longsuffering Kind toward others Joyful in truth Uplifting others Believing in others Hopeful Envious Self promoting Conceited Rude Selfish Provoked Keeping records of wrong Happy with immorality
This is the core of Christian Love. We tend to make our walk with God much more complicated than it needs to be. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37-39; HCSB)" Looking at the list above can you say that the "Love is" list defines your relationships with others? This is one of the Christian paradoxes, that something so simple could be so hard to accomplish. In fact impossible. Perfection in this regard is impossible in human effort. We need something else to be able to accomplish this. We will study Romans 8 later, but let me share this:
For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, ?hostile? powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)
Note two things: First we cannot ever be separated from the Love of God! Second that love is "in Christ Jesus our Lord!" When we come to God and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord we have the irresistible love of God placed into our lives and nothing can change that. I believe that the key to having that love then flow out of us into the lives of others is that second part. "In Christ Jesus our Lord" we can and must demonstrate the "love of God" toward God (through obedience; see 1 John 5:1-5) and toward others (through giving to others' needs; see 1 John 3:16-17). If we love in our own human nature the ego is always there to say, "What is in it for me." When we love "in Christ Jesus" then nothing stands in the way! The love that is listed in the table above is accomplished in Christ. This means that we have to live life for God and remain in Jesus to accomplish this kind of love.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God?God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 1 John 4:15-16 (HCSB) (See also John 15:9-17)
Remaining in God's love is one of the most blessed virtues that a Christian can have and give! It is how the world is able to determine that Christ is with us (John 13:34-35).
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; NKJV)
God's love is unending. Everything that we consider worthy or valuable in this life will vanish like dew under the warm sun. Love is one thing that we can trust to carry through from this life to the next. It is interesting that of all the things that God could allow us to take to heaven He chose love. I firmly believe that it is because love defines the very essence of God. In fact were God is, love is! (see 1 John 4:16-19). Another thing to point out that Jesus said the the rich young ruler was, "If you want to be perfect... (Matt 19:21)." Love is perfection of Christian virtue. If Love is the essence of God then love ought to define our lives. Christian love is the sign that God is in us and we are in Him.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12; NKJV)
This love is much more lofty than this humble attempt to explain it. In fact it cannot be fully understood until we come to Jesus "face to face" in heaven. However through this love we have a glimpse of what heaven will be like. This love is our heaven on earth. We should cultivate it and let it grow so that it becomes the very center of our life and living. Love is the greatest!
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13; NKJV)
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Greatest of These is Love (repost)

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Love is a four letter word in the English language. The word has become loud and obnoxious to our ears. We have the need to have our love now, all is fair in love and war, we can't stand it when someone else has love and we do not. If we are lucky enough to get it then we proclaim it though our network of friends "I found my love." If that love is not shown in return we start to wonder what is in it for me, that makes me mad, and remember how that person has hurt me so that we can bring it up in a future fight. We find pleasure in moral filth (pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry for example; not into that, how about what is now considered entertaining would have been pornographic 50 years ago). Honesty? We are skeptical. We question whether true love exists. We give up when love becomes to difficult. Love ends when we "fall out of love."

What happened? Did we lose our way????? I think part of the problem is that we have lost loves meaning. Think about we use the same word "love" to describe God's passion for us, the vow that we take saying "till death do us part," the relationship we have with good friends, our pets, a car that we like, our favorite food, a special new outfit, blogs, a clever joke or saying, favorite book, favorite TV show, job, house, or song. This same word is used to describe when our enemy gets there just reward, when a spouse finds a new fling, to sell us something we really do not need, prostitution, jealousy over something that another has that you do not have, to tell someone that we don't want to do something (ie I would love to if I had the time) and on and on.

Here is the problem. Love has come to mean so many things that it has lost its meaning. No wonder a person can be unfaithful to their spouse and turn around and call it "love." It is sad to hear those words, "I just don't love you anymore." Well either you have not understood love, or you never had it. I hope that as we study 1 Corinthians 13 we can clear up some of this confusion that is so pervasive in our culture.

God Help us to know Your love! Help us to experience Your love. Help us to share Your love. In Jesus Name AMEN

Next What is love?

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Friday, February 12, 2010

St Valentine's Day

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

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There is coming up a holiday in which we celebrate love.  There are many theories as to the origin of this holiday.  One theory is the Roman religion celebrating Lupercalia (Celebrated February 13-15), which was Christianized by announcing the celebration of the martyrdom of St Valentine of Rome.  Legends are recorded within the Christian faith with the earliest documented mention of the story appearing around 1260 in Golden Legend and again in 1493 in the Nuremberg Chronicle.  There also have been a discovery of a Roman Catacomb and a church in early Christian Rome dedicated to a person named Valentine. 

The Legend of St Valentine is that he was Priest in Rome at the time of Emperor Claudius II.  At the time men were reluctant to go to war if they were married or engaged to be married.  This period of the Roman Empire was tumultuous (though somewhat less bloody relative to other Roman emperors) and this required that young men serve as Roman soldiers.  According to this legend Claudius suspended marriage so that men would not have attachments preventing them from going to battle.  There also were laws that made Christians illegal citizens of the Roman empire because they would not worship "Caesar is Lord." 

Valentine continued to perform marriages in violation of this law.  He was arrested and put into prison.  He continued to preach the Gospel and win others to the Lord according to this tradition.  Claudius was intrigued by Valentine because his witness in the face of adversity.  He called Valentine and told him if he renounced his faith and worshiped Roman God's that he would spare his life.  Valentine refused.  Instead he attempted to persuade Claudius to convert to Christianity.  This displeased Claudius greatly and Claudius sentenced Valentine to death by beating, stoning, and beheading.

According to this legend while in jail Valentine befriended the Jailer who had a blind daughter.  He called upon God to heal the Jailer's daughter of her blindness and she was healed.  The jailer and his family were converted to Christian faith.  Prior to his execution Valentine wrote a note to the Jailer's daughter encouraging her to stay strong in the faith.  He singed it "From your Valentine."  His execution is said to have occurred on February 14, 270AD. 

The difficulty with Legend that is recorded nearly 1000 years after an event is that it is being able to separate embellishment from that which factual.  However I believe the story can remind us of love and devotion.  Valentine defended the sacred rite of marriage as an institution of God when the state tried to suspend it.  He also uplifted the value of commitment, faith, devotion and integrity when denying these things would have spared his life.  Finally he died with a deep concern for the wellbeing of others that God had placed in his life. 

Perhaps we to can live with a self-sacrificing love that is demonstrated by this story.  I plan on reposting a couple of previous posts on the subject of love over then next couple of days.  I hope that your Valentine's day offers an opportunity to renew romantic love (if you are married) and devoted love for those that are important in your life, and most importantly the divinely inspired love that is demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

God Bless You.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Making the Most of the Time

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Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk not as unwise people but as wise making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. And don't get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit
Ephesians 5:15-18 (HCSB)

This passages immediately proceeds the passage on marriage (Eph 5:22-32).  This morning I am reflecting on my own need to make the most of time.  It seems that it is easy for me to fall into the chaotic life of busyness and in the process become less effective and eventually neglect the things that are important and that are really worthy of my time.

In this passage we see God's time management system.  First we are called to pay attention.  So often we mindlessly go through our day without a thought of what we are doing.  We do it simply because something has demanded our attention, out of habit, or just because. 

Once we have paid attention then God calls us to walk wisely.  To be honest with you I continually have to work at this one (as I am sure most of us do).  The beginning of Wisdom is fear of the Lord (Prov 9:10).  When respect God as our sovereign Lord then we are on the right path in our walk.  Perhaps that is why days that I start with a time of meditation on His word, prayer, and/or reflection on God are much more satisfying than those days that I neglect these. 

Continuing on this road God calls us to make the most of the time.  So many things compete for my attention.  I also struggle with being a bit ADD.  So I get the added bonus that my mind tend to follow the rabbit trails of life to the point that I forget what I was doing in the first place.  The idea of making the most of time is that we are "buying back our time."  It seems that our time is a commodity that is sold, bought, and traded.  All to often I sell my time to some other cause, effort, purpose than the one that God has put on my heart.  This does not seem like a bad thing on the surface.  After all I am helping others most of the time.  However, it leads me to neglect.  I think also how many hours I have traded for mindless distraction and pursuit of things that do not bring my Lord honor.  Again some of them very worthy sounding on the surface, but none the less traded away. 

God Calls us to buy back (redeem) our time.  An action I can think of is redeeming a mail in rebate.  The form that the rebate has very little value until we get the the things together needed for the rebate (receipts, upc codes), fill out the form, and mail it in.  It also has an expiration at which the rebate becomes worthless if not acted on.  In the same way our time only has value when we get our things together and act according to what is needed.  If we don't act then time has very little value in and of itself.  Time also expires and becomes worthless when it is not acted on. 

God tells us to do this because the days are evil.  This seems confusing until you realize that the default is evil because time wasted is time lost.  Evil in the sense that they are decaying away and will never be again.  Evil in the sense that we are closer to meeting our maker.  Evil in the sense that we can no longer use a day gone by to do something that God has called us to.  Evil in the sense that our days can naturally be filled with hurtful, wasteful, unwholesome, hardship, difficult, and painful things.  It is only by redeeming time that we can turn these evils into something good.  God uses us to redeem time. 

This continues with two don'ts and two do's:
Don't be foolish
Don't get drunk
Do understand God's will
Do be filled with the Spirit

So how are you doing in redeeming the time? 

I think I need to work more effectively in this area.  Will you pray with me that God would lead us to redeem the time?

God Bless You!

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sexual Intimacy According to the Bible III

Mass-produced colour photolithography on paper...

Image via WikipediaMy Beloved is Mine

As time goes on sexual intimacy continues to be an very important part of marriage.  In this post we will look at what the Bible says about a maturing sexual intimacy between husband and wife. 

In Song of Songs 6:2 the couple is continuing in their passionate love making (going down the garden).  They are continuing in passionate kissing (feeds among the lilies).  As relationships mature it is wise to make sure that sexual intimacy continues to be a part of that relationship.  There can be times of ebb and flow in the relationship, and unfortunately the husband and wife may not always be in sync of who is ebbing and who is flowing.  However, if you continue to practice 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 then you will be more interested in the wellbeing of the other rather than whether you "feel like" being sexually intimate.  In any case our couple in the Song of Songs has continued to be sexually active. 

I am my love's and my love is mine; he feeds among the lilies.
Song of Songs 6:3 (HCSB)

I wear the ring to the right.  On one side it says "My beloved is mine" and on the other it says "I am my beloveds."  It is a sort of summary of 1 Cor 7:3-4 as well as wedding vows in brief.  Notice that this statement of commitment and mutual belongingness is sealed with a kiss ("feeds among the lilies" See previous posts).  I get the sense that God is telling us that kissing is an important aspect of sexual intimacy. 

The husband has continued to note the ways that he is attracted to his wife.  Some of the language is the same, but there are some new elements as well.  He complements her eyes and her hair saying her eyes captivate him (Song 6:5).  He talks about her teeth (Song 6:6).  He again mentions pomegranates as mentioned before indicating that he was excited sexually.  He talks about her loveliness and beauty comparing to an awe inspiring army of Banners (Song 6:4).  He compares her to 60 queens, 80 concubines, and young women without number and concludes:

But my dove, my virtuous one, is unique; she is the favorite of her mother, perfect to the one who gave her birth. Women see her and declare her fortunate; queens and concubines also, and they sing her praises:
Song of Songs 6:9 (HCSB)

She is unique and favored in the eyes of her husband.  That is a powerful statement.  To be unique and favored is powerful emotional intensity to a woman.  His love for her is seen by other women and they say she is fortunate.  Think about that for a moment.  I believe that the reason they say she is fortunate is because the husbands declaration of her beauty, love, devotion that they have for each other is standard for him.  A Godly man who has eyes only for his wife is a beautiful thing.  It is a blessing to his wife and it forges sexual intimacy.  Notice also in this section the husband points to his wife's inner beauty as well by calling her virtuous and pure.  As you grow in your love together you become aware of the beauty of the person as a whole not simply in the physical attraction.  Sexuality of the world is Lustful, degrading, licentious, and nasty.  Sexuality according to God's plan is lovely, devoted, virtuous, and pure.  We should strive for the latter in our marriage. 

One thing that is striking at this point is that the husband never stops telling her how beautiful she is.  His expressions started in the courtship, expanded on the marriage night, and continues into the maturing love. 

Who is this who shines like the dawn- as beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as an army with banners?
Song of Songs 6:10 (HCSB)

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
-Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare

Romantic language is powerful to capture the heart of a loved one.  We would do well to take some time to pay attention to this.  If you struggle with this then consider reading romantic quotes and finding one that you can put into your own words.

We again see the husband praising the beauty of his wife.  Guys are you seeing a pattern here?  

In this verse he comments on her feet  and thighs (Song 7:1).  He is talking about her curves.  The curves of her thighs in particular.  Now talking about a woman's thighs seems like dangerous territory in our modern culture.  We are obsessed with thinness.  It is a cultural sickness that makes women feel inadequate for being... ... well women.  God intended for women to have curves and curves are beautiful.  The husband in this case in is stating as much.  Whose handiwork is her curves?  The Master.  Who is the master that designed his wife?  God.  You see God made a beautiful woman for each husband.  We need to appreciate the beauty of her.  She is a precious creation that is better than fine Jewelry.  And her curves should be satisfying to you!  In addition by appreciating your spouse as a gift from the Master you avoid turning them into a sexual object (idol). 

He continues moving up to her belly (Song 7:2).  He describes her navel as a drinking bowl that is never empty.  He is continually satisfied with her navel.  He says that her belly (waist) is like a mound of wheat.  There at least three interpretations that could be made here.  The husband is talking about the color of her belly, she is pregnant, or he is continuing to describe her curves (my interpretation).  Again describing her belly may seem like dangerous territory.  However her husband is describing how beautiful it is regardless if it is color, with child, or shape it is beautiful to him!  He also is imagining kissing her body (surrounded by lilies).

As before he talks about her breasts (Song 7:3).  He talks again in this section about how he plans to caress her body and hold her breasts (Song 7:7-8).  He is talking to her an a romantic language and not degrading manner.  Her breast are fruit and sustenance to their sexual intimacy.  Not object of his personal gratification. 

There is an interesting sequence of comparisons that on the surface seem a bit humorous if the try to imagine them.  He neck is a tower of ivory, her eyes like pools Heshbon, and her nose like the tower of Lebanon (Song 7:4).  The neck of ivory is a symbol of noble purity.  The term "ivory tower" has taken a negative connotation in modern times with the rejection of nobility.  In this case she is not stuck up and above others, but has an air of nobility and white is purity.   The pools of Heshbon are deep series of pools that are supplied by underground springs.  They are still since do not have flowing water.  Stillness and calmness are in her eyes.  The tower of Lebanon is a "watchtower."  We do not know what this particular tower looked like so it is not clear if her nose looked like this.  It is more likely though he is praising her watchfulness.  It seems to fit with context Damascus was hostile to Solomon reign (1 Kings 11:23-25).   It says in Song 7:4 that the Tower of Lebanon looks over Damascus.  If this is the case then he is praising her ability to smell (see) danger (mixing metaphors).  Once again as love matures the appreciation of personal characteristics become a part of the attractiveness of your spouse. 

The husband is caught up in looking at the beauty of her hair and her complete loveliness (Song 7:5-6).  He says that her hair is captivating to him.  He can't stop looking at her.  Sad when men stop looking at their wives.  If they stop looking then we can't be captivated.  All to often a man is moving away and it his wife that is chasing him for intimacy.  Look at her.  Love her.  Cherish her.  This will build up your sexual intimacy in your marriage. 

At this point the wife takes over the dialogue. 

It seems they are kissing (Song 7:9).  She is aware and acknowledges her husband's desire for her (Song 7:10).  She then again invites him to the Garden (love making) with all of it's pleasures, passions, sexual excitement, and mutual belongingness (Song 7:11-13).  She talks about mandrakes.  Mandrakes were seen as a fertility drug so it seems she desires to become pregnant (See Gen 30:14-17).  She also says the doors are open to sexual intimacy both new and old that she is treasuring them up.  It seems she is expressing her openness to her husband, remembering old times of sexual closeness, and looking forward to new experiences as well.  Sex is a treasure and not an obligation or dread.  When a spouse begins to dread sex it is no longer intimacy.  It is a good indicator that something is missing in your marriage.  Intimacy has been lost.  Look to see what that is and address it so that you can return to your gardens of pleasure as God intended. 

My hope is that you have found this series on "Marriage Essentials" beneficial.  I pray for your marriage (all marriages) that they would find the original intent, beauty, love, devotion, respect, honor, and excitement that was present on your wedding day and is fitting with what God has intended. 

 

 

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sexual Intimacy According to the Bible II

Book of Love

Image by Thorne Enterprises via Flickr

In the last post the emphasis was on how the husband was talking to his wife.  In this post we will look at how the wife talks about her husband to others.  One of the most striking things about this passage is that it elevates man's sexuality from the ash heap and cultural stereotypes that have been sold, bought, and held up as a banner over the last 50 years.  Men are sexual no doubt, but whether we are aware of it or not we are every bit as complicated as women when it comes to sexuality and our sexuality is much greater than the act itself. 

What makes the one you love better than another, most beautiful of women? What makes him better than another, that you would give us this charge?
Song of Songs 5:9 (HCSB)

Two of the greatest gifts a wife can give her husband is to appreciate him (his strength, worthiness, adequacy, and masculinity) and be his friend. 

In the Song of Songs 5:10 the wife begins to tell others what makes her husband so special in her eyes.  She starts with saying he is "fit and strong."  Men generally struggle with a deep need to be perceived as strong.  Now the biological reality is that we cannot all be Arnold Swartzenerger.  So most men look to find their prowess in other realms.  Men long for this.  If they do not get it from their wives they will often seek it elsewhere.  This wife continues by saying she sees him as better than ten thousand men.  The word used here is dagal.  It is literally translated banner.  This is a military term used to describe the flag that represents the strength of the troop that it flies over.  Think about that statement, "My husbands honor, strength, protection, and worth is a banner over ten thousand."  That is powerful language.  You don't have to fake it either.  The reality is that your husband has a God given strength that is a banner over 10,000.  Celebrate that strength with him.

She moves on to complement his head of gold and wavy black hair (Song 5:11).  Gold is a symbol of purity.  Men we need to live lives that allow our wives to say that we have a pure head (mind).  If there is sexual brokenness then it must be addressed.  Women I am a firm believer in the restorative power of God's grace.  If your husband struggles with or has struggled with sexual brokenness he needs you to accept him as pure again (by the forgiveness in Christ).  His behavior has not been gold, but God has made him Gold by his grace and mercy.  Many men seem to love their hair or grieve the loss of it.  Some more than others.  It is nice to hear a complement from our wives that they like their husbands hair.  One thing men we should style our hair the way that our wives like it.

The wife talks about his eyes (Song 5:12).  Remember in the last post I talked about eyes being the window to the soul.  Catching each other in the eyes is an act of intimacy.  She continues to look at his face and notices that he smells good (Song 5:13).  That tells me two things.  One she is close enough to his face to smell it and two the husband has taken a bath and put on some cologne.  Both are necessary to have sexual intimacy.  She notices his lips and likely is thinking about kissing them (remember she is describing her husband here he is not actually there). 

She is again noting his strength describing his arms as rods of gold, and his body as a panel of ivory (Song 5:14).  Your husband's arms are there to embrace you passionately.  His strong embrace should be celebrated.  He may not have 6 pack abs, but surely there are physical/emotional/social qualities that you can find that are attractive to you.  

She then moves down to his legs and his physical presence (Song 5:15).  His legs are strong and stable like columns of marble.  It is interesting to note that of all the objects of architecture that seem to last through time columns seem to stand up.  I am not sure that this is what the writer of this meant, but strong legs seem to be a complement of stability and staying power.  Notice the place he is standing is one of purity and righteousness (Pedestals of pure gold).  She also complements his presence.  He is majestic as the choice cedars of Lebanon. 

She returns to his mouth and says that it is sweetness (Song 5:16).  This is likely a reference to what and how he talks to her (less likely his kisses).  Two things to note one he must be saying sweet things and two she is giving him credit.  Men may not admit it, but we like it when wives say, "Do you know how sweet my husband is..."  Most of the time that is not the direction of the conversation.  It more often male bashing.  We may laugh in the moment, but when a man is emasculated in front of others sexual intimacy suffers and that is not funny. 

She also says he is desirable.  Men long to be desired by their wives.  A whole industry is built around the false illusion that there is a woman that desires the man (pornography).  I don't say this to make you feel that you are in competition with the industry.  Rather you have an opportunity to give him what he longs for, a woman that desires him.  This is real and much more satisfying than the image.  What is more it is sanctioned by God as a good thing.  Having a wife that desires her husband is a real turn on to a man. 

She concludes with two very important statements about sexual intimacy with males (Song 5:16).  First she describes him as her lover.  She is saying that she is sexually available for her and he is sexually available for her.  It is destructive to a marriage to not be available to each other.  It is equally destructive to be available for the sex act, but not be available for sexual intimacy.  If you struggle with either of these problems it needs to be addressed.  You will strengthen your marriage bond in doing so.  Pretending like it will get better is foolish (because it usually does not).  Men who experience sexual intimacy with their wives do not go have affairs generally.  So it also protects your marriage. 

The last thing she says is that he is her friend.  There is a statement I heard once in a marriage seminar, "Men do not question if their wives love them, but they often question whether their wives really like them."  When I have shared this with men I get a strong affirmation that this is how they feel.  Women need to be heard, and men need to be liked.  By the way friendship in this way is different for men than for women.  So learn what it means to your husband to be a friend and become his best friend.  It will strengthen your sexual intimacy as a result. 

I hope that this post will elevate your husband's sexuality out of the gutter of "men are lustful visual creatures that need to engage in regular sex or they will stray" to God's ideal for masculine sexuality.  Men we need to aspire to confront the lies that are being told about our sexuality and that to a certain extent we have bought into and believed about ourselves.  It is time to tear down the banner lifted up by false view of male sexuality (created by a godless culture) and raise the banner that God has given us in his word.  We are more dignified than what the world says about us and it is time that we view our sexuality though God's eyes and act accordingly.

As always blessings to you!

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