Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Proverbs 5 Is Up Next For Family Devos

We've been reading through Proverbs as a family at night for the last few months. While we were on vacation in August, we hit chapter 5. If you’re not familiar with that chapter, it’s the first of a few key chapters on sexual purity. It’s incredibly important stuff, but not your typical AWANA memory verse fare. For instance,
…the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Prov 5:3-4) 
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Prov 5:18-19)
So I was tempted to skip it. Thankfully, I thought again. This stuff is too important. Quick prayer for help. And we dived in. I’m so glad we did. It was the best family worship discussion we had during our vacation. It went something like this:

First, I read Proverbs 5:1-6:
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
I knew I needed some examples to bring this into their world. There are lots of modern equivalents to “lips dripping honey” and “speech smoother than oil.” Not all appropriate for our 7, 9, 12, and 14 year old audience. I started with magazine racks at the grocery store. We talked about how women are often dressed on the covers of those magazines.

“Why do you think they’re dressed like that, Lily? “I don’t know.” Hannah answered, “To get guys’ attention.”

We talked about why they would want to get the attention of men. And why they would do it in that way. We talked about what it means to trust in the Lord with your dress (Prov 3:5-6) and not try to take matters in your own hands. I asked, “If you are in college and you like a guy and want to get his attention, what should you do?” We talked about not using/flaunting your body to do it. Do you want him to be more attracted to how you look on the outside, or who you are on the inside?  

There was a fair amount of giggling and joking. I said some candid things. I didn’t do it for shock effect, but to open up the dialogue on issues that will most certainly rise up in their hearts as well as bombard them from every direction all throughout their lives.

We talked to the boys about why they shouldn’t buy the lies those magazine covers and advertisements are selling. We talked about photoshopped images and how girls dress and act in advertisements on the internet or on TV. We don’t have cable or watch TV and the kids are limited to 20 minutes a day for computer games, but it’s still well-nigh impossible to keep them from seeing some sensual advertising.

We talked about what beauty is and where it comes from. I mentioned Proverbs 11:22, “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” If you have a woman who is externally beautiful, but internally foolish, her beauty is only like a gold ring in the nose of a pig. Note that the sage doesn't say that lack of discretion "like a piggish ring in the nose of a goddess" (think about it). We talked about how “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

And then we kept reading. Proverbs 5:15-19:
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
We talked about how Beth and I relate to each other. We talked about why we love to go on dates. We explained why daddy and mommy are affectionate (regularly undeterred by their rolled eyes and “Eww!” responses). We talked about how ugly and wrong it would be if Daddy started to flirt with another woman. Proverbs is for real life! We want them to trust God’s wisdom and see how it speaks to all of life.

Okay, so I did skip the rest of verse 19, “Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” The main point was going to be clear without having to try to explain that one to a 7 year old boy or 9 year old girl! 

On I went (v20):
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
“Do you know what intoxicated means?” One of the older kids answered, “To be drunk.” “So, what happens when you are intoxicated?” (Some impromptu play-acting ensued, along with funny comments and giggles.) “What is it called if you get caught driving drunk?” After a few tries, Sam said, “A DUI.” “What does DUI stand for?” “Do you want to be influenced and controlled by a forbidden woman? Or do you want to be influenced and controlled by God? You don’t want to be a slave to the wrong master.”

Finally, we reached the end of the chapter (5:21-23):
For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.
We talked about how the LORD sees everything. His omniscience is either a threat or a comfort, depending on whether you’re trying to hide your sin or trying to fight your temptations and please him. God is seeking to keep us from getting entangled and ensnared. He doesn’t want us to be led astray or die. No harsh, repressive, restrictive, steal-your-fun God here. Amen.

And so, as it turned out, the text I was tempted to skip stirred up the longest and best family discussion of our vacation. There are plenty of morals in this story, but here's one parting thought. The next time you approach Bible territory that might be uncomfortable to walk through with your kids, think twice before you skip it. 

When we learn to walk with our kids through texts (and issues!) like these, we just might help keep them from walking alone, without wisdom, or with bad company, when they approach serious temptation. When they find themselves in that dangerous territory, they just might want us to walk through it with them

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Marital Dance Lesson in the Bathroom

Beth and I were in the bathroom this morning getting ready. She anticipated something I was about to do and responded so smoothly it was like we had choreographed and rehearsed it. I remarked as such. She said something like, “Marriage is like a dance. We’ve been married long enough to learn how not to step on each other’s toes.” I smiled. ‘Tis true. I’m grateful. She left to help get kids ready.

I started thinking about the “not stepping on each other’s toes” idea. You don’t learn to dance by focusing on how to avoid your partner's toes. You learn to dance by learning the steps. I wonder how many marriages are too focused on toe avoidance.

“Don’t want to rock the boat.” 
“Don’t want to hear her nag.” 
“Don’t want to get him angry.” 
“Don’t want to bring THAT up again!”  

That is no dance. It’s walking on eggshells.

What if we focus positively on the biblical steps of the dance that is Christian marriage? What if husbands regularly stiff-arm the impulses to passivity and proactively lead and serve their wives? What if wives repeatedly put up the hand to negativity, nagging and a critical spirit and practice the steps of honor and respect and willing support? What if we practice, over and over and over, the “dance steps” of, say, Colossians 3:12-17?
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
If we do, I think we’ll step on each other’s toes a lot less. And when we do get stepped on, we’ll forgive, and even, at times, be able to laugh it off. Loving your partner will be more to you than avoiding the pain. And learning to dance – even to enjoy it! – will be more to you than merely being skilled at sidestepping. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

We Are Christ's Bride - Do You Believe It?

The Church is the bride of Christ. This biblical metaphor is pregnant with implications for us. We considered a few of those implications yesterday in our "Faith in the Local Church" series.

As you continue to ponder these truths this week, I encourage you to read Ezekiel 16 and the book of Hosea. We didn't have time to consider those passages, but they are powerful revelations of the husband/wife dynamic between God and his people.

Here are a few more quotes that are well-worth pondering:

Ray Ortlund, Jr., in Whoredom: God's Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology:
To sum up, human marriage is premised in the making of the woman out of the very flesh of the man, so that the bond of marriage reunites what was originally and literally one flesh. All other relational claims must yield to the primacy of marital union. It requires an exclusive, life-long bonding of one man with one woman in one life fully shared. It erects barriers around the man and the woman, and it destroys all barriers between the man and the woman.” (23, emphasis mine)
From The Enduring Community: Embracing the Priority of the Church, by Brian Habig & Les Newsom: 
Christ did not love the Church because He came to her and found her beautiful.  He loved her despite her obvious foulness and, in His love, has achieved her beautification.  He did not do so for an abstract, imaginary bride.  He did so for real, earthy believers—the same people that are to be found, and should be found, in the local church. (77, emphasis mine)
Donald Whitney, in 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
Because of love, a fiancé will often go to great lengths to be with his bride-to-be. (See Gen. 29:20) On an infinitely grander scale, Jesus made an incomparable journey from Heaven and worked for more than thirty years for the delight of His eyes, the church (Eph. 5:25-27). (82)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What to Do If You Wake Up Feeling Fragile

I love this devotional by John Piper. Chuck Barmore recently sent it out to the group he sends daily devotionals. I commend it to you for the sake of buoyant faith, with ballast.