Monday, May 21, 2007

Just for Laughs

Justin Taylor had a fun post today about some of his "Lessons Learned." If you're looking for a laugh, check it out. I think that I could easily come up with something similar, full of my own personal blunders. I have a lot of them. One recent one involves some kind of meat facility...

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Heart of Marriage: It's All About Me?

This time last week, I was spending the evening with my family, playing Uno in their hotel room. The TV was on, and the news featured the story of a woman whose fiancé proposed to her in the classroom. What struck me was the comment of a child about the purpose of marriage. According to this child, who has obviously been influenced by our culture, says that you get married "to have some love you and take care of you." To put it in the first-person tense: "I marry to have someone to love me and take care of me." While having someone that loves me and takes care of me would be a benefit and a blessing of the marriage union, I desire marriage to give of myself to another. I desire to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Christ's love was a selfless love.

How did Christ love? He gave Himself up for His bride, the church. He didn't look for someone to show love and to care for Him. Instead, He sought to care for and provide for His bride.

I cannot help but be reminded of the song, "The Heart of Worship." This song bears the refrain, "It's all about you." Worship students frequently parody this song as a comment on much of today's man-centered worship, changing the phrase to "It's all about me." Worship, at its core, is not about me. Marriage, at its core, is not about me. Even as Paul discussed the matter of physical intimacy, he taught that pleasing the spouse is one of the major principles guiding the physical union. Each member is to give of himself or herself for the sake of the other in the physical relationship, seeking the pleasure of the other (1 Cor. 7:3-5, NASB). Should physical intimacy be the only portion of marriage that is governed by the policy of selflessness? This question points to the fact that if even a pleasurable act is governed by selfless expression of love, should not the whole tenor of the marriage be one of selfless love toward the spouse?

Truly, the glory of it all is that as a godly husband works hard and sacrifices himself for the sake of his wife, he finds joy and fulfillment in serving her as he honors her more than himself, living with her in an "understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7, NASB) and loving and caring for his wife as he cares for himself (Eph. 5:28, NASB). The glory of it all is that as a godly wife supports her husband and seeks his good above her own, she finds joy and fulfillment in bearing the glory of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4, NASB) and respecting her husband (Eph. 5:33, NASB).

I have not experienced the joy of marriage, and I am not qualified to speak about marriage experientially or theoretically. Thankfully, through the Word of God, I can speak and teach with authority on this topic as I teach what the Scripture teaches and not beyond. It is clear from Scripture that marriage is not about me, it's about my wife. Even now as I pray for her, I'm training myself to think of her and what her needs may be. I pray that I'll continue to grow into a man who is capable of loving more and more selflessly, seeking to emulate the compassionate, selfless love of the Savior. While I'm seeking to prepare financially for marriage (see my entry on "The Sanctification of Spending"), my future wife also deserves my love and my devotion. However, she ultimately deserves a husband who loves God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Pray for me to that end, because it is not about me...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Sanctification of Spending

God gives His children good gifts, and guidance is one of those good gifts. By guidance, I mean the wisdom that He gives to show us how to live our lives. Starting Monday, May 14th, I will begin my full-time job as cataloger in the library. Through thinking about the job, my graduation, and future wedding, the Lord has been convicting me about how frivolously I use my money at times. He's also been sending others my way such as my friend and accountability partner Moy and others to give me advice and counsel, giving me the guidance and wisdom that I need to live a holier life for God's glory. The Lord's timing is good, and I now think about what I spend and have certain guidelines in mind. One such guideline is to tithe (10%) from the money given to me as a gift from others and deposit %50 into savings immediately. I still allow myself the pleasure of using the remaining %40 as I please.

These steps and others will help me to walk wisely before my God and my neighbor. The Lord has been impressing upon me the need to live an examined life. My biggest problem is that I'm not always walking in the spirit (Gal. 5:16). I don't always think enough about the words I say, the money I spend, or even the commercials on TV that I mindlessly watch. These things seem minor, which caused a family member to wonder why I changed the television when an inappropriate commercial was on the other day, just for one example. The Christian must think deeply about life. Running on auto-pilot only leads to harm. This is why Scripture tells us to think on certain things, for instance. On auto-pilot, we're not likely to think on things that are holy or true, among other things (Phil. 4:8). My spending is one such area that the Lord has brought to my attention so that I may prepare for the future, particularly for my future bride.

With that in mind, I mostly wanted to write to pass along a helpful article that I came across today. is a wonderful ministry of Focus on the Family designed for adult singles. They have some solid material with several contributors associated with solid groups such as 9 Marks ministries and Sovereign Grace Ministries. I highly commend this site especially to young men and women who hope to marry one day. The specific article that spurred me to write today is entitled, "Saving It for Marriage." I encourage my single and engaged guy friends to read this. As men of God, we must set the stage and lead our families in the area of finances. Wasteful spending and rampant consumption reveals a core of pure materialism and greed, yet we are called to love not the world or the things and possessions in it (1 John 2:15). Instead, we save up for heaven, things that are spiritual and cannot be destroyed by moth or rust (Matthew 6:19-20).

So, read the article, and let me know what you think from either a man or woman's perspective. I pray that the article was a blessing to you as it was to me.

Expect another blog entry soon sharing some more thoughts about marriage in general soon. A comment on a show last night reminded me just how vast the chasm is between the world's view of marriage and the teaching about marriage found in Scripture. Sadly, spending is only the tip of that iceberg.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts on My Upcoming Graduation

It's hard to believe that I have finished the coursework for my college education. I had my last final on Monday morning, and I will be graduating Friday, May 11th at 10:00 AM. Things haven't gone as planned since I left for college. There have been lots of changes, or "milestones" to use the terminology a friend used in a recent graduation card. I decided to think back on some of them. This post may not amount to much, but I felt that the occasion needed some kind of acknowledgment on this blog. Here are some of the lessons I've learned and the changes that the Lord brought about in my plans and in my life.

The Lord changed my college plans...He led me to Boyce College after a couple of semesters at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. I had some great friends, and I settled in rather easily to the college experience. I was also only an hour away from home and could travel home every weekend to visit my family. My family is an integral part of my life, and I was thankful for the opportunity to adjust to slowly adjust to living without them as a regular part of my day-to-day experience. I wanted an education that would train me more theologically. Although my previous college has a terrific music program, I have had the firm conviction that a minister of music is more than the sum of his artistic training. The Bachelor of Science in Church Music degree required only one religion class. That view of music ministry is not aligned with my own. The minister of music (wearing whatever titles may be chosen) is ultimately a minister and servant of the Word. This is why I transferred to Boyce College, which has granted me the opportunity to have similar music classes while adding on Old and New Testament classes and studies in various Christian disciplines including: theology, ethics, and evangelism, to name a few. It has trained me to be a minister, one capable of shepherding the flock, and giving me musical skills to use in the service of the King.

The Lord changed my vocational plans...I thought that I would graduate from Shorter College in May 2005 and attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to get a further church music degree. I assumed that I would graduate 3-4 years later and become Minister of Music at some First Baptist Church, giving me a cozy office job and a nice fiscal provision. Vocation was one of the many idols that had crept in my heart. I joke about it now, but so far the few ministry move that I have involved a cut in pay. I am happy though, realizing that the Lord has and will provide for all of my needs (Phil. 4:19).

The Lord changed my relationship plans...I assumed that I would have already been married by this stage of my life, possibly even having become a father by now. I rest in His sovereign goodness, confident that He will introduce my bride to me in His perfect timing. I look back on my plans, and I'm thankful that I didn't find a girlfriend my first few years in college. I was lost and thus living for myself. I knew not experientially how to love sacrificially, nor did I have the capability to love as I ought. Only through experiencing the love of Christ have I been able to show genuine, selfless love to others (1 John 4:19).

The Lord changed my heart...It was a shock to me at the time, but the Lord finally and fully impressed upon me in February of 2005 that I was lost and devoid of God's grace in my life. I was without hope, trying to serve a God that I denied by my life and whose favor I sought to own through hollow deeds. I never thought that I would be one of those guys who would come to know Christ in college. I thought I knew Him, but my pride kept me from coming to Him, even though I was deeply burdened (Matt. 11:28-30) by the awareness of my own sin and the abiding conviction that I was under the wrath of an Almighty God who would have been just to assign me to hell. Sure, I was saved from sin, but I was chiefly saved from the wrath of God upon me (Rom. 5:9).

Finally, the Lord is changing my view of myself...I'm finding more and more sin in my life as the days pass by. As I look to Christ, I see myself deficient of the kind of holiness that I should be exhibiting. As a result of walking with Him, I no longer have unrealistic and lofty expectations of how righteous I am and how capable I am of doing genuine righteous deeds for God's glory. Instead, I find that pride so easily creeps into my heart, revealing a genuine fear of man and a lack of a holy fear of the Lord. Recently, through a shopping excursion, I was amazed at how much money I could spend at a whim with a piece of plastic. Thankfully, the Lord convicted me of this, and I was able to return the unused clothing days later. I can be very materialistic, and I didn't realize this about myself until recent days. This is part of the reason why I'm selling and donating portions of my library. I must not love the things of this world (1 John 2:15).

My prayer is that the Father will make me more like Christ, daily reforming me and conforming me to Christ's image and likeness. My prayer is that the Lord will continue the painful process of convicting me of my sin so that I recognize more areas that need sanctification, holy change. My prayer is that the Lord will wean me from this world in preparation for glory.

The Christian life is much like the college experience...It costs a lot, and the learning never ceases. There are tests...some I pass, and some I fail; but thankfully, the Lord will keep me from falling (Jude 24), from failing to graduate and pass into glory. Thankfully, I'm secure in Christ, and I'll graduate, receiving a glorified body like my Teacher's--the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) in the flesh, seated at the right hand of the Father.

As I consider this Friday as I walk across the stage to receive a piece of paper acknowledging the completion of coursework, I will think of the day when I stand before the Father, clothed not in a black robe with a mortarboard cap, but in the white robe of Christ's righteousness. As I turn my tassel at the ceremony's end, I will think of casting my crown at the feet of Jesus Christ. That day will be a graduation, the Graduation to end all others.