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Financial Infidelity?

I found this article interesting. Christians believe that lying is lying is lying — it is a misrepresentation of reality, and God, as the ultimate reality / the Shakespeare to our tragicomedy lives, has not made us to be misrepresenters of reality. Because of this, things fall apart when we lie.

Yet, within a marriage, one function of which is to essentially re-enact the beautiful unity and intimacy and love that the trinity constantly expresses, lying is especially destructive. Though I knew this in my head, I hadn’t thought of it as a kind of cheating on your spouse.

May the Lord make us more like Him.

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Book Review: Upside, by Bradley R. E. Wright

  • Bethany House
  • July 1
  • 256 pp.

As a teacher in America, I’m intimately aware of today’s bad news about education. “We’re falling behind other nations! We’re teaching the wrong things and with the wrong methods! We are standards crazy! We don’t have enough standards!” Indeed, I need only join a conversation with colleagues in the hallway to hear some hint of negative landscape of education news today.

Because of this, I found Bradley Wright’s Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World refreshing. In this book, Wright illustrates the easily-forgotten difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be. On his chapter on education (titled “Are We Dumber than We Used to Be?”), Wright’s treatment of his topic is typical for what occurs throughout the book: despite common perception, things are getting better for more people. The chapter also includes several snapshots (“Christians Making a Difference”) of people and organization that have helped to bring these trends about.

Wright treats the following topics in Chapters 2 through 9:

  • Why we have such a negative view on the way things are (here he discusses the impact of advocates, anecdotes, short-term fluctuations, bad statistics, nostalgia, unrealistic expectations, the media, and Christians)
  • Are we worse off financially than we used to be?
  • Are we dumber than we used to be? (mentioned above)
  • Are we sicker than we used to be?
  • Are we stressed and unhappy?
  • Are crime and war on the rise while freedom and faith decline?
  • Are marriages and families declining?
  • Is the environment doomed?
I appreciate the overall message of this book: that we often confuse our idea of the way things ought to be with the way things actually are. Wright never makes the claim that things are perfect–even a lower starvation rate is still a starvation rate–but he does a great job at pointing at that, on the whole, things are improving. This book will encourage you to continue pursuing the way things ought to be while giving thanks for the work God is doing around the world.

Buy it at Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How to be a Foolish Husband

I could write a book on this topic, and I don’t say that lugubriously. Thanks to the gospel, I am free to confess my failings as a husband with the hopes that it will help others. Christians often feel like they have to project these perfect marriages out to the world, because that will win people to Christ. And while we do want our marriages to be re-enactments of the gospel for the world to see–a lover dies for his bride, while the bride joyfully submits to her self-sacrificing groom–we can’t fake it. People are won over by reality, not projections. When we try faking the funk, people smell it. They’re not dumb. While we strive to strengthen our marriages in a world where things constantly fall apart, we need to be open about where we’re struggling (without being mindless about our audience).

One way to be a foolish husband is to be unwilling to endure discomfort for the sake of showing your wife love. Let’s say that your wife likes it when you wear certain types of clothing for certain occasions, but one day you wake up on one of those occasions and you don’t feel like wearing the clothing. And let’s say that you’re wife, being very sweet, gently asks you to wear that clothing she likes when she sees that you’ve got other intentions.

A lot is shooting through your head in moments like these: Why can’t she just be happy that I’m comfortable? Why do I need to do something that my buddy’s wife never expects him to do? The thoughts we have in times like these are, essentially: 1) Why can’t she change for me, and 2) Why do I have to change for her? (See how foolish we can be?)

But a wise man in these situations senses this hypocritical gibberish for what it is and instead reflects on reality. A wise man knows what he has. In these situations, as Christians, we know that we have 1) exactly the wife God wants us to have, because we’re married to her! and 2) unsearchable riches in the gospel.

When we choose to think on these excellent things, we find that wearing some uncomfortable clothing for the day is a pittance of a sacrifice next to that which Christ has made for us. Because we are so loved by Him, we no longer need to look after our own rights, making a stand against the perceived “wrongs” that our wives do us by caring about things that we may not care about. Because Jesus was willing to completely enter into our world for our sake, we can make the sacrifice of entering into the worlds of our wives and beginning to care about what they care about.

This is just the beginning of how the gospel can change our marriages.

Book Review: Money and Marriage, by Matt Bell

Recommended. A helpful, passionate, biblical guide for making money a blessing in marriage rather than a cause for stress and friction.

Every once in awhile, I come across a book that surprises me. Such was the case when I read Matt Bell’s Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples; I was pleasantly surprised by the focus, the thoroughness, and the priorities of Bell’s book.

When Crystal and I went through pre-marital counseling, we used a great book that walked us through many aspects of married life. However, being such a wide-ranging look at marriage, it included only one chapter on finances. Once we were married, we discovered that a lot more help was needed! Money and Marriage is a book I wish we would have read before we were married or soon thereafter, because it walks readers through the newlywed financial process: discerning one another’s historical and emotional financial influencers; setting upon a clear, ten-step plan of action toward financial goals; and growing financially one. That last part–becoming one flesh financially–isn’t an idea I’ve encountered in other books, but, after three years of marriage, I know how absolutely crucial it is. When we’re married, this incredible one-flesh transformation takes place, and it’s a transformation that I think millions of people are not prepared to make financially. Bell’s focus addresses this need.

I also love how thorough Bell is. This is not a watered-down, cookie-cutter approach to finances, where each paragraph reads like a water-logged Chips Ahoy. Instead, each chapter reads like a session with a highly experience, highly compassionate, highly effective marital finances counselor. With each chapter, Bell provides Scriptural backing, clear explanation, answers to well-anticipated questions, and concrete action steps to take (What to Do and What to Discuss). I can’t wait to read the chapters aloud with my wife, because I know that we will take clear guidance away from every one.

And finally, I was refreshed by the priorities of Bell’s ten-step action plan. Though other books that Crystal and I have read seem to focus on becoming financially free before giving generously, Bell’s action-plan starts in this order: planning, working, giving, saving, and avoiding debt. I respect Bell’s honesty about the Bible’s teaching on giving–that God wants us to give freely and to grow in generosity and to allow giving to remind ourselves of our highest priority (“To love God with all our heart…” Matthew 22:37).

Ultimately, Bell’s book teaches marrieds how to steward God’s money with our spouse–how to manage it instead of allowing it to enslave us through greed or debt or idolatry or marital division or any mixture of these evils. Bell sees money for what it is: a useful tool for living generously, minimizing stress, and maximizing marital unity.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Marriage as Gospel-Reenactment

Tim Keller, in his marriage sermon series, calls marriage “Gospel reenactment.” When the Scriptures liken the husband to Christ and the wife to the church, we’re being told that, basically, our marriages are made to paint pictures of cross-centered love.

Well, my wife and I have given our daughter to some awesome grandparents, and we are taking our first overnight getaway since Hadassah was born back in September.

If our marriages are really meant to re-enact the Gospel, let’s take time for them! If you’re a man reading this, plan a date for your wife! And, just in case you are romance-blind (I’m not color blind, but I can certainly be romance-blind), remember some words of wisdom from my wife:

Romance is about creating an atmosphere where it’s clear that you have me (this is my wife talking) as your priority, where you just want to know me and bring me joy.

I would add that a good date involves being curious about who she is. A lot of times us guys can get into the mindset of, “Well, I’ve known her for a few years, been married to her a few years–I know who she is.” But we have to fight against that, because a woman made in God’s image is not so quickly known! God made this woman with an eternal soul; when we reflect on that, there’s no way we’re going to know who she is, even if we’re married a century!

Tim Keller Lecture Notes — Series: Sex, Singleness, and Marriage — Lecture #1: Sex–The Biblical Guidelines

Lecture was given on September 1, 1993.

The teaching is based on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

Please note that these notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction:

There is no biblical view of dating. They didn’t date. You were three years old and you were walking along with your parents and they saw someone and said, “Oh, there’s a nice family, there’s a good arrangement, let’s have them get married.” My grandmother was betrothed; she was twelve and she was betrothed to my grandfather by her parents. And I used to say, “How was it?” And she’d say, “I had a great marriage, what are you talking about? It was fine!” (More on dating next week, when we talk about singleness.)

The biggest problem tonight is that you’re all in different places, but I’m going to have to aim at a particular type of person. I may not be coming right up the center of your alley, but I hope I can at least knock down a lot of pins in your alley….

Many of you have heard me preach on sex before, though I haven’t done it many times. But you’ve come tonight because you need more details than the overview I’ve given in sermons. So first, I’ll lecture, and second, I’ll let you ask me questions so that you can get the details you need.

Here’s how I’ll start, at the locus classicus on the subject: 1 Corinthians 6:12 to the end….

What is the biblical sex ethic?

  • First I’ll say it negatively: the Bible is clear that sex is for a man and a woman within a marriage. It’s always been like that.
  • Sometimes when I’ve taught on this, people have looked at me and said, “Period? That’s where it ends?” They’ve said you must be one of the conservative pastors.
    • Every branch of Judaism and Christianity has always taught this same thing. It’s very hard to find something that all of the religions have consensus on. Someone who says that this kind of stance on sexuality is part of a backwater cult, they simply don’t understand the history of the world.
    • They say, “Times have changed! This was an idea developed in Europe to keep population down.” I’m glad you’re laughing at that, because that’s really silly. Christianity originally broke on the scene in the middle of the Roman empire! Everybody looked at them and thought they were crazy. But when people came into belief and experienced the power of this ethic, it won. Believing this is something that’s outdated is simply showing a lack of understanding of the transformative power that this idea of a biblical sex ethic had in the sexually permissive society it came on the scene in.
  • The problem with this negatively posed description of sex is that it doesn’t tell you what sex is for, it only tells you what it’s not for.
    • A lot of you were raised in churches where you were taught this, but you weren’t converted, and then later in life you were transformed and came back to the church as genuine believers, and you’re faced again with this teaching which for years you’ve abandoned.
    • So I want to explain what sex is for.
  • But before that, let’s address two views that Paul was dealing with.
    • The Platonic View: First, get out of your head of the way that word is used today. We’re talking about the philosophy of Plato–that the body is bad, matter is bad, the soul is imprisoned in the body, and therefore sexuality is a dirty bad thing.
    • On the other hand, there was the view of the mystery religions: That sex was an appetite that you fulfilled when you felt like it.
    • Paul is careful to distinguish the Christian view from both.
  • We are neither to despise nor deify sex.
    • To despise it is to think of it as a dirty, defiling thing.
    • To deify it is to simply let our instincts do what they want; we can’t treat our instincts as if they’re God.
    • Paul teaches that sex isn’t dirty, but that our sexual instinct is disordered.
    • To deal with the Platonic side, Paul says, “Sex is so critical that both spouses ‘owe’ sex to each other.” It’s commanded–go to it! (“That’s a paraphrase.”)
      • Is it possible that God would command something that was defiling? Heck no. It’s good. He gave it a benediction after creation (Genesis 1-2).
      • The Bible is very embarrassing for Platonic views of sex — the Song of Solomon. The translators constantly wimp out on translating the Hebrew as it really is.
      • Proverbs 5:18 — A man must be ravished with his wife’s breasts.
      • There’s no tittering about sex in the Bible; when it’s wrong, it addresses it, when it’s right, it praises it.
      • Romans 7 — the image is that just as a woman puts herself literally in the arms of her husband and fruit is born into the world, in the same way the Bible says if you put yourself into the arms of Jesus Christ, in the same way fruit will be born into the world through you. It’s an amazingly intimate and daring thing.
      • The Bible teaches us that the ecstasy and joy of sex was created by God to give a foretaste of the amazing intimacy and closure that we will enjoy with God. Sex is a signpost, it’s an analogy. The intimacy that you hunger for in sex can only be given to you by intimacy with God.
      • When we meet with Christ face to face, when we enter into that closure, then we’ll know what sex has all been about; therefore, sex is glorious! How can it possibly be dirty or defiling?
      • The Bible’s view of sex is higher than any other book or philosopher I’ve ever read.
    • To deal with the appetite view of sex, Paul says:
      • v. 13-15, 18 — the body is not for immorality!
      • Sexual oneness with somebody apart from having every other kind of oneness (through marriage) is a monstrosity
      • Now: Why? If sex is so great and glorious, why is Paul talking about how serious it is?
        • Sexual sin can really disorder you in a major way.
        • Sex isn’t any more unforgivable than other sins, but biblically, because sex is a whole lot closer to the center of reality than a mere appetite, therefore sin has hurt sex in the way it hasn’t hurt your physical appetite for food
        • Sin: the bent of the whole person to want to live for your own self and to do things your own way. It’s sin that makes us use people, that makes us always want to put ourselves in the center.
        • Sin can affect our appetite with food, but when you’re dealing with food your dealing with an inanimate object; sex is dealing with another person.
          • If anyone says they deny sin, why do they lock their car? Their front door?
        • Lewis’ radio talk over the BBC on sexuality: Imagine going to a country where young men in college put on the walls of their dorm rooms great big, life-size, full color pictures of hot dogs and hamburgers, and the guys went around to each other’s room saying, “Oh, wow, look at this one!”
          • If you saw this, you’d say, “What’s wrong with these people? They must be starving!” But if you came you’d find out that’s not true; they’ve been eating like crazy. The only conclusion you’d be able to come to would be to say that there’s something deeply disordered and distorted about their appetite for sex.
          • So can you really believe that the appetite for food and the appetite for sex are similar?
          • No — something has gone much more deeply awry with sex than with appetites.
        • You can’t follow your instincts with sex; something has gone wrong with them.
        • If you give sex it’s way, if you hand over the reigns, you won’t get much out of it at all.
        • J. I. Packer — Sex is a signpost to God, now if you camp under a signpost you’re not going to get much of anywhere. If you camp under a sign that says, “New York – 50 Miles,” and say, “We’re here, honey!” you won’t get there. That’s what we’re doing.

What are the three biblical purposes for sex?

  • Procreation
    • One of the reasons the Roman Catholic church doesn’t do birth control is that it believes this is the purpose for sex. They believe that because of St. Augustine, who was a Platonist.
    • However, if there’s more than just this purpose for sex, than some forms of birth control are permissable.
  • Fun
    • Proverbs 5:18 — It brings joy. It’s recreational.
    • But if we stop there, we get into trouble, too. We get stuck with the mystery religions.
  • A Unitive Act
    • It is for fully, permanently, completely committed relationships b/c sex is a way of cementing relationships with complete oneness. It is God’s appointed way for saying to another person, “I belong completely and permanently to you.”

Four ways of saying the same thing

  • What Paul is saying here is that to have sexual, physical union with a prostitute (a woman) without all the other kinds of union is a monstrosity, is frustrating the purpose of sex.
  • What happens physically has got to have as its context the same unification at every level–social, legal, moral, psychological, emotional, spiritual.
  • E.g., when you have sex, you become naked. You make yourself physically vulnerable. When you have sex outside of marriage, you say, “I’m going to make myself physically vulnerable, but I won’t do it in any other way. I don’t want to make myself that vulnerable to you!”
  • You know darn well that when you first had sex with that first person, it seemed like a monstrosity that that person didn’t have any obligation to be with you.

If you see these things, you begin to see that “Thou shalt not have sex outside of marriage” is not just because we like to have rules, we like to keep you from having fun–it’s because sex is BUILT to say I belong completely to you, and if you don’t use it that way, you’ll destroy it.

  • Star Trek, “The Trouble with Tribbles”: There’s some governor of a wimpy asteroid somewhere whose trying to protect his special grain and he calls a star destroyer to come help him, he puts out a Priority One distress call, which always means that a planet’s about to be utterly destroyed.
  • If you use a non-verbal communication signal that has been legislated for one particular purpose for a different purpose, the communication signal gets destroyed!
    • When you have sex with someone who you’re not married to, you ruin your ability to communicate that commitment with sex.
  • Covenant: A binding legal contract done in public. It’s something done with witnesses, so that it’s hard for you to break your word.
    • Sex is supposed to be a regular covenant renewal ceremony
    • If you use sex the way God invented it to be used, every time you use it properly it continually strengthens and renews that covenant.
    • If, on the other hand, you use it outside of marriage, it operates backwards and destroys your ability to be totally committed, and some of you see that in your own life. It doesn’t mean anything anymore, it makes it harder and harder for you to trust.
      • A wife was once incredibly jealous of her husband and could no trust him
        • It came out that she had undermined her ability to trust by being sexually unfaithful to her husband
  • “To know” — this is one of the Hebrew words for sex in the Old Testament

So how do I actually start to practice that?

  • The Bible is always talking about lust. Jimmy Carter was mocked for admitting that he lusted for women in his heart, and that’s because if you’re not a Christian your view of sex is not very nuanced.
  • Lust is for something–for a sexual thrill.
  • So how do you deal with lust?
    • Make a distinction b/w a thought and  fantasy.
      • You can’t stop thoughts from happening. There’s a bit of time to deal with a thought.
      • To admire sexual beauty is not wrong. But to then begin to sit and entertain and begin to think of yourself in relation to that person, at that point you’re getting into a fantasy.
      • You don’t have control over the thought. You can’t stop somebody from knocking at the door, but you can go to the door and say, “I’m not interested.”
      • You can control whether or not you come to the door and say, “Well, come on in and let’s decide what to do with you.”
      • You don’t hear a knock at the door and say, “There I go again!” with dismay.
    • Fast sexually instead of starving
      • This is the difference b/w a diet and being starved. A diet is proactive approach to eating that gets you results that you like.
      • So, when it comes from dieting sexually,
    • Use the Gospel to overcome guilt from the past.
      • A lot of us have problems with our adult life because we used to have trouble with our behavior life.
      • I remember the naked women posters in the rooms on my freshman hallway. That was a long time ago! There are so many useful things to fill my mind with; why is that stuck!
      • The only way to turn those things off is if you don’t feel guilty for them anymore. You need to look at the people in the Bible who were healed and accepted who had a much worse past. Tamar’s incest. Rahab’s prostitution. And Jesus brought them into his family.
  • I’m a Christian, and I’m wondering, “How far can you go, sexually?”
      • Christianity makes you see distinctions, it gives you a much more nuanced view of sexuality, and you begin to see a real different between godly sexual passion and lust.
      • Now that you’re a Christian you’re a connosieur of sex!
    • Don’t forget that if you define sexual intercourse as penetration, it’s something for marriage, but we all know that there are all sorts of things leading up to it.
      • You’ve got to figure out that there is a place where your body will only be satisfied with penetration. I’m not going to tell you where that is. (This seems like a rigorous enough model for self-examination if you’re honest.)
      • You’ve got to think of sex as an escalator, and that everything you do will move you up it. A few steps up, there’s no problem getting off an escalator, but on the other hand, if you’re going up to the top you realize that there is no way you’re getting off.
    • Commitment and contact/intimacy go together.
      • The first time I held my wife (Kathy’s) hand, I got aroused. Women say, “What?” I think it’s because our egos kick in. We think, “Wow, she’s squeezing my hand back.” Just knowing that she’s interested in you can be sexually stimulating and arousing.
      • That doesn’t happen anymore–and that doesn’t mean the honeymoon is over, etc.
        • The reason for that is, the more committed you get the less your sexual stimulation is engaged with your ego and the more it is aroused when the other person is opening themselves up to you.
        • As time goes on, your intimacy moves up; as the commitment grows, the intimacy can grow.
    • Treat the person the way you would want someone to treat your future spouse
      • This rule will keep you safe!
  • These have been some specifics, and if you press me I might give you some more details, but I’m probably going to stick to principles because people are so different.

Some notes from the Q & A:

Someone expressed essentially that the main problem with being a Christian is not that you have to sexually fast, it’s that it narrows down your options so much for who you can marry.

  • Even you go for a long period of time without finding someone that meets the criteria, the alternative is having a string of divorces or being in a marriage where you are seen and not loved.

Marriage doesn’t fulfill you; nothing fulfills you but God. People who are rich have tremendous difficulties; people who are treading water financially have others.

Scott Sauls Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #4: Hope for the Family

Sermon preached on October 18, 2009.

The teaching is based on Ephesians 5:21-33.

Scott Sauls preached this message. Rev. Sauls is a Lead Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; his preaching style is very similar to that of his Senior Pastor, Tim Keller.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction:

  • Why are there so many singles in NYC? Lack of time, abundance of cynicism, and fear.
  • Ephesians 5 suggests a different purpose for marriage than the ones commonly thought of: two broken sinners enter into an other-centered covenant
  • Paul is suggesting that marriage is about personal transformation

Outline:

I. Exposure

II. Embrace

I. Exposure

  • Paul quotes Genesis, when man and woman were naked; it’s much more than physical to be naked; scripturally, it means to become vulnerable, to be seen beneath who you are, beneath your Facebook or resume.
    • The nature of the human heart is to hide our blemishes behind a persona; Adam and Eve do everything they can to control their persona after the fall–they dress up, they blame shift
  • We don’t want people to know that we probably wouldn’t want to be friends with ourselves
  • [Rev Sauls shares a funny story involving him and his wife studying the Bible together early in their marriage; she had married him partly because of how impressive he was as a speaker and small group leader, how deep his insight was; when the young couple studied the Bible together, however, Rev Sauls’ wife quickly discovered that “I married a pompous know-it-all.”]
  • Sartre: Hell is to be looked at, to be unable to stop or control what someone else sees when they look at us
  • two people deserve access to our private parts: our spouse and our doctor
  • With doctors, why do we allow probing, the invading of our bodies?
    • Because we want to live! to flourish, to survive
    • Why do we allow this probing into our bodies, but not into our character?
  • “Restore” in Galatians 6:1-2 is a Greek word that elsewhere is only used as a medical term for resetting a bone
  • We do whatever we can to turn a limp into a dance
  • At the end of New York Magazine, there are 3 pages of ads for rich men to find hot women; we walk into a gym and immediately eliminate 95% of the people there as potential spouses before we even meet them; we want perfection now–is this what Jesus did for us?
  • Jesus: “My vision is to heal, so I’m looking for a bride with spots, wrinkles, blemishes.”
  • In the film As Good as It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s  response to Helen Hunt: “You make me want to be a better man
    • That’s what you look for in a mate; that’s your selection criteria

II. Embrace

  • Both parties need to know that the marriage is sinner-safe
  • The goal is to be fully known (naked) and without shame (loved, respected, honored), just like in Genesis before the fall
  • The film Beautiful Mind is a great marriage movie
  • C. S. Lewis married a woman knowing she had terminal cancer
  • you know you love someone when you continue to serve them even though you’ve fallen out of love with them
  • “Workmanship” is the Greek word poema; you are the poem of God
  • If you throw random words in a hat and mix them up, you’ve got chaos, but those same words can become a Shakespearean sonnet
  • On one side of extremes is co-dependent enabling; on the other is bullying
    • Gospel love is in the middle of these two things, and far away from each
  • Trying to build a resume or a career or be cool as a reason for coming to New York City can’t be your main reason, because what happens when you walk outside and see your windshield bashed in? What happens when the City treats you like an enemy?
    • Will you love her?
    • When she’s acting pschizo, will you divorce her in your heart, or continue to serve her?
    • When she only takes, will you still give?

Conclusion:

Jesus never considers divorce. He sees us in bed with  our mistresses of money, love, power, and he determines to continue loving us.