Monday, July 21, 2008

Marriage #4

Okay, so I'll admit to being a pretty bad blogger lately. I haven't posted in more than a week, and I didn't even get a preview up of last week's lesson. I've been especially tardy in posting my final thoughts on the theological underpinnings and spiritual meaning of marriage. I think I promised the final part of that series like three weeks ago. See the other three parts here, here and here. Things have been pretty busy lately, with work, with church, and with my newly appointed Pastor Search Committee duties. Nevertheless, I'm without excuse for not keeping my promises. So I hope to make up for that now.

The idea of male headship and female submission in marriage doesn't make much sense, on the surface at least. To my mind, it seems that the person in the marriage who has the best leadership skills should be the leader, whether they're a man or a woman. And the idea of submission, for a female, or a male for that matter, seems kind of backward and wrong-headed. If I were making the rules on my own, it's likely I would say that neither husband or wife should submit; that each would do what seems best to them. If they agree that's great. If not, they both will have to deal with it. But despite my thoughts, this idea of male headship and female submission is permeated throughout the Bible. It's not a couple of verses here or there. It's at the very heart of the Biblical narrative as it relates to male and female.

But why? It frankly seems rather arbitrary to say one gender is the leader and the other is the follower. And I think it would be, if not for the fact that God was trying to explain something very profound to us with the way he set things up. He makes it very clear though, in Ephesians 5:22-33:

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

Without explicitly referencing this scripture, I've covered most of this scripture in my other two posts. In this post, I want to look specifically at verse 32, the part I've highlighted in the scripture. It has two parts, and each is important:

1) The profound mystery of marriage - The first thing to understand is that when Paul speaks of the mystery of marriage, he's not talking about the kind of mystery that hasn't been solved. Though there is much that is very mysterious about marriage, that I haven't figure out yet (just ask Crystal), I don't think that's specifically what he's referencing. Here Paul speaks of the mysterious purpose of marriage, that wasn't perfectly revealed through the first however-many thousands of years of creation. It is a profound mystery, one that is not to be trifled with. Marriage is important and serious and reflective of a far greater truth.

2) It refers to Christ and the Church - This mystery that was only recently revealed, is that marriage, at it's best, when it's done the way God intends, is a direct reference to, a reflection of, Christ and the church. That mystery, not completely revealed until after Jesus' death on the cross, is now understood more perfectly. A good Christian marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. The bible often speaks of the church as Christ's bride. A great marriage supper scene is recorded in the 19th chapter of Revelation, between the bridegroom Jesus and his ransomed bride, the church.

The point is this: God has appointed marriage as a way of pointing people to Him. Marriage was made not primarily for the pleasure of people, though it can bring great pleasure. It wasn't made primarily for the procreation of children, though this also is an important aspect. It wasn't created primarily as a way to build a society, though there is no doubt that a society won't survive without it. Marriage, from the very beginning, was created as a way to bring God glory by reflecting the love Jesus has for the church, and the respect and submission the church has to Christ.

I think this may be where much marriage counseling and many marriage seminars fall short. We've been very good and telling people why marriage is important to the participants and the children, and society in general. We've not been very good in explaining why it's important to God. That's the primary reason divorce is the tragedy it is, not because of the people involved, but because of the glory that is stolen from God.

I think this post has been a bit rambling, but it will have to do. I won't be doing much blogging over the next couple of weeks, because Crystal and I will leave soon for our vacation to the Rockies. But I'll bring back pictures! For those of you in my class, Brian will be teaching Sunday about the new Heaven and the new Earth. Don't miss it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

This Week's Lesson

I'm frankly a little bit nervous about this week's lesson; let's just say it's not really in my area of theological expertise. I told you all last week how Revelation is not my favorite part of the Bible. Nevertheless, I've enjoyed studying it over the last several weeks. That having been said, this week is particularly difficult for me, because it's a subject that has been a particular thorn in the church's side for many years - the anti-Christ.

Everyone from the Pope to Bill Clinton has been called the anti-Christ. It's been a source of endless speculation for about 2000 years, and so far at least, I don't think we've really nailed down anyone as the guy yet. I don't plan to spend a minute of time speculating on who he'll be Sunday. We'll have more important taks, like getting an idea of what kind of person he will be, and what he will do. We'll also look at who's "pulling his strings" so to speak, and what the call is to Christians in the face of the anti-Christ.

It should be interesting! I'll look forward to seeing you all Sunday!

Monday, July 7, 2008


This is Heidi. No I don't remember why she's sitting in a kitchen (or bathroom) cabinet. I also don't particularly care for that scarf (or any clothing for pets). But this is the best picture I could find of her. So get past those two things for just a moment so I can tell you this story.

Heidi has been Crystal's dog longer than I have been Crystal's husband. She got her 8 years ago, before we were even dating. Heidi is shitzu (be careful how you say that). Crystal is very attached to her little Heidi, but not in a weird kind of way. Just in a "this is my pet, and I love her because she has always and continues to provide wonderful companionship to me" kind of way. I have often joked that if Heidi and I were both drowning in a pond, I'm not sure who Crystal would throw the rope to first. She loves her dog, okay. And over the years, I've grown to love Heidi to, even though she sleeps on the bed and sheds on the couch and stares at me when I eat. Reed especially loves her, and refers to her as not just Heidi, but as "my friend Heidi."

So Saturday when Heidi disappeared, it was devastating for the entire family. Sometime Saturday evening she sneaked out the front door. We didn't notice until later that night that she was gone, because frankly, with a three year old, you don' t notice a lot of things. But when we did, the search began. I searched the roads around our home for almost two hours Saturday night into Sunday morning, to no avail. Crystal went back out and searched Sunday afternoon, again to no avail. We'd placed an ad in the paper, but were not very hopeful.

And this morning, she showed back up. We still don't know what happened. Reed and I went to turn on the pool filter before we left the house, and we heard her barking in our storage shed. Someone, probably our neighbor, had put her in there while we were getting ready. Our only assumption is that either she came back on her own, or someone brought her back, our neighbor recognized her, and put her in a safe place for us. Needless to say, Crystal and Reed, were beside themselves with excitement, and okay, I was pretty excited too.

So what to learn from all of this? I don't know. People lose their dogs all the time, and sometimes, they come back. I know God has some way of using this to his glory, I just don't know what it is yet. I do know this; He's getting much thanks right now from a very happy family, and a glad-to-be-home dog.

Friday, July 4, 2008

This Week's Lesson

This week, we're going to begin a brand new series of lessons on the book of Revelation. For the next four weeks, we're going to look at this often-confusing, often misunderstood, book of the Bible. It should be interesting.

Let me begin though, by admitting my biases. This is not my favorite book of the Bible. I think I've been tainted on this book by all of the ways it has been mutilated and used over the years. It's been used to claim everyone from Bill Clinton to the Pope was the anti-christ. It's been used to claim that every year since 1898 would be the year of the rapture. No other book of the Bible has been used to manipulate and confuse people more than has Revelation.

But it is a beautiful book, full of sometimes confusing, but amazing imagery. As I've studied it over the last several days, I've come away with a sense of awe at the beauty and majesty and power of Jesus.

There are a lot of different ways of looking at Revelation. I would probably describe myself as a leaky dispensationalist, and an apathetic pre-millinealist. I say that because I've not studied the issue closely enough to decide with certainty exactly where I come down on those things, but people I've respected over the years have generally fallen into those categories. But I can also see some of the points of the amillinealists and the postmillinealists, in addition the covenant theologians.
For the Wikipedia definitions of what those different terms mean, you can click on the individual words.

The good news is, you don't have to have come down on any side of this discussion to enjoy and appreciate and learn from the next four weeks' lessons. They'll pretty much cover the four major points of Revelation, points that most people agree on. They are:

1. God is in control of the future.
2. Satan will be out to stop God's plan.
3. God will defeat Satan.
4. God will create a new Heaven and a new Earth.

We'll be looking at the first part Sunday, specifically looking at the 5th chapter of Revelation. That chapter holds beautiful imagery of heaven and Jesus. Take a look at it before Sunday. See you then!

And Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Marriage: Female Submission

I'm afraid I'm daring to venture where angels fear to tread in this next post, because it is so controversial, and so easily open to misinterpretation, both by myself, and by someone who might be reading this. But, because I believe there is a Biblical basis for the wife to submit to her husband, I'm going to go here, and just let the chips fall where they may.

Submission is difficult for everyone, but everyone is expected to do it in some way. As Christians, we're told to submit to our church leaders, to submit to our country's leaders, to submit to our bosses at work, and most importantly to submit to God himself. It's hard enough for men. I know at times I have struggled to submit to all of the above in the way that I'm supposed to. But it's even harder for women. They have one more directive: submit to your husband.

That's especially hard when you think about what many men are like. I fight the urge to be a slug about 80% of the time. There is nothing in me that makes me worthy of Crystal's submission. Even when I'm trying and doing my best, with God's strenghth, I'm prone to mess up. I have a hard enough time keeping my shoes tied, much less properly leading a family. So frankly, at least from a worldly perspective, Crystal should be well within her rights not to submit to me.

But we can't get away from that command. It's right there in black and white: "Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22 ESV) In other words, submit to your husband in the same kind of way that you do to God. That's just plain hard. I talked about the husbandly resonsiblity last post; how after thoughtful consideration and consultation from the wife, and after consensus has still not been reached, it's up to him to make a decision or take action. But once a decision is made or an action is taken, the wife's command is to support the husband and follow him, even if she's not sure it was the right decision or action, as long as it is not immoral. This involves a great deal of trust and a great deal of putting away pride. In that sense, the woman is taking her cues from the description God gives of the church, submitting to Jesus, taking up her cross and following Him, whatever the cost, and trusting that He wants what is best and will work to do what is best.

The female tendency would be to rebel against the very thing she is asked to do - submit to her husband. That could come in many different ways, and it's frankly quite natural. I think women can go either way with this rebellion: it can come in the form of aggressive attempts to usurp authority; it might also come in passive attempts to undermine him. Either way, just as man's attempts to rebel against headship are a sin against God, so are women's attempts to rebel against submission.

In an ideal mariage, the woman submits to her husband out of joy; because she knows he wants the best and plans the best for her, and will always put her thoughts and feelings and desires ahead of his own. Of course, I know that there are no ideal marriages, and every woman at one time or another will have to submit to her husband despite his own shortcoming, and maybe even despite the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing. Just as men are called to lead women who don't want to be led, women are called to submit to men who don't want to be the head of the family.

Just as male headship is a learned and ongoing thing for men, submission is a learned and ongoing thing for women. Neither of will ever get it perfectly right. But both of us must work toward that ideal at all times.

In my next post, and I don't know when that will be, I hope to lay out the reason that husbands should lead and wives should follow. Hint: It's probably not what you think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Marriage: Male Headship

Okay, I'm going to dive headlong into this marriage thing, and take a look at the Biblical model we're given as husbands and wives. Before I go any further, I have to admit that I am a great sinner as a husband; I fall far short of Jesus' model here, and I'm not claiming myself as an authority with any real personal expertise on this subject. Don't get me wrong, I love my wife desperately, and we have a great marriage, but far too often, I fall terribly short as a leader. Nevertheless, God has created marriage a certain way for a certain reason, so I want to look at that over the next several posts.

First of all, as Christians, we believe God created man and woman in his image. We believe that he created them both equally but differently. As such, in the setting of a marriage, they have different roles. The man's role is one of leadership; the woman's, one of submission to that leadership. I want to look specifically today at male headship; what it means, and what it does not mean.

When two people are married, they form an equal partnership, with both sides put everything they have into the marriage in different ways. The Bible says the two become one flesh - in a sense, each partner completes the other.

That partnership entails much of what you would expect from a marriage: give and take, discussions about issues from how to spend money, to sex, to where to live, to whether or not to have kids, to how many kids to have, to how to raise the kids. Male headship and leadership does not assume that it has all of the answers; as a matter of fact, it looks very often and listens very closely to what the woman has to say, and what she wants to do. The man takes his directions from Jesus himself, looking to display the kind of sacrificial love and servant leadership toward his wife that Jesus did, and continues to do, toward his people.

Now, eventually, though, someone is going to have to make a decision about things. As much as it is possible, leadership looks for consensus. Mutual decisions are wonderful things. But there are times, because no agreement can be reached, or because there is some general uncertainty about what to do, that someone has to step up and do something. The Biblical model, given by Jesus himself, is that the man makes that decision. With that authority comes great responsibility, and much care must be taken to do it in a loving way, just the way Jesus would do it. That is an incredibly difficult task for a man to undertake, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly.

I think that's where husbands usually fail; taking their responsibility as leaders too lightly. Men will be tempted in their headship to fall between two extremes: authoritarian and passivity. Passivity is not a pretty trait. Frankly, no one really has much admiration for a passive man who lets others make his decisions for him, who sits on the couch and eats potato chips while his wife and family live their lives, who allows his wife to do all of the work while he just kind of stands by.

While passivity is bad, it's not nearly as bad as authoritarianism. Authoritarianism, at it's best, comes off as angry and bossy and demeaning. At its worst, it comes in the form of verbal or physical abuse. Whatever form it takes, it goes against God's design. And all too often, those who believe in male headship will tend toward this extreme. That's why male headship has gotten a bad name, and in those cases, rightly so. But I think headship that looks like Jesus would be something that most wives would be happy to submit to.

Okay, so I said it: submit. I'm going to try to, as tenderly as possible, tackle that issue in my next post.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Today has been a difficult day for me. I found out that two men that I've known for more than a decade, and assumed had good marriages, had either divorced, or were getting a divorce. Neither of these two were people I'd kept up with much over the last few years, but I knew both of them to be good Christian men, so the news came as a surprise.

I don't know about you, but no matter who it is, and no matter how many times it happens, I always mourn a divorce. That's especially true when I know the people involved, but even when I just hear about someone I don't know divorcing, I feel a real amount of sadness. That is especially true since I've been married myself. When I see people that have professed to be Christians, and that I have known to be Christians, divorcing, it is especially difficult. It makes me re-examine my marriage, and whether or not I've been taking my duties as a husband seriously enough.

I'm going to try over the next few days to blog about what the Christian marriage should look like. I will not be doing this from experience. Mine is by no means perfect. But I will be trying to look at what the ideal Christian marriage looks like in the eyes of God. I hope it will help me personally to sort out what I can do better to reflect God's glory in my relationship with Crystal. Maybe it will be beneficial to you, too.