What I’ve learned

I’ve learned so much this past year, but the lesson I cherish most is surprisingly simple: patience

My healthy daughter was injured in an automobile accident in 2010. She now struggles with a brain injury. I have been impatient with her recovery – wanting her to walk and read and reason too quickly after her life-threatening injury – I haven’t been willing to wait on God’s slow and sure work in her Spirit and mine.

My marriage has been tested in the wake of such a life-altering event. The trauma of losing our healthy daughter combined with the relentlessness of caring for a disabled child has added great stress to our relationship. I want our relationship to be easy again– I haven’t been willing to wait for God’s slow and sure work in my husband’s Spirit and mine.

This year, God has performed the slow and sure work of granting me a little bit more patience – and with it has come… a quiet trust, a gentle strength and a more peaceful spirit. I’m less anxious about my daughter’s recovery. And I trust that my marriage will emerge from this trial stronger than it was before. This is God’s great work in me.

God did not work quickly – He works faithfully, steadily and surely.

His Word is a balm to my soul. Why? Because in it, I find Him. He’s shown me His love, His grace and His patience in the pages of His Great Word.

What about you? What has God taught you through His Word this year? (Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.)

I hope you have enjoyed my blog through the Bible! Happy 2014!!

Day 342: The Reverse of the Curse

Song of Solomon 5-8

Chapters 5 & 6 record an argument between the newly married couple. What do you think they argue about?? Sex!

He asks to come into her chambers (5:2), and she complains in verse 3… “I’m in my nightgown—do you expect me to get dressed? I’m bathed and in bed—do you want me to get dirty?” She’s being self-centered and is not considering him.

But instead of reacting angrily toward his new wife, the husband somehow reaches his hand through the latch of the door and leaves fragrant and sweet myrrh as a sign of his love (5:4-5), and then he leaves…not willing to force his way into her bed chambers. He doesn’t react to his mate. Instead, he responds to God.

His gentle reproach melts her heart toward him as we read of her love in verses 5:10-16.

And then we see reconciliation and forgiveness in Chapter 6. Their reconciliation is based on their covenant commitment to one another. She says in 6:3, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Their commitment is steadfast.

Chapters 7-8 show a deepening faithfulness and intimacy between the couple. As time goes by, their knowledge of one another deepens and their passion increases! It is in this context of God’s design for marriage that we see a subtle lifting of the curses given in the first garden to the first married couple…

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned, God handed down curses to the serpent, the woman and the man. The woman’s curse was this:

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16).

The Hebrew word translated “desire” is used only three times in the Old Testament…The first instance is here in Genesis 3. The next is in Genesis 4. God is warning Cain.

…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7).

The Hebrew word translated as “desire” in these instances does not necessarily mean a good sexual desire. Within the context of Eve’s curse and Cain’s warning, it is best understood as a passionate desire to consume or control.

The curse on Eve – which is inherited by every woman in every generation – is the desire to have control. Married women want to control their husbands. Single women want to control their futures. And all women want to feel in control all the time. This desire for control is part of the woman’s sin nature and must be fought against – especially in the marriage relationship!!

In the last half of the Song of Solomon, we see the ideal marriage. We watch as the couple faces conflict in Chapters 5-6, and we read as their devotion and intimacy deepen in Chapters 7-8. It is in the context of a vibrant, intimate, tender and exciting marriage relationship that we see the third and final use of the Hebrew word “desire.” The woman says,

I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me (Song of Solomon 7:10).

He is the one with the desire to consume, and she is the one with the power to satisfy him. In this context, the desire is good, for contrary to her sin-nature default of desiring to control her husband, she has given herself totally to him and rejoices in the fact that she is pleasing to him.

May we look forward to the day when every curse is not only reversed, but vanquished and our new Garden awaits its bride!!! For we, the church, are the bride of Christ, ready to meet our husband and enjoy him forever!!

Day 341: A tender & passionate Love

Song of Solomon 1-4

Song of Solomon has many different interpretations. Some interpret the book solely as a figurative portrayal of the love of God for his people. Others interpret it literally as the love story between Solomon and a Shulammite woman. Still others argue that since the Bible has no record of Solomon marrying a Shulammite woman, that it is the love story between an unnamed shepherd and a Shulammite woman with Solomon as a background figure.

No matter what your interpretation, this is a beautiful book of love poetry that reminds us that the love shared between a man and his wife, specifically erotic love, is holy and good. Song of Solomon is full of erotic images that quench the old notion that sexual desire is sinful.

In our two, brief days in this book, I am using Tommy Nelson’s sermon series as my primary resource. He teaches that Song of Solomon is the literal love story between Solomon and his Shulammite bride. (You can listen to his six-part sermon series on Song of Solomon at his church’s website, dentonbible.org.)

The first three chapters describe the courtship between Solomon and the Shulammite woman. Notice how the woman is initially attracted to Solomon’s character:

…your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you! (Song of Solomon 1:3, NIV)

His name is sweet like perfume. His name refers to his reputation or character. She was initially attracted to his sweet and tender nature, not necessarily to his physical appearance.

We learn from the woman that she, unlike other women, did not protect her skin from the sun with a customary veil, but was forced to labor in the vineyards – making her skin dark from the sun (vs. 5-6). From her words, we can infer that she was submissive to authority, hard-working and responsible. She, like Solomon, was a woman of noble character.

In verses 1:9-3:4, we read of how they relate to one another. Above all, they are tender. The man calls her “darling,” the Hebrew word for “an intimate buddy,” or “best friend.” He esteems her in public and speaks tenderly to her in private. His tenderness awakens her sexual desire (2:5-6), but he stops the fire of her desire with the refrain,

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5).

Chapter 3 ends with the exciting scene of King Solomon arriving to his wedding. The imagery is anticipatory and vibrant,

Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart (Song of Solomon 3:11).

Which brings us to Chapter 4!! The first seven verses are Solomon’s thoughts toward his bride. And then we read of the honeymoon!!

(He) A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a spring locked, a fountain sealed. (4:12)

(She) Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits.

(He) I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
I drank my wine with my milk (5:1).

This, friends, is the consummation of their love.

Interpreting this book as a literal love story can leave the unmarried or unhappily married feeling despondent. But no matter your personal interpretation, your marital status or degree of marital bliss, we will all experience the joy of this wedding scene!!!

We, as members of Christ’s church, wait expectantly for our bridegroom, Jesus Christ. At the end of the age, we will be united with the lover of our souls – the one who fulfills our deepest longings – who loves us tenderly and passionately.

In verses 3:1-4, the Shulammite woman searches the city for her lover because she cannot bear to be separated from him. This is the love we are to have for Christ. We are to seek his presence with the passion of a lover. He is our bridegroom, and we are his radiant bride!

Day 331: The Goodness of God’s Word

Psalm 119:1-48; 1 Peter 3

Psalm 119…the longest chapter in the Bible, longer than some books! It is a highly structured acrostic poem containing 22 eight-lined stanzas (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). All eight lines within a stanza begin with the same Hebrew letter. The theme of this Psalm is the love of God’s word. In fact, only 7 verses out of 176 do not mention God’s word directly!

It is a bit ironic that we begin Psalm 119 on the same day as 1 Peter 3 – which contains both controversial and difficult to understand “words” of God!

First Peter 3 begins as an extension of Chapter 2. Peter applies the principle of submission to authority to several contexts…citizens submit to governments, slaves submit to masters and at the beginning of Chapter 3, he teaches that wives should submit to their husbands. This isn’t a gender issue – this is a marriage issue. Women are not commanded to submit to men. Wives are commanded to submit to husbands. There is a big difference!

God has patterned marriage to mirror the trinity… The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal in divine essence, but each has a separate role. Peter acknowledges that women and men are “[both] heirs [in] the grace of life” (3:7) – but similar to the trinity, husbands and wives have different roles in the relationship.

Submission (in any context) is offensive to our modern culture. But Christ’s submission to the Father resulted in him laying down his life! Are we above Christ that we are exempt from submission in our relationships? I don’t think so.

Peter then switches gears slightly to address suffering – which the church was already undergoing. It is in this context that we find the very confusing passage describing Jesus preaching the gospel to imprisoned spirits from Noah’s day (1 Peter 3:18-21). What in the world is Peter talking about?? Well, I don’t think Peter meant for these verses to cause such a conundrum. His point was that if Jesus was righteous and still suffered at the hands of the unrighteous, then the church shouldn’t be surprised if they suffer in the same way (1 Peter 3:13-18).

There are varying interpretations of these verses. Some believe that Jesus spoke through Noah to the evil generation in Noah’s day. Others believe that Jesus went to hell after he died and spoke to all the evil spirits – including the unrighteous of Noah’s day. However you understand these verses, Peter is illustrating that Jesus suffered for doing right – just as the church is called to suffer for doing right.

Then Peter links the flood waters to baptism (vs. 21) and concludes by describing the result of Jesus’ suffering… “[He] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:22).

So to summarize, Peter begins this section by commanding us to submit to different authorities. He then holds up the suffering Christ as the ultimate example of submission, and he ends with the truth that now all angels, authorities and power are subjected to Him.

Wow! What an amazing teaching!! God’s Word is deep and wide and living and active. His precepts are tantalizingly good!

In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:14-16).

Day 282: Mutual submission

Job 15-17; Ephesians 5:1-6:9

Be controlled by the Spirit. This is the heart of Ephesians 5.

Years ago, as a recent college graduate, I attended a small church that was filled with families. In fact, I was the only single person in the church (other than a few widows). The pastor had a passion for building up families and encouraging marriages. The years I spent under this wise pastor’s teaching has greatly benefitted my marriage!

I still remember him preaching on this passage in Ephesians 5. Surprisingly, he didn’t focus as heavily on the verses that deal directly with marriage (5:22-33), but rather emphasized Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” And then he gave the line that I have written down in my old bible, “I’ll tell you where it’s hard to walk in the Spirit…in Marriage!”

There is much controversy about the command for wives to “submit” to their husbands (5:22). Listen. God designed marriage to model the trinity. There is mutual submission within the trinity as each member has equal value but diverse function. Seriously…do we expect marriages to thrive if both halves are given the same function? That’s just silly. Marriage is a team effort, and typically that means each member has a unique role to fill.

For husbands, they are to love their wives (5:25). Now wives are supposed to love their husbands too, but what husbands cherish more than love is respect. So how fitting that wives are commanded to respect their husbands (5:33)! If both parties fulfill their roles well, as God designed, then submission becomes a non-issue – ESPECIALLY since the command for wives to submit to their husbands is given in the context of mutual submission

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:19-21).

The concept of submission extends beyond marriage and is expected in other relationships as well. Paul addresses parent/child relationships (6:1-4) and “master/bondservant” (or more modernly speaking), employee/employer relationships (6:5-9).

Why is submission such a big deal? We submit out of reverence for Christ (5:21)! Afterall, he is the model of submission! There is no shame in submission – especially when it is emulating the life of our Savior!