Five Minute Friday: Ocean

Ocean

Gentle Reader.

Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, the rain poured down. Electricity flickered on and off. The dogs barked, then snuggled close. Not a big fan of storms, I was in no mood to open my computer and try to string words together, like popcorn on a Christmas garland. I listened to all the sounds and ran my hands through soft fur, assuring the animals that they would be all right. Assuring myself.

Kate says: ocean.

Go.

The husband and I spent four days on the Oregon coast last week, celebrating twelve years of marriage. I’m not sure where the time went. Hours that drag when you’re a child suddenly speed up and the calendar turns with unstoppable ferocity. Then, we were babies, both just 21. Now, we ease into our mid-thirties, buffeted and scarred by the tempests of life but still together. Still holding on. Still choosing love, even in the middle of fights.

Because we do fight. Oh, not shouting matches. No name-calling. No throwing things. We both have strong personalities, expressed in different ways, and the sense of absolute rightness that tends to arise among firstborn children. More often than not, we’re good at the give and take. Some things I just don’t care about. Other things he has no opinion on. But when we clash, we clash. It’s on like Donkey Kong. (Man, did I just date myself there).

We sat and watched the waves together, breathing in the salty air. Beneath the surface the currents roiled, revealing themselves in white caps and sea spray. The scent of burning, wet wood stung my nostrils as Chris built a bonfire on the beach. My soul seemed to spread out, enjoying a space and relaxation that everyday life doesn’t afford. It was the peace of the coast, but it was not silent. Never that. Water, wind, wordless.

I have not been married long enough to give anyone advice. I think you have to hit the 20-year mark for that. One thing I do know, though, is that marriage is like the ocean: Rarely calm, always surprising. Two people bounce off of each other like sand dollars washed to shore. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it seems as if the storm will never end. Then, like a blazing sunset on the watery horizon, something reminds you why you chose this person – a hand squeeze, an old joke, communication with a glance.

And you know.

Stop.

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Marriage is What Drives Us Apart Today

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’ll just get right down to it.

I do not plan to revisit this in future posts. This is not going to become a theme. However, since I have long placed my words on the public buffet table, there’s really no way to avoid the topic. Before we get any further along, allow me to quote John MacArthur, who I don’t agree with on many points of doctrine, but who expresses it best when he says:

Marriage is not the ultimate battleground, and our enemies are not the men and women who seek to destroy it (2 Corinthians 10:4). The battleground is the Gospel. Be careful not to replace patience, love, and prayer with bitterness, hatred, and politics.

So here we go.

I’m not going to go protest at a gay wedding. I’m not going to refuse to associate with gay people. I wouldn’t shun a gay couple if they moved in next door. I don’t feel the need to bring up the topics of gay marriage or homosexuality in every conversation, Facebook comment or blog post. I’m not going to seek out gay people so I can shout at them. These actions are not only pointless, they are caricatures of what it means to be a Christian.

I’ll keep behaving as I have behaved all along, thanks.

But none of that requires that I say that gay marriage is blessed by God. I’m not going to say that He “created” same-sex unions anymore than He “created” heterosexual promiscuity, the point being that He does not call us to continue living in what He defines as sin. Yes, God loves us as we are and He sent Christ to save us while we were still sinners. Praise Him for that! But that love? It is transformative. It does not say, “Oh, you just go ahead and keep doing what you want.”

The fact that I believe marriage is a God-designed institution made for one man and one woman doesn’t make me a bigot. It doesn’t make me hateful. It doesn’t mean I think I’m better than other people. It doesn’t make me sick or twisted.

All my stance on this issue means is that I am striving to be consistent in my doctrine.

My denomination has issued a statement affirming that which is laid out in our manual of practice. We also stand with the National Association of Evangelicals:

Statement from the Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene –

Societies across the globe are engaged in conversations to redefine marriage. Media debates, election-day balloting, and governmental court rulings have provided the platform for this redefinition. We believe a biblical view of marriage involves a monogamous, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus said, “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV).

Today the United States Supreme Court, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. We remind our people that while the civil law of yet another country has changed, divine truth has not changed. We will learn how this civil definition functions within the context of our constitutional and religious freedoms. Our commitment to the orthodox biblical Christian faith remains the same. We continue to call Nazarenes around the world to a life of holiness, characterized by holy love and expressed through the most rigorous and consistent lifestyle of sexual purity. We further call our people to a generosity and graciousness of spirit that extends kindness to those who do not share our belief. We pray that God will help us be examples of His truth in a world that needs to see God’s love demonstrated in word and deed more than ever.

Statement from the National Association of Evangelicals –

God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage —­­ marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy — displays the relationship between God and his people.

While commentators, politicians and judges may revise their understanding of marriage in response to shifting societal trends, followers of Jesus should embrace his clear vision of marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

In its role as a moral teacher, the law now misleads Americans about the true nature of marriage. Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.

As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage. Those who continue to embrace biblical teaching on marriage will increasingly appeal to the First Amendment protection not just for abstract belief, but for the practice of their faith. The National Association of Evangelicals calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

More –

In the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) regrets the court’s shift away from the historic understanding of marriage, but recognizes that the truth about marriage has not changed.

“At the beginning of the Bible, God defined marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus described marriage. Neither asked the Supreme Court for a new definition or description,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president.

The NAE today released a statement about marriage in light of the court’s redefinition, which says in part:

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

Anderson said, “As evangelicals, we look to the Bible — not the courts — for guidance on life. Marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. May this court decision be a clarion call to American evangelicals to proclaim and exhibit the good news about biblical marriage.”

The NAE recognizes that governments at times adopt policies that do not align with biblical values. However, those policies should not require those who follow the clear teachings of the Bible to change their beliefs or practices.

Anderson said, “As we respect a legal ruling with which we do not agree, we ask others to respect our faith and practices even when they disagree with us.”

The NAE calls on evangelicals to be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage and to also advocate for liberty for all who desire to live out their faith. The NAE calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

I look to God for direction in all things. His word tells me that the faith has always been counter-cultural. Following Christ has always meant being out of step with the world at large. He defines what is right and what is wrong and will never be knocked off of His throne. It does not matter how governments rule on this or other positions. God is supreme. With this in mind, I will continue to learn to navigate life with both sobriety and joy, confident in my position as a daughter of the King. I will strive to treat everyone I come into contact with as a person, a human being, an image-bearer – whether they agree with me or not.

Nothing else needs to be said.

My journey to faith. (15)

Prophet, Priest, King

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2) Gentle Reader,

Studying fundamentalist ideology can leave one with a sour taste in her mouth.

A very sour taste.

I was not raised in a fundamentalist home. I wore pants, played sports, went to public school, read books. listened to music, had boyfriends and asked questions. A lot of questions. I probably drove my parents and teachers up the proverbial wall.

Now, as an adult, I’m still not a fundamentalist. The more I study the Bible and the longer I walk with Jesus, the more convinced I become that God never asks us to turn off our minds. He does not desire us to be simpletons. He does not ask us to turn lumps in the ground into mountains and then die on them. These things – anti-intellectualism and harsh stances on small issues – are often the unfortunate destinations when traveling the fundamentalist road.

Another is the sloppy interpretation and misapplication of God’s word.

I’ve come across several articles recently that take titles belonging to Christ – prophet, priest and king – and transfer them to husbands. (I won’t link to any – save one – of the articles here because this is a definite instance of not wanting to drive traffic to the sites. You can locate them via a simple Google search).

I have a problem with that.

A real problem.

This piece has been under my skin for days. I realize that the author makes it a point to quote Paul’s admonition that husband’s are love their wives as Christ loved the church (sacrificially, even to the point of death; Ephesians 5:25) and I’ll give him credit for that. Still there are problems:

It has been widely accepted that Christ’s activity on behalf of the church can be summarized in these three functional titles: Prophet, Priest and King. A brief look at each will give us keen insight into our role as husbands.

Christ as Prophet: A prophet is someone who brings forth the Word of God to mankind. He is responsible for accurately discerning what God is saying and communicating that to others. Christ performed this prophetic role perfectly in two ways. First, He accurately spoke and taught the Word and words of God to others. Second, He was the actual expression of God and the Word made flesh.

The Husband as Prophet: We have the amazing privilege of bringing forth the Word of God to our wives. While this might involve some actual Bible-teaching time, we need to see the various other forms this should take. We can proclaim His Word and His will as we counsel our wives, as we make family decisions and as we plan for our family’s future. The common ingredient in all of its forms is God’s Word. Without the Word of God, a prophet has nothing to say; his words are empty and meaningless.

In addition to bringing forth the Word in our actions, we too must personify the Word made flesh in us. We must model the truth we are teaching. We must personify what we desire our wives and our marriages to become. Without personally living the truth we proclaim, we can expect no higher praise from Christ than the Pharisees received. (Matthew 23:2-4)

Christ as Priest: A priest is an intercessor: someone who seeks God on behalf of someone else. As Priest, Jesus is constantly seeking God on our behalf. Through Him, we are made holy, righteous, and acceptable to God. Yet, this Priest is different from all others in that He did not sacrifice a lamb, dove, or bull. This Priest sacrificed Himself on our behalf.

The Husband as Priest: As we love our wives, we must serve as priest. Our wives and marriages need prayer. We have the privilege and duty of petitioning God on their behalf. We should pray for their purity, their protection, their joy, their faith, and their burdens. We should pray for their success as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman of God.

We must again follow Christ’s example and allow our priestly sacrifice to be our very selves. Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus looked past His own sacrifice to the joy that would occur on the other side. With that in mind, look at all that your wife could become. Consider what God might want to do with her, in her, and through her. And, for that joy set before you, willingly endure when you are called to sacrifice yourself. In so doing, you will love your wife as Christ loves His church.

Christ as King: A king is someone who is supreme or preeminent. As our King, Christ deserves our honor, our praise, our obedience, and our servitude. He is in charge … the undisputed leader of the church. Paul speaks many times of Jesus as the head of the church. Yet, while this King rules and reigns, He also serves and ministers to His people. His rule is peculiar in that He models leadership by serving. He says that the greatest among His people will be those who serve. He also is an accessible King. In many courts throughout history, subjects were never permitted to be in the presence of their king. King Jesus invites us in; He leaves open the door to His throne room.

The Husband as King: Ephesians 5:23 makes it clear; the husband is the head of the wife. In essence, kingship undeniably belongs to the husband. As we embrace that, we as husbands must lead. We must lead clearly and boldly. We must be out there on the edge looking to the provision and the protection of our kingdom. To do less is to fall short of our calling to headship. The privilege is ours to rule our home.

However, we are not called simply to take our crowns and dominate our wives. We must rule as Christ rules … with humility. He modeled precisely how He wants us to love our wives. As our King, Christ knelt and washed the feet of His disciples. We must follow His example and serve. Lead boldly, yet serve. Never let the brawn of your leadership outweigh the sacrifice of your leadership. Christ kept them in perfect balance; that is our calling as well.

There’s a lot wrong here.

I make no secret of the fact that I’m not a complementarian. While I do believe that men and women complement each other, I do not believe that there are strictly defined gender roles. I don’t believe that men have one set of gifts and callings while women have another (all of 1 Corinthians 12, but especially verse 11; there is no mention here that the Spirit gives “x” only to men and “y” only to women). I don’t believe that women have to stay home and wait for the men to bring home the bacon.

Neither to I deny the innerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, so I know and accept what it says about the marital relationship. A lot of people like to skip over the whole “submit to one another” part of Ephesians 5, though (vs. 21). They gloss over the fact that a man who loves his wife sacrificially will do all he can to support her, and she in turn will have no trouble supporting and respecting him.

A lot of people read a whole lot of stuff into that passage. (And 1 Peter 3). They miss the mutuality of marriage. They forget that the two become one (Genesis 2:24).

Neither Paul nor Peter equate the husband with Christ. They never grant him an authority or position on par with Christ. None of the inspired authors of any book of the Bible ever say that a husband functions as a prophet, priest or a king for his wife.

The only way to draw such a conclusion is to read a preconceived notion of “headship” into the passages. Within this system, the Ephesians 5 verses are interpreted with the understanding that “head” means “authority.” However, the Greek kephale is not used to connote authority. It means “source” or “origin.” Consider:

1 Corinthians 11:3: “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

Once again, Paul is dealing not with creational hierarchies but with creational sources. As we already saw, if this passage taught hierarchies it would teach the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father, which was a central teaching of the Arian heresy. Thus, God being the head of Christ must refer to Christ’s source as the eternally begotten Son. And since all three pairings are compared and parallel, the other two cannot mean “authority” either. In the Greek there are not two separate words for “man/husband” and “woman/wife.” The same word is used for both English terms. Thus, the best rendering is not “husband” and “wife” here, but “the man” and “the woman.” Adam and Eve. Paul’s point in this verse is that the “source” of Adam was Christ since Christ made all things and Adam was made in the Image of Christ. And Adam is the “source” of Eve since she was drawn from his side. – Against Patriarchy, Part 6: Concerning Headship

But what about Eden? What about life before the Fall? Didn’t God set up a hierarchy? No:

Using basic principles of interpretation, one comes up with a very simple explanation of the consequence of God’s curse on Adam and Eve – a consequence that has infiltrated every home since the beginning of time. Simply put, the woman will desire to dominate or control the man, but the man, perhaps even with superior strength, will fight hard to rule over and dominate the woman. Where the curse is present there is a constant battle for control. This is how things are because of sin, not how things in the home ought to be. – God Calls Patriarchial Headship a Sinful Desire

The struggle in marriage isn’t because wives just need to put up (and out) and shut up. It’s because men and women both have a sinful desire to control and dominate. Neither was ever meant to be in authority over the other.

This teaching that men are somehow prophets, priests and kings in marriage strays dangerously close to Mormon ideas about the role of men. (I don’t have time to get into this right now, but please do some digging of your own). It also strays dangerously close to the Catholic idea of an alter Christus, or “another Christ.” Further, this teaching conveniently forgets that women are part of the “chosen generation, the royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). It is a direct appeal to the male ego. Sadly, it sets women up for abuse. (I do not claim that every marriage within a fundamentalist framework is abusive. I’m simply saying that it’s not a long leap from the ideas to the abuse).

I love my husband. I love him dearly. I respect him. But there is no way, no how, he is my prophet, priest or king. Those are functions and offices specifically and clearly filled by Christ. I cannot subscribe to any system that promotes, even unknowingly, the usurpation of His rightly exalted position.

My journey to faith. (15)

7 Years

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Gentle Reader,

Tomorrow Chris and I will be going out to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary, the weekend being more conducive to such things than a Monday, when the actual date falls. We are inaugurating a “competitive anniversary” tradition by engaging in the sport of bowling. Say a few prayers for him, as he’ll surely need encouragement after getting pounded into the ground.

I can’t believe that it’s been 7 years. Some days it feels more like 70, but today I wonder where the time as gone. Probably flown away to the same place that missing socks go, I suppose.  It seems like just yesterday that I was anxiously clutching my father’s arm as we made our way from the dressing room, out to the garden and past the motorcycle accident (I kid you not) up to the doors of the chapel. I’ll never forget how he patted my hand and told me that we could leave and go get a hamburger if that’s what I wanted to do. The offer was tempting, but I moved forward.

I’m glad I did.

We don’t have a perfect marriage. In our first week together we had a fierce argument and I hid in the bathroom, sobbing. Not too long after I asked my mom if I could come home. She said no. I didn’t think that was very fair.

There has been agony. Adjusting to living apart from my family for the first time. Learning how to make a new home with this big, gregarious guy in 450-square feet  of harvest gold and pumpkin orange awesomeness. Both of us sick our first Thanksgiving. Waking up on Christmas morning to the awkwardness that is establishing new traditions. Extended family tension on all sides. Chris’ descent into depression. Buying a house we couldn’t quite afford. Losing close friends. Leaving a church. My own struggles in the area of mental health. Broken down cars, overdrawn checking accounts, surgeries.

There has been fun. Locking myself out of the house in a snowstorm and having to wait for Chris to come to my rescue. Watching him compete in a hula dancing contest at a work function – and winning! Thursday evenings with popcorn and the NBC comedy line-up. Our failed experiments with short hair. Chris running, full force, through the fence he’d just finished putting up. A family of birds building a nest in our kitchen vent. Our dogs: Bugsy’s “cookie dance.” Blue’s obsession with the ball. Benny’s need for perpetual petting. Regular trips to thrift stores.

There has been sweetness. Taking walks together at dusk, not saying much of anything. Discussing our days as we make dinner together. Flowers for no reason. Little notes of encouragement. Pondering Scripture together. Praying. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets. Secret (or maybe not-so-secret) glances across crowded rooms.

This relationship, this togetherness, takes a lot of work. A LOT. We don’t agree about everything. Each of us is convinced that the other is wrong most of the time. If we ever buy another house, it has to have a larger bathroom. There’s some passive-aggressiveness on occasion. He snores. I steal blankets. But in the hustle and bustle that is life, I am thankful to have a husband who makes this marriage a priority, who inspires me to make it a priority. There are days when we both think, “Really? You’re still here?” but those moments pass. When they don’t pass quickly, we talk about it. And usually end up laughing.

I have a great deal of respect for Chris. He works hard. He has a genuine desire to live a godly life and to be a positive influence on everyone he meets. He has a fabulous sense of humor. No man I know dresses better. He likes to learn. He builds things. He cooks (major bonus) and he doesn’t complain too much about doing housework. The sadness that dogs his days moves him to choose joy. He takes my innate pessimism and spins it to the bright side. Encourages me to have fun when all I want to do is yell at someone. And he never eats the last of the chocolate.

Seven years of hope, sorrow, laughter, struggle and growth. We are not the same people who made that covenant before God on June 17, 2006. We are…better, I think. Stronger for having experienced some intensely difficult things early in our marriage. Gentler with each other, less expecting of perfection. Possessing a deeper understanding of the reality that love is often more a choice than a feeling. Blessed.

My journey to faith. (15)