Saturday, January 26, 2008

The son who wanted a wife

And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. And his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said to his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. -- Judges 14:1-3

I think this is one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Samson could have done so much for God, but he became a playboy instead. And for the record, I personally believe Samson was a little guy who looked like a wimp. If he'd have been one of those weightlifter-body builder types like he's pictured in children's Bible story books, people would not have been so curious about where his strength came from.

In relation to our current series on courtship and marriage, there are three points I want to make here.

1. Samson saw the woman he wanted and asked his father to get her for him. There was nothing wrong with him following this process. His father would probably not have objected if only Samson had picked an Israelite woman. So courtship, in the Bible, allowed for the man to pick his own bride rather than wait for the parents or matchmakers to choose for him. The parents still arranged everything, but the son was allowed to make his choice known.

2. Samson picked the wrong woman. He went to the world instead of to God's chosen people. Granted, this was all in the providence of God, and God planned to use this against the Philistines. But God's providence should never be an excuse for sin. Never, ever should a godly man pick a worldly woman and say that God will work it for good.

3. Samson failed to follow his father's advice. Manoah knew that the Philistine woman would not be good for his son. He cautioned Samson to look among God's people for a better bride. Samson would have none of them, and insisted on having the Philistine woman. He got his way. . .or did he? Read Judges 14 and 15 for yourself and find out.

Fast forward several thousand years to the Church age. What does the New Testament say about each of these three points?

1. Choosing your own bride: Sorry, but I could not find anything in the New Testament that specifically addresses whether there should be a matchmaker involved or not. The Lord speaks highly of marriage, however, and the epistles give plenty of principles to follow for choosing the right bride and how the marriage itself should function.

2. Choosing the right bride: What kind of woman should a man choose? First and foremost she should be a Christian. 2 Corinthians 6:14 makes this very clear: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. . ." If you want to know how to tell if a woman is truly converted, read 1 John.

She should have the fruit of the spirit in practice. That fruit may not be fully developed, but it should be at least growing. Read Galatians chapter five in order to get verses 22-23 in context. Then do your own study of just exactly what each of those words means. Simply looking them up in a concordance will show you a lot, but you can get deeper.

She should be trained specifically for the role of wife and mother. Read Titus 2:4-5. Other passages to study: 1 Timothy 3:11 (specifically about deacon's wives, but can--should?--apply to any woman serving the church), 1 Peter 3:1-6, 1 Timothy 2:9-10.

3. Following godly advice, particularly that of godly parents: God gives older Christians insight that younger Christians would do well to follow. Titus 2, for example, lists things that Titus was to teach the younger men and things that older women were to teach younger women. Be teachable. Hebrews 13 speaks three times of those who have the rule over you. This can include parents, pastors, teachers, or even mentors. Verse 7 tells us to "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."

A godly older person can look unromantically at a prospective bride and see more clearly her faults as well as those points in her favour. He or she can help the young man determine whether those faults should be remedied before considering her for marriage, or if they are things that will work themselves out with time. A young man can ask the older women in the prospective bride's life what they think of her. But don't expect perfection. Very few (if any) younger women have achieved the high standard set in Proverbs 31:10-31. In fact, most older women are still working on that!

The man who wants a good wife will do some careful examining of the young women available. He will not rush off to marry the first pretty girl (or good cook!) he meets. He will seek the counsel of others with regard to his choice. He will also PRAY much about the matter. He will wait for God's choice for him, regardless of how long that may take. My own husband waited ten years. (He says I was worth it, and I guess Proverbs 18:22 agrees. But, oh, that I might be a better "good thing"!)

This was going to be a shorter post! Oh, well. Ruth is next. Meanwhile, here's a hint for the young women. Do you want to be chosen by a godly man? Do your own study of all the passages mentioned in this post. How do you measure up?

Friday, January 25, 2008

In the beginning

I'll not dwell on Adam and Eve themselves, but rather this comment made by God at their wedding:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

I find this verse interesting because it implies that the man does not leave home until he marries his wife. It is safe to assume that if the man has not left home yet, neither has the woman. This cannot be classified as "cultural" because God said this at the very beginning of time, to the very first people, before they had time to establish any kind of "culture".

So let's think about this. Should men and women leave home before they marry, just because now they are adults? If they leave, what should they be doing? If they stay, what should their role in the family be, and what should they be doing? And there is something very important about the leave and cleave idea that every parent must remember.

In our western society, children are considered legal adults when they turn 18. At that point, parents cannot legally force their children to stay home. So if the children are going to stay home it will have to be a voluntary act on their part. In either case, the children should, by then, be ready to function as adults. As adults, however, they should function differently depending on whether they are men or women. Since this series is about courtship, we are going to assume that the women are planning on getting married. We will save exhortations to single women for another post.

God has designed men to be the providers and protectors and women to be the guardians of the home. For a more in-depth study of this, I highly recommend the book Different by Design by John MacArthur. (I just did a google search for this and discovered several books by that title. It is important that you remember the author's name.) In preparing for marriage, men should be practicing his provider-protector role, and women should be practicing their guardian-of-the-home role.

Men will not usually have their life's vocation settled at age 18, but they should at least be working toward financial independence when they will no longer be dependent on their parents for anything financially. This is obviously necessary if he is going to be the sole provider for a wife and family. A man should not even consider marriage or courtship until he is financially independent.

Women preparing for marriage should be focusing on all that goes into making the home a refuge for her family. She should be practicing love and obedience for her future husband by loving and obeying her father. She should be practicing love for her future children by loving and helping to care for her younger siblings. (If she has no younger siblings, she should consider babysitting; helping young mothers in her church and neighbourhood; working with younger cousins, nieces, or nephews; etc.) She should be practicing for her role as keeper at home by learning all that goes into homemaking--things like cooking/baking, sewing, cleaning, gardening, budgeting household expenses, teaching (in preparation for homeschooling), using time wisely, and a myriad of other things. She should also work on making home a peaceful place, a true refuge from the storm of the world outside.

A man preparing for marriage will need some kind of employment. Usually he will need to work for someone else first, even if he plans to eventually own his own business. Unless his family has a business, he will of necessity "leave" home to work. In preparing for financial independence, he will begin paying room and board if he stays at home with his parents. He should get his own car and pay for his own insurance, repairs, gas, etc. He should be buying his own clothes and other necessities. He should also be saving something. Of course, he will also be giving regular freewill offerings to his church.

A woman preparing for marriage will find it easiest to practice her skills by staying home and functioning as part of the family unit.

And now a word for parents--and this will be hard for many parents, especially mothers, to take. Let your adult children be adults. Treat your adult sons as men of the house. Treat your adult daughters as women in their own right. If there are underage children in the home, they should be taught to honour and respect their adult siblings just the same as any other adult. They should give the same "Yes sir" (or whatever terminology your family uses) to adult siblings as they are expected to give to any other adult.

Mothers should not be telling their sons what to do anymore, leaving that to her husband. Sons will, of course, continue to honour and respect their mothers, but mothers need to step back from her role as "authority figure" and let her son be man enough to make his own choices and decisions. If a mother senses a problem, she should alert her husband. If she has no husband, or her husband is not godly, she should enlist the help of her pastor or other trusted man in her church.

Mothers and adult daughters seem to either have really fantastic relationships where everything runs as smoothly as well-oiled machinery, or they have stormy relationships with a constant tension between them. The daughter wants to be treated as an adult, the mother wants to be the boss. I think the best thing to do is divide the labour so that each has equal "authority" (for lack of a better word) over different areas. For instance, one might be in charge of all the laundry while the other prepares all the meals. One might decide what, when and how to set up and plant the garden while the other takes over all the major cleaning. This doesn't mean they can't help each other with their different jobs, but mothers should let their adult daughters make final decisions on some things.

This is all part of the leave and cleave idea I mentioned earlier. Parents must so train their children and themselves so that when the children become adults, the parents are ready to let go of them and let them live their own lives without expecting the children to follow their unsolicited advice. Even when children do ask advice, parents must remember that the children have the right as adults to reject that advice.

This is more than enough for one post, and I've only talked about "physical" things. I haven't even mentioned spiritual maturity. Maybe I'll get into that when we talk about Samson and Ruth.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Abraham, his servant, Isaac, and Rebekah

Matchmaking was the norm in Bible times and is still practiced in much of the Middle East today. This is a cultural thing, perhaps not necessarily a Biblical mandate, so what I am writing in this post is my opinion, not a commandment.

The most beautiful matchmaking story in the Bible is found in Genesis 24. Take the time to read that if you are not familiar with the story, or even just to refresh your memory. I won't quote it all here since there are 67 verses in that chapter. Here is the basic gist of the story:

Abraham, the father, wants a bride for his son. Not just any bride, but a particular bride from his homeland. He insisted that the bride be brought to his son and was adamant that his son not go back to that land. Also, he did not want his son marrying into the Canaanite tribes around them. Since he did not want his son to go back to his homeland, Abraham sent his most trusted servant to choose the bride and bring her back.

This servant is not named but is commonly believed to be Eliezer (see Genesis 15:2). If so, this is the servant who would have inherited all of Abraham's possessions if Isaac had not been born. He had every reason, from a worldly standpoint, to be jealous of Isaac and to perhaps seek revenge by purposely getting him the wrong woman. Instead, he was a very godly servant, fully devoted to both Abraham and Isaac. He asked God's guidance in getting just the right bride for Isaac. His stipulation was that she be willing--even eager--to serve. (Hauling water for one thirsty camel is quite a chore, let alone for the dozen or more that Eliezer had with him.)

In this story, Isaac is not involved until the very end when he meets Rebekah, hears the servant's account, and takes Rebekah as his wife. The most significant point about Isaac is that he loved her.

Rebekah was the chosen bride. She was obviously God's choice for Isaac, and she knew it. But she was not dragged, kicking and screaming, from her home. She went willingly. Her family tried to detain her, and even left the choice up to her, perhaps expecting her to refuse. But she chose to obey God.

So what do I glean from this, to apply to my own family?

1. The part of Isaac not being allowed to make the choice for himself is a cultural thing. I'm not sure I would have the courage to do the choosing for my children. I would want my children to be more involved than Isaac was. However, I think Isaac could have had the right to reject Rebekah. It was not until after he heard the servant's story that he took Rebekah as his wife. He, too, must have recognized God's hand and accepted His choice.

2. Rebekah's parents did not force her to go to Isaac. She was given the opportunity to refuse. If my daughter has a problem with someone who I think would be a fine choice, she would be expected to speak up about it. Some men put on a good face for the parents, but the woman might know better. On the other hand, parents who are not godly (Rebekah's probably were not) may not be able to recognize God's choice. A godly woman will need the courage to follow God's clear direction even if her ungodly parents would rather she married someone else.

3. Isaac and Rebekah were married almost immediately. Both were ready. They were old enough, they were mature enough, they were fully prepared materially to start a home together. I do not agree with the current trend of boys and girls getting to know each other, sometimes far too intimately, before they are old enough and responsible enough to seriously consider marriage.

4. Rebekah did not make the first move. If a man is to be truly head of the home, the woman must not start out by making this important first decision for him. The man should be man enough to begin the process himself with God's guidance.

There are more principles I would like to state, but that will wait for another post when we look at the first marriage, Samson, and Ruth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Courtship vs. dating

courtship: A man's courting of a woman; seeking the affections of a woman (usually with the hope of marriage)

I tried to look up the word "dating" so I could compare the two, but all I could come up with was a different definition for every website/person. There appear to be two levels to this.

First is dating, which can be anywhere from "casual" to "serious". The idea of dating is to go someplace to "have fun" together (eating, bowling, biking, visiting museums, that sort of thing) to see if you are "compatible" with the other person. At this stage, you can date any number of people you want. If you find that you are "compatible" with someone, then you can move on to the next stage.

The second stage is "relationship" or "going steady". These terms mean that you have committed yourself to the other person in a "more serious" way. This is when you start thinking "long-term". You are going to stop "seeing" other people and give yourself exclusively to the one person chosen.

There are two problems with the dating-relationship scenario. The first problem, acknowledged by almost everyone you might ask, is that it is hard to tell when you stop "dating" and start "having a relationship". The two people involved may have different opinions about this with one thinking they are still in the "casual dating" stage, and the other thinking they are "in a relationship". This confusion obviously can lead to many misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

The second problem, which almost nobody recognizes, is that there is no third stage called "marriage". Whatever "rules" there may be for either stage do not exclude bedding down together at any point, although most people seem to agree that this is not something you do until you've been on at least three "dates" together.

Courtship, on the other hand, has one goal in mind: marriage for life. But just as dating has many definitions in the worldly setting, so courtship has many definitions in the Christian setting. On one end of the spectrum, you have the matchmaker(s), sometimes hired by the parents, sometimes the parents themselves, deciding who should marry whom, and setting it all up before the "couple" even get to meet. The "couple" in this case may or may not have veto rights.

At the other end of the spectrum, the couple get together on their own, with or without outside encouragement, with the definite attitude that they are looking for a marriage partner, not a "relationship" or mere friendship. Once they have settled the fact that they will marry, they are expected to get parental permission at least from the woman's family.

All along the courtship spectrum there are varying degrees of family involvement. One thing is constant though: the woman NEVER takes the initiative. Whether there are matchmakers, parents, or the man himself doing the choosing, the woman always is waiting (hoping?) to be chosen.

As mother of four teenagers (including one who is about to leave his teen years), two "tweeners", two preschoolers, one toddler, and one still-in-development infant, I am very much interested in this important subject. My next post will attempt to define my personal thoughts about this.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Broken and Spilled Out

This is for Jill, who is willing to be broken for Christ's sake.

Broken and Spilled Out
by Steve Green

One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn
And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a prisoner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Lord you were God's precious treasure
His loved and his own perfect Son
Sent here to show me the love of the Father
Just for love it was done
And though you were perfect and holy
You gave up yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me Jesus
God's most precious treasure
Lavished on me
Broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet
In sweet abandon
Lord you were spilled out
And used up for me

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hello, goodbye

Tom and I just got home from trying to comfort a young mother who lost her 6-month-old baby today.

The first thing this mother said to me when we got there was her hope that the Lord would use this to save her lost husband. She didn't want to lose her son, but was willing for God to use even that if that's what it would take to bring her husband to faith in Christ.

As we talked and grieved together, she told us of this song that was going through her mind, by Michael W. Smith:


Where's the navigator of your destiny?
Where is the dealer of this hand?
Who can explain life and its brevity
cause there is nothing here that I can understand

You and I have barely met
And I just dont want to let go of you yet

Noah, hello, goodbye
I will see you on the other side
Noah, sweet child of mine
I will see you on the other side

And so I hold your tiny hand in mine
For the hardest thing I've ever had to face
Heaven calls for you before it calls for me
When you get there, save me a place

A place where I can share your smile
And I can hold you for more than just a while

Noah, hello, goodbye
I will see you on the other side
Noah, sweet child of mine
I will see you on the other side

Will all who read this post please join us in prayer for this grieving family? Besides the child's father, there are a number of others on both sides of the family who are lost.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mormonism exposed

Since I am home sick today, Tom gave me this link about Mormonism to watch. He is currently taking the adult Sunday school class through a series on various cults, and found this in his research on Mormonism, otherwise known as the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints.

If you know a Mormon, if you are considering the Mormon religion, if you are a practicing Mormon, or if you just want to know more about the Mormon faith--especially the dark side that the Mormon church does not want you to know about--please watch this film. You will need to set aside time for it; it is 1 hour and 22 minutes long. But it is very well worth the time. I'm adding it to the "Must See Videos" list in my sidebar.

Another Sunday sick at home

Here I am, home again on a Sunday. I am getting really tired of us being sick so much. Nathanael missed two or three days of work this week. Ben has a sore throat and a runny nose. Timmy's nose is runny. I have this cough that just won't go away. Abby is better now, but she had a cold this week that kept her home from Wednesday night prayer meeting.

I am asking all of you to pray for us. We have never been sick so much as we have been since moving to this house. I suspect part of it is the mold problem we have, caused by condensation on the insides of the outside walls. We had hoped to start ripping the insides of this house apart last summer, replacing insulation, putting in vapor barriers, and putting up all new sheet rock, etc., inside. Two things stopped us. One was that we decided it was more urgent to get Nathanael and Josiah out of the boys' room, since there were six boys crammed into one room. So we remodelled the garage into two small bedrooms for them. They needed heat out there, meaning a small furnace was needed, and electricity, meaning some wiring.

The other thing that stopped us, and is still stopping us, is that our roof leaks. Is it coincidence that the roof leaks on the same side of the house where all the mold is? I don't know enough about houses to answer that. But we definitely need to repair the roof before we do anything inside.

I hope the rest of you have a good Lord's Day. May God bless the preaching in churches this morning.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world's delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler--
These have allured my sight.

I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay;
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We'll walk the heav'nly way.

--Palmer Hartsough, from "I Am Resolved", a hymn of commitment

Today is the first day of a new year. It is a time when many people claim a fresh start, either to break a bad habit or to establish a good habit. Most people break their New Year's resolutions within the first couple of days. But still, it's not necessarily a bad idea to think of the new year as a time to resolve to change some things in our lives. The key to making it actually work is to depend on Christ for the strength to follow through with the resolution, and to seek His grace to help us get back on track when we fail. Another help is to tell people our resolutions and to ask them to keep us accountable to them.

In my lifetime of almost 42 years, I have actually kept two New Year's resolutions. The first was probably about six years ago. I wasted a lot of time playing computer games. True, I did some of this with my children, but many hours were wasted that could have been more profitably used. So I resolved not to play a single computer game for an entire year. God helped me keep that resolution. Not once during that year did I play a computer game. When the year was over, the habit was broken. Now I might play one every now and then, but the hold those games had on me is gone.

The second resolution I kept was the next year, I think. I had never read the Bible through in one year, so I resolved to do that. I started in Genesis 1 on January 1st of that year, and finished the last chapter of Revelation on the last day of December. There were days when I missed reading for various reasons, but I was always able to make that up. It was such a blessing, and helped to establish a daily reading habit I had not had before.

Today I am making three resolutions. By God's grace, I hope to keep them.

1. Spiritual: I resolve to set aside one extra hour each week for prayer. This is in addition to what I already do as part of my daily devotions, times of public prayer with our church family, and times of family prayer. I'm not sure where I will get that hour, but I've got a couple of ideas.

2. Physical: I resolve not to eat any foods containing any refined sugar of any kind. I have been plagued with one cold after another for about 4 months. Since the end of September, I have spent half my Sundays at home instead of in church because of sickness. Same for Wednesday night prayer meetings. Since even a little sugar can lower your immune system for several hours, it makes sense to me to cut the sugar out if I want to be healthier. This will mean reading labels to watch for sucrose, glucose, and a host of other "-ose's", corn syrup, modified corn syrup, and a bunch of other words that simply mean "sugar". Even molasses is a refined sweetner, though many people think of it as a healthy alternative. This year I am sticking with honey and fruit.

3. Emotional: I resolve to -- sorry, but I don't have the courage to post this one at this point. I'll let you know more about it later. I will tell you that it has to do with motherhood.

May God bless you in the new year.