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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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Last week, we began our series following Scougal through his applications of Jesus’ command to love our enemies. He began by focusing our attention on how the love Christ commands, “excludes all harsh thoughts and groundless suspicions”. He showed us how those “groundless suspicions” contrast with divinely rooted love which, “hopeth all things,” and, “believeth all things”.


As he continues, he emphasizes that a true love for our enemies keeps all anger in check. If we become angry, we must make sure that our anger is a) clearly warranted and b) “governed by discretion and kept within the bounds of reason”. It is so easy for us to become outraged by something which is not even wrong, but merely unusual or hard to understand. But even when we are right to be upset about something, there are biblical principles by which me must manage our anger. Scougal makes several references to passages which teach us these principles, but he gives no references. If you’re up for it, try to find any of the verses he alludes. Please leave your findings as a comment if you do!


~

Luke VI. 27.

But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies.

Again, the love which we owe to enemies, excludes all causeless and immoderate anger: it suffereth long and is not easily provoked; endureth all things.

Our Saviour tells us, that whoso is angry with his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and if his anger exceed the cause he is equally guilty. All anger is not vicious; we may be angry, and not sin. This passion, as all others implanted in us by God, is innocent when kept within its due bounds: it has its proper office in the mind, as the spleen in the body; but its excess and distemper swells into a disease. To make it allowable, it must not exceed the value of the cause, nor the proportion of the circumstances. It must be governed by discretion, and kept within the bounds of reason, that it break not forth into indecent expressions, or violent and blamable actions. And further, it must not be too permanent and lasting; we must not let the sun set upon our anger.

Plutarch tells us, that the Pythagoreans were careful to observe the very letter of this precept: for if anger had boiled up to the height of an injury or reproach, before sunset they would salute each other, and renew their friendship; they were ashamed that the same anger which had disturbed the counsels of the day, should also trouble the quiet and repose of the night, lest, mingling with their rest and dreams, it should become prevalent and habitual in them. And sure, we owe an infinitely greater deference to the precepts of our blessed Saviour, and his holy apostles, than they did to their master’s reasoning and advices. And though we should not take this precept in its strictest and literal signification, yet this we must know, that the same passion and resentment which was innocent and rational in its first rise, may become vicious and criminal by its continuance. Anger may kindle in the breast of a wise man, but rests only in the bosom of a fool.

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Weddings

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This evening, I had the blessing of attending my cousin’s wedding. It was a reminder of God’s faithfulness to provide companionship for his children. It was also a joy to be a part of such a happy day for a dear friend and relative (who is also my brother in Christ).

 

 

As my family left the church and headed for the reception, I began to reflect on what had just taken place inside. While this wedding was breathtaking, some elements were clearly unorthodox. I weighed each part in my mind, evaluating it based on my past experiences of matrimonial ceremony. I determined that every part, even ones I didn’t fully appreciate or understand, expressed the unique personalities of the bride and groom. They weren’t just being unorthodox, they were making it personal…and I was honored to be able to celebrate their wedding their way.

It’s important to be careful about how particular we think about what should and should not happen at a wedding. The Bible has virtually nothing to say about weddings. One of the few verses that even comes close is Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Note that the passage doesn’t even say “weddings”, it simply says “marriage” is to be held in honor among all. There isn’t any set standard of dos and don’ts when we talk about weddings. You can make it exactly how you like it… as long as it’s not too long!

I think the most important detail a wedding should have is to place a high priority on the meaning of marriage. So when their pastor took time to focus on this passage from Ephesians, it showed me that he and both my cousin and his wife sought to honor marriage through their wedding. All the glitz and glamor is well and good, but in order for it to be meaningful and lasting, a wedding must reflect the values of our Creator as we seek to abide joyously in the relationship he designed.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33

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How he Ran

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Sometimes I don’t want to cite verses. The numbers we use to order Scripture often have a way of distancing us from the text. Paul wrote some letters to a really disobedient church. You’re reading a section a little more than halfway through the second letter. Each word of this is the breath of God, as well as the writing of Paul.

 

 

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

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We finished our last softball game yesterday. It was a loss, but only by about 11 this time.

Sometimes we lose really hard (20+ runs). When people try to play well, I verbalize my appreciation; when our play is lackluster, someone who is tuned-in to my body-language would likely detect my frustration. Today, I didn’t even feel bad, I had a fun time playing shortstop and singing “Don’t Worry Baby” with our second baseman.

Ultimately, all I want is for people to hustle…and yeah…have fun. But I can’t have fun without hustling.

Forgetting my rationalization for my feelings about softball, let me just say that if there’s one game you can never take too seriously, it’s the race that God has for every believer. If Paul were writing to me about this game, I know he wouldn’t say that I cared too much about it; he’d exhort me to care much more than I do.

When was the last time I hung my head because of my failure to place God first?

Have I turned my head to the sky wondering when I’ll ever care enough for my friends who haven’t experienced the grace and forgiveness of the Savior?

Do I encourage my friends to run hard as they struggle to do righteousness?

Does their overcoming become my victory?

I think we could all stand to re-evaluate our seriousness about running the race of faith.

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It may come as a surprise to many, but as the Puritans enjoyed mental immersion in every Biblical topic, the idea of love was no exception. Perhaps the modern church fools itself to reckon it is much more whole-hearted in its pursuit of love, but this is a vast deception. Jonathan Edwards preached voluminously on the topic and many others often wrote or preached about it.

 

 

The real difference between modern approaches to the idea of love, and Puritan ones, is not a matter of how heartfelt they or we are, but of how precise. As you read these excerpts from Scougal’s sermon entitled “The Indispensable Duty of Loving Our Enemies”, you may find that, not only does Scougal compel heartfelt affection, but thoughtful affection as well.

LUKE 6:27

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies.

While we travel through the wilderness of this world, much of the comfort of our pilgrimage depends on the good correspondence and mutual services and endearments of our fellow-travellers: therefore our blessed Savior, whose precepts are all intended for perfection and felicity, fitted to procure to us both the good things of this world, and that which is to come, has taken especial care to unite the minds of men in the strictest bonds of friendship and love: he has been at great pains by his precepts, and by his example, by earnest persuasions and powerful motives, to smooth our rugged humours, and calm our passions, and take off the roughness from our natures, which hinders us from joining together. To love those who have obliged us, is that which nature might, teach, and wicked men practise; to favor those who have never wronged us, is but a piece of common humanity: but our religion re­quires us to extend our kindness even to those who have injured and abused us, and who continue to do and wish us mischief, and that we never design any other revenue against our most bitter and inveterate enemies, than to wish them well, and do them all the good we can, whether they will or not; for unto “those that hear him,” Our Savior says, ” Love your enemies.”

The persons whom we are commanded to love are called our “enemies”. Lest we should mistake them, they are clearly described in the following words: the fountain of their enmity is within – they are those “who hate us”, who envy our happiness, who wish our misery, and abhor our persons and society. But were this fire kept within their breast, though it might scorch themselves, it could not prejudice us; but “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”, their malice sharpens their tongues. They are farther described, as those that “curse us”; they vent their wrath in oaths and impreca­tions, secret calumnies and open reproaches: nor are their bands always bound up, they “use us despitefully” and procure us mischief.

Now, if our love be extended to all these, we shall hardly find any whom we dare exclude. Of our private enemies there can be no question, but what shall be said of the enemies of our country, and of our religion?

First, for the enemies of our country, I see no warrant to exclude them from our charity: we may indeed lawfully oppose their violent invasion, and defend our rights with the sword, under the banner of the public magistrate; but all this may be done with as little malice and hatred, as a Judge may punish a malefactor: the General may be as, so void of passion as a LORD Chief Justice, and the soldier as the executioner. But charity will oblige a Prince never to have recourse to the sword, till all other remedies fail; to blunt the edge of war by sparing as much as may be the shedding of innocent blood, with all other barbarities that use to accompany it, and to accept. of any reasonable capitulation.

We come, next, to the enemies of our religion. Indeed there are many who are so far from thinking them to be among the number of those whom they are obliged to love, that they look upon it as a part of their duty to hate them: their zeal is continually venting itself in fierce invectives against Antichrist, and every thing they are pleased to call Antichristian and they are ready to apply all the prophecies and imprecations of the Old Testament in their very prayers against those that differ from them; and ordinarily the animosities are greatest where the differ­ences are least; and one party of a reformed Church shall be more incensed against another, than either against the superstition and tyranny of Rome, or the carnality of the Mahometan faith: yea, perhaps, you may find some who agree in, and only differ in several ways of expressing, the same thing, and yet can scarce look on one another without dis­pleasure and aversion.

But, alas! how much do these men disparage that religion for which they appear so zealous! How much do they mistake the spirit of Christianity! Are the persons whom they hate, greater enemies to, reli­gion, than those who persecuted the Apostles and martyrs for professing it? And yet these were the persons whom our Savior commanded his disciples to love, and him­self did pray for those that crucified him: and severely checked the disciples, when, by a precedent brought from the Old Testament, they would have called for fire from heaven on those that would not receive them, telling them, they knew not what spirit they were of. They did not consider by what spirit they were prompted to such cruel inclinations; or, as others explain it, they did not yet understand the temper and genius of Christianity, which is”pure and peaceable, gentle and meek, full of sweetness, and full of love.”

If men would impartially examine their hatred and animosities against the enemies of their religion, I fear they would find them proceed from a principle which themselves would not willingly own. Pride and self-conceit will make a man disdain those of a different persuasion, and think it a disparagement to his judgment, that any should differ from it. Mere nature and self-love will make a man hate those who oppose the interest of that party which himself has espoused. Hence men are many times more displeased at some small mistakes in judgment, than the greatest immoralities in practice. Yea, perhaps they will find a secret pleasure in hearing or reporting the faults or scandals of their adversaries.

Cer­tainly the power of religion rightly prevailing in the soul, would mould us into another temper: it would teach, us to love, and pity, and pray for the person, as well as hate and condemn the errors they are supposed to espouse: it would make us wish their conversion, rather than their confusion, and be more desirous that God would fit them for another world, than that he would take them out of this. We may indeed wish the disappointment of their wicked purposes; for this is charity to them, to keep them from being the unhappy instruments of mischief in the world; but he that can wish plagues and ruin to their persons, and delights in their sins, or in their misery, has more of the devil than the Christian.

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Henry Scougal is my favorite Christian writer. Scougal was a Scottish Puritan who became a professor at the Unversity of Aberdeen at 19, a pastor at 23, professor of Divinity in the King’s college at 24, and died at 27.

 

At one webpage we read that Scougal “was led to the study of theology, in the hopes of finding in it a balm for disappointed affections; and this is in so far countenanced by the tenor of several passages of his writings.” This is exemplified in many passages such as this one, found in his most famous work “The Life of God in the Soul of Man”:

That which imbitters love, and makes it ordinarily a very troublesome and hurtful passion, is the placing it on those who have not worth enough to deserve it, or affection and gratitude to requite it, or whose absence may deprive us of the pleasure of their converse, or their miseries occasion our trouble.

These sorts of passages did not exist merely to vent discouraging thoughts about love, but as a spring-board for Scougal to clarify that the one perfect object for our love is God:

The true way to improve and ennoble our souls is, by fixing our love on the divine perfections, that we may have them always before us, and derive an impression of them on ourselves; and, “beholding with open face, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.”

Scougal has a profound gift for taking Biblical teaching and drawing out clear principles by which we can gain a better understanding of God, Scripture, and ourselves.

Due to my admiration for his writing, I’ll include an excerpt every now and then with the heading: “A Minute for Henry”. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

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gsdfg.jpgDo not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

1 John 2:15, James 2:8-9

 

Bellingham is warming up.

In order to determine the seasons in Western Washington, you can’t ask yourself if it’s sunny, snowy, or rainy. You assume the rain part and then you look to see what else is happening. Rain with snow means it’s Winter; rain with golden leaves means Fall (if it’s raining, there are golden leaves, AND there are kids outside, it’s Halloween); and if it’s a completely clear sky accompanied by rain, it’s probably the fourth of July. Lately though, as we’ve start to get rain mixed with partial sunshine, we know Spring has made an entrance into the great Northwest.

As I write, remnant beads of last night’s rain rest on the pink flowers blooming outside my window. Hopefully, the rain doesn’t come back and I’ll have the opportunity to join the Immanuel Bible Church C-team in victory this afternoon. Over the last year, my relationship with my local church has bloomed like the glistening Rhododendron flowers; both have given color to an otherwise grey environment.

How do we love?

Last night, my church college group gathered to discuss what its Summer schedule would look like. The goal was to brainstorm different ideas about what activities, ministry, or hang-out times we should plan for. At one point, Mark, our pastor, suggested that he didn’t want our group to function like a country club – i.e. something all of us could do for fun while excluding the people and community around us.

This isn’t the first time Christians struggled with the idea of isolating themselves from the world around it. In fact, it’s a problem that has plagued the church as long as it has functioned.

At different points in history, the church has either erred on the side of loving the world in order to gain popularity with unbelievers (i.e. the 4th Century, when the church at Rome prostituted itself to become a national religion) or trying so hard to avoid the world, the church neglected to reach out at all (the Puritans & Pilgrims, as they tried to create a theocracy in America, chose to flee England, rather than continuing to confront the Anglican church…and few reached out peacefully to the Native Americans with the gospel). For this reason, it is extremely necessary to discuss the topic of love. Not romantic love; but Christian love, or the love of the Church.

Essentially, the problem for all Christians comes to this: we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, yet we are also called not to love the world.

I’ve never read any books or articles about this difficulty, nor have I heard a sermon that specifically addressed it, but it strikes me as an issue that, if understood biblically, could shed a lot of light on many issues within evangelical churches today.

Whom do we love?

About two years ago, I began working at the Gap. As I formed relationships with co-workers, I found myself immersed in a new culture. Key traits of the group were: deep intellectual conversation, good food, and alcohol (don’t worry…drunkenness was never my thing). These people are not Christians, but they aren’t hooligans either. I’ve developed a lot of respect for them. They are wonderful company, and they have (usually) been very respectful of my commitment to Christ.

As people moved away or found jobs elsewhere, I started to lose many of those connections and began pursuing my relationship with my church a lot more. Not that I had lapsed in my attendance or my love for my church (or my savior Jesus Christ), but I have to admit: spending time with the college group was many times more awkward than my friends from work. I say I “pursued” my church because I stepped up my attendance at events, became more proactive about getting to know people, joined the worship team, and made my membership at Immanuel official.

I simply cannot be constantly involved in two different communities. While they aren’t mutually exclusive, I will find my identity in only one. I will have one community that I see as a refuge, and another I see as a mission.

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