January 25, 2013

5 Labor and Hospital Rules for Husbands

Earlier this week my wife and I welcomed our sweet daughter into the world. Surrounding this  I spent almost 15 hours with my wife while she labored, and because they had to do a c-section, there followed a two day hospital stay. This experience left me with some adivce for husbands and dads.

1. Do not crack jokes at a laboring woman. She will not appreciate the genius of your wit.

2. Make every effort not to laugh at your wife, regardless of what funny things she says and does. Again, her sense of humor at this point is somewhat off-kilter.

3. At the hospital, you have to pay attention to what doctors and nurses are saying, and be willing to say no for your wife. She may very well be drugged past the point of understanding a word they say.

4. Bring coffee money. Hospital coffee is something akin to paint thinner. Although that may be slanderous to the paint thinner.

5. On a serious note. Husbands, this is a life changing event. Obviously I have to say that because it's my first kid, but even if it is number 25, the fact remains that your life will be altered. This experience can be extremely physically and emotionally taxing on your wife. Which means you need to be there. You need to be there. Not in the waiting room, either. You need to be with her as much as you possibly can be during this time. You are mandated biblicaly to love, guard, and protect your wife. That is never more neccesary than right here and now. So be a man, and help your wife. Sacrifice your time, your comfort level, and your agenda of things to do. Love your wife. Be there.

January 20, 2013

Distracted With Much Serving.

"Ministry is it's own worst enemy. It is not destroyed by the big, bad wolf of the world. It destroys itself."

Those words open chapter nine of John Piper's book, "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals." I find them piercingly convicting and insightful. Even more so this morning after I read Luke 10.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

Martha here is ministering in a very practical way. And she is not ministering to just anyone. She is ministering to Jesus Himself. What is wrong with that? I don't think you can find anything "wrong" with it, even in this passage. She is hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2) and working diligently at her home to serve her guests (Proverbs 31, Titus 2). Far from being sinful, her actions, in and of themselves, are commendable. No where does Jesus say to Martha that it is a poor thing to serve (in fact, I'm sure He was appreciative). Nor does Luke, the author of this Gospel, ever say anything hinting at that. No, Martha's error was not an obvious one. Luke says she was "distracted with much serving."

How often am I distracted with much serving? It is a good thing to serve others. It is good to sacrifice. But how easy is it for us to get so busy with activities and serving that we neglect the One whom we are to render our bodies to as a living sacrifice? How often are we more focused on doing the work of the ministry than we are on simply being children of God? How often do we become distracted in doing, that we neglect an opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus?

These are hard questions for me to ask myself. As my life sits right now, I work my normal job, am taking care of a business, have a wife and will soon have a child, and on top of that is that busyness of ministry. And I always seem to cram it all in. Furthermore, I can usually find time to cram in one more thing if asked to. But, how often all this activity comes at the expense of what matters? How often does running around "doing things for Jesus" become a distraction of much serving? Too often, I fear. I read of saints of old, men who loved God and knew Him at a level I only dream to at this point. What are the common denominators in their lives? Assiduous, consistent, disciplined study of and meditation on the Scriptures; and a fervent commitment to prayer. And these things consumed much of their time. Men like Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, Robert Murray McCheyne, John Wesley, John Bunyan, John Owen. They committed themselves to at least one or two hours of Bible reading and prayer daily. How often do we try and skirt by on one or two minutes?

It is a shameful thing. But shame is not a strong motivator. No, the far more pressing problem is that we, because of our lack of zeal for our Lord and His Word, fail to see the face of God. And who is missing out in this circumstance? It is not God. He does not need us. He does not need our prayers, our thoughts, our minds, nor our actions. On the contrary, He is the one who upholds all and gives to all life and breath and everything (Acts 17). But because of this fact-that He is the upholder of all, and the One who gives us the desire and ability to serve Him (Philippians 2)-when we neglect our spiritual well being, we are the ones who miss out. And it is no paltry thing we miss our on. We miss seeing the face of God, revealed to us in whatever minute way that we are capable of comprehending. We will never see it without looking for it.

And this takes time. It takes effort. Our world is full of distractions. Sinful ones, such as lust, and gluttony, and gossip, and hatred. These will pull us away from God. Then there are things that are simply foolish when taken out of proportion and that consume our time and passions, such as Facebook, and Twitter, and ESPN, and Pinterest. And then, perhaps most dangerous of all, are the good things, things that will distract us with much serving. Christian ministry, helping the poor, Bible studies, work, running the kids around, etc. These things are more dangerous, I believe, because of this fact-many of them do deserve our time and energy. The problem is when they become the focus of all our time and energy, to the neglect of that which is of first importance.

And so I leave you with this question. Are you distracted with much serving, or are you sitting at Jesus' feet?

January 10, 2013

Slum Pies for Pharisees

And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
(Luke 5:33-39 ESV)

Just a quick note of something I noticed in my devotions the other morning. Many are familiar with this passage, and our typical "lesson" drawn from it, that being that Christianity is something new and different from Judiasm which would bust the "old wineskins." It's bigger and it's better. It is, if you will, Judiasm in completion. It is the reality that was suggested by the shadow. And if you try to pour it into the old mould, said mould will certainly break. Good lessons. Important ones, especally the more we think about them, and how that relation of continuity/discontinuity works out. That being said, this isn't what I noticed the other morning.

Look at that last sentance in Luke 5.

‘‘And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

It looks like almost a filler phrase or a throw away phrase. But Jesus doesn't make throw away statements. Who is drinking the old wine of Jewish tradition? The Pharisees. The people Jesus is talking to right here. He point blank tells them that, as Lewis would put it, their desires are too weak. The old is good enough for them, they have no desire for the new.

And there is a warning for us here. Oft times Christians think about the Gospel and present the Gospel according to this formula:

I want something + Jesus is the way to get what I want = accept Jesus and get what I want

Here's the problem that Jesus points out. We want the wrong things. Our felt needs don't cut it, because we don't want Him. We don't want the new, because we are satisfied with the old. And so when we use Jesus to purchase something that isn't what we actually need (being made right with and knowing God!), then we are trying to use Him to purchase our idols. Except Jesus won't be used as currency in our constant pursuit of idolatry. So we need to ask ourselves the question: why do I love Jesus? Because He makes me feel good? Because He solves my guilt? Because He saves me from Hell? Because He gets me into Heaven? Let me prod you with another question: are any of these desires (guilt free conscience, promise of heaven, etc) Christian? Or simply human?

Human desires are not neccesarily wrong. Having a clear conscience and a promise of heaven as opposed to hell are, of course, good things. But they aren't the point of the Gospel. The heart of the Gospel is that Jesus comes and pays my debt. That in trusting Him I can be made new by God, my debt is paid, and God looks at me as though I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ. And it's goal is that because of the debt being paid, and God's wrath being satisfied, I am allowed to know Him. To see Him. To enjoy Him. To be satisfied in Him. To love Him. To glorify Him.

Are we satisfied with the gifts? Or do we long to know the Giver? That is the question I walk away from Jesus statement with. Anyone can taste the old and say "good." Anyone can appreciate a good gift. But it takes a God-sized craving to long for the Giver Himself. We are weak-willed creatures. Pray that your will may be stregnthened and your hunger to know Him grow deeper every day.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).