Today, I want us to focus on an idea that comes up multiple times in the Bible:
The idea of God being the husband/bridegroom and us being the bride.
I’ll admit it’s quite tough for me to try to imagine being a woman / wife. But it’s not difficult for me to imagine God being a husband. I know what it’s like to be a husband and it’s not easy.
I can’t speak for all marriages, but many of the marriages I have seen are not 100% healthy. In fact, I’ve seen a lot more marriages in the gutter or end in divorce than I’ve seen succeed. Why?
Because marriage is hard work. It’s damn hard.
It’s easier for me to work. It’s easier for me to be alone and enjoy some peace and quiet. It’s easier for me to do chores. It’s even easier for me to watch my kids or play with them. All of those things are easier for me than actually spending time with my wife.
I love my wife. I have a deep appreciation for her. She’s my best friend. We work well as a team. We have a solid relationship, and we have great sex to boot! But at the end of the day, the relationship of marriage can be hard work.
If you feel the same way, that’s totally ok. It’s normal. But allow me to give you one small challenge:
What if it could be better?
What if you could learn how to do this whole marriage thing at another level?
Would you do it?
In fact, I did.
My wife and I decided to do marriage counseling. How did we decide? She said we needed to improve our relationship and communication; I said I was willing to improve. She researched and found the counselor and scheduled it. We met over a dozen times. Well worth it!
Speaking of investing in your marriage, a friend of mine heard this from his pastor a few years back. His pastor said,
“It’s amazing… people will spend 1000s or even 10s of thousands of dollars to get married; but they won’t spend a few hundred bucks to stay married.”
Quite insightful, eh?
Whether it’s a marriage conference, a marriage retreat, a book, an online course, or counseling…I’d recommend doing something. And whether you view it as trying to fix your marriage, save your marriage, or simply grow and improve your marriage, I don’t really care and I don’t think God does either. Just do something for your marriage.
I didn’t realize until I was in my 30s that you could do counseling just to stay healthy. I thought you only went if your marriage was on the rocks and you were thinking about divorce. But no, all kinds of people do counseling. Extremely healthy people do counseling. Why? Because it’s always good to have a 3rd party, a neutral party, coaching you, speaking into your life, and helping you see your blind spots. Great counselors can translate, mediate, and even help you see — like you’ve never seen before.
Someone once told me: “In business, play to your strengths. In relationships, work on your weaknesses.”
I don’t know about you, but in my marriage, I have a lot of weaknesses to work on.
God is an incredible husband to us. Perhaps we can learn to be the same to our wives.
I’ve been contemplating this question for quite awhile. It was probably about 10-15 years ago when my first mentor fell. Let me quickly set the stage and then we’ll dive in:
First, we’ll look at where I’m coming from
Second, we’ll look at why that matters
Third, we’ll look at my past heroes that have fallen
Fourth, we’ll determine what to do about it
Fifth, we’ll decide how to move forward
Where am I coming from?
I’m just an average guy. I don’t come from a prominent family, I’m not a millionaire, and I’m not a public figure. Sure, I’ve published a few books, but no one is coming up to me in airports or restaurants asking for my autograph.
I am, however, a dedicated family man. I have a few very close friends, I bust my butt at work, and I enjoy the simple things in life. I’m a follower of Jesus and have been for 17+ years. God got ahold of me at the tail end of high school. Since then, I’ve been to dozens of Bible studies and small groups. I’ve graduated Bible college, attended seminary, and learned Greek. I’ve been to more church services than a person can count. I’ve read the entire Bible through a handful of times and I pray daily. I’ve even taught and led courses for churches and been on the board of a Christian school.
Why does this matter?
I say all of those things above so you know I’m coming from a place of dedication. I’m not someone outside Christendom, pointing the finger and saying, “You all suck.”
I’ve been inside it, full hook-line-and-sinker. To be honest, now, I’m not much of an insider. I haven’t stepped foot in a church for over 3 years. I still love Jesus, but I’m on the fringes with American Christianity.
As a culture or subculture, I think there’s a lot of room for reform. The tables need overturned and we need a new wave.
Here’s what I mean by that.
Past heroes who have fallen
The first person that I saw fall was Bob Coy. He was one of my favorite teachers because he could put you right inside the story of the Bible and help you understand it from the angle of each character. I listened to hundreds of his sermons while driving to and from work. But if I would have known what was going on in his life behind the scenes, I would have puked and quit supporting him immediately. His church at the time was one of the 10 largest in the country, 20K plus people I think. But the sins behind the scenes were unspeakable, disgusting, and traumatic.
Then there was KP Yohannan, reaching the most unreached places in the world with the Gospel. He introduced me to the 60/40 window, taught me to see the world at large and everyone’s need for help. I thought the money I was sending him was going to support local missionaries throughout Asia. Little did I know he was taking that money and spending it on his own luxuries, smuggling it for personal endeavors.
Then there was Ravi Zacharias. Again, everything on the outside appeared so polished. An international ministry with thousands of followers, huge masses of supporters, influence with global leaders and in countries where Christians weren’t usually allowed. He was so intelligent, so well-versed, and man, that voice—absolutely incredible. But if I would have known of how many people he was negatively impacting, mistreating, sexually harassing, I certainly would have stopped supporting.
And it just kept coming— Joshua Duggar, CJ Mahaney, Carl Lentz, Darrin Patrick, and more. I didn’t follow any of those guys. I had heard of them, but I didn’t listen to their sermons, watch their shows, or read their stuff. But the point is still the same:
They each had their own hypocrisies and hidden sins, which eventually became public. And all of those sins revolved around too much power, combined with big money, combined with sexual addictions. Some were deeply perverted. All were harmful, both to others and to themselves.
It makes me wonder… who will fall next? How corrupt is the evangelical church in America? Are true Christians, true followers of Jesus a dying breed?
And it also makes me wonder…what do you do in light of all this?
What to do about it?
First, we can apologize. I do apologize. People claiming to follow Christ shouldn’t act that way. Hurting others is not ok. Sexual sin is a terrible and awful thing. Perversion is inexcusable and unacceptable. Victims of this abuse are right to be upset, right to press charges, right to ask for justice. My wife is a sexual abuse victim and I stand by her side on a daily basis. Her life and the lives of those like her are never the same after those awful events. So, I’m sorry that Christians, especially pastors and leaders, have sucked.
Daniel, from the Bible, lived in times like these. So did many of the other prophets. So did Jesus. The religious and political systems of their day were extremely broken, corrupt, and abusive. So, I guess I’m saying we are in good company if we are trying to live righteously in the thick of it. Based on the historical biblical record, others have faced similar to what we are facing today.
So on one hand, that’s reassuring. But I’m also trying to figure out how we move forward. This stuff is heavy. It weighs on you. It drags you down. It steals your hope. It ruins your joy. It taints your view of the world. It makes you lose trust. But somehow, someway, we have to find a path forward.
We can’t just sit in it. We will be even more miserable if we do.
How do we move forward?
I think the answer is simple. Simple to say, tough to live out on the daily.
We live with integrity anyway.
We keep walking in the right path anyway.
We keep reading the Bible and trying to figure out how Jesus would want us to live in this moment, with these circumstances, anyway.
We hold leaders accountable, ourselves accountable, and we do what’s right, anyway.
We treat others with respect anyway.
We step up as the next generation of leaders anyway.
Anyway. We live out the way of Jesus any way we can.
We live out the golden rule. We treat others as we would want to be treated. We don’t put people on a pedestal, but we put God on a pedestal. By this, the world will know we are His disciples… by what?
I’m writing this because I love you. Believer or nonbeliever. Black or white. Old or young. Rich or poor. I want us to move forward, better tomorrow than we are today. Peace to you.
Every good letter eventually has to come to an end. Here in chapter 16, Paul covers three major things:
First, Paul addresses what needs to happen regarding a relief offering that is being collected for the believers in Jerusalem. To me, this shows how important generosity is to the successful functioning of the church. If a body of believers isn’t generous, I honestly question whether Christ is among them because giving is so close to his heart.
Second, Paul speaks of a future visit to the Corinthian church. He also speaks to the possibility of other preachers / teachers coming to visit them. I think this type of intentional, missional travel is important to the successful functioning of the church as well. I’m not saying everyone needs to go on a mission trip(s), but I am saying visiting other churches, potentially in other cities and states, and seeing the larger body of Christ–outside your denomination–is important. Of course, if it’s possible to do international travel to visit churches or believers in other countries, that’s awesome too. You’ll learn a ton any time you get outside of your normal group.
Lastly, Paul gives encouragements and greetings. He greets quite a few groups and expresses his appreciation for those people. Showing gratitude for others is so important to the successful functioning of the church. We exist in community. As for the encouragements Paul gives, they are many. But I want to leave you with this specific one, which reads:
Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.
I’m going to work on living this out, as I take a short pivot away from this blog to work on a book project. The project is a devotional of sorts. A commentary with humor. Perhaps, the first of its kind. Excited to see what you think!
58 verses of jam packed, mind-blowing content. There are two directions to go with this.
First, we can talk about resurrection.
Second, we can talk about how this impacts our everyday lives.
So, let’s start with the super easy topic of resurrection. I say that tongue in cheek of course. Trying to wrap your head around resurrection is extremely difficult. I think it’s even more difficult because the only thing our culture talks about when someone is “coming back from the dead” is in the form of ghosts, hauntings, scary stuff. Paul is trying to show us that resurrection is a positive experience, more glorious than we could ever imagine. He says people will ask for proof that it exists and proof of how it works, which of course, is absurd and difficult. None of us here on this earth have been resurrected, obviously. So, we need a quick illustration and Paul turns to seeds and plants. He says,
You’d never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed.
And the same goes for our natural bodies vs. our spiritual, resurrected bodies. The one will not resemble the other. There’s no visual likeness between the two. But the truth remains:
The mortal will be replaced with the immortal.
Which leads us to the second topic:
This resurrection reality can and does impact our everyday lives.
It’s what gave Paul the courage to face wild beasts, beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, etc. It’s what gives us the courage to throw ourselves into the work of the Master. For me, that’s throwing myself into writing daily, improving properties, leading and coaching people. It’s what gives me the courage to keep working at relationships: being a good husband, a good father, a good friend.
Thus, we can be confident that nothing we do for Christ is a waste of time or effort.
Part of me wishes I could have been there to see the Corinthian church in action. I wonder how their gatherings looked, what was happening, who was saying what, just how bad it was. But then, the more I think about, the less I’m interested. It sounds like it was a big ball of chaos, arguments, cliques, division, etc. From Paul’s letters, it sounds like it was pretty dysfunctional, and I don’t do well with dysfunction and disorder. Neither did Paul.
The topic in chapter 14 is primarily around prayer languages. Some people have the gift of tongues and are using it publicly, frequently, and it’s causing a lot of confusion for believers and nonbelievers alike. Paul tells them that praying in tongues, whatever flavor that prayer language may be, should be a private prayer language. Just you and God talking it through, expressing your heart to him.
On the other hand, when everyone is gathered together, you should still have people speaking to the group. But they should be speaking in the language of the day, the language everyone will understand. You want to proclaim the Good News of God and Jesus in a way that is intelligent, simple, and grasped by all. Even nonbelievers will appreciate that, and who knows, God may capture their hearts through it.
So keep tongues in private. Keep proclamation of the Gospel public. Do things in an orderly and courteous way. And that’s pretty much the summary of chapter 14. Only two chapters left.
The love chapter! Arguably one of the most familiar passages in all of the Bible, along with Psalm 23 and a couple others. But here’s the deal on the love chapter:
It’s not an isolated chapter. It’s in the context of spiritual gifts and the church being like a body that needs to work together, cooperate, be healthy, etc. The love chapter is in the context of using your gifts to benefit others and working together with other believers. It’s not just a chapter to be quoted at weddings. That said, I don’t want to dilute the beauty of this chapter with my own commentary. So, I’m simply going to type out the poetic part of it and you can read the rest:
I’ve written on this subject multiple times, taught on it multiple times, and apparently, so has Paul. Spiritual gifts are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. Paul uses the illustration of the church being like a body multiple times as well, but I’m struggling at the moment to remember all of those sections. Regardless, the topic is obviously important to Paul and a source of confusion or strain at all of these churches.
That’s why Paul writes on it: Regarding the spiritual gifts, I don’t want you to be ignorant. I don’t want you to lack knowledge in this area. I don’t want you to forget to use your brain and intellect here. This is essentially what he is saying. It is also why I’m so passionate about these sections of Scripture.
I won’t go into every aspect of this teaching in 1 Corinthians 12, but I do think there are a few important points to drive home:
The gifts come from God’s Spirit.
The Spirit distributes to each person as God wishes. It’s not for us to decide. It’s his decision.
God distributes them when he sees fit and to the extent he sees fit.
Everyone has a different part to play and a different combination of gifts.
Don’t be jealous of other people’s gifts/parts/roles.
The body, aka the church, must work together to be effective.
The body, aka the church, has parts/roles that are “on display” and others that are “behind the scenes.”
The body, aka the church, feels the pain and the joy of other parts.
The last thing worth mentioning is that chapter 12 cannot be read in isolation. You have to read chapter 13 and beyond to get this in its full context. That’s what we’ll do tomorrow.