what are the little foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15

Love and War and Little Foxes

As some of my readers may have noticed, I haven’t been posting everyday like I had been doing earlier in the year. I had every intention of writing for 365 days straight, but things just didn’t work out that way.

Starting this blog wasn’t a New Year’s resolution of mine. It was born out of a very real need for communication in my heart language. When you go from one culture where you can fully express yourself and be understood, to a different culture where those things don’t come as easily or naturally, I think it is important to find some way to  “download” your thoughts. Otherwise, you start to go a little stir crazy.

From the beginning, this blog has been about developing a greater zeal for knowing and loving Jesus Christ. While blogging has truly helped me to organize and weigh all the thoughts I have floating around in my head, it has, first and foremost, helped me to become closer to my Savior.

The reason I stopped writing for the past couple of months wasn’t because I stopped trying to grow in my relationship with Christ. Rather, I stopped writing because I have been growing in my relationship with Christ. The past few months have been some of the most difficult spiritually on record. Recently, I have warred with doubt, fear, and insecurity, sometimes all at once. The enemy has been gunning for me, so to speak. But now, through spending more secret time alone with God, I am learning how to confront these things head on with His Word.

For much of my life, I have cowered from confrontation out of fear of losing someone or something I hold dear. Many times I have asked God to take the fear away without much avail. I realize now that I should instead pray for more love, for it is perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

With that being said, I hope to begin writing more regularly again. In general, I pray that God would fill me with more joy, victory, hope, and love as I follow Christ. For me, this is a season of catching foxes. These are the things that seek to steal my joy and disrupt my intimacy with God.

Perhaps, it’s time for you to catch those little foxes too.

Catch the foxes for us,
    the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
    for our vineyards are in blossom.

Song of Songs 2:15

Christian couple holding hands together

How Can You Make Your Marriage Stronger?

As much as movies and Hollywood would like you to think otherwise, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Every couple has their own issues they deal with. In fact, I don’t know of a single married couple who hasn’t had a fight before. Unfortunately, many couples choose to forego the fights and ignore their problems so that they fester. This weakens the relationship tremendously and inflicts lots of pain and emotional damage. That is why we see so many couples today filing for divorce or choosing not to get married altogether. As Christians, we should understand how important and sacred marriage is. We may never have the “perfect marriage,” but we can all do some things to make our marriages stronger to the glory of God.

Pray and Read Together

This one probably seems obviously, but I cannot stress just how important praying and reading the Bible together is in a Christian marriage. These two things totally affect the overall health of your marriage. If you aren’t regularly praying for your spouse, as well as, encouraging and reminding one another of God’s Word, you need to start today. It is important that a couple grows spiritually together, for the Bible says, “the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31).” If I choose to neglect prayer and the reading of God’s Word, I am essentially neglecting and being unloving towards my wife. The Bible is clear that the more we love and pursue after God, the stronger our marriages will become.

Put Your Spouses Needs Before Your Own

I don’t know about you, but I can be very selfish at times. Not only that, but sometimes I complain about having to get up from the couch to do something for my wife. This is so wrong, and it shouldn’t be so! Ephesians 5:25-28 reads:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

God has commanded us as husbands to love our wives with a passionate, sacrificial, unconditional love, that is, the love of Christ. And He has commanded wives to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, its head (Ephesians 5:22-24). In other words, selfishness and pride have no place in a Christian marriage. If the Bible says to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3),” shouldn’t that include our spouses?

Be Completely Honest

Not much needs to be said here other than “a healthy marriage is an honest marriage.” One of the major reasons couples get divorced is because of secrets and lies. Jesus said in John 8:32 that “the truth will set you free.” A marriage that glorifies God is one that is built on the firm foundation of Christ, who is the Truth (John 14:6). Are you telling your spouse the whole truth? Is there something you are hiding or need to confess?

Develop Intimacy With One Another

When many people think about the word intimacy they usually think about sex or physical affection first. While sex is one way Christian couples develop intimacy, it isn’t the only way. However, it should be said that strong, godly couples not only have sex, but they really enjoy sex as it is a gift from God. Sex is sacred, holy, and should be protected as such by both the husband and wife; Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

As stated above, sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your spouse. Every husband and wife should think of ways other than sex to develop intimacy. Whether its spending quality time together, planning a trip, giving her a gift, or simply telling her how much I love her, I can do plenty of things to become closer with my wife every day. Ultimately, that’s what marital intimacy is all about; it’s about spending time with the other person in order to know them and appreciate them fully with love, specifically the love of Christ.

Final Thoughts

If it is your desire to see your relationship with your spouse grow stronger then take steps today towards seeing this happen. But let me be clear, nothing in your marriage will change apart from the work and help of the Holy Spirit. In our own strength, we cannot enact the change or growth we so desire. But God can and He will! So, take some time for you and your spouse to pray together and ask God to change you both from the inside out. Brothers and sisters, if and when we devote ourselves to Him, He will “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”

 

abortion and the god Molech in the Old Testament

21st Century Molech

“You are not to make any of your children pass through the fire to Molech. Do not profane the name of your God; I am Yahweh.” Leviticus 18:21

There is an interesting command God gives to the Israelites in Leviticus chapter 18. It is sandwiched between other commands concerning prohibited sexual relations and forbidden pagan practices. God specifically calls out Molech, a god of the Canaanite people. According to ancient historians, worshipers of Molech would sacrifice their infants to Molech to ensure prosperity for their future. It is said that the Canaanite people would also get rid of their illegitimate children by way of child sacrifice. I even read somewhere that poor families would sell their infants to those who did not have babies of their own.

It is important to understand what was going on when people worshiped Molech. The Canaanites would heat up a statue of Molech until it was red hot. The statue usually featured a bull-like figure with outstretched arms that slopped down like a slide into a fire pit. The infants literally melted before the eyes of those in attendance. Keep in mind that the child’s parents were among those watching. Yet, they were told not to cry or shed a tear lest they forfeit the blessing that would come as a result of their sacrifice. In fact, the Canaanites would play loud flutes and drums to drown out the sound of the infant’s screams.

Wicked is not strong enough a word to describe what was going on here.

Going back to the command that God gave Israel, we see that He abhors such behavior and practices. Don’t forget that the command was given amidst other commands about  sinful sexual practices. This type of “worship” would be tempting to those who either didn’t want their child or felt this was the way they could take hold of their future.

Make no mistake, Molech is still being worshiped today. He has just taken on a more modern, 21st century look. The drums and flutes have been discarded, but there is still plenty of noise to drown out the cries of the infants. In both situations, the baby is offered up so that the parents might have a “better life.”

God was patient with the Canaanites for 400 years before He sent His righteous judgement. When will His patience run out with us? Oh Lord, have mercy!

Wooden carving of Jesus on the cross

Is Jesus Beautiful to You?

“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God ( Hebrews 12:2 GWT).”

I am constantly overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lord, especially during times of personal trials. During those difficult times, I begin to focus and meditate on Jesus’ death on the cross. You might say, “how can a naked, bleeding, dying man on a cross be seen as beautiful?” And I’d tell you, “the cross of Jesus is beautiful because I know that it should have been the cross of Jesse (me).”

As horrific and awful as Jesus’ crucifixion was, it is exceedingly more beautiful once you understand what He was accomplishing for us. Jesus was paying our debt, suffering our punishment, and satisfying the wrath of God for our sins. It often renders me speechless because it is so beautiful and undeserved. Nothing will ever surpass this in beauty.

Is Jesus beautiful to you? Do you find His shed blood repulsive or life giving? Do you run from His wounds or are they your hiding place? Jesus endured the cross for you, friend. Fix your eyes upon Him and behold His beauty today. Turn from your sins and turn to Jesus in faith.

Learn a New Skill to the Glory of God

Learn a New Skill to the Glory of God

Have you ever tried learning a instrument? Or studied a foreign language? It can be a very challenging undertaking. There are plenty of wrong notes and words at first, but eventually you get to where you can play your first song or have a conversation in the new language. You feel a great sense of accomplishment for persevering through all of the hours of practice and repetition. It’s a wonderful feeling!

Learning new skills can open up doors of opportunity that were previously closed to you. It allows you to make new friends and develop new relationships with people you never would have met before.  For the past two years, my wife and I have been studying the Thai language. It has been a rather daunting task at times, but it has also been extremely rewarding. It is difficult to imagine where we would be right now if we hadn’t been studying Thai. We have met so many people as a result of our studies and practice of the language. I believe it has also allowed us to make real friends with Thai people because they see we appreciate their language and culture enough to learn it. We still have a long journey ahead of us on the road to fluency, but I know that the Lord will help us every step of the way.

Of course, as missionaries, we aren’t just trying to learn the language so that we can order Pad Thai or talk about our favorite Thai movie. We are pouring hours and hours into studying so that one day we can preach the Gospel and share God’s Word in Thai, without too much distraction from our foreign accent. There is a goal to all of this: it’s to make Jesus known among Thai people, that they too might glorify God.

Maybe you are considering learning a new language, taking a cooking or photography class, or perhaps, learning how to juggle. Whatever it is, let me encourage you to do it. Pursue it! Give it a try! You never know, you may end up loving it. It may even take your life in a completely different direction. But, whatever you end up trying, leverage it to the glory of God. Do painters need Jesus? Do writers need Jesus? What about skateboarders? Yes, of course they do! And you could be the person to tell them about Him. Is that not reason enough to give it shot?

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, the Apostle Paul says:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Paul was willing to do some “preevangelism” in hopes that unbelievers would be more open to listening to the Gospel. If he had to learn a new skill, so be it. In verse 19, Paul says that although he is a free man, he has made himself a slave to all people. He was willing to do whatever it took in order to save some. Are we?

small group outside

This Will Change the World

This Sunday, I will be teaching on the role of small groups in discipleship at our church here in Chiang Mai. Small groups (life groups, house churches, etc.) have become increasingly more popular in the West. In recent days, many Western Christians have looked to the tremendous growth seen in the Eastern Church as an argument for implementing them in their local congregations. In fact, I believe that Francis Chan recently published a new book about this very thing.

We know that discipling in small groups is biblical for two reasons. First, this is model Jesus chose for discipleship (Mark 3). He could have chosen to disciple hundreds of people, but instead He chose to focus on 12 men. Second, the early Church often grew from house to house, family to family, small group to small group (Acts 2:42-47). Evangelistic crusades and worship conferences have been used mightily of God in the past, but nothing can compare to living in community with people you know and love, personally.

I am not arguing that “big Church,” as we sometimes called it back home in Georgia, is wrong in any way, shape, or form. I love meeting together to worship with my church family; it is a truly a foretaste of what heaven will be like. I just know from personal experience, and from what I hear from some of my closest friends, that the turning point in their lives with Jesus was having a small group to be a part of. I know one guy, in particular, whose life changed dramatically as the result of being discipled in a small group setting. I should note that one-on-one discipleship has been proven successful for some. However, if the long term goal in our discipling methods is not to plant healthy churches, to live in community with others, what is the goal?

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).” If we want the world to know the love of Christ for themselves, we have to show them it is real first. We show them by the way that we love one another. I don’t know about you, but I am terrible at remembering peoples’ names. If I can hardly do this, how can I effectively love people? The answer is simple: I must be intentional. Maybe I cannot remember everyone’s name at church, but I can remember everyone’s name in my small group. Maybe I don’t know how to pray for everyone’s needs at church, but I do know how to pray for everyone’s needs in our small group. And maybe I can’t realistically love everyone at my church with as much zeal as I would like, but I can love the eight or so people God has given me to love in our small group. No Christian can do everything, but we can do something.

I believe that this type of intentional love for others is what changes the world, not political policy or social revolution. It is just people loving people the way that Jesus demonstrated and commanded us to do, as well.