Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Fifth Commandment: Obedience, Part II

I thought this piece would be appropriate to post on Mother's day.

If you are a child still living at home, this post is for you to think on.

Do you find yourself frequently at odds with your mother?

More often than not, on days when you spend most of your time at home, do you have at least one argument with your mother?

Does your mother come after you and nag you because she thinks you haven't done what you're supposed to?

Does your mother trust you?  "She ought to" doesn't count.  Does your mother actually trust you?  Does she trust you to make wise choices on how to use your time?  Does she trust you to make wise choices in your friendships?

Think about these questions.  Examine yourself.

If you are constantly arguing with your mother -- stop.  Stop arguing.  You are not supposed to argue with your mother.  Every time you do, you are wearing her out.  Every time you open your mouth to contradict her judgment, you are dishonoring her.

Submit to your mother, and do as she says, when she says.  And, lest you find yourself disobeying God, obey your mother without complaining or arguing, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:

"Do everything without grumbling or disputing, so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and pure, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation."  -- Phillipians 2:14-15
Perhaps you are thinking, "But my mother argues with me!  Even if I don't say a word, she'll ask me to do something and then give me a bunch of reasons why and make it sound like an argument.  She's so unpleasant when she comes to me and tells me to do something."

Do you know why that is?  It's because you have spent your childhood arguing with her and figuring out how to not obey her, or at least not obey her completely.  So when she comes to you she anticipates that you will try to get out of what ever she wants you to do, or not do it right away.  You have given yourself a reputation.
"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is good and right." -- Proverbs 20:11
Your mother talks to you this way because you have given her reason, by your conduct, to not trust you to obey her.

This is not something to be defensive about.  This is something that should bring you to your knees in godly sorrow.

If you find yourself at odds with your mother, you need to make it right.  Own up to your sin.  Humble yourself before God, and confess your sin to Him.  Then -- and this will be hard -- humble yourself before your mother and ask her for her forgiveness.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Fifth Commandment:
Obedience, Part I

I've been thinking a lot about the fifth commandment lately.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."  -- Exodus 20:12
The Apostle Paul elaborates on it here:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),  so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." -- Ephesians 6:1-3
One of the reasons I've been thinking about this is that over the last decade, as I have observed my own family (my parents, myself and my siblings) as well as other families, I have become more and more aware of the difference it makes when a young man or a young woman takes this verse seriously.  And I've decided to write about it in case you find yourself at odds with this commandment -- in hopes that I can spare you from sowing disobedience in your life and reaping bitterness and sorrow in the years to come.

I have never seen a perfect parent, and I have never seen a perfect son or daughter.  What I have seen, though, is this:

  • I have seen parents who don't care very much what their kids are doing, and assume that they will grow up to be Christians because they go to church, and maybe even receive a Christian education at a private Christian School.
  • I have seen parents who try to be intentional in teaching their children the ways of God, and try to cultivate godly habits in themselves and their children.
  • I have seen sons and daughters that try to please their parents, and generally don't pursue courses of action that displease their mother or father.
  • I have seen sons and daughters who express utter disregard and contempt (sometimes grumpily, sometimes with care-free cheer) for whatever rules their parents set in place.

 I want to take a moment and speak directly to those of you who find yourselves in frequent conflict with you parents.  Odds are, your parents are of the second kind: they care about what you are doing.  They have tried to be intentional in how they raised you.  And most likely, they have put some family rules in place.  And you don't like some of these rules.  I can think of a lot of rules that I have seen, that either I (when I still lived at home and was younger) or others objected to, and disobeyed to see if they (or I) could get away with it (and often did, because sometimes your parents really do not want to confront you).  Here are just some examples:

  • No wearing headphones or ear buds in the house.  Your parents probably don't want you secretly listening to certain kinds of music, or even more basically just isolating yourself in your own world while you live in the same space with everyone else.
  • Limits on media.  Your parents know that too much media isn't good for you, and that too much media in the house is detrimental to the dynamics of living together as a family.
  • Dressing certain ways.  Most likely, your parents don't want you dressing immodestly, and dressing respectfully and appropriately when you go places (like wearing something nicer than jeans and a hoodie to church).
  • Banning (or generally disproving) certain kinds of music.  And yes, sometimes this includes music that is "Christian", but your parents object to it because it is rock or rap.
  • Encouraging certain friendships, and discouraging other friendships.  Believe it or not, your parents can detect bad attitudes in other kids your age that you are completely blind to (most likely, you have the same attitude problems and your sinful nature is looking for confirmation).  Your parents' judgment is actually far more advanced than yours.  The likelihood that their judgment of your friends is wrong and yours is right, is remote.
  • "Scruples" about relationships with other young adults of the opposite sex.
The basic point here is that when your parents make rules, and they tell you the reasons they make these rules, and you don't like their reasons -- it doesn't matter.  When your parents make rules, it is your duty before God to obey them while you live under their roof unless either (1) the rule forbids something that God commands or (2) the rule commands something that God forbids -- in the case of both these exceptions, I'm willing to bet that 99 out of a hundred of you have never encountered them.

The bottom line: you need to obey your parents.  God commands you too.  Ask yourself: do you obey your parents?  Obeying them is about 75% of honoring them.  There are other aspects of honoring your parents as well, but if you can't even bring yourself to obey them while you live under their roof, then this is what you must first take care of.

I will post more thoughts on obedience in the upcoming days.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scripture Memorization Thoughts, February 2014

February has come and gone.  It seems like time Marches by.  (That was a pun.  You can laugh.)

February was predominately  Matthew 5.  A very well known chapter, as it is the first part of the Sermon on the Mount -- and starts off with the Beatitudes.

But briefly, I'll tell you what stood out most to me.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This last part of the beatitudes is a sober reminder to us that persecution is the norm for a disciple of Jesus.  This passage doesn't teach that it's the norm per se, but I think this is alluded to elsewhere.  Somewhere John recorded in his gospel that Jesus told his disciples, "You will have trouble in this world.  But take heart, for I have overcome the world."  Here in Matthew 5, we are reminded of it.

What does Jesus say to us?  Rejoice and be glad!   And notice why: because of heaven.  Our reward will be great there.  It is to heaven that we must look, to give us the strength to stand on a treacherous earth.  And this earth is becoming increasingly difficult.  Here in America, we have been used to having liberty.  That liberty is going away.  Sometime (if I find the time) I will post more thoughts on it.  But for now, know that if you are committed to following Jesus, times will only get harder for you in this country as the world looks at Christian conviction with increasing hatred.  I think the hardest thing will be when the authorities confiscate our own children from us because we are teaching them to be "narrow-minded."  Perhaps, for some of us, our own children will actually betray us and turn against us.  I cannot imagine anything more heart-wrenching.

Prepare yourself now for these things.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, and your sights on heaven, and remember His words, "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great."

There are many other thoughts I have had from other parts of Matthew 5, but I do not have time to post them.  All I will say for now is that I am finding this Scripture memorization to be well worth the time and effort.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Driving in the Snow

Thursday, I had an adventure.

I suppose it started at work, when my fellow software developers began talking about how it was supposed to snow.  They were looking at live satellite maps of the snow storm approaching.

Now, for those of you who don't live in the Portland Oregon area or the Willamette Valley in general, you have to understand something.  We don't get snow often.  When we do, if it's more than a light dusting, everything shuts down.  Everything.  Oregonians handling snow is akin to Southern Californians and their ability to cope with rain.  Except worse, because snow is rarer here than rain is down there.  Usually in the winter, it's clear, dry and cold, or it's cloudy and in the mid to upper 30s.

Well, we experienced a snow storm (and if you live in the mid-west, you would laugh that we call it that).  The weather here has been so dry, I've felt my lips crack.  Which doesn't happen often.  Yet, in spite of the dryness, we got snow.  Very dry, powdery snow.

Now, on Thursdays and Fridays after work in Beaverton, I drive over to the Chandlers' house to give piano lessons.  (They have eight (soon to be nine) children, and I teach lessons to the oldest six).  Because of the snow, they offered for me to stay the night, and I accepted their offer.

The snow began falling in earnest around noon, and by 2:30 most of the employees had left work.  I decided to as well.  Under normal conditions, it would only take me five to ten minutes to get to the Chandlers' house from work.  But today, it took me half an hour to get to their street, due to heavy traffic trying to escape the snow.  When I got to the entrance to their street, there was an accident right in front of their street (a truck had slid into the ditch).  So, I went further down the main road to take the back entrance to their street.

Finally, I found the street I wanted to turn onto, but I had to wait a minute because there was a car with its emergency blinkers on, and a truck parked in front of it.  They were just starting to pull out.  Once they had, I turned off the main road, but then my car got stuck right where the other car had been.  The snow was a bit thicker on this street since there wasn't any traffic to keep it from accumulating.  I then realized that the car had probably been stuck too, and the truck had been pulling it.

"Well," I thought, "this isn't too bad.  I'll just put my chains on."  (I keep chains in my car, in case something like this happens.)  So I got my chains out and began to detangle them and lay them out.

About this time, the driver of the truck that had pulled out the other car came by.  He offered to help pull me, and I said I'd probably be fine, I just had to put my chains on.  He said, "are you sure?  'Cause I can help you if you want."  He seemed like he really wanted to help, and I realized it might be faster than trying to put my chains on (I had done it only once some years before, and I think it may have been a different vehicle).  So we looked for a place in the front of my car that his chain could hook to.  But we found no secure place.  (I guess my car isn't very towable).  Finally, I said, "thanks for your help, I really appreciate it.  It just looks like I'll have to go with my chains."  The man offered to help with the chains, so I got them out.  He looked at them and said, "Oh, these are the new kind.  I'm only used to the old-fashoned kind, I'm not sure what to do with these!"  He then looked at his watch and said, "My wife's going to be home soon, I need to get the driveway swept.  I just live over here -- "  he pointed to the house right next to where we were on the road.  "If you get stuck with anything else, just let me know and I'll see what I can do."

I thanked the man and got to work.  I started with the left rear wheel.  I slid the chain behind the tire, and the brought the two ends up in front and connected them, and then slid them on top of the tire.  I then connected the chains hanging from each end with the big red hook connected to one side.  So far, so good.  Now to tighten the whole thing.  This involved taking a long red chain and running it through a red metal "hand" (for lack of a better term that comes to mind -- it is shaped roughly like a lego minifiure's hand, except bigger and slightly flatter).


Picture of "mini-fig hand"
I couldn't get the "hand" to reach.  I investigated, and found that this was because another piece of chain had gotten jammed into it.  I spent about five to ten minutes struggling to get it unjammed, but to no avail.  Finally, I took the whole chain off of the tire, so I could try to unjam it more easily.  Still no success.  Well, that's frustrating.  I decided to come back to this chain, and put the other chain on the other rear wheel.

At this time, the man came back from shoveling the snow off his driveway and asked how it was going.  "Well," I said, "One of my chains has a tangle because one piece is jammed into another."  I was thinking I might ask to borrow a pair of pliers.  I picked up the chain to show him -- and the jammed chain fell out of the "hand" as if it had never been jammed.  "Oh, what do you know," I said.  "It came free."  I grinned sheepishly.  "Well, I should have these on pretty quick."  And I did.  It only took me another five minutes, and I had both chains on.  "Alright, best of luck to you!"

"Thanks," I said, and got in my car.  I put it into drive, and slowly depressed the pedal.

My wheels were still spinning.  Perhaps the chains weren't tight?  I put the car back into park and went out to check the chains.  They were still tight, but I managed to tighten each one a little more to be safe.  I got back in the car again and tried to go.

Same thing.

Suddenly, it dawned on me.  "Hold on.  WHICH wheels are spinning?"  Duh.  I have FRONT wheel drive, not REAR wheel drive!  I had put the chains on the wrong tires.

Oh well.  I got out of my car and undid my chains.  My car had moved just enough that the chains were now stuck under the tires and I couldn't get them free.

At this point, another man came by and asked if he could help.  I explained my problem and the mistake I'd made.  We both laughed.  "Here, I'll push your car from behind while you drive and we'll see if we can get it off the chains."  So we tried that.  No good, my car wasn't going anywhere.  "Here," he said again, "Put it in reverse and just back off them."  Oh yeah.  Duh again.  And it worked.

I put one of the chains on the front left wheel, and the man put the other one on the front right.  I finished first (I was very used to these chains at this point), and I went to see how the man was doing.  He was just finishing.  "It's not super tight," he said, "But it will do to get you to the end of the street."  I thanked him for his help.  At this point the first man came out to see how we were doing.  (The two men knew each other since they were neighbors).  I told him how I'd put the chains on the wrong tires to start with.  We all had a good laugh again.  They then wished me the best of luck and I began to drive down the street.

A couple of times I was alerted by a "thump thump thump thump" noise, and I had to stop and tighten the chain on the right wheel.  The second time I realized that the man hadn't connected the big red hook at the top.  So I fixed that.

I got to the end of the street -- and it was a dead end.  Oops.  This was the wrong street.  I had missed my turn!  Ha.  I'd gotten stuck and spent the better part of an hour trying to put on my chains -- on the wrong street.  So I turned around, headed back to the main street, found the turn I had missed, and pulled up to the Chandlers.

I was amazed that while on the one hand I made so many mistakes on one drive in the snow (getting stuck without chains on, getting a jam in one of the chains, wrong pair of wheels, wrong street), that nothing bad happened.  But I shouldn't be amazed at that -- at least in that it is unusual.  Of course I made mistakes.  I'm human.  I do that all the time!  (Plus I haven't had a ton of experience driving in snow.)  And of course I was safe.  Although God gives no guarantees that nothing bad will happen (in fact, quite the opposite -- calamities are guaranteed to happen in this fallen world), God will and does keep us safe in potentially dangerous situations, many of which we probably aren't even aware.  It is definitely not something to take for granted.  It is something to recognize that God does for us often, and to be grateful for it.

A couple of take away lessons:

  1. Humility -- a lot of times we do things that aren't smart.  (I should have put my chains on before I drove off from work -- and put them on the correct tires to begin with!)  When you make a mistake, just own up to it.  Don't beat yourself up for it (Oh what an idiot I am!).  Doing that is actually a subtle form of arrogance.
  2. Gratefulness -- God kept me safe.  He certainly didn't have to.  He had every right to send my car into a ditch.  God also brought along some people to help and make sure I was ok.  And -- this is pretty big for me -- God unjammed my chain.  Really.  That piece was STUCK.  I could not get it out.  It was wedged in tight. Then, when I picked it up to show the man how it was stuck, it slid right out.  Seriously, I think that was a miracle.  I am very grateful for that.
So, that's it in a nutshell.  Walk humbly, and be grateful.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Scripture Memorization Thoughts, January 2014

This first month of January, I've almost finished memorizing chapters 3 and 4 of Matthew.  It is currently my plan to make it all the way through chapter 7 so that I will go through the Sermon on the Mount.  After that, I think I may skip over to John.
I'm focusing on the gospels to start with, because I want the record of what Jesus said and did to be in my heart.  For me, the whole point of memorizing Scripture is for the same reason that Paul gives for his sufferings,
" that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  -- Philippians 3
So far, these are some of the things that have stood out to me this month.

First, when tempted to be discontent about anything, God has brought this verse to my mind.
"Jesus said to him, 'It is written, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."'"
When Jesus said this, he hadn't eaten for over a month.  I can't even fathom that.  What do I have to complain about?  Nothing!  I have the Word of God, which is food for my spirit and nourishment for my soul.

These are the verses I've just finished memorizing:
"Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him." -- Matthew 4:18-21
Finally, one other thing I noticed.  At the beginning of Matthew 3, it says that John the Baptist was preaching, "Repent!  For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!"  Matthew then quotes a prophecy from Isaiah about John the Baptist.  In the middle of Matthew 4, he again quotes a prophecy from Isaiah, this time about Jesus, and then tells us, "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent!  For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!'"  I wondered when I read this, if I may have stumbled on to a Chiasm?

These are my thoughts so far.  I'll continue to post these monthly.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ezra and Kyleigh Dunn

This last Saturday, January 11th, my brother Ezra married Kyleigh.

The story of how they met is beautiful beyond words.  I will not attempt to iterate any of it here.  Kyleigh describes it in three installments, here, here, and here.

The wedding itself was also beautiful beyond words.

Throughout my life, I've been to perhaps two dozen weddings.  Out of those, there are several that stand apart in my memory as profoundly beautiful and deeply moving.  But this wedding surpassed them all.

I think what stands out the most in my mind is how Mr. Fox gave his daughter to my brother.  It is a tradition in most weddings for the Pastor to say, "And who gives this woman to be married to this man?"  To which the father, who has walked his daughter down the isle, will say, "Her mother and I."  The meaning of this tradition seems all but lost now, even among those of us who believe and follow Jesus Christ.  The concept behind the tradition is that, before a woman is married, her authority, her provider and her protector is her father.  When the woman is married, her authority, her provider and her protector is her husband.  During the wedding, the father transfers his role in his daughter's life to the husband, as he gives her to him.

In most weddings that I attended or was a part of, I felt that this part of the ceremony was under appreciated.  The words would be spoken too quickly, too much like rote-memory, for a moment defined by such deep realities.

I think Kyleigh's father felt much the same way, because he didn't settle for the standard four words.

During the rehearsal on Friday, when that moment came, Mr. Fox said,

"Kyleigh, tomorrow my words are for you, but tonight, Ezra, I want to tell you 3 things.  First, this is only the rehearsal, I’m not really giving her to you yet! Second, this young lady is very precious to us, and it is very difficult to give her away.

Most importantly, because of who you are, it is easy to give her to you.  For Kyleigh’s own protection you showed great courage and initiative by respecting my role and seeking my permission and counsel, before starting your courtship. More than that, you showed great patience, faith and trust in God as you allowed Kyleigh to seek God's will and prayerfully realign her life journey to fit yours.  It may have seemed like seven years, but remember it was only two years!"

The next day, during the wedding, Mr. Fox did indeed have his words for Kyleigh.  When Pastor asked the question, "And who gives this woman to be married to this man?"  Mr. Fox did not just recite, "Her mother and I."  Rather, he turned to his daughter and said,

"Kyleigh, you are a radiant bride!  Thank you for honoring me as your father and welcoming my leadership and care for you and your heart, leading up to this day. We have invested 20 years of our life in you, and take this matter of giving you away seriously.  We have found Ezra to be worthy of that investment. As you covenant with Ezra today, you change from being a daughter in your father’s house to being a wife in your husband’s house.  It is necessary that you transfer the honor, respect and submission you have shown me, to Ezra. I love you, Kyleigh!"

Truly, as he said this, the bonds of love and trust between father and daughter shone for all present to see.  Mr. Fox lifted the vale over his daughter's face to kiss her, and let it down again.  Then he turned to the pastor and said, "Pastor, without any reservation and with the full support of my wife, I give Kyleigh to Ezra."

Of all the memorable moments at the wedding, this one stood out to me as the most uncommonly beautiful and profound.  I will post more of my thoughts about Ezra and Kyleigh's wedding over the next couple of weeks, but for now, I leave you to reflect on this.
"Pastor, without any reservations, and with the full support of my wife, I give Kyleigh to Ezra."
-- Jim Fox
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."
-- Exodus 20:12
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.   For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.   Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
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."

-- Ephesians 5:22-28

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Memorize Scripture?

My New Year's resolution is to memorize more Scripture.  I have decided that I must do this, and continue to do this, for the following reasons:
  • To know Jesus.  Something that Pastor has brought up from time to time in the pulpit is that, if you want to know Jesus more, then read the Bible more, especially the gospels.  Thus, much of my memorization will be from the gospels.
  • To be able to listen to God.  God talks to us through His Word.  To listen when God has something to say, the Word must be there in front of you.  It occurs to me that this becomes more effective when memorized, because:
    • The Holy Spirit will use what you've memorized to initiate what He has to say to you.
    • There are often times when you can't read a Bible (praying at night when you can't sleep, driving long commutes, unplanned conversations or events, etc).
    • When you are reading the Bible, other related passages will come to your mind.
  • To live in Obedience.
    "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee."  When the Word is in you, it is a weapon of offense against the tempter.  Jesus used it very effectively this way.  He did not have a scroll with him out in the wilderness.  He had the Word memorized, and with it He confounded the devil and utterly defeated him.
New Year's resolutions are infamous for being abandoned soon after they are made.  I myself have done this.  But I am in earnest.  I also have a specific plan of action:
  1. Memorize between 3 and 10 verses a week.  (The idea is that 3 is a minimum, and 10 is a reasonable goal.)
  2. Keep a progress chart on the wall at my apartment, so my roommates can keep me accountable.
  3. Keep a progress chart on the wall at my folk's house, so that my family can keep me accountable.
  4. Keep a progress widget on this blog, so that all the rest of you can keep me accountable.
  5. Begin in Matthew 3, and continue through to the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7), before starting a new passage.
As I write this, it is January 14th, Tuesday of the third week of the year.  I am on the last couple of verses of Matthew 3.  I am eager for what God might work in my life through this.