"Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of Thy Son, Jesus Christ." - George Washington

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Secret to Singlehood

It stinks, doesn't it? You're single, and looking for ways not to be distracted by it. Of course all your friends are in adorable relationships, and if you're my age, they're in adorable marriages, having adorable babies. You can't keep it off your mind by avoiding it, because it is unavoidable.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and the ones about singlehood always catch my eye. And the blog posts that circulate on Facebook. Everyone has something to say about singlehood, and we are all eager to hear what someone else thinks about the issue. But does anyone have something to say that actually makes a difference? I mean, something that really makes it less frustrating, less... painful.

"Use your singlehood for God!" or "Marriage is tougher than you think, enjoy your freedom" and the classic "You're young, you have plenty of time!" Are the standard comments people have to make. I already recognize all of that. I am able to serve (and do serve) in ministries with the free time that I have. I have been in a relationship, and it was nice afterward not to constantly lay aside my preferences and die to self for awhile. And yes... I am only 22, but really. Who wants to wait until they're 28 because guys aren't taking initiative anymore? (pet issue, different topic) I have heard all the quips, but what am I supposed to do with them? I still want to be married.

Aha! "Still want to be married." Why do we want to be married, hmm? Herein lies the answer that I'm going to get to.

What if I told you that you don't really want to be married in the way that you think you want to be married ? I'm ridiculous huh? How could you not know how you want to be married? I'm sure you're pointing to your checklist of the traits that your husband must have, and telling me that you know what you want.

No, you don't really know what you want. Well, maybe some of you do, but what I've learned about singlehood and marriage hasn't come from many blogs or podcasts. A lot of people, even Christians, are missing the point.

What you don't realize is that you want to be married, because God created you to be married to Him someday. He created us to be in union with Him, to be in communion and relationship with Him. That is the whole meaning of our existence. We are beings made to love and glorify God.

How do I know this? Hopefully if you're a child of God, this is a no-brainer. Look no further than the cross, and Christ who is our redemption from the Fall. When we sinned, we fell out of communion with God, and He stopped at nothing to restore us to shalom (peace and reconciliation) with Him - even killing His own Son to pay the punishment for us. Communion with God is a big deal to Him. A really big deal.

This is AWESOME yes?

And what does it have to do with being single? Everything.

Because the image we see, that is marriage, is really the shadow of a consummated marriage yet to come.

What we mistakenly think is going to be our fulfillment, and the epitome of relationship - marriage - is just a taste of the life that is to come in Heaven. God created earthly marriage to be a mirror, a parable, a display. What we think we want is a covenant relationship with a spouse. What we really want is a covenant relationship with Yahweh. We can't see or physically feel that heavenly relationship yet, which is why we have the picture of marriage here on earth.

“The reason God became flesh was so that we might know him; correspondingly, God did not create marriage just to give us a pleasant means of repopulating the world and providing a steady societal institution for the benefit of humanity. He planted marriage among humans as yet another signpost pointing to His own eternal, spiritual existence.” Gary Thomas

Genesis 1:27 // So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

“As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people.” Geoffrey Bromiley

This is HUGE. The institute of marriage means infinitely more than today's culture can fathom. I could write pages and pages of how exciting this is to me, and how mind blowing this is. This means that marriage is intentional, it must be holy and sanctified, it means that it is much more purposeful and beautiful than the "sitcom sewage" that we see all around us.

But that's not exactly the point I'm trying to chase down, so I won't go on for pages and pages.

So, marriage was never meant to be a distraction from God, but a SIGNPOST as Gary Thomas says. Like a billboard that tells you that Disney World is only 10 miles down the road. You're not going to make the mistake that the billboard is really Disney World, and spend a weekend vacation camping out underneath it. No! The real Disney World is what the billboard is telling you about, and trying to get you to. And the real Disney World is not even comparable to a billboard; the enjoyment of one versus the other aren't even in the same categories. Marriage here as we know it is not comparable to the communion with God we will have someday.

Still not tracking, on what this means for singleness? Stay with me.

As Christians, what we have right now is not the "real deal" yet to come, but we have the guarantee of it. And that is our justification in Christ. Because we cannot keep the law perfectly, Jesus kept it perfectly in His life, and made a New Covenant (marital language).

Jeremiah 32:38-40 // And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.

Now we have what the Old Testament Israelites didn't - hearts that desire Him, and the Spirit to enable us to obey.

John 14:16-17 // And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Basically, our salvation is not the end of the story. It is just the engagement ring. A promise of the ultimate salvation to come.

John 14:2-3 // In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

“The purpose of human marriage is temporary. But it points to something eternal, namely, Christ and the church. And when this age is over, it will vanish into the superior reality to which it points.” John Piper

Revelation 21:2-3 // And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

“The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” John Piper

Okay. If (1) marriage is only the picture of our heavenly marriage to come, and (2) Christ is the means of making that happen and the Spirit guarantees it, how does that apply to singlehood?

What makes singlehood so hard, is merely our focus. And that is a game that Satan loves to play, he loves to change our focus. We already believe all that I've previously explained, yes? We don't have to reestablish our conviction about salvation, but if we can be distracted from it, we lose grip of its power.

What makes us both single and satisfied, is remembering that human marriage won't satisfy. It wasn't made it satisfy! It was intentionally designed to fall short of the real thing, so that our desires would be directed to the real thing:  our Heavenly union with Christ someday. This is the power of "Christ in you: the HOPE OF GLORY"! It is the foretaste of the feast that hasn't happened yet. It gives us hope and makes us persevere, because we have tasted of better things to come.

“The reality never lives up to the expectation. God created us to desire Him, to worship something. Anything less than God will leave us hungry.” John MacArthur

1 Samuel 12:21-22 // And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis

To desire marriage with another human so fervently that we lose sight of the big picture, is to become short-sighted. We are tricked, deceived, blinded from realizing what we already have! God offers so much more than what we can see, and we settle for so little. We are cheating ourselves if we think that marriage to another human will make us happy! If you are a child of God, you are already getting ready for an unimaginable wedding day.

And you already have Christ in you!

Psalm 16:5-6 // The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Psalm 73:23-26 // Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Lamentations 3:24 // “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

When we look to God and no one else, nothing else, we are SET FREE to enjoy the blessings of singlehood. We are also set free from its pain, because the things we suffer now can't be compared to the rewards to come in Heaven. This makes God look really good! When we find God to be rich and satisfying, He is pleased. He wants to be your sufficiency, and satisfaction.

John Piper says it so appropriately:

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

And guess what? This applies if you're married too. It applies if you're a parent, empty nester, a grandparent, a teenager, middle schooler. It doesn't matter who you are. You don't have to be single to enjoy this satisfaction. You just have to be a child of God. Believe that God is good, believe that He has redeemed your life for better things. Accept the salvation He offers on His terms, and turn your life over to God. It is in the surrender that you will be set free.

How does this work practically? Like any belief we have, we claim it and we adjust our viewpoint and motives and actions by it. Simply keep refocusing on God. Remember that this life is not the end, and set your sights Heavenward. God is completely sufficient, don't be deceived into believing otherwise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

End of the first month

Oh my, I can't think of a time that I have been this busy since high school, what with nannying, teaching art lessons, swing dancing/competition, and a church plant. Also working on various illustrating projects, and the hermeneutics class of course. Not to mention TeenPact is coming up...

But I'm still chugging along with the class! The hard part isn't watching the lectures (I've watched 7 out of 40-something), but completing the reading assignments so that I can finish the quizzes and move on to the next segment. (It's work-at-your-own-pace, remember?)

And today is a snow day! So - wonder of wonders - I get to stay home, and dive into those projects like reading and illustrating. It is so good to be home, and to have so much free time to use to catch up. I don't want to waste much more of it on the computer, really.

As far as the hermeneutics class goes, I've been almost overloaded with methods, and tips, and tricks of the trade, what to look for, etc... Dr. Akin keeps reminding the class that he is just throwing all the puzzle pieces out so we can piece them together later on.

To boil all of it down, good hermeneutics is in three steps:

Observation: learning to see what's in the text. Looking deeper, digging deeper. Using different reading techniques to notice different things. Reading patiently, over and over, reading prayerfully, imaginatively, thoroughly. Asking who? what? why? when? where? how? All that I have read thus far in Living by the Book addresses ways to observe what is in the text. Track the verbs, they are action words.

Interpretation: What does the text say? What is the author's intent? What is the context? What Peter calls "rightly dividing the Word of truth". What is the real meaning of the text - the objective meaning that doesn't change, versus the significance you might want to pull from it? What is the principle that transcends culture and time, that is true any time, any place, under any circumstance?

Application: The humbling part - how do I apply this correctly to my life? What do I learn about God from this text? What should I learn about myself? Scripture should be studied with the intent of changing our own lives. Scripture is living and active, sharper than a sword, dividing your thoughts and motives.

^ Nutshell version of lots of notes, right there.

I'll keep posting! Happy snow day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

First week update


The hermeneutics course opened on Friday, so I'm already one delightful week into it. And it is just as awesome as I was hoping it would be! I've been taking so many notes, I hardly know where to start, but I'll try rambling and see where it goes.

I did read through the dictionary, most of it (the last third is just terms not strictly related to hermeneutics, just general Biblical knowledge, so I didn't put any pressure on myself to get through that.) My intention was just to get a leg up in the course, but it turns out I'll have to read through it as assigned homework anyway. So I'm set.

But more than just becoming savvy with the concepts and terminology, I learned that there is a liberal and conservative side to hermeneutics - apparently people don't just read the Bible, they have to discredit it too. (Satan wouldn't leave untouched the methods of interpreting Scripture, now would he?)

The liberal side has many theories, and variations, but one term to sum it up would be allegory. They view Scripture sometimes as fallible, not always - or ever - meant to be taken literally or at face value. The most extreme thread of the last century even affirms that is it totally impossible to know what the Biblical author intended when he put pen to paper, and that the words are their own autonomous being. The only way they are to be understood is to interact with them and come up with your own conclusions based off your your emotions and experience with the text.

A bunch of horse apples, right?

I'm so grateful that the professors directing this course have nothing to do with those theories. In the first lecture (well the second one, after the first one about the syllabus, and classroom protocol, etc...) Daniel Akin, the President of SEBTS, laid out the necessary precommitments of anyone taking the class, or anyone even willing to interpret the Bble correctly. Namely:

> Commitment to a high view of Scripture // Matthew 5:17-18, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21
Scripture is inspired, and inerrant. Jesus Himself believed the Bible was inerrant and inspired, words of God. Akins quoted "To question the Bible is to question Christology." If you don't believe Scripture to be infallible, then you throw into question the authority of Christ.

> Conviction of the profitability of all Scripture // 2 Timothy 3:14-17
No one area of the Bible is more inspired than another, all is written by the Holy Spirit, one author through many. Every word of it is necessary, and makes up a complete whole.

> Calling to rightly divide the Word of Truth // 2 Timothy 2:15
The purpose of hermeneutics is to make clear the meaning (not the significance, big difference - more on that in a moment) of a passage.

> Commitment to think about what Scripture means and how to rightly apply it // James 1:22-25
Being a doer, not just a hearer. The interpreter must be sincere about handling the Word, and sober about proclaiming it correctly.

> Willingness to be confined to the intention of the Author // 2 Timothy 4:1-5
What the author says is what the interpreter must say. If it is outside the author's intent, it is outside the intent of the Holy Spirit and outside the realm of authority. And, authorial intent IS retrievable through the text.

I'm confident of some good things to be learned, by seeing the standard set so high! I pray that God will keep me discerning.

I must explain what I meant earlier about meaning versus significance. When the term "meaning" is used, that refers to what the text intents, what the unchangeable message is that the author is conveying. The term "significance" is more liberal, meaning what someone takes from the text, regardless of the message of the text itself.

This is already a really long post for me, but I'll finish by explaining that all of the points above, as well as things I have mentioned in a previous post, such as sola Scriptura, make up the conservative side. Literal interpretation, typology (i.e., Christ being the scapegoat, the Passover lamb, etc.) and applicability are the healthy alternatives to allegory.

Thankfully, this course is all work-at-your-own-pace, so I don't have to worry about the syllabus, or deadlines or grades... Whew. I feel sorry for the suckers that do. *wink*

That's not even a fraction of my notes, but I'll cut off here and pick up again later. Blessings!