Dear Young Engaged Man,
“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24
As my wedding approached, the amount of generosity my friends and family showed my wife and I was overwhelming. You would not believe some of the stories: A couple of my friends came over one evening to cook for me while another friend feverishly moved my fiancées possessions into our future home; other friends poured out the love of Christ by addressing wedding invitations, wrapping party favors, and compiling power points; parents shopped for us, planned for us, and provided for us all along the way. Every hole was patched and every loose end was tied by the love and affection of our neighbors. I cannot tell you of all the instances of kindness we experienced.
The climax of this relentless hospitality was during the few days before the ceremony. Over and over again the words “what can I do next?” graciously found their way to us. Some did not even ask because they had already thought of projects to tackle.
A wedding is truly a community event. Our brothers and sisters washed our feet with joyful smiles and reflected a deep love for Christ and His bride.
What is hospitality? Jeff Dalrymple often summarizes hospitality as anticipating the needs of others. This is an excellent definition. Anticipating the needs of others and joyfully meeting them for the glory of Christ. What separates secular hospitality from Christian hospitality? Genuine joy. Our wedding party exhibited a deep fountain in Jesus which overflowed into the basins where they placed our feet. Our family had their finger on our pulses to continually check our needs and meet them. Their example is a letter about hospitality that continues to be circulated.
May we emulate them as they emulate Christ.
Here is my guess: she struggles with insecurity about her physical beauty and you struggle with dwelling too much on her physical beauty. She doesn’t think her outward appearance is enough and you have thought about it enough.
How do you help her realize she has value and how do you balance out your thoughts to think purely?
- Remind her that she is beautiful because she is made in the image of God.
Before brushing over this, we must let this reality sink in. God does not make trash. If you scoff at his art, you insult him. This truth is not just a nice saying to make unattractive people feel better about themselves. God says he created man in his image and this reality is not to become trite in our minds. There is a real, holy, stunning level in which your fiancee is unwaveringly beautiful because she reflects God. Even if she is marred by third degree burns or ransacked by acne, this reality does not move. Every day her image pours forth speech of the handiwork of God. Christ has made a personal claim regarding the incredible crafting of his creation.
- Remind yourself of the hidden image of God made possible in Christ.
It is good to tell your fiancee that she is pretty, but do not miss out on the thrill of praising her hidden person. Physical appearance is fleeting but there is an imperishable beauty that only gets better. If she is growing in faith, fearlessness, gentleness, holy submission, and compassion, make it a point to praise these ornaments. The fruit of the Spirit has a sweetness that will never sour. Dwell on her godly character and attach your heart to it! Ask the Lord to give you eyes to behold true beauty. Beg him to give you grace to truly appreciate the grace he has given her. Make it top priority to value, treasure, and be drawn to her godly character. Her inner heart is a gorgeous glimpse of God.
Outward beauty is wonderfully fleeting. As she gets older, every wrinkle will help accent the eternal radiance found in her heart. And the best kept secret is, the more you cultivate an attraction for her godly character, it is likely the more fruit she will produce. Do not miss out on enjoying the realities that will never perish.
Remember, remind her that she is made in the image of God and then encourage her to continue looking more like Christ in godly character.
Look hard and love her invisible pearls. They are formed perfectly by the oyster of the gospel.
Dear Young Engaged Man,
You have a completely legitimate question: “Should Christian couples kiss before marriage?”
All cards on the table: I believe kissing should be saved only for your spouse. My philosophy on the subject might seem radical, but let that be attractive rather than repelling. After all, Jesus said the way to life is narrow and few would find it.
I suggest refraining from kissing until you say your vows. Now if you find yourself agreeing with me, do not to make these things law. Instead, be convinced in your own mind and strive to display your pleasure in purity for the glory of Christ. Let me try to convince you briefly.
- I’ve never met anyone who regretted this decision. However, I’ve met many couples who wished they had saved more for their marriage.
- Kissing shows commitment. A kiss is a special sign of deep friendship. Consider Psalm 2:12, “Kiss the Son lest he be angry with you.” Jesus wants you to kiss him before He comes. This passage communicates what everyone knows deep down- A kiss is not “just a kiss”. Jesus wants exclusive devotion, submission and love. In my opinion, kissing communicates special covenantal language. This is what makes a “holy kiss” greeting holy, and what makes a Judas betrayal so wicked.
- Kissing is like jumping out of an airplane. It starts the thrill of skydiving. You can pull a parachute, but you’ve started the descent and its very hard to turn back. To begin every time and then stop half way is going against the laws of gravity.
- I want to maximize my pleasure. I’m the guy who thinks it is exciting to save dessert for last. The same applies here.
- We want to do everything possible to “present our brides to ourselves in splendor without spot or wrinkle or blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27) Not one wrinkle should be found. Not even a single blemish on the garment of purity. Refrain from kissing will help accomplish this and lessen the pressure of temptation.
- There is something exciting about cheering when a groom kisses his long awaited bride.
- I will cheer for you regardless of what you decide but I think your heart will cheer louder if the kiss has been treasured by patience.
I lay these things before you for your consideration. Talk about these things and let me know what you decide.
And remember, it is never too late to redeem something.
The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing.
Dear Young Engaged Man,
I was reading in Colossians 3 and verse 9, stuck out to me. Paul specifically warns us “not to be harsh with our wives.” This means that Paul noticed men have a tendency to be gruff.
What is the opposite of harshness? Gentleness
Do not fall into the self righteous pit of “Well, she is just so sensitive and anything I say will hurt her feelings.” I’ve found that when a guy says this, it is really because he doesn’t want to work at adjusting his tone or bridling his tongue. It’s easier to pass the blame than to pick up a bloody cross. In fact, some guys justify their gruffness by thinking they are helping their wives not be as sensitive. The Bible does not permit this.
“The fruit of the Spirit is…. gentleness.” (Galatians 5:23)
“If anyone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
“Correct your opponents with a spirit of gentleness.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
If we are to correct our opponents with gentleness, certainly our wives should receive double grace!
Harshness closes the door of a woman’s heart. It can clog the channel of communication and that is a prime place for bitterness to fester. When we are gentle, our wives will want to share their lives with us. Gentleness is winsome. Gentleness is supernatural. Gentleness is godly. Gentleness is a gift to your spouse.
How can we be gentle? It starts by going deep into the gospel. Jesus did not throw us roughly into the cage of salvation. Instead he pursued us with his loving kindness and like a shepherd lead us into freedom.
If we are prone to harshness then we want to catch this on the front end. Let us be overwhelmed by the gentle grace of God.
Let us be gentlemen.
Dear Young Engaged Man,
Thank you for telling me about your first quarrel as an engaged couple. Isn’t it ironic that it was over something so small? I know it did not seem small in the heat of the moment, but after things cool down you realize that it is often the smallest coals which can often burn the hottest and longest. Brother, I wish you were alone in this struggle.
A helpful question to ask is why did you quarrel?
The book of James says that we fight because our pleasures are at war inside of us (James 4:1-4). I believe this is attributed to trying to find our pleasure in ourselves rather than in God by serving each other. We have our “passions”, as the ESV translates it, and these passions are driven by the things we want but don’t have. We want so we fight to get it.
Now you might wonder how selfishness can be at the root of quarreling. But ask yourself this question, “If I was thinking about how I could serve her, would I have gotten so frustrated?”
When I am looking for an opportunity to be patient with my fiancée, it is hard to get frustrated. When I am looking for an opportunity to be gentle, I am slow to anger.
I must pray through Galatians 5:22-23. And when I do, I usually find that I am the cause for quarreling rather than her.
Try praying through the fruits of the Spirit this week and please keep me posted on your conversations. I will be praying for you.
Dear Young Engaged Man,
Do not be tricked into thinking that your real spiritual life begins the day of your wedding. I know this may sound bizarre when I vocalize it, but the thought may have already sneaked into your subconscious.
You might unknowingly believe the lie that you will be super spiritual after you married. You may be deceived into thinking that your big sins now will simply become small sins later. You may be delusional and find yourself fantasizing about spiritual heights in your marriage simply because you are married. Marriage is not a magic wand for making sin disappear. The reality is that spiritual maturity is hard work that begins now. Set spiritual goals for your marriage and desire to be the spiritual head of your family. But if you are not pursuing these goals now, do not expect the marriage vows to be a five hour spiritual energy drink.
Your spiritual maturity in marriage begins by pursuing Jesus now. Do not wait until she walks down the aisle. You should be on your knees at the alter seeking the face of the Lord long before that day. Pursue Him before you pursue her.
I am convicted as I write this to you. So let us run the race now. Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith.
Justice seems to be the buzz word of the year. Social justice, humanitarian causes, and mercy ministries are now in vogue. I just returned from an interesting conference that rallied for the cause of justice. The folks that this event attracted were rather diverse. Some solid on the Bible and others hanging by a thread over the flames of hell.
I am just a traveler on the journey of loving people rightly. I have a long way to go. But I know where the train begins and the tracks it should run on. The gateway for fighting injustice is the good news of God. The tracks on which the train of justice roll are the tracks of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Very important to the cause of fighting injustice are the words “No greater love has one for another than to lay his life down for his friends.” (John 15:13) This strips social justice of any political overtones. Few liberals can run with this banner for very long and few conservatives can become calloused against it. When Jesus says he is going to love his friends to the death, it means love them to the eternal death.
Jesus left his glorious home in heaven to minister to the poor. And we can follow his example by giving our lives to the poor. But Jesus did not just come to live among the broken and abused. Jesus did not just leave us a good example when he died on the cross. There was something much bigger going on. He was absorbing the infinite wrath of an almighty God on behalf of wicked sinners.
So yes, I come from a church that emphasizes the substitutionary work of Jesus’ death on the cross. And no, Jesus was not merely killed because he threatened the position of his oppressors. The gospel is bigger than that. Justice is bigger than that. Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities and by his stripes we are healed.
Unfortunately, there is this false dichotomy that says that theology and loving neighbor are mutually exclusive. There are many theology loving people who neglect loving their neighbors. And there are many justice-loving people who neglect loving their Savior. A division like this is not needed. One should flow out of the other.
Only those who are gripped by the Jesus who lays his life down for sinners make good “social activists”. Idolatry is the worst injustice ever committed. The death of Jesus puts right the worst wrong. Sin against God is paid in full for those who call upon His name.
God hated injustice so much that he slaughtered his only Son. From the cross did his love and blood roll.
I can’t think of a better place for justice to flow from.
Often prophecy in the New Testament can perplex readers. Sometimes is seems as though the New Testament writers were not consistent in their use of the Old Testament. Here is my feeble attempt at an illustration that may help shed light on how the New Testament writers understood Old Testament prophecy.
The two main painting styles I am familiar with are “Replication” and “Abstract”.
One type of painting technique attempts to replicate a photo or event with minute detail and accuracy. This was my choice of style when I first began to paint. I loved to paint fruit as realistic as possible or reduplicate photographs on a canvas.
Another form of art is known as Impressionism. Abstract art uses a much broader stroke of artistic interpretation yet still conveys a message or picture. Against all odds (and to my grandfather’s chagrin), most of my current paintings lean towards the way of Van Gogh.
I have learned to appreciate both mediums and understand their places in the art realm. Neither one is wrong but they both have their benefits.
This analogy may be helpful in relation to Scriptural prophecy.
- Literal Fulfillment
Matthew 2:6 is a direct fulfillment of Micah 5:2. Jesus’ birthplace is predicted hundreds of years in advanced and is fulfilled exactly as foretold. I would equate this with replication type paintings. The Old Testament prophet says “A+B will make C” and thus the New Testament equation unfolds.
- Typological fulfillment.
An example of this would be found in Matthew 2:15. Matthew saw the life of Israel and the life of Jesus and did not think it was a coincidence. Jesus was not in Egypt for slavery but for safety. Jesus is the true and better Israel and fulfills everything Israel was not. In this medium of prophecy, the New Testament writers see a divine foreshadow, theme, or event in the Old Testament and connect it with the life or ministry of Christ. Though these prophecies are not necessarily a detailed blueprint that would have been anticipated, they depict pictures of the Messiah which the inspired authors used. I would compare this type of prophecy with impressionistic art. (e.g. Mt 2:16-18, 2:23)
Both are right and both have their beauty and place in the realm of Scripture. The New Testament writers knew how to read the Bible properly and we would do well to follow their method of study.
“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 2:12
What would you think if I told you that Jesus was genuinely angry with some people? Would that make you uncomfortable? If so, why? Why do words like wrath, anger, fury, or even holiness grate against people while words like love and peace sound more appealing to the ears?
If someone is uncomfortable using these words to describe God, this might be because the only thing they have ever encountered in life is sinful rage. Yet Jesus’ wrath is just and should be celebrated because it’s good. He only feels wrath over things that deserve wrath. There is no such thing as unfair wrath with Jesus. Christ’s rage is holy. His fury is good and complete. Yes, His wrath is good.
How can God`s wrath be good? How is this comforting?
- Nobody wants to worship a wimpy God. We do not want a God who is soft on sin. If we are honest, an unjust God is not appealing to us. The murderer could always kill whenever and however. The rapist could forever rape freely. The liar could perpetually deceive you in the most devastating ways. God allows this for a season, but, oh, how his wrath is kindled quickly! He will tread the vineyard of the wrath of God. No sin goes unpunished. He will not tolerate wickedness forever. This truth does not allow us to point fingers. We must examine our own souls. God will not allow us to sin carte-blanche. God does not show partiality. He is ready to strike us down in our sins unless something drastically changes.
- The surprise of Christ is that we can kiss him. The shocking reality of the gospel is that Jesus should punish us, but instead offers the gift of grace. This gift was not free for him. It cost him dearly. Jesus paid for the gift with his own precious blood. God’s righteous rod of wrath struck down upon his body on Mount Calvary. Jesus bore the sins of the world upon a Roman tree.
Why the cross? Because God is holy and must punish sin. Upon Golgotha, God’s love and wrath mingle perfectly. The wrath of God which fell upon Jesus is good news for the believer.
Ironic isn’t it? Strange perhaps? Jesus is slow to anger… yet quick to kindle his wrath.
“The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Numbers 14:18
There are two ways to kiss the Son. One can fall down anointing his feet with kisses (Luke 7:37-38). Or one can attempt to kill Christ with a cold peck. (Mark 14:44-45). The former is a broken sinner relying only on the mercy of God. The latter is a hardened sinner about to be broken on the wrath of God.
So friend! Kiss the Son lest He be angry with you. His rod and his staff will comfort you.