What do I Know

What do I KNOW?

I know God is unchangeable.

I know God does not lie.

I know God will keep His promises.

I know He is my refuge and encouragement and hope.

I know He is a sure and steadfast anchor.

I know Jesus is the perfect, eternal, faithful high priest who pleads for me before the Father’s throne of grace.

These things I KNOW.

How about you? What do you know? Let’s start speaking truth into our souls.

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV

Of Bearing Fruit and Dispersing

Why do seeds form inside of fruit? Seeds form inside of fruit for their protection, so they can be dispersed and grow safely at the right time and place.

This is pumpkin-carving season in the good ol’ USA. Bill and I have been carving pumpkins, cutting them open and pulling out that yucky, gooey, seedy muck with our children for 23 years now. But this year, my oldest little pumpkin won’t be home because God is sending her out. 

And it’s hard. But it’s also good. This is #mommylife2.0

I’ve spent the last 23 years investing into my oldest daughter’s life. I’ve prepared the soil and diligently planted countless seeds. I’m sure plenty of those scattered seeds have fallen by the way, but I’ve kept on scattering the seeds. I’ve watered and tended the little seedlings as they’ve grown, and now I’m preparing to launch my daughter into a new adventure in adulthood. 

Seeds aren’t designed to grow on top of each other. Small oaks can’t reach their full height in the shade of giant oak trees. If too many tomato seeds are planted in one little container, they’ll choke each other.

God commanded Adam and Eve, and Noah and his sons, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28, 9:1). Likewise, God wants us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 

The people of Babel didn’t want to be dispersed, so the Lord confused their languages, causing them to disperse. (Genesis 11:1-9) I’ve learned over the years that God’s sovereign purpose will stand and it’s really better to be a joyful partner in the journey.

He wants us to bear both biological children and spiritual ones. He wants the gospel to spread out from my little town in Mississippi to the shores of Florida. He wants the gospel to go forth to the metropolises of Russia and Hungary and China and to the villages of Mexico and Kenya and India.

And that means that dispersing has to take place.

So my prayer today is that those seeds that I’ve planted and tended will grow deep roots in the fertile soil of God’s Word, and that they will bear more fruit full of more seeds that will be further dispersed – whenever and wherever they land. 

And I pray that my sunshine-sunflower girl will keep her face ever pointed to the One Perfect Sun, so that people would look where she’s looking – toward Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of her faith and the Lord and Savior of her soul.

Mark 4:8 ESV — And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

Matthew 5:16 ESV — In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

John 15:4 ESV — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

The Meaning of Marriage – Chapter 2 highlights – “The Power for Marriage”

I am continuing to dig in to Timothy Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage.” It is excellent, chock full of wisdom and encouragement. Last week I shared highlights from the first chapter. You can read those here. And let me urge you again to get your own full copy of the 300+ page book.

One of the most important (if not THE most important) chapters on marriage in the Bible is found in Ephesians 5. When examining Ephesians 5, Keller writes, “Immediately after discussing the Spirit-filled life, Paul turns to the subject of marriage, showing the tight connection between marriage and the life in the Spirit. And this connection teaches us two things. First, the picture of marriage given here is not of two needy people, unsure of their own value and purpose, finding their significance and meaning in one another’s arms. If you add two vacuums to each other, you only get a bigger and stronger vacuum… If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.” (pg 49-50)

In Ephesians 5, Paul charges both the husband and the wife with self-sacrificing responsibilities to serve their partner in marriage. Each of their responsibilities have unique struggles. The wife gives of herself in her submission, while the husband gives of himself in his love. But, both are servants, putting the other’s needs before his or her own.

And in this we see the gospel again lived out in our marriages. In essence, the gospel message is this: “You are so lost and flawed, so sinful, that Jesus had to die for you, but you are also so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for you.” (pg 54)

Please read that sentence again and let it really sink in. Let this truth impact your marriage, recognizing your own brokenness and need for help, forgiveness, love and grace. Let this truth both humble you and lift you up.

Humans “were created to worship and live for God’s glory, not our own. We were made to serve God and others. That means paradoxically that if we try to put our own happiness ahead of obedience to God, we violate our own nature and become, ultimately, miserable.” (pg 57-58) How true! And how often I see this played out in my own life. How about you?

The problem is that marriage is a union of two self-centered people. What ends up happening is that both people think the other person has the bigger problem. It is only when both spouses say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” that a couple can fully enjoy a great marriage. (pg 64)

So, what should you do if your spouse doesn’t recognize that his or her self-centeredness is a problem? Then, you have to work on you. You have to recognize your own sinfulness and selfishness and begin working on your own heart issues. And, once again, this is only fully possible through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you and by having a proper reverence for Christ. (Look again at Ephesians 5:18-21)

As Keller writes, “Only God can fill a God-sized hole. Until God has the proper place in my life, I will always be complaining that my spouse is not loving me well enough, not respecting me enough, not supporting me enough.” (pg 73)

Or in my life: When God fills my God-sized hole, Bill doesn’t have to. Ultimately, the solution to my marriage struggles isn’t found in getting Bill to fill the hole in my heart, but in getting my heart so filled with God, that HE fills the hole in my heart.

As Keller concludes,

“It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give. The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner’s joy and freedom on the altar of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul.” (pg 77)

Let’s journey on this road together, seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, loving others because God first loved us. 

— TWIG

The Meaning of Marriage – Chapter 1 highlights

In the summer of 2018, I started reading Timothy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. It is fantastic. I mean, really, really good. I highly recommend it.

It is also over 300 pages long. Can I just admit here that I wish that books were short? Please, if I ever write a 300-page book, will you please remind me of this. I much prefer to read three one-hundred page books or two one-hundred-fifty page books, than one three-hundred page book. I’m sure there’s some cost-effective reason why authors are encouraged to write one lengthy book, but I have such a hard time finishing long books. Anyway … I digress … You probably hate reading long blog posts and watching long YouTube videos. (Oh, yeah, I generally dislike those, too.)

But back to the subject at hand, this book is so fantastic, I thought I’d share some highlights from each chapter. I hope this would encourage you to buy your own copy and read it slowly and meditatively.

Chapter 1, “The Secret of Marriage.”

Keller begins by explaining the cultural shift that has happened in the American view of marriage. During the Enlightenment Age of the 18th and 19th centuries, people’s attitudes toward marriage began to change. “The meaning of life came to be seen as the fruit of the freedom of the individual to choose the life that most fulfills him or her personally. Instead of finding meaning through self-denial, through giving up one’s freedoms, and binding oneself to the duties of marriage and family, marriage was redefined as finding emotional and sexual fulfillment and self-actualization.” (p. 21)

In a 2002 study by the National Marriage Project entitled, “Why Men Won’t Commit,” by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, the authors discovered that men were looking for the “perfect soul mate,” with whom they were very compatible. There were two key factors in compatibility. Secondarily, attractiveness and sexual chemistry, and primarily, compatibility. Compatibility “above all meant someone who showed a willingness to take them as they are and not change them.” … “If you are truly compatible then you don’t have to change.” (p. 23-24)

Historically, though, men recognized that getting married would demand a great deal of change. Keller asserts that one great purpose for getting married is in fact to change men, to help men to be more interdependent and to grow in communication, support and teamwork skills. Marriage is designed to “change their natural instincts, to reign in passions, to learn denial of one’s own desires, and to serve others.” (p 26-27)

(I would add here that marriage not only improves the man in this way, but also the woman. I have grown more as a married woman, learning to deny my own desires and to serve others, than I could learn as a single person.)

Unfortunately, this desire to be fully accepted exactly how we are has helped fuel the pornography epidemic of America. Pornographic images serve a person’s physical lusts without any of the responsibility and maturity that marriage, by definition, requires. As Keller puts it, “A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put – today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.” (p 30)

“Modern people make the painfulness of marriage even greater than it has to be, because they crush it under the weight of their almost cosmically impossible expectations. … At one time we expected marriage and family to provide love, support and security. But for meaning in life, hope for the future, moral compass, and self-identity, we looked to God and the afterlife. Today, however, our culture has taught us to believe that no one can be sure of those things, not even whether they exist. … We look to sex and romance to give us what we used to get from faith in God.” (p. 36)

Keller ends with the beautiful “secret” of God’s design for human marriage. “The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical unconditional commitment to us.” (p. 44)