Life Through Books (2016)

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By Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon

The end of the year is closing, and many people are reflecting on the past and preparing  for the future. We’re not sure how you appraise your year, but we view life through the books that have impacted us. We don’t read just for the sake of “reading.” We read because we want to be changed.

We want to be better, more in love with God, more aware of reality, and more equipped to think wisely about life. We think through good books. If you are similar in this way, you might enjoy some recommendations for the next year. Below are five favorite books from each of us that we have read (or are still reading) in 2016.

Sean:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I picked up this book because I never read it in middle school. I always wanted to read it because I have a small obsession with politics. The book is short, my copy is only 141 pages, and I found it captivating. I could have read it one sitting if time permitted. The book is a parable and never once mentions politics. Even if you are sick and tired of the 2016 election, you will still find this book enjoyable. Parts of it are creepy with relevance, and it is nothing less than sobering. I recommend reading it in order to make sure you have eyes to see when people are abusing power. You will realize that it isn’t just the animals on the farm who are saying: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

This is the shortest book on the list, 81 pages, but it is the most challenging. I guarantee that you won’t be able to mine all its depths with just one read. But don’t let that scare you. You should read it and wrestle with it before you realize that “you don’t have a chest” and are inhuman. This book is not necessarily an argument for the existence of God. It is an argument that Darwinism is essentially inhuman and incongruent with virtue.

This book will help you think critically about truth, virtue, and morality. It will increase your ability to think intellectually about the most significant issues in life.  To my surprise, I also found this book to be an interesting companion to Animal Farm because it discusses how the removal of objective virtue ensures an abuse of power and unhinged dominance.

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez

There is a small list of people who influence me on a regular basis. Francis Schaeffer is one of them. His writings and ministry shape the way I think. I can’t get his books He is there and He is Not Silent or The God Who Is There out of my mind. It is a holy haunting in my head.

This biography by Colin Duriez is able to zoom into historical details to satisfy my inner nerd and also tell the broad story of the Schaeffer’s ministry. Pick up this book if you want to know more about the hospitality of the Schaeffer’s along with their deep convictions that have impacted innumerable people.

Standing Strong: How to Resist the Enemy of Your Soul by John MacArthur

This is a book about how to fight the devil. John MacArthur takes you through the spiritual armor of God in a way that is devotional, practical, and easy to understand. He argues that faith and repentance are the ways to combat demonic activity. If you pick up this book, I’m confident it will help you grow in your spiritual walk with Christ.

Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children by John A. Younts

A friend at church recommended this book to me back in the summer. I ordered it then, but didn’t start reading it until this month. Jenny and I have reading a few pages each night before bed in order to help us with a couple of counseling cases involving children. This book is simple, practical, and full of the gospel.

It hits right at home because it addresses the most basic conversations we have on a hour-by-hour basis. Do you find it difficult to talk about God with your kids? Does it feel unnatural to talk about the Bible each day? This book will help oil the spiritual hinges of your house and enable you to have a long-term impact on your family.

Spencer:

A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John Frame

Philosophy and theology impact almost everything in our culture.  Pop songs and Bible tracts stand on the shoulders of philosophers and theologians.  That’s why John Frame’s A History was so enlightening for me earlier this summer.  Frame is a seasoned teacher, and his simplicity and depth attest to it.  He gives helpful, clear, and deep overviews of the major players and ideas in philosophy and theology.  But what benefitted me the most was Frame’s ability to set each thinker in context, show how their ideas affect us today, and to biblically evaluate their ideas.  This isn’t a book to read from cover to cover, but is a helpful resource for any Christian to have on their shelf.  I’d particularly recommend it to any student getting ready to enter into college.  

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies

I’m cheating here.  I read this book at the very end of last year.  However, it’s ideas shaped me in 2016, and so it deserves to be recommended here.  

I love productivity books and tools.  I haven’t read deeply in the literature, but I have read enough to know that productivity books are a dime a dozen.  Most of us don’t have time to wade through all the techniques, life hacks, and shortcuts most productivity gurus offer.  But Challies’ book is different because it offers a simple, short, practical approach to productivity that busy mom’s, overwhelmed students, and frazzled professionals can apply to their life.  This book shines because it’s both doable and devotional.  It’s my first recommendation for anyone wanting to grow in productivity.

America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation by Grant Wacker

I read (actually listened) to this book for two reasons.  

First, I’ve always been drawn to Billy Graham.   I have always admired Graham’s personal integrity, humility, character, and commitment to proclaiming Christ to those who are lost.  Reading this book gave me a closer look at the man, blemishes and all, and left me challenged and inspired.

Second, I just began pastoring a congregation made up of many elderly people whose understanding of what it means to be a Christian in America was shaped by the life and ministry of Billy Graham.  As I was reading this book and listening to Wacker’s observations of how Graham shaped the nation’s understanding of Christianity, I felt like  I was studying my people.  Wacker helped me grapple with, understand, and appreciate what was American Christianity in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s through the filter of Graham’s ministry.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book took my breathe away on several occasions.  Anthony Doerr’s metaphors bring a sense of awe at even the most common experiences of life.  Doerr’s sentences are like sweet serenades that you never want to end.  This book, set in World War II France and Germany, takes the people and places we call common and fills them with meaning.  The story is joyful yet tinged with sorrow, dark and yet filled with shafts of light.

Disclaimer, this book has brief language and a few disturbing scenes and descriptions as a result of its setting in World War II.  

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Butterfield

Butterfield’s follow-up book to Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert continues to speak to the toughest issues about sexual identity with tenderness and transparency.  The first three chapters on conversion, identity, and repentance are worth the price of the book.  Her final chapter on community and hospitality embody the type of warmth that the New Testament pictures when it calls the church the household of God (Eph. 2:19).  Read this book if you want to be equipped to speak into the complexities of our day with both biblical fidelity and warm compassion for the lost around you.  


 

Sean and Spencer are the authors of Letters to a Romantic: Biblical Guidance on Dating and Letters to a Romantic: Biblical Guidance on Engagement (P&R, 2017)

What You Should Know about “He Knew Her Not”

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By Sean Perron

Perhaps you are reading through an Advent devotional this Christmas season or focusing on the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke. The Bible never ceases to amaze and there are always new insights to discover in old stories.

This year I was struck by a small unexpected sentence in Matthew 1:24-25. It reads:

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Mat 1:24-25 ESV)

This text teaches that Joseph obeyed God by marrying Mary (even though the child within her was not his offspring) but he did not have sex with her until after she gave birth to Jesus. The ESV uses the language of “but knew her not” as a euphemism for sex. There are other translations that read:

NAS  Matthew 1:25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Mat 1:25 NAS)

NLT  Matthew 1:25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Mat 1:25 NLT)

There are several things to point out from these couple of verses.

First, this is a unique situation in redemptive history. The main point of this verse is not to communicate that you should avoid sex after your wedding. There are several factors that make this situation unique – not the least of which is that the Holy Spirit conceived a baby in the womb of a virgin. There are also other Scriptures that command regular sexual activity for married couples. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Second, the Bible (and Joseph) wanted it to be crystal clear that Jesus was not the offspring of an earthly father. Jesus is God in the flesh. His birth was miraculous. Joseph and Mary had a wedding but did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was not conceived by human relations. This was a divine act.

Third, this verse also teaches that Joseph and Mary had sex after Jesus was born. Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Joseph didn’t have sex with her until after she gave birth. There are also verses in the book of Matthew that talk about Jesus’ brothers and sisters. (See also Mark 6:3)

Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Mat 13:55-56 ESV)

These are all important things to point out from these verses, yet these were not the things that struck me this Christmas. What caught my attention was the self-control of Joseph.

Think about it. Joseph was a righteous man who followed the law (Matthew 1:19). He was presumably chaste and had no blemish on his record. He had waited his entire life to have sex until the proper context. He had been self-controlled because he wanted to obey God and follow the Old Testament law.

Then it comes out that Mary is pregnant with a baby that does not belong to him. He is told in a dream by an angel of the Lord that he should remain committed to Mary and take her as his wife. Joseph marries Mary… but still remains self-controlled.

He could have had sex with her and we have no indication that it would have been sinful. Yet, he chose to wait until after the birth of Jesus in order that it would be crystal clear that Jesus was not of earthly descent. Since he had a character of a righteous man and knew this was a unique divine circumstance, I conclude that he wanted to answer any possible claim that he was the earthly father of Jesus.

Joseph lived with Mary. He loved her. He saw her naked. He took care of her. He traveled with her to Bethlehem. And yet, he waited to have intercourse with her until after he helped her give birth to a child that was not his own.

Would you have been as self-controlled as Joseph? Would you have complained? Would you have grumbled? Would you have been bitter?

I don’t want to read more into the text than need be. Nor amy I trying to advocate for anything bizarre. I’m not advocating using Joseph as an example to refrain from intercourse within marriage. If you have followed my other blogs, you know I believe married couples should enjoy sex on a very regular basis.

I am saying that Joseph exerted a lot of self-control and truly loved well in a difficult and unprecedented situation.

Perhaps you need the grace of Jesus this Christmas to grow in the area of self-control. Are you single and struggling with pornography? Are you dating or engaged and struggling with purity? Are you married and having difficulty remaining sexually committed to your spouse? Use this Advent to ask God for the gift of control. Only the Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus can give us this spiritual fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Gal 5:1 ESV)

The Holy Spirit did a miracle in the womb of Mary. The Holy Spirit did a miracle in the heart of Joseph. And I am more than confident that the Holy Spirit can do a miracle in our lives and enable us to replace any sinful desires with steadfast love.

 


Sean is the Chief of Staff at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the author of Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement (P&R, 2017)

The Bible is Practical

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By Sean Perron

The Bible isn’t relevant for life if the Bible can’t be applied practically. Biblical counseling must be practical or else it will be irrelevant. This is because we obey or disobey God in specific ways. Our idolatries are not vague. Our sins are not general. When we are fearful, we think fearful thoughts in our mind. When we are sinfully depressed, we neglect real responsibilities. When we act in anger, we do things with our tongues and our hands. Thankfully, the Bible offers practical ways to overcome our sin and change us in concrete ways.

The practical nature of the Scriptures for counseling can be seen in three verses in the New Testament. Romans 12:19-21 is just one example that gives us insight into the powerful and tangible ways the Bible can be used in counseling.

Verse 19: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 

 

1) Command and Motivation

The command in verse 19 is to never take revenge. This command is simple, but it is not merely a command. In Romans 12:19, the motivation for the command is given. We should not seek revenge because this is only God’s prerogative. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and we are called to trust him instead of taking matters into our own hands. To not take revenge requires faith. The command is given and the motivation to obey the command is also explained.

Verse 20: To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 

 

2) One Practical Application

Verse 20 goes beyond both the command and the motivation and moves into a practical example. If your enemy is hungry, you can not take revenge by feeding him. If your enemy is thirsty, you can fight anger by giving him something to drink. This is one practical way of fighting the urge to take revenge. Instead of giving your enemy poison, you should buy him coffee. Instead of giving your enemy a mouthful of harsh language, you should give him a mouthful of food.

Verse 21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

3) Many Practical Opportunities

The practical nature of the commands of God can be seen even clearer in verse 21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. The practical nature of doing good in order to combat revenge isn’t bound up in giving away meals or bottles of water to your arch enemies. There are hundreds of ways in which you can tangibly show kindness instead of wrath to those who upset you. Romans 12:20 gives one practical example, but Romans 12:21 allows for a thousand other acts of kindness that are in keeping with verse 19.

 

Biblical Counsel is Practical Counsel

How do you give advice to others? Do you talk about God’s commands? Do you explain the motivations behind those commandments and how faith is required? Do you give practical examples to implement these truths? Do you then teach others to think of new ways to obey God when faced with a variety of circumstances?

Romans 12:19-21 is just one example of how the Scriptures are powerful and practical to help people change. It is my prayer that this text is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves: Do we counsel like the Bible counsels?

This post was originally posted on The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors blog. 

Some Clarification and Suggestions from a Theology of Biblical Counseling

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Post by Sean Perron
Yesterday I read David Murray’s blog post. Murray graciously asked for replies to his blog post and I hope these quotes are helpful.
Below are some of my suggestions and also some clarifications from Dr. Heath Lambert’s book A Theology of Biblical Counseling. My main suggestion is that Murray should have read the entirety of Lambert’s book before writing his post.
Murray Question 1: “Is there any revelation outside the Bible?”
Has God revealed any truth about these topics (information about obesity, nutrition, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc.) outside the Bible?
Lambert’s clarification: 
Rich Resources Outside Scripture
Some believe that embrace of the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling necessarily entails rejection of true information outside of the Bible. This is a fairly common objection to the kind of biblical sufficiency that I am discussing here…
…From the very beginning of the biblical counseling movement, leaders have made clear their belief in the legitimacy of sources of information outside of Scripture. Biblical counselors do not ignore or outright reject extra-biblical sources or counseling insights. In fact, I would argue that biblical counselors have demonstrated a high level of theological sophistication about the use of extra-biblical data, often greater than our brothers to the theological left. The biblical counseling position is that there is much true information that exists outside the Bible—that found in the sciences, for example. (53-54)
Murray’s Suggested Clarification: 
“Without the qualification of ‘special revelation’ (or spiritual truth), I think we risk being understood as saying that there is no general revelation, no truth, outside of Scripture on any topic.”
One of Lambert’s printed clarification in chapter two: 
The call to be compassionate counselors requires that a thoroughgoing theology of biblical counseling must not only address the sufficient resources for counseling within Scripture but must also address the relevance of resources that exist outside of Scripture. This is an issue that has the highest practical and personal implications for counselors. We must consider this matter very carefully if we are to be compassionate. Considering the matter in this way requires that we understand the doctrine of common grace. (66-67)
I began this chapter on the resources for counseling outside Scripture by asking what is necessary to help Rick, Wendy, Gail, Trenyan, Jenny, Scott, Drew, Amber, Sean, and Sarah. To answer that question, we examined common grace and saw that, indeed, God does allow unbelievers to come to know true principles that are helpful in counseling. (100)
The quotes that answer this question are too numerous for me to reproduce in this post.
I also want to point Murray and readers to
Appendix A: Statement from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors  Regarding Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling

Appendix B: Biblical Counseling, General Revelation, and Common Grace

Murray writes: “I’m hopeful that Heath will go on to add such qualifications in subsequent chapters, but it’s unqualified generalizations like these that confuse people and have created justifiable resistance to the biblical counseling movement over the years. With just a couple of extra words, the potential confusion is avoided and understandable reasons to resist are removed.”
My Suggestion for Murray’s Post:
I’m hopeful that Murray will go on to add such qualifications in subsequent blog posts, but it’s blog posts like his review of first chapter of Lambert’s book that confuse people and have created resistance to the biblical counseling movement over the years. By waiting just a couple of extra pages, the potential confusion is avoided and reasons to resist are removed. I wish Murray had refrained from blogging before he finished A Theology of Biblical Counseling.
What Counseling Requires 
Murray’s Question 2: “Does ‘problems’ here mean all problems (such as autism, or those Heath mentioned earlier – employment problems or choosing a college)?”
One Quote of Lambert’s Clarification: 
Biblical counselors shall encourage the use of physical examinations and testing by physicians for diagnosis of medical problems, the treatment of these problems, and the relief of symptoms, which might cause, contribute to, or complicate counseling issues. (324)
Murray’s Question 3: “Is God’s prescribed solution (singular) to our problems (plural) always simply ‘faith in Christ’?”
One Quote of Lambert’s Clarification:
Biblical counselors shall encourage the use of physical examinations and testing by physicians for diagnosis of medical problems, the treatment of these problems, and the relief of symptoms, which might cause, contribute to, or complicate counseling issues. (324)
Murray’s Question 4: “Is this the only solution to all our problems?”
One Quote with Lambert’s Clarification:
Biblical counselors shall encourage the use of physical examinations and testing by physicians for diagnosis of medical problems, the treatment of these problems, and the relief of symptoms, which might cause, contribute to, or complicate counseling issues. (324)
My Suggestion: Murray may consider being slow to blog and quick to read. Murray may consider if he is answering a matter before he hears all of the facts. I also pray that Murray would be more open to changing his position on counseling.
Other Minor Suggestions: 
  • Murray suggests Lambert should use the word “necessitates” instead of “requires.” We should not quibble over words that mean the same thing. Requires and necessitates are the same thing. These words are synonymous.
I close with this quote from Murray which I apply to this post and my suggestions:
I offer these questions and clarifications in the spirit of iron sharpening iron (Prov. 27:17), and in the hope that my biblical counseling colleagues will see the need for much greater clarity, carefulness, and consistency, if we are to have a hope of building the credibility of our discipline and expanding the availability and usefulness of biblical counseling throughout the world. I’m looking forward to learning from any responses to the questions, further questions to me, and hopefully clearer and more consistent definitions at the foundational level. If I have misunderstood or misrepresented anything, please let me know as this was not my intention.
Sean Perron

Four Years Later: 25 Reasons

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by Sean Perron
Four years ago I wrote out a list of 25 reasons why I was thrilled to marry Jennifer Whiteaker. This year I wanted to revise the list.
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Marrying Jenny is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She stunned me with her life and love four years ago and that has only continued.
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Here are just a few of the reasons why I love you Jenny Perron: 
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  1. You desire to be found faithful before God
  2. Your submission is a sweet aroma
  3. You squeeze me tightly and hold me loosely
  4. You hide yourself in the shadow of God
  5. Your Spirit is lovely beyond compare
  6. You smirk at the storms ahead
  7. You are planted by streams of water and bloom in every season
  8. Your joy is brighter than a tulip farm and your stem is strong to serve the world his beauty
  9. You are radiant and reverent in your worship
  10. Adventure is your middle name… and your first name… and now your last name
  11. Your brown eyes are unparalleled in beauty
  12. You are confident in his image
  13. You care about the rights of all who are destitute
  14. You open your mouth for the mute
  15. You open your hand to the poor
  16. You inherit the earth
  17. Your heart is soft to conviction and committed to a clear conscience
  18. You call evil evil and good good
  19. Your well is filled with songs, hymns, and spiritual hums
  20. Your gold is giving
  21. People want more of your pleasant presence
  22. Thoughtfulness flows from you like a waterfall
  23. Your smile has a domino effect
  24. You pray more than there are minutes in an hour
  25. Your hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing: Cultivating Joy In Singleness

by Spencer Harmon
by Spencer Harmon

Marriage celebrations aren’t always joyful.  

There are certainly those overflowing with joy:  the older couple reminiscing on their wedding joy, the newly engaged couple dreaming of their own wedding day, the parents of the bride and groom beaming with pride.  However, marriage celebrations can also be painful reminders of a persistent suffering – the suffering of singleness.  To be sure, there are singles who are not suffering.  They are content with their season of life, enjoying the freedom that singleness brings.  For others, however, singleness is a burden that they struggle to carry.  They long for the companionship of a spouse, to come home to a friend,  and the intimacy of love.  

You may know exactly what I’m talking about.  You enjoy weddings, engagement parties, and celebrating the excitement of matrimony with friends.  Yet, there is a tinge of pain – perhaps felt on the drive home or as you hear another couple make vows – that reverberates in your heart.  You long to rejoice with your friends, but struggle with this unmet desire.  

On top of this, you hear the call of the Bible to rejoice with those who rejoice, but your heart does not feel it.  How am I supposed to rejoice while suffering?  Can this sorrow and joy exist within the same heart?

The Composite Joy of the Body of Christ

If we are honest, many of us hear the call to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15) as a call to force a crooked smile on your face at an engagement party.  We think: “Good for them!”, and may genuinely mean it.  However, the dominant tone of our hearts is a deep groan of “How long, O Lord?”

But rejoicing with those who rejoice is not like a forced smile on a family photo.  It is an ownership of the joy of another because it sees God at work.  The joy you are called to experience at your friend’s’ engagement party or marriage ceremony is not some blind naivete  that ignores your own desires to be married.  Instead, it is a celebration of God’s good plans in the life of someone who is deeply connected to you.

This means that your joy is meant to be a composite joy. The joy of the Christian is equally composed of the work of God in their own life and the work of God in the lives of fellow Christians.  This is what Paul means when he writes that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).  The joy of the Christian is a many-membered tapestry that interweaves the threads of our lives with one another.

So then, the engagement party or marriage ceremony of your friend is actually an opportunity to experience real, warm-hearted joy.  Most of the time when we find it difficult to celebrate with another Christian, it is not because it is not possible.  Rather, it’s because we are not willing to experience joy in this way.  We limit the potential moments of rejoicing in our lives to those times when things align to our preferences.  The world transforms into the size of a clenched fist that holds its plans, rather than the big world where our happy God is busy blessing his children (Jeremiah 32:41).

How do you see other believers?  Are they only a catalyst of despair anytime they get something you don’t have?  Or are they a member of the same body as you so that their joy is your joy?  Are you soaking yourself in the picture of the church as your family so that the metaphor becomes reality?  The key to rejoicing with those who rejoice is to see the victories of others as your own.

Joy and Sorrow Under the Same Roof

But most of us are not dominated by only despair at the engagement party or marriage ceremony.  Instead, we often experience a tangled web of rejoicing and sorrow, pleasure and frustration, contentment and restlessness.  We rejoice to see God at work, but the desire for marriage aches like a tender bruise being pressed.  This isn’t selfishness – it’s a reminder of a unwanted suffering.

Singles often experience unnecessary guilt because they don’t understand the idea of earnest waiting.  Earnest waiting happens when the truths of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility meet in some suffering in our lives.  When Christians suffer, two responses are to exist in their hearts.  First, they are to wait on the Lord.  The posture of our hearts is to be one of a weaned child trusting its parent (Ps. 131:2).  We are to not take matters into our own hands, but hope fully in our God (Psalm 37:34, 62:5, Proverbs 20:22).  For many Christian singles, this is the primary battleground.  However, Christians are also to be persistent with the Lord.  A wrong application of the sovereignty of God is to assume that we are not to pray for relief from suffering.  Although the heroes of our faith trusted God, Hannah prayed for a child (1 Samuel 1:9-18), the church in Acts prayed for Peter to be released from prison (Acts 12:5), and Jesus honors the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).

It is not sinful to feel the sting of unwanted singleness at a marriage ceremony.  It is sinful to allow this sting to translate into a grumbling heart towards the Lord and others.  You can be sorrowful and yet rejoice at the same time.  You cannot grumble and rejoice at the same time.  Do your sorrows roll up into prayer toward the God who knows your needs?  Or do your sorrow’s knot up your soul with a complaining heart?

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

The pendulum could currently be swinging to either extreme for you.  You may be sorrowful, rejoicing, or both.  Either way, God calls you to take steps of faith now.  Are you sorrowful?  Call on friends to partner with you in your prayer for a spouse and for a heart that waits on the Lord.  Are you rejoicing?  Cultivate a lifestyle that loses itself in the joy of others.  Go all out to celebrate the work of God in the lives of others through attending parties, serving on the day of the wedding, and giving your life away for the good of others.  In other words: live the Christian life – weeping and laughing, repenting and believing, grateful while groaning.

These truths are not to be exclusively applied to singleness and marriage.  The Christian life is full of trials, and yet we are called to rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12-13).  We are not called to merely rejoice with those who rejoice; we are called to rejoice in God (Habakkuk 3:18, Philippians 4:4).  This rejoicing in God is the bedrock to rejoicing with others.  In singleness, and a million other sufferings, our hearts must be confident that he does not withhold good things from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

 

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Young Romantic: Complement One Another

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Dear Young Romantic,

On a personal note, I don’t need to remind you that there is very little reason for my wife to be thrilled about me. I’m not all that and a bag of chips. Yet to my wife, my smallest accomplishments earn the same applause as if I was awarded a nobel peace prize. If I fix a bolt on an old piece of furniture, I’m MacGyver. If I make a layup on the court while competing against the 9 year olds we babysit, I’m Michael Jordan. If I demolish a wasp nest, I surpass Tom Cruise. She bubbles over with enthusiasm for whatever my hand finds to do.

But she is more than a cheerleader. She is an essential part of my life and ministry. Jenny is my sister in Christ just as much as she is my wife. There have been many wonderful times when her gentle rebuke has set me back on course. I can’t tell you how many times she has encouraged me in the faith and held up my weary hands.

And if that wasn’t enough, she blossoms beautifully in submission. If I tell Jenny we are going to move to another state and start a ministry from the ground up, she will be in-it-to-win-it. She will have questions, she will want to know what our pastors think, but she will submit to my leadership. She is a helper extraordinaire.

Why do I say all this? Because my wife rejoices in her God given role as my wife. She is not oppressed. Jenny loves being a woman. She is thrilled to be a helpmate. She is humble, submissive, gentle, compassionate, and lives in obedience to God. The reason she thinks I’m awesome is not because I am. She thinks I’m the best husband in the world because she is the best wife in the world. If you looking for me to explain this in theological terms, my wife is a complementarian to the core and she couldn’t be happier.

Mansions to Decorate

God has given men and women different roles in marriage. We are both equal and beautiful in God’s image and yet we have different functions. The man is called to lead, guide, and protect his wife. The woman is called the honor, submit, and follow her husband.

The roles God designed for us are not prisons to escape from, but mansions to decorate. God’s roles for men and women are not putrid veggies to swallow; they are the choicest meats to feast upon. God created us to flourish and thrive in the gender role he sovereignly bestowed upon us.

The husband is not to be a dictator or tyrant. Men are called to be like Jesus – and Jesus is a shepherd (Psalm 23:1). Shepherds don’t beat their sheep. They protect them from wolves and clean them from the thistles. Shepherds care for their flocks and lead them beside still waters. Husbands are to wash their wives through the water of the Word and pursue them with goodness and mercy all the days of their life (Ephesians 5:26).  

Biblical headship is a weighty responsibility. In Ephesians 5:25, a husband is called to love like Christ. This tall order should cause husbands to humbly tremble before the holy God of the gospel. Husbands are called to lay down their lives, their preferences, their wishes, and their selfish ambitions for their bride. Jesus lived out this love and proved John 15:13 true. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

How can this look practically?

A husband and wife will discuss and dialogue about all kinds of decisions during a typical week. Most of the decisions we make on a daily basis are preference choices. In these types of choices, Christians are called to consider others above themselves (Philippians 2:3). If your spouse wants to eat at home this week, why not? If they want to watch a movie instead of read a book, why not? If they want to take the interstate instead of the back roads, why not? Our preferences are not the precepts of the Lord. The goal is to outdo one another in kindness. Love leads with sacrifice and this produces a joyful home.

There are also significant decisions that shape the course of a family such as jobs, churches, family crisis, etc. The husband is to lead by listening. It is important for the husband to truly understand his wife and consider any disagreements she may have. The channels of conversation and prayer must be open and cleared of any sin. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

After all the issues are lovingly addressed, the husband has the final call in the matter. The wife is called to submit to the leadership of her husband and trust that God has given him the authority and wisdom of the home. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:24)

Biblical submission is a relieving reality for a wife. A wife must believe that God has given her husband authority to lead the home and she can submit to him. She can experience relief and safety as she submits in faith. The pressure is off. This is a mysterious experience that causes the world to gasp and look at the glorious picture of Christ and his bride.  

Being a complementarian couple affects everything you do in life. When Jenny and I were engaged, our counselors wisely encouraged us to go ahead and determine which of us would typically be responsible for everyday life tasks. Who is going to do the dishes in the home? Who is going to take out the trash? Who is going to cut the yard? Who is going to catalogue the finances? Who is going to make dinner?  

A husband and wife are each other’s highest compliment, but don’t wait until marriage to begin cultivating these characteristics. Learn to lead and submit in the season of engagement.

Future husbands, gently protect your future bride from all the unnecessary demands and expectations placed on her during this busy season. Give up any silly preferences you have for the wedding and honeymoon. Seek to serve and don’t be detached from the planning. Leaders are engaged and selfless. Ask yourself, where can you tenderly lead?

Future wives, humbly allow your groom to take the lead in decision making. Voice your opinions in a way that respects him and speaks the truth in love. Trust his judgement and free yourself from the pressure of making the final call. Ask yourself, where can you lovingly submit?

My wife was complementarian before we got married. She was blooming beautifully then and is flourishing now. I can’t get enough of her. It is my prayer, as a couple, your headship and submission would stir your affections for each other and attract people to the God of this glorious gospel.

Are you ready to rejoice in your gender for God’s glory? Do you complement each other?

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing.