Archive for May, 2009

“Up”

Posted in Randomness on May 30, 2009 by jaymallow

All movies take you on a journey, not many take you places you wanted to go and few make you glad you not only got there but glad you took the journey in the first place.  Pixar’s UP is in the select few that you walk out of the theater glad for the experience.  Pixar has made gutsy movies all along its run but this is by far the most daring concept.  Human hero’s with real human struggles.  When I first saw the synopsis for the movie, a geriatric man and young boy in a flying house I couldn’t help but wonder how Pixar would do this no toys, monsters, talking cars, superhero’s, or talking animals.(ok there are talking dogs but more on that later)  What Pixar has done is make a triumph.  This is possibly the best movie Pixar has done and at least stands tall with Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and the Incredibles in its characters.  This movie makes you feel, and perhaps to a degree greater than the previous Pixar “greats” because you directly relate.

Let’s just get the first ten minutes out of the way.  After a quick introduction to the main character and his soon to be wife, then comes the “movie within a movie”.  The tail of Carl and Ellie’s life together is the height of Pixar’s craft in storytelling.  In ten minutes we are drawn into this couple’s life together and empathies with them in their highs, lows, and the grind of “life” putting dreams on hold for the mundane.  Your heart is broken for Carl as He finally buys the plane tickets only to lose the “adventure” of His life.  This is all visual.  No words are used and no words are needed.  And perhaps this is the beauty of Up, that it takes emotions that cannot be expressed in words and expresses them.  The directors know that there are no words to express joy, sorrow, grief, release, and hope so they show us what that looks like.  Let’s be clear, this is NOT a kid’s movie.  Sure children will enjoy the talking dogs and the action, but if you’re an adult at points you’ll weep for the truth of emotion that is being expressed.

That’s not to say this isn’t a funny movie.  This movie is wonderfully hilarious and pits it’s comedy against the backdrop of grief.  We like the characters, work through grief through seeing the lighter, humorous parts of life.  And on that point let me say that someone writing this script owns a golden retriever.  It’s just too spot on.  Not all that bright, loving and loyal, but at times displaying brilliance, you just nailed golden retrievers. (That and, “I will go get the ball and bring it back! POINT!”)

I don’t think this is hyperbole to say that Up will go down in history as one of Disney/Pixar’s greatest movies ever.  This movie actually has a ministry to grieving people.  Who would think that anyone would ever say that about a cartoon?  But it’s true.  Go see it, cry, laugh and be “Up”lifted.

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Reformer’s Duty pt II

Posted in Devotions on May 30, 2009 by jaymallow

Since all authority should be submitted to Jesus Christ and His word, Paul’s command, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2), applies to every authority. All authority personal or established should be in this process of renewal through the Word of God thereby discerning the will of God and not conforming to this world. Where any authority is not submitted to the word of God, conforming to the world or outside the expressed will of God, that authority is in sin and it is the duty of those that discern this to gently restore that authority. (Gal. 6:1) In Galatians 6:6 Paul directly states that, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” Even “teachers” need to be encouraged and reproved by the word through discerning “ordinary” believers.

This correction is crucial for three reasons. First, that God’s name is at stake. Jesus in teaching His disciples to pray makes the disciple’s first desire, their first “prayer”, to be that God’s name be considered Holy. (Luke 11:2) God’s name isn’t just His proper name it is His nature and character. Where scripture is distorted, ignored, or disobeyed it is the nature and character of a Holy God that is misrepresented. Secondly, correction is crucial because eternal lives are at stake. In Matthew 7 Jesus clearly states that there are those that claim the lordship of Christ yet are outside the will of the Father. That an establishment or authority may even unintentionally encourage believers in a false assurance that their faith is genuine when scripturally it is not is terrifying in the implications of that false assurance. Finally, correction cares for that authority and establishment. God in His word clearly pronounces judgment on those that would add to or take from His word. (Deut. 4, Rev. 22) Far from being an act of defiant rebellion towards the “establishment” the call to reformation should be an appeal to those who are held to a greater accountability (James 3:1) to rightly fear the Lord. This awesome responsibility toward the word of God extends to the reformer as well, to humbly stand on the authority of scripture not personal preference, or prideful assumption.

The church today like any age is confronted with distortions, heresies, and cultural pressure. The responsibility of every believer is to follow the example of the Bereans, Paul, James, Augustine, Marten Luther, John Calvin, and so many others to diligently study the scriptures, to stand on that authority as governing their conscience, and at times challenge established authority with the word of God. To not do so is to not desire God’s name and reputation to be considered Holy. To not do so is to not care for brothers and sisters that might be perishing worshiping a false God. To not do so is to not care for those in authority that might stand condemned. Being a “reformer” isn’t about being “right”. It in fact, is fulfilling the greatest commandment, “Love God with all your heart soul mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Using the Promise With Holy Violence

Posted in Devotions on May 28, 2009 by jaymallow

Do as thou hast said.” – 2SAM 7:25

God’s promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper; He intended that they should be used. God’s gold is not miser’s money, but is minted to be traded with.
Nothing pleases our Lord better than to see His promises put in circulation; He loves to see His children bring them up to Him, and say, “Lord, do as Thou hast said.” We glorify God when we plead His promises. Do you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches He has promised?
Do you dream that He will be any the less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you imagine He will be any the less pure for washing you from your sins? He has said “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Faith lays hold upon the promise of pardon, and it does not delay, saying, “This is a precious promise, I wonder if it be true?” but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads, “Lord, here is the promise, ‘Do as Thou hast said.'” Our Lord replies, “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
When a Christian grasps a promise, if he do not take it to God, he dishonors Him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, “Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this, ‘Thou hast said it;'” then his desire shall be granted.
Our heavenly Banker delights to cash His own notes. Never let the promise rust. Draw the word of promise out of its scabbard, and use it with holy violence. Think not that God will be troubled by your importunately reminding Him of His promises.
God loves to hear the loud outcries of needy souls. It is His delight to bestow favors. He is more ready to hear than you are to ask. The sun is not weary of shining, nor the fountain of flowing. It is God’s nature to keep His promises; therefore go at once to the throne with “Do as Thou hast said.” Amen.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, January 15.

Reformer’s Duty

Posted in Devotions on May 24, 2009 by jaymallow

(This is the start of the required essay I’m supposed to submit to Covenant.  I figured I’d just piece it out in posts)

The “Reformer’s” Duty

On October 31, 1571, Marten Luther posted His 95 thesis on the door to the Wittenburg Chapel. Unbeknown to Luther at the time, this simple act would lead to the revolution of western culture. But was Luther right to post His thesis? Is a “reformer” in the right to question established authority? Under the authority of scripture, and out of concern for others, it is not only the right, but the responsibility of every believer to search the scriptures and question the “establishment”.

The question of authority:

From the outset a Biblical understanding of authority and submission is needed in understanding the responsibility of the reformer. Without a clear view of Biblical authority, views on authority can swing between being authoritarian and autonomous, to being non-existent and ineffective. Without a clear view of submission those who are led can swing between blind subservience leading to victim hood, or independence leading to anarchy. The Bible provides a unique perspective on authority. In Luke 7:8 the Centurion curiously identifies himself with Jesus in this way, “For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me:” Jesus marveled at this man’s faith because it appeared that the Centurion took as a matter of fact something that Jesus constantly repeated to His disciples. All throughout the gospels Jesus consistently validated His personhood, authority, mission and ministry by stating that He was submitted to the Father. By time and again stating that He was not acting on His own authority but rather was submitted to the one who gave that authority, Jesus placed the primary emphasis for those in authority or leadership on their submission to the will of the giver of authority not on their relationship with those that follow them. This model of “submitted authority” affects those in submission as well because submission to an authority where that authority is submitted to the will of God is ultimately obedience to God. This is why Paul in Romans 13 exhorts Christians to submit to even secular authorities when they punish evil and promote civil order because God has appointed them to do so. Even unwittingly in these cases civil authorities are “servants of God”.

Christ and His word the ultimate authority:

Both those that submit and those that are in authority ultimately are under the authority of Christ. It is to Jesus Christ that eventually every authority will bow, individual, pastoral, ecclesiastical, institutional, and governmental. But what does it mean to be “submitted to Christ”? On the one hand all authority is “submitted” to Jesus Christ because, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Matt. 28:18) But for an authority to claim submission on this fact alone is kind of circular. (“I’m submitted to Christ because I’m in authority, and I’m in authority because I’m submitted to Christ.”) Evidence abounds that an authority may be in the sovereign will of Christ yet not in the expressed will of Christ.

In John chapter 1 John describes Jesus as the WORD made flesh. (John 1:14) In Revelation John’s vision of the glorified “son of man” describes a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus paralleling Heb.4:12. In the Bible Jesus isn’t just the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), He is the incarnation of the WORD of God, the scriptures. The personhood of Jesus Christ and the Word of God are one and the same. The scriptures reveal the nature of the personhood of the image of the invisible God, and Jesus in His personhood gives scripture eternal authority and power. Terrestrially and practically any authority if valid, or claiming to be “submitted to Christ”, must be submitted to His word because on earth His word is the greatest authority.

Maybe I havn’t been harsh enough…

Posted in Randomness on May 23, 2009 by jaymallow

Seriously Kevin is becoming my favorite blogger/author. http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1414

Intresting Blog on it’s own but DeYoung’s observations resonate with me…

My Conversion

Posted in Devotions on May 19, 2009 by jaymallow

This is what I’ve written for application to Covenant College.  I just thought I’d share…

The story of my conversion and how God drew me to Himself is, as all true conversions, unique. I grew up in a believing household with a father who was (and is) a PCA pastor, and a faithful loving Mother. I was preached the gospel at a young age and my childhood was filled with morning scripture family times, church activities, and reading many noted Christian authors up until I graduated high school. (Being home schooled and the son of a PCA minister, yes I read John Calvin)

However, I’ve come to understand that my “Christianity” as a child was mainly knowing a lot about God, but not really believing in Him. This dichotomy was revealed when I attended Bill Gothard’s American Training Institute’s ALERT program after high school. Sadly that program was extremely legalistic and being a Christian amounted to mainly living up to an “image” of what a Christian “should look like”. My heart began to struggle as I experienced real wrong justified or ignored in that program. (Funny how that tends to happen in a legalistic culture) Also I began to despise the “image” that they portrayed of what it meant to be a Christian. My distrust of that “image” began with the fact that I could pull it off. I could say all the right things, do all the right things, and look, for all intents and purposes, just like they wanted me to look. However in my heart, I couldn’t have been farther from what I looked like on the outside. I despised myself for being a hypocrite, and I began to despise God for (as they would put it) only “blessing” me if I lived up to that image.

After ALERT I joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve and learned a huge life lesson. Growing up, all I had ever wanted to be was a Marine. That was the number one goal I had for my adult life. However, I had no idea what getting what you most want in life would actually entail. The moment came, was experienced, and passed leaving me with the question, “Now what?” I relocated to Georgia to live with my parents and presumed that because I had done up until this point “what God wanted me to do” that I would be “blessed”. A year passed and I had no friends, little fellowship at the church my parents attended, I worked a job I disliked with a boss I really disliked, and ultimately I felt God had let me down. I had been what He “wanted me to be” and this is what my life looks like? “I don’t even want to look like that!” Ultimately my heart was coming to the decision, “If I have to be someone for God to love me, forget God because I’m not that person and I’ll never be that person.”

It was at this point that God’s grace began to work. I got an invitation to the first New Attitude conference put on by Josh Harris and Sovereign Grace Ministries. For some reason I just knew that my best friend from high school (and at that point my only friend), was going to be playing on the worship band. So merely out of a desire to see my friend one last time before I turned my back on the church and God, I went to the conference. But before the conference God had something He wanted me to experience.

Before I was to ride up to the conference with a group from Sovereign Grace Church Chesapeake, I was invited to a New Years Eve party with the group. The house was filled almost to overflowing with people fellowshipping and caring for one another. I was overwhelmed by the genuineness and lack of pretense in that room. When at one point, everyone sat down and began to recount what they were thankful to God for, I ended up having to leave the house. I sat in my car and wept because, except for my family, I couldn’t think of one thing I was thankful to God for and just a moment ago I was watching person after person express genuine gratitude and love towards God. They had “something” I didn’t have. There was “something” in that room that I would give anything to have, and it felt like my bitter, rock hard heart was breaking.

At the conference God would ultimately reveal to me what that “something” was. C. J. Maheney gave a message on legalism and finally everything I “knew” about God became real. To hear that there was no way I could make God love me less, and no way I could make Him love me more, finally broke the barrier between what I knew of God and what I really believed about God. He loved me! Just as I was! I laughed and sang with joy for the first time in ages. I remember telling my best friend that night, “In one sense this doesn’t make sense. Nothings really changed but now, for the first time since I can remember I’m happy.” That night my faith became true faith in God, and not in my ability to please God.

Following the conference I made a move of faith to leave Georgia and become apart of Sovereign Grace Chesapeake. Over the next six years God brought me through varying trials and high points. I learned humility and patience working a job I wasn’t naturally gifted in. I plugged into the church and learned to serve and fellowship and eventually became involved in leadership in the church. I experienced a period of time where God graciously took away all that I had invested in for three years, and lead me through a dark valley of depression in order to draw me even more personally into relating to Him. Ultimately in 2005 God lead me to make another faith move to California to assist a friend with a business. (I moved having never even visited Pasadena) For the past four years I’ve continued to participate in the local church. Serving in the Singles ministry, visual display ministry, and worship team. It’s been a strange wild adventure to be where I’m at today and I’m sure that as I continue to attempt to follow God’s will out of love for Him not in order to be accepted by Him, the adventure of getting to know Him more will only continue.

Cohesive statement on Adulthood/Marriage and Parents roles in Adulthood

Posted in Devotions on May 11, 2009 by jaymallow

(Below is my attempt to cohesively pull together my thoughts on this matter and close off this thread. Yes I cut and pasted from other posts but hopefully it’ll all make sense and I’m not just repeating myself for no reason. Sorry it’s kinda long)

Called to Adulthood

Luke14: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

I’ll bet you’ve never seen a post that started with that passage of scripture. I’ve never heard of one. This is one of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, one that we immediately want to qualify. “This is in relation to…” “He isn’t really saying you have to hate your parents and children.” However in the call to adulthood sooner or later this passage applies. At some point a parent has to allow their child to make a decision fully aware they might make the wrong one. Then you have to sit back and watch your child appreciate the consequences of that decision when everything in you wants to rush in and rescue. At some point a child has to respectfully say no to their parents in pursuing their own callings that God has placed in their life. That feels a lot like hate. It’s not hate, but it can feel like your “hating” your parent or child. The transfer into adulthood makes Luke 14:26 come alive to both the child and the parent, and it is only in running to the Lordship of Christ that this transition can be made. My heart is that after reading Kevin DeYoung’s book there will be young adults challenged to “Do Something” that will eventually come into conflict with well meaning parents that do not have a vision for THEIR call in this transition. So to start out let me exhort both parents and anyone who is “single” to read that book. Eventually I believe everyone should read that book because the Biblical vision for God’s will and calling explained therein WILL change your life and eventually the church as well.

Provisos and prerequisites: First off let me say that I have a HIGH view of family. My church has a HIGH view of family. You only have to be there for two Sundays to get that impression. However, we need to remind ourselves that ultimately all of us are called to the Lordship of Jesus Christ of first preeminence, secondly to the “family” of God (the church), then a VERY close third our personal families. In Matt. 12: 46-50 Jesus establishes Himself and the church as an authority over personal families. “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” You have to understand, Jesus’ family wasn’t coming to just say hi, they were taking Him home. This was a first century, Middle Eastern, Jewish family. You didn’t go against the family. (Fredo) (Sorry couldn’t help it) This is why as a church we would question a family choosing Sunday morning soccer or baseball leagues. Nothing wrong with soccer and baseball, that may be a great family building event. However “family” doesn’t negate the command to “meet together”. This is also why my church requires eighteen year olds to go through the new membership class and publicly profess their faith. There has to be a commitment to the church apart from the family. Because I know this is so personal and the temptation to be defensive is so great, let me also remind you that there are members of the body that have turned their backs on family to follow Christ and fellowship with the Church family. There are those in our midst that even now are under reproach from those they love for being in the local church. To those who have left family to follow Christ, may God reward your faith! May you be so satisfied in Him, and may you experience a particular love from the “family of God” as you deal with that piercing pain. For those who don’t know that experience we should be humbled by their example. The defensive knot that forms when “church comes before family” is expressed should loosen. All that said let me prayerfully proceed to address young adults, then parents in this process. (I would ask you to prayerfully continue as well.)

The call to adulthood:

Young people and singles what would you say if I told you I know EXACTLY what God’s will for your life is? If I told you I know precisely what God is calling you to, would I have your attention? (Ok, I know this isn’t the favorite passage of singles. It’s been one that I’ve struggled and wrestled with for ten years and it’s only in the past few months I’ve come to reconcile myself to. Hopefully, from now on, this won’t be a passage you “skip over”.)

1 Corinthians 7: 25

6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. [1] 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Young adults and singles here is God’s will for your life. Clear, plain, and addressed to both men and women, “The unmarried person is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.” That’s it. That’s God’s will for you and me in our in singleness. If you and I are to worry about anything we are to “worry” about the things of God, how to be holy in body and spirit. I know you were hoping for a bit more so let me elaborate. You and I are called to undivided devotion to God in our singleness. This doesn’t mean locking yourself in your room with your Bible. To put it in more “modern” terminology, it means learning to be an undistracted worshipper of Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives. This means the schools we choose, the vocations we work, the relationships that He’s put in our lives, and the church to which we commit and serve, all should be pursued with a goal of glorifying God and making us holy in body and spirit. Period. These should be your foremost questions as you think about ANYTHING, “Will this glorify God? Will this make me holy in body and spirit?”

Now I know you’re thinking, “What about the call to marriage? And isn’t that passage about the “gift” of celebacy?” Ok I’m going to take a deep breath and attempt to correct some things as humbly as I can. At New Attitude 2004 Dr. Al Mohler gave a stirring and challenging message on marriage. I was there, it was POWERFUL. People got married because of that message. Even more so, I believe it affected Sovereign Grace as a movement. Sadly perhaps, not as positively as we might think. Here’s why, one of Dr. Mohler’s main points exegeting 1 Cor. 7:25-38 was this, “I want to submit to you that there is no Biblical category of enduring singleness, excepting the gift of celibacy, and that in Gospel service.” He also stated, “Excepting the gift of celibacy, there is a Biblical paradigm, a model, that marriage equals adulthood.” Now I would agree with both of these statements except that Dr. Mohler inferred that the “call to celibate gospel service” is a lifelong missional call. The unintended inference that has resulted, I believe, is the subtle notion that “undistracted devotion” is relegated to a “call”, that I would submit, simply doesn’t exist within the Bible. The other inference that’s taken from these comments is that, “If you’re a Christian and an adult, you should be married.” (We don’t SAY this, but I believe we again subtly imply it in ministry. If you don’t think there is this inference talk to some older singles that have been around for a while.) Both these “unintended inferences” are addressed in the larger context of 1 Cor. 7. “17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”

Both Kevin DeYoung and I have written more extensively on this passage and I would encourage you again to read “Just Do Something” and read what I’ve posted on my Blog. (“Calling” iclaimnothing.wordpress.com) But let me “bullet point” in response to Dr. Mohler’s “unintended inferences”.

First, that all “callings” are equal. Throughout the New Testament Paul fights for and is adamant that the gospel is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Christianity isn’t the gospel plus, (singleness, circumcision, freedman, etc.) One person’s station in life isn’t inherently more spiritual than another’s. In Gal. 3:28 Paul would ultimately say “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t mean there isn’t a difference in role and responsibility, but there’s no difference in “spiritual” equivalence. For example, a pastor’s “calling” vocationally isn’t, in and of itself, more Godly or “spiritual” than a student’s or tradesman’s calling. All are instructed to “work as unto the Lord”. The “call” to singleness or marriage, is absolutely equal in Christ Jesus in adulthood. Here’s the struggle I have with the latter of Dr. Mohler’s statements, suggesting a “normative station” for the adult Christian obscures (however faintly) the Gospel. It’s easy for such a good thing to become an idol, and as D. A. Carson stated at the recent Gospel Coalition conference, “Our idols tend to become our gospel.” So functionally (not what we would profess) what we can look too as singles to validate us; and what parents can look to save their children, what keeps them in the church, is marriage not a personal commitment to faith in Jesus Christ. And parents, the temptation is to cling to your children till marriage to ensure their salvation.

Secondly, that “callings” are immediate. “ 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”

Here is where DeYoung’s book, I believe, will begin to change our vocabulary in how we talk about “calling”. (Again I would recommend it.) Too often we use the word “called” when we should be using the word “desire”. Let’s apply this to marriage: If you’re single you are “called” to dedicated devotion. You may “desire” marriage, and it may be a good, God given desire but there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be married. Let me give a personal metaphor that might help: When I applied to the Police Academy there were a series of tests over an extended period of time. I first passed the initial physical, written, and psych tests (I still can’t believe I passed the latter), then had to wait six months for the final review and oral interview before I finally knew I had the job. Over those six months I began running to get myself in shape. I did this, while at the time, working two jobs. Now I ran in the hope and belief that God was calling me to pursue a carreer in law enforcement. However, I still showed up to work at both of my two other jobs and endeavored to perform them to the best of my ability. During that time, I had absolutely no assurance that I would eventually be accepted into the Police Academy. In fact, I didn’t let one of my jobs know that I was even attempting to get another job until I actually had received an offer from the Police Academy. Now I know you’re thinking, “Duh, that just makes sense.” But put it in the “call” to be single. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing marriage as long as you are pursuing God as an undistracted worshipper, even the pursuit of marriage should be an act of undistracted worship.

But if I may, let me lay to rest this notion that there is a “gift” of celebacy that entails a life-long commitment: No where in scripture are those who are single commanded by God to commit to Him in the exact same way that those who are married are commanded to commit to each other. Yes we are to commit to God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, but it isn’t “till death do we part” it’s “at death we then wed”. To put it as bluntly as possible if you get married you aren’t, in this life, committing adultry against God. Ever. The call to be a “eunic for the kingdom” isn’t “Get thee to a nunnery or monestary.” (And I rebuke the spirit of pride that some of you might have recognizing that reference.) Rather, I would submit that Jesus was just stating a fact. That there would be those that would die without the particular blessing of marriage and children. That He stated that they would be “for the kingdom” really, I believe, affirms Jesus’ own ministry in the midst of the “family centric” culture of His day. That since He hadn’t received the particular blessing of marriage (In Jesus’ culture it would have been extremely uncommon for Him, in His thirties, not to be married), nor would He ever be married, nor receive the blessing of children, He was still “approved of God”.

But here’s the real problem with the “gift of celebacy”calling. It presumes upon a future providence of God. That just because a person is single NOW they will continue in that station untill they die. The problem is that this presumption is expressly PROHIBITED in scripture. Both Jesus and James would say that presuming the future, not knowing what a day may bring forth, isn’t just “a different way of looking at things”, it’s FOOLISH. Modern vernacular? It’s being stupid. (look up the word, it’s synnonymous with “unaware”) It’s stupid to believe that because you happen to be single now, God will have you to be single for the rest of your life. Just as it is equally stupid to live your life now in the expectation that you’ll get married in the next five years just because you really, really want to be married. Even worse both Jesus and James would presume that if you have that perspective there is probably something you are supposed to be doing now that you aren’t doing. If that just “smacked” you let me encourage you to limit your devotions to Luke 12:15-21(a spouse, a degree, a job, a certain level of “character”, even finishing a semester can be “posessions”) and James 4:13-17. Come to those passages with this question, “What good am I not doing now because because I expect to be married, graduate, make however much money, etc.?” May the Holy Spirit grant illumination and conviction.

Intstead Jesus and James would have us say “If God wills …” This actually is a great comfort in the particular issue of marriage. If God wills you’ll be married regardless of wheather you think you are attractive, whatever you weigh, whatever your “personality quirks”. And if in five years you aren’t married, regardless of the reason, it was God’s sovereign will for your life that you havn’t gotten married. I remember a kind older woman in the church, in getting to know me, asked me once, “So Jay, what happened to your first marriage?” Sadly, there havn’t been too many times that I’ve been rendered speechless. However, this was one of them. Not only have I never been married, I couldn’t, for the life of me, think of how I could have possibly given her that impression. The only conclusion that I could come up with (which she later confirmed), was that in Her mind that was the only explanation for why I was still single. I was flattered and saddened at the same time. This woman wanted a story and I didn’t have one to give Her. She had imagined a tragic tale of love and loss and I was almost tempted to give her one. I don’t have a story, maybe you’re single and you have one. Maybe you’re single and you’ve been sexually promiscious, maybe you’re divorced, and you think that now that is why you are not married The truth is that ultimately God is sovereign, and God works all things for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. The call to every single is to be pure today, realize the past is forgiven in the death of Jesus Christ ,and leave the future in His hands. If God wills a single person might be married in a year from now, they may not. You or I as singles may or may not die as “eunichs for the Kingdom”. And as the probably of us dieing tomorrow is actually quite high, we might want to get on being dedicatedly devoted today. (I was tempted to crunch numbers but I feared just getting depressed) So if you are single you aren’t just called to “undistracted worship” you are called to be celebite, to total purity in your relationships, till either you marry or die.

Final command to singles: Get Married

In this Dr, Mohler was absoulutely correct. In the call to be single there is a clear command of God that, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” This of course means those that cannot controll themselves sexually, but it’s also relational. I’ve known brothers and sisters that were like crack addicts on withdrawl if they weren’t in a relationship. (The depression, the “is life worth living” attitude, and even a bit of “twitchieness”) Those definitely need to be married. Also, I believe this command of “self-control” is specifically aimed towards men. (There are other commands towards women in 1 Tim. And I’ll get to that.) But for men in particular if you lack self control, if in general you would be described as immature, irresponsible, and uncommitted, (all an evindence of a lack of self-control) the command of God upon your life is GET MARRIED. While you endeavor to pursue God, a main priority of your life should be to get married as soon as possible. Don’t wait till you finish college, get a job, etc. ASK

But young women, you aren’t free from this either, 1 Tim. 5:13b “…idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry…” Ladies, sisters, if you are an “idler” (i.e. that you are generally unproductive vocationally and in life), if you “go about from house to house” (i.e. you go from “girl time” to “girl time”), where you talk about everyone else and about how they should be living their lives (and I would add to that you spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook and Twitter doing or thinking the same things), you should be saying YES. Now to both men and women, you should be asking and saying yes to those who are dedicated worshippers of God, that you find somewhat attractive, and that you get along with. You should also be pursuing that relationship focused on what God is ultimately calling you to in that relationship. (And it might be a good idea to pray that they are more mature than you are) And I’m not saying you’ll eventually end up married to that person. But even in the process you’ll be “pushed” into adulthood. (Parent’s realize that this process may be the best thing for your son or daughter, and being sure that there will be a “happy ending” might not be the best thing. Dissapointment, rejection, and heartache, if directed towards God, matures as well. I’m not saying that you should condone foolishness or sin, but realize that God works through the process, and you should have faith that God’s purpose will be fulfilled even if the “purpose” of marriage isn’t reached. Your goal in directing your son or daughter in relationships should be to see them mature, not get married.) For those in these catagories, the command of God is that you get married because eventually that’s the only way you are going to grow up. Actually it’s not the only way, it’s just the far less painful route. It’s taken me three “Boot Camps”(one Marine Corps Paris Island), two jobs I failed at, multiple threatenings of being fired, getting “Downsized”, then working 70+ hours a week while barely being able to feed myself because of debt; as well as having to watch my best friend court and marry a girl that I had fallen in love with for for two years (and I was in the wedding) , for me to begin to “grow up”. (And I’ll admit I’m not there totally) If you don’t know which category you are in, either “lacking self controll” of “mature”, ask someone older than you (preferably your parents and pastors) and they will tell you. And if you are a friend of a guy in the category of “lacking self-controll”, would you please lovingly serve Him by TELLING him he’s in this category? I’m a guy and I know that guys hear something like that and immediately think, “Dude that’s so YOU!” (Funnily, as I thought of this I know that guys who were like that, who are now married reading this, are thinking, “Dude that was totally me!” And everyone that knew them as singles are thinking, “That was totally ___” And everyone especially that guy’s parent’s are thinking, “Thank God She said yes!”) However, if that wouldn’t be the assesment of your character as a single man or woman. If you are mature, self-controlled, productive, and committed in serving others and the church. Paul (and I believe God), would say to you, “Don’t sweat it. If you desire to be married you’re free to pursue someone. But if you aren’t interested, no big.” (And don’t tell me girls don’t “pursue” guys. I’m old enough to know better. You girls just put yourself in the position to be pursued and allow that guy to pursue you. That’s the only difference.) To those in the church that know these responsible singles, hear the word of the Lord, STOP PESTERING THEM!!! If the Apostle Paul is cool with them, so should you be cool with them. They already have mother’s, they don’t need you! Here’s my exhortation to those in the church, if you know someone who is generally responsible, mature, and committed, don’t presume that this is the one area of their lives that they are being lazy. Here’s an idea, ask questions rather than suggest. If you really care about them in this area of their lives, ask yourself, “How much do I really know about this part of their lives?” If you know their character don’t presume that what you think you see on the surface is accurate.

So to close this point, here’s what “singles” are called to within the family of God: Undistracted worship and a singleminded pursuit of holiness in every aspect of life. Purity to either marriage or death by God’s grace and gifting, and to those that are yet “immature” in their “adulthood” pursuing marriage as a high priority. Let me finally exhort and encourage all of us with a paraphrase of Matt. 6:25-32: “Therefore do not be anxoius about where you will go to school, what you will major in, who you’ll marry, weather or not you will really be attracted to them, if you’ll get married before you’re forty, what job you’ll have eventually, where you will live, and what church you’ll be apart of. For your heavenly Father knows you have need of these things. (He KNOWS YOU HAVE NEED OF THESE THINGS!) Only pursue a life of undivided worship in all that you do, and all these things will be added unto you.” (I would encourage you to take that passage and bring whatever anxieties you have and put them in place of “what you will eat, and what you will wear”, and hear Jesus say to you, “Your Father knows you have need…”

Parents: Ok parent’s that’s God’s call for your adult son or daughter, but what is God’s call to you in this time? Your call is to press them into choosing to worship God with the decisions they make. However, you can no longer make those choices for them because only God can command worship. The example set forth for you is that of Joshua. At the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua relinquishes His leadership role over the people and says to the people, “Choose today whom you will serve.” At some point you have to look at your young son or daughter and say “Choose you whom you will serve”, and it isn’t just their salvation, it’s ultimately every decision they make. Because, every decision we make is either a decision to worship God or worship ourselves. This is where it becomes so painful because they HAVE to be able to make the wrong decision. If your son or daughter can’t choose, then they aren’t worshipping. Sometimes they’ll choose to worship themselves, and you have to sit back and let them not only make that decision but live with the consequences. Parent’s you can’t make the choices for them but you can direct. You can offer wisdom and counsel. And here is the question I would pose to you, what “non-negotiable” priorities are you encouraging your adult son or daughter to make in their lives? Let me highlight three issues out of the many:

1. Education: A recent poll conducted by Christian Consulting for Colleges and Ministries, Inc revealed that of those who entered secular college or university claiming Christ %50 would no longer call themselves Christians by their fourth year. The president of this consulting firm went on to explain that they had purposely limited this poll to boldly professing young people, active in church and youth ministry. That statistic alone should sober and bring deep reflection on the decisions you and your adult son or daughter make regarding their education. Again, D. A. Carson in His message to the Gospel coalition said this, “Child sacrifice is alive and well in America. We just sacrifice them to different gods. We sacrifice our children to career, to education etc…” Is holiness the number one priority? Even in individual courses. Living in California, I’ve already heard some horror stories. Let me encourage you students, if you get into a class and discern that this professor is just going to demean your faith for the next six months, drop the class! And if you choose that class over caregroup really drop the class! Even if it is a “prerequisite”, get creative, but don’t presume your soul will not be tainted. I’m not saying you can’t go away to college, or that you have to go to a Christian college, (Though I think that statistic should cause you to reconsider, especially for certain degrees.) But parents direct your children to make the church and the pursuit of God the “non-negotiable” in their education.

2. Relationships: Parents do you realize that “friends” are not indulgences but responsibilities that God has put in your adult son or daughter’s life? God has commands towards brothers and sisters within the body of Christ. Fellowship, brotherly affection, laying down of life for others, and encouraging others is a direct command to all members of the body. Don’t automatically assume that “hanging out with friends” is a selfish pursuit. (And for those young adults cheering don’t make it a selfish pursuit) That pursuit may be obedience to God with the relationships that God has placed in your son or daughter’s life. I would write more if Josh Harris hadn’t given what I believe a definitional message on relationships. If you are an adult and single or the parent of an adult single please download “Courtship Smourtship”. (http://www.covlife.org/resources/28923-Courtship_Shmourtship) I’ve got this message on my Ipod and I’ll listen to it every two months or so. It’s a good message to evaluate where you are in your relationships and what God is calling you to. Parents listen to this message with your son or daughter and help them make decisions in the relationships God has placed in their lives. One final thought on this topic: Parents your son or daughter should be relating to others differently in their twenties then in their teens. Please don’t use the excuse, “they’re young” to absolve your son or daughter from taking responsibility in how they relate to others. And if you aren’t directing your son or daughter in how they are relating to others please don’t use that as a convenient “cop out”. Over the last ten years I’ve heard parents use that excuse over and over again with their son’s and daughters. Often this excuse is used when there needs to be conviction, correction, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Please for the sake of their future marriages (and the conflicts that come with them), don’t coddle your son or daughter to courtship.

3. Family: Ok now I’m going back to scripture, Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Other translations use the word “frustrate”. You know what the most frustrating thing for a young adult is? Parents that treat you like you are a child. The most exasperating thing for a young adult is that while attempting to pursue your responsibilities and relationships, you have to deal with parents that have a “you come when I call you” mentality. Parent’s you should know what this feels like, you’re maybe still dealing with YOUR parents treating you like a child. You know how frustrating it is. But let me speak to the “Alamo” most parents cling to, family time. You’ve given your son or daughter free reign over everything else, but they’d better be on time at whatever hour for “family”; and if they decline, you guilt them into submission. Parents, in the call to dedicated worship towards God in Church, vocation, friends, something has to give, and that something is YOU. Even “family time” cannot be the one non-negotiable in your adult son or daughter’s life because if it is, isn’t their one “non-negotiable” ultimately you? And even in this “good thing”, if you are the one thing they cannot disregard what have you become? Even in a seemingly small way, God perhaps? If you as a parent are “God” in even one small portion of your adult son or daughter’s life, might I suggest that you are prohibiting them from fully committing themselves to God? (Now if you are a teenager reading this I’m not talking to you. The command of God on your life is, “Obey your parents in the Lord”. And for my brother’s and sister’s in the Lord let me say this, last year I saw my parent’s twice. Once for 45 minutes during a layover in the Atlanta airport, and secondly I was able to go home for Christmas. I went home for almost a week, and that was the longest period of time I’ve spent with my parents in four years. Let me plead with you, PLEASE make “family time” a priority, you will look back in years to come and treasure these times. If you don’t want your family time I trust you there are singles in your church that would gladly take your place. Families let me challenge you under the authority of scripture, if you are not inviting single men and women into your homes and into your “family times” you may very well be disobedient to the command of God to love those within the body. God loves to put orphans in families. I would go so far as to say that it should be weird for you NOT to have a single brother or sister in your family times. Why? BECAUSE YOUR FAMILY IS NOT YOUR FAMILY! Pursue those in the larger family of the household of God. Don’t take no for an answer. Rearrange your schedule to allow them to participate. Make their presence presumed. You want to see the gospel go forth? You want to see your church witness to the community? Imagine this testimony, “I went to this church and a family invited me over for “family night”. I had the first home cooked meal I’ve had in months. We played board games. We watched a family movie and their three year old daughter fell asleep in my lap. I experienced more love, and had more fun, than ANY nightclub or bar I’ve ever tried. And they’re expecting me to be there again next week…” The church would be overwhelmed with hungry lonely singles that spend every night alone. So many already do this and I thank God for you. But do you see the vision for what could be if the “family” isn’t “your” family?)

I remember one of the “defining moments” between my father and my sister and me… There are in many families the “eccentric dad” stories. You look back on your childhood and remember your father’s eccentricities, and even weird grossness. (I’m tempted to get into “Kipper snacks” and “shirtless dinners” but I won’t. BTW I love you Dad.) One of the things my Dad was obsessive about growing up was that no one slept in on Saturday. You were up by 9am period. He would actually come and shake us up out of bed. To be honest I’m grateful for His leadership, that Saturday isn’t just a day of relaxation, as much as on Sunday after church we weren’t able to read the paper or watch TV as it was a day of rest. (Meaning naps, which in my adulthood have magically become very meaningful) But on this particular day I was 21, working and going to school in the evening. My sister was also 19 and working full time. Dad got us up and proceeded to bring us into the garage. “We’re going to clean this up.” He said. Now another “eccentricity” of my Dad is that He’s an admitted pack rat. He’s loves to work on cars and often serves those He knows fixing their cars for free. However, my Dad will store parts for cars we’ve never owned “just in case”. “Just in case” a 97 diesel Volvo just “happens” to land in our driveway. So “cleaning” the garage really means moving piles of stuff and making it look somewhat orderly not actually cleaning or throwing anything out. (My Dad would do this every six months or so)

By God’s grace both my sister, my younger brother, (Who was 14) and I got up and pitched in. However, after we were done, my sister and I had a talk with my Dad. We humbly reminded Him that we now had jobs of our own, and that we were paying Him rent to live at home. (Sometimes I marvel at my Dad, imagine having the wisdom to have your 19 year old DAUGHTER pay rent) We firmly reminded my Dad that we now felt like our Saturdays now were our own to spend as we saw fit. If He wanted to get up at 8am and start “cleaning” the garage He was free to do so. (And if He wanted to wake up Steven, and make him help, even better. Hey we had to get up; you don’t get freebies for being the baby.) Also, if my Dad wanted our help in “cleaning” the garage He was free to ASK for it. But knocking on our door at 8:30 and simply expecting our instant obedience wasn’t fair given our responsibilities. I will never forget my fathers face as the realization dawned upon Him. He quietly asked our forgiveness for not respecting our rest and “fathering” us. (My DAD asked MY FORGIVENESS for FATHERING me!) We said “we forgive you”, hugged, and then my father went downstairs back to the garage. After about thirty minutes my Mother in Her amazing wisdom asked me to go down and tell my Dad I loved Him. I opened the door to see my Dad just kind of pottering about. “Hey, are you alright?” I asked. My Dad replied, “I’m OK.” “I just want you to know that I love you.” I said. “I know that,” my Dad responded, we hugged and both of us struggled to contain our tears. “I just need to be alone with God for awhile, I’ll be OK. I’ll see you at dinner.” As I closed the door to the garage the tears began streaming down my face, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the same thing was happening on the other side. (My Dad didn’t cry when I became a Marine.)

Parents know that I know this is difficult. Know that I know this as I say as humbly but as firmly as I can, “clinging” isn’t “understandable”. It’s idolatry. It’s putting yourself in the place of God with your young adult son or daughter, and it’s elevating your relationship with them above your relationship with God. Sadly it’s only going to get worse, and it’ll be different with every child. For my parents there was pain because I was the first, then with my sister because she was the little girl, then when she came to them and said that she wasn’t a believer (she still would say she’s not a Christian), with my brother because He was the last. When my brother enlisted in the Army there was a mixture of joy and grief. Joy that finally He was doing something with His life and grief because for the first time in thirty years my parents came home to an empty house. Now my brother is in Iraq and He can’t tell us what He’s actually doing. We’ve asked Him if He could just tell us if He’s in danger so we could pray for Him and He’s responded, “No I can’t even tell you that, and besides they tell us not to tell you that because it wouldn’t help you.” I remember calling my Mom during the time that my brother left home just to see how she was doing, “I just have to press into God more.” She said. “I have to keep reminding myself that your brother isn’t mine. I’ve had to do this with all of you. None of you are mine, you belong to God.” Parents God’s call on your life in this transition is to Himself. This will require more faith, trust, and self sacrifice than you’ve ever imagined. Perhaps you will now know what dying to yourself really means. Hear my pleading, please begin to die to yourself now and don’t assume that your heart will magically be changed once your son or daughter says “I do”. For the sake of your future relationship with your child, for their reliance upon God not you, for your own growth as God is calling you to Himself, and the future of the church, begin to let go. The verse I started this post out with isn’t cruel. Luke14: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” It’s actually the kindest mercy. Jesus is well aware of something we are so determined to ignore. Parents, eventually you’ll come home to an empty house. Adult children, eventually we’ll be looking at a coffin, and those two days will come sooner than we expect. Sooner or later the one’s we most love will leave us. It’s not a question of if; it’s a matter of when. Jesus Christ died for our sins so that He could be the ONLY one who will never leave us or forsake us. That’s why, when sometimes He removes distractions from us, however painful, we press into Him more.