Guest Post by Webster Hunt: “An Open Letter to Dave”

[Wait–what?  …Uh, okay, then, here’s an open letter from Web to me, I guess. Be sure to follow Web at @livingheart on Twitter.]

 

Dear Dave,
 
In just a month and a half, you’ll be a married man, and your (then) wife will discover exactly what she was getting herself into. You will too, but if your experience is anything like mine (and any other husband worth their salt) you’ll find you married up, which unfortunately leaves  your wife with the other side of that Schwartz. So today I’m writing you an open letter which, should you choose to publish it to your wonderful blog, I hope will also be instructive and/or encouraging to the folks daring enough to come and read the monologueings of folk like me. 
 
Allright, now that I’ve gotten the obligatory greeting out of the way, and hopefully made you comfortable enough to deal with the entrée, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of my open letter to you.
 
The old man still resides in you, my friend. He has been decisively slain by our Lord and Christ Jesus, has been given a sure day of final death when we will be made as He is – because we will see Him as He is, the Holy Spirit inspired John to note that we will then BE as He is, namely, pure and holy, the reality of the blemishlessness that God promised that Christ would perfect them to – and yet, he wrestles and struggles and fights as he dies; and he is dying, and he knows it, if I can personify as Paul did.  And as Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon he preached from Job, masterfully made clear, this struggling of the old man is to Satan’s delight, for it is that wretched enemy’s joy to see that any shred of glory that could be given to God by our purity in Christ is stained in every way possible by the out-workings of the vile flesh and its sinful desires.
 
And in my experience it’s the nature of marriage that this struggling will only increase, and more so because your heart’s desire is for the Holy Spirit, and for your Master Christ, and for your Father our God, and for Him to have His way in you, to do everything He promised to do in His Word in you and through you and with you – and yet even more because by your study I see you desire to be a teacher, perhaps even an elder or pastor. These are all good things, gifts from our Father who loves us, tools for His working out in us the perfection imputed to us by Jesus, proving brands by which the Father will glorify His son in you in this world – please don’t ever forget that.
 
The reason I’m writing to you, and reminding you of things you know very well, is because there are so many men nowadays who seem to be dropping like flies around us. It’s like somewhere along the way that they were deceived into thinking that the old man in them had gone to sleep or something, maybe that he’d given up on squeezing another shame out of them, that perhaps it was now locked in a room to where they could attain perfection in this life and no longer worry about ”killing sin before it killed them”.
 
But what they thought was silent slumber was merely the old man in the pounce position, waiting for that moment when their weakness was ripest, when it could close the distance quickly and precisely with little resistance from its lame prey. We’ve seen it with men being caught in massive pride, in giving up the truth for something more “loving” and convenient, in finally having their besetting sin revealed for all the world to see – some even gross and heinous – and all along they thought they were safe. At worst, some of them thought they’d gotten away with it.
 
My friend, these men scare me for your sake because they scare me for mine. They prove, as a good brother has said before, that “no one is safe from sin this side of heaven.” And the old man is so near to us, and the delicacies of sin – as David described them in Psalm 141 – are so desirable at certain seasons of our life, and in those seasons we forget what they cost; and ANYONE at any time is capable of tasting those things and finding them good! Even as another brother has said, “Even faithful pastors and Christians are liable to not believing that God is God and that God is good.” And the enemy is always prowling, seeking someone to devour, someone to lead into their besetting sin and shame Christ again, always looking for an unholy itch to scratch so that he might defame and shame God in His people.
 
In light of all of this, as you rightly enjoy the myriad joys that come with being married – good gifts from God our Father – I want to encourage you to remember all that I know you’ve learned from the Word concerning being a husband as you deal with marriage in this age: to live with your wife in an understanding way, treating her as a co-heir with Christ; to love her has Christ loved the church, in all the ways He loves the church; to forgive her as God in Christ has forgiven you; to pursue unity with her; to flee from the lusts of your heart, and from whatever your particular besetting sin may be, and submit to Christ. I sure don’t want to deflate your excitement over all that becomes good in marriage (as if!), but because we live in such dangerous times, I want you to know my love and concern for you and your future wife, to know that I will be praying for you as often as I remember, and above everything else, to remind you that our Lord, Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God our Father until He makes His enemies a footstool for His feet, He prayed for you, for all of us, that His Father keep us from the evil one, and that the Helper, His very Holy Spirit, works in us that we might work mightily the good works He’s prepared in advance for us. Find comfort in that as you keep one eye on the marvelous joys of “this momentary marriage” as a brother has put it, and the other eye on the old man and his employer, our adversary.
 
I hope you receive this in the spirit in which it was written, that you know I praise God for the joys that you’ll experience in marriage, in finding that your wife can be your nearest ally and most sure friend and fellow-soldier, in having someone love all those odd, quirky things you do and sometimes even do them with you, in seeing the grace and mercy of Christ being displayed toward you as your spouse seeks to work out the commands our Lord has given her in dealing with you – and again, if you’re going to be a husband worth his salt, you’ll find that the grace exercised more toward you than by you (I think Scripture says we can out-do one another in this thing, so try that out)!
 
Grace and peace to you, and to your future wife.
 
Your brother and co-blogger.

Oh, uh, hi.

Hey friends. Sorry for the brief, unexpected hiatus. The things of life, ya know?

We recommence Monday. Have a good weekend. Happy belated Easter. Christ is risen indeed. And that matters.

Talk to you soon. Y’all be good.

Impending matrimonial ruminations.

Eight weeks. It’s strange to consider how much my life has already changed. Decisions made in light of “us” and not “me.” And I haven’t even begun to experience the radical changes about to take place. I’m a little afraid to be honest. I hope I’m up to the task. I hope I can do a good job, be a good husband.

This is where my theology pipes in, “you can’t be. You’re a sinner. But God is gracious, and so is she.” Yes. That’s been the most amazing part of this relationship–realizing and experiencing how God’s grace can be filtered through another human being who loves and forgives and restores. I’ve learned more about the grace of God in the last 18 months than I have ever before. It’s an amazing thing. (Pun unintended.)

I’ve been reading a ton of marriage books. It’s funny, but that’s just how i am–whenever I’m nervous about something, whenever I am facing a new challenge, I’ll read everything I can get my hands on. It’s all theoretical, all mental, all preparatory–it could be completely meaningless once you get out of the classroom and “into the field” of marriage. But I know enough to know what I don’t know. So I read. Book after book.

I don’t know if I ever thought about what kind of married person I would be. You single folk know what i mean–when people get married, they fall into certain camps: the “obsessed with the spouse” camp, the “suddenly acting like a parent talking to singles like children” camp, the “never returns my calls” camp. (There are overlaps, of course.) There are different types of married people. I never really thought about what kind of married man I would be, how I would interact with my friends on the other side of the divide once I grabbed hold of the rope and swung.  But here is my hope:

I’m going to be different than I was before–I’d be foolish to think otherwise. But I hope that the different I am is also better. My hope is that getting married will serve to help me be more understanding, more compassionate. more friendly.  I hope that I never talk to my single friends like they’re children who aren’t old enough for “grown-up stuff” yet. Goodness, that’s insufferable, isn’t it? Don’t let me act like that, y’all.

I don’t want to lose touch with people when I get married, but honestly, it’s been happening for a year. There are several friends, people I love and admire, whom I haven’t laid eyes on since Houston had a hockey team. There are a few who I’ve intentionally distanced myself from, because i realized we had nothing left to say, nothing in common. It wasn’t hard feelings, just reality. (If you’re reading this, don’t worry, it’s not you.)  The truth is, I think my social circle has been in a slow transitional period since maybe before I even started dating my fiancee. That’s just the way of things.  So what I’m saying is, if we’re friends, let’s stay friends, but I ask you to understand that things will change a bit. However, I’ll do my best to be a good friend.

Maybe I’m making too much of this. How should I know? This is a huge, life-altering sequence of events for me, man.

So, here’s my question:  Married folks–tell me about how life changed.  Single folks–give me suggestions of how NOT to transition, based on what you’ve seen others do.

Spam Email and Personal Accountability.

This week, I found out my email account had been hacked. My account was sending out spam emails of all kinds, to everyone in my address book. I immediately changed my password, but then I started asking people in my various social networks, “Did you get spam email from me?”  Several responded, “Yeah, I got something like that from you.”

The question I didn’t ask, because I didn’t want to put them on the spot like a jerk (though I’m totally okay with doing it here), was: “Why didn’t you let me know there was a problem?”

I may be a weirdo, but whenever someone is sending me spam messages, I will always try to discreetly contact them and let them know. It’s almost the internet equivalent of telling someone they have a big ol’ booger in their nostril–it’s a little awkward in the moment, but the person receiving the news is very grateful.

Which is why we need people in our lives who will hold us personally accountable (whether that be to moral standards, spiritual values, or personal goals). People whom we have given permission and access to our inner circle and are allowed to ask difficult questions and speak kind but hard truths.  Some people assume this role when they shouldn’t or when they haven’t been invited, so it’s good not to be that person. But we each need a few of these people to let us know when we have a “bat in the cave,” when we unwittingly advertise overseas drugstores via email, or when we’re being selfish jerks.

I have a couple of guys that I meet with on a weekly basis, with whom I am completely honest…usually. This week, I have to admit, I ran through the litany of issues and areas I wrestle with in my life and faith but left a few things out. One of the guys lovingly and firmly called me out on it. Just nailed me. And I needed it. I need people around me who will cut through my shadings and rationalization, who will listen for what’s not said, and who will proceed to poke at the very areas I am willfully or unconsciously blind to.

So let me encourage you, reader: if you don’t have people like that in your life, get some. Immediately. It’s vitally important. Even if you don’t think you need them, just trust me–you do. The people around you are just being politely unhelpful by not letting you know.

Consider this a Public Service Announcement from your friendly neighborhood 4thDave.

WH Guest Post: “The ‘Fear of YHWH’ in Dan Phillips’ ‘God’s Wisdom in Proverbs'”

[This is a guest post by Webster Hunt, a regular feature here at The 4thDaveBlog.  You can follow Web at @livingheart on Twitter. This week, he discusses a great book called God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, by Pastor Dan Phillips. You can follow Dan on Twitter, or at his blogs.]

Until I read chapter 3 of Dan Phillips’s “God’s Wisdom in Proverbs”, whenever I got to Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and discipline, dense people belittle.” (DJP’s rendering from Hebrew), I’d simply take the passage for granted and move on to the “meatier” parts of Proverbs: the discourses, the pithy one-and-two-liners, the contrasts, etc. I didn’t know its value, nor did I realize that that verse is the foundation of wisdom and knowledge.

Thankfully, though, Dan did, and says as much in the very first line of chapter 3, calling the topic of the verse “the foundational truth of the book of Proverbs” (pg 65).  And not only did he realize it and learn its worth, he studied it, matured in it, and by God’s grace took all those things and made them accessible for our sake, that we might also both grasp and be grasped by the fear of Yahweh, to quote a phrase he uses, and use the chapter – and really the whole book – as an ordinary means of grace by which we learn to properly understand and apply God’s Word and grow in the knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When I had the opportunity, I bought a copy of “God’s Wisdom in Proverbs” with the expectation to get some good commentary and was pleasantly surprised to get what was more like an instruction manual on how to understand the Proverbs. Dan is clear early on that God put Proverbs in the Bible for a good reason, and since God’s words are the most rare commodity in the universe, we would do well to study them in order that we might also obey them – and the implied command of Proverbs 1:7 is no different. If the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of Wisdom (not A beginning, but THE – definite article – beginning), and it is only the fool and the dense that belittle wisdom and discipline, and since Jesus, the Second person of the Godhead, in His humanity obeyed every word spoken by His Father, who are we to think that this should simply be passed by and thought of as trivial?

One of the strengths of this chapter is Dan’s insistence that we understand the fear of Yahweh in the context that Solomon would have. He writes of how Solomon didn’t just pull this concept out of thin air but rather was taught it throughout his childhood from the Scriptures – and he encourages the reader to follow along as Solomon would have, mentioning the fear of Yahweh in the life of Israel from Deuteronomy, and of Abraham from Genesis.  The chapter is dependant on what the Scriptures communicate about the fear of Yahweh, and I know it might be silly to point out the obvious, but you only know someone by what they reveal about themselves, and we can only know God’s character, who He is, what He desires, and what He hates by what He reveals about Himself, and the Bible is the only place we are able to get that from – I say all of that to labor that when Dan describes the fear of Yahweh, he isn’t expressing his own opinion, but rather God’s revelation, and that calls me to submit to it.

Within the context of the Scriptures Solomon would have learned from, Dan gleans a few important details about the fear of Yahweh in the 1st quarter of the chapter:

1) The fear of Yahweh involves a subject and an Object.
The subjects of the fear, those who must grasp the fear, are us. Me. You. Humanity. Everyone is commanded to fear Yahweh. Dan points out on page 66 that this command is not limited to any sex, ethnicity, occupation, age, etc. If you’re a human being, you must fear Yahweh. Also, no one can fear Yahweh in anyone else’s stead – not even the Holy Spirit can fear Yahweh for us (pg 67). There is a personal responsibility that we, as the subjects of the fear of Yahweh, must drive toward and do – and what a reason to call upon Christ! Jesus Christ is the only man who ever always feared Yahweh properly. We know this because He grew in favor with God (Luke 2:52) and was described by God as His “Beloved Son with whom He was well pleased” (Matt 3:17) and was without sin (Heb 4:15). And since He came as a man born under the Law (Gal 4:4) and always did the will of His Father, then it is no stretch for me to believe that, for all righteousness, that the man Christ feared God His Father.

So while no one can fear Yahweh in our stead, we must. Otherwise, we are the dense fool who belittles wisdom and reveres his own thoughts and ways.

Now to the Object of the fear of Yahweh – Yahweh Himself, the One whom the subjects are commanded to have fear of, and to fear.  When Dan gets to this point, from pages 67-70, he gives the best argument I know of for doing away with the superstitious, faux-honor tradition of substituting God’s name, Yahweh, for LORD and all the other renditions. The fact that God specifically uses His name 6823 times in the Old Testament (pg 67), he points out, is a pretty clear indicator that it was meant to be used, not hidden! And when he makes the point that he understands God’s name, Yahweh, “to signify God as the one who is present faithfully to keep His covenant, the promise-keeping God who is personally present,” it puts the command to fear Him in a proper context. Fear of man will end when that man dies, when he goes away, when you go away. However, since Yahweh is eternally present and faithful to keep whatever covenant He desires to make, the fear of Yahweh doesn’t end either, and takes on a different thought than, say, a fear of snakes, or falling, or “a sort of generalized anxiety, a sort of pantophobia” (pg 67). It’s different from those fears because of the way in which Yahweh deals with His people.

Again, as Dan points out skillfully on pages 71-73, this is a fear that was to be taught and learned by way of His commands and laws, His word. Sure, there was emotional fear at the dreadful sights of God’s glory descended on Mount Sinai as it caught fire, winds whirled about chaotically, the sky filled with smoke, and trumpet blasts rang out the arrival of the King of all things. But what does Yahweh focus on? Dan points out that in Deuteronomy 4:10 that it’s His Word that was to be taught to the children that they might learn to fear Him. His works and commands were to be told again and again with the expectation that they would fear Him and obey Him and love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

2)”The fear of Yahweh requires revelation” (pg 71)

As I covered above, the only way to know someone is for them to reveal themselves to you, and God is no different. Although the Bible is clear that all men know God is, knowing He is doesn’t equal knowing Him. Think about it: the Triune God who by the word of His power made all things, made man who then squandered every good thing God gave to Him, has chosen to make Himself known to man who hates Him – and more than that, decided before man was that He would save for Himself a holy, peculiar treasure out of the mass of wretched men at the expense of His own Holy, Righteous Son. And because we are wicked and sinful, we don’t by nature know what it means to fear Yahweh. So He stoops and reveals that to man, that we might read and heed and obey and fear Him. To quote Dan on page 73, “God’s Word produces the right attitude toward Him, because His Word reveals Him, His mind and His ways to us. His Word alone gives content to our faith.” And then he makes these three spectacular points:

  •         Without content, there would be no REASON to fear
  •         Without content, there would be no OBJECT for our fear
  •         Without content, there would be no FORM to give to our fear

We cannot fear if we do not know God’s Word, because we cannot fear Him properly if we do not know Him properly. And I’m speaking of the secondary means, the ordinary means, the means by which we actually do what God has commanded us to do. There is no need to spiritualize what God has made practical. We aren’t smarter than Him. Do I really have to qualify that we do this by the power of the Holy Spirit in real time, in real ways, because Jesus Christ has reconciled us to God, and by His blood we know Him? I guess so. Self-fulfilling prophesy and all that.

So with that point Dan gives probably the strongest argument from Proverbs as to why we should invest in reading, studying, and knowing God’s word – at least he does to me – that we should partake of any means of grace, ordinary or supernatural, because they’re given by God for a purpose, and that purpose is always to glorify His Son Jesus, and making us like Him in order to do that.

And that’s just in the first 10 pages of chapter 3. I plan to make a few more passes to give you the bird’s eye view of this chapter, in the hopes that you’ll make use of this wonderful book that Dan has worked hard to put into the hands of folks like me who grew up in churches and was never taught the rich, beautiful, humbling truth of Proverbs 1:7 and the fear of Yahweh. Don’t waste the good things God has given us through wiser, more mature Christians.

Grace to you all. I hope you were edified and encouraged in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Money, money, money, money, money…

[Thank you for your patience this week. It’s been one of those nasty-allergy weeks, where the allergies mutate into some kind of illness. But I’m on prescription and OTC meds, and am on the mend. So, a quick post today from me, and another great post tomorrow from Webster Hunt.]

I’m struggling with the idea of giving this week–specifically giving to the church. I’ve usually just stuck with the tithe. It’s simple, and you don’t have to think about it too much. I haven’t had a problem with this issue before. I had my convictions about it, and that was that.

But as the wedding approaches and the cost of wedding-related goods and services is increasing, I’m starting to feel a little bit of a financial pinch. We’re trying to cash-flow the wedding, which is a challenge. My bride-to-be is paying for a lot herself, and I’m trying to do my fair share. So I’m hesitating on giving what I normally would to the church.  Combine that with some bad feelings i have about recent teaching I’ve heard on the subject of giving/tithing (from pastors I normally trust), and I find myself pushing back against the idea of the (optional-but-expected) tithe.

[Honestly, I think a lot of Bible teachers, myself unfortunately included, are in danger of merely paying lip-service to the concept of New Testament giving. We’ll say, “Well, OF COURSE, we’re under grace and not the Law… cheerful giver, not under compulsion, etc. …BUT.”  And that right there is the problem. We New-Covenant folks talk a good game, but lean on you with Old-Covenant muscle. Sometimes “not-under-compulsion” NT giving is preached as if it were protection money.  “You know, you really oughta give your first-fruits. God said he’d rebuke the devourer from touching your crops. I’d hate to see something bad happen to ya…”]

It’s hard to tell if this is just my flesh being rebellious or if I’m sincerely wrestling with this issue. Fact is, I don’t trust my heart very much at the moment. It would be easier to just give less to the church, because I could use that money elsewhere. But easy doesn’t mean right, and I’m concerned that I would be sinning by reducing my giving merely to help pay for more of the wedding.

I ask you, friends: Do you give to your local church or to Christian organizations? If so, what’s your practice for giving?  How do you actually deal with the question of the tithe?