Thursday, March 31, 2016

disciples walking in the truth

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.
3 John 3

Disciples live with one passion: following Jesus. They walk in the Truth for Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). The Apostle John's phrase, "walking in the truth", is his summary of the joy of living in discipleship as an obedient, growing, authentic follower of Jesus. It is what visibly and personally demonstrates Christian Faith for both the Church and those outside the Church to know.

Walking gets a person somewhere. It moves us from one place to another. And it is good for us. Walking is the way a person progresses through life. 

I can testify to the physical benefits of walking. I've lost 25 pounds in the eight months I've worn a Fitbit and committed myself to walk the ten thousand steps per day it suggested for my health. That five miles per day has led me to a better place physically. At first I found it hard and resisted, even resented that reminder that I had so many steps left to finish. But now, I enjoy the 45 minutes or so it takes to complete a few miles at the end of my day. The walking itself is the joy. It slows my life down to appreciate the world within God has placed me for His glory.

I believe that walking in the truth of the gospel, with scripture and the Holy Spirit as my guide and measure of direction, is doing a similar thing for my soul.

The Apostle John wrote about his joy in seeing disciples "walking in the truth". It was because he was a disciple who committed to make other disciples who truly followed Jesus and made even more disciples. There is no higher purpose or pleasure in life for a Christian than to follow Jesus and make disciples. It is what the Church lives for. And it is what martyrs have died for. We all are to be seriously walking in the truth as our goal in life and in death.

Lord Jesus,
Lead my steps today as I walk in the truth. And as I interact by Your grace and mercies with other people, help me to deny my self, and through Your Word lead me in the knowledge of You so that with those other people, I may walk in Your truth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

awake for the surprise

(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)
Revelation 16:15

Yes! Come quickly Lord Jesus! And may You find Your church dressed in Your righteousness, making You known at any price. You are a Savior Who will return as Judge of all people, especially of Your church. May we be ready, wide awake and vigilant to Your tasks like good soldiers. May You not find us in the shame of sloth or sinfully exposed.

Lord Jesus, You will return like a thief. We will be startled by You. And that is an event we need to anticipate and greet with joy and not regret. Yet if we hold sin dear and You burst through our door, we will be ashamed by Your sneaky return. We are encouraged by this exhortation and the truth of Your startling return to be dutifully and sincerely repentant people. We do not want our sin and shame exposed on the joyous day of Your return.

Lord, keep us awake, in Your Word, close to the gospel, tender of heart but quick to repent. Your church is so dull and inattentive to do all of these. We want to greet You ready when You break down the door and surprise us at Your heart-stopping coming! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

fidelity... and much more

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.
Song of Solomon 6:3

Song of Solomon celebrates marriage. It may be the poetic rebelling of a relationship, but it anchors in a solid biblical reality of marriage: oneness. Husbands and wives who live out a singular commitment to one another are following God's plan, despite the difficulties and challenges of life. Marriage is about oneness... two people become one flesh. They do so as God draws them together. Marriage encourages, demands, and celebrates this oneness.

The irony of this song is that the Shulammite may have been the one woman that polygamous Solomon truly loved. He found this love after messing up in every conceivable way. But when he found her, he was delighted, and hence this song. He compares her to "sixty queens", "eighty concubines", and "virgins without number', and those just may have been actual numbers and not just poetic hyperbole (see Song of Solomon 6:8-9). The king is smitten by his bride's love.

Despite the obvious flaws in Solomon's life, the Holy Spirit so superintended the writing of his song that biblical truth and God's design stands out. The call to fidelity and marital oneness still holds true. And that design must guide all sinners who commit to one another in holy matrimony.

Those of us who are married are very much still sinners, even Christians who are redeemed sinners, and we need God to continue to redeem all the daily moments of our lives together. We need the reminder to set aside selfishness and live as the gift of God to our beloved. We need the gospel to be our heartbeat for our spouse.

I know I need the gospel to be the focus of my marriage so that I give myself to my wife like Jesus does for His bride, the Church for whom He died. That is my hope and goal for a truly satisfying and delightful marriage. It is how we celebrate oneness, with Jesus and the Church and the gospel in the very center of our hearts for one another. And this is love that celebrates that I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pleasant Praise

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
Psalm 147:1

How many times in the assembly 
of your saints, O Lord, have I
sung Your praise?

I cannot count them. From my childhood
and through the childhood of my grown
children I have praised Your name.

I have done so, and always want to sing
because You are a great God
and always worthy of my praise.

You pick me up when I fall and
You direct my path and have never failed
all my life in all my days.

How pleasant it is to lift Your glory
back to heaven from where blessing flow!
O Lord, Let us sing Your praise!

And in the worship, may we follow You
living changed, holy lives, captured by salvation
and walking in our Savior's ways.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

ending hate

And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Esther 3:5-6

Haman is a jealous, bitter, hate filled rascist. He cannot stand one man and will seek to exterminate an entire race to get to the death of Mordecai. He is more than a villain, Haman is evil. He shows us the lengths to which raging hate will take our souls. It is an awful place, and sadly, history has shown humanity is frequently drunk with this hate. It is alarmingly alive in our world today.

I never thought that I'd see this kind of hate become a political movement in my own culture, but it seems to be doing so this election year. It is highly likely that some form of hate or jealousy will drive at least one political party in the USA this year. I am scared for my country and my culture because populist presidential candidates now grab the headlines and lead in the polls. One is a businessman who sounds like a poorly educated fascist spewing hate and a false patriotism. Another is a barely veiled communist preaching economic jealousy. A third leading candidate is a career pragmatic politician who is busy avoiding prosecution. Not a good lineup this season. Worst ever... in my opinion. My fear is that jealousy and hate are driving most of the electorate. Does this country ever need the gospel!

And a sovereign God gives hope over hate. At least the book of Esther tells us this well. God used His strategically positioned person, Queen Esther, to combat the evil genocidal plot of Haman, saving the Jews, and turning the Persian Empire away from doing a great evil. Esther willingly committed her life to God risking death ("if I perish, I perish" Esther 4:18) in order to be God's instrument of salvation and peace.

Her actions point to the gospel where only Jesus, as the Prince of Peace, has been God's sovereign choice to end our hate. And Jesus took all genocidal hate, all our hatred of God and of each other, upon Himself on the cross. Haters who repent of their evil, trust Him for salvation, and believe are forgiven and reborn into God's children. The Prince of Peace will rule over a peace-making church because God loves the world through His Son and through us as we proclaim the good news of peace, love, and salvation in Christ!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Choose life. Choose Jesus.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

The Law as given by God to Moses was a perfect and wonderful gift. Israel had clear direction from God for every detail of individual and social interaction with God and with one another. They had God's direct commands with which to shape their lives. God showed them how to worship, how to love their neighbors, how to be just, how to be holy, and promised them unending, overflowing blessing as they followed the Law and kept covenant with Him.

But there were also warnings. To choose to turn their backs on this much gracious revelation of God's will was to invite the curse of judgment upon them. It was a huge sin to disobey the Law. Just as unimagineable reward came with obedience, so tremendous loss and pain would attend rejection of God's Law. The choice was theirs to make. They had the free will to obey God and find blessing, or to reject His authority and wisdom, and find cursed lives. God pleaded for them to choose life with Him by commitment to obey His Law.

Jesus fulfilled the Law and its demands. He took our sins and the curses of God's wrath upon Himself. And now the Law has no more call upon humanity except as it is fulfilled in Christ. Now, I must choose life in Jesus so that I may be clothed in righteousness that He gives to me. I must obey the gospel and repent of sin and trust my Savior so that I might thus immersed in Him walk in the newness of life that He gives. I really live in Jesus' resurrection life. I choose life by dying to my old self in Him and being born again to new life through His resurrecting work. He is my blessing. He is my life. I choose Jesus.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

public not private

But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner."
Acts 26:25-26

Paul always found a way to make the gospel his main focus. Even as he stood before Herod Agrippa (the Jewish civil leader) and the governor Festus (the Roman civil authority) and defended himself from his Jewish accusers, he ended his defense with the truth of the gospel's saving message (Acts 26:22-23) and a call to believe it (Acts 26:27-29). Paul never missed an opportunity for the gospel because clearly he viewed his life, even when it was threatened, as the means to advance the gospel.

This Passion Week, as I contemplate the death and resurrection of my Savior, I am challenged by Paul's passion with the gospel to consider just how I might live that same gospel-centric way. Is each experience of my life an opportunity to proclaim the saving work of Jesus? I think so. Given that Paul preached the gospel to the two most powerful men in Jerusalem who were deciding on his fate as a criminal and who had the authority to execute him, what episode could I face that would be harder to speak the gospel? I can't think of a reason not to look for the gospel's proclamation.

The gospel is about a public scandal anyway. Paul was right... none of it... not Paul's present difficulties, and not the death and resurrection of Jesus, occurred in some obscure, secret corner. Jesus died in Jerusalem (a major metropolitan area) in a public fashion, having appeared before the highest civil and religious authorities there, during the city's busiest season (Passover), in a place so filled with people from all over the world that His charges tacked onto His cross were written in three languages so all present would know His claim. And Jesus rose again three days later causing such a commotion that within a generation His gospel infiltrated the length and breadth of the entire Roman Empire. The gospel as good news is meant to be public knowledge. And so Christians must embrace that responsibility and continue its proclamation worldwide in every generation.

Monday, March 21, 2016

full reward

Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
2 John 8

John's encouragement to a little house church near the end of the first century speaks to our struggles now in the twenty-first century. As we are called to be faithful to Christ in a world that needs, yet often denies Him, we must watch ourselves very closely. We must pay attention to our faith and practice. We must know the truth, Christ's truth, about doctrine and character. We must stay faithful to biblical orthodoxy (right beliefs) and authentic orthopraxy (right living).

Too much is at stake to hold to just the bare minimums. Jesus is not interested in us being a church that embraces and teaches a "Christianity Lite" (all the wonder and feel good moments, half the commitments). Disciples are called to guard against losing our grip on doctrine and holy living, which means that we are in very real danger of doing so at any moment.

John's motivation offered to us is found in the two words "full reward". We want a full reward from our Lord. We want to stand before Jesus one day having done our best and to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of Your Lord". We want this not to earn salvation or because we are inherently good, but instead, we want to live out the perfect salvation and the call to holiness commanded of us, by His grace and power, and not our own. 

I know I will face Jesus. I know I will be judged by my Lord. I know that much wood, hay, and stubble will burn away at His holy, perfect gaze. I long to offer Him the gold, silver, and precious stones that His grace has given me and that should remain if I am faithful to His Word and the gospel's work in me. Only His redeeming work will help me to be faithful to that His Word teaches, Only Jesus will help me to live it out in holiness. And all believers will face this same prospect. Why wouldn't we want to thus please our Lord and enter into His joy forever?

Friday, March 11, 2016

God reigns.

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign."
Revelation 11:17

God rules over all. The book of Revelation reveals the climactic finale of redemptive history, where the Lord judges the earth, and His rule defeats sin, death, and all human evil. In the end there is a New Jerusalem on a New Heavens and a New Earth. This is the idyllic way that God intended us to live, walking with Him.

As I read this song of the 24 elders around God's throne, I am reminded of a very simple praise chorus I grew up singing that probably nobody sings anymore... at least I don't see any smoke-machined YouTube videos with tattooed and goateed strangely-hatted worship bands performing it. Still, the simple melody of this song is in my heart right now as I think about this passage:
The Lord Reigns
(Rick Founds)
The Lord reigns
Let the earth rejoice

Righteous and truth
are the foundations of Your throne

In Your presence, Lord
the mountains melt like wax

In Your presence, Lord
I bow before Your throne.

I lift my hands,
and worship You, Oh Lord

For You are the Lord,
Most High above the earth

The Lord reigns
Let the earth rejoice

Thursday, March 10, 2016

captivated lovers

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
Song of Solomon 4:9

There is a reason that human beings across all cultures sing love songs. We were made for love. We were created loved by God and to love Him. And the first marriage of Adam and Eve was a direct creative act of God meant to enshrine the holiness of human love and sexuality in the temple of marriage.

In this section of Solomon's Song, marriage is celebrated. The bride has dreamt of being united to her lover (Song of Solomon 3:1-5) and the royal groom has arrived to the wedding in all the pageantry of a king (Song of Solomon 3:6-11). Solomon then admires the beauty of his bride on their wedding day (all of chapter 4). And truly every married man know that his bride is absolutely beautiful, stunning him on their wedding day.

The emotional poetry gushes forth. His bride is captivating. She is amazing. His heart is led away by just one glance of her eyes behind her wedding veil. She is his great love, and he sings of her because his heart can only lift up in a song of love and grateful praise. And this is all good. God made us to be captivated lovers.

Every marriage thrives when by God's great mercies a man and a wife are lovers who are captive in one another's dedicated embrace. And they should fill their lives and loudly sing "silly love songs". "What's wrong with that? I'd like to know..." 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Teach me, lead me

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!
Psalm 143:10

Teach me, O Lord,
teach me.
Teach me to do Your will
for Your will should be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Teach me to love Your will
for I am too enamored
of my own stupid efforts.

Teach me to teach Your will
so that others may know
and love You, my God.

Lead me, O God,
lead me.
Lead me by Your Spirit
to love Your Word
and live in Your ways.

Lead me to follow You,
my Lord, for opportunities
and direction will bless my days.

Lead me in the right way
for outside Your revelation
are dark paths I must avoid.

Teach me, lead me, O my God
for I am lost without Your light
and foolish without Your wisdom.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

reason to worship

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.
Nehemiah 12:27

The walls were rebuilt in Jerusalem, and it was time to celebrate and dedicate the finished work. There was no bitter distinction or harsh rivalry between secular and sacred authority under Nehemiah. The Levites were purposefully sought out to make the dedication complete. In fact, the walls would not have been dedicated without their leadership. There would be no celebration unless it was led by worship.

I'm not interested in bemoaning the secular/sacred divide in current culture. America has never been nor ever should be a theocracy like ancient Israel was, for Israel was revealed and decreed so by God's holy, written word. But what I am compelled to think upon today is the celebratory nature of the worship of the Lord. And it doesn't only happen in a church service. Sometimes it never happens in a church service, sadly. If Israel, however, could worship, happy to complete a civil project and rejoice in God outside the temple, why can't Christians also worship outside the confines of a Sunday service? By all means we should. I should worship, looking for ways to show my gladness to God, with thankfulness, and with gladness at many joyous and important occasions.

When I see joy, help me to pause and worship You. When my heart is happy at some good news, lead me to sing Your praises in worship. When I am touched by sorrow or somber realizations, draw me to Your holy presence. I want my life occasions to be marked by worship.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Justice? Amen!

“‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
Deuteronomy 27:19

Stating God's law in the negative has a sobering affect on the conscience. It doesn't sit well with coddled modern day overly psychologized westerners, but it seems fine for God to do so. Maybe we ought to consider that a wise and sovereign God knows best what we need to hear, how we need to hear it,  and how we need to take it to heart!

All I know is that much of my lifestyle works against appropriating this command to seek justice for the lowest and neediest in my society. I live in the country of Affluentia. It's easy to pull into my garage after work and ignore the needs of the world as the door goes down. Yet even in the little bedroom community in which I reside I know there is injustice. I see it. There are people less than a mile from me living in poverty. There are fatherless children being raised in poverty by single moms who are immigrants (maybe legal, maybe not). There are elderly people barely scraping by, some of them suffering in a system that encourages family to hand them over to be "cared for" by strangers. Some of them never hear from their family again. It's a whole marginalizing, broken system that covets and coddles the upper and middle-class "haves" while doing little to care (and I'm not talking about financial entitlement... that would be an idolatrous mistake) for the neediest among us.

We need hearts for the lowest in our world... hearts of love... gospel hearts like Jesus has. The gospel brings hope, and the Body of Christ, the church, brings love, support, and help to the immigrant, the orphan, the abandoned, and the elderly. God, help us to say 'Amen' to Your call to care because You gave all You had extravagantly for loathsome sinners when Your only Son was offered up to save our impoverished souls!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Leading with the gospel is the means to a clean conscience.

So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
Acts 24:16

I have always been struck by the power of this statement of Paul's. For a while in my teen and college years I considered this my "life verse", when having a "life verse" was a required part of the Christian calling card. Paul says this to the Roman governor Felix as he defends his very life before the Jewish authorities who have conspired to see him dead. It is a powerful belief by which to live, but today as I look at it, it strikes me that it is the beliefs behind this motto that are what give it such strength.

Paul sets forth his faith behind this motivation to have a clean conscience toward God and man with the following five belief statements that proceed verse sixteen:
1) I am a Christian, a follower of the Way (14).
2) I worship the God Who is the same God of the Jews (14).
3) I believe the Jewish scriptures in their entirety (14).
4) I place my hope in God (15).
5) I believe in the resurrection of all people. just and unjust (15).

These beliefs informed Paul's desire to have a clear conscience. They were what he was defending and in a wise move on his part, these were also statements (except for #1) that the Jewish Pharisees would affirm. What Paul is thus saying is that their dispute with him is over one issue: Jesus, Someone about Whom Luke tells us in the context that Felix has accurate knowledge (Acts 24:20). Felix knows the Jesus story and the resultant birth of the church accurately. Paul has put the gospel at the forefront in this hearing. He cannot help but preach Christ!

It seems then that Paul's meaning of having a clear conscience before God and man indicates that his conscience will be clear with God first. By making the gospel the issue at his trial, Paul does that brilliantly. I see then, that if ever this hopeful motto could mark my life, I too must let the gospel, let my Savior, lead first in my thoughts, attitudes, statements, language, and actions.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

perfect love... nothing to fear

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18

God loves me perfectly. I will struggle to know and show love in all my human relationships because human actions and emotions are broken by sin. But God is holy and perfect. His love and His grace to us in Christ Jesus are perfect. Only by God's love in Christ can I know a perfect love.

Jesus died for my sins. He did so out of love for me. He did so that by faith I may trust Him alone, be forgiven in His love, and be confident that no charge stands against me in the Day of Judgment because His grace and love covers it all (see 1 John 5:17). That is how His perfect love casts out fear. What else can I fear if God's wrath is satisfied in my Savior?

The simple truth that John reminds me of in this passage is that at some root, fear has to do with sin. Every time. We fear the punishment our sins deserve. Fear is that red warning light calling us to pay attention to the gospel. But when I trust Christ for the forgiveness of sins, fly to Him in repentance when I do sin, I am free from that fear's power. God's perfect love, in Jesus, casts away that awful fear. Thank You, Lord!

Lord Jesus,
Confident in Your work, I rest in the peace of knowing my sins are forgiven. Hallelujah! All my sins are washed away! Your grace soaks through my soul, filling me with Your love and peace. I can stand in You complete one day, confident in You, for You will plead for me in the Day of Judgment saying, "This one I have loved! His sins I carried on My cross. He is forgiven and clothed now in My righteousness." Such wondrous love!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing; 
To God and to the Lamb, 
Who is the great I AM, 
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free 
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

the One who holds the keys

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."
Revelation 1:17-18

Jesus has the keys to death and hell firmly in His grasp. I should not fear. He is the first and the last, my great Alpha and Omega, the God Who made me, saved me, knows me, loves me, never forsakes me, and has secured my eternity in joy forevermore with Him. He is the Living One Who always is and always will be. Yet while I was a sinner, Jesus died for my sins, now raised to conquer death so that sin and its cruel controlling consequences are defeated forever. Truly He holds the keys!

I don't need to fear death or anything in this life if Jesus is my Lord. All things are of Him, to Him, for Him. And anything that happens to me or in me or upon me happens by His full authority, so that nothing may separate me from Him or the Father's love. There is no greater assurance. There is no greater hope.

Lord Jesus,
I know if I saw You in Your heavenly splendor I would fall down like John as a dead man. Yet I also know by the vision recorded here that as powerful and as awe-inspiring as You are, You still are marked by Your love for me. You are still the Lamb Who was slain, worthy of glory and honor. You still offer hope, not by terror or intimidating might, but by being the One Who died and lives again. That is why You hold the keys of death and hell... not to punish us with them, but to unlock their chains from around us.

May I feel Your right hand upon me as I reflect on this freedom, Your love for me, and Your powerful grace and mercy to me. I need this now, and always, for life can pull my eyes from You. May I fear not, for You have taken away all the worst things I have ever had to fear.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

spring time love

The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
Song of Songs 2:12

This song is an idealized romance. It rejoices in new love and the power of a commitment made by a man and a woman. Song of Solomon begins with adoration of two lovers for one another and ends with a wedding ceremony. It celebrates and anticipates joy and love. It even rejoices in marital sexuality with poetry and sensual abandonment in that exclusive commitment as a key theme of the book. About halfway through the song, the lovers have a quarrel and resolve it returning to one another in love. 

I believe that all these themes of human relationship are the reason we have this song in scripture. It is not meant to be some weird allegory that has to be unlocked with a secret key, but is instead a complex song of love meant to instruct Israelite young couples on courtship, love, and sexual understanding. Like all poetry, I suspect it is most powerful in its native tongue of Hebrew.

That said, there are romantic themes that transcend culture and language. Setting the lovers' yearning for one another in the spring time is perfect. Our culture envisions young love the same way. And even us old-timers get a warm spring breeze blowing in our hearts when we consider love in this way. In a little over three months my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage in our own young love. It still feels like spring with flowers on our earth, singing in our hearts, and birdsong in the air. No really, it does. No joke... no hokum. 

And the best thing about our love is that we love because God first loved us. That gets tested... frequently, but it is what our lives are based on. I don't intend to spiritualize Song of Solomon, but rather to place it in context with redemptive history as it is revealed in all of scripture. And knowing that, I believe that marriage lasts because Christ sustains us in His love. We need Him to do this because marriage is difficult. It is hard. We are two sinners, saved by grace, who still fight sin together. And only Jesus can help us go through hard times, trials of our faith testing us, gains and losses in life, and even our own daily challenges to make a home together. Jesus is the warm spring breeze that warms the earth to grow flowers and carries the notes of sweet dove song to our hearts. And He commands and strengthens our love so that she loves me as the church loves Jesus (see Ephesians 5:25-33 for the full metaphor and its meaning), and I learn to give my life and love to her as Christ loves His Bride the Church.