Monday, November 24, 2014

we are intimately united with Christ: why marriage matters

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We're just going to jump right in, so fair warning.

Ultimately, God didn't create marriage for you. God didn't create marriage for your happiness. God didn't create marriage for you to fill up a hole in your heart that could only be filled by a "soul mate."

Instead, God created marriage for Himself. God created marriage to be a picture of Himself and His unbreakable, unyielding, unshakable love for His people. Marriage is a visual and physical representation of Christ and His bride, the church.

But let me back up a bit.

First, I have to share a song with you. I basically have it on repeat all.the.time. It's called "Oh God" by Citizens. Go listen to it and come back. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Height nor death nor anything else could pull us apart

We are joined as one by the blood
Hope will rise as we become more than conquerors through
The One Who loved the world.

One thing that I love about Citizens and seriously appreciate is that all of their lyrics are basically scripture verbatim. These lyrics are mostly taken from Romans 8 where Paul is telling us how he is convinced that nothing at all can separate us from the love of Christ.

But why is that? Why was he so thoroughly convinced that the believer cannot be separated from Jesus, from His love?

For the answer we should take a look in Hebrews. Chapter 3 verse 14 says, "For we have become partakers of Christ." What does it mean to partake of something? Well, often it means that we share in or join in something. That definition fits here. But there is also another definition of partake that we need to consider and that is to eat or drink, as in to partake of food. And what does Jesus say about Himself? "I am the Bread of Life" John 6:35. And later, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink" John 7:37.

When we eat food, at the molecular level, it becomes part of our physical being. Once we partake of it, once food enters into our system, once it begins to break down into sugars and energy and our cells begin to use it, it cannot be separated from us. What we eat, the food and drink that we partake of, essentially become a part of us. 

And Jesus is like that.

When I partake of Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, He physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally becomes a part of me. We have been intimately united with Christ. We are, as the lyrics above state, "joined as one." And as the old hymn says, "Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord... Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one" (Be Thou My Vision). Every fiber of my body contains Jesus. He is in me and I am in Him and nothing can separate us. Nothing can be done to me or can happen around me that can remove the security and unity that I have with and in and through Christ

That is why Paul can so confidently say that he is convinced that "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height no depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38,9)

Christian, if you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you cannot be separated. Nothing can separate you from Him.

So the other day I was writing all of this out so I could better process it and that truth that nothing can separate us caused me to think of Matthew 19. Perhaps you're familiar with it. The Pharisees are questioning Jesus about divorce in order to test Him. When they ask Him if it's lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause, Jesus gives this response:

They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together. Matthew 19:4-6a

He's quoting directly from Genesis 2, where God first ordains marriage as between one man and one woman. And what does He say happens when a man marries his wife? They become one [flesh]. They are united as one. They are intimately united with one another, so much so that they are considered one flesh. They are no longer regarded as two, but now they are one. Matthew Henry explains this even further by saying that the relationship between husband and wife is closer than that of a mother and child or father and child, "A man’s children are pieces of himself, but his wife is himself. As the conjugal union is closer than that between parents and children." Here he is referring specifically to the statement that a man must leave his father and mother in order to be joined with his wife.

That, marriage, has to be a close relationship considering that a child comes from the seed and egg of his parents. He is then carried in his mother's womb and nursed at her breast. How could there possibly be a relationship or union closer than that? But there is. And it was created and ordained by God. 

And that is why marriage matters.

It matters so much that Jesus goes on to say that what God has joined together, let no man split apart, let no man separate

Are you starting to see the parallel here? When we become married and enter into a union with our spouse, no one should separate us. When we become a Christian and enter into a union with Christ, nothing can separate us. The picture that marriage provides of Christ and His bride is profound. Surely that is why Paul refers to it as a mystery. 

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:32

My intention here is not to get into a debate over circumstances in which divorce is allowed. But consider what marriage represents. If the bond between man and wife is to be a picture, a display of the unity we have in Christ, what should be allowed to separate it? Certainly not much. Nothing can separate me from Christ. Nothing. This is why Jesus says to the Pharisees, nothing should separate a man and his wife.

Marriage is that important.

And this is precisely why marriage is not ultimately for or about me. Certainly there will be joy and growth and benefits to me beyond measure, thanks be to God. But in the end, my marriage and your marriage is meant to glorify God; it was made and designed to point to someone and something far greater than us: Jesus and His unbreakable, unyielding, unshakable love for His people, the church.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

Thursday, November 20, 2014

how valuing life permeates through every area- especially education

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From the beginning, Ben and I agreed to raise our children as little people. While children certainly are not born brilliant, they don't require us to dumb everything down in order for them to understand. In many ways we feel like doing so does a disservice to children. We want to send a message that says, "We are confident that you can learn. You are bright and have the ability to understand as much as you want."

Practically, at an early age, that means speaking in regular language. Others often comment on Isaac's insane vocabulary. For a preschooler, the kinds of words he understands and uses regularly impress me (and others) greatly. I can't definitively say that it's because of the way we talk to him, but I would definitely put my money on that. We have normal, not kiddie, conversations with our children. We use big words in our home and we use them often. As our kids become familiar with their use, as with any other word, they begin to grasp it's meaning and will eventually feel confident using them themselves. As they get older and are better with conversation, if they don't understand a word being used, they simply ask, "mommy, what does industrious mean?"

Isaac is bright. And not at all because of what I have done but because of how God made him. God has ordained Isaac with a specific purpose. I don't know what that purpose is but I can tell you that it's something that requires Isaac to be quick, to desire lots and lots of knowledge, to seek out answers to even the most mundane questions, to be incredibly observant but simultaneously cautious. Ben and I are determined to foster those characteristics. And in doing so, our hope is that he will grow and develop into the person God designed him to be now and who he will become as he matures. That is our role as his parents.

Now, I don't know that I've talked much on the blog about our decision to home school. The decision has been made for years and for several reasons, most of which I'm not going to get into right now. But I what I wanted to share is the method we've settled on for schooling and the most important "why?". Honestly, this "why" affects far more than how I've educated and will continue to educate my children. What it truly all comes down to is that my view of all people affects how I interact with and educate my own children day in and day out.

Every single person has value from the moment of conception on. Each human being has value and a purpose and was intimately created and is intimately known by our Creator God. We are each important, dignified and made in God's beautiful image.

Little did I know that there was a woman, an educator, who lived a long time ago, who had the same view of children, and who was able to put her beliefs into better words than I ever could. (Actually, I hadn't even stopped to think about why I treat my children the way I do in regards to education, it just flows out as a result of something I believe so strongly.)

Her name was Charlotte Mason and it is her method of education that we will adhere to in our home.

At the core of what Charlotte believed was this: children are persons. Sounds simple enough right? Of course children are persons. They are living, breathing, thinking, talking human people. It would be crazy to suggest otherwise. But what she means is more than that they simply exist as human beings.

I have a degree in psychology, a degree I have used a grand total of zero times. But when I was in school, we often had the discussion about the different theories of child development, particularly in the early, early years. And one theory, suggested by John Locke, is that children are born as a tablua rasa. I'm sure you're familiar with the term. It means "blank slate." In other words, Locke theorized that children begin with nothing and are then molded and shaped over time. Essentially, his surroundings, the people in his life: parents, teachers, those with heavy influence, and life events, write on that tablet and make a child into the person they are over time.

But what Mason suggests, and what is spelled out in scripture, is that children have unique and distinct personalities, characteristics, desires, fears and a purpose from the beginning. In fact, God designs us with a purpose in mind. He knits us together with unique abilities and skills on purpose. He sets us apart for a specific purpose and set of "good works" while we are still within our mother's womb. Every single child is a distinct and individual person, just as you and I are individual people. He is. Yes, he will grow and learn and develop over time, but even as a small and incapable person, he is entirely different and unique from any other.

And because this is the case, every child matters. Each and every child has value.

If Christianity is indeed true, then every last little child matters. Bright to dull, privileged or from any variety of troubled background, each is valuable. Persons matter. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake

So the question arises: is this how we view children today? Does our education system view children this way?

Macaulay (Charlotte Mason expert and author quoted above. Considering home school? Are you a teacher? Read her book!!) argues no, absolutely not. And not only should our system view children in this light, it should be the very foundation for educating children. The problem with our current system is that it views children as "a cog in a machine." Children are valued now in terms of money, not in terms of their intrinsic value. As a society we view people in terms of their economic value. Can they make money? Pay taxes? Contribute to the collective? If not, they are of little or no value. This, of course, has many far-reaching implications but for the sake of our discussion today, we'll stick to simply how it affects how we educate children.

We don't value life anymore, at least not in the way God values life.

As Macaulay discusses, there used to be a Christian foundation for education in our nation, but that no longer exists. There are many, many answers to the question of why, but one in particular is that there is no longer a Christian basis for how we view life, and therefore the child. We don't care to educate the child as an individual because we don't care about the child as an individual. And that's not to say we don't care about children. Obviously we do. But, if we truly believed that each child is unique, that she has a different learning style, different desires and passions, different fears and concerns, different ways of understanding the things around her, different questions, a different set of skills than her classmate and if we truly valued all of those things, if we truly believed that each and every single one of those things matter, then education would look entirely different than it does today. The classroom would be designed very differently.

But it's not.

And that is why we plan to home school and to use Charlotte Mason's method. I look at my children and I see all of those things I've just listed. I assure you, teachers would suggest Isaac be drugged so that he can sit still for absurd amounts of time. Eli would be sent home often for removing his pants. Stella would get a green sticker every day for good behavior because she is gentle and reserved. But all 3 of them are so distinctly different from one another. And each one deserves individual attention and space to learn and grow and develop in their own style and their own way.

I strongly desire to nurture my children's individual strengths, passions, and purposes in an environment that will never be ideal, but that will always be on their side. I desire to instill in them a love of learning that will cause them to seek out knowledge and truth in a way that will encourage their God-given abilities, skills and desires.

And for those reasons, I will educate my children at home.

Much of what I discussed in this post is from Macaulay's book For the Children's Sake. I also highly recommend Home Education by Charlotte Mason.

Monday, November 3, 2014

God values all life, whether thriving or declining, and we should too

You may have heard by now about Brittany Maynard, and that yesterday she ended her life.

Matt Walsh wrote an incredible piece on how suicide is not brave. He seriously says everything and more that I would want to say on the issue of physician assisted suicide, euthanasia and suicide in general. His point: 
life is valuable. All life is valuable.

Honestly, I wasn't going to write anything about the topic on this blog because, while I'm very well acquainted with the abortion side of the pro-life coin, this is an area with which I am not as comfortable debating and discussing. And not because I don't know where I stand. I am absolutely unmovable in my belief that all life has value. At every.single.stage. All life is dignified. All life has purpose. Even when we don't want to see it or believe it.

This is a topic that hasn't had much public discussion. But that needs to change because it is being discussed elsewhere. Behind closed doors. Among the people who will change the laws and the culture in favor of legalized suicide. And if we aren't sure where we stand, if we're not willing to have the hard conversations amongst ourselves, the people we care about, the people we know and even those with whom we disagree, soon we'll wake up and wonder why we didn't get a say.

You have a say. Now say it!

So last night I was scrolling through Instagram and I came across a post from a little shop in California that I think makes some of the cutest clothes and accessories. To my surprise, I mean my absolute shock, it was a quote from Brittany Maynard about being brave. And the hash tag #diewithdignity was used (we will get to what that means and does not mean in a moment). What disturbed me was that the owner of this shop is a Christian. But what also disturbed me was that in just 20 minutes or so, the post had received over 200 likes and several comments of praise. By this morning it was up to 400+ likes.

I was grieved. So grieved.

Of course I had to leave a comment. You know me. And what I said was this:

It is not my intention to preach here but I can't pass by without saying something. I am so grieved by the support Brittany has received for this choice she has made. There is nothing dignified about suicide. It's tragic. Life has value at every stage,  during every season, whether thriving or barely hanging on. God believed her life to be so valuable that He gave it to her. Only He has the authority to determine when it ends. I'll quote Matt Walsh, "if God reached out from the depths of eternity to hand us this life, how can we think it acceptable or worse, meritable  to throw it out before our time is finished?" It is never God's will for one to end the life He gave us- the most valuable and incredible gift. Suicide is not brave because escaping suffering is not brave. Because the implication then is that fighting until the dire end, suffering all the way, is not brave when in fact THAT is what is truly brave.

Almost immediately I received several responses. I was expecting them. But what I didn't expect was what these women were saying. And the most surprising response was the claim that Brittany did not commit suicide, that she did not want to die.

At first I was speechless. How can you say that the intentional ending of your life prematurely is not suicide? That is precisely what suicide is! But then it struck me. We are quickly doing here exactly what we've done with abortion. Again, this is just the flip side of the same coin. With abortion we swear up and down that "terminating a pregnancy" is not murder. Now we are saying that "physician assisted suicide" and "euthanasia" are not self-murder. But the same holds true in this case as with abortion. The intentional ending of a life is murder. Whether it's the murder of another or the murder of self. Suicide, like abortion, ends the life of a human being who has purpose, value and dignity.

And I am still hung up on the defense that she did not want to die. Of course she didn't. Last I checked, no one wants to die. But we all will at some point or another. The fact that she knew it was coming sooner than most doesn't change a thing. None of us know when or how we will die. But it's going to happen. To beat God to the punch is to say to Him, "You are not God. You have no authority over my life. I have the authority." I suppose to someone who isn't a Christian that attitude is just fine. But for a Christian to support such an action, such a stance, such an attitude, is contrary to everything scripture teaches. 

We are created by God, for God, for His glory, for His purpose. How dare we think otherwise? And how dare we support someone whose actions and words say otherwise?

Now, let's visit that term "die with dignity" because it absolutely disgusts me. Completely. There is nothing dignified about ending your own life. There is nothing dignified about ending your life because you want to escape suffering. But that begs a question, is it not dignified then to suffer until the end? To say that ending your life early means that you are dying with dignity implies that dying at the end of suffering hard and holding firm until the end is not dignified. Are those who lose all capacities due to illness or disability not dignified? Is there no dignity in their suffering? In their life? And ultimately their death? Of course there is dignity.

But we can't have it both ways. Walsh addresses this in his post (link above). We can't say that it's both dignified to end a life early and to die as a result of the suffering and the disease. It's either/or. To claim both exist is pure insanity.

But sadly, that is the world in which we live. It's a world where we say things like, "that is what is best for me" and "what is right for me is not necessarily right for you" and, my husband's favorite, "this is my truth" as if to say that we get to decide truth and morality individually. But we don't get to decide those things! The truth is that what is morally right is right for all and what is morally wrong is wrong for all. Only God determines those things.

Many are claiming that what Brittany did, in ending her own life, was brave. Choosing an escape route in order to avoid suffering is not brave. Choosing to leave your family, the people you love the most, behind, is not brave.

Perhaps to some, what she did seems beautiful, dignified or brave. But to anyone who truly values life, what she did is an affront to God - the One who gave her her very life, the life she chose to end. He values all life no matter the development, the season, the situation, the thriving, the suffering or the thriving. And we should as well.

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 Deuteronomy 30:19