Who took the vow out of our wedding vows?

A few years ago, I “discovered” a passage that to my mind has loads to say concerning marriage. Here’s the passage:
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)
I realized that we talk about vows during a wedding ceremony, but nobody really thinks about what that means. We are standing before God and taking an oath. The writer of Ecclesiastes warns us to be slow to make a vow because you can’t take it back saying “It was a mistake.” According to the author, it’s about fearing God. And that’s what I think we’ve lost in our weddings. We think about cake and flowers and candles and dresses, but we don’t stop and think about the fact that we are making a solemn pledge in the presence of God.
In the Old Testament, when a man offered a vow, he offered a sacrifice. The meat from that sacrifice had to be eaten quickly, and that meant that he would have to include others in the sacrificial meal. That effectively made his vow public. His relatives and neighbors would know of the pledge he had made to God. That’s what we are doing in a wedding. (does that make it biblical to have a cookout at our weddings?) We are calling people to be witnesses. All those present are to help the vow makers remember the pledge they have made. It’s not just a social happening; it’s a deeply religious moment.
“Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:14-15)
We have our friends and relatives present, but there is a far more important witness among us when these vows are exchanged. And he expects them to be kept.

Christlike = Christian

I’m still reading in The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd. One of his basic premises is that for something to be Christian, it has to be Christlike. That is inherent in the meaning of the word Christian. And he argues that a government of this world cannot act in a Christlike fashion and still promote its interests.
Some people might be put off by the title of the book, so it’s important to see that Boyd’s argument isn’t that the United States isn’t Christian; his point is that no nation can act in a truly Christlike fashion and continue to exist. And history shows us that when the church tries to run a worldly kingdom, it soon begins to use worldly methods.
In the end, it comes back to a personal level, and that’s where it’s hardest for me. It’s about living like Christ. Living out the teachings of Christ, like I talked about in the last post. Here’s a great quote from Boyd about how the church should live: “What if the energy and resources used to preserve and tweak the civil religion was (sic) rather spent feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, befriending the drug addict, and visiting the prisoner? … In other words, what if we individually and collectively committed ourselves to the one thing that is needful—to replicating the loving sacrifice of Calvary to all people, at all times, in all places, regardless of their circumstance or merit? what if we just did the kingdom?” (Boyd, pp. 115-16, emphasis his)
I need to be Christlike. Our churches need to be Christlike. More than knowing the right doctrine, we need to live the right life.


Yesterday morning, while doing some reading for an upcoming writing project, I sat down and wrote this:
That thought struck me while reading the book “Myth of a Christian Nation” by Gregory Boyd (an EXCELLENT read, by the way). I don’t really want to be like Jesus. Man of sorrows? Suffering servant? Lamb that was slain… are you kidding me? I want to be the conquering Lion of Judah, not the Lamb that is worthy because of his sacrifice. He was nailed to a cross! Can any of us say we truly want to travel that road?
““But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”” (Luke 6:27-38)
Be like Jesus? Loving enemies, turning the other cheek, giving to all that ask. Not me. I want to be rich. I want to be powerful. I want vengeance. If I could find the men who came into my house, who terrorized my family, who put a gun to the head of my little girl… I’d not only put a gun to their heads, but I’d pull the trigger. It’s been over 10 years, but I can still feel a rush of anger and hate. I don’t want to share the gospel with them. I don’t want them to come to God. Like Jonah sitting and waiting for Nineveh to be destroyed, I want to see them punished. Bring on the brimstone!
Tim doesn’t want to be like Jesus. That’s what Paul calls “the flesh,” “the old man.” My carnal side. It doesn’t want to be like Jesus. So I rationalize and explain why Jesus didn’t really mean what he said, why following Jesus’ teachings isn’t practical in the 21st century. I might even argue that the gospels don’t apply to Christians. The easiest solution, of course, is to say that Jesus was the Son of God, so of course he could live that way. I’m just a man, so I can’t be expected to be that good.
Fortunately, God has put within me his Spirit. That’s the only hope I have of overcoming Tim, the only hope of being freed from “this body of death.” Only by God’s power can I begin to be who God wants me to be. And I want to be who God wants me to be. It’s Tim that doesn’t want that. It’s my sarx, my flesh.
Lord, help me to follow your Spirit rather than mine.
I was going to take it and rework it to sound nice and pretty for the blog. But I think I’ll just let you read the rough version.

Was Satan telling the truth?

Satan is the father of liars, according to the Bible. Yet we can also see that he is the master of the half-truth and the misapplied truth. When tempting Jesus in the wilderness, Satan even quoted Scripture.
Satan said something interesting during the temptation sequence. Let’s read from Luke’s account: “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” ” (Luke 4:5-7)
Satan claimed to have been given the authority over the kingdoms of this world. Jesus repeatedly called Satan “the prince of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) Paul spoke of “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and John wrote “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) [You can also consider Ephesians 2:2 and Ephesians 6:12, among others]
What do you think? Was Satan telling the truth? Does he hold authority over the kingdoms of this world?

Involving the kids

On most Sundays, the kids at our church have their own class during the sermon time. Starting last month, on the second Sunday of each month, they stay with their families. I regularly preach for the bilingual group that meets in the chapel. We found out about the change the hard way last month. I sent the kids out, then they had to come back… and never settled down again.
This time I was ready. I was preaching the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5. When I told the kids they weren’t going to class (along with appropriate groans and signs of dismay from them), I told them that I needed their help. Since adults don’t have enough imagination to picture things, I explained, I needed them to draw some pictures for us. At first I explained who Naaman was, how he got sick with leprosy, and how that would have ruined his life. I then asked them to draw a man who was sad because he was sick. I told them that I would want to see their drawings.
I then spoke to the adults a while, but the smaller ones finished their drawings quickly and were anxious to show them. I hadn’t calculated that well, and had to stop more than once to allow them to show their drawings.
When we came to the part of the text where Naaman is cured, I asked them to make a new drawing, one with a man who is happy because he wasn’t sick anymore. When I got close to the end of the sermon, I had them show their drawings. I encouraged the adults to be sure they could see at least one of the drawings. I closed the sermon by telling the adults that if the smiley face on that paper didn’t correspond to how they felt on the inside, they needed to look at getting right with God. [It was more complicated than that, but that was my way of trying to hit a broad range of needs]
What do you think of involving the kids in that way? Obviously, it’s easier in a group of 50 in a chapel than a group of 700 in a large auditorium. Does it sound like too much of a distraction for everyone else? Does it fall outside the bounds of “decently and in order”? Do you have suggestions of other ways to engage the younger ones in the sermon?