A few years ago, the men of our church studied a video curriculum by Gary Thomas called, Sacred Marriage. It is a series for both husbands and wives but I thought it would be useful to study with just the men. It was fantastic. The study is based on the book by the same name. I have recently begun reading the book and, like the video series, it’s great.
One of the things that struck me as I watched the video and discussed it with other men was the focus on the foundation of (or, theology of) marriage. In particular, Thomas wants to get us thinking about God’s ultimate purpose in marriage. The book is not, as he puts it, a three, seven, or ten-step program for a better, happier marriage. Instead, Thomas does the hard work of looking at God’s real purpose of marriage, which is to make us holy, not necessarily happy. That’s a hard message to sell, especially in the era of romantic comedies and the Hallmark and Lifetime television channels.
In the first chapter of the book Thomas puts it this way…
…there’s a deeper question that needs to be addressed beyond how we can “improve” our marriage: What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?
As Thomas will say later in the first chapter, holiness and happiness aren’t necessarily contradictory, but a person’s happiness becomes illusory if they think, a.) that it’s the sole purpose of the marriage, and b.) their spouse is the one in whom they will find such ultimate purpose.
The real intention of the book, for Thomas, is to show his readers that marriage, in the same way as abstinence for celibates and isolation for hermits, is a context for spiritual growth. He says marriage can become the means by which we can “grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.”
If I might put it in Wesleyan terminology, marriage is a means of grace by which we draw closer to God and conform more to the likeness of Christ. That’s not a bad deal.
He made a difference in his culture for the Kingdom of God...
It’s probably easier to ask what Abraham Kuyper did not do rather than what he did do. Committed Christian. Cultural warrior. Founder of a political party. Prime minister and statesman. Newspaper founder and editor. Founder and president of a university and professor. Pastor. Writer. He did all that and more.
I believe with many that Abraham Kuyper is one of the most important role models for Christians today who want to make an impact in their world. He is someone you ought to get to know. Here are a few online resources to help better acquaint you with him…
There are a number of other articles and books that have come out since I first put this list together. I will continue to update it, so check back periodically to see what's new.
Grace and Truth,
Direction 1: Concerning the Novelty of Godliness
A number of years ago, Scripture Studies.com. put out a series of excerpts from one of my heroes, Richard Baxter. Baxter's Christian Directory was a powerful influence in my life and I was happy to see this material put online. This particular material consisted of excerpts focused on Baxter’s Directions to Young Christians.
I thought I would provide an even smaller excerpt and include the link for you to check out more of Baxter's excellent spiritual counsel. He was a physician of souls indeed! As one person put it, “And in our day of spiritual fads and consumerism, his direction is needed more than ever.” I couldn’t agree more. I thought these directions were fitting for Christian men and women of all ages who are at different places along their Christian pilgrimages. May Baxter’s words bless you as you continue your journey to the Celestial City and the likeness of Christ.
Here’s Direction 1…
Take heed lest it be the novelty or reputation of truth and godliness, that takes with you, more than the solid evidence of their excellency and necessity; lest when the novelty and reputation are gone, your religion wither and consume away.
…To this kind of professor, the greatest truths grow out of fashion, and they grow weary of them, as of dull and ordinary things; they must have some new light, or new way of religion that lately came in fashion; their souls are weary of that manna that at first was acceptable to them, as angels’ food. Old things seem low, and new things high to them; and to entertain some novelty in religion, is to grow up to more maturity: and too many such at last so far overthrive their old apparel, that the old Christ and old gospel are left behind them.
Click here to read the whole message.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
by Edward Reynolds (1662)
by Richard Baxter
Take God in Christ for your only rest, and fix your heart upon him above all. May the living God, who is the portion and rest of his saints, make our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him and delighting in him may be the work of our lives; and that neither I nor you may ever be turned from this path of life… The saint’s rest is the most happy state of a Christian. It is the perfect endless enjoyment of God by the perfected saints…
If there was ever a man who was in the "rat race," it was Solomon. The book of Ecclesiastes leads us to believe that Solomon realized, at the end of his life, that he was in that race. He had been very busy and was highly accomplished, yet his heart finally turned from the Lord. Only at the end of his life did he realize (as Paul had earlier in his life) that his "gain" was worth nothing. Solomon realized, as Pat Morley has said, "no one wins the rat race." A friend of mine further commented that even if you do win, you're still a rat."
The following video is the first of a series by Pat Morley called, "Man in the Mirror Remix." It's based on his fantastic book by the same title (minus the "remix"). Our men's groups at the church I serve have been studying Ecclesiastes. As I was reading through Morley's table of contents I realized that his book is a modern day Ecclesiastes, without all the despair and with much more help. You should check it out at the following link. And enjoy the video.
Part 1 of The Man in the Mirror Remix
by Pat Morley
Produced by Man in the Mirror Ministries
A few years I read Gordon MacDonald’s book, Rebuilding Your Broken World. After reading only the first chapter I knew I would love it. What compelled me to start reading it was the day-in and day-out observations of ministry. To quote Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” So many folks I know are seemingly hanging on by a thread but just can’t bring themselves to share their desperation with another person. Men are especially vulnerable to this sort of thinking. The consequence, at least one, is that their world is crumbling and they’re trying to handle it alone.
MacDonald’s book is a word of hope and encouragement to folks who find themselves in such a place. We all have broken worlds of one sort or another. MacDonald’s focus is the brokenness that comes from our own doing… or the doing of someone close to us. A broken marriage, family, lost job, etc. This book is written to “broken-world people” by a “broken-world person” who has traveled that road and learned how to rebuild his world. He offers hope to those who desire to do the same.
I heartily recommend this book and encourage you to mark it up with a pen, meditate upon it, and pray over it.
The Fellowship of Ailbe
Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
C.S. Lewis Institute
The Gospel Coalition
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Every Square Inch Ministries
Gene Edward Veith
Center for Cultural Leadership
Church and Culture