Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Gospel Marriage: Conflict, Reconciliation and God's Glory

This is a continuation of a series on how God created marriage to be living picture of the gospel to make us more like Christ and as a witness to the world for the glory of God. We looked at this in terms of how God designed marriage to be a COVENANT similar to Christ’s covenant to us. And we looked at this in terms of HEADSHIP and how God designed the husband to be the servant leader of the home as Christ is servant leader of the Church. In this post we will look at marriage in terms of RECONCILIATION and how God designed both the conflict and reconciliation found in marriage to be a profound picture of Christ’s reconciliation of the Church.  So let’s start with a video. WARNING: some foul language.
If you find any humor in the video above, it’s probably because you’ve “been there”.   The English writer, G.K. Chesterton once said “Marriage is an adventure….like going to war.”  While actor Gary Busey observed, “Marriage is the only war where you sleep with the enemy.”  Sad, but often true. 
marriage counseling anyone?
Marriage can evoke the language of war simply because it can feel like a constant battle. But take heart, even great leaders who have demonstrated the character and patience to lead nations and broker peace agreements in the midst of civil wars like Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, had well-documented conflicts in their own marriages – so we are in good company. Of course, marriages don’t typically start this way but for many couples what begins as a blissful union often devolves into perpetual conflict. Why is this? I believe there are two primary reasons:
1.  the husband.
2.  the wife.
Both are sinners so when the “honeymoon phase” inevitably passes our true nature often emerges and the battle begins. To compound the potential for conflict, generally speaking, men and women are very different. Our culture perpetually pushes the false notion that men and women are the same in every way, but one week of marriage usually debunks that myth. That said, I believe God did make man and woman the same in many ways in that we both share God’s image, and therefore share the same inherent value and worth, but He also made us profoundly different – to His glory. We are physically different, physiologically different and also often very different in the way we think, act, feel, process, communicate. I’m all for equality but in its march for male-female equality the world has jettisoned male-female uniqueness discarding an important element of God’s creative design.
In 1992 John Gray published a book entitled Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus and it was an instant hit – selling over 7 million copies it grew so popular that it even became a television sitcom and a Broadway show. The basic premise of the book was that men and women are so different that they might as well have come from different planets, however understanding and appreciating these differences is the key to unlocking harmony and happiness in the relationship. What a radical concept! Our differences are not to be mocked or blurred but respected and even celebrated. In my own experience I often marvel at how God has gifted my wife with incredible amounts of “emotional intelligence” while I have the social awareness of a cave-man raised by a pack of wolves. I cannot count how many times she has (correctly) pulled me aside and told me how my words or facial expressions might have affected another person – completely unbeknownst to me.
The challenge is that our inherent differences have the potential to create a perfect storm for conflict which is why when I see a husband and wife who live in holy harmony and who have a peaceful home I find myself drawn to them like a moth to light because the glow is so attracting. Is this not what we all seek? Reconciliation in our differences. Unity in a world of diversity. Peace in the midst of conflict.
A few years ago I visited a good friend’s church in upstate New York and was surprised to see so much artwork on display in the hallways. I found that a local artist named Charlotte Blanchard was responsible for the work and the church displayed them in an effort to reach out to the community. The paintings were of natural and serene landscapes and were beautifully done but what struck me the most was not the art but the artist’s statement:
"It's all about detail and contrast coming together and making a pleasing union. I incorporate the solidarity of buildings with the fragility of flowers, light and shadows, bold colors and subdued earth tones, smooth and rough surfaces, dramatic and yet peaceful at the same time and all of this comes together to tell a story. 

It struck me that a gifted artist, someone who makes a living recognizing and expressing beauty in life through her work, would identify the unity found in diversity in life as the ultimate objective in her art. Her stated desire to “tell a story” by showing a “pleasing union” by using contrast is remarkable and I think she is touching upon a profound gospel truth here. I’m convinced that marriage is one of God’s greatest works of art. As the greatest of all artists, I believe God designed marriage to “tell a story” of a “pleasing union” that the world longs for but finds so elusive and that story is the gospel and that union is “Christ and the Church”. Think about it -- unity in diversity is the goal of every marriage and when we see it we are drawn to it and I believe in a small way we see its beauty because in it we see a picture of the triune God Himself (Father, Son & the Holy Spirit)– the ultimate coalescence of unity in diversity. Michelangelo once said that “the true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” He too saw the goal of art as reflecting, albeit imperfectly, a perfect God – a medium upon which man can trace the transcendent.


Where can we find the power of a sublime – even divine – reconciliation? Where points of contrast can be transformed into a picture of coalescence? I am convinced this truly begins when the husband and wife understand that their union was designed by God to be a faithful picture of the gospel, only then can they then move forward in the power of the gospel. To put it simply, the reconciliation found between Christ and the Church was meant to be the model and the motive for the reconciliation, peace and harmony found between a man and his wife.
So let’s connect the dots here. How can we know that Christ’s relationship with the Church should be the model of reconciliation for the husband’s relationship with the wife? The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus is the one who initiates the peace and who is our peace:
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility  - Ephesians 2:14
And it is only by faith in His covenant of love that we can have peace with God:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  –Romans 5:1
And it is only through Christ reconciling us to God, are we enabled and empowered to forgive and also be “ministers of reconciliation”.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  -2 Cor 5:18–19
Christ is our motive...
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  –Eph 4:32
This reconciliation is not only true of marriage, of course, but is prominently displayed in the context of marriage because marriage is one of life’s most fertile ground for conflict. I ran across the blog post a few years ago from a black pastor of a multi-ethnic church who describes the gospel picture of reconciliation found in marriage together so beautifully:
I told a couple I married this summer that their relationship was a grand opportunity for reconciliation.  They came from different backgrounds, in every way.  To start, the husband is African American, the wife Japanese American.  I told them that they didn’t appear to belong together in the eyes of some.  I told them that their relationship was an opportunity to bring together visibly opposing parties.  I tried to tie that into the Christian story because the story is chiefly a narrative about how two parties (estranged and yet full of love) return to one another.  In fact, as I think about it, that theme was in all of my wedding messages this year, with the possible exception of one, because all my marriage ceremonies were interracial.  If marriage is anything it is a community of forgiveness.  A marriage’s success or fruit or longevity is not ground up in the similarity of backgrounds and races of the couple but in the free, liberal, and frequent offering of the hardest thing in the world–forgiveness.
What a powerful expression of what every marriage should ultimately model – the unity in diversity and the beauty of a Christ-like reconciliation. While this display is perhaps magnified within the context of an inter-racial marriage it can certainly be true of any and every marriage that is built upon the glory of the gospel. Every marriage begins with two persons who may share similar interests and values but who come from different families, who have experienced distinct upbringings and are similar and yet so different. Despite being brought into this world at different times and different places these two persons somehow find each other, and although estranged by their inherent differences, ultimately find reconciliation and unity in the midst of their diversity. 


There is gospel beauty in the profound unity in diversity of a biblically-based marriage relationship because in the same way, the gospel begins with two people (Jesus and me) who are similar (Jesus being fully man) and yet so different (Jesus being fully God), who must find one another, be reconciled and build a relationship that is both beautiful and unified. This reconciliation projects a profound picture of the reconciliation found between God (in the person of Jesus) and us. Therefore, we are to live as initiators of peace and be reconciled with one another just as Christ is reconciled with those who believe in Him and enter into covenant relationship with Him. The goal of reconciliation is not just to have peace in the home. The goal of reconciliation transcends this as it pictures the reconciliation found in the gospel of Jesus Christ to the glory of God.
We live in a world where the most common stated reason for divorce is “irreconcilable differences”. Think about this for a moment. If the marriage relationship was created by God to be a beautiful picture of Christ’s reconciling love for the Church – how can we divorce on the basis that our differences cannot be reconciled? We are communicating to a watching world that a reconciling love that is bound to a sacred covenant and entered into by faith can in fact be broken and left unreconciled – when it cannot. Christ would never break His covenant of love with us on this basis and therefore neither should we.
These days the news cycle is being inundated by a video of NFL running back Ray Rice punching his fiancĂ© (now wife) unconscious with a left hook in a casino elevator. It is disturbing to watch and it seems the entire world is inflamed with a righteous anger over this senseless act of brutality and rightfully so. But where does this sense of “wrong” come from? I think a large part of the horror comes from seeing a man treat his wife with such contempt that it contradicts everything marriage is supposed to be about. Christian or not, we all believe that marriage should be marked with love and peace not anger and abuse. I am convinced that when we see this picture profaned we are rocked to our very core and it offers evidence that God, in His goodness, has placed this gospel image in our conscience.

So what is the take-away and application of this truth for my own (or future) marriage?  We will all experience conflict in our marriages, but is our marriage marked by a Christ-like reconciliation or constant strife? Do you seek reconciliation in the midst of conflict? Then you are a model of Christ who reconciled the world to himself. When you are at an impasse are you the one who initiates the peace – even when you are the one who has been “wronged”? If so, you are never more like Christ than you are at that moment – who initiated the peace though we wronged him.
When we are principals of peace in our marriage we are modeling the “Prince of Peace” and moving from “perpetual conflict” to a “pleasing union”. It is here that we shine forth the transcendent and glorious reconciliation found between Christ and His redeemed bride (the Church). And this is what marriage is all about -- illuminating the gospel as husband and wife for His glory and for our good.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Power Tools (A Man's Best Friend)

What is it about men and power tools? Why do we love them so? My theory is that power tools make men feel like pee-pee.  Ummm...not that kind of pee-pee! But "P" as in Practical and "P" as in Powerful. Practical: Because you can accomplish tasks at a fraction of the time and energy of manual tools. Powerful: Because they make you feel drunk with power as you rip through large pieces of wood like a hot knife through butter. Plus - they make loud noises too! Yeah!

I was going to get into the flooring and framing but I think this is a good point to talk about tools. Having the right tools make all the difference in the world. That said, tools are not cheap and power tools are definitely not cheap but if you are buying tools that you know you’ll be using again you do sleep better knowing it was money well spent. I have been blessed enough to live by neighbors that are both generous and have lots of cool tools (great combination!). As with most things you buy, you have to find that happy medium between cost and value and with power tools it’s no different. There are a wide range of opinions on which brand you should buy and while I'm sure some would disagree but based on my amateur opinion, if I had to put brands in a general order of quality I’d probably order it something like this: Dewalt, Bosch, Makita, Hitachi, Craftsman, Black & Decker, Skil, Tool Shop (whatever Chinese brand Harbor Tool Shop is carrying). I'm sure I've left off a few quality brands and the list may vary depending on the tool in question but this is just off the cuff so don’t hold me to it. So let’s start with one of the most basic power tools:

The Power Drill – up until about 6 months ago the only power drill I owned was a Skil. This is a lower end brand and will do the job if you live in a townhome (like we did) and all you’re doing is assembling Ikea furniture but if you want any real torque in your power drills move up. I’ve noticed that professionals/contractors almost exclusively use Dewalt (easily identified by their yellow color). This is a very durable and high-performance brand and your best bet if you’ll be using the tool very frequently and for heavy duty projects but it is pricey. I couldn’t justify spending this much for something I don’t use every day. I did need an upgrade though and noticed a three-piece Bosch power tool set at the clearance rack at Menards and so I was able to get a power drill, circular saw and reciprocating saw (i.e. saw zaw) with 2 lithium ion batteries for about $300 (retails for $500). Score! I’ve been very happy with the purchase. This is virtually a life-long investment so don’t go cheap here. 

The Impact Driver – this is not a have-to-have but boy it is close. This is like a power drill on steroids because it can drive big screws quick and deep unlike any regular power drill. I was fortunate enough to have a neighbor who owned this Milwaukee one which made drilling 4 inch lag screws a piece of cake (or even smaller screws). They are loud and have a hammering effect when they meet resistance on a drill so they don’t strip your screws and get them in very quick. Very tempted to add one of these to my future tool collection because using this tool makes me feel like this:

The Miter (Chop) Saw - You will obviously need saws since you will be cutting lots of wood. Most people have a circular saw but given how much wood you are going to be cutting I would highly recommend a miter saw. This is also called a chop saw but it makes cutting 2x4’s especially for framing MUCH faster and cleaner. It’s also great for making quick angled cuts which you will need for framing roofs.
so easy even a 9 yo can operate!
uhh...make sure the blade is pointed outward
The Jig Saw – this is a tiny saw but it is a must have as well. It can perform almost any cut but where it is most handy is when you are trying to make exact cuts like framing a circular shape in wood to wrap floor boards around a tree. They are not too expensive either, as you can buy a decent one of these for under $50 and it is totally worth it. I went with a Black & Decker since it was only like $30 on Amazon and I’ve been very pleased with performance. FYI – this is a saw you push not pull. I spent the first day trying to pull it towards me and the blade kept popping off. So frustrating! It wasn’t until I went back to the store that I realized I was doing it wrong. I told you I wasn’t handy. You should have seen the look on the Menard’s employees face when I explained my problem to him.
can't do this cut without a jigsaw
Right Angle Square –Not a power tool but you absolutely need one of these. Makes framing much easier as it ensures you are drawing a straight line  since you can rest the beveled edge perpendicular to your cut as it sits at a square 90 degrees. This makes for a straighter cut.  

Screws - Not a power tool again but don’t go cheap here. This is what holds everything together. I found these GRIPFast Gold Triple-Coated screws from 1 3/8 inch to 5 inch screws to be solid and useful for putting up walls to – and no pre-drilling necessary which makes it so easy especially when using an impact driver.  You can get these at Menards for about $11 per box. By the way, these aren't real gold in case anyone gets any ideas about driving over and stealing all my screws. I'm building a treehouse....not recreating Solomon's Temple here!


Oh, I'd also recommend some clamps if you ever plan on working alone. Because I didn't always have someone available to hold stuff while I cut. 


Happy shopping!

Next posting will show you how I built the flooring, framing and ladder!



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Treehouse Project: The Beams and Platform

Patent Pending #0257648891535
In case you missed it, see previous post on why I am building a treehouse HERE. To prove that anyone can build a treehouse I have posted a picture of the only other woodworking project I have completed in my entire life. About 5 years ago I needed a stand for my printer in my office so I built one from scratch. Not to brag, but while I've gone through multiple printers (e.g. Canon, HP, Brother) this stand has outlasted all of them. I’m sure your first thought was “This is most assuredly the workmanship of a skilled Amish craftsman!” I forgive you. 

I share this all in jest of course because who attempts to build a treehouse after building a printer stand like that? I didn’t know where to start so I did quite a bit of research on the interwebs but full disclosure my primary resource in guiding me through this project has been this book (Amazon link HERE). It’s pretty simple read with lots of pics (who doesn't like pics?) but it covers a lot of things you may run into and stresses important things one might overlook. It also contains a lot of creative ideas  - which is the fun part! I highly recommend it as a basic guide. Lastly, my advice to anyone attempting to build a treehouse is “plan ahead but expect the unexpected and be flexible”.  Every tree and treehouse is different, and almost nothing goes exactly as planned so get ready to use your power drill clockwise (to assemble) and counterclockwise (to undo mistakes).

The Beams, Wood and Hardware
So the most important part of a treehouse are the beams. You cannot skimp on this part because this is what will be bearing the weight of your house (and your children!) and so it must be done right. As Jesus said, it’s better to build on rock than sand or the house will come tumbling down (i.e. your foundation matters!). I decided to go with two 2’x6’ beams on each side of the tree. The two oak trees I was securing the beams on are about 7 feet apart. If the beams were spanning much more than that I would have went with 2’x8’ beams but combining two pieces of wood is much stronger than going with one thicker piece (4’x6’) because two distinct cuts of lumber will have varying weak spots making the combined piece stronger overall. Yes, King Solomon was right when he said: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:12) The two pieces are secured by 4" galvanized carriage bolts secured with washer and nut on the other side (single bolt on right).  Don't skimp and not get galvanized. This is a non-negotiable. You don’t want water rusting your bolts over time and your structure is only as strong as the bolts holding them. For the screws I went with two ½” thick by 7 inch long galvanized lag screws and washers on each side for attaching the main beams to the trunks. This would ensure that even after going through the two pieces of wood there would be a good 3-4 inches embedded into the hardwood of that solid oak tree. 

level is key!
Now before you affix it to the tree you have to make sure that everything is level both across the beam and between both beams. Though time-consuming this step is very important because if it is not consistently level throughout the base the weight will not be distributed evenly and the final structure will be more susceptible to collapse. Don't trust your eyes! The leveler does not lie. I also highly recommend getting pressure-treated wood at least for the beams and platform. Water is wood’s worst enemy and so getting pressure treated wood will make everything last much longer than untreated wood will. Yes, it looks uglier (greenish tint), yes, it costs more, and yes, it weighs more but it is well worth the investment in the long run.

The Platform
The size of the platform will depend on the strength of the tree and the design of the house. I wanted to make it as big as possible without compromising safety and so the platform spans about 9x12 - stretching short of 2 feet beyond each trunk. That’s over 100 SF suspended over 10 feet in the air. Plenty big. I used pressure-treated 2x6 wood for this as well and doubled up the perimeter for additional strength and stability. The biggest challenge was calculating how far away from the tree the platform could span before requiring additional support. I’m trying not to use additional posts as it starts to feel less like an authentic treehouse and more like an elevated house next to a tree. Well, there’s no exact science to this but I went about 3.5 feet beyond the trees on each side.

Since at this time it was just me and my cousin Young working on this we weren’t quite sure how we were going to get the platform up and on to the main beams. We thought it would be easier to build the platform leaning up against the beams so we could just slide it up when complete. We used a 6 ft ladder to help us prop up the frame while we screwed it together. It wasn’t until after we finished this and were getting ready to hoist it up that we realized the ladder had become permanently affixed to the frame.
Do not try this at home...
Doh!! Like I said “expect the unexpected”. We unscrewed one corner and slid it out and tried again. We quickly found that with the frame doubled up on perimeter and with joists running across it was now too heavy to hoist 8 feet up. Mind you, we are both very strong men. =) 

pulleys are the best!
We had already set up some pulleys on each side to hoist the main beams and so we tied ropes around one end and my cousin got on the lower side and used the ropes like a cable crossover machine. Meanwhile, I was on the other end pushing the platform up as if I was doing a clean and jerk lift. Now imagine two out-of-shape men squeezing every aiota of strength out of their middle-aged bodies to get this platform up. I'm pretty sure we scared all the crows out of all the trees in a 3 mile radius when we released the primitive screams reminiscent of an olympic power-lifter....

Success!

However, when the platform was placed above the beams we noticed it would tip if there was too much weight on one side. To mitigate this we secured deck ties between the joists and main beams. After doing this I could stand on the edge with zero movement. 
deck ties galore

But just to make sure I also put in some corner braces at a 45 degree angle in each corner. Again, this is primarily to support the platform from tipping if there was too much weight on one side - highly recommended if you are going more than 2 feet over the beam.


Next week I’ll point out the essential  power tools you’ll need, how we put in the floors and also show the beginning stages of framing the treehouse. 
framing chapter next!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Gospel Treehouse (and other DIY thoughts)

So for those that did not know - we bought a bank foreclosure last winter out in “the country”. We weren't in the market for a new home but had been thinking it would be nice to have more room and an actual yard especially since we home-schooled and would utilize a home and yard more than most families. Well, last October we were at Kim’s sister’s place and we spent the night in their home out in the country. My brother-in-law Kurt is an amazing landscaper and arborist and they have a beautiful home that forces you to unwind and appreciate God’s creative beauty and so the whole family has always enjoyed visiting them. I’ve posted a pic below of their place so you don’t have to use your imagination.


Anyways, despite the peaceful setting, I woke up at 2am that night in their home and couldn’t fall back asleep so I opened up my iPad and perused through Zillow to assuage my boredom. Long story short, I happened upon a listing for a bank foreclosure that was only two miles from their home that made quite an impression on me – especially at the listed price. So at the break of dawn I whisked over there and walked around the outside (i.e. the inside was locked up) and I must say I instantly fell in love. The pictures did not do it justice. After some prayer on whether we should move forward, a hot and heavy multiple bidding process ensued but God graciously provided and we moved in during polar vortex #2 (or was it #3?). The home is far more than we could have ever dreamed of – especially considering we lived in a small townhome for 9 years prior with no yard. It’s a bit of a shocker to go from managing one small hanging plant on our back deck to managing 2+ acres and a private pond but who am I to complain….God is good!

Hammer wins....again.
But while God is good, I am not good...at handyman stuff. In fact, we used to have a guy named Dean do a lot of handyman work in our old townhouse because the only tools I knew how to use were a hammer and a drill and as you can see from my thumb even operating a hammer can be challenging at times. True story: when Caleb was three years old he once saw a light bulb go out and he immediately yelled, “Call Dean!”. But, anyone can change and if necessity is the mother of invention, than frugality is the mother of motivation. In other words, when I saw all that needed to be done at our new home I became very motivated when I realized I could do it myself for ¼ the cost of a professional. However, my wife and I have learned that there are few rigid mathematical proofs when it comes to DIY ("Do It Yourself") projects: 

Proof #1: DIY = contractor cost x 0.25
Proof #2: DIY = contractor time x 10
Proof #3: DIY = contractor quality x 0.125

But all men can focus on is Proof #1: "I can do it myself for 1/4 the cost! AND use these incredible cost savings to get some cool power tools for future projects!" (grunting and scratching and loss of all rational thought ensues here)  While wives tend to focus on proof #2: "Are you planning on painting the other half of the room?" and Proof #3: "Aren't doors supposed to close all the way?" Details! Details! Joking aside, I think people are drawn to home improvement and extreme home make-over shows  because they are innately drawn to the gospel. Think about it. You are taking something that is typically old, broken and dilapidated. And you are infusing undeserved love and sacrificial devotion into it. And in that process you transform it into something new, beautiful and whole. There is something that feels so good and right about that and if that isn’t the story of the gospel….I don’t know what is.  
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come." -2 Cor 5:17
Anyways, I may post some of my other DIY projects I’ve been working on here in the future but this post is dedicated to my treehouse. So one of the things I immediately noticed on my first walk around the home back in the fall were two beautiful oak trees standing nearly 40 feet tall. When I was in high school I used to attend a youth group at a church called “Twin Oaks” which was named after a verse in Isaiah: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isa 61:3b - NIV)”  For some reason when I looked at these trees I thought of that verse and felt a treehouse just belonged here.  To give you some context this exact passage was actually quoted by Jesus when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth and unfurls the scroll of Isaiah in Luke 4.  I find it interesting that he specifically chose this passage to inaugurate his earthly ministry. Why? Because it prophesied his earthly mission -- a mission which contains a beautiful message of hope for the lost and the broken:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearterd, to proclaim liberty to the captives...to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.  -Isaiah 61:2-3 (ESV)
Jesus is in the business of finding that which is lost. Freeing that which is imprisoned. Restoring that which is broken. This is quite simply what he does and he does it for his glory and for our good. Praise him.

Not my childhood treehouse....but close.
I should also mention that this isn’t my first treehouse project. When I was 12 years old I attempted to build a treehouse with a neighborhood buddy named Steve. It was a frightening conglomeration of rusty nails, graying scrap wood and splintered lumber and probably a civil engineer’s worst nightmare but hey it was our own leaning tower, we built it, dang it, and had a lot of great memories in that creaky mess! So why not give my kids some great memories to build on as well (sans the splinters and myriad safety hazards)? I made the mistake of telling my 6 year old girl a few months ago that I planned on building a treehouse and she made me promise that I would do it this summer (and asks me almost daily when it will be done). So despite a long list of other projects awaiting (like putting covers on our electrical outlets) the treehouse project has nevertheless begun. 

I hope it's a source of great memories for my children...
I hope it reminds us that our home must be built upon the greatest "oak of righteousness"....
I hope it creates a joy and a longing for the greatest restoration project in the history of the universe...

....the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Next week I’ll share how I laid down the main beams (the most important part!), joists and flooring. If you're interested... =)

Peace of Christ,

Peter & Kim

Thursday, June 12, 2014

If Dads Only Knew...


Who would have thought that a Dove commercial would inspire me to write a poem? In honor of the upcoming Father's Day....

If Dads Only Knew....

If dads only knew the power they possess,
To inspire a child's heart and to bring out their best.

If dads only knew that it's not gifts of great privilege,
But his talks and his touches that shape a self-image.

If dads only knew that a child's "God" perception,
Is formed by modeling our Father in Heaven.

If dads only knew the dark forces against him.
You take down the family. You take down a nation.

If dads only knew that they're just stewards from birth,
Of what belongs to God only and what belonged to Him first.

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" -1 John 3:1

Monday, April 21, 2014

THE GOSPEL MARRIAGE: Headship, Submission and Marriage Roles

Happy 13th Anniversary to the love of my life! In honor of this, I'm posting on the controversial topic of marriage roles and what the Oscar’s, Dancing with the Stars, and Homer Simpson have to do with marriage, the gospel and the glory of God. This is a continuation of a series on marriage and the gospel and how God created both for our good and for His glory. Please see previous entries here
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With three young children I don’t have a lot of time to watch movies so I often use the Oscars as a litmus test to deem what might be worthy of my time and money.  When a film wins Best Picture and Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor/Actress I feel confident it’s worth watching not only because I know it tells a great story but those chosen to tell the story tell it well.  That said, one of my all-time favorite movies is Glory. Not only is the historical narrative of a black Civil War regiment so powerful but Matthew Broderick and supporting actors Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington give incredible performances and complement each other so well. I’ve realized in every good film each actor has a distinct role whether it is the lead, supporting or other, and the story is best told when each actor/actress embraces their unique role with excellence to propel the story which is the biggest star. In short, the glory is the story.

So what does all this have to do with marriage? Well, just as in every great film or story a director or author chooses different characters to play a unique role I believe the same is true of God and marriage. It may have little to do with who is better fitted or who deserves a certain role and more to do with honoring the role the Producer/Director (God Himself) has given. At the end of the day, it’s not about the actors – it’s about the story and no one loves telling stories more than God (author of best-selling book of all time) and just as He has chosen certain men and women in the Bible to display his glory by telling His story I believe He has also given every husband and wife that same privilege through His creation of marriage. So what are our God-given roles and what is the God-given story? Ephesians 5 tells us:  

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. -Ephesians 5:22-25

These verses usually trigger a visceral reaction from people and are often criticized as old-fashioned at best and misogynistic at worst but embracing these roles has nothing to do with preserving a tradition and everything to do with proclaiming a truth. When the husband assumes his role of Christ in the marriage serving his wife through humble leadership and sacrifice and when the wife assumes her role of the Church volitionally supporting her husband’s leadership the world witnesses the wisdom and beauty of God’s design.  These verses are far more than Paul dispensing practical marriage advice.  He is describing God-given roles for a God-given purpose to tell a God-given story -- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As difficult as it may be there are practical implications when marriage is done God’s way. I am convinced that the added benefit is that when each embraces their respective role marriages are generally happier and healthier. Husbands feel honored and respected and wives feel loved and cherished. God has done this both for His glory and for our good.

Unfortunately, we now live in a world that mocks our differences and unique roles and sadly much of this criticism is well-deserved. With more fatherless homes than ever, men have often failed miserably (myself included) to love and lead their wives and families as Christ loves the Church and so what we now have as cultural symbols for husbands are bumbling idiots like Al Bundy, Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson, etc.  Sadly, sometimes “Christian” husbands are the worst. Kent Hughes says it well:

“God’s Word in the hands of a religious fool can do immense harm. I have seen “couch potatoes” who order their wives and children around like the grand sultan of Morocco – adulterous misogynists with the domestic ethics of “Jabba the Hut” who cow their wives around with Bible verses about submission – insecure men whose wives do not dare go to the grocery without permission, who even tell their wives how to dress. But the fact that evil, disordered men have perverted God’s Word is no reason to throw it out.” –Kent Hughes in Ephesians

Let’s face it – men have a sinful bent for being selfish and proud and have generally failed to love and lead. Look no further than the Garden of Eden and notice Adam’s conspicuous absence in Eve’s encounter with the serpent.  Perhaps in response to this failure, women are now encouraged to live a life completely independent of a man with little desire to respect or yield to anyone else as a leader of the household. Couple this with a wives sinful bent to rule over her husband (which also originated at the Garden of Eden (Gen  3:16b) and it’s no wonder why it’s so difficult to find a gospel picture in marriages the way God intended.

However, imagine a gentle husband who loves his wife so much that he constantly puts her needs before his own – even his very life; a man who leads her, not by invoking his sacred authority for his own selfish gain or to stroke his fragile ego, but by serving and protecting her with humility, strength and courage. Now imagine a beautiful bride who willingly sets aside her own selfish desires to control or manipulate and volitionally yields herself to this loving husband by choosing to respect and honor him and by yielding to his humble servant leadership. While the controversial topic tends to generate more heat than light in the Church, I am convinced that this type of union and dynamic between a husband and the wife is one of the most profound real-life pictures of the gospel.  

What is Biblical Submission?
These are hard words. So how are we to understand submission in the context of Scripture and within the context of my life? The apostle Paul tells us:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. -1 Corinthians 11:3
The first thing one should notice from this verse is that no one escapes the calling to submit. Not women (who are to submit to their husbands). Not men (who are to submit to Christ). Not even Christ himself (who submits to God the Father).  And so the moment a Christian (man or woman) claims they are above “submission” they imply they are above Christ Himself who joyfully submitted to the will and authority of the Father.  The beauty of all this is that in Christ we see perfect examples for both the husband and wife to follow.  

The word “submission” admittedly has become an ugly term in today’s vernacular but as defined and demonstrated by God it is a beautiful thing. Because our culture has so distorted its biblical definition in some ways it’s easier to define by describing what it is not: submission is not a blind obedience to power. It does not forfeit your God-given personality or marginalize a voice or an opinion. It does not excuse or tolerate abuse of power nor is it a sign of inferiority or weakness. Rather, it is quite the opposite because it takes great strength to submit –supernatural strength at times.  

NOT...biblical submission.
Biblical submission is not about one member forcing their will upon the other like a wrestler executing a crippling hold. The beauty and power of biblical submission is that the one who submits does it completely on their own volition and by their own will.  Jesus modeled this in His own prayers when he taught the disciples to pray “thy [the Fathers’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And perhaps the greatest test of this prayer and it's most seminal moment came in the crush of Gethsemane (Mt 26:39) where with blood, sweat and tears Jesus prayed, “…not my will, but your will.” His arm was not twisted by the Father. His was a unilateral yielding of his own volition by faith. We are all called to this type of biblical submission; just as Christ submitted to the Father - husbands are called to submit to Christ and wives to their husbands as they submit to Christ. In obeying this command by faith we are being like Christ….for Christ. We are modeling Jesus’ beautiful submission to the Father to our spouse, our children, and to a watching world for the glory of Jesus.  

What is Biblical Love?
This one is much easier to define and yet much harder to execute. Biblical love is not a touchy-feely, uncommitted whimsical selfish love. It is a self-sacrificing (1 Jn 3:16), life-long, covenant-bound love. It is a love as pictured by the life and death of Jesus and as defined by His Word. As 1 Corinthians 13 states it is a love that is “patient and kind – not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude”. Husbands are called to lead with this kind of love, and in the same way his leadership should not “insist on his on his own way” or be “irritable or resentful” if or when the wife disagrees with him. This is the love and leadership Jesus himself modeled.  

I saw a recent video of Bubba Watson after he won this year's Masters. Two minutes into the interview Bubba begins to talk about life, his faith and the Christ-like role model he tries to play for his family which I found so refreshing and which I believe captures the spirit of the role God calls fathers and husbands to assume.


With that said, I have intentionally refrained from providing specific examples of what these marriage roles might look like in more narrow terms because I believe it may look different for every marriage as every man and woman is unique (although I will attempt to flesh out what this dynamic might look like in future posts). Ultimately these roles are not about determining who plays the family breadwinner, or who wins unilateral decision-making authority. It’s so much bigger than this. It’s about believing by faith that God has a design for marriage because His desire is to project a picture in and through it - the picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love for the Church (His bride).   

So what happens when a couple follows God’s order and design? One of my wife’s favorite shows is “Dancing with the Stars” and although there are many other ways I’d prefer to spend an hour, I must admit seeing each aspiring couple rise to the challenge of performing their routine in front of a live audience is exciting. But the truth is it only works when three things happen:  when the man knows how to lead, when the woman follows his lead and when both dance in rhythm to the music. When these three things come together even an old curmudgeon like myself can find something inherently beautiful in it. In the same way, when the wife supports her husband’s leadership, when the husband leads as a servant as Jesus modeled, and when both are in rhythm with God’s word and in sync with the Spirit – the world is witnessing a powerful picture of Christ and the Church and God receives glory.

Many of us vastly underestimate the power we possess in our marriage relationship to model this Gospel picture and communicate this Gospel story. I mean how much of a difference can two people make in a world that is so broken? Looking back at my own spiritual journey I realized that although I had grown up in a loving Christian home it wasn’t until I was in high school and met my youth pastor and his wife that I saw this dynamic in play. I saw the way he treated his wife and kids – humble, gentle and sacrificial in the way he led. And I saw the way she treated him – respectful and honoring in the way she trusted his leadership of the home and I was inexplicably drawn to that. I was only a young teenager and at the time I didn’t really understand what I was seeing but I knew I wanted it in my own life and in my own marriage someday [though admittedly still a work in progress]. Only now do I realize that I was actually witnessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ embodied in the union between a husband and wife – the way God intended it to be. I am convinced that this, more than anything else, is ultimately what drew me into a relationship with Christ and a saving faith.

I understand that this post can be a frustrating read for some married couples. What if my husband cannot or will not lead our home? What if my wife won’t support my leadership or is a more capable leader? What if feeling loved or respected matters little to my wife or husband?  What is this really supposed to look like in the 21st century?

These are good questions and I won’t pretend to have all the answers. It will require great faith in God’s word – and faith that at the end of every difficult command is a promised blessing. The truth is neither role is easy. Who wants to support a leader that doesn’t lead well? Who among us are qualified to love and lead like Christ loves the Church? But by faith we obey these commands we are being “like Christ…for Christ”. He is our model and our motive – not our spouse. That said, God has given each spouse great power. Even when only one party plays his/her role, by faith, I believe it has the power to transform the heart of the other by “sanctifying them “ (Eph 5:25-26) or even “winning them over” (1Pet 3:1) to Christ.

Only with a gospel model in marriage, can we fully understand and appreciate that the biblical headship model was not just an arbitrary decision or a practical “tie-breaker” but was created to project a physical picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church, and this is most profoundly pictured when both husband and wife play their parts. When this happens God, the master story-teller, uses the marriage to re-enact the drama of the Gospel.  What a privilege to participate in the most compelling drama and redemptive story ever told. May we tell His story and may we tell it well. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Seeing Jesus in Tangled

At the risk of turning in my man-card I confess I watched Tangled again for the umpteenth time with my kids last night. I share this because every time I watch it I see the Gospel through and through
  • the redemption of a lost child 
  • the resurrection of the dead 
  • the restoration of a kingdom.
I love the scene when Rapunzel has her epiphany and realizes all the signs that were always around her which declares her identity, where she came from, who she is and who she belongs to.


She is from a kingdom she has never seen. She is a child of the King. She is dearly loved and missed. God has given us His Word as the ultimate declaration of His love for us. But the entire universe proclaims this truth as well. (Ps 19:1)



“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers clouds and stars.” –Martin Luther