Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

May the Lord of Glory fill you with His unbreakable joy and love as you celebrate His birth!

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We've Moved!

As of today, Pure Church has moved over to The Gospel Coalition as one of the blogs now hosted there.

Here's the new address:

UPDATE: Your feeds should automatically be updated thanks to the tech gurus at The Gospel Coalition. Your feed should update automatically with posts, etc.

If you've been so kind as to follow the blog in through blogger or another means, would you please take a moment to check whether that's working? Also, would you take moment to update your blogroll if you've had PureChurch listed? I'd love to continue to stay in touch.

If you haven't included PureChurch in your reader or blogroll, I'm not bitter. Really, I'm not. This would be a great time to add it if it's at all beneficial to your soul.

I'm excited about this move for a number of reasons:

1. I believe in the work The Gospel Coalition is attempting in bringing together brothers of like precious faith around a robust confession of the gospel. I have the privilege of being a member of the council, and I'm hopeful the Lord will surprise us all with many good things to His glory through the cooperation. We can do more together than we can apart.

Here's a little something on why I think the Coalition is helpful:

2. I get to link virtual arms with other bloggers at the Coalition who have benefited my soul for a while now. I'm fans of Justin Taylor, Ray Ortlund, Tim Challies' Ten Million Words, and Kevin DeYoung. They are now guilty by association with me, but I'm the richer for it.

3. I'm no technophobe, but I'm also no tech whiz. The design and tech team at The Coalition have been outstanding and I think that'll make the blog more useful, or at least more pleasing aesthetically. Matthew Taylor and Joshua Sowin have been wonderful to work with. Check it out and let me know what you think.

4. In time, there may be a few sponsors who appear on the right in the sidebar. I'm happy for the opportunity to commend worthy causes and resources. And I'm happy that this is a small way I may be able to generate a little revenue for both the Coalition and the local church I love most: First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman.

Well, I should end by wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas as you ponder and treasure the Savior's birth. May the Lord bless you richly as you look to Him!


12 Days of Chrismas--Acapella Remix!

This is fun:

HT: Shane

Calvinist Confessions, 3

I am a Calvinist. And I am a Pharisee. Apparently, there are others like me.

As a "Calvinist," I treasure the Bible's truths about the glory of God and Christ; the good, wise and sovereign rule of God in all things; the efficacy of God's electing grace and Jesus' definite atonement; the hope that comes from God's preservation and the call to perseverance; the present and coming-more-fully kingdom of Christ where righteousness reigns; and the promised share of His glory we'll experience in the consummation. I treasure these things, as I know a lot of people do.

But I'm also a Pharisee. I tend toward a kind of care for detail and precision, toward "getting things right," that undermines catholicity and charity (see here). As a Pharisee, I also find myself suspicious of a lot of things, including joy (see here). Tight and sober. Suspicious and narrow. Pharisee.

Most of my Calvinist friends maintain that of all Christians Calvinists should be the most joyful and the most humble. We should be. We're not. I'm not. Let me not project.

Merely analyzing the truth doesn't make us humble. Neither does merely being suspicious make us safe with the truth. Pharisees think analyzing and suspecting are enough. And so, in time, the Pharisee's life becomes almost entirely negative. It's negative in attitude. But it's negative also because it's negating; it's a "contra-" life, a life a being against things.

But we have to defend against error. We have to guard the truth. We must protect the gospel. I know. I know. Pharisee.

There's something else that makes me a Pharisee. It underlies most of the other things that turn celebrants of Truth into gnat-straining Pharisees. Here's the third reason I'm a Pharisee and Calvinist, or, another reason why those two things happen together far more often than they should. The Pharisee in the Calvinist... is afraid. Fear loiters in his heart and mind like a senior feeding pigeons in Central Park.

The Pharisee lives with a chronic fear. That's why the Reformed types are so often the 'chicken littles' of the Christian world--running everywhere, writing everywhere, screaming everywhere, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" And even when we're not as manic as that, we're quietly, respectfully afraid. Just like the Pharisees of old.

We're afraid someone will take our place--the "others" who don't believe this, who don't practice that, or worse, who do practice that! Not them! We're afraid the church will be weakened and corrupted, that tares will grow up with the wheat. We're afraid our own hollow spiritual lives will be discovered. We're afraid our children won't be believers or won't do well in school (and we're more afraid of the latter than the former). We're afraid the culture is going to get worse and overrun the church. We're afraid of men's faces.

Fear, fear, fear. Everywhere there is fear.

But didn't Jesus say the wheat and tare would grow together? Didn't He say the love of many would grow cold? Didn't the Savior say there would be wolves and false Christs and deceivers? Of course He did. But the Pharisee says in his heart, "Yes, Lord. Of course, you're right. I believe that. Let me just remove this one little tare or patch of tares over here." The Pharisee is not only afraid, he's also blind. I can't tell the wheat from the tares; the Lord's angels will one day stick the sickle in the harvest to reap. But I don't remember that because we're afraid.

Then the Pharisee speaks: "But what if that takes too long? What if bad things happen in the meantime? What if... what if... what if...." Pharisee.

Pick an issue. My first response is fear, not faith. I don't call it "fear"; I call it "concern." That's more respectable. And who is respectable if not the Pharisee. And even when I do call it "fear," I pretend I mean something other than being afraid. Gotta keep my head up; I'm a Pharisee.

And this is why Pharisaical tendencies make us such bad Calvinists (by which I mean Christians, though not as if Calvinists are the only Christians). The scared little Pharisee in me is a practical atheist. He acts as though the truth I know about God really isn't at work. And it's a nasty little cycle. My fear that God won't act--at least how I want Him to act--causes me to act in my own wisdom or strength. Which then makes me afraid all the more. And so it goes until I'm wrapped and squeezed by an Anaconda of fear. The Pharisee.

Before I was a Calvinist, I suppose you could call me a semi-Pelagian, Arminian, dispensationalist. I suppose. I didn't have the labels then, but that's a fair sense of how I thought and acted. Not everyone wearing those labels thought this way, but I acted as though everything depended on me. My action in the world was the determining factor--whether that meant I had to be especially insightful and convincing in something like evangelism or Johnny wouldn't "get saved," or whether I had to "keep myself saved" in some way. My theology was bad. And my chief fear then was, what if I fail.

Then I discovered this mighty God on whom the governance of the universe rests. He was pleased to use means--human and otherwise--but He was the One ruling and guaranteeing the success of His will. How liberating that was! So I was freed from the fears associated with my performance.

But I wasn't freed from being a Pharisee. I just chose other fears. Excuse me, other "concerns." The kind of concerns that keep me employed as a Pharisee for as long as I would like, because, let's face it, there's no shortage of things to be "concerned" about. I can point out problems everywhere. I'm a Pharisee.

But the problem with Pharisees is they feel their fear and they fail to do anything constructive.

So I am "concerned" and not serving. I am afraid and not loving. I am "aghast" rather than empathetic. I am "hesitant" rather than enthusiastic. I am "alarmed" rather than steadfast. I'm an expert in fear and its synonyms. I can think of seventeen synonyms right now.

But how many synonyms for "grace" or "trust" can I count? Pharisee. How many can you count?

I am a Pharisee. Hear me roar--in fear.

In the end, the Pharisee is a silly man, a silly contradiction to the Calvinist. Fear? Really? Look upon Jesus the King you silly little man! Look to the Lord of glory!

What is this new fad you're up in arms about? What is this new "movement" causing your temperature to rise? What is this weakness in your life and your church making your shoulders tense? What threat over the horizon really is a threat to the Risen King and Ruler of All Creation who defeated death, pushed back the grave, and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church?

Why are you afraid, O my soul? Why are you timorous, O my soul? My soul, I will look to the Lord who counsels "Be not afraid for I am with you."

I am a Calvinist, and I am an afraid Pharisee. I shouldn't be. What I need is a fresh glimpse of Jesus. The One I need to fear is God alone.

I'm reminded of another Calvinist (speaking anachronistically, of course) who faced fears and terror everywhere--real ones. But he glimpsed Jesus. And he spoke, "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" (Deut. 10:12-13)

O, Father, grant that perfect love would cast out all fear as we live for you and reverence your holy Name.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

CT Quadruplets Get a Wonderful Yale Christmas

This is a nice Christmas story. Quadruplets in Connecticut become the first quads to be admitted to Yale University.

The Crouches’ perfect batting average represents a first for Yale — the first time in anyone’s memory that it has offered admission to quadruplets. It is also, of course, no small milestone for the siblings, who were born more than two months premature. (Ray was the last to be released from the neonatal unit, more than four months later.)

They made up for that rough start. Their class rankings range from 13 out of a class of 632 (Kenny) to 46 (Martina) — and they have sky-high SAT scores (including Carol’s perfect 800 on the verbal part of that exam).

The Homeschool Family: Theme Song

We're a homeschool family. I had a good laugh at the parody here. Good parody builds on a germ of truth, doesn't it?

Calvinist Confessions, 2

I am a Calvinist. And I am a Pharisee. This shouldn't be the case, but it is. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in getting better.

Last time I tried to reflect on how a certain "bent" toward precision, accuracy, concern for detail seems to blend together with the rich exacting resources of Reformed theology and history to make Pharisees of those who lose sight of the object of our attention and affection: Jesus. If you care more about "getting it right" than you care about "getting close to Jesus," then you'll drift toward the Pharisees. You'll swallow a camel and strain a gnat.

But let me not project onto you the things that happen in my heart and head. I am bent toward all those things, and I lose sight of Jesus too often and for too long.

I'm a Pharisee. And I'm a Calvinist. And I'm told and believe those two things don't belong together. But why do they so often come together, like a dark prize hidden in the Cracker Jacks of the faith?

Here's the second reason I'm a Pharisee and Calvinist, or, another reason why those two things happen together far more often than they should. The Pharisee and the Calvinist are both suspicious.

Now I'm suspicious of a lot of things, but I'll just mention one. I'm suspicious of joy. Yep. Now, not my joy. That's another problem.

No. Like a good Pharisee, other people's joy makes me nervous. Not all people. Just those people who don't express their joy the precise way I think they should. You see, without the "appropriate bounds" their joy just may make them careless, lead them to error, hurt the church and cause of Christ. Their joy is combustible; it's dangerous. It's enthusiasm and flights of fancy that need to ballast of sobriety and sound theology.

You see, that bent toward intellectual and precise things, that concern to "get it right," sometimes leads us to suspect and question mirth, lightness, or merriment because those emotions appear too close to "trivial" for the Pharisee. If I'm serious about the truth, how can I be joyful?

I say to myself, perhaps you say to yourself, not out loud, of course: "All these happy people--happy about everything but the Truth, giving themselves to their happy little pursuits, singing loudly and clapping their hands, enthusiastic about everything--can't be trusted. They are to be suspected. They're to be watched carefully and 'taught'."

I know. I know. Teaching is good. Teaching is essential. Teaching guides the emotions. Teaching is commanded. Pharisee.

Didn't Jesus warn us of the Pharisee's teaching? For good reason. I wonder if for some of us "teaching" is simply another word for "behavioral modification," for "rehabilitation," for "re-education," for "concentration camp." People must be "taught"--by which we mean made to see everything just as I do. Pharisee.

I am a Calvinist, and I am a Pharisee. I've been "taught". Sometimes "taught" right out of joy.

Don't get me wrong. I know that joy may be expressed in all kinds of ways. I know the strong, silent type doesn't express his/her joy like the naturally outward and gregarious type. And I know that joy itself has many flavors--jubilant, quiet, solemn, tearful, and so on. But Pharisees like me only trust the quiet, solemn types. If joy gets too loud, it needs to be silenced. Pharisees like it quiet.

But then there is my good friend, C.J. Ah... there's "Reformed" spelled "p-a-r-t-y!" I love that brother! He dots all my "i's" and crosses all my "t's". So, his joy is okay. Cool, even. But he is an exception, of course, because I'm a Pharisee.

Also there is my good friend, Mark. If you think C.J. is the life of the party and Mark is a sour puss, you don't know Mark. About as silly, giddy, happy, optimistic, bright and joyful a man as you'll ever meet. Don't let the "SBC" or "Calvinist" labels fool you. Those labels are like the FBI warnings on your rented video or the "do not remove" tags on your mattress. Mark is a big... excuse me, slim ball of joyful energy. His love for the truth, like C.J., and Al and Lig' and Piper and R.C. and so many others, leads them to joy! Have you ever heard these men laugh? It's rowdy! They're serious men. And (I almost wrote "But"; you see the problem?) they're joyful men.

But not me. Not the Pharisee.

When did I become suspicious of joy? I mean joy is what the angels announce for crying out loud! (Luke 2:10)

Some of my oldest friends, going back to high school and college, would describe me as "silly." I know. I know. What happened to that guy?

Well, he got saved and he started with joy; then he turned into a Pharisee.

Now, I've always been serious. Really. Always. Ask my mom. She still tells family and friends about how my friends used to come over to play, and rather than play with them, I'd connect the Atari (now that's ol' school) to the TV and then go into my room and read. From my early teens, I've been the family counselor. I'm an old soul, born with a veil over his face (little family superstition, there), and serious.

But I used to be fairly joyful, too. I think. Maybe. You see... I can't remember. Perhaps you're like me. It's been so long since you've had a sustained life of joy, you can't remember the last time you were joyful. As a disposition not an episode. Do you remember? Having a joyful disposition for a long time?

Maybe you're a Pharisee, or a Pharisee in the making. Stop before it goes too far. Get happy. Now don't get serious about joy. Just get joyful. Or else you'll be a Pharisee. Like me.

The Pharisee lacks joy because he lacks Jesus. I don't mean Pharisees like me aren't Christians. I am I trust. I mean "the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (Matt. 13:44). There's something implicit in this parable that if not made explicit leaves room for my inner Pharisee. What do you suppose the man did after he bought the field? The Pharisee doesn't go on to imagine the answer. The joyful do. In his joy the man sold all and purchase the field so that he might possess and enjoy the Treasure therein. We may lack Jesus by not enjoying Jesus, by not coming into His presence where there is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore.

The Calvinist knows this. The Pharisee forgets this. Feed the Calvinist and strangle the Pharisee.

There once was a Calvinist (speaking anachronistically, of course), who was not himself a Pharisee but dealt with them a lot. He prayed for joy--my joy and yours. Here's how He prayed, "I am coming to you [the Father] now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them" (John 17:13). Let that sit with you. The Savior prayed for what the Calvinist Pharisee needs: the full measure of His joy.

Dear Sovereign Lord, the Joy of the world, let us know you, and thereby grant our heavy hearts liberating joy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Calvinist Confessions, 1

I'm a Pharisee. And I'm a Calvinist.

Those things should not go together. But they do in far too many instances. The Calvinist should be the last to become a Pharisee. Our theology should keep us humble. Or, so we're told.

But I'm a Pharisee. And I'm a Calvinist. Which means I'm a bad Calvinist.

Here's the first reason I'm a Pharisee and Calvinist, or, one reason why those two things happen together far more often than they should. The Pharisee and the Calvinist are both exacting persons. They care about precision, about "getting things right." They care about the letter because each believes getting the letter correct is important. And it is.

So, there is this "bent" toward intellectual things. There is this tendency to live in our heads. And when that meets with a theological tradition as rich and robust as the Reformed tradition, sparks fly--in our heads. Add to that a pinch of argumentative spirit and out comes the Pharisee.

But you know what's lost? The spirit, or the Spirit. Sometimes both. The letter kills. That's what happens with us Calvinist Pharisees.

In my particular case, the letter became pretty important once I realized I had spent a few years of my life giving praise to an idol. Once I realized I had believed a lie and bowed to a god who was not God, well getting things correct theologically became desperately important. Who wants to "get it wrong" in the things of God? I certainly didn't any longer.

I didn't know it, but I began the Christian life with this impulse that could either help me grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and/or push me into peevish, narrow, gnat straining regard for "getting it right." I've experienced both in my Christian life. The difference is made by where you're aiming: those who aim at knowing Jesus escape so much pharisee-ism; those that aim at "getting it right" become so much more Pharisaical.

Perhaps you're like me. You've had some experience that's left you zealous for getting it right. You love the Book in part because you love parsing things, dissecting them, weighing them, identifying what is wanting, tossing the chaff and holding onto the wheat. There's a joy that comes from discovery--and refutation. Soon, you're proud you're not "one of those publicans" that explains the Trinity in loose language, that balks at giving various views of the atonement, that's read the latest book from one of "those authors." "Lord," you pray, "I work to get it right. I avoid mistakes. I protect your word. I'm not like those who 'happily' accept 'weak' doctrine."


Truthfully, it isn't our theology that keeps us from the self-righteousness of the Pharisee. Our theology, and the smugness of "Reformed" correctness, are part of the problem. Oh, I don't mean we have aberrant ideas mingled with our theological outlook. We'd never have that. I mean all this heady truth barely lights our hearts. Our theology becomes the handmaid of our pride and our empty orthodoxy. Our fine theological theorems too seldom ignite liberty, joy, love, or anything else that accompanies the Spirit. Honestly, how often does your theology leave you with Jesus?

I know. The Lord reveals Himself in and by the word. The Spirit and the word belong together. Pharisee.

Do you remember that time when you were free? No, I mean happily care-free in your walk with the Lord. When there was lightness to everything?

Do you remember when you could share with others something God was teaching you, perhaps with imprecise language and a lot of enthusiasm, without first hesitating to make sure you were saying it "correctly"? Perhaps you were too liberal in assigning your enthusiasm or ideas to God, but you were happily excited about the possibility that indeed God had done something in you, for you, through you. Do you remember that?

I do. It was before I was self-consciously "Reformed." I didn't have a label then, other than "Christian" or "Baptist." Even those I held lightly. I was label-less, free. And I felt free. I did dumb stuff. I said dumber stuff. But people knew what I meant. Then I discovered what I meant, and knowing what I meant seemed to replace experiencing what I meant.

Now, "experience" is a bad word. Pharisee.

Yep. That's me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a "Calvinist" because what we popularly call "Calvinism" or "Reformed Theology" looks a whole lot like what I understand from the Bible. I think that's what the Bible teaches, and that's what I believe. So, I'm comfortable with the label--if we have to use one. I'm just not comfortable with the self-righteousness I see all too often in my heart and life. I'm sure I was self-righteous before; after all, I was an adherent of the world's largest works-based religion. Pride and self-justification have always been there. Yep. Certified Pharisee here.

But here's the bottom line: As long as my inclination toward detail ends with "getting it right" and not with getting more of Jesus, I'm going to be a Pharisee. Our theology doesn't keep us humble. Jesus keeps us humble. I think there are a lot of Calvinist Pharisees out there, like me, who push deeper into the theology trusting the next truth to abase them before God. But we keep getting "puffed up" instead. Why? We settle for knowing more rather than knowing Jesus. We don't stop to sit at Christ's feet, to adore Him, to commune with God the Spirit. Far too often, that's not the goal we have in mind.

My grandmother couldn't cite you two theological terms if you paid her. She probably never heard of the theological "giants" of church history, and certainly never read them. You know what she did? She "had a little talk with Jesus, told Him all about her troubles. He would hear her faintest cry, and answer by and by." With all her "little talks with Jesus," she had infinitely more than I've gotten from my books. She walked with the Lord about like Enoch.

I know. Books are not the enemy. Books are our friends. Communing with the saints is important. That's how we get it right and avoid mistakes. I know. I know. Pharisee.

There was another "Calvinist" (speaking anachronistically, of course) who won his bout with his inner Pharisee. He wrote: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8). I want to be more like that brother--gripped by the greatness of knowing Jesus.

Lord, let us know you and cease the pretension of Pharisees.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Prison Changes Your Friends

Martha Stewart, after a brief stint on da block, is now baking brownies and droppin' lyrics with Snoop D-O-Double G. Check it out here.

Two questions:

1. How many of y'all didn't know vanilla was brown either? C'mon. You know you was trippin' like Snoop.

2. What do you think they used to make the brownies green? Ans: Herb.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Who Owns the Blogosphere?

Some snippets from a post by Eric Barker:
An examination of the Technorati rankings for recent years reveals that turnover among the top 50 blogs has become increasingly rare. Even as the total number of blogs has swelled to 133 million from 27 million in 2006, the top 50 have remained relatively static. On March 15, 2006, 30 blogs out of the top 50 were new to the list, never having appeared at the top in any previous year; last month, that number was down to 18.

Of the top 50 blogs, 21 are owned by such familiar names as CNN, the New York Times, ABC, and AOL.

An immense proportion of the online readership—roughly 42% of all blog traffic—flows to the top 50 blogs.

What do you think? Is the "democratic" nature of the blogosphere being bought up by titans?

The Cost of Following Jesus: Helping Andy and Angela

Remember Angela and Andy? They're a young couple who have been dating for the past year and they've now come to you/your church to be married. As you speak with Andy you learn that both have been divorced. This will be their second marriage.

In Andy's case, his first wife had been unfaithful and they eventually divorced over the adultery. Andy and his first wife were professing Christians. In Angela's case, she had been unfaithful to her husband, leading to a divorce. At the time, neither Angela nor her husband were believers.

Andy's first wife has gone on to remarry and now lives with her second husband and four children across town. Angela's first husband has not remarried.

These are individuals who will find that following Jesus requires counting the costs, denying themselves and bearing their cross. I think we sometimes forget the weightiness of this for people looking to follow the Savior.

The Costs

Most people would say that Andy is free to remarry since he was not the one who broke the marriage covenant with his first wife. I think that's the majority interpretation of passages like Matthew 5 and 19. But there are some who argue that remarriage isn't appropriate even for Andy. See here for one example.

But what is certain is that Andy cannot continue a relationship with Angela. The cost of following Jesus will be ending a one-year romantic interest on the verge of marriage. And that won't be easy. I think most people in this situation would make an appeal to forgiveness or grace or freedom, and leave off any personal application of the divorce and remarriage passages. They'll miss the import of Titus 2:11-12; grace teaches us to obey Christ. Grace never makes it okay to disobey. The challenge for Andy will be deciding that marriage to Angela is not a "right" to be jealously grasped. Rather, he must embrace the freedom that comes from obedience and choose what appears an inconvenient and perhaps foolish course.

Angela will have the same cost to pay: she cannot marry Andy. Moreover, as I understand the Scripture, she cannot ever remarry. To remarry would be adultery.

Consider the cost of following Jesus for Angela. There is terminating the relationship with Andy. There is the foreclosure of any romantic relationship for the remainder of her life. There is the preclusion of ever having children naturally. Having known the joys marital intimacy, there is now a life of celibacy ahead.

For most people, that's a staggering list of costs. In my short experience, most would rather disobey the Lord and pursue these desires than obey Him in love. When presented with these issues, many walk away from the faith and the church, unwilling to pay the costs once counted.

Helping Andy and Angela
It's the church's call to help this brother and sister walk worthy of the callings they have received in Christ. What does that look like?

1. Helping Andy and Angela think in biblical terms about grace. There's much that could be said here, but at least two aspects are critical. First, as Titus 2:11-2 points out, saving grace actually teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and to live sober, godly lives in this evil age. One dark, domineering thought they each will have is: I can't do this. This is too much. I don't want to say 'no' to this desire. How will we make it? The answer from the Scripture is God will teach you with His grace.

Second, this means that in whatever situation God calls us, His grace will be sufficient for us. People in this situation imagine the happy, harp-playing glories of love and marriage. They daydream about a life of joy and bliss on one side of the ledger. And they compare that to an imagined life of unrelenting suffering, loneliness, and so on. Their imagination is rigged, biased in favor of their desires and against God's calling. They are sympathetic with their own sinful impulses and resistant to God's path and wisdom. In that sense, they're loving darkness rather than the light. What they need help to see is that a life of fruitful, joyful singleness is not only possible but real for many. Moreover, the same grace that meets them in their sin provides for them in all God's callings and commands. His commands are not burdensome. His yoke is easy. He will not quench the smoking flax. Grace calls us to imagine that the best possible future lies in the path God chooses instead of the path of our desires.

2. Help Andy and Angela understand the necessity of the local church family. Rather than leave the church, Andy and Angela should be helped to plug even more deeply in their local fellowships. They'll need the support and counsel of godly family in the household of God. They'll likely want to go places where no one is "butting into their business," or someplace where people tell them what they want to hear. They'll likely begin pulling away from the family. But this is when the family needs to be most aware of their struggles and most caring. Whether through a small group of fellow saints or with concentrated one-on-one discipleship, Andy and Angela need to be tethered tightly to the church so that they're helped to think in biblical ways, process their feelings, and walk out their callings.

3. In time, help Andy and Angela with finding ways of expressing their desires. This may mean helping Andy to remarry as the Lord provides a woman free to marry. This might mean helping Angela consider adoption if she wants to parent. The difficult part of this situation is that Andy and Angela can't have the lives they desire with each other. But that doesn't mean they can't have elements of their desired lives at all. Careful counseling, pastoral leadership, and support from the church family should work to encourage each of them to fully embrace the range of life opportunities the Lord provides within the good boundaries of His word and will. There will be a million opportunities for glorifying Jesus with their lives, even if they aren't the traditional ways of doing some of them.

Well, that's my sense of things. No easy answers. Or perhaps there are some easy answers, but the implementation is emotionally taxing and messy.

Your Turn

I would love to hear what you think. How would you counsel a couple in a situation like this? Do you know any situations like this and how have you helped/failed to help in the past? What can we learn from each other?