Category Archives: Marriage and Family

When it rains, it pours

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Well, after many years of preparation and training, we are finally here in Papua New Guinea. Way too much has happened in the month since we left the States to update you on all of it, but it you want a snapshot of our lives here, I suggest you check out our ministry page on Facebook.

The only problem is that when you look at all of the beautiful pictures of gorgeous sunrises, natural caves, hidden spring-fed pools, and lush jungle, you might leave with the impression that we’re on an adventure filled vacation.

But life is not all sunshine and roses. It often rains, and when it does, it pours.

There are many wonderful things about living in a new culture, but the fact remains that adjusting to a completely new lifestyle takes a toll on you–physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Just for example, back in the States I lived a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I have a fitness watch which tracks my steps for the day, and back in the States I would rarely exceed 7,000 steps in a given day, unless we were especially active–like spending the day at the zoo or something like that. But since we’ve left the US, I don’t recall a single day when I’ve tracked less than 10,000 steps, and many days have me exceeding 15,000. Yesterday, for example, I never left our compound, didn’t go on any hikes, and did nothing except the basic chores like preparing meals and such and my step count was 11,537. Why so high? We spent the majority of the day chopping firewood, preparing meals, cooking over an open fire, and running back and forth to the bathroom to retrieve drinkable water. In order to help prepare us for life in a remote village, on the weekends we prepare all of our own food outdoors over an open fire using no refrigeration–all while trying to take care of two little kids. If I’ve had a day more mentally and physically draining than yesterday, I can’t remember it. On top of these weekends, we have class daily from 8:00-4:00, and occasional jungle hikes and open water ocean swims. Then there are all the new foods. Some are pretty good, but others are…well…interesting. Food has become much more of a commodity which is consumed for fuel here, rather than for fun like in the US. The physical drain is intense for someone used to a sedentary American lifestyle. I’ve lost over 25 pounds since we left the US without even trying.  (I’ve lost another 15 pounds since drafting this post almost a month ago!)

In addition to the physical demands, there are plenty of mental stressors, too. In the absence of local trash pickup, we are discouraged from using disposable paper and plastic goods. You don’t realize how dependent you are upon trash pickup until you’re forced to switch to cloth diapers (which must be hand washed…😳) and have to try to figure out alternatives to Ziploc bags and paper towels, which are nowhere to be found. When your kids are adjusting to new foods (read “explosive diarrhea”), cloth diapers can be the thing that just ruins your day. It seems like every other morning we wake up and the first thing we have to do is change diapers and wash bedding. It’s not a pleasant start to the day. On top of this, when you’re living is such close community with people you’ve just met from all over the globe, there are cultural stressors even amongst your fellow missionary colleagues. Add to that the exhaustion of spending hours a day learning a new language, making new friends, and learning the culture of the people to whom you minister, and even days which are physically less stressful can get the best of you.

Lastly, there’s the spiritual stress. You don’t realize how refreshing your Sunday church service is until you’ve sat through an entire service in a foreign language and only understood several words here and there. After a long, physically and mentally draining week, you look forward to the spiritual refreshment of Christian music and teaching, only to find yourself straining to understand bits and pieces of the sermon, and not recognizing any of the songs that are sung. Church service becomes just another culture and language learning session leaving you more exhausted than you were before. The Holy Spirit may be alive and well in the church you visited, but the spiritual truths of God’s Word are locked behind the gate of a foreign language and culture, inaccessible to you.  One positive takeaway from this experience, however, was being able to empathize with the many people who attend service every week in PNG in a language that is not their mother tongue, read scripture in a language that is not their mother tongue, and sing songs that are not from their culture or language. It gives me a greater appreciation for Bible translation and mother tongue scripture use.

In addition to the stress of cross-cultural church attendance, Satan is no fool when it comes to wartime strategy. If the Word of God is the Holy Spirit’s weapon, then those who advance the Word of God through ministry, missions, and/or Bible translation are spiritual weapons dealers. We endeavor to supply people with the very weapon the Holy Spirit uses to vanquish Satan…which puts a giant bull’s-eye on our backs. Indeed, since we’ve been here, we’ve noticed a sharp increase in spiritual warfare. Kids have had bad dreams, seen apparitions, and there have been various illnesses that just won’t go away. Satan doesn’t play fair, so unfortunately, it’s often the kids that get the brunt of the attacks. Satan is no match for God’s power, but Paul still describes the fight as a “struggle” for us.

Of course, as a missionary entering the field for the first time, all of these stressors (and many more!) hit you all at once. When it rains, it pours. The stress of adapting to all of this change while struggling to be a good spouse, parent, student, and minister can be crippling.

The last few days, it has felt like all of this stress and change of the past month has finally caught up to me. I found myself thinking this morning, “I know that God is supposed to provide grace for each day, but I just don’t see it. Where’s the grace I need to get through the day? Where is God, and why doesn’t he lend me a hand?”

Then it started raining–really raining, not just meataphorically raining. We were supposed to go to the beach today. Now you might be thinking, “What a bummer!” But actually, the rain was just what the doctor ordered. See, a trip to the beach here is no mere vacation in the sand. It’s a big ordeal, especially with kids. There’s all the normal preparation of swimsuits, sunblock, last minute (cloth) diaper changes, etc., but then there’s also a very bumpy 45-minute drive down the mountain in the back of a packed truck with 50 other people. Then there’s baths for kids and the inevitable rush to the bucket-showers, and the long wait in line for your turn at one of the three showers in each bathroom which serve over 50 people. After a long stressful week, I was not really super excited about the beach trip.

So it rained. Rather, it poured. One of those relaxing tropical rainforest monsoon-season gully-washers. So, the beach trip was cancelled. I wasn’t terribly disappointed, though I did feel bad for the kids at first. But, as I watched the rain, it felt as if God was washing away all of the stress of the past week. The kids all made the best out of it and had a blast playing in the rain, throwing water from the downspouts all over each other, and rolling in the mud puddles.  (Missionary kids, or “MKs” as we call them, are a creative bunch!)  Turns out, most of the other parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of a beach trip either, so in the end, God provided just what everyone needed–rest for the adults, and water to play in for the kids. He brought the beach to us, all the way to the top of the mountain.

Some of the kids at POC playing in the rain with their dad.
One happy baby, playing in the rain! (Our kids were napping, so they missed out on the fun.)

God provided just what I needed to get through the day.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

The Jig is Up, Ms. Williams: If It’s Human, It’s Murder

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you’ll know that there’s been quite a stir regarding abortion in the last few weeks. Having just passed the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has been the hot topic lately–even more so than usual. One particular TV commercial celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade seems to unashamedly declare what many pro-life advocates have said all along–“women’s rights” is nothing more than a clever catch phrase to afford the right of abortion to those who are sexually promiscuous. (To their credit, however, many abortion advocates are equally disgusted with the commercial’s blatant chauvinism and callousness towards the subject of abortion. Kudos to those of you who find it repulsive.) But one article seems to have broken out of the traditional arguments for abortion and, at least in my opinion, finally revealed what some abortion advocates have secretly believed this whole time and have, for good reason, kept secret.

The article I’m referring to is the one by Mary Elizabeth Williams entitled, “So What if Abortion Ends a Life?” In case you don’t have time to read her article in full, I’ve highlighted some of the important parts for you.

Let’s address a few quotes from Williams’ article:

…Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice…

Well, I suppose at least Williams has finally conceded that an unborn child is, in fact, a human life. On the other hand, how in the world does Williams concede that a fetus is a human life and still justify abortion?

…All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always…

Here’s the thrust of her argument: Women’s rights trump baby’s rights. Williams’ is willing to concede that a fetus is a human life but yet also willing to deny said life its “inalienable rights…to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’m not sure the constitution affords you the privilege to deny the basic right of life to another human being solely on the undemonstrated basis that they have less rights than you. That’s circular reasoning: “I can deny my baby its right to life because my rights are more important than his.” Really? On what basis does another human being have less rights than you? Sounds eerily similar to the kind of logic that fueled slavery in the 1800’s and genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Stalin. (And we thought that kind of racist, genocidal thinking was confined to slave traders and Nazis…hmmm) Yet somehow abortion is championed as the path to the future and those of us who believe that “all life is created equal” are labeled as “backward” and “stuck-in-the-past,” or to use Williams’ words, “bullies, archconservatives, and wingnuts.” As a matter of fact, that’s the purpose of laws–to ensure that my rights don’t infringe upon yours. How ironic that pro-life advocates are labeled as “anti-women’s rights.” Perhaps I’m forgetting, but I don’t recall the right to an abortion in the list of inalienable rights.* I do, however, recall the right to life. And if Williams’ concedes that a fetus has life, I don’t see how she can logically deny the most basic right–the right to continue living–from her baby. Defending her belief that a fetus is a human life, Williams says:

When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born…When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?

Agreed. Bravo, Ms. Williams. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ironically, in this much Williams’ opinion seems to be perfectly in line with God’s. (See this former post of mine regarding what the Bible has to say about the life of an unborn child.) In an attempt to justify her decision to deny the right of life to her unborn child, Williams states:

…[We] make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise. It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better.

I will assume that by “men and women in other nations” Williams’ is referring to victims of war. I will start by pointing out that only under certain circumstances are any of the people on this list denied their right to life and only then under careful deliberation. Not all murderers are executed, not all enemy combatants are killed, and we don’t pull the plug on every terminally ill patient. We don’t have time to discuss the intricacies of all these situations. So, conceding that there are some situations in which people of other nations (i.e.–enemy combatants, terrorists, etc.), criminals, and patients with terminal illnesses might be justifiably killed (or allowed to die), let’s think about this: enemy combatants, death row inmates, patients with terminal illnesses, babies…Which one of these is not like the others?!?! Seriously? Are we really at the point where we can compare the execution of an unborn child with that of a death row inmate? An unborn child has not “attacked” your nation, murdered anyone, and–in most cases–is not terminally ill. Mind you, Williams’ is not merely arguing for the right of a mother to abort in situations in which the life of the mother or baby is at risk–she wants unrestricted access to abortions under any circumstances–including mere inconvenience to the mother. We don’t even do that to murderers! Even murderers are given a trial first, and relatively few of them are executed. Usually, only those committing certain types of murder that are considered especially heinous are executed, and even then, many states have outlawed executions outright or rarely ever practice them. Why should it be ok to kill an innocent baby–which Williams has admitted is a human life–with less restrictions than convicted murderers? And why are we even comparing the two?!?!
But, Ms. Williams, let’s apply your reasoning further. If 1) an unborn child is, indeed, a human life every bit as much as two-year old toddler (and Williams concedes this point), and 2) I have demonstrated that the law does not afford the privilege to one human to infringe upon the inalienable rights of another human (except under the circumstances of war, executions of murders, etc.), and 3) we can reasonably say that an unborn child is not in the same category as murderers and enemy combatants, then what is the difference between the abortion of an unborn child and the killing of a toddler who is inconveniencing his mother with a temper tantrum, except, to use Ms. Williams’ words, “a short ride out of some lady’s vagina?” (Please pardon the crudeness–I would not have used that terminology except to demonstrate a fatal flaw in her argumentation.) Williams has already conceded that the unborn child is a human life, so as far as I can tell, if Williams wants to include fetuses in the exception to the right of life along with criminals and enemy combatants, why not include a toddler as well? Or your rebellious teenager? If you’re willing to grant the status of “living human being” to an unborn child, you MUST also give that human being its inalienable right to life. Rather, you don’t grant that right–it’s already there. You may not infringe upon it.

I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your *** I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion….And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

I imagine that a great many abortion advocates will cringe at Ms. Williams’ article almost as much as I. I don’t think that Williams represents the vast majority of pro-choicers when it comes to her conviction that an unborn child is a living human being. And that’s somewhat of a relief. Williams’ brazen disrespect for life sends chills up my spine. That a mother could so callously disregard what she knows to be life inside of her on the mere basis of inconvenience is just disgusting. It make me want to puke. I can understand the argument against granting an unborn child the status of “life.” I disagree with it, but I can at least understand it on a rational level. But to acknowledge that life and blatantly argue for its extermination? Unthinkable.

Humans were created in the image of God. And if that unborn baby is human and has not committed a sin worthy of death, YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Period. You may argue against the “humanity” of an unborn fetus, but if you agree that an unborn child is a living human being created in the image of God, then yes, Ms. Williams, “the jig is up.”

*Some may argue that the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness gives the basis for the right to an abortion. I’m not convinced for two reasons: 1) the law never affords you the privilege of exercising your pursuit of happiness at the expense of another’s rights and, 2) the inconvenience to your “happiness” that is caused by pregnancy is the direct result of your pursuit of another kind of happiness. You can get yourself locked into prison for joyriding and then whine about the police taking away your rights. Similarly, you can go around having sex whenever and with whomever and then whine about getting pregnant. (I am NOT talking about rape or incest–I’m merely talking about the vast majority of pregnancies, which are caused through consensual sex.)

Audio Sermon Files

Below are some links to audio files of the sermons I have preached recently. Feel free to download, copy, and distribute them freely, but please do not alter the content of any of these messages.

“Father’s Day Sermon” 6/17/12

“Don’t Waste Your Life,” Father’s Day Sermon, 6/9/2013

“The Good News of the Gospel,” 6/9/13

Mini-Series on the Book of Ephesians:

“The Spiritual Blessings of Salvation,” Ephesians 1-3

“Living as a Gospel Centered Church,” Ephesians 4

“The Gospel on Display in Marriage,” Ephesians 5

“The Gospel and Spiritual Warfare,” Ephesians 6

The Hidden Meaning of Marriage

You can hardly turn on the TV without seeing something about the debate over marriage. As we speak, there is a culture war going on over the very definition of marriage. Is marriage only between one man and one woman, or is that just an outdated notion based upon stereotypes and bigotry? And even if it is between one man and woman, the questions don’t end there. What are the roles of a husband and wife in marriage? Are they different? Should the be flexible? Finally, why even bother with marriage nowadays? What is the purpose for getting married, anyhow? Many Christians have fought hard for their concept of marriage, but have often fought with little understanding of what the Bible even has to say on the subject. Before we can answer these difficult questions, we must first lay a foundation of the biblical concept of marriage.

In this three part series, we will seek to answer the question of the purpose of marriage from a biblical perspective. What does the Bible have to say about marriage? What is marriage, and what is its purpose? After answering these questions, we can then turn to the practical applications of these truths to our everyday lives.

Click here to begin the series : Part 1–Marriage: The Gospel on Display

Love Her More and Love Her Less

This is a poem written by John Piper, upon request, for his son’s wedding. It needs no explanation, so I will simply repost it here. May we all “love her more, and love her less.”

The God whom we have loved, and in
Whom we have lived, and who has been
Our Rock these twenty-two good years
With you, now bids us, with sweet tears,
To let you go: “A man shall leave
His father and his mother, cleave
Henceforth unto his wife, and be
One unashaméd flesh and free.”
This is the word of God today,
And we are happy to obey.
For God has given you a bride
Who answers every prayer we’ve cried
For over twenty years, our claim
For you, before we knew her name.

And now you ask that I should write
A poem – a risky thing, in light
Of what you know: that I am more
The preacher than the poet or
The artist. I am honored by
Your bravery, and I comply.
I do not grudge these sweet confines
Of rhyming pairs and metered lines.
They are old friends. They like it when
I bid them help me once again
To gather feelings into form
And keep them durable and warm.

And so we met in recent days,
And made the flood of love and praise
And counsel from a father’s heart
To flow within the banks of art.
Here is a portion of the stream,
My son: a sermon poem. Its theme:
A double rule of love that shocks;
A doctrine in a paradox:

If you now aim your wife to bless,
Then love her more and love her less.

If in the coming years, by some
Strange providence of God, you come
To have the riches of this age,
And, painless, stride across the stage
Beside your wife, be sure in health
To love her, love her more than wealth.

And if your life is woven in
A hundred friendships, and you spin
A festal fabric out of all
Your sweet affections, great and small,
Be sure, no matter how it rends,
To love her, love her more than friends.

And if there comes a point when you
Are tired, and pity whispers, “Do
Yourself a favor. Come, be free;
Embrace the comforts here with me.”
Know this! Your wife surpasses these:
So love her, love her, more than ease.

And when your marriage bed is pure,
And there is not the slightest lure
Of lust for any but your wife,
And all is ecstasy in life,
A secret all of this protects:
Go love her, love her, more than sex.

And if your taste becomes refined,
And you are moved by what the mind
Of man can make, and dazzled by
His craft, remember that the “why”
Of all this work is in the heart;
So love her, love her more than art.

And if your own should someday be
The craft that critics all agree
Is worthy of a great esteem,
And sales exceed your wildest dream,
Beware the dangers of a name.
And love her, love her more than fame.

And if, to your surprise, not mine,
God calls you by some strange design
To risk your life for some great cause,
Let neither fear nor love give pause,
And when you face the gate of death,
Then love her, love her more than breath.

Yes, love her, love her, more than life;
O, love the woman called your wife.
Go love her as your earthly best.

Beyond this venture not. But, lest
Your love become a fool’s facade,
Be sure to love her less than God.

It is not wise or kind to call
An idol by sweet names, and fall,
As in humility, before
A likeness of your God. Adore
Above your best beloved on earth
The God alone who gives her worth.
And she will know in second place
That your great love is also grace,
And that your high affections now
Are flowing freely from a vow
Beneath these promises, first made
To you by God. Nor will they fade
For being rooted by the stream
Of Heaven’s Joy, which you esteem
And cherish more than breath and life,
That you may give it to your wife.

The greatest gift you give your wife
Is loving God above her life.
And thus I bid you now to bless:
Go love her more by loving less.

–John Piper