Saturday, November 8, 2014

Deciding to Love

Love and commitment are not the same thing.  In order for marriage to be what it ought to be, you need both. Commitment is based on a decision.  Love is much more complicated.
There are different kinds of love.  Some of them are more a matter of choice than others.  As Christians we choose to love good and hate evil — even if our affections are screaming the opposite. There are many times when you have to choose to love someone when your feelings do not incline you to do so.  Sometimes it happens that a man must choose to love his wife, though he doesn’t really feel like it.  If he is in this unfortunate situation, he ought by all means to choose to do right regardless of his feelings.  Perhaps he has to choose to forsake his mistress and love his wife.  It is right for him to do so, and it may be real love for his wife and kids that would induce him to do it — but it isn’t romance.
 You can choose to love your neighbor, to esteem another better than yourself, and to lay down your life for your wife.  These are love, but romance or “falling in love” is different.  You don’t decide to fall.  You just do.  You might decide to get close enough to fall — or decide not to — but falling in love is not a decision.
A man doesn't have to fall in love with a woman to marry her — but it is hard enough for him to obey Ephesians 5 even when he does.  Why make it harder? A woman doesn't want to hear, “I choose to love you.” What she wants to hear is, “I can’t help loving you.” Read the Song of Solomon and see if there is any deciding to love in there.
Anyone can choose to eat sauerkraut, but most folks can’t choose to love it as much as they do pizza.  You can decide what you do.  You can not decide what will thrill your heart.  You can choose to marry, and in a sense choose to love your wife.  You can also choose to take steps that will increase your enjoyment in every circumstance in life.  You can make choices that affect how you feel — but you can not directly choose your feelings.
      Romance is predominately feeling.  If you can decide it, you take the passion out of it, and it isn’t romance any more.  You could marry without it.  But why would you want to?  You may still have love if you did — the kind of love that can be decided, but that is a bare sort of love that should be reserved for those who have no hope of anything better. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Choice to Love

One of the biggest tricks of the devil is to differentiate between things that are the same and to equate things that are different. The saying Love is a Choice is open to such confusion. There is a sense in which it is true, and another in which it is not, and it is extremely important not to confuse the two.

The young person who is looking for a spouse and thinks he can choose to love any one who is convenient and available is a blatant fool, but the married person who doesn't choose to love his spouse is downright wicked. The things are entirely different. Single people should wait til they fall in love to marry. This will make the business of choosing to love your spouse a pleasure and give you a head start in performing all the duties of married life.


The man or woman who is already married has no business falling at all. You have already made your choice. Hopefully it was a suitable choice and you fell in love with the person you married, but regardless of the past, it is now your business to put up whatever walls are needed to keep from falling any which direction. You have to choose to love the one you have chosen.


If a married man or woman falls inwardly, you still have a moral obligation to choose to love your spouse. You may find that you do not have the power to choose to love in the same way and to the same degree as someone who unintentionally falls in love. Love is like that. Emotions are like that. People are like that. We can't always choose what we feel. But we can choose what we do, and a married person has an obligation to be faithful to his family no matter what he feels. This is love. It is not the wild, emotional kind of love that makes falling in love fun. It is the sober, faithful kind of love, that makes being married safe. It includes the commitment not only to give the bare outward duties of love but to nourish every proper emotion and to starve everything that goes against it. In this sense love is a choice.


Young people starting out and planning to marry ought to have this kind of commitment, but you don't want that to be all you have. You want your marriage to start with all the warmth of emotion that makes the journey of life delightful. A person can't choose to feel that with just anyone. Love of this kind is something that happens to you. It isn't chosen. It can be nourished or starved depending on the requirements of the circumstances, but it cannot be forced.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Unchanging God

Flipping through a note book of old poems, I came across this one today. It's still true. 

God Remains the Same

Life’s changing scenes make their appeal
      To my poor, fickle frame,
And often change the way I feel,--
      But God remains the same.

When circumstances fluctuate,
      My hopes may rise or fall,
But God, unhindered by my state,
      Is always over all.

Though hopes and fears by turns arise
      To steal my heart away,
The truth, without such lows and highs,
      Abides from day to day.

Though prayer may change a lot of things,
      If God in mercy grant,
Despite their fancy reasonings,
      My fickle feelings can’t.

Unaltered by my feeble sense,
      All things are in His hands;
By unaffected providence
      The final outcome stands.


Nita Brainard
January 5, 2009






Sunday, October 12, 2014

Character and Personality

Personality and character are not the same thing. Everyone knows that, yet the two things often get confused. Personality is something we are born with. Character is developed through the choices we make. When a teenager decides he does not want to be like his parent, it should be, and usually is, the parent's character that he wants to avoid. If he is like him in personality, he cannot help it. He can, however, be different in character.

It is exceedingly common to watch young people who strongly avow that they will not be like their parents make the same choices their parents did and become very much like them in character. This is partly because they are already like their parents in personality, and the personality influences the choices a person makes. It is our interests, desires, likes, and dislikes (in other words, our personality) that makes certain choices easier or harder.

Our choices are also influenced by the example our parents model before us. Nonetheless, we can stand back and say, Yes, I like the same things my mother likes. I laugh at the same kinds of things she laughs at, and I laugh the same way. There is nothing wrong with that -- but I am going to choose to do some things differently than she. I am not going to laugh at a filthy joke even if it strikes me funny, and I am not going to repeat it even if I want to.

If we don't understand the difference between personality and character, we might think that because we have a bent a certain direction, we have no choice in the matter, but this is the opposite of the truth. Making choices against your natural inclination is at the very root of good character. The more we exercise the opportunity to make right choices in the face of personality preferences, the stronger we become. This doesn't change our personality. We were born with that, and God gave it to us. It is guarded by our choices, but it isn't changed. There is no sin and no shame if it similar to one or the other of our parents -- even if they are wicked.

You may not want to look like your mother, but if you do, you can't help it. You may think like her and have a lot of interests in common with her, but you only act like her if you choose to. I personally am blessed with a mother I am happy to look like, and in many things I act like her also. I thank God for a mother who has made it easier for me to make right choices in many areas where another person may need a higher degree of character to overcome both inclination and example. Nonetheless, I will give account before God for each choice I have made in life, whether to be more like her or less. My personality, however, and my looks, will not come into judgement.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Public Prayer

A reader who generally appreciated my post on praying in the name of Jesus suggested that public prayer is different. I agree. In order for a Christian to be faithful to His Lord when he prays in public, it is necessary for him to audibly name the name of Jesus.

Most prayer, however, is not public. By far the greater portion of the prayers a true Christian prays are made in secret with no other hearer than God himself. In these private prayers, whether prayed in lengthy chunks during a time set apart for prayer or uttered quickly throughout the day, the name of Jesus will undoubtedly come up, but the one praying need not feel a compunction to end the prayer with any certain phrase.

Prayer with intimate friends will be the next most common type. Where there is a bond of fellowship around the Lord Jesus, His name will certainly come up, but there should be no need for a rule about placing it at the end of a prayer.

The one time when there may be a temptation to leave out the name of our Lord Jesus, when we are praying in public, is the one time when there is a call to be especially careful to verbally make it clear that the prayer is prayed in His name. This may be done throughout the prayer, but it is wisely added at the end as well, that at the close no scoffer or unbeliever can doubt that this was a Christian's prayer to the Christian's God. It is comparatively rare for a Christian to pray thus in public. Not many of us have frequent opportunities to pray at political assemblies, business conferences, family reunions, and the like, where the ungodly may be present. Nonetheless, when we do have that opportunity, let us make it very plain whose we are and in whose name we pray.

Preachers who cross circles and preach in unfamiliar places and who want to distinguish themselves from the man-pleasing, ear-tickling sort of preacher may find it useful to adopt the custom of adding a phrase to their prayers that intentionally includes the name of Jesus. Those who do may also want to make it clear that they are referring to
the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible
There are many "Jesus"es these days and many "lord"s. Saying "in Jesus' name" may distinguish a person from the liberal modernist of 100 years ago who spoke of "the Christ" as an idea, but who knew nothing of Him as a person. It may also distinguish them from the modern ecumenical who speaks of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, but who ignores the issues of sin and the cross and avoids the name of Jesus. But it will not distinguish you from the worldling who grew up saying, "What would Jesus do?" without the vaguest notion from the Bible of what He would do. Many people speak of "Jesus" without thinking of the fact that He is the Son of God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and that He has a double claim on our lives: one for having created us, and a second for having redeemed us by His blood. Let our language reflect not only that we believe in Jesus, but that we know
who He is


Monday, August 18, 2014

True Surrender

Sinless was our Lord’s request
    To have the cup pass by Him —
    The cup about to try Him —
Knowing He must face the test;
Knowing He must drink the cup,
    The hour being nigh Him,
    And God could not supply Him
Righteous means to pass it up.

"Not my will but Thine be done"
     He prayed in resignation;
    Our goal is imitation
Of the prayer of God's own Son.
Those who claim no will at all
    Lack Biblical foundation
    And hold a deviation
From our high and holy call.

God’s not seeking empty hearts,
    But those whose hearts aspire
    To something even higher
Than a granted wish imparts.
Men may feel a preference still,
    While yielding each desire,
    And making an entire,
Full surrender of the will. 

Drops of blood our Savior shed,
    Though yielded in submission
    To His ordained position —
And the cross that lay ahead;
Men may also yield control
    To God without condition,
    Surrend’ring each ambition,
“In an agony” of soul. 

Luke 22:42 & 44


Friday, August 8, 2014

Praying in the Name of Jesus

Those who know me well know that when I posted about praying in the name of the Lord Jesus, I did not mean uttering the words "in the name of Jesus" at the end of the prayer. This is a fine thing to do, but it is as open to abuse as any religious practice if the emphasis is put on the outward form rather than the heart of the matter.

If we are "in Christ"; if we are His disciples; if we have His interests at heart, we will pray in His name. We will pray for things He wants as much or more than we do. And when we pray for things that are for ourselves, our only plea will be that we are Christ's, and He has promised to give us all things. We know that we deserve nothing, and all we have is through Him. Thus we ask for it in His name --- whether we use the words or not.