Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lonely in Silicon Valley: Proverbs 5 and Relationships

I have always found relationship advice very frustrating. Mostly because of people speaking in really vague terms that mean nothing, like "You know when you know." Or they treat it like a formula that if you do x, y, and z you find someone or your marriage will be automatically better. The real problem is not that there is nothing good about people's advice, the problem is that our own hearts hear what we want to hear. We want a quick fix. We want someone to give us the secret the unlocks the mystery of the opposite sex. But it just doesn't work that way.

I distinctly remember hearing a Pastor of mine once giving a message about not worrying. One of his application points was for singles to not worry too much about finding someone but to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." I spent years thinking about what he meant by that. It doesn't sound much different than advice like "You know when you know," or the proverbial "at some point it just clicks and you find someone." What my Pastor was alluding to is that point when you are no longer trying too hard and believing that being with someone will finally fill that gaping hole in your life. It is when you finally surrender and realize the perfect person doesn't exist and your expectations are way too high. That is the moment you begin to live by faith and realize finding someone is an act of God's grace. It is the moment you are free to live and enjoy the journey for what it is - when you are content if you are single or married.

However, that only covers idols we have concerning relationships. The biggest frustration I hear is that in a city where everyone works a ton and community is sparse - how in the world will you ever meet someone? There are also cultural idols in the modern world that make finding someone extremely difficult. Our society is very individualistic and people don't value community. They find meaning in their work and delay looking for someone. They overvalue their own opinions and do not associate with people of different values. So they find it difficult to be in community with people different from themselves who have different views. *News flash*, I don't care who you end up with, they will be different from you. If you cannot learn to get along with people different from you in casual friendships and acquaintances you will have an extremely difficult time managing an actual relationship no matter how similar you are. All that to say what do you do if your "social network" (including church) has slim pickings?

1) Understand that singleness is a gift - 1 Corinthians 7:7

I know you want practical advice. Sorry, you have to deal with the spiritual as well or you are missing the whole point. Get it in your head that the love of Christ is more important and single people have a huge amount of flexibility to invest in the church and in their faith.

2) There are seasons to not seek marriage. If you need to be with someone, you probably have an relationship idol. Times when you have a new job, death in the family, grad school, are really difficult, time consuming and emotionally charged times. Your head isn't in the game.

3) Get serious about finding someone as you get older. You can date for fun in high school. Maybe even college. Get real after that. If they are not looking for a serious relationship. Move on!

4) Be attracted to the whole person, not just looks - but heart and character.

5) Don't get too emotionally involved with a non-believer. Getting married requires your deepest desires and passions to be shared. If you love Jesus, you are not able to share your whole self.

6) Expand your community - get a hobby, sign up for eHarmony. If a hobby, do it for fun and to make new friends, not because you are desperate. Don't get all self-righteous about using dating websites. I know lots of career people who they have worked really well for. Would it be great, even better to meet someone without them? Yes, but remember #3.

7) Recognize you need to learn from people in good relationships. Find Godly examples and just be around them. If you are going to be able to "know when you know," you need to see good examples. Get involved in a church small group. It might actually be best for you if it's not a "singles group." The church is a family and family has brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Too often people look around and think no single people are there, but a lot of people meet through mutual friends. Don't give up on a community just because you don't see anyone at first glance.

Hope that helps and I hope and pray our church is able to truly be a loving family - for singles, families, and married people investing in each other.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sermon Recap: Pursuing Wisdom

Yesterday's sermon was the second in our series on Proverbs. The previous Sunday we talked about what wisdom is and this last Sunday we talked about how to pursue wisdom.

One of the critical points I tried to make is that in our modern world we use technology and science like ancient people used magic - to conform the world to suit the desires of our soul. Rather than the way wisdom is supposed to function to conform the soul to cope with reality (this insight comes from CS Lewis I believe, but I originally encountered it in a Tim Keller sermon on Proverbs).

That distinction is critical to understand because wisdom is the Bible is described as a path, not a technique to master. Going to a seminar and gaining a key insight does not give you wisdom. It is a path you must pursue. The path begins with your heart.

The heart is the central of the person and is much more holistic in the Bible than english communicates. We tend to think of the heart as the place of emotions, but Biblically, especially in the Old Testament it is the place of our thoughts, desires, and drives all of our behaviors (10:8, 13; 14:14; 13:12; 15:13, 28; 23:19, 28:14). Proverbs 4:23 captures this best, "Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it," (NIV 2011).

There are three things I said we should do in order to train our hearts in wisdom:
1) Know your heart. Exegete your heart. Know its temptations and desires and therefore internalize God's commands. Prov. 3:1, 3, 5.
2) Know the Lord, trust in Him. Learn to exegete scripture.
3) Know your context and exegete the culture.

Finally, the path has been set before by Christ who was perfectly obedient before the Father and calls us to follow him and be his disciples. Our path to wisdom is a cross shaped life where we obey him by faith in what he has done for us. We do so in the Spirit and not in our own strength for the glory of God and not for our own.

Pursuing wisdom thing is about growing in Christian character with love expressed in the cross of Christ. This is our chief aim.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sermon Recap: True Wisdom

This Sunday we introduced our series on Proverbs: Navigating Life without Rules.

The first message was about True Wisdom. What is wisdom and how it is different in the Bible than good advice, common sense, or knowledge of skills. The message focused on Proverbs 1 and the distinctive characteristics of Biblical Wisdom.

Wisdom is first of all intended to address all the "gray areas" of life that are not addressed by the morality of the Bible. Wisdom is the place to go for nearly everything the Bible doesn't seem to explicitly address. It is the difference between living a fulfilling life or not, and often is the difference between success or not.

Wisdom is Practical
It is a general principle that is situational, not a universal rule for all situations.
It is knowing the right thing to say or do at the right time and in the right way.
It is more intuitive knowledge than technical "know how." Proverb literally means "parable" or "riddle."
It is practical in the sense that it helps us cope with life, to know God's will and his ways and navigate challenges in our life that surpass our abilities (cf. Prov. 30:24-28).

Wisdom is Moral
The preamble to Proverbs 1:2-7 gives a list of virtues that characterize a wise person. The morality is found in the phrase of v.3 "righteousness, justice, and equity." Wisdom guides us how to treat people fairly.
But its about character not a moral law. Wisdom is about having a humble heart who is willing to learn not being an insufferable know-it-all.
Its an inner attitude and posture of the heart. Character is not formed over night. A wise person doesn't not speak out of book knowledge, but out of life lessons.

Wisdom is Spiritual
The foundation of Wisdom is "the fear of the Lord."
Wisdom is not secular knowledge that is merely observation of how the world works.
It is obtained by grace and is a gift of God born by a reverential fear of him.

Wisdom is Personal
Throughout the "lectures" of the father to his teenage son in Proverbs is a call to embrace "Lady Wisdom" above everything else who is more valuable than all the money and fame in the world.
It is a call to love Christ and the wisdom found in him above all else. For Lady wisdom is a signpost to the ultimate demonstration of God's wisdom in Christ and him crucified (Matt. 12:42; cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31).

There was some interesting stuff about the connection of the "tree of life" and the fall of Adam and Eve but you'll have to listen to the sermon if you were not able to attend.