So, What have you read lately?

books

When I first began my journey to preach this was the most common question that I was not prepared to answer. I wasn’t sure where it was headed, and at the time I was still balancing my need to grasp the relationship of the various books within the Book of Books. I remember joking with David Dann that I should just find some obscure text, start reading it, and use it as my answer and see how folks responded.

Now, admittedly, I’m a huge literary addict, maybe even a book snob, not to mention a curator of unused forgotten rare words. So whenever there is a new book or written series that rises in public popularity, some friends will ask me if I have read it, or intend to.

Full disclosure: I did read the Harry Potter series (in advance of my oldest son who really wanted to read it.  I thought it rehashed the plot mechanics of most of the work of its genre with less than stellar writing, but I can see why folks like it. I refuse to read the Twilight series, Hunger Games, etc. (I’m not a “tween”)

I no longer have the time to devote to sitting and reading books for the sake of the story like I once did. The last long series I completed had its first installment published in 1990, with the final piece coming out in 2013 and was not even written by the original author… (He passed away before he could finish the stories). 23 years is a long time to keep up a plot line I tell ya. That being said, most of the time folks remember that I am a Christian, so I don’t get asked my opinion on the ever-growing advance of a sex for entertainment culture full of visual & literary prostitutes and clients.

That leads me here, if you are wondering if I have read or watch the “Game of Thrones“, “Fifty Shades of Grey” or anything like it. The answer is no, and if you are seeking my suggestion if you should check them out, the answer is still no. It’s not because the story was developed initially as Twillight  fan fiction (Fifty Shades of Grey), nor is it because Salman Rushdie said about the book: “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace.”

Here’s why:

“Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:7-12 NASB)

 

Baptism: A Death, Burial, and Resurrection, by Doy Moyer

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“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well- pleased.’” (Matt 3:13-17)

In one sense, the baptism of Jesus fits what is sometimes called the “principle of embarrassment” (which actually increases the credibility of the text). Why would Jesus come to John to be baptized? Why would Jesus need baptism at all? John’s baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). If Jesus didn’t need repentance and forgiveness, then why would He be coming to John for baptism? John recognized this difficulty, reacting with surprise and attempting to prevent it. Jesus told Him to permit it “at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” There is something about His baptism that is connected to the fulfillment or completion of righteousness.

There are likely several reasons why Jesus came to be baptized by John. This was, indeed, a special time of fulfillment. The Messiah has come! This action serves as the inauguration of His public ministry, identifying Him explicitly as the Son of God. This would also identify Jesus with those who were awaiting the kingdom. Recall that John’s preaching entailed the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). In preaching the kingdom, he was pointing to the Messiah, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). It was this action, coupled with the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus, telling John that Jesus was the expected One (John 1:29-34). By doing this, Jesus identified Himself with John’s mission and validated the work John was doing. It also serves as an example to all who would follow Jesus. This is just the beginning.

With all the possible reasons that could be given for the purpose of Jesus’ baptism, the one we wish to focus on is how His baptism foreshadowed His own work. Paul later makes the point that baptism is a death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-7, a passage we’ll come back to). Through baptism, Jesus foreshadows His purpose for coming into the world as the Son of God: to die and rise again.

That the resurrection is ultimately in view is confirmed by what the Father said: “This is My beloved Son.” This statement comes from Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is messianic and focuses on the kingship of the Anointed One. “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’” This very passage was taken by Paul to refer, not to the birth of Jesus as the Son, but to His resurrection:

“And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are MY Son; today I have begotten You.’ As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’” (Acts 13:32-34)

The second part of what the Father said (“in whom I am well-pleased”) comes from Isaiah 42:1, another messianic passage that speaks to the fact that He was endowed with the Spirit, bringing justice to the nations (cf. Matt 12:15-21). In Jesus’ baptism, He shows that His work as the Servant would culminate in His own death, burial, and resurrection.

Our Baptism

Baptism, then, is both symbolic and a very real action. In other words, it is not just getting wet. In this case, our own baptism is itself a way of following after the footsteps of Jesus as He went to the cross and rose again from the dead. Baptism, for the believer, is also a death, burial, and resurrection:

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Rom 6:3-5)

“Death” is a word used in several ways. We are dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1). Yet, when we respond to God’s will in baptism, we die again, only this time we die to our sins (instead of being dead in our sins). Paul began Romans 6 by making this very point: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it” (vv 1-2). The old self is then said to be crucified with Christ so that we would no longer be slaves of sin, “for he who has died is freed from sin” (vv 6-7). Paul continues, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again” (vv. 8-9).

This is the point Paul makes about baptism: it is our own death, burial, and resurrection, following the same pattern of Jesus both in His baptism and in His physical death and resurrection. It is an identification with everything that Christ is and stands for, primarily as He died for sin and rose again. Our being baptized says that, by the grace of God, we have died to our sins and we are raised up to walk a new life with Him.

Baptism is, likewise, making a commitment to the new life resulting from death, burial, and resurrection. If we really have died to sin, how shall we keep living in it?

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom 6:11-13)

Elsewhere, Paul makes a similar point: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4)

By being baptized into Christ, we are making a vow to serve Him. We are dead to sin and alive in Him. We have buried the old man who was dead in sin and we have been raised up to be new creatures in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). Baptism is our pledge that, by God’s strength, we will no longer be controlled by sin. We are a new creation.

Once again, we should be able to see the great significance of baptism. It is, through God’s grace, our inaugural act that identifies us with us the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It also identifies us with that same kingdom preached by both John and Jesus. Further, baptism is done with repentance and for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and anyone who wishes to follow to Jesus will gladly do it (Acts 2:41). Many ask, “is baptism necessary?” The answer should be obvious if we substitute the word “baptism” with how Paul discusses it in Romans 6: “Is it necessary to die to sin, be buried with Christ, and be raised to walk a new life?” But even more, wouldn’t the one who desires to follow the Lord eagerly do what He says? Let us, then, be committed to the crucified and raised life.

Doy Moyer

For more on baptism, see also Baptism: Washing with Water

 

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2014/04/baptism-a-death-burial-and-resurrection.html

Racism and Christ, By: Doy Moyer

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He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26).

Racism is not just a political issue, and it cannot be fixed through political means or force. It is the symptom of a much greater problem, and this is not a problem that will ever be legislated or forced away by violence. First, and even most significantly, racism is a moral and spiritual issue. It is, at its heart, a failure to understand and appreciate that all humans are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). “Human” is not a skin color or ethnicity. Being human does not depend on being a particular ethnic background. The greatest human quality is that of mirroring God’s image, and this is shared by all humans, however imperfectly.

As sin entered the scene of human history, God put a plan into effect that would allow humans to be saved from their sins and the corruption of the world. To do this, He called out a particular person, Abraham, and through him a particular nation, which came to be called Israel. Through this nation He would bring about His promises. His purpose in doing this was so that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The reason He maintained a distinction between His chosen people and all others (gentiles) was to keep them holy as His people (see Josh 23:4-13). The danger was not in other ethnicities per se (as is seen in the fact both Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles who became part of Christ’s lineage); the danger was that paganism had become standard among the nations and He wanted them to stay away from the influences that would lead them down that path of worshipping other gods.

God’s plan all along encompassed the idea that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would bring together all nations into one. This is not to say that all nations would become one big worldly kingdom. Rather, all nations would unite together in Christ as one “chosen race” and “holy nation” who would proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). In this holy nation, there are no distinctions to be made when it comes to the outward matters of skin color. In Christ, there is no “white church” or “black church.” Such distinctions are unknown to the Gospel. Should Christians, then, continue to perpetuate them? Shall we willingly participate in the worldly stereotypes that only divide?

Perhaps the earliest, most significant challenges for the church came in the form of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 15). Let’s just say they typically didn’t care for each other very much. There was initial reluctance on the part of the Jewish Christians to preach to the Gentiles, as is seen in Peter’s response to the Lord’s desire for him to go Cornelius, a Gentile soldier (Acts 10). It took a vision and a command for Peter to get it, and once he did, there was no turning back. “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (vs. 28). It may have been a bit shocking, then, for some fellow Jews to hear Peter declare:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

God’s will is that all come to repentance, that all will come to the knowledge of the truth (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4). Racism is a denial that Christ died for all. It is a denial of God’s desire for all to know the truth. It is a denial of the unity desired by the Lord. It is a denial of the gospel. It is sin.

Again, Peter said, “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:42-43). Everyone. No one is out in this endeavor.

Political agendas will be what they are. God’s people need to transcend the clamor and evil trappings of the world in order to be what God intends. To be effective in reaching out to the world, we cannot pull back our hands because those of another person are a different shade. All hands are made by the same God, who desires all to be in His fellowship. Dare we deny this most important desire of God?

In truth, there is only one race. It is the human race. And there is only one holy nation, comprised of all of God’s people, who transcend the boundaries and borders of worldly kingdoms and earthly cultures. May God help us all to see all humans for who they really are—made in His image, fallen, and in need of His grace and mercy.

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2014/01/racism-and-christ.html

 

A Stable Foundation

stbhic5a1I recently caught just a bit of “the Herd with Colin Cowherd”. Colin had a radio show in Portland when I was preaching with the church at Wilsonville, Or. When he moved on to the larger stage of ESPN, his time slot changed, and it was no longer convenient to listen in to the broadcast. Colin always has a wide range of subject matter that he incorporates into his thoughts that have centered around professional sports. (though he had a more non-sporting material with his local show).

Colin was extrapolating how recent studies like this one “Homeownership boosts children’s educational achievement” (and others done at USC and UC San Diego) correlate stability to success from academics, to teen pregnancy, poverty, etc. Colin argued that stability was the primary key to success for modern NFL franchises noting the coaching shuffle for the bottom of the brackets and perennial winners had a stable coaching staff.

It is not really that big of stretch to link this simple concept:

24  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25  “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
26  “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
27  “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 7:24–27). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

So my suggestion is to build stability in your life, heart, and home. It clearly begets success

Phillip W. Martin

 

A Teenager’s New Year’s Resolution, by Bill H. Reeves

While preaching in El Salvador I found the following New Year’s resolution attached to the door of Mercedes Hernandez, daughter of Joaquin Hernandez who preaches in Central America. The paper was written by his daughter for her benefit alone, a few minutes after greeting the New Year. She went to her room, wrote her thoughts on the paper and fixed it to the door. She did not know anyone else would see it. I was impressed by it and asked her to let me have a copy of it to share with others. Her example may inspire the rest of us to greater zeal in the Lord’s kingdom.

January 1, 1988. 12:15 a.m. This year I desire, if the Lord wills:

1. To study in order to learn.

2. To persist in useful things.

3. To forget things which are not pleasant.

4. To smile more and be more pleasant among those about me.

5. To be punctual and constant.

6. To be better toward Said and Yasser (her two little brothers, BHR).

7. To do all things whole-heartedly and with love toward the Lord.

What I have written I propose in my heart, asking the Lord that I might fulfill it.

I desire, oh Lord, that you permit me to accomplish it in accordance with your divine will, and when I feel weakness in me I ask you to accompany me.

But above all I supplicate thee to be with me and accompany me always, Lord of heaven and earth.

Permit me to read the Holy Bible and to pray every day.

Pray: many times daily.

Read: one or more hours daily.

Blessed be thou Lord Jesus. Be with my brothers. In your great love. Amen.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 6, p. 171
March 17, 1988

via: http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume32/GOT032082.html

Stewing In Our Own Juice, by Robert F. Turner

When someone’s sinful conduct rebounded upon him, my dad would sometimes say, “He is stewing in his own juice.” Dad meant he was reaping what he had sown. This is a Bible concept, in both the good and bad sense. We do not really 46get away” with anything. Our deeds and thoughts are “naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Since we are in God’s world, where the very character of God is manifested in his creation; and since we will be eventually judged by our Creator; we should know that our well-being, now and in eternity, depends upon our living according to his rules. Three times in the first chapter of the Roman letter Paul indicates “God gave up” the pagan world to the consequences of their own conduct. He allowed them to “stew in their own juice.” There is a practical principle here for all of us: we carry in ourselves the seed of harvest, both temporal and eternal.

We are often self-deceived: thinking possessions can make us happy; our cunningness can reap the benefits of true wisdom; the snares we set for others can give us freedom. This is to proceed without reckoning with God and his principles of righteousness. Greed only heaps up treasures that “moth and rust corrupt.” The cunning are caught by others more cunning, and are usually overcome by the strength of honorable wisdom. The book of Proverbs is literally filled with such admonitions. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city . . . ” but the destruction of the poor (by which he gain ed his wealth) eventually becomes his poverty (Prov. 10:15). “The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them” (11:3). If evil-doers seem to prosper (as indeed they do) remember the advice of the Psalmist: “Fret not thyself. “Evil-doers shall be cut off” (Psa. 37:7-11).

The prophet Habakkuk affords an excellent example of the principle we are discussing. Habakkuk recognized the sins of his people and cried out to God to do something about them. God revealed he was sending the Chaldeans to overrun and punish Judah for her sins. Habakkuk objected, “Holdest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he?” (1:13) He was told “the righteous shall live by his faith” (f.n. “in his faithfulness,” 2:4). God has not forgotten his own.

But that is not all. The wicked Chaldeans, used by God to punish Judah, were still accountable for their deeds. The wine (of greed and pride) is treacherous. The very nations they had conquered would “take up a parable . . . a taunting proverb” against them (2:5f). There follows five “woes” promising them the fruit of their own wickedness. Habakkuk learned the true meaning of faith. He waited patiently for the punishment due Judah’s wickedness, and said, “Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:16f). He was now attuned to God’s judgments.

Reaping what we sow is also applicable in far less dramatic cases. Some girls use extreme makeup and tight clothing to throw themselves at the boys. They get a cheap date, cheap popularity, and eventually a cheap husband who likely holds marriage as a “cheap” arrangement. Later the divorced mother with children to support “stews in her own juice,” and just can’t figure out why it happened. I remember talking with a divorcee who told me each of her three husbands were alcoholics. I asked, “Where do you get. your husbands?” and was told she met them where she worked – in a bar. I do not say all divorces have such obvious cause-effect relations, but the general principle remains true: we sow the seed of our own harvest. The boy who is lazy, changes jobs-often, does sloppy work, and is a “clock watcher, ” finds it hard to understand why he finally runs out of jobs. The world does not treat him fairly; or does it?

Preachers try to “win debates” with trickery, character assassination, or unfair use of papers or pulpit – and are shunned or held at arms length by many brethren. Of course they can always say those brethren can not take “sound” teaching, but I wonder if they never take a look deep inside themselves. It is equally true that those who compromise truth and repeatedly excuse ungodly conduct may finally find themselves in the “liberal” camp. How did they get there? The “seed” produced their fruit. They may not feel the “stewing” now, but ultimate consequences are inevitable.

Retribution and judgment lie woven into the nature of creation, and are an integral part of God’s revealed will. We “program” our own destinies far more than we may realize, and we should not have to wait for the unchangeable final judgment to do something about it. Instead of blaming fate or “others” for our plight, we should take a hard look at our past, the seed of our present. In our yesterdays we were mixing the ingredients of today. We are storing up our eternal future by present lifestyles and response to God. That is one reason it is so hard to truly repent, to turn about, to “kill the old man.” But God’s goodness can have a great influence if we but give it consideration (Rom. 2:4f). We still have life, and with Christ that means hope. It is up to each of us to trust him, and begin sowing the seeds of an eternal inheritance.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 15, p. 455
August 6, 1987

via: http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume31/GOT031198.html

 

A Refuge in Times of Trouble, by: Ken Weliever

Via: http://thepreachersword.com/2013/11/21/a-refuge-in-times-of-trouble/

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The Old Testament Patriarch, Job, observed over 3,000 years ago, “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”

I have been reminded of that this week.  Again.

Rescue teams have been searching the Barren River in Bowling Green, Kentucky, looking for Adam Smelser, missing since Sunday afternoon.  Evidently he went for a run.  Then a swim. And hasn’t been seen since.  I feel the grief and heartbreak of his parents, family and friends.

Then on Monday Norma Jean received a call that her cousin, Carolyn Parslow, collapsed suddenly. She was taken to Florida Hospital and never regained consciousness. She passed away on Tuesday evening.  We are leaving for Tampa tomorrow where I will preach her funeral service on Saturday.

I think back this year of those who have left us too soon.  Azaiah DeGarmo. Marty Pickup.  Ted Brewer.  And there are many others.  Friends that I have loved.  Families we’ve been close to.  Earthly relationships that are severed.

Then there those who are suffering with an incurable, debilitating disease. A fire that destroyed a family’s home.   A father who has walked out on his family.  Someone who has lost their life savings.  And people who have lost everything in the Typhon stricken Philippines.

So what is the answer? How do we cope? Where do we turn when Trouble troubles our lives?

The Psalmist says, “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”  (Ps. 9:9-10)

Let me suggest four ways God can be your refuge that I have observed from my friends who are suffering and based on Biblical teaching.

(1) Live in God’s Presence. James said, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Jesus promised “I am with you always even to the end of the world. Mt 28:29.

When we suffer adversity, we can know that we are in the presence of God. What a great encouragement, comfort and consolation.

One man said, where was God when my son died?” The answer is: The same place he was when His son diedIf you feel forsaken, Jesus knows how you feel. God is not a spectator of our pain, we are in his presence.

(2) Learn from God’s Promises. The Psalmist affirmed that God would be with us. That he is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” God promises help. Comfort. Hope. He says, “I care. And I will care for you.” (I Pet. 5:7). He feels our pain. And will supply our every need.

(3) Lean on God’s Power When Sennacherib, king of Assyria invaded Judah, the king stood up and said. “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him.  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chron 32:7-8)

Finite strength is undependable and expendable, but God’s infinite power is sufficient for every need. Indeed we are “kept by the power of God” (1 Pet 1:5)

(4) Look For God’s Purpose God’s purpose is not to make you miserable. Paul said to “rejoice in the Lord” God does not send pain, problems and pressures. God is the giver of good gifts. (Jas. 1:18)

Why does trouble come? Maybe it is because of the evil of other people. Sometimes it is the result of living in a natural world that is filled with sin, suffering and separation. It could be through our own poor choice (Gal. 6:7-8) Or maybe the Devil is trying to trap us (1 Pet. 5:8)

So what is God’s Purpose for me as I experience life’s problems? To walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) To use adversity to make me stronger (Jas 1:2-3) To focus on God’s eternal plan in Jesus. (Eph. 3:11) To claim victory through His love, grace and mercy. (Rom 8:30-31)

We all will suffer trouble in this life. Sometimes extreme tragedy will befall us. Yet, whatever the trial or trouble, there is help.  Hope. There is God.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

On a Christians Commitment in Marriage, by: Doy Moyer

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While we need to be concerned about the influence our spouses will have on our spiritual lives (see On Christians Marrying Non-Christians), we must ourselves be committed to serving our spouses and helping them serve the Lord. In other words, marriage shouldn’t be all about me. It is about me to the extent that I must bear responsibility in glorifying God. It is about me in the sense that God calls upon me to glorify Him. But my focus must be first on God, then on loving my spouse as Christ loves His people (Eph 5:22ff). Therefore, while I must be concerned about the type of person I marry, for the sake of my own soul, I must be even more concerned about the type of influence I will have on my spouse. Not only do I need a spouse who can aid me in serving God and preparing for eternity, but I need to be a spouse who will aid her in serving God, also. A single Christian praying for a spouse should not just pray, “Lord, send me the right person,” but “Lord, make me the right person for someone else.” Focus on being the right kind of person and the right of kind of person will be attracted to you.

Dedication in marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, and if that’s how we view it, then we will feel justified in treating our spouses in a lesser way than we are capable of or responsible for. This means that even if a spouse fails to try or gives less than his or her best, we are still responsible to give our very best to the marriage. My approach to marriage must not be conditioned upon the way my spouse acts, but upon God’s will. This is because, as Christians, we are to approach all things with an attitude of service to the Lord.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col 3:23-24).

This is an over-riding principle for all that we do, and this should be no less true in marriage. It is the Lord Christ whom we ultimately serve, and therefore our treatment of our spouses and our commitment to marriage is built upon this principle rather than upon some quid pro quo with our spouses.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:3-5)

This passage, though dealing with relationships broader than marriage, must nevertheless be applied within a marriage. Our commitment is to be like Christ, to have His attitude in everything. Once again, this is not based on how others act, but upon our primary commitment to God. In this sense, then, marriage is about my spouse, not me. Just as Christ did nothing through selfish ambition, so we must act in humility toward our spouses in order to serve them and their interests (primarily spiritual interests). If I make marriage about my own personal happiness, then likely I will act out in selfishness and end up destroying the marriage and the happiness of my spouse, not to mention my own happiness in the process. Make marriage about your spouse, not yourself, based upon the principles demonstrated by Christ in humbling Himself to die for our sins. In this way, the husband can love Christ as He loves His body (Eph 5).

Christians must also recognize that marriage is a direct reflection of God’s relationship with His people. This is Paul’s primary point in Ephesians 5. After speaking of the submission of the wife and the love the husband is to have for her, Paul then says, “I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (vs. 32). I believe that one of the main reasons God initiated marriage in Genesis was to showcase male and female as His creatures made in His image. He then used the marriage metaphor throughout Scripture to describe His relationship with His people — with Israel and then with His people under Christ. Prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Malachi stress the importance of this principle as the people had committed acts of adultery with foreign gods. Now marriage to Christ as His people is primary for the child of God. We are the bride of Christ, adorned for Him in covenant relationship (cf. Rev 21:2). Paul used marriage again as the illustration to show that we were made to be joined to Christ in order to bear fruit to God (Rom 7:1-4).

These ideas highlight the importance of physical marriage for God’s people. Marriage was made by God. He joins two together. Breaking the covenant is treachery (see Mal 2:15-16), and He hates divorce. God intends marriage to reflect His own covenant relationship with people made in His image. I believe that this understanding of marriage will help us realize just how important our commitment to our spouses needs to be. Marriage ultimately isn’t about us, but about God’s own commitments to covenant. Though God made marriage for mankind, He made it for the greater purpose of reflecting His image. May God help us to reflect it properly.

Doy Moyer

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/11/on-a-christians-commitment-in-marriage.html

On Christians Marrying Non-Christians, by: Doy Moyer

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“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33).

This article is not an attempt to place any guilt trips on those already married. I understand the delicate situation. Yet I think that we sometimes are afraid to tackle the question, and I beg your careful consideration of the question: Should a Christian marry a non-Christian?

What sets the child of God apart from the world, in action, is seeking first the kingdom of God (i.e., God’s rule, doing His will) and His righteousness. My question, when it comes to marriage, is this: should a Christian, who is to be seeking God’s rule first, join himself or herself to one in marriage, who is not seeking God’s rule first? Is this even compatible — seeking first God’s rule while joining myself in the most intimate of ways to one who is going the opposite direction? I’ve never been satisfied with a “yes” answer to that question (maybe you can be satisfied with it, but I have yet to figure out how that works).

The problem is that a non-Christian has refused to submit himself to God’s rule, and this can spell trouble. Why? Because, it indicates that one is taking self over God. One of the most fundamental aspects of being a Christian is that of self-denial (Luke 9:23). But a non-Christian has refused this, which means that he has set a pattern of self-will for himself. There was a reason God told His covenant people under the Law of Moses not to intermarry with pagans. He knew their hearts would be led away if they did (see Deut 7:3-4). Shall this principle be ignored now? Do we find the danger of having our hearts turned away from God lessened today?

This is particularly problematic for the woman who marries a man who is not a Christian for the simple reason that marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church (Eph 5). The man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. This is difficult enough for one dedicated to the Lord. For one not dedicated to the Lord, he may show love, but he will not purposefully pattern his love after Christ. Is this what we want?

What should be the first criterion for choosing a spouse? Should it be attraction and chemistry? Should it be that you like the same hobbies? Should it be that you laugh together and get along so well? What is the foundation of your relationship that will get you through life together, including all the difficult times and trials that will surely come your way?

The Christian’s commitment is to please God in all things and to pursue holiness. Why wouldn’t it be that way in marriage, too? Therefore, the fundamental question to be asking is this: will this person help me serve the Lord and prepare myself for eternal life with God? I advise ladies to answer the question, “Will you marry me?” with “Only if you’ll help me serve God and go to heaven.” This puts the responsibility back onto the man to be the leader he is called to be, first and foremost in leading his family in the way of God. It seems axiomatic, does it not, that a non-Christian will be unable to do this since he has not committed himself to God’s rule above all else.

“Are you saying that being married to a non-Christian is a sin?” No, and I am fully aware of the teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 on this. If you are married to a non-Christian, then you really are married and need to live out your commitment. Here I’m not really talking so much about already being married as much as I am talking about getting married. In other words, if you are already married, then you need to be dedicated to that marriage, no matter how difficult it may be or who you chose. The questions I am asking have to do with the attitude of one who is looking to get married, before the “I do’s” have been said. How careful are we being about the kind of spouse we choose?

I also recognize that some are married to one who has since quit the Lord. That is, both were Christians at the time of courting and marrying, but now one has given up on the Lord. Again, the Lord has joined them together and the Christians must remain dedicated to making that work. 1 Peter 3:1-6 would certainly apply to both sets of circumstances.

I am also fully aware that many have been converted to Christ after getting married. Praise the Lord for that! However, that still does not really address the fundamental point here. We cannot marry with the expectation of being able to convert a spouse, as if marrying a non-Christian is a form of evangelism (I’ve had that argument put to me before). Though there are many examples of post-marriage conversions, there are many others that have not seen such a pleasant outcome. Are we willing to risk it, and why?

Then, there are the children. All children are precious and need proper care in growing and learning. The Christian’s task is to raise up a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). The non-Christian does not have the same goals for children, and this creates a divide in training children. Even if the non-Christian agrees to let the Christian teach the children, the influence of both parents will be strong and divisive. Yes, some have been successful in spite of the circumstances, and I would praise those parents who have been able to do it, but do we want to enter the situation with such a risk in the first place? There are enough difficulties in raising children, given a culture that is antagonistic toward God and His people. Why would we willingly compound the difficulties?

The Christian considering marrying a non-Christian needs to take a long, hard look at this. The problem is, once a person has fallen in love, many of those problems will likely be overlooked. My plea, even more, is to single Christians who are not dating anyone yet. Decide now that the person you will marry will be truly devoted to the Lord and in helping you in your spiritual journey toward God and eternal life with Him.

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/11/on-christians-marrying-non-christians.html

The Vision of a Blind Man, By: Doy Moyer

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“Why was this man born blind?” the disciples wondered. Was it because he sinned or because his parents sinned? “Neither,” responded Jesus, “but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man didn’t know that he was about to become the object of a miracle. His purpose now was to display the greatness of God. People knew he was blind from birth; they also knew that one blind from birth doesn’t just start seeing. Jesus spat on the ground, made clay and applied it to the eyes of the blind man. He then instructed the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9:1-7). Oh, is that all?

This event is told in such simple terms — no fluff or pomp added. That in itself is amazing. Doesn’t that suggest that God wants us to be struck by the simple truth? Truth needs no embellishments. It is what it is. The facts themselves are awesome.

Now that’s not the end of the story. People were amazed at what happened. How does a blind man suddenly see? They took him to the Pharisees, who cross-examined him in no kind way; and the man held up quite well. Why? Because he caught vision — not just the ability to physically see, but a vision of who Jesus was: “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32-33). The man hit it right on the nose. Not only could he now see, he could now see.

Then there were the Pharisees, demonstrating once again their self-righteous inability to see what was most important. What was their first impression of the One who made the blind man see? “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (9:16). So much for Jesus — how dare He heal a man on the Sabbath! Some were a little more honest: “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” They basically dismissed the evidence because of their own bias. How did they respond to the man’s point about Jesus being from God? “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out. How’s that for honesty? They could see, but they couldn’t see.

After the man was put out, Jesus found him again and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man responded, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have both seen Him, and He is the One who is talking with you.” The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

The point of this miracle should be clear: Jesus can open our eyes! His power to open the eyes of the physically blind demonstrated His power to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. But we must be willing. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some Pharisees asked, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” What does that mean?

Men are responsible for what they are able to receive and do. But if pride keeps one from receiving truth, he will be condemned. They thought they knew the law concerning the Sabbath better than Jesus, and they condemned Him for healing on that day: “We see.” Therefore, their pride and self-confidence left them condemned. As long as people are proud, self-sufficient, and confident in their own wisdom, they cannot receive forgiveness of sins from God: “your sin remains.” On the other hand, if people recognize their complete dependence upon God and His ways, coming to Him with humble hearts, confessing their ignorance and their sins, God will forgive.

This is where our vision begins. We are blind. We dare not trust our own wisdom and ways. We must see the vision of Jesus, the Great Redeemer and Savior, then respond in faith: “Lord, I believe.” We must worship and praise Him. As we humble ourselves before God, we will begin to see the light of the gospel shining on the path to heaven. But if we think, “we see,” that we have it all figured out by ourselves, the path will remain in darkness. It all starts with an attitude of humility toward God. Let us pray that Isaiah’s prophecy of spiritual blindness be not fulfilled in us (Matt. 13:14-15). Instead, may the Lord say about us, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (vs. 16). What have you seen lately?

Doy Moyer

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