Monthly Archives: July 2016

Wedding Sermon

Towards the end of Jesus’ life, his enemies were looking for an excuse to arrest and execute him. At one point, they asked him about divorce.

Listen to what Jesus answered them: (Matthew 19)

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

He refers to the beginning, before sin and shame entered the world. God didn’t change his standard when men fell. He still expects us to live as we were created to live.

He answers a modern problem with reminding us of the very beginning. He gives the account of God’s creation of Adam.

God is one, and yet God exists eternally in three persons, and the persons of the trinity love one another, as Jesus taught us. And men and women were created to enter into the fellowship of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

But it wasn’t good for man to be alone. So God brought a woman – flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of Adam’s bone. They also were joined together in love, to image God’s perfect love to one another, to their children, and to the whole world.

But then they fell. They worshiped and served themselves, and became subject to the bondage of the devil, and hatred, reviling, murder and lust became the norm.

As the Heidelberg Catechism says, now we are prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor – and nowhere is this more apparent than in marriage. Where love was supposed to reign, hatred and bitterness entered. Where love and service were to rule, dominion and subjugation took over.

For the heart of every man is this: “I will be as god, knowing good and evil.”

And when two people come together, both saying in their hearts “I will be as god” only abuse, chaos, enmity and strife can result.

This is what Jesus warned us of. Don’t tear apart what God has joined together.

The standard for marriage is not marriage as it is now, according to Jesus, but marriage as God created it, before it was twisted and defiled by sin.

In the beginning, God told man to be fruitful and multiply and spread the kingdom of God throughout the whole world. But instead, man became a slave to the kingdom of the devil.

And so we are really talking about two kingdoms.

In one kingdom, the currency is power and control, lust, dominion, hatred – gaining the upper hand, winning at all cost.

This is what controlled the world before Jesus came to set up HIS kingdom. The few who were powerful crushed and enslaved everyone else. Husbands crushed and enslaved their wives. But from the beginning, it was not so. And Jesus came to restore to us the kingdom of God.

This is the very reason that He came into the world – to take away our sins. He came to deliver us from the bondage of the devil, to establish a new kingdom. And in the kingdom of God the currency is love, peace, joy, service, mutual respect, cherishing one another, learning to take the lower seat –

Jesus Himself is our example.

The conquering king came to defeat the greatest enemy the world can ever know. He came, though, not as a typical earthly general, but as a baby in a manger, he lived a life of poverty and homelessness, and was beaten, condemned, and executed – not just as a criminal, but as the lowest of the low, as the scum and off-scouring of the world. He took the form of a slave, the foreskin of the world.

If you had seen him, you also would  have despised him. You would have built walls to keep him out. “He’s not our kind of people.”

But in his moment of sinking to the lowest depth of powerlessness and weakness, when he died on that cross – something happened – the head of the serpent was crushed, the devil was cast out of heaven, and the war was finished. The devil received the death blow, for Jesus on the cross was not a victim; rather he was the victor. He was the conquering hero.

He was despised and rejected in our place, that we might be loved and accepted by God.

He was bruised for our iniquity and wounded for our transgressions, that we might be acceptable, without blemish and without spot before God and once again walk with our Maker.

And that day will come in perfection, when He will restore what WE threw away.

At the resurrection, the kingdom of God was inaugurated. Even now, Jesus is plundering the kingdom of the devil. Even now he is conquering and to conquer. And – here is the amazing thing – he has invited us to take part in his conquest!

He has united us to himself by the Holy Spirit and has promised us that the day will come when we also will crush the head of the serpent.

But now we still live between the two worlds– the world of the flesh and our sinful lusts, and the world of perfection when we have finally put off this body of sin.

We still are prone to use the currency of the kingdom of the devil – we still automatically think that our help and safety will come from power and control, domination and lust, conquest, winning at any cost.

But these things will never advance the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God comes only one way – the way that it did with our conquering king – through suffering, weakness, service, love – and humility.

3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.1

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phi 2:3-11 KJV)

Our example is Christ, who won the victory not by domination and control, but by love and service. In obedience to God he suffered and died, and the serpent’s head was crushed. And now he calls us to that same obedience. Don’t exalt yourself. Remember what Christ has done for you.

Anything other than that will tear apart what God has joined together.

So Jesus says to us that God joined us together, which is a wonderful thing; but it includes a warning. Don’t tear apart what God joined.

Which kingdom will you serve? One promises the easy way – but will end up in death and hell. Which kingdom will be served in your home? Hatred and strife? Or love and service?

By faith in Jesus Christ we belong to Him. Your marriage will be as strong as your faith in Christ. Every failure in marriage is a failure of faith.

But by faith, by trusting in his promises and looking to his hand alone for every good thing, he will guard and keep your soul.

You never have to settle for normal. Normal is bad. The saddest thing to me is when people say, “How’s your marriage?”

And the answer is “normal. We have a normal marriage.”

That’s not a goal! Strive for redeemed marriage.

But this can only be done by faith in Christ, who has redeemed us from the bondage of the devil.

In a few moments you will both vow to love one another. How does one do this when our default setting is hatred? Only through the gospel – learning to love the Lord Jesus.

Only when you learn to love the Lord Jesus can you learn to love each other. I know that is perhaps shocking – but it is nonetheless true. Unbelievers can fall in love, they can be attracted, they can even love how someone makes them feel – but they cannot truly love a person  until they learn how to love Jesus.

Joe, you can love how Rachel makes you feel. You can love what you think she is like. But you cannot love HER until you learn how to love the Lord Jesus.

Rachel, you can love how Joe makes you feel inside. You can love what you think HE is like. But you cannot love Joe until you learn how to love the Lord Jesus.

Things aren’t the same as they were when they were created because now sin and shame are in the world, and those ugly things will start to creep in. And if you haven’t learned to love the Lord Jesus, you will find yourself saying – “That woman that YOU gave me…!”

But the more you love Jesus, the more you will love each other. The more you won’t fear knowing one another, and actually being known. Because you know that nothing can take you from the love of God, you don’t have to be afraid anymore.

God has given each of you a tremendous gift and you are now entering a new era of warfare. Remember, that in this life we are at war – we are crushing the head of the serpent. And now, instead of going at it alone, you are two warriors, joined together by God as one flesh. Two conquering heroes united as one. Do battle together.

What does that mean? Learn to love Jesus. And when you do, you will learn to take the lower place, you will learn to serve one another. You will learn more and more to die to yourselves.

A warrior ready to die is undefeatable. Take up your crosses and strike the blow on the kingdom of the devil!

And do not neglect the church. This is where Christ’s warriors are equipped. This is where you learn to love the Lord Jesus.

Count yourself as dead in Christ daily – that you might live in service to God and to one another as he has commanded. This is how to keep the vow. It isn’t drudgery; it isn’t hard work. It isn’t difficult. Jesus said, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Learn to love him, and then you will love each other, for God has joined you together, and called it very good. Instead of tearing what God calls good apart, put on your combat boots together, and crush the serpent’s head together.

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We Need a New Name

Excellent post. I agree completely.

A Daughter of the Reformation

In the 1980s, a new group was formed to combat the rise of egalitarianism in the church and the home. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), in their early meetings, chose a name for their new movement: complementarianism. While there is debate over the origin of the name, the movement defined itself as the conservative answer to egalitarianism. The complementarian movement has done some good things in affirming the complementarityand equality of men and women. It is good to affirm that husbands are to lead their wives sacrificially and that wives are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. It is also good to affirm the ordination of qualified men.

However, over time, there has been increasing concern about some of what is being taught in the name of complementarianism. Many authors, myself included, have spoken out about these abuses. The recent debate over…

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For My Dad

There were always so many of us. I was always in the middle. The memories that stuck out the most were the ones where it was just my dad and me. Those were the silly things that stuck in my head, where it struck me that Dad knew that I was there, and I wasn’t just “the other one”.

There was the first time I heard Rubenstein playing Beethoven – and Dad listened with me. He said, “When you can play it like that, I’ll give you $500.00.” I learned it. I never played it even close to Rubenstein, but he gave me $500.00 anyway.

I listened to Horowitz play Chopin. I had the score on the back of the couch and I was kneeling backwards on the couch following the score. Dad came along and knelt next to me.

“Is this the score?”

“Yeah”

Then he listened with me silently, as one is supposed to. Horowitz finished playing. He said,

“Pretty.”

I said, “Yeah.”

It was the Raindrop Prelude. I knew then that I wanted to learn it.

The things that stick in your head are funny things. You run them around in your mind over and over. The times he took you to buy pants. The time he took you to get a suit for your graduation.

There was the time that he took me to San Francisco for a music competition. I was so out of my league. But he never let on that he knew.

Growing up in the 70s, we saw the advent of the Aaron Spelling TV shows, which Dad dubbed “jiggle shows.” We, of course, never watched them. Nor did we listen to that “boop-de-boop” music, whatever that means. He was adamantly opposed to everything rock, disco, pop, or anything that smacked of hippies.

But then there were the hunting trips. Waking up at 4:30, grabbing bags of Snickers and apples, driving in the huge yellow van to some forsaken area. If we had been allowed to watch slasher films, we would have been terrified. Instead, we huddled frozen together in the van, shivering. Eating snickers and apples and listening to “God didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summer time;” “Just call me angel of the morning, angel;” “One toke over the line,” and “Everything is beautiful.”

To this day, the dulcet alto of Anne Murray brings to the mind the car-sick queasiness, ice cold shivers, the taste of Snickers.

We never even saw anything, much less killed anything. I remember the porcupine in the tree mocking us, until my brothers took the rifle to it.

John Denver and Statler Brothers awaken memories of camping in Southern Oregon.

But greater by far are the hymns that we sung. Christmas is “Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning” and “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates”.

Thanksgiving rings with “We Plow the Fields and Scatter”.

Easter is “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today” and “Low in the Grave He Lay”.

I still can’t play “Alleluia, Alleluia” without the image of Dad in the pulpit, waving frantically trying to get me to go faster, faster, faster. After 40 years of playing it, I still don’t think I have played it fast enough.

I remember the first bikes for Steve and me. We rode for hours up and down the large property.

But the greatest legacy of my father that he left to me was a share in the kingdom of God. I remember the catechism, the prayers for me, the sermons, the questions answered. He brought the word of Christ into the home and it stuck. And for that, Dad, you have my eternal thanks.

Thank you for your faithfulness, your zeal for the church and your love for Jesus that has infected everyone you have come into contact with.

With love and gratitude,

Sam

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