Marriage – Who Designed It?

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“A truly Christian marriage starts with the reality that the institution of marriage does not belong to us. It belongs to God. He designed marriage, and his purposes for it are paramount.”

Love That Lasts (Foreword by CJ and Carolyn Mahaney): When Marriage Meets Grace – by Gary Ricucci, Betsy Ricucci, C. J. Mahaney, and Carolyn Mahaney

The Boulder.

By Herb Berkley

Everyone has a history. I have a history. You have a history. The things contained in that history may not be as wonderful and pretty as we expected early on in our lives. Our expectations of pleasing God were shattered with failed attempts to say no to the world. We have a tendency to carry around the ugly undesirable parts of our history with us like a boulder on a chain connected to our leg that we locked and threw away the key for. We walk in shame, and intense labor, because of the things we’ve done, or the people we’ve been, or the people we’ve hurt.

 

An inescapable part of our reality is this very clear understanding of who we are now and who we have been leading up to this point. God created our minds to be in a constant state of reconciliation. Even though we’ve turned away from the sins of our past, the now unfolding history being changed, we still hold on to these feelings of regret and anguish? It’s penetrating at times when we reflect back on our past. We labor on and toil in life and these things sometimes haunt us. We see an old picture or drive through an old town and it takes us back to a time when we were not our best most desirable human and certainly not the most pleasing to God. The good news is that there is a perfect way to resolve this problem

Jeremiah 31:34 New International Version (NIV)

34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

Matthew 11:28-29 New International Version (NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 103:12 New International Version (NIV)

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 

The amazing thing about Christ is that when His sacrifice was complete the key to unlocking the boulder of our past and the hammer to crush it was set on our front doorstep. We only have to reach out and take it in the way in which God’s son manifest in His life through the words in the New Testament. The burdens of life can only become lighter if we share them with someone strong enough to carry them and strong enough to “ERASE” them from our history; releasing us from the bonds of this world to help us rise up into the greatest, most desirable human in the eyes of God. Jesus perfect history allows our personal human history to be cleaned, to be cleared, to be revised in good standing with God. That’s really good news for all!

Heb. 1:5-14

To Which Of The Angels Did God Ever Say This?

Hebrews 1:5-14

“For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you?’ Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son?’ And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprighteness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same and your years will have no end.’ And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’ Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”

Hebrews 1:4 declares that Jesus is superior to angels. In this section from verse 5 to the end of the chapter, the writer proves that by citing various passages from the Old Testament. It is like the writer goes through a list of statements from the Old Testament and says to his readers – was God talking about angels or the Messiah? “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” was not directed to any angel. So, the passage uses Old Testament statements to establish who Jesus is. He is higher than angels, worthy of praise and obedience.

What does this mean to us now? Well, it puts angels in their place and calls upon us to give honor and praise to Jesus. If God speaks through One who is superior to angels, I need to listen. I need to read the New Testament as God’s word to me through His only begotten Son. Angels have their place. Jesus is superior.

The Refiner

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The Refiner

-author unknown-

 

There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi.

As they were studying Chapter Three, they came across Verse Three which
says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. This verse puzzled
the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.
That week this woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to
watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her
interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining
silver. As she watched the silver smith, he held a piece of silver over the
fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed
to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest
so as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse, that says, “He sits as a refiner and purifier of
silver”. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there
in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man
answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he
had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For
if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be
destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silver smith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined? He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s the easy part–when I see my image reflected in it.”
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His
eye on you and will keep His hand on you and watch over you until He sees
His image in you.

2 Peter 1:3

God’s Power Expressed

2 Pet. 1:3

Warren E. Berkley

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

Just in this single verse, there is rich teaching about the nature of God, given by the apostle Peter as the basis for the instructions that follow for Christians.

This begins with God’s Power: “His Divine Power.” On the first page of the Bible, the reader becomes acquainted with the power of God. He spoke everything into existence. Power is the strength to accomplish your will with whatever resources are required. God has this. He can accomplish whatever He wills to do and has whatever resources are necessary at his disposal. He holds ultimate, perfect power, always well directed by His wisdom. In fact – there is no competition; no rival – to His Divine Power. But along with this superior power there is . . .

Generosity. Just consider the word “given:” “His divine power has given to us…” Or in the NAS, “granted.” When there is giving, or a grant, there is generosity. This word “generosity” is interesting. The prefix is “gen,” and that’s the root of a Greek word that has to do with bearing, begetting,  producing. A genealogy is a record of those born of a certain family. The book of Genesis is about what God produced.  The word “gentlemen” has to do with the behavior polite, mature men produce.  So the idea behind the prefix “gen” is to produce. In the context of giving generosity is what you produce for the good of another. The marvelous thing about God’s giving is, everything He produces is for our good. God is generous in the highest sense of the word. And this affirmation about God is one of the earliest things we learn about Him, for example in Genesis 1:31: “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Every product of His creative work – for our good! God is generous in the highest sense of the word (see more of this, Jas. 1:17).

God’s Sufficiency Is Reflected In The Phrase: “All things that pertain to life and godliness.” One modern translation in English says: “Everything we need!” I have often asked a class to write down what they need for their spiritual welfare. I often get this kind of list:

  1. Instruction.
  2. Motivation.
  3. Warning.
  4. Promises.
  5. Forgiveness.

Then I take the class to this passage and stress, God provides everything we need. God doesn’t say: “Here, I’ll get you started … I’ll give you something … here are a few pieces of the puzzle . . . here are some of the materials you need.” No. “His divine power has given to us EVERYTHING WE NEED…”

The verse also tells us of God’s means: “Through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and excellence.” God gives us all we need. God grants us power over sin. God gives us exceedingly great and precious promises – through Jesus Christ! It is through the knowledge of Him that we become rich recipients of all that God offers. Though we have sinned. God will forgive us and bless us and save us after death. But it is through the knowledge of Him. And this is not just academic knowledge, where information is learned. This is intimate, spiritual knowledge. This means you know Him – not just in mind, but in love, in life, in hope! (See further at 1 Jno. 2:3 and Phil. 3).

It is through Jesus Christ that God expresses His gracious power, and that means – on our side of the relationship – we must know Christ and accept His call! Knowing Christ means learning who He is and what He did for us (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are dependable teachers!). Accepting His call happens when you are baptized into Christ and as you follow through by living in obedience to His teaching and example. If you want to be a participant in the riches that is produced by a perfectly generous God, please understand that His divine power flows “through the knowledge of Him,” Jesus Christ!

Podcasts on the Gospel of John, Click Here.

Confused On Gender?

From Pressing On Magazine, Click Here To Subscribe

Confused on Gender

By Mark Roberts,

Recently there was some coverage of an ethics piece in the New York Times Magazine in which the author took great umbrage at gender reveal parties.  How dare parents impose their ideas of gender upon the helpless child even before he or she is born!  The column includes this gem: “Gender-reveal parties, where parents and guests learn a baby’s gender together, violate my values because they reaffirm society’s gender binarism and inadvertently perpetuate the stigma against non-binary genders.”  Gender binarisim?  Non-binary genders?  Let’s spend a minute in Scripture to get our thinking straight and clear on this issue from God’s Word.  The world is confused on gender.  God’s people better not be!

The beginning place for this discussion is the very beginning.  In Genesis 1:26-27 the Bible says “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Principle 1: God created gender.  Gender isn’t a manmade idea or something we dreamed up on our own.  Gender distinctions and differences are rooted in anatomy and physiology. The very chromosomes of every cell in your body come from God.  He made us that way.   Gender is part of your created identity.  There really isn’t any such thing as “non-binary genders” because God made two and only two: male and female.

Principle 2: Changing gender violates God’s plan for you and is wrong.  That is not hard to see either.  “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Of course, that is a passage from the Old Covenant, but it is instructive.  At a time when everyone is wearing virtually the same garment (long robes) men and women were still to maintain gender differences.  Men were to look like men, women to look like men (a principle that Paul draws on in 1 Corinthians 11:4-6 as well).  The truth of this can be seen in Romans 1:26-27.  “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”  It has been noted that just as nature teaches truth about God it teaches truth about us, about who we are, about what we should be and should choose, especially with our sexual identity.

Principle 3: You are owned by God, not yourself.  Thus, the standard is God’s word, not what you want or what you feel.  The psalmist says “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).  God owns us by the right of creation.  We are made to serve Him and must do so.  How I feel about my identity, my sexuality, or who I am attracted to sexually, has nothing to do with anything.  I must serve God.

Principle 4: Pseudo-science and the media can’t change Principles 1, 2, and 3.  We are hearing more and more “I was born in the wrong body” or “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.”  There is talk of counseling and being freed to be who you are.  This is all similar to the argument that homosexuality isn’t a behavior but an in-born trait.  There is zero scientific evidence to support either assertion.  There is nothing about trangenderism that is objectively or scientifically verifiable.  It’s not a chromosomal abnormality or the result of a virus or bacteria.  It is simply what some people want to do and be, so they present themselves in this way.  But isn’t it fair to ask “why must this belief be accepted as normal and even celebrated?”  If someone decides they are the Queen of England (“I just feel royal”) that false belief won’t get him or her into Buckingham Palace, will it?  Further, if the mind and body aren’t in sync why do we alter the body surgically to fit what the mind wants to believe?  Maybe we should treat the troubled mind?  Remember, the Bible repeatedly warns us that what we feel is not a reliable guide (see Jeremiah 17:9).

All of this matters because in the Kingdom of God there are roles for men and roles for women.  There are roles for boys and there are roles for girls.  Those roles pertain to our marriages, our families, and our work together in the church.  Those roles can’t be changed or altered based on the latest cultural fad that announces gender is an “imposed construct.”  No, it’s not.  It’s the way God made the world and the way He made us.  Let us treat with love, compassion and care those who are confused on this issue as we continue to be “salt and light” in this dark world.

From Pressing On Magazine, Nov. 2018

 

The Life Was Manifest, 1 Jno. 1:1-4

John’s First Epistle (posted every Wednesday), by Warren E. Berkley

1 Jno. 1:1-4

The Life Was Manifest

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”  – 1 Jno. 1:1-4, English Standard Version

The first epistle of John begins very much like the gospel of John, with an affirmation of the eternal existence of Jesus Christ. What accompanies that affirmation is personal testimony: “we have heard … we have seen with our eyes … we looked and touched.” The reality of the incarnation was not a remote doctrine to John or the other apostles who accompanied Jesus. They were witnesses of His presence on earth. They were convinced by His signs, wonders and resurrection. So, they became proclaimers of the truth about Jesus Christ, “the Word of Life.”

They proclaimed Christ to people for a specific purpose. It says here, “so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” The joy of John and the other apostles did not lie merely in proclaiming the truth about Christ. The completion of their joy would be people responding, to enter into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.

The subject of this paragraph is not just Jesus Christ but “that which” concerned Him and what was now possible for sinners: to enter into fellowship with God through Him.

Today, when the gospel is preached, the purpose is not just to provide information, nor even just reformation. The purpose is the restoration of one’s fellowship with God. Sin disrupts fellowship with God. Christ was manifest and suffered death on the cross so that fellowship with God can be restored. Joy is made complete when this purpose is personally realized.

James on Discrimination

James on Discrimination

(Jas. 2:1-13)

Make a list of character-neutral traits.

Let me help: genealogy, level of education, geographic origin, being bald, biological gender, age, income level, skin color. These are character-neutral, meaning these traits (singularly or combined in one person), have nothing to do with the real character of the person. Hence, we have no right to reject, shun or degrade anyone based on anything in this list. Are you with me?

In typical human interaction, this is often a problem. I grew up in a time and place where racial discrimination was common. The public schools I attended did not implement court ordered de-segregation until the second semester of my senior year (1966, twelve years after the Supreme Court ruling).

My father forbade any racial attitudes or remarks in our home. But outside our home, we lived in a community that was discriminatory. (In southern local churches in the 1940’s and 50’s, black brethren were often welcome to visit meetings, but in a roped off section at the back of the auditorium. I recall a black preacher being asked to lead in prayer. He came forth from the roped section, stood before the audience and led the prayer, then returned to “his place.”)

a man reading indoor
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I hope we all now see the inconsistency of that. And I hope we are committed against all other forms of discrimination, where people are treated as inferior based on some character-neutral trait.

Read This: My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.  For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. – James 2:1-13 (ESV)

Birds Don’t Beg

Birds Don’t Beg

At most major intersections in this part of the country, it is not uncommon to see someone standing with a sign soliciting help. The sign usually says something about family need, a hungry vet or medical need. We may struggle to determine what our best response should be.

A few years ago I was in East Tennessee. At an intersection near the church building where I was a guest speaker, there was a man one morning all bundled up with a sign about his family in need; unemployed, sick children and no formula for baby (all written on the sign). There was a look about the man that touched me. I decided the next day I would inquire further and see if I might invite him to the meeting and perhaps provide some individual help. The next day came. As I pulled up to the intersection I saw the exact same sign, but the man was not the same man! I later found out, there is a man in the city who runs the begging community. He provides the signs, sends his “employees” to the various intersections and takes his cut of the donations. The signs do not represent the actual needs of the sign-holder.

Perhaps you have noticed something else about this fixture in our society. Have you ever seen a bird on the corner with a sign: “Please Help. Four Hatchlings and No Food.”

Birds are very busy creatures. They work hard for their food and to feed and shelter their young. Who makes that possible? And what does that say to us?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his right-eousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:25-34

God Has Spoken, Heb. 1:1-4

God Has Spoken By His Son, #1 (Expect These Simple Essays on Hebrews, Every Sunday until finished.) – web

Hebrews 1:1-4

God Speaks By His Son

Hebrews 1:1-4

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

One main idea from this opening passage is, God speaks to us by His Son. Previous to His final communication through Christ, God spoke to the Jewish people through their prophets. God did this at various times and places and through a variety of means. But that is the past.

God now speaks through Jesus Christ, and that means – when you read the New Testament, you have access to God’s final message.

Having the New Testament of Jesus Christ is significant because of who He is: the heir of all things, the One through whom the world was created; the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature, Jesus upholds the universe. And, after making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Is Jesus, then, sort-of like an angel? No. Higher. “..having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

What does all this mean to us today? The challenged is, for us to recognize (first) that God is a communicating God. Then, to listen to His final communication to us through the New Testament. This will be stated in the opening verse of chapter two in this way: “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.”

God wants you to learn about His Son, read what is written in the New Testament and pay close attention. There is no better way to live and no better way to die.

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