Call me crazy, but I really enjoy mowing and trimming the lawn. I like being able to start something and see it finished to my standard of satisfaction, even if it is only for a moment.
But to enjoy the process and outcome of manicuring the lawn, I have recently been picking up a lot of rocks. You see, we had a house built this past year and the dirt work left a lot of various sized rocks all over the place. Rocks are good for many things, but they are bad for lawnmower blades and windows.
I want to mow the lawn. I like to mow and trim the lawn. I find satisfaction in doing so. But I need to pick up the rocks to do what I enjoy doing.
Such is so much of life.
If we want to do what we enjoy doing, and do it well, then we will have to do some things we need to do. And we may not always enjoy doing what we need to do, but we will do it in order to do what we enjoy.
If I don’t do what I need to do, to do what I want to do, then when mowing the lawn I might lose the enjoyment when I damage my lawnmower and surrounding windows.
So I will continue to pick up the rocks for the enjoyment of doing what I desire to do. And in doing so, perhaps I will learn to value picking up the rocks as a means to a more fulfilling end.
“Rejoice evermore! I wish that it had always been in my heart and on my tongue. Ah, I am filled with an irresistible impulse to fall on my knees in adoration, right here. If only my knees would bend like they used to.”
These are the words of Paul Giamatti in his portrayal of John Adams in the HBO miniseries, John Adams. Adams is at the end of his life, having accomplished much as a founding father and having held both the office of vice-president and president of the United States. At the age of 90 years, he has also experienced much disappointment and loss. His middle son has been consumed by alcoholism, his daughter lost to breast cancer and his beloved wife and friend has preceded him by death.
In this scene he is on a walk with his youngest son, Thomas, when he spots a flowering shrub. This causes him to remember that his mother often said to him that he did not delight enough in the mundane.
He pauses in the presence of his son, and declares with the apostle Paul: “Rejoice evermore! Rejoice evermore!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
This is a bitter-sweet and emotional moment. He longs to rejoice, but reflects that he has lost so much time in which he has forsaken it. He wants to bend his knees, but his knees won’t bend in his aged and feeble body.
Oh, that we would see the beauty of the world while we may enjoy the creator of it.
Oh, that we would bend our knees while they still may bend.
Oh, that we would rejoice on earth as we will in heaven. For even now, in Christ, have we nothing to rejoice about? In Christ, rejoice in the Lord always!
How do we make decisions about what we preach from Sunday to Sunday?
Before sharing how we decide what to preach, it might be helpful to identify who the “we” is. Most of the time I initiate a discussion with Pastor Ryan about what I have in mind, and Ryan gives feedback or offers alternatives. Occasionally, I will ask for input from an Elder or the Elders. The congregation has a role to play in this process, but I will describe their part in a moment.
There are at least eight factors that contribute to how we decide what we preach to the people of Eagle Heights:
We start with the Bible and primarily preach through it, not around it. Because we truly believe the Bible is God’s special and sufficient word to His people, the majority of the preaching we do is through books of the Bible, a section of thought at a time. Do we do some topical exposition? Yes. But the majority of our preaching is sequential exposition to honor what the Spirit has inspired.
We strive to be balanced and Christ-centered. We preach from both the Old Testament and New Testament to show that all the scriptures ultimately point to Jesus as our only hope in life and death.
We strive to be pastoral. This gets back to the role of the congregation that I mentioned earlier. When considering what we might preach through or about, we consider the need of our people. For instance, about two years ago the Elders realized that in order to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:16-20), we needed to explain carefully and thoroughly Jesus’ commands regarding church discipline in Matthew 18:15-18. You often have to first preach what you practice.
We strive to be sensitive to our calendar context. We live in small city with a major university and so there are some very clear seasons in the life of our church. In the summer when most of our university student members are gone and many families are vacationing, we try to do sermons that can stand alone. For example, we have often used the summer to preach through selected Psalms. This summer we will be preaching through various sections of thought that highlight Christology. We also try to start preaching through books of the Bible when school starts so that our university members have the opportunity to experience the full context. We are not a slave to the calendar, but we try to plan through it with the whole church in mind.
We see societal moments as teachable opportunities. Several years ago there were several undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood for selling aborted baby body parts. We took that opportunity to preach on the importance of the sanctity of life and the need to oppose those who prey on those who cannot defend themselves. This past year in Charlottesville, Virginia, racist groups rallied to espouse hate, but we used an opportunity for hate to speak about the biblical dignity given by God to all human beings regardless of ethnicity. These opportunities may come unexpectedly so they require some flexibility in our planning.
We embrace hard topics. God’s word does not shrink back from topics that may assault our cultural sensibilities. The Bible speaks to issues like sexuality, purity, divorce, government, judgment, false teachers, etc. When we see the need for it, we carefully and biblically move toward hard topics because the world needs to see that God has something to say about all of life. The world is talking and teaching about these kinds of things, the church cannot afford to run from them and hope they go away. We will plan sermons to deal with difficult passages and topics.
We are repetitive about some biblical topics. Generally speaking, we believe the doctrine of the church is under-explained by local churches, and so we try to teach about what the church is and what we should be doing. Because Satan wants to destroy God’s design for His people, we also emphasize personal relationships yearly. We also devote a month every year to mission and missions for the sake of mobilization and staying outward focused.
We try to plan several months ahead. Pastor Ryan has helped me considerably with this. It used to be that we would pick a book and we were done when we finished it, however long it took. Using biblical resources and the calendar, we try to plan in advance for the sake of scheduling preachers and helping our small groups decide about content (some small groups choose to follow the sermons). This also helps our people to know how many years they should expect to be in a book like Romans.
As you can see, there are many factors that contribute to sermon planning. If you are a member of Eagle Heights, pray for those of us who lead, that we will do what is best for our faith family. If you are a part of another local church, pray for your lead pastor and Elders as they makes decisions about what is best for the people they will give an account for. May God give us confidence that produces patience, trusting He knows what is best for us when we need it most.
What kind of people were Esther and Mordecai? Were they the kind of faithful people that belong in Hebrews 11? Are they worthy of emulating? Were they God-fearers? And why does the book of Esther never mention God directly?
The opinions of commentators are many and varied. One commentator I have been consulting does not think so highly of them. Pointedly, he declares:
The writer did not omit God’s name and references to Israel’s theocratic institutions because God’s presence was absent. He did not do so because thousands of Gentiles died at the hands of Jews, nor because the Jewish hero and heroine were personally self-willed, as some commentators have suggested. I believe he left them out because they were of little concern to Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews who did not return to the land.
Certainly, Esther and Mordecai have some positive things to teach us, but perhaps the commentator (Constable) is right that we should be careful to avoid making them out to be high-end heroes of the faith. That being said, it is really important to remember that no one, whether in or outside the Bible, is without blemish and worthy of ultimate imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1) – save Jesus who alone can ultimately save and transform. Esther and Mordecai are no Jesus, and Jesus is the true and better Esther and Mordecai.
If the commentator/editor is right, then ironically it is the silence of God that actually amplifies God’s heroics. God can faithfully fulfill His promises to His people (Genesis 12:1-3), even when His people fall way short of being fully faithful.
Using other commentators, here is the rest of what the commentator/editor has to say about Esther and Mordecai:
The personal relationship that Esther and Mordecai enjoyed with Yahweh is a very interesting subject of study. The answer to this puzzle explains why God’s name does not appear in the book and what God’s purpose was in preserving this book for us.
Without question Mordecai was a man of great ability and admirable character. He also demonstrated faith in the Abrahamic Covenant and in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14). Esther too showed some dependence on God for His help (4:16). However these qualities characterized many Jews who Jesus Christ in His day said were not pleasing to God (cf. Matt. 3:9; 6:16; John 8:39). Mordecai and Esther, it seems, were eager to preserve their nation and their religion, but they give little evidence of desire to do God’s will personally. In this respect they contrast with Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
No one forced Esther into Ahasuerus’ harem..
“For the masquerade to last that long, she must have done more than eat, dress and live like a Persian. She must have worshipped like one!”
We cannot excuse her behavior on the ground that she was simply obeying Mordecai’s orders (2:20). Her conduct implicates him in her actions.
“The Christian judgment of the Book of Esther has been unnecessarily cramped through our feeling that because Mordecai is a Bible character, he must be a good man. . . . Like Jehu he may have been little more than a time-server. The Bible makes no moral judgment upon him, but it expects us to use our Christian sense. He was raised up by God, but he was not necessarily a godly man.”
The Book of Esther shows how God has remained faithful to His promises in spite of His adversaries’ antagonism and His people’s unfaithfulness.
“The lovely story of Esther provides the great theological truth that the purposes of God cannot be stymied because He is forever loyal to His covenant with His eternally elected nation.”
The writer did not omit God’s name and references to Israel’s theocratic institutions because God’s presence was absent. He did not do so because thousands of Gentiles died at the hands of Jews, nor because the Jewish hero and heroine were personally self-willed, as some commentators have suggested. I believe he left them out because they were of little concern to Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews who did not return to the land.
“In His providence He [God] will watch over and deliver them; but their names and His name will not be bound together in the record of the labor and the waiting for the earth’s salvation.”
“The early Jews sought to remedy the lack of explicit references to God and religious observances by attaching six Additions to Esther (107 verses) in the Greek version, including a dream of Mordecai, and prayers of Mordecai and of Esther. These sections form part of the Old Testament Apocrypha, which was declared to be canonical for the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent in 1546 in reaction to Protestant criticisms [of the Book of Esther].”
“There are few books of the Old Testament more relevant to life in a society hostile to the gospel.”
Stephen Hawking, the world renowned physicist, told us about really big things like black holes, but seemed to lack wonder for the small.
It must be one of the worst deficiencies of all to have such a small amount of wonder. Regardless of whether you are an atheist, agnostic or theist (hopefully the Christian kind), there must be something in you that sees the whole show of life as a miracle. Even if science explains some of how the universe works, surely there is still a place for wonder and awe instead of contempt. Let me illustrate with one well known quote from Stephen Hawking by which he reminds us humans of how insignificant we really are in the grand scheme of things.
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.” — Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys…”
Based on my Twitter feed I suspect in many ways that monkeys are often more reasonable and civil, but I don’t see them supplanting humans to have dominion (Genesis 1:26-28) – despite what is depicted in Planet of the Apes. The word “just” seems very telling. Since Hawking and many others are convinced we are “just” advanced monkeys, maybe that explains why so many treat their fellow humans with so little dignity. If one person believes another person is simply an advanced monkey, why would that person treat the monkey-person much better than the monkey from which they came? Beliefs have implications.
“on a minor planet”
Size is not the deciding factor of significance. Since we know of no other planet that sustains life, I am going to say earth is a pretty major deal.
“of a very average star.”
Quality is not always defined by size, but by the impact an object makes on what is available to be impacted. Think of the millions of stars that have little significance other than to be seen from earth – at least as far as we know and can tell from our special little blue, green and brown rock. If a star is one-hundred times bigger than our sun, but sustains no life, what good is its size? Except to be marveled at by those who were created to live on a “minor planet” with an “average star?”
Hawking was a brilliant man, but brilliance without the proper perspective leads to “minor”, “average” and wonder-less conclusions. Ultimately it leads to undervaluing the miracle that is life and the systems that sustain it.
And to top it all off, I am convinced Hawking is now bowing before the One who created every star and planet, both small and large (Phil. 2:9-11 and Isaiah 40:26).
Stephen Hawking died this day (03.14.2018). I wonder if he is now regretting his little statement before the God who created a massive universe?
My 13-year-old son has taken a liking to 70s and 80s music, and so when I take him to school we often end up listening together. I grew up listening to 80s music, but it now occurs to me that I was mostly clueless about the content that was being delivered, and what was ultimately being communicated. As I listen now with a more fully formed brain, I realize that some of the songs are about the anguish of broken or lost relationships. Sometimes I will be singing or humming along and realize I have no idea what the song means. As a matter of fact, I am convinced some songs don’t mean anything – especially 80s music. A lot of the songs are about unbridled impulses that seem to drive and own the artist, and perhaps the listener who resonates with what is being proclaimed.
For example, consider the very distinct and catchy song, “Red, Red Wine”. Neil Diamond originally wrote the song in 1967, but the English reggae and pop band, UB40, recorded the best known version in 1983. Here is a sampling of the lyrics: “Red, red wine – goes to my head – makes me forget that I – still need her so; Red, red wine – it’s up to you – All I can do – I’ve done – But memories won’t go – No, memories won’t go; I’d have sworn – that with time – Thoughts of you would leave my head – I was wrong – now I find – Just one thing makes me forget. Red, red wine – stay close to me – Don’t let me be alone…”
Should either of us be listening to this song and songs like it? What am I consuming, and in some sense, what am I am agreeing with when I listen and sing?
As I was driving my son to school and singing along with UB40, I caught myself and wondered why I was singing. I don’t like red wine and I don’t drink alcohol, and I would rather my children just avoid it altogether for convictional reasons that need not be mentioned now. But there I was, singing about red, red wine in front of my 13-year-old son. Only this time as a 42-year-old man I was actually conscious of the lyrics.
And so I asked my son, “What is the singer saying and meaning?” To which my son responded: “Well, I can’t understand half of what they are saying, but it sounds like someone is using wine to forget or escape.” He is a smart boy. He must have gotten that from his mom.
As we continued to talk about it, he was able to see that the song was really just a praise song to a functional savior. For the person who wrote this song, sings this song and embraces this song as their own, wine is a way of escaping a painful, broken relationship. If we will have ears to hear and eyes to see, we will notice everyone is singing the song of a savior. Some find rescue in sex. A few find it in science. Others find it in drugs. Many find an escape in entertainment. What is your savior? Is it work? Exercise? Man-centered religion? Social activism? Knowledge? Isn’t everyone seeking relief and rescue from something or someone?
I wanted my son to hear and see that all of us will have a savior. He will have a savior. It seems as if we are wired to worship, and that is true whether we are religious or not. Something will ultimately be valuable to us and I think he sees that because of a discussion about “Red, Red Wine”. It appears we redeemed a song about the idolatry of escape through drink. It must have struck a chord with him because he brought it up to his mom later that evening when I came home from work.
Can you identify the saviors of the world? What savior are you proclaiming? You might find the savior of the world and your savior in the songs that are sung.
One other thought: Some things should not be consumed. Some music should not be listened to. Some media should not be watched. But maybe there are times to listen in to what the world is saying and consuming to see what is being worshiped. Maybe we need to hear and see that they desire to worship as much as Christ-followers do. And maybe if we listen well and discern what is really being said, then we can introduce them to Jesus Christ, who alone can ultimately save. He is who they are looking for. And maybe we will be reminded that all the faux saviors will only deliver us so far, and that is why we cling to Christ.
It is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and as you can see from the title, I am going to jump into controversy times two.
- But to begin, I want to try to clear some obstacles that might keep you from hearing.
- I plead with you to give this sermon a fair hearing. It’s too important to not give it your attention. Even if it is uncomfortable and stings.
OBSTACLE #1: THIS IS REALLY PERSONAL AND HARD FOR SOME OF YOU.
- Several years ago, we did not preach directly on Sanctity of Human Life, but chose to highlight it by promoting Stillwater Life Services and using a video.
- The video was a barrage of quotes in favor of a pro-life worldview.
- I was standing in the back at our connection table, when a young woman came to me with a concerned look on her face.
- She suggested that the video was insensitive and hurtful to those who may have had an abortion. I listened, acknowledged her concern and explained our intentions.
- She never came back. I wonder if she was speaking for herself?
- That has haunted me and I promised myself that if we ever talked about this issue, we would do it in the context of the gospel that sets us free from guilt and death and condemnation before a Holy God.
- We all our dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). If we would turn from our sin and surrender our lives to Christ by faith, we know there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus before a holy God (Romans 8:1). In the end, no matter what we have done or not done, being right with God through Christ, is all that will matter and forgiveness and salvation and a new life is available to us all in Christ alone.
- It hurts me that this talk may hurt some of you who have experienced the destruction of Abortion, but I can’t stay quiet.
- I want to protect people from future hurt, and help people to think biblically about a hard topic. Please give this your hearing.
Which leads me to OBSTACLE # 2: WE HAVE HEARD THIS BEFORE – OR – AREN’T YOU PREACHING TO THE CHOIR?
- Yes, many of you have. I have preached regularly on this for years. Yes, likely most of you already agree with me and think biblically about all of human life.
- But, let me point out a couple of realities:
- There are many sides to this and the arguments are evolving.
- There are many new people in the room and many university students.
- Studies show that many pastors avoid this like the plague.
- I want our high school students and university adults to be biblically, convictionally pro-life and pro-woman.
Let’s see the big picture, think beyond our comfort and preferences, and not become apathetic. Be teachable and remember it’s not just about you, but the others who are in the room who need this.
THERE MOST CERTAINLY ARE OTHER OBSTACLES, BUT THESE ARE THE ONE’S THAT SEEM MOST RELEVANT.
READ PROVERBS 24:11-12.
- When I read this text I think about how hard it is to watch people be hurt (11a) and hurt themselves and others (11b).
- And when people hurt themselves, they almost always hurt others – I can’t think of a time when they don’t.
Now some of us might be prone to think: “Well, they are getting what they deserve. They are reaping what they sow.”
- And it is true that there is consequence to sin, but should this be the primary mindset of the Christian? That all we can think is: “Well, they got what was coming to them.”?
- Let’s see in God’s Spirit inspired word how we should respond to tragedies like abortion.
(11) God cares deeply about the oppressed and He expects His people to advocate for the vulnerable, outcast and hurting.
- Contextually, the author does not have a precise concern in mind. It is general.
- “Oh hold them back.” Indicates a Deep passion and concern to protect and rescue from harm.
Exodus 22:21-24 is another biblical example of God’s concern for the downtrodden: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” As you can see on the bulletin (IG), this runs through the whole of the Bible – Old and New Testament.
- Let’s make it personal. You would want someone advocate for you? To pursue you? To protect you – I hope? You do believe in Matthew 7:12 – right?
- Ask yourself: Do you care about what God cares about?
As I plead with you to care, you might be thinking, “there are so many problems, what can I do?” You can start by caring!
You may not be able to do something about everything that is wrong with the world, but you can know about injustice and care about injustice. And when you can, act to rescue the hurting.
Who are you caring for? Who are you passionate about that is hurting? The LORD God cares and so should His people! That is biblical!
(12) God will hold His people accountable and the claim of ignorance won’t work.
- 12 = Three questions that expect three “yes” responses. 1) He considers and knows your motives. 2) He knows the deep-down truth 3) He will judge you justly.
- Ignorance is not bliss and is no excuse before an all-knowing and just God – especially on this subject.
- ILL: Eisenhower and the Nazi Concentration Camps in 1945 – Eisenhower visited the death camps personally and was stunned at the atrocities. He made the locals walk through the death camps so they would know what they had been an accomplice to.
- “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.” Martin Luther King Jr.
- “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce on the slave trade and what was really happening.
In light of these biblical truths, for the next ten or so minutes, I want to advocate for hurting women and the unborn persons they might hurt. But particularly for hurting women.
- You see, I am convinced the pro-life cause is the true pro-woman cause. Let me show you.
We often come at this from the side of the unborn – and we should.
- They are vulnerable, defenseless, created in the image of God. They are persons because God says so in places like Ps. 139 – You were known before time began. God knew you and everyone else.
- And even those who say the unborn are not persons often speak as though they are in fact human persons.
- Their own language betrays them. When not guarding their words, they speak truth too.
- ILL: Hillary Clinton in April 2016 The NYT reported that she was “roundly criticized” because she said, “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”
ILL: PPact wants us to believe that unborn babies are not human, but yet they sell their body parts for human research. They can’t have it both ways.
- ILL: Cosmopolitan (I don’t read it, but thanks to Twitter I came across this) ran an article in March of 2015 reporting research of ultrasounds in which babies react to mothers who smoke, “concluding that nicotine is terrible for unborn babies”.
- Notice they called them babies – little humans. Not fetuses or clumps of cells.
- ILL: The NYT Times ran an article just six days ago, marveling at a “baby” who had surgery in the womb on a spinal deformity, and came out kicking its legs.
- How wonderful that a baby could be helped in the womb – Unless no one wants to help the human baby.
You can call it reproductive rights or women’s healthcare, but we all know what is going on. Human beings are being killed.
- In most cases, organizations like Planned Parenthood are taking advantage of hurting and desperate women, prostituting them for profit.
- I say most cases because, there are women like actress, Martha Plimpton, who “shout their abortions.” Plimpton, at a pro-choice rally, said her first abortion at the age of 19 was her best one, raising her fist in the air with a “yay” as the crowd responded with cheers.
- Planned Parenthood wants women to hurt their unborn children: Planned Parenthood’s annual report typically looks like the 2014-15 report. Adoption referrals: 2,024. Abortions: 323,999 One adoption referral for every 160 abortions. And we know they are selling their dismembered bodies for money. Adoption is not profitable. Selling “human body parts” is.
- The pro-abortion cause has tried to convince us that they are the ones that are really for women because of choice.
But they don’t tell you about the immense suffering abortion produces, for those who are willing to admit it.
- NARAL Pro-Choice America – (National Associate for Repeal of Abortion Laws) tweeted: 95% of women who have an abortion do not regret it and feel it was the best choice for them.
- NARAL and PP often make these kinds of claims – that abortion is good for women.
Yet the research says otherwise:
Abortion Increases Risk of Women’s Mental Health Problems 81%
Sept. 2011 A new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry by leading American researcher Dr. Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University finds women who have an abortion face almost double the risk of mental health problems as women who have their baby. Coleman’s study is based on an analysis of 22 separate studies which, in total, examine the pregnancy experiences of 877,000 women, with 163,831 women having an abortion. The study also indicated abortion accounts for one in ten of every adverse mental health issue women face as a whole.
A new study published in the Winter 2017 issue of The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons confirms that many women suffer from long-term negative psychological effects of abortion. This includes regret, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, loss of quality of life, and self-destructive behaviors. The study included 987 post-abortive women. The results of the study showed that 67.5 percent of respondents sought help from a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor after their abortions, compared to 13 percent who had sought help prior to their abortions. In addition, 51 percent reported prescription drug use after their abortion while only 6.6 percent used prescription drugs prior to their abortion.
58.3 percent of the women said they had their abortions to make other people happy, and 78.3 percent said that their decision to abort was aided by pressure from others. When asked about the negative results of their abortions, women stated that they felt deep feelings of loss, a decrease in their quality of life, lower self-esteem, and a decrease in their ability to connect with others. Regret, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior were all common experiences for these women.
- 27% of women who abort contemplate suicide. Amongst teenage women, the rate rises to 50% – @CharmaineYoest CEO of Americans United for Life
BTW, our government reports that since 1973, 400 women have died from legal abortions. And yet PP often tweets that Women should have safe, legal abortion. No abortion is safe. Someone always dies.
AGAIN: NARAL Pro-Choice America – (National Associate for Repeal of Abortion Laws) tweeted: 95% of women who have an abortion do not regret it and feel it was the best choice for them.
- Somebody isn’t telling the truth about the facts or about who is really trying to protect and advocate for women.
Common sense tells us who is right and who is wrong and what is hurtful and harmful to women.
- The Bible tells us it is wrong too.
- Abortion goes against the doctrine of the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26-18) – that humans were created to be reproducing image bearers.
I know women in our church – women who would be more than glad to talk to you – who have suffered for years because of abortion. Pushing the pain down, hoping it would go away. Living with shame. They can listen to you and help you if you have experienced abortion. We can help you find hope in Jesus Christ. We all need forgiveness and restoration.
So church, who will do Proverbs 24:11? Who will protect those slipping toward death? Who will hold them back?
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Remember the gospel that sets us free from sin, shame and guilt.
- Let your mourning and anger move you to love and compassion. We must not return evil with evil and harm. Be angry about abortion, but do not sin in your anger. Rather love – do what is best for others.
- Be knowledgeable – about the Bible and about science and about the facts. Science is on the side of life.
- SLS handout – volunteer, serve, give.
- Foster and adopt.
- Rose Day
I want to be pro-human and pro-woman. Abortion is not the way. Brothers and sisters, hold them back. Be pro-woman. Keep them from destruction. The LORD God demands it from His people.
I had a dream last night about my wife – the details are unnecessary – but it was the kind of dream that gave cause for pause and contemplation.
After some thought this morning the result was one of thankfulness and joy. Why? Because the dream helped me to see how much I trust my wife and that the trust we share is worth more to me than the treasure of Warren Buffet. I mean that because I realize it is so rare.
Now it is true that we have our moments and that I can be a bit overbearing about a thing or two, but that has more to do with me than her. I have some deficiencies and believe it or not, so does she – though few. But I trust her more than any human on the face of planet earth.
So you might be reading this…
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I really wanted to share this quote from John MacArthur in the sermon yesterday, but alas, something had to give in the interest of time. So I cut Dr. MacArthur.
In the text (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10) and sermon we saw that when Christ returns He will afflict those who afflict followers of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The Thessalonians are being afflicted and Paul writes to comfort them in the midst of persecution for their faith in Christ Jesus.
When will this comfort come? How will it come?
The answer that Paul put forward to give comfort is at least in part a future fulfillment. In verse 7 Paul promises there will come a day when Christ is revealed: “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution (righteous vengeance) to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (8).”
Take special note of the words, “will be revealed”. Contextually this indicates a future moment when Jesus will apokolupsei. You likely recognize this word because it looks like the word “apocalypse”. It is used in Revelation 1:1 to describe John’s writings as “The Revelation (revealing or unveiling) of Jesus Christ”. He will be unveiled or revealed, and when He is, He will repay with affliction those who afflict.
Where is the comfort? It will come in the person of the returning Jesus and He will bring rest (2 Thessalonians 1:7) to the afflicted.
Here is how Dr. John MacArthur described the unveiling or revelation of Jesus Christ when He returns and how it will look very different from the first appearing of the Christ who was veiled in the likeness of of men (Phil. 2:7):
The first time Jesus came, the reality of who He was, was hidden. Were you to have gone into the stable in Bethlehem and looked into the crib, you would have seen a baby. There would have been nothing in that baby’s form to have revealed to you who it was. Were you to have lived in a village called Nazareth and to have known a carpenter and his wife by the name of Joseph and Mary and their boy by the name of Jesus, you would have seen a boy, perhaps an unusual boy, but there was nothing you would have seen in Him that would have revealed to you who He really was, the creator of the universe. Were you to have been on those hillsides and along those dusty paths in Galilee or down in Judea when Jesus was ministering as an adult, you would have seen a man, you would have heard a man, a man who walked and talked and slept, a man who ate, and you would have not known by looking at that man who He was, for it was veiled. Were you to have seen and heard Him teaching, no matter how profound the things that He said, there would have been nothing on the surface to have proven to you that this was an eternal being, the God of creation. Were you to have stood on a hillside called Golgotha and watched a man nailed to a cross, blood streaming from His body, there would have been nothing that you would have seen with your visual eye that would have indicated to you that this was eternal God who could never die.
That’s because the first time He came He was veiled. The first time He came, the reality of the fullness of His person was hidden. The next time He comes, it won’t be. The next time there will be no Bethlehem, there will be no stable, there will be no manger, there will be no carpenter shop, there will be no humble village. There will be no poverty, no dusty roads to walk, no sinners to attack Him and grieve Him, no false religious leaders to oppose Him. There will be no demons who will stalk His steps, no soldiers to pound nails into His hands and thorns into His brow. There will be no spear run into His side. There will be no cross – not the next time. The next time He comes it is the unveiling. There will be no humble form. There will be no servant form. There will be no human form alone, but only that glorified God-Man in full blazing presence.
It is better to embrace all of Christ now, than to have to bow the knee (Phil. 2:10-11) when He returns to “press the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)
So we wait for the big reveal of the one who will come and right all wrongs, repaying those who afflict His people.
This summer we spent six weeks covering various topics and asking probing questions in order to challenge each other about what it looks like to fight against the malaise of masculine mediocrity that too often is the default for many men. Does God have a good and gracious design for us as men, or not? If He does, then should we not pursue it relentlessly for God’s glory, the good of others and our joy? Is it enough to settle for avoiding the caricature of the modern man as a buffoon, which is so often expressed in various forms of media? Or is there a biblical standard that we should doggedly pursue so that our families, our local churches and our communities flourish and the gospel is advanced?
To be the Godly men God created us to be, here are six crucial truths that men must hold to and excel at.
- Men must make the Bible their authority for all they think, say and do. We must relentlessly build our lives on what the Bible says about our masculinity, because if we don’t, all we do will fall and be lost. We will either live Jesus’ way, or another way – the wrong way (Matthew 7:24-27). There are really only two ways for people to live, and that reality also extends to our manhood. Ultimately the decision to submit ourselves to God, comes down to whether we trust God and His goodness toward us in His design, or whether we don’t. Who do you trust? Who do you believe about what it means to be a biblical and Godly man? Your response to God’s word reveals the answer.
- Men must have a biblical definition of manhood. Real men do what – Serve? So do real women. Real men persevere – right? So do real women. There are bumper stickers that say that real men love Jesus. Is a woman a man if she really loves Jesus? So what is a real man? We can’t relentlessly pursue biblical manhood if we don’t know what biblical manhood is. What makes manhood unique? Here is a definition: Biblical Manhood is gladly embracing the initiative for the primary responsibility to sacrificially provide and protect God’s design and creation according to His word, and for His glory (Genesis 2:15-18 and Ephesians 5:25-27). Women can lead, take initiative, serve, sacrificially love, give, do hard things, encourage their husbands to follow Christ and be Godly dads, etc. But the distinguishing mark is that men take the initiative for the primary responsibility of these things. A biblical man accepts the responsibility to plan and act to love Jesus and help others to do the same. If the male has to constantly be nudged or pushed to take the initiative, then something other than biblical manhood is happening.
- Men must discipline themselves for Godliness. Left to themselves, men tend to be passive and lazy toward the initiative to take primary responsibility. We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of masculine godliness (1 Timothy. 4:7-8). We must be gospel-changed and gospel-driven men who fill our lives with God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) to fight the spiritual battles we will face (Ephesians 6:10-17). Even though it is hard, and even though it may hurt, we must engage the means of grace God has given us to do what He expects of us. On the other hand, men must also be careful not to discipline themselves for the sake of crossing off a list, or to be seen by others. The spiritual disciplines that empower us to love God and others are a means, not an end – lest we make even a good thing an idol or a way to perform for the praise of others. Having said that, I suspect most men trend toward laziness and passivity. “No man will be a spiritual leader in his home if he is not going deep with God in his own private life.” John Piper We cannot be the consistent leaders we need to be if we are inconsistent in filling our lives with God’s means of life-giving grace.
- Men must be honest with God and others. We need to be honest with others and others need our honesty. Men tend to hide weaknesses and failures because they want to be respected as someone who has all their stuff together – as though anyone has it all together. When men close themselves off, they are playing into the hands of the enemy and are hurting those who follow them because they teach others how to hide from what is real. Men must be relationally engaged in the life of the local church so they can get to know other men they can trust. They must be willing to take the risk of sharing honestly about what they struggle with so others can ask helpful questions and pray specifically for them. Honest confession is biblical and good for those who trust God enough to practice it (Psalm 32:5 and James 5:16). Many men are wasting away inwardly, and perhaps outwardly, because they are not man enough to be honest. Wise vulnerability is not optional for the Godly man.
- Men must fight for sexual purity. This is something every man battles with. Whether it is lust, pornography, adultery, etc., every man must discipline himself and find honest accountability if we are going to walk in ongoing sexual purity. This is Satan’s biggest weapon against men and he uses it to devastate men spiritually. One blogger who worked with college students said the number one issue he dealt with was young men who had a lack of assurance of salvation because of habitual porn use. If they were really Christians, why do they keep sinning this way? Were they really repenting? Sexual immorality makes men numb to the image of God in women, to the spiritual needs of their family and it makes us hide from God in the shadows of shame and guilt.
- Men must build a difference-making culture of biblical manhood in their homes and as a part of their local church. How does this happen? First, men have to know how to be men and they must contend together to hold the line of manhood. The first five truths of manhood articulated above, represent the line we must know and hold. There certainly are other truths that would help us be Godly men, but the aforementioned five are critically important. There has to be some sort of expectation and plan. There has to be some way of evaluating whether or not we are acting like biblical men, and when we know what needs to be done, we can fight for these things together. We can stand shoulder to shoulder and encourage, admonish and even rebuke each other according to the need of the moment under the authority of God’s word. Think about just a few examples of men who did not trust God’s word and hold the line. Adam did not hold the line in Genesis 3:1-6, and now we all are infected with sin and are destined to die once and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Abraham had a very specific promise from God that he would miraculously be given a son, but he listened to Sarai and took matters (Hagar) into his own hands and the consequences persist even to this day. Abraham did not hold the line in Genesis 16:1-6. In 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12, David did not act like the man after God’s own heart. Rather he committed a slew of sins for which people lost their lives, and for which he momentarily lost his integrity. Second, men have to move forward by helping others to know the line and hold it. We have to lead our families to know and trust God. We have to help men in our church fight against the tendency to be lazy and passive in their manhood. Men must be inviting others to join them in following Jesus. We must lovingly press men to love the gospel deeply and share it freely. We must challenge men to be teachable, reminding them of all that Jesus commanded for obedience. We must call for courage and risk-taking. We must own the responsibility of being the solution when there are deficiencies and problems, instead of just being a critic and problem-finder. We must take it upon ourselves to equip and train Godly men who will carry out the mission of the church.
We must know the line. We must hold the line. And we must advance the truth that there is a way for Godly men to live. A man with no plan to be a biblical man, is no man at all. Our families, our churches and our world need more biblical and Godly men.