Wednesday, January 26, 2011

For Sinners Who've Said I Do

The sinner I love, who said "I do" 14 years ago, sent me this song this morning. If you've never heard of Andrew Peterson, you would do well to get acquainted with his work.

Because we are sinners that say "I do," we most certainly do marriage in a minefield. But let's not forget to dance our way through it. Even for those of us with "two left feet," the power of the gospel can make it a beautiful thing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

When Sinners Say I Do - Ch 1 "What Really Matters In Marriage"

Key Idea: What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage.” (20)
What kind of theologian are you? It’s not hard to tell. Whether we realize it or not, our ideas about life, needs, marriage, romance, conflict, and everything else reveal themselves all the time in our words and deeds, inevitably reflecting our view of God. If you listen closely, theology spills from our lips every day. (20)
Think back through this last week or month with your spouse. 
What do your words and thoughts and attitudes and actions reveal about your view of God?

What do they say about your functional theology (i.e. not just what you say you believe, but the view of God actually being played out on the field of your thoughts and words and attitudes and actions)?

For example:
  • If you are harsh and exacting, what does that reveal about your view of God?
  • If you are passive and often want to be left alone, what does that say about your view of God?

Theology of Marriage (three of the most important components):

1) The Foundation of Your Marriage – The Bible (22-23)

“[The Bible] is both the evaluative standard for marriage and the key to joy in marriage.” (23)

Has the Bible shaped your view of the meaning and practice of marriage?
Does the Bible regularly inform, guide, and correct your marriage life?

Marriage is God’s wise creation.  It’s his idea.  He knows, therefore, why he made it (purpose) and how it works best (practice). We will necessarily have a superficial and misguided view of marriage if we do not learn it from him…through his Word.

Ponder Gen. 1:26-31; 2:15-3:24
Ponder Eph. 5:22-33

2) The Fountain of Your Marriage – The Gospel (24-25)

The gospel is the power for Christian marriage (e.g. 1 John 4:19).
The gospel is the pattern for Christian marriage (e.g. Eph. 5:22-33).
The gospel is the purpose of Christian marriage (e.g. Eph. 5:31-32).

In other words, the gospel is really important for your marriage.
Do you believe that? Are you learning to live that?

3) The Focus of Your Marriage – The Glory of God (25-28)
Marriage is not first about me or my spouse. Obviously, the man and woman are essential, but they are also secondary. God is the most important person in a marriage. Marriage is for our good, but it is first for God’s glory. (25)
God has invested so much glory in marriage. It is intended to reflect the glory of the gospel. So much glory is at stake. And yet this will not come easy.

Given our sin nature that is spring-loaded to fall short of the glory of God (see Rom. 3:23); given that we naturally exchange the glory of God for lesser things (see Jer. 2:11-13 & Rom. 1:22-25); given that Satan hates the glory of God and loves to take aim at anything intended to reflect it, we’re in for an uphill battle.

In other words, marriage is war. But we ought not to fight each other. We ought to fight our sin and the lies and temptations of the Enemy of marriage-to-the-glory-of-God. If anything is worth fighting for, it is the glory of God!

Reminder: 1 Cor. 10:31 applies to marriage.

When Sinners Say I Do - Preface (and the point of the book)

Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin. Often it gets opened right there on the honeymoon, sometimes it waits…We must not ignore our sin, because it is the very context where the gospel shines brightest. 
Which leads me to the point of this book. When Sinners Say “I Do” is not a depressing thought. It recognizes that to get to the heart of marriage, we must deal with the heart of sin. A great pastor once said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” …
I think there’s a powerful application for marriage here: When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet. When the sin we bring to marriage becomes real to us, then the gospel becomes vital and marriage becomes sweet. (15-16, emphasis mine)
Related quote from a bit later on: 
What if you abandoned the idea that the problems and weaknesses in your marriage are caused by a lack of information, dedication, or communication? What if you saw your problems as they truly are: caused by a war within your own heart? (29)

Ponder the following texts with specific application to your marriage:

When Sinners Say I Do at Bethel

In conjunction with the men's ministry study on When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey, I will be blogging weekly through the book a chapter per week in summary, outline form (with some related thoughts thrown in from my notes and other sources). I will attempt to post the summaries by the Monday following our Fri am meeting. There are several reasons for doing this:

First, it will serve as good review, reinforcement, and reminder for the men who are going through the study.

Second, those that aren't joining us in one of the studies can listen in and benefit (though I would say, if you are a man, I'd strongly encourage you to join Vito's evening group, Chuck's Sat. am group, or the 6-7am Fri group!).

Third, wives can track along with their husbands so that couples can discuss the content of the book together.

May the Lord use this study to strengthen and sweeten our marriages at Bethel, by his powerful gospel grace, and for his matchless glory! Please pray with me that this would happen!

Hint: You Are the Fly

More on viewing reality the right way around (from the chapter ‘What are We to Make of Jesus Christ?’, found in God in the Dock, by C.S. Lewis):
What are we to make of Jesus Christ? This is a question which has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real question is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is going to make of an elephant has comic elements about it…
‘What are we to make of Christ? There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.
The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, ‘This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go’, but He says, ‘I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.’ He says, ‘No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.’ He says, ‘If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.’ That is the issue.

Re:flection and Our Point of Reference

I quoted this a week ago Sunday from the book, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (p35):
In his book The Mission of God, Chris Wright shows that the Bible story is “all about mission” – God’s mission to save a people for himself through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the focus of the story, but his identity has missionary implications (Luke 24:45-48). This radical, God-centered perspective, Wright suggests, “turns inside out and upside down some of the common ways in which we are accustomed to think about the Christian life….It constantly forces us to open our eyes to the big picture, rather than shelter in the cozy narcissism of our own small worlds.”
  • We ask, “Where does God fit into the story of my life?,” when the real question is “Where does my little life fit into this great story of God’s mission?”
  • We want to be driven by a purpose that has been tailored just right for our own individual lives, when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.
  • We talk about “applying the Bible to our lives.” What would it mean to apply our lives to the Bible instead, assuming the Bible to be the reality—the real story—to which we are called to conform ourselves?
  • We wrestle with “making the gospel relevant to the world.” But in this story, God is about the business of transforming the world to fit the shape of the gospel.
  • We argue about what can legitimately be included in the mission that God expects from the church, when we should ask what kind of church God wants for the whole range of his mission.
  • I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should be asking what kind of me God wants for his mission.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

He Is Able

Read it slowly and savor it:
"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24-25)
Aren't you glad that HE...IS...ABLE?!  I needed that reminder this morning.  And maybe you need it too.

UPDATE/Additional thought:

Isn't grasping/believing/savoring the truth of Jude 24-25 one means of empowering obedience to the command to
"...lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed" (Heb. 12:12-13)?
 All so that
"...lay[ing] aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, [we can] run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." (Heb. 12:1-2).
So, here's the progression.  You are feeling weak and weary.  Maybe you're discouraged or downcast.  Do you just try to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go straight to the imperative (i.e. the command) of Heb. 12:12-13?  NO! 

The "grammar" of the gospel is always "indicative before imperative!"  So, you take that weakness and weariness to the Strong One.  You take that discouragement and downcast soul to the Fountain of Joy.  And you listen to what He says:
"Don't you know that I am able to keep you from stumbling?  Don't you know that I am able to present you before my presence blameless, with great joy?  Don't you know?"  (Sounds a lot like Isaiah 40:27-31
"This is not about your strength and ability to endure.  This is not even ultimately about the strength of your will.  It's about the strength of my will.  I am able to keep you from stumbling (that's the indicative!).  I am able to present you before my presence with great joy (another gracious indicative!).  If I can do it til the end, I can do it for you today.  I can do it.  I will do it.  I am able.  All through Jesus Christ your Lord."
"So, (now the imperative) lift your sagging arms and hands and strengthen those weak knees, my son/daughter that I love.  And now, in the strength that I have supplied, run the race that is set before you today, keeping your eyes on my Son whom I love.  He loved you and gave himself for you.  He is the pioneer that blazed the trail all the way through.  He is the perfecter that will finish what he's started.  Keep your eyes on him and you'll make it all the way home.  I promise." 
Now to him who is the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever!  Amen?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Operation World: Here's Why

I watched this yesterday morning and I was undone.  This is why we must pray for the nations, and pray God would use us to reach them!

Quick reminder of our purpose statement: "To magnify the infinite worth of God through Christ, for the glory of His Name and the good of all peoples."


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Have you planned to feed your soul in 2011?

This is a little late, but better late than never.  I was writing the discussion questions for the Home Group leaders and I started by encouraging them to ask those in their groups if they have a Bible reading and prayer plan in place.  I then sent them this link.  If you can't find a program in there that suits you, you're going to have to write your own!

I know that many people get frustrated with "Read the Bible in a Year" programs (I'm one of them!) because they feel like they can't read all the chapters required each day without sacrificing careful thought and meditation.  If that's you, then scrap the dates and use the boxes simply to help you read comprehensively over time and not spin your wheels wondering what you should read next.  If you don't do that, you're likely to avoid things you don't understand and stick with familiar ground.  You'll end up reading only your particular canon within the canon.  Don't do that.  "All Scripture is God-breathed."  Some of the sweetest soul food can be found when you enter into uncharted territory and wrestle with things you don't understand...until they bless you.

The Pulse Beating in the B.O.M.

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth, 
your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. 

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him.

(ESV, emphasis mine)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

B.O.M. - Operation World

Our new book of the month is Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.  I will explain a bit tomorrow morning why I chose this as our "B.O.M. (Book Of the Month)," but I wanted you to be able to check out their website if you'd like to learn more about this amazing resource.

An amazing resource it certainly is, but it is a resource intended to be used.  We are going to be using this prayer guide in our Wednesday evening prayer meetings.  We started this past Wednesday by praying for Afghanistan - the first country in the list.  Please consider joining us from 7-8:15pm on Wednesdays!  But this prayer guide is not simply for use in corporate prayer meetings.  It's great for your personal prayer times and for your family prayer times.

If you have younger children, you might be interested in the children's version.  It's an older version and it's no longer in print, but copies are still available.  Our family started using it tonight.  It's called Window On The World.

We have copies of Operation World available at the Welcome Center, and we'll try to have some copies of Window on the World available in weeks to come.  I'm hoping that this will not simply be our B.O.M., but a book that we carry through this year and the years to come!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Listen to The Bells

We ended the 12/26 service by listening to a song.  It was Casting Crowns arrangement of "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day."  It's been "ringing" in my head throughout the holiday season.  As you watch it, can I recommend that you keep your eye out for the middle-aged female violinist.  Her face is like a living illustration of what is being sung.

HT (an abbreviation for "Hat Tip" - i.e. I'm tipping my hat, or thanking and giving credit to the one who tipped me off to this): Justin Taylor (whose blog, by the way, is the one blog that I read with regularity - highly recommended!)