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Monthly Archives: June 2015

The First Thing to Teach Children

When Josh was somewhere between 2 or 3 years old, he was playing in the living room in our apartment in Lake Forest, Illinois (an apartment within a mansion – another story). His toys were scattered on the floor, and I noticed that he was stepping on the little trucks and such. Fearing that they might break, I warned him, “Hey buddy, don’t step on your toys.”

I’ll never forget. While holding my gaze, he slowly lifted his foot up and placed it on one of the little playthings, never breaking eye contact.

The little sinner.

But it was okay, because it turned into a wonderful opportunity to teach my son about his need to obey me. It’s the first thing that every child needs to learn:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV)

I heard James MacDonald teach once that this verse is not written to children, but parents. Good thought…in actuality, it’s probably both. But of course, it is parents who must first understand this truth and then teach it to their kids.

“Son…daughter…you must obey me. No ifs, ands or buts.”

If they learn this, they can learn a whole host of other wonderful things from us, like

  • The fear of the Lord and
  • The truth of God’s word, and
  • Be nice to your sister, and
  • Oh yeah…the gospel!

But if they miss this first and most simple truth from Paul to the Ephesians, they may very well miss it all. So it all starts here with this one truth that the Apostle thought was pretty important and that parents must therefore be absolutely vigilant to pass on:

Obey me.

 

****For more on disciplining the young ones, our two favorite books on these issues were, Shepherding a Child’s Heart and Don’t Make Me Count to Three.

For Wednesday, July 1, it’s back to the gospels: Luke 1

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What God Told Husbands to Do…

In an email to our church this past Saturday, I explained that I would soon be writing about the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize Gay Marriage. And the truth is that I’ve written a lot (probably worked about 6 or 7 hours on my thoughts since the decision)…I just haven’t posted. So…extensive writing may not be forthcoming (I have a few comments below), and we will surely be addressing it from the pulpit at Edgewood. But now, three days after the Supreme Court decision has caused a lot of bits and bytes to fly, I wonder if anyone really wants to read a whole lot more pontificating on the subject. Much has already been written; much has already been said. However, as I mentioned, I do provide three links which I found helpful at the end of this article, along with some brief comments.

But for now…

Ironically, today’s passage in the Inspired series is one of the great marriage passages in Scripture. It contains a word that has encouraged me through the years, and I hope it will encourage you.

Paul writes…”In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” Ephesians 5:28-29 (ESV)

I have a long way to go at this, but I love the descriptive way that Paul tells husbands to care for their wives: They are to nourish and cherish them.  What a challenge. My role is to nourish and cherish my sweet wife Diane, who is the greatest gift my Father has ever given me. And what is my motivation or drive to do this for her? Why, Christ of course! It is what He does for His bride. Should I, therefore, do any less for mine?

Finally, there are a lot of good articles out there on the recent Supreme Court decision. Here are just three that I found helpful.

The Bible and Same Sex Relationships: This is good. Written before the decision, this link will be helpful if you know Christians who are supporters of same-sex marriage, and who are arguing that gay marriage is another disputed issue like baptism or election and predestination. The reasoning goes that since Christians also have different views on homosexuality, we should just agree to disagree. But there is a significant difference: Godly men and women have been debating issues like baptism and election for 2,000 years, and I suppose we will debate them until Jesus returns. But the “debate” on homosexuality has no such history. All Christians have unanimously agreed on this subject until very recently (the last 20 years?). Indeed, the Bible has always been clear on the topic. Only the changing culture has caused people to “see” Scripture in a new way.

5 Ways to Respond to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Same-Sex Marriage This article gets to the idea of tone. It’s so important to have the right tone in our dialogue with people. It’s hard enough to be heard on this issue when you are speaking in kind and loving tones. But the wrong tone will definitely cause you to be ignored or vilified for no reason.

Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage When all is said and done, we need to take a stand, and we need to help younger believers think through this issue, because the wave of culture is a tsunami. One hundred leaders came together and agreed on this wording that I think is strong and good.

For tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30: Ephesians 6

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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VBS Reflections

11147251_495793450585362_77443092035838136_n[1]VBS ended tonight.  It was a great week.

In fact, as I write, it’s 11 p.m. on Thursday night, and I only just now remembered that I needed to write a blog for Friday morning. That’s not happened all year. So, it was a busy day.

I served all four nights of Camp Kilimanjaro, which is more nights than all the previous times that I had served at a VBS in my entire lifetime. In fact, keep this a secret, but I think I’ve only served at a VBS once before (head hung in shame). But I did again this week. I wonder if it had something to do with the fact that my sweet wife is in charge of children’s ministry now at Edgewood?

For my labors, I have been presented a carabineer, for future expeditions up the real African mountain, I’m sure. But I have a bit of vertigo, so I’m guessing the only time I actually will get to Mount K will be when it is the renewed Mount Kilimanjaro in the New Heavens and the New Earth. And who knows, maybe that will be sooner than we think.

Teaching the lessonBut I digress.

I was reading Ephesians 4 and thinking about Diane’s role as the VBS leader. Paul writes about her, and others like her in verses 11 – 13…

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-13 (ESV)

You didn’t see VBS leader or Children’s Ministry Director next to the esteemed list of biblical offices like apostles and prophets and shepherds. But it is there, at least in principle.

And the principle is this: Diane’s role is not to do the ministry; it is to train and equip others to do the ministry. Same thing for a pastor like me.

It wasn’t always this way. During the Middle Ages, the idea was that the priest did everything. Everything. You know, marry and bury, of course, but also evangelism and administration and anything else that needed to be done to make the Kingdom go forward. I guess all the people just cheered him on. Or not.

But God never meant it to be this way, and the pastor(shepherd)’s job is not actually to do the ministry, but to help others do the ministry. Get this backward and you have the grave situation of the Middle Ages. But make it biblical, turn it around, and you get(with the Holy Spirit!)…the most remarkable revival in the history of Christendom, a.k.a., the Reformation.

So VBS – Diane might have done the bulk of organizing this terrific week, but it was not her actual work to do. Her job was to recruit and train others. And the others? They do the work of building up the body of Christ…until we all look like Jesus.

A volunteer named Keith who had been at every night said to me after the curtain came down tonight: “I’ve had more fun this week than I’ve had in years.” Glory to God.

I’m just glad that Diane didn’t keep all the fun to herself.

For Monday, June 29th: Ephesians 5

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Pastor and a Rabbi Preach a Sermon…

Imagine you were traveling across the country, and found yourself scanning radio stations. Now suppose you heard an engaging preacher and stopped to listen – here’s my question: how would you be able to tell if it was a Christian preacher or a Jewish Rabbi? (To make this more interesting, let’s just say that in this scenario, Jewish folks are a bigger presence in our country than they actually are, and that as many Rabbis are on the radio as Pastors. So you’ve got a 50-50 shot here.)

The message from this mystery expositor, of course, is from the Old Testament. The New Testament would be a dead giveaway. So…would you be able to tell?

And by the way, no fair listening till the end when the Christian closes in prayer, and says, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I’m talking about actual content here.

The truth is that in such a situation, whether listening to a sermon from Exodus or Ezekiel, a lot of times, most of us (myself included) wouldn’t be able to tell, and that’s a bad thing – not for us, mind you – but for the engaging Christian Pastor who’s preaching and who sounds just like the engaging Rabbi. So a message on murder or adultery from the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 would sound the same from either communicator: “It’s bad. Very bad. Be sure you don’t do it.” Only from a good communicator, much more clever.

As a pastor, I’ve made the “sounds just like a Rabbi” mistake too many times. It’s moralism, and it’s pretty easy to do.  But consider this – whenever the Apostle Paul preached, he always had the same message, and that message…was Christ:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8 (ESV)

Here was a man with only the Old Testament to work with and yet, when he preached, he always proclaimed Christ. Always.

  • Did they hand him the scroll of Exodus in the Synagogue? Jesus was the Passover lamb.
  • The scroll of Isaiah? That’s an easy one – Christ was the Suffering Servant.
  • 1 Samuel and David and Goliath? The message from Paul would not have been “Try to trust God more like David did, and you’ll slay your giants too,” but, “Isn’t it great that we too have a Champion who slayed the giants of sin and death for us, so we can rush forward in victory?”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard those messages on David and Goliath, and I’ve tried that “Trust God and try harder plan” against the giants in my life, and yet I’ve still got one or two (or more) giants greeting me every day. So you see, the first message on “being a better trust-er” only puts me under the condemnation pile, but the second one…fills me with hope. The real giants have fallen because HE was perfect in HIS trust.

So, whether Paul’s text was from the Prophets or Proverbs – the Apostle talked about Jesus. Because ultimately, if the message is not about Christ, it is only a warmed up version of “try harder.” And to be sure, the “try harder” message is often preached very cleverly and sometimes with great insight and humor, but it’s still the law, and such messages usually produce about as much change as a New Year’s resolution.

Paul, however, had a better plan, the only plan for the Christian preacher:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (ESV)

 

For tomorrow, Friday, June 26th: Ephesians 4

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Part I Played in My Salvation

I have this high school memory: it was likely junior year, maybe a late morning in the fall – band class, and I was walking outside to the football field with some other marching band members. I was pontificating about Jesus – foolishness about how maybe he did exist and maybe he didn’t. Like I knew what I was talking about. I don’t remember the reaction of my small audience. I hope they thought I was an idiot.

It’s this scene that comes to mind when I sing the song, All I have is Christ…

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost

You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

There I was a rebel…helpless…hell-bound…mouthing blasphemies about the Savior…from the grave.

But God.

In his book, The Elements of Eloquence, author Mark Forsyth – though as far as I know not a believer – speaks glowingly of the beauty of Bible words. And Ephesians 2 is prime example – an arresting yet piteous look at our lot before Christ raised us up…

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:1-5 (ESV)

He did it. I played no part. That’s the message of the passage. My salvation was not a revival but a resurrection. I didn’t one day realize that I was in the grave and start digging my way out. I was not Peter’s mother-in-law; I was Lazarus. And so were you.

But God made us alive.

And that’s why they call it grace.

 

For tomorrow, Thursday, June 25th: Ephesians 3

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Can You See Chariots of Fire? If Not, Pray This Prayer…

Fire flames on black background background

Open my eyes…

You’ve heard the phrase “more than meets the eye”? It’s when there is more to something than you first see. So, when you buy a house, you don’t want to sign the papers and then find out that there was “more than meets the eye” under the floorboards. Or, on the positive side, sometimes people have hidden gifts and talents that you don’t see at first glance, so there is “more than meets the eye” about them.

The phrase is important because when you think of the world we live in, there is actually more to it than meets the eye.

I think of the incredible story of  Elisha and his servant being pursued by the King of Syria, and one day they woke up surrounded by the evil king’s armies. Well, the servant woke up anyway; apparently Elisha was sleeping like a baby…

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 2 Kings 6:15 (ESV)

But Elisha calmed his fears with a remarkable statement…

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16 (ESV)

And then Elisha prayed a prayer for his servant that we ought to pray for one another

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17 (ESV)

It was a glorious and happy surprise to Elisha’s servant when the Lord opened his eyes.  And that said…I like to imagine that Paul the Apostle was thinking about this story when he told the Ephesians that this is what he prayed for them…

…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…  Ephesians 1:17-20 (ESV) 

It’s important to remember that Paul was writing to Christians. This is not a prayer that they would come to Christ, but that they as believers would see that the resources they have. I think this means that many of us don’t see what we could see…if we only prayed that God would open our eyes, and the eyes of those we love.

And in particular, the Apostle wanted the people of Ephesus to have their eyes opened to see three things:

  1. First, the great hope that they have. This is heaven.  And how many Christians live nearly every day without thinking about heaven and the joy that awaits them there.
  2. And second, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Pay attention now – This is not our inheritance – this is God’s inheritance.  Yes we have a great inheritance ourselves – that’s the hope we have in the gospel, but he also wanted us to see what God’s inheritance of us means to Him.  Here’s how he puts it – we are His riches.  Glory to God.  You can think on that for the next three years.  Sum it up this way though – Christian, he loves you a lot.  You are part of God’s riches.
  3. And third, Paul prayed that these believers would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward those who believe. Paul says that this great power is the power that raised Jesus from the dead…available to us…the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward those who believe.

And so, moved by Paul’s example, it’s been probably about two decades that I’ve been praying this prayer out of Ephesians 1 for myself and for those I love, and I invite you to join me, because I don’t know about you…but I’d like to see a few chariots of fire.

 

For tomorrow, Wednesday, June 24th: Ephesians 2

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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We Need the Cross Everyday

Here is one of my heroes, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, writing wisely in his book, aptly titled The Cross, about one of the great verses in Scripture…

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14 (ESV)

“(He does not) say that it is just something at the beginning of the Christian life. There are many Christians who have said that in one way or another. You start with the cross, they say, then you go on to what they call a deeper Christian life. The cross, they say, is only for conversion, the cross only deals with forgiveness of sins. It is something that marks the beginning, and then you go on and you do not come back anymore to the cross. You start there, but then you leave it, and you go onto the deeper depths of the spiritual life.

“That is not what the Apostle Paul says. Here is a man writing at the full height of his maturity as a Christian, the great Apostle to the Gentiles. At the very height of his experience he says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He has not left it to go on to some higher reaches. The cross is still everything to him. Why? Because, he has found that everything proceeds from the cross. It is the source and the fount of everything that he has as a Christian, everything that he has become, everything that he can ever hope for.”

For tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23rd: Ephesians 1

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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