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Sober Up…So That You Can Pray

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7 (ESV)

One of the reasons that people don’t pray well is that they live in a cloud. They may be praying, but they are not praying soberly.

Certain situations come upon us in life, and they make us sober up. You know where I’ve seen this a number of times?  In marriage counseling. Mostly it’s men. Through years of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen guys come to me and they say, “Pastor, I can’t believe it, my wife wants a divorce.  Tell her not to divorce me.”

And then I’ll say, “Well, tell me the story.”  And when the man begins to do that, almost invariably, he begins to allude to the fact that he has not treated his wife very well through the years. He has neglected her through working too much or spending the evenings with his buddies, or he has treated her like a hired girl, or just taken her for granted, or whatever.  And sometimes it goes on for 10, 20, 30 years.

And you know what happens – one day, she comes and says, “I want out.  I’m divorcing you.” Now, she may or may not have a biblical reason, but one thing is sure – she is just too tired to take it anymore. And the moment she says that, do you know what happens?  I’ll tell you what happens…He sobers up. Now you get it, right? He wasn’t necessarily drunk.  He was just a fool living in a cloud…and now he’s awake. Now, he looks at this wonderful woman who has put up with him through the years, and he snaps to attention.  It’s like he was dreaming and now he wakes up.

Aside from coming for a visit to see me, a man in this situation will begin to act quite differently…if she gives him a chance.  He will begin to realize what he had, and his life will change.  He will sober up.  And if that man is a true Christian, I’ll tell you what else he will begin to do…he will begin to pray.  He probably hasn’t given very much time to praying about his marriage in the past, but now that he’s sobered up, he starts to pray.  And he will pray as if everything depends upon his prayers.

Now listen to what Peter is saying:  Wake up!  The end of all things is at hand.  It’s smelling salts for an unconscious man.  It’s a cold slap across the face. The end is near. Therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the sake of your prayers.

This is the kind of spirit we have to have if we want to pray well.  You see, a lot of people pray; not many people pray as if their life depends on it, as if their children depend on their prayers, as if their marriage depends on their prayers, as if their church depends on their prayers.  Many people pray, but I doubt that most of them pray…soberly.  To be sober in prayer is to understand what is at stake, and when you understand that, you get blood earnest.  And earnestness in prayer is one of the great keys to prayer.

“The Devil is aware that one hour of close fellowship, of hearty converse with God in prayer, is able to pull down what he hath been contriving and building many a year.” – John Flavel

“If I had only prayed more…”  “Oh, that I had prayed a hundred-fold more!” – Dr. Andrew A. Bonar

For Monday, November 16th: 1 Peter 5

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Pray for Me

WheatonI don’t think I usually ask the church to pray for me. And maybe that’s just…dumb.

Oh, I’ll fill in the Friendship Register at church with a prayer request sometimes, though the pace of the service and my responsibilities keep me from it many weekends. But I don’t think I turn to fellow brothers and sisters with prayer requests as often as I should. The Apostle Paul was not so foolish. In both of his letters to the Thessalonians, and in his letter to the Colossians, he asked for prayer:

“Finally, brothers, pray for us…” 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)

“Brothers, pray for us…” 1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ESV)

“At the same time, pray also for us…” Colossians 4:3 (ESV)

Paul asked people to pray for him not because he wanted others to be thinking warm thoughts of him, nor because he thought it would somehow help their spiritual growth. No, he asked people to pray for him and his partners in ministry…because God answers prayer. That’s why.

So, here goes, if you would pray for me and mine, I would appreciate it.

Pray…

  1. …for our adjustment to life at home without either Josh or Elisabeth. Pray also for Annie (our high school freshman) that she would have joy through this change. (She loves her brother and sister!)
  2. …for Diane in her role as Children’s Ministry Director at Edgewood, especially for help in recruiting new teachers/helpers, and God’s blessings on an upcoming dinner/fun night/launch event for volunteers.
  3. …for God’s blessing on Elisabeth as a new freshman at Wheaton College, for help with academics, and the blessing of new friendships, and a continued close walk with Jesus.
  4. …for the Lord’s help for Josh as this year he is an Resident Advisor (R.A.) on the sixth floor of Traber Hall at Wheaton College – for strength and wisdom to lead well, and for good relationships with the guys on his floor.
  5. …for God’s blessings on our 8 member search team as we look for and comb resumes for a new Director of Worship Arts, that the Lord would lead us to the right person for the job.
  6. …for wisdom in preparing the marriage series coming up at Edgewood – that the Lord would use it to help and bless marriages at Edgewood. And for God’s blessing on my marriage to sweet Diane.
  7. …for God’s hand on all of our precious staff at Edgewood.
  8. …and always, for help with what God has called me to do at our church: to preach, pray, lead and love.
Thanks so much for praying. It means the world.

For tomorrow, Wednesday, August 26th: 1 Timothy 1

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The “Airtight Argument” for God

The Sadducees were a group of Jews who believed in God but also believed that there was no afterlife; one day they came plotting to make Jesus look foolish with an “airtight argument” for their position:

“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” Luke 20:28-33 (ESV)

Strange law, huh? But aside from that, in their desire to prove Jesus wrong about the resurrection, it surely seemed like they had Him right where they wanted. And yet, of course, they were wrong – Jesus explained to their dismay that people weren’t actually married in heaven. Instead, they are like angels. Now, that’s fascinating in itself and worthy of a blog or two. (Diane and I, by the way, are planning to be best friends on the other side.)

But the idea of refuting Jesus is also fascinating. How many people today are convinced they can prove the Bible or Christianity wrong? They come up with this or that argument that purports to show how foolish we are to follow a 2,000 year long dead carpenter from Nazareth. And some say that they will only believe if we ourselves can come up with an “airtight argument” to prove God is real and Christianity is true.

And this is where I so appreciate Tim Keller’s idea:

“When God decided to send salvation he didn’t send an airtight argument; he sent an airtight person. He didn’t send an abstract principle; he sent a human being.”

And along those lines, historian Philip Schaff writes about this airtight person:

“This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.”

Again, God didn’t sent an airtight argument. He sent an airtight person. And when people wonder about the Bible or the resurrection or what have you, point them to this incredible person of Jesus Christ. Just as he answered the Sadducees 2 millenia ago, He is the ultimate answer to every question we have.

 

For Wednesday, July 29th: Luke 21

 

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Calling Down Fire From Heaven on Sinners?

Jesus’ disciples often look like oafs. And this is one of the marks of New Testament authenticity.

After all, these often foolish looking men were the leaders of the early church that produced the New Testament documents. We only have to imagine Mohammed being portrayed in a similar way in the Koran. Though I’m not a great student of that book, I know enough to realize that he ends up looking good. The disciples, however, not so much. And the only reason that they end up looking so foolish…is because they actually were. Why else would they make up these stories which cast them in such a bad light? They were ultimately the ones in charge of disseminating the accounts. No, these men were impacted by the gospel enough to simply tell the story as it was. Jesus was the only One who needed to look good…and looking good came naturally to the Lord.

Luke 9 tells one of the oafish stories, when Jesus makes plans to go to Jerusalem, and passes through Samaria but is not received. And James and John are miffed, so they have a simple suggestion:

“Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:54 (ESV)

I love these guys; after all, when they do silly stuff, it makes the rest of us look better. Anyway, Jesus rebukes them, and they head on to another village.

Now it’s easy to look down on James and John wanting to annihilate Samaritans, but I think we shouldn’t be too quick to throw stones from our glass houses. Like others, I’ve read lots of articles and posts from Christians in light of the recent change in our country’s laws on marriage, and it seemed like at least some of what I’ve seen has been more in the spirit of “fire from heaven” than “love the misguided sinner.”

We need to be careful. To be sure, there was a time when God used His people Israel as an instrument of His judgment on a wicked people, but after the clearing of the Promised Land, they were called to love the foreigner and stranger. And of course, there will come a time of judgment again when the Lord returns. But now we live in a time when we are called to proclaim glad tidings of salvation to a lost and hurting world. And so there remains a window of hope to wayward subjects before the King returns with a double-edged sword in His mouth.

And that’s what we are called to do now – not call down fire from heaven – but proclaim that the King is returning, and therefore, “Repent, and believe the good news.”

 

For Tuesday, July 14th: Luke 10

 
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Posted by on July 13, 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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Should Women Wear Head-Coverings in Church?

IMG_1277Quick – tell me where you will find this inscription: RHK.DTK 5/30/92 Song of Songs 8:6 – 7

Here’s a hint – “14k” follows all of this.

Yeah, I know – the picture gave it away – that’s right, it’s the inscription inside my wedding ring, and in order to take a picture and give you the exact details, I had to take it off, which is something I almost never do. You see, I have heard horror stories involving kitchen drains and gym bags, and I frankly don’t want to take the risk. And risk it would be, for I am married to a wonderful woman who also happens to be fairly sentimental. She would not cotton very well to me losing the ring which she slipped on my finger at the altar. So I wear it all the time, and I think that’s good.

Mind you, she wears hers all the time too. And I’m glad for that, not only because I’m also a little sentimental, but because I like everyone to know that she’s mine…and the wedding ring is symbolic of that.

We all know that, right? Of course we do, because that’s what wedding rings mean in our culture. I admit that when I was a single man, while I wasn’t obsessed with the practice, I looked at ring fingers a time or two, and an empty ring finger meant…possibilities. A ring on a ring finger? Well, that meant look for other ring fingers.

So along these lines, most of us don’t think so highly of the husband or wife who takes off a wedding ring to go out on the town with friends from work. We know what they’re thinking, and it’s not honoring to their spouse…or in keeping with their vows.

Wedding rings mean something in our culture, but if another 2,000 years were to pass before Jesus returned, well, there might be no such thing as a wedding ring anymore. Who knows what would symbolize marriage in another 2 millennia? Time changes many things, including symbols. Why, it’s even possible that in another 2,000 years, women will revert to the New Testament practice…of wearing head coverings to show they are married and under the authority of their husband, like Paul seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians 11.

So, the question at hand is, “Should a woman wear a head-covering in church?” And in his excellent book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Wayne Grudem argues no…

“No matter what people think about requiring head coverings for women today, all interpreters agree that head covering was a symbol for something else, and that Paul was concerned about it because of what that symbol meant. People have thought that head covering for women in the first century was a symbol of (a) a woman being in submission to her husband (or perhaps to the elders of the church), (b) being a woman rather than a man, (c) being a wife rather than an unmarried woman, or (d) having authority to pray and prophesy publicly in the church. There may be other explanations of the symbolism, but everyone agrees that Paul’s concern is not to protect women from catching a cold or getting a sunburn on their head. Rather, he is concerned because of what wearing a head covering symbolized to people in Corinth.

“So we should ask whether wearing a head covering symbolizes any of these things today. At least in twenty-first-century America, it symbolizes none of these things!…Therefore if we cannot be sure what the head coverings symbolized for women in the first century (for interpreters differ on this), the very fact that it does not symbolize much of anything to people today, even to Christians, is a strong argument that Paul would not have wanted us to follow it as sort of a meaningless symbol. I think it also means that God Himself does not intend us to follow this practice today, in a society and culture where it carries no symbolic meaning.”

All that said, I have great respect for my sisters in Christ who wear head coverings today, especially because these women do so out of a high value of obedience to the Word of God, at least as they understand it.

But my sweet wife won’t be wearing a head covering any time soon. However, by the grace of God, both of us are planning to keep our wedding rings on, as they say, “till death us do part.”

Wednesday, May 20th: 1 Corinthians 12

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Divorce and Remarriage in Light of Eternity

Seminary never really prepared me for marriage and divorce issues in the church.

My professors tried, mind you, and I got the basics in my New Testament and ethics classes.  It was there that I came to the common evangelical understanding of when divorce (and thus subsequent remarriage) was appropriate or permitted. Like most, I hold to an understanding that divorce is permissible in cases of adultery (usually of the unrepentant type) or desertion by an unbeliever. At Edgewood we use this criteria to determine whether we can perform a wedding of someone who has been divorced.

But…I’ve found through the years that it is almost always very difficult to sort these things out in the vicissitudes of day to day life. Circumstances are never as simple as the ethics textbook led me to believe they would be. So many times I have felt coldly clinical and legalistic as I have tried to think through a person’s circumstances which might make remarriage possible. I need…we need…to be biblical, but applying biblical standards always feels so hard.

But I get good instruction on these issues as I read Paul’s word to the church at Corinth on divorce and remarriage. In 1 Corinthians 7, we find that when Paul considered these issues, he was moved and motivated by thoughts of eternity. In other words, when the question came up of whether divorce was permissible, Paul gave standards which we need to follow, but he also asked, “Which course might lead my unsaved husband/wife (and children!) to trust in Jesus?” Consider…

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 1 Corinthians 7:11-16 (ESV)

I know that some couples are suffering greatly in their marriages. And I feel for men and women married to unbelievers, especially when these believers have unsaved spouses who are quite antagonistic toward Christianity. I have heard many sorrowful stories through my years of pastoral ministry. And as we have already said, there are surely sometimes biblical reasons for divorce. (And by all means, if you are feeling unsafe, or are being hurt, talk to us at the church and we will help you get to a place of safety.)

But aside from all this, Paul makes the powerful case to hold on if at all possible…because sometimes unbelieving wives and husbands are “made holy” through their Christian spouses. And of course they are! How many non-believing spouses have trusted Christ through the faithful witness of their spouse? Surely many are enjoying eternal life now because a spouse held on.

And what he says about children is probably an even greater motivator to most people, for even if someone cannot be motivated to hang in there to save an antagonistic spouse, they are likely to be moved by thoughts of their kids in eternity: “Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” Wow. As we think about eternity and our longing for our beloved children to be there with us, staying married is apparently important, even staying married to an unbeliever. So ask the Lord for His grace, either to hang in there now in a tough marriage, or even possibly…to consider reconciliation.

All that said, whatever your story now, remember that God can save anyone, including your ex-spouse or your children of divorce. So ask Him to move…and keep asking; He loves to save the children of believers in all circumstances.

For Thursday, May 14: 1 Corinthians 8

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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