The Bride of Christ (Part 1)

“Do you promise to love, honor, obey and, absolutely forsaking all others, keep thyself only to him and be to him in all things a faithful and true wife, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in weddingsickness and in health, till death do you part?”

No doubt these words bring to mind the marriage of a man and woman.  You can imagine the handsome groom standing next to his beautiful bride as they give themselves to one another.  But can we look at these vows from another perspective?

Several times in the New Testament, the relationship between Christ and His church is compared to that of a husband and his bride.  More than once, the church is portrayed as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27, 32; II Corinthians 11:1-2; Isaiah 62:4).  One of the parallels we can draw between the relationship of a husband and wife and the relationship of Christ and His church is that, as Christians, we promise to love Christ (the groom).  Why?  The answer should be obvious!

First, we love Jesus because of the peace He provides.  Isaiah 9:6 depicts Christ as the prince of peace.  Notice Jesus’ own words from the book of John.  John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  This world is filled with troubles, trials, and temptations.  But, in the midst of these trials, we can still experience peace.  You might say Jesus is the “eye in the middle of our storm.”  This peace is a contentment that comes from being in a right relationship with God.

Second, we love Jesus because of the rest He renders.  Imagine trying to carry the burden of a heavy load.  Your back is bowed and your knees start to buckle.  Now imagine having to carry this load for years!  More than anything else you’re wanting to rest!  You’re wanting relief from carrying your heavy burden.  We need to understand that sin is a heavy load.  We need to understand that Jesus is the only one that can offer any relief!  Matthew 11:28-29 28 – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Third, we love Jesus because of the salvation He supplies.  Because we have all sinned, we all need to be saved from our sin.  We need to be saved from the eternal consequences of our sin.  Just as our sin results in being separated from God, salvation results in being reconciled to God.  This salvation can only come through the blood of Christ.  Acts 4:12 – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Fourth, we love Jesus because of the cross He carried.  Imagine the garden where Jesus was praying shortly before being taken away by the Roman soldiers.  Imagine the scene as later Jesus was scourged, slapped, and mocked.  Can you picture in your mind the soldiers placing Jesus on the cross, driving nails through his hands and feet?  Can you envision Jesus’ bloody and beaten body as He is hanging on the cross and praying to His father?  Throughout all of this, Jesus could have called the angels (Matthew 26:53).  Instead, He chose to endure the shame and excruciating pain of the cross so that you and I could be with Him forever in heaven.  Know this without a doubt – this is the greatest love anyone could ever imagine (John 14:15).  Doesn’t it only make sense for us to love Him in return?

As the bride of Christ, we ought to love Him because of the peace he provides, the rest He renders, the salvation He supplies, and the cross he carried!

ABC’s of Decision Making, Part I

Decisions, decisions. We make them every day! Many of the decisions we make are very minor. For example, what will I eat for breakfast? What kind of toothpaste will Icoin flip use? What kind of car will I drive? Will I part my hair on the left or the right? Or perhaps, no part at all? Will I drink my coffee with cream, or without? What kind of shoes will I wear, lace-ups, or slip-ons? Where will I take my family for vacation this year?

I could go on and on. I’m sure you could make a list of your own similar decisions. These decisions are, at least in view of eternity, inconsequential.

But other decisions we make are of greater significance. Where will I work? Will I be married? If so, whom will I marry? Will I have children? If so, how will I provide for my family? Will I be a Christian? Not just a Christian, but a faithful Christian. Will I study the Bible? Or will I look upon God’s word as a trivial matter? These decisions have far more lasting consequences. Some of these decisions have eternal consequences.

How should we arrive at the decisions we make? While a “flip of the coin” may be a satisfactory method of making some decisions, no reasonable person would want to make a major, life changing decision in such a haphazard manner. Decisions of any real significance involve serious thought and deliberation. Obviously, it’s possible for a person to make not only wise choices, but unwise choices as well. How can a person know he has made a wise decision? Let’s consider a few tips that should be helpful in the decision making process. What I call, the ABC’s of decision making.

For now, let’s consider the the letter A, as it reminds us to ALWAYS be AWARE of others when making decisions.  Consider the tragic decision of Achan, recorded for us in Joshua 7:1-26. In Joshua chapter six, God had given the Israelites instructions as to how they were to be victorious in capturing the city of Jericho. Notice God’s instructions to Joshua in Joshua 6:2-5: “And the Lord said to Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns; and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

God had also stipulated that when the city of Jericho was captured all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron were to be consecrated to the Lord. Not one of the Israelites was to keep these things for himself (Joshua 6:17-19).

After taking Jericho, the Israelites next step was to take the city of Ai. However, the Israelites met with unexpected resistance. Thirty-six Israelites died in the battle (Joshua 7:2-5).

Joshua mourned over the Israelites’ defeat. Listen to Joshua’s words of despair, recorded in Joshua 7:7-9: “And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?”

God explained to Joshua that the Israelites’ loss was due to their sin in the camp.  Joshua began an inquiry in order to find out whose sin had caused the defeat before the city of Ai. Joshua began with the heads of the tribes, then with the heads of the families, then the heads of the households in succession to one family, then to individual persons within that family. It wasn’t long before Joshua found the guilty party.

As it turned out, Achan had let his greed get the best of him. Achan confessed that he took a garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight. Achan buried them in the earth in the midst of his tent. When Joshua sent messengers to Achan’s tent, they found the spoils buried right where Achan said they were. After the messengers took these things to Joshua, Joshua took Achan, along with his sons and daughters, to the valley of Achor. The children of Israel then stoned Achan along with his sons and his daughters and afterward burned them as God had commanded (Joshua 7:15).

But notice Joshua 7:1 – “the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing.” It was Achan who had sinned. But Achan’s sin had brought disgrace upon the whole nation, caused the death of thirty-six men in battle, and later resulted in the death of his sons and his daughters.

Achan’s actions remind us that the decisions we make affect far more than just ourselves. The choices we make often affect our parents, our spouses, our children, our coworkers, our friends, and our neighbors.  The next time you make a major decision, remember to ALWAYS be AWARE of others!

A Sad Day for Our Country

Supreme-Court-sign

Recently, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States, by a vote of five to four, ruled that same sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.  Justice Kennedy, voting in the majority, stated “No longer may this liberty be denied.”  Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called the ruling, “a historic victory for marriage equality.”   Voicing his strong support for the court’s decision, President Obama called it “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”  President Obama placed a congratulatory phone call to James Obergefell, the chief plaintiff in the case.  Obama, later speaking at the White House, praised the decision as an affirmation of the principle that all Americans are created equal and called the ruling “a victory for America.”

No, Mr. President.  This was not a victory for America.  This was, in reality, a sad day for America.  It is a reminder as to how far our country’s leaders have strayed away from God and his eternal principles.  “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).  God has so clearly stipulated that the marriage relationship is that of one man and one woman.  “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man (Genesis 2:21-23).  God’s word so unambiguously teaches that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:27-32; Jude 7).  No man has the right to add to the scriptures, nor to take away from them (Revelation 22:18).

As Christians, we are to recognize homosexuality for what it is – an abomination to God!  “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).  At the same time, we must desire to lovingly reach out to those people involved in this sin.  We must realize the same Jesus who died for us died for ALL of mankind (John 3:16).  We must realize that the gospel has the power to changes people’s hearts and lives.  When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth it was obvious that some, who were faithful Christians at the time of his writing, had previously been homosexuals (I Corinthians 6:9).  Yet, they had been washed by the blood of Christ and were now cleansed of their sin (I Corinthians 6:11).  Prior to their repentance, they had no hope of heaven (I Corinthians 6:10).

As Christians, we need to pray for our nation (I Timothy 2:1-2).  We need leaders in government who want to know what the Bible teaches and are willing to follow up by governing according to Biblical principles.

As Christians, we need to pray for those men who preach in a public way.  We need to pray that those men approach the pulpit with a recognition of right and wrong and a determination to speak the truth concerning the sin of homosexuality.  To Timothy, Paul wrote: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2).

As Christians, we need to pray that husbands/fathers will guide their families in the right way (Ephesians 6:1-4).  We need to pray that husbands/fathers will teach their children what the Bible so clearly says about homosexuality.

June 6, 2015 was a sad day for America.  But there is hope; if our country will repent and turn back to the Bible.

Shame on You, Mr. President!

While I, along with many others, suspected it for a long time, president Obama has made it official – he became the first sitting President of the United States to endorse same sex marriages.  (It was only a few days before this that Vice-President Joe Biden declared his support for same sex marriages.)

The president explained to the media that he has gone through an “evolution” in regard to his position on same-sex marriages.  He told ABC News, “As I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

In his interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, President Obama discussed his faith and its part in his arriving at his position, saying, “This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do.  And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.”

It is hard to know where to begin in responding to the president’s comments, but consider the following.

The president said he, along with his wife, is a practicing Christian.  Yet, in coming to his decision concerning same sex marriages, not once did he mention what God’s Word teaches concerning marriage!  Instead, he bases his position on his conversations with his friends, family, neighbors, and those who serve on his staff.  Imagine such folly!  How can one honestly appreciate the fact that Christ sacrificed himself for us yet fail to appreciate the plain teachings of the Bible?  Friends, if we look to others in our effort to arrive at the truth, we will be sorely disappointed.  The Bible teaches we are not to follow a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2).  Jesus taught that if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14).  Jeremiah taught that the way of man is not in himself, and it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23).  It is utter foolishness for someone who professes to be a Christian to demonstrate such total disregard for God’s teaching!

The president said he has gone through an “evolution” in regard to his position concerning same sex marriages.  But God’s position concerning same sex marriages has not changed.  When God created the first man, Adam, he put him in the garden to dress it and to keep it (Genesis 2:15).  God later said that, because it was not good for man to be alone, he would make a help meet for him (Genesis 2:18).  God then caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.  God then took one of Adam’s ribs and formed it into a woman.  He then brought the woman to Adam.  Adam then said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:21-24).  From this first marriage it is obvious God intended for the marriage relationship to be between one man and one woman!  Nowhere in the Bible will you ever read of God giving his approval to same sex marriages.  Sure, your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and staff members may voice their approval – but you will never read of God voicing his approval!

God’s word still teaches that homosexuality is a sin!  That has not changed, nor will it ever change.  Notice the apostle Paul’s words to the church at Rome: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:27-32).  Also notice Paul’s words to the church at Corinth: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The president said his position is based in part on the Golden Rule, “you know, treat others the way you want to be treated.” But is that really what Jesus said – that we are to treat others as we WANT to be treated?  Let’s look at Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:12:  “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Should Jesus’ words concerning the treatment of others somehow cause us to conclude that we are to ignore sin?  Should Jesus’ words cause us to conclude that we are to take that which is an abomination to God and try to change it into something God will accept?  Isaiah wrote, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).  It is a gross perversion of the Golden Rule to use it to justify same sex marriages!

As to doing unto others as they should do to us, consider the following.  If you were lost in your sin would you want someone to teach you about Jesus Christ?  After all, it is only through Jesus Christ that you can be saved from your sin (Acts 4:12).  If you were living a sinful lifestyle, (such as that of the homosexual), would you want someone to show you how you can be reconciled back to God?  Paul wrote, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).  Of course, we must instruct others with an attitude of love.  “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:15).

The president said the more consistent he could be in being true to those precepts (that is, the sentiment behind the Golden Rule – RH),  the better he would be as  a dad and a husband.  Earlier in the interview, President Obama said his position was partially based on conversations he has had with his wife and daughters.  Who is the parent here, anyway?

Friends, as a father and a husband, I want to be true to the word of God – and this includes standing in opposition to the sin of homosexuality and same sex marriages.  As a father, I want to teach my children to base their beliefs upon the Word of God, as opposed to the opinions of their friends, neighbors, co-workers, or anyone on their staff.

“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).