A Way to Pray

Brethren, I have to EXHORT YOU TO PRAY FOR OTHERS. Before I do it, I will ask you a personal Praying in the Fieldquestion. Do you always pray for others? Guilty or not guilty, here? Do you think you have taken the case of your children, your church, your neighbourhood, and the ungodly world before God as you ought to have done? If you have, I have not. For I stand here a chief culprit before the Master to make confession of the sin; and while I shall exhort you to practice what is undoubtedly a noble privilege, I shall be most of all exhorting myself.                                    – Charles Spurgeon

The best way to teach your family to pray, is to model it.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray for themselves.  His lesson is recorded in Matthew 6.9-13.  I challenge you to commit to praying for 21 days the following, after Jesus instruction:

Prayer of adoration: I will speak the name and character of God.  I will declare God’s holiness and beauty, and ascribe to him the glory that is due.  This can be accomplished by speaking or meditating on the various perfections of God (e.g. love, goodness, justice, wisdom, etc.).

Prayer of submission:  I will submit to God’s sovereign will and plan in ALL things.  More than “thinking it”, I will verbally proclaim my hope for God’s will to be done in my life, the life of my family, and my church–and not my own.  This is radical because praying this means accepting what God deems as his purpose for “Good” (Romans 8.28) may not be how I view it.  It is a prayer of submission, knowing that God may not give me what I desire for his glory and, ultimately, my joy as I am satisfied in Him.

Prayer of provision: I will thank God for all that He has given.  I will ascribe Him glory for how He has blessed me even for the very breath he has given me to proclaim it.  I will ask for a content heart, recognizing that anything this side of hell is God’s grace.  And I will affirm God’s promise to provide as well as I follow his command to ask.  He gives what I need and takes away what I do not because of what I need.

Prayer of confession:  I will confess my sins.  As God already knows all things, past, present, and future I will daily lay before him my brokenness.  I will regularly confess that I am rebellious and fall well short of the perfection He requires.  I will confess my pride, my harsh words, my lustful thoughts, my lies, my doubts, the hateful sins that I commit everyone is watching, and the unloving sins I omit when no one is. I confess not be accepted and begin a relationship, but to restore the relationship I already have.

Prayer of protection: I will pray against the spirits of this world. I refuse to continue living as if there is not a spiritual war going on around me.  I will pray against the temptations that the devil throws at me, that the world unleashes on me, and that my own flesh creates in me.  I will work defend myself by holding tightly to the cross, declaring as Colossians 2 does, that sin and death were destroyed on the hill called Golgotha.  In God’s Power, I will pray for protection of my heart and mind, for protection of my marriage, for protection of my children, and for protection of our church.

Prayer of deliverance:  I will pray for freedom.  I will pray that Jesus will deliver me from the bondage of my sin, the hooks that I allow to take hold in my life.  I will pray that Jesus will deliver me from those things that I make an idol, the things that I sacrifice for and worship that are not him, the things that I make into functional saviors.  I will ask Jesus to deliver me and those I love from sickness, from doubts, and from my own blindness at times.  I will declare that I cannot deliver myself, DAILY, and that I need a savior to redeem me AND a Lord to lead me.

Prayer of dependence:  I will pray against my sinful desire to know all things, to do all things, and to have all things.  I will pray against the lie that I don’t need God in all areas of my life.  I will ask God to reveal to me my weaknesses and where I refuse to allow him to be Lord.  I will ask God to show me where I live in such a way as if I don’t need him.  And I will pray that he will, by His Spirit, conform my will to his.

Prayer for self – I will pray that my relationship with God will grow.  I will pray aloud the prayers of Paul like Ephesians 3.14-21 that express NOT a desire to avoid sin, rather, to KNOW God and the depth of His love for me.  I will pray that his Word becomes alive to me, that it becomes an insatiable desire.

Prayer for family – I will pray for God’s help as I lead and pastor my first church–my family.  I will pray for my bride, my children, and their future spouses daily.  I will ask Jesus to bless me with a desire to love my bride and that I will be, by divine influence, so allured, attracted, and amazed by the one woman he has given me. I will pray for the salvation of my children. I will pray that my children will be protected from the evils of this world but not afraid of it.

Prayer for friends – I will pray for my friends, neighbors, and those who I run into to, that they will meet Jesus.  Daily I will identify 2-3 friends who need Jesus.  I will pray for them daily that God will remove their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.  I will persevere in my prayer because Jesus commanded me to; but I will leave the results of my efforts with God.

Prayer for church – I will pray for my church.  I will ask God to guide his church and to give us what we need, despite what we think we want.  According to his desire, I will pray for growth, that through our church the gospel will spread and that we will impact this city with the love of Jesus.  I pray that God will move mountains for us to do amazing things that we can’t possibly imagine because he is good, powerful, and mysterious.

Prayer for community – I will pray for our city, county, state, and nation. I will ask God to remind me that the hearts of our kings, whether they love him or not, are still streams of water he directs.  I will pray that, through broken men making broken laws and building broken culture, he will still be glorified–especially through my love for and participation in the community.

Sanctification 103: The Holy Spirit & Me

This third blog about sanctification has one simple point: Everything was imagedone by Jesus, not so that you could do nothing, but so that you would desire and be able to do something.

That “something” is gospel-inspired, spirit-empowered, pursuit of righteousness and fight against unrighteousness.  The purpose of this pursuit is, ultimately, satisfaction in God.  I would agree with John Piper whose life is devoted to the belief that: God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him.  In other words, satisfaction in God and glorification of God are intimately connected.

I believe that obedience, which begins with believing the gospel, is the greatest way to glorify God AND be satisfied. I  agree with Jesus who said in John 15 that abiding in Him, through obedience to His commands, results in joy.  Sadly, calling people to pursue obedience is rarely perceived as having to do with experiencing joy in Jesus. On the contrary, many  characterize such calls as guilt-trips or recipes for legalism.  It must be possible to call people to “make every effort” to obey Jesus commands.  If not, Peter, Paul, James, and even Jesus seem to have been wrong, or at least, woefully insensitive.

To be clear, those who are in Christ have been “made” righteous by His obedience (See Romans 5).  Said another way, the reason we are righteous is because Jesus died FOR us. BUT…the reason we can pursue godliness is because Jesus lives IN us. And this is where the conflict ensues.  Even if we agree that we are all meant to “mature in Christ”, exactly how that happens is still in question. One of the great points of contention regarding progressive sanctification is the role of men versus the role of the Holy Spirit. How much am I “doing” and how much is He doing?

What if it is both?  I don’t mean some kind of 50/50 relationship, more like 100/100.  What if the Spirit gives us desires AND we must act on those desires? What if the Spirit gives us energy  AND we have to spend it? What if the Spirit gives us gifts AND we have to use them? What if the Spirit gives us paths to escape temptation AND we have to take them?  What if the Spirit gives us tools to mature in Christ AND we have to pick them up? This seems to be what Paul means when he says:

Philippians 2.12 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The same grace that saves us is the same grace that moves us.  Grace does not give us permission to do nothing.  It gives us comfort when we fail at what we do and humility if we succeed. The pursuit of holiness is not about performing to impress God or others; it is about progressing in our affection toward God and others.

We don’t just sit and wait for the Holy Spirit to act upon us.  If He is in us, we should possess a desire to pursue holiness–to grow up in Christ. And while we cannot control how fast or well we grow, we can waste the grace we’ve been given. I believe the Holy Spirit works through the tools of grace  God has given us (See Sanctification 102).

  1. The Holy Spirit cries out “Daddy” and reminds us of our identity as a child of God through meditation on the gospel
  2. The Holy Spirit teaches to us through reading God’s Word of God, revealing who God is and what His will for us is.
  3. The Holy Spirit speaks for us to God in prayer,  helping us to commune with our heavenly Father so we can  live for Him.
  4. The Holy Spirit comforts us when we sing praises to Jesus, reminding us of who He is and what He has done for us
  5. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our disobedience and helps us resist temptation and pursue obedience.
  6. The Holy Spirit ministers to us through His presence in the hearts and hands of those in the body–to heal and strengthen.
  7. The Holy Spirit directs us to go on mission and empowers, equips , and enables us accomplish his work there.

We grow in grace when we engage with it.  And we engage with it, or at least desire to,  when we experience it in salvation. Paul says it well:

1Corinthians 15.10 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Let us not waste God’s grace toward us.  Let us work hard for Christ  by the grace that is our sin Christ–for His glory and our joy.

Sanctification 102: The tools and how they work

Our sanctification began before CREATION. According to His purposes, to imagethe praise of His grace, God SET APART a people to be saved from sin.  Sanctification is completely accomplished  (IN OUR SOULS) through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, increased throughout life in our flesh by the Spirit (IN OUR BODIES) , and completed at Jesus’ return.

There some argument over prepratory sanctification, minimal argument over positional sanctification, and a lot of argument over progressive sanctification.  Essentially, there is a lot of confusion about how we grow in our holiness if Jesus has already made us holy.  It is true that God demands our holiness.  That is why he sent His Son to be a substitute for us–he produced the holiness I needed through a sinless life and paid the penalty for the unholiness of my sin.

God demands perfection, that is why He gave us His substitute. But God also commands holiness, that is why He gave us His Spirit.

We have been placed IN CHRIST through union with Christ.  This is something God has done.  It is something that does not change regardless of what we do or don’t do.  Our position is secure now and in eternity.  We are God’s adopted children, heirs with Christ, never to be forsaken or separated from God’s love.

But, even if your UNION with Christ cannot change (for better or worse), our COMMUNION with Him can.  We are IN CHRIST, but we can MATURE IN CHRIST.  Our relationship with Jesus can grow in its intimacy, sanctity, and joy.   In other words, everything was done by Jesus, not so that you could do nothing, but so that you would desire and be able to do something.  That something is a gospel-inspired and spirit-empowered pursuit of holiness in our bodies (lives).

The reason we are righteous is because Jesus died FOR us. The reason we can pursue holiness is because Jesus lives IN us.

The “putting off” of the old self/sin, as Paul writes in Colossians 3, is called MORTIFICATION.  The “putting on” of the new self/righteousness, is called VIVIFICATION. Mortification describes the lessening influence of sin in our lives, and the vivification describes the increasing influence of Jesus in our lives.   Neither of these establishes or affects our position in Christ which has been secured by Christ.  On the contrary, they flow from a deep belief in that position.  We do not resist unholiness and/or pursue holiness believing God loves us when we succeed or hates us when we fail. Rather, our pursuit of holiness is inspired by the gospel which declares I am accepted based on Jesus obedience, not mine.  This pursuit is not out of a desire to be loved more, but out of a desire to love God, and others, as He has loved me…more.

A pursuit of holiness is not merely a response to God’s grace, it is the effect of it.

How does this happen? How do we resist unholiness and pursue holiness? First, it begins by meditating on grace. The same grace that saves us from legalism (believing that my obedience to the law saves) is the same grace that saves us from lawlessness.  Paul writes in Titus 2.11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

But how do we engage this grace?  How does grace “train u to renounce” ungodliness?  Is this just an cerebral endeavor?  I believe that what should always begins in the heart and continues with a setting of the mind (See Colossians 3) should, and will, flow out into the hands.  And God has given us tools through which we can experience the grace of Jesus.  Some of these include:

GRACE FROM MEDITATION ON JESUS (1Corinthians 3.18)
GRACE FROM STUDY OF GOD’S WORD ABOUT JESUS (John 17.17)
GRACE FROM PRAYER THROUGH JESUS (Ephesians 6.18; Phil 4.6)
GRACE FROM WORSHIP OF JESUS (Ephesians 5.18-20; Col.3.16-17)
GRACE FROM OBEDIENCE TO JESUS (John 15.9-11)
GRACE FROM FELLOWSHIP WITH JESUS’ PEOPLE (Hebrews 10.24-25)
GRACE FROM MAKING DISCIPLES OF JESUS (Matthew 28.19-20)

Even if these tools do not change Jesus affection for us, they will change our affections for Jesus.  They will help us become in practice what we already are in position.

This requires effort as seen in Ephesians 4, Romans 8, Colossians 3, 1Peter 1, 2Peter 2, and any number of other letters which call us to strive, put off, put on, and make every effort.   Without question, we are not to live by works, but we will work if we are really alive! (See James 2).

Effort is not wrong.  It is not wrong to work to be moral.  It is not wrong to work hard doing good.  It is not wrong to work at learning more about God.  It is not wrong to work at being a better husband/wife.  It is not wrong to work to live more like Christ.  It is wrong to believe that your efforts are meritous in nature.

Effort for the the purpose of meriting favor is condemned.  But effort that is driven by the gospel is a commanded.

And remember what an old Puritan said…”For every look you take at your sanctification, take two looks at your justification.”  Suffice to say…we must look at our sanctification…but there is an important order to things.

Sanctification 101: The Different Kinds

For the last several Wednesdays, our church has been spending time sanctifyexploring the theological concept of sanctification.  Simply stated, the idea behind sanctification  is that of “setting apart” someone, or something, for special use.

Biblically, this primarily describes the act of God who separates or consecrates something as holy.  The first instance of this happening is when God sanctifies the 7th day of creation—recognizing it as holy.  The secondary meaning of the word involves the idea of “moral” or “ethical” renewal or cleansing.  In this sense, “sanctification” connotes the idea of a process being made more holy or righteous as read in passages like:
1Thessalonians 4.3-5  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.  

Theologically, sanctification is connected with salvation. Salvation is a term use to describe the deliverance of men from the curse of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In some sense, salvation is both an ACT of God’s grace on the cross and a continuing WORK of God’s grace through His Spirit.  Sanctification is a comprehensive term that describes multiple layers of salvific deliverance—past, present, and future. In other words, we have been saved, we are being saved, AND we will be saved in eternity. (i.e. Been sanctified, being sanctified, will be sanctified)

There are four different kinds of sanctification that help describe this”process” of deliverance.

  1. Prepratory Sanctification:  God Father plans redemption before the foundation of the world. Including in this plan is a decision to set apart individuals to “make holy and blameless” for his purposes–which is to reveal the riches of his glorious grace in Christ.  Prepratory sanctification is the pre-work of God’s Spirit whereby he elects a people–setting them apart–to be saved from sin. This is commonly referred to as predestination.
  2. Positional Sanctification:  Having been prepared, we are delivered from the penalty, guilt, and shame of sin the moment we received God’s grace and, through faith, and rust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In that moment, the Spirit applies the atonement to the heart of one of His elect.  By grace, through faith, that individual is placed “in Christ”.  Positional sanctification (justification) delivers us from the penalty and authority of sin. This is commonly referred to as justification.
  3. Progressive Sanctification: Even though we have been sanctified, and placed “in Christ” God is still sanctifying us in our daily lives.  This is because the Spirit of Jesus that SAVES US is now living IN US.  Having been placed in Christ, by His Spirit, we are maturing in Him or growing up into Christ.  Our UNION with Jesus is perfect  in our souls, but our COMMUNION with him fluctuates  in our bodies.  Said another way, over a lifetime, we become in practice what we are in position.  Progressive sanctification delivers us from the power /influence of sin.This is commonly referred to as sanctification.
  4. Prospective Sanctification:  The final stage in the sanctification process is the completed salvation of the believer. This is experienced at the resurrection when the believer will be transformed into the likeness of Christ and presented to the Lord as holy. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is both the promise of and the agency for this future perfection. Final sanctification completes our salvation in that it brings our position and our practice together.  Prospective sanctification delivers us from the presence of sin. This is commonly referred to as glorification.

Even if describing salvation in terms of sanctification is uncommon, the convictions behind each of these is accepted by most evangelicals (apart from the nature of predestination).  There are, however, wide divisions regarding progressive sanctification, namely, how it works and who does that work.  I will tackle that in that next blog.
NEXT BLOG:  Sanctification 102: What are the tools of Sanctification?

 

“Submission” for the Single Ladies

After preaching on Biblical Womanhood last week, I received some submitexcellent questions from some godly single women in our church.  None of them expressed issue with the sermon, but they all desired a better understanding as to how some of principles of marriage may apply to singleness.

A Good Word Used Badly

One question that came up centered on the idea of “submission”.  And although this concept was not highlighted in my sermon, it is an all too familiar term employed when teaching about Biblical Marriage.  It is not a bad word in itself, but it is often badly taught by bad teachers and badly exercised by bad men.

As Paul wrote in Philemon 8…though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—.  In other words ladies, I’m not scared to tell it like it is.  But I do want to try and be sensitive to the reality that it is difficult for most women to feel enthusiastic about the word “SUBMIT” in our culture or in their personal experience.  A man can barely whisper the word “submission” today without being crucified as a chauvinist, a Neanderthal, or worse.  And many a pastor has been rightly criticized for preaching strong-handed sermons on the “S-word”, sadly, devoid of the compassion of Christ.  I don’t mind being crucified as long as I am speaking the Words of Christ in a Christ-like way.

Let me try and talk gently, but frankly, about the big bad “S” word–SUBMISSION.  Usually, when we come across a word or idea that we do not like, but feel obligated to agree with (because God said it), the first thing that happens is an attempt to redefine it, to make it more agreeable.  Simple defined:

The word SUBMISSION means to take a subordinate role, specifically in relation to another person.

Everyone Submits to Someone

The act of submission is not exclusive to women in marriage. According to Ephesians 5.21, mutual submission out of reverence for Jesus should characterize ALL Christians.  But as we demonstrate meekness, grace, and patience with one another, that does not mean we do not submit to the God given authorities in our lives.  Submission to authority, be it God, parents, or governments is also a Christian virtue.

Again, the idea of “submission” is most commonly connected to marriage because it is most explicitly taught as applying to this relationship. In Ephesians 5.22-24 Paul charges: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church. , his body, and is Himself its Savior.  Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  Paul teaches the same idea in his letter to the Colossians 3.18 declaring: Wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.  Similarly, the apostle Peter teaches in his first epistle:  …wives be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives–when they see your respectable and pure conduct. 

There is no question that all Christians are expected to mutually submit to one another or whether wives are called to submit their husbands.  The question is whether or not all single women are responsible to somehow live out submission in their relationship to all or any men.

One Wife not All Women

That said, it is important to understand what submission means in the context of Biblical Womanhood for both the married AND the unmarried.

First, it must be stated that the verses about submission in marriages are written to wives, not all women.  In other words, the women is expect to submit to A MAN, not to ALL MEN.  It follows then, biblically and practically, that single women are not under authority of a man in the same sense until she is married.  In the strictest sense, she is not under the authority of her boyfriend, or fiancé, even though she may be preparing to be.

Second, that truth does not mean that she cannot uphold and even proclaim the principle submission in other existing relationships outside of marriage.  In truth, she has a responsibility in several relationships as a single woman which include:

Submission in relationship to her heavenly Father

The first, and most important way a single woman can live out godly submission is in relationship to God.  A woman, married or not, lives first and foremost in submission to Jesus–under His Lordship.  She is a daughter of the King before she is ever a wife, mother, or friend.  Being a child, in Christ, assumes submission to the Father’s authority in all things.  This submission is not a meant to solicit love from God, but is in response to God’s love.  It is not merely our duty to submit and obey, it is our delight to follow Jesus’ lead.

Submission in relationship to her earthly father

Another way a single woman can live out godly submission is in her relationship to her mother and father. Until a woman “cleaves” to a husband, she does not “leave” the covering of her earthly Father.  There is, without doubt, a time when women become adults and no longer live under the practical authority of their parents–but we always bear the responsibility to honor them.  This, of course, does not necessarily mean submission in the strictest sense.  In some sense, however, a daughter’s Father never ceases to be her primary protector, cultivator, and teacher.  He is, or at least should be, the most (or at least one of) important “man” in her life under Jesus (as a mom should be a son’s most important woman).

Submission in relationship to elders of the church

Another way that a single woman can live out godly submission is in her relationship with her pastors. We can and should say this about all church members as the Bible is abundantly clear in Hebrews 13.17:  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.  The elders and pastors of the church are shepherds–they exist to love, feed, and protect the sheep. This is no more true than with widows, orphans, and single moms (or single ladies).  The appointed leader’s of God’s family should be especially concerned with caring for those who may not have husbands or fathers thinking about caring for them.  It is important that single ladies, especially single moms, know and trust their elders so as to receive their counsel and care with the love in which it is intended.

Submission in relationship to her sisters in other marriages

A fourth way to uphold godly submission as a single woman is to encourage other married women in their submission to their husbands.  Even if there is not a shared marriage experience, there is a shared identity in Christ.  And a shared commitment to Christ means upholding the things of Christ.  More than just sentimentality, that means actively encouraging wives in biblical submission and admonishing them, with all gentleness, when they reject their husbands leadership.  It may be helpful, but it is not necessary, to have a shared experience of marriage in order to uphold God’s Word about marriage relationships.

Submission in relationship to those younger in her care

Finally, single woman can also live out godly submission by what they teach those in their care whether they be daughters, sons, or other younger people on which you have great influence.  The Bible is clear that the best thing older women can teach one another, and younger women can learn from one another (apart from the gospel), is Biblical Womanhood.  Paul writes in his letter to Titus 2.3-4: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children. Until, and if, she is married, the single woman should work to fulfill the mission given in Genesis 2 to Adam and Eve—build a God-glorifying culture.  A God glorifying culture includes teaching biblical manhood and womanhood in whatever way you can.at whatever opportunity you have.

Ladies, I recognize that this blog is certainly not comprehensive, but I pray that this helpful.

 

“Helping” for the Single Ladies

Yesterday,  I preached a sermon on Biblical Womanhood from Genesis helperchapter 2.  Preaching these kinds of sermons always feel like trying to navigate a minefield.  One wrong step and “boom”, you are hated or misunderstood by the women in your church.

Even though the Scriptures are quite clear about biblical manhood and womanhood, anyone who teaches on these topics must speak with tremendous amounts of grace (especially if they hope to be heard the same way). Unfortunately, many pastors and churches make the mistake of compromising truth in the name of “grace”. That is a destructive mistake that does a disservice to anyone who might hear.

The other mistake that preachers like myself can make is failing to communicate the whole truth to the whole congregation.  It is probably unreasonable to expect a single sermon on a single text to speak to every flavor of men, women, young, old, religious, irreligious person equally (or at all).  But in terms of Biblical Womanhood,   I am  concerned that, historically, it is something almost exclusively preaching in the context of marriage.  Anyone who is not married may as well “check out” or check Facebook.

I confess, I have made this foolish mistake.  I believe that marriage is an important and essential part of God’s original design in the garden; but it is not every woman’s reality in our post Genesis 2 world.  This is not to say that somehow single people are living in a less-than existence (though they can be made to feel that way by preachers) or that a spouse is a gift for “good behavior” or proof that you’re “good enough”.  On the contrary, Paul declares everything, even one’s marital status as under God’s sovereignty, and describes singleness as a good gift from the Father.

We would do well, therefore, to find ways to elevate the beauty of Biblical Womanhood for the single ladies! In other words, they have to be able to fulfill their God-given role to help do God’s work with or without a husband.  To that end, following the sermon I have had some great conversations with different women in our church in hopes understanding their perspective.  Here is one part of one exchange:

ME: When all is said and done, I want you to feel loved and valued. I also want you to feel free to use your gifts–that are awesome–in building a God-glorifying culture (as you are through your business and artistry) whether there is a man in your life or not! When all is said and done, you don’t NEED a man to live out what God has for you now…but all men certainly need your “help” in all kinds of ways. Hope that makes sense.

The response to the above statement surprised me, but offered some important insight. She said:

SINGLE WOMAN: You know something that yesterday made me realize is one of the things I desire most is to be a helper. And yesterday showed me the times of greatest hurt in my life were when I was a helper to someone I shouldn’t have been. When I put a man above the Lord it turned into idolatry. Something I have had to repeatedly repent from.

Women are naturally helpers.  They want to help those in need.  But, when helping men, there is a genuine temptation to be that which God did not design her to be in that moment.  Without question, this is a danger in the romantic relationships of pre-married people.  She can begin to “help” a man in ways that only a wife is meant to “help” a husband.   Even though the “helping” is well-intended and, quite natural, because they are not married, there may be problems.

This is not to say that single men and single women cannot have meaningful friendships.  It is to say that one of the biggest dangers in these kinds of friendship is that, if not careful, a “helper” can easily become a “savior” for either the man or the woman–this is idolatry at its baddest because it feels the best-est (in the moment).  They will end up depending on one another in ways reserved only for the Lord. They will begin to make their relationship with one another more important than their relationship with the Lord.  Believing they are loving each other, they will in fact be leading each other into sin and away from the Lord.

Don’t be fooled. This can also happen IN a marriage context where, as the wife fulfills her role as a helper, she too may be tempted to try and “help” in ways that Jesus alone is supposed to–especially when her husband is failing in his role.  One thing is for sure, when live out their roles, living selflessly and not taking selfishly, then women will flourish in living out theirs married or not.

I hope this young lady realizes how she helped me understand God’s truth here, ironically, fulfilled the role God gave her.  Awesome.

Next Blog:  “Submission for the Single Ladies” (That ought to be a popular one)

 

On God, Science, and the Age of the Universe

This past Sunday I preached a sermon focused in the six days of creation.  I began the sermon by reading Psalm 19.1-2:pope5 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handwork.  Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. The point of beginning with this Psalm was to remind us of the true purpose of creation—to make much of God.  Essentially, instead of always asking HOW questions, I wanted us to focus on WHY questions.

It is difficult to ask these kinds of questions with this particular text because there is such a great divide created by one’s understanding of “how” the six days of creation unfolded.  In an effort to make sense of God’s Word, men often mistakenly accommodate science to the point of compromise or dismiss it as all together evil or at least mostly wrong.  The first sermon, therefore, was devoted to addressing this tension that has historically governed the relationship between religion and science.  My hope was to help navigate this tension and direct our eyes where they should be all together.  Sadly, the vastly different responses I received to this sermon revealed that this was not fully accomplished.

Following the sermon, I posted an article on Facebook that I had briefly mentioned in the sermon.  The article, written by a former Atheist now Christian, proposed a third option that attempts to reconcile the obvious disagreements between the Bible and mainstream science.  Although I find the article fascinating, the article does not represent my position and is, at different points, in conflict with the position I believe is truest to the Biblical text.  Even though I stated my position as a literal 24 hour six-day creationist (young earth), my failure to explain that position created an environment where this article created more confusion than it did curiosity.

That said, below is a simple summary of what I believe regarding science, God, and the origin of the universe.  Please know that the following is not a comprehensive doctrinal statement.  They are a few thoughts to help guide conversation and not invitations for debate.

  1. I believe that Scripture is the authoritative word of God, infallible and without error in its original writings. The Word of God is our final authority in faith and life, through which the Spirit of God awakens, empowers, and transforms.
  1. I believe that all the Scriptures are written about Jesus and were given to primarily to lead us to praise the glorious riches of God’s grace in Jesus.
  1. I believe that there is much that God has chosen to leave a mystery and there is much that God has revealed. It is our duty to focus on that which He has revealed and not become too distracted by that which He has not.
  2. I believe that we do not know, with certainty, the age of the earth (universe) and that godly men who love Jesus disagree on the age of earth. Most, but not all, positions on the age of the earth are open handed in that they are not essential to salvation.
  3. I believe that one’s position on the age of the earth, particularly old earth, does not necessarily compromise the authority of Scripture, neither does it necessarily evidence a non-literal approach to interpretation. And while there are many positions that are biblically offensive, there is more than one position that is biblically defensible.
  1. I believe that, as with all of creation, science is tainted with sin. In order to uphold the authority of Scripture, therefore, we must be careful not to accommodate science.  That said, I believe that science is a gift of God, given by God to inform and enrich our understanding of His Word but not govern its interpretation.
  1. I believe that the Word of God declares the purpose of creation is to reveal the glory of the Creator who is there and the purpose of science is to reveal just how glorious that Creator is.
  1. I believe it is our duty and privilege to glorify God through science. In Christ, science is not hopeless, it can be helpful.  We must be ready, therefore, to restore science with God’s truth, to work in science to confirm God’s truth, and even be prepared to be led to God’s truth through science.
  1. I believe that we must arrive at and hold our theological convictions with all humility for there is a dangerously fine line between knowledge that builds up and knowledge that puffs up.
  1. I believe that we must endeavor to be convinced in our own minds about our particular position through study, prayer, and counsel. As we do this, we must also strive to maintain unity in the essentials, and charity in the non-essentials.

Having discussed this with the elders, we believe it is important that we devote some time this next Sunday to preach the details of the position I hold.  It is our hope that this will bring greater clarity to last week, greater unity with our Kid’s Road program, and ultimately greater confidence in God’s Word.   See you Sunday, and bring your Bible.

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