Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Some Things of Note

I ran across these two blog entres on the web and would like to share them because they make such powerful points:

1) Marley's Message to Scrooge-Dr. R.C. Sproul reveals how many of our attitudes concerning the Christmas holiday are very much scroogelike. May we make the most of our opportunity to celebrate Christ's birth this Christmas!

2) Joseph's Painful Decision-A close look at what Joseph must have wrestled with concerning the news of Mary's pregnancy and an important point which we can learn from the account.

May God use these to encourage and touch you as He has me today!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Bible on Marriage: A Response to Newsweek

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
~Genesis 2:24

A recent Newsweek article claiming to provide "the religious case for gay marriage" is causing quite the stir. As one who has set his heart on studying God's Word, putting it into practice, and teaching it to others, I am greatly concerned about how the author of the article misconstrues what Scripture teaches concerning marriage. While several of the arguments proposed by the author are typical for those who attempt to justify so-called "same-sex" marriage from a religous standpoint, the opening claim is very interesting. The first point made in the article is that the Bible has a very flippant definition of marriage, referencing Abraham's sleeping with Hagar, the polygamy of the kings, Jesus' singleness and renouncement of earthly attachments, and Paul's elevation of singleness. However, a closer look at God's Word reveals a very clear definition which should not be changed.

God defines marriage early on in His written Word directly after the creation of the woman. Right after man names the new creation "woman" (ishah), God provides the definiton of marriage. Because woman was made to be a counterpart to man as none of the animals provided a good match (Genesis 2:20), He establishes the principle that a man shall leave his parents and form a union with a woman where the two would no longer be viewed as two but as one flesh. A few things to notice concerning this definition. One is that it distinctly says that the union is between a man and a woman. Also, the two genders are singular. It is a union between "one" man and "one" woman. The definition in no way leaves the possibility open for any homosexual union or polygamy.

The fact that several of those recorded in the Bible did not consistently honor and live out this principle in no way invalidates it. Just because the Bible records the polygamy of the Patriarchs and kiings in no way condones these actions. Scripture records Abraham lying concerning his wife Sarah twice, David's murder, and numerous other actions clearly against God's written revealed will. Abraham's relationship with Hagar was clearly a sin. God promised Abraham that He would provide him and Sarah with a son (Genesis 15:4). However, the couple became impatient and upon his wife's suggestion, Abraham slept with Sarah's slave girl in order to have a heir (Genesis 16:2). God then reiterated the covenant with Abraham in chapter 17 and specifically told him that His plan was for the promise to be fulfilled with Sarah (v. 19). Abraham cannot be described to be in the right with the relationship with Hagar as it was due to his impatience of God's timing for Him to bring about His promise. He took matters into his own hands instead of waiting on God. Also, the polygamy of the kings was clearly prohibited by God. Foreseeing the sinfulness of the Israelites and as a part of His divine plan to fulfill the promise He gave to Abraham, God has Moses give instructions on the king and what he should or should not do (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). One of these instructions is not to multiply wives for himself (v. 17). This was a prohibition not upheld by many, if any, of the kings recorded in Scripture and many of them reaped the consequence of their sowing in having so many wives in that there heart was led astray as they had been warned: or else his heart will turn away. None of these examples can be used to define what marriage is because they were all clearly in the wrong.

The definition of marriage did not change in the New Testament at all with the teachings of Jesus and Paul. In fact, Jesus reiterated the same definition of marriage given early on in Genesis when He was confronted by the Pharisees concerning divorce. Upon their question of the legality of divorce, Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and taught that the implication of this principle of the two becoming one flesh was that the union is a permanent earthly one (permanent in the sense as long as both of them are alive). What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Matthew 19:6). The only reason divorce was permitted was due to the hardness of man's heart (v. 8) and this was never God's original intention as Jesus stated; but from the beginning it has not been this way (v. 8). Jesus is never shown to teach anything contrary to this understanding of marriage.

While Paul may appear to elevate singleness, he in no way devalues marriage. He recognizes both as a gift that God gives. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that (I Corinthians 7:7). Singleness is a gift that God has called some to (Matthew 19:10-12) where He uses those so gifted to minister for His glory as marriage is another gift that God has called some to where He uses those so gifted to minister alongside their spouse for His glory. In fact, Paul even teaches the deep and profound truth of the very purpose that God created marriage. In Ephesians 5, he states that earthly marriage is a physical reflection of the union between Christ and the church. After quoting Genesis 2:24, he states, This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Paul sees that the reason that God created earthly marriage with Adam and Eve was to be a visible representation of Christ's marriage with His Church. Earthly marriage follows the divine model where the husband rules as head of the household as Christ reigns as head of His Church (Ephesians 5:23), the wife's subjection mirrors that of the church to Christ (v. 24), and the apostle exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church so much to lay down His life for her in order to purify her (v. 25-26). (Side note: So much more could be said concerning this passage as it contains such rich and deep truths concerning marriage. Unfortunantely, time does not allow me presently to go into a more detailed exposition. If more couples would pay closer attention to their roles God has established them to have in conjunction to the reflection of Christ and the Church, I am sure we would see stronger marriages.) Paul, likewise, does not alter the given definition of marriage in Genesis 2:24. This definition appears to be upheld in the overall teaching of God's Word without any variation. In fact, as has been seen, many point back to it when describing marriage.

Why Does This Matter?
A question some may ask is why does the definition of marriage matter. Well if you are convinced and convicted that the Bible is the objective authoritative Word of God, it matters greatly. (If I did not hold such a conviction such a note would be pointless and a waste of my time.) Concerning unborn life and the abortion issue, John Piper states "Now you don't mess with that. You just don't get in God's face and say, 'Let me at it! I'm going to take it out. I'm going to chop it into pieces.' You don't do that." I believe something similar could be said about marriage. It is something that you don't mess with. You don't get in God's face and change His design for marriage, especially as it is a mirror image of the relationship of Christ with the Church. In fact, the author of Hebrews says Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (13:4).

Seeking to honor and uphold God's gift of marriage,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don't Let Weakness Hold You Back!

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I have just been blessed to hear Mark Hall of the group of Casting Crown's testimony once again and have been so encouraged by it. If you have never heard his testimony, I encourage you to take some time when you get a chance to listen to it. It is about twenty minutes long in its entirety but it is well worth hearing. It is the story behind the lyrics to the song, "Voice of Truth." Here are links I found to it on Youtube:

Part I:
Part II:
Part III:

I think that Mark gives a good testimony of what God can do in our weaknesses. No one would have ever thought that this man with ADD and dyslexia would be a youth minister and play a role in a powerful Christian band.

A close look at the track records of many of those whom God chose to use in the Bible are not impressive at all. Moses struggled with speaking, Gideon wavered in his faith, Jeremiah claimed that he was too young, Samson wrestled with lust, and even young David was deemed so insufficient that his father, Jesse, did not even call him out of the fields to be considered as king. Peter also is an example of a man full of weaknesses. In fear and timidity, he denied Christ, not once, but three times. Yet, all of these men were tremendously used to make a difference for God's glory. How did they overcome their weaknesses in order to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, become one of the most beloved kings of Israel and play a crucial role in the development of the church? The answer is not what "they" did but what "God" did through them.

Consider Paul and his weaknesses. He first identified a purpose in his weakness. He states to the Corinthian church that God permitted this "thorn in the flesh" to afflict him. The purpose of it was to keep hiim humble. So that he would not be tempted to boast of the visions he recently shared, he was given this weakness, whatever it may have been. If we had the full power to do whatever the Lord has called us to do, we would get cocky and boast in our ability. It is my weaknesses in the ministries that the Lord has used me in that reminds me that He is the one doing the work and not me. It would have fallen apart if it was left up to me without God's strength working through my weaknesses.

Regardless of whether this "thorn" was a physical illness or an actual person who caused Paul grief, it was something that he felt was hindering him. When praying for God to take it away, he received a surprising answer. God told him "no". Instead, God pointed out that He had everything that Paul needed to serve with the affliction of the "thorn." His grace is sufficient! While we have weaknesses God has the strength we need to perform the tasks He has in store for us. We just need to trust in Him and allow Him to work in us so that He can work through us. A simple prayer recognizing our weaknesses and asking for God's strength can go a long way.

Paul did not give up and throw in the towel because this weakness would hold him back from fully serving God. Instead he understood the principle that the Lord told him, "for power is perfected in weakness" (v 9). Instead of taking the weakness or hindrance away, God desired to use Paul's weakness to bring Him glory. For He would strengthen Paul where he was weak.

This should be great encouragement for all of us with our many weaknesses. Satan will tell you to give up because you are not good enough. He will tell you that you do not have what it takes. And to be honest, truly we cannot serve God because of our weaknesses, on our own. We need to tap into the sufficiency of God's grace. As Paul pointed out in the letter earlier, "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). If God is calling you to do something, He will give you the strength you need. Since Moses struggled with public speaking, He provided Aaron to be his mouth to compensate for the weakness. Gideon did not even have to physically fight his battle because God fought it for Him.

God's answer to Paul's pleading for his "thorn" to be removed had him change his attitude regarding this weakness. He now did not plead for it to be taken away but instead boasted about it so that "the power of Christ may dwell in me" (vs 9). He actually focused on what he was not able to do instead of what he was good at! Because he knew that when he did well where he was weak, that it was clearly God's power working through him. God deserved the glory and not Paul!

Let this be an example to us. God desires to use you regardless of all of your weaknesses. In fact, He chose to save you and to use you because of your weaknesses: For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God (I Corinthians 1:26-29). It brought God more glory to use a small insignificant shepherd boy to be a major significant king than to use the most handsome in Israel who appeared to be king material in the world's eyes. Dont focus on how the world sees you but how Your Heavenly Father does. As a dear friend once shared with me; "If the Lord brings you to it, He will bring you through it." May you be encouraged to instead of letting your weaknesses hinder your service for God to rather seek Him to be your strength in those weak areas and give Him the glory for the work that He does through such weak clay pots!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria