Things God Prepared in the Book of Jonah: A Fish and a Gourd

May 7, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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1. God prepared a great fish.

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17

After experiencing a terrifying storm and being thrown overboard, it must have seemed to Jonah like things were going from bad to worse. We don’t know if he was bobbing quietly on the surface of the newly-calm sea, watching his former ship leave him in its wake, or if he was thrashing violently in the classic non-swimmer’s panic, or if he was simply plummeting like a stone toward both the figurative and literal depths of his despair, but it can hardly have been a comforting feeling to see a huge fish rushing toward him, mouth agape, to consume him whole! Yet the vehicle of his doom also turned out to be the means of his salvation. This fish had been prepared by God to trap Jonah, but also to preserve him; to teach him a lesson, but also transport him to safety. When the Lord sends something distressing, destructive, or downright devouring into your life, don’t lose hope. If you belong to Christ, then the storms that appear to pose the worst danger have often been prepared by God to strengthen your faith, teach you some important truth, and make you more like Jesus. At times like these, turn to prayer, repentance, patience, temperance, and even praise to demonstrate your trust in the one who can cause you to be swallowed up and then spit out on the side of victory, even when all seems lost.

2. God prepared a gourd.

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

Jonah 4:6

Jonah was not happy. In fact, he was both sullen and angry that the Lord would show mercy to a group of people that Jonah despised. He sat down in something of a pout to watch what God do to the city where his own preaching had resulted in repentance. The plant which quickly grew to provide much-needed shade for Jonah’s head had been prepared by God. It is in God’s nature to sometimes comfort those who are grieving, even when their grief is very misguided and founded on the wrong basis. When God, despite His prerogative to send chastening rather than blessing in response to our sin, decides to bless us anyway, we must seize upon that opportunity to repent. The option to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord is a much more favorable option than having Him be the one to humble us.

Next time we will look at two more things God prepared in the Book of Jonah.

Less-Popular D Words: Disgruntled and Disobedient

May 2, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Christians are not surprised – or at least they ought not to be surprised – when Christ, His Gospel, and the Bible are rejected by modern culture and society. This does not mean, however, that Christians should let their guard down regarding worldly influences affecting the Church. For example, it is no secret that “victim mentality” is the driving force in a vast majority of current social issues, politics, and legislation. If you can find someone else to blame for your problems or your perceived lack of advantage, then you can play the victim and elicit sympathy disguised as justice or fairness.

How does this manifest itself as influence on Christian ministry, though? One way is in the prevalence of so-called “survivor ministries” (“survivor” being a euphemism for victim in many cases). If you are under the authority of a local Christian church – and all Christians should be – but you find it difficult to submit to authority, or if things aren’t going exactly to your liking, then your options can seem pretty limited: (1) leave church (sadly, this is the route seized upon by many); or (2) start your own church or ministry.

Now, at this point, you may be thinking, what about option 3? I could just find another church. That’s true… UNLESS you have been in a position of leadership at your current or recently-former church, and leaving your current church for an already-established church would mean humbling yourself and serving from a non-leadership position under the preaching and teaching of another leader (especially if you think you have received some sort of special “calling” or if you think you are too smart, too gifted, and too special to be under the authority of someone you think is less smart, less gifted, and less special than you are).

So, there it is, you are stuck with option 2 above: You anoint yourself as pastor, leader, preacher, minister, or whatever, and start recruiting. But where will you find yourself a ready-made congregation, or at least a good prospect-list of likely recruits? Why, among the victims, of course. As a victim yourself, you can really relate to each other. And don’t limit your new flock to just one “D” word: “D“isgruntled. Be creative. Have you been told that you are “D“isqualified from ministry because you are “D“ivorced? Great! There are bound to be some divorced folks out there that feel “judged’ because they haven’t been allowed to serve in as high a position as they would like where they are currently serving. Maybe you have a history of “D“rug abuse or “D“epression or “D“omestic abuse or a “D“ependency on “D“rinking alcohol. How many nominal church members out there have sore feelings because they have heard someone in their own church lovingly, but firmly, preach what the Bible has to say about those things? Maybe you can entice them to jump ship! [Pro tip: Look out for people whose political views are the real motivating factor behind which types of church leaders they want to serve under. They are usually easy to spot because their social media posts about their favorite president and political party outnumber their posts about Jesus by about 10 to 1.]

Now, let me pause for a moment here to state clearly that I am thankful that Christ forgives all types of sinners and all kinds of sins. I am thankful whenever a divorced person, a former drug addict, someone with a scandalous past, or a person who has overcome any type of spiritual battle, is able to serve in church and even be recognized with some type of official ministry position. However, we are talking here about the qualifications of church leadership positions described in I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6-7, which state that a bishop (pastor) needs to be “blameless,” meaning above reproach: not subject to being called out for past behavior in the context of a history of leadership that hurt people to the extent that there is a scandal that could still be reasonably brought up.

Okay, back to the point: When, as a Christian who feels like a victim, you are recruited by a disgruntled pastor with a personal ax to grind, beware. A new ministry founded on shared feelings of “D“issatifaction, “D“isappointment, and unresolved “D”isputes, will turn into a hotbed of bitterness, bad doctrine, and darkness faster than you can say, “Finally, I’ve a place where they will tell me that ‘grace’ means that it doesn’t matter how my behavior affects others!”

Remember, there are many D words which stand for things that nobody likes to have held against them, but, Biblically speaking, as a “D“isciple of Jesus Christ, these D words are more far more significant:

1. Don’t disobey God’s commands (John 14:15; Ephesians 5:6; I John 5:2-3).
2. Don’t doubt the Word of God (I Timothy 2:8).
3. Don’t divide the body of Christ through slander, gossip, and factions (Romans 16:17; I Corinthians 3:3-7).
4. Don’t disrupt fellowship among believers (Galatians 5:13-15).
5. Don’t distract new believers from drawing closer to Christ (Matthew 18:4-7).
6. Don’t devise schemes that lead people into sin (Psalm 35:20; Proverbs 16:28-30).
7. Don’t destroy, in a fit of pique, the testimony that you have worked hard to establish (Ecclesiastes 10:1; James 1:20).
8. Don’t disgrace the work of the ministry by making it seem like a means of personal recognition or gain. (I Corinthians 9:18).
9. Don’t depart from God-ordained authority just because you don’t feel like submitting (Hebrews 13:17; I Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Three Questions and Three Answers

April 12, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The Apostle Paul’s salvation testimony is recorded at least three times in Scripture (Acts 9, 22:1-16, 26:1-23), but it is possible that Paul had the dialogue that occurred between Jesus and him on the road to Damascus in mind when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write II Corinthians 5:19-20. There are three answers there to three questions asked in Acts 9:4-6.

Q. Why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4)
A. Because I am your unreconciled enemy. (II Corinthians 5:19)

The Lord Jesus asked this question to Paul (still Saul at that time) because Paul was a sworn enemy of Christ and His followers. Although it is unlikely that you were a Jewish bounty hunter of Christians before you met Jesus, the fact is, in our sinful state, we were at enmity with God, and our treasonous trespasses against Him as our unacknowledged King would have been more than sufficient cause for Him to justly destroy us. However, as in the case of Paul, He was merciful. He made a way in Christ Jesus for the enmity to be slain, and for us to be reconciled to Him as we surrendered and received the adoption of sons. Now He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, so that we might exhort others to cease their persecution of our loving Lord and join His family, too.

Q. Who are You, Lord? (Acts 9:5)
A. I AM the One in Whom dwells God – God manifest in the flesh. (II Corinthians 5:19)

Paul answered Jesus’s question with a question of his own, but, in so doing, accidentally referenced the Lordship of Jesus, the God-man, fully human and fully divine, with not only the willingness, but the ability as well, to grant full pardon, forgiveness, and reconciliation: to make, in an instant, one of His worst enemies into God’s own child.

Q. What do You want me to do? (Acts 9:6)
A. Be My ambassador. (II Corinthians 5:20)

Paul went immediately from complete defiance of Jesus to total submission. Reconciliation between sinful men and the holy God can never be accomplished through our performance of tasks or our attempts at obeying His commands, but it is accomplished by the perfect obedience of the Son of God, His sacrificial death, and the gracious gift of saving faith. Once we have received this gift, we seize upon the privilege to obey Him and the awesome responsibility to represent Him in this world as His appointed ambassadors, preaching the “word of reconciliation.”

Marriage Should Not be Sterile

December 3, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In previous lessons in this series on Isaiah 62:1-4, I said that marriage should not be secret, static, spurious, or somber. Now will see that marriage should not be sterile.

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:4

For God’s people, desolation would become “Beulah.” Fruitlessness can become fruitful marriage – often (but not necessarily) with children and grandchildren, but, even more so, with the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit brings happiness to the bearers and the consumers, and joy when shared. Joy and God’s glory should be the “product” – like the fruit in the “produce” section of a supermarket – of our marriages.

It is certain that a major part of the original dominion mandate – God’s pronouncement about marriage in the first marriage – was that child-bearing (fruitfulness, the fruit of the womb, not the Fruit of the Loom, that’s a different lesson, just “kidding,” no pun intended) was the responsibility of spouses who want to honor God. Does this mean that married couples who cannot conceive children, or who are past the age of child-bearing, or who have made the decision (often with the assistance of some type of pre-conception surgical intervention) not to have any more children are failing God by living on the “desolate” rather than the “Beulah” side of His favor? No! Certainly your life as a married person – and as a married couple – can still be very fruitful. Make your marriage about producing SPIRITUAL fruit to the glory of God. Win souls. Make disciples. Plant seeds in the lives of unbelievers. Pull out weeds of sin and and distraction. Water the soil with tears of compassion in your prayers. Consider adoption. Consider investing in the lives of your grandchildren or other people’s children. Encourage other married couples in the Lord. Be a blessing in the name of Jesus wherever you go and whatever you do.

God proclaims fruitfulness in general as a blessing.

Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.

Deuteronomy 7:14

He proclaims fruitfulness as a source of joy in the HOME.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 113:9

He proclaims fruitfulness as fulfillment and strength.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:4-5

The world says a happy marriage is insular – that’s it’s peaceful and that no internal problems or conflict between the spouses disturb it. That’s nice when it happens, but God wants the happiness to spread out and multiply – to ENGAGE the world and to ADVANCE God’s Kingdom in it.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

November 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The well-known Incarnation celebration hymn, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” was first written by Charles Wesley, and later changed by George Whitefield, who changed the first line from, “Hark, how all the welkin ring,” to “Hark, the herald angels sing.” This changed the emphasis from the regeneration of the natural world, including inanimate creation, to the regeneration of mankind, God’s image-bearing creation.

The word “hark” does not appear in the Bible, but it is a shortened form of “hearken,” which does appear in 150 verses. For example,

Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?

Isaiah 42:23

Hearken means to listen closely, to listen with intensity and purpose, and with the intention of responding to what is heard. It is a great word to use in connection with the Annunciation: the announcement of the birth of Christ. Only those with “ears to hear” had been listening to the prophecies in the Word of God for centuries and centuries. Now was the time to hearken with joy, for faith to become sight AND to become audible.

The angels are called “herald” angels, and they were announcing good news. Before the internet, television, or even newspapers, the “town herald” heralded good news. The word “angel” means “the deliverer of news,” and, in the case of the EvANGELion, the greatest news of all.

Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

Psalm 103:20 (emphasis added)

The angels who announced the good news (“good tidings“) of “great joy” were angels which had hearkened, and which must be hearkened unto.

“Hark, the herald angels SING.” Singing, in the Bible, is often a sign of joy.

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Ephesians 5:19

New Testament singing is a gift of encouragement. The angels weren’t content to make a simple spoken announcement. This was an event worthy of sublime poetry in beautiful song.

“GLORY to the newborn King.”

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:14

Glory” is the weight of God’s attributes. It also speaks of His renown. It is His greatness showing forth – being revealed and made known. It is extreme. We like knowing that He is a powerful, transcendent, glorious God, but His glory also makes us “sore afraid.”

The phrase, “glory to the newborn King,” is a striking paradox, for this King was God, but how could the eternal God be “newborn?” This was a proclamation that God had become man – still God, but now adding humanity to Himself in order to accomplish the redemption of His fallen creatures, now His kinsmen: His own “race.”

And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

Acts 17:6-7

It took people a while to realize the full meaning of the announcement that the King had arrived as a newborn baby, but, once it was understood, the Apostles and the early Christians turned the world upside down with this message: The true King had died, risen, and ascended to sit down at the throne of God.

The message of the Incarnation of the Son of God (which this world calls Christmas) is a history lesson, but it is also a prophecy, a promise, and a sure prediction that will be fulfilled in a greater way yet to come. We must hearken back, and, every time we hear the familiar song, or think about Christ in any circumstance, to hearken forward as well.

Marriage Should Not be Somber

November 14, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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In previous lessons in this series on Isaiah 62:1-4, I said that marriage should not be secret, static, or spurious. Now will see that marriage should not be somber.

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:4

God’s people had been called Forsaken – forgotten or abandoned by their God – but the parallel contrast is that He would remove the name “Forsaken” and replace it with “Hephzibah” which translates as “My delight is in her.” Normally, I’m a proponent of being somber over being silly. That’s kind of my personality, and, as Christians, although we are not opposed to fun, we don’t want to be primarily identified as frivolous. In our marriages, we don’t want either spouse to be – or even feel, for that matter – “forsaken,” nor do we want people to get that impression. We want our marriages to show off the joy of the Lord. In fact, that joy follows closely on the heels of the idea of exercising dominion and kingship in this world, and, according to the Bible, it is a source of our strength:

The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah. For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head.

Psalm 21:1-3

We hear much about having a “happy marriage” these days, but, for Christians, the idea of joy in marriage is not that we have settled into a complacent peace that is dependent on everything going smoothly in our circumstances. The idea is that we are abounding in joy, and that our joy is contagious because we have been “saved” from the curse of sin. We have been given our “heart’s desire.” We have been crowned, not with a withering grass laurel, but with a crown of “pure gold.”

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

Proverbs 5:18

Not only will this delight us because of God’s promise of blessing, but the Lord Himself will “Hephzibah” – delight! – in us and our marriages.

In the next lesson we will see that marriage must not be sterile.

Marriage Should Not be Spurious

October 29, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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In previous lessons in this series on Isaiah 62:1-4, I said that marriage should not be secret or static. Now will see that marriage should not be spurious.

Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.

Isaiah 62:3

Crowns and diadems are terms of royalty, sovereignty, ruling and reigning, kingship, but what do they have to do with marriage?

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:26 (emphasis added)

Men and women are made in the image of God. We are to be accurate representatives of Him in His earth, and we are to exercise authority over every aspect of life in a way that shows who He really is and what He is really like.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:27-28

This is so-called “dominion mandate.” We are to subdue the earth and make it fruitful and productive and a place where every nook and cranny of it glorifies the Creator.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

Eve was a helper that was perfectly suited to Adam, but to help him do what? To help him accurately express God’s image in God’s world by exercising dominion and being fruitful. God made sure Adam understood this.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 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 2:19-22

This was the first wedding and the first marriage. This was before sin entered into the world, so this is our ideal for Christian marriage.

And Adam 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. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Genesis 2:23-24

Marriage gives us joy, it gives us companionship, it gives us pleasure, it gives us friendship. It is good for problem-solving. It produces new human beings so that Jesus will get new disciples. But it is very much about symbolizing the crown of God’s royal authority in this world, and the diadem in His hand whereby He issues forth His Word. Married couples play a key role in bringing God’s will to pass and enforcing it in the world, so we must not be spurious image-bearers. We must not be out of order, with the wife leading when she should be following, and the husband following when he should be leading. We must not be at odds with each other, any more than the Persons of the Trinity are at odds with each other, and we must not drop out of the world out of fear or laziness, and let it run to ruin. We are ambassadors of an invisible King, so we must make His presence known with our marriages, in order to bear His image accurately and genuinely (which is the opposite of spuriously).

In the next lesson we will see that marriage must not be somber.

Marriage Should Not be Static

October 11, 2018 at 10:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last time, I looked at Isaiah 62:1-4 and developed the principle from Verse 1 that marriage should not be secret. Additionally, marriage should not be static.

And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

Isaiah 62:2

One day the Lord will give His people a new name. As Christians we are associated now with suffering and failure, unpopularity and persecution, but there there will come a day when non-Christians (described as “Gentiles” in Isaiah 62:2) – even the mightiest of them – will see the glory that our glorious God shares with us.

In marriage, wives get a new name when they get married. Husbands do not, except collectively. A married couple comes to be known as the “Smiths” or the “Joneses” or the “Wilsons.” For Christian married couples we should not be satisfied with a shared and commonly known “new” last name. We want to achieve even more names that reflect glory on the Lord of our marriages. We want to be the married couple about whom people say: “They go to church;” “They teach their children to pray; “They look so IN LOVE.”

When you refer to your spouse in the presence of other people, don’t fall into the worldly practice of speaking disparagingly about him or her, calling your husband, “my old man,” or calling your wife, “the old lady.”

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Your spouse may know you’re joking, but we’re talking about other people and their perceptions, and what they think of marriage in general and yours in particular. Don’t let the way you talk about your marriage become static. Avoid terms that are presumably supposed to be funny, but, in reality, reveal boredom, dissatisfaction, or exasperation about your spouse or your marriage. Don’t say rude things like “the old ball and chain” or “the battle axe.”

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

“Hearers” in that verse is plural, and being “edified” means being built up, not remaining static. Unkind words, and, worse, false unkind words, not only fail to minister grace to the one you are saying them ABOUT, or saying them TO, but to everyone else listening in, or to whom they are repeated.

You don’t want your spouse telling his or her friends bad things about you, but the best remedy for that is not to swear your spouse to silence. The best remedy is to give your spouse good things to say – to improve yourself, with God’s help, as a spouse, rather than merely trying to hush up the talk about your relationship.

Next time we will see that marriage should not be spurious.

Marriage Should Not be Secret

September 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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After the initial novelty of marriage wears off, it can be easy for some spouses to view our marriages as just a fact of everyday life – part of who we are and what we are allowed and not allowed to do because of the fact that we are married. Even Christian spouses, if not regularly involved in church ministry that emphasizes the importance of marriage, can forget that what is taught in the Bible must be applied not only to how we think about marriage, but how we live within our marriages. Most secular marriage counseling, and even much church-related marriage counseling and teaching, focuses on things like finances, parenting, scheduling and time management, jobs and careers, hobbies, communication, etc. If we’re not careful we’ll spend so much time and energy trying to figure those things out, that we will miss the significance of God’s true intentions for marriage, and will fail to plumb the depths of the greatest source of wisdom concerning marriage: the Word of God.

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:1-4

The children that God has entrusted into my care as a father have some pretty unusual names, and people have been known to occasionally give them a hard time because of it. For this reason, I’m the last person to make fun of someone’s name. However, there are some names – names that in years past were popular – that have simply gone out of style, and that you just don’t hear much anymore. Take, for example, the name “Beulah.” Do you know anyone named Beulah? It was a fairly popular name from 1890 to 1911 (which also happens to be the year that the famous hymn “Dwelling in Beulah Land” was published). In 1901 almost 4000 out of every one million baby girls were named Beulah. However, the popularity of the name plummeted rapidly after the turn of the 20th Century, and last year only ten out of every one million baby girls were named Beulah.

In Isaiah 62:4 the name Beulah means “married,” but the context is not, strictly speaking, marriage itself. Isaiah 62 is talking about how God will restore exiled Israel, and, in a greater sense, how He will regenerate, renew, and restore all His people in the New Covenant Church. However, it is a very relevant passage on the topic of literal marriage because it gives insight into how God – the Creator of marriage – expects marriage to be.

I. Marriage should not be a secret.

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace…

Isiah 62:1

To hold our peace means to be quiet. We should not be quiet about our marriages. They are great vehicles for glorifying God. Fallen sinners do not naturally (nor should they) trust and commit to each other, but as Christians we do not wear the label of fallen sinners as our primary identity. We have been redeemed by God’s grace, and we are allowed and encouraged to advertise this reality.

… I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

Isaiah 62:1

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Three groups of people immediately come to mind when I think about those who need to hear that Christian marriage is absolutely wonderful:

A. Young people who will soon be of the age to consider marriage or possibly get married

Marriage is not for everyone, but it is for most, and it is a great gift from God. It should be seen as a goal strive for and a victory to obtain, not as the end of freedom and the beginning of a life sentence of fun-denial.

B. Non-Christians

Whenever I see a pagan couple who claims to have a happy marriage, it is bittersweet. I’m thankful for the “common” grace of God that keeps them from killing each other, but I know that their marriage could be so much better.

C. People having marriage problems (whether they are Christian or not)

Every time you speak of your marriage you might be giving marriage advice or acting as a marriage counselor, whether you intend to be or not. The last thing someone struggling in his/her/their marriage needs to hear is another complaint or gripe about marriage. People need encouragement. They need to see how wonderful marriage truly can be. Is it bragging or boasting to sound off about how much we love our marriages? No! Because people are supposed to see our “good works” not so they can glorify US, but so that they may glorify OUR FATHER which is in Heaven!

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

Isaiah 62:1

Don’t be bashful or withdrawn about your marriage. A torch is given for the purpose of lighting up the darkness and showing off the Truth.

Next time we will see the importance of spiritual growth within our marriages.

Faith in God

July 11, 2018 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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In Christian ministry we try to balance correction with encouragement. We definitely want to make sure that, as Christians, we are not provoking God to anger by the hardness of our hearts, which is Bible terminology for a willful and obstinate refusal to obey Him. On the flip side, we should be jumping at opportunities to please God in any way we can, after all He has done for us. Well, if you are someone has trouble with the concept of faith, there is no real nice way to say this: If we want to please God, there is absolutely no way to do it without faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

Mark 11:22

It is one thing to believe that God exists. It’s a whole other thing to believe that He will do what He says He will do. Christians must believe that He is real; that He can do what He says; and that He will keep the promises He gives to those who obey Him.

In everyday English, if I say, “I really believe in my wife,” you would not take me to mean only that I believe that there is an existential entity named Laura Hampton. No, you would take me to mean that I have faith in her character. I believe she is going to do what she ought to do in a given situation.

Jesus knew God better than anyone knows God. When He told the Disciples, “Have faith in God,” He was telling them that God can and will do what He has said He will do. Vance Havner used to talk about the seemingly contradictory, but actually miraculous, power of faith, by saying that real faith believes the incredible, sees the invisible, and does the impossible. The miraculous is only the miraculous from our point of view. From God’s point of view there is no “miraculous,” because He can do all things (Mark 10:27). From God’s point of view nothing is invisible, because He sees everything (Matthew 6:4). From God’s point of view nothing that He says is “incredible,” because, as the only One Who can not lie, He is completely credible (Hebrews 6:18). As Christians, we must learn to “believe in God.”

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