Category Archives: Bible

Love, Sex, and Romance (Married Men Edition)

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post entitled, “Love Sex and Romance (Single Men Edition)”, I had both single and married men in the audience at Morse Street Baptist Church’s Men’s Conference that I needed to teach God’s Word to concerning this topic. So today I want to share with you the three pastoral exhortations (along with some added commentary, since I turned this into a blog post) – based on the book of Song of Solomon – that I spoke to the married men about on that day, concluding with a final exhortation directed to both groups of men.

1. Befriend your wife regularly (5:16)

“This is my beloved and this is my friend…” (vs. 16b, speaking to the daughters of Jerusalem about her husband)

In this verse, Solomon’s wife, of course, doesn’t give any specifics as to how this looked in their relationship, but rather just simply states a reality. Solomon and his wife were not just romantic lovers; they were also friends. So it should be in our marriages. We should see the friendship of our wives as being central to our lives. All other friends that we have should revolve around it.  Let me be clear, I am not saying that you have to stop being friends with the guys (beware of any woman who would seek to pressure you to do that with no justifiable reason) and make your spouse the one and only friend that you have. What I am saying is that she shouldn’t be consistently coming off the bench behind your homeboys. She is not the 6th (wo)man. She is one of the “Big Two.” You run the plays of your life with her in mind, not your boys. All metaphors aside, you give her priority over your partners. And guys, listen, any woman worth her salt generally will not take advantage of this. She will feel valued and important, and will consequently not mind making exceptions and adjustments when you tell her that you have plans to hang out with the fellas.

But becoming and staying friends with your spouse doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentionality. So, what would befriending our wives look like today? Here are a few points of application:

  • Date your wife. Don’t stop now that you are married. Go to the movies. Stop by the pond and feed the ducks. Eat out at an affordable restaurant. Oh, and don’t always take her to the gun range (unless of course she likes to shoot). Do something she likes for a change.
  • Engage her in conversation.  Ask her how her day went, listen well, and interact with her.
  • Share your heart (i.e., your feelings, dreams, fears, etc.) with her. If there ever should be someone you can open up to, it ought to be your wife. Yes I know that there are some things that you need to vent to another brother. But as a rule of thumb, she should be someone in whom you can confide.
  • Be present.  First, she needs your presence. It’s hard to build or maintain a close friendship when you’re rarely physically there at home or with her. If you are always on the go without her, don’t be surprised if you wake up one day to find that you two have “grown apart.” Secondly, she needs you present. You can be present while at the same time absent. You know what I am talking about. You both are sitting on the couch. She’s talking to you and stops to ask, “Honey, did you hear what I said?” And you respond, “Huh? Oh, sorry, babe. What did you say?” because while she was conversing with you (or so she thought), you were watching T.V., reading, checking your email, looking over bills, etc. You were present, but not present. Be fully in the moment with her.

2. Adore your wife’s physical features (6:5-7; 7:1-5)

“Your teeth are like a flock of ewes…your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand…”

Solomon continues, “Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. Your TWO BREASTS are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.” (emphasis mine) Yes, Lord! I know what you mean, Solomon. Because Lord knows…Oops, sorry. I got caught up for a second. I’m back.

Sometimes as Christians we can be super spiritual…well at least some of us. Don’t get me wrong. That is not a jab at living holy. We should all desire to please the Lord Jesus with our lives. What I am talking about is when we say stuff like, “The outer appearance doesn’t matter to me. It’s the heart that counts.” Okay, I get it. Yes, the heart of an individual (what we generally mean by heart is that person’s spiritual condition) is what is most important. I totally agree. But, c’mon. There is nothing necessarily wrong with being physically attracted to or desiring to be attractive to your spouse (Sure, this, like anything, can become an idol, influencing us to make some sinful or unwise decisions. So we shouldn’t base the stock of our relationship on it. Our marriage must be rooted in Jesus to be healthy and to last a lifetime.).

Back to the point. Adore her body, even if she has gained some pounds from downing too many Twinkies or from having a baby. Tell her how attractive she is to you and mean it. Nobody should out perform you in saying sweet nothings in your wife’s ear as it relates to her physical features. Heap it on her!

Side note: If you feel like your wife is letting herself go physically (i.e., her weight gain or appearance is not due to some issue beyond her control), then all I am going to tell you is to pray about it and tread carefully, my dear brother. Seriously though, if that is your situation, lovingly talk to her about it. Keep it positive. Tell her what you like. Book her a day at the spa. Let her go and get her hair did, I mean, done, along with her feet and nails. If you feel like the conversation might end badly, then pray and tread carefully, my dear brother. One last thing, only a few things seriously aggravate me, like seeing a beautiful woman being berated by a man for, according to him, her physical “issues.” Don’t be that guy! Yes, you should adore her physical features, but your wife is more than her body. Don’t get it twisted. She is a person made in the image of God and should be valued as such. And if she is a Christian, she is also a child of God. Don’t you dare flip out on one of His daughters over this. And by the way, don’t let yourself go either. Your wife wants you to take care of yourself for her as well.

3. Enjoy YOUR wife sexually (7:7-9, see also Proverbs 5:15-19)

“Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit…”

Enjoy your wife (not someone else’s or a single woman, for that matter) sexually and look to please her. Brothers, you only have one bullet in the chamber. She has a 15-round magazine. Pull her trigger a few times.  I’m going to stay respectable and keep it moving, but you get the gist of what I am saying, right? Good.

Some of you might be a little upset with me regarding this point. Please don’t be. Can I remind you that God made sex to be enjoyed in the confines of heterosexual marriage? So let’s not be ashamed to talk about and celebrate marital sex!

Concluding Point: Keep Jesus at the center of your love life/relationship/marriage (8:6b)

“Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.”

After prayer, meditation, and looking this particular verse up in some commentaries, I came to humbly interpret it this way: Romantic passion/love in marriage, which is pictured as fire, comes from the Lord. It’s source is in Jesus.

So what I took this to mean was that if romantic love/passion is to be experienced in a God-honoring, relationally healthy way in a dating or marriage relationship, we must allow the Lord to define what that is and to lead us in its application, according to His Word.

If we allow the Lord to lead us in our relationships, He will keep the flame of romantic love/passion controlled and contained, like a fireplace. Conversely, to not let the Lord do so will cause our flame of romantic love/passion to turn into an uncontrollable wild forest fire, damaging and destroying everything in its path: lives, relationships, marriages, and families.

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Love, Sex, and Romance (Single Men Edition)

That was the subject matter assigned for me to teach on at Morse Street Baptist Church’s Men’s Conference in August.

As I prepared for my session leading up to the conference, I initially struggled with what biblical book(s) and passage(s) to teach on that dealt with these three topics.  And then I thought, “What better choice than that of the book of Song of Solomon.” Although some of the Early Church Fathers (e.g., Origen) – and some more modern theologians – interpreted the Song of Solomon allegorically (i.e., finding spiritual and hidden meanings in the text: God/Christ as the Lover/Bridegroom and Israel/Church as the Woman/Bride) or typologically (i.e., acknowledges the historical reality of Solomon and His Bride, but sees them as typifying Christ and the Church respectively), it is best to see it for what it is: a celebration of human romantic love between a man and a woman in courtship, and physical and sexual intimacy between the same in marriage.

When I am afforded the opportunity to preach or teach God’s Word, I always desire to be faithful to the biblical text as best as I can with God’s help. But I also want my teaching of God’s Word to be helpful and applicable where possible. I knew there would be at least two groups of men in my session that day: single men and married men. And so I labored to think about how to address both in my teaching of Song of Solomon. Thankfully, I found the book to be typically outlined into three major sections: 1. The Courtship (1:2-3:5), 2. The Wedding (3:6-5:1), and 3. The Marriage (5:2-8:4). This made my job a little bit easier because now I knew that my session would be broken up into two parts. The first half would be directed primarily to single men, drawing truths or pointers from “The Courtship” section, and the second half – although still relevant to single men – would hone in on the married guys, calling their attention to the last section of the outline. And so that’s how it flowed that day.

Coming away from that conference, I knew that I wanted to share on my blog what I taught that day, specifically as it relates to single Christian men. I figured if it was helpful to those in attendance, it would prove to be the same for those who might read my blog. What follows is not an in-depth academic theological treatise on the subject, but rather three down-to-earth, rubber-meets-the-road pastoral exhortations to single men who are dating or looking to date.

1. Have your own stuff (1:7)

“Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon…” (vs. 7)

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard stories of single guys (and married guys too) mooching off of their women. This should not characterize you as men of God. God desires that you be a responsible, hard-working man; not a lazy man-boy who simply lounges around your girl’s apartment or house, playing video games while eating up her food, driving up her electricity bill, and riding around in her car – basically using up her things. And even if she is okay with all of that, you shouldn’t take advantage of it. There is nothing honorable about being a leech.

2. Exhibit respectable romance (1:10, 15)

“Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels…Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.” (vs. 10, 15)

There is so much misogyny (hatred/disrespect of women) and exploitation of women in our world today: date rape, pornography, abuse, sex slave trade, watching “twerking” videos on YouTube, Vine, or Worldstar Hip Hop, etc. And much of it is perpetrated by men. We should treat women differently…honorably…respectfully, especially when you are in a dating relationship.

So here are a couple things to think about and ways to apply this point:

  • Keep your comments focused on the neck up.

It’s okay to admire and verbally affirm your woman’s physical beauty, but notice in verses 10 and 15, in their courtship, Solomon doesn’t go below her shoulders.

I know when you see her, your heart palpitates and your eyes are captivated by her beauty, but please remember this: Your passion for her needs to have parameters. You need to keep a reign on your eyes and your words. If you don’t, know that they will easily and quickly influence you to jump – in your thoughts, words, and/or actions – God’s fence of sexual purity.

  • Embrace exclusivity (2:2) 

“As a lily among brambles [thorns], so is my love among the young women.”

You need to see your woman as standing head and shoulders above the rest. To you, she should be in a league all by herself…because she is! There literally is no one else in the world like her. If you are in a dating relationship, then you need to be exclusively about her and no one else. With that, let me press a few more things here: 1. Don’t string her along, knowing full well that you have no intentions on marrying her; 2. Don’t cheat on her. If you are still “playing the field,” don’t invite her into the game of your life, where you know that she will more than likely lose in the end, walking off the court of your life with her heart broken. Her heart is nothing to play with. It’s not a game. It’s her life that we are talking about. Don’t toy with that. 3. Define the relationship – are you guys just casually, exclusively, seriously (making plans to get married) dating? Make your intentions known up front. And If your feelings begin to change, tell her early, not later. Boys conceal. Men reveal.

Side note: Don’t expose yourself to porn and/or become promiscuous (and if you have or are, repent). Why? Because pornography and promiscuity weakens marital exclusivity. It erodes the desire and discipline to remain faithfully married to one woman.

3. Connect relationally with your woman (2:10b-14)

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away…let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” (vs. 13b, 14)

Obviously, Solomon in these verses is admiring her beauty, but I believe that he desires to spend time with her; to relationally connect with her, which is implied in him beckoning for her to “come away” with him. You need to have regular face time with your lady without watching ESPN, Facebooking, tweeting, etc. Turn off the PS3/Xbox/PC, leave the gym early, cut the yard or wash the car at another time. Do what you need to do to connect with her face-to-face.  If you are single and dating, this should be your focus as it concerns your woman. Get to know her relationally, not sexually (that is reserved for marriage only). Do you know what her relational status is with the Lord Jesus? Is she growing in her relationship with God in Christ? Do you know what she likes or dislikes? Do you know her dreams, goals, ambitions, or fears? What does she believe and value?

One of the main reasons why some people end up divorced is because in their dating they were primarily focused on physical and sexual attraction that they failed to see the person for who they really were or at least disregarded or downplayed what they saw.  The sex was “good” but the soul was bad.  They couldn’t see the latter (or didn’t want to see it) because it was eclipsed by the former.  If you persistently, unrepentantly put the cart (sex) before the horse (relationship/marriage), you can expect an even rougher relational ride. So focus on getting to know her, rather than getting to “know” (as in Adam knew his wife, sexually speaking) her.

Bonus: And don’t fall for this lie about you needing to know before you get married whether or not you two are sexually compatible. You’re a plug and she’s an outlet. It’ll work!

Holy Week Recap – “He Has Risen” Sermon

Good Friday

On Good Friday, I was blessed to have the opportunity to preach. One of my friends is assigned by his pastor the responsibility for putting this service together every year. For the last couple of years, he has put an interesting, yet biblical spin on this service. This year, the focus was on seven prayer requests of Jesus in John 17, the High Priestly prayer. I was given the task of preaching #7: A Prayer for Immortalization (John 17:24-26). It is quite a challenge to expound on God’s Word with such a tight time constraint (roughly 10 – 12 minutes). But I was grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Resurrection Sunday

And then there was Resurrection Sunday at Westside Baptist Church. I had been prayerfully anticipating this engagement for weeks. To summarize, the people were gracious and hospitable, the worship was biblical, Christ-centered, and energetic, and the fellowship was genuine. I preached on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 58 and entitled the sermon, “He Has Risen!” Below is the essence of what I shared at their 7:45 a.m. service. I pray it speaks to you even now. We are jumping to the tail end of my introduction.

“He Has Risen!”

Paul takes this idea of there being no resurrection of the dead in relationship to Jesus’ resurrection and hypothetically draws it out to its logical conclusions or consequences. Paul in essence says, to not believe in a resurrection from the dead is to not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, which in one way metaphorically rips the heart out of the chest of Christianity. However, with a stroke of the pen, beginning with a simple 3-letter conjunction, Paul turns this hypothetical case on its head. He turns it upside down. He writes: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (vs. 20). With this one verse, all the hypothetical logical negations are turned into positives. And so, for our remaining moments together, I want to show how the resurrection of Jesus affects six aspects of the Christian life that Paul mentions in this 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians.

1. Our preaching (vs. 14)

If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain. But because he has risen, our preaching is relevant.

It is through the preaching of God’s Word that non-Christians are confronted with and convicted of their sinfulness, and are made cognizant of their need to turn from sin and trust our Risen Savior, the Lord Jesus, for forgiveness.

Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

It is also relevant to our lives as Christians. It is a means of grace that God uses to work His Word into the fabric of our hearts. Through the preaching of God’s Word, we are conformed into Jesus’ image, comforted in our trials and suffering, confirmed in our obedience to Jesus, and convicted, corrected, and challenged in regards to sin and holiness.

Because Jesus has risen, our preaching is relevant. So keep prayerfully, wisely, lovingly and courageously preaching the Good News to your non-Christian family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and among ourselves.

In a pluralistic, post-modern world that says there are many ways to God (if there is a God at all, they say) and that seeks to shame you for preaching such an exclusive, only-one-way-to-God Gospel, preach it anyhow. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)

2. Our faith (vs. 14, 17)

If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins. But because he has risen, our faith is needed.

The resurrection of Jesus showed that the price He paid for our sins by offering his perfect life unto death on the cross was accepted by God, thus securing our right-standing before God: forever forgiven, accepted, adopted, redeemed, and justified. To say it more succinctly, Jesus’ death was the payment. His resurrection was the receipt. This is why Paul says that if Jesus has not been raised, our faith is futile (pointless, it doesn’t matter) and we are still in our sins.

But in order for that to be true in our lives, in order for Jesus’ payment for our sins to be accredited to our spiritual accounts, faith is needed, not our works.

“But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom. 4:23-25)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

3. Our representation of God (vs. 15)

If Christ has not been raised, then we have been found to be misrepresenting God. But because he has risen, our representation of God is true.

Through the resurrection, God the Father declared the Lord Jesus to be the Son of God. He is who he said he was, and he accomplished what he set out to do, which was to save us.

Hear the words of Paul that were divinely inspired by God, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:3-4)

So, know that when we share the Good News of Jesus and the rightly divided Word of God, we are representing God correctly, even when the world disagrees with, ridicules, or condemns us for taking such a stand or position.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:31-34)

4. Our fellow Christians who have died (vs. 18)

If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. But because he has risen, their death is not final and our grief is bearable.

We are able to grieve over the death of our saved loved ones and friends with hope, knowing that our Risen Lord Jesus will reunite us one day.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:13-17)

5. Our hope (vs. 19, 20b)

If Christ has not been raised, then we are most to be pitied because we lived our lives with a false sense of hope in eternal life with God after death. But because he has risen, our hope is guaranteed.

To all of us who believe in Jesus: we have a living hope that we will live with him forever. His resurrection assures ours.

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” (2 Cor. 4:13-14)

6. Our laboring (and living) for Jesus (vs. 58)

If Christ has not been raised, then our labor is in vain. But because he has risen, our labor for Jesus is valuable (and our living for Him is now possible).

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

RYBT Initiative

Well I sincerely pray and hope you had a wonderful Christmas holiday. We thoroughly enjoyed ours. This year we decided to stay home for Christmas. Although we missed visiting our families, we did get a chance to see and speak to them via FaceTime. Thank God for technology!

As the New Year approaches, many of us will make resolutions to lose weight, get out of debt, take a long anticipated trip, and so on. Some people scoff at the idea of New Year’s resolutions and understandably so. We tend to start with a blast, but begin to taper off a few weeks or months in. But I think making these types of commitments are not all bad, even if a person doesn’t make it all the way through. Moving towards a goal is better than not moving at all, in my opinion.

The truth is, for many people, the New Year tends to incite a renewed zeal to achieve something. Knowing this, we are seeking to leverage it by encouraging members of our church to make it a goal to read the Bible more (beyond Sunday and Wednesday services). In the past we have simply made available one-year Bible reading plans for our members to follow at their own personal pace. However, this year we are launching a church-wide (among the adults) bible reading initiative. We are calling it the RYBT (Read Your Bible Today) Challenge – which came from a topical sermon I preached in our youth church service entitled, “You Have A Text Message”.

We are doing three of them throughout 2013 (Spring, Summer, and Fall). The first one begins on Monday, January 14th. We will read through the book of Romans, tackling a chapter a day for 16 days straight. For the Summer we will take on Amos and for the Fall we will read through the gospel according to Matthew.

Our prayerful hope of issuing such a corporate challenge is that the Holy Spirit will use it to increase our appetite for God’s Word (1 Peter 2:1-3).

Transformation involves consumption. Eat up!

Shai Linne (Christian Rapper) Spits Some “Verses” About Jesus!

By His Stripes We Are Healed – A Promise of Divine Physical Healing?

I have heard this saying, which is loosely based on passages like 1 Peter 2:24c, for a while now.

Some preachers implore their congregants to believe and declare it. Some prophets and evangelists come on television and radio, exhorting and even commanding those watching or listening to give a seed-faith offering to enact it.

“Believe, declare, and enact what?” you ask? Our healing; healing from physical sickness, that is. Based on some people’s interpretation of this portion of the verse (and some others), we as believers have a divine right to physical healing (and health). What they mean is if we encounter sickness of any kind, all we have to do is prayerfully and confidently apply our faith, and God WILL (as in obligated to) heal us because that was one of the things that Jesus accomplished for us in his beatings and death on the cross.

As I heard one preacher essentially say, “When Jesus was beaten on his back, that was for your healing from back pain, spinal injuries, herniated disc problems. When He was struck in his face and on the head, that was for your healing from sinus infections, migraine headaches, head colds, and the like.” That may sound facetious to many of us, but unfortunately he was dead serious!

But is 1 Peter 2:24c a promise from God of physical healing for us to claim? The answer is no, and here’s why: context.

One of the general rules of biblical interpretation is that when reading a verse (or a portion of it) of Scripture, we must consider that verse in the context of the whole – the whole passage (the verses surrounding it), chapter, book, testament, and yes, even the entire Bible – to determine its meaning.

In this case, we don’t have to read back far to see what Peter means when he writes, “By his wounds (or stripes) you have been healed” (ESV). Actually, all we have to do is read the entire twenty-fourth verse: “He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

This verse clearly speaks to Jesus healing us of our sin. We were like sheep that stray from their shepherd (vs. 25). Our sinfulness separated us from God, but Jesus brought us back through His suffering and death on the cross for our sins.

Now, if we were to go back further in chapter 2, we would see that Peter was seeking to encourage and exhort Christian servants in particular, who were suffering at the hands of unjust or harsh masters (vs. 18ff), to:

1. Endure unjust suffering for doing good (vs. 19-20),

2. Emulate the example of Jesus in suffering of not sinning or returning evil for evil and of entrusting themselves to God who judges justly (vs. 21-23), and

3. Embrace afresh the fact that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross results in us dying to sin and living the type of life or doing the things that God requires, even in the face of being mistreated (vs. 24).

Am I saying that God doesn’t heal? No (He can, if He chooses to; and He has and will in many cases. Praise God!).

Am I saying that we shouldn’t pray and believe God for personal healing or for that of others? No.

Am I saying that sickness is a part of God’s original design of our human existence and is not an effect of the Fall? No.

Am I saying that we should desire to be sick for the glory of God and to wear it as a badge of spiritual maturity or as a sign of being “anointed” or “oily”? No.

What I am saying is that 1 Peter 2:24c is not a promise from God for physical healing, but is rather a reality of spiritual healing that was achieved by God the Son, Jesus, dying on the cross for our sins (and being raised from the dead) and that is applied to all who turn from sin and trust Him as Savior and Lord.

It is a reality that strengthens you (and I) to righteously endure suffering, so that those who do not know God through Jesus, “may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Sunday Reflections (Sept. 23rd, 2012): YOLO, Antioch’s 26th Church Anniversary

YOLO (You Only Live Once)

That was the title of a message I gave at Paul Quinn College’s Chapel service on this past Friday from the book of Ecclesiastes chapters 11 and 12. Here is a sketch of what I brought out in this passage:

There is a book of the Bible written by a man named Solomon who is now in his older years seeking to share his wisdom and reflection with us the younger generation about our human experience in this life. It is called the book of Ecclesiastes.

He reflects on topics such as: work, self-indulgence, living wisely, wealth, and wisdom and knowledge.

If anyone had the qualifications to speak on the things that he addresses in this book, it was him. He was the wisest man in his day. He had what many of us seek to obtain after we graduate from college: Position, Power, Popularity, and Possessions (He reigned as the King of Israel after his father David).

At the outset of and at various points throughout this book, he states that all these things (i.e., man’s activity under the sun), in and of themselves and as ends of themselves, are vanity (1. fleeting or transitory, 2. futile – it is to no advantage/useless/meaningless, and 3. incomprehensible).

As one commentary said about this book, “the dominant mood of the book is pessimism, but the author, Solomon, was no pessimist, cynic, or skeptic as some critics have claimed. He was a believer who sought to destroy people’s confidence in their own efforts, their own abilities, their own righteousness…”

But he also sought to direct us on how to truly and fully live this one and only life that we have been given under the sun. There are four commands that Solomon gives us in Ecclesiastes 11 and 12.

1. Rejoice in your youth (11:9)

God says through Solomon, “Enjoy life, particularly when you are young.”

Solomon encourages us to do what our hearts desire. But he knows better than just to give us a blank check. He knows well that our hearts or our human nature is bent towards wickedness, so he tempers our desires or passions with the sobering reality that God will bring us into judgment (vs. 9b).

This should cause us to pause and give some serious prayer and thought to the decisions we make in this life.

Enjoy life within the parameters that God has set. Enjoy life in light of God’s judgment.

2. Remove vexation (worry/sorrow/disturbed) from your heart and pain (also could mean “evil”) from your body (11:10)

Solomon essentially instructs us to take care of ourselves psychologically and physically (spiritually – by putting away evil). Why? “For youth and the dawn of life are vanity (i.e., fleeting).”

Stop fretting (resolve to no longer waste your emotional energy on things you can neither change nor control) and stop abusing your body in your young age (or stop doing evil).

3. Remember our Creator, God, in the days of your youth (12:1-)

Dr. William D. Barrick said the following regarding this verse: “Remembering one’s Creator involves more than mere memory or acknowledgment. For the Hebrew writers, “remember” involves action, or allowing the objects of remembrance to “shape one’s perspective in the present.” First, we must “drop our pretence of self-sufficiency and commit ourselves to Him.” If an individual neglects serving the Creator in intentional obedience to His Word, “the capacity for joy will be lost.”

4. Respect God and do what He commands (12:13-14)

Dr. Barrick quotes Daniel J. Estes when he writes, the advantage (meaning, fulfillment, satisfaction) “resides not in human achievement apart from God, but rather in human connection with God.”

Our lives will only find true fulfillment and satisfaction in relationship with God. Solomon says it this way in Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil [work]. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

You only live [this life] once, so live it in relationship with God and in light of eternity.

Antioch’s 26th Church Anniversary

Today we celebrated our church’s 26th year of being in existence. God has truly been good to us! We had two guest preachers today (well, one was really not a guest.).

At Worship 1 (7:30 a.m.), our Pastor’s oldest son, Chris Wesley (Youth Pastor at Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington, KY), preached on “It’s Coming!” from Genesis 50:24-25 and at Worship 2 (10 a.m.), Dr. R. Timothy Jones, Senior Pastor of Peaceful Rest MBC in Shreveport, LA, preached on “God’s Will for Your Life” from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It was a great time of worship and Word. We saw around 20 youth and young adults respond to Jesus in repentance and faith today! We are looking forward to baptizing them and discipling them in the way of Jesus!

We will conclude our church anniversary month this week with a three-day revival with Pastor Jimmy C. Baldwin Sr. (Shiloh Christian Community Family Life Center) from Baltimore, Maryland.

Well that’s about it. Have a great week!

P.S. – Thanks for your patience with my lack of posting over the last few weeks. This month has been super busy and I am still learning how to best manage all that is going on. Again, thanks for reading my blog and sticking with me.

If You Speak It, It Shall Come? A Look at Proverbs 18:21

If you’ve been around the church world for a good length of time, you’ve probably heard these kinds of statements made about our words:

“Speak it [whatever you desire] into the atmosphere; speak it into existence.”

“Whatever you say, you shall have.”

“God spoke the world into existence, and since you are God’s child, you have that same authority and ability. Whatever you want, speak it and it shall come to pass.”

“Your words have the power to create.”

Those who are proponents of this type of teaching generally use Proverbs 18:21 as a point of reference. But is that what this verse means? My brother in Christ and Senior Pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, H.B. Charles, Jr., succinctly tackles this verse and the aberrational doctrine that has spawned from its misinterpretation here.

 

Jesus – The One All-Sufficient Sacrifice for Our Sin (Hebrews 9:24-28)

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

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