I’m performing a wedding ceremony this weekend for a couple that has truly been a joy to get to know. Below is a prayer that I have used a couple times in wedding ceremonies that touches me deeply. It is both excellent and comprehensive. It is both Christ centered and has a view on the needs of the couple. I also want to point you to a link with some background information on the prayer and its author
The Wedding Prayer (by Rev. Dr. Louis Hadley Evans)
O God of love, you have established marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind. Yours was the plan, and only with you can we work it out with joy. You have said, “it is not good for a man to live alone… . I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now our joys are doubled, since the happiness of one is the happiness of the other; our burdens are halved, since, when we share them, we divide the load.
Bless this husband. Bless him as provider for the needs of those he loves. Sustain him in all his struggles in the contest of life. May his strength be her protection, his character be her joy and assurance. May he so live that she may find in him the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.
Bless this loving wife. Give her a tenderness that makes her great … a deep sense of understanding and a great faith in You. Give her that inner beauty of soul that never fades, eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age. May she so live that he may be pleased always to reverence and adore her.
May they never make the mistake of merely living for each other. Teach them that marriage is not living for each other. It is two uniting and joining hands to serve You, the living God. Give them a great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek first the kingdom that is yours, and its righteousness, so that all other things may be added unto them. Loving you best, they shall love each other all the more. And faithful unto You, faithful unto each other they will remain.
May they not expect that perfection of each other that belongs alone to You. May they minimize each other’s weaknesses, be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths and beauty, and see each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes. Give them a little something to forgive each day, that they may grow in the grace of long-suffering and love. And may they be forbearing with each other’s omissions and commissions as You are with theirs. Make such assignments to them according to Your will as will bless them and develop their character as they walk together. Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them humane, enough of failure to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough success to make them sure they belong to You. May they never take each other’s love for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims: “Out of all this world, you have chosen me!” Then when life is done, and the sun is setting, may they be found, then as now, still hand in hand, still so proud, thanking you so very much for each other. May they serve You happily, faithfully, together, until at least one shall lay the other in Your arms. This we ask through Jesus Christ, great lover of souls. Amen.
(via Of First Importance)
“On the Cross we see God doing at the cosmic level what we all have to do when we forgive. There God absorbed the punishment and debt for sin himself. He paid it so we did not have to.”
The believer is able to forgive his brother because the debt is already paid. In the moment of forgiveness he absorbs the temporal debt but the eternal price has already been paid. There is a way in forgiveness that the believer joins Christ in suffering and there is a way in forgiveness that the believer remembers the suffering of his Christ for the forgiven sin as well as his own.
The time has finally come. Amazon.com’s Kindle (Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device) is finally in its second generation. And the second generation is my sign to buy. Everything that I have read indicates that Kindle 1 was an excellent device and that Kindle 2 addresses nearly every complaint lodged at the first generation. (If this could only be said of people from one generation to the next.)
I hope to post an in depth review in the future, but for now I am placing some links below that will direct you to a couple items that I think you will find helpful. And if you click through these links and end up purchasing any of them I will also find it helpful. For each purchase made through the links below I will receive a percentage of the purchase since I am an amazon.com affiliate.
So, so click and enjoy. And when you have given the Kindle a whirl, I invite you to come back and leave a message about what you think, how you use your Kindle, and maybe recommend a book or two.
Here are a couple accessories that I also recommend. The leather case in particular is very well constructed. It attaches in an unobtrusive way (unlike third-party) cases and can remain in place while reading. I have found this case to make the Kindle feel even more like a book in my hand. Click the links below to see the case and book light at Amazon.
People should understand that help is on the way. And as they think about this Thanksgiving shopping weekend and as they thing about this Christmas season coming up I hope that everybody understands that we are gonna be able to get through these difficult times, but we’re just gonna have to make some good choices.
“Help is on the Way”
The sphere of government is portrayed as the helper. This is an economic problem and it is the sphere of labor, community, and family within which the problem must be solved. What is it that government can do to “help” me as I consider buying Christmas gifts this weekend? The only way that they can give me money is if they take it from someone else. Does helping me mean stealing from someone else? If so, thanks, but no thanks.
As a child my family was poor. Around Christmas there were numerous years that people did “help” my family with the ability to give gifts. I remember the Salvation Army (the sphere of church) setting up tables with gifts on them for my mom to peruse and choose to wrap and put under our Christmas tree. I remember my youth pastor (the sphere of community) dropping a whole mess of gifts on my front porch signed “from Jesus”. The sphere of community can help my family with Christmas gifts, and they have proven that they will. But what can government do other than steal?
“Think About … Shopping”
Listen again to President-elect Obama. Here is the message. Go ahead and spend on Black Friday (should be renamed “Debtor’s Friday). If you overspend and place yourself further in the hole that you have already dug by buying a house that is too big, don’t worry! The government has a plan to give you some money for being irresponsible. In fact, the only way to prop up this dismal retail season is for people in debt to spend money that they don’t have and have “hope” that President-elect Obama and congress will give them more money to be irresponsible with and banks more money to lend them. The message is also, for those who have chosen to become conservative with their finances given the troubling signs, that we should stop being so stingy and spend our savings this weekend because President-elect Obama has a plan.
“Make Some Good Choices”
Look where the burden of choice-making about family finances lies in this quote by President-elect Obama. It is clearly the government that we can have confidence will make “good choices”. In another time he might have said that families will have to make good choices and some of those choices will feel an awful lot like sacrifices.
As for Me and My House
My wife and I have been planning for about six months to buy a camcorder for Christmas so that we can begin to video tape our children now that they are old enough to begin to have soccer games and be in programs and other public performances. But we looked at the amount that we have saved compared to the amount that is being demanded by our budget for primarily fuel for our van and the cost of groceries (the price of the whole wheat that my wife grinds for a significant portion of our food just rose 100% since our last order) and we had to choose to increase that savings cushion for the coming year. Where does that savings come from? No camcorder and just a couple gifts for each of our four kids (most of the gifts, like the Prince Caspian Movie, are for them to share anyway).
But are we doing our part for the economy? Well, Target won’t be getting as much of our money and we won’t be taking advantage of the great deals over at Beach Camera. But when it comes time for another tax rebate (of money that we didn’t pay in … thus our tax rebate was more like stealing from somebody who did make enough money to pay income tax) my family can say, I appreciate the thought, but we’ve gone ahead and saved for ourselves or looked to our church and community for help when needed. Now stop dipping your government sphere of authority into the pockets of the families, communities, and labor spheres to give my family money that we should have saved for ourselves.
Our Tickling Ears
So, President-elect Obama, I see that you are saying what our American tickling-ears wnat to hear. We did elect you because your message of “hope” has tickled us “blue”. But I don’t think your help is what we need after all. And yes, we will make it through these difficult times. But only if we can learn that sometimes “good choices” mean “good sacrifice”.
I would like to recommend the article “Missional Shift or Drift” from a recent Leadership Magazine. There is a great deal of discernment needed in reading an article like this. A concern that I have in the midst of the excitement that I see about taking discipleship seriously is a loss of a sense of a clear doctrine of the church. Anytime we are discussing “change” in the church we should be shrewd as snakes.
Regarding the proclamation vs. demonstration struggle I kept thinking of Jesus’ statement at the beginning of His ministry in Mark.
“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:38-39)
It seems that this statement continued to define His ministry as well as the ministry in which He was training His disciples (and by extension us).
His mission was proclamation, not demonstration. His mission was to preach the good news (see also: Mark 1:14-15 “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”). And as he went about His mission of proclamation He demonstrated the power of the good news of the kingdom by casting out demons and other acts of power. The point is not the demonstration(the miracles), and in itself the demonstration is nothing. The demonstration simply points to the power of that which is proclaimed.
Therefore, we preach (share the good news even and especially in personal relationships) the good news of eternal life (and life abundantly) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Lord. As we go about this daily proclamation we also demonstrate the power that this proclamation has had in our own life by demonstrating kindness to others (especially including our love of the body of believers). We also show the power of that which we proclaim to effect a community via food pantries, divorce ministries, prayer for healing, tutoring, crisis pregnancy love and care and so many more opportunities. As we do this we proclaim, “This is the power of the gospel that we proclaim! God has changed our hearts, paid for the debt of our sin, and is destroying our pride so that we therefore demonstrate this love as we endeavor to change the lives of our community in this life and for life eternal.”
Demonstration serves proclamation.
Proclamation serves the kingdom.
The kingdom is eternal life (even life abundantly) in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Douglas Wilson at Blog and Mablog posted a forward he ran across. I think it does a really good job of explaining a bit of the tax situation that we are in.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. ‘Since you are all such good customers, he said, ‘I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share?’
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
‘I only got a dollar out of the $20′, declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man,’ but he got $10!’
‘Yeah, that’s right’, exclaimed the fifth man. ‘I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!’
‘That’s true!!’ shouted the seventh man. ‘Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!’
‘Wait a minute,’ yelled the first four men in unison. ‘We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!’
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
As you are my friends you know that it is not in my personality to desire to offend and yet I am compelled to risk offense (even of friends) rather than remain silent at the continued death of well over one million unborn children per year.
Please understand that a vote for almost any democrat candidate (with the blessed exception of a few) at every level of government including a vote for Barack Obama is almost guaranteed to lead to the greater availability and likelihood of the killing of unborn children.
Therefore, to vote for a pro-choice candidate and specifically for Barack Obama is to become complicit in the death of millions. That is the nature of the democratic process. When you and I vote it is a vote by the people for the people therefore we each share in any guilt brought upon our nations by our elected officials. And make no mistake I am aware that there is plenty of guilt to go around.
Specifically as it relates to the election of Barack Obama there is no way to rationalize his promise to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act with a desire to reduce the number of abortions.
“The FOCA establishes the right to an abortion as a fundamental right, ensuring that abortion rights would remain in force even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. The act would also repeal provisions that limit federal funding of abortion, strip doctors of “conscience clauses” that allow them not to perform abortions, and nullify state provisions that allow for waiting periods, counseling, and parental notification when a minor is involved.”
– Albert Mohler –
Most of you, my friends, are fellow disciples of Jesus Christ. I cannot make my conviction any more clear than this. I cannot fathom that a vote for a candidate who wants to further codify into law the right to destroy the unborn is in any way faithful following of the way or the kingdom of Christ. Is the a salvation issue? No. Is this an issue of faithful discipleship? Absolutely.
Thank you for allowing me to speak. May God have mercy upon the unborn in American and may God grant conviction within His people as we approach the end of this election season.
The Lord Bless You & Keep You,
Your friend, Jeremiah Fyffe
I have worked with youth for about nine years and one comment that I have often noticed is that we should be careful not to go too deep with the kids or it will just go over their heads and they will lose interest.
It seems that by saying that we don’t want to go too deep with our youth group kids means that we are giving them just enough of the gospel to inoculate them. Rather we want to give them the fullness of the gospel so that they can see that they have been given a deep pool of grace, the depths of which will take them the rest of their lives (even eternity) to plumb. Even that in any and every circumstance they will be able to dive into grace and find genuine salve for every wound.
Ask a kid what it means to be saved and he will likely respond, “Jesus forgives me of my sins.” And yet the kid observes that church, and especially youth group, seems to be about what God says to do and what God says not to do. How are these two basic teachings of the church compatible? How is it that God seems to demand so much, but forgives so easily? It almost seems like two different religions are being taught. One says that if we follow God we will avoid destructive behaviors. The other says that it doesn’t matter what you do God will forgive you. All you have to do is ask.
The confusion and lack of depth leads to all kinds of mess for graduates. They realize that they just can’t keep up with all of God’s demands and it seems like everyone has a different take on what those demands are anyway. And God forgives in the end so what does it matter? Christianity as a practiced religion becomes irrelevant. In the end what the youth group has produced is a youth that is morally ambivalent and to whom God has become a contradictory side show. The youth may not be willing to become an atheist due to core convictions that there must be a God; therefore, God is placated by minor religious activity and the youth continues to live in a moral and spiritual tension that stands as wall barring genuine reconciliation and relationship with his creator.
It seems that greater depth of understanding and teaching by leaders among youth is the only antidote to the inoculation above. The leaders must ask questions not only of the morality and forgiven status of the youth, but also of his depth of understanding the workings of redemption. Redemption is purchase of pardon, reconciliation, the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, escape from wrath with Christ as the substitute, and so much more. Think of what happens to the tension above if the youth can see salvation does not mean sin is no big deal so God just forgives it, but rather that God has utter wrath and hatred of sin and that the cross is the perfect place to see God’s wrath upon sin.
We must guard against the shallow teaching that the gospel is the launch pad to a positive moral life. The gospel is basis of regeneration. The gospel is the sustenance of our daily life. The gospel our reconciliation to God. The gospel is the depth out of which flows our daily worship. Plumb the gospel for our youth. Plumb the gospel with our youth.
The best way that I can think of to “plumb the gospel” is to find a passage of scripture that specifically summarizes some aspect of the work of Jesus in either His life, His death, or His reign (and they are all of the whole of scripture) and:
1) Read it
2) Dwell on it.
3) Sing songs that relate to it.
4) Ask questions about exactly how this redemption thing works.
5) Ask how this relates both to the beginning of the Christian life and the sustaining of the Christian life.
6) Let the youth ask questions of the text.
7) Begin to enjoy and appreciate all of what Christ has done.
Just a couple of scriptures: Philippians 2; The various divisions of Hebrews 9-10; John 3; Genesis 12 and many, many more.
I can’t say that I care much for the intro part of the video … I’m not sure that the state of the pulpit is RIP, but I do think that Mark Driscoll here does a good job of explaining why the message of Joel Osteen is at odds with not only the message of Jesus, but also the life of Jesus.
Let me first say that in this clip that Mark Driscoll shows of Joel Osteen preaching is the first time that I seem to think that Joel Osteen is trying to point people to God. There is so much that is true about what Osteen preaches. If we are believers in Christ’s work on the cross we are genuinely “children of God”. “We have royal blood flowing through our veins.” But Osteen seems to be confused regarding both:
1) The Center of the Message – The glory of God in the faithful perseverance of His children in the midst of suffering as they are preserved by the power of the Spirit in the hope of the promise that they have received in the work of Jesus of an eternal inheritance.
2) His Sense of Timing – The blessing that we have received in the present age is surety of the promise of a future eternal inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is a deposit.
AND YET … Osteen describes “complete victory” as three things that simply are not the key items of the gospel.
1) Healthy Body
2) Good Relationships
3) No Anxiety (especially as it relates to finances)
I would like to mention a few core problems with these three components coming together to be what the gospel describes as complete victory.
1) What does sin have to do with any of this? If there is no discussion of sin when we talk about victory then there is no need for the cross. When Jesus cried out that “It is finished” it was a cry of victory over sin’s curse and a claim of reconciliation between the redeemed and God.
2) This description slanders the thousands of saints and martyrs throughout history that have cried out “How long, Oh Lord,” as they suffered in their body and in their relationships and in their livelihood even to the point of death. Christ’s vindication of their cause is yet to come at the end of time.
3) Where is the need to persevere under trial or to intentionally place ourselves in the way of persecution for the sake of the gospel? It sounds as though I should avoid situations of persecution because I’m royalty after all.
4) And how should I pray for those who face persecution in places like China? Should I pray as they have asked, that they would endure and that the Good News of Jesus’ cross would be held up before even the persecutors? Or should I pray that God would make their bodies healthy, help them to make better friends, and that God would send them money so they wouldn’t have anxiety?
Bottom-line … I pray that I would see in Christ my own joy so that I can wear a smile as genuine as the appearance of Osteen. And yet I pray that God would hold before Osteen and Osteen would begin to hold before his church and the world the only source of eternal hope and present joy; that is, the God’s reconciling with man in the person and work of Jesus Christ. May we all become more holy worshippers of the One True God.