10 Purposes of Marriage

It has always been true that as the family goes, so goes the culture. We shouldn’t be surprised then that our culture is in disarray. People don’t value marriage today much less see its significance. And with the decline of marriage, so too has the culture fallen into shambles. In view of this, Christians must continually be reminded of the blessing and purpose of marriage. Marriage was designed by God and is hugely consequential. If we are going to see renewal and revival in the church and in the culture as a whole, it must start with the family. It must start with husband and wife being faithful and obedient to God’s Word.

Here are 10 purposes of marriage. I will let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

  1. Companionship: “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3).

 

  1. Enjoyment: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).

 

  1. Completeness: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man (Adam) said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).

 

  1. Fruitfulness or Procreation: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2).

 

  1. Protection: The husband is to protect the wife by laying down his life for her. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The wife is to protect the home. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).

 

  1. Typify Christ and the Church: Marriage is to be a human picture or object lesson of the divine relationship between Christ and believers. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

 

  1. Sanctification: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) It will be readily acknowledged that living in close proximity with another person has a way of exposing our warts and bumps and bruises (in short, our sin). We see our own pride and selfishness in ways we can’t when isolated. God can and will use this to make us more like Jesus and to give us victory over indwelling sin.

 

  1. Support and Trust: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil….a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12). “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10-11).

 

  1. Mutual Honor and Respect: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

 

  1. The Glory of God: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). This is the goal of everything, including marriage.

6 Lessons From 6 Years of Pastoral Ministry

Hard to believe, but I have been in pastoral ministry for 6 years now. This has been a deeply gratifying and rewarding experience and I am grateful to God for His call upon my life. While in some ways I am still just a beginner and pray for many decades of fruitful ministry, there have been many lessons learned during my short tenure. Let me share just 6 with you.

 

1. The centrality of prayer.

Ministry makes huge demands upon the pastor and his family. There is always something more to do, and because of all the busyness, often the ministry of prayer gets skipped over. This is unfortunate and can be quite damaging to the success of the ministry. Therefore, the pastor must ensure that prayer is built into the daily rhythms of his life. It is also important to have organized times of corporate prayer, such as a weekly prayer meeting. Along with this, I am thankful for a church that I know holds my family up in prayer and other friends and family member that do the same. I have learned (and continue to learn) that ministry is war and if you are not covered in prayer, the enemy will walk all over you.

 

2. People grow through the Word of God.

Let me give you a little formula – growth happens in the Body of Christ as the Word of God is applied to the people of God through the agency of the Spirit of God. Let me say it again – people grow through the Word of God! It took me a while to realize this, but it is so critical to understand this. I see pastors all the time relying on gimmicks and programs and more gimmicks – things that promise to “pump out” disciples that in the end only disappoint. Shepherds must ensure that their flock is well nourished so that they will be healthy, strong, and effective in their walk with the Lord.

 

3. The need for patience and perseverance.

I grew up on a farm and I know the importance of patience when it comes to sowing and reaping. The farmer plants his crop in the spring, but has to wait several months until the fall to harvest it. If people grow through the Word of God (and they do) then it will require patience over the long haul. Most pastors are aware of all the massive church growth stories but we have to remember that they are not the norm. Pastors must commit themselves to diligently and faithfully teaching the Word of God year after year after year. In time, there will be an abundant harvest, but it takes patience and perseverance. In between the sowing and reaping, there will be times of trial, disappointment, setbacks, and who knows what else, but be faithful, be diligent, and persevere in the strength that only Christ can provide. And remember the words of Paul: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

 

4.The importance of one-to-one discipling relationships.

I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. If you are not familiar with this story, I would encourage you to study it on your own, but essentially, when Philip found the eunuch reading Isaiah 53, he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, ‘How can I unless someone guides me?’ ….Then beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:30-31, 35). Although this was more of an evangelistic encounter, there is no question the church needs a lot more of this today. And it all starts with pastors. The pastor must set the tone when it comes to mentoring and discipling relationships in the church. This sets in motion what could be called the multiplication process where disciples make more disciples. Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The pastor can’t disciple everyone, but he can train a few who will train a few, etc. etc.

5.The Church needs to be the Church.

What is a healthy church? I suppose there are a few ways of answering this question, but one indispensable quality of a healthy church is love among the brethren (Galatians 6:9-10 and John 13:34-35). Plain and simple, within a healthy church, people care for one another, serve one another, love one another, etc. etc. and this is all done because we love Jesus. When we begin to understand the love of God in Christ that has been showered upon us, we can’t help but love one another. This is one of the reasons I love the church. Seeing love in action is a beautiful thing and I can’t imagine ever not being part of a local body of believers.

 

6.What a valuable asset my wife is.

Steph is my most trusted friend and counselor and has been an immense help to me in ministry. Pastors (and husbands in general) thank God for your wife and treasurer her, for she is an incalculable blessing.

 

As you can tell, there is nothing revolutionary about this list. Some of these were not so much “lessons” as they were prior beliefs that have now become strong convictions based on my experience and study of the Word.

What is the Illumination of the Holy Spirit?

J.I. Packer: “The work of the Spirit in imparting this spiritual understanding is called illumination or enlightening. It is not a giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the biblical text as heard and read, and as explained by teachers and writers. Sin in our mental and moral system clouds our minds and wills so that we miss and resist the force of Scripture. God seems to us remote to the point of unreality, and in the face of God’s truth we are dull and apathetic. The Spirit, however, opens and unveils our minds and attunes our hearts so that we understand.” (Concise Theology p. 155)

 

Another definition: “The ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian person and community in assisting believers to interpret, understand and obey the Scriptures.” (IVP Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms)

 

It is important to note, as Packer touched on in his definition, that illumination is not about receiving new revelation. The canon is closed (Revelation 22:18-19) and Scripture is complete and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17) to meet our every need. Far too many people have been led astray by looking for new revelation from God instead of looking to the Holy Spirit to shed light and illumine what has already been given in the Bible.

 

So we would say that God not only speaks through His Son (Hebrews 1:1), but God also speaks through His Word. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, God allows us to see the truth of Scripture that has been placed before us. A lot of people today emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit over and above the Word of God. In all reality, they work together. As we open the text of Scripture and search out its riches, the Spirit brings life and understanding to our hearts.

 

For further study read: 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, Colossians 1:9-10, 1 John 5:20, 2 Corinthians 4:6, and Ephesians 1:18.

Treasuring God’s Word

Imagine if the US Constitution was lost. I don’t think that would ever be possible, but just imagine that somehow it did happen. Or, for my fellow Canadians, imagine if the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was lost. In both cases it would be a great tragedy because most everyone recognizes the value and importance of these documents. In ancient Israel, however, something similar happened about 600 years before the time of Christ. The Book of the Law was literally lost for a time. Now, if you have read 1 -2 Kings, this will not surprise you because the kings and the people tended to go their own way without any question of – what does the Lord require? By and large, God’s chosen people did their own thing and his put them on a certain path to judgment. The northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722BC and the southern Kingdom of Judah would eventually fall in 586. But around 622 something of great significance happened – the Book of the Law was found and read before King Josiah. His response is worth reading. “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11). Josiah knew that his people had fallen far short of God’s standard (see also Romans 3:23). FYI, the Book of the Law was essentially a copy of what we call Deuteronomy. It was a summary statement of the Torah and had a similar governing function akin to the Constitution or Charter.

So what ended up happening? Judgment could not be averted but the prophetess Huldah did offer these words of hope: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord” (2 Kings 22:18-19). In 2 Kings 23, we go on to read that Josiah initiated several reforms that essentially banished idol worship. He heard the word of the Lord, and he responded appropriately and judgment would not come until a couple decades after Josiah’s death.

Sometimes I think we forget what an amazing gift God has given us. We have in our possession the very word of God in written form. What a wonderful thing – God’s revealed truth has been given to us! But we Christian’s have a tendency to be like Israel. In our busyness, the Scriptures get pushed aside and they don’t govern and guide our lives as they should. And ultimately, we don’t humble ourselves before God like Josiah. In all this, we are the one’s who end up losing. As David writes in Psalm 119, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the paths of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!” (Psalm 119:33-40).

Obviously, David delighted in the law of the Lord. He wasn’t content with a few crumbs here and there. No, David feasted on God’s Word, meditating on it day and night (Joshua 1:8). He knew that the Scriptures direct us in the way of life because they point us to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But what about you? Do you treasure God’s Word? Is it your guide and compass? Or, is it simply and afterthought in your busy life? Truly, God has given us an amazing gift in His revealed truth – may our lives reflect that reality.

Bible Verses to Teach Your Children

Fellow parents, if you haven’t made a practice of this already, it may be a good time to start encouraging your children to memorize Bible verses. Our twin daughters are now three and a half so I started to compile a short list of Bible verses they could memorize. Of course, the possibilities are endless when it comes to Scripture memorization, but here are a few verses that came to mind.

 

1. “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

 

2. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother….that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3

 

3. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

 

4. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 1:8 (see also Proverbs 4:23 and 23:22)

 

5. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (Maybe this one would be good for the teen years)

 

6. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

 

7. “Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

8. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 

Perhaps you could memorize some of these verses along with your kids. It certainly won’t hurt if you don’t already know them by heart. But always remember the responsibility that God has entrusted to you to train up your children in the ways of the Lord. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

 

More than anything as parents, we want to instill in our kids a love of Scripture and a desire to know Him through His Word. Of course, there is a Holy Spirit component, which we must not forget, but there is also need for parents to be intentional about exposing their children to the Scriptures. If you think of it, pray for Steph and I because this is as much for us as for anyone. And if you would like us to pray for you, be sure and drop me a note. I would love to pray for you in this regard.

Understanding the Origins of the Universe

How can we understand the origins of the universe? This is an important question that great minds have probed into for centuries. The problem is, of course, no one was there to witness it all….except for God. “In the beginning, God….” We are not left with the impression that anyone else was there. Later on in the chapter this is confirmed with the creation of man. By the time Adam and Eve come on the scene, the created order was all in place. What that tells us is that God was the only person who witnessed the creation of the universe. Therefore, if we are going to understand the origins of the universe, we must trust God’s self-revelation.

The Scriptures have much to say on this, but perhaps a good place to start is Hebrews 11:3. “By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.” The world was literally created by the word of God. In Genesis 1 we see how God spoke, and everything came into being. God said, “let there be light, and there was light.” This same pattern is followed throughout the rest of Genesis 1. The Psalmist picks up on this in Psalm 33:6 and writes, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breathe of his mouth all their host.”

So how did God created the universe? BY HIS WORD! By the breathe of His mouth. All He had to do was speak and the created world came into being. But it gets even more amazing – God didn’t have any pre-existing materials to create with. If you were to tell your neighbor that you could make something out of nothing, they would think you were nuts, and, they’d be right.  If you want to make a chair, you don’t go “abra cadabra” and poof – there it is. No, you need certain materials, certain tools, and then you have to form and fashion them in a particular way. You can’t make that chair out of nothing.  There’s only one person who has ever performed such a work and that’s the Creator God and person of Jesus Christ.  The bible says that it is God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17) And Psalm 90:2 tells us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  So before the creation of the heavens and the earth, God existed. And then at a particular point in time, God made something out of nothing. This is sometimes referred to as “Creation Ex-Nihilo.”

Going back to Hebrews 11:3, the only way we can understand creation is “by faith.” I know that answer does not satisfy everyone out there, but it is biblical truth. There is a sense of mystery in terms of how God “spoke” (Genesis 1) the cosmos into existence. But we must believe that God created all things, and now sustains all things. Like we read in Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

If we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 11 and verse 1, we see that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now compare that with verse 3. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  You can’t miss the parallel here, or should we say the contrast? Verse 1 – the conviction of things not seen. Verse 3 – so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. So we have…. seen and not seen – visible and invisible. If you are a doubting Thomas type of person, then ask yourself this very simple question. Where did that material world come from? How did it originate? A typical modern answer is – the big bang theory or evolution, which I’m sure you are familiar with. But that theory still doesn’t answer a very basic, fundamental question – where did all that star-stuff (in the words of Carl Sagan) come from that was involved in the big bang? How was it created? How did it come into being? Going back to Hebrews 11, if you want to understand the origins of the cosmos, then it starts with faith. There is no other way to explain the created world. There is no other way to explain the seen, but by the unseen. There has to be a first cause to everything, and the Bible tells us that first cause was God.

At the beginning of time God set the world in motion. He spoke the universe into existence. And the way He did it is totally unique. What is seen (that being everything around us) was not made out of things that are visible. God didn’t create from pre-existing materials. No, He created everything, out of nothing. And as Christians, we understand this by faith.

Many have said this before, but I will just echo their thoughts. It takes a lot more faith to be an atheist (someone who doesn’t believe in God) than it does to be a theist (someone who believes in God). And while we must believe, by faith, in the Triune God and in His Word, there is evidence all around us. The apostle Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

What about you, friend? Have you accepted God’s self-revelation? Let me encourage you to start with what the Bible tells us about the origins of the universe (or any subject for that matter) and then allow God to confirm His testimony through the created world and “the things that have been made.”

The Minister as a Shining Light

Jonathan Edwards:

A minister is set to be a light to men’s souls, by teaching, or doctrine. And if he be a shining light in this respect, the light of his doctrine must be bright and full; it must be pure without mixtures of darkness; and therefore he must be sound in the faith, not one that is of a reprobate mind; in doctrine he must show uncorruptness; otherwise his light will be darkness. He must not lead his people into errors, but teach them the truth only, guiding their feet into the way of peace, and leading them in the right ways of the Lord.

He must be one that is able to teach, not one that is raw, ignorant or unlearned, and but little versed in the things that he is to teach others; not a novice, or one that is unskillful in the word of righteousness; he must be one that is well studied in divinity, well acquainted with the written Word of God, mighty in the Scriptures, and able to instruct and convince gainsayers.

And in order to be a “shining light,” he must be one that really knows what religion is, one that is truly acquainted with that Savior and way of salvation, that he is to teach to others, that he may “speak the things that he knows, and testify the things that he has seen” [John 3:11], and not be a blind leader of the blind. He must be one that is acquainted with experimental religion, and not ignorant of the inward operations of the Spirit of God, nor of Satan’s devices; able to guide souls under their particular difficulties. Thus he must be a scribe well instructed in things that pertain to the kingdom of God; one that “brings forth out of his treasures things new and old” [Matthew 13:52].

And in order to his being a “shining light,” his doctrine must be full, he must not only be able to teach, but apt to teach, ready to instruct the ignorant, and them that are out of the way, and diligent in teaching, in public and private; and careful and faithful to declare the whole counsel of God, and not to keep back anything that may be profitable to his hearers. Also his being a “shining light” implies that his instructions are clear and plain, accommodated to the capacity of his hearers, and tending to convey light to their understandings.

Adapted from an ordination sermon Edwards preached on August 30, 1744. The sermon is called The True Excellency of a Minister of the Gospel.