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Maybe it’s because I am days away from having my first daughter (after 3 sons), but I’ve been shocked by how many godly girls are dating guys who just don’t seem to love the Lord. Guys who seem like their teeth are being pulled when they come to church or you talk about spititual things with them.

For some reason some single women in the church feel like they are better off being married to apathetic believers (or unbelievers?) than being single. While marriage is a huge blessing from God, marriage to an ungodly man is extremely difficult, and could be dangerous not only to potential children and grandchildren but to the church as a whole.

groomMy heart goes out to these girls, who have bought the lie that godly men simply don’t exist, and who believe that they must settle for the first guy who comes along who shows them attention.

The calling to be a wife is great. Women are called to submit to a man in the same way as the church submits to Christ in everything (Eph. 5:22-24). This is why women have to be so careful whom they choose to marry. I’m scared to have a daughter because some overconfident dummy is going to come along some day and try to steal her heart away.  My prayer is that she finds a man worth submitting to.

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In the afterglow of the Rio 2016 Summer Games, I thought I’d reprise this quirky piece of recent Olympic history. The 2012 London Olympics saw a scandalous badminton debacle, which provides an apt metaphor for many Christian lives. Our Lord was fond of these types of real-life snapshots of poor stewardship and its consequence. The New Testament parables are peppered with stewards who weren’t faithful to their assignments (e.g. Luke12:45; Matt 25:26-27).shuttlecock

Here’s a quick recap of the farcical fiasco. At the London games eight of the ladies’ doubles badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia were disqualified for, in the words of the International Olympic Committee’s VP, Craig Reedie, “not using one’s best efforts to win a match.” I love it.

The players had all made it through the elimination round and were apparently attempting to lose their games in the hopes of attaining a more lenient placing in the next round. Can you imagine the spectacle of expert athletes trying to lose to each other? These national superstars (evidently badminton is big in Asia) weren’t simply lagging a little in their enthusiasm, they were all willfully playing terribly.

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Power in the Midst of WeaknessTwo weeks ago, we took a look at the orienting principle for Christian ministry: we have the treasure of the Gospel in earthen vessels. In other words, there is a disproportionate relationship between the glory of the New Covenant message and the glory of the New Covenant messenger. There is a fundamental contrast between the glory of the New Covenant ministry and the shame of the New Covenant minister. In the next verses, Paul turns to illustrate this principle by means of two paradoxical truths that characterize the Christian ministry.

And the first of those paradoxes comes in verses 8 and 9. There we learn that the Christian ministry is marked by power in the midst of weakness. He says, we are “in everything afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” In what commentators have called “one of the more powerful rhetorical moments in the Pauline corpus” (Barnett, 233), Paul makes his point by means of four antitheses. In each first word, we see the weakness of the earthen vessel. And in each second word, we see the surpassing greatness of the power of God. Let’s look more closely at each pair.

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Have you ever waited so long for a promise that you when it arrives you don’t believe it? Perhaps your boyfriend promised to propose when he felt “ready.” But half a decade later, you’d lost hope, and when he finally did get down on one knee you thought he was tying his shoe-lace.me cynical

I had such an experience some years ago. I had ordered a landline from our country’s only (monopolized) national telephone service provider. With no competition to rival it, this service provider was not known for its promptness or customer satisfaction. So, I ordered the line about three months before I was ready to move into my new house, thinking I was beating the system.

After moving in, early in March, and without any trace of a telephone connection, I began a weekly routine of calling to ask about the progress of my line. I was repeatedly assured that the line would be installed by August.

August came and went—twice.

Then, one fine day, out of the blue, I received a call on my cellphone from a lady who claimed to be an employee. She casually asked if I would be home the next day, because my landline was to be installed. There was an awkward pause as I considered which of my friends was playing a cruel joke on me. I decided to play along and assured her in a sardonic tone that I would be eagerly awaiting the workman the next day.

To my bemusement, the very next day—two and a half years after the order—a pleasant gentleman arrived wearing coveralls and an air of nonchalance. He effortlessly completed the job, which took all of twelve minutes. By this point I had cycled through all the normal stages—denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance—and so I expressed my genuine gratitude for a job well-done. He smiled knowingly and chided me for my doubt with a hackneyed line he’d proffered countless times, “We said we’d get to it, we just didn’t say when.”

That is why I have sympathy for Zechariah. Continue Reading…

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One of the most overwhelming figures in Scripture is the giant angel that John encounters in Revelation 10. Between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgements, after witnessing the death of 1/3 of the earth but while waiting for the ministry of the two witnesses, John’s vision is interrupted by a figure with no parallel in the Bible.

This angel descends from heaven, and lands with one foot in the water and one foot on the land. He towers over the earth, and raises a hand up into the heavens. His feet are on fire, and he wears a rainbow like a crown of glory.

He has divine characteristics. For example, he is clothed in the clouds—an idiom which in the Old Testament is reserved for God himself (Psalm 97:2; Job 38:9).  He is holding the scroll in his hand, which back in Revelation 5, only Jesus was worthy to open.

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One of the saddest statements I heard in college was during a job interview. The owner, a Christian himself said, “I usually don’t hire Christians, they have been some of the worst workers over the years”. Hopefully as I worked for him I didn’t encourage that sentiment.

Of course this isn’t universal. I have also worked for bosses who loved hiring Christians and were very thankful for the hard work they received.

As believers we know that our calling is higher. We do work for men, but ultimately it is God whom we serve. As we work hard we are ultimately declaring our belief in the Gospel, and our hope in eternity. Paul says in Ephesians 6:5-8,

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

rulesEvery once in a while I run into an old paper from college or seminary. Not too long ago I found a little article a professor shared with us that was written by an old pastor. He offered 14 rules that he tried to live by in order to be the best pastor possible. As I looked through his “rules” it was obvious that this didn’t just apply to pastors, but rather it could be applied to any job anywhere.

Rule #1 – Eagerly start the day’s main work

Rule #2 – Do not murmur at your busyness or the shortness of time but buy up the time all around.

Rule #3 – Never murmur when correspondence is brought in.

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There are two major prophecies concerning the advance of the gospel that remain unfulfilled at this very moment: that Israel would embrace the Messiah, and that the good news of Jesus would reach every tribe and ethnic group in the world.

These are not just isolated prophecies. Instead, they are repeated often, and play a significant role in how the believers are to think about the future.   Continue Reading…

Every once in a while, a leader, whether it be a judge, a king, or a Czar, tries to do the impossible and shut down the Gospel.

All throughout history many have attempted this impossible feat. Perhaps one of the most famous attempts occurred in 1673. The Lord Judge Magistrate of Bedford was fed up with John Bunyan and his preaching of the Gospel. John Bunyan was reaching thousands with the truth of scripture, and the judge obviously hated sound preaching. But when John Bunyan was told to stop, John Bunyan famously answered, “If I am freed today, I will preach tomorrow!” And so the judge sentenced him to jail and said,

“At last we are done with this tinker and his cause. Never more will he plague us: for his name, locked away as surely as he, shall be forgotten, as surely as he. Done we are, and all eternity with him.”

A sillier statement has never been spoken.

John Bunyan went on to write The Pilgrim’s Progress, along with other books that the Lord has used for centuries to lead men and women to himself. That chief magistrate was not only wrong about John Bunyan, but he believed that he could put a stop to the Gospel. By sentencing Bunyan, he ended up spreading it further than even Bunyan himself thought possible.

The Gospel cannot be stopped. No one on earth has the power to shut up a man or woman consumed with it.

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Buyer’s remorse often grips people just after they indulge in an expensive purchase. It’s a cognitive dissonance of the “what if” factor. What if what I bought isn’t as good as what I didn’t buy; what if I can’t afford it and will regret the expense later? Marketing pundits have come up with ways to ease the buyer’s distress. There are two main ways to do this.a bag of regret

The first tactic is to offer a reasonable exchange policy. If you regret your choice and change your mind you can simply return the item or exchange it for a different one. It’s the old “take the puppy home and if you want, just return it in a couple of days” routine.

The other method is a bit more crude, but just as effective: you remove the chance of buyer’s remorse caused by too many choices by limiting the choices. Apple does this. They don’t have 100 different laptops they have the Macbook –Air or –Pro in one color and two sizes. And when a new model hits the rack, the former choices evaporate into oblivion. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. But for this to work, you need a superior product.

In your spiritual life God has made your choice simple: the true, living, loving, all-powerful saving God, or dead idols who can’t save.

Joshua’s parting words to the nation of Israel was a simple case of choose your love, and then love your choice.

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Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
– 2 Corinthians 5:9 –

AmbitionThe relationship between this verse and the previous is instructive. The “therefore” signals that this is a consequence of the preceding truth. What is the necessary consequence of having the settled preference to depart from this life and be with Christ? What is the necessary consequence of longing for unhindered, sin-free, face-to-face communion with Jesus? If the open enjoyment of Christ’s glory is the great hope of your life in the future, then that means your supreme ambition will be to be pleasing to Him in the present.

Ambition

This phrase, “We also have as our ambition,” speaks to the intensity of Paul’s desire to please Christ above all else. It is the all-consuming, driving force behind all he does. Usually, the concept of ambition has a negative connotation, speaking of someone who is wholly preoccupied with self-promotion and self-glory. A young man enters the corporate world with designs of running the company one day, determined to climb the corporate ladder no matter who he has to step on to get to the top. A politician strategizes and schemes and conspires as to how he can put himself forward, undermine his opponents, and portray himself in the best light, so that he can win the favor of the electorate. A young man has the ambition of playing professional sports, and he shapes his entire childhood around receiving the proper training and coaching, putting in the necessary workouts, watching his diet, getting good grades to go to a Division 1 university—he eats, sleeps, and breathes his game, all so he can wear that uniform and play in front of thousands of fans.

With that same all-consuming passion (albeit expressed positively rather than negatively), the Apostle Paul says: My supreme ambition is to always be pleasing to Christ. Charles Hodge comments, “As ambitious men desire and strive after fame, so Christians long and labor to be acceptable to Christ. Love to him, the desire to please him, and to be pleasing to him, animates their hearts and governs their lives, and makes them do and suffer what heroes do for glory” (500).

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