My Credentials Arrived and I Feel …

If you caught my post from the a few days ago you probably concluded that my credentials have finally arrived; part of the application to legally perform marriage ceremonies in the state of WV includes providing proof of ordination and a letter of good standing with your affiliated organization.

I must admit, I was anxiously awaiting them for a couple of weeks, hoping with each mail delivery they would be a part of the day’s incoming letters and packages. When they did finally arrive I was pretty impressed with them; they are definitely accurately depicted on the website and were exactly what I expected them to be – with one major difference: I felt no different having documents in hand than I did before I received them.

You see, I know that I am ordained by God to do the work He has called me for. I have also been validated by my Brothers and Sisters and peers in my calling and abilities. I don’t want to sound high-minded but many have commented that I am a very good Bible teacher yet I feel totally inadequate for the task. In truth I really only needed these documents for man’s law, not god’s calling. I did, to be honest, desire them to show that I had indeed accepted this call from God to do the work He has appointed to me. I like to equate it a little bit like baptism to a believer: baptism is an act of good conscious toward God setting oneself apart from the world (1 Peter 3:21) – ordination is kind of like a minister’s baptism (if that makes it a little clearer than mud).

So while I needed these things to be able to perform certain rites and rituals under man’s laws, I felt no different, no more validated or “preacher-like”, by having them. But I am glad to have them and glad for the organization that helped me obtain them independently, as well as all those that encouraged and affirmed my calling along the way.

Matthew 11:28-29

Christ has a yoke for our necks–as well as a crown for our heads!Matthew Henry

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 

 We are here invited to Christ as our Priest, Prince, and Prophet, to be saved–and, in order to that, to be ruled and taught by Him. 

First, we must come to Christ as our great high-priest Priest and repose ourselves in Him for salvation.

Second, we must come to Him as our Prince or Ruler, and submit ourselves to Him, “Take My yoke upon you.” This must go along with the former, for Christ is exalted to be both a Prince and a Savior (Act 5:31). The rest He promises is a release from the drudgery of sin–not from the service of God. Christ has a yoke for our necks–as well as a crown for our heads–and this yoke He requires that we should take upon us. 

Third, we must come to Him as our Prophet or Teacher, and set ourselves to learn from Him. We must learn of Him to be “Meek and and humble in heart”–to mortify our pride and passion, which render us so unlike to Him. We must so learn of Christ, for He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way!

Overcome Temptation

When temptations come, let me suggest that you ask God for strength—and also to show you the way He has prepared for your escape. One other word of counsel; be very sure that you do not deliberately place yourself in a position to be tempted. All of us are not subjected to the same weaknesses and temptations. To one, alcohol may be the temptation; to another, it may be impure thoughts and acts; to another, greed and covetousness; to another, criticism and an unloving attitude. Regardless of what it may be, be sure that Satan will tempt you at your weak point, not the strong. Our Lord has given us an example of how to overcome the devil’s temptations. When He was tempted in the wilderness, He defeated Satan every time by the use of the Bible.

Billy Graham

Psalm 23

IMG_0630Down through the last couple of weeks the 23rd Psalm has loomed large in my mind. For many years this psalm was one that I didn’t want to think of or hear very often. Despite it being one of the most well known and loved texts of the Bible, for me it was an unwelcome reminder of tragedy and loss: this was the Scripture preached at my dad’s funeral. Being only nine years old, and him a mere 29, when he died, and associating Psalm 23 with his death, these six verses brought little comfort to me, unlike they do and have for countless others.

Not long ago I read the account of how so old hymns came to be, their stories behind the lyrics. Many of them surprised me, touched me, and made me think more deeply about the words, knowing their inspiration. One such old song is “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and I would like to share a bit about its origin with you as we get ready to delve into our discussion today.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was a black jazz musician from Atlanta. In the twenties he gained a certain amount of notoriety as the composer of jazz tunes with suggestive lyrics, but he gave all that up in 1926 to concentrate exclusively on spiritual music. “Peace in the Valley” is one of his best known songs, but there is a story behind his most famous song that deserves to be told.

In 1932 the times were hard for Dorsey. Just trying to survive the depression years as a working musician meant tough going. On top of that, his music was not accepted by many people. Some said it was much too worldly-the devil’s music, they called it. Many years later Dorsey could laugh about it. He said, “I got kicked out of some of the best churches in the land.” But the real kick in the teeth came one night in St. Louis when he received a telegram informing him that his pregnant wife had died suddenly.

Dorsey was so filled with grief that his faith was shaken to the roots, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, he turned to the discipline he knew best-music. In the midst of agony he wrote the following lyrics:
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light;
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

As we begin to read this psalm I think it’s clear that David was a man of some age, experience, and wisdom by the time he, under inspiration, penned it. I imagine that he was reflecting on his youth and of the many times in his life that God had protected him, provided for him, and pondering the good things that layer yet ahead for him in his life.

Psalms 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

For David, and the culture in general during biblical times, the shepherd was a very familiar figure; David had been a shepherd himself in his earlier life. The Lord is referred to as our Shepherd throughout Scripture, Old and New Testament, among other places:
Gen 48:15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,
Psa 80:1 To the chief Musician upon Shoshannimeduth, A Psalm of Asaph. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.
Isa 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Joh 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Heb 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
1Pe 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
1Pe 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Think about this: the all-knowing, all powerful, always present Creator of everything that was, is, or will be willingly takes on this lowly role for you and me; pretty humbling, isn’t it?

Being provided for by this Shepherd, how could His flock, us, ever be in want? He who is their Shepherd has all power in heaven and earth; therefore he can protect them. The silver and gold are his, and the cattle on a thousand hills; and therefore he can sustain them. He has all that they need, and his heart is full of love to mankind; and therefore he will withhold from them no manner of thing that is good.
Psa 34:9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
Psa 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Rom 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Psalms 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Places of tender, young growth grass. The idea and imagery being a place of tender softness, perfectly suited to cool, sooth, feed, and rest the flock. These waters are of stillness, which invite one to rest and relaxation, in contrast to churning streams of turmoil and stagnant ponds of offense. This is a place where the flock are fully satisfied, in peaceful rest, and provided for by the Shepherd.
Isa 49:9-10 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. (10) They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.

Psalms 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Literally, “He causes my life to return.” Or, “He quickens me,” or causes me to live. The word soul” here means life, or spirit, and not the soul in the strict sense in which the term is now used. It refers to the spirit when exhausted, weary, or sad; and the meaning is, that God quickens or vivifies the spirit when thus exhausted. The reference is not to the soul as wandering or backsliding from God, but to the life or spirit as exhausted, wearied, troubled, anxious, worn down with care and toil. the heart, thus exhausted, He re-animates. He brings back its vigor. He encourages it; excites it to new effort; fills it with new joy. He leads me along the straight and narrow road, the path this good in God’s eyes, in the ways that are pleasing to Him. And He does this for His glory, so that His name may be honored.
Jer 14:7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.

The feeling expressed in this verse is that of confidence in God; an assurance that he would always lead his people in the path in which they should go. This he will always do if people will follow the directions of His word, the teachings of His Spirit, and the guidance of His providence.

Psalms 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The idea here is to show that no matter how dark, dreary or gloomy the path may seem, God is still there, too. He is guiding and protecting us during the lowest of the low times, the times when we feel most exposed and alone; the Shepard never leaves His flock. The true believer has nothing to fear in the gloomiest scenes of life; he has nothing to fear in the valley of death; he has nothing to fear in the grave; he has nothing to fear in the world beyond.
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

The shepherd used his staff, likely the hook-ended stick we are so familiar with today, and his rod, a walking staff-type of tool, to guide and protect the flock. With the rod he could fend off predators, spread open brushy pathways, and prod the ground for hidden pits, snares, and the like. The crook was used for similar tasks but also to grasp the leg of a sheep that might be nearing the jagged edge of the cliff, or to free the animal that had become ensnared in some briar patch. These instruments of protection and guidance are a comfort to us, to know that they are there, as our Shepard cares for and guides us.

Psalms 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

This verse refers back to, or reinforces, verse one “I shall not want”; the word “table” is equal with the term “feast”, meaning “prepares a feast for me”. As the psalmist has laid out, God is our Shepard and cares for us, His flock, making provision for our every need. David, in his lifetime, had many accounts recorded in the Bible that could have been the “idea” that spawned this thought, and I’m sure there are many more that occurred that aren’t documented in God’s Word. He probably had many references in his life that could have felt as if God had literally laid out a banquet for him, while his enemies watched him feast and were powerless to interrupt David’s meal. The oil represents prosperity and rejoicing, coupled with cup that is running over, shows the abundance of good that David felt in his life and, rightly, attributed to being provided by God. We, too, today can and should have this abundance bubbling over in our hearts, our cup, as members of the same flock and with the same unchanging Shepard as our guide and provider.
Mal 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Though he knew that at some point his life on earth would end, David expresses confidence that as long as he resided on this side of eternity God would continue to provide for and protect him. This is the language of a heart overflowing with joy and gratitude in the recollection of the past, and full of glad anticipation, resulting from his experience of the past, in regard to the future. David wanted to fulfil the remainder of his days serving and honoring The Lord, dwelling in His presence the rest of his natural life; this expresses the desire of a true child of God. Members of the flock today should and can be just as certain as David was of all this and more; David didn’t have the full revelation of Scripture or the Gospel that we have today. By faith, David knew in his heart this was all true for him both here and in the next life and the children of God today should be just as confident and seek just as diligently as David did to serve, honor and praise our Shepard; those assured promises are ours, too.
2Co 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Php 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

If you live long enough, you will experience heartache, disappointment, and sheer helplessness. The Lord is our most precious resource in those hours of trauma.
Psa 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble

Tom Dorsey understood that, as did David. His song was originally written as a way of coping with his personal pain, but even today it continues to bless thousands of others when they pass through times of hardship. David’s song was written in a similar fashion, looking back upon events of his life. But David’s song not only comforts us but lifts us up knowing those promises the Shepherd made to him are still valid for us today.

The question at the end of the thought here is a simple one, but the most profound one you or anyone will ever answer: Can you truly say “The Lord is my shepherd”? If not, none of these promises, protections, assurances, none of any of this applies to you/them; these belong only to the flock, not the world. But if you are outside this flock you can be taken into the fold by the Shepherd, you need only come with believing faith and ask Him.

Originally posted and taught on 11/8/14.

Psalm 23

I’d planned a discussion yesterday in Sunday school about Psalm 23 but “things” aren’t working as planned. Therefore I thought I’d take the opportunity to make that discussion into a short blog post today instead.

The 23rd Psalm is probably the most well know, recognized, and loved of the Psalms. Penned under inspiration by David, we have little more knowledge of than that of it; we can only speculate on the time, events, etcetera, that were going on in his life at that time. I suspect that it was written in his later years, when he had more life-experience and at a time of sweet reflection of the protection and guidance God had provided in his lifetime.

The first verse of the psalm (the only one I’ll touch on here) sets the mood or tone, if you will, of the entire text – at least in my humble opinion. Having been a shepherd, David evokes this imagery as he speaks of God Himself, and a Scripture portrays Him. The New Testament and Old refer many times to our Lord as our Shepard as well. Can you imagine, think for a moment – the God of all power and glory, Creator of all things, Savior of the world willingly humbles Himself to be our Shepherd .

How can we, as children of God, really ever “want” for anything? His Word promises us that He will provide our every need. I know, we often get “want” and “need” confused- but God never does. Most of us have much more than we really need, physically speaking. And we all have exactly and everything we need spiritually if we are walking close to our Shepherd.

It is so good to be numbered among His flock.


My Father’s Business

November 1, 2014

My Father’s Business

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luk 2:49)

Here we have one of those moments in the life of Jesus that everybody knows about – even people who are not at all familiar with much of what the Bible says. Indeed, you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard about the boy Jesus at twelve years old, in the Temple confounding the religious leaders with his understanding and answers concerning the things of God.

His parents, Mary and Joseph, had taken him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They had traveled together in a large company from Nazareth, and when the time came to return home they thought that Jesus was with one of the other families. After about a day’s travel, perhaps about dinner time, they realized he was not anywhere with the group. So they turned around and went back to Jerusalem, and there they found him in the Temple.

“Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?” Mary said to Him, “Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luk 2:49)

This was a game-changer. The Bible tells us plainly “they understood not the saying which he spoke unto them.” Not only were they doctors and lawyers and religious leaders astonished by His answers, but Joseph and Mary were astounded by His awareness of the high calling upon His life.

The incident concludes, “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Now here is the thing that strikes me the most in all of this. Jesus was twelve when this occurred, and He is at that time fully committed to be about His Father’s business. Yet, we do not see or hear anything else about Him until He is thirty years old. That’s eighteen years unaccounted for except to say that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Is it possible that long seasons of unseen and uncelebrated faithfulness are part of “my Father’s business?” And could it be that this stretch of seemingly endless silence and mediocrity you are slogging through may in fact be part of a bigger, deeper work God is doing in you…and eventually through you?

“Have heart,” Jesus says to you today, “you are employed in My Father’s Business!”

From the daily devotional “Rylisms”.


Tending Flowerbeds

I remember a story my Papaw once told on himself, which my mother has repeated many times; she laughs herself nearly to tears every time she tells it and I recall him chuckling pretty heartily as he told it, too. I’ll relay it as near as my memory allows:

As far back as I remember, Granny always had flowers growing around the house, be it in beds, pots or where ever she thought they looked nice, of all different types. She had houseplants and perennials, annuals and the occasional vegetable; my grandmother had a green thumb, that’s for sure.

Once while she was at work, Papaw took it upon himself to “help her” in the flowerbeds after he had finished up his yard work. He was very pleased with all he got done that day and looked forward to her surprise when she arrived home that afternoon.

He was sitting inside, probably having a glass of iced water, when he heard her pull into the driveway. It took a few minutes for her to make her was inside, longer than normal, since she had stopped to see the work Papaw had judiciously put into the flowerbeds for her. The smile he wore as she entered the room was soon replaced by a look of “uh oh” when he realized Granny was wear “that” face instead of the grin he’d anticipated.

“Bill, what happened to my flowers?” she asked him.

“Well, after I finished mowing, I saw your flowers were full of weeds so I pulled them for you”, he replied.

Her face went intensely red at his answer. I only wish I could show you what I remember his face looking like telling the story and what I’m sure her’s looked like! It makes me laugh just picturing it.

With finger-pointing and waving and voice going instantly gruff Granny said, “Those weren’t weeds Bill! You pulled up all the flowers that were getting ready to bloom and left me with the dead ones; I won’t have any more blooms this whole summer now!”

He really, honestly thought he was helping Granny, not ruining her garden. I probably don’t need to tell you that Papaw never weeded Granny’s gardens again.

This story made me think about the parable of the wheat and the tares, or weeds. It is a strong lesson that Christ gave us, one we need to understand and heed. Let us begin with reading from Matthew 13.

Matthew 13:24-30

24  Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

25  But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

26  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

27  So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

28  He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

29  But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

30  Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

And then a few verses later in the same chapter:

Matthew 13:37-43

37  He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

38  The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

39  The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

40  As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. (Or end of time)

41  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

42  And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

43  Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

I suppose the first thing to address here is about “time”: I’ve heard folks say this is fulfilled prophesy and not for us today and other, similar things. Well, to be frank with you, prophesy isn’t my area of interest, so to speak and I’m not too into discussing the subtleties of it, or dispensations. But I will assert this: This is as much for us today as it was for those who personally heard it roll of Jesus’ lips. This is a parable, teaching tool, which is still very much relevant as I write this and will be until the literal end of time.

The next time we need to understand is this: What is a tare? According to Wikipedia the definition is thus:

Darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The spikes of L. temulentum are more slender than those of wheat. The spikelets are oriented edgeways to the rachis and have only a single glume, while those of wheat are oriented with the flat side to the rachis and have two glumes. The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black.

The similarity to young wheat is uncanny. One Bible dictionary says this about the Darnel “These stalks … if sown designedly throughout the fields, would be inseparable from the wheat, from which, even when growing naturally, and by chance, they are, at first sight, hardly distinguishable.”

So, who are these “tares”? They are the same, in description, that the church has been dealing with as long as she has existed, longer really, as they extend well back into the Old Testament: The ones who profess outwardly their “religion” while their hearts are far from God or Spirit filled.

Mat 15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, (8) This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mat 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

Old Testament and new, the Bible speaks of these tares always being present:

Psa 55:12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:

Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

So this is nothing new, even though it may seem it to us.

The reason for these tares among us is simple, and given to us in the text “an enemy hath done this”, referring of course to the devil, Jesus later says to the disciples. Satan will, and always has done whatever he can to disrupt the church and weaken the saints.

2 Co 11:13-14 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Speculation beyond this point is useless, really, though we often will ponder and discuss it; God doesn’t tell us all the reasons He allows certain things. Some of these things He uses to test and strengthen our faith and dependence on Him. This, I think, is an area He allows and uses for such good.

Then question then begs to be answered, what do we do with the tares? Being children of God, heirs and joint heirs with Christ, we naturally want to eradicate them, pulled them up by their roots and toss them out of our midst. We think that these false-brethren reflect poorly upon the church. We think they allow the world to see these false-fruits, rotten fruit, if you will, and blaspheme the name and work of God and His children. We think about the relationships that are damaged among the true members of the Kingdom by these false ones and we are passionately moved to do something. And we are motivated by love, therefore to our credit, feeling we must do whatever we must to rectify the situation. But yet, we are wrong.

The Lord tells us why we are wrong in the very text we are looking at today; we, of and on our own, risk damaging the true “harvest”, plucking up by accident the real “wheat” in our attempts to right the wrongs we see.

God in His perfection and righteous judgment with sort out the tares from among the wheat in the end; He tells us so. How terrible would any one of us feel if we were to take this task into our hands lightly, and make no mistake compared to God’s judging of the situation all we can do is take it lightly, to learn later that we caused a brother or sister to stumble? And God forbid that stumble that we caused have eternal consequences on the soul of that other person.

Granny’s flowerbeds weren’t the same for some time after Papaw’s “help”. Being perennials, the flowers did what they do and propagated in time; I don’t know how long it took but they eventually grew back and looked nice again. But every time Papaw saw those flowers it was a reminder to him of the mistake, an honest one mind you, that he had made and the consequences of it. The church is a lot like the flowers in this story: though she be damaged or weakened, she will, through her members, work and grow again, producing a nice harvest in time. Like the perennials, the time it will take her will depend on man things, but the addition of new “flowers” is sure. You, however, don’t want to have a perpetual reminder of your “gardening mistake” like Papaw had: Your mistake would be much more costly, hurtful, and it could be the end for others and possibly even your our spiritual demise.

As we close today, think back a few weeks ago when we spoke about Joseph. He told his brothers that what they had intended for evil God had used for good. But first, when he realized the situation, he said:

Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

We would be wise to follow Joseph’s example when we find ourselves in a “gardening conundrum” my friends.

Taking “Holy” Out of Matrimony

This past week the news and social media have been abuzz about the recent non-decision of the US Supreme Court on the ban of “gay marriage”. As I understand it, this decision to make no decision on the issue has paved the way to make same-sex marriage legal across the United States. It was a mere hours before there were people applying for marriage licenses and actually getting married under this newly lifted ban, with the WV Attorney General saying they had no other choice than to allow the issuance of the licenses. This news was a shocking surprise to many folks, myself included; if you had asked me (or many other Mountain State residents) a year ago, or less, if this would happen here I would have said no. But then I didn’t think it would become the national “phenomenon” it has either. The lifting of this ban is taking “holy” out of holy matrimony – and it is not acceptable according to God’s Word, no matter what any other person or official thinks or says. It is my hope in this lesson today to arm you better to answer questions you may well encounter, possibly in your own mind even, as this country rushes to embrace yet another ungodly act under the ruse of tolerance.

Marriage is an institution that God Himself ordained at the beginning of human history, the charter of which is Gen 2:24
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. The Hebrew word rendered as “wife” is Strong’s number H802 and is defined as:

Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition:

1) woman, wife, female

1a) woman (opposite of man)

1b) wife (woman married to a man)

1c) female (of animals)

1d) each, every (feminine pronoun)

There are no vagaries in this statement, there is nothing to misunderstand or misconstrue, honestly, here. Yes, the woman was made to be a companion and helper to the man but the intent and purpose of marriage was and is procreation; God did not give Adam another man to be his helper and companion. Another point we will make here is on polygamy: being true in all of its way, God’s Word tells us of polygamy but never approves of it. The accounts of Scripture always include the good, the bad, and the ugly of what happened, not whitewashing the “story” to make the “heroes” look better than they were, fallen folks, just as capable of sin as you and I.

In the New Testament, Jesus repeats and reinforces the definition of marriage and then goes on to broaden our understanding of it:

Mat 19:4-6 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, (5) And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? (6) Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (In Mark 10:5-9 Jesus repeats these words).

And the Greek word He used is at least as equally powerful: G1135- a woman; specifically a wife. The New Testament uses this same word time and again to mean one thing – a woman married to a man; nowhere, however, do we read of a same-sex marriage. Crystal-clearly, Scripture tells us that marriage is for one man and one woman.

I think that almost everyone has heard of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah and the angry wrath God displayed at their sins. I am fairly sure that we have all heard and/or read of the Bible saying that a man shall not lay with (or know) another man, too. I don’t think anyone will disagree that Scripture speaks clearly and strongly against this act. A few verses from both the Old and New Testaments to illustrate what God’s Word actually says about this are:

Lev 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Gen 19:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

1Ki 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.

Romans 1:26-27 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: (27) And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

1Co 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Timothy 1:9-10 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (10) For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

Jud 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

To make it a bit clearer, possibly, without going through the meaning word-byword- of the translated words that are not familiar to most of us, I thought it prudent to include a modern translation (ESV) of each passage from the New Testament quoted above; I include the NT only here because we are under the NT Covenant of Grace but the position of God on the issue has always been the same.

Rom 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; (27) and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

1Co 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

1Ti 1:9-10 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, (10) the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

Jud 1:7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

But there are those that will try to excuse it away as cultural misunderstandings. For instance, there was a lot of male prostitution that took place as a form of idolatry, a truth that Scripture and history bares out. And they are many who will say that people are “born that way”, thus laying blame at God’s feet rather than taking responsibility for their actions. What do I mean by that? I mean that each and every one of us is born into a fallen world as fallen, depraved humans. I mean that we all have the capacity to lie, steal, murder, blaspheme, and, yes, commit moral and fleshly sin, too. The difference is whose who exercise their freewill to choose not to commit the sins or who do and take responsibility for them now (because at Judgment we will all be held accountable for our unrepentant deeds). God is “no respecter of persons” and He is no respecter of sins either. We may think of telling a lie as a much smaller offense than committing murder but God sees them all the same – as sin. And fornicators and adulterers will receive that same punishment as murders in the end. People in all ages or times have always tried to come up with a way to explain away their sins – idolatry then and genetics now – but God’s Word is clear about the sin, the condemnation, and the judgment of the sins.

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Interestingly enough, the word translated as “whoremonger” is the Greek word pornos (G4205) and means something that is probably different than you might expect:

Thayer Definition:

1) a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire

2) a male prostitute

3) a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator

We all have the capacity or ability to commit all kinds of different sin. And even though it isn’t “politically correct” to say so, homosexuality is a sin according to God’s Word. Same-sex relationships are not only sin but they certainly are not eligible to be called marriages according to the Bible, regardless of what “man” may say. But there are other, greater issues at stake here; those who participate in and/or condone these acts will ultimately have to answer before God for their actions and decisions.

As of my writing this, as far as I know, it is not illegal for an ordained minister to refuse to perform one of these ceremonies. Nor, as far as I’m aware, is it illegal for a church to refuse to allow one of these ceremonies to take place on their property. But I fear this is a very temporary situation. And with the proclivity many of the liberal groups and individuals to press against anyone, person or organization, that refuses to confirm to their agendas it seems to me only a matter of time before some kind of legal battle will be brought against the “offender” in the name of equality and tolerance. This very idea should make us think very hardly how we will react when this inevitably happens.

And then there is the way that the world is blaspheming the very term that Christ uses to speak of His relationship with the church. John the Baptist said of Christ and the church:

John 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

Jesus used the term of Himself:

Mark 2:19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

The Apostle Paul develops the idea more in his writings:

2Co 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

And again in Revelation the writer says:

Rev 19:7
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Again and again the Word of God uses this most holy, sanctified ceremony to symbolize Christ Jesus’ relationship with the church, not just in the few passages quoted here. Now the world wants to blaspheme the term God Himself coined, that we hold so dear in our faith, to describe the joining of one man and one woman and the metaphor for Christ and His church by using it to describe a most unbiblical act.

We, the Church, the Bride, must arm ourselves with knowledge of what God says on this subject. I am not advocating any type of hate, disrespectful language, any political agenda nothing of the kind. I do believe that we must look at this subject, and all things, through the lens of God’s Word and what He says about it. And we must stand strong in what the Bible teaches. We must be able to provide biblical answers to those who question why we do not support or approve of this unholy union.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

But before we can do this we have to have a solid knowledge of Scripture on the subject, rightly dividing the truth.

2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

I said earlier that God does not differentiate or rank sins; and He doesn’t. I also said that I was in no way making a political statement, attempting to cause pain or hurt, incite violence or “hate speech”, nor any other such thing; and I am not. What I hope is that this will open hearts and minds to see that the person living in this lifestyle is just as lost as the drunkard, the addict, the thief, or any other person living in sin; they are no better nor worse in God’s eyes. And to that end it is my sincere desire that when we find ourselves in this situation or conversation we will handle it with gentleness and meekness, although unwaveringly. I doubt very much that Jesus would agree with us ostracizing, being unnecessarily harsh with, or outright rejecting them; that is not how He treated sinners during His earthly ministry and it isn’t how He treated us when we, too, were lost, just as lost as these folks are.


Friday evening my wife and I were running some errands. On our way home we were discussing some things that were, well, not exactly the most uplifting topics we could have been on. She said, “Let’s change the subject and not talk about this anymore the rest of the weekend”, a welcome idea to me. It was merely a few seconds later when I saw a rainbow, almost appear, as if it were just for me. In an instant my mood went from glum to happy and thankful, as I remember what God’s Word said about the rainbow and the promise that is associated with it.

Genesis 9:11-17
And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. (12) And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: (13) I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (14) And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: (15) And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. (16) And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. (17) And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

I think it is worth noting that the word rendered as “bow” in this passage most assuredly is “rainbow”. In the original Hebrew it is the word qesheth (Strong’s number H7198) and the exact same word used here

Ezekiel 1:28
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

I can scarcely imagine what Noah might have been feeling at this time. Think of all that he had seen and endured both before and after the rains began. Imagine that sheer joy he must have had at knowing that the Flood was over and he and his family would be upon dry land again. And then imagine seeing this wondrous sight, this bright, iridescent prism of brilliant colors we call a rainbow arcing across the sky. Now, add in hearing this beautiful promise from God Himself being proclaimed to him. Noah must have been awestruck.

Among the many great truths taught to us in the book of Genesis, perhaps no lesson is more easily seen and understood than the correlation between man’s sin and the resultant disorder and the cure ordained by God in his wisdom and mercy. Think not only of the Fall in the Garden and the chaos that spun out from it but also of the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the account of the Flood, which are speaking of here, among others, all sin-filled situations than mankind caused, all remedied by our holy God.

The rainbow is given here as a sign of the covenant of God and mankind, Noah directly and then on through his descendants, and is a uniquely perfect symbol I think. The rainbow is equally dependent upon the clouds and the sun; it cannot exist without both the grey storm and the warming rays of sunshine. Our sins represented by the storms and the free gift of unmerited grace offered by God represented by the sunlight gives us the rainbow of hope that would otherwise be nonexistent. This makes the rainbow the perfect type or shadow of what was to come through and by the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:19-20  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  20  Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Not only is the rainbow a fitting symbol of the covenant of grace, being the product equally of storm and sunshine, it is also type of that equally distinctive peculiarity of Christ’s Gospel that sorrow and suffering do have their place and purpose in this life, both corporately and individually. If you look around the world today you will see many false religions. But you’ll also see many false gospels that wrongly teach everyone should be healthy, wealthy, and have all their hearts desire. God’s Word teaches nothing of the sort, and warns us against these false doctrines.

Galatians 1:8-9  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  9  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Read Isaiah chapter 53, where the prophet writes about Who we know today as The Suffering Servant. Read in Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58 where Jesus says He doesn’t even have a place to lay His head. No, there most assuredly will be suffering and sorrows in this world. It is the true Gospel of Christ Jesus alone which converts sorrow and suffering into instruments for the attainment of higher and more enduring blessings, eternal ones. In all God’s dealings with His people, when He brings a cloud upon the earth, He sets His bow in that cloud, insomuch that they cease to fear when they enter into it by reason of the presence of Him whose glory inhabits it.

Isaiah 54:9-10  For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.  10  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.

To fully understand the rainbow we must turn to the New Testament, where the types and shadows, the mysteries and allusions are opened and the full truth of the Gospel is illuminated for us.

In the book of Revelation we read of the One upon the throne with a rainbow around the throne

Revelation 4:3  And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

And again, a few chapters later, the writer tells us of Him having a rainbow upon His head.

Revelation 10:1  And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:

We know that the apostle John was writing of Jesus in these passages and throughout the book of Revelation. It is here, in the New Testament we find the close and inseparable explanation of the link between the cloud and the rainbow, between judgment and mercy, between the darkness of the one and the brightness of the other. It is in the person and work of Jesus Christ do we find the culmination of judgment and mercy, the entire basis of grace. Just as the rainbow spans the arch of the sky and becomes a link between earth and heaven, so, in the person and work of Christ, is beheld the unchangeableness and endlessness of that covenant of grace which, like Jacob’s ladder, maintains the communication between earth and heaven, and thus, by bringing God very near to man, affords man the opportunity to be back in right fellowship with God.

Here on Earth the continued appearance of the rainbow depends, as it always has, upon both the cloud and sunshine. For the remaining time the earth has left, in heaven, the rainbow will always point backward to man’s fall, and onward to the permanency of a covenant which is “ordered in all things and sure.” (2 Samuel 23:5). But someday the work of judgment will be accomplished, and the door of grace will be forever closed, and final judgment will be passed. It is will be then that the cloud will have no more place in heaven.

So, the next time you see a rainbow, I hope that it stirs within your heart thoughts of judgment, mercy, and grace. I hope it brightens your day knowing how much God loves you, and how much Christ Jesus wants to be your Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). And most of all I hope that you accept His Gospel and His offer to be those things to you.