Posted in Ephesians, Revelation, Song of Songs

The Proposal

“I am dark but lovely.” Song of Songs 1:5

I love to officiate weddings because engagement is such a beautiful picture of what is happening on planet earth right now. Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and we will sup together.” (Revelation 3:20)  Jesus’ knock is His proposal to the human race today.

When Paul gives the original marriage text of a man leaving his father and his mother to be joined to his wife, and the two becoming one he gives this explanation, “This is a mystery, but I speak of the relationship of Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32) Every earthly wedding is pointing to another wedding; the wedding feast of the Lamb. Right now, everyone who has said “yes” to Jesus is engaged to Him and called to be part of that eternal partnership.

The reason I preach the gospel at weddings is that many people who don’t regularly come to a church assume God’s not interested in them, and nothing could be farther from the truth. They don’t feel like they’re “the type” of person Jesus loves because of sin they’ve committed or shame they’re carrying or because they haven’t been to church lately. On a mission trip, I gave the example of a $20 bill to demonstrate our value before God. First I held up a crisp $20 bill and asked how much it was worth. Then I stepped on it leaving a footprint. “Now how much is it worth?” I asked. Then I crumbled it up in my fist and threw it away. When I found where it had gone, I picked it up, unwrinkled it, and asked for a third time, “How much is it worth now?”

When people betray us, abuse us, or belittle us, it’s easy to feel we have less value. When we sin against others and against God and experience the shame and regret of having done things we can’t take back, we naturally feel devalued. But before God we’re like that $20 bill. Nothing we’ve done, or had done to us makes God love us less.

We are dark, but lovely to Him. You are the one He desires and He is knocking. He’s knocking through pain, through beauty, through sin you can’t conquer on your own… even through weddings, church services, and weekly devotionals! But no one gets engaged just by someone asking; we need to say “yes.” We need to open the door by saying from our heart, “Jesus, come in, love me, wash me, and make me who You want me to be.”

Posted in Ephesians

For Women Only – How to Respect Your Husband

“Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

When a husband treats his wife in an unloving way, her automatic response is to treat him without respect. But instead of withholding respect until he “deserves it,” God commands wives to respect their husbands regardless of what they feel the score is. Practically, how does one respect her husband?

  1. Respect his dreams. Men are risk takers which means that they will make mistakes. Mistakes aren’t failures but they make men feel like one. Instead of reminding your husband of his mistakes, encourage him to get back up and dream again. Every mistake is an opportunity from God to grow in character. Believe in your man. Men like to win and they hate to fail, so if you make them feel like they can’t win in your marriage, they will stop trying. 
  2. Respect his needs. Men are fairly simple and have two main needs: 1) Space. Women often relax by venting how they feel while men relax by withdrawing. It’s not that he won’t talk, he just doesn’t want to talk right now. It’s not because he’s mad, it’s because he is stressed, so he needs room. 2) Sex. For whatever reason a man’s sex drive is usually stronger than a woman’s in his 20’s and 30’s so he will want to make love more often than she will. If you are going to be the exclusive woman in his life (which you deserve to be – and that includes him refraining from all pornography), then you sometimes need to be willing even when there hasn’t been a highly romantic lead up to it. There is something called, “maintenance sex.”
  3. Respect his position. God has made men responsible for the home which is not a right for a husband to claim, but a responsibility he needs to accept. Men often abdicate their place if a woman wants to take it or if he thinks she can do it better than he can. He needs your encouragement to step up even if he isn’t as spiritual as you may be. Do this as an honoring wife; not sounding like his mother.
Posted in 1Corinthians, Ephesians

For Men Only – How to Love Your Wife

“Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

When a wife treats her husband with disrespect his automatic response is to treat her in an unloving way. But instead of withholding love until she “deserves it,” God commands husbands to love their wives regardless of what you feel the score is. Practically, how does one love his wife?

  1. By listening to her and respecting how she feels. The first evidence of real love from God’s point of view is “love is patient…” (1Corinthians 13:4) Men tend to withdraw when they are under stress, but women tend to talk it out. If she feels like you aren’t listening to her it gives the message that she’s not important to you. If she expresses frustration with you by saying, “you never…” or “you always…” it is not time to defend yourself because in your mind her accusation isn’t true. Men, we need to go deeper and recognize that it is true that she feels that way right now, and that her feelings need to be validated. Here’s the question our wives want us to ask, “Do you want me to just listen, or do you want a solution?”
  2. By talking to her. She needs to hear your feelings and not just a list of what you accomplished. God’s main reason for marriage was that spouses would not “be alone.” Consider that there is no greater loneliness than to be married and feel alone; at least single people have hope of finding someone to share life with. When you won’t open up to your wife she feels desperately alone with nowhere to turn. God gave you to her so she wouldn’t feel that way.
  3. By reconciling with her. Be willing to say these words: “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” Pride hides and ultimately divides; humility is willing to do the honorable thing even if it means death to self. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Jesus died before anyone had responded to Him. Men of honor initiate reconciliation even when they don’t “feel” like it because it is what is best for their marriage and family.
Posted in Ephesians

Living a Life of Love

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1

There is a famous quote that encourages us to “love like you’ve never been hurt.” After we’ve been hurt, offended, betrayed, slandered, and overlooked it’s hard to get back up and love again. Yet without being able to receive and give love, life has little meaning. So how do we live a life of love?

First, receive God’s love. You and I love the most generously when we feel loved first. People may or may not love you; some people are so broken that they couldn’t love you if they tried. But God’s love is full, free, and unwavering.  “As dearly loved children… live a life of love.” It is as we grow in receiving His love and delight in us, even in our brokenness, that we are able to extend love to others even when they’re broken. Did you know that you are dearly loved? Believe it, receive it, embrace it, and then confess it. The enemy will try to keep us feeling condemned, so that we have nothing but condemnation for others. Don’t let him do it!

Then forgive those who have hurt you as part of your love for God. Jesus gave Himself up for us while we were hurting Him and it was received by the Father as a fragrant offering. We give the same pleasing fragrance to God when we choose to forgive others for His sake. Jesus didn’t ask Peter how much he loved the sheep; He asked, “Peter, do you love Me?” Do you love Jesus today? Then He has something He wants you to do to prove it; forgive those who have hurt you. Learn to live a life of love in practical ways. Notice the people around you; ask them questions and care about their answers; do what you can to lighten their burden and pray for them. Simple, yet profound.

Posted in Ephesians, John, Matthew, Revelation

The Mysterious Bride

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” Matthew 22:2

In this parable a king (God the Father) is having a wedding feast for his son (Jesus), and his people (the human race) are invited to attend. The first invited (the Jewish race) reject the invitation which leads to their judgment (Matthew 22:7), yet this leads to others being invited (the Gentiles), both good and bad, but even then, “many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

What is unclear is who the son is marrying. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells another parable about a coming wedding feast and this time the people being described are in the wedding party. There are ten bridesmaids who are waiting with the bride (who is not mentioned in the parable) for the bridegroom’s party to come and take them to the wedding feast. If it was an honor to be invited by the king to a wedding feast for his son, it is a greater honor to be in the wedding party. But we are still left with the question: Who exactly is Jesus marrying?

Finally we have a definitive answer in Ephesians 5:31-32: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” You and I aren’t just invited to the wedding; we aren’t just part of the bridal party; we are called to be the bride! Our invitation is actually a proposal from God. No wonder John wrote, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

Yet when Paul writes the words, “…and the two…,” he is saying that Jesus is one – the Bridegroom, and the church is the other one – the bride. You and I aren’t called to be brides, but to be part of the bride. No wonder Jesus prayed that the Father would make us one! (John 17:21) Individually we are sons and daughters, but we are only the bride together. One bride – there isn’t a young bride and an old bride; there isn’t a black bride, a Latino bride, and a white bride; there isn’t a male bride and a female bride; there isn’t a rich bride and a poor bride; and there aren’t Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Charismatic brides. There is only one bride which is why pleasing God must involve us letting go of our prejudices, and learning to love and accept one another in Christ.

Jesus is calling, inviting, knocking, and yes, even proposing to you. Will you refuse the One who gave His life for you, or will you respond by giving Him all of your heart?

Posted in 2Corinthians, Ephesians, Isaiah, John, Matthew, Proverbs, Psalms

The Secret of the Lord

“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” Psalm 25:14

The margin of my Bible has “intimacy” as an alternate translation of “secret.” I believe that  a certain measure of the fear of the Lord is necessary for anyone to come to Christ. Proverbs says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) A revelation of God’s love for us in our weakness and immaturity is necessary to grow us up in our faith. (Ephesians 3:17-19) But I think to walk close to God’s Presence another level of the fear of the Lord is required. 

It says in Isaiah 11:3 that Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord. He experienced the secret promised by Psalm 25:14, enjoying the continual intimate friendship of His Father. He didn’t fear man, He didn’t fear death, He didn’t fear storms, He didn’t fear lack of supplies – He only feared God and cared only about obeying what the Father was saying. (John 5:19)

Maybe the idea of the fear of the Lord seems heavy to you. I think it was just the opposite for Jesus which was why He was able to say, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) He only had to please the Father to be a complete success. Paul said something similar to this: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent (from the body), to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…” (2Corinthians 5:9-11a)  

Only one ambition! What a simple life, what an easy yoke, what a light burden. May God pour out the Spirit of the fear of the Lord on each of us and make it our delight for His glory.

Posted in Ephesians

Receiving God’s Love

“For this reason I pray to the Father… that your roots will go down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand… how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.” Ephesians 3:14; 17

A few years ago I had the privilege of doing a youth retreat in another city.  During a session I called a young woman out and asked her name, then gave her this word: “When Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king, Jesse had overlooked his son, David.  David wasn’t even invited to the feast.  But God’s eye was on David; God saw him and God wants you to know that He sees you.”  Later that night, after I preached, I invited any who wanted to drink of the Spirit to come up and receive prayer.  This young woman came up and when I prayed the Holy Spirit touched her in a dramatic way as He was touching many others.

 I didn’t know what God was doing in her until the pastor of that church was driving me back to the airport on Monday morning.  He told me that she had told her mom on the way to church (we were back from the retreat by then) that she had a new peace and felt different.  Her mom shared this with the pastor because to her this was a miracle. She had sent her daughter on this retreat out of desperation.

This girl had grown up in a single parent home and had become wild and agitated all the time.  There was nothing the mom who loved her could do to help.  Others had tried to help, but it didn’t seem to change anything.  Yet God saw her.  God spoke to her.  God touched her and that changed everything.

 Maybe you’ve been overlooked by people and have felt small and rejected.  Please know God’s loving eye is on you.  Why not open up your heart again and ask Him to speak to you and touch you in a new way?

Posted in 2Corinthians, Ephesians

The Call to Sexual Purity

“For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.  But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.” 2Corinthians 11:2-3

 Why has God given us sexual desire and attraction to the opposite sex and then commanded that we control that desire and attraction to save it only for our present or future spouse?  To get to the why of sexual purity we have to go back to why God made sex in the first place.  When we understand what it pictures we will more easily be able to accept and even delight in His call to sexual purity.

 In the text above, Paul says we are called to be the bride of Christ and have only eyes for Him; pure and undivided in our devotion.  In Ephesians 5:31-32 he says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”  So marriage was created to speak of this higher relationship with Christ and human beings.

 The two become one not by intercourse but by this “leaving” all others, and this “joining” to only one another.  The two becoming one flesh, sexual intercourse, consummates and celebrates that shared devotion to only one another.  Why did God make sex fun?  Why did he give us desires that are fulfilled in this act of passion?  Because it represents the spiritual pleasure available to us in our union with Christ.  There is fullness of joy in His presence.  But our union to Him is not based on spiritual pleasure, but on His devotion to us and our singular devotion to Him.  Spiritual pleasures make it easier to stay devoted to Him, and it strengthens our resolve.  It makes our relationship more than a duty; He is our delight.

 God created sex within marriage to sweeten our commitment to our spouse, so they wouldn’t be our duty, but our delight. Our singular commitment to them pictures for all the world to see our commitment to Christ who left His Father’s home, took on flesh, died and rose again, just so we could be His forever.

Posted in 1John, 1Timothy, 2Peter, Ephesians, Galatians, Hebrews, John, Psalms, Romans

The Value of Godliness

“Train yourself to be godly.  Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1Timothy 4:7-8

 To train ourselves to be godly is to reorder our lives in a way that makes living close to God our highest priority.  Asaph said, “the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73:28)  In what way is godliness good for us?

 First, Paul says it’s valuable in this present life.  Later in his letter he gives a qualifier: “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out.” (6:6-7)  The more we pursue godliness with contentment the more we live defined by God and the more all other definitions fade away.  We are not our financial net worth, or what other people think we are, or even how we define ourselves – we are God’s masterpiece! (Ephesians 2:10)  Only the godly grow away from the traps of this world into their true identity.  Letting the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Galatians 2:20) be the One who defines us is tremendously liberating.  His perfect love drives out fear and insecurity (1John 4:18), so that we can simply be ourselves filled with His Holy Spirit.

 Then Paul says godliness has value for the life to come.  Asaph says that those who live “far from You will perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You.” (Psalm 73:27)  The ungodly will “perish like beasts” (2Peter 2:12) and “be consumed” eventually in the eternal fire (Hebrews 10:27), but the godly will share eternal life with God.  This is the simple gospel: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

 Godliness begins by forsaking our own works and by putting our trust in Jesus Christ because salvation is God’s gift to us.  “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness (right standing with God!).” (Romans 4:4-5)

Posted in Ephesians, Matthew, Revelation

Choosing Jesus In The Darkness

“As I watched the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll.” Revelation 6:1

In Matthew 24, Jesus gives to us the conditions on earth while the gospel is preached: false religion, wars, natural disasters, and persecution of the truth that in some instances ends in martyrdom.

In Revelation 6, we see these same four conditions but they are seen from heaven’s perspective. They are not incidental; they are necessary before the day of the Lord can come.

Seals were not part of a Jewish legal document – they were on the outside and represented conditions that had to be met before the document could be opened or enforced. Jesus is the only One who is worthy to break the seals which lead to the coming day of the Lord, but we must ask, “Why?” Why has God insisted that the gospel be preached in such darkness before He comes to actively rule the world?

Here’s my opinion: He wanted us to choose Him in the darkness, so we never reject Him again for all eternity. The first group, the angels, chose Him in the light and eventually a third fell away. Angels have free will even as we do, and a third of them chose self-rule over God’s rule even while living in a perfect heaven, and beholding God’s beauty face to face.

By having us choose Him in the midst of darkness, in the midst of the worst conditions and the ugliness of sin and horrors of the curse, it will be almost impossible for us to reject Him when we see Him face to face in the light and glory of heaven.

Ephesians 3:10-11 says this: “God’s purpose was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in heavenly places. This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” “All” means both the angels that fell away and those who remained true.

Those who fell away are judged as they see the church choose Him even while they can barely see Him, when they had rejected Him while seeing the beauty, glory, and power with absolute clarity. Those who remained loyal see through Christ’s coming and the church’s devotion more of the beauty of God’s love and humility. This strengthens them, I can imagine, and further secures them from the danger of ever falling away in the future.

When the day of the Lord begins, every eye will be able to see God’s active judgment and redemption, but right now we must choose Him in the darkness. God Himself has ordained this!