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The Blessings of Marriage

Greetings All!

     Today I want to share a selection having to do with marriage -- though I must stress it's a helpful thought to consider whether one is married or not!  I do not know the title or publisher of the book I originally took it from years ago, though I did write down the author's name - Theodore Parker.
     I have used this quote numerous times at weddings and people have expressed their appreciation for it, and most all their complete agreement with it -- especially those who have been married for any length of time!  It is, in my humble opinion, worthy of your focused, thoughtful, and discerning consideration, since it contains much truth and wisdom. Enjoy.

“It takes years to marry two hearts completely, even of the most loving and tender type.  Every happy marriage is a long falling in love. Young people think love belongs only to the silken-haired and crimson-cheeked.  And it does in its beginnings.
But the golden marriage is a part of love about which the Bridal day knows nothing.  A mature and complete marriage, where wedlock is everything one could desire, where the ideal becomes actual, is not a common thing.  It is perhaps as rare as perfect personal beauty.
Men and women are married fractionally — a small fraction here, followed by a larger fraction there.  Very few are ever married totally, and those that are, only achieve it after some forty or fifty years of gradual growth, adjustment, perseverance and experimentation.

When a man and woman are successfully in love, their whole activity is energized and victorious.  They walk better, their metabolism improves, they think more clearly, their secret worries drop away, the world is fresh and interesting, and they can do more than they ever dreamed of doing.
In love of this kind, sexual intimacy in not the dead end of desire, as it is in purely romantic or promiscuous love. It is the periodic affirmation of inward delight in each other, and the crown of an active, intentional and well-lived life.  Knit together by the bonds of friendship and mutual affection, their love is as interesting as it is enduring — able to withstand the winds of adversity and change, bear hardships, build upon the mistakes of the past, and use them as opportunities for forgiveness and growth.”
     In a society which sees less and less reason for marriage (4 out of 10 thirty-and-under-people now see no need for it at all), this "thought" gives us a better insight into the blessings of marriage, how one should view it, and what it might take to improve it.
     The health of the family unit is key to the preservation of any civil society, and the health of marriages is key to the health of that family unit.  We must, therefore -- especially in a society like ours which is decidedly not "marriage-friendly" -- always be praying for those who have entered into this, "bond and covenant of marriage (which) was established by God in creation."  This relationship of committed love received Jesus' stamp of approval by, "His presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee."   After all, it's a way of life which, "signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and His Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people"  (from The Celebration of MarriageBook of Common Prayer).
May you be encouraged to persevere in this God-ordained relationship, and partake of the blessings God intended through it, Pastor Jeff


Three Prayers to Feed the Soul

Greetings All!

     I believe in spontaneous and heartfelt prayer.  I'm skeptical of pastors who only "pray" (or read) written prayers during a service of worship (as I witnessed every week in church in my childhood). It's not wrong if it's prayed in earnest and expresses what the heart craves, I simply prefer the more spontaneous type.
     Yet I must confess that God has also used written prayers to feed my soul.  Books like "C. H. Spurgeon's Prayers," or "Luther's Prayers," or "A Diary of Private Prayer" by John Baillee, "Prayers Ancient and Modern" (published in 1897!) and "Valley of Vision - A Collection of Puritan Prayers" by Arthur Bennett, have often been a great aid in my own prayer and devotional life.
     So today I offer you three prayers to consider. Two come from "Prayer's Ancient and Modern," and the third from, "Valley of Vision," by Arthur Bennett.  Enjoy.

"Father, calm the turbulence of our passions;
Quiet the throbbing of our hopes; 
Repress the waywardness of our wills; 
Direct the motions of our affections; 
and Sanctify the varied activities of our lives.
Be all in all to us; and may all things earthly, 
while we bend them to our growth in grace, 
and to the work of blessing, dwell lightly in our hearts -- so that we may readily, even joyfully, give up whatever you might ask.

May we seek first your kingdom and your righteousness; resting assured that then all things needful shall be added unto us.

Father, pardon our past ingratitude and disobedience; and purify us -- whether by your gentler or sterner dealings --till we have done your will on earth, and you take us into your own presence, with all the redeemed in heaven.
Mary Carpenter

"O God our heavenly Father, renew in us the sense of Your gracious Presence,
and let it be a constant impulse within us to peace, truthfulness, and courage on our pilgrimage.
Let us hold You fast with a loving and adoring heart, and let our affections be so fixed on You, that unbroken communion in our hearts with You may accompany us in whatsoever we do, through life and in death.

Teach us to pray heartily;
To listen for Your voice within, 
And never to stifle it's warnings.
We bring our poor hearts as a sacrifice unto You, come and fill Your sanctuary...
O Thou who art Love, let Your divine Spirit flow like a river through our whole souls, 
And lead us in the right way till we pass, by a peaceful death, into the Land of Promise.
Gerhard Tersteegen

"Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly, You have brought me to the Valley of Vision, 
where I live in the depths, but see You in the heights.  
Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Your glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, 
that to be low is to be high, 
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive, 
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells, and the deeper the well, the brighter Your stars shine.
Let me find Your light in my darkness, 
Your life in my death,
Your joy in my sorrow,
Your grace in my sin,
Your riches in my poverty,
Your glory in my valley.
May the blessings of renewed communion with Christ be yours, Pastor Jeff


The Glory of God's Sovereignty

Greetings All!

I trust you are well and encouraged through your time spent in communion with the Lord.  Today I would like to help facilitate deeper communion by offering a "thought" from Matt Papa, found in his book on worship entitled, "Look and Live."
It is helpful because it reminds us of truths about God that we can sometimes forget. It comes from a section entitled, "The Glory of God's Sovereignty."  A significant part of worship is allowing the soul to see, relish, and adore God for who He is and all He is. And when it comes to attributes or characteristics of God, one of the attributes mentioned most frequently in the Bible (especially in the Old Testament) is His Sovereignty.  I pray the truth of what Matt Papa shares will not only lead you into deeper communion, but greater adoration of our awesome God. Enjoy.

The Glory of God's Sovereignty

     "God's rule presides over every mega-star and every human cell. As R.C. Sproul says, there is not one maverick molecule in the universe. Since all things are "from Him" and are sustained "through Him," all things owe a debt of allegiance "to Him" (Romans 11:36). That which God makes God owns. As Abraham Kuyper famously said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!"   Amen.  God reigns.  Most would give a hearty "Amen" to that. The problem comes (for me included) when we see that God's reigning, according to the Bible, is not merely an overarching general control. Rather, God plans and determines every single thing that happens in His universe. I should repeat that. God plans and determines every single thing that happens in His universe -- just as a composer (putting together a symphony) strategically places every single note for every single measure for every single instrument for its designated duration.
     Not a meteor, molecule, or mouth moves without God's command. He is sovereign. Amen.  God reigns. Amen? The sovereignty of God is the happy, unchallenged, free exercise of His will. It is: God does what God wants. Period.  This doctrine is difficult. Its glory makes us squint, but I hope you'll look with me. Charles Spurgeon put it this way, "I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes." Every particle of dust?
     Have you considered this before? Well consider it again. God's sovereignty is a matchless sovereignty...  Consider the following verses. Sit with them. Read them. Pray them. Write about them if you like, and worship the great God they describe.

Job 42:2: "I know (LORD) that you can do all things, no plan of yours can be thwarted."

Psalm 135:6: "I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths."

Proverbs 16:9: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." 
Isaiah 46:9-10: "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, and from ancient times what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please." 

Jeremiah 32:27: "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?"

Daniel 4:34-35: "Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand, or say to Him: "What have you done." 

Matthew 10:29: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." 
John 10:28: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

Ephesians 1:11: "In Him we also were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will..."

Ephesians 2:1 "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." 

Colossians 2:9: "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." 

Revelation 19:6: "Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns!" 
May the knowledge of His sovereignty lead you into deeper communion and greater adoration, Pastor Jeff


Practical Christianity

Greetings All!

After a couple weeks of vacation I returned to the office today. Part of what I had on my list to do was send out this insightful little "thought" regarding temptation and fighting sin.  It comes from a book entitled , "Practical Christianity," which contains helpful advice on the Christian life from over 80 well-respected Christian authors.

     This particular selection is from Adrian Rogers.  His advice is short and simple but wise.   Enjoy!

Filling Legitimate Desires Illegitimately

     "The devil is a pervert. He cannot create things himself. He can only take things God has created and twist them. We sin when we give in to the devil's temptations and try to fulfill legitimate God'-given desires in an illegitimate way. For example, food is a God-given necessity, but gluttony is a sin.
     Sex within a loving marriage is a God-given blessing, but adultery is sin. Having and enjoying material things is a God-given privilege, but pride, dishonesty, stealing, greed and selfishness are sins. When we are tempted, we need to figure out what legitimate desire the devil is trying to pervert. Then we need to find God's way to fulfill that desire legitimately. If we do that we will have no itch the devil can scratch.
     Rather than always trying not to sin, we ought to turn our focus in another direction -- on finding our satisfaction in the Lord Jesus Christ. I think parents, pastors, school teachers and youth workers make this mistake with young people. We try to keep our young people from doing wrong. If you've ever tried to take a bone away from a dog, you know that's a good way to get bit. The way to do it is to lay a piece of red meat in front of the dog. He will drop the bone in order to grab the meat. We need to show young people how they can get their needs legitimately fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they won't have to guard the bones."  
     It is helpful, as he points out, to remember that "sin" is often nothing more than seeking to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways.  It is to meet them prematurely, in excess, or outside the boundaries God has set for their enjoyment or exercise, The particular need is not evil, nor is the fulfillment of that need when met in a godly fashion.  The "sin" lies in the inappropriate way we go about seeking to meet holy, God-given and legitimate needs. For more often than not, the devil's temptation (or perversion) is to tempt us to partake before we should, consuming more than we should, in a way that violates how we should -- thereby dishonoring the wise and good purposes of God in creation.

In the Bonds of Gospel Fellowship, Pastor Jeff