People are like muscles – if they are stretched the wrong way, they can be injured. But if they are never stretched (challenged, stressed, used) they get weaker.

So as ‘members of the same body’, we should make it a goal to challenge each other.

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I was listening yesterday to NPR (again!) and I heard a segment about the sobering subject of the Santa Fe shooting – and the Christian community’s response to this.

In the segment we heard some clips from the prayer vigil that was held on Wednesday night. I was interested to re-listen to it, because two of the Christians discussed God’s role in what had happened.

But as I was looking at the transcript from the segment, I noticed something interesting.

At 0:32 in the segment you can hear the worship band singing the chorus of the Chris Tomlin song “Amazing Grace – My Chains Are Gone” and at this point in the transcript it says:

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) My chains are going to be set free.

… which, you know, aren’t the actual lyrics from the song they were singing.

And despite the serious nature of the segment, this caused me to chuckle. Because I was wondering what the transcriber must have been thinking as he or she typed it in.

“Wow … That’s kind of an odd sentiment. Why would you want your chains to be free? I mean, don’t you want to be free yourself?”

And I would have to agree with the transcriber at this point.

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Right now our family is memorizing Romans 13 and it’s a fairly short chapter (only 14 verses) and has several valuable sections, with Paul’s teaching about being subject to authority, and how we should owe only Love to each other and how love is the fulfillment of the law. The last verse is a nice wrap-up encouragement for all Christians –
[14] But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

But the verse right before that is more problematic, from the standpoint of teaching it to children –
[13] Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

I read this, and I’m thinking, “Really Paul? Orgies? Was that necessary? I mean, it’s not very family friendly. Couldn’t you have left that one word out?”

But then I considered what he might have been thinking as he wrote it. Perhaps he was imagining how a hypothetical conversation between two guys might have gone if he’d left out the O-word:

“Hey, Freedman, can I get your opinion on this section from Romans as I’m thinking about how I should make choices in my personal behavior?”
“Sure, Morris, what do you want to know?”
“Well, it says here that we should not live in drunkenness, or in sexual immorality and sensuality, or in quarreling and jealousy.”
“Sure, that makes sense and is consistent with the rest of what Paul wrote. So what do you want to know?”
“Okay, given this, do you think it would be okay for me to go to orgies?”
“Well, I don’t see why not. It’s obviously not in the list. If Paul didn’t want to you to do that, he would have put ‘orgies’ on the list.
“That’s what I was thinking!”

So, okay, Paul. I see your point. But I think I’m going to change it to ‘parties’ for family memorization purposes.

Given all the warnings there are in the Bible, it is not unwise to make decisions out of fear.

Just in case you’re interested, here’s a category chart of the nine New Testament couples listed in yesterday’s post. I hope it’s helpful.

9NTCouples

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Case Studies Pointing Us Toward More Biblical Marriages

As near as I can determine it, out of hundreds of individuals described, in the entire New Testament there are only nine married couples named*. They are an interesting cross section of Jews and Gentiles, Christians and non-Christians, persons of high position and regular people. As such, I thought it would be helpful to look at each of the NT couples and see what questions are raised by how they interacted with each other, as well as with Jesus and his followers, to see how their stories can guide us – for married people, and for people who are thinking about getting married.

Can my wife and I learn something from these husbands and wives? Can you and your spouse?

Can these couples point us to truth and the gospel?

This list is generally arranged from least godly to most godly and only includes those couples whom we know were married when they interacted with Jesus and his apostles**.

  1. Ananias and Sapphira – The Complicit Couple

Text: Acts 5:9 – But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”

Background: Ananias and Sapphira conspired to hold back their gift from the young church. Their sin is not that they didn’t give all, it’s that they lied about it, saying they’d given it all.

Comment: This is perhaps the most sobering story of a marriage in the New Testament. This couple is unique, not only in that they are both on the wrong side of God, but that they did their sin as a team and they are a part of the newly formed church. Peter says to Sapphira that she agreed with her husband to do this deed. Theirs was a sin against the Holy Spirit, and they did it together.

Question for married couples to ask: Am I and my spouse doing something that we both know is wrong? Are we covering it up somehow? Are we encouraging each other in this? Should we repent and ask forgiveness for decisions we are willfully making together?

Questions to ask before you’re married: If you get married, are you going to be tempted as couple towards a specific sin? Are you being tempted (or giving into temptation) to sin right now?

  1. Herod and Herodias – The Demanding Wife

Text: Matthew 14:3 – For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,

Background: John the Baptist is calling out Herod on his sinful marriage with Herodias, so they murder him.

Comment: In this case, it seems like Herodias takes the lead in requesting this sin and Herod just goes along with it, at least partially against his will, because of his foolish vow.

Question for married couples to ask: Is there a sin that one of you is trying to get the other to do? Are you willing to stand on the side of God even if it puts you at odds with your spouse?

Questions to ask before you’re married: Looking forward to when you are married, is it likely your spouse will try to get you to sin in a certain way? Or do you see yourself encouraging your partner to sin?

  1. Pilate and His Wife – The Warning Wife

Text: Matthew 27:19 – Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

Background: Pilate is encouraged by his wife to avoid condemning Jesus, whom she somehow knows is ‘righteous’. He rejects her counsel.

 Comment:  I think it’s reasonable to consider this dream as likely from God. Pilate would have done well, and acted more justly, if he had listened to his wife.

 Question for married couples to ask:  Is there something you should be encouraging your husband or wife to avoid or stop doing? Should you be listening to your spouse as he or she encourages you to avoid specific behavior?

 Questions to ask before you’re married: Will you do this for each other? Will you warn each other away from foolish or sinful behavior? And will you listen?

4 and 5. Joanna and Chuza and Mary and Clopas – The Determined Wives

Texts: Luke 8:3 – and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Luke 24:10 – Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles…
John 19:25 – but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Background:  Two women, but not their husbands, follow Christ – all the way to the cross.

Comment: I put these two together, since (1) they seem like similar stories and (2) We know very little about these people. I’m guessing that in at least one of these marriages (perhaps both), the wife was following Christ and the husband wasn’t.

Question for married couples to ask: Will you follow Jesus even if your spouse doesn’t?

Questions to ask before you’re married: In your marriage, will you be alone when you seek to know, obey and worship Jesus? God doesn’t want this for you.

  1. Felix and Drusilla – the Conflicted Couple

Text: Acts 24:24 – After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.

Background: Felix is one of the governors who has to decide what to do with the Apostle Paul – and his wife is interested in listening in on their conversations.

Comment: This couple is a mixed bag of good and less good responses to the message of the Apostle Paul. On the plus side, they were interested. You could make a case that Drusilla was very interested – since she came with her husband (we don’t hear about other governors’ wives listening to Paul). And they listened to his words as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.

On the other hand, Felix sent Paul away when he spoke about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” and the passage makes it clear that Felix hoped that Paul would give him money.

Question for married couples to ask: In which ways are your attentions divided when it comes to what God would have you hear? Do you listen with interest? As a couple, do you follow up on opportunities to be more engaged with spiritual matters? Do you stop listening when you hear something that convicts you? Do you have less than spiritual reasons for doing religious things?

Questions to ask before you’re married: Same questions – looking to the future.

  1. Zechariah and Elizabeth – The Proof-Requiring Husband

Text: Luke 1:5 – In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

Background: Zechariah asked for proof that his wife would be having a baby in her old age, while Elizabeth discerned much about her cousin and her cousin’s child just by how her own baby moved in her womb.

Comment: The narrative portrays Elizabeth as having more faith than Zechariah. From all appearances, she immediately believed but Zechariah doubted, even when an angel was telling him what was going to happen.

Question for married couples to ask: What is God asking you to believe through the faith of your spouse?

Questions to ask before you’re married: Is the person you’re marrying likely to encourage you towards greater faith or greater skepticism and doubt? Will you encourage your future spouse towards greater faith?

  1. Mary and Joseph – The Called Couple

Text: Matthew 1:20 – But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Background: These are the parents (biological and earthly) of Jesus. They accepted the words of the messengers of God on faith, despite having reasonable reasons not to.

Comment: Mary and Joseph are generally spoken of quite highly in scripture. It’s true that at one point they didn’t fully understand the mission and mindset of their son, but it should be recognized that they did hard things that (1) must have taken a significant amount of faith and (2) caused their life to be difficult at times.

Question for married couples to ask: What are you, as a couple, missing about Jesus’s mission and mindset? What difficult thing is he asking you to do? Are you doing it?

Questions to ask before you’re married: Can you see yourself doing challenging work for God?

  1. Priscilla and Aquila – The Consistent Couple

Text: Acts 18:2 – And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,

Background: This is the only married couple mentioned working among the apostles. They are mentioned in Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Timothy. They were instrumental in the mission of more than one body of the young Christian church. Paul says at the end of Romans, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.” Those are very positive words. They were both instructive in pointing Apollos towards more accurate teachings.

Comment:  Out of all the couples in the New Testament, this one is mentioned in the most passages, and they are always spoken of highly by the apostles. I find myself wanting to know more about them, and I’ll be interested to hear some of their stories in heaven. But one thing is clear; they did much for God and the work of the church.

Question for married couples to ask: Are you working together to let God work through your marriage to build good things and help people for His glory? What new endeavor or ministry or move should you consider with each other, to tell people about Jesus?

Questions to ask before you’re married: As a married couple, will you work to proclaim the Gospel? Will you do good work in your church? What can God do through your family?

Conclusion:
Let’s remember that all of these people were fallible. They all sinned and failed. This can be an encouragement as you consider your own failings. Another encouragement we can consider is a marriage that I left off this list: a transcendent and eternal NT couple – Jesus with his bride, the church. Our marriages can be a picture of that – a reminder and image of that holy reality.

In any case, several of these human couples did bold and effectual work for God as a part of this bride of Christ and are noted in the Word of God as such. Will you be like them?

In case it’s helpful, I’ve posted a category chart of the nine couples.
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* By comparison, nine couples in the NT is fewer than the number in Genesis alone.

** I don’t feel like Peter, or the woman at the well, or Crispus, or Anna the prophetess, or the man with seven brothers fall into this category.

One of the most important truths of the Gospel is a negative: You can’t obtain salvation by your obedience.

There is good health food and good junk food and never the twain shall meet.
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Some people say, “I found something I like at this restaurant, why would I ever have anything else?”. Others say, “I found something I like at this restaurant, why would I ever have it again?”

As you are considering the behavior of another person – consider these two things:

  1. Is the behavior sinful?
  2. Will the behavior give them joy?

If the answers are (1) perhaps no, and (2) perhaps yes, then do not judge their behavior negatively.

Every year you get older, you’re further away time-wise from the age you’ll be when you’re twice your age. So there’s that.

Every time I do something that thirty or more people see, I assume that at least one of them will be bugged by the way I do it.

Have you ever experienced the situation where you weren’t aware of an annoyance until someone complained about it, and then it started bothering you?

Every time you complain, you might be doing this to someone else.

Here are two good questions to ask yourself as you think about your day (or week, or month or year):

What do I want to do today?
What do I want to have done today?

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Making a bold statement that almost everyone agrees with doesn’t make you impressive. It makes you normal or not reprehensible.

You don’t have to be the best in the world (or your family or your church or your workplace) to be of value or to experience joy.

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I’ve noticed that worship leaders ask the worship team or the choir to not sing in parts during the first verse. This makes sense because (1) it helps teach the melody to those who don’t know it yet, and (b) it gives the worship team something to build to.  But I often have difficulty doing this – I find myself singing harmony on the first slide without trying to.

Here’s a few reasons why (not really in any order):

1. I think vocal parts make the song sound more appealing.
2. Sometimes a harmony part is more in my range or easier to sing than the melody.
3. Sometimes I don’t know a melody, and the odds of singing a harmony accurately are higher than the one note of the melody.
4. I like singing a duet with my wife. Sometimes it’s a trio with my wife (also singing harmony) and whoever is around us.
5. In smaller groups (of less than 10 singers) I’m hoping that singers who know they aren’t always on pitch will feel more comfortable singing, because harmonies covers up their misplaced notes.
6. The old hymn writers worked hard to add harmonies.
7. I want to be an example for my kids.
8. I’m hoping it gives joy and aides the worship of those who can hear me.
9. I feel like harmonies do a better job of showing the congregatedness of the congregations.
10. Three verses ::
Live in harmony with one another – Romans 12:16
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus – Romans 15:5
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony – Colossians 3:14

There is beauty in harmony.

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Did I miss any good reasons?

I’m glad you’re here. Please take a look around.

And if you’re interested in checking out the memory song CD of Bible verses our team has created, please take a look here:

(or go straight to the Amazon page.)

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I believe one of the most important considerations a parent can have is whether or not their child is saved. And while we often can’t know with certainty whether or not another person is saved, there are things we can look for.

A while back I posted a list of signs a child isn’t saved. Recently I been thinking about human situations that might cause a parent to fear that the child they thought was saved really isn’t.

So let’s say you have a son or daughter who understands, believes and loves the gospel. You see real spiritual fruit and sanctification in their life and you feel they are walking with Christ.

But there is something going on in their life that makes you doubt their salvation.

Here is a list of real life situations that shouldn’t.

1. He is sinful.
The Bible is clear, we all sin. None of us will be sinless and perfect until we reach heaven. So a child’s sinful behavior is not a sign that they are lost. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 ESV)

2. She has a besetting sin.
Sure, an obvious sin now and then might not be a sign of lostness, but what if they keep repeating the same sin over and over? What if they continue to fight with one of their siblings or repeatedly have too much interest in impressing the world?

Please consider these words: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17.) Paul is talking to Galatian Christians, and he assumes that they have strong desires of the flesh that compete against the will of God.

Or consider the words “But we all stumble in many ways…” James is talking to Christians from the twelve tribes and he knows of their failures.

The key for your son or daughter is how they responds to their sin. Does their sin cause them grief? Do they have a fear of God’s wrath? Do they understand the destruction that sin causes? Are they praying for God’s grace in his work of sanctification?

It’s a part of the fallen nature of even saved humans that they have desires of the flesh that stay with them. This includes your children.

Pray with them. Help them do battle with the flesh. Remind them that no one can snatch them out of their Savior’s loving hand. Help them to seek God’s grace in how they live. But don’t see this as proof that they aren’t saved.

3. He is depressed.

Reading the Bible, you see characters who behavior and words sound like those of a depressed person. Paul dealt with hard challenges and he talked about their difficulty. Elijah, Jeremiah and Job are all on record expressing how they deeply struggled with their life situation. God knew about their sins, but he didn’t hold their struggles against them.

Depression is hard, and sometimes it is indicative of a lack of faith. But many, many times it isn’t. And sometimes the fruit is sweeter when it comes from a time of depression. Pray with them. Pray for peace and joy. Pray for a renewed beautiful sweetness of life.

4. She disagrees with you theologically.
There are some ideas about God and the human situation that are necessary for salvation, but many, perhaps most, are not. So if your child disagrees with you about transubstantiation, or the proper way to baptize, or egalitarianism vs. complementarianism, it may be a reason for a concern, but a parent should be careful about doubting the child’s faith because of it.

In Philippians, Paul says, “And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” So while he wants his fellow believers to hold true to the important elements of the Gospel, he doesn’t seem very bothered by the fact that other Christians disagree with him on lesser matter. And he’s aware of how he was forced to change his mind.

Yes, I know that theological beliefs have impact in how we live – financially, vocationally, and politically. Remember Paul’s thoughts about strong and weak Christians.

I think the key here is this question: Are they sincerely trying to determine what the Bible says about the matter? If not, if they know what the Bible says, and don’t care, again, there is cause for worry. But if your son or daughter is seeking to be guided by God’s word there is good reason for you to have peace about his or her beliefs.

Pray for wisdom for yourself in determining which battles to head into. And remember: you might be the weak Christian.

5. He isn’t successful.
What if she can’t maintain a B average? What if he works and works and never is able to excel in sports? What if you’re nervous she will never be able to hold down a professional job? What if he has no interest or aptitude in the arts? What if she is developmentally delayed? There is nothing in the Bible that says non-excellent people are not following God. But there is evidence of God using the non-excellent. Moses couldn’t speak well, for example. Paul, in First Corinthians says that he didn’t come to that church with lofty speech or wisdom, but with weakness, fear and trembling.

God uses weakness. His power is made perfect in weakness.

I’m guessing you can think of people in your life that the world would consider to be complete failures who have nevertheless ministered to you, taught you, helped you, and served God in the way they served you.

Your son or daughter might be that person for others. Pray for that to happen. Pray for their weakness to proclaim the love of God.

From an eternal perspective, the disabled young adult who cannot live on his own but nevertheless sings the praises of God, is better off than the young adult with the amazing career who has turned his back on his Heavenly Father.

6. She doubts her own faith.
As I’ve mentioned, the state of salvation is an important issue for anyone, and should be cause for introspection and soul-searching. With this in mind, if your child is concerned about whether or not he’s saved, it may be a good sign. Do you see fruit in their life? Point it out to them. Ask them to spell out what they believe about the gospel. Remind them of their first love of what God has done for them. Help them to see God’s glory. Point out the promises of God’s word. Talk about the paths God has taken them on.

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Now to be clear, all of these traits could be visible in an unsaved child, but they are not strong indicators of a lack of salvation. These situations are difficult (with the possible exception of #4) and sometimes very difficult. I certainly don’t mean to minimize that. Keep praying for your son or daughter. Encourage them. Remind them of the gospel. Call them to repentance. And encourage them to share their story of how God saved them.

And thank God for what he’s done and for what he’s doing in your son or daughter’s story. At the end of every Christian’s story, none of these things will be an issue.

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Are there any situations I’ve missed?

Photo by Dutch Blitz Folk (two of my kids and their friends) and I’m thankful for help with this post from Abigail Dodds, Andy Naselli and Jason DeRouchie.

If I was Leonard Cohen’s producer, I’d been like, “You don’t have many rhymes for ‘Ooyah’, do ya?”

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