A glorious and difficult task.

Our present society places before us the question, “why do we need ministers and preaching?”  This leads to frustration among many but what really puts pressure on ministers is the very impossible task of preaching.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”  Karl Barth put out three points that characterize this difficulty that lies before the minister in a chapter called the “Task of the Ministry.”  He said, “‘As ministers, we ought to speak of God. We are human, however, and so cannot speak of God. We ought therefore to recognize both our obligation and our inability and by that very recognition give God the glory. This is our perplexity. The rest of our task fades into insignificance in comparison.”

First, we ought to speak of God

Often in sermons, there is a failure to point people toward God.  We apply sound biblical principles to everyday life, but we fail to make much of Jesus.  We have taken the aim to help people live better rather than helping them die before God.  What they need is God, and our preaching should contribute to pointing them to Him.

Second, we are human, however, and so cannot speak of God

We are finite creatures talking about the infinite Creator.  He is beyond us in every capacity, even imagination.  To talk about God is beyond our ability and cognition.  We would continually fail to correctly display God by our words.  Barth was famous for simply saying, “God is God.”  In that way, he described God but in reality, did not try to limit God by any human definition.

Third, we ought, therefore, recognize both that we should speak of God and yet cannot, and by that very recognition give God the glory

As God is infinitely above us and the task of preaching is given to us, we should use our voice and opportunity to praise God.  To praise and give thanks is to give God glory.  To proclaim to others the self-revelation of God through the Holy Scriptures and draw them to Him is to bring God glory.  Returning to the first statement, we ought to speak of God.  Make much of Jesus in our preaching.

The Water in Your Marriage 

My wife and I recently celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary.  We had courted several years before we were married.  In our marriage, we have experienced many beautiful moments and challenges.  Three children, a few pets, and plenty of adventure have blessed us in our journey together.  I love her more and more each day (I know that is mushy).

It is interesting is that there is a common misconception that marriage for Christians is no different than unbelievers.  The caveat to the stats is that those Christians most likely to end their marriage are nominal believers.  Meaning, they may identify as Christians but do not actively participate in the faith.  Recent research (click here) showed that “Catholic couples were 31 percent less likely to divorce; Protestant couples 35 percent less likely, and Jewish couples 97 percent less likely” (Stetzer, 2014).  The pastor’s marriage has also been seen as difficult. However, Barna research showed “Most pastors – 96 percent of whom are married – are satisfied with their relationship with their spouse” (2017)

Periodically, I speak with new and veteran couples about their relationships.  When the conversations turn toward my wife and my experience, I share my life verse for marriage.  It came from King Solomon when he was teaching his sons how to live well.

“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” -Proverbs 5:15

Chapter five is one of the few chapters were Solomon seems to focus on one subject.  Yet, a significant portion of all his teaching centers around purity and faithfulness to your spouse.  He geared his instruction toward his sons specifically and his children in general, however, I believe what we see in this passage is helpful to both husbands and wives.

After a simple reading, we quickly note that Solomon is encouraging fidelity.  In light of the whole chapter, the challenge is put forward to be faithful in your relationship marriage.  You will be tempted to stray, but the end is filled with pain.  Remaining faithful in the good and bad has its own reward.  To understand that reward we need to dig a little deeper.

We understand the need of water for the body, and this is why Scripture is full of references to spiritual water for our souls that only Jesus can provide.  Solomon in another place of Proverbs wrote, “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country” (25:25).  Water refreshes and satisfies.  Marriage is provides the same thing.  To demonstrate this, Barna Research found that 75% of women say their marriage is their strongest form of social support by helping them be satisfied with life, understand priorities, be the best person they can be, set healthy boundaries, live out purpose, and connect to a community (2017).  When we enjoy those intimant moments and conversations we share only with our spouse, we are refreshed and deeply satisfied as our reward.  To be unfaithful will corrupt the waters of our marriage.

Still, there is one more thing that stands out to me in this passage about marriage.  Solomon is keen to use specific words to separate cistern from well.  In the Hebrew, the word he used for cistern (בּוֹר bôwr) can also be translated as pit or well.  Also, the word chosen translated for us as well (בְּאֵר bᵉʼêr), can be translated as a pit.  I like to think that Solomon is demonstrating to different containers for water.  Wells and cisterns both hold water, but, they receive their water in various manners.  A well receives its water from an underground source like a stream or lake.  Well water springs up from itself.  Cisterns, however, must receive theirs from an outside source above the ground.  Typically, brought in by a water truck.  

What I hear Solomon saying, be faithful and enjoy your marriage by pouring your life into your spouse.  The picture is we view self as a well and our spouse a cistern.  If we do not pour our love, energy, time, and focus on our partner, they will dry up.  We will no longer be satisfied with them, and we will try to wander and find other sources to quench our thirst.  Being faithful is also about being intentional.  To have a great marriage, you must continue to invest in your spouse, even after you have said your vows.

References

Barna (2017) The State of Pastors: How Today’s Faith Leaders are Navigating Life and Leadership in an Age of Complexity.  Barna Group

Stetzer, Ed (2014) Pastors, that divorce stat you quoted is probably wrong.  http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/163047-pastors-that-divorce-stat-you-quoted-is-probably-wrong.html

Seven Signs in John: 7 – Raising Lazuras

The Lord does not work according to our understanding of time.  Instead, He works according to His own knowledge and power.  Both of which are incomparably greater than our own.  In this last miracle by Jesus, we see him deliberately delay his coming to His sick friend.  If you read the surrounding context, you will see this and begin to wonder why.  However,  if we have learned anything from the previous six miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John, is that miracles direct our attention to God.  Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our unbelief.

Jesus arrives late to the home of Lazarus, and Jesus’ words are confirmed, Lazarus was dead.  The untold sickness had overcome his body, and Jesus was not there to heal him according to one of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha.  However, Jesus uses this moment to teach something central to the Christian faith and foreshadow another event that He would personal experience in about a week.

John 11:23-27

Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.  Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?  She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

The resurrection seals our hope.  Death is sure and it the anguish it causes is undeniable.  Yet, Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.  Martha looked forward to a future resurrection of the body, but Jesus would extend hers and our understanding of the resurrection.  Jesus stated that at the present time, He is the resurrection and the life.  Perhaps, John now connects an earlier statement to this miracle, and the previous, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).  

Certainly, we look forward to the future resurrection of our corruptible, mortal bodies to immortality and incorruption.  We see this demonstrated in the resurrection of Lazarus.  The sickness that caused the death of Lazarus was no longer apparently with him.  At the beginning of the next chapter, we also see him eating and back to living life.  He would eventually die again, but Jesus’ own resurrection a week later would be the first fruit of a new resurrection that we will experience.  A resurrection where we will never die again.

Jesus stated, however, that presently the resurrection was already with the people.  He demonstrated power over death when He raised Lazarus.  Yet, we also know that Jesus power to give life in the present is spiritual.  We can be raised to new life in the here and now.  Look at what Paul taught on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Romans 6:3-12

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:  Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.  For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

We can be a new creation through the power of Jesus.  We do not need to wait for eternity for the newness of that God’s new Heaven and Earth to arrive.  It is already here in our souls.  As we come to Christ, we are born again from above.  We are given new life and are given the power to be called the children of God.

Seven Signs in John: 5 – Walking on the Water

 

After the miracles of the loaves, Jesus went to a mountain alone, and the disciples went ahead of him by boat across the sea.  There the disciples find rowing to be a difficult task because a high wind was stirred up and pushed against them.  The difficulty of rowing against the wind and waves were taking their toll on the body and the mind.  Finally, Jesus comes to them walking on water.

 John 6:16-21

And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

Do you notice anything that is missing in John’s account? First off, don’t confuse this with the time Jesus was asleep in the boat.  That is a time before that miraculous calming of the sea if we compare to the other Gospel writer’s accounts.  John doesn’t record Peter walking on water.  John also doesn’t mention the storm calming.

However, the miracle of Jesus walking on water is centered in the middle of Jesus miracle of 5 loaves of bread and His teaching that he is the bread of life.

I don’t think this was a random miracle placed in this chapter’s central theme of bread. When Jesus teaches about being the bread of life, He teaches that the bread symbolizes His abiding presence. When we take communion, this is the idea, that the bread symbolizes his physical presence next to us.

I think the purpose John uses this water walking miracle first is that it is a personal miracle, not to the crowds but to the disciples. Sometimes God does things in our life that is just for our own experience and faith.  Second, no one understood the miracle of the loaves (cf. v. 26 and Mark 6:52).  The previous miracle of the bread and its further explanation is that Jesus is the only thing that will actually sustain our life.  Now, the disciples who missed it, who even had a hand in the miracle of the loaves by each holding one of the 12 baskets full, were given another opportunity to understand, Jesus’ presence will sustain us.  Jesus sustains us in times of hunger. Jesus sustains us in times of peril.  He is our bread on land and on the boat.

The presence of Jesus is the greatest thing we can possess.

You are one of Jesus’ disciples and your life similar to the journey on the boat. You must gladly receive the presence of Jesus into your life or else you will find difficulties that you cannot overcome. In a crisis, Christ’s presence overwhelms us with comfort when according to His timing and purpose. Sometimes he does not calm the storm, but he will always calm us. He gives us peace to where we can sing it is well with my soul.

Notice how far they made it on their own and then see the other half of this miracle. Jesus walks on water, enters the boat almost immediately it seems they are on the other side.  Without Christ’ we will fall short, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Sin work death in us but because of Jesus, we receive the gift of eternal life.  Only he can get us to the other side of living.

Guiding Others Toward Christ

Use the following outline to help you take notes with the video.

Situations where you need to lead someone toward Jesus.

  • Altar Work
  • Witnessing
  • Visitation

Acts 8:28-35

Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.  The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Who are you leading?

 

  • Known or unknown
  • Gender

Their Need.

  • Not everyone knows what their need is because of confusion.
  • Salvation
  • Physical needs: Healing & Financial
  • Relationships
  • Temptation or overwhelmed by life

Preparation.

  • Be ready to lead someone in salvation.
    • ABC’s: Admit you’re a sinner, Believe Jesus as the Son of God, Confess your faith in Christ.
    • Roman’s Road: Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-13
  • Be prepared with other Scriptures for other needs.
  • Always point to Jesus through the word.

Conclude with Prayer.

  • Be ready to pray always.
  • Focus on praying Scripture and in faith.

Creating Margin

Stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Too Busy?  Do these thoughts resonate with you?  The American Institute of Stress shared in 2014 that over 70% of Americans demonstrate physical and psychological symptoms associated with stress.  The daily demands of our society place this unwanted stress on our bodies and mind.  However, it is my understanding that we choose to allow this to happen more often than not.  We succumb to this thinking, “If I am not doing, if I am not active, then I am failing.”

Christ offers a different pattern for living.  A steadfast faith in the daily provision of our bread from God (Proverbs 30:8; Isaiah 33:16; Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:13).  Our extravagant lifestyles show how little we daily seek God and hope in the future reality that He promised.  Scripture speaks of the simple life believers are to follow.  Moderation, temperance, are just a few words we find in Scripture but all speak to the need to pursue a simple life.  This pursuit includes the use of our time, spending money, eating and drinking, and other areas.

Proverbs 20:13, “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.”

Proverbs 25:16, “Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.”

Matthew 16:24-27, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Philippians 4:5, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”

Hebrews 13:5-8, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

2 Peter 1:5-6, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;”

Sabbath

Perhaps the strongest Christian teaching is the observation of the Sabbath.  Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around (Mark 2:27).  We were created a certain way, and God has provided for our natural rhythm.  God knows we need rest, but one of the first things we throw out of the window is the proper use of time.  When we fail to steward our time, we over-exert or waste our time.

When a person takes a Sabbath, they do recharge but it not becoming lazy.  It is an act of faith.  For example, in the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, God told them to gather manna each day but only enough for that day.  Five days they would do this, and if they gather more, it would rot.  On the sixth day, they could collect two days worth of food.  However, instead of rotting, the extra would keep over to the Sabbath day.  They did not have to gather on the Sabbath because God provided.  When we stop and say no, we are also saying, “Yes, Lord, I know you can provide rest and anything I lack.”

Create Margin

No, not margarine (imitation butter), but margin.  Like the spaces on the edges of lined paper that keeps your document neat and clean.  It basically means a reserved space.  Most of us, are stressed because we are not only pushed to the max, we have passed the limits our time, money, energy, and relationships.  To live simply, one needs to recognize their limits, and then create a margin between being productive and those limits.

Instead of always planning to be on time and usually running late, plan on being early.  You never know when an accident or detour will occur.  Instead of spending everything you have, save for that rainy day.  Make room for a literal Sabbath to rest in God’s provision.  There are so many ways to create margin in our life and prevent yourself a lot of unwanted stress.

Waiting

My wife and I are expecting our third child at any moment.  She will be induced in less than a week, but the waiting is almost unbearable.  The anticipation is growing by each passing moment.  In fact, this week during our Sunday evening service, my friends and I were singing a song during worship when I caught my wife standing up abruptly.  She was going to ask someone a question that she needed an immediate answer, but that was not my train of thought.  I thought something major in this last week of her pregnancy happened.  It was funny, to her.

Life is filled with many moments where patience is a requirement.  I don’t need to list any because our mind at the mere mention of the words patience or waiting triggers personal memories of our own experiences.  Scripture is aware of this need as well and offers encouragement.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” -Galatians 6:9

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” -Matthew 24:13

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promice” -Hebrews 10:36

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers tempations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” -James 1:2-4

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope” -Romans 5:3-4

So, what helps us to gain patience?  I want to share briefly about three sources for patience.

Experience develops our patience

Most believers will direct you to Romans 5:3-4 when it comes to learning patience.  Faith grows through real-life situations, and so does patience.  It is one thing to say that you are a patience person and another thing to demonstrate that quality.  The fiery trial that comes up against us is also what tests our faith and patience.  We learn what we are made of in the difficult areas of life and it is through those situations that we are strengthened.

Knowledge informs our patience

Galatians 5:22-23 reveals that part of God’s gift of our salvation, part of the fruit of the Spirit, is longsuffering or what we better know as patience.  For the Christian, we have the understanding that God is in our corner and is providing grace to endure.  Sound theology has a way of bringing us peace because we know the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).  The ultimate source of truth is God’s Word, the revelation of God to mankind.  Through His Word our faith increases, our patience is encouraged, and our hope is confirmed.

Perspective guides our patience

A final source or at least the culminating of the previous two is perspective.  Once we have experienced life and its hardships, the waiting game takes on a new shape.  With the help of God’s grace and His Word, we can begin to see the long view of our life.  The Proper perspective of what’s valuable in life, our purpose, and our eternal future helps us endure.