I’ve had the opportunity to either attend or participate in five weddings since March. The last one was my daughter’s wedding which I both walked her down the isle and officiated the ceremony. What a joy filled time weddings are. They bring out emotions and feelings that we sometimes don’t feel at any other occasion. There is a particular kind of joy at a wedding. Have you ever noticed or thought about that? We are touched and moved deeply when we observe a bride and groom’s joy expressed throughout the ceremony and the reception. We are sometimes moved to tears at different points throughout the experience. Why is that?
It’s because weddings express, reveal and mean more than just a man and woman making a lifelong commitment to one another, as important, beautiful and sacred as that is. The Apostle Paul gave us a hint of that in Ephesians 5, when, after his teaching about the roles of the wife and husband, he referred to a man leaving his father and mother to be joined to his wife as a mystery. He goes on to say that what he really is talking about and has in mind is Christ and the Church. Ah, there is a spiritual reality involved! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that
“God has made everything beautiful in its time. And also, he has set eternity in their heart . . .”
God has graced us with the beauty of marriage, but He wants us to see more. He wants us to think long term and with eternity in mind! He wants us to see with spiritual eyes. God, in common grace, which believers and unbelievers alike experience, is SHOUTING to the world, “this is how much I love you”. This is what I did in sending my one and only Son to earth.
Christ gave His life for His bride. Christ suffered and died a horrible death for His bride. Christ came to earth to rescue His bride, those who had rebelled and because of their sin died and became separated from God. Christ loves us perfectly. Christ loves us tenderly and yet disciplines us when necessary. Christ leads, guides and directs us, just as the groom leads the marriage dance. Christ, out of extraordinary love and joy, smiles upon His bride. Oh, there is so much that God is revealing at weddings! God is speaking! God wants to get our attention at these events. But are we listening and noticing?
In His grace, God reveals Himself and His love for His bride the church at weddings. It’s His picture of how much He loves His people. This is why being part of a local church is so important. Every local church is a smaller expression of the larger universal church of which we are part if we are in Christ. Christ is the head of the church. The New Testament epistles were, in part, given to instruct, guide, rebuke at times and direct believers in their relationship to the local church. Tim Keller, in his fantastic book, The Meaning of Marriage, quotes commentator G.W. Knight about Ephesians 5 saying,
“Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage, He already had Christ and the church in mind. This is one of the great purposes of marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever.”
So, the next time you go to a wedding know that those emotions, feelings and all that you experience are the grace of God revealing and expressing His great love for you and His desire for you to be part of His family called the church.
There is something powerful about thinking about, meditating on and rehearsing the truth about what Christ has done for us. When we proclaim the truth of what God has done for us because of the obedience of our Savior, joy comes. Hope can be realized and experienced. Chains loosen and fall. Light begins to pierce stubborn darkness. Anticipation rises. So, let me encourage you to let the Word of God wash over your heart and mind today and the truth will set you free. Read these verses slowly and mediate on the truth so that your very thoughts will be transformed.
Because of Christ . . . You are a child of God (John 1:12)
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Because of Christ . . . You have been born again to a new and living hope (I Peter 1:3, 23)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”
Because of Christ . . . Your sins are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
Because of Christ . . . You are brand new (II Corinthians 5:7)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Because of Christ . . . You have hope (Romans 5:2)
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Because of Christ . . . You have joy (I Peter 1:8)
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
Because of Christ . . . You have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16)
Psalm 1 reveals a stark contrast between the righteous and the wicked. It’s a deep, thought provoking and yet simple Psalm that heralds a warning about who and what we allow to speak into our lives. It contains only 6 verses, but they pack a punch and provide a much-needed wake-up call about using discretion in what and who we allow to influence us. Look at it:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Do you notice the progression of walk, stand and sit? I don’t think it’s a small thing. It demonstrates the slippery slope of deception that we can begin to go down when we surround ourselves with the wrong kind of people, ideas, philosophies and world views so prevalent in our world today. I don’t mean to suggest that we should isolate or cloister ourselves from those in the “outside” world or not associate with unbelievers. Not at all. The apostle Paul makes that clear in I Corinthians 5. What I’m referring to is the subtle and sometimes not so subtle influences that we allow into our lives that end up shaping the way we think (Romans 12:2), believe and eventually behave.
The blessed or happy person does something regularly and with intentionality that leads to a different kind of life, one that bears good fruit. Do you see it? It’s in verse two, where it talks about what he allows to bring him great delight. It’s the Word of God and he meditates on it day and night or continually. The Word of God is the source of the righteous person’s delight and wisdom, which in turn leads to right thinking, right believing and living life wisely and with discernment. Verses 4-6 unveil the results of going down a different path, listening to a completely different set of voices and it’s tragic.
Proverbs 4:23 cautions us to “guard our hearts, for everything you do flows from it”. We need to rely on the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirt and practice greater discretion in guarding our hearts. The devil prowls around like a lion seeking whom he might devour (I Peter 5:8), which is why Peter urges us to be sober minded and alert. What is it that delights you? What brings you the greatest joy? Where is your mind and heart centered most frequently? For the Psalmist, the Word of God was the source of his delight. Why? Because it led him to understand who God is and revealed so much of what God has done in this world. This led to a very different understanding of the world and a very different way of interacting and living in it. As the Psalmist thought long and hard on the truths of Scripture it transformed and shaped him, first internally and then externally and rather than be like the wicked who were tossed around like sage brush, he was like an oak tree firmly planted by streams of water which yielded good and pleasant fruit.
Want to be more like an oak tree than like sage brush? Mediate, think about, read, memorize and be a doer of the Word by the power of God’s Spirit within you. Submit yourself to the Scriptures. Force yourself to listen to the Word and allow it to be the primary voice in your life. As you do things will change. First, in the way you think, then believe and eventually the way you live your life. Your relationship with Christ will go deeper and the gospel will become even more precious.
“Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol Him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!“
God calls all peoples, every tribe, every tongue, everyone on the planet to worship Him. In this shortest chapter of the Bible, the writer of the Psalm calls everyone to extol the Lord. Have you ever looked up what that word means? Wow. It is a power packed little word. Here’s how the dictionary defines it:
synonyms: praise enthusiastically, go into raptures about/over, wax lyrical about, sing the praises of, praise to the skies, acclaim, exalt, eulogize, adulate, rhapsodize over, rave about, enthuse about/over, overpraise;
Check out some of those synonyms. I like “rave about” and “enthuse about/over” and “over praise”. I’m sure that you picked up that the word extol is a verb. It’s an action word, something we are supposed to do. In typical Hebrew parallelism, the writer also encourages us to “Praise the Lord” in the opening phrase. So, extol and praise are describing the same action. But as described above, there is some serious action implied in that word. God seems to delight when we acclaim, wax lyrical about or rhapsodize over Him in our worship. This is no passive, stand with your arms folded, mouth shut, unengaged worship.
This seems consistent with the rest of Scripture when we see the idea expressed in other places.
“I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)
“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:2)
“With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise Him.”
And the Apostle Paul brings us full circle when he declares in Romans 15:11
And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol Him.”
As we begin 2018 let’s grow in not only our understanding of the word “extol” but also our practice of it. Isn’t it interesting that this action involves our mouths? God calls us to respond to Him with spoken, shouted and sung words of acclamation. Let’s do that this Sunday! Let’s shout, sing and speak our praise to Jesus, the one who saved and redeemed us, the one who has forgiven us all our sins, the one in whom we can delight in and enjoy forever! Because of our salvation in Christ, we have more than enough reason to enthuse about and overpraise our great God!! So, let’s extol and praise Him!
Have you ever adopted a cat or a dog from the pound? If so, you probably know, although you may have never thought much about it, that in reality, I’m rescuing this animal. Not to try to take the analogy too far, but we know what happens to un-rescued animals. Another interesting angle is that the animals themselves have absolutely nothing to do with their rescue. They have no control whatsoever in their destiny.
Believe it or not there are some similarities in that adoption and our own. You do know that you and I were adopted right? Listen to the language of Ephesians 1:5 –
“He (God) predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”
God literally adopted us. What does that mean? Well, for starters it must mean we were in some sense orphans. Spiritually speaking, we were alone, uncared for, dead, without hope and utterly stranded without help. But then, in God’s grace and kindness, He rescued and adopted us as His very own children. Not because of anything we did or deserved, but merely out of his mercy and love for us. The intention and result is a change of status, planned from eternity and mediated by Jesus Christ.
Another example of this is Pharaoh’s daughter adopting Moses. Acts 7:21 makes it clear that,
“when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.”
Pharaoh’s daughter saw the infant Moses floating in a basket in the Nile River and she had compassion on him and adopted him as her own son. The phrase “when he was exposed” hints at the dangers all around Moses as he laid in that basket completely unaware of his plight. Any number of things could have happened to him, but God protected him and moved in the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter to rescue him and even further make him her own.
That’s exactly what God did for us when He sent His only Son to become one of us. The Father made the way for us to be His sons and daughters. Think about it. The God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who formed mountains, shaped rivers, created every grain of sand and spoke oceans into existence with the words of His mouth . . . that God loved you and me so much that HE sent His only son into the world to make a way for you and I to be. . . His. He even enabled us through regeneration to have the gift of faith! He literally adopted you to become His son or daughter for His glory as you responded to Him in faith.
Adoption. I like that word. I’ve experienced it physically and spiritually. I never knew my biological parents. Not long after I was born I was adopted into a family not of my blood. Some thirteen years later I was adopted again, but this time by the God who created me to be one of His very own. I didn’t do a thing to deserve that kind of love and I’m so grateful to God who loves me that much. I’m grateful to be alive both physically and spiritually. Adoption. . . it’s a great word full of hope and destiny!