Sunday, October 25, 2015

creation of marriage - quotes and links

“God created man good and after his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might rightly know God his creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.” (Heidelberg Catechism, 1563, Q#6.)

"It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to a young bride and groom from his prison cell in Nazi Germany in 1943)

"A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers."  (Ruth Bell Graham)

“...most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”  -- National Review 

“According to new research, states with a high concentration of married couples experience faster economic growth, less child poverty and more economic mobility than states where fewer adults are married, even after controlling for a variety of economic and demographic factors.”  -- Washington Post  

"A happy marriage is a marriage between two happy people...  Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy - it's supposed to make you married."  (Frank Pittman, marriage therapist)

Sunday sermon: "The Creation of Marriage" (MP3)

See the BCF Statement on Marriage and Family (2013).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

the law commands and makes us know

The Law commands and makes us know 
What duties to our God we owe; 
But ’tis the Gospel must reveal 
Where lies our strength to do His will.  

The Law discovers guilt and sin 
And shows how vile our hearts have been; 
The Gospel only can express 
Forgiving love and cleansing grace.  

What curses doth the Law denounce 
Against the man that fails but once! 
But in the Gospel Christ appears, 
Pard’ning the guilt of numerous years.  

My soul, no more attempt to draw 
Thy life and comfort from the Law. 
Fly to the hope the Gospel gives; 
The man that trusts the promise lives.

~ Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

a prayer before the sermon

a wedding declaration

At weddings where I am the officiant, I usually open with this statement about marriage...

Marriage is the creation of God.  It is the lifelong and exclusive bond between one man and one woman who vow to live together as husband and wife for the rest of their lives.  It was established by God from the beginning for the first human couple and their descendants, as it says, (Genesis 2:24)  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Despite the rise and fall of civilizations, marriage has been held in high honor throughout all history and all cultures.  In biblical revelation, both the prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament affirm marriage to be a sacred  bond.  The Lord Jesus himself taught the highest standards regarding marriage and brought blessing and joy to a marriage celebration that he attended.

Why did God ordain marriage?  God created the institution of marriage to display his glory and to bless us for our good.  Marriage is for our good in that it brings us the blessing of companionship, intimacy and security, and – as the Lord wills – children to nurture and train for the good of succeeding generations.  It is good for our world and for its welfare.

But ultimately marriage is not about us.  It is designed to reveal the glory of God, as a way to display the beauty of his covenantal love.  God makes promises and unites himself to people through his Son, Jesus Christ.  His Son, Jesus Christ, is presented in the bible as a bride-groom who comes to earth to take us to himself.  Christians are those who have responded in faith to God’s proposal and have committed themselves to Christ.  And so we become recipients of his faithful, unending love.  Every wedding celebration we attend in this life is a tiny picture of the great celebration coming for all those who belong to Christ.  We are looking forward to, and are preparing for, that day when we will be with the Lord Jesus forever, with infinite joy in God’s household.

Marriage therefore is based upon a covenant.  Our God is a God who makes and keeps his commitments.  He vows his unending faithfulness and love to his people.  God grants us the privilege to also make and keep covenants.  The marriage covenant is a union of a man and woman who commit themselves unreservedly to each other.  It is not just love that leads them to make these vows, but the vows themselves become the basis of continued love.

We have gathered together today to witness the vows of this couple...


Friday, October 23, 2015

a true myth

In J. R. R. Tolkien's biography by Humphrey Carter, the author records for us this conversation between Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  Lewis at this point is still a skeptic, believing Christianity to be only a myth... 

“But,” said Lewis, “myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.”  

“No,” said Tolkien, “they are not.  ...just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.  We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbor, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”  

“You mean,” asked Lewis, “that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened? In that case, I begin to understand.” 

From J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter.  Map below is from Tolkien's book, The Hobbit.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

being known

"What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it--the fact that he knows me.  I am graven on the palms of his hands.  I am never out of his mind.  All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters."

~ J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 41.

Monday, October 19, 2015

in order to rule, he must serve

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep [preserve, guard] it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."  (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

"Adam had to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, and this he must do in a twofold sense: he must cultivate it, open it up, and so cause to come up out of it all the treasures which God has stored there for man's use; and he must also watch over it, safeguard it, protect it against all evil that may threaten it, must, in short, secure it against the service of corruption in which the whole of creation now groans.

"But man can fulfill this calling over against the earth only if he does not break the bond of connection which unites him with heaven, only if he continues to believe God at His word and to obey His commandment. The twofold task is essentially therefore one task. Adam must have dominion over the earth, not by idleness and passivity but through the work of his head and heart and hand. 

"But in order to rule, he must serve; He must serve God who is his Creator and Lawgiver. Work and rest, rule and service, earthly and heavenly vocation, civilization and religion, culture and cultus, these pairs go together from the very beginning. They belong together and together they comprise in one vocation the great and holy and glorious purpose of man. All culture, that is, all work which man undertakes in order to subdue the earth, whether agriculture, stock breeding, commerce, industry, science, or the rest, is all the fulfillment of a single Divine calling. But if man is really to be and remain such he must proceed in dependence on and in obedience to the Word of God. Religion must be the principle which animates the whole of life and which sanctifies it into a service of God." 

~ Herman Bavinck, "The Origin, Purpose, and Essence of Man," in Our Reasonable Faith, p.187

Image is from

Friday, October 16, 2015

the future not an open question

"[Christianity] insists upon a purposive and moral as over against a purely mathematical universe; it insists upon a personal God, as against impersonal ultimates whether of space-time or √©lan vital variety; it insists upon a divine creation as over against a naturalistic evolution; it insists that man’s uniqueness is a divine endowment rather than a human achievement; it insists that man’s predicament is not an animal inheritance nor a necessity of his nature but rather a consequence of his voluntary revolt against God; it insists that salvation can be provided only by God, as against the view that man is competent to save himself; it insists that the Scriptures are a revelation lighting the way to the divine incarnation in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of mankind, as against the view that they stand among many records of religious experience without a difference in kind; it insists that history is bound up with man’s acceptance or rejection of the God-man, rather than that history is primarily what happens among nations; it insists that the future is not an open question, but that world events move toward an ultimate consummation in a future judgment of the race."

~ Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

human significance

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"  (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

"We must not belittle man's achievements. In science, for instance, man's achievements demonstrate that he is not junk, though the ends to which he often puts them show how lost he is.  Our forefathers, though they believed man was lost, had no problem concerning man's significance.  Man can influence history, including his own eternity and that of others.  This view sees man, as man, as something wonderful.

"In contrast to this there is the rationalist who has determinedly put himself at the center of the universe and insists on beginning autonomously with only the knowledge he can gather, and has ended up finding himself quite meaningless. It comes to the same thing as Zen-Buddhism, which expresses so accurately the view of modern man: 'Man enters the water and causes no ripple.'  The Bible says he causes ripples that never end.  As a sinner, man cannot be selective in his significance, so he leaves behind bad as well as good marks in history; but he certainly is not a zero."

~ Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, p. 268

Friday, October 2, 2015

a dozen books

I was asked recently to come up with a short list of Christian books that have impacted my life, being books that I would also heartily recommend others to read.  I would add that such books should be read more than once.  And we should intersperse newer works with older works. They are as follows: 

  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together
  • Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541).
  • Coleman, Robert. Master Plan of Evangelism.
  • DeYoung, Kevin. Taking God at his Word.
  • Keller, Tim. The Reason for God.
  • Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity
  • Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Evangelistic Sermons
  • Luther, Martin. Commentary on Galatians
  • Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism.
  • Packer, J. I. Knowing God
  • Schaeffer, Francis. True Spirituality.
  • Stott, John.  The Cross of Christ.

Addendum: I also recommend that you read -- and seek to master -- the works of one author, or a few authors, who wrote deeply on biblical and theological topics.  Over the past forty years my studies have centered on the following theologians and/or pastors: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Francis Schaeffer, and more recently, Herman Bavinck and Carl F. H. Henry.