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Category Archives: Marriage

Same-Sex Marriage in New Zealand

I’ve just realised the blog where these articles were posted in 2013 is no longer online. I wrote these articles at the time when New Zealand was debating and finally legalising same-sex marriage.

I was prompted to consider these articles again after watching a 16 minute human interest story broadcast last night (Sunday, 16 July 2017).

An enormously complex issue; socially, politically, culturally, theologically, relationally, etc. covered in the mainstream media in 16 minutes!

In the best of times it is sad and painful to see real-life, family struggles rehearsed on TV, let alone on today’s crazy world of “reality TV”.

New Zealand politicians (many) pride themselves on being progressive. The media (seemingly the world over) pride themselves on being culture changers/influencers.

For those who believe God’s good design for men/women and marriage is universal and timeless, we must be wise, loving and yet clear in this new world in which we now live and minister.

These were originally published a four seperate articles. I am not including them all here as one post.

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question

It is the first week of July, 2013 in New Zealand. You go to the letterbox and there it is. You’ve been expecting it, but in some way hoped maybe… just maybe, they wouldn’t invite you. It would have made things a bit easier.

But, you are. You are invited to your sister’s wedding. The date is set for the 24th of August. She is planning to marry her long-time partner, who happens to be another woman. Yep, this will be one of the “same-sex” weddings performed in New Zealand within the first week they are legal.

You and your sister grew up in a “church going home.” Over the years your understanding of the Gospel and the Scriptures has grown stronger and clearer. At the same time, your sister, though still calling herself a Christian, has drifted away from a commitment to Christ-alone for salvation and trusting Him for joy and fulfilment within His holy will for her life.

To add to it, the phone rings the next week. It’s your sister… She explains that since Dad passed away last year, she can really only think of one person who she’d want to walk her down the aisle… you.

Now, she knows your view on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. You’ve shared with her over the years, with patience and compassion, how God’s Word is very clear on this, and an active, practicing homosexual relationship is sin and displeasing to God. You’ve shared with her over the past year or so that marriage is defined by God, not man, and therefore by definition must be between a man and a woman.

The truth is, in the past when seeking to explain these things to your sister you have become angry and even harsh in your tone towards her. This has grieved you and you have sought her forgiveness, yet still affirming your conviction on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

She knows this will be something you will take seriously and therefore doesn’t expect an answer straight way. You hang up the phone… What’s next?

The first passage that floods your mind is James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

So you pray, “Lord, you know I lack wisdom, please help me.”

You love your sister, you really do. How can you best love her at this time? Do you attend and walk her down the aisle? Do you attend, but don’t walk her down the aisle? Do you not attend at all?

Other passages come to mind:

Romans 1:32, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Will your attendance be seen as giving approval for something God condemns, as you are called upon to be a witness to the union? If attended alone wouldn’t, would walking her down the aisle, having to say publically you willing give your sister to another woman in marriage?

Is this one of the areas where I am free to choose either option? Go or don’t go? Yet, what if my choice to go would cause another Christian to stumble? One who has been saved from a lifestyle of homosexuality and still struggles with same-sex attraction (Romans 14:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:13).

What about Luke 14:26 & 27  26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Is this a matter of competing allegiances between Christ and your family?

This, like many of the more complex issues in our lives, is better thought about before it happens rather than waiting until we’re in the middle of it.

Over the next few posts, I would like to consider how a Christian might think through this very real and difficult scenario Biblically.

 

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #2

(In this post I switch to first person pronouns throughout, not because this scenario actually relates to me or either of my sisters, but simply for ease of writing and a more personal form of communication.)

As I try to think through this very real scenario, I find myself very torn. This is only the beginning of the complications that will arise as our culture shifts further and further from a sense of Biblical norms.

It seems like we must, firstly, acknowledge that for those who are in this type of scenario, this is very difficult on a number of levels. Even after thinking things through carefully and prayerfully, regardless of the decision there will be an awkwardness and unsettledness.

It seems to me that Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” is going to provide a grid for me to think through as I consider my role in a situation like this.

Would my actions in this scenario, in any way, be understood to be granting approval for a known, public sinful lifestyle?

If my sister had participated in the filming of a pornographic film, would I attend (whether I am male or female) a “premier” showing of the film to celebrate her success?

I would think not…

Let’s consider the “attend and walking her down the aisle” option…

It seems that in any wedding ceremony, even the most irreligious, the role of the one walking someone (historically called the “bride”) down the aisle has a generally understood purpose: the giving of the “bride” to the “partner” (in this case another female).

To walk my sister down the aisle and give her away in marriage to another woman seems to me to communicate several things. Firstly, I agree that what is happening here is a marriage. Secondly, I am willingly supporting an active homosexual lifestyle. Thirdly, I am publicly declaring that the union of this couple is a good thing and should not end until the death of one of the parties.

To actively participate in anything that communicates even one of the above points in regards to a same-sex marriage would be to go against the clear teaching of Scripture.

As a result, it would seem clear, that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away.”

In my next post, I will consider whether or not to attend even if I cannot walk her down the aisle. (The more common and complicated scenario that people will be facing in the very near future.)

 

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #3

Since the first post in this series, I have received emails, FaceBook messages, Twitter Direct Messages, etc. all from people who are facing a scenario very similar to the one I’ve described, or they expect to before the year is over.

This is no hypothetical dream world. There are real people, real families, real relationships affected by what we are discussing.

So, my heart is heavy. I find myself weeping over the brokenness of our world, the damage due to sin, and rejection of Christ and His will. Firstly I weep for what I see of all of this in my own heart, then for what I see all around me. I long for Christ’s return. Even so, Lord Jesus come…

Yet, He has not returned, not yet. And in this window of time in which we live, we are called to live faithfully for Him, to Him, and by His strength.

It is after a long discourse, where Paul reminds us of our risen, returning Saviour that he encourages us with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Having already established that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away in marriage,” I still have the question; “can I attend?”

Ironically this question would be answered very simply by Christians a generation ago, though there would not have been a scenario for the question to arise.

Here’s what I mean.

Today a wedding is seen by most as a spectator sport. It is a place to see and be seen.

However, it wasn’t that long ago (even still in many Christian wedding ceremonies), when the attendees saw themselves as witnesses. Sure only two people actually sign the wedding license as legal witnesses, but all present are witnesses to the making of vows.

Even in a secular wedding ceremony it is common for the celebrant to say something like, “We are gathered here together to unite in marriage — and —.” You see the “we” in that statement? Although many who are in attendance may not consciously see themselves this way, they are a part of the ceremony. They are being asked, either implicatly or in some cases explicitly to witness this couple making their vows and to serve them in the future by holding them accountable to those vows.

Even if we were to acknowledge that this aspect of attending a wedding ceremony has so been lost to our culture, we can safely assume no one will see my attendance as a formal statement of approval to the wedding, marriage, or the vows, does this remove all concerns?

I don’t think it does…

It seems to me that if we were to look for a cultural synonym for how weddings are generally viewed today, we could use the word celebration. Surely, most everyone would agree that a wedding of any kind is understood as a time of celebration. You will even find on invitations, often, something like, “come celebrate with us…”

Celebrate… Hmmm… Can I celebrate with this couple? Can I celebrate the public display of an open homosexual lifestyle? Can I celebrate the denial of God’s design for marriage, sex, and personal intimacy?

I know I cannot partake in a role when I am seen as giving my approval for and even declaring right and good something that God calls sin. If my attendance were to be perceived as such, I could not attend.

Yet, even if I knew everyone present (or at least everyone I knew personally) would not take my presence as approval, can I join this celebration?

It seems to me like I have found myself right back at Romans 1:32 & Luke 14:25 & 27.

I love my sister, but I love Christ more. I long to maintain a relationship with my sister where I can continue to show her deeds of kindness and share the Gospel of Christ with her and her partner. Yet, I cannot celebrate, let alone, approve of something for which Christ says is sin.

Conclusion:

The next phone call will be mine to initiate and it is one I don’t look forward to. To tell my sister I cannot attend her wedding will not be received well. Not by her, our Mum, or extended family (remember this is written first person, but hypothetical for me). I am likely to be the recipient of direct anger and indirect avoidance.

Yet, I have often observed that long-term family division does not, generally, result from one single event where there has been offence.

If there has been general strife and tension within the family (even if under the surface) for years, then something like this may result in very long term or even permanent division.

If, we have been able to maintain loving family relationships through the years even when we’ve had significant differences, the division that comes as a result of this may be longer than previous periods of tension, but may not be long-term.

However, even if it is, if I have come to this conclusion because I believe it is what is honouring to the Lord and pleasing to my Saviour, I have to trust Him for the outcome.

In the strength that Christ provides through His Spirit I can follow Romans 12:17-21 and within a few weeks of the wedding invite my sister and her partner around for tea (dinner).
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Note:

I have endeavoured to write a “kind of thinking out loud” type blog post on a very delicate issue. Not because I am actually “thinking out loud”, but to show the kind of process I might go through in considering such a scenario. In this type of detached format, it can all come across rather clinical and seemingly without feeling. I do understand, when one is facing this situation for real, there will be much emotion and wrestling. Firstly, I believe that is why it is imperative for Christians to think carefully about these things before they find themselves deep into it. Secondly, I believe a Christian can think carefully and prayerfully through all of this and come to a different conclusion than I have presented here. Though we may differ in our conclusion, I believe they will be better off having thought through it carefully.

 

Everything’s Different… Nothing’s Changed…

Did you notice this morning as you woke to a new day that everything was different here in New Zealand?

Last night the New Zealand parliament voted to pass into law the Marriage Amendment Bill, making New Zealand the 13th country in the world and the first in Asia-Pacific to legalise same-sex marriage.

We should expect to see the first same-sex/transgender weddings in New Zealand in August.

Everything’s different.

A term and a societal institution which has been understood and practiced a particular way in all of New Zealand’s history along with all of human history across all cultures has just been disregarded, redefined, and dismissed. The word marriage still has the same definition in my dictionary today as it did yesterday “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife” (Oxford English Dictionary), but according to our government and society at large this is no longer the definition.

Everything’s different.

Yet, nothing’s changed…

As a Christian, I recognise three significant items that are as true today as they were yesterday.

Firstly, God is sovereign and He does all things well. Most of the members of our parliament would not see themselves as serving the sovereign and good purposes of the Creator of the Universe, some may even be purposely attempting to work against Him, yet they are His servants. His will is being accomplished and He will use even human government with all of its inadequacies to glorify Himself.

God hasn’t changed.

Secondly, the definitions of terms can change over time, but when something has been instituted by God its meaning cannot be altered regardless of what politicians, cultures, or even dictionaries say. Marriage is still and will always be an institution designed by God for the lifelong, convental commitment between one man and one woman for His glory in order to picture the love Christ has for His church. You see, marriage has been marginalised and maligned in or society for decades. It has been seen as a disposable commodity or something that can simply be bypassed for cohabitation, etc. The passing of this bill is significant to be sure. Yet, it is not an isolated event. It is the next step in an erosion process that has been picking up speed for decades.

God’s hasn’t changed His design for marriage.

Thirdly, our opportunity as Christians, to speak boldly and clearly into our culture with the truth of God’s Word continues. We’ve always been called to be lights in a dark world. As moral darkness grows deeper around us, our light can show brighter and brighter.

Yet, here is the sticking point…

If we have not been upholding and celebrating God’s design and purpose for marriage before today; if we have not been boldly & clearly challenging our culture and those around us with the transforming power of the Gospel without concern for personal ridicule before today; if we haven’t been speaking out against sin publically and privately before today, we won’t suddenly start now.

Our commission hasn’t changed.

My Christian friend, my pastor/minister friend. If, over the past year or more you have been unclear on God’s design for marriage; if you have cowered from boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and calling people to repentance, please repent. You are very close to looking no different than the culture around you. There’s no light left to shine.

Do not lose hope. Do not bow to the idols and pressures of this world. We serve a resurrected, returning Saviour and therefore can “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV)

If you are reading this blog as a non-Christian, scanning websites on this historic “day after” please know our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to speak clearly and boldly on those things He has ordained. He is our Lord and Saviour. He died for our sin so we could be forgiven. He rose again from the dead so we could have hope – a hope that is not rooted in this world. You can have this same forgiveness and this same hope by confessing your sins and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

If you do this you will see that everything is truly different and everything does change!

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A brief reply to Mark Keown’s, Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?

Recently a friend sent me a link to Mark Keown’s blog post “Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?”

In general, Mark’s post didn’t state anything significantly new and revolutionary in the world of egalitarian/complementarian debates. What he writes, for the most part, has been stated by many others who hold an egalitarian view.

Let me state at the outset there are many who would use the term complementarian to describe themselves who are really patriarchy and from whom I would have no fellowship. They say stupid things about what the Bible supposedly claims about woman, the home, the church and society. Their views and practices are unbiblical and harmful.

However, Mark’s post is very unhelpful as well. For, at least three reasons.

  • Due to his lack of reference to and interaction with the best of complementarian representatives, one could sadly conclude that Mark’s arguments here have never been addressed from Scripture by anyone and therefore you’d be an idiot to think differently than he does. I know it is only a blog post. Yet, one should, at least show an awareness of the literature and give some indication that there are Christians who love Jesus, the Bible and woman who have come to different conclusions.

Here are just a few examples of excellent books which address every argument raised in Mark’s post:

Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian : A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

Different by Design : God’s Blueprint for Men and Women

God’s Good Design : What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women

Notice the above three books are all written by woman, each solidly exegetical, each familiar with the historical arguments and current debates.

Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (a collection of essays, one written by a female scholar)

Here are a few items written by the husband/wife duo of Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger:

God, Marriage, and Family : Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation

God’s Design for Man and Woman : A Biblical-Theological Survey

Women in the Church : An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Jesus and the Feminists : Who Do They Say That He Is?

Notice that none of the above authors, as far as I am aware, are connected to CBMW. I say that simply to point out that there are solid, robust, complementarian authors and scholars from a variety of sources. I haven’t even included Amiee Byrd and Carl Trueman, who are both complementarian, yet who stirred up a hornet’s nest last year in critiquing CBMW and others in how they often defend their complementarian views.

  • Mark makes this statement near the beginning of his post, “However, for women who are called to ministry, this is essential to their identity in Christ, and it cannot be treated as a secondary issue. It is a primary issue where Christian identity is concerned.”

I find this statement concerning on a number of levels which have nothing to do with gender.

As a Christian my identity is in Christ. It’s not in my vocation, my role as husband, father, etc.

As someone in full-time Christian ministry it is critical that they never begin to think that their identity is tied up in their ministry or their ministerial role.

For someone training future ministers it would be critical to constantly remind them of this. To send anyone out into ministry where they are thinking that their ministry or ministerial role is where they find their identity is to set them up for great disappointment, frustration, and failure.

  • In the last few sentences, just before Mark’s concluding paragraph he makes the following statement, “We may be standing in the way of the Spirit if we block women from ministry. We may be like the Pharisees who thought Jesus was ministering under the power of Satan. Jesus warned them that a sin against the Spirit is the ultimate sin for which there is no forgiveness. That is worth thinking about.”

To give credit where credit is due, this is certainly an original contribution, as far as I am aware, in the whole egalitarian/complementarian debate.

Essentially all of the authors above, and everyone who has ever been a part of Jesus’ church who place some limits on when and how woman can serve in the church may be guilty of the “unpardonable sin”! Wow!

I’ve read some strong statements by both egalitarian and complementarian authors before. I’ve read statements by complementarians that embarrass me. I’ve never read anywhere such an unfounded and frankly ridiculous statement by contributors to this debate on either side.

There is no possible way one can defend this conclusion exegetically. If one handles such an important part of the Gospel’s teaching – “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” – with such a casual and indefensible approach, why on earth should anyone listen to how they handle the rest of Scripture?

To be frank, Mark, suggesting that brothers and sisters in Christ whom you disagree with as potentially guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin” is a serious matter. I obviously have quibbles with the rest of your post, but this kind of statement is beyond excuse. I would beg you to reconsider your words.

 

Our 16th Anniversary, but a First

It is particularly easy for me to remember how many years we’ve been married since we were married in the year 2000. Yep, it’s been 16 years.

On January 8th 2000 we stood before God, family, and many friends and made our vows. I remember being asked the morning of our wedding by a friend, “how do you know for sure Mandy is ‘the one’?” (Keep in mind we had only known each other four months before our wedding.) I remember saying something like, “I don’t. I’m pretty sure. We’ve sought godly counsel, we’ve desired to honour the Lord in our choice of a spouse, but anything could still happen to keep us from getting married later today. However, when we say ‘I do’ that’s it. She’s the one.”

Tim Keller says the following:

“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows. When I married my wife, I had hardly a smidgen of sense for what I was getting into with her. How could I know how much she would change over 25 years? How could I know how much I would change? My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed—and each of the five has been me. When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken. When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. Passion may lead you to make a wedding promise, but then that promise over the years makes the passion richer and deeper. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. This means we must say to ourselves something like this: “Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us—denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him—and in the greatest act of love in history, he stayed. He said, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely. That is why I am going to love my spouse.” Speak to your heart like that, and then fulfil the promises you made on your wedding day.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

I am so thankful for the amazing, sustaining grace of God in our lives. There is no way we would still be married today if not for His grace. Marriage is not easy. It is the most difficult, most confronting, most painful relationship I have ever been in. Not because of who I married, but because of who I have discovered myself to be in our marriage. So where is God’s grace?

  1. In the wonderful privilege we both had to receive solid, biblical teaching on marriage from our pastors and churches even before we knew each other.
  2. In His kind providence to lead us into each others lives and to propel us into marriage in a short period of time. We had godly people in our lives who guided us in understanding the purpose of the marriage covenant was far more sustaining than “ensuring we had found our ‘soul mate’.”
  3. In using our marriage to reveal my selfishness and sin more than anything else in my experience. Marriage has been and continues to be a most sanctifying thing in my life.
  4. In giving us the desire to and enabling us to keep our vows through periods of pain and joy.
  5. In showering us with undeserved kindness such that we can declare that as the years go by our marriage has truly become sweeter than we could have ever imagined.

For the past several years we’ve celebrated our anniversary while attending an annual camp/conference together as a family. Not exactly intimate but fun… This year though, is a first.

I woke up this morning on our wedding anniversary without my wife by my side. The children and I are at the camp/conference while Mandy has been enjoying a much deserved week at home for R&R. I am very thankful for the opportunity this week has provided for her. At the same time, I miss her terribly and feel the “wrongness” of not being together on such a morning.

Again, Keller has written:

“So, what do you need to make marriage work? You need to know the secret, the gospel, and how it gives you both the power and pattern for your marriage. On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper and deeper union with each other as the years go on. There, then, is the message of this book — that through marriage the mystery of the gospel is unveiled. Marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up. The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace. The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom — and speak of them — and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it. This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage.”

I am convinced more now than ever that I married the right girl. I look forward to the years ahead and the joy of spending the rest of my life with her.

Lord willing next year, since our anniversary will be on a Sunday, we will wake up in the morning together!

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Posted by on 08/01/2016 in Family, Fun, Marriage

 

Happy 40th Birthday Mandy!

15 August 1999 a date I will always remember…

It was a Sunday and I had only been two weeks living in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, where I had moved to attend seminary.

On my second Sunday at, what was to be my new church, I met Amanda Lynn Birtchet. It was her 24th birthday.

We exchanged greetings and general pleasantries. I left thinking, “I’m going to find a way to get to know her better”!

I did… We did… We married 4 ½ months later. She was 24. I was 27. We were young; life seemed like an open book ahead of us.

Today marks 16 years since the day we met. It’s Mandy’s birthday. Her 40th. Wow! How did that happen? I’m nearly 43, my bride is 40. We have a 14 (as of tomorrow), 12 & 10 year old.

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the LORD.

40 isn’t that old, neither is 42 for that matter. But 40’s aren’t 20’s. We really had no idea what we were getting into 16 years ago.

I’ll never forget (I hope) our first date (and the many that followed in rapid succession). We just talked and talked. It seemed like the future was wide open before us. We were going to follow Christ wherever and take on the world.

We had no idea that before our 5th wedding anniversary and before Mandy was even 30 we would see Mandy’s Mum pass away, have two miscarriages, and she would give birth to our three children.

In the same period of time, I would change jobs three times, be out of work for several months, and complete my courses towards two graduate degrees.

That was only the beginning…

Proverbs 5:18 …rejoice in the wife of your youth…

I am so thankful that phrase is in the Bible. We’ve been married another 10 years. On each of Mandy’s birthdays I have the opportunity to reflect on how much our lives have changed and how virtually nothing is as we imagined life would be 16 years ago on that day when we met.

We’re older now… We’ve gone through more moves, changes in ministry, family tragedies, normal and abnormal illnesses, periods of intensely demanding schedules… We get tireder quicker now…

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband…

I’m so thankful you were born on this day. I am so thankful we met on this day sixteen years ago.

I’m so very thankful you are the wife of my youth but even more thankful you are my wife today and will be until the Lord returns or death separates us.

Happy 40th my dear! I hope I’m here to say happy 80th as I continue to rise up and call you blessed…

Proverbs 31 – 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

 
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Posted by on 15/08/2015 in Family, Fun, Marriage

 

To not inherit the Kingdom of God is serious business

Another month has arrived along with another issue of the Baptist Magazine.

Here is my monthly column for May’s “Minority Report”. This will likely be my last column on the same-sex marriage issue.

(ESV) 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(All of the following is hypothetical, yet not unreal.)

As I sit in my office and look across the desk I see a young couple (male & female) in their 20’s, they are not married yet they have been having sex with each other and, come to find out, others in the young adults group regularly and unapologetically.

As I have coffee with a husband of a lady in my congregation I learn that he is being investigated for fraud. He admits to me he has systemically stolen 2 million dollars from his employer over the last five years. He shows no signs of remorse or repentance, only a sorrow for being caught.

As I meet with another husband of a lady in my congregation the truth comes out that he is a drunk and when he is drunk (which is most evenings and weekends) he physically assaults his children and wife. He shows no signs of remorse.

As I meet with these people I will obviously discuss a number of items some which will involve the law, others relational damages, etc. Yet at the bottom line what must I say to them (granted this is an over simplification)?

Firstly, I must tell them that they are in serious trouble. Their sin is against those people they know but also, and most significantly, against God Whom they do not know. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is a serious matter. Yes, there are other serious matters as well, but the enteral destiny of their soul hangs in the balance. They must come to understand the holiness of God, the sinfulness of their sin and the necessity of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness.

Secondly, I must tell them of the hope found in the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God. I must pray for the Spirit to open their eyes so they can see that this same Jesus that made it possible for Paul to say of the people of Corinth, “And such were some of you”, is available to them as well. Forgiveness is possible. They can be set free from the power of sin (not necessarily from the consequences) and find rest in Christ and peace with God.

As I sit in my office there are two men in their 40’s sitting across the desk. They have not been thus far involved in homosexual sex, but they desire to get married so that they may be able to enjoy said activity as a married couple. Once they marry they will inevitably be men who “practice homosexuality.”

However, unlike the previous examples which are all listed with this activity in 1 Cor. 6:9-12, rather than pointing out their sin and pointing them to a holy God accessible only through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, I will help them plan a wedding.

By sanctioning “same-sex marriage” one is by definition declaring holy the practice of homosexual sex. By declaring such as holy one is saying those who God says will not inherit the kingdom of God will.

This is serious business. The very gospel is at stake.

 

Marriage: A Countercultural Event

The latest (April) issue of the Baptist Magazine should be out soon. Here is my monthly “Minority Report” column for this month.

In January of this year, in the course of two Saturdays in a row, I had the wonderful privilege of officiating for two weddings.  Though it was somewhat challenging to keep the details for the two weddings straight in my mind, like any wedding I officiate they were both a profound joy. The marriage of a young man and a young woman who are standing before God, their families, and friends and declaring their desire, by grace, to enter into the covenant of marriage for a lifetime which has been designed by God to picture the love Christ has for His bride the church is truly glorious.

Yet, I was struck by just how countercultural this “normal” ceremony has become. For, at least, two generations marriage has become disposable in the eyes of many. If you give it a go and it doesn’t work well, just get a divorce and either try again or just stay single. In the very recent past marriage has even been redefined by many to include two people of the same gender. So for a man and a woman to stand up today and enter into a life-long covenant based on the covenant Christ has made with His bride the church is radically countercultural in ways previous generations would never have imagined.

While this is happening I am reading a number of items in print and online where Christians are calling for the church to be radical, to be countercultural, and to strive to redeem and transform culture. Without even getting into the theological legitimacy of “redeeming culture” which I have written about before, I am struck by the irony of all of this.

Simultaneously we have voices, sometimes the same voices, calling us to radically transform culture and to modify our practice of what is today one of the most radically countercultural activities a Christian can do – participate in (as well as teach on and uphold the practice of) a monogamous, lifelong, covenantal, heterosexual marriage!

If your one of the pastors or church leaders or “every day” Christians who is all excited about the potential of radically transforming culture, can I point out what has become amazingly obvious? Stand up and declare that marriage has been designed by God to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime to the praise and glory of Christ – that is profoundly radical and deeply countercultural.

Of course this isn’t terribly surprising really. The gospel is radical and to follow Christ has always been a call to be countercultural.

Marriage was designed by God to picture the covenant between Christ and his bride the church (Eph. 5:32). In this covenant we see the radical truth that all mankind are sinners, completely helpless and unable to do anything to earn forgiveness of sin, yet Christ died satisfying God’s wrath so that all those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ alone can receive pardon and the joy of becoming children of the living God.

No wonder something designed by God to picture something so radical and amazing is fundamentally countercultural.

Of course we could redefine marriage to be anything but a covenant between a man and woman so that our practice of marriage looks like the rest of our culture’s and not the Scriptures.

Oh, wait, if we do that not only are we disobedient to the clarity of Scripture on this, but we have just stopped being radically countercultural. Oops!

 

Baptist Autonomy Can’t Mean Each Church is Free to Do Anything

The following is my March article for my regular column, “Minority Report” in the Baptist Magazine.

This is a big topic and the space allowed for this article is small. Therefore, I am not pretending to say all that could be said here, but I do intend to stimulate thinking on this very important question.

A discussion that has arisen from our “debate” regarding same-sex marriage, homosexuality and Baptist Union churches/pastors participation in such is that of local church autonomy. Can one church or the majority of churches in a union of churches give direction to other churches on what they can or cannot do in areas of practice?

Here, I just want to ask a simple question, do we see any precedent in the New Testament for this practice?

In scanning through the New Testament one only makes it to Acts 15 before we find an example of a group/church giving direction to other Christians/churches. Here we have the Jerusalem council debating questions regarding the nature of the gospel and giving a letter of direction to other churches.

Secondly, I would simply point out that the majority of the letters in the New Testament (certainly Paul’s) are written to churches providing direction and correction – in some cases to churches the author has never even visited.

By way of a passing observation, one can’t help but notice how often the subject of sexual purity comes up in these letters (even the letter to the churches in Acts 15!).

Now, here is what I am not saying. I am not saying anyone today carries apostolic authority as did Paul or the leaders of the Jerusalem church in Acts 15. I am not saying any one church or even the Baptist Union leadership holds inspired authority like the council in Acts 15.

However, I am saying that those who claim that autonomy precludes the possibility of sister churches within a union of churches correcting each other over areas of doctrine and/or practice are without warrant. The New Testament itself along with all of church history argues otherwise.

We as member churches individually and as a union collectively have a responsibility, New Testament model, and historical precedent to stand up and seek to correct those churches that are in error.

If your general position on the issue of same-sex marriage is, “I wouldn’t perform one myself, but I don’t think we should tell others they cannot” you are, but your silence condoning this practice. By condoning this practice you are saying an open, active homosexual lifestyle is pleasing to God and something that the Baptist Union of Churches in New Zealand should welcome. You are also, by your silence, affirming the view that an active homosexual lifestyle is pure and therefore is not a sin and there is no need for repentance. You see this isn’t just about marriage; it is about the definition of sin & repentance which gets at the heart of the gospel itself. And if there was every anything churches ought to be vigilant at in providing clarity, direction and even correction over, it is the gospel.

This is not a time to stay silent. This is a time to speak. Speak compassionately, graciously, lovingly yes, but speak nonetheless. Even more so for those in positions of leadership. If leadership if anything, it is standing for truth and speaking compellingly for those who do not have a voice. As leaders, silence speaks volumes. Silence communicates to those we lead, that this issue isn’t important, that we have nothing to say or even more critically for Christian leadership, God has nothing to say on this topic!

In the December issue of this column you will find a succinct statement regarding the Scripture’s teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, and marriage. It is time for those in the leadership of Baptist churches and Carey Baptist College to speak out publically in defence of the clear Scriptural teaching on this vital issue. This is not the time for a “conversation” but a declaration. Simply declare the whole counsel of God on the subject of sexuality and marriage and call all those who reject the Scriptures on this to repent – for the purity of the church, the glory of God, and the beauty of Christ.

 
 
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