Sunday, May 31, 2020

Popularity of Marriage

USA today - statistics regarding marriage:

Today we have More married couples in the U.S. than ever before!!  (nearly 62 million couples!)
BUT - that's mostly due to population growth!!

Using % of marrieds in U.S. (stats are HARD to nail down)
1960  (peak year) 72% of adults = married
today = around 50%

I)  Later marrying age.  1960 - avg. age = 21.  2018 - ave. age = 28

II)  Ease of divorce - 1960's set stage for "no fault divorce" - which does not require a showing of wrong doing by either partner.  1st. "no fault divorce" in USA in California in 1969.  Consequence = more "un-marrieds" - so divorce rate went up.

III.  Social Acceptance of Cohabitation - ie.  living together without having met legal (civil, state) obligations for marriage.
This lead to a gradual move AWAY from the traditional American view of marriage (which was Biblical/Christian)
Till today, 69% of Americans say cohabiting is acceptable.  Even IF couple is not planning to marry.  Another 16% say it's OK IF they plan to marry.  Only 14% say it is never acceptable (Biblical view)

Example:  US Census Bureau  "among 18-24 year-olds, more a cohabiting (9%) than married (7%).
(AND fastest growing age group for cohabiting is ... 50 years and up!!)

NOTE:  parallel acceptance of children born out of wedlock!!!  Example:  Facebook announcements and applause!!  - major shift in attitudes away from Biblical/Christian view.

IV.  A growing aversion to the states' right to define, regulate, be involved in the marriage relationship!!
Example:  2001 Gallup poll = 45% of Americans in 20s said government should NOT be involved in licensing marriage!!
65% Americans favor allowing unmarried, cohabiting couples Equal Legal Rights as married couples  (which leads to only difference = recorded in court house and a legal civil ceremony)

Nevertheless, in spite of all that ... Most Americans Marry!  50% of American adults currently married.  72% have been married - at least once.

Of these who've never married ... 58% say they'd like to be married someday.  Additional 27% say "not sure"  (most will change mind.)  Only 14 (of never marrieds) say "don't want to marry."

Also, giving up on A marriage does not mean giving up on the institution of marriage!!
80% of divorced people marry again ... in Spite of the fact that after the divorce ... only 33% of men and 15% of women say that they want to try again!!

Cohabitation = 1 man and 1 woman living in Exclusive Intimacy without formalized ceremony ahd/or legal sanction.  (official recognition by state)

Only 8% are "cohabiting".  of those .... 75% plan to marry.
                                                           55% do marry (within 5 years)
Others breakup and only 10% remain together unmarried!  (that  = 10% of the 8% (who are cohabiting) !!)

Though co-habitation s more common than ever  (recent times) long-term cohabitation (without eventual marriage) is NOT common!!!

What's the takeaway on all this?

The basic institution and practice of marriage is in NO danger of dying out!!
The Norm continues to be - 1 man + 1 woman living together in Exclusive intimacy ... with the intent of long term.

So then, what's the difference in "Marriage" and "Co-habitation"???
NOTE:  John 4:16-18 (powerful text) - Jesus makes distinction!!

Differences??  (between marriage and cohabiting)

#1.  an open, public declaration of intent

with #2.  a formal ritual/ceremony that society recognizes as a statement of that intent!!  Examples:  jump the broom, tie knot  gen. 24:67  (Israel and Rebekah)

for the US and most countries,
#3.  legal sanction  (recognized) by the state (government) which = THE distinction made by Census Bureau, Government agencies, pollsters, etc.    Rom.13:1

for Christians ... the Biblical view (God's plan, will, intent) includes
#4.  No extra-marital sexual intimacy  (before/after!)
Sexual intimacy - Exclusive right of Spouse.

#5.  "Christian marriage" = One Christian man + 1 Christian woman living in exclusive intimacy Under the Lordship  (Headship) of Christ!!!   Jesus as Lord.   2 Cor. 6:14 "yoked together", "bound together", mis-mated, matched

This = 'God's Plan'  and it = A Plan with a Purpose!!   for our good!  Are restrictions, but are for the good of the couple, good of the church, good of society, etc.

A Plan with a Purpose - next week's message.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

God's Plan for Marriage

'family' (generally) begins with Marriage

A general definition, description of Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman living together in an exclusive, intimate relationship ... with the intent of it being lifelong.

This = the Universal arrangement/practice
Yes ... there have always been exceptions.
BUT, this describes the Vast Majority of marital unions ... throughout history - in (nearly) every culture!

(1)  This seems inherent - 'written on the heart, woven into the fabric of our being'
(2)  This aligns (closely) with the Biblical Model which declares .....
        (A)  is designed by God
        (B)  was instituted by God  (established, arranged, setup)
       (C)  is a Blessing to mankind
       (D)  should be practiced according to His design!

So... God's Plan - Gen. 2:19-25  (the original blueprint)

        My Outline - (1)  1 man + 1 woman
                            (2)  leave
                            (3)  cleave
                            (4)  become
                            (5)  remain

#1.  One man + one woman living in Exclusive Intimacy (ie:  closeness/a familiarity shared with NO ONE ELSE)   that = (A)  Sexual - KJV - "Adam Knew Eve."
                              but    (B)  more than sexual

#2.  Leave - old primary relationship for a New primary relationship.  Doesn't mean abandon family but
= make spouse #1.    Note:  violations will hamper the Union!!

#3.  Cleave  (old English) = hold to, cling to, embrace
This = more than physical - "hold close to heart" - emotionally and relationally   Is the couple's work.
Is active verb - have to do it, work at it.

#4.  Become "one, 1 flesh" lives melded/souls knit.  This is God's work.  Happens even in bad marriages!  Matt. 19:4-6

#5.  Remain - Matt. 19 = Jesus' response to "divorce?" debate.  Yes!  law made provision/divorce ca be legitimate (sometimes necessary!)
BUT ... God's plan, heart, desire (will) = Marriage that lasts!

NOTE:  One person cannot do it..   Two people have to WORK at it.
             We all come short  (of what we should be).  Can't go back and change the past.  (must move forward!!)

BUT.... this = His Plan
            this = what we should work toward!

God's high view of Marriage also seen in fact that Marriage is used as the primary illustration of the Relationship between Christ and His Church!!
Eph. 5:25-33  (Is Paul talking about Man? or Christ & church? or BOTH!!)

(1)  Exclusive - "no other gods before me"  "jealous God"
      Intimacy -   Phil 4:10  "that I might Know Him"

(2)  leave .... old life/ old life style - no longer in love with philosophies of the world

(3)  cleave.... to New Lord, Master, LOVE!!

(4)  Become ... process of Sanctification - Eph. 5:25-28

(5)  Remain - "endure/persevere/remain faithful..."  hence church is called "Bride of Christ" 

Question:    Do we learn about Relationship with Christ by looking at Marriage?   OR, do we learn about Marriage by looking at Relationship with Christ???   
Answer:  BOTH!!  (or either way!)
Want to improve your marriage?  Look at Christ and the church.
Want to improve relationship with Christ?  look at Biblical marriage.

Both = important/sacred
Both ... can stand improvement  (development)
In BOTH ... when you improve.... you Benefit!!


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Becoming a Man of Excellence

Last week = "Prov. 31 Woman" - (virtuous, wife of noble character, 'Woman of Excellence')

Is there a corresponding passage for men???

On one hand is a lot of material scattered through-out Scripture, however, is no chapter (outlined in the text)

Question:  If marriage and family = so important, they why NOT more chapters, lengthy teachings, texts, etc. regarding it?

Answer:  Scripture is not Primarily a handbook on marriage and family, (or money, or leadership, or government, etc.)  There are a great deal of texts that you can go to on these things, but

Scripture is Primarily a Revelation of
 1)  God' Character - what He's like, and
 2)  God's will - what He wants (for us)

AND what He wants  (first and foremost) is not Godly husbands, Godly fathers, Godly families.
What He wants (first and foremost) = GODLY PEOPLE!! - the foundation for being a Godly father/mother

Example:  Mal. 2:15 - addresses Godly husband, father, family, but begins with .... Godly person!!  (man)

Picture a pyramid divided horizontally into three sections.  Person at bottom, partner in middle, parent at top.
Application is simple:  if you want to develop 'self as Godly partner, Godly parent, begin by developing self into Godly person!

Observations - #1:  You needn't master tier 1 before building tier 2 & 3.  Can build the tiers simultaneously.
BUT cannot develop 2 and 3 without 1.  (base)  (Can't be a good person without being a Godly person.)

                      #2.  To heighten the pyramid ... broaden the base.  (to add volume, mass  "edify")
So....steps, ingredients to developing this model, to building this pyramid

Basic stuff but need to review.

Becoming a Man (or woman, child) of Excellence (according to Biblical definition)
begins with:
I.  Acceptance of God's plan (will) for you!   Which includes accepting that
            (1)  He has a plan - a will, design for yu (as a man/woman/child)
            (2)  He has revealed that plan - not entirely, but sufficiently - 2 Pet. 1:3 -  Doesn't answer every question but you have what you need to develop.
and      (3)  that plan includes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior   Example:  John 14:1, 6

 IF you are rejecting/refusing God's Son/ Christ  THEN you are NOT accepting God's plan for you.  You can use the principles to make your life better.  But, that's not His plan.

So... I.  accepting God's plan

       II.  Exposure to that plan!
IF are willing to follow His plan then gotta know the plan!!

If His plan is revealed in His Word, then  gotta study the Word!
This = (1) more than a sermon a week!
         (2)  Bible = primary (and sufficient) 2 Pet. 1:3
but    (3)  Extra Biblical material is helpful!!!  (should be Biblical in its base)

     III. Self-Examination - Requires Brutal Honesty!!
Because:  (1)  We don't fix what we don't see as broken
               (2)  only you can examine the heart
and         (3)  we are (all) easily deceived!!   Jer. 17:9  We are extremely adept at it.

The measure?  Scripture, Holy Spirit within, Godly brothers and sisters - NOT HOW YOU FEEL!

The balance?  Seeing the shortcomings without being devastated by the shortcomings - God's intent is to correct and improve!!

Self examination requires Re-examination!! "Remember!  be careful!  don't forget!  - we need to be re-challenged

    IV.  Practice - doing it time and again.
Which = (1) to put into action what you know  _ John 13:17
AND     (2)  "to perform regularly in order to improve proficiency!!"  - Heb. 5:14

This all = very basic, fundamental, nothing new

BUT - deserves attention because it IS basic and fundamental.  ie:
     (1)  can't build the pyramid without the base!
     (2)  if you want to heighten the pyramid, you need to broaden the base!

so.. as we study "marriage and family"  (1) we cannot set aside what we've looked at in Rom. 1 to 11.
and  (2)  you cannot (truly) develop your skills as Godly partner, Godly parent, without addressing your need to become a Godly person!

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Proverbs 31 Woman

Today begins the family series which we've been doing about 30 years.

Message = The Proverbs 31 Woman, or The Virtuous Woman
or, A Wife of Noble Character, etc.

The passage = an Acrostic Poem  (22 lines/verses) which makes it
(1)  Memorable (in Hebrew!)
(2) Slightly (and intentionally) exaggerated!!  (for proper emphasis/to give due recognition and honor)
(3)  Universally applicable

Prov. 31:10-31

#1.  this = poetic tribute to a Real woman  (not fantasy, not make believe)
Therefore, this woman also experiences 'bad days'!!
(short temper, depression, anxiety, anger!!  Rom. 3:23 - real woman in a real world!

#2.  This = a poetic tribute to a particular type of woman.  The text is NOT primarily about abilities and activities.... but about her character.
Example:  not about spinning wool, making clothes.  But about a type, kind of woman!!  Don't have to duplicate her acts!

Traits that describe her:
She's a.....
#1.  Worker - scripture places high value on this!  Bible = woman who serves not who has lots of servants.
Hence "the Protestant work ethic"

#2.  Manager of her household!  her realm!!

#3.  Edifier (one who builds up) - an enhancer; a builder of people!!! -
Note:  her husband respected Partly due to her character.  Rarely is a man considered wise if he has a foolish wife.
Prov. 14:1 - "touchstone verse" - foolish woman tears down
This NOT always easy;  requires discipline and effort and self-denial

#4.  Teacher ... Prov. 31:26 - she speaks with "loving instruction, gentle wisdom" - is not about Homeschooling.  Is about life schooling.
Note:  Prov. 31:1-9

#5.  A model of character, not appearance  (Prov 11:22)
A model to sons and daughters, a model to other young people - of what a wife and mother should look like!  When woman is this kind of model, has more to model at age 70 that at age 25!

#6.  Woman of faith - thought not prominent in the text ... it is (nevertheless) a given  - Prob. 31:30
Faith = foundation of who she is.  This is right, this is Godly.
#7.  A testimony TO the faith!! - be yourself but build on the same foundation as this woman.

APPLICATION - pretty simple

I.  Ladies - wife, mom, or NOT ... these - characteristics of "a woman of excellence"
So... don't strive to do these exact things,
But, strive to be this Kind of woman  (Character!!)
Prov. 14:1 - wise woman builds ... her family, her legacy!!

II.  Men ... have you got a lady like this?
Then should (A) Praise God!!  Prov. 19:14 - prudent wife is from the Lord
           and   (B) Support her - with praise, encouragement, opportunity, assistance to be all she can be

"A woman's self-esteem generally determined by 2 men in her life ... ie:  her father and her 1st. husband!!
You can choose to be her anchor (and hold her down) or her Sail! (to help her go further)

III.  Kids - on one hand parents job is to 'edify' kids.
However, kids can have a part in edifying parents!!
Example:  The 1st. word in the second tablet (of the Ten Commandments) #5 - Deut. 5:16 'honor your father and mother' - with Eph. 6:1-3
Choose ... to be her anchor or her Sail!!

IF you aspire to be (come) a woman of Excellence
                                            man of Excellence
                                            child of Excellence
THEN you can grow, develop, improve with Self-Help  (many resources available)

But:  here at OBC as we promote man and family... we will promote:

            (1)  Jesus as Personal Savior and Lord - (redemption, reconciliation, restoration, indwelling of Holy Spirit, etc.)
Can never reach full potential of what we were created to be apart from Christ.

            (2)  Scripture as God's Recorded Revelation to us.  (this = handbook, playbook, roadmap)

            (3)  the Biblical Model
Will NOT always line up with the current, secular model.
BUT = God's Unchanging blueprint and plan for man and family.

           (4)  the Christian Lifestyle
This is more than philosophy, more than theory ... = Lifestyle and Behavior!!

           (5)  The Local Church -
the place of Christian gathering - corporate worship
                                              -  fellowship with bros. and sisters in Christ
                                              -  learning  (growth)

You can have a good (great) Marriage and Family without this.
BUT, the Best is found in God's will and way!!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Disputable Matters/Questionable Issues

Romans:  we're in the "to do" section - which = practice & lifestyle

Rom. 14:1 - sets stage for this chapter.  hence:  title of this post.
Definition = issues of faith and practice for which we have NO clear absolute word!!
Therefore, we have differing views, opinions, practices!!!

Example:  Paul mentions 3 things here ... issues in the Roman church
(1)  Eating meat - (probably 'kosher', probably not about vegetarian)
(2)  holy days (which day(s) of worship?  Sabbath keeping = may include other Jewish Holy days as well.  No clear word regarding which day to worship.
(3)  later in Rom. 14:21 - drinking wine (alcohol leads to intoxication).  Has always been an issue

What length - men and women?
                 ........ dress code - women and pants, beach attire, jewelry and adornments, makeup, etc.
                 ........ music - in church (some = "non-fiddlers") no instrumental music at all
                                      otherwise - Rock, Rap, country, contemporary Gospel.
Will have differing views on these issues.
                ....... Bible translation - example:  KJV only
               ......... Baptismal formula (what to say, in what order), mode of baptism, age of baptism
               ........ tattoos?
               ....... legal marijuana?
               ....... prescription drugs?  medical care?
              .......  casino gambling?
               ....... R-rated & violent movies?

This is a question that is Always relevant to Christians!!  Every age, era, society

Paul does NOT give a "list" .... rather gives...
    (1)  a general Christian approach
    (2) based on previous text and last week's lesson - ie:  AGAPE and your neighbor - Rom. 13:8
We have continuing debt to love our neighbor.

Quick Summary = ACT IN (Agape) LOVE!!!
  ie:  (1)  Love for God  (and His cause, His Kingdom)
And (2)  Love for neighbor  (his good, to build him up!)

(as so often with Christ ...) the Concept is simple!!
                                         the Practice is tough!!!

Text:  Rom. 14:1-2 15:1-2    (Rom. 14:8 - serving Christ by forfeiting rights)

Question?  How important is this?
Paul deals with it AT LENGTH here
AND in greater length in 1 Cor. chap. 8, 9, & 10!!!

So.... look at KEY verse in that (lengthy) passage ....
1 Cor. 8:1 - Knowledge is GOOD (admirable, Essential!!)
BUT ... it tends to swell the HEAD, (tends to develop arrogance, pride),  not the HEART!

Example:  1 Cor. 8:4-13 - issue = love and concern for brothers

1 Cor. Chap. 9  - Paul addresses his "Rights" as a Christian and Apostle.
ie:  example:  'free' to receive support from churches he started, 'free' to have a wife, children, family...
BUT he forfeited, sacrificed these 'rights' FOR the Gospel!!! - ! Cor. 9:12

This is about voluntary, conscious, intentional) FORFEITURE of personal rights ...
FOR the sake of souls, the sake of Kingdom - 1 Cor. 9:23

Paul goes ON!!!  1 Cor. 9:24-27 - compares Christian life to a Race  "in a race I don't dawdle, piddle, snooze ... I RUN!!"

Then (1 Cor. chap. 10 - uses example of 1st. Generation of Israel
On one hand, they entered the race  (came out of Egypt)
However, never took it Seriously!!  Consequences = 40 years in wilderness.
(hence left a legacy of indifference and failure!)

Universal, all time argument!!!! - 1 Cor. 10:23 - not everything is beneficial, constructive to people around you
Paul's answer to that argument ... 1 Cor. 10:24 - don't seek own good but the good of others.

Call this:  The Ministry of Edification
A ministry ... (1)  ALL Christians should engaged in
                    (2)  Mature Christians should Excel at!!!

Summary:  1 Cor. 10:31, 11:1

This = a lot of material!!!
Which indicates the Importance of the issue!!!
Yet ..... largely overlooked or ignored by Christians today!!

BECAUSE ... "my rights are more important than......
                       my neighbor's Salvation
                 or  my brother's Edification!!!

Question:  How far do we GO with this???
Jesus offended!!  Paul offended!  The Gospel is offensive!!!
We can't live without offending, can't always concede!!

1st. NOTE:  This does Not apply to clearly stated "thou shalt & shalt nots" (can still practice agape here, BUT cannot concede, compromise)  - are not dealing with sin.  This is about questionable issues.

2nd. NOTE :  we do have to 'draw a line' and often "Hard to know where!!  (are no lists!)

So..... ASK SELF  (and attempt to be honest!  We are notoriously good at fooling ourselves)
#1.  is this act offensive?  to seekers?  to believers?
#2.  is it really necessary  to me?  to others?
#3.  why am I so reluctant to give it up??
#4.  Can I practice this without flaunting it?
#5.  What would Jesus do?  really!!!

Add:  when really not sure ... "GO THE EXTRA MILE"!!! - err on the side of love, charity, Agape

Conclusion:  1 Cor. 9:23 - "I do all this for the sake of the gospel ... THAT I MAY SHARE in its Blessings!!
Which = Your SACRIFICE will be Rewarded WITH interest!!! Matt. 19:27, 29