For the last few weeks, I've been recommending the two books on marriage and one novel about the powerful effects of gracious love in a marriage listed below. The chief book I've recommended is The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller. Below is a provocative excerpt from the book and a link to a longer excerpt. Check it out, and see if it won't challenge you like it challenged me, to in the famous words of the Rolling Stones, "Love the one you're with."
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Redeeming Love (A Novel) by Francine Rivers
"In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner. They do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires. This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner." Timothy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage
I don't change my life SO THAT Jesus will love me. BECAUSE Jesus loves me, my life changes.
We don't grow spiritually by moving past the basic gospel that we're sinners saved by grace into the super spiritual curriculum. Rather, spiritual growth is the right application of the implications of God's Salvation in every area of life. All of our sin is at its core a failure to believe or to apply the truth we learn in Jesus that not because of anything we have done, but because of Jesus, we are infinitely loved, cherished, accepted, and valuable to the God of the universe.
If it is true, and it is, that no area of life is untouched by the infection of sin, then it must also be true that the gospel must be the antidote in every area of life. We must rethink our marriages, jobs, hobbies, relationships, and vacations in light of the gospel. The Gospel changes everything and redeems every area of our lives.
This sermon by Timothy Keller, a Presbyterian pastor in New York City, helps us begin to think out the implications of the gospel for every area of life.
Here is a link to the Podcast in iTunes if you want to listen on your phone or iPod: PODCAST
Most of you know that I went on vacation with my family earlier this month, and it was great. I needed a week out of the pulpit to recharge and to study God's word without the immediate need to teach it, when all I was doing was enjoying it. I loved getting to witness the beauty of God's creation first hand in fish, otters, sea turtles, a manta ray, dolphins, and birds, birds, birds.
Still, I know that I often idolize vacations. I look to them like a week of salvation, a week that will fix every problem, that will calm all my anxieties, that will restore my soul, that will restore my sanity, that will rejuvenate my sagging will, and will automatically make me more joyful and content. But like all idols, Vacations are a great thing, but they make terrible gods. I still remember my first vacation after becoming pastor at Oakland. I expected a week at the beach to do all I listed and more. I looked to it for salvation from compassion fatigue and mental fatigue and faith fatigue. I went on vacation like a worshipper travels to a shrine, and I found a dead god. I spent little time in prayer that week and littler time in the Bible. I wanted to completely disconnect, and in so doing, I willfully disconnected myself from God.
I came back more exhausted, more overwhelmed, more baffled, and more desperate for rest than I did when I went. My vacation was actually vacuum. And I have heard many of you say some form of the sentence, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation." Sometimes your joking about doing too much on vacation, but I still cannot help wonder if it is indicative, that we as Americans (and especially country music listeners) are prone to idolize Vacations.
This summer, I tried something different. I went on vacation in much the same spot - tired. But I intentionally tried to stay connected to God, to rest in God, to rest in his unchanging assurances. I did take a break from heavy reading or spiritual self-help books or church-development books. I did let myself sit and listen to conversations or silence rather than try to think of the next right question a real pastor would ask. But I didn't disconnect from God like last time. I didn't look to food, sun, and saltwater to fix me, but I thanked God for each of them, and I spent a lot of time just trying to be awe-filled in this awesome universe.
I got back and listened to this sermon, and I think it summed up much of what I was trying to practice. Maybe as you go on vacation it will help you to find retreat rather than idolatry.
As I said last week, I want to start giving you extra sermons from some of the best preachers around. I hope you won’t compare me too uncharitably, though I strive every week to preach like these men and women. Personally I try to listen to 3 sermons a week, last week, it was probably 6. (I listened to the following sermon 3 times). Audio sermon recordings are great for drives to work, yard work, and washing dishes. You could rot your brain on pop music and Beyonce or you could edify your soul with a powerful message. Listening to sermons on you iPod is in no way a replacement for being connected to a local church. You cannot grow apart from intimate community.
This week I want to recommend “The Parable of the Pearl: On Priorities,” a sermon delivered by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. You will notice that one of this illustrations I used toys start my sermon also appears in Tim Keller’s sermon. His sermon was brilliant, and is exceptional at emphasizing the SOLD ALL HE HAD part of our parable, whereas I worked hard to emphasize the JOY OF THE TREASURE part in hopes that you would be motivated to sell everything. Hopefully together they create a huge harvest of faith and righteousness.
At the following link, you can either stream the sermon or download an MP3 for free.
As a personal discipline, I listen to multiple sermons each week. Some of these I listen to in order to prepare for a specific sermon. Other’s I simply listen to in order to be fed. I want to start sharing some of these sermons from other churches to help you in your walk with the Lord. I pray they will be helpful to you.
A few weeks ago, I preached on the Parables of the Weeds and the Parable of the Fishes. In the Parable of the Weeds, an enemy sows weeds among a farmer’s wheat crop. In the Parable of the Net or the Fishes, Jesus says the Kingdom is like a great net let down into the sea that pulled up all kinds of fish. At the end of each parable there is a judgment and a separation, which represents the final judgment that will take place when Jesus returns again and his Kingdom comes in full.
In our culture Judgment and especially the Final Judgment is often rejected as unloving, intolerant, narrow-minded, etc. The thinking goes, “If God is all loving and all forgiving, then God would not submit people to the humiliation of judgment or to the punishments of Hell.” But Jesus believes and the Bible teaches over and over again that there will be a Judgment Day and that some will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God and others will be sent away into Hell.
So the main question is: WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS OF JUDGMENT? HOW IS JUDGMENT A GOOD THING? or more to the point: HOW IS JUDGMENT DAY GOSPEL?
I think this sermon is a neat starting place. It was preached by Timothy Keller, the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is one of the best teacher/preachers I know about, and one I listen to regularly. I hope you enjoy.