Sunday Sermon Series – Revival of Holiness

Northwest Baptist Church: Oklahoma City, OK > Pastors' Roundtable

Ezra 9-10


CONTEXT

Ezra being informed, by some of the princes who complained unto him, of the marriages of many of the Israelites with the people of the land, the Canaanites and others, was greatly grieved and distressed, Ezra 9:1-5, upon which he made a confession of their sins to God, with great shame, sorrow, and contrition, and deprecated the evils which they deserved, Ezra 9:6-15.

Upon Ezra’s prayer and confession, it was proposed by Shechaniah, that those who had married strange wives should put them away with their children, which they swore to do, Ezra 10:1-5, and proclamation was made throughout the land for all to meet at Jerusalem in three days’ time, and accordingly they did, Ezra 10:6-9 when, at the exhortation of Ezra, all agreed to it, and persons were appointed to see it done, and the work was finished in the space of three months, Ezra 10:10-17 and a list of the names of those is given who had married such wives, and now put them away; of the priests, Ezra 10:18-22, of the Levites, Ezra 10:23,24, of the other Israelites, Ezra 10:24-44.  – John Gill’s Commentary


SERMON

A Revival of Holiness – Ezra 9 &10

Other Resources

If you enjoy Pastor Sills sermon, here is a link to the rest of his series on Ezra. https://christchurchfareham.co.uk/our-sermons/sermon-series-ezra-spiritual-restoration-in-jerusalem-and-fareham/

 

Geoff Thomas Sermon on Ezra 9 man of Prayer

 

Today’s BreakPoint: Divorce Is Down During COVID

BreakPoint Daily

Divorce Is Down During COVID

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WHY?

“Stressful” doesn’t really begin to describe a year like 2020. Between the pandemic, the lockdowns, cancelled classes, lost jobs, and an election to rival trench warfare, you would expect a heavy toll on marriages and families. But a recent piece in the Washington Post offered some of the best news we’ve gotten in quite a while. Divorce rates in the United States have declined, and marriages have grown stronger — during the pandemic…

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Marriages Hit a New Low

Mark ‭10:6-9‬ “But from the beginning of the creation, God made ...

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BreakPoint Daily

Marriages Hit a New Low

marriage2

How We Rebuild a Culture of Commitment

JOHN STONESTREET  WITH SHANE MORRIS

According to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics, marriage in the United States of America has never been less popular. Today, in the U.S. there are only 6.5 weddings for every 1,000 people, the lowest rate since we started keeping records just after the Civil War, and despite the fact that millennials, who are the biggest generation in American history, are in their peak marriage years right now. And, these numbers are pre-COVID-19. As the report’s lead author suggests, the economic fallout of the virus will likely “further discourage marriage in the near term….”

Economic factors do, of course, affect marriage rates. Even before COVID closed everything down, single breadwinners could find it quite difficult to support a growing family. In recent decades, the “marriage gap,” the different marriage rates between upper and lower income Americans, has become more pronounced, with marriage becoming more and more a luxury of the wealthy.

At the same time, it’s a worldview mistake to think that economics alone can explain what’s happening to marriage. As Bradford Wilcox with the Institute for Family Studies reminds us, “there was no marked increase in divorce, family instability, or single parenthood at the height of the Great Depression.” By contrast, Cornell sociologist Daniel Lichter points out that some of the biggest drops in marriage rates, at least in recent years, have occurred during economically prosperous times.

The bigger factor here is not money but culture.

Exhibit A: As marriage has receded, cohabitation has increased in both numbers and social acceptability. Pew reports that a quarter of unmarried young adults are living with a partner. That’s the highest percentage since our record-keeping began.

The rise of cohabitation has followed not only a shift of attitudes about out-of-wedlock sex, but about the institution of marriage itself. Several years ago, another Pew study found that more than half of young people in America thought marriage was “obsolete.” As one pastor remarked on Facebook, young people who pursue the skills necessary for marriage are often treated as if they’re wasting their “real” potential, and those who get married in their early or even mid-twenties can inspire a level of shock and shame that was once reserved only for couples “living in sin.”

Even worse, our culture’s current portrayal of the “good life” involves career-minded singles living in chic urban apartments, sowing their wild oats on casual dating and hookup apps, and leading lives incompatible with a spouse, much less children.

The road to rebuilding a culture that values marriage will be long and arduous, but we do have some clues about what works when it comes to creating and preserving that kind of culture. The Institute for Family Studies reports that, contrary to a popular but mistaken talking point, the institution that remains the single best refuge for marriage is the Church. It is still true, even today, that among the surest predictors that a couple will get and stay married is how regularly they attend religious services. That’s why bringing people to God and bringing people together are so often a package deal.

Even so, the Church simply must first embrace her God-given task of re-catechizing His people about what marriage is. Too often, the Church is trying to put a band-aid of sexual morality on the gaping wound of bad Christian thinking about marriage that is often no different than the larger culture: That marriage is either a lifestyle accessory, a waste of youth, or an institution of personal happiness. We won’t know what marriage is, or how to do it, unless we know what God created marriage for.

Hint: Though companionship is certainly a wonderful side-benefit of a healthy marriage, God didn’t create marriage to solve Adam’s loneliness problem. Check the text again: He created marriage to solve Adam’s aloneness problem. It’s an important distinction that not only explains what marriage is for, but sets the groundwork for all of the moral expectations God gives us about sex and marriage.

Even after the wedding, the Church is still the best place to strengthen marriages, a necessary task if we are to see the kind of culture where people think of lifelong marriage as part of the good life. Recently, J. P. DeGance joined me on the BreakPoint Podcast to talk about a unique, data-driven approach to help pastors identify struggling marriages and then works to help save them in their communities. Working with pastors and churches in Jacksonville, Florida, DeGance’s organization, Communio, saw the divorce rate drop 24 percent in just three years. That’s many times faster than the national average.

Saving existing marriages is essential to encouraging new ones. How many young people are out there that have never seen a single marriage work? How can we expect them to trust an institution that, in their view, not only consistently fails but also causes so much pain and heartbreak when it does?

J.P. DeGance will join Katy Faust, Pastor Bob Fu, and Student for Life president Kristan Hawkins for Module 5 of our upcoming  “Truth. Love. Together” virtual event. He’ll be talking about how the Church can help restore a marriage culture. The Truth.Love.Together event is absolutely free. Sign up and learn more here.

 

 

To Have & To Hold

The Master's Seminary Blog

Tim Counts | 

It happened again. My wife and I heard of yet another Christian couple—whom we knew and loved—ending their marriage. I felt sick. I couldn’t rid my mind of the years, likely decades, of unrest that would trickle from this.

It seems as if Christians are beginning to be okay with their marriages mimicking the world’s broken marriages. We are growing accustomed to leaving the gospel on the sideline when it comes to our wedding vows. Divorce has become something of a car crash: unpleasant, destructive, but sometimes simply inevitable. A wreck, however, pales in comparison to the ripple-effects of divorce. A fractured marriage not only affects the family, it devastates our witness as ministers of grace to a broken world.

But just consider the impact of a couple who says and actually means their wedding vows—”for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

Several years ago, I officiated a memorial service for a woman who had had a long fight with Alzheimer’s. She rarely recognized her husband the last years of her life. Yet week after week he drove four hours to be with his bride. On his last visit, something changed. She held his face in her hands and whispered, “I love you.” What a beautiful picture of the stubborn, never-wearying love of the gospel—a love that gives and forbears, even in days and years of forgetfulness.

The following are two biblical truths that help us to understand why God calls us to reflect the gospel by keeping our marriage covenant.

Satan Hates Your Marriage

In marriage, we do have an enemy, but that enemy is not our spouse. Understanding that will make all the difference. That enemy is the one who delights in deceiving, distorting, and dividing. Satan has hated marriage from the beginning, just as he hates all of God’s good creation.

When God created Eve and then led her to Adam as his bride, the Scriptures says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Immediately following God’s institution of marriage, the enemy of marriage enters: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made” (Gen. 3:1). In the following verses, we see the immediate results of Satan’s temptation. Eve tempts her husband to sin. And Adam resentfully points the finger, blaming his wife and God for his sin. Satan wasted no time, creating a chasm of resentment and struggle between man and his wife.


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Satan continues to hate marriage to this day. Why? Because God formed this institution to reflect the relentlessly-loving relationship between Christ and His bride—the church (Eph. 5:31–32). When we throw in the towel on our marriages, when we are unfaithful through infidelity or pornography, when we stop fighting for our marriages with a holy stubbornness, we fail to reflect the One who never stops assuring His bride, “No matter what, I will not let you go.” We too quickly let Satan win.

Jesus Will Never Leave His Bride

Jesus will never leave nor forsake His bride. Sally Lloyd-Jones described God’s covenant love as His “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” Oh, that our marriages could be described like that. When Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, He put skin on unconditional love. He showed what love looks like towards the unlovely—the prostitutes, the tax collectors, to those who had nothing to offer in return. When we display Jesus’ love by maintaining our marriage covenant, we become a practical demonstration of the love of Christ to a broken world.

Jesus will never leave His bride. Followers of Jesus shouldn’t either.

Yet Jesus does more than provide an example of stubborn love. The good news of the gospel is that believers are given the strength to live and love righteously. Because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we can lean into the embrace of Jesus to find the strength to love our spouse.

I remember hearing the testimony of a young couple who had been on the brink of divorce. The husband had battled anger for years. The wife had committed adultery. After he and his wife had separated, the husband repented and turned to the Lord. In an attempt to reconcile, the husband looked at her and said, “Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead?”

Yes, was her replay.

He continued: “And do you really believe that God could raise a dead man back to life and not breathe new life back into our marriage?” Restoration soon flooded this relationship—God breathed life into brokenness.

If Satan seems to have the upper hand in your marriage, if you are weary of trying to love your spouse with whatever endurance you can muster, the gospel has a better word for you.

Cling to Christ as you seek to reflect His faithful love to your spouse:

O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer, fuller be.

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated.]

How to Teach Your Kids the Ten Commandments

by 

Although my ministry primarily sees that I work with adults, I recently had the opportunity to teach a one-hour class on the ten commandments to young teenagers. I provided a handout and back and forth commentary on the subject. Below you will find part of my teaching approach. Feel free to use it and adapt it to your audience.

How to Teach Your Kids the Ten Commandments

1. Read the Ten Commandments Aloud

The ten commandments will be found in Ex. 20:1-21 and Deut. 5:1-21. The first thing to do is to open up your Bible and read the ten commandments aloud. You read from Exodus and let your kids read from Deuteronomy (or the other way around). Either way, it’s important to start by actually reading the commandments.

You could also consider providing literary context for the ten commandments. Explain why God gave them to the Israelites, why the ten commandments are in the part of the Bible that they are in and not in another place, what happened before and after the giving of the ten commandments, and so on.

You can mention that God rescues the Israelites from Egypt first, then he provides the ten commandments. You can say that they are meant as a guide to show the Israelites how to live, that they reveal one’s need for a Savior, and that they all apply today in equal measure. This will bridge into an overview of our subject.

CONTINUED AT: SOURCE ARTICLE

 

Five Moral Principles of Marriage

FEBRUARY 7-14 – IS NATIONAL MARRIAGE WEEK

Five Moral Principles of Marriage

American Pastors Network President Sam Rohrer: God’s Model for Marriage Communicates Truth

For Christians, says American Pastors Network (APN) President Sam Rohrer, defending marriage between one man and one woman may seem easy. Whether examined historically, physiologically, emotionally, economically or morally, biblical marriage is best.

“But the moral argument is strongest because it precedes and underpins all others,” Rohrer says.

As the nation observes National Marriage Week Feb. 7-14, APN hopes all couples—married or soon-to-be-married—will consider five moral principles of marriage that Christians must not only understand and live out but also nurture and defend in the culture.

  1. Marriage is God’s idea.

    God’s plan is best because God alone is Truth, Creator and Judge.

“Our opinion on marriage doesn’t really matter,” Rohrer says. “We have no vote, but we do have a choice. As the Source of all Authority, God’s plan for male and female, marriage, human sexuality, children and family prevails. Only He has the right to legitimately define it and to demand that we observe it.”

  1. God’s plan establishes biblical marriage as foundational for strong families.

    Biblical marriage is the cornerstone of authority in human society.

“God’s foundation for societal order is upheld first by the pillar of family authority, then civil, then church authority—all nurtured by God’s purpose and limitation for each,” notes Rohrer. “No nation can be blessed by God without strong families. No family can be strong without a strong marriage at the center. And no marriage can be strong without following God’s plan for marriage.”

  1. No other combination besides one man and one woman works in God’s plan.

    This principle presumes one man and one woman, united and committed, as one flesh—before God.

“Therefore,” Roher adds, “no government possesses the authority to legally alter or redefine marriage or family. It has no more moral or jurisdictional authority to redefine marriage than to declare natural law invalid or declare immoral actions, such as theft, murder or rape, moral.”

  1. To preserve the integrity of marriage and the family, it must be kept holy. 

    Heterosexual infidelity, sex outside marriage, homosexuality or marriage between multiple men or woman all violate God’s order.

No violation or variation of marriage or engagement in human sexuality, other than within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman, is acceptable without bringing predictable consequences to individuals, communities and nations,” Rohrer says.

  1. Ephesians 5 gives truth about marriage.

    God declares that physical marriage between one man and one woman is holy and mirrors the spiritual relationship between Christ and the Church.

“God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ and His relationship to the church is the picture of true love and unity between God and man—and why all efforts to redefine God’s design is a direct attack on God Himself, His plan of redemption and Jesus Christ,” Rohrer concludes.

Rohrer adds that the American Pastors Network emphasizes the authority of Scripture for deciding all issues, including marriage, and urges pastors and parents to defend and live out God’s model in their pulpits and in their homes.

In this vein, APN hopes thousands will join the ministry for its national prayer movement called “52 Tuesdays,” in which the faithful from around the country will come together to pray for the moral and spiritual renewal of our nation every Tuesday leading up to Election Day 2020.

This dedicated season of prayer not only addresses the important 2020 presidential election but also other topics close to Christians’ hearts, such as marriage and family. Prayer warriors nationwide can add their name to the growing “52 Tuesdays” list here.

  • Note the text was slightly modified from the original without changing the content to make it easier to reblogg here.

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The Pursuit of Family

BreakPoint Daily

The Pursuit of Family

family

Just Wanting It Makes You Happier

by:  &  G. Shane Morris

We’ve reached a barking point in American history. (Yeah, I’m sorry for that one.) A few years ago, for the first time ever, the number of dogs in this country surpassed the number of children under eighteen. According to Statista, there are 90 million dogs in America today, up from just 68 million in 2000. And a higher percentage of American households own dogs than ever before.

By contrast, there are just over 73 million children. That still sounds like a lot, but as a percentage of the population, children have never been rarer. In 1960, for instance, over one-in-three Americans were under the age of eighteen. According to government projections, by 2050, children will make up less than a quarter of the population.

As you’d expect, this drop in birth rates corresponds to a drop in marriages. What you might not expect is that it also corresponds to a drop in happiness. The General Social Survey in 2018 found that Americans today are more miserable than they’ve been in decades. And replacing family with dogs isn’t reversing the trend.

Of course, what we increasingly hear today, in print and on television and movies, is that what will make us happy is the freedom that can come only from singleness and childlessness. Writing in The Atlantic recently, Mandy Len Catron bemoaned “What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse.” According to her, family life is isolating and unfair to outsiders, because spouses give most of their attention to each other and to their kids. When people get married, she writes, they retreat into “socially neglectful cocoons.”

London School of Economics professor Paul Dolan goes even further in his book, “Happily Ever After.” He says the only reason married people report being happier on average than singles is that they’re lying to save face. The book was corrected, by the way, when this claim turned out to be unsupportable.

In reality, the statistics are clear: Married people really are happier than those who are unmarried—by an average of ten percentage points. But is that because marriage makes people happy, or because happy people are more likely to get married?

A new paper by the Institute for Family Studies offers a surprising answer. Instead of looking at the effect of family itself, author James McQuivey decided to look at the effect of the desire for family. He asked over a thousand men and women how much they value having an emotionally intimate relationship, sexual faithfulness, and children. He then combined these answers into a single measure, which we might call a desire for a traditional, nuclear family.

He discovered that scoring higher on this measure predicted greater happiness and overall life satisfaction—regardless of whether or not the respondent was actually married or had kids!

It’s one of those results that makes you do a double take. After all, you’d expect people who want a family life and haven’t found it to be dissatisfied. But on average, they’re not. As McQuivey says, “[i]f you merely have the desire to pair bond and procreate, you are already happier than average…”

Act on that desire, he adds, and your happiness jumps, while your life satisfaction (a separate metric) “practically leaps off the chart.”

In other words, contrary to the thesis that getting married and having kids dooms you to misery, committing to a family is one of the most effective means ever created to train people to care for others. And a cornerstone of psychology is that other-centeredness brings human beings happiness.

Look, dogs are great and all, but we were made for communion with other people. The family bond is so central to our design that merely pursuing it leads to greater happiness.

For a society like ours, one in the midst of family and happiness shortages, the solution is obvious, but it won’t be found at the dog park.

Download MP3 Audio Here

The Church Really Can Strengthen Marriage

BreakPoint Daily

The Church Really Can Strengthen Marriage

(in fact, only the church can)

 

by:  &  

Between 2014 and 2017, the divorce rate in Jacksonville, Florida, and surrounding Duval County fell 24 percent. Of course, divorce rates are falling nationally already, possibly because fewer people are bothering to get married. Still, 24 percent is a huge number, especially compared to a 6 percent decline nationally and a 10 percent decline across the state of Florida during the same period.

What happened in Jacksonville?

The difference was the commitment of local Christians to go beyond lamenting the state of the family and to actually do something to help married people.

Behind these efforts was the unifying work of a group called Communio, whose goal is to help churches “strengthen marriages and families in their community.” The group uses a data-centered approach to identify couples in crisis, and then elevates “best practices” to offer help to these couples.

In Jacksonville as elsewhere, the data continues to show that “churches are the best at strengthening marriages.” After all, what other social institution can offer the sort of surgical precision needed to identify and connect with couples? What other institution is as scattered, de-centralized, and localized? This insight is obvious once you think about it, but unfortunately, it’s rarely put into practice, especially at the kind of scale needed to make a difference.

Communio worked closely with churches across denominations to create programs to supplement marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programs. These programs both identified and helped couples who showed signs of being at risk of divorce; signs such as “struggling with anxiety, financial stress, or substance abuse.”

Whenever couples were identified as fitting the criteria for “the greatest level of marriage difficulty,” they “would be directed into more intensive programs like Live the Life’s Hope Weekend.”

Altogether, between 2016 and 2018, 59,000 people attended a four-hour or longer program in Jacksonville. That’s nearly 12 percent of all adults between the ages of 18 and 64. In contrast, in 2015, only 300 people attended similar programs.

Because less than 20 percent of U.S. evangelical, Catholic, and mainline churches have any budget for marriage ministry,” that low 2015 number isn’t surprising. Connecting and sharing resources between churches is an absolute game-changer.

For example, consider Watermark Church in Dallas. Their intentionality to strengthen marriage in Dallas is, like Communio’s efforts in Jacksonville, a model other churches can and should follow.  In the last decade, over 100,000 people have participated in the church’s re|engage” program in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a program that intends to change the way marriage is done in the area. And, Watermark is sharing its program widely. Chances are, there’s a church in your area that’s been trained in and is employing re|engage.

What’s happening in Jacksonville and Dallas embody an important truth summed up by Communio’s executive director J. P. De Gance, who was my guest on the BreakPoint podcast: “The federal government cannot fix marriage, but churches can.”

Indeed, we can, if we decide to light a candle instead of merely cursing the darkness. If, we do not succumb to what Jacques Ellul called the “political illusion,” which is the tendency to look to the government to fix all of our problems, and instead employ the vast network and personalized potential of the Church to the hurting and lost, we can make an incredible difference.

Strengthening marriage and the family is a task God has assigned to the Church. Delegating that task to any other institution is not only a dereliction of duty, it’s a failing proposition. And, the efforts of Communio and Watermark remind us that this task is not easy, but it is doable.

Download MP3 Audio Here

 

The Gift of Children

And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.”  Genesis 1:28 (AMP)

Garth Brooks famously wrote a song entitled “Unanswered Prayer”  with the line “Some of God’s greatest gift are unanswered prayer” I would argue that God’s greatest gift (apart from Christ 2 Corinthians 9:15) is described in the verse above; children. I thank him daily for my daughters and step-sons. – Mike

BreakPoint Daily

The Gift of Children

A Call to Love, Sacrifice, and Hope

by:  &  G. Shane Morris –  14 Nov 2019

A recent open letter from the Alliance of World Scientists began this way: “We declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world…that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

The letter is filled with urgent language and what the authors consider irrefutable proof that human beings are destroying the planet.

And, they offer their prescription. In addition to emissions reductions, renewable energy, and carbon taxes, the authors think it’s time to say “no” to children.

World population, they write, “must be stabilized—and ideally, gradually reduced…” To this end, they urge governments and international bodies to make “family-planning services”—including abortion—“available to all people…”

If that sounds like a call for state-run population control, it is.

Ironically, the call comes at a time when developed nations are already saying “no” to children at an unprecedented rate, and not for environmental reasons. In fact, an increasing number of demographers are now convinced that we’re on the brink of a global population bust. As we’ve pointed out many times on BreakPoint, a childless society brings devastating economic, social, and spiritual consequences.

In a survey reported last year in the New York Times, one of the main reasons young respondents give for wanting fewer children (or none at all) was a desire for more leisure time. As one young woman put it, she’d rather be traveling with her fiance, focusing on her job and education, and “playing with her cats,” than having kids.

Increasingly in a culture habituated toward self-interest and sexual freedom, children are viewed as curses rather than blessings, as obstacles to achieving dreams, finding happiness, and even to keeping the planet cool.

Against this backdrop, the Christian view of children as gifts from God is as counter-cultural as it gets. Yet counter-cultural is exactly what the Church is called to be right now, especially in how we welcome and talk about the next generation.

The newest statement from Evangelicals and Catholics Together—an initiative Chuck Colson co-founded with Fr. Richard John Neuhaus years ago—points the way forward. It’s called “The Gift of Children,” and it’s a bold and detailed reminder of how God views little ones. It’s also the kind of statement that’s bound to offend modern sensibilities:

“As Evangelicals and Catholics,” the statement reads, “we agree that a society in which nearly all fertile women are, in one form or another, rendered infertile by contraceptive technologies…reflects a profoundly disordered view of sex, children, human nature, and environmental responsibility.”

Increasingly today, couples are forced to justify their desire to have children, but this statement insists that parenthood is “the most natural of things.” It’s also worth sacrifices—even if it means fewer zeros on a paycheck, less square footage in a house, or fewer cars in the garage.

More fundamentally, the statement proclaims, the birth of a child is “charged with transcendent meaning.” Children are living affirmations that God’s creation is good, and they compel us, like nothing else in life, “to serve a future we cannot control” and to trust that God is not yet finished with this world.

“The Gift of Children” offers the radically counter-cultural understanding of children that is needed right now. More importantly, it’s a challenge to the Church, to conform ourselves to our professed beliefs—to bear witness, through welcoming new life, to the love of the God who gave us life.

I hope you’ll read it in full and share it with your friends, your family, and your pastor, and use it to spark a long overdue discussion.