Talking together about the Respect for Marriage Act

With an apology to those of you not immediately in the Woodland church family, I’m delivering on a promise today. This past Sunday I promised we’d circle up in MORE (that’s our second hour adult class) and talk about the recently signed-into-law bill known as the Respect for Marriage Act.

This redefinition of marriage will change the way churches and Christians operate in the public square—whether or not we are operating “in color of State”. We’ll talk in our class about what all that might mean.

But, first, here’s the handout I promised. It includes hyper-links to some articles I’ve been considering. (Some of them might require subscriptions, oops.)

In any event, thanks for following along and being part of our Northwoods missional living endeavor. Anywhere God leads us to serve is a good place to serve, and we appreciate you.

Here’s the handout I promised …Respect for Marriage Act


Courage for Living—Proclaiming the Gospel: 2 Timothy 4.1-8

In today’s passage, Paul the apostle’s last letter to the younger Timothy reaches its high point: “preach the word,” Timothy. (I—who am but weeks, maybe, from seeing Jesus—remind you—who are sometimes shy in your leadership—of where your courage will come from).

The word “preach” has about it the idea of heralding some objective truth publicly, in some open place, like a marketplace—and that toward the end of changing thought, attitude or behavior. While Timothy pastored the church in Ephesus then, Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is no less valid for all of us today. That’s because real courage is found in stating publicly the objective truth of who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done. That’s the gospel at the heart of God’s Word we’re all to proclaim.

In the rest of 2 Timothy 4.1-8, Paul then reminds Timothy of what proclaiming of God’s Word will look like. The herald will be “ready,” at all times (ESV). He’s to “reprove,” “rebuke” and “correct.” (As John Stott notes, these speak to the intellectual, moral and emotional needs of people—needs the gospel addresses). More, God’s Word must be preached with “patience” and with “teaching” that includes careful instruction in sound doctrine.

Paul concludes his challenge to Timothy by reminding him why he proclaims the gospel. This is because of Jesus Himself, who will appear to judge the “living and the dead” (:1), the times that will include those who tickle the “itching ears” of those content with untruth (:3-5), and, finally, the fact that the great apostle is leaving the scene (:6-8).

Courage for living comes from proclaiming the gospel, Timothy.

Gather up some others and have a look at the following questions about proclaiming the gospel, from 2 Timothy 4.1-8.

  1. The Apostle Paul’s basic command for the younger pastor Timothy is to “preach the word.” The word “preach” has about it the idea of proclaiming or announcing objective truth in a public way. But, does this mean only preaching in a church? What four qualifications does Paul then make to tell Timothy how the proclamation should be made?
  2. The gospel includes both the specifics of specific of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, along with every blessing we have in Christ (See 1 Cor 15.3-5). Why is proclaiming these objective facts not just the business of full-time evangelists or pastors in a church?
  3. What reasons does Paul give Timothy for preaching the gospel? (Hint: these involve Jesus, the times, and Paul’s career).
  4. Where do you have opportunity in your weekly routine to simply speak (“proclaim,” “announce,” “preach”) the truth of the gospel? What might this “preaching” look like?

Courage for Living—Continuing in the Gospel: 2 Timothy 3.1-17

Today’s passage from 2 Timothy 3 finds us right where we live—in the “last days.” These will be times with a problem, as well as, a pathway.

The problem—as Paul describes it from his prison cell to the younger Timothy—is that the time between Jesus’ ascension and return (Acts 2.3-4; Heb 1.1-2) will be filled with “difficulty,” and people characterized as “lovers of self” (:2), not lovers of God (:4). The eighteen descriptions of the people of these times pretty much matches our own day. Ironically, these people will be found not just outside the church, but also inside. But, there is a pathway.

Paul’s encouragement to Timothy includes his teaching and way of life (:10). This we know from the collection of books we call the New Testament. Also, Timothy is to … continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquitted with the sacred writings … (:14-15). These sacred writings we know call the Old Testament.

Finally, we read Paul’s summary of his prescribed pathway to Timothy. It’s a description of the whole Bible—the testimony of the Apostles (New Testament) and the sacred writings (Old Testament). All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped in every good work (:16-17).

Having described the problem of these last days, Paul’s last days pathway for Timothy involves continuing in the gospel, as described in the whole Bible—what will become both testaments!

Courage for living comes from continuing in the gospel in the last days. True for Timothy, true for us. And that’s a good word in these days we live in.

Here’s a few questions to discuss with others:

  1. The first part of 2 Timothy 3 (verses 1-9) describes the nature, people and result of difficulty in the last days. How would you describe the main trajectory of this time? What’s the central problem Timothy will face?
  2. Verses 10-17 describe how Timothy will continue in the gospel in the last days. Paul notes two reasons (verses 10-13 and 14-17). What are they? How do his reasons correspond with what we call the Old Testament and New Testament?
  3. How do we, likewise, continue in the gospel? What does it look like in the way we think, the way we spend our time, the way we interact with others?
  4. How does it give you courage for your life? What does this passage make you want to go home and do?

Courage for Living—Entrusting the Gospel (2 Timothy 2.1-13)

It seems too early for this, but snow is falling in the Northwoods, and the very beginning of winter reminds me of the need for courage. And, you know, the great thing about courage is that it can be passed on to others.

The Apostle Paul knew this. Just weeks from his homegoing to Jesus, he suffered in a Roman prison. But, he was all about what needed to happen next in the church of Jesus. He spent those weeks (as is evident in the chapters of 2 Timothy) instructing Timothy, the younger follower of Jesus.  Guard the good deposit entrusted to you (1.15). Treasure the gospel, Timothy. And now, in 2 Timothy 2.1-13: … what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Courage for living comes from entrusting the gospel to others with endurance.

These chapters from Paul’s final book encourage us at Woodland! They’re encouraging, because they remind us that following Jesus is actually hard, and future generations are going to come to Christ by means of our difficult work in the gospel.

They also encourage us, because everybody we know struggles. And these chapters give us truth to point to: … we will also live with him … we will also reign with him … and he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself (:11-13).

So, come on, Timothy. Entrust the gospel to others with endurance. And, come on, Woodland church family. Endure the difficulty in the work God has given us. There is courage for life, in the gospel of Jesus!

For those of us in small groups, here’s some questions for discussion:

  1. What picture comes to your mind when you consider verse 2 and Paul’s instructions to entrust the gospel (“what you heard from me”) to “faithful men who will be able to teach others”. What kind of work is Paul proposing?
  2. How do verses 3-13 illustrate and provide examples for what the business of entrusting the gospel to others will require?
  3. How do the illustrations of soldier, athlete and farmer illustrate endurance through suffering? How do the examples of Jesus, Paul and faithful followers of Jesus provide examples of endurance through suffering?
  4. How is our church family working to entrust the gospel to others? Where do we see the need to endure through suffering?
  5. How has God used this passage to provide you (or your family or small group) courage for living?



Finger of God: Daniel 5

I have a favorite Wendell Berry poem that isn’t as pleasant as it is true. It’s about minds (and societies, and kingdoms, even) and ruination:

A mind that has confronted ruin for years/Is half or more a ruined mind. Nightmares/Inhabit it, and daily evidence /Of the clean country smeared for want of sense/Of freedom slack and dull among the free/Of faith subsumed by idiot luxury/And beauty beggered in the marketplace/And clear-eyed wisdom bleary with dispraise. 

In other words, it’s about judgment. And, when we come to Daniel 5, it’s time for judgment. Babylon and its kings have lingered at the door of God’s grace too long. And now, in “idiot luxury,” King Belshazzar will live to see the golden head from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of chapter 2 lopped off.

I’ll let you read the account for yourself, but we must imagine how traumatic the fall of Babylon must have been for God’s people living in Babylon. What were they to think? What kept them from being angry, afraid, and confused?

Daniel will reappear in this account. Now in his 80s, he’ll remind the young king of those lessons learned by his (grand)father, Nebuchadnezzar. He’ll connect Babylon’s fall with that great vision from some sixty years before (found in chapter 2), in which God’s plan for the ages is disclosed. And, for those of us living millennia later, he’ll reveal why we’re not to be angry, afraid, or confused when we see catastrophic events in our own day:

The reason we’re not angry or afraid or confused by catastrophic events in the world is that the raising up and throwing down of kingdoms in the kingdoms of man is God’s plan, preparing us for Christ.

Have a look at Daniel 5. Join us Sunday at Woodland, and then join a group to discuss some of the possible application questions coming from the passage. Here’s some suggestions:

Questions for discussion with others:

  1. What lessons can be drawn from Belshazzar’s forgetfulness of truths learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams? How can we not make the same mistakes?
  2. What did the queen get right? What did she still get wrong? How might it be possible for us to know right things about God, but still not grasp the significance of His dealings in the world?
  3. What hard lesson does Daniel deliver to King Belshazzar? Whom has God weighed and found righteous?
  4. When we expect (and are not surprised!) to see kingdoms rise and fall, we’ll see the flow of history for what it is. (See also Daniel 2.44). How does this enable us to act? What does this response, in turn, allow us to do for refugees fleeing the demise of the kingdoms of man?

See you Sunday, at Woodland!



The King Understands His Dream: Daniel 2.26-49

Winter finds us at Woodland right in the middle of the Book of Daniel—and right where we need to be!

Daniel is about how the Kingdom of God overcomes the kingdoms of this world and about how God’s people should live in a foreign land while God brings history to a close. Like I say, I think we’re listening. It’s where we need to be, right now.

This week we’re in the back half of chapter 2, where Daniel tells the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, about his own dream, and interprets it for him. I’ll let you read it for yourself, but note verse 44, a verse I take to be the key verse of the entire book:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.

We’re told earlier in the passage that the dream is given to Nebuchadnezzar, ” … that you may know the thoughts of your mind” (in other words that you, oh king, may conform yourself to the ultimate reality of God’s plan). What will the king do with this knowledge? What will each of us do?

The beauty of the Book of Daniel is that we can, likewise, conform our minds to the ultimate reality of God’s will. When nations rise and fall, we don’t have to be angry, afraid, or even confused. Like Israel of old, we will live under godless rulers, but we can … Expect to know God’s plan when we are subject to godless rulers, in a foreign land. 

Here’s a few questions to guide our group discussion through the passage:

  1. What can we learn from verses 25-30 about God’s purpose in revealing His plan to King Nebuchadnezzar?
  2. What general observations from verses 31-35 can be made about the statue in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
  3. What part does the stone “cut out by no human hand” play in the dream? What does this tell us about ultimate reality?
  4. In light of the interpretation of the dream, found in verses 36-45, what should we look for when we see world powers rising in importance?
  5. We see, in verses 45-49, how Nebuchadnezzar responded to the dream—and will see next week what he really thought. How should we respond to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, revealed by God in Daniel?

Be blessed … And see you this Sunday, at Woodland!

Remembering the Gospel: Acts 20.1-38

There’s been good progress at our house of late. Earlier this week, Amanda and I were able to attend, for two days, a pastors’ conference in the area. While we met with others from outside the area, we heard from local friends that business had continued like normal at our house—where the kids went on like normal, but without us. Only now, it was our seventeen-year-old daughter trekking back and forth between Rib Lake and Westboro—piano lessons, school, work. She and the kids did great, and that’s a happy thing.

It wasn’t always so happy, though. About a year ago there was the time when we turned over the keys, kinda nervous, if I remember. What did we want our daughter to remember as she started up the Honda van and drove those icy, Wisconsin highways? Well, to use the headlights, the wipers, the ice-scraper. To remember license, registration, and insurance papers. And, to remember that SNOW MEANS SLOW! We needn’t have worried, but it was hard at the time.

In our passage this week, there’s a kind of turning over of the keys. Paul is headed for Rome, and he makes one last pass through the churches he’s planted in Macedonia, Greece, and Asia Minor. What does he want these believers to remember, since he will soon pass off the scene? For them, remembering Paul will mean remembering God’s people, remembering God’s power, and remembering Paul’s example, especially in the future when things are uncertain for the new drivers of the church of Jesus.

How about us? We’re removed in time from that beech in what is today western Turkey, where Paul knelt and prayed with the Ephesian elders. But, we’re not removed in importance. And, the future is, likewise for us, unclear.

When the future is unclear, remember the gospel of the grace of God. 

That’s the message we need to remember. And that’s what we each need to remember as the Lord entrusts different ones of us with responsibility in His church, till He comes.

Here’s a few questions for consideration with others:

  1. Why do you think we’re given Paul’s travel plans in verses 1-6, along with the litany (the list) of names?
  2. Why do you think we’re given the account of Eutychus (or “Lucky”)? This account seems out of place, unless …
  3. Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders (:17-38) is the only speech of Paul’s we have in Acts that is given to fellow Christians, and it reveals his heart. In it he looks to the past (:18b-21), present (:22-27), and future (:28-35). What do we learn in these sections about the person who remembers the gospel of the grace of God?

See you Sunday at Woodland!

JESUS Changes Things: Acts 19.21-41

Is Jesus a threat to you? … Well, maybe you’ll know what I mean, once you’ve joined me in working through Luke’s account of Paul in Ephesus, found in Acts 19.21-41.

In this passage, the Spirit is stirring up Paul to go to Rome. It’s been a nice season in Ephesus—daily work and teaching. We get the summary in 19.20: So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Then, we’re told that Paul “resolved in the Spirit” to go to Rome. How will God accomplish Paul’s passage to Rome? Well, God will begin by showing Paul what it looks like when Jesus changes things: Paul’s plans, for starters, then places (like Ephesus), and, finally, peoples’ hearts. In the face of the rulers of the day and the cultures of power, Paul will sometimes be in chains. Other times Paul will be a spectator as JESUS actively changes things through the power of His gospel. Paul’s part is to be faithful.

And, in our passage for this week, JESUS will start with a riot. Probably not something Paul planned on!

Have a read through Acts 19.21-41. Join us at Woodland on Sunday. And, then, have a talk through these questions with others.

Questions to discuss with others:

    1. Jesus and the gospel, preached by Paul, pose a threat to the established order in Ephesus. What did Jesus threaten in Ephesus? What does Jesus threaten in our society when people trust in Him?
    2. What can we gather about Paul’s strategy for change in Ephesian society? How can we relate this to the way God uses individual Christians and churches to bring about change in our society?
    3. How does the first point of the message (about Paul’s plans) and the second point of the message (about the reaction in Ephesus) relate? How does the scene in Ephesus foreshadow the way God will protect Paul and accomplish His purpose as the gospel goes to Rome?

See you Sunday, at Woodland!

The Charge: 2 Timothy 4.1-8

This Sunday we get to do something really special in our time together at Woodland. We get to ordain Michael Boehnke, our family ministries pastor.

In recognizing God’s grace and calling on Michael’s life we get to consider Jesus’ charge to each of us. That’s found in 2 Timothy 4.1-8:

Preach the word: be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching … (4.2)

Sure, Michael is unique. He’s studied and been examined and given his life to leadership in the church in a special way. We’re going to honor him for that. But, Jesus’ basic charge to Michael is no different from Jesus’ charge to any of His followers: Tell people about Him (JESUS), so that they will love it when He (JESUS) comes!

Michael is a herald delivering the message about Jesus. You and I are herald’s delivering the same good news. The charge is not to organize or recruit or plan or program or become specialists or experts. The charge is to take people to Jesus, so that (after they’ve believed) they’ll be delighted when Jesus returns.

Look at how our passage ends: Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (:8).

Yes, JESUS’S coming. That’s what we’re all looking forward to. And speaking of Jesus, and telling others about Jesus, and leaning in toward our meeting with Him—that’s the Father’s charge and calling for each of us.

So, celebrate Michael, but get excited about Jesus. And, I’m so looking forward to seeing each of you this Sunday, at Woodland.

Questions to consider with others:

  1. How is today’s message not just for pastors (like Michael)?
  2. Why is it so important that the gospel (all that is ours in Christ) be delivered verbally?
  3. How does it help us to know that we are neither more nor less than heralds of the gospel?
  4. How does Michael’s ordination encourage you today?


Keep Going! Acts 18.1-22

What is it that Jesus has asked you to do? You, specifically, I mean. Right, everything we have in Christ is ours when we join God’s people by faith. But God puts us in particular places with specific things He intends to do through us too. And then He helps us.

That’s what we learn in Acts 18.1-22 when we’re with Paul in Corinth. The heart of the passage is Jesus’ midnight visit when He tells Paul: Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you … (:9-10a). And then, Jesus provides for Paul.

And Jesus provides for us, too. So … Keep on going in your place of service, because Jesus is with you!

Here’s a few questions to consider with others:

  1. Paul’s ministry began with a very specific mandate from Jesus (See Acts 9). What specific things have you been asked by Jesus to do?
  2. What tempts you to quit?
  3. Jesus’ promises in verses 9-11 are unique to Paul in his specific situation in Corinth. What promises has Jesus given to you as a member of God’s people?
  4. Recognizing Jesus’ different provisions for Paul found in this chapter, what provisions has Jesus given you to provide for the doing of His work through you?

Have a great week, and we’ll see you at Woodland!