Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pornography Use and the Christian

The following statistics are taken from Covenant Eyes website 
  • 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women say they are addicted to pornography. 
  • 75% of pastors do not make themselves accountable to anyone for their Internet use. 
  • Regular church attendees are 26% less likely to look at porn, however self-identified “fundamentalists” are 91% more likely to look at porn.
  • 9 out of 10 boys were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.
  • 6 out of 10 girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18. 
  • The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old. 
  • 71% of teens hide their online behavior from their parents. 

The problem of pornography use then in regular church attenders is real. Looking at porn regularly makes it extremely difficult to feel close the Lord. Addiction to porn makes is near impossible to worship and serve in the church in a healthy and pure way. 

Regular use of porn will shape how men and women view others: as objects to be used instead of people to love and serve. And yet the Bible teaches us it is essential to have a pure thought life, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).

Although the problem of regular pornography use cannot be broken easily, the Bible does give us instruction on how to approach sexual sin of any kind, and this is especially true of pornography. The few words from the Apostle Paul are fitting for a highly sexualized culture, “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18).

There are two Old Testament illustrations of this. One is positive (Joseph), the other negative (David). One was able to flee sexual sin, the other did not. Both of their lives can be instructive to us.

King David: The Failure to Flee 

2 Samuel 11 is the low point in King David’s life. This is the account when David sees a woman bathing, seeks her out, and then sleeps with her. There is a discernible pattern of sight, seeking, and sin that applies here also to porn use. Often there is a porn trigger. Maybe it is some ad on a website that is sexually arousing, or a word pops up after a Google search. Either way if it leads to seeking more out, then sin is at the doorstep. 

David’s failure to flee teaches us several things about what went wrong that can offer help to those who truly want to flee porn use. 

Prayerlessness At his high moments, David is found praying. We get many psalms from him that show his closeness to God. But here prayer is absent. I’m not sure if that is intentional in 2 Samuel or not, but it does stand out. D.A. Carson said, “A prayerless Christian is a disaster waiting to happen.” David was not always prayerless, but here he is and disaster falls in his life. 

Curiosity The bathing woman catches David’s eyes and like any man he is tempted by what he sees. But he takes it further. Again, instead of inquiring of the Lord, he inquires about her. This curiosity leads to David seeking sin out instead of keeping a safe distance. Porn use begins with curiosity. The turning point in fleeing sin seems to begin at the place of curiosity. That is where the proverbial fork in the road appears. We will look at this next time with the example of Joseph.  

Greed The striking thing about David’s adultery with Bathsheeba is the greed it is wrapped in. To understand this better we listen to what Nathan the prophet tells David in 2 Sam 12. He confronts David with a parable about a rich man who steals a poor man’s lamb. David is outraged until he understands the parable is about him! Then he is broken by his sin. Porn is also wrapped in greed. It is not satisfied in the spouse God has given (or will give to those single). Porn always says, “I need more.” 

Next time we will look at Joseph in Gen 39 as a positive model of fleeing sexual sin. For now, we can strive to become those who are more prayerful, less curious and less greedy. Cultivating those traits will certainly aid anyone who truly desires a pure heart that gazes on God and not porn images (Matt 5:8). 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Are You Amazed?

When it comes to church music, I can be kind of old school. I prefer older hymns to newer contemporary praise songs most of the time. An older hymn usually has more depth and is overall more thoughtful on biblical content. Some of the more contemporary praise music in my opinion can sound like something teens write when they are in a superficial dating relationship that does not last long. Again, this is my opinion. 

But whether it is an older hymn or newer praise song, there is a way which all of our songs ought to be sung: with amazement. 

Two older hymns steer us in this direction. Amazing Grace by John Newton, which is familiar to most, and also Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed by Isaac Watts, which may be a little less familiar, but rich with Christ-centered content. Here are the words of amazement that have been sung by throngs throughout generations in the church,  

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, 
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found, 
was blind but now I see!
(Amazing Grace)

Was it for crimes that I had done, 
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown! 
And love beyond degree!
(Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed)

Both of these hymns connect human amazement to God’s grace and mercy poured out on the unworthy sinners who sing. This is how we are to sing about our Savior. The problem with the default setting of our heart is that we can begin to sing without amazement. 

But the gospel should always amaze us! The fact that Jesus Christ came to this world to save unworthy sinners like you and me should never cease to amaze us (1 Tim 1:15). So a good question for us to ask ourselves when we are getting ready to sing: are we still amazed? My generation values transparency in worship. A greater value should be amazement though, for that is when worship is truly directed toward Christ and the gospel.   

And that is the legacy that a couple of dead hymn writers wanted to leave to us. They are now singing in genuine, transparent, perfect, and undistracted amazement. And we are preparing to sing with them in eternal amazement as we sojourn on this earth. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Recovering the Sufficiency of Scripture

One thing that is vital for Christians to recover in order to be faithful to God is a firm belief in the sufficiency of Scripture. There are many passing fads. Sometimes Christians get hyped up about them. But only one thing remains necessary for truly knowing God: a commitment to his revealed truth in his Word. 

In other words, the Bible is enough. We don’t have to spend time going to see the latest movie about heaven to learn about it; we already have truth revealed in the Word of God. It is critical that we recover a firm belief in the sufficiency of Scripture to avoid chasing down every passing fad. I believe that a firm adherence to the sufficiency of Scripture is most pleasing to God. 

The following exhortations from Book 1 of John Calvin’s Institutes are helpful reminders of the sufficiency of Scripture, 

“...let us use great caution that neither our thoughts nor our speech go beyond the limits to which the Word of God itself extends....And let us not take into our heads either to seek out God anywhere else than his Sacred Word, or to think anything about him that is not prompted by his Word, or to speak anything that is not taken from the Word...let us remember here, as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to hold to one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has been imparted to us by God’s Word. Furthermore, in the reading of Scripture we ought ceaselessly to endeavor to seek out and meditate upon those things which make for edification. Let us not indulge in curiosity or in the investigation of unprofitable things.”

and a final word for pastors,

“The theologian’s task is not to divert the ears with chatter, but to strengthen consciences by teaching things true, sure, and profitable.”

Sounds like the same advice an older, godly mentor once gave to his successor,

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV).

Obviously, recovering the sufficiency of Scripture means that we spend a lot of our time actually reading, studying, meditating, delighting--and most importantly--obeying the Word of God.    

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Recommendation: Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

The summer seems to be officially closing (top of the 9th inning maybe) as my kids started back to school this week. With the summer ending, I wanted to mention one of the best books I finished this summer: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies. I am usually cautious to say there is a book that every Christian needs to read (since that should be only true of the Bible), so I will just say this book is highly recommended. 

There is not much written on the topic of biblical discernment. A lot of books are published on great topics like evangelism, church leadership and prayer; these are certainly all needed. But nothing much has been written about the topic of spiritual discernment, which is a biblical responsibility for Christians and evidence of maturity, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14).

Challies reminds Christians that we have the responsibility to “test everything” (1 Thess 5:21). If you are not certain what that means or how to do it, I suggest his book. 

Also, I highly recommend Challies blog:

His blog is one of the few that I am certain to visit often. You will find a lot of good stuff there. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Encouragement for the Small Church

This marks the end of my summer blogging hiatus. I took a few months off from writing to devote more of my attention to my kids, which will probably be my typical pattern. Thirty years from now my blog posts will be long forgotten, but time spent with my family will not. 

During my summer hiatus I have been reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Most are familiar with Bonhoeffer for his heroic stand against Hitler, which ultimately cost him his life. Many have been impacted by his classic work The Cost of Discipleship. But few probably know Bonhoeffer as pastor of a small congregation. I really appreciated the picture of Bonhoeffer as a faithful shepherd to a small flock. Metaxas describes his work: 

“Bonhoeffer was responsible for two congregations, neither of which was large enough to support its own pastor. The Sydenham congregation numbered between thirty and forty...and the St. Paul’s congregation numbered about fifty, mostly tradesmen. Despite the small numbers, Bonhoeffer prepared his sermons as if he were preaching to thousands.”

Bonhoeffer approached his pastoral work, regardless of the size, with the principle that Paul lays out in Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24 ESV). 

Hopefully this is an encouragement to all smaller congregations. I am thankful to serve a smaller flock and many of my pastoral friends in ministry are in the same boat. Many believers in Christ faithfully attend smaller congregations for decades as well, without the prospect that their church will ever grow much in size. In all of this, the Lord deserves our best efforts. I’m certain that Bonhoeffer has no regrets that he gave his.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A World Without Heroes

There has been a recent resurrection of the male role model in 7 Men by Eric Metaxas. The book gives short biographies of seven men who have significantly left a mark in history by what they did with their lives. Some of the men include George Washington, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson and Charles Colson. I was inspired after getting to know more about their lives. 

But as I thought about the world I am living and raising my son in, there seems to be a real void of the type of men that have the characteristics of the role models I read about. There are probably some exceptions, but overall I have a sense that the world we live in is a world without heroes.

Metaxas describes this problem in the introduction to his book:

“Young men who spend their time watching violent movies and playing video games aren’t very easily going to become the men they were meant to become. They will drift. They will lose out on the very reason they were brought into this world: to be great, to be heroes themselves.”

I would add that we have moved from a culture of heroes to a culture of celebrity. Celebrities are centered around popularity. Heroes never live to be popular but to do the right thing. Celebrities are self-focused. Heroes are self-sacrificing. There is a world of difference between the two.

So are we without hope? Will male role models eventually be extinct in the culture? Metaxas wrote the book (and I read it) to create an awareness of the problem and hopefully return to where men take responsibility, live courageously and sacrifice when called. 

There was one common thread among all the men that needs mentioned. They all surrendered to something bigger than themselves. Metaxas describes why he chose the individuals for the book, 

“I was looking for seven men who had evidence of one particular quality: that of surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept. All of them did this in one way or another. Doing this is noble and admirable, and takes courage and it usually takes faith.” 

After reading that, I can’t help but reflect on the Lord Jesus Christ, 
“the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2 ESV). 

So I don’t believe that we have to cave into a world without heroes, since many ordinary men by faith can look to the One who modeled a mixture of selfless sacrifice with courage and triumphant joy. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pastoral Suicide

This year so far two pastors in Iowa have died by suicide. The job fatality rate is higher than the police department my dad works for, which is located in a high crime area in Pittsburgh. My heart is heavy when I hear that a shepherd is slain by falling on his own sword. 

I’m not writing to analyze what goes on in the heart of a man who chooses this end. Nor am I going to offer a list of suggestions on how to prevent pastoral suicide. There are others more qualified to do that. 

But I do want to note that pastors often struggle with loneliness in a more intense way than most people realize. In her novel, Gilead, Marilynne Robinson describes this reality in the fictional minister, John Ames. In his own words, “My own dark time, as I call it, the time of my loneliness, was most of my life, as I have said, and I can’t make any real account of myself without speaking of it.” (p. 44). Loneliness can be part of the DNA of the minister's life. 

I have often wondered if a pastor is called to this in some unique way in order to identify with Christ, who was “lonely and afflicted” (Ps 25:16). Or maybe it is just the plain fact that a pastor spends most of his week alone in a study preparing messages. Either way,  if loneliness leads to death it is beyond disturbing.

One small suggestion, whether you are a church member or fellow pastor: make a list of the pastors you know--including both the young and old, talented and ordinary, gregarious and quirky, small church and large church--and pray for them. Pray that they may take their loneliness and afflictions to Christ. Pray that despair does not lead to death. Pray this Psalm of promise for them, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Ps 50:15 NASB). 

Clergy have a much less dangerous job than inner-city street cops do, yet it often proves just as deadly. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Measuring Maturity

Today I picked up a book I wanted to begin reading. Often when beginning a new book, I look at the year it was published. This book was published in 1996. That year struck a chord with me since it was the year I trusted in Christ. 

Then I did the math quickly and realized it was 18 years ago.  Apart from feeling that I am jogging more away from my youthfulness each year, it also showed me that soon I will be approaching decades of discipleship. I say this humbly, knowing that it is God’s grace that has sustained me over the years. 

Now there are many Christians who have been walking with the Lord for many decades, and show tremendous growth over the years. At the same time, there are some who have been Christians for a long time and have grown only a little. And then there are those who become Christians and grow a ton in a short time. 

The interesting thing about maturity in the Bible is that seldom is there a timeframe tied to it. What I mean is that the Bible does not say a person is mature after following Christ a set number of years. Instead, the Bible puts the emphasis in a different direction. Hebrews says this about measuring maturity: 

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” (Heb 5:14-6:1b ESV). 

According to that, maturity is measured not by years or lack of them, but by how a person is responding to God’s Word and growing in discernment.  Growing in maturity as a disciple is growing in discernment and character. This is the reason that Timothy was trusted with church leadership at a young age (1 Tim 4:12). 

It is a good practice to do some spiritual self-evaluation at some point and ask a person who knows us well if they can honestly measure our maturity biblically. What do they observe in us that is evidence of growth? Do they sense that we are growing in God’s Word? Do they recognize that we are becoming more discerning? Is character evident?   

Just like it is my fatherly desire to see my small children grow in maturity, it is our heavenly Father’s desire for his children to grow in maturity. 

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet 2:2-3 ESV). 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2 Essentials for Being in the Center of God's Will

Many people consume themselves with the topic God's will. The Bible does emphasize what it looks like to be in the center of God's will, though this will not help someone who wants to know who to marry or what job to take. Here are two biblical truths about being in the center of God's will.
God’s Will for Eternal Life in Christ (John 6:40)
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 

So first, God’s will is to save a people for himself through the gospel

The gospel: [lit. good news] God has a plan to rescue sinners from his wrath. Every human is born in sin and under the judgment of God. Only Jesus Christ can save you from God’s wrath. The good news/gospel is that God has sent him to take your punishment on the cross--to be your substitute--to die in your place so you can be forgiven, find freedom from sin and eternal life in heaven.  

Yet there is a crucial word in this passage that some can miss: believe. The text says nothing about having Christian parents or growing up in the church. It simply says “believe.”

It is the same message that the apostles preached in Acts 10:43 “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 

So the first essential of being in the center of God’s will is to believe in Christ. Personal faith in Christ is essential. Do you have this? Have you personally turned from your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ? Are you a believer? 

God’s Will for a Holy Life (1 Thess 4:3)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification...” 

God’s will for his children is this: “be sanctified” (that means be holy, set apart for God).

In case there is any confusion about what that looks like, the verse gets a little more detailed “that you abstain from sexual immorality.” 

If Paul’s day was sexually chaotic, ours is probably just as much if not more. Our culture has such a casual attitude towards sex and I don’t need to spend time trying to convince anyone of that. But God is looking for people who take holiness seriously. To be at the center of his will means to take holiness seriously. That is the second essential aspect of being in God’s will from the Bible. 

Yet often many people consume themselves with trying to find the right career path or right spouse to try to be in the center of God’s will.

But the Bible puts the emphasis in a different direction: believe in the gospel and pursue  a holy life. That is what being in the center of God’s will looks like. 

Again, these are essentials to being at the center of God’s will. The topic of God’s will is broad and there is much to consider with decision making and seeking guidance, like career and marriage. I would recommend the book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung for answers to those topics. 

Finally, one of the most important aspects of being in God’s will is to make it a regular part of our praying, which Jesus taught us to do:

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 5:10). 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Christ-Centered Word for the Wilderness

God often brings his people through the wilderness. He did it to Israel. He did it to his own Son (Lk 4:1). The wilderness is often characterized as a place of testing. God often brings his people through the wilderness to see what is in their hearts. And often what comes out is not good. One Psalm shows how Israel responded in the wilderness: 

“They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’” (Ps 78:18-19). 

That is not the right response in the wilderness. From my own experience and reading the Bible, it never honors God when we test and question him in our wilderness.  

Now being in the wilderness can can expose what is truly in our hearts. What do we crave in the wilderness? What comes out of our mouths in the wilderness? Those words reveal what is in our heart, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34). 

Yet there is a different perspective we can take into the wilderness. It is found in a few words in Deuteronomy: “These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing” (Dt 2:7). Those promises are always true when God brings his people through the wilderness. And in Christ there is a much richer meaning.

We can trust in his provision. We can trust that we lack nothing. In Christ we can have peace through our wilderness (Col 3:15). In Christ we can have the wisdom of God in the wilderness (Col 2:3). In Christ we can have contentment in God’s provision during our wilderness sojourning (Phil 4:11-13). 

In Christ we have everything we need for the wilderness. 

I hope that brings encouragement and hope to those who are either in the wilderness, or will begin to sojourn soon in the wilderness. Christ is with you and you lack nothing in the wilderness. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Difference Between YOLO and DV

Dear Faithful Blog Readers, 

The culture we live in is becoming further removed from two noticeable things: Latin phrases and a God-centered worldview. The one makes sense, since Latin is a dead language. The other is sad, since God is not dead. 

A recent acronym YOLO (you only live once) has replaced the older Latin concept of carpe diem (seize the day). It means enjoying life and taking risks. A dead Latin phrase has been replaced with a hip acronym that is easy to text to a friend or use as a Twitter hashtag. 

There is one Latin phrase the needs resurrected, or at least the concept needs to be understood. It is found in the phrase Deo volente or “God willing” in English. From what I understand, people used to write D.V. at the end of written correspondence, which stood for Deo volente--similar to P.S. which is the Latin post scriptum. This makes sense since people would write their plans in letters to their friends and family. But it also showed that they lived with a God-centered worldview. The difference between YOLO and DV is that one apporaches life with us in control, the other trusts God who is truly in control of all things. 

The concept of Deo volente is found in James:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make profit”-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 
(James 4:13-15 ESV)

There is a great difference between YOLO and DV. It is not because one uses a hip acronym and the other a dead language. The real difference is that God is absent from one and first in the other. Which leads us to ask the question: is God absent from our lives or is he first in our thinking, planning and living? I hope that we all live to the fullest. I hope that we have a “seize the day” approach. But I hope we do so with God’s name as the first letter of our acronym of life. That is the big difference between YOLO and DV. 

Living as a mist, 



Thursday, February 6, 2014

One Great Book for Growth

Over the years I have read many books that have helped me grow in Christ. Some have been helpful at different seasons in my life. But if I were to recommend one that stands out it would be The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. I initially picked it up and read it over a decade ago. And I continue to go back and refer to it especially in pastoral ministry. 

I’ll just share one quote to whet the appetite:

“When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and helplessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace” (pg. 183).

At the end of that chapter Sproul asks some application questions: 
--How does understanding God’s wrath help you honor Him as a holy God?
--In what ways do you need God to help you love Him? 

These are questions that people who are serious about growing in their knowledge of a holy God are asking. If you sincerely want to grow in worshiping and loving the holy God of Scripture, I suggest getting your hands on The Holiness of God at some point.  

“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev 19:2 ESV). 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Life Gets Too Busy

How do you know when life has become too busy? Kevin DeYoung has recently written a book called Crazy Busy but I have not found the time to read it yet. But here is my recent experience of being busy enough to miss the ordinary joys of life. 

One of the advantages of living the small town life is that our church is located directly across the street from the elementary school. We have a glass door facing west that gives me a perfect view of the playground. When my son first started school several years ago, I would intentionally take a break about 9:30 to walk past the door and see the kids playing at recess. My goal was to spot my son amongst the other kids and watch him play for a minute or so, or until he tackled another kid. 

But that stopped at some point. I don’t remember when it came to an end, but at some point things got too busy to look.  

That was until today. I was walking to work at the church and passed by the elementary school. Typically I walk to church for exercise and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in the sky and trees. But God had another plan to show me the beauty of his creation today. As I was walking past the school I saw my daughter outside for recess, twirling around the swing set with all the joy of a kindergartener. It was that pure innocence of play. Then it hit me: I have become too busy to look and take joy in watching my children play. 

As I arrived at my office, a poem I once read came to mind: 

Only one life, 
‘Twill soon be past; 
Only what’s done
for Christ will last. 

Eternal things last. The souls our our children are eternal. Investing in the lives of others is what matters for Christ and has lasting value. If we can’t slow down enough to take time to look and find joy in our children playing, then our lives are simply too busy. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Not Silent for Life in 2014

Today marks 41 years of legalized abortion in the U.S. This past Sunday I preached a Sanctity of Life message as I plan on doing every year until there is a great moral reform in the law, which I am hoping to see in my lifetime. Here is a summary of what I shared with my congregation. 

The Reality of Abortion in the United States
The following are statistics about abortion in 2014 taken from Abortion: The Ultimate Exploitation of Women by Brian Fisher. 

  • Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S. 
  • It is the leading cause of death (heart disease kills 600,000 annually while 1.2 million pre-born children die each year from abortion).
  • Over 55 million Americans have lost their lives to abortion since 1973. 
  • 3 in ten women in America are post-abortive by the time they are 45. This implies that around 30 percent of men are also post-abortive. 
  • Abortion is an enormous industry, generating more than $800 million each year for abortion doctors, facilities, and providers.
  • Virtually every major city in America has at least one abortion clinic. Most large cities have several. 
  • Our political candidates declare a formal position on the topic before every election. 
  • Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade by stating, “That’s 40 years of protecting every woman’s fundamental right to make her own personal medial decisions.” 
  • “I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose this fundamental constitutional right....[W]e must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same right, freedoms, and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.”--President Barak Obama. 

What God’s Word Teaches About the Sanctity of Human Life
The following biblical passages show the value of human life as God’s image-bearers and how God’s sanctuary to form human life is in the womb.
(Scripture passages from the ESV)

Genesis 1:24; 27-28 "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.' 
So God created man in his own image, and in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.'"

Genesis 9:6-7  "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed, for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it." 

Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” 

Psalm 139:13-14 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” 

Luke 1:44 “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” 

Luke 2:21 “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” 

Why Christians Cannot Ignore the Sanctity of Human Life

  1. Because shedding innocent blood is an abomination in the sight of God (Prov 6:17).
  2. Because legalized, abortion on demand in the U.S. brings disgrace upon our nation (Prov 14:34). 
  3. Because Christians are called to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt 5:13-16).

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”    --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Model for Fighting Sexual Sin

Joseph serves as one of the primary models in the Bible for fighting sexual temptation. I have heard several messages geared towards men with the emphasis of FLEE! And certainly he is a great model for that in Genesis 39. He is alone with a woman. He has gained a great deal of power and no doubt could have pulled off this secret sin if he wanted to. But he flees the situation and the sin. Maybe Paul was thinking of Joseph when he wrote in 1 Cor 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality.”

But I want to suggest that if we limit the Joseph model to just fleeing, we miss the whole picture of what fighting sexual temptation looks like. The emphasis of the text is not on the fleeing but on the fact that God is with Joseph.  In the midst of everything that is about to happen, this is clear: the Lord is with Joseph (39:2,3,21,23). The Lord’s presence is with Joseph even when a woman comes at him with the full force of sexual temptation.

Another helpful emphasis is how Joseph responds in the climactic moment. He is alone with this woman and she is coming at him with the full force of seduction. But listen to what he says to her, “There is no one greater in this house than I...How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9 NASB). Joseph understood that he has risen to a level of greatness and power. Yet he also realized that there is something much greater than human greatness: God and his greatness. As a result, Joseph calls the potential affair out for what it is: great evil. 

That has something to teach men. The seductive porn site is great evil before God. The woman who is flirting and is not your wife is great evil. If you don’t believe me check Proverbs 6:24-29. 

If you are a Christian man you will need a strategy to fight sexual temptation. The temptation may be fighting against internet pornography or fighting the temptation to commit adultery with another woman. So here is the full picture of fighting we get from Joseph. 

  1. Recognize the presence of God in your life. All Christians have the continual presence of God through the Holy Spirit, so the Lord is always with each one. No man can fight the forces of sexual temptation on his own. Cry out for the power of the Spirit to help in times of temptation. 
  2. Have a true view of greatness. Seeing God as great makes sin look much greater. There will be a ton of great temptations coming your way in the form of sexual sin. Our culture is not getting any more modest or virtuous. Remember, that no matter how appealing the sin looks, it is a great evil. 
  3. And finally flee. Turn the computer off. Get accountability if needed.  Look away when the scantily-clad girl passes by. Resolve like Job to make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1). Get out of the car or the office or the hotel room if you are alone and in a situation like Joseph.

And most importantly have this part of God’s Word sketched in your heart for the appropriate time: “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Face to Face>Facebook

Our church is taking the first two weeks of 2014 to look at the short letters of 2 and 3 John. Combined they are less than 30 verses and under 300 words in Greek. Yet they both conclude with big words that are important for us to hear.

Both letters close with similar words: 

“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face” (2 Jn 12 ESV).  

Now I am a product of the millennial generation so I do not write letters; I write emails, send texts and use Facebook instead. But the same principle applies: when it comes to our relationships with family and friends or in the church, words spoken face to face are more valuable than words written or typed.

I experienced this just recently. A good friend who lives well over 1,000 miles away came to visit us in our small farming town. He spent the weekend with us, ate meals with us, played with our kids and came to church with us. We had a great time and enjoyed a lot of face to face time. He then left and went on to visit another friend face to face (yes in another farming town even smaller than ours!). 

The point is that my friend placed a priority on the face to face aspect of relationships. Yes, I am friends with him on Facebook and we do send text messages to each other often, but nothing can replace the personal face to face time. The best way to “connect” is not ultimately on Facebook or by email or letters, but face to face. 

Since God left us in his inspired Word this emphasis on face to face time, how will that shape our lives?  How will we spend the bulk of our time in 2014? I’ll bring it a step further and apply it personally: how will my kids remember me? Will they remember a dad who always had his nose buried in the IPad? Or will they remember a dad who constantly looked them in the eye because he valued face to face time with them? 

I sincerely doubt that any of us will look back on our lives and remember much of what was on Facebook. But we will remember the face to face time we had with others, creating memories and enjoying great conversation.  Nothing can replace that.  Face to face time will always be greater than Facebook.