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.