Monday, March 18, 2019

Avoiding the Sin of Sexual Immorality

Not all preaching leaves you with warm and fuzzy feelings when you head home. Sometimes the truth exposes sin and the Spirit convicts and you know some things in your life need to change – and change quickly.

And if you’re willing to undergo spiritual surgery to remove the cancer of sin and follow the remedy of the resurrected life then the outcome can truly be the holy life that God desires in you. Which is better than dying.

One such area of sin that plagues our generation is sexual immorality. I preached this past Sunday on the topic, as uncomfortable as that conversation sometimes is, because we need to clearly hear what God has to say about the subject, rather than allowing Hollywood or the music industry or friends (or anyone else!) to shape our values and beliefs.

Thankfully, God’s Word doesn’t leave us guessing.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) sounds pretty clear. So do the words of Jesus, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

So does Romans 1:26-27 (NLT): “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

And just to cover all the bases, Paul writes to the church, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…for you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:3, 5).

Friend, make no mistake – God’s not messing around here. The consequences of sexual immorality of all kinds ought to be enough to scare the sin out of anyone. In Revelation 21:8 we read: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Does that mean there’s no hope for those who have sinned? Of course not. Jesus died for every sin, and those who confess and repent find forgiveness and grace. But I want to plead with you in Christ-like love to avoid sexual immorality – and pursue the holy life you’re called to in the Lord.

So enjoy the gift of sex within the bounds of marriage (Proverbs 5:15-19), but heed the strong warning about temptation to sexual sin:

“Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim she has laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:25-27).

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Blunders and Grace in Marriage

One of the best pickup lines you’ll ever hear is found in The Song of Solomon. Ladies, see if your heart doesn’t flutter as you envision your beloved saying sweetly to you, “Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus” (7:4).

I don’t know what the tower of Lebanon looked like. It was undoubtedly an impressive structure. Straight, most likely. Stately, perhaps. And probably big, as towers tend to be, which, of course, every girl longs to hear about her schnoz.

Surely this was both meant and taken as an affectionate compliment, as the context shows by the way Solomon describes the physical beauty of his bride. Personally, I would caution any young man seeking to win a young maiden’s heart to perhaps find an alternative way of articulating your delight in her proboscis, no matter how stately or straight or impressive a structure it may be.

With that said, in spite of my own blunders and failures along the way, I am profoundly grateful for the loving faithfulness of my wife as we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this week. She is a gift from the Lord, a treasure of grace, and a “helper just right” for me (cf. Genesis 2:20), even if sometimes I neglect to appreciate such help, as stubborn-minded husbands are prone to do.

Do you want to know one of the keys to a good and lasting marriage? We’re not perfect by far, but through 25 years of experience I can tell you what’s kept us together – it’s centering our lives in the grace of Christ Jesus. You knew I’d give you a churchy-sounding answer, didn’t you? But I’m only saying it because it’s true. Or to use this analogy, His grace is the Gorilla-glue which has fastened our hearts and lives together in an unshakeable and unbreakable bond.

It’s His grace that enables us to love one another even when we don’t feel like it. It’s His grace that compels us to forgive each another when we’ve been wronged. It’s His grace that keeps us faithful to our marriage covenant because we want our lives to honor Christ as Lord.

We struggle at times with communication. We don’t see every issue eye to eye. We can observe the exact same situation and come to contrasting conclusions about it. We want to achieve the same goals, ultimately, but would take different routes to get there. Anybody relate?

Yet through it all it’s the grace of God holding us together. The same Lord who united our hearts as one when we said “I do” is the same Lord who has strengthened us to stand as one when otherwise we might feel like giving up and throwing in the towel.

Whether your marriage today could use just a little lift or is need of a major miracle, let me encourage you to find help in the grace of Christ Jesus. He can change attitudes that need adjusting. He can transform hearts from stone to flesh. He can mend what has been broken and restore what has been shattered. No wonder we still call it amazing!

Let the grace of Christ take center stage in your life, and let Him fill your marriage with love and joy and peace and purpose like you’ve never known before. You can start right now by pouring out your heart to Him for mercy and turning humbly to Him for help.

And as you do, I’d suggest refraining from any attempts at Old Testament poetic expressions concerning the scope and shape your wife’s nose.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Old school still rocks

As I add a little age to my years, the things that were normative back in my day are now considered “old school.” And you know what – I’m good with that.

In fact, I’m probably a bit more resistant to embracing that latest new thing than most people. I’d rather read a book in print than on a tablet. I trust Rand McNally more than Google Maps. And I like to tell the freckle-faced kid at the counter what kind of hamburger I want instead of swiping a screen and pushing buttons on a self-serve kiosk.  

I know I’m old school, but sometimes old school still rocks.

I grew up riding a three-wheeler, playing in the creek, and shooting bb guns. Our phone was mounted to a wall, our TV got three channels if you adjusted the rabbit ears just right, and when you wanted to hear your favorite new song you had to keep listening to the radio until they played it.

And watching Bible stories come to life on flannelgraph was cool beans!

For some of you reading this, your old school includes candlestick telephones, Amos ‘n’ Andy on the radio, and music on the phonograph. Not to mention fans in the windows, Spam for lunch, and cruising around in a Chevrolet Bel Air.

Now that must have been real swell!

Here’s one more old school throwback that still rocks – Vacation Bible School. Granted, we don’t do everything like we used to. The songs are new every year. We don’t have three hour sessions every day for two consecutive weeks. And we don’t even use flannelgraph boards anymore.

But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the message of Jesus Christ. Unapologetically we’re still old school when it comes to the truth of the gospel. We still teach the children that Jesus loves them, that He is the Son of God who came into this world to save sinners, and that by believing in Him they have everlasting life.

Let me encourage you to bring your children, grandchildren, and neighborhood kids (with their parent’s permission!) to VBS at First Baptist Church in Petersburg next week. It starts Monday, August 6, and goes through Thursday, August 9, from 6:00-8:00 each evening. Children from ages 4 through those who have just finished 6th grade are invited to come.

We’re located at 103 W. Sangamon Ave., just one block west of the only stoplight in town. If your child needs a ride, call us at 632-2488 and we’ll arrange transportation.

Then plan on joining us on Sunday, August 12, at 10:45 am for VBS Family Day, where the kids will showcase some things they’ve learned through the week, and afterward we’ll enjoy some hotdogs, chips, and drinks for lunch.

So, even though I’m writing this article on my Dell laptop and e-mailing it to the newspaper office while periodically checking my smart phone for text notifications, I’m old school at heart and looking forward to a great week of some old school VBS!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Steps to stewardship

Here’s a thought: Don’t spend money that you don’t have.

Here’s another thought: Spend everything you have for the sake of the gospel.

I’m not trying to go all Dave Ramsey on you here, but isn’t that first thought simple enough? If you don’t have the money to buy it, don’t buy it.

For the sake of this discussion, I won’t even talk about taking on a home mortgage, a car loan, or student loans, which are all overwhelming enough. But isn’t it crazy the kind of credit card consumer debt many people carry?

I read a recent report that said Americans paid about $104 billion in credit card interest and fees over the past year, with total credit card debt running $815 billion.

Think about this for a minute. There are approximately 250 million adults in this country. If my math is correct, that’s an average debt of $3,260 per adult, with the average person paying $416 per year in interest and fees alone. Other reports vary in their numbers, but you get the idea.

Our household is now three adults (counting our 18 year old son). If we were the average on this, our credit card debt would be nearly $10,000, and we’d be paying over $1,200 in interest and fees alone. I can think of hundreds of things we could do with $1,200 a year rather than give it to Visa.

Like spending it all for the sake of the gospel – and that begins with a good understanding of stewardship. Christians should know that everything belongs to God, and He will hold us accountable for how we manage what He has entrusted to us.

I want to encourage you to take some new stewardship steps today and embark on a pathway toward giving gratefully, joyfully, and generously to God through the church, so that the good news of salvation in Jesus can reach more people locally and globally.

Most people know that the Old Testament command to tithe means giving 10% of one’s income to the Lord. The people of God understood clearly that the tithe belonged to the Lord; it was holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30). And in addition to the tithe, there were other offerings they were regularly told to bring.

However, not everyone was always faithful. Through the prophet Malachi, God told His people that when they refused to give the tithes and offerings, they were actually robbing Him because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to God.

Well, what about the New Testament? Does the command to tithe still apply, since we are not under the law but under grace?

Let me answer it this way: Living under grace in Christ takes us farther than the letter of the law. If people under the law were required to give 10%, how much more should we living under grace delight to give above and beyond the tithe?

Studies show today that tithers make up only some 10-25% of normal U.S. congregations (although some studies say it’s much less!), with the average Christian giving something like 2.5% of their income to the Lord, and many giving nothing at all. That’s not just a math problem, that’s a heart issue. It ought to be a joy for believers to give faithfully and generously to the Lord through His church, and 10% ought to be the starting point, not the finish line.

So here’s a four-step challenge to rethink the way you handle the money God has entrusted to you. 1: Remember that it’s all His. 2: Repent of the ways you’ve been robbing God and/or spending His money selfishly and/or foolishly. 3: Start tithing. 4:  Prayerfully seek His wisdom in how you manage all He’s given you.

Then see how His blessings flow through you to a world in need of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Preaching sobering truth about hell

I don’t know which topics your pastor preaches about, nor which subjects your pastor does not preach on. My guess is that most major on things like doing good deeds, being humble and grateful, knowing God’s love, living by faith, and the importance of reading the Bible and prayer. That’s all good stuff. And hopefully the message of the cross and the way of salvation through Christ Jesus alone is always central to the sermon.

Some preachers rightly address current issues pertaining to the needs of the congregation or certain national or world events that impact our lives. Sermons addressing grief and suffering, racial equality, care for the poor and needy, etc., help the congregants view such issues through the lens of the Bible.

I should add here for the record that every sermon should be exposited from the Word of God. The pastor/preacher/teacher is charged with correctly handling the word of truth as an ambassador of Christ, which means saying what the Bible says and not preaching our own opinions, ideas, philosophies, or political correctness.

Even dealing with “controversial” topics and discovering what God has to say about issues like abortion, homosexuality, marriage, submitting to authorities, and being faithful stewards of God’s resources entrusted to us (like money!) are geared toward equipping the believer for the work of the ministry and for building up the body of Christ. And, yes, the Holy Spirit often uses the preaching of the Word to convict people of sin!  Pastors ought to not ignore hard or unpopular teachings for fear of offending someone, as long as the truth is spoken in love and God’s glory remains our greatest goal.

Let me ask you this: When was the last time you heard a sermon warning people about the dangers of hell? Of course, heaven is a popular topic, as it should be. But shouldn’t we also in zealous, unapologetic compassion warn men about the reality of hell, knowing that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)?

What does the Bible say about hell? Jesus describes the torment of hell by calling it an “outer darkness” and a “place [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). In Matthew 25 He says, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (41, 46).

You can see why this is such a sobering and unpleasant subject to preach. But can you also see why it’s imperative that we understand hell’s horrors and the urgency of pleading with the unsaved to turn to the Lord?

In Revelation 14:9-11 an angel announces judgment against those who worship the beast, that they will “drink the wine of God’s wrath…and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Later in Revelation 20 John sees the great white throne, where the dead will be raised to stand before God in judgment according to their deeds. Those whose names are written in the book of life, that is, who have been redeemed from their sins by the blood of the Lamb, will be saved to eternal life. Those whose names are not found will be “thrown into the lake of fire” because their deeds will condemn them.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this. And I’d be unfaithful as a servant of the Lord if I tried. Friend, in love I urge you to trust in Jesus and be saved from the wrath to come. Put your faith in Jesus and find forgiveness and cleansing from all your sins. Find in Him mercy and grace in abundance. Find in Him peace and love like you never knew before. Find in Jesus joy for life in the present and the blessed assurance for life everlasting. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Walking in the Way of Wisdom (Part 2)

As promised, here’s the continuation of the article I wrote last week which highlighted the message I gave at the PORTA High School Baccalaureate on May 20.

For a quick review, the challenge is to walk in the way of wisdom, taken from Proverbs 3:1-6, emphasizing the kind of godly, biblical wisdom found in a right relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Our world desperately needs to see a new generation rising up in the healthy and holy fear of the Lord, which not only brings good to the soul of the believer, but also to all those whom he or she impacts.

So on this foundation here are two take-home assignments that will keep you walking in the way of wisdom throughout your journey.

1. Remember where you came from. “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart” (Pr. 3:1).

When I was going away to college, my mom wrote out two Bible verses for me on index cards and tucked them inside my Bible. She didn’t want me to forget where I came from, or the values she and my dad had taught me. My parents raised me to know right from wrong. They sought to instill in me ideals like humility and kindness, gratitude and compassion, honesty and integrity, patience and forgiveness.

They impressed on me such practical, biblical truth as expressed in what we call The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus’ instruction here perfectly applies the command in Proverbs 3:3: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” So let the love of God flow through you to bless others.

We are also blessed here to have a school system which seeks to uphold biblical values such as respecting, serving, and encouraging others; developing responsibility, character, and a healthy sense of pride; and promoting teamwork, among other things.

Remember the godly values and character traits your parents, teachers, coaches, and others have tried to instill in you, and do not forsake their teaching, even in a culture which will attempt to undermine and mock and redefine what’s good and right and true for their own selfish and sinful purposes. And let me challenge you to honor them by thanking them for the investment they’ve made in your life.

2. Trust the Lord to lead you forward. I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is trustworthy. Take confidence in His care and faithfulness toward you, in His protection, His provision, His purposes, His power, His goodness, and His love.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Pr. 3:6).

A runner on first base needs to pay close attention to and follow the signs given by his third base coach. Whether the coach signals for a bunt, a hit and run, a steal, or whatever, the runner needs to trust the coach and do what he says. It usually doesn’t turn out well for the player who misses the sign or refuses to act on it.

Same goes for us. God can be wholly trusted to lead us in the way He wants us to go, even if we don’t always understand it. He will never lead us astray. But if we fail to consult our “Heavenly Coach,” we’re setting ourselves up for it to not end well.

My challenge for you here is the advice my Uncle Olen gave me – get connected to a group of believers who will help you walk in the way of wisdom. Whether that’s a Christian campus ministry or a local church, you need the encouragement and accountability from other Christ followers. There are too many temptations and too many other roads which lead to ruin, and there’s enough foolishness in the world already.

If you truly want to make a lasting impact for good, then walk in the way of wisdom – remembering where you came from and trusting the Lord to lead you forward.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Walking in the Way of Wisdom

It was an honor to speak at the PORTA High School Baccalaureate service this past Sunday night. Of course, having a son in this graduating class of 2018 is no small factor in my feelings for these young men and women, but to say that I’m proud of them and excited for what their futures hold is an understatement.

I want to take a few lines here to restate a few highlights from that message, and whether you’re graduating this Friday night or celebrating your 60th class reunion, perhaps you’ll be encouraged and challenged, as well.

The message taken from Proverbs 3:1-6 was entitled, “Walking in the Way of Wisdom.” This section of Scripture reads like a letter from a father to his son, perhaps as he’s growing into greater responsibilities of manhood, or maybe graduating from one phase of his life into the next.

It’s his plea for his son to live life according to godly, biblical wisdom – in the midst of a foolish world which often thinks we can get along just fine without God, writing our own rules and doing whatever seems right at the time in our own eyes. Godly wisdom throughout Proverbs is well described as “skill in the art of right living.”

This wisdom finds practical application in every area of everyday life. Raising your children right. Being a better spouse. Honoring your parents. Making good decisions, developing a strong work ethic, and using your time productively. Avoiding the traps of sexual immorality, violent and greedy company, and laziness. Learning self-control, humility, integrity. Caring for the poor, seeking justice, and striving for peace.

And when you take these truths to heart and live them out, you’ll be making an impact for good in your homes, your schools, your workplaces, your communities, and your world. A life lived walking in the way of wisdom is a happy life, a useful life, a purposeful life, and a satisfying life. And it’s available to all who will pursue it.

Of course, we need to understand the key to accessing such wisdom, which Proverbs 1:7 lays out plainly: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” So the first step is having a healthy and holy fear of the Lord, which means developing a sense of awe and reverence as we rightly recognize His holiness, His majesty, His power, and His glory.

The Bible says, too, that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are found in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:3), and when you discover your treasure in Him, you’ve found the greatest joy known to man. The theme of Scripture reveals to us that Jesus is the Son of God who came into this world to save sinners – rescuing us from sin, death, and hell, and bringing us everlasting life in His Kingdom.

What could bring greater joy than knowing that in Christ our sins are forgiven and we’re made righteous in Him – because He paid our penalty on the cross? What could bring greater hope for better things to come than knowing that our eternal home is in heaven – because He rose from the grave on the third day? “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

If a house is not built on a solid foundation, then it doesn’t matter how awesome the floor plan is, nor how expensive the furniture in it, nor how impressed your friends are with your interior decorating – that house will not withstand the trials and storms that will surely come. The foundation is essential. Walking in the way of wisdom lays a solid foundation while living foolishly results in pain and destruction.

Let this truth soak in first, and next week I’ll share the two take-home assignments from this passage that will keep you walking in the way of wisdom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Finding stillness in a sea of distraction

Have you ever been to a pool, let’s say at a hotel, and you thought maybe you’d like to get a few laps in, or at least take a little relaxing dip? So you ease your way into the water, but as soon as you do, this busload of kids jumps in out of nowhere and suddenly the pool is teeming with all sorts of sea creatures great and small. And your nice quiet swim just got drenched.

I don’t know about you, but that’s how it feels for me about every time I get ready to settle in and do some serious brain activity. It seems like my ability to concentrate on a task that involves focused thinking has been steadily declining. Like watching Albert Pujols’ career ever since he left the Cardinals.

I want to deliberate, contemplate, and meditate more deeply, but I’m so distracted by all the noise and commotion going on in the shallow end that I quickly lose focus. It’s nobody’s fault but mine, but I wonder what’s happened?

Is it an age thing? I may be getting older, but I don’t think I’m old yet. Isn’t “old” at least 10-15 years away, at whatever age you are?

Is it a cultural thing? Have we simply been conditioned to pay attention to stuff for like 10 seconds max, then we’re forced to move on to something else? Everything’s fast. I had to wait in the drive-through at a local fast food establishment last week for about 10 minutes, as four cars were in line ahead of me, and I was ready to go somewhere else because I was getting impatient.

Here’s my theory: I think it’s a distraction thing. I don’t really want this to sound like an old man rant, but it’s probably too late. I believe my attention span has deteriorated by the sound bite blitz, by scanning too many headlines and not reading past the first paragraph, by scrolling through Facebook feeds and feeling like three seconds is too long to read a post, and by my phone constantly buzzing with notifications that alert me to a new text message, a new e-mail, a new notification, a new story Google thinks I might be interested in, an update on a sports score to game I don’t care about; not to mention that even when I don’t hear it buzz I frequently feel the need to check it anyway.

It’s hard to swim laps when you’re stuck in the shallow end and there’s a busload of kids in the pool. I want to get back to the deep end. Not that I don’t enjoy the sound of 100 pre-pubescent shrilling and piercing voices bouncing off the water and echoing endlessly across the reverberating walls, but if I’m going to get in the training workout I really need for my health and fitness, or just a quiet relaxing float, then I’d better figure out a way to keep myself from being so easily distracted.

Do you know that even Jesus sometimes needed to get away from the crowds to spend time alone in prayer with His Father? He understood the value of physical and spiritual rest, and knew that in order to keep serving others like He did He also needed some quiet retreat time. And I don’t think He took His iPhone with Him.

May the Lord help us learn to sit in stillness sometimes, to meditate often upon His Word, to think long and deep and seriously about important issues, and to be able to hear His still small voice above the noise and distractions of the world.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Look at me!

I’m not saying people are stupid, I’m just saying please stop taking selfies in stupid situations. Just a few weeks ago a man in India was mauled to death by a bear while attempting to take a picture of himself with the animal. Two other people in that same area have recently been crushed to death by elephants, who apparently weren’t so enthused with the adventurous selfie takers.

An aspiring musician in Puerto Rico successfully took a selfie while riding a motorcycle. That’s pretty impressive, but insane. Unfortunately, he was killed when struck by a car while trying to post it online.

Then there was the guy who accidentally shot himself while taking a selfie with his gun. And the man who died while trying to take a selfie with a raging bull during the “running of the bulls” in Spain. And the three college girls who got run over by a train taking a selfie on the tracks! Um, like, really?

I’m not sure I quite understand the obsession people have with taking pictures of themselves, let alone the ones taken in extreme situations that lead to death. It seems to me there’s a wholly unhealthy desire to snap pictures of one’s self ad nauseam. The self-absorbed, self-centered, self-gratifying, self-indulgent, self-oriented, and self-serving culture promoted through so many social media platforms has done us no favors.

Listen, if your self-worth hinges on how many people follow you or like your posts, or if you need others to validate your preoccupation with status, wealth, adventure, or appearance in order for you to feel good about yourself for a little while, then may I suggest that you’re looking for identity in all the wrong places.

Can I show you a better way? If you really want to find your worth, true identity, and fullness of life, and then you need to learn to lose it.

Say what? Here’s what Jesus says about truly experiencing life abundant and eternal, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man gain in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

In other words, while the world says, “Promote yourself,” Jesus says, “Deny yourself.” While the world tells you to go get all the money, power, pleasure, fame, and self-glory that you can, Jesus tells you this is all worthless if you lose your soul in the process. The way to save your soul is to find your life in Christ. And to find life in Christ means to die to your self.

I’d say that’s a pretty good trade. I give up my life with all of its selfish, sinful desires which ultimately lead to death anyway, and gain Christ with all of the eternal riches and honor and glory that come with the inheritance of heaven. Not to mention the joy and peace and rest that’s found here and now in knowing Him.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Friend, let me plead with you to find your worth, your identity, and your life in Jesus, who loved you so much that He gave His life for you on the cross and rose from the grave that you might have everlasting life. You’ll never find a love like that anywhere else! You’ll never find a life so rich and free and full.

Don’t do stupid stuff to get attention and make you think people like you. Don’t be so full of yourself in your quest for glory that you fail to see your need for a Savior.

The proud and foolish will be brought to shame and disgrace, but the humble and wise will inherit grace and honor. Lose your life for Christ’s sake, and find it in full.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Have you ever watched a rowing team in action? You probably won’t see much television coverage outside of the Olympics, but there’s always YouTube. These teams are incredible. The amount of unity it takes to be successful in this sport is nothing short of amazing.

Do you know how the eight-man (or woman) teams get every single team member working together in such perfect sync? The secret is the coxswain.

The what? The coxswain is a member of the team (a 9th person on board an 8-man team) who sits in the stern facing the bow (while the rowers sit with their backs to the direction of travel). He or she is responsible for steering the racing shell, coordinating the rhythm of the rowers, executing race strategy, giving instructions, and encouraging and motivating the crew to give it all they’ve got. He’s literally the coach in the boat.

If the coxswain (pronounced “COX-en”) provides the right guidance and the team follows his lead, then their vessel will take a straight course toward the finish line and find good success.

But if the team members fail to follow directions, then not only will they struggle to even make it to the finish line, everyone will grow quickly frustrated with the effort, the team will implode with accusations and blame, and their very safety in the water will certainly be jeopardized.

In our nation today, we’re like a rowing crew who’s thrown the coxswain overboard. We quit listening to the one voice who knows the direction we need to go, who can steer us in the right way, and who can provide all the encouragement and help we need to be successful. Everyone, it seems, hates being told when to pull, when to take correction, when to change pace, or when to do anything. No wonder we’re so far off course!

When everyone thinks he’s in charge, then nobody’s in charge. And if there’s not a single, clear, unifying voice we all agree to listen to, then there’s no hope for unity and no hope for victory. We’re each rowing to the beat of our own inclinations, our own opinions, our own philosophies, our own standards of right and wrong, and the results are becoming predictably disastrous.

Friend, the voice we need to hear is the voice of God. It’s His Word that provides clear instruction for our good, for our success. It’s His way that we need to follow in order to navigate toward the goal. “This God – His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30).

The division and disunity we’re seeing today – in the home, in communities, in our nation, etc. – and all of the disastrous consequences thereof, can be traced at its root to the fact that we don’t like God telling us what to do. We’d rather do whatever seems right in our own eyes, not realizing that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Let’s come together on Thursday, May 3, and pray for unity in America. Join us on the west lawn of the Menard County Courthouse at high noon, and let’s agree that we need to hear the voice of God and follow His truth. Let’s tune our hearts, our minds, our words, our attitudes, and our actions to His will. And let’s row in unity as He calls the shots to see our nation start moving in the right direction.