Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The cure for an incurably sick heart

The human heart has been desperately sick for a long time and more deceitful than a fake news outlet. The heart – representing human will and emotions, the core of who we are – is polluted like a squalid stream and follows a crooked path bent on ungodliness. It is incurably sick; no medicine, no religion, no psychology, nor self-help section can heal its critical condition.

The evidence of man’s depravity continues piling up with each day’s headlines: a murderous rampage at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a politician sexually harassing his or her employees, a drunk driver recklessly killing innocent lives, another domestic abuse case, a marriage rocked by infidelity, some 125,000 babies aborted again today, scammers preying on elderly victims, men pretending to be women and vice-versa, a life ruined by drug use, a gambling addiction destroying a family, a schoolyard bully picking on a special needs child, a home invasion leaving a mother beaten and child missing.

Shall I go on? Where would I stop? Who really knows how bad the corruption of the human heart is? It is “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity…full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice…gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:29-32).

So what can we do about it? Should we pass more laws against murdering people? Should we ban all alcohol sales? Should we stone adulterers to death or cut off the hands of thieves? Should we tack another anti-bullying poster to a high school wall or give away more condoms to try to prevent unwanted pregnancies resulting from sexually immoral behavior?

Or could it be that what we really need is a new heart? Perhaps a heart of compassion for others would be nice, and one overflowing with humility, kindness and respect, as well. A selfless, sincere, serving heart would sure go a long way.  Add in patience and forgiveness and now we’re getting somewhere. Oh, and let’s not forget the most important ingredient of all – love, which binds them all together in perfect harmony.

Can we order a new heart like this on Amazon?

Actually, it’s better than ordering online, and certainly far more effective than anything Congress can do, but unfortunately most people don’t want to hear the answer.

The Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be born again – and in Him receive a new heart, new spirit, and new life. Speaking prophetically through Ezekiel God says, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 11:19-21).

If people would only turn in faith to Jesus and follow His ways, we wouldn’t be having such discussions, lamenting the sewage spewing from humanity’s depraved heart. Instead we’d have hearts beating with the love of Christ for one another – because of the love with which He first loved us. And there’s no law that can heal nor change the heart of a nation or community or family like the love of God through Christ Jesus.

Friend, let me urge you in these troubled times to seek the Great Physician, who alone can cure the sickest of hearts and make the foulest clean.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Treasuring marriage as a gift of God's grace

Of all of the incredible gifts God has given to mankind (beyond the gift of eternal life!), one of the greatest has to be the gift of marriage.

Think about it – the Lord Almighty formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. God then surrounded the man with a beautiful garden in a perfect paradise, in which stunning trees and luscious green plants produced good food for the man to eat. And the Lord gave the man fulfilling and meaningful work in tending the garden.

The man was in charge of the garden and had dominion over every creature on the face of the earth. The world was at his fingertips. He had untainted fellowship with God, and sin wasn’t even on the radar. What more could he want? No ESPN yet, of course, nor Harleys to ride, but otherwise he had it made.

But there was something missing. The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

The story goes that God approached Adam and told him that He would create for him the most gorgeous creature he’d ever seen, a lovely figure to behold, charming and pleasant in nature, and beautiful in every way. But it would cost him an arm and a leg. Adam thought about it for awhile and countered, “Well, that sounds great, but I’m not sure I can give up an arm and a leg. What can I get for just a rib?” (Ba-dum-ch!)

Maybe not quite like that, but God did take one of Adam’s ribs and with it He made a breathtaking companion in all of her radiant beauty and brought her to the man. Adam declared, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).

Can you imagine the joy that must have leapt from every fiber in Adam’s being when God introduced him to this incredible new creature, this woman who was designed to be man’s suitable helpmate, and who also just happened to be easy on the eyes?

Do you wonder how their first conversation may have gone? The Bible doesn’t say this exactly, but can you see Adam ambling up to her with a cheesy pick-up line like, “Is it hot out here, or is that just the Holy Spirit burning inside you?”

“I didn’t know angels flew so low.”

“Excuse me, is your name Grace? Because you are amazing.”

“Or is it Faith? ‘Cause you’re the substance of things I’ve hoped for.”

“I’m not usually very prophetic, but I can see us together.”

Warning to single guys: If you ever use any of these lines, you will forever remain single. And if Adam had, well you and I wouldn’t be here today.

What the Bible does tell us about this gift of marriage is that, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). That was our Maker’s gracious purpose from the beginning, affirmed by Jesus in His earthly ministry (Mark 10:6-8), to define the sacred covenant of marriage for all time. And what a gift God has given!

The Bible also says this to us, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

Friend, let me urge you to honor marriage. Honor it by keeping it pure, by keeping your marriage vows faithfully, with steadfast love and unwavering devotion. Honor it by refusing to allow an ungodly culture to redefine it in ungodly ways. And honor it by treasuring this gift with much gratitude to the Lord for His great grace.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ironing out the wrinkles

Press me on this and I’ll confess that I’m a wrinkle-free shirt kind of guy. I mean, who irons stuff anymore? And I’m too cheap to take it to the cleaners. Just throw it in the dryer, set it on wrinkle-free, and when you get it out it’s good enough. Right?

So, Sunday morning I’m feeling like a certain blue-ish / turquoise-ish colored dress shirt is the way to go, along with a pair of brown Dockers, casual shoes, and no tie. I don’t know if it matched well or not. Sometimes you just have to feel it. Predictably, I’m still waiting for GQ to call for that cover shoot.

Of course, when I pulled it out of the closet and wrangled it off the hanger it was painfully apparent that it needed ironed. And not just a little touch up. I can handle a shirt being not perfectly pressed and starched. But this thing needed the full-blown treatment, which is probably why I hadn’t worn it for a really long time.

So should I pick out a different shirt? The thing’s not going to iron itself out. But that would mean I’d have to change pants, wouldn’t it? And if so, then I’d have to change socks and shoes, and maybe even the color of undershirt I had already put on. Do I have time to iron? Do I feel like it?

Oh, the debates that go on in my head just picking out clothes on a Sunday morning! Dress pants or khakis? Dress shirt or something more casual today? What color? Tie or no tie? Sweater vest Sunday? Honestly, I’d be a lot more relaxed in jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes, which some pastors make work. But I haven’t gone there yet.

Well, I ironed the shirt. It was a cotton / polyester blend, so I had to be sure I had the iron on the right setting. Number 4, I think it was. Because if you don’t have enough heat it won’t get the wrinkles out, and if you set it on 6 you might scorch the thing, or shrivel it all up like I did with a silk tie one time.

And I carefully pressed out the creases and lines, one sleeve at a time, then the back, then the front, with special attention around the buttons, and on the collar, applying the right amount of pressure with the right amount of heat, until the shirt looked good and presentable. Aren’t you glad you learned a lesson in ironing today?

You know, as we journey through this life it’s not a wrinkle-free cycle. We get crinkled and crushed, rumpled and furrowed along the way. It’s a broken world; a sin-infected world where the fall-out from our choices (and those of others) can make us feel like a wrinkled up shirt nobody would want to wear in public.

But we have a heavenly Father who loves us, no matter what we look like on the inside or out. He knows we’re messed up. He knows we can’t fix things on our own. And that’s why He sent Jesus into the world – to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He gave His life on the cross to forgive us for our sins and to make us right with God. He rose from the dead to give eternal life to those who call upon His name in faith. Friend, He invites you to come to Him for life! Take Him up on it!

And let me press this point home in closing. Following Jesus is no easy road. Temptations still tempt. Sin still assaults. Sorrows like sea billows still roll. The stuff of life on earth still causes wrinkles. But our merciful Savior continues to work in us to gently iron out the wrinkles so that we might be presented in splendor, as holy and blameless, and “without spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27) before Him.

Applying the right amount of pressure, the right amount of heat, He sometimes, for a season, for a little while, uses trials in our lives to prove our faith genuine. And the result is always for our good and for His glory. Hold on through the process, dear friend, and rejoice in knowing that our Lord knows how to iron us out for good. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Rescuing lives from the holocaust of abortion

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Can you imagine living in Germany during the Nazi regime? It is almost unthinkable. Did ordinary German citizens know what was happening? Could they have believed that Jews were being exterminated by the scores, by the thousands and tens of thousands, and even millions? Or would they have relied on the bogus propaganda produced by Hitler’s government to alleviate their conscience?  

Anti-Semitism had become so ingrained in the collective mindset that maybe it was easier to simply brush off what they thought might be happening. Perhaps the Jews were, after all, an inferior race and such a threat to German racial purity that a sort of “Final Solution” to the Jewish question was not out of the question.

It was a time of war, and war is, well, let’s just say that the doctrine of hell unveils horrors too graphic to comprehend. And so does war.

But while many stood by in silence, there were some courageous souls who sought to rescue those who were being taken away to death. Accounts detail the heroic efforts of many, including one Dutch student named Marion Pritchard. Riding her bike to class one day she witnessed Nazi soldiers at the children’s home “picking up the kids by an arm or a leg or by the hair” and throwing them into a truck.

“Well, I stopped my bike and looked. Two other women coming down on the street got so furious, they attacked the German soldiers, and they just picked up the women and threw them in the truck after the kids,” she recalls. “I just stood there. I’m one of those people who sat there and watched it happen.”

However, Mrs. Pritchard was outraged by such injustice, and she went on to help save and shelter some 150 Jews from the hands of the Nazis in the next three years.

There is another holocaust happening, and this time it’s on our watch. The deaths of innocent children in the womb has now claimed over 60 million lives since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. It is not possible for us to say we didn’t know about it. It is foolishness to say these lives are inferior and unworthy of saving. It is callousness and cowardice for us to simply stand in silence and watch it happen.

The Bible clearly describes the handiwork of God in the creation of every single life, starting from Day 1 in the womb. The Psalmist marveled at God’s artistry: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

Did you know that at the moment of fertilization all human chromosomes are present, and a unique life begins? Did you know that by day 22 the heart begins to beat with the child’s own blood? Did you know that eyes, legs, and hands begin to develop by the fifth week, and that in the sixth week brain waves are detectable and the mouth and lips are present, and fingers are forming? Did you know that at week 8 every organ is in place, and bones and fingerprints are forming?

Friend, you and I are created in the very image of God, by His intentional and purposeful design, as male and female, carefully and uniquely crafted by the Author of Life. So let us value all life from the moment of conception until the day our Maker calls us home in the sleep of death. And let us courageously rise up to rescue and protect those being led away to the slaughter.

Let me also take a moment to say quickly - in a spirit of compassion and love and grace - that our God readily forgives sin. No matter what you've done or supported or said, it was a demonstration of divine love that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Friend, why not come to Jesus in humility, with whatever burdens you may be bearing, in whatever guilt and shame may be haunting you, and unload them at the foot of the cross. 

Jesus "bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24). His forgiveness - in all of its fullness and freedom - awaits those who cry out to Him in repentance from sin and faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Our flawed heroes and the flawless Hero

One of my childhood sports heroes was named Julius Erving, more famously known as “Dr. J.” I recall him playing for the Philadelphia 76ers back in the late 70’s and 80’s, wowing basketball fans with his artistic style and signature flying “slam” dunks.

But all heroes have flaws. While excelling and innovating on the hardwood floor, Dr. J’s personal life reveals a disappointing history of adulterous affairs, children born out of wedlock, divorce, deception, heartache, and turmoil. I still marvel at what he did with a basketball in his hands, but his status as a hero has been tainted.

I think about civil rights champion Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps no one has furthered the cause of racial equality in America more than King. His status as a hero is well-etched in the American tale, but King is not without personal flaws as well, including widespread accounts of adultery, along with a bad cigarette smoking habit.

And dare I say in this neck of the woods that even our national beloved hero Abraham Lincoln was a man with flaws? By all accounts, his marriage was a mess, he battled with what we would today call clinical depression, and at least one writer records that Lincoln had a penchant for dirty jokes. And that’s not even including some of the decisions he made as President with which many found fault. Yet we hail him today as the “Great Emancipator,” and without his leadership in a critically turbulent time this nation would not be what it is today.

Even when you look in the Bible, narratives about the personal failures of the greatest heroes on the biggest stages abound. “Father” Abraham twice lied about his wife and fathered a child with her Egyptian servant. The legendary Israelite deliverer Moses killed a man and tried to hide the body. The revered king David infamously committed adultery and then had her husband killed, among other sins. And the list could go run long and ugly.

What’s the point? It’s this: there’s not a man nor woman who’s ever walked the face of this planet whose life is truly worthy of our highest praise or emulation, despite their great achievements or inspiring passions – save one. His name is Jesus.

Only Jesus lived a flawless life in faultless obedience to the righteous will of His holy Father in heaven. Only Jesus shows us perfectly how to love one another, how to live in peace and harmony with one another, how to have joy inexpressible and hope unshakeable, and how to find abundant life.

Only Jesus stepped down from heaven into our world to carry out the ultimate rescue mission that would save our souls from eternal death and give us everlasting life. Only Jesus cleanses our sin-stained hearts and makes them white as snow, by the shedding of His blood on the cross. Only Jesus triumphed in victory over death and hell, by His own resurrection from the grave on the third day. And only Jesus provides new life to all who repent from sins and turn to Him in faith.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus declared in John 14:6.

Dear friend, it’s not too late for you to come to Jesus. Each of these earthly “heroes” I’ve mentioned, flaws and all, were still men whom God loved compassionately, whom God has forgiven freely in Christ, and whom God has used mightily in this world. Why not make Jesus the true Hero in your life by trusting Him today?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Setting the Course for 2018

So how’s your New Year shaping up so far? Anything you want to improve upon in your life? Setting any goals? Keeping resolutions? Or just going status quo this year?

I’m pretty good at wanting to make big changes while lacking the burning desire needed to make it happen. For example, last year I set a goal of running 365 miles; averaging a mile per day. That’s actually a pretty attainable mark, if only I’d stay more consistent. I came in at 150. There’s a marathon goal floating around in the back of my head somewhere, too. Maybe it just needs to stay there.

It seems every year I want to read through the whole Bible but end up drowning in Leviticus. I always want to be more intentional about leading family worship time in our home, but it’s more sporadic than daily. I want to be better organized, handle money more wisely, give more, write more, waste time less, and come charging out of the New Year’s gate ready to conquer the world. Again – every single year.

I’m the king of good intentions, but fail at follow-through. Anybody with me?

Here’s what I want this year, in typical preacherly three-point outline, alliterated, mind you: I want to live well, love well, and lead well. These may not be specifically measurable goals, but perhaps setting a course beats seeking checkmarks.

I want to live well. By the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I want my life to reflect His goodness, compassion, and righteousness. I want to live in the wisdom that comes through “the fear of the Lord.” I want to live with integrity and humility, passion and perseverance, joy and gratitude. I want to learn more what it means to say with the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). I want to live well to honor the Lord.

I want to love well. I yearn to learn to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). His love revealed in Jesus compels my whole-hearted love and devotion, and I want to be zealous in love. And because God so loved us, I want to better “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Starting at home with my wife and sons and reaching to my extended family, my church family, my community, and my world – all those whom God has created in His own image – I want to love well with the love of Christ.

And I want to lead well. The Lord has called me into ministry as Pastor-Teacher, Shepherd, and Overseer. He’s blessed me to be a husband and a father. With such roles comes great responsibility. I want to spend more time in prayer for those whom God has placed under my care. I want to serve more selflessly, teach more diligently, equip more thoroughly, listen more intently, encourage more cheerfully, and exemplify more faithfully what it means to follow Jesus. I want to lead well, as I follow the lead of my King.

Maintaining the status quo is not an option for those who know the call of Christ to “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” and “make disciples of all nations.” May the Lord give us the grace to follow-through with His good intentions for us this year. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Beholding the Glory of Jesus

“And the Word was made flesh 
and dwelt among us, 
(and we beheld his glory, 
the glory as of the only 
begotten of the Father,) 
full of grace and truth.” 
(John 1:14 KJV)

Do you sometimes find that your heart is not as full of the joy and wonder of your faith as it should be? Do you ever feel numb or indifferent to the spiritual things that you know ought to excite your soul and set your spirit ablaze?

Try beholding the glory of Jesus. John was absolutely captivated by the glory of Christ, and he never got over it. Writing his gospel account some 50 years after being with Jesus, he’s still in awe by the thought that he saw the glory of God in the face of Christ, full of grace and truth.

He saw Him with his own eyes, he heard His voice with his ears, and he touched Him with his own hands. He walked and talked with the Maker of heaven and earth and shared the joy of heaven.

Think about it. The Holy One from heaven, the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent God Most High, Creator of all things, the Lamb of God, the giver of living water and the bread of life, the light of the world, the Savior of mankind and King of the nations – took on the flesh of humanity in all of its weaknesses, struggles and temptations, and dwelt among us.

And by His life, by His sacrificial death on the cross, and by His resurrection victory, He gives eternal life to all who confess and repent of their sins and put their faith in Him.

Friend, you can re-ignite your complacent soul today by gazing afresh upon the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His glory. See Him with your eyes of faith in the wonder of His creation. Hear His voice in the pages of His Word. Walk with Him in glad obedience and talk with Him in prayer.

Meditate upon His majesty, marvel at His humanity, and let His goodness and mercy joyfully recapture your heart and set your spirit ablaze this Christmas and always.

And come join us at Petersburg First Baptist Church this Sunday – Christmas Eve – as we worship Christ together at 10:45 am and at 9:00 pm for our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.

Make the words of the familiar carol come alive in your soul:

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sing to the Lord

If you love Christmas songs, you need to join us at First Baptist Church this Sunday, Dec. 17, at 10:45 a.m. Both our children’s and adult choirs will be presenting the Christmas story through music, and we want you to be our guest.

We’re not the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, you understand, but for our 16-member choir composed of decidedly non-classically trained vocalists, I think we make a pretty decent sound. Props go out to our fantastic choir director who has excelled at herding screeching cats to produce something of a melodic purr, and who also happens to be my lovely bride. Most importantly, we’re seeking to make a joyful noise to the Lord, and our desire is that He will be honored in our hearts first and with the songs of our lips. 

At the least, you need to come and hear the children singing. They’ll sing three numbers to start off the worship celebration, and I feel confident in saying that you’ll be smiling as they sing their little hearts out in joy and wonder at the birth of Jesus. 

I think I’ve said this before, but there truly is something remarkable about singing praise to the Lord. Did you know that the pages of the Bible are filled with songs of gratitude and joy and praise and worship to God, along with songs of lamentation and sorrow? Did you know that the Bible not only encourages us to sing, but commands it? 

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1). 

It seems that Christmas carols prove especially meaningful in blessing His name as we celebrate this season. There’s something joyous that happens when we lift our voices together singing, “O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” 

And there’s something special about gathering to light candles on Christmas Eve singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” 

I know not everyone “feels like it” when it comes to Christmas spirit. For some, the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very dark and debilitating condition. Some people have endured traumatic experiences that leave them more dreading the season than sipping up Christmas cheer like a hot cup of wassail. 

But if you’re a believer in Christ then I want to challenge you in particular to sing anyway, even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it! I believe that to some degree you can sing and praise your way out of the funk. 

Because when your mind engages with your heart to express songs of worship through your lips, God has a way of drawing you up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and setting your feet upon a rock, making your steps secure. He has a way of healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds.  He has a way of tending his flock like a shepherd; gathering the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and gently leading those that are with young (see Psalm 40:2-3; Psalm 147:2; Isaiah 40:11). 

So tune the dial into your favorite Christian radio station and start crooning away. Or invest in Casting Crowns’ “Peace on Earth” album, or maybe Amy Grant’s “A Christmas Album” from 1983, and let the songs lift your spirit as you belt our your best audition performance. Everybody and their brother’s got a Christmas album out, so find the kind of music that suits your style and go for it. 

And come sing with us this Sunday! “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting” (Psalm 147:1)          

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cultural conversations and gospel solutions

I’m not incredibly eager to wade into this topic, but in light of incredibly important cultural conversation happening and the incredibly brilliant gospel-solution available, it’s worth going there. 

Unless you’ve completely un-subscribed from social news content, you’re aware of the barrage of sexual misconduct / abuse  allegations and expositions which have recently surfaced and washed ashore disgraced perpetrators such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, John Conyers, along with a host of other celebrities, politicians, journalists, and business leaders. I’m sure scores of other high profile figures must now be shaking in their boots waiting for their names to drop. 

Allow me to make a few observations. First, my heart goes out to the victims of such harassment – and worse. Their lives have been scarred. They’ve suffered shame and distress from the harm inflicted upon them. No one should ever have to endure abuse of any kind. I pray they’ll find help and healing in the Lord, who is able to mend the broken, repair the ruined, and restore dignity and joy like no other. 

Secondly, I’m glad to see our collective conscious on this matter finally finding such ready agreement with biblical standards. While many have brushed off and winked at this kind of behavior for far too long, God’s Word has always been clear on the subject. Using and abusing others for selfish gain is condemned in the sight of God, and ought to be in the sight of man, as well. 

Thirdly, justice always prevails against the wicked. Sooner or later, our sins will be found out. If not by man, always by God, the righteous Judge, to whom we must all give account, but check out number seven below. 

Fourth, is anyone really shocked that this has been happening? We’re a nation that spends billions of dollars on pornography every year and glorifies sexual icons like Hugh Hefner. We’re infatuated with ridiculing biblical sexual morality while embracing sexual freedom. We hand out condoms and promote promiscuity in many of our public schools. Do you think it’s possible that the epidemic of sexual predators doing bad things could be related to all this? Isn’t it true that men and nations reap what they sow? 

Fifth, I say this in compassion to women – please don’t ever think that sleeping around is just a part of the process. Whether auditioning for a role, trying to gain a promotion, get a better grade, or move ahead in the political world, your worth as a woman created in the image of God far surpasses whatever temporary benefit you may gain from sleeping your way forward. Your bravery in resisting and calling out creepy men may also spare a host of other women from his unwelcome advances. 

Sixth, men, let’s be respecters and protectors of women in our realm of influence. Don’t be part of the porn problem or lust after other women. Don’t allow crass “locker room talk” to go unchallenged. Instead, guard your heart and mind from every sinful thought. Keep yourself pure. Drink water from your own cistern. Read Proverbs 5-7 every day if you have to. Be a man of courage and integrity in all things. 

Seventh, and most importantly, redemption and salvation are possible for all who call on the name of Christ Jesus. Check out the heartfelt prayer of a convicted sexual predator in Psalm 51, and see that repentance and faith in Christ leads to an incredible gospel-solution of forgiveness and restoration. Friend, the transforming power of God’s grace to us in Christ enables us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 3:12). Even the worst of sinners like Weinstein and you and me can find hope in the cross of Christ.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Choices, Choices, Choices!

So, in my family we’re thinking about potential college choices. Our oldest son is a high school senior and just about ready to go out and conquer the world. Aren’t they all? How does a 17-year-old kid make a decision about where he wants to go to college and what he wants to do for the rest of his life? 

Did you know there are about a zillion colleges in the United States, and that we’ve received enough promotional mailings to start our own landfill? From near-weekly Washington University (St. Louis) postcards to Olivet Nazarene’s oversized full-color magazine to Baylor University’s virtual reality viewer, and tons of brochures in between, I see why the cost of college is astronomical based on printing and postage alone. 

Tyler had suggested covering his bedroom walls with all of the flyers and letters, then throwing a dart blindfolded and whichever school it hit, that would be the one to attend. In which case he’d likely end up at either Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland or California University of Pennsylvania, both of whom have probably spent the equivalent of a small nation’s GNP on promotional literature mailed to our home. And no, California University of Pennsylvania is not a misprint. 

So how do we go about making such life-changing decisions: Should I get married? To whom? And when? What career path should I pursue? Should I take this job offer? Where should I live? Should I rent or buy a home? When should I think about retiring? What should I be doing in my retirement? What’s the right decision to make about health care for my ailing parent? How should I divide out my estate? 

I’ll start with this premise: God knows the way we should go, and He goes with us every step of the way. For Christ-followers, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit guides us all along life’s journey. Not every fork in the road comes with a neon sign pointing out the path to choose, but the Spirit never leaves us without help. Here are five ways the Holy Spirit guides: 

1. He opens up the Word of God. The Bible provides illumination for every step we take and every decision we make. As God speaks through His Word, we find direction for our lives. We discover our mission as Christians, and through His instruction we chart our course according to His will. 

2. He uses godly people to speak counsel into our lives. I am deeply indebted to those whom the Spirit has prompted to ask the right questions, offer insights and wisdom, lovingly correct me when necessary, and provide help in making tough decisions. 

3. He changes our hearts to conform to His heart. His transforming work in us often creates awareness of pathways, opportunities, and answers to decisions we would have never known before. As we increasingly seek to honor the Lord in every aspect of our lives, rather than seek our selfish ambitions, the next right step often appears clearly. 

4. He closes doors and opens doors. The Lord sovereignly and supernaturally orchestrates circumstances and situations and conditions and events and times and issues and people in our lives to open up or close off options in the decisions we must make. 

5. He gives us peace about the situation. There is something divinely and satisfyingly unexplainable about the peace God gives us when we make the choice He intends for us. And a lack of peace often accompanies a decision we should not make. 

Friend, let me encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer for every decision you face. Listen for His voice, watch for the ways He’s working, and be ready to follow Him in faith as He guides you along the way. It beats throwing darts at the wall every time!