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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

#PRAY4UNITY


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.

Monday, April 23, 2018

What about this spring winter weather - and other things you can't control


Spring, O Spring, where art thou?

It’s snowing again in Petersburg as I write this [April 16], with a 17 degree wind chill that makes it feel far more like February than April.

I think a great title for a book would be, “The Spring that Never Came.” Here’s the opening line:

“With the tenacity of a snail slugging past the Stylianos Kyriakides statue at the Boston Marathon, winter just wouldn’t quit.”

Perhaps I should enter that line in The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for terrible opening sentences. I might win a pittance.

Seriously, though, I want that 83 degree day back we had last week. Anyone else ready for a few nice spring days?

At least it’s good to know the One who’s in charge of the weather and the seasons, the days and nights, the sunshine and the rain, the snow and the wind – and I assure you it’s not Cheryl Lemke. There’s not a moment that God is not fully and firmly in control of this creation of His. He spoke it into existence and He sustains it by the word of His power. I’m glad to know that.

Really, it takes the worry away. Because I trust that His ways are higher than mine, His purposes more perfect, His wisdom flawless, and His goodness unquestionable, there’s truly no need to fret. I can’t control the weather, I can’t control what’s happening in Syria, I can’t control what other people do, I can’t even control many things about my own health. So what good does it do to worry?

Someone has once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but won’t get you anywhere.” The Bible says that you can’t add a single hour to your life by worrying (Matthew 6:27).

I’d rather trust that a Sovereign God has it all under His control, and I’ll choose to rest peacefully and contentedly in His will whether the timing, the method, or the outcome works in the way I think it should, or not. I can only see a sliver of the picture, like looking through a crack in the door. God sees it all, beginning to the end, and has already written the full number of my days in His book. And since He’s the Author of the story, I know the book unfolds for my ultimate good (cf. Romans 8:28).

What about you? Are you worried and troubled about things? Anxious about the “what ifs” in life? Let me encourage you to take your burdens to the Lord in prayer. “Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

And here’s what happens when you learn to trust God with all your stuff. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). If you’re looking for peace, turn to the Prince of Peace – no matter the weather going on in your own life – and find rest for your souls.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gratitude for Government?


Oh joy, tax day is coming quickly! Who else gets excited about filing taxes and forking over your hard-earned money to Caesar? Yeah, me neither.

I should go back and delete that line. I’ve been trying to cut back on sarcastic remarks for a number of years now, but haven’t made as much progress as I’d like.

Here’s a thought: What if we renamed April 15 “Governing Administrators Gratitude Day”? We could call it “GAG Day,” for short. There I go again.

I know it’s easy to bemoan the government’s wasteful spending and overreaching bureaucracy (and I’m all for keeping our leaders accountable and our laws less intrusive), but at the same time let’s not forget the many benefits we do enjoy as citizens of this nation, which remain the envy of the majority of the world population.

Here then are seven reasons to be grateful to those who serve in the government we have – at any level, and in no particular order.

1. The protection and service of local emergency responders. From our police presence to firefighters and EMS workers, when there’s an emergency I am glad for those who can arrive at the scene quickly and handle the situation. We’re blessed to be able to call 911 and know that help is on the way. Many thanks to the likes of Dave Coulter, Rod Harrison and Mark Oller, Patrick Rebbe, Mayor Rick Snyder, and the countless others who serve our community well in this way.

2. Our national defense. Terrorism is real, obviously, as are threats of war and all kinds of security issues, and it is to our great blessing that our military provides a strong national defense against those who would love to destroy us. To all who now serve or have served in our Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, we say a huge thank you!

3. Accessible transportation. Despite the potholes you may be dodging on your way to work, the fact that we have such open interstates, highways, bridges, back country roads, and city streets bear evidence that our governing officials seek to keep the Monday morning traffic moving, commerce flowing, and vacation-bound families on their way. Add public transportation options to the mix and you see that we do have quite a fine transportation system going here. Toll roads notwithstanding.

4. Parks. We are fortunate to have two outstanding parks/recreation spaces in our own backyard. Lincoln’s New Salem and Jim Edgar’s Panther Creek provide beautiful open air venues to soak in the goodness of God’s creative glory. Or if you like to venture out, our National Park Service and other tax-funded organizations offer a plethora of thrilling sites all across America. I am happy to help pay to keep our parks open.

5. Education. We’re blessed to have wise school administrators, outstanding teachers and coaches, good bus drivers, and all kinds of helpful and caring support personnel at the PORTA schools. I wish they could all be paid double what they’re making now. Thank you to all who work and serve in our local schools!

6. All the others I don’t have space to mention, like Civil Works, Veterans Affairs, our justice system, postal system, FDA, FCC, FEMA, and more. I have a feeling we don’t even know how much good such governing bodies do for us.

7.  We can be grateful because God ordains and appoints the governing authorities. The Bible says, “the authorities are ministers of God;” so, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:6-7). And if God designs and desires government to work for the good of the people, who am I to argue?

I’ll try to remember all this when I write out my check on April 15.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Cubs win the World Series and Jesus rises from the dead


Here’s something funny for you. As the new baseball season gets into full swing, I keep hearing people talking about how the Chicago Cubs won the World Series two years ago. HaHaHaHa!

I don’t know what medications they’re taking, but the Cubs winning the World Series?! LOL! Impossible! It never happened, people. You’re delusional. Come on back to the real world now, and face the facts that the lovable losers will always be losers.

So, there were some 38,000 people who saw them win the game in person, you say? And more than 40 million who watched it on TV? And you would have me believe that another 5 million showed up in downtown Chicago for a victory parade?

Big deal. It’s a conspiracy, folks! These Cub fans have colluded together to produce the biggest whopper since, well, since the day the disciples of Jesus claimed that He actually rose from the dead! In the immortal words of Vizzini, “Inconceivable!”

Now, that was quite a ruse, wouldn’t you say? Can you imagine a man coming back to life after having been crucified on a cross? Not likely. Do you know what crucifixion does to a man? It sucks his life right out of him. If you could devise the most torturous way to make a man suffer unbearable pain before killing him, you’d crucify him. And the Romans were experts at the craft.

No, there’s no way Jesus escaped that one. His fans likewise are delusional. They said He appeared to them alive and well three days after being killed. They say they touched Him, spoke with Him, and ate with Him. They say later He appeared to more than 500 people at one time. And then He was just “lifted up” to heaven in a cloud. Poof! He’s gone! “Beam me up, Scotty!”

That’s impossible. It never happened, people. Don’t be so na├»ve. Dead men don’t come back to life. And they don’t get beamed up to heaven.

Oh, and get this. They say He’s coming back someday as a King! Yeah, right. Like this one Jewish rebel-rouser who was tried by the authorities and convicted as a criminal is the “Savior of the world” and the “King of kings.” It’s foolishness. This is the biggest scam ever, and people are still falling for it!

The only way this could ever happen – and I mean, the only way – is if somehow God Himself came down from heaven and took on the flesh and blood of a man. Then I suppose He’d have authority to lay His life down, and He’d have authority to take it up again. I guess then it would be impossible for death to hold Him down. And I reckon the whole thing about Jesus being the “sacrifice for sins” and “the resurrection and the life” might actually make some sense.

If He were God then He would be the King of the world. He could have healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and cleansed the lepers. He could have turned the water into wine, calmed the raging storm, and walked on the waves of the sea.

If He were God He could give everlasting life to whoever believes in Him. He could turn our mourning into joy. He could give rest to the weary, make beauty from ashes, and replace our darkest night of despair with a peace that passes all understanding.

But that sounds pretty ludicrous, doesn’t it? Just like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Monday, March 26, 2018

Don't be a fool


It’s been a while since I’ve locked my keys in my car, but I somehow managed to do it last week. There are few times you feel as foolish as when you’re standing outside your locked car looking through the window at your keys sitting on the console laughing hysterically at your sorry predicament.

That reminds me of the story of the fellow who was feverishly working to navigate the coat hanger alongside the car window in attempt to unlatch the lock. His friend happened upon the scene and offered assistance. The bloke insisted he could do it on his own, so the friend mindlessly moseyed around the car, out of habit reached for the passenger side door, and viola – the door opened! He said, “Dude, did you know the passenger side door is unlocked?” The fella looked up only briefly from his fiddling to say matter-of-factly, “I know; I already got that side.”

Can I say this, friend, with Easter coming this Sunday, April 1 – April Fool’s Day: Don’t be foolish when it comes to matters of eternal significance. The Bible describes the foolishness of those who reject the Lord.

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). It’s the fool who despises godly wisdom and instruction, instead does what is right in his own eyes, and even flaunts his folly for all to see (Proverbs 1:7; 12:15; 13:16)!

It’s the foolish man who builds his house on the sand (Matthew 7:26-27), refusing to obey the words of Jesus even though he hears them plainly.  

It’s the fool who lays up plenty of treasure for himself on earth, building bigger and better barns to store all his stuff, but gives no thought toward seeking a rich relationship with God (Luke 12:13-21) through faith in the Lord and service to others.

And it’s nothing but utter foolishness to trade the truth of God for a lie, to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of created things, and to refuse to honor the Creator of the universe with gratitude, making up foolish ideas instead of what God should be like and what He should do (Romans 1:18ff.).

Personally, I’ve done some foolish things in my life. Locking my keys in the car is the least of my failures. But by God’s mercy I’ve been fully forgiven. By God’s grace the gates of heaven have been unlocked through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and His resounding victory over the grave. And by God’s favor He’s given me faith to believe, when I could very easily have traveled a foolish path to destruction.

Friend, let me urge you make the wisest move you’ve ever made and come running to the saving arms of Christ. Repent from your sin, believe in Jesus, and follow Him as your Lord. The door to salvation is open now, dear friend. Run, and don’t delay.

Why not make this prayer your own as you put your trust in Jesus:

“Father, I’ve been a fool for spurning you all this time, thinking I could live life on my own terms, but missing out on all that really matters. I’m running to Your arms of love now, O God, confessing that I am a sinner in need of Your salvation. I turn away from my sin, and I trust wholly in Christ. Jesus, I believe that You took the nails and hung on the cross for me, and that Your blood is enough to forgive all my sin. I believe You rose from the dead, and I now receive You as my Savior and rejoice to follow You as Lord. Thank you for saving me from my foolishness and giving me new life. Amen.”

And if this is your prayer I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment here, call me at 217-632-2488, e-mail me at pastorRobFBCpetersburg@gmail.com, or stop by the FBC office sometime at 103 W. Sangamon Ave., Petersburg, IL, and we’ll talk more about this new life in Christ!

Monday, March 19, 2018

What are you waiting for?


It feels like random thoughts day, so here goes…

One of my pet peeves, which sometimes finds me yelling at the radio when I’m all by myself in the car, is when an interviewer asks his guest a question but then goes into a lengthy explanation for why he’s asking the question and often ends up answering it himself! Dude, you invited this expert to be on your show. I know you love to hear the sound of your own voice, but quit babbling. We want to hear what your guest has to say. Just ask the question clearly and let him answer!

I have to give a shout-out to the drama team at PORTA High School. To all the kids on stage and behind the scenes, to the directors and to everyone who had a hand in helping present the musical: You did a fantastic job! Your crazy time and effort invested paid off in an entertaining and engaging performance. I didn’t even know my kid could dance! And thanks, PORTA school community, for keeping the arts alive in school.

The coils on your refrigerator need to be cleaned out every once in a while. Just a public service announcement from someone who discovered that going at least six years without even thinking about it is too long. Otherwise you’ll end up with a big white box in the corner of your kitchen in which to store your melted ice cream.

A little salt to season your steak tastes great. A little salt to flavor your speech with kindness, humility, encouragement, wisdom, and humor does too. Words can either build someone up or tear someone down. Wouldn’t it be nice if our conversations included more grace and less griping, critiquing, and complaining?

Speaking of which, who’s worn out from political ads already? What if we prayed for our leaders in Illinois more than talk about them? Lord, please raise someone up who will lead our state to health; who will reject corruption, perversion, and treachery, and instead will truly serve the people and lead well with integrity, courage, and uprightness.

What are you doing this Sunday at 10:45? Come and hear the Petersburg FBC Choir present, “Here at the Cross: Stories of Forgiveness.” You’ll hear a sweet blend of new songs and old hymns, combined with personal stories of God’s work of forgiveness and grace in the lives of His people. If you’re already perfect, you don’t need to come. But for the rest of us, you’ll be encouraged by what Jesus has done and is doing.

Satan, by the way, is real, and he is a liar and a thief. Just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean his wicked influence in this world isn’t at the root of all things broken. His goal has not changed since the day he deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which through their disobedience has unleashed the curse of sin into this world. The devil designs to kill, to steal, and to destroy. And he’s having a party of it.

Jesus, on the other hand, is also real, and He is the way, the truth, and the life. On the cross He sacrificed His life for all our sins, bearing the full measure of God’s holy, just, and righteous wrath against sin. And He has appeared to destroy the works of the devil, conquering death and hell by rising from the grave, and promising eternal life to all who repent from sin and believe in Him.

Can I just say again how good it is to know your sins have been wiped off the books, to know that God will not count your sins against you, and to know that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? The mercy of God runs deeper than the vilest of your sins. His grace saves even the worst of sinners. But it’s not automatic. You must respond to His offer of forgiveness and come to Jesus by grace through faith.

“For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). So what are you waiting for?

Monday, March 12, 2018

God's Holy Strangers


Followers of Jesus have to be the strangest people on the planet. Not as in “bizarre” strange, like the woman with tattoos covering 96% of her body or the guy shopping the beauty section of Walmart with a toilet plunger on his head. But Christians who base their values and character on the Word of God and stake their entire lives on the story of a cross and an empty tomb look crazy to a godless culture.

This article is a call to Christians to embrace your identity now as “aliens and strangers” on earth, even as you long for your eternal heavenly home. And it’s a plea for unbelievers to join this band of holy strangers.

The Bible says that for believers, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In other words, this world is not our home. We are temporary sojourners, resident aliens who live by faith as we look forward to the eternal heavenly city God has prepared for us. We know that there are better things yet to come and that the eternal glory that is ours in Christ far outweighs the “light and momentary troubles” we endure on this earth.

See, that already sounds strange to unbelieving ears. It gets stranger.

The world thinks we’re out of our minds for believing that God spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 1; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 11:3; et al), that He authors life from the moment of conception forward, knitting us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16), and that He purposefully created mankind in His own image as male and female (Genesis 1:27). And so when we reject any theory of creation that rejects God as the Creator, when we call abortion an abomination to God, and when we expose the fallacy of “transgenderism” as a denial of God’s design, we’re labeled as foreigners.

Unbelievers call us insane for believing that sexual activity is to be enjoyed solely within the bounds of marriage, and for agreeing biblically that pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior, lust, and every other kind of sexual immorality or impurity is a sin (Genesis 2:24-25; Proverbs 5-7; Matthew 5:27-30; Mark 7:20-23; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:1-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; et al).

The ungodly say we’re nuts for forgiving others when they’ve wronged us, rather than seeking revenge. They say we’ve gone off the deep end when we give generously to help others in need. They say we’re mentally ill when we talk about hearing from God, discovering a peace that we can’t explain, or knowing a joy we can’t put into words.

They think we’re strange when we don’t let our children play violent video games, when we decline to indulge in alcohol, when we unsubscribe from cable TV, when we refrain from gossip or slander, and when we refuse to fudge a little on our taxes.

And they call us fools for preaching a message that exclusively declares Jesus to be the only way to heaven. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Seriously, who in their right mind would willingly suffer for a Jewish carpenter who lived some 2,000 years ago? Who would subject themselves to public ridicule, to threats of persecution, to the possibility of imprisonment and even death for the sake of someone they’ve never even met? Yet those who truly know Jesus rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His name. They know that if they’re insulted for the name of Christ, they are blessed, for they believe a better day is on the way.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…” (Luke 6:22-23).

Christian, embrace your identity as God’s holy strangers on earth, knowing that your real treasure is in heaven. Be okay with not fitting in to the ways of the world, because “friendship with the world is hatred toward God” (James 4:4), and “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Be unashamed in calling Jesus your Master and in faithfully following Him in the way of righteousness.

And, listen, if you’ve not yet experienced the joy of knowing Christ and the forgiveness of sins He offers, if you’ve not yet tasted the goodness of God and delighted your soul in His grace, and if you don’t have assurance of eternal life in heaven, then let me urge you to repent from sin, turn to Jesus in faith, and join this band of God’s Holy Strangers. Your friends may think you’ve lost your mind, but you’ll have found your life.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Building Strong Families

So, ideally, the whole world turns to Jesus and in turn we see crime disappear, communities strengthened, schools as safe learning centers, the government running efficiently, the economy robust, and our nation healed.

Because those who are following Christ are not embezzling money, selling drugs, or killing people. They’re caring for the needs of others around them, seeking to build them up, and working in cooperation for the common good. They’re respectful, patient, kind, and tender-hearted. They’re wise in leadership, honest in business, and trustworthy as employees. They’re productive, law-abiding, godly, model citizens.   

That’s not to say that Christians are perfect by any means, but the ways of Jesus are good and right and true. And true followers of Jesus strive to live in His ways.

Are we still having this national discussion about how to have a better America, or not? If so, my answer stands: The world is a better place when Christ is honored as King. And my plea remains: Come to Jesus and surrender your life to Him.

Of course, we’re not living in an ideal world. People have rejected Christ in favor doing whatever seems right in their own self-centered eyes, and even Christians fail to live up to the standards they profess. So where does that leave us as a culture? It leaves us with a wide chasm between what’s ideal and what’s real, and a massive bridge to build in working toward forming a more perfect union.

Here’s my contribution to the discussion: Even if the whole world doesn’t turn to Jesus, we still need to learn this foundational truth: Strong families create strong communities. If we’re looking for practical solutions for our nation’s ills, why aren’t we doing everything we possibly can to promote healthy marriages and loving homes?

Families in disarray lead to communities and cultures in disrepair. I say this in love knowing that so many come from dysfunctional homes, but the evidence clearly bears out the burdens on society that arise from turmoil in the family.

Look up some of the studies on your own and you’ll see that from toxic home environments there is direct correlation to increased crime, alcoholism, domestic abuse, divorce, poverty, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, gambling addictions, and so much more.

In a report from Princeton University and the Brookings Institute in 2015, David Ribar of the University of Melbourne writes: “Reams of social science and medical research convincingly show that children who are raised by their married, biological parents enjoy better physical, cognitive and emotional outcomes, on average, than children raised in other circumstances…[R]esearchers have been able to make a strong case that marriage has causal impacts on outcomes such as children’s schooling, their social and emotional adjustment, and their employment, marriage and mental health as adults.”

Any intellectually honest sociologist, psychologist, teacher, doctor, lawyer, judge, business and community leader – or even politician! – would readily agree. So let’s do all that we can to build strong homes.

But building homes, like building bridges, takes hard work and unwavering commitment to the job. It means laying unshakeable foundations. It means making life choices that support the integrity of the entire structure. It means giving attention to the details of the project and not allowing anyone or anything to interfere with the work.

Will we build the bridge toward healthy homes? Christians, I say let’s lead the way. Is it worth it? I say we can’t afford not to. Is it possible for strong families to restore our dying nation? I say yes, but it might just take the world turning to Jesus first.

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.