Friday, September 28, 2012

Camping by Jim Gaffigan

I was introduced to Jim Gaffigan the other day by someone in the office (no, it wasn't Janet). I feel I need to make a disclaimer about comedians. I do not know much about him. This one is clean and funny, but if he has other things that are not, I do not know about it. 

As I have been somewhat clear about my view of camping, I really found this little comedic sketch really funny.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: Are Friendships With Members of the Opposite Sex Okay?

I have received numerous questions by people in my church in my current sermon series on the family. I thought I would take the time to answer many of them here on the blog. Yesterday, I dealt with a question I received on parenting. Today, I wanted to answer a question on marriage.

Question: When it comes to friendship with members of the opposite sex: (1) Are they okay? (2) Are they healthy or bad for a marriage? (3) What about opposite "online" friends like Facebook or various "forum" friends?

In answering this question, I need to make a distinction between married couples and single people. While many of the points I will share below could be applicable for the single person, they are directed towards the person who is married since the question is obviously asked from the perspective of the married person. Should the husband pursue friendships with other women? Should the wife pursue friendships with other men?

Let me begin by saying that there is nothing wrong in friendship. And there is nothing inherently wrong in friendships with those of the opposite sex. But maybe to justifiably answer this question, we have to get back to the purpose of friendship. As in all things, friendship (for the Christian) should be primarily about individuals coming together for the purpose of spurring one another on in their relationship with God. And Jesus Christ should be central in all relationships. Including friendships with those of the same sex, and friendships with those of the opposite sex. If Christ is central in those relationships, then I would say that it could be healthy. But if not, then I would say that it definitely could be bad.

Yet even when I write that, I realize that there could be the temptation from someone to even trick themselves in friendships. They might think it is about spurring one another on in their relationship with Christ, but their heart is being pulled in a unholy way towards that person. Because of this temptation, I have developed some rules in my relationship with other women that I would recommend to you as well.

1. My Wife Must Approve
I would never have a female friend whom my wife did not know. I would never spend anytime around another woman in which my wife did not know about. She is the dictator of any relationships I have with other women. I like to think more like I grow in good friendships as family friends.

2. My Wife Has Access
She knows any passwords to my FaceBook or Twitter accounts. It only makes sense that I would never have some account that is secret from her. She can look at my text messages anytime she wants. Just to be clear, I hardly ever text another woman, unless it has to do with church related things.

3. No Confidential Information
I will not share anything personal or confidential with other women. A general rule of thumb might be that I would not share anything with them that I would not want shared over a mass email to my church. Obviously, the purpose is to keep hearts being drawn to each other through personal information.

4. No Time Alone With Other Women
I will not spend alone time with other women. That is simply just not something I do. I will counsel some women with my door open during office hours when other people are around. And my wife has access to my calendar, so she knows when and who those appointments are with. But I do not socialize or spend time with other women by myself.

5. I Will Give Them Up
Sorry ladies, but if my wife ever told me that she felt uncomfortable with a certain relationship, I would gladly give it up. I would unfriend someone from FaceBook. I would stop following someone on Twitter or delete them as a follower. I would delete their number from my phone. She has the right to tell me she feels uncomfortable.

I gladly count some of my wife's best friends as my friends. I think I am a better husband, pastor, and Christian because of those relationships. But I have to have some framework that guides my relationship with them. But I also realize that rules can simply become rules. Everything comes back to the heart. Which is why, I would characterize a few warning signs that might help you think through whether you are leading down a wrong path with a friendship with someone of the opposite sex. You might be in danger if . . .

  • You think about that person often.
  • You look forward to a text or phone call with that person.
  • You look at their FaceBook status or pictures more than anyone else.
  • You talk negatively about your spouse to them.
  • You wish to be around them.
  • You spend social time alone with them.

I am sure there are others. It all comes back to the heart.

If you are uncomfortable with a friendship that your spouse has with a member of the opposite sex, you must tell them immediately. And if your spouse tells you, you must get rid of that relationship. There's no other way to say it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: How Do We Teach Our Kids What It Means To Be In The World But Not Of It?

I often receive many questions from people in my church on all different topics. I suppose that if they have these questions, there are probably others that are thinking the same things. In particular, I have received several questions during this series on the family. I have tried to answer several of them during my messages, but I wanted to take the time to answer a few specific ones over the next couple of weeks.

Question: We struggle with outside influences, such as morality, values, trying to keep positive when our children see other people doing the wrong thing. How do we keep our family strong in the faith with so many influences outside of our home especially school, friends, and people that are not Christians or do not have our values? How can we teach our kids what it truly means to live in the world but not of it?

I have a 12-year old, 10-year old, and 7-year old; this question means as much to me as it might to other people. I am greatly concerned about the things of the world and the things that influence them. Remember that as I try to answer this question.

As we think about this question, we must find the balance between protection of our children and over-protection of them. If the mother bird never pushes the baby out of the nest, it will never learn to fly. But if the mother bird pushes the baby bird out too soon, it will fall to its death. That's a lot of pressure on the mother bird. That's a lot of pressure on the parent who is trying to protect their child from the things of the world.

The following three concepts are things I have learned over the years and am still learning about bringing up my children with the gospel as I try to protect them from the things of the world.

I Cannot Keep My Children From Sin. 
I can shelter them forever. I can keep them from every outside influence. I could not allow them to have any friends other than our family. And they would still be sinners. I am reminded at what Jesus said when confronted with this sort of question. In Mark 7, Jesus is having another interaction with the religious leaders of Israel. They are upset that he does not wash his hands in a ceremonial way, like they do. Jesus responds in this way:
"Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." (Mark 7:14-15)
To be clear, Jesus is talking about food being contaminated because it touches hands that were not ceremonially cleaned. He says the food goes in and then is eliminated. But then he goes on to remind them these powerful words:
"What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." (Mark 7:20-22)
I am reminded that I could protect my kids by never allowing them to watch a Rated R, PG-13, or even PG movie and they will still be sinners. I could never allow them to spend the night at someone house and they will still be covetous or proud in their heart. This is a foundational issue. I am reminded that their greatest need is a result of what comes from within them, not what someone else might teach them.

I Continually Pray For Their Protection.
I cannot say this enough. I pray for the protection of my children. I pray that they would not see things they shouldn't see. I pray they wouldn't hear things they shouldn't hear. I pray that God would help them to forget things they have seen and heard. But what I don't do is to completely isolate them from the world. Once again, Jesus was faced with this situation with his disciples and His prayer has been very important for me in my parenting.
"I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." (John 17:15-17)
I understand that Jesus is talking about adult men at this point. I understand that He is talking about chosen adult men. And I do understand that He is talking about followers of Christ at this point. All of those things come into play as I think about what influences I allow into their life. I try to respond to them like the cone to the right. The younger they are, the less influences. The older they become, the more influences I allow into their life. This leads to the last major issue I think about as I parent my children.

I Want Them To Fail At Home Before Failing On Their Own.
I have seen it all too often. A child was sheltered so much as they grew up and then they go to college. At college, they are now making decisions for the first time and it is like the shackles of their life have been lifted. And they experiment with everything. For the first time in their life, they are forced to make moral choices. And being on their own, they have not been taught how to make those sort of choices.

Because of this, I want to give my children opportunities to make decisions now in their life that they will have to deal with the consequences. I want to teach them what it means to think through situations in life with a gospel grid. Let me offer on illustration.

I grew up in a home that was told never to listen to secular music. While that is what I was told, it didn't stop me from doing it. In fact, my sinful heart wanted it more and more because I was told I couldn't do it. I have decided to take the other approach with my children. I do not set rules and regulations for them on what kind of music is right or wrong. Instead, if there is something "secular" they want to listen to, we sit down and listen to it together. We talk about the lyrics. We talk about how this sort of song, and the message that it portrays, will affect their heart before God. I hope I am teaching them how to discern what is not just right or wrong, but better or best for their heart before God.

In the end, it is ridiculous to think that I am successful if my child never is influenced by someone that is secular. The goal is whether they know the gospel and have become able to filter the gospel into every area of their life. That's my goal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Parenting Boys & Girls to become Men & Women

In the past week, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a father. One aspect of fatherhood that continues to be of interest to me is how I shepherd my boys differently from my little girl. In case you did not know, boys and girls are different. And I would believe that God has called them to different roles in the home. I have two boys that I want to shepherd to become leaders and shepherds in their home someday. I have a little girl that I want to shepherd to become the helper God has designed her to be someday. But how do I go about doing that?

This morning, I came across a list that I shared many years with some people. I have added to this list and thought I would share it with everyone. This would be my list on how to parent boys and girls so that they become godly, role-fulfilling men and women.

How to Shepherd Boys to become Men?
  • Give them specific spiritual leadership responsibilities around the home. Have them lead prayer times. Have them lead Bible study times. The older they become, lean upon them to give spiritual leadership.
  • Give them other responsibilities around the house. Make sure they are responsible for certain tasks, like taking out the garbage, getting the mail, mowing the lawn, or cleaning the garage. The more you can give, the more they will feel the weight of responsibility.
  • Give them freedom to make decisions that will have consequences. Depending on their age, these choices will vary. But allow them to feel the weight of the decisions they make. Allow them to feel the blessings that come with good decisions and the weight of consequences when they make bad decisions.
  • Apologize to them often. I think in doing this, you are showing that leaders do in fact fail. But it also shows them that good leaders make things right.
  • Show them gentle care and concern. Show them that real men are not afraid to hug and say "I love you." Show them that it is okay to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

How to Shepherd Girls to become Women?
  • Love your wife as Christ loved the church. I know that sounds like a cliche, but you want to love your wife the way you want your daughter's husband to treat her. The greatest thing that she can see is how a wife should be treated.
  • Show her lots of physical contact. Show her that you are her man for this season of her life. Do not be afraid to date her, hug her, and kiss her. Once again, you want to show your daughter that men can be sensitive to their needs.
  • Model for her that men lead. Show her that there are godly men who can be trusted. Allow her to see your weaknesses. Show her that leadership means servanthood.  
  • Have her spend much time with mom. Create opportunities for her and mom to get away and do special things with each other. Help your wife instruct your daughter on what it means to be a godly woman.
  • Teach her that children are a great blessing. I'm not saying that there has to be the stereotypical doll in the home that she takes care of, but help her understand that children are a gift from the Lord. Teach her that if the Lord blesses her with children, they will take priority in her life over a career.

I would love to have some feedback on this type of list. What are some things you might add to this list? 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Morning After: The Role of the Parents

I am towards the end of a series on the family. Yesterday, I preached on the role of the parents. Parenting is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I love my children and can't think of anything more enjoyable in this life than seeing them grow up to love Christ. Unfortunately, often times, I find myself trying to survive parenting. I think many others feel that way as well. But it doesn't have to be like that. I wonder if my feelings of survival are brought on because I have bought into lies that have been told of the modern family.

Lie #1: Mom Is In Charge Of The Children
There are many who view their roles in the home as if the father brings home the money and the mother takes care of the children. While the mother will probably have a greater influence on the children (especially if she stays at home with them in their formative years), the father is still responsible. When the Apostle Paul gets around to addressing the parents in all the relationship passages, he speaks to the fathers (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 1:12). Biblical parenting is father-centered parenting.

Now, we must understand that Paul is not trying to undermine the importance of the mothers in these passages. He is trying to stress the importance of the fathers. Why would he need to stress their importance? First, because he is the head of the household. He is the head of the home and upon him falls the responsibility for the spiritual and social upbringing of his children. Second, because he needs these commands more than the mother. In each of these passages, we find that Paul is telling them not to provoke their children to anger. Generally speaking, the man will have more of a problem with anger and tempers than the mother.

We live in a world in which men have abdicated their responsibility in the home as a husband and as a father. It is time for men to step up and feel the weight of their accountability before God in the bringing up of their children in the ways of God.

Lie #2: You Must Show Your Children That You Are The Boss
There is always the temptation by anyone in the authoritative position to misuse their authority. The husband has that problem in relation to his wife and the parents have that problem in relation to their children. In both of those passages mentioned above, the father is called to not anger his children. They are to use their authority in such a way as the children do not become embittered or disheartened. Many people have come up with great lists of what it means to provoke our children to anger. Here is a summary of some of the the things I shared.
  1. You can provoke by ignoring them
  2. You can provoke by over-protecting them
  3. You can provoke by comparing them
  4. You can provoke by discouraging them
  5. You can provoke by abusing them

There are many other things that could be added to that list. Check out the notes for the details on each of these items.

Lie #3: If I Do Everything Right, My Children Will Follow God
There is even a Bible verse attached to this lie. Many people will be quick to quote Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God. If they train up their child in the way he should go, then when he is old, he will not depart from it. Unfortunately, this is not a promise but a general rule. This is not 2 + 2 = 4. This leads many parents to become disheartened when their children turn away from the faith when they get older. It is almost like some parents get upset at God because they feel like God owes them the salvation of their children. They did it all right, why didn't it work out?

One of the problems with this sort of thinking is that it is so focused on us. As if we deserve the credit for how the child turns out. That could not be further from the truth. It is all of grace. If our children grow up to follow God, we should get on our knees to praise and thank God who makes it all possible.

But often, there is something else in play. Too many christian parents care more about raising their children with Christian values than they do with the gospel (check out this article as illustration). It should be our goal as parents, not that we raise our children to never watch a rated R movie, but to love Jesus. Who cares if they cannot name the top 40 songs on some secular chart, do they love Christ? Do they understand the gospel? Maybe, just maybe that happens because there are so many people in our churches today that have failed to grasp the gospel themselves. It is still a bunch of rules and regulations instead of a relationship with Jesus.

Instead of worrying about doing everything right as a parent, we should be teaching our children that we can never be right apart from Christ.

If you want to listen to the message, you can find it HERE. Or if you want to read my sermon notes, you can find them HERE.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

This Week in the Blogosphere (September 22, 2012)

Each week, there are hundreds upon thousands of blog posts written by people all over the world. I find myself each week reading several of them. I have taken the time to link to some of my favorite blog posts from around the blogosphere from the previous week. I hope maybe one or two of these will be an encouragement to you.
  • 9 Reasons We Need the Gospels by Justin Taylor. I found this particularly interesting since I am starting a series on the book of Matthew in a few weeks.
  • Top 200 Christian Blogs by Ed Stetzer. He provides some interesting observations about the latest list of Christian bloggers.
  • The Words are Still Wet by Eric Raymond. I love how he picks up on an everyday occurrence and shows the significance & relevance of the gospel for today.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

True Women '12

I gave my wife a kiss this morning at 4:30 am as she left with a few other ladies from our church to attend the True Women '12 Conference that begins later this afternoon. I am so glad that she has this opportunity to go to a conference like this. I am usually the one who goes away to learn at conferences. But not this time. If you have never heard of the True Woman Conference, here is a brief description of their purpose:
In our hearts and homes, in our churches and in our nation, we are at a crossroads. It is time to surrender our wrong-placed passions and seek the Lord in fresh brokenness, contrition, and earnestness. It is time to cry out to God to show us His glory . . . we need a widespread (and personal!) outpouring of His Spirit. 
Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman Movement were birthed out of a burden for authentic, Christ-centered awakening and revival. For ten years, this has been our mission. Now is the time for all of us to Seek Him Together . . . with our whole hearts! 
At True Woman '12, we will Seek Him Together for: 
  • Refreshed understanding of our design and mission as women.
  • Restored lives that reflect Christ's beauty and heart.
  • Renewed passion for passing God's Truth on to the next generation.
  • Revival: We need to urgently plead for God to pour out His Spirit on us and our land.
It is my prayer for my wife that they gospel will be applied to her life over the next couple of days. Even though I think she is a wonderful women, we all need to grow. I am so glad that she has this opportunity to grow. If you think about it today, would you pray for her? But would you also pray for the thousands of other women who will be traveling to Indianapolis, that they would be impacted with the gospel.

Live Streaming
If you are not going, they are going to live stream the event. All you have to do is to go HERE and fill out the form. This is the list of events scheduled (Easter Standard Time):
  • Thursday @ 6:45 pm -- Nancy Leigh DeMoss & Daniel Henderson
  • Friday @ 8:30 am -- Mary Kassian & Janet Parshall
  • Friday @ 1:30 pm -- Breakout Sessions (Find list HERE)
  • Friday @ 3:00 pm -- Breakout Sessions (Find list HERE)
  • Friday @ 6:45 pm -- Priscilla Shirer & Joni Erickson Tada
  • Saturday @ 8:30 am -- Janet Parshall & Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Illustration on Camping

I just started reading Kevin DeYoung's new book, The Hole in our Holiness. The first words of the book really struck a chord with me. I thought I would share it for all those people who continually mock me for my view of camping. Thank you Kevin DeYoung for having the same view!
"I've never understood the attraction of camping. Although I have plenty of friends and relatives who are avid campers, it's always seemed strange to me that someone would work hard all year so they can go live outside for a week. I get the togetherness stuff, but why do it in tents with community toilets? As an adventure, I sort of understand camping. You strap a pack on your back and go hike God's creation. Cool. But packing up the van like Noah's ark and driving to a mosquito infested campground where you reconstitute and inconvenient version of your kitchen and your bedroom just doesn't make sense. Who decided that vacation should be like normal life, only harder? 
Every year our church advertises 'family camp.' Every year my wife wants to go, and every year we surprisingly end up in some other state during our church's allotted week. As best I can tell, the appeal of family camp is that the kids, unbothered by parental involvement, run around free and dirty sunup to sundown--a sort of Lord of the Flies for little Michiganders. But as appealing as it sound to have absentee offspring and downtime with my friends, there must be a cleaner, less humid way to export the children for a week (isn't that what VBS is for?). And even if the kids have a great time, the weather holds up, no one needs stitches, and the seventeenth hot dog tastes as good as the first, it will still be difficult to get all the sand out of my books. 
I know there are a lot of die-hard campers in the world. I don't fault you for your hobby. It's just not my thing. I didn't grow up camping. My family wasn't what you'd call 'outdoorsy.' We weren't against the outdoors or anything. We often saw it through our windows and walked through it on our way to stores. But we never once went camping. We didn't own a tent, an RV, or Fifth Wheel. No one hunted. No one fished. Even our grill was inside (seriously, a Jenn-Air; look it up). 
I've been largely ignorant of camping my whole life. And I'm okay with that. It's one more thing I don't need to worry about in life. Camping may be great for other people, but I'm content to never talk about it, never think about it, and never do it. Knock yourself out with the cooler and collapsible chairs, but camping is not required of me, and I'm fine without it" (9-10).
Amen and Amen! Of course, his point of the illustration is well received:
"Is it possible you look at personal holiness like I look at camping? It's fine for other people. You sort of respect those who make their lives harder than they have to be. But it's not really your thing" (10).
I think I am going to like this book!

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

Unstoppable is the second book by Nick Vujicic telling his life story and explaining how with faith, anything is possible. When I first received this book, I was very skeptical. Whenever I hear of someone talking about faith, I usually assume I am going to be left asking the question, "Faith in what?" It somewhat seems cool these days to talk about faith. It is almost as if faith is the means to anything. But for the Christian, the object of faith is what means everything. So, I was very thankful to read these words at the beginning of the book:
"Having faith, beliefs, and convictions is a great thing, but your life is measured by the actions you take based upon them. You can build a great life around those things you believe and have faith in. I've built mine around my belief that I can inspire and bring hope to people facing challenges in their lives. That belief is rooted in my faith in God. I have faith that He put me on this earth to love, inspire, and encourage others and especially to help all who are willing to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that I can never earn my way to heaven, and by faith I accept the gift of forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus" (9-10).
Several times throughout this book, Nick points to faith in Christ as his hope. While I think the overall tone of the book does not promote that thought, I am at least thankful that he took several places to say it. 

His Story
I am sure you can tell from the picture on the front cover, Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. But that has not stopped him from traveling the world. It has not stopped him from helping countless people who feel lost and depressed with their life. It has not stopped him from achieving things he has wanted to achieve. His message is one of hope. Much of his story has to do with overcoming being bullied. He shares openly his story of being mocked as a child.

As I read the book, my heart broke for this young man. I was overwhelmed by his courage to do so much more than many kids who have arms and legs. He refused to allow his situation in life to stop him from achieving what he has desired to achieve. If I could tap into his spirit and will, his desire to overcome, and inject it into many people I know, I would. He is unstoppable.

While he talks about his life in this book, much of it has to do with stories of people he has encountered that have touched his life. Every chapter contains several stories of people who have overcome their situation in life. If you are looking for a book that recounts the lives of people who have overcome amazing odds, this might be the book for you.

My Concerns
Nick talks in the book about his faith in Christ. But he doesn't seem to display that message as the only hope for others. In one chapter, he continually talked about having to accept himself, or having to love himself before anyone would love him. This is a very old notion that does not flow out of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It flows out of a human gospel. The gospel says that our self-worth is found only when we realize how despicable we are. It is only when we realize our insignificance that we find our significance. Our self-worth is found in the fact that Jesus died for us even though we were nothing.

The book is filled with several Christian cliche's, which always turns me off. For instance, he writes about "letting go and letting God. (181). But one thing that simply did not sit well with me was his take on happiness. He says,
"You and I should not live with the expectations that happiness will come some day after we accomplish some goal or acquire some thing. Happiness should be available to you in each moment, and the way to access it is to live in balance spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically" (226). 
He is arguing that it is not about some great achievement in life that brings happiness. But that we can live all of our life with happiness if we live in balance spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I honestly do not even know what that means. That sound so much different than the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5. I suppose spiritually has to do with your relationship to Christ, but it just seems to me that there needs to be more there. There needs to be more explanation as to how Christ has gotten him through everything he has gone through.

While he does offer a few instances where he shares that his hope is the death of Jesus, the book seemed void of overly expressing the need of others to do that as well. Maybe that was purposeful in order to appeal to a wider audience. I am thankful he at least put it in there, but it felt empty. It seemed like Christianity lite to me. But then again, maybe a pastor is not the intended audience of this book. Maybe it is the young adult who has always struggled with self-worth and has never had anyone love them. They might get more out of it. And I pray that they see the small threads of the gospel throughout it. I hope they are not hidden as they appeared to be to me.

The book will be released on October 2, 2012.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic from Waterbrook Press. The page numbers listed are from the advanced reader copy, not the final edited copy of the book.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Are You Mastered By?

Without a doubt, my favorite drink in the world is Diet Mountain Dew. I love the taste of it (by the way, did you know that the first ingredient listed in it after water is concentrated orange juice, which means that it is like a breakfast drink). I do not like the regular stuff, only the diet. I will drink other forms of pop if this is not around. But if I have the choice, it will be Diet Mountain Dew.

Now, I realize that there are many people who say that pop or soda is really bad for you. It probably is. I have been told that I will have more energy without drinking these things. I probably will. I have been told that it will be better for my overall health without these in my bodily system. Its probably true. But those reasons are not why I have decided to take at least a month off of drinking it. No pop. No caffeine. I'm going off the juice for a season of time in my life. 

If I am not doing it for health reasons, then why would I do it? The same reason you should give up that one thing you say you cannot live without. I want to make sure that this thing I love is not mastering me. I want to make sure I am not addicted to it. I want to make sure I am in control of my life. I want to make sure I am not dominated by Diet Mountain Dew (or any pop).
"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12)
If you study your Bible, you will realize that this verse is in the context of sexual immorality. But there is a principle to be learned here. I am not bound by the Law of God to not drink Diet Mountain Dew, but I am convicted that I should not be addicted to any substance. And so today I put my life to the test as to whether or not this great drink has control of me.

I am being helped in this process by our administrative assistant, who is going off coffee for the next month as well. Usually, when I encourage people to do this with me, they say, "I could never go without coffee." If that is your response, then you probably need to give it up. I don't care if coffee is better for your body than pop. That's not the issue. If you need it to function in life, then you are mastered by it. And you should probably take some time away from it.

John Piper, in his great book, A Hunger for God, argues that the reason you fast from anything is to test yourself to see if you love the gifts that God has given or if you love the giver of the gifts. I want to love God, not just His gifts. I want to pursue Him, not just what He gives.

For me, it is pop. For you, maybe it is coffee. Or maybe it is TV. Or movies. Or maybe it is ice cream. The list can keep going. Could the reason you do not want to give it up is because you love it too much? That might be a good question for you to answer today. Remember, one of the fruit of the Spirit is self control (Galatians 5:23). Saying you can give something up and actually doing it is completely different.

Question: What Is Your Thing That You Simply Cannot Live Without? What Are You Mastered By?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Morning After: The Role of the Children

I am in the middle of a teaching series on the family. I am trying to expose the lies that the current culture has placed on the different members of the family. I have already dealt with the WIFE and the HUSBAND. Yesterday, I talked to the children. 

I have often said that I would prefer speaking to a thousand adults than ten little children. I think I have a hard time keeping their attention. Whatever it is, I really worked hard on my sermon to direct it to the younger children of our church. And I think it was beneficial to them. There were four lies that I tried to uncover for them.

Lie #1: It Is Okay to Question Your Parents Authority
The Bible consistently says that the parent is the authority and the child is in subordination to them. I tried to show the negative impact of obedience by showing a short clip from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (you can watch it below). For children to obey their parents means that they receive instruction and then do it. The children are to obey without argument, without excuses, and without delay. Check out my notes for several illustrations on these points.

Lie #2: You Can Obey Your Parents, But You Don't Have To Like It.
Sometimes children think, I will obey them, but I'm not going to be happy about it. In addition to obedience, the Scriptures call children to honor or respect their parents. I showed another somewhat funny video at this point to instruct the children that parents do not want to make them obey (although, I did hear that one child thought the obedience chip was real). We desire, and I believe God desires, for children to respect and honor their parents.

Lie #3: Your Parents Are Here To Make Your Life Miserable.
While some parents do make their children's life miserable, that is not why they have been put here on earth. They are actually here to be God's representatives of His authority to them on this earth. When children are called to obey their parents, they are called to do it "as to the Lord." They are to obey their mom and dad as they would obey God. To obey your parents is to obey Jesus.

Lie #4: You Will Go To Heaven Because Your Parents Love Jesus.
This is a hard one for many kids to really grasp, particularly when they are young. But just because mom and dad love Jesus, it doesn't mean that they will go to heaven. They need to come to a point in their life when their faith is their own. It is not mom or dad's faith. It is their faith. They need to realize that Jesus dying on the cross is not just a cute Sunday School story. But that he had to die because they didn't take the garbage out like mom told them to. They are sinners, just as mom and dad are sinners, and they need Jesus just as bad. I hope they got the message. I continue to pray for them.

If you want to listen to the sermon, you can find it HERE (usually posted by Tuesday afternoon). Or if you want to read my notes, check them out HERE. And in case you are interested, I have attached the two videos I showed during the service yesterday.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week in the Blogosphere (September 15, 2012)

Each week, there are hundreds upon thousands of blog posts written by people all over the world. I find myself each week reading several of them. I have taken the time to link to some of my favorite blog posts from around the blogosphere from the previous week. I hope maybe one or two of these will be an encouragement to you.

  • Driving the Churches Away by Tim Challies. As a pastor at a church that rents at a school, this story about the Toronto School District is disturbing. Please continue to pray for them. HERE is an update on this story. In addition, HERE is a story of someone who is in the middle of it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: Christ's Victory and the Power of the Gospel over Sin

Today, I will finish a blog series on the issue of Same-Sex Marriage. It is an issue that is at the forefront of our culture. And I believe it will only become a larger issue. It is not going away. So, the Christian needs to understand and speak as someone who has thought through the issues. I have looked at several different aspects of this issue:
Charles Spurgeon once said, "If your sin is small then your Savior will be small also. But if your sin is great, then your Savior must be great." That is where I find myself with this issue. If our view of sin is small, then Jesus is relatively small in our life. But if our view of sin (regardless of whether it is lying, stealing, adultery, or homosexuality) is great, then Jesus must also be great.

The gospel changes people. In 1 Corinthians 6:11, after Paul lists several sins characterizing the unrighteous (including homosexuality), he offers a word of hope rooted in the power of the gospel. He reminds them that "such were some of you." You are never out of the reach of God's compassion and grace. Even the vilest of sinners can be changed and cleansed and made fit to inherit the kingdom of God. God is in the business of saving sinners.

The implication of "such were some of you" is that you are no longer that way. The sexually immoral person is no longer sexually immoral. The idolater is no longer living in idolatry. And the homosexual is no longer pursuing homosexual activities. The power of the gospel is enough to change a person's status with God as well as to change their heart toward the sin that has so dominated their life. Al Mohler offers a great question at this point in the dialogue:
"Is our purpose to make homosexuals into heterosexuals? The answer to that question must be both yes and no. We must urge all sinners to repent and abandon their sin, but convincing homosexuals to think of themselves as heterosexuals is not the same thing as salvation. We must show homosexuals their need for salvation and transformation. We can promise that this power of transformation will, by God's grace, lead to a reordering of their lives, and we must also explain that it will require a turning away from the sins of their past."
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. The first theses he proposed was that "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." He hit the nail on the head. Literally. Maybe, just maybe, the thing to be learned from the Same-Sex Marriage debate is that the life of the Christian is one of repentance. The wife who does not submit to her husband is called to continually repent. The child that does not honor his father is called to repent. And the man or woman who engages in same-sex activities is called to repent.

The goal of the gospel in their life is not that they become heterosexual. The gospel may change some people so radically that they do become heterosexual. But just like the alcoholic who will live his entire life struggling with the smell of wine, the person who has repented of their homosexual lifestyle might always struggle with this issue. For them, celibacy might become the only acceptable outcome.

The Conclusion
We must graciously tell the truth about same-sex marriage and refuse to accept its possibility because we love and seek the glory of God for all people. We must speak the truth clearly. The Christian must know what they believe about this issue. The Christian must know what the Bible says and must be able to say more than "it is just gross."

But we must also speak this truth tearfully. I fear to many people respond  out of anger instead of a broken heart on this issue. I would encourage you to think about the people dealing with this as people who are walking away from Christ, not people who simply tick you off.

And we had better speak this truth boldly. We should not be scared to speak on this issue, or any moral issue, that is so clear in Scripture. We must be scared about what government might do to our churches. We must not capitulate to those who threaten us. We must be graciously bold. It will not get any better. If that is what you are waiting for, I fear you are waiting in vain.

My Notes
If you are interested, you can find a copy of my notes on this subject HERE. Feel free to use them in whatever way you need. And if you have further questions, I would welcome your response below.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Things You Don't Say To Your Wife by Tim Hawkins

Based upon my sermon on Sunday about husbands loving their wife. I found this funny. Men, watch what you say to your wife!

Same-Sex Marriage: The Deception of Sexual Sin

A few weeks ago, I started a blog series on the topic of same-sex marriage. It is an issue that is at the forefront of our culture today. I have looked at several different aspects of this issue:
I hope to finish this series tomorrow, as well as offer up the many pages of notes I have written on this subject over the past several weeks. But today, I wanted to look at the deception of sexual sin. There are many levels on which I will argue that sexual sin is dangerous. But the one that seems to most impact me in this dialogue is that it sexual sin lends itself to categories. It becomes easy when dealing with sexual sin to put things into categories. It becomes easy to say that this one sexual act is much worse than this other sexual act. 

Of course, this flows from a heart that is filled with sin. It is in our nature to judge sins and overlook sins. Sin doesn't want to be identified. If we are to fully understand the deadly deception of sexual sin, we must understand the impact of sin upon our life. We are all sinners to the very core of our being. When Adam & Eve took of that fruit in the garden, sin entered the world. In Romans 3:23 we are told that every person is sinful and falls short of the glory of God. The truth is that we are born into sin. Ephesians 2:1-3 says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. It says that even to the very nature of our being, we are sinful.

Why is this important when we are thinking about homosexuality? I think it is important because sometimes I feel as though we have watered down the concept of sin so much that we fail to feel it in our own life. And when we fail to address and deal with the real issue of our radical depravity before God, it becomes easy to look at the homosexual community (or whatever sin we want to choose) and shake our heads out of disgust. When in reality, I am just as sinful as them.
"When Christians address homosexuals and homosexual advocates with the reality that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior as sin, we must acknowledge that we are sexual sinners speaking to sexual sinners. Armed with the Bible's profound understanding of human sinfulness, we understand that sin corrupts every dimension of human existence. The doctrine of total depravity affirms that the entire human being--including sexual desire and emotions--is utterly corrupted and disoriented by sin and its consequences." (Albert Mohler)
Do we really believe that in the eyes of God, lust is as dangerous as adultery? Or do we really believe that pre-marital sex is just as sinful as homosexuality? Do we really think that on judgment day when we stand before the Lord that as He begins to reveal our sin, we can stand there and say, "Well, at least I wasn't gay." That's blasphemous. And it probably reveals to us that we have not grasped a full understanding of sin in our life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Role of the Wife

During the month of September, I am preaching through a short series on the family. I believe our world continually offers lies to the modern family as to its purpose and function. We have been duped into thinking wrong things about the family. To uncover these lies, we must turn to the One who created the family. It is only when we are willing to learn and submit to what God has designed that the family will be what it was meant to be.

Over Labor Day weekend, I preached on the role of the wife. But I did not post it here on the blog because I wanted to post about the husband first (there are many reasons why I preached on the role of the wife first, but this is not the place to explain that). Here are four lies that are being told to women these days concerning their role as a wife. 

Lie #1: Gender Roles Are Not Important In A Marriage
The lie goes something like this: "God created man and woman equal. They have equal footing in the marriage relationship. The only thing different between men and woman is biological. In fact, it is demeaning to a woman to infer that she is less than the husband in the marriage relationship." How should we respond to something like this? The only thing we can do is to dig deep into the Scriptures to see that God's design or purpose in the creation of man and woman is different.

In Genesis 2:18-25, we are told that God created woman to be man's helper. It is that she was created to  give aid or support. The man in the marriage relationship would not be able to accomplish what he is called to accomplish without the help of his wife. He would not be able to fulfill the Creation mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth.

Lie #2: Submission Means You Are Inferior
God created the wife to be the helper to the husband. But many women think this means the the wife is now inferior to the husband. Not true. Equality before God does not mean there should never be a spirit of submission in the relationship. All we have to do is to look at the Trinity for an example. Christians would not say that Jesus is less than God than the Father is God simply because He lived in submission to the Father. In the same way, the wife is called to submit to her husband. But this does not mean inferiority.

Submission means to be subordinate or to put yourself under. It is a willful choice of the woman to put herself under the authority of her husband in that relationship. And by the way, every place in the NT that states this, makes it clear that it is to her "own" husband. She is not to submit to men in general, but to her man.

Lie #3: Your Marriage Is About You
This lie goes something like this: "Your life is about your happiness. It is about you getting yours." Not true. Neither the husband or the wife should find themselves at the center of their own little universe. If her life is not about her, then what are her priorities?

First, her priority is Jesus Christ. She should love Jesus with all that she has. She should run to Him and cling to Him. Jesus will be the only man who will never let her down. But this loving of Christ is not separate from her other priorities. It is seen in and through the others. Her second priority is her husband. Proverbs 21:12 says that the wife does him good and not harm, all the days of her life. What does it mean to do her husband good? It means that she helps him be the man he was created to be.

Third, her priority is her children. The children for the wife should take a precedence over every other earthly thing, other than her husband. Children are not a hassle that keeps her from her career, but a joy and special gift (Ps. 127:3). And lastly, her priority is her career, church, and so on. Everything else falls after those first three. God has called wife to think differently about hopes and dreams. Or maybe I should say that the world has warped the hopes and dreams of most women.

Lie #4: Your Husband Needs To Earn Your Respect
I have talked to ladies in the past that have said something like this: "I will submit to him, but he is going to have to earn my respect." I can only suppose that this flows from a heart of anger or bitterness towards their husband because of something he has done to her. The only problem with this thought is that consistently we are told that the wife is to respect her husband (Eph. 5:33; 1 Peter 3:1-2).

What does this mean? She should not talk about the shortcomings of her husband to her friends. She should speak well of him in public. She should go to her husband for advice. She should not hide things from her husband. She should not be critical of him. And the list can keep going. She is to respect him because she is her husband.

There was much more that I have to say about this issue. If you wanted to listen to the sermon, you can find it HERE. Or if you wanted to read my notes, you can find them HERE.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Morning After: The Role of the Husband

During the month of September, I am preaching through a short series on the family. I believe our world continually offers lies to the modern family as to its purpose and function. We have been duped into thinking wrong things about the family. To uncover these lies, we must turn to the One who created the family. It is only when we are willing to learn and submit to what God has designed that the family will be what it was meant to be.

There are several lies that have been directed at husbands that are destroying not only our families, but also our society.

Lie #1: I Am Not A Leader
The lie goes something like this: "But I'm not naturally a leader. I don't have to lead my home. I do not know why people make it such a big deal. I simply do not see myself as a leader in my home." The problem with this is that by God's design, He has established that there is leadership inherent in the position of husband. The Apostle Paul clearly states that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the man and God is the head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24). 

This concept of headship is rooted back to creation when God created Adam and Eve. In his book, Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem offers several evidences that the man was created to lead the home from the very beginning.
  1. Adam was created first, then Eve.
  2. Eve was created as a helper for Adam.
  3. Adam named Eve.
  4. God named the human race 'man' not 'woman.'
  5. The Serpent came to Eve first.
  6. God spoke to Adam first after the fall.
  7. Adam, not Eve, represents the human race.
  8. The curse brought a distortion of roles, not the introduction of new roles.
Lie #2: I Must Be In Control
The lies goes something like this: "If I am in authority around here, then I WILL BE in authority. She will know who is boss around here." In Genesis 3:16, God states the consequences of sin to the woman. God says that she will desire to usurp his authority, but he will be tempted to rule over her. There will be a temptation for the husband to be domineering with his wife. That is why Paul writes in Colossians 3:19 that the husband is not to be harsh with his wife. Peter says that the husband is to live in an understanding way with his wife, showing honor to the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7).

Let me be very clear what this means. The husband is not the dictator. The wife is not the slave of the home. The wife is not the maid. She is not to be talked to as if she is one of the children. She should not be talked down to or demeaned. She is the wife, which means, she is the helper. She is to be cherished, not ordered around.

Lie #3: I Am Not Responsible
The lie goes something like this: "In my leadership, I choose to do nothing. I don't want to make any decisions. I am going to be the leader by delegating everything to my wife. After all, it's not like I will be held accountable for anything." Men who abdicate their authority in the home is one of the greatest tragedies in our society. It really pains me to see men physically present in the home, but he does nothing to show his family Christ. He is apathetic when it comes to God's Word. He never makes a decision. He acts as if he is a eunuch when God has called him to be a man.

We know from the Scriptures that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, but what does that mean? How did Christ love the church? There are many aspects of that, but let must just offer a few ideas. First, Christ's Love was Sacrificial. He came to this earth to die. He lived a perfect life for us. Many men will die for their wife when what their wife wants is them to live for her. Second, Christ's Love was Incarnational. He entered into our world to engage us. Men are called on a similar mission, to enter into the world of his wife and engage her.

Third, Christ's Love was Instructional. He came to teach and instruct. Husbands are called to be men of the Word (Eph. 5:25-27). It means taking the word of God to bear upon the life of your family. Fourth, Christ's Love was Responsible. He did not commit any of the angry or lustful thoughts I have, but He takes responsibility for them through the cross. Adam was held responsible for his family. And the husband will give an account to how he shepherded his home.

There was much more that I talked about on Sunday. If you want to listen to the sermon you, can find it HERE. Or you can read my notes HERE.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

This Week in the Blogosphere (September 8, 2012)

Each week, there are hundreds upon thousands of blog posts written by people all over the world. I find myself each week reading several of them. I have taken the time to link to some of my favorite blog posts from around the blogosphere from the previous week. I hope maybe one or two of these will be an encouragement to you.

  • Let Jesus Feel the Shame by Tim Challies. Have you ever wandered the difference between guilt and shame? Let this thought of the gospel help shape your life.
  • What the Puritans Can Teach Us about Counseling by Justin Taylor. Many people think the Puritans were boring and impractical. I doubt this will persuade all of them, but maybe someone will see the benefit of the ministry of the Puritans.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Good Laugh

I came home from work last night only to have my kids "have to show" me something they watched on YouTube. And I will say, it is pretty funny. Nothing like ending the week with a good laugh. Here are two of my favorites.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

One Problem with Lust

I found this quote on the problem of lust very enlightening. It is from Douglas Wilson and his book, Reforming Marriage. It will never be satisfied. It will keep building and building and growing and growing.
"The foundation is this: in order to be under the blessing of God we must accept our creaturely limitations. If they are accepted wisely, the limitations themselves are recognized as a blessing. 
What are some of these limitations? A man is limited to one woman. A man is limited to a finite amount of sexual pleasure. He is limited, and all such limitations are a great blessing from God. In short, it is good to be a creature. The way we think has long-term consequences; this, and only this, is a defense of lasting sexual pleasure. 
Men in rebellion against God have trouble understanding the importance of the distinction between the Creator and the creature. This is because all rebellion against God is rooted, ultimately, in a desire to replace Him. Men do not just want to flee from the authority of God; they want to topple Him. This may not mean there is always a conscious desire to overthrow the Creator. Nor does it mean that God is worried about the possibility of their success. But it certainly means that, whether conscious or not, these unsuccessful attempts to 'become as God' will result in chaos in the lives of the rebels. And when rebellion is sexual in nature, the chaos is sexual in nature.
The central problem with such lust is the steadfast refusal to tolerate limits. As mentioned above, lust is the desire to receive from a finite thing what only the infinite can provide. It seeks to elevate the created (sexual activity) to the level of God. But because we are finite, our sexual pleasures are also finite. This means that there has to be an end to it. But lust is incapable of saying 'enough.' There must always be something else, something more. There is pleasure--but never satisfaction. It is for this reason that lust will always lead to various perversions. Once all the possible pleasure has been squeezed out of the finite sexual limits given to us by God, lust demands new territory. The fact that the new territory is hostile to true sexual pleasure does not deter the person controlled by his lust. He charges ahead, little knowing that he is destroying the thing he worships" (114).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Federal Husband by Douglas Wilson

Federal Husband by Douglas Wilson is a shot across the bow of my manhood. And I think he meant to do it. I am fairly sure I have never read a book that took such a strong stand on men being the leader of the home as this book (other than Reforming Marriage by Wilson as well). It is a topic that is deeply needed in our culture today. We have too many men who have abdicated their spiritual role as leader in the home. But this concept of Federal Husband is more than simply leader of the home. It has to do with spiritual responsibility. Wilson argues,
"Whenever there is a genuine federal headship, the head as representative assumes responsibility for the spiritual condition of the members of the covenant body, and the organic connection applies in both directions" (11).
Adam was a representative of the entire human race. We fell in sin because of his sin. He was responsible. In the same way, Christ is a representative of all who believe. We believe and are saved because He took responsibility for us. So, when it says that the husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church, one aspect of that is an aspect of responsibility. Wilson goes on to point out:
"In marriage, we do not have two separated individuals with one of them in charge of the other one. Rather, we have an organic union which is instructed not to be schizophrenic. All macho man foolishness is inconsistent with the covenantal realities described here. A proper understanding also excludes the blame game. A husband can no more blame his wife for the state of their marriage than a thief can blame his hands. As Christ assumed responsibility for things He didn't do, so husbands should be willing to do the same for their wives. Obviously, sins can be committed in marriage by both men and women. But all such sinning occurs in the context of a covenant and within the realm of the federal head's responsibility. The responsibility for all such sins therefore lies with the husband. A woman can and should recognize her sins before the Lord; her husband's overarching responsibility should in no way lessen her sense of personal and individual responsibility. Properly understood, it should have precisely the opposite effect. When a wife understands that her husband is responsible and knows that he assumes this responsibility willingly, she will be more responsible as an individual, not less. In the same way that Christ's federal salvation sets a man free to do right, so a husband can liberate his wife as he assumes responsibility for her" (18).
Of course, this is not something you hear everyday. I shared this with my wife and her response was, "I'm glad I'm not the husband." It made me think. Maybe the egalitarian movement has more to do with a wrong view of headship than it does about the rights of women. Maybe those that teach a biblical headship have not gone far enough. Maybe they have failed to show how men are responsible for their wives and children. The wife and kids may have guilt over their sins, but the husband / father is responsible.

To be fair, there were aspects of this book that I certainly did not enjoy. Wilson goes on for numerous pages on the length of hair and types of clothing that boys or girls should have. He talks about what is right and wrong in a dating relationship (and more than just moral issues). There were certainly a few things that I think he crossed the line on in this book. But his concept of federal responsibility really shook me to my core. And it should every man!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: The Connection Between Sex & Marriage

I am continuing a blog series on the topic of same-sex marriage. It is an issue that is at the forefront of our culture today. Over the past couple of weeks, I have looked at several different aspects of this issue:
Today, I want to slightly turn the topic to ask the question, "Is there an inherent link between any type of sex and marriage?" My response is YES! We cannot talk about sex in any way, shape, or form without talking about marriage as God has designed it. Albert Mohler remarks on this issue in this way:
"According to the Christian worldview, sex makes sense only within the context of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is an insult to the Creator's design and a display of human arrogance. Unsatisfied with God's provision for us in marriage, human sinfulness is displayed in our demand for autonomy--for our 'rights' as creatures--and in our rejection of the Creator's purpose . . . Throughout the bible, sexual sins are revealed in their inherent sinfulness precisely because each of these sins--whether incest, or bestiality, or homosexuality, or lust--is a desire for something less than God's completion in the covenant of marriage, and for something less than purity in our reception of God's gift" (Sex & the Supremacy of Christ, 110).
When I looked at 1 Corinthians 6, I pointed out that homosexual relationships were definitely shown by Paul to represent unrighteous acts that show someone to be outside of inheriting the kingdom. But what we often fail to realize is that the first thing listed is sexual immorality (fornication). While there are some in Christian circles that want to put the onus on the homosexual movement, maybe the gay marriage debate has become so rampant because the culture (including the church) has taken such a loose stance on any sex outside of marriage as being sinful.

So we turn on our TV and laugh at things that promote sex outside of marriage. We walk by the magazine aisle and are confronted with fornication and we are not really shocked. We listen to people call themselves "Christian" and then engage in acts of fornication without blinking an eye. And the church has done very little to oppose it.

But Paul wasn't done. He even goes on to say that the adulterer was unrighteous and not part of those that would inherit the kingdom of God. This is specific sexual relationship of a married person outside of their marriage. In OT times, the punishment for this could be death. Before we get on our high moral horse, maybe we need to examine all the details. Jesus said that to lust after someone is to be guilty of that same adultery. 

This is a zero tolerance zone. We cannot talk about sex at all without talking about the marriage of one man and one woman for life. If we are going to have real meaningful conversations with someone about homosexuality or same-sex marriage, we had better be willing to say that any sex outside of marriage is just as sinful as their relationships are to God. If we don't we are blurring the line of God's intent for sex. But as you know, sex is misused all the time. But that's for next time. Until then . . .