How do you respond to the sexual revolution?

While “the sexual revolution” is widely regarded to have already taken place (beginning in the 1960s), you could certainly make a strong case that it continues today. Really, though, I would argue that, while the “revolution” of such things by cultural standards and societal norms took place then and continue to take place today, the very ideas of “the sexual revolution” have been happening since the days of Noah, the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.

Regardless of the terms and the times, the revolution of sexual activity has been ongoing for thousands of years and will continue until Jesus Christ returns.

Any practice of sex outside of God’s perfect design, however, is sinful. Sex is a beautiful gift from God but is, per His perfect plan for humanity, meant to be practiced, enjoyed, and celebrated only between a man and his wife. Anything less (or more) will not satisfy and more importantly, will result in God’s judgment.

How many marriages, families, communities, churches, friendships, etc. have been destroyed by sexual sin (pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, pedophilia, rape, incest, etc.)? On the other hand, how many marriages, families, communities, churches, friendships, etc. have been destroyed by sexual fidelity? No genius is necessary to accurately answer those two questions (sexual infidelity destroys lives; sexual fidelity promotes and advances life).

THE GRACIOUS WARNING

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from 2 Peter 2 on the “Grace to Know” God according to the truth of His Word. Unfortunately, the world is full of deception that seeks to push us away from God. By His grace, though, He has preserved and given us His Word to protect us and to teach us how to discern Truth from evil.

In the Bible, we are warned of the very things “the sexual revolution” has promoted and celebrated. Thus, the distortions and abominations should not surprise us, even though we should be saddened and prayerful. God help us!

In His grace, God has warned us not only that the world would be consumed by sexual sin, greed, idolatry, etc., but also what will happen if we turn to those things rather than to Him. Eternal destruction and damnation are the results of giving in to any sin, including sexual sin.

Since we are all sinners, this is really bad news. Praise God, though, that He has provided a solution.

THE WAY OUT

If you are trapped in the snares of sexual sin (or any other sinful lifestyle), please do not lose hope. Please do not give up. Please do not believe the lie that it is too late for your life to matter and for hope to be restored.

The Good News of the gospel is that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. He took the punishment that you and I deserve, and then He rose from the grave and defeated sin and death for all of eternity. If we simply turn away from sin and trust in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, we receive forgiveness and a right relationship with God. And, that is more than just our eternal life; our life is different now.

Does that mean we will never struggle with sexual sin (or any other sin) again? Of course not. Rather, that means we will never be content to live in sexual sin (or any other sin) again. As the Holy Spirit of God changes our hearts and our lives, we will continue to grow in our desire to know and follow and obey God according to His Word. We will grow in our ability to discern Truth from evil. We will long to obey God’s Word and heed the advice of the Apostle Paul…

Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

What is your response to “the sexual revolution” and the destructive perversion of God’s plan for your life? Will you respond by fleeing from sin and turning to God? Seek Him through His Word. Depend on Him in prayer. Serve Him through His church. Declare Him to the world.

There is a way out from the trap of sin and death. Jesus is the Way. Turn to Him before it is too late. Plead with others to do the same.

The Story explains how we can be delivered from sin and death now and forever.

What is discipleship?

At the heart of Christianity is the answer to the question, “What is discipleship?” because a disciple is a student and follower of someone or something. Thus, a disciple of Jesus is what being a Christian is all about, and many of us use the term “discipleship” to explain this lifestyle.

What is discipleship, then? As a follower of Jesus and as a pastor, I talk about this often and try my best to clearly communicate the answer to that question to our church family. Simply put, discipleship is following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus. Put another way, discipleship is growing closer to Jesus and helping others to grow closer to Jesus.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series through 2 Peter (“Grow in Grace“), and, like many of the New Testament letters, I believe Christian discipleship is at the heart of 2 Peter because God’s Word exists in order for us to know Him, know whom He created us to be, and know how to help others know Him. So, the Bible is our manual for discipleship, answering life’s most important questions and revealing to us the most important truths.

As I have been studying this week for the first message in this series, “Grace to Grow,” I have been reminded how much I need the Lord above all, but also how much I need my brothers and sisters in Christ. Again, discipleship involves both following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus. That means we need Him, and we need each other. We need God’s Word, and we need God’s church.

For these reasons, and because life tends to get busy and filled with fruitless distractions, I have discovered the importance of being very intentional when it comes to discipleship. Yes, the major part of following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus should be what we do in our everyday lives. In other words, discipleship is not a program but a lifestyle. Still, I need some intentional focus, or my everyday lifestyle looks less and less like how the Bible calls me to live.

When God saves us, He gives us everything we need not only for eternal life but also for spiritual growth now (see 2 Peter 1:1-4). He gives us His Spirit to enable and equip us, and we have His Word to know Him and know how to live. We still have a responsibility, though, when it comes to our life of discipleship.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with…” (2 Peter 1:5check out verses 5-9 for the list).

Am I “making every effort”? Are you?

In my 22+ years of being a Christian, one of the most helpful tools for my spiritual growth has been discipleship accountability groups (DAGs). Really, DAGs, along with the other three things I shared a few weeks ago (Bible, prayer, and church), have been used by the grace of God to bless me, challenge me, sharpen me, encourage me, and grow me.

In a perfect world, a DAG would not be necessary, as we would be diligent about prioritizing our faith, holding one another accountable, and helping one another grow closer to the Lord. We do not live in a perfect world, though, and we are far from perfect. For that reason, I mentioned the importance of being intentional.

If not for DAGs, would anyone ever ask me if I am walking in sexual purity and avoiding things like pornography? How often would people ask me when the last time is I shared the gospel with an unbeliever? Who would challenge me to memorize Scripture and spend daily time in the Word? Again, if we were all as spiritually mature as we should be, these questions and others like them would be part of our regular Christian relationships. My experience, though, has been that without DAGs or something like them, these questions rarely get asked.

Are you in a weekly DAG with a few other believers (men with men, women with women – since we deal with different issues)? If not, would you consider being in one? I am actually preparing to start a new DAG next month, and if you are interested in learning more about DAGs, resources we have, how to get started, etc., please let me know.

Let us seek with all that we are to grow closer to Jesus and help others grow closer to Jesus. Let us be disciples who make disciple makers.

Of course, to be a disciple, you must first surrender your life to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. If you have yet to make this most important decision of your life, please consider checking out The Story for more information.

Obeying When You Don’t Feel Like It

As a dad, one thing I have never said to my kids is, “If your heart is in it and it feels right, do what I tell you to do.” Rather, I expect them to obey me, whether they feel like it or not. If you are a parent, I am sure you are the same way, right?

When I recently asked my kids to help me load my truck with chunks of concrete and asphalt (from the piles of dirt in the picture above), I did not expect they would jump for joy and celebrate the chance for manual labor on a muggy day. Still, I needed some help, and it was good for them to help me.

Granted, we can make mistakes as parents because we are sinners and far from perfect. Still, we give our children instructions and expect their obedience because we are trying to teach them right from wrong, educate them on the value of things like hard work and discipline, want what is best for them, and know (usually) better than they do what they need.

To an infinitely greater degree, of course, our Creator knows what we need. He knows what is best for us and has given us His Word to guide us. For His glory and for our good, He expects our obedience, and that expectation is not contingent upon our feelings. Because we are sinners who do not always have a great attitude, there will be plenty of times when we do not feel like obeying God. Will we obey anyway? Will I? Will you?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 7 on “Reclaimed Obedience” because God’s Word is essential for all of us. We must look to the Lord and depend on the Lord for growth in our obedience to the Lord.

No, we will never, on this side of eternity, be perfect in our obedience. Jesus alone was and is that, and He died on the cross for our disobedience and brokenness. He took the punishment that we all deserve for our sinful disobedience. Then, Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death for all of eternity. By turning to Him for forgiveness and salvation, we can and will live with Him forever.

One of the clearest and most important evidences of that salvation is growing obedience to the Word of God, both when we feel like it and when we do not. As the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and shapes us, too, we will grow in our desire to obey. By the grace of God, though, we will learn to obey even when the desire is lacking.

Will you seek and trust the Lord to help you be like Ezra, who “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10)? No matter how you feel, as God to help you obey Him in all things.

Are you growing in your obedience to God’s Word? Do you desire to grow and obey? If not, would you examine your heart and consider your relationship with the Lord? You can learn what it means to know and follow Him by checking out The Story.

COVID-19. What if…?

Like so many others, I am praying for God’s grace and mercy in the midst of this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While the current projections are anything but favorable, I am asking God to do the impossible and bring an end to COVID-19.

What if, in the meantime, though, we ask God to do an amazing work in our hearts? What if we ask Him to do an amazing work in His church? What if we ask Him to use COVID-19 for His glory and for our good? What if we can one day look back on this pandemic and say, “Wow! God changed so many lives for His kingdom during that difficult time.“?

In the same way September 11, 2001, seemed to drastically increase patriotism in our great nation, what if COVID-19 drastically increases faith in our great God?

Would you join me in praying for three specific results in the coming weeks?

1. PRAY FOR A GROWING HUNGER FOR GOD’S WORD.

If we follow our government’s directives – and I believe we should to the best of our abilities – then we are going to have a lot more time at home until COVID-19 is “under control.” A lot more time isolated from those outside of our household. A lot more time alone, perhaps.

Hey, what a great time to binge-watch television shows and movies! What a plethora of time to waste on social media and the internet!

What if, instead, we prayed for a growing hunger for God’s Word? What if we used the increased time at home to spend more time reading our Bibles, praying from our Bibles, and memorizing Scripture? What if we developed a consistent habit of daily interaction with God through His Word? What if we established a regular routine of family devotions?

How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord’s instruction! Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:1-2).

If we pray for a growing hunger for God’s Word and sincerely prioritize our Bibles right now, our lives could be changed forever. Our families could be changed forever. Our churches could be changed forever. Our communities could be changed forever. Our world could be changed forever. What could and would God do in and through us if we truly grew in our hunger for His Word? Let’s find out!

2. PRAY FOR A GROWING COMMITMENT TO GOD’S CHURCH.

Most churches – including the church I have the privilege of serving – are wisely choosing to live out the great commandments (love of God and love of neighbor) by honoring our government’s leadership in the midst of this pandemic. Thus, we are canceling services, for now, to help limit the further spread of COVID-19.

People who are marginally committed to their churches might use this “break” as an opportunity to sleep in on Sundays. They might fall out of the habit of regular worship service attendance and church involvement. They might see this as an excuse to “drop out.” I pray that is not the case, but the possibility is real.

For those who sincerely love Jesus, though, a growing love for His church is evident. Thus, what if God were to use this time of separation from your church family to grow your commitment to your church family? What if, out of this pandemic, you realize what a privilege church involvement truly is, and your longing to be back with your church family is overflowing?

God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in the Messiah, Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

If we pray for a growing hunger for God’s Word, and God answers our prayers, then I believe a growing commitment to God’s church will naturally follow. Let’s find out!

3. PRAY FOR A GROWING PASSION FOR GOD’S MISSION.

Likewise, as God grows our hunger for His Word and our commitment to His church, I believe He will increase our passion for His mission. Perhaps we cannot do quite as much as before or quite as much as we would like because of social distancing right now. Then again, perhaps we can do more, or at least different acts of mission and service.

Is this an increased opportunity to serve the elderly who have needs but are unable to leave their homes? Is this an increased opportunity to serve lost family and friends who are fearful and overwhelmed by financial instability and future uncertainty? Is this a vivid reminder to pray for the lost and pray for opportunities to reach out to them, even if only via the phone and/or internet?

Jesus said, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

What if we pray for a growing passion for God’s mission – the gospel to the world? What if God answers that prayer, and as a result, He uses this pandemic to bring about a great spiritual awakening for His glory and for our good? Let’s find out!

If you are struggling to find hope and peace in the midst of this pandemic, would you seek the Lord for His hope and peace? If you have not yet experienced this through a personal relationship with Him, check out The Story.

Read the Word

Joshua read aloud all the words of the law – the blessings as well as the curses – according to all that is written in the book of the law” (Joshua 8:34).

If you read the end of Joshua 8, you will notice that Joshua was honoring God with an altar after a great victory God had given His people. Joshua was following God’s instructions, and then read God’s instructions – God’s Word – to all the people of Israel. He read all of it to them – “the blessings as well as the curses.”

How can we honor God like Joshua did and help others to do the same? By reading His Word, declaring His Word to others, and following His Word. Like Jesus said, we prove ourselves to be disciples by going and making disciples and baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything He has commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20). Oh, and He promises to be with His disciples “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

Do you know the Word? Are you reading the Word? Are you obeying the Word – all of it? With all of the incredible resources available to us in the English language (and in so many other languages), we have no excuse not to engage God daily through His Word.

Read the Word and pray for God’s help to obey.

If you have no desire to read God’s Word, perhaps you have not yet received God’s rescue from sin and death through His One and Only Son. Would you consider the Story and turn to Jesus today?

David vs. Goliath isn’t about March Madness.

We have all heard it before. Maybe, we have even said it ourselves. “It’s a battle of David vs. Goliath!” Whether it is the big school vs. the small school, or it is the seemingly great team vs. the not-so-great team, this time of year seems to be the time more than any other when I hear about David vs. Goliath. March Madness!

After all, David of Bethlehem was a teenager who probably was not much more than five feet tall, and Goliath of Gath was at least nearly seven feet tall and possibly over nine feet tall. Goliath wore armor that probably weighed as much as David. His spear was about 15 times heavier than the normal spear used during that time. David was the ultimate underdog when he entered the battlefield to face Goliath.

While we all understand why this well-known story is referred to in underdog scenarios, I fear we are missing a very important point when we make this story about basketball. More importantly, we miss the point when we make this story about us.

David vs. Goliath is not recorded in the Bible to make us look inward for courage and strength. David vs. Goliath is recorded in the Bible to make us look upward to the Lord God Almighty.

The reality is, we are all much more likely to behave like Goliath than we are to behave like David. In our sinful, prideful nature, we are prone to think we have it all figured out and can “do all things” through our hard work, accomplishments, acquired skills, preparations, etc. Yes, we would all like to think of ourselves as David, but the truth is that we are more like Goliath – doing things our way rather than God’s way. If that happens to be the case, then we, too, like Goliath, will fall.

Sunday, Lord willing, I will just-so-happen to be preaching from 1 Samuel 17 on the story of David vs. Goliath. While March Madness will not be a part of my message, I cannot help but think of the reminders that both of these well-known events bring.

But, David vs. Goliath is not about March Madness. David vs. Goliath is not even about you or about me. David vs. Goliath is about God. In fact, David the victor points us to Jesus the Victor, the perfect descendant of David who conquered our greatest enemies – sin and death.

David defeated Goliath because God was with him and because God is faithful and in control. Do not make yourself out to be David. Rather, trust in the same God in whom David trusted, and experience the victorious faith that only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why Justice & Politics Will Let You Down

How much hope do you place in worldly justice and/or politics? Your answer to that question likely indicates how encouraged or discouraged you are on a regular basis. The reality is that the justice and politics the world has to offer will leave you disappointed.

Yes, I still think we should vote. Yes, I still think we ought to take a stand for things that matter. But, the world has never known a truly just court, and the world has never seen a politician who can deliver continued hope.

Sure, there have been many heroes, including people who have accomplished great (and good) things politically, but does the change last? Do things just keep getting better? Do they fix all of our problems? Of course not.

Sadly, the good politicians seem to be quite rare in world history, and the devastating effects of oppression, injustice and corruption only continue.

Solomon’s words are still true today: “There is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness” (Ecclesiastes 3:16). Worldly justice and politics will let you down, but the Lord God will not let you down.

If you are trying to find your hope and security in justice and politics (or in anything(s) other than in the God who created you), will you consider seeking and trusting in the Lord?

This morning during our morning worship service with Richland Baptist Church, I preached on the “Futility of Justice and Politics,” sharing three reasons justice and politics will let you down (and what you need instead). You can listen to this and other messages HERE.

Please understand, I am grateful for the country in which we live and the hard work of those who seek to uphold justice and integrity. I praise God for people like my friend Jake (pictured below with his parents at his recent graduation), who is now a Missouri State Park Ranger. We must be careful, though, to realize the absolute futility of finding our hope and assurance in what people can do in a fallen world. Let’s serve and rely on one another, but let’s always find our hope in the Lord.