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.

Are you hopeful about your future?

Do you have hope for what is to come in your life? Think about your past for a moment. Do you have hope with that in mind?

When I was a child, I can remember at least a time or two when my sin and rebellion caused my parents to threaten the loss of presents I was going to be receiving for Christmas or my birthday. Did that ever happen to you? “If you do that again, I’m taking all your presents back!” Empty threat? Perhaps. “If you don’t shape up, you’re getting nothing for Christmas!

Do you know what never happened, though? Those presents never were returned to the store. I never experienced a Christmas or birthday without gifts. Was this because I truly “shaped up” and behaved well? Definitely not. Sure, perhaps in the moments of the threats I did, but I made plenty of mistakes that would have warranted my parents keeping their “promise.” Instead, though, they showed me grace. They gave me the gifts I really did not deserve.

How much more is this the case with God and His grace?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series through Ezra and talk about “Reclaimed Hope” (Ezra 1-2). Have you ever considered that we can actually celebrate our past and have resulting hope in the future? Of course, this is not possible with a clear conscience in and of ourselves because we are sinners who have much for which to be ashamed and a devastating future if dependent upon our goodness. When we turn to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation, though, He redeems us from our sins (past, present, and future) and gives us a resulting hope that will never fade away. For that reason, we can celebrate our pasts because, in our pasts, we are reminded of God’s grace and love for us and thus confident in the future to come because of His promises that never fail.

Even more than I never deserved all those gifts from my parents, I do not deserve the gift of eternal life from our perfect God. Yet, just like He kept His promises to undeserving Israel in Ezra’s time, He continues to keep His promises to all who surrender to Him through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

Do you believe this? Have you surrendered? Are you hopeful and rejoicing in what is to come?

If you lack such hope for your future, will you check out The Story and consider your relationship with God?

Politics Are Not the Source

What happened at our country’s Capitol Wednesday was sad, embarrassing, and tragic. Frankly, I was not overly surprised, and that further illustrates the discouraging state of our nation right now. What is especially frustrating to me is that the name of Jesus continues to be used wrongly and immorally for political purposes and for purposes of blatant evil.

Christ-followers are called to honor, respect, and pray for our government leaders, whether we agree with them or not (see, for example, 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7). What happened Wednesday was a disgrace. This is particularly true for those who claim the name of Jesus while also supporting sinful rebellion.

Followers of Jesus, let us be better. Let us set an example. Let us live according to the Word of God.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Those who stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday are not a cloud of witnesses, nor are the vast majority of our political leaders. The godly faithful referred to in Hebrews 11 (and those like them) – people who endure in the faith, no matter the cost – are the cloud of witnesses.

Our country’s leaders, whether great or not, are not the source and perfecter of our faith. Politics are not the source. Our government is not the source. Our country is not the source. Jesus is “the source and perfecter of our faith” and He, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

That cannot be said about anyone else. Jesus alone could do that and Jesus alone did do that.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 12:1-13 on how “Jesus Is the Better Reason.” He is the better Reason – the superior Reason – we press on and endure in the faith. He is the Reason we have hope, joy, peace, and contentment. He alone is the Reason who lasts because He alone is the the source and perfecter of our faith.

Politics are not the source, so please do not worship our country or any political leaders. Do not give in to the cult of personality idolatry, for no one but Jesus rules a kingdom that is eternal.

If you are finding your hope in politics or anything/anyone else besides Jesus Christ our Lord, will you turn to Him today? Will you ask Him to take over your life and change your heart? Learn more HERE.

Destined for Disappointment

As a lifelong Minnesota sports fan – particularly of the Vikings, Twins, and Gophers – I almost feel as though I am destined for disappointment in my fandom. Yes, the Twins won World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, but they now own a record of futility that will likely never be broken by any professional sports team in all four of the major American sports – 18 straight playoff game losses? Do you realize how difficult it is to lose that many straight games when the playoffs are played in a best-of-3, best-of-5, or best-of-7 series? There is a reason that the only other professional sports franchise to even come close to the Twins’ losing streak is a hockey team way back in the 1970s (when the Chicago Blackhawks lost 16 straight playoff games). Simply put, according to some experts, the odds of doing what Minnesota has done are 1 in 131,072. Yikes!

As a Minnesota sports fan, am I destined for disappointment? Perhaps. For now, at least, the disappointment cannot be denied.

DIFFERENT DISAPPOINTMENT

What was different about Wednesday’s disappointment of the Twins being swept out of the playoffs yet again is that my hopes were not very high. Sure, the Twins were the #2 seed in the playoffs, playing the #7 seed in an expanded pandemic-induced playoff setting. Sure, the Twins should have won the series, let alone at least a game in the series. Sure, both games were in Minnesota, and the Twins had just won another division title and were playing a team with a losing record. Yet, because of the continued futility of the Twins (and seemingly all Minnesota sports), my typical optimism has slowly but surely been shifting to realism.

I have little reason to feel otherwise. Still, I am disappointed and wish the teams for which I cheer were better.

What really makes this disappointment a different kind of disappointment, though, is because we are just talking about sports. Yes, sports are fun and can offer a lot of great lessons for life, but they certainly are not life. Sports are nothing more than entertainment for most of us, so when we are disappointed by our favorite teams, that disappointment is quite different than disappointments that destroy relationships or ruin health or cause lasting devastation.

DELIVERED FROM DISAPPOINTMENT

While my teams (and anyone’s teams) can let us down, we ought to have the proper perspective that disappointment from a game is nothing compared to disappointment that lasts. And, I mean disappointment that lasts forever.

There is only One who can deliver us from that kind of disappointment, and His name is Jesus Christ. While we all deserve (because of our sins) eternal disappointment that comes with the devastation of spiritual death and separation from God, we can receive deliverance from that disappointment by turning away from our sins and placing our absolute trust and faith in Jesus to save us and make us right with God.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Hebrews 5:11-6:12 on how “Jesus Is the Better Promise.” We might be inclined to put our hope in all kinds of promises in this life, but Jesus is the superior promise and hope. He is the only One who can deliver us from the eternal, devastating disappointment we deserve because of our sin.

For that reason, although life is full of disappointments – many of which are my own doing, I am grateful for the satisfaction I have in my Savior.

As a Vikings and Twins fan, I cannot help but think I might be destined for disappointment. More importantly, in and of myself, I am certainly destined for disappointment. In Christ Jesus my Lord, though, I am delivered; I am set free; I am rescued; I am at peace. Praise be to God!

Let us remember this important perspective when that which is temporary causes disappointment in our lives.

If you want to experience the hope and peace that last forever, would you consider checking out The Story?

Angels Didn’t Save My Dad

Six years ago yesterday, my dad lost his physical battle with cancer. Active and healthy prior to his diagnosis, my dad was only 57 years old when he died. I still miss him a lot.

Often, when people think of death and heaven, they think of angels. They might talk about guardian angels or heavenly angels. Really, though, angels are very limited in their power, as they are messengers of God who are sent to do as God calls them to do. Their power is limited to God’s will and God’s purposes for them, and so we are not to pray to angels or worship angels or even trust in angels. Rather, we are to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him. In fact, “All God’s angels must worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6).

When my dad was dying of cancer, could God have sent His angels to comfort my dad? Sure. Angels could have ministered to my dad in various ways, but they could not and did not save my dad – not from physical death caused by cancer nor from eternal death caused by the curse of sin.

Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus is God in the flesh. Only Jesus could take our sin upon Himself, die in our place, satisfy the wrath of God that we deserve, and rise again to defeat sin and death.

Jesus Is Better than Angels.” That is the message, Lord willing, I will be preaching on Sunday morning from Hebrews 1, hoping to share some unique truths about Jesus that make Him (and Him alone) worthy of worship.

Thankfully, a couple of years before my dad lost his physical life to cancer, he received eternal life when he professed his faith in Jesus Christ. One of my life’s greatest privileges was getting to baptize my dad at his and my mom’s then-home-church – First Baptist Church of Marshalltown, Iowa – in December 2012.

Angels did not save my dad. Jesus did.

Whom are you trusting to give you hope, life, and a right standing with God? Jesus alone can do all three, so please look to Him today and every day.

One of the many things I miss most about my dad is how great he was with our kids. They LOVED playing with Grandpa Robbie, just like Silas was playing the “handcuff game” in this picture, which was taken on December 8, 2012.

Sinful yet Hopeful

Do you notice anything off about the picture above? Yes, that trailer is supposed to be hooked to that tractor. That trailer was hooked to that tractor, until one of my children (who will not be revealed in this post) was messing around on the tractor and disengaged the hydraulics. Apparently some other things were done, too, causing said-child to retreat in fear of the wrong that was committed.

Perhaps no one would find out, though. After all, when someone comes to move the trailer back into place for our Sunday morning outdoor worship celebration, he will hook the trailer back up, and no one else will be the wiser. So, nothing was said to Marsha or me about the trailer parked unhooked behind the tractor.

A little later, however, while all five of our children were playing outside, they noticed the tractor rolling down the hill. At least one of them wondered, “Who’s driving the tractor?” Oh, no one was driving that tractor. It was now helplessly rolling down the hill.

Praise the Lord that none of our children were near it when this happened, and no one was hurt or killed! Praise the Lord that no other vehicles were in the parking lot, and no damage was done! Praise the Lord that the tractor came to a perfect stop at the end of the gravel lot, and nothing bad happened! God’s mercy and grace are all over this story.

SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES

Well, God’s mercy and grace are all over this story, that is, until I walked outside the next morning for my (usually) very-enjoyable morning walk. Mercy and grace were not words that would describe my initial attitude toward my children when I saw what had happened.

When I first noticed what you can see in the above picture, I thought, “Why in the world did someone decide to use the tractor and then leave it down there? And, who was it?” That thinking was only for a moment, though, because I quickly realized it must have been something my children did. That was all that made sense.

How did this happen, though. When did this happen? How did my wife and I not know? How are all of our children still alive? Are we the worst parents ever? Do we have the worst children ever?

When everyone was awake, my wife and I questioned our children and quickly learned the truth, including the fact that all five of them knew who was guilty and knew what had happened. None said a word, however. No one told us, somehow thinking we would not find out and/or that it would not be a big deal if we did.

A John Deere tractor that our kids were playing around rolled 200 feet down a hill!

Needless to say, Marsha and I had a long, serious conversation with our children. Furthermore, they proceeded to lose a lot of privileges, and we hope they have learned their lesson.

You see, sin has consequences. In this case, disobedience and disrespect could have led to someone being killed, and death is the ultimate curse and consequence of sin.

THERE IS HOPE

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on how we can “Find Hope in God’s Judgment” (Micah 4). Yes, sin has consequences. Yes, God judges sin. Yes, we all deserve the devastating eternal death that is the curse of sin. Yet, there is hope.

We are all sinful, but we can still be hopeful, hopeful if we know and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The only hope that conquers sin and death is the hope of the gospel. Do you have this hope? Do you rejoice in this hope? Do you find satisfaction and contentment in this hope? Are you daily living for the God of this hope?

Like our children, we all deserve much greater consequences to our sins than we have received. The fact that we are still breathing, despite our countless failures and rebellions, is living proof. We deserve death but by trusting in Jesus’ death in our place and by believing in His resurrection from the dead, we can have life and have it abundantly.

Look out for the consequences of sin. Look out for God’s certain judgment. Look out by looking up (to Him). Look out by looking back (to the cross). Look out by looking forward (to eternal life). Only then will you have the hope that never dies.

P.S. – “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

If you have yet to believe the gospel and surrender your life to Jesus Christ, please do not delay.

No Silly Barking

When my kids drive their remote-controlled car, our dog, Lottie, goes crazy. She chases and barks at the harmless toy as long as it moves. Never does she tired from such activity, even if it goes on for several minutes. These are just 24 seconds of evidence…

If we fail to have a gospel-centered perspective in our response to evil against us, we will be just like Lottie. We will bark and bark, and while the barking might make sense to those of us barking, it is ultimately ridiculous. Only the right perspective will allow us to see that, though.

GOSPEL PERSPECTIVE REQUIRED

When we only think about ourselves and our situation and our frustration, we will not respond to evil in a God-honoring way. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on “Living Good” (Romans 12:17-21). In that message, I hope to communicate two gospel-centered responses to evil, challenging you to respond to evil based on God’s response to you.

The gospel does that for us, changing our perspective so that we do not respond to evil like barking dogs. Sure, there are times when barking is necessary, but how often do we bark when simply surrendering our cares to the Lord is required?

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). If you surrender your life to Jesus Christ and ask Him to give you a new heart, He not only saves you for eternity; He changes you now. He begins a work in your heart that affects everything about you, including your response to evil. Living at peace with others because of the peace God has given you becomes a desire, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

BARKING OR PEACE?

How about you? Do you find yourself constantly barking, whether outwardly or inwardly, or are you experiencing a growing sense of peace – peace with God and peace with others? If you are struggling and really just want to bark, would you consider crying out to God for help instead? Only He can give you the peace that passes all understanding, and that peace will only come when you embrace the gospel and follow after Him.

Some day, if not sooner than later, we will see our barking for what it is – fruitless futility. Yes, we should pursue justice but not apart from the perspective that justice ultimately and perfectly belongs to the Lord. In that truth, we must have peace. Praise be to God!

Heartbroken but Hopeful

When considering what 12-year-old Wyatt Salmons and his family went through this past year, with Wyatt having lost his physical life last Friday, how can we understand such tragedies? How do I make sense of one of my son’s friends and classmates suffering and dying from a rare form of cancer?

To some extent, we simply cannot wrap our minds around things like this. We cannot fully comprehend or sufficiently explain tragedies. Rather, we are heartbroken and reminded of the brokenness of this world. Still, I believe we can experience hope in the midst of heartbreak. Specifically, I believe there are two ways that provide hope above all else.

1. HOPE FROM THE GOSPEL

Firstly and most importantly, we find hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot fathom how people get through any sort of tragedy and suffering apart from the hope of the gospel. Before I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, I experienced far less tragic suffering in my life (as a child and young adult) than I have since then, and yet in the midst of those losses, I was far more discouraged.

I remember moments when I felt complete hopelessness and despair, and those moments were nothing compared to losing my young dad to cancer, for example. When my dad passed away in 2014, my heart was broken, and yet I never felt hopeless. I never felt despair. While I was grief-stricken and missed my dad (and still do), I had (and still do) a sense of hope and peace that I never understood before placing my saving faith in Jesus.

Please realize, this hopefulness is not because I figured things out and mastered some method of finding purpose and meaning. Rather, God changed my heart and life. My purpose and meaning are in Him, and because of the promise of what is to come, loss in this life cannot rob me of that hope. This is the reality for those who know and follow Jesus, as long as we keep our eyes on Him.

2. HOPE FROM ONE ANOTHER

One of the greatest blessings of coming to know and follow Jesus is being a part of His family. We say all the time with Richland, “Our church is our family.” God knows, of course, that we not only need Him; we need one another. For that reason, most of the commands in the New Testament are corporate commands – commands for the body of believers and not just for individual believers.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on “Living Unity” (Romans 12:15-16). Church family unity that is centered on the gospel is a unity that endures. And, part of that unity is our need to love and care for one another in the midst of suffering. We are not strong enough to endure tragedy on our own. We need God, and we need His church. The temptation for many when tragedy strikes is to withdraw, but withdrawal is the very thing we do not need. Instead, we need to comfort and/or be comforted. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). This is a corporate command for us because God knows best what we need.

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, are you prioritizing your relationship with Him and your relationship with your local church? Are you prioritizing unity, not just for your sake but also for the sake of God’s glory and the good of others?

If you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus, I plead with you to turn to Him for the hope, peace, and salvation only He can give.

If you want to experience the hope and peace that endure forever, please check out The Story.

The Gospel Gives Perspective

One thing I never really understood when I played sports (like basketball) in high school, was when people would say something like, “Yeah, I quit because there was too much running.” In fact, not only did I not really understand such a statement, frankly, it annoyed me. What do you expect when you play sports?

Please understand – I am not saying that I necessarily enjoy running. For the most part, I do not. A proper perspective, though, helps me realize that running is necessary to be prepared. Running now will help me be better later. Running a lot in practice will make it more likely that we can win the game. Exercising during the week will help ensure that I can still beat my kids in basketball on the weekend (like in the above picture). 😉

More importantly, the gospel provides a proper perspective. In fact, if we trust and embrace the gospel, then we have the ultimate purpose for living and a continuous reason for enduring. The gospel changes things. Apart from the gospel, our religious efforts are dead and meaningless. Without the gospel, our supposed sacrifices are a stench to God.

Because of the gospel, though, we have perspective and purpose. God gave the ultimate sacrifice in and through His One and Only Son so that we can have not only eternal life, but also so that we can be a living sacrifice.

You see, when we are changed by God through the good news of the gospel, our very lives are changed. No longer are we content to go through the motions of religious exercise or do things our way. Instead, because of the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts, we desire to live our lives every day in a way that will honor and glorify God. This is not because we are better than anyone else but rather because we are made new.

Have you been made new? Do you have a perspective which, even in the midst of difficulty, allows you to experience hope, joy, and peace? If not, ask God for help. Ask Him to change your heart and change your life, as only He can. Furthermore, make sure you have people who are walking alongside you in this journey. We need God, and we need one another.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, our church will be hosting a drive-in worship service in our east parking lot. If you live in the area and do not have a church family, I hope you will join us. I plan to begin a new sermon series from Romans 12-13 on remembering the cross (and how the gospel changes our daily lives). Looking first at Romans 12:1-2, I want to challenge you – challenge us – to be a “Living Sacrifice.” We were made new for this.

If you long for the proper perspective and hope that only God can give, would you consider surrendering your life to Him? You can learn more by clicking the picture above.

Will you frolic?

Indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:1-2).

When I think about what it means to “playfully jump,” I cannot help but think about our yellow labrador puppy, Lottie. She is really good at frolicking.

Will you frolic (“playfully jump“) like those described in Malachi 4:2, or will you face eternal judgment in horror like those described in verse 1?

The answer to that question is determined by your standing before our almighty God. The reality is that we all deserve eternal judgment because of our sin. If you have a right relationship with God, though, then you can frolic now and more importantly for eternity because of the hope, peace, and joy only He gives.

To understand how to have a right relationship with God, would you consider watching a video and/or reading more HERE?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Greatness of God sermon series through Malachi, preaching through the last six verses and discussing “Our Great God of Promise.” Do you believe God’s promises? What is your response?

Please remember that every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Jesus. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 1:20).