Raising a Kid Who Has a Conscience

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it~ Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

The disturbing slaughter in Las Vegas last week caused me to think about a subject I rarely tackle in this blog: parenting. It struck me as I was watching the news that anytime there is a mass shooting the first thing we do is search for a motive to make sense of the senseless. If the killer is a minor we want to know if the killer was bullied by his peers or abused by his parents. If the shooter is an adult we want to know if the shooting was racially or religiously motivated. If those scenarios don’t fit, we search madly for something else to explain away the behavior of the killer: like a job loss or a mental illness.

 Stephen Paddock’s motivations are proving difficult to pin down. By all accounts he was financially secure, not obviously political, not obviously religious and apparently not angry about anything in particular. He was also seemingly in his right mind right up until the moment he opened fire on a crowd of strangers.

 Those facts make this mess much harder to sort out, until you look for the one denominator common to all mass shooters: a shocking absence of conscience.

 The Bible teaches that all humans are born into this world with a rudimentary conscience that bears witness to two simple truths. The first truth being that God is (Romans 1:19-20). The second is that some sins including murder, adultery and theft are universally wrong (Romans 2:14). The Bible teaches that a conscience can be seared or stunted by willful sin in adulthood, poor parenting in childhood and exposure to bad teaching or evil people (1st Corinthians 15:33, 1st Timothy 4:2, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 29:17).

 The best time to develop a conscience and prevent the types of tragedies we saw this past week in Las Vegas is early childhood (Proverbs 22:6). Following are five simple strategies to help your child develop a conscience. Starting with:

 Teach your child to put the needs of others first- 1st Corinthians 10:24

 Many parenting programs place teaching children to put-up boundaries as the number one parenting priority. Kids do need to learn healthy boundaries, especially when it comes to inappropriate touching. Kids also need to understand that it’s okay to say “no” to a person who is taking advantage of them. However, sometimes “boundaries” is just another word for selfishness. In order to develop a healthy conscience children need to learn that everyone else is every bit as important and special as they are. This is achieved by teaching them to put other people first, taking turns, sharing when they don’t feel like it and speaking to others (including their parents) respectfully.

 Teach kids to fear God- Proverbs 1:7

 If you’re teaching your kids to love God, you are only doing half the job. Kids also need to understand that God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and that He expects people to show their love for Him through obedience to His commands (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, Luke 11:28). Kids also need to know that there will come a day when God will judge all people for everything they do, both good and bad (Revelation 20:12-13). When kids understand these basic facts it incentivizes them to do right by other people.

Expect Gratitude- 2nd Timothy 3:1-3

 Not in a “you should be grateful I fed you today, you miserable little wretch” sort of way. That is simply never okay. However, there are times when kids need to be reminded to be grateful for the things other people work hard to provide. It’s also good to expose kids to people who are less fortunate than they are. Exposure to the less fortunate will make them compassionate, thankful people. Appreciative, kindhearted people do not open fire on crowds of strangers.

 Teach kids to think about how their words and actions affect others- Matthew 7:12

 Children do not naturally think of others, nor do they automatically comprehend how their actions affect others. Kids who are not taught to think of others tend to grow-up to be the type of people who call-in sick when they’re not sick, cheat on their spouse or commit crimes without thinking about how their behavior will affect others.

 Only praise actual achievement- Proverbs 14:25

 Kids do need to be encouraged. However, telling children they did something awesome when they did something ordinary is a lie that inflates their ego and causes them to think they are better and smarter than they really are. This creates an ideal breeding ground for pride and arrogance to take root in their hearts. Prideful, arrogant people rarely care about others and caring about others is the foundation for building a healthy conscience.

 I know absolutely nothing about Steven Paddocks childhood nor do I know how his conscience became seared to the point where he felt okay about opening fire on a crowd of strangers. I do know that normal people with healthy consciences simply do not do such things. I also know that teaching kids to care about others and to fear their Creator is the one thing we can all do to prevent tragedies like this one in the future.

Some Does and Don’ts For Living Courageously in A Scary World-

w God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord~ 2nd Timothy 1:7-8 NLT

 There is a lot to love about life in the 21st century.

 There simply are no words to express my love for the under appreciated and under celebrated miracles of indoor plumbing, air travel, Pinkberry’s frozen yogurt, antibiotics, freshly ground coffee, electricity, central air, smartphones and pizza delivered right to my front door.  

However.

Life in the 21st century has done some damage to my ongoing love affair with living in the 21st century. There are situations common to modern life so far outside of human control that they are literally the stuff of nightmares. Things like earthquakes, church shootings, terrorist attacks, school shootings, superbugs, and random acid attacks. Further complicating issues there is a seemingly endless supply of punk dictators hell-bent on destroying everyone else’s peace and quiet in this world.  

 Sigh.

 For Christians times are even scarier. On top of all the weird junk everyone else has to deal with, we have the added pressure of living in a culture that no longer respects Christians or Christianity. Many otherwise nice people are openly hostile not only to the truth claims of the Bible but also to individual Christians. Christian bakers, printers, photographers and florists have lost thriving businesses because they refused to cave to the ever-expanding demands of the LGBTQ culture. Even within the church there have been challenges to traditional biblical views and attacks on biblical authority have become routine. Christians who hold to traditional views on marriage, gender and sexuality are openly ridiculed and regularly scolded for being close-minded, hateful and hopelessly behind the times, no matter how gently and lovingly they state their opinions.

 Sigh.

 The never-ending stream of strange and scary news often leads to a sense of powerlessness and confusion. God has called His people to better things than powerlessness and confusion (1st Corinthians 14:33). Those better things begin with following some basic do’s and don’ts for living courageously in scary times.

Do…

 Know stuff so you can pray-

 There is a growing number of Christians who will not watch the news or read up on current events because they feel current events are simply too terrifying to face on a daily basis. Sorry, but fear is a wretched excuse for ignorance. Knowledge empowers us to pray for people and circumstances that urgently need God’s supernatural involvement. We are incapable of changing anything we choose to remain deliberately ignorant of.

Be a problem solver-

 Christians are commanded to go out into the world and let their light shine before people (Matthew 5:16, Mark 4:21). Getting out there looks different for different people. For some it might be as simple as repeatedly engaging in awkward conversations about what Christians believe with an unsaved neighbor or coworker who routinely spouts really weird ideas and strange philosophies. For others it might be as complicated as opening their home to an unwed mother or adopting a kid out of foster care. No one can solve every problem but everyone can make a difference in someone’s life.

 Rejoice that God has chosen you to live right now-

 Seriously. It really is an honor. The God of the universe has selected you to represent Him in the world at one of the most complicated and bizarre moments in human history. It is a high and holy calling no one should shy away from for any reason (Esther 4:14).    

 Don’t…

 Live in fear-

 Believers are commanded to fear no one but God (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 27:3, Psalm 34:9). I am convinced that the key to managing fear and anxiety is prayer (Philippians 4:6). When feelings of fear for the future take over, take those feelings to God. When we take our worries to God consistently (consistency, really, is the key) He empowers us to experience hardship and difficulty with courage and hope rather than fear.

 Be a jerk-

 I get that it’s tempting to be a jerk back to people, but the world has enough jerks already. Find a nice way to say hard things and commit yourself to loving people even if they don’t deserve it.

 Forget God has a plan-

God is not caught off guard by all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now. Rather, He is using it to get the attention of distracted and disobedient people who have drifted away from Him and His truth in every way imaginable. Right now God is calling Christians to show His love, speak His truth, and be His hands and feet to those people.

 I repeat it’s a high and holy calling.

 Embrace it.

The One Sin At the Heart of Most Problems-

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good~ 1st Peter 2:1-3

 A while back I watched a news story covering a violent protest in California. I was curious, to say the least about the tactics of the protesters. So, I did a bit of research on the organizations the protesters belonged to. I learned that the organizations in question (ANTIFA, Refuse Fascism, End Fascism) are devoted to ending all forms of racism, fascism and hate-speech in America.

 A noble and commendable goal.

 Here’s the thing though: these groups deliberately employ fascist methods and strategies including physical violence, hate speech, victim blaming and racist (anti-white) rhetoric. They engage in fascism, violence, hate speech and racism in order to end fascism, racism and hate speech.

 Insert confused face here.

 The first time I heard about this I remember thinking that only a lunatic would attempt to stop something by engaging in the very thing they claim they want to end. However, after a little thought it occurred to me that it wasn’t lunacy motivating that particular situation. It was something far more fundamental, malevolent and dangerous than simple lunacy: hypocrisy.

 Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy and none of it was nice (Matthew 6:1-16, Matthew 7:5, Matthew 23:13-33, Luke 12:56, Luke 13:14-16). Jesus treated hypocrites and hypocrisy with absolute and utter contempt because He understood a couple of truths at the heart of hypocrisy that we (as beings that tend toward hypocrisy) tend to overlook.

 Hypocrisy spreads like a virus, especially when it begins with leadership. Anytime a leader (parent, pastor, politician, supervisor) takes a hypocritical position on a subject, or chronically behaves in a hypocritical fashion, everyone who follows that leader is tempted or deceived into taking the same position and behaving just like their leader. Sadly, anyone who follows a hypocritical leader eventually becomes a mirror image of that leader.

 Jesus hates hypocrisy because it robs people of self-awareness and causes them to call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). If people tell themselves that wrong is right, or at least right for them (because their circumstances are special) often enough or long enough they begin to believe their own lie and end up doing things they never could have imagined themselves doing, as they are instructing others not to do the very things they are doing.

 Sigh.

 The hypocrisy that has taken root in anti-fascist circles is more than just a humorous case study in irony; it’s a cautionary tale for us all. Especially, for those of us who follow Jesus. Christians sometimes write off hypocrisy as nothing more than a quirky personality trait, or worse yet, as a legitimate means to a needed end. In reality it’s a serious sin that grows out of pride (another serious sin) that is nurtured by a willful lack of self-awareness. If left alone hypocrisy ruins not only the hypocrite but also everyone around the hypocrite.

 Sadly, no one, no matter how spiritually mature is immune to the appeal of hypocrisy. It is simply a part of our fallen nature as humans to imagine that we can trick everyone around us, including God Himself into believing we are doing what we say we are doing-instead of what we are actually doing. In the end the only one who is tricked is the hypocrite.

 As a general rule I am extremely wary about hunting for sin in the lives of other people. Most of us (including myself) have more than enough sin in our own lives to worry about; we simply should not be focusing our attention on anyone else’s sinful stuff. That being said, Jesus warned His followers that deception would be one of the defining characteristics of the end times (Matthew 24, Luke 21:5-36, Mark 13:1-23). Hypocrisy is deception that begins with an attempt to deceive others and ends with self-deception, hypocrisy is also at the root of almost every kind of evil. Because of that, Christians should deal ruthlessly with any hypocrisy they see in their own lives and run as fast as they can from any leader who is transparently hypocritical.

 Hypocrisy destroys individuals, families, churches, relationships and entire movements. Hypocrisy of Christians has done more damage to Christianity than any other single issue in the 2000-year history of the church. Any behavior that can do that much damage should be dealt with decisively and mercilessly.

Does Truth Even Matter or is it All About Love?

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth~ John 1:14 NKJV

 It’s been a long, hot week. Most of the Pacific Northwest is literally on fire right now and the city I live in is so smoky and gross that our whole house smells like we’ve been barbequing in the basement. The local health department has classified our air quality as “hazardous”.

 The heat, smoke and crummy air quality have left me feeling more than a little unmotivated, as a result I found myself struggling to come up with a topic for this weeks blog-post. Inspiration came early Tuesday morning when I opened Facebook and ran across what I felt at the time was a rather innocuous quote from Bible teacher, Beth Moore…    

 You will watch a generation of Christians—OF CHRISTIANS—set the Bible aside in an attempt to be more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible. This will be, perhaps, the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice truth for love’s sake, you will rise or fall whether you will sacrifice one for the other.

 It would be difficult for Beth Moore to be any more correct on this point. The spiritual tension that exists between truth and love is the greatest theological conundrum of our generation. I am convinced (and have been for a long time) that if the church doesn’t get it’s proverbial act together on this issue, biblical Christianity will all but vanish with this generation. If that happens, our culture will enter a spiritual and moral dark ages, the likes of which the world has not seen since before the dawn of the Christian age.

 It was not the quote that got me spoiling for a smackdown. It was the absurd responses to said quote that motivated me to start writing. To my astonishment, most of those who commented disagreed with Beth Moore, some vehemently. All the dissenters called her unloving and accused her of lacking compassion. A few even criticized her for making an idol out of the Bible.

 Seriously.

 The comments were a bitter reminder of a reality I frequently bump-up against when I’m interacting with other Christians. Sadly, too many in our generation have twisted love into something that is not found anywhere in the Bible.

 There are two truths we need to acknowledge concerning Jesus, love, and the Bible. First, we simply cannot separate the words of Jesus from the rest of the Bible. In the book of John, Jesus is referred to as The Word. By using that particular designation to describe Jesus, John is making a powerful statement about who Jesus is and how He fits into Scripture.

 John is declaring that Jesus is the personification and expression of the word of God. Jesus was the substance and incarnation of all that had been written in the Old Testament law and all that was to be written in the New Testament letters.

 What that means is that the statements Jesus made in the gospels (the red letters that contemporary Christians get all excited about) are no more or less significant than the Old Testament Law and the New Testament letters. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith and the author of all of Scripture. Not just the Scripture we feel comfortable with or those that reflect our current cultural values and sensibilities (Hebrews 12:2, 2nd Timothy 3:16, Luke 24:27).

 Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial requirements of the law and we no longer live in a theocracy, so as 21st century Christians we no longer sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven (Jesus took care of that for us) or follow the civil laws that were given specifically to the nation of Israel. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire Old Testament should be tossed out because much of the Old Testament FEELS unloving to contemporary readers.

 The second truth we need to understand is that the good news of the gospel is wrapped up in a lot of really bad news. The good news is that God loves people so much that He sacrificed His only son so that we could be forgiven and spend eternity with God (John 3:16).

 The bad news for us is that God is a holy perfect God who hates sin. God decided a long time ago what actions were sinful and He has not modified or relaxed His standards on what sin is and isn’t. The penalty for for sin is awful: eternity in hell forever separated from God and all that is comforting and good. All people are sinners who cannot under any circumstances get right with God and be forgiven unless they are willing to leave their life of sin and follow Jesus wherever he leads (John 8:11, Mark 8:34).

 Those are at least two of the truths we need be real about as we share the love of God with people. When we don’t tell the whole truth about life and sin and eternity we are really telling a lie that will eventually lead to the spiritual death of those we claim to love.

 There’s nothing loving about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Outrage Over Race is Mostly Fake

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?  But I, the Lord, search hearts and examine secret motives. I give people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve”~ Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT

 The evening news has become a never-ending loop of men and women, punching, kicking, screaming obscenities, pepper spraying and throwing urine on complete strangers in what they claim is an effort to end fascism and racism in America.

 Seriously, it’s the stupidest lie ever told.

The violence and rioting going on across America has nothing at all to do with a hunger to end racism and fascism. Let’s be real. No one actually likes white supremacists; even garden-variety racists find white supremacists to be a bit much. As a result, their numbers are simply too insignificant to be any kind of a real threat to democracy. And because just about everyone hates them already, their demographic is not exactly expanding at a terrifying rate.

 The math proves my point.

 Both organizers of the event in Charlottesville and the media have described the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville as “massive”. These folks point out correctly, that the rally drew white power groups from all over the country. That said, pretty much every observer has agreed that this “massive” rally attracted several hundred racist/fascist/white supremacists at the very most.

 Okay so, the rally in Charlottesville drew racist-fascist freaks from all over the country and all those clowns could manage to scrape together was a couple of hundred people? America is a nation of roughly 323 million people. Two or three hundred bigoted kooks waving confederate flags in the blazing sun barely qualify as a movement, let alone a flourishing movement in the context of a nation of 323 million people.

 It’s just not about race.

 Nor is the never-ending stream of cursing, tearing down statues, spitting on people, pepper-spraying and chucking urine at anyone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat or tee shirt really about Donald Trump or his policies.

 Intellectually honest people have to admit that Donald Trump hasn’t done anything worth freaking out over. Donald Trump has not opened a single concentration camp, started a nuclear war with Europe, murdered an immigrant on live television or taken food from the mouth of a food stamp recipient while cackling manically. Nor has he drunk the blood of—well, anyone—despite the fevered forecasts of our lefty friends.

 Unknowable motives aside, Donald Trump hasn’t DONE a single thing one would not reasonably expect from any other Republican President; aside of course, from sticking his foot in his mouth at predictable intervals and sending out questionable tweets at odd hours. That said, I think we can all agree that saying and tweeting stupid stuff is hardly worthy of impeachment and/or imprisonment (as some have called for).

 Nor is the over-the-top activism about our racist past. I am no fan of Confederate statues or symbols (I once told my son’s friend never to wear a confederate flag t-shirt in my house again). That said, those statues have been sitting in parks and public spaces for decades (including eight years under a Democratic president) and only egg headed professors and a few of the deeper thinkers in the social justice warrior movement cared all that much about the symbolism or even the existence of those statues.

 The current bouts of social unrest are not about any of the things the news media or even the protesters tell us they are about. The flaming-hot-dumpster fire playing out on the news every night is really about the depraved condition of the human heart. It’s about angry people who don’t understand why they’re angry searching frantically for a place to vent their wrath. It’s about how the unredeemed and unrepentant love turmoil, violence and senselessly venting their own rage.

 Social injustice (real and imagined), the Trump administration, those who voted for Trump, and the sins of the past are simply useful excuses for a generation that is lost in every way it’s possible to be lost.

 But before we Christians get too smug and self-righteous we need to remember that as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” we bear a huge burden of the blame for the sorry state of things. This is also about a generation of people who have no real knowledge of their Creator and as a result have no cause greater than their own self-interest to believe in. It’s the responsibility of the church (and the people in the church) to give each generation that comes along a working knowledge of God and a cause greater than themselves (the Gospel) to believe in.

 We have failed miserably at that task.

 It’s not too late. We are still here and so there is still hope. Change needs to begin with the family of God. So repent of any sins or inaction on your part and then commit to praying daily for the thugs you see chucking urine at bystanders on television every night. Those people need our prayers a lot more than they need our derision or condescension. Then get busy. Love a stranger. Tell someone about Jesus. Be the change you want to see in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is God Judging America?

Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed~ Job 5:2-3 NIV

 In recent days I have seen things I never thought I would live to see. It could easily be argued that our society is unraveling before our very eyes.

 The madness began in Charlottesville where a (stupid) white supremacist rally took a violent turn when a twenty-year-old racist activist ran down an anti-racist activist with his car and killed her. Donald Trump has (inelegantly and some would say ineptly) condemned the white-supremacist idiocy in Charlottesville several times over the course of the last week. Nonetheless, many are convinced he is a racist monster and so is anyone who voted for him.

 Protesters are demanding Civil War memorials be torn down immediately. These protesters seem intent on rewriting the history of our country but resist being labeled as the totalitarians they are choosing to act like. The absurdity of the situation reached a fever pitch in Durham, North Carolina where a protester shouted defiantly as a confederate statue came down “ I don’t want to be like the Bolsheviks or the Taliban but this has got to go!”

 Oh the irony.

 In the midst of the pandemonium some prominent Christians have written blogs asserting that America is on the precipice of God’s judgment. Other Christians have responded to those posts with their own posts arguing that God is too nice to bring judgment on people or nations anymore.

 As much as I would love to believe otherwise, I am thoroughly convinced that God does indeed still judge. The Bible is clear; God has fixed standards of right and wrong. He does not change His mind on these matters (Malachi 3:6, 1st Samuel 15:29, Hebrews 13:8). God judged people and nations in the past (Ezekiel 20:36), and He has promised to do so again at some point in the future (Revelation 20:12-13). To believe God is somehow done with the business of judgment is to choose to be willfully ignorant of what the Bible has to say on the subject.

 Period.

 That said, I’m not sure we need God to judge us. We are doing a fine job of bringing judgment and curses on ourselves through our own stubborn pride and willful stupidity. The concept of individuals and nations bringing curses on themselves through their own actions is a common one throughout Scripture (Genesis 4:11, Genesis 27:12, Deuteronomy 27:15-25). Curses are a natural consequence of knowingly disregarding truth, common sense and God’s revealed will.

 Its kind of where we’re living right now.

We are cursed because we have chosen to believe what we have been told to believe by a news media with obvious bias and their own political agenda. We are cursed because we have despised those on the other side of the political aisle instead of praying for them. We are cursed because we have chosen to hold on to bitterness and resentment over sins committed generations ago. We are cursed because we have believed the lie that one act of violence justifies another. We are cursed because for generations too many of us have allowed bigotry and hatred to have a place in our hearts, homes and places of worship. We are cursed because we have chosen to judge the founding fathers by the standards of our time rather than by the standards of their time.

 We have cursed ourselves by refusing to examine our lives and repent of the sin we find there. We have cursed our nation and families by callously killing our unborn children in the name of convenience, disregarding our marriage vows and normalizing sexual sin and calling it “progress”.  

 All the turmoil we are experiencing at this point in our history is our own doing. We have brought curses on our children, our nation and ourselves due to our own reluctance to see circumstances from the other person’s perspective and our unwillingness to do things God’s way. The only way to break this curse is through prayer, repentance and a commitment to racial reconciliation and forgiveness. Too often, too many of us wait for others to take lead when it comes to change, repentance and making amends for our actions. As a result nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. We don’t have time to wait and see what other people do, we need to examine our hearts, repent of the sin we find there and trust God to clean up this mess we’ve made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The Real Reason Marriages Fail

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate~ Mark 10:7-9 NIV

 I recently had a conversation with a friend that can only be described as a full-scale bummer.

 My friend informed me, with tears in her eyes, that she and her husband were splitting up after more than two decades together (she did not initiate the divorce). This news was heartbreaking on at least a dozen different levels. We’ve known these people a long time, our kids kind of grew up together, we love them both and two decades is a long time to invest in anything, especially something that doesn’t end well. This couple has adult children who are grieving deeply. Both the husband and the wife are professing Christians and the split has tested the kids belief that God is good and that love can overcome any obstacle.

 This sad news got me thinking about the subject of marriage in general and why marriages fail in particular. It occurred to me that although most folks know going-in that marriage takes a lot of energy and hard work, virtually all marriages begin on a hopeful note. No one I have ever known (or heard of) has entered into marriage anticipating failure or hoping things don’t work out.

 This truth begs the question: 

If most folks know from the get-go that marriage will not be easy then why do so many marriages fail with such depressing regularity?

 We’ve all heard the sad statistics: roughly one-third to one-half of all marriages in America end in divorce. Most of us have also heard the reasons given for divorce: sex/infidelity, money problems and poor communication.

 I do not dispute the divorce statistics. I do dispute the reasons given for divorce. I believe that the causes typically given for divorce are actually just symptoms of the actual causes of divorce. We will never change the divorce rate until we get real about why people divorce.

 Marriages struggle and die not because of big problems that cannot be worked out. Relationships struggle and die for three far less discussed reasons.

 The first is…

 Selfishness-

 According to the trusty word wizards at Dictionary.com selfishness is defined as “ being devoted to or caring only for one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc. regardless of others”. When we carry an attitude of selfishness into marriage it manifests itself in a lack of thoughtfulness or consideration for others. A friend (who has since repented) confessed that for years he bought his wife a big beautiful chocolate cake every year on her birthday. Not because she loved chocolate (she hated it passionately) but because he loved chocolate and it was a good excuse for him to eat the kind of cake he liked. Over time selfishness erodes positive feelings and leaves the other person (no matter how long-suffering they may be) feeling hurt and possibly even vengeful towards their spouse. If by some miracle the marriage survives, the love won’t.

 A refusal to obey the command given to husbands and wives in Ephesian’s 5:21-

 Most Christians are aware of the commands given to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33. Women are told to submit to their husbands and husbands are commanded to love their wives. What most Christians don’t know is that the verse directly preceding those verses (Ephesians 5:21) commands spouses to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Mutual submission is the act of adopting an attitude of mutual cooperation and compromise in all things. Submitting to one another in marriage may mean having sex more often than you would prefer or doing chores that don’t necessarily appeal to you after a long day at work. Mutual submission means giving rather than taking and not holding a grudge over what you don’t get.

 Unwillingness to change-

 A wise person once described marriage as “God’s ultimate growth opportunity”. However, if you are unwilling to change, you will never grow or become better. Christians are more capable of change than any other people on earth because the Holy Spirit is guiding them in all things. Refusing to change is ultimately a refusal to grow and the greatest indicator of immaturity on earth.

 A very wise pastor friend of mine once said “any two reasonably mature Christians can make a marriage work if they are BOTH willing to put in the necessary effort.” That man understood a truth many of us have willingly forgotten: that divorce is unnecessary if both parties are willing to die to self and submit to God.

 

 

 

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Breaking Free From the Pull of The World

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will~ Romans 12:2 NIV

Last week I wrote a post detailing five signs you might be a Christian who loves the world just a little too much (1st John 2:15). In that post I defined “loving the world” as taking our cues about how to live, love and function in this life from the world’s system rather than from the Bible (Romans 12:2).

 Loving the world is dangerous because it clouds our spiritual judgment and makes it nearly impossible to see life, people, and the circumstances we encounter from God’s perspective. Loving the world causes us to think like the world and adopt the characteristics of the world. When that happens we lose our ability to be the life-giving spiritual force our world urgently needs.

 The only way to combat worldliness is to work aggressively to break the world’s hold on our thinking, we will never effectively change our behavior until we change our mindset. The process begins with regular Bible reading and study. Knowing the Bible gives us insight into God’s view on issues. However, simply reading the Bible will not necessarily make us any less worldly. We also have to alter our behavior to bring it more in line with a biblical worldview.

 Changes need to begin with these five adjustments to our thinking and behavior…

 Practicing generosity rather than consumption- Acts 4:32-35, Acts 2:42-47, 1st Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:2

 The world system teaches us to maintain emotional distance from people and use resources such as our time, possessions, energy and money for our own benefit and pleasure. The New Testament urges Christians live life with an open heart and to give with an open-hand. Until we learn to freely give of our resources and our time we will remain forever stuck in a worldly mindset.

 Ending our fixation with worldly entertainment- Psalm 119:37, Job 31:1

 Those in the entertainment industry want more than anything to change the way we think about the world, and they have been wildly effective in accomplishing their agenda. The abolitionist movement in America succeeded in ending slavery partly because leaders of the movement used powerful novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Twelve Years a Slave to change the way the average person thought about slavery. Hollywood does the same thing with equal success for far less noble causes. Television shows with storylines normalizing divorce, single motherhood and homosexuality preceded widespread acceptance of those practices in our culture. Next time you watch a television show, try and figure out what sin the producers are attempting to normalize, then turn it off and read a good book or interact with some people.

 Living out a biblical standard of sexuality- 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8

 Sexual immorality is a sin that is in a class all its own, mainly because it’s exceptionally damaging to all parties involved. When we commit sexual sin, we sin against God, other people and pollute our own bodies (1st Corinthians 6:18). Sexual immorality is placed at the top of a list of sins that God states will keep us from inheriting His kingdom (1st Corinthians 6:9-10). For those reasons (and a dozen others) Christians need to stop searching for loopholes in the rules. God cannot be tricked. Oral, anal and all other types of sex before marriage is still sex before marriage. Viewing pornography is sex and emotional affairs inevitably lead to sex outside of marriage. Our lack of obedience in this one area has caused the church to lose all moral authority in the culture. We will only get it back through a commitment to repentance, purity and doing life God’s way.

 Callously rooting out sin in our own lives- John 5:14, 1st Corinthians 15:34

 Sin is a pernicious thing. It creeps into our lives, oftentimes without our awareness or consent. The only way to combat sin’s encroachment into our lives is by asking God daily to reveal the sins we do not see in ourselves and then repenting (turning away from) the sin we do recognize in our selves.

 Praying about everything- Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2

 Nothing is too big or too small to talk to God about. Without the discipline of prayer we inevitably lose connection with God and unwittingly open ourselves up to the influence of the world. Prayer safeguards us against worldly thinking by reminding us that we are not wise enough to do life without God.

 Rooting out worldly thinking and behavior in our lives is not an optional exercise or an elective spiritual discipline—it’s a matter of spiritual life and death.

 

 

 

 

What the Heck Are We Doing?

 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do~ Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT

Reader warning:

The subject matter of this post is not a topic I would typically choose to discuss and I apologize in advance for the rawness of the subject matter. It is not my intention to shock or offend, there is simply no polite way to discuss this issue. I had a long debate with myself (I do that sometimes) about whether or not to even address this issue (mostly because it’s kind of icky and offensive). In the end I decided it was wrong not to address an issue that has such deep ramifications for our culture.

 Teen Vogue (a magazine for girls between 11 and 17) won the cultural race to the bottom this month when they featured a graphic how-to on anal sex aimed at teenage girls. The article presented heterosexual anal sex in the most positive terms imaginable. Which is odd considering the fact that even the dependably progressive cheerleaders for teen sex and unfettered abortion at the Alan Guttmacher Institute have nothing positive to say about the practice.

 Not a word was spoken concerning the risks associated with anal sex, although the Alan Guttmacher Institute stresses in their literature that anal sex is an extremely risky behavior. Short-term risks include extreme pain and anxiety during sex, emotional trauma after, and anal tearing (sometimes requiring surgery to repair). Long-term risks include an increased risk of anal cancer, a 17 times greater risk of contracting HIV from an infected partner and fecal incontinence (and yes, that means exactly what you think it means).

 Understand that I am not judging or attempting to dictate what consenting adults do privately. That is simply none of my business. However, I cannot help but think that a list of the potential medical risks would be relevant information to include in an article concerning a demonstrably risky sexual practice. It seems to me that even consenting adults would value that information and are in fact entitled to receive it. .

 I believe the Teen Vogue article exposes some seriously ugly truths concerning our civilization (I use that term loosely). Most notably, it clearly reveals that we are not a society that cares about the heath and welfare of women, especially young women.

 The woman assumes virtually all the risk during anal sex. Yet Teen Vogue did not see fit to warn their readers concerning any of the risks involved in this type of sex. Teen Vogue also neglected to mention the violence that frequently surrounds this sexual practice. A study done by the Alan Guttmacher Institute reveals that 25% of women who participated in anal sex admitted to being forced into it at least once. Sadly, this is not the only topic where sex educators and progressives display an obvious lack of concern for the psychological, emotional and physical welfare of women.

 Abortion is another situation where the man benefits (by walking away from the moral and financial responsibility of parenthood) while the woman is left dealing with the potential physical and emotional consequences of the procedure. Those risks include distress during and following the abortion, bowel and bladder perforation, infection, cervical laceration, hemorrhage, infertility and depression.

 Sadly, progressives typically present abortion as a sanitary, beautiful and necessary equalizer and liberator for women. No one ever mentions that abortion is just another avenue for men to escape the responsibilities of their sexual choices.

 The very existence of a magazine like Teen Vogue reveals a disturbing lack of good sense on the part of too many parents in this country. When my oldest daughter was a young teen (and asking to read Teen Vogue) I paid a visit to the local library and read through a couple of issues of both Teen Vogue and Seventeen Magazine. As a result I was not at all surprised to learn Teen Vogue had published a how-to on anal sex.

 I am thunderstruck that there is a parent alive who would voluntarily shell out their hard-earned cash for even a single copy of that steaming pile of subversive crap (feel free to insert a stronger word here if your theology will allow it).

 Seriously.

 Parents who choose to purchase this or any other magazine for their children without carefully reading through it first are hopelessly naïve and doubtless contributing to the moral downfall of their children. Parents in this country need to wake up and recognize the ugly truth that the publishing industry is plagued with unscrupulous, amoral people who do not care about the spiritual health of our children.

 Christians must commit to praying daily for revival and a return to our collective senses. As a culture we have moved away from God and even the most basic of truths and as a result we have become the most pitiable kind of fools. Fools who promote dangerous practices for no good purpose other than to corrupt the hearts and minds of the most vulnerable among us.

 Judgment cannot be far off.

  

 

 

Why We Aren’t Connecting

 All those who had believed were together and had all things in common. They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved~ Acts 2:44a, 46b, and 47 NIV

 Connecting people is a passion of mine.

 I served as a Connections Coordinator for a couple of years. But long before all that, I recognized that the people most likely to stick around a Church or a group in a church were those who felt deeply connected to the people in the church or church group.

 The high school kids who had friends in the Sunday school class I taught were the ones who showed up week after week regardless of what I was teaching. I learned early on that if I could help a woman make a friend in the Bible study I was leading, the chances were pretty good that woman would come back and sometimes she would bring a friend.

 Legitimate research has backed up my observations.

 Research done by Thom Ranier reveals that roughly half (49%) of all people stay in their current church because they have a deep connection to the people in the church. According to some of my own less-than-legitimate research (asking a bunch of nosy questions about why people stayed in or left their church) the number two reason people gave for leaving a church (number one was weak or shady leadership) was lack of connection to people.

 Even the most introverted among us were created to connect with one another. It’s a fundamental part of who we are and a reflection of God’s nature in us. Most adults who convert to Christianity do so within the context of friendship. Many who began attending church looking for friendships have found Jesus in the process.

 Hospitality and developing healthy relationships is a basic and often overlooked aspect of evangelism and we all bear some responsibility for the task. We build healthy groups churches by doing five simple things consistently.

 First:

 Show up-

 Sadly, many of the same people who attend services once or twice a month also grumble about not feeling a sense of belonging in their church. No one in the history of forever has ever grown spiritually, made a friend or become a functioning part of a church body without first committing to consistently attending a church service (Hebrews 10:25).

 Join a small group-

 It can be an adult Sunday school class, weekday Bible study or a small group that meets in a home. Go and do more than show-up. Show-up early, stay late, participate in the discussions and invite people in the group into your home, your heart, and your inner circle. Do your part to make that group into a family and then encourage new people to become a part of the family (1st Corinthians 12:28).

 Be real-

 God only made one you. Being authentic about who you are and what you’ve experienced (without being excessively detailed or graphic) is honoring to God and can be useful (if it’s done right) to those who are struggling on their spiritual journey (2nd Corinthians 1:3-4).

 Don’t judge others for being real-

 Just don’t. Judgment destroys community. Our role as Christians is to encourage, correct, redirect and cheer-lead (Galatians 6:1, Hebrews 3:13, 2nd Timothy 2:24-26). We must leave the judgments to God. He knows more than we ever could. However, it’s equally critical we don’t buy into the lie that correction or redirection is the same thing as judgment. Correcting sinful or spiritually dubious behavior is NOT the same as judging. Correction is biblical AND necessary in a healthy Christian community (James 1:21, James 5:20).

 Use the gifts you have-

 My fondest wish for every Christian on earth would be for them to know and use their gifts to grow their local church (Ephesians 2:10, Romans 12:6-11). Sadly, many Christians have all but stopped serving and churches are dying as a result of our disobedience. Volunteering to teach a class, hosting a group in your home, baking cookies for VBS or serving on the greeting team or in the food pantry is about more than filling a spot. It’s about bonding with other believers, building community and being the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken and hurting world (Matthew 25:44-46).  

 Don’t close your circle-

 Building connections with people is both horribly complex and enormously rewarding. Keeping our hearts open to people and finding creative ways to meet their needs is one of the most significant and basic ways we serve God (1st Peter 4:9). It’s also the only way to build a healthy Christian community.