Monday, December 16, 2013

On Marriage

I am no match for Dr. Al Mohler when it comes to articulation. I love reading his articles because he clearly and fully states the issue and its ramifications. This article is written to address a recent court decision that impacts marriage. Please read it.

One paragraph states exactly what I've been thinking in the last few weeks about this whole notion of redefining marriage. And, of course, Dr. Mohler says it very well.

Of course, the moral revolution that has transformed marriage in our times did not start with the demand for legal same-sex marriage. It did not begin with homosexuality at all, but with the sexual libertinism that demanded (and achieved) a separation of marriage and sex, liberating sex from the confines of marriage. So sex was separated from marriage, and then sex was separated from the expectation of procreation and child-rearing. Marriage was separated from sex, sex was separated from reproduction, and the revolution was launched. Adding to the speed of this revolution, then, was the advent of no-fault divorce and the transformation of marriage into a tentative and often temporary contract.

It seems to me that the desire to live outside the biblical plan for sexuality drives this entire debate. And our country and culture have pushed down the fences and are running wild. It's hard to get the cows back in the pasture once the fence is compromised; sometimes it's just impossible. I don't know if that describes our culture or not, but I encourage you to hold to the biblical pattern of marriage and sexual expression. To borrow from Dr. Rick Warren in a recent CNN interview, we should be more concerned with what God says and with pleasing him than with what the culture embraces.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Some Things Are Hidden; Some Things Must Not Be

The Bible study I lead on Wednesday nights for adults has been in the book of Colossians since late-August. I started the third chapter last night. Yes, that's two chapters in about three months. To be fair, we've had a few Wednesdays when we've had other things scheduled. So it's more like eight or nine lessons covering two chapters. I should finish the study of Colossians in February. That's about six months...which is shorter than the twelve months it took to teach the book of James.

The first four verses of the third chapter contain a sentence that caused me to really think about what it means to live the Christian life: "your life is now hidden with Christ in God" in verse three.

One way to think about this is that our life - specifically, our eternal life - is secure with Christ just as your car is secure when parked in the garage out of sight. Thieves are less likely to steal your car when it is out of sight. Vandals aren't likely to damage your car when it's hidden in the garage. So the Christian's life is secure - totally secure - with Christ, who died for our salvation. This fact should give us confidence and hope as we live here and now.

Another way to think about our life being hidden is that the reason we trust Christ for salvation and live for him is a mystery to those who do not know Christ. Paul wrote in a letter to Christians in Corinth that spiritual things (like salvation) are considered foolishness to unbelievers because they do not have God's Spirit to help them understand spiritual things. So the hope of eternal life Christians have and the reason for living as we do is hidden from those who do not believe because these are spiritual things.

Both of these explanations of the passage lead me to wonder, "Do we sometimes live a Christian life that is TOO hidden?" Do you know people who profess to be Christians but don't live like it? Do you know someone who thinks he is a Christian but none of his friends know he is? In other words, is his Christian life hidden?

Is it even possible to be a hidden Christian? Aren't Christians supposed to be visible? Shouldn't we be the light of the world? "A city on a hill cannot be hidden"! (See Matthew 5:14-16) How will those who do not know Christ as Savior ever know him without a witness? And that witness comes from those of us who are believers. We have to speak up and live out our faith openly.

The reason we place our trust in Christ for salvation and the reason we live in obedience to him and the reason we have hope of eternal life may be hidden from them, but the fact that we follow Christ and the impact he's had on our lives must be out in the open so they can see and hear our witness. Then the Holy Spirit can use our witness to reveal the mystery to them and they might be saved.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Will Pray for You

Christians like to pray. We spend a lot of time when we get together requesting prayer for one another. Sickness. Family problems. Job issues. Decisions. Salvation. Spiritual maturity.

Most often, we know the people we are praying for. They may be members of our churches or families. We pray for friends of friends and coworkers. We pray for missionaries we've met in videos or prayer guides. And then we pray at times for people we've not met and know nothing about.

The Bible tells us we should pray. "Ask whatever you wish." "Ask in my name." "Pray for one another." "Pray without ceasing." "Approach the throne of grace with confidence." And so on.

I received a phone call last night from a member of our church. Her daughter recently moved out of state and one of her new friends needs prayer. So I sent the request to our prayer chain and I prayed, too.

I don't know her. I will probably never meet her. I only know her first name. I don't know where she works. I don't know about her family.

But I know she needs prayer because of a life-threatening medical situation.

A friend, fellow pastor, and mentor once told me that if I ever tell someone that I'll pray for them to immediately breathe a prayer. I should spend more time praying later but in that moment - and to keep my word - breathe a prayer.

Have you ever felt like you should do something for someone but felt like you could do nothing? Pray.

Prayer is not a last resort; it's a first response.

Prayer is not the least you can do; it's the best you can do.

Prayers are not empty words spoken into an empty heaven; prayers are words of power and conviction placed on the ear of the Lord God Almighty.

Praying is not a sign of resignation; praying is a sign of confidence and trust.

Read the lyrics of a gospel song I used to sing.

I can pray out loud or silently.
I can pray standing tall or on my knees.
It really makes no difference, just that prayer is the key
Because prayer changes things and it changes me.

I will pray for you because I know it matters.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Grocery Shopping 101

The chair is soft. The living room is warm. The coffee is hot.

For the moment.

It's just after 7:00 A.M. Overnight a winter storm rolled into my neighborhood.What started as a cold rain is now sleet and/or freezing rain. The outside temperature is now settling below 32F and won't see the warmer side of the freezing mark for a few days.

The power companies are predicting and preparing for widespread outages. I love the winter weather; I don't like being without my conveniences that require electricity.

I joined the frenzy at the grocery store. Good thing I didn't need bread! I don't mind grocery shopping but I do believe it must be done in an orderly fashion. List or not, you must go through the store from one side to the other then sweep through the refrigerated and frozen sections ending up in the produce aisles. Get what you need the first time; no running back and forth zig-zagging like a lunatic.

That's exactly what one woman was doing. Actually, she made several mistakes, in my opinion. For example, while reviewing her list she would stop in the middle of the aisle. The aisles are wide enough for two customers (with carts) to pass. By the way, please keep the the right - just like driving down the street! But when she stopped in the middle she blocked customers from both directions.

Actually, I don't think she was reviewing her list in order to see what else she needed from that aisle. Had she been doing that she would not have done what she did next. She must have just been reading the next item on the list because she whirled around and headed across the store. I thought she was finished and was headed to the checkout lanes. She looked like a contestant on that game show where people grocery shop. Please don't whirl around in a crowded aisle. Simply continue in the direction you are pointed and turn back up the next aisle. Traffic flow, people!

So off she went, out of my way I thought. The last I saw her she was making a bee-line toward Lane 4. Which would have been a great idea because the lines had not yet backed up like they were when I got ready to check out.

About two minutes later she showed up in the dairy section at the back of the store. I guess butter was the item on the list following the one that was at the front of the store. This zig-zagging went on the entire time I was making my orderly movement as described above.

I began to chuckle to myself each time I saw her in a spot opposite the direction I had last seen her. A couple of times I almost laughed out loud. How would I explain that? "No, I wasn't laughing at you. The suggested serving size of this cereal is hilarious!" Luckily, I was able to contain myself.

I finished my shopping, checked out, and left the store. She was still there. She had been there when I started. The last time I saw her, I had more stuff in my cart than she did in hers. I did it in less time. And I followed the rules. So I'm the better grocery shopper.