Fighting Porn in the Family

Young ManAre there any families out there who are not affected in some way by the pornography industry?
If you have children, this must be a high priority in your household.
Anyone who has access to Google images has a wide-open door into this world of sexual temptation and lies, and it grabs girls just as quickly as boys. Do your kids have the freedom to operate a computer, tablet, or smart-phone by themselves in their room? If so, there is a high likelihood they have already entered this dangerous digital black hole.
Here is an excellent article with a poignant warning: “A Tale of Two Sons.”
I’d love to hear your reaction.
God bless,
Nathan

Superstar Suicides and the Secret to Happiness

ElvisOver the years, an astounding number of intelligent, gorgeous men and women have committed suicide.

  • Maralyn Monroe overdosed on barbiturates and was found dead in her bed clutching a telephone receiver on August 5, 1962.
  • The king of rock ‘n roll, Elvis Presley, overdosed on prescription drugs on August 16, 1977, and died of cardiac arrest.
  • The king of pop, Michael Jackson, overdosed on a cocktail of antidepressants and pain killers and died on June 25, 2009.
  • Robin Williams was found on August 11, 2014, hanging by a nylon belt with wrists partially slashed after having dosed himself with antidepressants, caffeine, and a drug for Parkinson’s disease.

Robin WilliamsThe world loved (and many sill love) these icons for their ability to perform, entertain, shock, and amuse. All were top of their game, making headlines, and amazingly successful as this world counts success.

What went wrong?

Obviously drugs were a major factor in each and every case.

But why the drugs? These were not illegal drugs; they were prescription. After brief consideration, you may easily observe that these women and men were not happy with their super-successful lives! In fact, we might conclude they were actually not successful in life.

These folks were, evidently, seeking happiness in all the wrong places. They did not find joy in their beauty, sexuality, money, or fame–yet upon those things it seems they centered their lives. They built upon a shifting foundation of lies.

From where, then, does true worth and abiding happiness come?

Happy KidsActual joy and peace can only come from the presence of the one true and living God, Yahweh! Notice Psalm 16.7-11, especially verse 11:

    7   I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel;
         My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
    8   I have set the LORD always before me;
         Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

    9   Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
         My flesh also will rest in hope.
    10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
         Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
    11 You will show me the path of life;
         In Your presence is fullness of joy;
         At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

It saddens me to think of all in this world who are so far away from true spiritual blessing. How gracious God has been to me in showing me this path to peace, for I surely don’t deserve it. To be allowed into God’s presence boggles the mind, doesn’t it? For Him to forgive our sins and give us the opportunity to experience the fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures, does it not fill you with inexpressible delight, humble thanksgiving, and the motivation to serve Him forevermore?

Happy ChildrenSo spread the gospel, the good news of our Savior, who makes it possible for us to approach God’s throne of grace (Heb. 4.16), because millions of fellow men and women are searching for their lives’ meaning. They won’t find it in themselves, in their friends, or in their fans, and they certainly won’t find it in those pills they pop every day to mask their pain and depression.

Jesus has the words of eternal life (John 6.68-39), and He has commissioned us to spread it. Let’s get to work!

Christian Leaders: Servants

Drill SeargentWhat do we look for in a leader? Strength. Uncompromising zeal. Putting others in their place and always winning fights. Scrappy, tough, resilient. Destroying competition.

Well…that’s often what the world looks for in a leader.

Jesus challenges and colors our understanding of leadership and greatness in His kingdom:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20.25-28)

It’s not about lording it over others, getting them to do what we want. It’s not about exercising authority over others, always getting our way.

Setting the TableGodly leadership centers on serving others. In fact, Jesus used two words in our passage above—servant and slave—to express this thought. Servant in the Greek is diakonos, from which we get the word “deacon.” Slave in the Greek is the word doulos, from which derives the modern-day “doula,” one who assists during childbirth.

The diakonos was a minister of some sort; the word was often used of a waiter serving tables. Jesus used the verb form (diakoneō) of Himself: He “did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus was a deacon servant to us, going so far as to wash His disciples’ feet in John 13 and then offer His body as a crucified sacrifice!

How ought we, then, to serve one another?

Playing It Safe

Living or ExistingSome folks habitually “play it safe.” They won’t board an airplane. They won’t go overseas. They won’t step too far out of their comfort zone. In their minds, life is too precious to jeopardize it in such frivolous ways.

Jesus told a story in Luke 19.11-27 which included a man who played it safe. It’s the story of the ten minas (one mina was about three-months’ wages) which a nobleman distributed evenly among ten servants, telling them to “Engage in business until I return.” When he returned, the nobleman found several servants who had multiplied his money. But one fearful servant returned the single mina he’d been given, saying, “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man.”

The nobleman-now-king took the mina away from him and gave it to another servant who had most-successfully multiplied his money. Everyone was dumbfounded that he would take away what little the one servant had and give it to the one who had the most, but he answered, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Safe!The fearful servant tried to play it safe, but too late he discovered he had done exactly the opposite. The king told him he should have at least put the money in the bank so it would have earned a little interest! Do SOMETHING, even if it’s small.

Fear freezes. We must not let fear control us to the point that we fail to DO SOMETHING. Everyone knows there is something wrong with the lady shut up in her house, refusing to come out because of her phobias. But many live that way, holding to their daily routines, their safe routes, their points of protection, their comfortable zones, and woe to the one who would nudge them off course!

Whole churches play it safe for years. Comfortable pew warmers smile, sit, chat, and go home. Did the preacher say something about helping the poor? Can we just write a check for that? Did someone encourage us to teach the gospel to our neighbor? Well, we have such a good relationship with the neighbor, it would be a shame to ruin it with talk about religion. The whole world around us is dissolving into an ethical and moral nightmare; are we content to watch it crash and burn and not speak the words of life necessary to fight against evil? We’ll complain amongst ourselves at the deterioration of society; then we’ll go home and allow Netflix to entertain us with the same filth we protest against.

Rock ClimbingMen play it safe by not addressing sin in their own lives, by not confessing sin to other faithful men who can support, pray, and help. We don’t address sin in our families for fear of straining relationships…yet the relationship is really strained because of the sin! We play it safe when we don’t stretch ourselves to grow in the talents and abilities God has given us to use for His glory.

We need to stop playing it safe. When the King returns, will He find us working to increase what He entrusted to us, or will He find us sitting on our couches, eating ice cream, and immersing ourselves in the world’s entertainment? I hate to admit I do way too much of what’s in that last sentence.

Jesus didn’t die so we could watch Netflix. Jesus didn’t die so we could play. Jesus didn’t die so we could increase our wealth. He died so we could have life and that we, in turn, could become life givers and producers in His kingdom!

Jesus didn’t play it safe…and He doesn’t want us to, either.

Two Months to Live

Showing the BibleI just got off the phone with a man whose brother-in-law has been told has two months to live because he has aggressive, stage four lung cancer.

My friend said, “I want to send him a Bible verse to encourage him in this time…can you give me some ideas of what to send him?”

“Is he a Christian?” I wanted to know.

“Well, he’s Catholic, but he never goes to church anyway,” was the answer.

“I see.” I told him I’d try to text him some verses.

But I knew that someone who is not a faithful believer won’t get much hope from the Bible!

I finally texted my friend:

I’d encourage your brother-in-law to read one of the gospels and get acquainted with Jesus really well. I’m not sure how encouraging Bible verses will be if he’s not in a good relationship with God and Jesus.

Food for LifeThen I sent the following verse suggestions, which might help lead the man where he really needs to go. But before you read them, let me ask you:

What would you say to this man? How would you counsel someone with only a couple of months to live?

John 14.1-6

          1      “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2      “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3      “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4      “And you know the way where I am going.”
5      Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
6      Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

1 Corinthians 15.42-58

          42      So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised can imperishable body;
43      it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44      it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45      So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46      However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
47      The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
48      As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
49      Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
50      Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51      Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52      in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53      For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54      But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
55      “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
56      The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
57      but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58      Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Philippians 1.21-26

          21      For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
22      But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23      But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
24      yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
25      Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
26      so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Confidence!

Standing StrongTwo understandings I hold seem on their face to contradict:

  1. I am confident I am wrong on some spiritual matters
  2. I am confident I am in relationship with Jesus Christ

Chew on those for a moment.

How can a person be confident in his relationship with Jesus, confident of his salvation, and also confident he is wrong in some of his Bible understanding?

Actually, I wonder how someone can be otherwise. Would it not seem the height of arrogance for one to think he has every spiritual matter completely figured out? The humble (and realistic) appreciate their finite knowledge and intelligence. Only God is all-wise and all-knowing. Therefore, there must always be room for growth, for adding new information, for adjusting understanding.

Our confidence must never come from ourselves. When we believe our salvation depends on how right we are about things, our salvation becomes dependent upon ourselves. Hear me now–there is a right and a wrong, good and evil; it’s just that we, in our finite selves, will never fully discern these things. We grow in our discernment, learning every day (Lord willing) to more rightly divide the word of truth.

God gives us grace despite our imperfect knowledge. How much more grace should we give each other, then? In truth, we should be strict with ourselves and gracious with one another, but we often get those reversed.

Paul wrote:

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (Eph. 3.8-13)

ConfidentFrom where did Paul’s confidence come? It came from Jesus Christ! Paul was fully confident in Jesus’ power, Jesus’ love, Jesus’ accomplishment. Paul placed no confidence in his own work.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us… (Titus 3.4-5)

We can put up with brothers and sisters who understand Scripture differently than we. Sure, there are items with which we must have no disagreement, but the “same mind” Paul wanted the brethren to have (1 Cor. 1.10 and Phil. 2.1-4; 4.2) is not an exact oneness of understanding on everything but a oneness of attitude towards God and towards each other. Paul wanted them to have the same mind Jesus had (see Phil. 2.5ff), the mind of abject humility and obedience to God.

When we divide from and formally disfellowship our brothers and sisters because they have a different understanding, we may actually be demonstrating a mind which is not consistent with Christ Jesus! Sometimes we must break fellowship with one another for a season…perhaps for longer…but that does not mean we must view one another as lost in sin. Paul and John Mark broke fellowship for a time and couldn’t plow together in the same yoke, but that was only for a season. Neither was spiritually lost.

Have confidence in Jesus Christ. Hold fast that confidence! And love your brothers and sisters who also hold fast that confidence.

The Good Samaritan: The Power of a Story

Good SamaritanMany of us have heard abundant teaching and preaching on Luke 10.25-37, the parable of the good Samaritan. Praise God for providing such a teachable event, for the lessons just pour out of the text!

Jesus told the parable in response to a lawyer’s questions.

The lawyer (testing Jesus) asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

As the master teacher He was, Jesus replied with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

In the presence of an audience, this must have been a bit embarrassing for the lawyer. He should have known the Law like the back of his hand. This question was kind of like asking a child, “What does the book say? You should already know the answer.”

If the lawyer couldn’t produce the answer, he’d be publicly embarrassed, so he had to answer. Jesus caught him…but not in a mean way. Jesus was teaching him.

Questioning JesusThe lawyer produced an excellent answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

“You have answered correctly; do this and you will live,” Jesus responded.

[Um. Wait. It can’t be that easy. I’m a lawyer, and I wouldn’t ask such an easy question! No, my question is really much deeper than that, Jesus. What I really meant to ask was…]

“And who is my neighbor?”

THAT’S when Jesus gave the good Samaritan illustration. And what an answer it is! It’s clear. It’s simple. There’s no room for argument. It teaches that it’s not so much about figuring out who your neighbor is; it’s really about being a good neighbor to anyone and everyone who needs a neighbor!

Jesus’ answer, in a nutshell, is, “Go, show people mercy. Be like that Samaritan.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what of this 157-word illustration? Jesus could have just said, “Just be a good neighbor to anyone you meet.” Would that have packed the same punch? Not hardly. Packaged the way it is, the parable of the good Samaritan contains riches well beyond a legal statement; it contains abiding principles and depths of teaching a list of laws never could.

Instead of providing the lawyer with a list of people he should consider to be his neighbor, Jesus made the lawyer picture himself in the shoes of a compassionate Samaritan (someone he normally would loathe). Jesus broke down racial, economic, and social barriers with this simple story.

Perhaps that’s why so much of the Bible is written in narrative.