Monthly Archives: May 2012

Standing Firm: Marriage

This the last post of a 4 part series, Stand Firm.  I encourage you to check out It’s a Fight, True-ish Ain”t True, and Stand Firm as well.

 God’s battle plan for us is to stand firm.  That’s it.  We don’t have to burn books, attack our persecutors, or outwit our opponents.  That is because “the battle is not ours, but God’s.” (2 Chron 20:15).  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” (Zech 4:6).  It is His fight and His orders are for us to stand firm.  A quick scan shows at least 21 times in the New Testament that command is given.

Let me show you what it looks like to stand firm in our culture today. 

Marriage is the union between one man and one woman.  That truth is affirmed in Scriptures from the very beginning.  God creates the institution of marriage as the relational foundation for society in Genesis chapter 2.  Jesus affirms marriage by referring us back to God’s original intention for marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). Paul quotes the same passage and expounds on it by declaring that marriage represents the mystical union of Christ and the church.  (Ephesians 5:31-32).  Marriage is the union between husband and wife.

This is not my opinion.  I did not create marriage, it was not my idea.  It was here long before I got here and will be here long after I am gone.  It is God’s opinion.  The Scriptures are very clear on this.  And so I stand firm.  I choose God’s truth over “tolerance.”  What about you?

Now I know the slogans:  “Everyone has a right to love” (true-ish).  I love love.  Who doesn’t love love?  All you need is love.  But love and marriage are not the same thing.  Marriage has always been understood as a life-long bond between a woman and a man.  People may argue that the Bible has examples of men having multiple wives so the definition of one man-one woman doesn’t even work in the Scriptures.  Actually, find me an example in the Scriptures where a marriage with multiple partners worked out well.  Abraham, Jacob, and David (to name a few) all had family problems because they stepped outside of this definition of marriage.  Again, Jesus points us back to God’s intention for marriage in Matthew 19.

 Some argue, “But doesn’t everyone have the same right to be married?”  They sure do.  Everyone has the right to get married, so long as they marry one person of the opposite sex and are of legal age.  I don’t have a right to do otherwise either.

“Then why don’t we change those rights?”  The state does not grant human rights.  John F. Kennedy affirmed this truth, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”  Otherwise, the state could revoke them whenever the right becomes inconvenient to it.

Another slogan says, “I’m straight but I’m not narrow.”  This is to appeal to those who wish to be viewed as open-minded.  (Please see post, The Open-Minded Deception.)  Let me remind you of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

To redefine marriage is to go the way of the wide gate and broad road.  Destruction is the outcome.  Narrow is the road that leads to life.  Narrow is not a bad place to be at all according to Jesus.

Some readers may feel angry about what I have written.  And they may let me know it.  Some will tell me that they are saddened that I couldn’t be more accepting of others.  How disappointed they are that their minister isn’t more loving.  All I did was stand firm. 

When Paul commands us to stand firm in Ephesians 6, he goes on to tell us to put on the full armor of God.  Have you ever noticed that the armor of God is all defensive?  That’s because we are not attacking anyone.  I did not attack anyone in my defense of marriage.  Actually the armor comes with shoes of readiness to share the gospel of peace.  God loves everyone and does not want to see anyone perish but have everlasting life.  This gift is for everyone who hears it and turns to Jesus! 

If you are uneasy with this stand, then you are out of whack with the truth of God and you need to get that straightened out.  That uneasiness is the Sword of the Spirit at work.  The word of God is alive and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.  It cuts to the heart and exposes our pride and prejudices.  It convicts us of where we are at crossways with God and His truth.

If you declare that Jesus is your Lord, Savior, and King, then you have to submit your opinion to the truth of the Word of God.  That is what it means to confess Jesus is Lord.  If I have opinions that are contrary to Scripture, I must change my mind.  If your opinion on this is contrary to scripture I am calling you to repent.  Change your mind and stand firm on the truth of God’s Word! 

One of the ways I am asking you to stand firm is to check out the Manhattan Declaration.  It is a public stand of Christians to defend the sanctity of life, marriage, and religious liberty.  Sign it and share it with your friends.   It is a call of conscience for Christians.  I also encourage you to check out the National Organization for MarriageThis group is standing firm and offers great resources on this issue.

Jesus says in Luke 21:9, “By standing firm you will gain life.”   The reason we only have to stand firm is because the victory is already won. 

God is looking for men and women who will stand firm.  I would love to hear where you have stood firm in the faith.  Where is God calling you to stand firm on the Word of God?  I encourage you to put on the full armor of God and then stand.

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Filed under Beliefs, Bible, Discipleship, Marriage, Religious Liberty

Stand Firm

We know we are in a fight.  We know the enemy tries to deceive us with lies that are true-ish.  How are we supposed to win this fight?  What’s the battle plan?  What does God call us to do?  Ephesians 6:11 says,  “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

That’s the battle plan – to stand.  Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand.  Eph 6:14 begins with “Stand firm then…”  He says it four times in four verses (v.11-14) because he wants it to be crystal clear.  We are to stand firm!  We don’t have to go on the offensive; we don’t charge in with guns blazing, there is no nuclear option.  Our instructions are to stand firm.

I know it should be more complicated than that, but remember who we are fighting.  Our enemy is Satan.  He is a liar.  Jesus has already defeated him and we need to stand in that victory. 

Go back and read how Jesus did battle with Satan in Matthew 4:1-11.  He stood His ground using the truth of the Word of God.  He didn’t waiver.

When we stand firm it means we hold our convictions and we do not waiver.  But who has convictions anymore?  In our post-modern culture we are told there is no Truth, everything is relative.    There is no such thing as sin.  Well, the only sin is to say there is sin.  (Ever notice how those who preach tolerance do not tolerate those who disagree with them?)

Few Christians make a stand anymore because you cannot take a stand and remain open-minded.  Statements are couched with “maybe” and sentences are ended with question marks instead of periods.  (An exclamation point would be too judgmental!) More and more Christians choose tolerance rather than truth.  Show me in the scriptures where we are to be tolerant of sin.  Show me in the Word of God where Jesus was open-minded towards sin.  I don’t expect different from the culture, but from Christians?

It reminds me of people with saggin’ pants.  I tell my sons that if I ever see their underwear hanging out of their pants I’m going to pull it over their heads.  I don’t care where we are or who we are with.  I can’t stand seeing pants saggin’.  It is ridiculous.  It only took a couple of times of singing a few octaves higher before they got the message.  Pull up your pants and wear a belt.

There are not many people who pay their own bills who like the saggin’ look.  Police officers are the exception.  Do you know why?  It’s because you cannot run very fast when your pants are saggin’.  You cannot stand your ground and fight with your pants coming down around your knees.  You can be knocked over with ease.

We are to stand on the truth of God’s Word!  It is not a coincidence that the first piece of armor Paul talks about is the belt of truth.  That’s because the belt holds everything in place.  Truth is the integrating force in the life of a victorious Christian.  But once we let a lie in, the belt doesn’t fit right and everything starts to come undone.  We won’t be able to stand.  We will be knocked over with ease.  We will lose the fight.

I realize many people have a hard time discerning the truth in God’s Word.  But I also know that many of the same people have a hard time accepting the Word of God as the truth.  Mark Twain is famous for saying, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me.  It’s the parts I do understand.”  I have found that the more obedient I am to what I understand, the clearer the other stuff becomes.

James 1:21-22 says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  Can we humbly accept the Word planted in us?  When we don’t, our belts get loose.

How are your pants?  Are they saggin a bit too much?  Are you getting knocked off your feet?  It is time to pull up your pants and tighten the belt of truth.  I’ll show you what it looks like to stand firm in the last post of this series.

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True-ish Ain’t True

Once we understand we are in a fight, we need to be suited up and ready for the devil’s schemes.  What kind of schemes?  Lies.  The devil is a liar.  Jesus said this about him in John 8:44 He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The devil is a deceiver and counterfeiter.  He tries to blind us to the truth of Christ and the Word of God.  And he is the best at what he does.  Satan doesn’t come at us with a bold face lie.  That would be easily detected.  He uses trickeration, falsehood, and things that are true-ish.  A true-ish statement has some truth to it, but it is off the mark a few degrees. 

Ask any pilot, sailor, or Boy Scout with a compass and they will tell you that being off by just one degree will not get you where you need to go.  You will get lost.  And that is exactly what Satan does to us.  He does not have to get us to head south when we are supposed to head north.  He just has to get us to head a degree or two off of north and he will have accomplished his purpose.  When Satan wrestled with Jesus he used the Word of God in a true-ish manner (Matthew 4:6). A true-ish statement sounds good and can even cause people to have hope for themselves and others.  But in the final analysis, it is a lie. 

And our enemy has been playing this game since the beginning.  He did it with Eve and he did it with the early church.  Paul wrote the Galatians because they had believed something true-ish.  Paul asked them, “Who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1) and “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (Gal 5:7).

And it continues today.  Here is an example of a true-ish statement: God is love and he would never send anyone to hell.  This statement causes all kinds of havoc among Christians today, and rightly so because the implications are immense.  It has led many to believe there is no hell or that God does not judge sin.  It is true, God is love.  He desires that no one should perish which is why He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.  Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it.  (John 3:16-17).  But we must not stop there lest we believe something that is true-ish and miss our mark.  Jesus continues by saying that whoever doesn’t believe in the Son stands condemned already (John 3:18).

Condemnation is where a person stands without faith in Christ.  Technically, God doesn’t send anyone to hell.  By refusing to believe in Christ, they are there already.  That is the result of sin. The statement is close but it is off a few degrees.  It easily deceives.  It is true-ish.

So how do we tell the difference between what is true and what is true-ish?  The same way Treasury agents learn to distinguish between a real bill and a counterfeit.  They do not study all the different counterfeit bills.  No, they spend their time studying the real thing.  By knowing the true bill intimately, they can spot a fake pretty easily.  The same is true for us.  The more we know the truth of the Bible intimately, the easier it will be to spot something true-ish.  For no matter how close a counterfeit might be, it is still a counterfeit and a lie.

As disciples in the fight, we must spend time in the Scriptures.  We must know what the truth of God’s Word says.  Otherwise we will be deceived and off course.  We will be like the Galatians, “bewitched and cut-off”.  But by knowing the Scriptures and discerning what is true and what is true-ish we will be ready to implement God’s battle plan for victory!  That’s what we discuss next.

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It’s a Fight!

Nobody likes to fight, but why does it feel that being a disciple of Christ puts you in the ring facing a giant?  How do we live as disciples of Jesus in the world today?  What is going on around us that makes us feel like we are under assault?  In a pluralistic, post-modern culture, how do we know what is true?  And what are we supposed to do with the truth once we know it?

Paul has a peculiar ending to his letter to the Ephesians.  In this letter he has set out to remind Christians like you and me of the grand dimensions of God’s eternal purposes and how those are lived out practically in our daily lives.  He begins by reminding us of the many blessings that we have in Christ.  How we at one time were aliens, dead in our sin and far away from God, but that by grace through faith we have been saved and made alive.  He explains that we are now part of God’s household.  He goes on to encourage them and us to grow up and become like Jesus.  To be done with sin, to grow in holiness, and to be imitators of God – especially in our marriages and home.

And then Paul gets peculiar.  He closes the letter by telling us to gear up because we are in a war.  Obviously no one likes a fight, much less a war, but I wonder if that is something we really believe.  Do you think you can be done with sin, grow in holiness, and be imitators of God without a fight?  Do you think we can follow Christ without being opposed by the world, our own sinful inclinations, and the devil himself?  

I think a good number of well-meaning Christians do.  It might be because they hold the notion that being a Christian is just about being a better person.  It is how one can self-actualize.  They see faith as a climb and not a fight.

Paul knew that being in Christ meant being smack dab in the center of the cosmic battle between good and evil.  And so he tells us, 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph 6:10-12.

When I was in high school I was on the wrestling team.  But I was terrible.  My record on the mat was 1 and 6.  I was so bad that the only time I won, the coach actually thought I lost.  Now I knew the moves and was quick, but when I faced an opponent they realized something I didn’t.  It was a fight.  I would think “Ok, I’ll do this move, if he counters then I’ll do that move.”  My opponent just tackled me and pinned me before I could do anything.

Many Christians today do not realize we are in a fight.  Mostly because they don’t believe there is an adversary.  The concept of a devil is outdated.  It is a myth, a way for primitive people to explain bad things that happen.  But today, an actual devil – no way.  We think we are too sophisticated for such things.  We claim enlightenment when the Bible says to believe there is no devil is to be blind.

But Jesus, the Son of God, Truth incarnate, spoke of the devil several times and even fought with Him.  Paul, far from being a superstitious guy, spoke of the devil and his tactics.  Jesus and Paul both understood what kind of fight we are in and with whom. Can you think of a better strategy than to have your enemy think you don’t exist?  Imagine if the Patriots could get the rest of the NFL to believe Tom Brady doesn’t exist. 

Paul is very clear that we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  He spells it out for us so that there is no guess work. 

Do you believe it?  You’d better or you are going to get blindsided every day.  We are in a fight.  If we want to be disciples of Jesus we must understand that truth.  We must know who we are up against.  So, what are the tactics and weapons used against us and what is the battle plan for victory?  We’ll talk about that next.

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Every Sphere of Life

I found this article by Date Tedder, like so much on his blog, to be very helpful.  I hope you will read.

What attracted me so much to the idea of finally understanding our faith being authoritative and relevant for every sphere of life (besides the fact that the Bible teaches it) was that I, like soooo very many other men, had long been an adherent of a compartmentalized faith. Men, you know the drill: the Christian faith is fine for Sunday mornings, etc., but it has nothing to do with the rest of your life. It’s embarrassing to “say” out loud, but that’s the truth of where I was.”

Click here to read the whole article.

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The End Is Near…Maybe

As I look upon the state of the world, I can’t help but think the end is near.  I hear more and more people say, “We are living in the end times.”  These are normal people talking, not street corner preachers with the sandwich boards that say, “Repent! The End is Near.”

But as I look back through history, I can’t help but notice that people have thought that about every generation.  In every generation, someone has pointed to the signs of the times and feared, “This is it!”  So far they have all been wrong, but that streak will come to an end.  One generation will be right.  I wonder when.

The disciples wanted to know 2000 years ago and Jesus told them two things that seem contradictory.  “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Mark 13:30.  And then v.32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Which is it?  No wonder the disciples were confused so much.  Obviously, it wasn’t in their generation.  It’s been 2000 years since Jesus declared that and we are still here.  But I bet when the Temple was destroyed in 70AD by the Romans, they thought the end had come.  In some ways it did.

Just a quick glance at the last century would make us think the end had come.  It began with a war so terrible they called it the War to End All Wars or The Great War.  That was followed by a Great Depression and another world war.  That ended with the atom bomb.  Followed by the moral devastation of the 60’s and 70”s followed by the disintegration of the family.  AIDS, famine, terrorism, Israel and the Middle East powder keg, and the list goes on.

What is He waiting on? Why didn’t God just end it? 

I think because there have been people asking Him not to.  I think there have been people praying for His mercy.  His children have been interceding and asking for His grace and salvation.  This is not unprecedented.

Because Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, God was prepared to spare the cities if just 10 righteous people could be found in them. (Genesis 18.)

Exodus 32 records Moses interceding for the Israelites after they had made the golden calf.  God was prepared to wipe them out and start over with Moses, but Moses “sought the favor of the Lord his God.”  V. 14 says “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”

Jonah preached to the Ninevites, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  The king called the people to repent, fast and pray.  They did and God showed mercy, much to the dismay of Jonah who prayed, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2.)  Jonah was hoping they would get what they deserved.

It appears as long as there is a man or woman of faith who cries out to God and intercedes for His mercy, God holds his full wrath at bay.  He is patient so that more might be saved.  That is His heart and His glory.  Perhaps the reason no one knows the day or hour, not even Jesus, is because God continues to wait on His people to intercede.   And when the day comes when there is no one to do that…

Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  He is patience with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

It is not a coincidence that as He wraps up His end-times discussion in Mark 13, Jesus calls his disciples to keep watch, stay alert, be on your guard.  He is calling us to pray. 

 If we are concerned about the state of the world we need to pray and intercede for it.  We must, like Moses and Abraham, cry out for Him to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.  We must pray for the salvation of our neighbors, our nation, our world.

It’s been said that Abraham quit praying before God quit answering.  Would God have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for one righteous person? 

I think that the world could have ended in every generation since Jesus spoke those words, but there were faithful men and women who prayed and God showed His mercy and grace.  I believe the same is true today.  It could all end in my generation, but I am praying for God to demonstrate His patience, love, and mercy so that people won’t perish.  Will you join me?

Psalm 103:8  “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  Just ask Jonah.

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I’m not a realist, I’m a Realist

I have often tried to figure out if I am an optimist or a pessimist.

I have decided I can no longer be an optimist.   Actually,  I was only hoping all these years that I would one day actually be an optimist. 

I never wanted to be a pessimist, but it came easier than being an optimist.  The problem with pessimists is that they are always finding problems with things.  I like to be happy.  I  like colors, laughing, smiles and being with other people.  Not the traits of a pessimist.

I thought about being an idealist, but found that I couldn’t live up to it. 

So I guess that makes me a realist.  I see the world for what it is.  It is a broken, beautiful, bent towards evil, full of potential, paradise with hell.  There is good, but not enough.  Evil seems to win more than lose.  Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  People hurt themselves and others, even when trying to do good.  And the kicker is that the cycle never ends.  No matter if I do good, evil is still there.  It’s the whole Romans 7 thing.

A good realist is really a pessimist.

I have decided that I can no longer be a realist.  I am now a Realist.

The difference between a realist and a Realist is the same difference between god and God.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming divinity.  Instead, I am claiming to live like God is real. 

A Realist believes that what God says is reality. 

A Realist thinks, acts, and reacts in accordance with the reality that Jesus is Lord.  He holds the keys of death and hell.  He has triumphed over the dark forces of this world and sits at the right hand of God.

A Realist fears God and therefore has nothing else to fear.

A Realist sees a bigger picture than a realist .

A Realist has faith, hope, and love because Faith, Hope, and Love have him.

I am a Realist.  You?

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