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Posts from December 2012

Sex and the Church

B_121230_120724_MZ001 1

A PG-13 sermon? Yep. Why? Because the subject matter in this passage is such. I wonder how often churches have avoided this issue just because it was deemed too graphic for a congregation? Unfortunately, the "virgin" ears that people suppose are present in the worship center are more often than not hearing the alternative to God's take on this issue everywhere else - school, work, television, songs, movies, etc.

I think back to the music I used to listen to as a junior high student. Wow!  Good think my parents never really listened to the lyrics of Prince's songs.

This message focuses on a church in the ancient city of Corinth, yet it sounds as if it's written to us today relating to our culture.

I have been asked for the transcript for yesterday's message. Therefore, I'll post it here. Many of the statistics I gleaned from Mark Driscoll's messages on the subjects and other demographic sites.

Corinth was a very perverted, sexually diverse, alternative lifestyle type of city. It was a city that boasted of their tolerance and freedom – when it came to sexuality, especially. In fact, the city was known to be prideful in relation to sexual activity. Corinth carried a tradition and history of being a sexually active, perverted city. It was defined as a place with massive gender confusion and accepted sexual perversion.

AdulteryWithin this city there were shrines dedicated to Apollo, Hermes, Heracles, Athena and Poseidon. There were temples dedicated to Asclepius, the god of healing and his daughter Hygieia. However, the most significant cult in the ancient city was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite. The worship of Aphrodite had flourished in old Corinth before its destruction in 146 BC and revived in Roman Corinth. Some evidence suggests that worship to the goddess Aphrodite of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation involved over one thousand temple prostitutes.

The attitude of sexual perversion and promiscuity wrapped in the politically correct terms of “tolerance”, “pride” and even “celebration” flourished in the city. This was a city of free thinkers as it related to sexuality. There was acceptance and approval of sexual relations before marriage, outside of marriage, with multiple partners and partners of the same gender.

Corinth had a reputation. The reputation was so bad that in the world of the day to be identified as a sexual pervert would elicit the label “Corinthian”.

The city’s convention bureau even came up with this marketing strategy. . . “What happens in Corinth, stays in Corinth.” OK, not really, but you get the point.

Many of you have seen the musical and the new film adaptation of Les Miserables. You’ll remember when Fontaine is fired from her job and ends up turning to prostitution to make money to care for her daughter Cosette. It is a filthy scene, designed to disgust the audience and bring you to an understanding of the hopelessness within this lifestyle.

In the film, the sailors come into port and find “lovely ladies” to spend some time with.  In Corinth, a port city, prostitution was rampant. Not just the prostitution associated with the worship of the false goddess Aphrodite, but also as an evil, immoral way to make a buck. Along with the widespread promiscuity and prostitution, the preeminence of sexually transmitted diseases became widespread.

Since at this time the medical advances and medications were not available to those suffering from such diseases, they would build shrines totally devoted to such diseases and infected body parts. Every sexual deviation you can think of that happens in our world today was happening in Corinth.

What a great city to plant a church.

Thank God we have progressed beyond this type of living. Right.

Americans spend more money each year on pornography than on country music, rock music, jazz music, classical music, Broadway plays and ballets combined. The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple and Netflix combined. In 2006 the revenues globally from pornography rose to more than $97 billion. It’s a huge business.

  • Every second - $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography.
  • Every second – 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.
  • Every second – 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines.
  • Every 39 minutes – a new pornographic video is being created in the United States.
  • These are statistics from about six years ago. They have grown exponentially since.

These are just the numbers related to the internet. These do not include the magazine sales, adult store, brothels, lingerie shows, gentlemen’s clubs, prostitution rings, and other related issues.

The porn industry says that 30 percent – almost a third – of all video rentals on the East and West Coast are adult in nature. The top words searched for on the net in the various search engines is sex, with porn, nude, Playboy, erotic stories, also in the top 20. 70 percent, however, of porn traffic occurs between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., while you’re sitting at your desk at work not doing your job. Additionally, the National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity estimates that between 6 and 8 percent of Americans are full-blown sex addicts, which is between 16 and 21 ½ million people.

There are more than 2,400 strip clubs in America. Some of them make upwards of $8 million a year in revenue and have as many as 200 dancers working at them. And it starts very, very early; 61 percent of all high school seniors have had sexual intercourse. About half are sexually active currently, and 21 percent of high school seniors have had four or more partners. Adolescents have the highest sexually transmitted disease rates.

Approximately ¼ of sexually active adolescents become infected with an STD every year; there are 3 million cases. And people under the age of 25 account for 2/3 of all sexually transmitted diseases in the country. By graduation time, the average high school senior will have spent 15,000 hours watching television and 12,000 hours in the classroom. So the preponderance of their education comes from television and not from instruction in the classroom. They will see 14,000 sexual references a year on television.

Out of the 14,000 references a year, 165 – 165 – have anything negative to say about sex outside of marriage, whatsoever.

Welcome to Corinth!

Since it’s obvious we will be addressing the subject of sexual immorality, we must first define what is meant by that term. Remember, this is not a legalistic, hate based, intolerant definition. Some would classify it as such, but that does not make it so.

Here’s the simple take as based on the Bible. This is not opinion. This is God’s design, as given to us in love.

According to the Bible, a man (born a male) and a woman (born a female) get married. They go on their honeymoon and are with each other intimately. Then, from that moment on, they will be intimate together, just the two of them, over and again until death do they part.

That’s it.

Anything outside of that simple story, when it relates to sexual activity is immoral.

One man. One woman. One flesh. One lifetime. One God.

That means that the following is immoral. . .

  • Sex before marriage
  • Sex outside of marriage
  • Bringing others into the marriage bed
  • Watching others on a screen
  • Sex with others of the same gender
  • Etc.

In a tolerant society, this seems so very old fashioned. That’s what sin does. It makes that which is right seem dated and irrelevant.

The next question to answer, if this is the biblical mandate, is how should the church respond?  Protests? (Those always work, right?) Boycotts – another great idea. What about when those within the church are so influenced by the non-Christ-centered culture that they justify these actions and beliefs?

What happens when Christ-followers are no longer discernible from those who are far from God?

That’s what Paul was addressing here.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2(ESV)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

Someone in the church has contacted Paul with a grievance. Apparently, there is sexual immorality within the church. This is no surprise. The surprise is that it is so over the top that even those in pagan Corinth, those who approve of just about every deviance are shocked. It’s incestuous (a man and his stepmother) and immoral. This type of behavior is prohibited in the Old Testament and even in the modern Roman law of the day. The insinuation here is that the man having the affair claims to be a Christian.

In verse 2, Paul lets it come out. He is speaking to the church. He is so very frustrated that the church, the supposed salt and light to a sinful world, the light to the darkness, the church plant in sin city for a reason, has done nothing.

In fact, under their incomplete and false definition of grace and with a mindset that parallels many liberal denominations and churches of our day, basically just ignored the sin and most likely became arrogant and prideful in their ability to show “Christian love” to one who was “struggling with sin.”

This man and his stepmother flaunted their relationship. . .and the church let them because, well, you know, they’re consenting adults and their relationship is okay in the eyes of God because God is a God of love, and God doesn’t judge anyone. God is tolerant. God wants us to be happy.

Lost people act like lost people. Who would ever expect a lost person to understand what sexual morality looks like? Lost people swim in the wide channel known as cultural acceptance.

Lost people do not know any better. The admonition is not even against the woman in this story? Why? Because she’s lost. She’s committed sin too, but she is so deep in her separation from God, this sin of sexual immorality is just one of many that keeps her far from God.

The man. The man claims to know Christ! He is a member of the church. He says he loves Jesus. He says he believes the Bible. He says he desires to be holy.

He didn’t just make a mistake. He didn’t fall away and repent. No. He willingly and intentionally entered into a sinful relationship and proudly stayed there.

AND YOU ARE ARROGANT! OUGHT YOU NOT RATHER TO MOURN?

The church is arrogant! The church should be horrified that sin is acceptable. The grieving of the church should have occurred.

The church has to respond here - Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

What? Kick someone out of the church? That doesn’t sound like something God would do. God is a loving God. He is caring. He is accepting. God is a holy God. He will not be mocked.

He is a God of freedom (Galatians 5) and that freedom is available, but freedom to do and live and experience life as we choose is not truly freedom. It’s slavery. Slavery to sin and to cultural acceptance. True freedom is found in Christ and as the old saying goes, “God loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay the way you are.”

Tolerance is not always good. When? When you, or we, tolerate that which God does not. When you do this, you are declaring God to be evil.

Churches strive to be open and affirming. We are open. Everyone can come. I want those far from God to feel welcome. I spoke of this on Christmas Eve. We are open. . .but not always affirming. The church is not to affirm that which is opposed to God and His design.

So, people who “struggle” with sexual sin, whether it be pornography, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, etc. cannot be affirmed in these actions.

We have always said “Hate the sin. Love the sinner” but we now have churches and believers who “Love the sinner and . . .justify the sin.”

This is under the banner of “If you love me, you’ll accept me.”

No . If I love you I will compel you toward change and obedience and holiness and godliness and a loving God.

This is not about acceptance. It’s about God.

Not about me. Not about you. About God.

Sin is deadly – it results in separation from God. It always has. It always will.

In Paul’s writing he moves to the second point – if a Christ-follower, one who claims to be a Christian, lives a habitual life of unrepentant sin, the must be disciplined by the church.

The church cannot sit idly by.

The sad reality is that most churches do not know how to discipline. Some know how to punish. Some know how to hate. Few know how to discipline. Discipline is love. Always.

The goal in this story, and in our stories, is to move the unrepentant one to repentance. It’s not to destroy the person, but to rescue them.

Paul calls the church to holiness. The apostle says this -

1 Corinthians 5:3(ESV)
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.

Sounds legalistic to some (mostly those who live in the world of tolerance and affirmation) but it’s not. It’s a word from God’s apostle, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The church cannot see the sin due to their relationship with their friend. They’re too close. They say “But, uh. . .” and God uses Paul to lay it out – “This man’s actions are sinful. No excuses. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

Right answer is repentance.

It’s about God and He’s calling us to holiness.


The Most Important Scene in "Les Miserables"

Last night, our family sat in a sold out theater enjoying the opening day of the newest incarnation of Les Miserables. The story of Jean Valjean and his journey from prisoner, to mayor, to rescuer, to father and hero has captivated audiences for decades.

The original story by Victor Hugo was first published in the mid-1800s and was considered by many to be the greatest novel of the nineteenth century. The story is set in the midst of the French Revolution and introduces numerous memorable characters such as Valjean, Inspector Javert (the officer who is bent on re-capturing the escaped convict Valjean), Fantine, Cosette, and Marius.

The novel holds its place in history as one of the greatest written. However, it is the musical adaptation, first presented on stage in 1980, that has captivated audiences worldwide.

My wife and I first experienced the musical in London in 2002. Having never read the book nor seen the musical before, we were taken in by the beautiful music and the production quality.

Perhaps the most famous musical numbers is "I Dreamed a Dream" as sung by the character Fontaine. The story of the desperate mother who has been pushed into prostitution in order to provide for her daughter is heart-wrenching and powerful. Many remember Susan Boyle's performance of this song on the British talent show "Britain's Got Talent" that propelled her to international fame.

There have been a few film adaptations of Les Miserables. In 1998 Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush starred in a quality film version. Though not a musical version, the retelling of Valjean's story was done well.

Les_miserables_ver11Yesterday, a star-studded film adaptation of the musical hit theaters. With such names as Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman headlining, this version was set to be a hit. It does not disappoint.

As my family and I were leaving the theater, we were talking about the film. I said to my daughter, "There's one scene in the film that is the most important. It is the key. Without it, the rest of the film and story does not work."

While there are many memorable scenes, this one, though early in the story, is vital.

It is the scene where Valjean is arrested for stealing silver from the priest who has offered him sanctuary. The priest's response is vital. It is a scene that shows what grace and mercy truly are.

This is the scene where we can all relate.

Deserving nothing, we are shown grace by our Heavenly Father.

That's our story.

The priest echoes that to Valjean and it changes the man.

As I think of the crowded theater, all caught up in the musical numbers and the story of adventure, love and rescue, I pray that those in the crowd, and the millions others who will see this film over the next few weeks will "have ears to hear" how God so deeply loves them and reaches out to each of them with love and grace.

Hugo was wise to include this scene. It's elemental to the heart of man.

Ephesians 2:8-9(ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 


Come, Let Us Adore Him

 

122412_7pm_Adore Him

The message of Christmas is clear - "Come to me. . .all are welcome"

Luke 2:1-7(ESV)
1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2This was the first registration when£ Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,£ who was with child.
6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

We say “Welcome” when we gather together to worship. Yet,, some of you struggle with believing that we mean it. Welcome? There are walls. There are barriers that have been erected over the months and years that you feel are too high, too strong, too much to work through.

Welcome. Maybe, but not really.

You don’t feel welcome. But, you cannot put your finger on why.

I’m not just talking to those of you who haven’t been in a church building for months.

GEDC0459I’m talking also to those of you who come regularly, either here or to your place of worship in your hometown. You feel comfortable, because you know where rooms are, you know the routine, you know how this church-religion thing works. But welcome? Well, not always.

It could be that other people cause you to question your accessibility to God.

Perhaps it’s not other people at all.

For some of you, it’s something inside. Something you do or are or feel you are, and you just don’t see how God can welcome someone like you.

You are not alone.

This is the challenge of Christmas, isn’t it? It’s the season of “supposed to.”

You’re supposed to. . .

  • Like Christmas music
  • Enjoy decorating
  • Like drinking egg nog
  • Actually enjoy going to parties and exchanging white elephant gifts
  • Want to watch that Charlie Brown special again. . . and again. . .and again.
  • Shop for gifts for people you don’t even talk to the rest of the year.
  • Come to church on Christmas Eve.
  • Hear the Scripture I read earlier.

The tyranny of “supposed to.”

It can be overwhelming.

It can be depressing.

I know some of you lament every year of the commercialization of the season and the “battle for Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” I get it, but I think that maybe beneath those battles and frustrations lie deeper worries.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love this season. I dare say that many of you are wondering what I’m talking about. You live for this time of year. It’s your favorite time. That’s great.

I just have a feeling there are some who deep down are frustrated and worried and wondering if the next year will be any better.

Why is it like this?

Because of the walls we allow to be built. Walls built from lies and accusations. Walls that are made of things God would never say or do. Walls built not of the truths of the Word of God. It’s not about repentance and acknowledgment of sin, but of accusation and agreements with lies.

The story of Christmas is more than a story about a baby in a manger. Yet it is in this manger that the Christ-child was lain. He was placed here by his earthly parents – a feeding trough designed for animals. How lowly can you get? This baby, more than just a baby – the Son of God, “God with us” has come.

The God of all eternity has chosen to wrap himself in human flesh and enter the creation. The Creator chooses to enter the creation. The author of all that is has entered into the story. In fact, he is the hero and main character in the story. Yet he enters in such an unseemly manner.

He was not born in a castle.

He was not born within the city walls of Jerusalem.

He was not born in a suite with armed guards standing by.

In an amazing turn of events, the family from Nazareth was placed in Bethlehem for this night. In a cave on the side of a hill where animals were kept at night, this family arrived. It was the only place they could find.  Here, with angels standing guard against the spiritual enemies in the story, the Son of God, God the Son, was born of a virgin. The miraculous birth of the Savior of all who would call on His name occurred.

In a cave. Lain in a manger – a feeding trough.

Without walls or barriers to access.

Even a group of “lowly” shepherds came by. What credentials did they have. They would have been turned away at other places, but not here. Come on, it was a cave. It already smelled like animals. These guys felt quite at home.

Hundreds of years prior, David, the ancestor of this baby’s earthly father, wrote these words. . .

Psalm 95:3-6(ESV)
3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Hundreds of years before the birth of this savior is the admonition “Oh come. . .”

Come from where you are to where you need to be.

Come from the lies and accusations to the freedom and truth found in God.

Come from religion to relationship.

Come from burdens to freedom.

Come from emptiness to fullness and abundance.

Come from a holiday experience to life.

Come from a shallow expression of Christmas to Christ.

This message is echoed throughout the narrative, throughout the story.

Shepherds, the low men on the totem pole, were invited by God to come.

Later on, wise men from the East were invited to come meet the new King.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, the adult, not the baby, many were invited to come to him.

  • The woman at the well
  • Outcasts
  • Unclean people
  • Religious people
  • Fakers
  • Thieves
  • Enemies of the church
  • Confused people
  • Wounded people
  • Adulterers
  • Addicts

Many did.

Matthew 11:27-30(ESV)
27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Laboring?

Heavy Laden?

Worried?

Agreeing with the lies?

Agreeing that you don’t belong?

Believing your sin defines you?

Building walls?

Allowing them to stand?

Come.

Now.

Cast your cares upon Him.

Repent of sin that keeps you from knowing Him.

Refuse to agree with the liar and the enemy.

Let him remove these walls.

Come.

Adore Him.

He’s waiting.



The Family Tree

122312_8am_The Family Tree

Often when people begin reading the Bible through, they skip the chapters that list geneology. However, even though it may be difficult to pronounce the names and in some cases, we know little about the names in the list, it is important that we do not skip over them.

Even in a listing of names, there is a message.

Just look at the genealogy of Christ as listed in Matthew 1.

Matthew 1:1-16(ESV)
1The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,
4and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,
6and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,
8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,
9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,£ and Amos the father of Josiah,
11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,£ and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor,
14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,
15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob,
16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

It's an interesting list, full of some interesting characters.

Here are just a few highlights:

  • Abraham – That’s a big one. The father of many nations. The friend of God. The man who was given the promise of God that he would be used for great things. The patriarch! Oh, and he's a liar, too. Remember when he lied about being married to Sarah?
  • Isaac – The promised son. The one who was almost killed as a sacrifice, but spared by God.
  • Jacob – He’s a character, but even through his lying and deception, God chose to use him.
  • Judah – one of the sons of Jacob, of which a tribe was named.
  • Perez, Zerah – sons of Tamar. She was a prostitute.
  • Hezron
  • Ram
  • Amminadab
  • Nahshon
  • Salmon
  • Salmon
  • Boaz – son of Rahab. She was a prostitute, too.
  • Obed – son of Ruth (a Gentile)
  • Jesse
  • David – the man after God’s own heart. The King of the Israel. Perhaps the greatest king Israel ever had. Oh yeah, he was an adulterer and murderer.
  • Solomon – son of Bathsheba (adulteress)
  • A host of names from here up to the exile to Babylon.
  • Again more names of people we know little about until we get to a man names Joseph.

Prostitutes, adulterers, Gentiles? This is the lineage of a king?

FamtreeWhat’s the point here?

There are some in this world, perhaps some in this room who carry with them a history of regret. Perhaps a story that is more about misses than hits. A history, or lineage of pain, missed opportunities, years far from God.

Yet, in just a small chapter in a huge story, God reminds us that His story is much larger than ours.

In fact, the invitation is clear – you and I are invited into His story. A story that doesn’t begin at a manger, but began long before. A story that doesn’t end on a cross, but lasts for eternity. A story that is not limited by our sin or rebellion.

A story where the main character is the author and that author is the hero. A story where we are not the main character, but have been invited to play a significant role.

The genealogy of Jesus was needed to affirm to the Jews that He was the fulfillment of all prophecies regarding the Messiah.

This genealogy is needed by Gentiles, by us, to affirm that all are welcome to come.

This genealogy is needed by all to show that really, the story isn’t about us, and the sooner we get that, the better.

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

Christ – anointed one. The king. The one who would save the people.

The story continues. We’re in the midst of a great chapter today. The question for you is this “Are you a part of this story?”


REAL Manhood: The Story of George Haley

A real man "expects the greater reward."

George Haley had begun to believe Christ's teachings had no validity in this world. While walking the campus of the University of Arkansas School of Law on one of the first days of school in 1949, a car full of students slowed down and waved him across an intersection. When he stepped in front of the car, they gunned the engine, knocking him to his knees in the gutter. He was then showered with mocking laughter and these biting words, "Hey, missing link, why don't you walk on your hind legs."

Living with expectations of a greater reward many times feels like a lonely affair, which unfortunately is why so few men choose to do so. In Psalm 22, King David, “a man after His own heart,” cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?”  As he hung on the cross, Jesus himself repeated David’s words, Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” All human beings feel abandonment during their lifetime. However, in order to live expectantly, we must realize that it is not God who moves far away from us, but we from him.

George HaleyBeing one of the first African-American law students at a southern university before the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, George Haley was more of an experiment. George’s father bravely challenged his son with these words: “Segregation won’t end until we open beachheads wherever it exists. The governor of Arkansas and educational officials have decided upon a quiet tryout of university integration…I can arrange your admission if you accept this challenge.”

What was this challenge and “quiet tryout?” George was relegated to a basement room between classes and told not to wander around the campus. He was told to bring sandwiches to eat in the basement and to enter and exit the campus using a secret route. His room became known as the “Noose Room.” One day, because of bitterness at his use of a shared toilet, his door rapidly opened and he turned just in time to catch in the face a bag of urine. Later, eyes flooded with tears of anger, George confessed his own psalm: “I’ve drawn on every spiritual resource I have to fight off this hatred, but I am failing.”

George stated these words to a small band of white Christian brothers and sisters at a student foundation meeting.  A dam of words and emotions was released and met with silence. “What can you do?” he blurted out. “You can speak to me!” Suddenly a roar of applause and cheers erupted and only the chairman’s gavel restored order.

George’s unanimous nomination to become a member of Westminster House did not end his trials at the University of Arkansas—the taunts and challenges followed him for his entire three years at the school. However,  George learned a valuable lesson from his father and from courageous leaders like Miller Williams, who bravely sat with Haley in the school cafeteria after a confrontation with three other students and stated, “What’s happening here just isn’t right and I’m taking my stand with you. “

George learned that we are all part of a grand story and that we never, ever fight alone.

Later in Psalm 22 David praises, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” As you choose daily to live as a real man, there will be moments of fear and doubt and frustration—this is one of the enemy’s most effective tactics. This is why so many men turn away, walk away, and even run away. A real man  has the vision to see what isn’t and the courage to stand, even if seemingly alone. He also has the wisdom to know that he is not alone.

He is holding on to you with His righteous hand. Don’t let go.


REAL Manhood: Jabez's Expectation

A real man "expects the greater reward."

When Dr. Bruce Wilkinson published his little book, The Prayer of Jabez in 2000, it shot up best-seller lists. People were introduced to a little known biblical character named Jabez who prayed boldly and expectantly.

The man known as Jabez is not spoken of much in the Bible. In fact, he’s just mentioned here in this one passage. Names were descriptive in those days and his parents named him Jabez, which is Hebrew for “pain.” Not a very nice name. It makes one wonder what was going on in the lives of the mother and father to give him such a name. Perhaps his birth was a struggle. We will never know. What we do know is this man grew up known as “Pain.”

Only God knows what caused so much pain in his parents’ lives. By far, the heaviest burden of this young man’s life was how his name defined his future. Names were not just coined because they sounded good, were popular or made for interesting monograms. Names were descriptive and strategic. To have the name “Pain” didn’t bode well for Jabez. Yet, even with this name, Jabez grew up hearing of a God who had rescued his forefathers from slavery, had provided food and water for them in the desert, had given them land and hope and freedom. Jabez did not let his name nor his circumstances define him. Consequently, his prayer life deepened.

PrayerJabez was obviously a man with great faith. He was one who prayed boldly and expectantly. He sought God’s blessing upon his life as well as his protection in life. According to the passage, God granted his desire.

I’ve noticed that many times our prayers are weak. Even when we get beyond the laundry-list prayer requests for the sick and destitute, our requests seem lukewarm and powerless. Jabez was a real man when it came to prayer and his authenticity shines through.

A real man always expects the greater reward. Real men understand that this life is not all there is. There is more offered by the Creator of the universe. The life eternal with God is beyond our comprehension. Yet, eternal life does not begin when we die. It begins when we start living. The born-again child of God has been given the great privilege of approaching Him with requests. The communication between Creator and the created is intimate at this level of prayer. Despite what many feel, a man’s desires are even welcome. Jabez’s prayer shows this.

To expect the greater reward means we understand that God’s story is larger than the here and now. To look forward without missing the present is a sign of a real man.

REAL Manhood: The Wealthy Fool

The real man "expects the greater reward."

Everybody has treasure. It may be money or simply a pair of shoes, but thre reality is we treasure what we possess, because it is our stuff. Since we have these treasures, we end up feeling responsible for guarding them. Biblical scholar Garry Alley writes of the time when an arrogant individual approached Jesus and insisted he settle a family dispute regarding inheritance. As is the case often in the New Testament, Jesus told a story, a parable, to answer this request.

Jesus tells of a wealthy man who was blessed with a great crop on his land. This man debated in his own mind as to what to do with the overage. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones in order to hold the surplus.

BarnMost likely, the listeners were thinking that this wealthy man was a God-fearer and pious. This is due to the fact that many Old Testament passages speak of God blessing one’s crops if they obey His commandments.

They may have thought the man was a great administrator like Joseph of the Old Testament in that the story reflects some of that story as well.

Perhaps the listeners thought the man was righteous because God had blessed him with great wealth.

However, just when the crowd has developed their ideas of how godly and righteous the wealthy man was, Jesus reveals his disapproval.  The wealthy man speaks of his plans and God says to him “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”[i]

This is a shocking statement. What makes a man like this a fool? Does this mean not to plan ahead and save for rainy day? Is this a financial planning lesson? What is Jesus’ point?

Notice that the wealthy man’s focus was on self. He was thinking about what he would eat and drink and how he would have supply for the future. Jesus teaches of the fragility of life and that tomorrow is never promised. The fatal flaw is what the man did with his stuff, his treasure. Instead of loving others and showing that love, he intended to use his wealth for his own sake in order to enhance his own life. The real man understands that being “rich toward God” is using what God has blessed him with for the sake of others. This is the man who expects the greater reward.[ii]



[i] Luke 12:21 (ESV)

[ii] Alley, Gary. "Where Do You Store Your Stuff?" June 2012. Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation, June 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www.jerusalemcornerstone.org/news/june-2012?utm_source=Jerusalem+Cornerstone+Foundation+List&utm_campaign=a286c9675a-December_20116_27_2011&utm_medium=email>.


His Name Is Immanuel

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In Isaiah, the prophecy was given that the virgin would give birth to a child and name him Immanuel (meaning "God with us.") In the Gospels, he is called Jesus (meaning "God is our salvation.") These titles are descriptive of the one who was born that evening in a cave in Bethlehem.

The name "God with us" is vital.

In times like these, with all the fear, worry, frustration and anger abounding, we often wonder if we are God forsaken?

The question is "Who are the 'us' described in this verse?"

Listen to the attached audio file here, in iTunes or through our online app for answers to this question.

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REAL Manhood: "More To This Life" - The Chapman Family

An authentic man, a "real man" expects the greater reward. This life is not all there is. Years ago, music artist Steven Curtis Chapman released a hit song titled "More to This Life." The song garnered awards for Chapman, but more importantly, the lyrics hit on a subject all too often ignored by people today, even Christ-followers.

This is about living with the bigger picture in mind. This life does matter. It is during our life here that we are given the opportunikty to respond to God's calling. It is now when we are shown the reality of the Gospel and the grace of the Father. So, yes, this life is vital. What we do and how we live now matters. However, this life is about much more than just managing our sin for the day.

While some believe the common lie that by managing one's sin and being an overall "good guy" they can "live their best life now," the truth of the matter is that regardless how good it is here and now, it pales in comparison to what is to come for the child of God.

ChapmanSometimes in life, the here and now is terribly tragic. In 2008, Chapman’s five year old daughter Maria Sue (the youngest of his daughters and one of three adopted from China) was killed when his 17 year old son Will Franklin ran over her in the family’s driveway. The pain for Steven, his wife and especially his son was, and is, intense. Will Franklin recounts that he began running away from the house immediately after the accident. He was in shock. He was scared. He “just wanted to get away,” but his siblings ran after him, hugged him and held him. He said his family’s faith has been key to helping him grow through this.

Mary Beth Chapman, Steven’s wife and the children’s mother, said “Because of my faith, I know that she’s completely whole and completely OK and I’m going to see her again.”[i] Still it’s not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult, but the reminder is that this life is not the end. There’s more to this life.

An authentic man understands that all that we see around us is temporal. Some men have forsaken that which truly matters to gain notoriety among others. Families suffer. Father wounds increase. Yet, men continue to climb the “ladder” of success while often ignoring that which truly counts. Jesus asked the question “What good is it to gain the whole world and forfeit one’s soul?” In case you haven’t figured out the answer, it is simply “Not good at all.”

While often chastised for not recognizing the moment and living either looking toward the future or lamenting or overly celebrating the past, we must not forget that the authentic man always lives with the greater reward in mind.



[i] Kimball, Josh. "Steven Curtis Chapman in First Interview since Daughter's Death." Christian Today. N.p., 7 Aug. 2008. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. <http://www.christiantoday.com/article/steven.curtis.chapman.in.first.interview.since.daughters.death/21170.htm>.


Celtic Language Speakers

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Thecelt copyJohn Robinson of The Celtic Languages Teams shared with us yesterday. John shared information regarding the evangelical church in Western Europe and the reality and challenge of reaching those who speak a Celtic language as their heart language.

John also shared a word from Scripture regarding how we, as believers, are to be on mission for Christ at all times. His message is attached above as an audio file (also available on our app and on iTunes for free.)

 

The Celt from David Tarkington on Vimeo.