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Posts from January 2013

Subtle Steps Toward Sodom (More Than Just Gay Sex)

Last Sunday I shared about Lot, Abraham's nephew, and his progression toward sin as evidenced by his shift from looking toward the city of Sodom, living near the city, moving into the city and eventually being "in the gate" as a leader of the city.

Sodom, as you know, was one of most sinful cities on the planet. The descriptors of this city, as well as its sister city Gomorroah, make it clear that Sodom and those residing within the city walls, were far from God and exemplified immorality.

When referring to Sodom, the practical truth is that the city represents sin. In a symbolic way, speaking of progressing toward Sodom speaks to our (individuals and nations) progession to accepting sin and immorality as culturally normal and acceptable.

As I shared Sunday, connecting to the 1 Corinthians 6 passage dealing with sexual immorality (a broad category containing all aspects of sexual immorality such as fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, premarital sex, multiple partners, etc.) Sodom was rife.

This is evidenced by the following Scripture passages . . .

Genesis 19:4-5(ESV)
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.
And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”


Jude 7(ESV)
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Uh. . .just in case you don't get it, "know them" is not referring to sitting down with the men for a cup of coffee. This is a reference to "sexually knowing them" as in homosexual sex acts. It should be noted that in today's culture, the politically correct belief system has so ingrained society that a less than conservative approach at interpreting this passage is now propagated. This is one of several passages of Scripture that have been "reinterpreted" and given new explanations. For centuries, scholars have agreed that the sinfully abominable act described here was that of proposed homosexual acts upon the visiting men (angels.)

SodomThus, the terms "sodomy" and "sodomite" entered into the English language as as referring to detestible sexual acts (as has been in the news recently regarding the horrendous gang rape of the young woman in India) and homosexual acts.

The reinterpretation of the sin described in this passage has been lessened to that of simply "inhospitality."

That seems to be a stretch to me.

There are some other details about the sin of Sodom that must be taken into account. In searching Scripture, it is evident that the sexually immoral acts of the citizens of Sodom led to their eventual destruction. However, their sexual sin was not the ONLY sin that led to their destruction.

Check out this passage. . .

Ezekiel 16:49(ESV)
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

The sins described in this passage are not nearly as offensive to most of us. Why is this? Perhaps it is easier to wave the flag of righteous indignation upon Sodom when the only sin we look at is that of a sexual nature, and of an apparent homosexual rape attempt. Yet, this listing of abominable sins that led to destruction sound more like the typical "American way" than most of us would like to admit.

  • Pride.
  • Excess of food.
  • Prosperous ease.
  • Not aiding the poor and needy.

Um . . . does this sound familiar?

There's one other passage. This one speaks not of the homosexuality of Sodom, but of another sexual sin, just as heinous. Oh, and this one sounds a little too much like America as well.

Jeremiah 23:14(ESV)
But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

Stepping toward Sodom is a subtle process. It rarely happens immediately and yet, there comes the day when we look up and ask "How did we get here?"

This is the strategy of the Enemy.

Be careful.

Be strong and courageous.

Be wise.

This battle is not lost, but we need to aware.

 

 

 


REAL Manhood: Terrell Owens - Football, Fatherhood & Accepting Responsibility

We live in an age of victimization. We see this all the time, whether in our own families and communities or exposed on television in the lives of celebrities or those unfortunate enough to garner their fifteen minutes of fame for all the wrong reasons.

Terrell OwensIn May 2012, Dr. Phil McGraw had as guests on his talk show former All-Pro NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens and a number of women that have given birth, out of wedlock, to Owens’ children. The show began with discussion about Owens’ football career and how he now is facing severe financial problems and has been relegated to playing in the Indoor Football League (which is even more of a minor league than the Arena Football League.)

The story soon moved to the irresponsibility of Owens not only fathering children with four different women, but apparently refusing to pay child support and even take the time to be with his children regularly. The story is complex and sad on so many levels. Here’s the multi-millionaire professional football player “living the life” that our culture promotes and celebrates in so many ways. The three women on stage with him (there’s a fourth as well, but she wasn’t present) all acknowledged having conceived a child with Owens.  While Dr. Phil systematically took everyone on stage to task for their actions of the past, the sad reality is that there are now four children who need their dad.[i]

Owens began to explain his side of the story and while there were some sad points, the reality was that this man was looking for excuses for not taking responsibility.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of manhood in our culture, but all too common. It’s easy to slide into excuses and victimization. Real men accept responsibility. It’s more than just saying “My bad” when something goes wrong. It’s about owning our story.

Be a man who accepts responsibility. This is not instruction to live in the past. It is a calling to men to take responsibility. Sin in your past? Own it. It’s yours.

Here’s the really good news, God says he will gladly take that past. Through His grace and your repentance, He will take the sins of your past and remove them.

However, you have to own it first. Have you done so?



[i] McGraw, Phil. "A Football Star's Daddy Drama." Dr. Phil. Syndicated. Los Angeles, CA, 8 May 2012. Television.


REAL Manhood: The Life and Martyrdom of Uncle Jack

The country districts of North Jiangsu China were wild and dangerous in the fall of 1931, but the missionaries kept on preaching, trusting their lives to God's keeping. At Haizhou near the coast the Reverend John W. Vinson, otherwise known as Uncle Jack as he was affectionately called by the younger missionaries, insisted on going into the country. “But Uncle Jack,” they said, "you're not strong enough to go so soon after your operation."

“I must go,” he replied. And then added, “I must witness for the Lord while I can.”

Mr. Vinson went to a little market town called Yan-Chia-Chi about 30 miles to the southeast. And there he was warmly greeted by a little group of Chinese Christians, many of whom he himself had through the years baptized. After talking with them about the services to be held the next morning, he went to sleep there in the little chapel.

That very night a wild army of bandits, more than 600 in all, swooped down upon the little town looting, burning, killing and wounding the people all that night and the next day. When they finally departed, they took with them about 150 Chinese men, women and children to hold for ransom. Their prize captive was the American missionary, Mr. Vinson.

An army of government soldiers pursued the bandits and overtook them at a little village called Lianyungang, where the robbers barricaded themselves behind the village wall. The government troops immediately besieged the village.

"Do you want to go free?” the bandit chief asked Vinson.

"Certainly,” he replied.

"All right, you write a letter to the commanding officer of these soldiers to withdrawn his troops and we will let you go.”

“Will you also free all these Chinese prisoners?” the missionary asked.

“Certainly not,” replied the bandit chief.

“Then I, too, refuse to go free,” said Vinson. He was adamant even in the face of vehement threats.

China 1930sThat night the bandits tried to break out in the darkness. Many of them were killed, and 125 of the 150 captives escaped. The bandits fled taking Vinson with them, but he could not run because of his recent operation. The daughter of a Chinese pastor was one of the prisoners who escaped from the bandits. She later told of having seen a bandit threatening Mr. Vinson with a pistol and trying to frighten him.

“I'm going to kill you,” he said as he pointed the gun at the missionary's head, “aren't you afraid?”

“No, I am not afraid,” came the calm reply, “If you kill me I will go right to God.”

He was killed, shot and beheaded. At the time of his death a writer, E.H. Hamilton, was also working in bandit territory between Zhejiang and Haizhou. When he reached a little railroad station to return home he heard the sad news. And when he arrived home he read the full glorious account written by the Hijo missionaries of Jack Vinson's fearless witness for Christ.

This writer went to his study and sat silently for a few minutes. Then, picking up his pen, he began to write. Within 15 minutes the five verses all were written and never have been changed. If ever a poem was given of God, this one was.

The writer calls it "Afraid of What?" Here's the poem:

Afraid of what?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace?
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid of that?

Afraid of what?
Afraid to see the Savior's face?
To hear His welcome and to trace the glory,
Glean from wounds of grace?
Afraid of that?

Afraid of what?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart?
Darkness, light, O heaven's art?
A wound of His a counterpart?
Afraid of that?

Afraid of what?
To enter into heaven's rest,
And yet to serve the Master blessed?
From service good to service best?
Afraid of that?

Afraid of what?
To do by death what life could not?
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid of that?

Later on at Mr. Vinson's funeral, Chinese officials who knew not Christ marveled that here was man who refused to save himself. The missionaries then told them of John Vinson's Master, who saved others. Some of the little churches in Mr. Vinson's country field, which had been cold now, took on new life. Many of the church members became hot-hearted for Christ. And many more received Christ as Savior after Jack Vinson's martyrdom.[i]



[i] Barry, Lisa. "Back to the Bible - Afraid of What: Missionaries to China." Back to the Bible - Afraid of What: Missionaries to China. Bac to the Bible, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. <http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/Gateway-to-Joy/Afraid-of-What-Missionaries-to-China.html>.


The Sin of Mediocrity

I mentioned Sunday that I am so tired of settling for a life and a ministry where mediocrity seems to be the norm. This was no "New Years" resolution, just a statement of fact. This apparently shocked a few of our long time members.  Since this is so obvious to me, it surprised me that others could not see it. To some, the acceptance of mediocrity in ministry is so readily accepted and is often, not even noticed.

Are we swimming in the wide channel of the imaginary "third kingdom" of spiritual indifference so deeply that we do not even recognize when less than acceptable is surrounding us?

Apparently, so.

MediocreWhile this may seem like a rant through a blog post, it isn't (well, OK, maybe it is, but it's much more than that.) This is not an attempt to guilt church members into doing more church events or programming. It is not a call to be busy for no reason. It is, however, a confession.

I confess, for myself and for our church, that all too often. . .

  • The preaching has been mediocre.
  • Our worship has been mediocre.
  • Our small groups have been mediocre.
  • Our age group ministries have been mediocre.
At some point, everything we do has been mediocre. This is not because people do not love Jesus. It is not because we like less than the best. It's just that we've settled. We have settled for "good enough." Therefore, we don't always offer God our best.

And that is just not acceptable. Why?

Colossians 3:23-24(ESV)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Thank God He did not offer less than His best for us.

What happens to congregations who settle for mediocrity for too long, so long in fact that it becomes acceptable?

Revelation 3:14-16(ESV)
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

A wake up call, perhaps?


I Am Resolved

On a day where resolutions are made by many, this old hymn came to mind. Not sure I ever really contemplated the lyrics. This is a good day to take a look.

I AM RESOLVED

Words: Palmer Hartsough (Cincinnati, OH. Fillmore Brothers. 1896.)

Music: James A. Fillmore, Sr.

I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

Refrain

New-Years-Resolutions-480x256I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.

Refrain

I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.

Refrain

I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.

Refrain

I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

Refrain