Monthly Archives: January 2013

Watch Your Language!

(Warning: This post contains implied language that will be offensive to the reader. No, my site has not been hijacked, it is used with a purpose to make a point. It is also not done lightly or without consideration. Please take the time to read this article to the end, your soul might just depend on it.)

G____ Almighty! I am not a f______ animal. So stop with this s____. J____! This d_______ lie is not going to go unanswered, that’s for g________ sure. What the h___ are people thinking?

If you feel that you need to wash your ears out after reading what you just “heard,” I am thankful. Such is the harsh, vulgar, and coarse nature of the language constantly being used around us. It is language with which the world sees no problem, and unfortunately it is language that some members of the church have no qualms with emulating.

But before someone gets their dander up at the audacity of making such a “judgmental” statement about members of the church, consider the following: Paul argued to the Colossians that our speech should be, “Always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). The word translated “grace” comes from the Greek word charis which means “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness; good will, loving-kindness, favor” (Thayer). Additionally, the phrase “seasoned with salt” is from a Greek idiom that means “to use good sense,” or in our terminology – to be used appropriately. Our speech is to be kind, that which brings joy and which is used appropriately with good sense. Does anything in the usage of the words and phrases in the prior paragraph fit that description?

Nevertheless, many Christians insist on using the same coarse language as those out in the world. If you do not believe me, consider the next paragraph:

Gosh Almighty! I am not a fricking animal. So stop with this crap. Jeez! This dang lie is not going to go unanswered, that’s for dadgum sure. What the heck are people thinking?

Sound any better? Not really, and there is a reason for that. The words that were just used in the previous paragraph mean the exact same thing as the words used in the first one. They are euphemisms – different words with the same meaning that are generally considered to be “easier on the ears.” However, it is time that Christians stop lying to themselves and others with their language. On the whole, people know what it is that they are saying (and if they don’t, they should not be saying it anyway). A cursory glance at the dictionary would show anyone that the euphemisms used mean the exact same thing as the vulgarities they replace. Therefore, there is no distinguishable difference between the two phrases. The greatest difference is the gasp of shock I would have heard from most people upon reading the first paragraph, and the utter detachment with which many of those same people will use the words in the second. Friends, we need to stop pretending we do not know that what we are saying is wrong. If we have any form of a pure conscience it is self-evident.

When Peter was present at the Lord’s trials and was confronted with the accusation of being one of the Lord’s disciples, his final means of evasion was, “Then began he to curse and to swear” (Mat. 26:74). Peter knew that nothing would disassociate him faster from Jesus than to use language that no follower of Jesus would use. There was a standard that Jesus expected of his disciples that is explained in Matthew 5:34-37; there Jesus concludes with the statement: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (ESV). Jesus states that the inclusion of curses and swearing into our language holds nothing good, nor does it come from godliness. Can either of the above phrases be considered spoken with kindness, good-will, or charm? Can either of them be considered use of good sense and appropriate? Then why do we use them and pretend there is no problem?

It is recognized that the tongue is one of the most difficult and troublesome parts of the body (Jam. 3). Nevertheless, we must keep it under control. Often times we feel the need to make a statement associated with everything that happens in life: good, bad, or otherwise; we need to learn that, on many of those occasions, the best answer is silence and biting our tongues.

I am not an animal (I have a conscience with which to control myself). So stop with this insanity (Proclaiming there is nothing wrong with vile, coarse language). This lie is not going to go unanswered, that’s for sure (We will all give an account for what we have done in our bodies – 2 Cor. 5:10). What are people thinking?

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The Greatest Love

In common English terminology the word “love” is used in many different ways for many things. It is used to relate emotion for everything from food, to people, to ideas and everything in between. Love is a generic term in today’s society meaning anything from “an intense like,” to “a lustful desire,” to “an affection for” something or someone.

Nevertheless, in all of the discussions of love there is a form of love that is greater than all of its other uses; yet it is also the form of love that is least common in its enactment in our society. It is the form of love that so many desire to see in action, but very few are willing to perform its requirements. This is because the greatest form of love is not self-centered, sexual, or solicited by others. It is the love that is given and shown based upon the desire for the best interests and well-being of others.

This love is selfless. It does not call into the equation what is the best option or most profitable outcome for the one utilizing it. Instead, this love is fully focused on the needs, aspirations, and welfare of others. Jesus said, on the night of his betrayal, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It has often been described as the “self-sacrificing love.” Yet the willingness to sacrifice self can be done in many ways beyond the giving of one’s life for another. This love is so focused on the other person that it does not care if recognition is ever given for the service rendered.

Many people do good deeds, but often it is with the motivation of the praise or accolades they expect to receive from those actions. You don’t think so? How many times have you seen or heard someone complain because an individual they helped did not say thank-you, send them a card afterward, or otherwise acknowledge their part in the “love” that was shown? Such actions are not selfless, but are motivated by the desire for acclaim, even though the person feeling slighted would not say so and may not even have thought about it in those terms. The one who utilizes the greatest love cares nothing for what the giver gets out of extending that love, only for what the recipient receives and that it is sufficient for their needs.

This love is not, in any way, sexual. For whatever reason, it is nearly impossible in today’s society to talk about love without a sexual component being inserted. Our society’s fascination with overt sexuality has attempted to turn every form of love and affection into a sexual desire or display. Yet sexuality is built upon desire, personal physical attraction, and lust for satisfaction. These emotions are not the core, or even the crust, of the greatest love. These emotions are built on lust, selfish desire, and personal physical “need.” Many have thrown away their marriages because their “love” was all (or mainly) sexual and not the greatest love. It was based on lust, not the desire to serve the best interests of the mate. This is not to say that in the marriage relationship the greatest love cannot be shown in the sexual context, but it is not sexual in nature. It has no sexual component associated with it. It is an affection that far exceeds temporary desire and satisfaction, because it is focused on the continued safety, well-being, growth, and goodness of the one receiving it.

The greatest love has no boundaries. It can be exhibited by, and toward, men or women, young or old, rich or poor, healthy or sick. It is the love that has enormous benefits for both the giver and the receiver, yet it is also the love that many in our world have never experienced; because this love is not geared toward carnal desires and personal satisfaction. It is the love that does not have roots with man and his emotions, but has its source in God and his love for mankind (John 3:16).

If every person lived their life exhibiting this love, there would never be an individual that would go hungry; there would never be a child abused; there would never be an individual who has to go through life alone because nobody notices or cares about him/her; because this love puts others first.

This love also has a spiritual component. We do not cease to exist when we pass from this life; therefore, the greatest love requires that I be concerned about the spiritual situation of others as well. I cannot say that I have the greatest love of all when I show no concern for the souls of those around me and leave them to fend for themselves without any care or concern for their eternal well-being.

We all know the words of Paul in First Corinthians 13:4-7, when he wrote: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (ESV). However, very few have ever truly seen these words played out in their lives. That is because, to most people, they are only that: words. Most people have never stopped thinking about themselves, their desires, and whether an action is beneficial for them long enough to even comprehend the import of these statements by Paul, much less exhibit them.

Have you ever utilized the greatest love toward others? Have you ever seen it exhibited in your life? John wrote, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11 ESV). God has given the greatest exhibition of the greatest love the world has ever seen. When this love is truly exhibited it is impossible to overlook. Yet it will never arrogantly boast itself. It will look out for both the physical and spiritual wellbeing of an individual without trying to bring attention to self. Do you love others as God has loved you?

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Are You a Bible Addict?

We live in a society that uses the term addict for just about everything. We have coffee addicts, internet addicts, sports addicts, chocolate addicts, and those are just some of the possibly harmless ones, not taking into account any inherently serious or sinful “addictions.” However, do we even know what an addiction is? Webster defines it as: “To apply one’s self habitually; to devote time and attention by customary or constant practice; sometimes in a good sense.” Therefore, the idea of addiction is that the stated action or object is one to which time is habitually devoted on a daily/regular basis. That being said, are you a Bible addict?

If someone took away your Bible(s) would you notice? Would it have an effect on the normal processes of your day? Would you even miss it until the next time you attended services? It is unfortunate, but many people are far more addicted to their magazines, television shows, secular books, and favorite activities than they are the word of God. Nevertheless, the Scriptures are adamant that such should not be the case.

The apostle Peter wrote: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:1-3 ESV). Christians are to be like newborn babies when it comes to the desire for God’s Word.

My wife and I currently have a two-month old son in the house and it brings this point home with full force. The first thing my child wants to do when he wakes up is nurse. Every couple of hours during the day his attention is once again turned to the filling of his stomach. Most nights he falls asleep nursing in my wife’s arms and even continues the suckling motions in his sleep.

How closely does that description match our desire for God’s Word? Do we wake up thinking about it? As we go through the day are there constantly occasions where we think about, consider, and desire to partake of various aspects of Scripture? Are our closing thoughts of the day on what God would have us do, of praise to him, or consideration of some aspect of Scripture? These things should be true for the devoted servant of God.

The psalmist would often bring to the forefront this kind of devotion to God’s Word. He stated, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:10-11); and again: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psa. 119:97); and also: “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments” (Psa. 119:131).

We should be so devoted to God’s Word that its absence is almost immediately noticed and felt. It should not be days between occasions when we seek out the Scriptures; it should not be that the only time we consider matters of Scripture is when the preacher is in the pulpit. Rather, it should be so heavily ingrained into our daily routine that being without it leaves the day unfulfilled. There is no doubt, we need more Bible addicts.

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Lessons from Ai

In Joshua 8, the Scriptures recount the second battle of Ai and the means by which Joshua and the children of Israel took the city. The account reads: “So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people. Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. And all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped” (Jos. 8:9-22 ESV).

There are a number of lessons that can be learned from this battle and the events preceding it in chapter 7. Although we generally consider Israel when it comes to examination and application of the text, consider with me some spiritual lessons we need to learn from the actions of Ai.

In the first place, Ai focused only on the enemy directly before them. They gave no thought that there could be other dangers in the vicinity and they focused all of their energy and manpower on the singular point of contact with the enemy. In doing so, they left themselves open for attacks from other directions and wound up defeating themselves by their own brashness.

Sometimes Christians can do the same thing. We get so focused on one particular enemy, temptation, or problem that we neglect to be watchful for others that, though not as visible, are just as deadly. Some Christians, in their vigilance to uphold truth and keep the church pure, have so focused on “keeping their brethren in line” that they are not even watching any longer for the other enemies that are around them. Eventually, they wind up being blindsided by other problems they did not know existed because they were so focused on one area they could not see anything else. Some preachers have become so focused on certain issues (commonly called “hobby horses”) that they ignore other equally dangerous topics and concerns that wind up devouring the souls of those they were trying to save. We need to learn the lesson of Ai and not become too focused on one enemy. We must fight, yes, but the battles can come from any direction and we must remain focused on the truth and a balanced defense of God and his Word.

In the second place, Ai left the protection of their city to engage the enemy. Spiritually, we have a fortress in which we reside: God, our rock and security (Psa. 18:2). When we remain with him in the fortress of the church, which he has made available to us, we are protected and safe from the enemies without. Unfortunately, Christians sometimes decide, as the king of Ai did, to leave the fortress in order to defeat the enemy. This is often a painful, if not deadly, decision. How many times have people left the confines of God’s Word and God’s plan to seek to save the souls of others? How many have argued for more “modern” worship services or permit their families to “experience” other kinds of service that God has not authorized under the auspices of having opportunity to teach someone else? How many times have Christians left their Christianity behind in their language and actions because someone else was belittling, mocking, or disrespecting God or the church? We need to learn the lesson of Ai that leaving the safety of the city only leads to our own destruction. We can be confident and safe within the confines of God’s Word and his promises; when we leave them behind, we leave behind our only hope of survival.

Though there are many lessons to be learned from the Israelites taking Ai, let us be sure to examine all of the lessons available, not just the ones that come from one side. May we ever be watchful for all enemies no matter the direction from which they come; and may we always remember that it is within the walls of safety, provided by God’s Word and his church, that we have our salvation.

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3 Things Every Preacher Should Say to His Wife

Most married preachers are very aware of the value their wives bring to the table, both in everyday life and in the difficult situations that arise in the lives of preachers and their families. However, as is often the case with men, we can become so caught up in the job, the family, and the other responsibilities of life that we forget to communicate the most important things that the preacher’s wife (and any wife for that matter) needs to hear. Consider three things every preacher should say to his wife.

Thank-you. This is not a thank-you for passing the potatoes, or for the normal things for which everyone should make the statement; this is a far deeper thanks. You see, the preacher’s wife has to make many sacrifices because of the job of her husband. There may be people over at the house at the most inopportune time; there may be a different time schedule for how everything needs to be done each day of the week. Yet the preacher’s wife adjusts to the demands on her husband’s time and works hard to help things go as smoothly as possible.

Many of the preacher’s wives I know would accurately be classified as a “Proverbs 31 wife.” It is the kind of wife every man needs, but such is especially true of the preacher. Oftentimes the preacher does not have the most comfortable salary, and generally it does not come with any real expectation of a great change in pay scale over the years. So a preacher’s wife who works hard to live within the means of the family, to give her best to both husband and children, and who works every day to make the lives of her family the best they can be needs to hear thanks for those many wonderful efforts on a regular basis. This was an area I fell short on early in our marriage (and in my preaching career, since they began at essentially the same time) but I quickly learned just how important it was, and what an impact it had on the mind-set and outlook of my wife. Do not squander opportunities to give thanks to your wife, she has earned it and deserves it

I need your help. Eve is described as a “help meet” (a helper suitable) for Adam (Gen. 2:18). The wife of any man is intended by God to be his helper, his associate, his closest and most prized assistant. As much as many preachers like to talk about the fact that when the preacher is hired the congregation is not hiring the family as well, there are many ways in which the preacher, without his wife, would be far less effective if she were not present. In our household, my wife and I talk constantly about my work. While there are certainly some things that occur to which even she is not privy, the daily affairs of my work are a continual topic of discussion. She is my sounding board for sermons and Bible class lessons, often times having heard the most difficult or vivid material before it is ever presented to the congregation. She is my most trusted advisor in areas pertaining to our family and our relationship to those in the congregation. She is also my lifeline in those times when things get difficult and those gloomy weeks come where all is not going right.

Some men (yes, even some preachers) are full of pride and arrogance and believe that they can take care of everything themselves and never need any help. But the wise preacher recognizes (if he has chosen a wife wisely) that he has a helper who is there for him, who desires to help and assist him wherever she can, and who is simply waiting to hear that phrase before jumping in on his behalf and for his benefit.

I’m sorry. Again, this is not simply referencing the willingness to apologize about those things which commonly occur in every marriage and which every man should be loving, caring, and humble enough to recognize and fix. The wife of the preacher faces a very special set of circumstances that are often difficult and trying as the preacher labors with a congregation. Among them are the difficulties that arise in making close and trusted friends in the congregation. Oftentimes the preacher and his family are from an area outside of the location in which he works, therefore they are perceived as outsiders to many in the congregation. Hence, there is automatically a disconnect between the preacher’s wife and the other ladies in the congregation; this is often made worse by who her husband is and the caution that is then extended toward her because of it. This does not even include the times where she hears things about her family or her husband that are insensitive, unfair, and hurtful. Though there is very little to nothing the preacher can do about such situations, recognition of the feelings of his wife and the struggles she endures becoming a part of the congregation must be remembered and acknowledged.

Additionally, the life of a preacher is always in a state of flux. Plans get moved, changed, or cancelled at a moment’s notice, the phone rings at dinnertime requiring immediate attention, very rarely are there ever two weeks that go by the same way. While this ensures that life is never boring in the house, it also ensures that the wife always has to adapt to a new situation that has arisen. Again, the preacher cannot change the situation, he is essentially on call 24/7; but he must be one who communicates to his wife his recognition of the difficulties the job brings and the added stress and pressure it places upon her and the family.

If preachers will regularly communicate these things to their wives, it can make a vast difference in the daily workings of life and marriage. It is just as difficult to live the life of a preacher’s wife as it is to be a preacher. Let us never underestimate the value of a good preacher’s wife, the daily impact she has on the preacher’s life, or the daily impact he can have on hers if he will but communicate it.

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Are You a Debtor?

At the beginning of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Rom. 1:14-15). He has been telling them of his desire to be with them and be encouraged by them. However, he says he has been hindered from going to them because he is a debtor to both Greeks and non-Greeks (Barbarians), wise and unwise.

With this admission, Paul is not saying that he owes money or that he is under the control of these groups. The word translated “debtor” is from the Greek term opheiletes meaning: “one who owes another, one who is bound by obligation or duty.” Paul does not owe these groups physically; he is obligated to them as a proclaimer of the Gospel and an apostle. His duties as an apostle have kept him from being able to make it to Rome to this point, even though that has been one of his great desires. As a debtor, there are some things that are required to come first and the apostle recognizes his responsibilities.

In our society it has become a cultural benchmark for many people to become “debt free,” to not owe anyone for anything financially. While from a physical perspective this is certainly a worthwhile objective, are you still a debtor? Is there anyone to whom you are indebted beyond the physical things of this world? As Christians, there is always someone to whom we are obligated; consider a few of them with me.

I am a debtor to my family. The foremost obligation of any individual is to provide for the needs of one’s family. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). As a father, I have the obligation to bring my children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The mother in the home is obligated to teach from the time of infancy “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). On more than one occasion an individual has gone out to convert the world and neglected the salvation of his own family; such an attitude denotes a failure to acknowledge and accept the obligation God has given to provide for the needs (especially from a spiritual perspective) of the family.

I am a debtor to my congregation. It has become far too commonplace for people to believe that, beyond the command to assemble together on the first day of the week, Christians have no obligation to one another; such could not be further from the truth. Paul admonished the Philippians, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phi. 2:3-4 ESV). We have an obligation to look out for one another. The early church took care of any needs within it because they were more focused on others than self (Acts 4:32-37). How often do needs of members within our congregations go unfulfilled because we have not recognized our obligations to one another as we should? Hence, we find the necessity to be Christians who are focused on “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21).

I am a debtor to my community. We live in an age of “activism.” The term denotes vigorous action on behalf of a particular goal or belief. Christians of the first century were certainly guilty of this form of action; we find them in the public square on a daily basis proclaiming the Gospel and seeking out those who are willing to hear the truth (Acts 2:46-47; 19:8). At times Christians of today have become so enamored with the means available through mass media, the internet, and other mediums to fulfill the great commission (Mat. 28:19-20) that they have neglected the place where their greatest influence lies: their own community. Part of the issue the apostle Paul had in getting to the Roman brethren is that the need was so great in the areas around him, he had to delay the fulfillment of his desire to go see them (Rom. 1:13-15; 15:24-26). Let us be sure that we are first meeting our obligations in our own communities. This does not mean getting so wrapped up in community events that we have no time to preach the Gospel; but instead that we make our first priority proclaiming the Gospel in the area wherein we have the greatest influence.

No matter what our financial situation, as Christians we must understand that we are never truly “debt-free.” Our indebtedness to the Lord and the proclamation of the Gospel always leaves us with obligations and duties that bind us and our works. We are all debtors.

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