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Category: Love (Page 1 of 2)

The Last Piece of Meat

 

I’m fairly certain I have blogged about this before, however, today, this particular view on true love has taken on an entirely new meaning. Before I get into why, let’s catch up with what it means…

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Years ago, in 2007, I traveled with the now-defunct Teen Mania Ministries’ Global Expeditions to New Zealand and Australia for two months doing short term missions in various locations of various styles. While I could go on and on about the ministry we took part in and how God worked in so many different ways, I am going to talk about one of the sessions that we have. I don’t remember the exact name of it (it’s been nine years!) however, it was about relationships. I was a Team Leader on the trip, and I served under some great Project Directors, of which Gus Kruse. During this breakout, it was a time where all of the male leadership sat with all the female missionaries while the female leadership sat with the male missionaries, and they would poke us (leadership) with questions. One of the questions was “What is true love?”

There were two responses that really stood out.

  1. “Willing to give birth on the jungle floor.” –X.X. (I have only his initials X’d out here, as he is a missionary in a relatively closed country. And I love this answer because it shows the willingness of a woman to go where ever God may call her and her husband, even if it means birthing and rearing children on the mission field.
  2. “The last piece of meat.” – Gus Kruse. This one stood out because it is a practical bite of advice on what is true, sacrificial love that can be witnessed and practiced in every day life. What does that mean? It means as a man, I am willing to give up the last bit of my food (or all of it) to make sure that our children and family are fed first. It means a mom would be willing to give up her food to make sure her children are taken care of. And, as for the reason I type these words today, it means as a homeless couple, the willingness to not eat at all for days on end to make sure their beautiful daughter has enough food to eat and stay healthy.

 

I serve in a ministry called Safe Families for Children. In this ministry, we help families get back on their feet by providing short-term non-foster-care placement for their children with volunteer host families. The parents still retain full custody, but the placement allows them to take intentional steps towards whatever is needed to be done, and often getting things done is hindered (not purposefully) by young children. The family that I met today is homeless, but happy. They are strong, yet vulnerable. They love their daughter with all their heart. As they ate the McDonalds that was given to them, they made sure their daughter, who had already eaten with the host mom, had whatever she wanted of their food, and they didn’t get upset or mad or have any negative reaction when she threw a chicken nugget on the floor or something.

The Last Piece of Meat

When I had spoken earlier in the week with a colleague who did the intake, she told me that when she met with the family, they were starving, because they hadn’t eaten since the day before when they had met with another one of our colleagues. That all the food they get goes to their daughter, and they only eat when she’s done.

The Last Piece of Meat

I wept that night when I went home, and I had yet to meet the family. I wept because of the sacrificial love that they have for their daughter. It’s not something you see often in this day and age. And it is beautiful to see as I have seen it.

When I met the family today, I saw a family who was loving and caring and strong, stronger that I could be at that moment, having to say goodbye and see you later to their daughter, again (they did so a few nights’ prior when placing their child).

So now, when I think of that phrase which I first heard uttered by Gus in the summer of 2007 in that little Korean Café in the bottom floor of the hostel in Sydney, Australia, “The last piece of meat,” this family is what I see, is what I think about. I praise God for people like them, and they aren’t a Christian family, yet they show sacrificial love. It is my hope and prayer that they do, one day, meat the Savior, Jesus Christ, and Lord willing, respond to His call on their hearts. In the meantime, however, I hope they continue to give their daughter that last piece of meat.

My Wife, My Friend, My Love…My Toughest Critic: Proverbs 27:17 in Action

My wife, Roni, is an amazing woman of God to whom I am greatly blessed to be married to. I could not for one iota of a moment of time thing of a better woman to whom I could be married. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22, ESV) is truly a reality in my life with Roni as my wife.
First, however, my wife was my friend. I am going to skip the riveting story of our meeting and friendship and just say this: She and I got to spend several months building a Christ-centered friendship before the romantic feelings were made known that we had for each other.
Okay, here is the short version: We met in October 2006 over our blogs while she was living in Peru as a missionary and I was living with my parents in South Florida. So, until we met in February 2007, we talked over the internet and over the phone almost daily. We read Scripture together and books together, and prayed together. We built a very strong friendship. We started dating in February 2007, got engaged in May 2007, and married in November 2007. First, she was my friend, and that friendship was centered on Christ.

Roni is now my love. I have loved her longer than we have been married, or engaged for that matter. But, one must know that she was first my friend, and she still is my friend. But, we have been married for eight years this month, and we have three wonderful children that the Lord has blessed us with. And for that, I am so grateful. I thank God daily for the blessings and favor I have received through my wife (Prov. 18:22). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Roni and I are perfect for each other. Our relationship as lovers and friends, as husband and wife, is still centered on Christ, as should all relationships be that are between two believers.
Now, for the meat of this post. While Roni is my friend and my lover, she is also my toughest critic. Before I go any further, my wife is like that of any other wife whose husband is involved in ministry: compassionate, empathetic, involved, and wanting to defend her husband from criticism. However, something that I have realized is that my wife only voices herself in my defense when the criticism is perceived as unfair, and she only voices her concerns to me about it. But, when something is brought to my attention about areas X and Y and that I’m not doing well and am told to do better, and my wife perceives the criticism as fair, she not only becomes my toughest critic, but also my harshest. I don’t know if Roni knows this or not, but there have been many nights where I have gone off and cried myself to sleep after she has not only told me that yes, I’m not doing good in X and Y, but also told me of sub-points A through M of both X and Y as to why I am not doing well.
However, in this, she then asks me, “What can you do to change this?” And she proceeds to talk with me and give me ideas and help me through this. In these many experiences, she exemplifies to passages from Proverbs 27 that I love:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV)
and
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV)
When my wife shoots criticism my way, I know that I deserve it. And, I know that I am about to grow from it, without question. I know that I need to hear what she has to say. I know that I am going to be better for what she says. And this is without any doubt. Even though her criticism is tougher and harsher than any other criticism I have ever received, I would not want to have it any other way…
And this is why Roni, my wife and lover, is my best friend.

Five Things I Strive To Teach My Children

As I grow older and my family increases both in age and in number, there are many things that I wish to teach my children. Countless things, really. It says in the book of Deuteronomy:
 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”(Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV).

My hope and prayer is that my children learn much about God and His Word and they fully embrace it as part of their very being, of their very essence. I was thinking about more specific things, and, while I am sure the list could go on and on, I came up with five specific things that I wish, Lord willing, to instill in my children as I perform my God-given act of being their parent, entrusted by Him the stewardship of these children. And those things are this: 1. Fear God; 2. Prayer is important; 3. Love is more than an emotion and feeling; 4. Character and Integrity Count; 5. Failure is NOT the end, nor is it really bad.
Fear God
Proverbs 1:2–7 (ESV)
   To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
   to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
   to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
   Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
   to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; 
               fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The purpose of the Book of Proverbs from the Bible is to teach the reader. In Proverbs 1:2, we are told how we are going to be taught: to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight. Remember, this book of Proverbs is part of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, and that, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). 

In Verse 3, we are told that we are going to be instructed how to deal wisely, and further instruction in righteousness, justice, and equity. Dealing wisely, in other words, making smart choices. Thinking before acting. And thinking about the future and outcomes of the dealings that you make. Instruction in righteousness, being morally right and fair; living above reproach. Being just in our dealings throughout life, i.e., being fair to those around us. To those we love. To those we work for. To ourselves. And Equity, much the same, living our lives in fairness and impartiality. These are all qualities that I have seen through my own eyes that are not being taught to our children by parents, or anyone else for that matter. It’s something that needs to change.

It goes on in verse 4, telling us to give prudence to the simple, along with knowledge and discretion to the youth. Prudence to the simple; knowledge and discretion to the youth. This is something that largely isn’t happening. Today, at least in the United States, the government mostly wants families to let the schools take care of all the education. And, when it comes to the educational systems, I, personally, have sat in a school Open House meeting with some of the administrators of that school whom proceeded to tell all of us that they school district has a policy to not let anyone fail. So, no matter what…no matter how poorly they do, they will always get a passing grade and move up to the next grade. In our schools, prudence and knowledge and discretion are NOT being taught to our children. So, it is left up to us, the parents, to take up that mantle. 

And, in verses 5 and 6, it tells us that even after we are learned and wise, we still have very much to learn from this book of Proverbs. That we will never truly stop learning. We will never know everything there is to know. This is a concept that too many people seem to never fully grasp, and it holds them back. There is a line from one of my favorite books that fits this well, “Exactly. You have learned that you still have much more to learn.”(Adventurers Wanted,Vol. 2: Horn of Moran, M.L. Forman). It goes on to say that those who don’t realize that are held back from truly ever becoming great. If we can stay humble in this aspect, there will always be new discoveries and learning and wisdom to gain. And we will be all the better for it.

And, this is all brought together in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The word “fear” here is a reverential fear, awe inspiring fear, before God. Knowing that God provides wisdom(James 1:5) and that His wisdom has existed since before the beginning of time(Proverbs 8:22-31).  There will always be people who seek after God and gain this knowledge and wisdom. And, unfortunately, there will always be those who reject God and this wisdom. “A principle that believers must teach their children is that in their pursuit of wisdom they will be surrounded by others going the opposite direction who will be encouraging them to do likewise.”[1]We need to be on guard, vigilant even, about our children and what they are learning and how they are learning and, of most importance in my opinion, WHO they are learning from. If my children were to attend a school, the vast majority of learning would still come from home, from my wife and I.
Prayer Is Important
“16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 (ESV)
“17 pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
Prayer is an important thing in the life of a Christian and his and/or her family. Why? Because it is how we communicate with God. We are given access to the creator of the universe because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was our substitutionary atonement on the cross, bridging that gap between God and His people that exists because of our sinful nature. In his book “Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow,” R.C. Sproul explains the question of why we should pray. “Of the many legitimate answers to this question, we will focus primarily on three. We should pray because prayer is a duty of every Christian; because prayer is a privilege; and because prayer is a powerful means of grace.”(Sproul, R.C., Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008). R.C. Sproul goes onto explain these three reasons of why we should pray, drawing from both the Old and New Testaments. From the Old Testament, greats like Hannah praying for a son(1 Samuel 1:8-18) and David asking for forgiveness(Psalm 51). (For information on R.C. Sproul’s book “Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow” click here).
We need to not only teach our children what prayer is and why it is important, we need to teach them how to pray. We need to model it for them in our prayers. Another book by R.C. Sproul, a children’s book actually, entitled “The Barber Who Wanted To Pray,”(Crossway, 2011), is a great resource in teaching one how to pray. Even though it is a children’s book, it can help adults in their prayer life as well(I know from experience!). (For more on “TheBarber Who Wanted To Pray”, click here).

Now, as we all know, school’s definitely don’t teach prayer. And, unfortunately, I don’t think many churches teach prayer, either. I would think that this is true for two reasons: The first being that a person may be overly embarrassed for not knowing how to pray, and secondly, it’s kind of an expectation that one already knows how to pray. I wish, when I first started attending church and serving Christ, that I had someone to really teach me how to pray. I tried modeling it off of the prayers of others I was around. But, I truly never really knew how to pray until I was well into my adult years, coming before God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication(the ACTS method). And, it really has helped my prayer life a lot. This is an important subject that Christian parents need to teach their children.
Love Is Not Just A Good Feeling or Emotion
Love is a verb. Not a feeling. Not an emotion. Not what you feel when you see some cute boy or girl walk by. Love is a verb. An action. A choice. Every day, and I truly mean every single day, I make a choice to love my wife and my children. There are times when I don’t want to love them because they have done something unloving, however, being a Christian, I am called to love regardless. We have all read where Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, and this is how Jesus replied: “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” (Mark 12:29–31 ESV). Now, looking at what Jesus said about loving the Lord and loving your neighbor, the “love” part is a verb. An action. Something you do. Jesus stated that, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV). An action, being sacrificial, putting others before oneself. And, as each day goes by, I make sure to showmy family that I love them, not just tell them.  

Love is most definitely a verb, and, there are many ways one can show love. First, it’s not flattery, but truth. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”(Proverbs 27:6, ESV). A true friend, one who loves, is going to be the one who tells you what you need to hear. So, later in life, my children need to learn communication with their loved ones and how to be honest with them, even when it may not seem like the wisest of choices that one can make. Secondly, love can be harsh. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”(Proverbs 13:24, ESV). When we discipline our children, we need to do it out of love, knowing that we want them to be corrected and to not repeat whatever folly may have happened. However, we need to also make sure our children(or whomever you are disciplining) know that it is being done out of love and a desire see the person grow. Now, if that means waiting a while so you can cool down, then so be it. They probably can tell you’re upset. However, approaching it when you’re upset usually ends badly. I know. I’ve done it before(more than once). Also, a need for discipline is not an endorsement of child abuse in any way. I say this because many people feel that mere spanking is abuse of a child. And, they are both right and wrong. When done out of love and the child knows why they are getting what is going on and you have good scriptural support, then it is not abuse. However, when you’re angry and you feel the need to lash out and beat that rear-end because you need to teach them a lesson, then you very well may be approaching that fine line between discipline and abuse. Live above reproach(which we will talk about later) and don’t even get yourself near a situation like that. There are countless stories out there of children being hurt and sometimes even killed because a simple punishment got too far out of control, usually because the parental figure was mad.

Now, there are many other things that love is and isn’t, however, I don’t have the space here(or the time) to go over them all. Just remember this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV). God loved the world so much, that He made a way for His people to have that relationship with Him: the sacrifice of His Son for His people.
Character and Integrity Count
It’s much easier said than done, however, it is very true….that a person’s character and integrity count. They count in a person’s personal lives, professional lives, and spiritual lives. If someone is a liar in their personal lives, they are probably untruthful in their professional lives, as well as their spiritual lives. They are all connected. A person must live above reproach in their lives, in all aspects of their lives. Let’s look at a few powerhouses of character and integrity from the Bible: Daniel, Shadrach(Hananiah), Meshach(Michael), and Abednego(Azariah)(Daniel 1:7). These four friends began together in captivity in Babylon, where they were assigned to be educated for three years then taken before the king. Part of this was being fed a portion of the king’s food. These four young men, under Daniel’s leadership, refused to defile themselves with the King’s food. They remained faithful to their God, showing great character and integrity, leaving no room for doubt or compromise. In the end, the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.”(Daniel 1:19-20, ESV).God blessed their faithfulness, and their faithfulness is a clear reflection of their character and integrity. And the displays of character and integrity continue to show throughout the book of Daniel, with Daniel and the Lion’s Den(Daniel 6), and the Fiery Furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego(Daniel 3).

However, the true test of a person’s character and integrity comes when they do something wrong, and they are faced with a fork in the road: Do I tell the truth or do I tell a lie? Proverbs tells us, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”(Proverbs 28:13, ESV). When we screw up, chances are, we will get in some sort of trouble. How we handle the aftermath can often affect what kind of trouble we get it. If we conceal it with a lie, then are found out, we’ll get in a lot of trouble. If we man up and own up to our mistake, we’ll still get in trouble, however, our integrity and character will remain intact. Let’s take a look at Jesus when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well:

John 4:16–30 (ESV) — 16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

John 4:39–42 (ESV) — 39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Before Jesus asked her about her husband, He already knew that she had none. He wanted to see if she would be honest about it, or if she would lie. The woman was honest, and her life was changed. This simple act of honesty, showing her integrity, lead to a wonderful example of evangelism. Jesus pointed out her sin, having four husbands, of which we don’t know what happened to each for sure, however, I doubt they all died. And the current man she was with was not her husband, so, she was living in an adulterous relationship. After Jesus pointed this out to her, she though of Him as a prophet. And later, her eyes were opened to the fact that this man is the Christ(John 4:25-26).
And, from my thoughts, when it comes to a choice between the truth and a lie, the truth is by far the easier thing to tell, factually. Why? It’s easier to remember the truth. If you lie, you have to remember the truth and the lie, and which is which. And which you tell what people. It may be more difficult to actually tell the truth, however, from personal experience, telling the truth releases a burden, literally making a physical difference in ones life.

While my children are not currently at ages where they fully understand the concept of the truth versus a lie, it is something I still talk to them about. When my wife and I were still house parents, we would always tell the girls this when confronting them: “Look, we know you have done something wrong and you are almost assuredly going to get in trouble. Now, you have to choose how much trouble you want to get it. If you lie about it, you’ll end up in getting in a lot more trouble then you will if you’re honest.” And, some of the time they were honest, however, a vast majority of the time, they still lied. And that’s a part of life. And, each time, when they were caught in that lie, they (hopefully) learned a bit. And, when my children get older, I hope and pray that they learn these lessons and more, as well.
Failure Is NOT The End, Nor Is It Really Bad
Finally, I will teach my children that failure is not just not bad, but, it’s a part of life and is actually good.  Yes, you read that correctly: Failure is good. You learn from it. Thomas Edison is quoted having said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Now, I don’t know for sure if that’s exactly what he said, or if it was even him who said it. But, it’s a true statement. Each failure led to a teaching moment and growth. And that is the same in life in general. If you fail a test, you work all the harder to make sure you don’t fail next time. If you fail at a task, you go back and see what went wrong and seek help to learn more, to strive towards success the next time. As a Christian, when we fail, we go before God and ask for forgiveness. While we try to be more like Christ, we are still a sinful people. I think one of the most glaring examples of failure and redemption and growth that one can find in the Bible is that of King David from 2 Samuel 11-12.

David was King of Israel, beloved by all. He had all he could want, and he got there by being faithful to God. His character and integrity, up to this point, were unquestionable. All that he did was from God, for God. And then, one day, temptation seized him. He was on the roof of the king’s house, he looked over and saw Bathsheba bathing over on another roof. He found out who she was, sent for her, and she came over, and they had sex. And they did it, knowing it was wrong, for she was married to one of David’s most faithful servants(2 Samuel 11:2-4). Now, when Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant(v. 5), David then went to extraordinary lengths to try to cover it up(2 Samuel 11:6-13). He ordered her husband home to try to get him to lay with his wife to make it look like he, Bathsheba’s husband, got her pregnant, and not David. And, when that didn’t work, David ordered that, while in battle, his troops draw back from Uriah so that he shall die. And this is what happened. David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to try to cover up this adulterous affair. However, “the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”(2 Samuel 11:27b, ESV).

After all this happened, the prophet Nathan came to David and rebuked him for what he did. He repented of his sin, however, because of is treachery, he was still punished. “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”(2 Samuel 12:14, ESV). And surely enough, the child died(2 Samuel 12:14-23).
However, in this time of grief and repentance of David, He called out to God in Psalm 51:
Psalm 51 (ESV)
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
51 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
   Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
       according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
   Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
   For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
   Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
   Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
   Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
   Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
   Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
   Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11    Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12    Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13    Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14    Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15    O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16    For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18    Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19    then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
In the end, David learned from his mistakes. He learned from his punishment that he received from God. He repented of his sins, and God continued to work through him. He soon after had another son, Solomon, “And the LORD loved him,”(2 Samuel 12:24).
While failure does have an immediate sting of pain, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination, it has a more positive long-term effect if we take the time and teach our children that it has such. How do we do this? By modeling it and talking about it with our children. Our children will see our failures and screw-ups. And when they do and they ask about it, it becomes a wonderful teaching opportunity, not just for the child, but for us as well.

As for our current many public educational systems, which are moving towards a “no child can/will/should fail” set of policies, I plan on teaching my children that failure is a good thing. A teaching tool and motivator. And when my children fail, I plan on being right there to walk with them through that failure, arm-in-arm, to make sure they know for sure that it is NOT the end of the world.  
Now What?
As I tie these points together, let it be known that this is not anywhere close to being an exhaustive list of things that I wish to teach my children. The amount I wish to teach them I will never be able to teach them because there isn’t that much time. However, these things, the fear of the Lord, Prayer, Love, Character and Integrity, and learning from our failures, can, if instilled at an early enough age in our children, equip our children for the realities of the world at large in their generations. There are and will continue to be many different societal norms, those that are ever changing with the unfortunate secular-overtones of almost everything we see around us, and, unless we start early, that can wreck a child, a relationship, even a family. School systems are letting children pass and go up grades when they don’t deserve it; sports leagues declaring no one is a loser and handing out trophies, even to those who lost; and society coming to the point where being slothful and depending on others is not only acceptable, but the norm. I plan to make sure I do all that I can to keep that from happening to my children. I firmly believe that any parent who does not prepare their children for adulthood isn’t doing parenting right.
Now that we are to this point, one, or many, may agree or disagree with how I feel about them, or maybe about them being in this list of five things. This blog could become the first of a series of blogs about how I and my wife work to raise up our children in a godly manner to bring as much glory to Christ as we can.
Soli Deo Gloria



[1]Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, p. 68). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

My first two weeks….

So, it’s been two weeks now since I was voted into my first vocational ministry position within a church, that church being North Fort Myers First Baptist Church. And, things are going well, with the exception of one personal frustration that I have, even though I know I shouldn’t have this frustration. I know that a position to help grow a church, which is what my job is as Director of Family Ministries and Outreach, is totally dependent on God’s timing, and it’s usually a longer timetable than anything I would ever have in mind. What does that mean? I’m impatient. There are things I want to do and get done, but, I cannot beings things take time. They aren’t instantaneous.

2 Peter 3:9–10 (ESV)

9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Yup, right there. That sums it up in two verses. Now, I don’t mean to compare what I am doing as an outreach director to the Lord coming like thief in the night. However, I’m using it to describe how this process is, as I see it, going to be. Slowly and surprisingly. Now, as we know, nothing is impossible with God(Matthew 19:26), so, it could happen overnight, but, in my experience, that is not how God works. Our God is a sovereign God(See Romans 9 and Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21) and anything can happen, however, I believe it is going to be a time-consuming process, and not an immediate one(as much as I want it to be instant, as I know we all live in a world of instant-gratification).

However, I know that through much prayer, hard work, sweat, labor, and love, we will see the fruits of our labor. I can totally see our family, Our Family Baptist, North Fort Myers First Baptist Church, coming together as a church with many generations of families, from newborns and toddlers all the way through their parents and grandparents(and maybe great-grandparents!), Lord willing.

Now, another thing to address, beyond my impatience, is some things that I have recently been studying and thinking over in my mind are really coming into play(or I see them coming into the play in the near future). Things such as the Regulative Principle of Worship versus the Normative Principle of Worship(RPW is only allowing what the Bible says is allowable versus NPW which allows things that the Bible allows plus other things that the Bible does not prohibit). Another being the 2nd Commandment(Exodus 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”) And how the Second Commandment affects teaching children(i.e. children’s coloring pages in the nursery, etc.). Some people have said that a coloring book page to use to teach a simple Bible concept to a young child is fine(which I agree with), while others have said it’s just as bad as having a crucifix in the sanctuary. There are lots of things that I keep on my mind, however, it’s something that I enjoy and love doing and wish I could do full-time(it’s bi-vocational, so, I am distracted by a job-hunt at the moment).

I’m sure there are more things going on in my little, finite mind that have been changing and revolutionizing in the past two weeks, however, these are two of the bigs ones. As more things come to mind and more experience I have serving at my church, I will blog about (some) of them. And others, I’ll just give God all the glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Matthew 7

Matthew 7 is a true gem of a passage from Scripture. It is a masterful work on confronting sin, amongst other things. And it can be applied towards sin that is within oneself as well as confronting the sin of another.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”(v.1-2)

The chapter opens up with a warning: “Judge not…” We are not to condemn. We have no power to condemn, lest we fool ourselves and end up condemning ourselves before God. Jesus warns us in verse two that judging to condemnation WILL backfire on us.

Verses 3 three through 5 tell us to be careful, tread lightly, and be humble:

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.(v.3-5)

Jesus admonishes us to deal with our own sin before we attempt to deal with someone else’s sin. It would be like having a drunk alcoholic attempt to tell a drug user that he is sinning be taking drugs. Or, a pastor rebuking a man for sexual impurity all the while, statistically speaking, that pastor is dealing with the same sexual impurity to a varying degree. However, if it’s a recovering alcoholic or a pastor that has suffered and dealt with that sin in his life and, through God’s strength, has overcome it, the rebukes and correction will go much further.

6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.(v.6)

You’re a Christian. They know(or should know) that you’re a Christian. Don’t compromise. Don’t throw out the valuable resources with confronting sin(or doing anything): Prayer, God’s Word the Bible, more prayer, and more of God’s Word. Even the countless books in which pastors of ages past have expounded on Scripture for our benefit, that we may understand it and equip ourselves with it more soundly. Don’t treat all these resources flippantly. If you do so, it will come back and bite you in the butt.

In verses 7 through 11, we are reminded to ask, seek and knock:

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!(v.7-11)

Here, Jesus reminds us that we need to ask, seek and knock. We need to ask for forgiveness; ask for help; ask for discernment; ask for wisdom. And I am sure there is much more we could ask for as well. We need to ask God to forgive us our sins, and for his divine help to repent from those sins. And we need to ask God to give us the discernment and wisdom we need as we go forth to confront sin.
As we are doing this, we also need to seek our God in prayer and in His word, The Bible. Jesus, who is giving us this reminder, IS the very Word of God itself!(John 1:1,14). We need to seek out God and what He says about particular subjects and situations. And, believe me, God covers it all in His Word, even going to the bathroom(Deuteronomy 23:12-13). And, as we seek with faith, we will find it. And the same goes for knocking. Seek out God and knock, asking for help, and God will open that door and hear you. But, just as James wrote in James 1:6, we need to do this all in faith. So, before we go to confront sin, we need to truly seek out God in the matter. Remember, pray and meditate in His Word. About this passage, John Calvin penned the following words, “Nothing is better adapted to excite us to prayer than a full conviction that we shall be heard.”(Calvin’s Commentaries, Mat 7:7-12).

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”(v.12)

The Golden Rule. I think it is safe to say that many, if not most, of us have heard this rule before we ever knew it was in the Bible(I know my wife did). This is just a way to say think before you act and speak. Is this how I want someone else to approach me about my sin? I know, from my own experiences in ministry that when someone approaches me in a crass, uncompassionate, inconsiderate manner, I tell myself that I am going to do the same to then when their time comes. However, I think the same exact thought about doing it right to those who confront me in a thoughtful, considerate and compassionate manner. And this leads us into verses 13 and 14:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(v.13-14)

Take the high road, do it the right way. No low blows. Here, Jesus is talking about doing God’s will in heaven while we are here on earth. God’s will, not man’s. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Now, when you go to confront someone about their sin, know that the way you may want to do it will not necessarily help or edify. How God would have you do it, however, will.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”(v.15)

DISCERNMENT! Pray for it. Seek it. Ask for it. Knock for it. It is vital. While remembering that only two people truly know about one’s salvation, God and that person, ask yourself this question in preparation: Is the person I am going to confront about their sin a true, good-fruit bearing Christian? Go and read Galatians 5, paying close attention to THE ENTIRE CHAPTER, but especially verses 16-23. And then continue on reading this post:

16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.(v.16-20)

Jesus is talking about false teachers here, those who spew vomitous lies, potentially bringing people to hell. And, however, every man who professes to be a Christian is also professing to be a teacher to some degree(Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3). And we all need to be held accountable. Look at what you know and see about this person: Are they living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ? Are they seeking to Glorify God in all they do?(1 Corinthians 10:31). Or are they living a hypocritical life of Christianese on Sundays and worldese every other day? Are they bearing good fruit?(Galatians 5:22-23) or are bad fruit?(Galtians 5:19-21)…Remember, don’t judge, just keep these observations you make in the back of the forefront of your mind to help you better pray for this person and to help better mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare for your confronting them.
Now, with all that in mind, remember what Jesus said next:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”(v.21-23)

If the person you are confronting the sin of is a “professing” Christian,and they are resistant in your coming to them about their sin, bring it around to Jesus. Actually, always bring it around to Gospel of Jesus, even if it’s going super well! And pray that if they do, in fact, profess faith, that it is true God given faith(Romans 12:3). And if they aren’t saved, pray, Lord willing, that they hear what you have to say and that God changes their hearts(Ezekiel 37:26-27), bringing them to salvation. Famous Las Vegas magician, and atheist, Penn Jillette(of Penn and Teller), said this about proselytizing(evangelizing), “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”(Click here to read a blog post and video).
Bring it all around to Jesus. Always. Every time.

When it comes to our foundation, we need to make sure that it is founded on our Lord Jesus Christ, and not some selfish means of personal gain.

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”(v24-27)

When a person we confront has their home build on sand, it will fall apart. Every argument they make to try to justify, in the sight of God, their sin, will be taken captive and destroyed by the Word of God. It will not weather the storms that it brings upon itself. If their house IS build upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, they will survive and be better for it.
On the same note, however, we need to check ourselves and our personal foundations with Jesus and our personal motivations for confronting the person’s sin. Is it on the Rock that is Jesus, being carried out in faith and in love? If not, stop it. Don’t do it. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”(Psalm 139:23-24).

Finally, go forth with confidence!

28 “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”(v28-29)

Jesus has God, Jesus IS God. He has authority. And, as Christians, so do we. We have God the Spirit, aka the Holy Spirit, living within us. We have the Bible, the God-breathed Word(2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have authority. We have confidence. Show it. 

 

I wrote this in response to some of the questions in my Sunday School class’s material, from the Gospel Project, as well as in response to a friend. She asked about confronting someone who lives according to the flesh but professes faith in Christianity(note I didn’t say in Christ), and shuts down when asked about it. I told me friend to recommend to them to read all of Galatians 5(below).  I told her to also pray for discernment and wisdom for their friend. And that I would be praying for them both, as well. 

 

Christ Has Set Us Free

5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Keep in Step with the Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

 

A Personal Frustration…

In the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 58, therein lies a beautiful description of what my wife and I, and every Christian house-parent, do:

Isaiah 58:6-12, ESV:

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.

There is no description more well written than this one. None. Sure, there are things missing, but, this isn’t a job description, it’s our Ministry description. It is what God has called us and placed us to do as house parents, working with some of the hardest to reach people in our society: Foster Kids.

Now, I firmly believe that God is a sovereign God, and part of that sovereignty is choosing whom He is and is not going to save.(Please, no doctrinal/theological debates with this right now). And, I believe in that same sovereignty, there are kids placed in foster care that we cannot help, as in, they are going to leave foster care no better than when they came out. They are depraved, hateful, spiteful, wicked kids. Not many of them, but they are out there. Trust me. I’ve seen them. I’ve worked with them. I’ve had them live in my home. Around my family. Around my other girls. Now, I am not saying that we just throw them out when we think we have one. We still pray for them; minister to them; love them; take care of them. That is a no-brainer. I have loved and still love each and every resident I work and have worked with(Sometimes it’s harder than others). We have to learn to accept that sometimes, there are some residents that come into our care that will not respond like others. They don’t want to be helped. They want love, care and attention, but, not the love, care and attention we bring to them. I will work with them, love them, pray for them, pray with them…do almost anything for them. You never know, they might have a seed sprout later in life. Now, here lies my frustration…..

The people in the offices of our ministries need to learn this. I was quoted this passage from Isaiah 58:6-12 in a meeting with a social worker I work with after she and I had a heated discussion, via text, about a particular resident. I appreciated the scripture, I really did. I love it really. But, the point she was trying to make at me got me really frustrated. I almost walked out of the meeting because of it.  The position of this social worker is that we can, will, should, and are perfectly capable OURSELVES of helping each and every child that comes our way. No matter what the cost. She thinks, or leads me to believe that she thinks, that because we are a Christian facility, that we are the only real place that can help these kids. My question is this then: Why did God give wisdom to those to run Theraputic facilities? Places where kids can have more one-on-one attention. Places that would do them better? My frustration is that: there is a HUGE disconnect between the administration building of my ministry and where the actual ministry takes place, in our four cottages. It’s only a few hundred feet, if even that. But, ministry wise, it feels like a nearly impassable ocean. They really don’t know what it’s like to deal with the residents 12-16 hours a day(with the rest of the time they’re in their rooms/in bed). Sure, they come down for a few minutes here and there, see the kids in their offices for 15 minutes once a month. And they feel that they can empathize with me. No, they can’t. Unless they’ve been a house-parent for a significant amount of time in the past(of which I think one person in our office has been, but not a long time), they cannot empathize with how I feel sometimes.

Now, I’m not saying we should pick and choose residents after we have had them for a while or anything. I would never do that. We would have an almost empty cottage and no job if we did that. My prayer is that administration workers, especially the one counselor I work with at my job, would realize that her idea of what we do and how things go in the cottage is not even remotely close to REALITY. And that she would take the time to spend a few days, or a week even, in a cottage, working with the kids for hours on end. It would be amazing, for them. 

Thank you for taking the time to let me rant a little. Some of the people I work with that work in our office may work only hundreds of feet away, but, the proverbial reality of things is that there is an ocean in between. And that, my folks, is my biggest frustration as a house parent.

“You keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” –Isaiah 26:3, ESV

A Personal Feeling..and Prayer…and Conviction

While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”(Luke 22:42, ESV).

The other day, while in the van, my wife asked me if I was happy(in the context of our work/ministry, which really is our lifestyle). I responded that I am content and, most of the time, happy. But, often, I am unhappy. It was hard to explain to her how I felt, being in a relatively thankless ministry position, where we rarely see first-hand the fruits of our labor, however, I do see and recognize the importance of what we are doing as house parents. I have worked for short periods within ministries where the youth have been on-fire for God and wanting, willing, and yearning to learn more about Him. And, here, as a house-parent, it is difficult, knowing what I know, having the salvation that God has given me, seeing the lives and the choices of the girls that we serve. Many times, I pray for a ministry opportunity to come along where I can work with on-fire youth, but, I also relent to God’s will before mine, and if it God’s will for me to stay here for a long time, then so be it.

Thinking about all of this, I was convicted by the scripture from Luke 5:31-32, “And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinnersto repentance.”(ESV). We live in a unique position to be able to influence for the Gospel youth that are, in essence, on desperate spiritual-life-support in the foster-care system. And to me, this conviction is an encouragement, no matter how difficult things get.

A while ago, I ran across a quote from C. T. Studd that reads, “Some wish to live within the sound Of Church or Chapel Bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.”  Well, it seems that my prayer was answered that day I prayed this. I truly do have a rescue shop within a yard of hell, and it’s taken me quite a while to realize that. And now that I have, my perspective is changing, praise the Lord!

Peru and the Fire In My Bones

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore andmake disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission. We have all read it. We have all heard it. But we haven’t all done it. Right now, I sit here at my computer in my office at my “job” almost in tears. I work what many, even I, consider a front-line position when it comes to ministry. I, alongside my wife, serve as house parents. We have, as I type this, six foster girls in our care that we live with, along with our own two children. The eight kids we’ve always wanted. And this ministry is a blessing, and I know that God has us here for a reason. However, I sit here holding back my tears(we have a case worker in the house), thinking about the South American Country of Peru. That is where my heart is right at this moment(2:21pm on March 28, 2013). That is where my wife’s heart is, as well. I’m not saying our heart isn’t in our current ministry. I am saying our hearts long to be in Peru. I long to be in Peru.

My prayer is that I can continue to rely on God and His infinite power, wisdom and grace to hold me up while we are here. While He prepares us, if it is His will, to spend time in Peru as missionaries to Glorify His Name. The feeling I have now reminds me of Jeremiah, writing about not speaking in His name:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.(Jeremiah 20:9)

I yearn to be in Peru. It’s like a caged animal trying to chew it’s way out. I’ve held it in for far too long, but, now, I am saying, at least to the few people who read my blog, that I want to be in Peru. I will be content being here until the time is right, however. Please, pray for me and my wife for wisdom, guidance, strength, finances, and everything else we may need to end up in Peru.

Thank you. Grace and Peace,

Jon

God, Sinners, and Homosexuality

A friend of mine, on her Facebook photo of the red “=” sign for marriage equality(homosexual marriage), wrote, “I know what the bible says. It also says God loves his sinners the most….Which is all of us.” This came at the end of a thread of comments about homosexuality and the Bible. It wasn’t long, but his last statement really has been on my heart. Right now, however, I am not hung up on the homosexuality issue, but, I am hung up on the “God loves his sinners the most” statement.

There is plenty of Scripture that, at first glance, might make one feel that God loves sinners. Take Romans 5:8 as an example, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves all sinners, right? Not according to this verse. Step back and look at it in context, the totality of circumstances. It’s from Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. A letter from Paul to a group of already saved, already justified Christians. Justified and seen as righteous by God through the atoning substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. It wasn’t written to a group of unbelievers, but believers.

I also saw a post on another friend’s wall about the homosexual marriage equality topic that read, “All things are permissible and forgivable now, right? Except not homosexuality.” The scripture actually states:

 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13

 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” –1 Corinthians 10:23

Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we should. Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean God condones it.

Also, if one looks back all throughout the Old Testament, there are many examples of God punishing sinners. Israel as a nation was given over to her enemies countless times for turning away from God and sinning against Him. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19. God completely destroyed the cities for their unrighteousness, for their sin. Some may think, “Well, that’s all the way back in the Old Testament, that doesn’t work now. It’d never happen in the New Testament times!” Oh, but it has! Read Acts 5:1-11:

 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Ananias and Sapphira were good people, right? They sold their land and gave MOST of the proceeds to the church. That’s good, isn’t it? But, then, they lied about it. Then, God killed them both for it. For their SIN.

I think that one of the best examples of this argument about God and sinners and His feelings towards them is the thought of a court room. Imagine someone you love, your mom or dad, sibling, or spouse, or your child, is brutally murdered. They catch the guy responsible and he pleads guilty. Now, he’s brought before the judge for sentencing, and the judge asks him if he wishes to make a statement before sentencing. And the man says, “Judge, I did what I am guilty of doing, but, I am a changed man. I’ve been going to school to get my GED and am being a much better person. I’ve changed, judge, I really have.” And, after hearing this, the judge sets the man free, saying what he has been through in jail and the trial were bad enough. Would you say that this judge is a good judge? I wouldn’t  Now, God is the ultimate good judge. And, to be a good judge, he has to be just. For the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. As my friend said, we are all sinners. So, our God being the just God that He is, should have us all die. We all deserve death. However, there are those that God has saved. “ We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. Those who have been saved, God sees as righteous through the atoning blood of the One and Only Perfect Sacrifice, Jesus Christ.

Now, back to the second statement, about homosexuality not being forgivable  It is. But, forgiveness from God also requires repentance on our part. Right before Paul wrote that all things are permissible but not profitable(1 Corinthians 6:12), Paul wrote:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. –1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” We need to repent from our sins. Repent, biblically speaking, means to literally turn away from your sin and go the other way.

Update: I found the scripture I was looking for and could not find when I first posted this blog entry:

Psalm 5:5-6

 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man

I have exhausted myself today, much of my thought today has been on this. This is more of me writing this out for myself. If anyone has any questions or would like to have a CIVIL conversation about this, please, feel free to comment on here and I’ll get back to you. And, if anyone sees anything doctrinal or theologically wrong with what I have written, if I have misrepresented something, please let me know so I can make changes. Thank you all for your time and God bless.

 

Engravings

This past evening, we attended a retirement party for our boss’s boss, the North Florida Area Administrator for the Florida Baptist Children’s Home. While we don’t know the man very well, it was a nice evening reflecting upon the 15 or so years of his life that he has dedicated to the organization.

Throughout the time, there is one thing that was shared that really made me think and really made me awe. His replacement spoke of a devotion that he gave her years earlier based on Isaiah 49:16. “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”(ESV). I’ve read this verse dozens of times and it’s never hit me before tonight…the use of the word “you.” Not just “your name,” but “you.” You, your name, your circumstances, your ups and downs, your sins, your everything. YOU. John Calvin wrote, “By another comparison he describes that inconceivable carefulness which the Lord exercises toward us.” Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” John Calvin then, using that comparison, wrote, “I cannot look at my hands without beholding thee in them; I carry thee engraved on my heart, so that no forgetfulness can efface thee; in a word, I cannot forget thee without forgetting myself.”(Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume VIII, Isaiah 33-66). How amazing to think of it that way? Those of us whom God has brought unto salvation by Grace through Jesus Christ are literally engraved in our entirety in the palms of the Creator of the universe? I’ve been thinking about Isaiah 49:16 for the past five or so hours since it was talked about at the retirement party. And hearing that devotion was really uplifting to me, Praise the Lord.

Even though I was bored, not really wanting to be there, I am glad I was there to hear about Isaiah 49:16 tonight. I’m pretty sure that’s why God had me there. Praise and Glory to God!

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