Monday, December 28, 2015

2nd Christmas!

Last week my boys were watching one of the cartoons they usually watch. I normally try to avoid the sometimes mindless cartoons (i.e. Spongebob, Amazing World of Gumball, etc.) that my boys watch. This time I wasn't able to get out of the living room fast enough, partly because I was curious for how the episode titled "Second Christmas" would go. In this episode 3 of the characters tried to convince the gullible member of their group that there was a Second Christmas where a Second Santa brought gifts and left them under a Second Christmas Tree. If you take everything from Christmas and add "Second" to the front of it, you have the idea of the episode. Eventually, the fifth member, and leader of the group, makes the 3 characters admit they were lying about Second Christmas. The duped character gets angry and takes it out on all 4 of the other team members, even the innocent leader who tried to warn her all along. As I sat and watched this cartoon with my boys, I couldn't help but go into "pastor mode" and think about how unprepared we are for the real Second Christmas.

Christians celebrate Christmas as a time to give gifts commemorating the greatest gift God has given to mankind, His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world. We basically celebrate Christmas as the first coming or Advent of Jesus. But how excited are we to celebrate the Second Christmas (if you want to call it that)? How much do we look forward to the second coming of Christ, that second Advent? As believers in Christ, we should look as excitedly to the second coming of Christ as we do Christmas morning. Our hearts should be enraptured (pun intended) with the thought of the return of Christ. We should look with great expectation to the moment when God sends Christ to gather His church, His bride, from every corner of the globe for an eternity in heaven.

It is great to think about the second coming of Christ but it ought to also leave us with a longing to make sure as many people as possible enjoy it. We ought to see the sinful and depraved world around us and see the need for the Gospel to be shared so more people will enjoy that Second Christmas that most Christians look to with great expectations.

I'll end with this. In my personal bible study today the question was asked "What are some of your hopes and hesitations for Christ's "Second Coming"? To be completely honest with you I wrote my hope was "It would be soon." For my hesitation I wrote "I won't have shared the Gospel enough." I have a sneaking suspicion that those answers are pretty universal across the body of Christ. So why not get started today preparing yourself and others for the Second Christmas that will occur "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52, NIV). Use today as an opportunity to share the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, with someone you know isn't prepared for His return. In the end, you will be able to celebrate with them now, at Christ's return, and for all eternity.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Xmas!

Every day when I take my sons to school they anticipate a particular moment with great expectation. They wait for the morning show on 106.9 The Light to share the Daily Nugget of Knowledge. This is a bit of trivia that generally gives you a new perspective about some mundane aspect of life or tells you something new that you didn't know. The boys are frustrated if they miss it because we get to school to early and will ask me to tell them after school what the trivia was about. Once when my wife took them to school they made her record it on her phone for them to listen to later. One day last week the Daily Nugget of Knowledge had to do with Christmas. Well, actually it had to do with Xmas.

A Christmas Postcard from 1910.
The interesting thing they shared about Xmas is that the use of Xmas rather than Christmas isn't some new secular way of trying to rid the world of the name Christ. I was a little surprised because I had never heard the real reason people used Xmas instead of Christmas. So I did a little research to make sure what I had heard was right. Come to find out that the abbreviation of Xmas has been used since as early as 1551. The reason "X" is used is because the first letter in the Greek word Christ is an "X" shaped Greek letter called "Chi" (pronounced like the ki in kite). The use of the "X" is an abbreviation of the name Christ and has for centuries represented Christmas, rather than some secular attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.

Now I realize there are Christians who, regardless of the explanation of why the "X" is used, will still say its not right and that the world is trying to remove Christ from Christmas. The world (those who don't know Christ) are not trying to remove Christ from Christmas because they don't celebrate Christ's birth to begin with. They celebrate an opportunity to spend time with family and a time to give gifts to each other. So forget the advertisements that use Xmas instead of Christmas and realize that the world is not gathering to celebrate the birth of Christ like Christians do. The important thing we as Christians need to do is to share Christ with those who do not know Him so they can celebrate Christmas for the right reasons. That is our calling. Not to get our feathers ruffled over red cups at Starbucks and department stores saying Happy Holidays. We gather with our families to celebrate the birth of our Savior at Christmas. Our next greatest desire should be to see other families doing the same where they once did not.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

How fake are you?

Saturday I had the opportunity to minister to families in Bluefield, WV through a partnership our church has with a church in that community. As always, I enjoyed talking with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As lunch was wrapping up, I stood in the kitchen area talking to two of the men that serve in that church. As we talked we jumped to various topics like work, sports, and family. Then as the topic changed to faith one of the men made an interesting comment. He made a comment (my paraphrase) about how people think that Christians are supposed to be uptight and stuffy people and made the motions with his hand as if he were tightening a tie around his neck. We continued our conversation about how it did no good to be fake with people and how those outside of the faith only benefit from Christians being real with them.

Being fake is nothing new to the Christian faith. Peter faked not knowing Jesus as He was being tried and since the earliest days of the church we've seen believers putting on masks. Don't believe me? When was the last time your pastor or someone at church asked you on a Sunday morning "How are you?" and you answered honestly? Now we all have problems and issues we'd rather not air to the public but there is a difference between being fake and keeping things private. When the world sees us are they seeing someone who pretends to have it all together or someone willing to admit their struggles.

I am borrowing from the Casting Crowns song here but our world can see past the "Stained Glass Masquerade" that most Christians put on. They see what we are like outside of church, away from our Christian friends, and when its just us or our family. We aren't fooling anyone, other than maybe ourselves. What the world needs is authenticity. They need honesty. They need Christians to put down the masks and quit pretending to be something that they're not. They need to see people who have struggled with the same issues as them and triumphed because of the One they follow. They need to see people willing to admit their shortcomings and, yes, even their sins, so they can hear about the forgiveness offered by God. When we are real with the world around us that does not know Christ, it gives them a glimpse of Him. Hopefully our authenticity will help lead them into a relationship with Him. So the real question today is maybe not "How fake are you?" but instead "How real are you?"

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Do you look like your Father?

Last Tuesday I was on the phone at my parent's house and walked into a spare bedroom so I could hear what was being said. While in there I noticed my mom's old photo albums on a shelf and randomly pulled one down to look at after I got off the phone. Just so happens I picked up the one my mom had used for my pictures as a kid. I found a picture and on Thursday I posted the picture to my Facebook page for Throwback Thursday. The picture (right) was of me and my dad at my grandparent's home about 1983. When I posted the picture I didn't think much of it other than it was an old picture and one of a few where my dad still had his beard. What was interesting was that many people commented on how much I looked like my dad. I've never noticed it before but there is a good resemblance there. I just hope I age as well as he has. All the comments about the resemblance had me asking both my mom and Misty, "Do I really look like my dad?"

When it comes to our walk with God that should be the question we ask ourselves regularly. We should ask ourselves "Do I look like my Father?" Ephesians 5:1 says, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..." (NIV). Our lives should reflect, resemble, and imitate the characteristics of our heavenly Father. We ought to exude love and compassion for others. We should stand on principles that reflect righteousness and justice. We need to extend grace and mercy to those who do not deserve it and even those who do not want it. We ought to pursue purity and holiness that resembles the holiness of God. Our goal should be that when others look at us they see a great reflection of our heavenly Father in us. As children of God there can be no greater complement than someone saying we look like Him.

My encouragement to you today is to ask that question of your self, "Do I look like my heavenly Father?" Be sure your answer is an honest evaluation of the situation. If you do look like Him, then keep up the good work. If you don't look like Him, what do you need to change? Whatever your situation, do what you need to do to imitate God. By trying to look like your heavenly Father you'll find it is a great way to bring glory to Him and lead others to Christ.

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Second Guessing God's Answer

This morning I sat down in the moments before the "getting-ready-for-school" frenzy hit our house and started my daily bible reading. Part of my reading was in Genesis 24 where Abraham sends his head servant to find a wife for Isaac. It's an interesting story but for the sake of time and typing I'll give you the Reader's Digest version of the story. Abraham sends his servant back to the land of Abraham's family in search of a wife for Isaac. When the servant arrives in town, he prays asking for God to reveal Isaac's wife to him using a very specific phrase that he wants to hear from the would-be wife. A beautiful young woman named Rebekah comes to get water at the well and says the phrase the servant prayed to hear. Rebekah ends up leaving her home and traveling with the servant to marry Isaac. The rest is history.

Now this sounds like a nice story about God's provision for Abraham and ultimately Isaac. We see God's sovereign hand orchestrating the events to bring Rebekah to the land of Canaan so she can marry Isaac and help to start the nation of Israel. But as I was reading something stuck out to me that I had never noticed about the story before. In the story, the servant prayed that when he asked for water from a woman at the well that the one for Isaac would offer water and offer to water his camels as well. When Rebekah approaches the well she says all the right things. Then it says in Genesis 24:20-21, "She quickly emptied her jug into the trough and hurried to the well again to draw water. She drew water for all his camels while the man silently watched her to see whether or not the Lord had made his journey a success." The interesting thing that sticks out here is that this man had prayed for a specific thing, God had answered the prayer as the man wished, and yet the man still second guessed God's answer.

Typically when it comes to our second guessing of God's answers to prayers, we generally do so when God doesn't answer a prayer like we wanted. Sometimes God's answers to our prayers can, like the servant in the story, seem almost too good to be true. When something seems too good to be true, we usually don't trust it for that very reason. So how do we keep from second guessing God's answers to our prayers, whether we get the answer we want or not? The answer comes down to faith in God. I feel confident that God is more than accustomed to being second guessed by humanity. But when we wish to move beyond second guessing we have to step out in faith and trust God's answer is the right one for us. It's about putting our faith in the one giving us the answer. There have been times where we've talked to our boys and told them that they just have to simply trust us and that our answer is best. Yes, we get second guessed but in the end our boys have to trust us and put faith in us that our answer is right. 

God wants us to grow in our relationship with Him and part of doing that is exercising an increasing amount of faith and trust in Him. As we do we will find Him faithful, just, and right in all that He does. So the next time you think about second guessing God, take a leap of faith and put your trust in His answer.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Devil is in the Details

Last Sunday morning I received a text from a family friend. He sent me a screenshot of that day's Lenoir News-Topic. There was a picture in a section of the paper titled "Kid's View." The picture was drawn by our oldest son Dru. The text I received, which I read before I looked at the attached photo, said "The devil is in the details!" When I opened up the image my eyes immediately picked up on the joke our friend had made. In the bottom left hand corner of the image there is a devil standing on the porch of a house. My first thought was "What in the world is he drawing?" But as I broadened my view to take in the entire picture I figured out why he had drawn this image as part of a larger fall landscape. He had a bon fire, leaves raked into a pile, pumpkins, a turkey on the table, and a drawing of our Massey-Ferguson tractor for a hay ride. When I looked at the bigger picture I was able to see the context of a kid trick or treating rather than some abstract image drawn out of context. All it took to change my understanding of what was in front of me was to get some perspective on what I was looking at.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is get some perspective. When things are crashing down around us or our stress level seems to touch the sky, one thing that can help us make it through is to get some perspective on the situation. When we lose our perspective of our situation that is when those stresses seem to mount even higher or we feel more suffocated by the weight of the world that is on our shoulders. For the most part our problems in this life are temporary. Yes, I understand that some are life-long issues but for the most part problems come and go. We often hear people say, "This too shall pass." There is a great deal of truth in that phrase, even if it isn't found in the Bible. But one bible verse that is often quoted when dealing with things that will pass in time is 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. It says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (NIV).

The problem we face with the troubles of this life is that they are right in our face and we feel like we can't help but fix our eyes on the problem. The solution to the problem is not what needs to be done to fix the trouble we find ourselves in, but instead to fix our eyes on what is unseen, as 2 Corinthians 4 says. When we fix our eyes on God, the unseen and eternal One, we gain a new perspective of our troubles. We see them for the temporary nuisance they are in the grand scheme of life. Some of those troubles God uses to forge us in a fire for His glory. Others we bring on ourselves due to our own sin. And still others are because of someone else's sinfulness. Regardless of the cause of our troubles we need to keep our eyes focused on the One who can deliver us from any trouble. He's the one preparing us for an eternity where troubles will be no more. So keep your eyes on Him and let Him give you some perspective on your current troubles.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Does it matter which Bible translation I use?

I recently finished reading through the New Living Translation of the Bible. As I considered what that meant for me as a Christian I thought back to this post from nearly 2 years ago. As I start into the Holman Christian Standard Bible for my next translation, I thought it was imperative to encourage people to once again make sure they are digging in to the Bible regardless of what translation they are using.

KJV Only! Right? 11.22.2013 (Some revisions have been made to the original post found here:

A couple of years ago I got into the habit of reading a different translation of the Bible as I have gone through my personal Bible reading. I started out with what I was most familiar and really what I grew up on which was the New King James Version (NKJV). Then I went to what I now deem my favorite translation, the New International Version (NIV). Currently I am days away from completing my latest translation which is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). My next translation will be one that I am interested in starting because of things I’ve heard and the little I’ve used it and it will be the New Living Translation (NLT).

Don’t misunderstand what I just shared with you. This isn’t about getting attention for having read through the Bible a few times or the number of translations I’ve read. This is about getting into a subject that is very personal to followers of Christ. That subject is translations of the Bible. Is there only one correct one to use? Which is best? Is it wrong to only use one translation?

There are some followers of Christ out there that will tell you that if you do not use a particular translation of the Bible then you aren’t using “the” Bible. I actually heard this from a pastor not too long ago. The translation that is usually most adamantly defended as being “the one and only Bible” is the King James Version (KJV). Now before anyone gets upset with me, my first Bible was a KJV and I still have it on the shelf in my office, along with two other copies. But the problem is with the narrow view that the KJV is the only version that should be used, not the version itself. Many times those that argue so strongly for the KJV forget to mention that the Biblical texts were originally written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, not in 17th Century English. So technically, "the" Bible was written in languages most Christians can't even read. Again don’t hear me bashing the KJV or any other specific translation. Do hear me say this; it’s not right to put down believers who do not prefer your preferred translation.

In my nearly 10 years of ministry I’ve used KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB and NLT from the pulpit. The first time I ever preached from the KJV was under mango trees in Honduras, just 5 months ago (June 2013). The first time I preached from the NLT was just two weeks ago (November 2013). I have primarily used the other translations throughout the years. If you can’t tell by now I am a big proponent of using varied translations to help us get a better picture of what God is revealing to us through the text. Like my chairman of Deacons said when I mentioned my apprehension of preaching from the NLT, he reminded me that different translations bring a different perspective. He was right. If you enjoy the language of the KJV and don’t want to use another translation, I understand. If you prefer a translation in modern English like the NIV, NLT, or others (such as the CEV or ESV) then by all means use them. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try a different translation and see how God will speak to you in a new way. If you do try a different translation, don’t give up on it quickly or easily. Variety is said to be the spice of life but the important thing is to be in the Word regardless of what translation you use!

Take a moment to leave a comment as to the translation you prefer and why. I am interested to see what translation my readers prefer. (As always, make sure your comments are encouraging and glorifying to Him.)

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This feels weird!

Yesterday started the beginning of our fall revival services at our church. Since we have a visiting pastor to bring the message to the congregation I had the day off from preaching. With the opportunity to sit in the pews and be fed rather than doing the feeding on this particular Sunday I took the opportunity to sit with my beautiful wife during the service. I sat down on the end of the pew and put my arm around her as we took in the revival message. After I sat there for a few moments my wife leaned over and told me that it felt weird for me to be sitting with her in church. For just over 2 years now my wife has endured close to 100 church services without me sitting beside her. There is the occasional special service where I'm not required to preach and I get to sit with my family but for the most part it is a rarity. So for my wife who is used to being a loner during our worship services it did feel weird to have me sitting beside her.

As I reflected on my wife's comment, without trying to be offended, I realized there was a truth in the comment beyond the obvious. With me sitting in the pews with my family during a worship service it meant that I was not exercising the spiritual gifts God has given to me. The spiritual gifts God has given to me are, among others, those of preaching and teaching. For me to not be exercising those gifts during a service meant that I had to be doing something other than what God designed me to be doing and that ought to feel weird.

When we realize what spiritual gifts God has gifted us with, then we should work to put those gifts into practice in the church. Once we do we find a type of peace that only results from knowing that we are doing what God designed us to do. When we get away from using those gifts then we ought to feel weird and uncomfortable. It ought to bother us that we aren't using the spiritual gifts God has given to us. We ought to be so discontent that we won't be able to stand it until we start exercising our gifts again.

Whatever spiritual gift(s) God has given to you, and every believer has been given at least one, that gift needs to be discovered by you. Once you find it put it into practice and don't let up. Because once you find fulfillment in using your spiritual gifts, you will only find it to feel weird when you don't.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Smoke on the Water

This morning as I took my boys to school I took our normal route down the curvy May Road. As we passed by my uncle's farm Cooper told Dru about how the pond looked like it was on fire due to the haze over it. I chimed in and said "Yeah, it looks like "Smoke on the Water" doesn't it?" Cooper just looked at me with this puzzled look as if he had no clue what I was hinting at. (For those that feel like Cooper, "Smoke on the Water" is a classic rock song from the 1972 album Machine Head by the band Deep Purple. YouTube it if you still are lost and you'll recognize the tune!) What surprised me is the fact that Cooper didn't remember hearing that song at some point. We occasionally play the "Name that Song and Band" game while listening to classic rock. He often surprises me with his recall of songs and bands, although Lynyrd Skynyrd is his default answer when he doesn't know the band. I joked about how I had let them down and failed them because they didn't know "Smoke on the Water" but they know "Simple Man" and "Welcome to the Jungle." For them to grow up to appreciate classic rock and roll I will need to do a better job of exposing them to a wider range of songs and artists.

When it comes to parenting, we can feel like we've let our kids down. As parents we watch our kids succeed in certain areas and we couldn't be prouder. But as it is with most parents, we rarely see the successes as vividly as we do the failures. We often question what we could have done differently to help our children avoid their failure. Often times we feel some blame for their failure. We think we should have done more or tried harder to instill the values, information, or habits that our kids need to succeed. Probably the greatest area we feel like we should do or should have done more is in matters of faith.

Faith, like every other area of life, is an area of life where all we can do is pour into our kids
and wait to see how they turn out. No, parents aren't responsible if their kids grow up and have a foul mouth that would put a sailor to shame. But parents are responsible for their own language and what their kids hear them say. No, parents aren't responsible if their kids grow up to be lazy and unmotivated. But parents are responsible for the work ethic and values they portray to their kids. And no, parents aren't responsible if their kids grow up and decide to leave their faith behind. But yes, parents are responsible to live out a godly example of what it means to live a life of faith before their kids. 

If a parent wants a child to grow up and have a vibrant relationship with the God of the Universe, then those kids need to see their parents living out a similar relationship. If parents demonstrate a lackadaisical attitude toward worship, Bible study, prayer, and service in the Kingdom of God, then you can imagine what kind of attitude their kids will have toward those things. Now I'm not one of those preachers that will tell you that if you do as Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it", then your kids will always turn out to be men and women of faith. But what I am saying is that if you as a parent don't set the example of what it means to be a man or woman of faith, chances are your kids won't turn out to be one.

My encouragement to parents is to decide today what kind of example you plan to live out for your kids when it comes to faith. Will you set an example that would help draw them into a deeper relationship with God? Or will you let them see an example that places no importance on a vibrant relationship with God? The choice is yours.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

A Long Difficult Road

I recently stopped in to help a retired missionary with a small project at her house. I've been to this house many times over the years for different reasons. To play basketball with her sons. To visit her children when they were home on furlough from the mission field. To celebrate birthdays. Most recently to help move her in her home after she officially retired. Of all the times I've been to the home I've never thought much about the items hanging on the walls. There are items like in any home, such as pictures and decorative items. Hanging on the wall beside the front door is a new addition to the items hanging around the house. There is a sign that says "Family" and under that it reads Psalm 126:3, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad."

To many they would look at this and see a sign that shows a family celebrating God's blessings. Considering the events that have shaped this family into their current position one would think the last thing this family would be celebrating is God's blessings. This godly woman's husband died 15 years ago after many years on the mission field in Indonesia. Her daughter has faced health issues from time to time that have made life challenging. One of her sons died unexpectedly nearly two years ago at the age of 36 and left behind a wife and three children. Two of her other grandchildren have had major health scares over the last few years and one is still struggling with her health. Her father just recently passed away and her mother lives alone up north. So from an external view, celebrating God's blessings would not be the first thing that would come to mind from the casual outside observer. But that view is from a view that does not include the lens of faith.

When we look at someone who has struggled through difficult situations in this life, and maybe it's even been you, we think "Wow! They have suffered a great deal." We might compare them to Job who lost everything short of his wife and even she wasn't a supportive person during his trials. We can look on situations like these and have a profound sense of pity for those who are enduring hardships like these. However, maybe we should change our perspective of their situation and even our own when it seems like the world is crashing down around us. When we recall the words of James in James 1:2-3 we can gain a new perspective of our struggles. It says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (NIV). When we face difficult trials in life we need to view it from the perspective that it is a faith strengthening exercise. That is not always easy to do in the midst of our struggle but as we see our trial in this different light it can show us that God is using the trial for our good (Romans 8:28). Something interesting begins to emerge when we do not lose our faith perspective during our trials. We have a new perspective of the God who loves us and walks us through those times of trial. When we see God's provision, His grace, and His mercy on display in our times of trial we begin to worship Him in a new way. We begin, in the midst of a trial, to worship the One who was with us long before the trial arrived and who will be with us long after the trial has ended. In the end, our trials will develop a new found strength in our faith that will allow us to say, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad."

I'm sure you probably know someone who is going through a difficult trial in their life right now. Share this post with them via Facebook, Twitter, or email so that God can use it to encourage them in the midst of their trial.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

There is only one answer

It doesn't take long standing in line at the grocery store or Wal-Mart to see magazine, after magazine telling you everything you "want" to hear. Want the latest celebrity gossip? Check out this one. Want to know how to lose 50 pounds over the weekend? Read this article. Want to experience the best sex ever? Pick up this magazine. The problem with these magazines is they don't give you the truth, just a tantalizing headline to get you to buy their magazine. Is there any reason to read, participate in, or be concerned with gossip about anyone, much less a celebrity? No. Are the quick weight loss gimmicks usually quick and result in weight loss? No. Will a magazine written just to make a few bucks ever give you the truth about the "best sex ever?" Definitely not.

I recently saw a magazine cover promising the "best sex ever" and honestly I couldn't help but laugh. Just think, this is where our society is today. We're willing to seek for answers to one of life's more important relationship aspects in a magazine that will also tell you the 10 best ways to cook pasta. Seriously? When we live in a sex saturated society we can expect people, Christians and non-Christians alike, to seek out answers to questions about sex in all the wrong places. So if you've ever been curious about the best sex ever, I'll tell you there is only one answer to your questions.

Regardless of what society tells you in movies, magazines, TV shows, or romance novels, the best sex ever can only be experienced in one way. The one way God designed sex to be experienced was inside of the bonds of marriage between a man and woman who are in relationship with Him. God did not design sex to be experienced outside of this one way. 

God, in His infinite wisdom, designed sex for multiple reasons. Enjoyment, physical intimacy, and procreation of the human race. But as with all things that Satan gets his hands on, sex has been perverted and made into a joke, something that shouldn't be taken seriously. And therein lies the problem. Because our world no longer views sex as God intended it to be, we have people who think they can experience sex outside of God's design and still experience it in the way it is intended to be. 

The Bible is clear that any kind of sexual immorality outside of marriage is sin (see the references below). That means that fornication (sex between two unmarried people), adultery (sex between a married person and someone other than their spouse), or homosexual sex (sex between two people of the same gender) are all sin and are outside of God's design for sex. It doesn't matter if you're cohabitating, in a long term relationship, or looking for a hookup. Any sexual experience outside of God's design only leaves you scarred and longing for an authentic experience that only God's design can fulfill.

So if you want to experience the best sex ever, don't turn to a magazine or to the world's suggestions. Turn to the One who designed sex and seek out His plan for sex. Because you'll never find someone who only experienced sex as God designed and wished they didn't!

Here are a few scripture references to show you how the various forms of sexual immorality mentioned above should be avoided.

Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:24-28, 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 6:18-20, 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

The World Starts Them Young

The other day I turned on the TV and it was set to a channel my boys were watching before they left for school. The show that happened to be on was a cartoon they watch called Teen Titans Go! This is a comic book cartoon based off Robin, of Batman and Robin fame, and his friends. It's a funny cartoon that kids, my boys included, enjoy watching. As I scanned through the DVR to find what I wanted to watch, I heard Robin make a comment that surprised me. Robin was talking about what he wanted to happen between him and the girl he has a crush on. He said they would do this and that as they started dating but then he said "And after a few years we will move in together." He proceeded to quickly tell all the things they would do as a "couple." It caused me to wonder what other comments are made, in that show and others, that blatantly contradict what we are teaching our kids to be true from the Word of God.

It shouldn't be surprising that our children are bombarded by the world with images and words that are contrary to what Christian parents should be teaching them as truth. If you hear cursing in Disney Movies (How to Train your Dragon), do you really expect the rest of the world to be any different? What parents need to realize is that the world starts early teaching your children things that are contrary to God's Word. It may be a curse word, a suggestive image, or an attempt to normalize actions that God says is sin. Regardless of what it is the world starts early and doesn't let up when it comes to pushing sin as normal or okay.

Knowing that the world starts young means we need to make sure that we start young as well. You can't start early enough in training your child in sound biblical disciplines that will firmly ground them in their faith. Teach them early to spend time in prayer. Teach them to read their Bible so they know the truths of God's Word. Show them what it means to serve God through the local church. Teach them to worship God in their daily life and in the church. When we do they will be one saying "I don't know if I should be watching this because..." When you hear comments like that from your kids, then you'll know you've grounded them in a way that will stay with them as they grow into adulthood.

I realize it is impossible to weed out every last comment or image in the world that goes against God's Word and still keep your TV on. But we can take a stand against it by taking the opportunity to refute the comment or the image with the truth. When we do we will live out Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and show our kids that we take our faith seriously and that they should too.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Get the hard stuff because it's better!

Last week I helped get hay up out of a field that we had cut earlier in the week. But this isn't just any field. This particular part of our hay fields is the most challenging to harvest. The reason it is so challenging is because it is in a holler (that is Southern American for a "hollow" or place between two hills). This particular holler is steep on both sides and has a drainage ditch in the bottom. There are holes along that ditch that will ruin the front end of a tractor. Needless to say, but one would question why a farmer would go after such challenging hay. The answer is simple, the hay is better than any other we grow. In that holler that measures about 1.3 acres we rolled up 6 bales of hay. That is huge compared to 1 bale per acre that we harvested from other fields that suffered from the same lack of rain. As I rode around holes and ditches I couldn't help but see how this difficult-to-harvest field reflects both the challenge and the reward of growing in our faith.

If a believer in Christ wants to grow in their faith it requires real work. I mean it takes real effort if you want to see real results. If a believer is content to limit their only interaction with God to Sunday mornings for one hour, then there is no effort being put forth and therefore no real results will be seen. They may feel better after a church service, but let's get serious, that won't grow your faith like it needs to grow.

If you want to grow your faith and live the victorious life that Jesus promises (John 10:10), then you are going to have to work hard to harvest it. That means putting in the time it takes to deepen your relationship with God. That means reading God's Word and tackling the difficult and deep truths, not just the feel good verses. That means spending time in prayer where you do more than just ask for stuff, instead praising God, thanking Him, and confessing your sins. That means doing all you can to avoid the holes and ditches that can so easily ensnare you and keep you from focusing on God. That means finding a place of service in your church where you can serve God and serve others.

If you want to see real results in your spiritual life, then you have to put in real work. You have to go into the difficult-to-harvest areas of faith and work to bring out those beneficial truths and disciplines. When you do, your harvest will be noticeable to God, to others, and especially to you. Get started today and watch how God will bless your hard work as you seek to grow in your faith and your relationship with Him.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Don't always go for the flash.

Back at Christmas my wife bought me an iPad as a gift. For the first few months all I used it for was to display my sermon notes while preaching and to play a Marvel video game called Contest of Champions. The video game advances through levels as you assemble a team that takes turns in a one-on-one match up between Marvel superheroes like Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and Ironman. The video game is addictive and my boys have played it whenever they've had the chance. Recently I picked up my iPad after one of my boys had played the game. I couldn't figure out why they had picked Ironman and a few other players for a particular level that would have called for different superheroes. Once I realized what they had done I couldn't help but notice the problem. They had gone for Ironman and some of the more well known superheroes that had a lot of flash. Instead they should have selected less flashy heroes and put the right pieces in place regardless of how popular or flashy they were.

This same principle translates over to the spiritual development of a Christian. Some times Christians sacrifice sound, biblical growth for something much less enduring. Rather than practicing solid disciplines, such as prayer, bible study, etc., they will settle for the flash of a Sunday morning worship service. They believe that they can grow into spiritual maturity by living off the spiritual snacks gleaned from an hour long service that generally requires no effort on their part. This idea is the equivalent of feeding a child nothing but chicken nuggets for every meal, every day of their life. No one in their right mind would expect that child to grow up to be a healthy teen or adult. Then why in the world would a Christian expect to grow into spiritual adulthood by living off nothing but the chicken nuggets they get from a one hour service on Sundays? Don't think this issue is new to the world of faith because it's not. The writer of Hebrews addressed the same exact issue 2,000 years ago in Hebrews 5:11-14. He wrote, "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (NIV). The writer describes people who ought to have matured to the point of being teachers, but instead are still infants in their faith. And here we are, 2,000 years later with the same problem affecting Christians. 

So how does one fix this problem in their own life? First they have to be committed to growing in their faith or else they won't put in the necessary work. Commit to making prayer, bible study, and other biblical disciplines a part of your daily life. Then schedule the time to practice them. Find a regular time in your routine where you have time to practice these disciplines. If it means getting up earlier, get up earlier. If it means not watching as much TV of an evening, then turn the TV off. Each person is different, so don't think you and your spouse or friend have to have the same prayer time or bible reading habits. The important thing is to make the commitment, make it a part of your daily routine, and watch God grow you spiritually.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Fussing like Job

Recently I've had a few opportunities in my ministry to provide pastoral care to some families going through very difficult situations. Some have experienced loss, others have had major health issues, and others are facing difficult end of life experiences. By all accounts the people I've ministered to have had every right to complain and fuss about their situations. We're not talking a bad day at work here. We're talking about major life change. Some have asked why God would allow this situation to come into their life. As a pastor you want to have the answers your congregation needs, but sometimes you're left at a loss with no answers and unable to do anything other than pray for them.

My personal daily Bible reading has been progressing through the Book of Job during the same time I've been ministering to these families. I would say it was ironic but I feel like it was God working through my own spiritual development while ministering in those
situations. One thing I always find interesting when reading the Book of Job is that Job did not hold back when it came to his complaints or arguments with God. Job, in our country vernacular, "laid into" God and fussed with Him about the raw deal he'd been dealt. Job felt like the terrible things that happened to him (death of children, loss of wealth, loss of health) were all unjustifiable because of his pious life. There is something to be said for the boldness to call God out on the things He allows to come into our life when we feel like it is completely unjustifiable. I think that Job was a spiritually mature person who understood his relationship with God and felt vindicated by his "arguments" against his raw deal. But the reality of the fact is that Job was just like us. He knew God had a hand in what had occurred. Not that God did it but that God allowed it. Still, Job knew who to fuss at. 

In life when you face a situation that you feel is like that of Job, a loss of a child or a spouse, a loss of worldly possessions, or even the deterioration of your health, know that it is okay to fuss at God for what He's allowed to occur in your life. Relationships are opportunities for two parties to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the actions of the other. Our relationship with God is no different. We are able to intimately tell Him about our dissatisfaction with the situations He has allowed into our life that has seemingly devastated our life. But remember, once we voice our issues with the way God has done things, God will most likely deal with us like He did with Job. After Job finished ranting at God, we read about how God puts Job in His place. God reminds Job of His sovereignty, His power, and ultimately His love. God shows us in the life of Job, and His response to Job, the truth we read in Romans 8:28. Paul writes, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (NIV). Notice that God uses "all things," not just the things we think are good but all things for the good. It is hard to hang on to the promises of God when you feel like your world is falling apart, but that is when you need to cling all the more tightly to the God who loves you and allowed His Son to die for you.

When those difficult times in life arrive, be sure not to push God away. Draw close to Him, have very candid conversations with Him, and then allow Him to speak to you. When you do you'll find that God is there ready to help you out just like He did Job.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Life is short. Have an affair.

There are those times in your life when you hear something or read something and it sticks with you. The phrase or tone may shock, inspire, or motivate you to action. Last week I had one of those moments. I will admit that in some ways I am naive to the ways of the world. So my shock at finding out about a particular website shouldn't come as a surprise to you (or me). Last week I read about how Josh Duggar, one of the people from TLC's show 19 Kids and Counting, had publicly admitted to an affair. He admitted to the affair after the online service he used was hacked and he was one of those outed by the hackers. When I read the article it had an image in it, like the one to the right, of a screenshot from the website used by Duggar. The website is called Ashley Madison and it is an online service that helps individuals make a connection with someone so they can have an affair. When I looked at the image I noticed two shocking things. One shocking aspect of this site is the fact it has over 20 million members. Maybe the more shocking aspect is their slogan which reads "Life is short. Have an affair." As I said earlier, when you read a statement like this it should shock you at it's audacity and then motivate you to action.

It's no secret that Satan is tearing away at the fabric of our society. The easiest way for him to do that is to start in the home. By destroying marriages, Satan is winning the battle against the holiness God desires for His people. Satan is leading men and women out of a holy union designed by God and into a sinful relationship that feeds on the lusts of the flesh. It's easy to be shocked when you hear of a moral failure by a celebrity or even a friend down the road. But that shock ought to motivate you to action. It ought to remind you of the need to strengthen your own marriage, not out of fear, but out of a desire to have a strong marriage that can withstand anything Satan throws at it. 

One of the ways to strengthen your marriage is to remind yourself that your responsibility is to build up your spouse. It's your responsibility to help your spouse reach what God has designed them to be. That also means making your focus, not on what you get out of the relationship, but what you can give to the relationship to meet your spouse's needs. 

Another way to strengthen your relationship is to communicate. The quickest way for a relationship to deteriorate is for the lines of communication to break down. Put the phone, tablet, or laptop down and actually talk to each other. You will find that as you spend time together and engage each other that your bond will be strengthened. 

Finally, pray for your spouse. God can do infinitely more in a second for your spouse than you can do in a lifetime. Seek His plan for your spouse. Ask Him to strengthen your marriage. If you aren't daily praying for your spouse then you need to start today

Also, I'm not under any illusion that one spouse working to make a relationship work will be able to sustain a marriage very long. This counsel above is intended for both spouses. If both spouses are not willing to work to make the marriage strong and healthy, then it will end up being weak and open to outside influences. If you and your spouse are at the point of needing some major work on your marriage seek out a Christian marriage counselor or speak to your pastor.

Marriage is not easy. But it is even more difficult when you allow it to slowly crumble due to a lack of preventative maintenance. Do what you know you need to do to strengthen your marriage. When you do, then you'll be able to withstand all the damage Satan tries to cause.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Real mementos can't be put on a shelf.

This past weekend I had the privilege of leading our church's mission team to Bluefield, WV to put on a one day VBS event at Meet Us At The Cross Church. As always the trip made an impact on me, our team, the church we served, and the kids we ministered to at VBS. Since 2008 I've had the privilege of leading 98 different people on short-term mission trips to Canada, Pennsylvania, Vermont (twice), Wyoming, Honduras, and West Virginia. Each and every time I led a mission team, God used it to impact the lives of those on the mission trip in some way. I started a tradition on my first mission trip that has stuck with me since. When I return home from a mission trip I bring home a memento from the trip and put it on a shelf in my office. I keep them as a reminder of the trip and as a reminder to me of how God used me and how God worked through that trip. I have the M&M Minis container full of Canadian quarters that a disabled man in Canada gave us to encourage us to do more missions. I have a DVD of a NC Baptist Men's interview for Mandate from our trip to Pennsylvania. I have a Vermont wood cutting guide and a picture one of my sons colored in Mission Kids for our two trips to Vermont. I have a picture given to me by our mission team in Wyoming. I have a rock sifted out of river sand used to help build a house in Honduras, as well as the bracelet I wore when sharing the gospel there. This time I added the salvation bracelet we had the kids make in crafts at VBS in West Virginia. Those are all nice things to look at and keep but the real mementos can't be put on a shelf.

If you were to ask me what impacted me the most from each of those mission trips, I could tell you. I could tell you of an instance on each trip where God moved powerfully and impacted me, my team or the people we served. I could tell you how God accomplished God-sized tasks to clear huge areas of land in Canada and Wyoming with teams of 26 and 28 so that more ministry could be done. I can tell you how God taught me what it meant to truly serve others in Pennsylvania and Vermont. I can tell you how I saw God immediately answer a desperate prayer and part clouds like He parted the Red Sea so our team could get a church painted in Vermont. I can tell you how I saw Honduran Christians who literally had nothing sacrifice what they did have to say 'Thank You' to our team. I could tell you about a quiet little girl in West Virginia that God used to teach me more lessons about my faith than I ever learned in seminary. Those are the types of things that God does in and through your life when you allow Him to use you. It doesn't take a trip half-way across the country or half-way around the world for God to impact you through missions. All it takes is your willingness to be used by Him. If you are a willing vessel, then God will use you. My encouragement to you today is that if your church is not currently active in doing some form of local, state, national, or international missions, then speak with your pastor about mobilizing your congregation. If your church is active and you've been sitting on the sidelines, then start getting active. Find ways that God can use your gifts and abilities to minister through the missions of your church. And finally, if you want to be involved in a church that has many opportunities to get involved in missions, join us at North Catawba Baptist Church ( We have plenty of ways to get involved in missions and we'd love for you to be a part of what God is doing through our church. The key thing is to find a way to serve God through missions and then do it. So how will you get involved?

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Monday, August 10, 2015

How much do you give...and we're not talking money

Yesterday's morning worship was an awesome service at our church. Please don't hear the preacher bragging on the preaching. Honestly, I didn't think it was the right direction to go with the message and I really struggled with it but as always God led us in a direction that we needed to go. The focus of the message was on putting Jesus at the forefront of what God is doing in our church. God has been adding families of different ages to our church and we've experienced some rapid growth. With that growth we needed to have a preemptive strike against taking credit for the growth and instead giving the glory to God. At the end of the service yesterday, instead of doing a traditional invitation, we allowed church members to give God glory for what He is doing in our church. We had about 8 or so people stand up and give God glory for what He is doing in our church. I had several people mention after the service how powerful a service it was to them. I truly believe the impact of the service was due to the glory God was given.

As believers in Christ, Christians are taught to praise God and give Him glory for what He does in their lives. We don't give God glory just to say "Praise God." We give Him glory because He is the only one worthy of praise. We also give Him glory in the hopes that others will see how desirable it is to be in a relationship with God and then want to start a relationship with Him. It is vitally important that we understand that God deserves all the credit for what happens in our lives. He deserves praise when things are good and we are on top of the mountain. He also deserves glory when He walks us through those difficult valleys of life. When it comes to your own personal worship of God through praise, how much glory do you give Him? Do you take the credit for what He's doing in your life? Is it an after thought to give Him praise for His blessings? Or are you putting Him at the forefront of what He is doing in your life? Do others regularly hear you talking about how God has blessed you?

My encouragement to you today is to start making it a habit to give God the glory for what He's doing in your life. Work to make it a part of your daily speech. By doing so you'll bring glory to God and He will be able to work all the more through your life. In the end it will help to bring all the more glory to Him.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Taste and See

This morning my wife was making some lemonade before leaving for work, which is really ironic since she is allergic to it. When she had poured in the mix and stirred it up she needed someone to test it out. I was thirsty so I was ready to be at the front of the line. Our oldest son Dru edged his way in front of me and said he'd test it out even though he didn't really like lemonade. As Misty handed the glass to Dru she said a phrase that we've all heard or said about testing the quality of some drink or food. She told Dru, "Taste and see if this is..." I've always found that phrase to be odd because you're talking about two different senses, taste and sight. But when someone tells you "Taste and see if this is good," we know what they mean. They wants us to try something and then respond as to what we think about the drink, food, or dessert.

In Psalm 34 David wrote about his time in the court of the Philistine King Achish while on the run from King Saul. While there David pretended to be insane and was able to leave Philistine lands to hide else where. But in this psalm David wrote a phrase that many Christians have either heard or said. He writes in verse 8, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (NIV). In this particular psalm David speaks of how God was his refuge and protection during a difficult time in his life. But we don't have to wait until we see our world falling down around us to give God a try to see if He is as good as people say He is. We need to give God a try everyday and we will find that He truly is good. We'll see Him working in our lives, growing us spiritually, and using us to further His kingdom. One of the core characteristics of God is His goodness. He is the definition of good. All we have to do is give Him a try and we will be able to tell others "taste and see that the Lord is good." 

So how have you seen God to be good in your life? Take a moment to post or tweet about it to encourage others. Start it off by saying, "God is good because..." You're post may be the very thing that causes someone to "taste and see that the Lord is good." If you aren't on social media, text or call someone and let them know what good things God has done in your life.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Not in a place to grow

There is a bridge that crosses the Catawba River called Castle Bridge. Just beside the bridge are the supports for the previous bridge that crossed the river at that spot. All that's left of the old bridge is a few supports. I have driven across the current bridge more times than I can count when going to the hospital for a visit or to Myra's for ice cream. Nearly every time I drive across the bridge I look at one of the center supports for the old bridge. On top of the support is a scraggly little tree. The tree isn't all that tall, maybe 3-4 feet high at most. There isn't much to the tree in the way of limbs or even a thick trunk. It's really reminiscent of the scraggly trees you see hanging off of cliffs and barren mountainsides. I have noticed this tree for years and I truly think it's the same size today as it was when I took my wife on our first date to Myra's over 18 years ago. So why is it stunted? Why hasn't it grown into a much larger tree? What has limited it from growing? The answer is simple. The tree hasn't grown because it isn't in a place where it can grow. There was just barely enough soil, water, and sunlight for a seed to germinate on that bridge support many years ago. But eventually the tree used up all the dirt it's roots had access to. Without a proper place to grow the tree was stunted and didn't grow to it's full potential.

Many times Christians will find themselves in the same type of place as this tree. The only difference is the tree didn't have a say in where it's seed took root. We as Christians have to guard ourselves from places of spiritual isolation that will stunt our spiritual growth. It's easy to find ourselves in a rut lacking in prayer, daily bible reading, service in the church, or even church attendance. We can find ourselves to be slowly isolating ourselves from God and eventually we'll find ourselves high on this isolated point, far from God, and in a place that isn't fit for us to grow in our faith. As hard as it is when we find ourselves in this position, we need to take the leap and head back to Him. The first step is always the most difficult to take, but once you do you won't regret it. As you start to grow in your faith again you will wonder why you wandered in the first place. As you grow in your faith you'll be able to live up to the full potential of what God designed you to be, rather than settling for a scraggly, gnarled, and growth-deprived version of your self. My encouragement to you today is to take the first step back towards a place where you can grow spiritually. If for you that means getting back in church this Sunday, then get there! If that means picking up your bible on your lunch break today, do so. If that means finding time this evening to spend some time in prayer with God, then do it! I can guarantee you that you won't regret growing spiritually and growing closer to God.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Time to Clean Up Your Act

There are a few things you can usually find people doing when it's 95 degrees and sunny outside. Swimming. Sunbathing. Washing a car. This past Saturday I took the time to wash my truck and my wife's car. While I was washing Misty's car one of our teenagers from church walked up to talk to me. We chatted for a few minutes and towards the end of our conversation he made a comment that caught my attention. He said, "I guess I need to go home and wash my 4Runner." Now this mundane comment probably could have gone unnoticed in a conversation but I realized something in that moment that relates so well to our spiritual life. Whether we like it or not our actions have a direct impact on those around us.

The only reason this young man thought about washing his own vehicle was because he saw me washing mine. Whether I realized it at the time or not, my actions were having a direct impact on this young man. We've all seen this happen in life where people are encouraged to do good and bad based on the actions they see in others. Call it peer pressure. Call it influence. Call it what you will, but in the end our actions impact others.

When it comes to the way we live out our faith in front of others, our actions can have an impact, good or bad, on those around us. Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have one shot at this life and it's important, when it comes to matters of faith, that we make the most of every opportunity. Especially when we realize how our witness and actions impact others. When others see us cleaning up our life, they will want to do the same. When others see us praying over our meal, it will encourage them to do the same. When others see us making God a priority, they will look to do so as well.

Our actions leave a lasting impression on those around us. Our kids. Our friends. Our family. Our co-workers. It's vitally important that we take every opportunity we can to leave a positive and faith-filled impact in the lives of those individuals. Look for an opportunity today to live out a great Christians example in the lives of those around you.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

This World is Falling Apart

Friday, June 26, I was in Sandusky, Ohio on vacation with my family. Shortly after lunch, I stood watching my sons ride an amusement park ride and I took my phone out to check Facebook to see what was going on. In my News Feed I began to see articles about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. I was a little surprised by the decision but what bothered me most is the fact I couldn't shake this uneasiness in my soul. The uneasiness lingered the rest of the day. To me it felt like our society had taken a tectonic shift in the wrong direction. Over the course of the next few days I saw and read many articles online about the decision and the ramifications it had on pastors, churches, and Christians in general. Some gave fresh perspectives to a difficult place we find ourselves in as a society and as members of the Body of Christ. But now having had some time to digest this major shift in our society I have some thoughts for Christians to consider.

Society's beliefs do not change God's truths.
God's standards of holiness and righteousness are not dictated by the whims of finite and fallible men. Society's affirmation of same-sex marriage in no way changes what God has stated to be true, that marriage is a holy institution between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24). It would be like society affirming adultery, theft, or murder, all of which are explicitly forbidden by God (Exodus 20). Just because society says its okay, doesn't mean that it is.

Don't expect non-Christians to live like Christians.
One of the more surprising things through all of this has been how Christians have seemed to be shocked that non-Christians don't want to live by Christian values. How else would we expect them to live? If they have not been changed by the power of Christ's blood, we can't expect them to conform to His teachings. We must expect that the millions of non-Christians in our country today will not live by God's standards. It's our responsibility to show the light of Christ in this ever darkening world.

It will only get worse.
Another thing that surprises me through this ordeal our society is facing is the surprise Christians have as they see things declining. I've read through the Bible a few times and each time I see the same thing. It tells us that things are going to get bad before Jesus returns. This is just the one of many decisions our society has made that leads us downward spiritually and it's only going to get worse. On one hand it can be bothersome to know that things will continue to get worse. On the other hand it is reassuring to know that it means Jesus is that much closer to returning.

Your job is to speak the truth in love.
In Ephesians 4, Paul writes about the maturing faith of a believer. One thing he mentions is that they should speak the truth in love. As followers of Christ it is our responsibility to share the truths of God's Word to this dark, lost, and dying world. They need to hear that there is hope. They need to know that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. We must do that but not through condemnation and critical remarks about lifestyles and a lack of faith. Instead we do it by showing love and compassion. Just like the love and compassion God once showed us.

There is plenty that could be written on all of this but these are just a few observations from this pastor that I hope will help you as our society continues to change.

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