Friday, June 22, 2018

4 Lessons I've Learn About Church Unity

There are four lessons that I’ve learned about unity over the years as a pastor. 

First, unity means getting along.  Think of a basketball team.  What does it mean for a basketball team to be unified?  First, it means that they get along; they aren’t fighting with each other; they are being kind and respectful of each other.  If we don't get along, then we won't get things done.

Second, unity means working together.  Unity is not merely the absence of conflict.  For a basketball team to be unified they all need to be working together on the same goal -- the goal of winning.  For our church to be unified, it’s not enough that we get along.  We also need to work together.  All hands on deck.  Everyone needs to get involved in accomplishing the mission of the church. 

The third lesson that I’ve learned about unity is that it is very fragile.  It is very easy to disrupt the unity of a church.  People get mad and leave the church over all sorts of petty reasons.  That’s why we need to remember two things.  For the sake of unity, be very careful to treat each other with respect and kindness.  And second, give each other lots of grace.  Don’t demand that the church be perfect for you to stick around.  When someone offends you, forgive them.  When you don't get your way, don't take it personally.  Your idea may not be needed, but you are. 

And a fourth lesson that I’ve learned about unity is that it takes hard work.  You would think that if we all just love God then we’ll be unified.  It’s not that simple.  Unity takes hard work.  It takes intentionality.  A church naturally drifts toward division and dissension, not unity.  That’s why Ephesians 4:3 says, “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How to be a Good Father

If there's one thing our country needs, it is good fathers.  What does it take to be a good father?  Seven things.

F -- First things first.  A good father has his priorities straight.  God, wife, children, and then everything else.  A good father doesn't allow good things to interfere with best things.  He starts his day alone with God in prayer and Bible study.  He brings his family to church every Sunday.  He teaches his kids the Bible at home.  He treats his wife like a queen, always pursuing and dating her.  He eats dinner with his family, and tucks the kids in bed at night.  A good father defines success not by what he earns, owns, or achieves, but by the quality of his relationship with God, his bride, and his children.  (Deut. 6:4-9)

A -- Affection.  A good father gives his children lots of hugs and kisses, lots of snuggles, and tells them often how much he loves them, how much they mean to him, and how proud he is of them.  He does not hide his feelings.  (Mt 19:13-15)

T -- Thriftiness.  A good father is a good provider.  He works hard to earn a good living, and he manages his money wisely.  He does not measure his self-worth by his net worth; he does not try to keep up with the neighbors.  He is not stingy or greedy, but he is careful to live within his means, and he is careful to plan for future needs and emergencies.  (Pr 21:5)

H -- Holiness.  A good father is a man of Christlike character.  He strives to be completely obedient to God in mind, body, and spirit, giving his children a good example to follow.  (1 Pt 1:15-16)

E -- Edification.  A good father is careful with his words, realizing that the tongue has the power of life and death.  He does not yell and scream at his kids.  He does not hurl insults at them.  He uses his words to instruct and encourage.  (Eph 4:29)

R -- Rod.  A good father disciplines his children.  Without losing his temper, he rebukes foolishness and uses the rod for outright rebellion and defiance.  He understands the Biblical definition of love -- doing what is best for his children, not what feels good; giving his children what they need, not what they want.  (Pr 13:24)

S -- Servant-leadership.  A good father leads like Jesus, using his position of authority not for selfish ends, but to meet the needs of his wife and children so that they can flourish spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually.  He understands that leadership is not about perks and privileges, but responsibilities.  (Mt 20:25-28)

Monday, June 18, 2018

How to Overcome Sexual Sin

We live in a sex-saturated, sex-obsessed culture.  Is it possible to live a sexually pure lifestyle?  Is it possible in the twenty-first century to live according to God’s standard of sexual morality?  Is it possible, in the digital age, to avoid pornography?  Is it possible to keep your eyes and your mind pure when there is so much sexuality and immodesty everywhere you look?  Is it possible to keep your marriage bed pure and undefiled?  Yes.  Whether you are a teenager, a single adult, or married, you can be sexually pure.  Here’s what you need to do. 

1) Make a commitment to God’s standard of sexual morality.

What is God’s standard?  Reserve all sexual activity for your marriage.  Receive all sexual gratification from your spouse alone – visually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  That means chastity if you are single, and fidelity if you are married. 

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “19 Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” 

2) Avoid temptation.

Romans 13:14.  “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
Proverbs 5:8 says, “Keep your way far from her.  Don’t go near the door of her house.” 

Mark Driscoll said, “Sexual purity requires both a passionate want to and a plan for how to.” 

Genesis 39:12 says, “She grabbed him by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside.” 

3) Decide to do whatever is necessary.

Matthew 5:29-30  “29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” 

Colossians 3:5  “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.” 

4) Get married.

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (CSB) says, “8 I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. 9 But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”

5) Believe that you can change.

Philippians 4:13 says, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

In Matthew 19:26b Jesus said, “… with God all things are possible.” 

6) Purify your mind.

Romans 13:14 (NIV) says, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” 

Thomas Watson wrote, “Thinking of sin makes way for the act of sin.  Suppress the first risings of sin in your heart.” 

Philippians 4:8 (NIV) says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

2 Corinthians 10:5b says, “… we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 

7) Develop the fear of the Lord.  

Proverbs 16:6b says, “… one turns from evil by the fear of the Lord.” 

Thomas Watson wrote, “Labor to get the fear of God into your hearts.  As the embankment keeps out the water, so the fear of the Lord keeps out uncleanness.” 

Thomas Watson went on, “Bernard calls holy fear, janitor animae, ‘the door keeper of the soul.’  As a nobleman’s porter stands at the door, and keeps out vagrants, so the fear of God stands and keeps out all sinful temptations from entering.” 

Thomas Watson wrote, “To fear God is to have Him always in our eye.  He who fears God imagines that whatever He is doing, God looks on, and as a judge, weighs all His actions.  To fear God is to have such a holy awe of God upon our hearts that we dare not sin.  The fear of God will make you forsake sins which can neither be heard nor seen by men.  The fear of God destroys the fear of man….  The greater noise drowns out the less; the noise of the thunder drowns the noise of the river; so, when the fear of God is supreme in the soul, it drowns all other carnal fear.”

8) Grow your love for God.

Look at John 14:23a (NIV).  “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.’

Mark Driscoll wrote, “Before you cheat on your spouse you have to cheat on God first.  You won’t break the seventh commandment if you keep the first commandment.  If you make sex your God, then you will commit adultery.  You can’t walk with Jesus into adultery.” 

Thomas Watson wrote, “Chrysostom compares God’s word to a garden.  If we walk in this garden, and suck sweetness from the flowers of the promises, we shall never care to pluck the forbidden fruit.” 

9) Guard your eyes.

Mark Driscoll said, “Sexual sin starts with your eyes which then recruit your hands.” 

Job 31:1-2 (CSB) says, “1 I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I look at a young woman? 2 For what portion would I have from God above, or what inheritance from the Almighty on high?” 

10) Realize that you are vulnerable.  

1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.”  Romans 12:3 says, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” 

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”

11) Avoid drugs and alcohol.  

Ephesians 5:18 says, “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit.” 

1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NLT) says, “So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.” 

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” 

12) Stay busy.

Why did King David commit adultery?  One reason is that he was relaxing at home when he should have been leading his men in battle.  His army was at war, but he was hanging out on the roof of his palace, and that’s when he noticed Bathsheba bathing on her roof.  He looked; he lingered; he entertained evil thoughts; and then he took action.  But it all started because David was idle.  He wasn’t busy doing what he should have been doing.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Idleness is the devil’s playground.”  That’s Biblical. 

Thomas Watson wrote, “Take heed of idleness.  When a man is out of a calling, he is ready to receive any temptation.”   Too much leisure is not good for anybody. 

13) Nurture your marriage.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 (CSB) says, “9 Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun.”

Proverbs 5:18-19 (CSB) says, “18 Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving deer, a graceful doe—let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever.”

Thomas Watson wrote, “To avoid fornication and adultery, let every man have a chaste, entire love to his own wife….  It is not having a wife, but loving a wife, that makes a man live chastely….  He who loves not his wife is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a stranger.” 

Woody Allen said that “sex is the most fun you can have without laughing.”

Mark Driscoll said, “Marriage couples fight for fidelity with freedom and frequency.”

14) Live with the end in mind.

Mark Driscoll said, “Define your life forward and then live it backward.  Look down the road.  What do you want for your future?  I want to grow old with my wife; be friends with her; hold her old, wrinkled hand; I want to hear our grandkids running around the house; at Christmas time I want to see her smile and have joy.  All the decisions I make along the way need to be decisions that lead to that end.  Shortsightedness will damage your future.” 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Have You Heard of The Four Spiritual Laws?

The four spiritual laws were written by the late Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and one of the greatest evangelists in the history of Christianity.  His little booklet on the four spiritual laws has been used by God to lead millions of people to faith in Jesus Christ.

If you have never heard of the four spiritual, they can radically change your life.  Here they are:

Law #1:  God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.

God created you to have a an intimate friendship with Him, and through Him to experience a full and meaningful life -- a life of joy, peace, fulfillment, loving relationships, purpose, and hope.

Law #2:  All of us sin and our sin has separated us from God.

All of us are sinners.  The just penalty for sin is not only eternal torment in hell, but a broken relationship with God.  God loves you, but your sin makes you an enemy of God.  Sin prevents us from experiencing all of God's wonderful blessings. 

Law #3:  Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin.  Through Him we can know and experience God's love and plan for our life.

To save you from sin and reconcile you to God, Jesus died in your place, as your substitute.  He willingly took your punishment so that you could go free.

Law #4:  We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.

If you want to be forgiven and be reconciled to God, then you need to make a personal decision that involves repentance and faith.  Make a decision to repent (turn away from) of your sin, and then invite Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior.  If you do, and mean it, then God will save you.

Once you make this decision, true life begins.  The Bible calls it eternal life, and abundant life.  It does not begin when you die; it begins the moment you receive Jesus into your life.

If you are not sure that you are a Christian, or that you are going to heaven when you die, then it is my sincere hope that you will make the decision to receive Christ into your life today.  You can pray a simple prayer like this:
Heavenly Father, I'm sorry for my sins.  Please forgive me.  Thank You for sending Christ to die for me.  I turn from my sin and hand over the steering wheel of my life to You from this day forward.  Please come into my life and be my Lord and Savior.  Please save me. 
If you want to learn more about the four spiritual laws, check out this link.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

5 Ways to Honor Your Wife

1 Peter 3:7 says, "Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner, showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."

Men, if we want to be obedient to God, and if we want our marriage to be a picture of the gospel, and if we want God to answer our prayers, then we must learn to honor our wives.  Here are five ways to do that.
1) First, honor your wife with your TIME.

If you are going to show your wife great respect, then it starts with your time.  It’s been said that the way to spell love is t-i-m-e.  And it’s the same with respect.  The way to spell respect is t-i-m-e. 

You can tell how much you respect someone by how you treat them with your time.  Your time is limited.  You only have so many hours in a day.  And you only have so many days in a year.  And you only have so many years in your life.  And that means your time is very important.  Therefore, the more important someone is to you, the more you will honor them with your time.  The less important they are, the less you will honor them with your time.  Your wife should be the absolute most important person to you in this world, other than God.  She should be more important to you than your kids, your best friend, your parents, your job, etc.  Therefore, you should honor her with your time. 

How do you do that? 

First of all, if you want a healthy marriage then you need to spend quality time with your wife.  Dr. Willard Harley, my favorite Christian marriage counselor, tells husbands that they need to set aside 15 hours a week to give their wives their undivided attention.  That means the kids are put away; the pets are put away; the phone is put away; the TV is turned off; your eyes are on her, and you are present with her mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

Another way to honor your wife with your time is to date her weekly.  I recommend that you set aside one night a week, every week, as date-night.  And you don’t need a baby sitter.  If the kids are old enough, put a movie on in the other room and tell them “do not disturb.”  If they are really little, then put them to bed.  Then the two of you can have a date.  Here’s what Lydia and I have been doing for years.  Our date night is on Friday night.  I’m responsible for it.  I either cook, or I take her out.  Most of the time we stay home.  We let the kids watch movies and tell them to stay away, and then I set up a table and chairs in our bedroom, and we spend the entire evening our bedroom together.  It’s our favorite night of the week.

There are other ways to honor your wife with your time.  Your wife should have immediate, constant access to you.  Your wife should know where you are and what you are doing at all times.  And she should be able to reach you quickly on the phone at all times.  When I’m busy, like when I’m in the study working on a sermon, I don’t answer the phone, and I lock my door so that my kids can’t barge in and interrupt me all day long.  But if Lydia calls me, I answer the phone.  And if Lydia knocks on my door, I stop what I’m doing open the door.  I have a friend who intentionally keeps some of his vacation schedule a secret from his wife, because he doesn’t want her to schedule her vacation at the same time, and he doesn’t want her to make any plans for him on his time off.  That’s not honoring your wife with your time. 

And finally, you can honor your wife with your time by being faithful and dependable with your scheduleIf you tell her that you will be home at a certain time, then do it.  If something unavoidable comes up and you’re going to be late, then call her immediately and let her know.  If you tell her that you will do a certain honey-do task or help her with some project on a certain day, then keep your word.  If you tell her that you will pick up the kids, then keep your word.  These are just some of the ways that you can honor your wife with your time. 

2) Second, honor your wife with your SEXUAL PURITY.

If you want to show your wife great respect, then this is crucial.  You need to be a one-woman man. 
Not only that, but you need to act in a way that makes your wife one-hundred percent confident that you are a one-woman man.  In other words, it’s not enough that you think you are sexually pure.  If you want to honor your wife, and if you want your marriage to work, then she needs to think you are sexually pure. 

First of all, you need to be sexually pure with your body.  All sex should be reserved for your wife.  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.”

Second, you need to be sexually pure with your eyes. You should not be visiting strip clubs, or looking at porn, or gawking at other women when you’re out in public.  You should only have eyes for your wife.  Psalm 101:3 (NLT) says, “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.”  Psalm 119:37 (CSB) says, “Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in your ways."  Proverbs 4:25 (CSB) says, “Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.”  Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-29 (CSB), “27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Third, you need to be sexually pure with your words.  Don’t ever talk to your wife or anyone else about how beautiful another woman is.  Don’t talk to your wife about other women that you are attracted to.  And don’t flirt with other women.  Save all of your flirtations for your wife. 
Proverbs 5:18-20 (CSB) says, “18 Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving deer, a graceful doe—let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. 20 Why, my son, would you lose yourself with a forbidden woman or embrace a wayward woman?”

3) Third, honor your wife with your DECISIONS.

A third way to honor your wife is by including her in your decisions.  The Bible says that the husband is the head, or the leader of his wife and family.  It also commands wives to submit to their husbands – to let their husbands have the final say.  But if you want to show your wife honor, if you want to treat her with great respect, and if you want a healthy marriage, and if you want to make better decisions, then you will include your wife in every major decision you make. 

Let me tell you two quick ways to ruin your marriage.  

First, make major decisions without including your wife.  I have friends who have gone out spent thousands of dollars without telling their wives.  And it turned out bad for them.  When you make major decisions about your time, your money, your living arrangements, your job, or anything big without consulting your wife, here’s what you are saying to your wife:  “I don’t respect you.”   

Here’s a second way to ruin your marriage.  Choose a course of action even though your wife is strongly against it.  For example, let’s say you want to buy a boat, and your wife is strongly against it, but you do it anyway. 

Here’s the thing.  You’re the man of the house.  You are the leader.  And there might be one or two times in your marriage when you both strongly disagree on a very important matter, and a decision has to be made, and you are called to lead, and she is called to submit.  But hopefully there will only be a few of those decisions in your lifetime together. The majority of the time, you don’t have to choose a course of action that your wife strongly opposes, and you shouldn’t.  Yes, your wife is called to submit to you.  But you are called to show your wife great respect; and you are called to love your wife as Christ loves the church.

So if you want to screw up your marriage really fast, then just do those two things, and do them consistently.  Don’t include your wife in major decisions.  Decide to do things even though you know your wife is strongly against it.  

But if you want a healthy, happy marriage, and if you want to show your wife honor, do the opposite. 

First of all, include your wife in every major decision. Not only will she feel loved and respected, but you’ll make better decisions.  

And second, make it your goal to use the Policy of Joint Agreement. This is what Dr. Willard Harley recommends, and this is what Lydia and I practice, and it works.  “Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you are your spouse.”  I can just hear the men screaming in their minds.  I can steam coming out of some of your ears.  “But I’m the husband; I’m supposed to have the final say; she is supposed to submit.”  I know.  But if you want your wife to feel honored, and loved, and if you want your wife to like you, and to respect you, and enjoy being your wife, and to be in love with you, and if you want her to be happy, and if you want her to let you touch her, then use the Policy of Joint Agreement.  It works.  You can learn more about that in Dr. Harley’s book Love Busters.

4) Fourth, honor your wife with your SERVICE.

A fourth way to honor your wife is to be a servant leader. You are the leader of your home, but Jesus taught that leadership is about servanthood. Biblical leadership is about using your power and position to serve and meet the needs of the people you lead so that they can flourish.  In other words, you can honor your wife by making sure she flourishes. Make sure she is happy and healthy physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. 

What are some ways that you can honor your wife with your service? Let’s start with the basics. 

First, ladies first.  Let your wife go first.  Open the door for her. Prefer her in all things. In other words, when you are going out to eat, choose a restaurant that she likes.  When you watch a movie, choose a movie she likes.  When you buy a car together, choose a car that she likes.  Prefer her.

Second, help her around the house.  Help her with the kids.  Give her what I call “Me Time.”  Sometimes your wife just needs to get away for a nap, or for a bubble bath, or a leisurely trip to the mall.  Be willing to watch the kids and let her escape.  Help her take care of the house – with home repairs and home improvement projects, and keeping the house clean – don’t be a slob; pick up after yourself.  Help her take care of the cars.  Oil changes; repairs; cars need constant maintenance.  Help her take care of the yard.  Cutting the grass; trimming the hedges; pulling weeds.  Help her manage the finances. 

In a marriage, usually one person manages the finances, and it’s usually the wife.  But I think that if you want to be the best leader of your family, the husband needs to manage the finances.  That means paying the bills; balancing the budget; communicating with your wife how much money is left to spend before the end of the month.  For the first few years of our marriage, Lydia managed the finances, even though we’d heard preachers say that it would work best if the husband would do it.  But Lydia was better at it, so she did it.  But the Lord convicted me about it, and eventually I took over the finances.  I started managing it – the bills, the budget, all that stuff.  Here’s what’s weird.  Lydia is smarter than me; better at math; she’s tighter; thriftier; more frugal; more financially disciplined.  But when I took over the finances, our financial situation improved – a lot.  And Lydia will be the first to tell you that. Why?  The family works best when the husband is being a good leader.  But it’s hard to be a good financial leader if you are not closely watching your finances.  And most men aren’t.  They go to work, get paid, hand their wives the paycheck, and forget about.  But I think your finances will improve drastically if the husband will take over, because God created the husband to lead, and the wife to support.  But even if you don’t manage the finances, if you want to honor your wife with your service you need to be very aware of what’s going on with your finances – you need to be aware of your income, your spending, your savings, your investments, etc. 

Third, take care of her when she is sick.  Be her nurse.

Fourth, serve her on her special days – birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Valentines Day.  Not every woman is the same.  Lydia does not care about gifts.  Her love languages are quality time and physical touch.  Gifts don’t impress her.  But some women are very big on those special days, and so if you want to honor your wife, then be sure to make a big deal out of those special days. 

Serving your wife can be boiled down to three short statements:
  1. First, don’t treat her like she is your servant.  Many men don’t act like a servant leader; they act like the king of their home.  And they don’t treat their wife like the queen; they treat her like the king’s servant.  And her job is to wait on him hand and foot, and meet his needs, and keep him happy.  Bad idea.  Don’t treat your wife like she is your servant.  You are called to serve one another; but you are called to be the chief servant.  The lead servant.  In other words, make it your goal to outdo your wife in servanthood.
  2. Second, if there is something your wife really needs or wants, then do everything you can do get it for her.  Just as Christ feeds and cares for His church, a husband is called to meet the needs of his wife.  If she wants something or needs something, do whatever it takes to get it for her.  If she needs help with something, or if she needs something fixed, or if she needs something bought, get it. 
  3. Third, if there is something that really bothers your wife, then fix it.  Just as Christ is the Savior of His bride, the church, a husband is called to be his wife’s savior. 
So if something is really bothering your wife, then fix it. If it’s something that you are doing that is bothering her, then stop it.  And if it’s something else that is bothering her, then rescue her.  Find a way to help her solve it. 

5) Fifth, honor your wife with your WORDS.

In other words, speak to your wife with great respect.  Let Ephesians 4:29 (CSB) be your standard.  “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

What are some ways you can honor your wife with your words? 
  • Praise her often for her good deeds and good qualities, both to her personally, and to others. 
  • Thank her often for the ways that she blesses you and your family. 
  • Don’t discuss her faults with others.  If you have a problem with her, go to her alone. 
  • Don’t make her the butt of your jokes when you are in the company of others.
  • When you are picking on her and being sarcastic at home, be sure that she is having as much fun as you.  I am very sarcastic, and I like to pick on Lydia a lot.  More than she likes.  So every once in a while she has to say, “Be careful.”  That tells me that I’ve gone too far.  So I’ve learned that Lydia doesn’t appreciate sarcasm and picking as much as me, so I’ve cut down on that for her. 
  • As well, don’t insult your wife. 
  • Don’t raise your voice at her. 
  • Don’t tell her that she has it easy because she gets to stay at home with the kids while you go out and do the real work. 
  • When she is talking, don’t cut her off. 
  • When she wants to have a tough conversation, don’t clam up and stonewall, and don’t run away.  Be willing to have the tough conversation.  Honor your wife with your words.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

How to Teach Your Kids About Good Works

The following is part of my exposition on the Home Discipleship Catechism, written to equip parents to disciple their kids.  Each week I plan to release a new chapter.  You can download the Home Discipleship Catechism HERE.  You can find more resources for parents HERE.

Question 15:  What is the purpose of good works?

We do good works out of love for God, to love our neighbor, and for our own joy.

Think of good works as acts of love to God or to our neighbor, such as obedience and charity.  In the previous lesson we learned that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done; instead, it is a gift to those who repent of sin and have faith in Jesus Christ.

What is the purpose of doing good works if we don’t need them to go to heaven?  Why fight against temptation?  Why not enjoy sinful pleasures?  Why give our money to the church and the needy when we could spend it all on ourselves?  In other words, why be good if being good is not necessary for salvation?  Even though we are not saved by good works, there are several important reasons to live a life devoted to good works.

First, we do good works to express our love to God.  To be a Christian is to love God.  This is the greatest of all the commandments.  How do we express love for God?  By obeying His commands, and by treating each other with love, mercy, and generosity.  If you are not devoted to good works, then you don’t love God.  And if you do not love God, then you are not saved.  Good works are a way to express our gratitude to God for His saving work in our lives.

Second, we do good works to express our love for one another.  The second most important command in the Bible is to love one another; to love your neighbor as yourself.  Christians are to be known for their love.  And this is the reason that we do good works.  Good works are loving, while sin is unloving.  We avoid sin because it is harmful to our friends and family.

Third, we do good works for our own joy.  God’s commands are not meant to ruin our lives and keep us from having fun and being happy.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The purpose of God’s commands is to help us get the most enjoyment out of life.  Sin not only offends God and hurts our neighbor, it hurts us.  When we sin we hurt ourselves.  When God says “Do not,” He means “Do not hurt yourself.”  When God says “Do this,” He means “Do this and it will make you happy.”  We do not avoid sin and do good simply for God’s pleasure, but for our own protection and prosperity.

Fourth, we do good works to enhance our witness.  God has called us to be His witnesses, telling people the gospel of Jesus Christ so they can be saved if they want to.  But lost people will not listen to Christians who are mean and sinful and hypocritical.  To win a hearing with the lost we must earn their respect and trust.  Before lost people will listen to our message, they must believe that we are authentic believers, and they must see that Christ is making a positive difference in our lives.  We do good works so that our lives attract people to Christ rather than push them away.

Fifth, we do good works to confirm our salvation.  The Bible says that those who are truly saved will gradually grow in love for God and others.  Therefore, while good works do not save us, they are evidence that we have been saved.  We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works, but if good works are absent from our lives, then we have reason to doubt our salvation.  We do not do good works to get saved, but because we are saved.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are good works?
  2. If good works are not necessary for salvation, then why not just live a life of sin and selfishness?
  3. What are the different reasons for doing good works?
  4. Do you see in yourself the desire to please God, or are you careless about pleasing God?  Explain.
  5. Do you see in yourself the desire to be kind and loving to others, or are you careless about others?  Explain.

For Further Study:

  1. Matthew 5:16
  2. Mark 12:28-31
  3. 1 Corinthians 10:31
  4. Colossians 3:17
  5. 1 Timothy 2:9-10
  6. 1 Timothy 6:18
  7. Titus 2:11-14
  8. Titus 3:8
  9. James 2:17
  10. 1 John 1:6

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Let This Be A Lesson

The new face of anger.
Most of you are probably not basketball fans, and those of you who are probably did not watch this year's NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, the same two teams in the Finals for the fourth year in a row.  But there's an important lesson to be learned here.

In game 1 LeBron James showed us why he is the best player in the world, and why so many are obsessed with comparing him to Michael Jordan.  He was sensational, scoring 51 points, along with eight rebounds and eight assists.  But his team still lost in overtime. 

How did "The King" respond?  After the game LeBron punched a white board in the locker room out of anger, and he fractured his hand.  He played the next three games with an injured hand, and even though the audience and media did not know of the injury, it was obvious that this was a different LeBron.  For the rest of the series he was only a shell of the player that we saw in game 1, and his team was swept, losing the championship without even winning a single game.  Who knows?  If LeBron doesn't lose his temper, Cleveland could have bounced back to win the series, just as they did in 2016 when they were down 3-1.

While LeBron did not give us a victory, he did give us a lesson on the dangers of anger.  This is what happens to a man who does not control his temper.  He ends up hurting himself, his reputation, his legacy, and all of the people who depend on him.  The only way that LeBron could have done worse is by punching a person -- maybe a teammate, a coach, a fan, or one of his family members.  Then who knows what the collateral damage might have been.  The end of his career?  The loss of endorsements?  The loss of his family?  Jail time?  And this is what happens to too many men who do not control themselves.

Why did LeBron lose his temper?  We can only guess.  First, LeBron seemed to place winning above everything else, forgetting that true success is not winning, but how you play the game, and how you respond to victory or defeat.  If winning is everything, your life will be an emotional roller-coaster because winning is not something you can control.  All you can control is your effort and attitude. 

Second, LeBron was thinking like a victim rather than a leader.  He was totally self-absorbed.  "Woe is me!  The refs failed me.  My coach failed me.  My teammates failed me.  This hurts my legacy.  They stole the title from me.  This makes me look bad.  Now I'm going to lose.  I've been cheated."  Instead of thinking like a victim, LeBron should have been thinking like a leader, admitting that he didn't play a perfect game, and that he has made mistakes before, and by encouraging his teammates, especially J.R. Smith, to stay positive, to look forward, and to focus on how to improve and win the series.

Third, LeBron was not thinking Biblically.  Worldly wisdom teaches that it is appropriate to express your anger by yelling, screaming, barking, destroying or hitting things, as long as you do not hurt anyone.  I'm sure LeBron did not think he was going to hurt anyone when he punched the white board, but he did.  Big time!  The Biblical response to anger is not about holding it in, but instead letting it go through forgiveness, humility, prayer, and focusing on the future rather than on the past.

LeBron is a great basketball player, but he is a bad example of how to handle anger.  So kids, let this be a lesson.  Learn to control your temper, or it will cost you dearly.   

Proverbs 19:19 (CSB) says, "A person with intense anger bears the penalty; if you rescue him, you’ll have to do it again." 

James 1:19 (CSB) says, "My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger."