Saturday, May 20, 2017

GOD MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’? ‘So they are no longer two but one flesh.’ What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19: 4-6

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s were tumultuous times: the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrations, and racial strife. I am part of that generation. No, I never grew my hair long and took on the hippie look. I did not burn my draft card. However, I was a Jesus Freak. A group of us met regularly in the student union of Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, to pray and study the Bible. We were labeled Jesus Freaks because we were always talking about Jesus. We chose not to rebel against the establishment and not to be part of the sexual revolution.
The sexual revolution has progressed, in the ensuing years, beyond the “Free Love” advocated by the hippy crowd to the point where sexual relationships of all kinds and descriptions are not only accepted, but are being promoted as “normal and desirable”. Gender has been redefined, becoming more of a personal preference then a biological reality established at birth. At the risk of being again labeled a “Jesus Freak”, I have to take a stand.
My stand on sexuality is radical and narrowly defined. Sexual relations are to be confined to a man and a woman who are married. Period. The only other option is celibate singleness. Sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, and all other sexual relations outside the marriage of a man and a woman are wrong. They are destructive. They are a sin against ourselves, our partner(s), and God. No, I am not homophobic. I do not hate transgender people and I am not a prude. Sex has been a wonderful and fulfilling part of my marriage for over four decades.

I firmly believe God’s ways are the simplest and the best. We were created male and female by God, created for the lifetime union of a man and a woman. Any other sexual relationship is less than God’s best for us.

Friday, May 12, 2017

LISTEN TO HIM

“This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Polarization in politics today in the United States is to a degree maintained and even intensified by the media. Left leaning Americans listen to liberal media outlets and right leaning Americans listen to conservative outlets. People hear what they want to hear and their views are reinforced.

Who do you listen to? Who shapes your view of reality? No, I am not talking about your political views, but your spiritual. The battle for the hearts and minds of people in the spiritual arena is even more intense than the battle in the political arena. And more is at stake than the economy, health care, and even world peace. The battle raging in the spiritual realm is for our very souls.

On one side we have the deceiver. His message is one that exalts the self, that appeals to our passions, and that distorts the truth. He comes as an angel of light with arguments that sound so plausible, even religious. His message promises the world, but in the end only delivers death.

On the other side we have the One, Christ Jesus who is the truth. His message is one of humility and of dying to oneself. It is one of grace and forgiveness, peace and wholeness. It always delivers life.


Chapter 17 of the book of Matthew recounts the transfiguration. Peter, James, and John went with Jesus to a mountain top and there they saw Jesus in a glorified state talking with Moses and Elijah. If His miracles hadn’t convinced these disciples that Jesus was the Son of God, surely they were convinced now. The Father then spoke from heaven confirming that Jesus was indeed His beloved Son. And the Father’s message to Peter, James, and John, as well as to us, was very simple. Tune out all the other voices, quiet yourself, and “Listen to Him”. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

LIVING LIFE TOGETHER

“Though you have not seen him, you love him…” I  Peter 1:8a

Peter loved Jesus. He talked with Him. He ate with Him. He traveled with Him. He lived life together with Jesus for three years. Jesus did Peter a great kindness when He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus did an even greater kindness when He appeared to him after his resurrection. Though Peter denied three times that he even knew Him, Jesus received him back as His disciple.

As Peter writes to second generation Christians in I Peter, who had not seen Jesus before or after his resurrection, He commends them for loving Him. But is it possible to love someone we have never seen?

At age fifteen, I fell in love with a pretty teenage girl, but that was more infatuation than love. My puppy love grew and matured into genuine love after we married. Love grew as we shared the joys and sorrows and the trials and triumphs that the years have brought us. Genuine love came as we lived life together.


Though we have not seen Jesus, we can love Him. He promised to always be with us. He gave us His Spirit. We don’t need to see Him to love Him. We need only to invite Him into all of our lives and live together with Him.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

LIVING HOPE



I Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Peter is writing about thirty years after the death of Jesus Christ to believers who were scattered across the Roman Empire. They were, like we often ae, confused and discouraged. They had expected Christ to return quickly, but now decades later, the reality had begun to sink in that God’s soon is not our soon.

After his short greeting in verses one and two, Peter gets right to the heart of the message in verse three. He tells believers then and now that God is good because, in His great mercy He has given us new birth. The hopeless condition of our old lives is behind us. Even as we continue to live in this fallen world, we now have a glorious living hope that is solidly based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a living hope because he conquered death, hell and sin. He came back to life with a glorious, but very real and tangible body. Many, including Peter, saw the resurrected Christ Jesus. They walked with Him, talked with Him, and even ate with Him after His resurrection.

This gives us hope because, as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:20, He is the first fruits from the dead. My fate is the same as His. All the troubles and trials of this life, even death itself, shall not have the last word. I have a living hope. I too shall be resurrected with a body like His, forever to be with Him.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

BECAUSE THERE IS A HEAVEN

And I saw a new heaven… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them.  (Revelation 21:1a, 2a, 3b)



Revelation chapters 21 and 22 are the most descriptive passage about heaven in the Bible.  It is plain in the verses above and the rest of these two chapters that we will not spend eternity sitting on clouds playing harps, but living in the heavenly new Jerusalem.  Notice how much emphasis is placed upon the fact that God will dwell with His people in this beautiful city.  It will be heavenly because God will be there, and He will outshine all else.  It will be a place of joy, purity, peace, and life, simply because God is all this and so much more.  Heaven is not a place where everything pleases us, but a place where everything pleases God… and consequently pleases us if we are His children.

And because there is a heaven, there must be a hell.  There must be a place for everything that does not belong in heaven.  God is who and what He is.  He cannot and will not change to accommodate mankind’s selfish, hard-hearted, and sinful ways.  He paid a great price in the death of His Son on the cross to provide for our forgiveness.  When we accept that forgiveness, we become children of God by new birth.  Something God-like is born in us, and as it grows and matures, we become more and more like Him.  When we die what remains of our sinful, rebellious old self will fall away, and as children of God we will joyfully take our eternal place with God.  If we fail to accept God’s offer, rejecting His forgiveness and the new life that can be ours in Christ, we will be stuck with who and what we are.  Just consider this for a minute – do you really want to live for eternity stuck with yourself as you are, separated from God and His city of life and light?  Think of the regret, the despair, and the endless replaying of the bitter memories of this life.                                                                          
The longer I live, the more I long to be with God.  We were made to love and be loved by God.  We were made to be with Him.  Why settle for anything less, now and throughout eternity?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

RISE AND SHINE

“Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:14b

When I read this passage I hear is the voice of my father saying, “Rise and shine”.  Like most teenagers all I wanted to do was to sleep in on Saturday mornings, especially this time of year.  My brother and I slept in a large room over our garage that was poorly insulated, and had only one small heating vent.  Snuggled up in flannel sheets under about 5 blankets it took a lot of will-power to get out of bed and get dressed in our frigid bedroom.  Things looked up as soon as I got to the hallway, because I would be met with enticing odors of pancakes, waffles, or Dad’s famous potatoes and eggs.  We needed a good breakfast, because it would inevitably be followed by a day of work outside. 
This time of year, late February, we would be making maple syrup.  On our three acre lot, in the woods behind us, and in our neighbors lot (with their permission) we would tap about 100 maple trees.  We hand drilled holes in the trees about three feet off the ground, tapped in a spout, and hung up a pail.  As the weather got up above freezing, sap would run up the trees in the day time, and then back down as it cooled below freezing at night.  Each time the sap ran, we got some in the buckets.  Maple tree sap has a mildly sweet “green” taste. I enjoyed taking a sip once in a while.  It takes about 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  We would collect the sap several times during the week if it was running well.  Then on Saturdays we would build a wood fire under the boiler, which was a shallow pan about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long.  You can’t imagine how wonderful it smelled as it boiled!  By Saturday evening it would be down almost to the bottom, so we would pour it off, take it to an old stove in the basement, and finish boiling it down to the proper sugar content.  Dad liked to get a high sugar content, so we invariably had maple sugar candy forming on the bottom of the canning jars after a month or two.
Yes, it was a lot of work, but no, I don’t look back on those Saturdays as child abuse.  It was fun, and those times are some of my fondest childhood memories.  If I had a large yard with maple trees, I would make it today.  But the main reason those times mean so much to me was that they were times working with Dad.  Including my brother and me in his work was one of my Father’s love languages.  He included us in whatever he was doing.  He loved to teach us what he knew.  He wanted to help us grow up into competent, self-assured men.  And Saturdays weren't always work days, we also got to join him hunting and fishing. 


I think one of God’s love languages is including us in what He is doing.  Isn't that what Jesus did with His disciples?  He took them with Him as He taught, healed, and proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom.  He showed them how to fish for men, and He patiently taught them what it means to be godly.  Yes, the work of the Kingdom is often hard work, just like making maple syrup, but the reward is that we get to join God in His work, and learn His ways.  He teaches us how to serve.  He teaches us how to listen and follow the quiet voice of the Spirit.  He gently corrects our bad attitudes, pride, and self-centered ways.  And best of all, we get to be with Him through it all, and see in His eyes the love of a Father who loves to be with His children.  Rise and shine.

Monday, February 9, 2015

DEEP DOWN DARK CHRISTIANITY

Deep, Down, Dark by Hector Tobar is the true story about 33 men who were trapped in a mine in Chile (I highly recommend this book).  The main entrance to the San Jose’ mine and all avenues of escape were blocked by an enormous slab of rock the size of a skyscraper.  Realizing that they very well might not come out alive, the men ask Henriquez, a man they called the Pastor, to pray.  Why did they ask him?  The reason was simple.  In their words “as soon as he opens his mouth and begins to talk it’s clear that he knows how to speak of God and to God.”  Henriquez asks them to get on their knees in a posture of humility before God and he prays.  Soon men are asking God to forgive them for their drunkenness, for cheating on their wives, for their tempers, and for the way they have treated their children.  Praying together becomes a daily ritual, and after their times of prayer they ask forgiveness from each other for their sharp words and unkindness’s.  In mine disasters, as in fox holes, there are no atheists.  Men in times of crisis faced with their mortality realize that they will have to answer to God.


It is hard to read a book like Deep Down Dark and not think about how I would react in a similar situation.  Would I, like Henriquez, be that solid godly man that others would turn to?  Do my co-workers see me as someone who knows how to speak of God and to God?  Would I be able to confidently take them in prayer before God?  Could I bring them hope day after day as their meagre food supply of a few cans of tuna and a handful of cookies dwindled to nothing?  Could I stand firm in faith as death stared me in the face?  God, help me, help us all, to be men and women like Henriquez.