Author Archives: garrettk

If They Fell, So Can You

How Sin Seduced the Strongest, Wisest, and Godliest

She sat across from me with fingers pressed into her forehead. “How did I get here?” she groaned.

Jackie had been a faithful wife for many years. Yet she found herself ensnared in a sinful pit with no way out. Her web of lies had become a suffocating trap. She never imagined she would go this far, and now she saw no way back.

Sadly Jackie’s situation is not uncommon. Whether we are a pastor, president, or housewife, we are all in danger of being wooed, outwitted, and overpowered by sin. Yet we often do not feel the danger until it is too late. Sin is like a seductress who lures her unsuspecting prey with flattering assurances (Proverbs 5–7; Hebrews 3:13). Like a spider, she sets her trap and waits to pounce on those who play in her web.

But God does not desire us to be consumed. He warns us of sin’s schemes by recording the fall of others who were tempted as we are. Few examples are more sobering than those of Samson, Solomon, and David. They are tragic tales of strong, wise, and devoted men who were overcome by the power, trickery, and allure of sin.

Sin Is Stronger Than You

The life of Samson was marked by triumph and tragedy. Born to godly parents and empowered by God, he was set up to be a deliverer Israel desperately needed. Prior to Samson’s downfall, his supernatural strength was unmatched. No army or enemy was able to defeat him.

But sin could. Seduction weakened him to willingly surrender his secret source of strength (Judges 16:17). When his locks were clipped, he rose to fight, but “he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20). The spider had spun him up, and he was too weak to defend himself. His physical state mirrored his spiritual one. He was blind, broken, and crushed under the consequences of compromise.

Samson’s strength blinded him to his own weakness. The unseen enemy in his heart plotted mutiny — and Samson never saw it coming. As he fed his lust, he strengthened it. As he stoked his pride, he invigorated it. As he submitted to his flesh, it fortified against him. Apart from God’s strength, Samson didn’t have a chance.

What can we learn from Samson’s fall?

  1. Sin feeds on power.

We are tempted to think that the more powerful we become, the better we will battle sin. But the exact opposite is true. The more power, influence, or prestige we possess, the more temptable we are. The strength of sin feeds on our sense of strength. This is why we are warned that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). In weakness, we feel our need for God, but when we are strong, we lack that saving sobriety.

  1. Sin flourishes in isolation.

Samson was almost always alone. He had no need for others. He had things under control. But his isolating pride set him up to be ambushed by the prowling lion. Isolation is the enemy of spiritual strength because it separates you from those God has provided to help you. We are not all strong at the same time. We need others to press us into the light of humility and honesty. Samson didn’t see a need for that kind of help — he was too strong.

Sin overpowered the strongest man, and it can take you out, too.

Sin Is Smarter Than You

Solomon’s reign began with love for God and his gift of unparalleled understanding. He wrote thousands of proverbs and authored inspired words of Scripture. But his heart had turned away to forbidden alliances, lovers, and idols (1 Kings 11:1–8).

Solomon had matchless wisdom, yet was outsmarted by sin’s schemes. The tempter sowed seeds of compromise that eventually sprouted and choked his discernment. He counseled others to lean not on their own understanding, yet he did not take his own counsel.

His collection of forbidden horse chariots may have been well-intentioned, but they revealed a distrust in God’s care (Deuteronomy 17:161 Kings 10:26). He made alliances with foreign kings that were sealed with wives who brought idols into his home (Deuteronomy 17:171 Kings 3:111:3). He thought he could keep the compromise under control (2 Chronicles 8:11), but eventually they outnumbered him a thousand to one. It seems Solomon thought he could work the system, but in the end he was eaten by it.

What can we learn from Solomon’s fall?

  1. Sin wants you to trust your own wisdom.

Solomon knew what God said about multiplying wives and horses and riches. Yet he thought he was wise enough to handle it. This is part of sin’s scheme. The tempter assures you that you are wise enough to see when you are in trouble. He wants you to think you’re safe, even while indulging in sinful exploration (Ecclesiastes 1–2). You’ll be assured that you can keep things under control — after all, God is with you.

  1. Sin wants you to underestimate small compromises.

The tempter has a crafty plan to patiently have you grow content with small compromises. “It’s just one look.” “A little won’t hurt.” “It’s not as bad as what they are doing.” If Satan cannot tempt you into a great sin, he will settle for a small one, because he knows that small sins pave the way to greater ones. Callousness grows in small degrees. Fear of God does not disappear all at once. You slowly become disillusioned with sin’s severity, and then you wind up with a thousand idol-worshiping housemates. Don’t assume something similar can’t happen to you.

Sin outwitted the wisest man, and it can outsmart you, too.

Sin Can Woo You

Few people have known the sweet fellowship David had with God. His delight in God marked the lines of his songs and the steps of his life. Whether in trial, trouble, or celebration, David’s heart was always oriented toward enjoying God.

Yet even those who love God can be wooed away from him. We do not know why David stayed back from battle that spring afternoon. Yet as he strolled aimlessly on his palace roof, his unattended heart fell prey to forbidden beauty. Rather than flee, he lingered. A look, a longing, an inquiry, adultery, lies, conspiracy, murder, and attempted cover-up. David would repent and find forgiveness from God, but the consequences of his sin sent incalculable ripples throughout the kingdom (Psalm 51).

The hot coals of David’s heart for God had grown cold with complacency. He had been strong for so long, yet he hit cruise control. His affections for God diminished and the tempting beauty of sin ignited his flesh. He played roulette with sin, and the thrill quickly turned to devastating destruction.

What can we learn from David’s fall?

  1. Sin has a deceptive beauty.

We must remember that Satan wears the disguise of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is a master at twisting good things God made and using their beauty to luring our hearts into forbidden waters. The power of sin is found in its presented beauty. The affirmation of adultery. The safety of a lie. The enjoyment of stolen treasure. Remember that the tempter lays before our eyes the beauty of the bait, but hides the hook that ensnares us.

  1. Seek sin and you shall find it.

Temptation most often enters through a door intentionally left open. If you aimlessly wander in the wilderness near the tempter’s house, you can be certain you will get a visit from him. This is why we are warned to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).

Sin wooed the worshipful king, and it can woo you as well.

Jesus Is Stronger, Wiser, More Beautiful

God has given these examples to us that we might be instructed and warned to not fall into the same temptations (1 Corinthians 10:11–13). Yet we must not only avoid their example, but find help from the man who is greater than them.

 

Our sinful weaknesses need not lead us to despair. Instead, they can lead us to hope in the one who is greater than our sin. Jesus bound the strong man to set us free (Matthew 12:29). Jesus outsmarted the tempter by clinging to the wisdom of the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1–11). Jesus rejected sinful exaltation by drinking the cup of humiliation (Matthew 26:39).

 

Jesus was tempted as we are, yet he endured without sin. His life was righteous and his death satisfied his Father’s just requirements. His resurrection gives us liberation, and his intercession grants us help in our weakness. Jesus is stronger than Samson, wiser than Solomon, and more devoted than David — and in him we find help to resist the tempter’s snares.

 

Originally published at DesiringGod.org.

A White Guy’s Reflections on Black Panther

 

To be honest, I can’t remember going to a movie quite like Black Panther. The buzz among many of my friends has been feverish. Some are Marvel movie lovers, but for most of them, Black Panther was about something much more.

Normally, if I were writing a review I’d hit on the movie’s theological themes[1] or what kind of workout those fellas did to get so rocked-up, but instead I’m going to take a risk and share about how the movie affected me personally.

Black Panther is a movie about a superhero, but not just any superhero—a black superhero. And that’s what has me a bit perplexed. The movie was excellent, but it moved me emotionally in a way I wasn’t expecting. The plot line was inspiring, the acting was captivating, and the special effects were dope. But that’s not what got me.

 

Recovering Racist 

I should probably tell you this upfront—I’m a recovering racist.

I never had a disdain for black people, or knowingly treated any black person with contempt. But sadly I’ve come to see that I had racist attitudes that assumed things about people who didn’t look like me. I passively assisted in the perpetuation of stereotypes that were demeaning to people whose culture and skin color were different than my own.

My parents didn’t raise me that way, but it was in the air I breathed. It was in the shows I watched, the attitude of my almost exclusively white hometown, churches I attended, and in the hearts of extended family members.

But over the past eight years, God has changed me in ways I never saw coming. You can read more about that here. Black Panther was no epiphany for me, but it captured themes I’ve been learning about in a way that was deeply moving.

 

Dignity

We live in a world that has wrongly dishonored black people in horrific ways. Slavery, discrimination, injustice, and racism have beaten down the image of black people in the minds of many generations. Black men have long been portrayed as uneducated hoodlums who cause trouble while black women are seen as dramatic temptresses with little moral character.

Yet, in this movie black men and women were set forth with dignified beauty. They were not dominated by another narrative, but they had their own. Sure, it was a Marvel fantasy movie, but there was something powerful happening when the nearly all black cast filled the screen. Their dignity was represented boldly, and beautifully.

As a Christian, I know that God has created each of us uniquely to reflect His image. Our diversity of culture and skin color is part of His glorious design. Though this movie had nothing directly to do with God or the work of Christ, the dignity of black men and women shined through in a way that was empowering.

A movie has no power to ultimately change people’s hearts. Only Jesus can do that. But I believe it can serve to help the progress we must make toward racial unity. It can encourage the black community and educate other communities. I know it did that for me.

 

Pain

I won’t give any spoilers here, but Erik Killmonger’s role[2] was brilliant. His character’s bitter rage was provoked by the abandonment and betrayal of those who were supposed to love him. His disdain for the system that hurt him and desire to enact change at all costs only compounded his pain, but left me sympathizing with his character.

I know it was just a movie, but his hurt echoed the stories of so many of the black friends I love. Too many have known what it is like to be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Too many have grown up in a world that has wounded them because of the color of their skin. Too many harbor the hurt his character embodied.

As I watched Killmonger become consumed by his quest for liberation, I was freshly reminded of the pain so many friends have shared with me. Watching him fight to make his brokenness whole freshly reminded me of my responsibility in the quest for progress. His pain reflected the pain many of my people have inflicted in days past and present. It gave me a fresh desire to serve in whatever way I can to undo what so many before me have done.

Vengeful anger will not bring progress, but I do believe God can use the pain of a people long oppressed to shine brightly as an example of how to make progress. I believe the grace of God can bring healing to wounds both in the culture and in the church. I pray the church will learn to better model this in a way God surely desires.

 

Unity

There is something beautiful about the unity of spirit that black brothers and sisters share. Seeing people decked out in traditional African garb and King Jaffe costumes gave expression to something I’ve never experienced. I’ve been part of tight knit teams and churches with thick unity, but black culture, in all its unique forms, has a unique unity that I find captivating.

There’s an energy and freedom (and volume) that I’ve grown to love. The common bond that centuries of struggle, suffering, and oppression tried to sever has only solidified them. As a people they have weathered much together, despite their abiding challenges.

I’m far from an expert on black culture, and don’t assume all black people experience black culture the same, but in this film and in the lobby outside I shared in something I often don’t. I was a minority on this night. My skin color was mildly represented in the film and I felt “other” in a way that was unusual.

Yet in the midst of that, I felt welcomed. The movie’s story and my friends’ laughter ushered me into a world that was foreign to me. It’s not the only time I’ve been in this situation, but it was a fresh joy for which I’m thankful and hopeful for more.

As a Christian, I’ve learned to see every situation, every movie, and every interaction through the lens of Jesus’ love for me. Tonight I freshly saw His love and felt an unexpected appreciation for our church family. We are a people continually deepening in all sorts of diversity. Being part of the Black Panther party gave a fresh way to experience the love we’ve been growing in over recent years.

 

Homesickness

Finally, there was something charming about Wakanda. One of my friends said, it “felt like a world where a piece of Africa escaped the destruction of colonization. It was fun to dream about.” Seeing responses like this helped me, maybe for the first time, understand why so many feel homesick for Africa.

What would their lives have been like, had my ancestors not kidnapped them and dragged them to America? Sadly, one can only wonder.

Homesickness for Africa made sense to me in a way I could strangely identify with. As a Christian, I too long for my homeland. Long ago Adam and Eve traded the paradise of God for slavery to sin. Their sin has led to much suffering and heartache. This is where the great hope of a new world rises up in the hearts of all humans, whether black or white. Wakanda was not heaven, but it helped me to long for it in a fresh way.

I’m thankful to my friends who have patiently taught me about their struggle and for this movie that moved me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

 

 

[1] Some of the key theological themes include the emptiness of ancestral worship, the devastating effects of sin, the temptation of the oppressed to become the oppressor, the beautiful complementarianism portrayed in the film, and the resurrection of the king to overthrow the evil strongman.

[2] Played by Michael B. Jordan…can you say Oscar?

It Wasn’t My Body, But It Was My Baby

In the summer of 1998 a friend and I spent an evening together. A few weeks later she told me she was pregnant, and it was mine. Neither of us expected it, and neither of us felt ready to raise a child together. We were not in love and thought it would be better to go our separate ways with a clean slate. So we choose to have an abortion.

We gathered $400 from a friend and went to a clinic that prescribed us a pill. We drove to someone’s empty home where we would spend the night. I got her a glass of water to take the pill. I held her hand while she cramped and cried. I was there as we ended the life of our unborn child.

Some choices leave scars. Our abortion was one of those choices. In the years since our decision, I’ve often reflected on what happened that summer. It has changed me. It has given me more compassion toward those who face the fear of an unplanned pregnancy.

God has brought healing and shown forgiveness that I do not deserve. You can read more about that here. My experience with the abortion is one reason I often speak about the issue—even when I’m asked to stop speaking about it.

It Is Her Body

In recent days I have had conversations with several women who have challenged me to remain silent about abortion. I’ve been told, “it is a woman’s body, she has the right to choose what to do with it” and “you’re a man, you have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body.” 

I am sensitive to their request. A woman’s body is given to her as a gift from God. It should never be touched in ways she does not permit. A man does not have the right to force her to use her body against her will. Her body is hers and that must be respected.

No man can truly understand the joys of pregnancy or the fears of an unexpected pregnancy. Men have their own related hopes and sorrows, but there is a unique way a woman hopes for her womb to be filled with life. There is also a unique sorrow women know when that life ends through miscarriage or the choice of abortion. As an old proverb says, each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”[1]

It’s Not Just Her Body

But the fact that it is a woman’s body does not capture the whole truth. When a woman becomes pregnant, her body is not just hers any longer. It now also belongs to her child. In the miracle of motherhood a living human being is conceived within her body and then attaches to the wall of her womb. It is within her, yet distinct from her. It is in her body, but it is not her body.

What is growing with in her is not merely a tumor or clump of cells that has the potential to be a baby. It is a baby. Some may push back on this, but it is scientifically dishonest to do so. The child in the womb has unique DNA, unique blood type, and every quality that makes us distinctly human. What is in her is a unique, living human being. The child has a detectable heartbeat between 5-6 weeks.

And we all know it is a living being. If we found on Mars what we find in the womb of a mother, we would certainly say we found life. And we all know it is a human. It can be scientifically proven that 100% of the time nothing other than a human will come out during birth. At the moment of conception, a living human begins to take up residency inside his or her mother.

God’s wonderful design is for a child to be united to his or her mother and receive protected housing as they grow and nourishment as they develop. This sacrificial love is part of what it means to be a mother. Any of us who are reading these words have known this divinely designed care, regardless of our birth circumstances. The mother’s body is her body, but it is not just her body. Her body has become the home to another, distinct human.

It’s Not Just Her Baby

This is where a father’s responsibility must be highlighted. While the woman’s body is her body, it is not just her baby. It is their baby.

Regardless of whether they planned to have a child together or not, it is their baby. Regardless of whether the father desires to be responsible for his choices or not, it is their baby. This is true of every pregnancy, including the one I chose to take part in ending. When we had our abortion, it wasn’t my body, but it was my baby.

Please hold back any desire to roll your eyes here. There are few things more precious than a father’s love. This is one of the reasons the world has fallen in love with Jack and Randall from the hit show This Is Us. There’s something in us that want fathers like Jack and Randall; or if we are fathers, we want to be like them.

This is also why the Internet celebrated the father who charged a disgraced doctor who sexually assaulted his three daughters. The importance of fathers resonates within us all. Those who had wonderful fathers celebrate them and those who did not know the ache that is left behind.

Abortion is not just about a mother’s choice. It is also about a father’s responsibility. By perpetuating the lie that men need to stay out of the discussion about abortion—because it is a woman’s body—is not only untrue, it is catastrophic for generations to come.

What we need is a generation of young men who honor ladies by helping them protect the precious gift of their sexuality as it was intended to be.

We need a generation of young men who will not treat women like objects, but honor them with decency and respect.

We need a generation of young men who will not walk away when they get a woman pregnant or pressure a woman to end their child’s life.

We need a generation of men who will love their unborn children and go the utmost lengths to encourage the mother to have their baby. They must be willing to help raise the child or place it for adoption.

We also need a generation of women who will encourage men to take responsibility and show the sacrificial love and empathy that ought mark men, not push them out of the conversation about abortion.

Though abortion uniquely affects women, it is not only about women. It is also about the child in her womb, and the child’s father.

Because in the end it is her body, but it is their baby.

 

 

 

[1] Proverbs 14:10

A Few Thoughts on Steven Furtick’s Pillow & Promise Sermon

I recently tweeted a critique of Steven Furtick’s promo video for his current sermon series Gates of Change. Here’s what I said:

 

Someone asked me if I’d listened to the whole sermon for context. I explained that I’ve listened to enough of his sermons to feel justified in the critique. They challenged me to reconsider, so I decided to watch the entire “Pillow and the Promise” sermon with my wife.

I rarely do this kind of evaluation, but since I publicly critiqued his 30 second promo, I think it is worth sharing my thoughts on the entire sermon.

I plan to offer both encouragement and criticism of his sermon. This is similar to the weekly feedback I receive when our staff and interns meet every Tuesday to pray, plan, and reflect on the previous Sunday’s service and sermon. Each time, I’m helped towards growth as brothers and sisters give positive and challenging feedback to my sermon. I’ll treat this reflection as we’d handle our Tuesday review.

 

General Comments—Personal Preferences

  1. Steven is a compelling communicator.

His speaking gifts are evident and it makes sense that he’d draw a sizeable crowd. His rugged style attracts people who are fed up with traditional church. This could be a useful tool if submitted to the Lord.

  1. He got in the way.

I would have a challenging time sitting under his teaching for several reasons, one of which is the lack of humility I sense from him. This is subjective, but he seems to be very aware of himself when he preaches which is distracting for people who desire to see God.

  1. His theatrical style.

His theatrics will either be endearing or off-putting, depending on your preference. I’ll let you make your own call on that, but he certainly wins the “Most Time a Pastor Spends Preaching While Laying Down” award. I didn’t clock it, but he must have preached at least ¼ of his sermon horizontally.

.

  1. Throw Pillow Rant.

Finally, I’m in total agreement with him that throw pillows are a useless invention. My wife and I have at least a dozen on our bed and I have no idea why.

 

Encouragements—Areas of Agreement

  1. God’s determined purposes give purpose to every moment.

Steven’s point that God’s purposes are determined and that our mistakes can never thwart His purposes was encouraging. This is a wonderful truth. We have a sovereign God who works in the mist of all our messes.

  1. Keep your eyes open.

He taught that God has determined purposes that He is always working out in our lives. Every situation and circumstance serves as an opportunity to see Him as active in teaching us something. This overarching theme was faithful and should serve us to remain attentive at all times to God’s work.

 

Considerations—Areas of Concern or Disagreement

  1. Not an expositional sermon.

He preached from the Bible, even giving some faithful historical context at times. But the point of the passage was not the point of his sermon. Not every sermon must be expositional, but a preacher’s job is to say what God has said in a way that is clear, compelling, applicable, and honoring to His intent.

Steven captured elements of the text well, but missed the main point. His main point seemed to be something like: If we claim the promise that God has a determined purpose in every situation, it opens gateways for us to see God working in our lives. This is not only very me-centric, but just not what the text is about. If you care to, you can hear how I preached the same text a couple years ago.

  1. This was a gospel-less sermon.

This sermon was not even slightly affected by the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus was mentioned, but if a non-Christian were to listen to this message, they would have no idea that they are as sinner, who Jesus is, what He did for sinners, or how they could be forgiven and reconciled to God. They would simply think they need to get in tune with God, whoever that God may be. I think a Muslim or Jewish person could have said “amen” to most of the sermon.

For the Christian, there was no instruction of how to depend upon the grace of God in their failures and struggles with sin. Instead, the believer was charged to be alert and declare situations as being places God is working for their benefit. This too is true, but what happens when we do this poorly? What strength do we do this in? This Gospel-lessness seems to characterize most of the sermons I’ve heard from him. 

  1. Where do I get God’s promises?

There was much talk about resting in God’s promises, but no talk about where to get them. We were not directed to the Scriptures as God’s all-sufficient source of promises. Yes, he grabbed his bible and used it as a pillow, and yes he quoted a few verses, but he was unclear on where we get promises from God.

 

This is important because Steven presented a mystical approach to hearing from God. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed that God speaks promises to us in all sorts of different ways. Steven never cautioned his hearers about the danger of Satan’s deception and counterfeiting tactics. I know you can’t say everything in every sermon, but his handling of this seemed careless at best.

  1. Echoes of Word of Faith foolishness.

I’ll say this sermon had less word of faith theology than some of his other sermons, but you can still hear it come through. At 22:55 he starts the nonsense we saw in the promo video about us having the ability to declare things to be what we want them to be. You can hear more of it at 25:09 and 28:50 among other places.

Now, to be fair, I completely agree that God is always acting and that we need to wake up to it. But his language is very word of faith-like and explains life in a me-centric way. God seems to be on the outside of the situation either crossing His fingers hoping we’ll realize things or being at our beckon call to act when we declare something.

The problem is that Steven is not teaching the church to submit themselves to God’s purposes in their trials, but rather to speak purpose into their situations. There is a great difference. In one theology God is big and glorious and we are to trust Him. In the other we are the determiners of destiny and speak things into existence. In some ways he’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth, but his teaching is confusing at best and downright errant at worst.

 

Conclusion

After watching the whole sermon, I stand by my statement. This sermon was something, but it was not Christian. It was an amalgamation of Christian ideas mixed in with word of faith prosperity Gospel.

I am not in any way saying he is not a Christian. But in my opinion, Steven Furtick is on a dangerous trajectory. He desires to be edgy which is always dangerous because eventually most edgy pastors fall off the cliff.

My hope for Steven is that he will spend time considering the gifts that God has given him and use them to make much of God. He is young, famous, and flourishing, which are all great dangers for pastors.

Pray for him to be humbled and see himself primarily as a servant of the text. Pray also for him to develop good friendships with faithful mentors if he does not already have them. If he does, pray they would have courage to speak truth to him about his dangerous trajectory. Pray also that he would be humble enough to receive them.

And may we all be ever cautious of our own propensities toward error. Lord help us.

 

 

Jesus Did Not Say Lust is the Same as Adultery – Response to Jerry Fallwell Jr.

 

To be clear, this post is about theology, not politics.

In a recent interview on CNN, Dr. Jerry Fallwell Jr. said, “Jesus said ‘if you lust…in your heart, it’s the same as committing adultery.”

We need to be really clear…that is not what Jesus said.

Jesus’ Context

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching that the Law not only addresses external sins, but also sins of the heart.

What He actually says is, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

What Jesus was saying is that lust condemns you, just as adultery does.

Jesus’ Teaching

Lust and adultery are the same family of sins. But they are different degrees of maturity. Lust is the seed, adultery the weed. Lust is the root, adultery the fruit.

But they have differing degrees of severity. It might be helpful to think of them in this way:

Lust and adultery are qualitatively the same—they are the same sort of sin.

Lust and adultery are quantitatively different—their degree of severity is exceedingly different.

These sins are similar, but Jesus did not say they are the same.

Degrees of Sin

While all sins are severe, they are not equally severe. When James 2:10 says “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” we learn that failing to keep one part of the law breaks the whole thing. Concerning our text, lusting breaks the law in the same way adultery does. But that doesn’t mean that these sins are the same to God.

When speaking to Pilate, Jesus clearly indicated there were differing degrees of sin,“he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11; cf. Luke 7:41-43). He also teaches there are differing degrees of judgment “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matthew 10:15; Luke 12:47-48). Elsewhere, God warns Cain to not allow his sinful anger to progress and become the greater sin of murder (Genesis 4:6-7).

As we apply the degrees of sin teaching to our case, we see without doubt that committing adultery is a far worse sin than imagining it in your heart.

1. The act of adultery grieves God far worse.

2. The act of adultery affects a spouse far more.

3. The act of adultery affects the person committing it far more.

To put it in the context of current events, the sexual assault Dr. Nassar committed against many young women is far more serious than someone who once looked at a pornographic image, was grieved, and then quickly turned it off.

Understanding this distinction is important for two reasons:

1. Flattening sins and making them all the same does not encourage us to treat sins appropriately. The way we should respond to the sin of lust in the heart is far different than the way we should respond to adultery. If you don’t believe me, just ask any spouse who has known the pain of adultery’s intimate betrayal.

2. Rendering judgment on people for a lesser sin heaps undue guilt on them. A young man or woman who lusts in their hearts should not be loaded down with the condemnation as an adulterer. People who lust are guilty, but not like the adulterer.

Jesus’ words were intended to expose the heart of self-righteous people who felt satisfied because they had not crossed a certain moral line. We should never feel comfortable with any sin against a holy God. At the same time, the moral relativism that is presented in the opening line of this article unhelpfully blurs lines that dull the sword of God’s Word.

I hope this sheds a little light on what Jesus actually said.

May the Lord help us to honor Him in our hearts, and our actions.

Come, Lord Jesus come.

Sobering Reflections on the Hawaiian Missile Scare

 

Several former members of our church now live in Hawaii. What follows are their reflections from the recent false alert concerning an incoming ballistic missile.

At 08:07AM a text alert flashed on Dee’s phone— that read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

The two weeks leading up to that moment had been a whirlwind for her. A grueling work schedule coupled by unending church activities left Dee with little margin for much of anything, especially time with God. But when the alert broke through, time stood still.

We now know the alert was a mistake and it will certainly be laughed off in the days ahead. But when the screens of Hawaiian residents lit up that morning, it was no laughing matter. It was widely known from previous reports that if a warning was issued, there would be only 12-14 minutes until impact. Thousands of people thought they were doing to die.

Her mind raced wondering, “Is this really how it’s going to end for me?” She pulled a U-turn on the freeway and called her husband, Antonio, and calmly explained they were under attack. She was in survival mode and told him to shut all windows, blinds, curtains, and start filling the bathtub and sinks with water. She’d be home as quickly as she could.

Antonio hurriedly complied and then dropped to his knees in prayer. He recalls, “I had a sense of Gods sovereignty and peace that God knew our needs before we did. Somehow I had a peaceful assurance that He would use this to bring much glory to Himself. In that moment, I fully believed His promise to make all things, even this, to work together for our good.”

A Moment of Regret

As Dee sped home, she too had peace, but it was mixed with vexation. She recounted the previous weeks of distance from God and how even that morning, she had rushed around for the baby shower, giving little time for God—and now she was going to meet Him!

What would she say?  She knew she was secure in His grace, but at the same time felt ashamed for allowing fleeting things to crowd out her time with Him. She prayerfully asked Him to forgive her shortsightedness.

The Waiting

As soon as Dee returned home, they cleared out an inner closet under the stairs, storing away food, water, and cloths to cover their faces or stuff in the crevice of the closet door to limit nuclear fallout.  They kept their phones plugged in until the last minute.

Grains of sand falling through the hourglass play tricks on you in those moments. On the one hand they seem to move ever slowly. Everything grinds along with intensity that can be felt in the air. Yet at the same time, the moments rush by in a blur. Terror like this is disorienting and reorienting all at the same time.

Antonio said, “Neither of us cried until it was over.” Thirty-eight minutes had passed until the warning was lifted. They held each other and wept. There would be no nuclear fallout this day, but there was an emotional and spiritual one.

Later, they reflected on the events, “We were ready to meet our Maker, or survive and tell others about Him.  This event has strengthened our faith and our enjoyment of each other.  We were quickly reminded how precious life is and how things can change so drastically in a moment.” 

Heavenly Sobriety

Not far away, another couple endured the same nightmare. Patty’s anxiety was stirring as she tried to figure out what to do. Her husband Pete assured her that their missile defense would take out the threat, and if not, there was no need to take cover, because it was most likely nuclear.

Patty tried to smile and said, “I hope you’re right, but if not, I will see you in Heaven.”

Saying those words out loud were sweetly sobering for her. The threat was daunting, but it was eclipsed by hope rooted in God’s certain promises. In a way similar to her fellow believers a few miles away, she had a “sweet inner calm as she thought of the true rest of heaven.”

Yet her peace quickly became mixed with grief as her mind raced to her beloved son who did not believe in Jesus. Her heart turned as she recalled his resistance to and dismissal of the God he was about to stand before.

“Would the Lord save him in the next 12 minutes?” she thought to her self. The thought of losing him for eternity saddened her and provoked fear. As the threat passed, she was not left unmoved. A fresh burden for urgent prayer and bold witnessing was birthed in her.

As she gathered the next day with the saints at Kailua Baptist, her pastor reminded the flock that they were all still alive by God’s grace. The moment they were resting in was nothing but divine mercy. He pointed them to a passage that Patty said, “will forever be the explanation of why I had no fear for own soul that day.”

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name.” Psalm 91:14

God holds His people fast as they cling to His Son Jesus through faith. He is our only refuge in the day of trouble.

I’ll leave you with two simple reminders.

  1. Sobriety about eternity is a friend of your soul.

A day is coming when Jesus will return. Some assume this is as much of a false alarm as the one Hawaii recently experienced. But those who love the Lord know it is not.

Would you consider replacing your evening television time with a reading of Revelation or Jesus’ words in Matthew 24-25? Read and plead with God to give you sobriety about eternity. This is not a drill.

 

  1. Sobriety about eternity is motivation for the souls of unbelievers.

The unbelieving world will soon face the judgment of an all-knowing God.[1] He has sent you to warn them.[2] His mercy toward you is intended to provoke you to tell of His grace to others.

There is no time to waste. Our moments are fleeting and their number is uncertain. Pray for God to open doors to speak of Jesus, and ask Him to give you courage to speak. Today could be the Day the Lord returns. This is not a drill.

 

 

 

[1] Matthew 12:36; Revelation 20:11-15

[2] Ezekiel 33:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

 

When Spurgeon was Invited to Preach at Barnum & Bailey Circus

 

On one occasion P.T. Barnum, head of the great Barnum & Bailey Circus, invited Charles Spurgeon to speak in the large tent at his traveling circus. Spurgeon’s preaching would often draw crowds exceeding 10,000 people and Barnum saw great opportunity to increase his show attendance if Spurgeon would join him.

Barnum’s pitch to Spurgeon was an attractive one. He offered to supply the musical talent, unless Spurgeon wished to provide his own. Any equipment, side show, or manpower would be at his disposal. And Spurgeon had freedom to speak as long or briefly as he desired.

The only catch was that the Barnum Circus Association would keep all profits from the gate tickets and in return compensate Spurgeon with a thousand dollar per sermon honorarium.

This was a generous offer in Spurgeon’s day and likely would have persuaded many preachers to chase the opportunity.

But not Spurgeon.

He saw through Barnum’s offer and sent him this reply…

Dear Mr. Barnum:

Thank you for your kind invitation to lecture in your circus tents in America. You will find my answer in Acts 13:10.

Very sincerely yours,

Charles H. Spurgeon

I am unsure if Mr. Barnum ever looked up Acts 13:10, but if he had, this is what he would have found: “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”

Spurgeon would never compromise the purity of the Gospel for some coin. May we be ever careful to be of the same mind.

Source: The Gold Mine, Lee Roberson

Days that Bring Weeping and Rejoicing (Guest Author)

 

This post was written by my wife, Carrie Kell

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

Today is December 21st. Does that mean anything to you?

Is it the day you got engaged? Or when your mom discovered she had cancer? Is it the day you had the surgery that changed your life? Or the day your child was born? Is it the day you lost a child? Is it a day of sadness? A day of joy?

Is it just another day on the calendar?

Every day has some significance for someone in the world. It might not be you, but it might be the person you are talking to in the grocery line. Or the one you just beeped your horn at and gave a “what is wrong with you!?!” look. Perhaps it is the person you just judged because they did something that seemed hateful. Or maybe it is you.

This will be the first December that my sister in law’s mom will be in heaven rather than at home with her family. Her birthday would have been this month as well. It brings a dark cloud over the holidays for my sister in law, and my heart breaks for her.

One of my best friends is celebrating her anniversary with her wonderful husband. God has worked masterfully in their marriage over the past 15 years in ways that are deeply encouraging. God has given them strength and they have been faithful to their vows.

I spoke with another close family friend today. As we talked, she shared how difficult December is for her. It is the month her mom died and also her late father’s birthday. It is also the month her sister stopped speaking with her. I didn’t know any of this was going on for her, and as she shared, I felt my compassion for her grow.

While some weep, others rejoice. And some of us do both at the same time.

A few years ago a friend picked up her phone and called her mother to share that she was pregnant. As she and her mother were celebrating the good news, her mother clicked over to receive an incoming call saying my friend’s father had just had a heart attack.

Rejoicing and weeping at the same time.

December 21st is one of those days.

My best friend from high school’s mother celebrates her birthday on the 21st. God has given her another year of life, and today they rejoice in that gift.

Today was also my father’s birthday. It has been four years since dad died. December 21st brings with it a flood of memories. I think about his life. I reflect on his death. I remember, with fondness the dad I knew when I was younger, and with sadness, the dad he became as I grew older. It’s a weird, heavy day.

My point in all this is that days mark us. Some of those marks are sweet, others are very sour. You can’t forget the dates in your life that have significance. You have to face them head on, because they actually keep coming back every year (except that Leap year situation, but whatever). God uses them as constant reminders of Him working in our lives. Sometimes that work is painful, sometimes enjoyable, but always for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

As John Piper once said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” This true of us as individuals, but of all of us as people. Does it amaze you that God is always working so intricately in all of us—at the same time!?!

December 21 is always a little sad for me, sometimes more so than others, but there are many other dates on the calendar that are really sweet. I suppose this will continue the rest of the time God gives us on this earth. Next year I may have new dates that mean something.

What are your dates?

Today when you run into someone, just know this might be a really great day filled with sweet memories for them, or it might be a really hard day with sad memories. Ask God to help you be patient with people. Ask Him to help you see them the way He does. Ask God to help you show them love, as Jesus has shown love to you. Rejoice if they are rejoicing and weep if they are weeping.

In all of this, I am thankful for a Sovereign God who cares deeply about all of His people. He knows which dates mean something to each of us and He comforts us during the hard memories. He also knows which days bring us joy and stirs our hearts to praise Him for those.

Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Every Book of the Bible in One Word

God reveals Himself through His Word. When He speaks, He teaches us what He is like, how He acts, and how He desires us to respond. As a whole, the Bible is about God the Father displaying His glory through His Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is one book made up of 66 letters.  Each book has a major theme that emphasizes an aspect of His character or a way He is working to carry out His perfect plan. What follows is an attempt to capture these themes. These themes are certainly reductionistic and required me to make a few tough choices, but I hope you’ll be helped by considering them.

 

Bible: The God of Jesus

Old Testament: Anticipation

Gospels: Manifestation

Acts: Proclamation

Epistles: Explanation

Revelation: Consummation

 

The Law

Genesis: God of Promise

Exodus: God of Power

Leviticus: God of Purity

Numbers: God of Perseverance

Deuteronomy: God of Preparation

 

History

Joshua: God of the Land

Judges: God of the Rebels

Ruth: God of Redemption

1 Samuel: God of the Heart

2 Samuel: God of the Throne

1 & 2 Kings: God of Israel

1 & 2 Chronicles: God of Judah

Ezra: God of the Temple

Esther: God of the Gallows

Nehemiah: God of the Wall

 

Wisdom

Job: God of Pain

Psalms: God of Praise

Proverbs: God of Prudence

Ecclesiastes: God of Purpose

Song of Solomon: God of Passion

 

Major Prophets 

Isaiah: God of Glory

Jeremiah: God of Weeping

Lamentations: God of Faithfulness

Ezekiel: God of Visions

Daniel: God of History

 

Minor Prophets

Hosea: God of the Unfaithful

Joel: God of the Locusts

Amos: God of the Oppressed

Obadiah: God of the Mountain

Jonah: God of Compassion

Micah: God of Justice

Nahum: God of Wrath

Habakkuk: God of Sovereignty

Zephaniah: God of Judgment

Haggai: God of Renewal

Zechariah: God of Restoration

Malachi: God of Worship

 

History

Matthew: God of the Jews

Mark: God of the Romans

Luke: God of the Outcast

John: God of the World

Acts: God of Power

 

Pauline Epistles

Romans: God of Righteousness

1 Corinthians: God of Holiness

2 Corinthians: God of Comfort

Galatians: God of Justification

Ephesians: God of Unity

Philippians: God of Joy

Colossians: God of Preeminence

1 Thessalonians: God of Encouragement

2 Thessalonians: God of Admonishment

1 Timothy: God of Godliness

2 Timothy: God of Endurance

Titus: God of Works

Philemon: God of Reconciliation

 

General Epistles

Hebrews: God of Fulfillment

James: God of Trials

1 Peter: God of the Persecuted

2 Peter: God of Patience

1 John: God of Love

2 John: God of Truth

3 John: God of Discernment

Jude: God of Protection

 

Prophecy

Revelation: God of Eternity

 

I found the process of reflecting on God’s message in each book deeply edifying, and I would enjoy hearing any ways you can improve this list.

8 Ways to Shape Your Family Spiritually

 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7

 

A parent’s most basic task is to help their children learn how to live in God’s world. This isn’t a once in a while task, but an opportunity that is available nearly every moment.

One of our elders recently shared how he an his wife help their seven children develop spiritually. What follows are my reflections on the principles he shared with us.

 

  1. Family Devotions

Few habits are more important in a home than daily Bible reading. There is no magic formula to the reading, just open the Bible and read it together. Read through chapter by chapter and discuss what you learn about God, about people, and how you should respond. Then ask God to help you. How much you read is less important than the consistency of your reading. A family that feasts on daily manna together is a family that will grow in their love for the Giver of the manna.

  1. Individual Devotions

Children that can read should be encouraged to read the Bible. They should not be forced to do it, but they should be encouraged to do it. One of the most important parts of parenting is teaching your children to listen to the voice of their heavenly Father. Encourage your children to read, write down questions, and talk about what they are reading with you. And make sure you are in the Word as well. Seeing their parents make the Word a priority will only reinforce their need to do the same.

  1. Corporate Prayer

Pray together. When you are short on money, gather together and ask God to provide what you need. When you face bullies at school or problems at work, gather together and pray. When God provides for your family, gather together and celebrate. When there are sorrows or suffering or sickness, gather together and cry out to God. Fill the atmosphere of you home with prayer. There’s not one thing we face in which God is not needed, so gather together often to pray.

  1. Individual Prayer

Encourage your child to pray. At first, they will not know how, but neither did the disciples. Show them how Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Show them how the psalmists prayed. Praying as a family is important, but teaching them to pray as an individual is also important. Show them that the Father in heaven hears when they come to Him in secret (Matthew 6:6). I do not think you ought command them to pray, but I cannot think of a better constant encouragement.

  1. Talking About What God Thinks About Everything

We live in God’s world. He made everything in it. That means that every blade of grass, every sip of water, every note of music, and every movie made by an image bearer points to Him. Learn to help your children see with enlightened eyes. This is one of my favorite parts of parenting. We try to not allow an experience we have together go unexamined. What would God think about the movie we just watched? What message is in the song we just listened to? Why did God create an underwater world so few ever see? Why would God give us pets that die? Why does God make us sleep so much of our lives? Questions about God’s creation and our experiences in it are an inexhaustible mine of mind-shaping opportunity. Help your family to examine all things through the lens of God’s Word.

  1. Talking about our sin and the sins of others

Everyone in your house is a sinner—and everyone knows it. Teach your children what to do about it. They ought see their father and mother humbly confessing sins to each other, and to them. Few family trips are more important than the ones to the throne of grace. Has someone used harsh words? Has someone lied? Confess it to God together. Ask one another for forgiveness. Parents need to wisely consider what to confess to their children, but it should happen. A family that learns to confess sins together will know the power of the Gospel in a way that is unattainable any other way.

  1. Consistent Church Life

The life of the family should be oriented around the life of God’s people. Few things teach a child apathy toward God like skipping church for sports or unnecessary weekend getaways. A child should see, from their earliest age that gathering with other Christians to sing, pray, and hear God’s Word is the greatest of privileges one can have. Certainly there are other things families can and ought do together, but faithful service of God’s mission as part of a healthy local church is one of the most essential.

  1. Individual Time with Each Child

Each child is unique. This means each child requires unique care and attention. In families with numerous children, individual time with each child is important. Some will need stern direction where others will require gentler shepherding. Some will respond well to structure while others may be stifled by it. Each child will have unique questions and abiding sin struggles. God the Father relates to each of His children uniquely, we must do the same for our children.

There is no perfect strategy to produce perfect children. But these are a few principles that if followed in faith, can be used by God to help create a spiritual-mindedness in our children that we hope will bear fruit for His glory.

 

 

These eight principles came from a talk one of our elders, Mercury Payton recently shared with our church.