Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three Views of the First Christmas

I live in Taiwan and pastor a church here.  It’s very difficult to get the “Christmas Spirit,” because we don’t see any public Christmas displays, (except a few stores, downtown.)  The radios aren’t playing Christmas music 24/7.  In fact, very few people wish you Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays or anything.  Frankly, it’s because Christmas is not a part of Taiwanese culture.  It isn’t really celebrated.  December 25 is just another workday for most Taiwanese people.  The problem with that, is that it has bled over into the church.  The people in our church don’t celebrate Christmas, either.  I asked several people if they had Christmas plans and only one family, besides mine, even celebrates Christmas. 

If you look at Philippians 3:20:

Philippians 3:20 (NKJV)
3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

 We’re citizens of Heaven, and as citizen’s of Heaven we have a culture of our own that overrides our earthly national culture.  We’re Christians and we should live within the traditions of Christian culture.  Christians celebrate Christmas.

As a result of living within my Christian culture, I preached a Christmas sermon.  This is something I do every year but I took a little different take on it this year.  This year I looked at three people who were affected by the birth of Jesus and their reactions to His birth.

The Innkeeper

Luke 2:1-7 (NKJV)
2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

This was a very busy time for the innkeeper.  The census was taking place.  People were traveling to their family homes to be counted.  Bethlehem like many other places was inundated with visitors.  All of them needed a place to stay.  The inn was full.  There’s no room there for Joseph and Mary.

This is a picture for our generation of a man who couldn’t fit Jesus into his life.  “There’s no more room.”  “I have so many other considerations.  I have other guests to be worried about. I can’t make room for even one more person.”

We can be like that, can’t we?  “I don’t have room for all the things that go with having Jesus in my life.  How can I do all the things I’m doing and be art church or Bible study?” 

Christians often think they are too busy to do the things that are a part of serving God.  Some say that they can’t come to church services on Sunday night because they have to work on Monday morning.  Sometimes they say they can’t make it to Bible study on Wednesday because they’re too tired.  They tell me that the reason they can’t come to outreach is that they have to rest up for work.  

That's Innkeeper Thinking!

But this kind of thinking also affects people who haven’t yet made a decision for jesus.  You have no idea how many times after witnessing to someone and inviting them to church I’ve heard these words:  “I’ll try to come to church…if I have time.” 

I was much the same way before I got saved.  I was busy with my career.  I was busy with my social life.  I thought I had no time for Jesus.    In some ways it was just pride talking, “I’m too important to take time out for church.”  It was also a way to tell someone I didn’t want to go without being rude.  I was just like the innkeeper.  “There’s no room in my life for Jesus.

The innkeeper put them in the stable.  He sent them back out of the public places in the inn to the hidden area.  He put them in the background so they weren’t seen.

I’ve seen Christians do that, too.  Jesus doesn’t have a prominent place in their lives.  They don’t want others to know that they’re Christians.  There was a thing going through the church world for a while.  People would say, “Shhhh, I’m a secret agent for Jesus.  I’m God’s James Bond.”  The problem with that is that Jesus doesn’t have secret agents.  His command was, “Go and preach the Gospel.”

But we’re often like those “secret agents” without being cute and saying “I’m a secret agent.”  Instead we just say nothing at all.  I’ve had people in my church profess Christianity, but later tell me, “My friends at work don’t know I’m a Christian.”  Sometimes they say, “I don’t talk about Jesus at work, I don’t want to offend my co-workers.  They don’t want to hear about Him.”  They keep Jesus in the hidden rooms of their hearts.  “He’s in the back room.  He doesn’t come into the main areas of my life.” 

That's Innkeeper Thinking!

I wonder about this innkeeper, sometimes.  How did Jesus wind up in the stable?  Mary was VERY pregnant.  Obviously, the innkeeper could see that.  The best he could do for this woman was a stable?  I think the problem was that he didn’t want to be bothered. 

How do you look at your salvation and involvement in the church?  Do you think that it’s the pastor’s job, or do you think if you don’t do it, someone else will take up the slack?  That’s innkeeper thinking. 

As Christians we’re called to reach people.  We’re all part of the body of Christ.  We were placed into the church we were placed into for a reason.  Your strengths overcome someone else’s weaknesses and their strengths overcome yours.  So we can help each other to build His church.  Not the pastor’s church…Jesus’ church.

King Herod

Matthew 2:1-4 (NKJV)
2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Herod was the king of Israel.  The Romans put him in place as they dominated and oppressed Israel.  His mother was a Jew, his father an Idumean (Edom).  He knew the Jewish prophecies.  He understood the religion.  He was the king. 

When the wise men came and asked about where the new King of the Jews was born, Herod became troubled.  When the king is troubled…everybody under the king is troubled. 

Herod had the power.  He didn’t want to lose the power.  It’s almost as if he’s saying, “This is my life.  I’m the king and there won’t be any other kings.”  You can see his fear of losing control, because of the way he reacted when the wise men came to him.  As soon as they left him he began to plot how to get rid of Jesus:

Matthew 2:16 (NKJV)
2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

We’re like King Herod, when we don’t want to be committed to the will of God for our lives.  When we want to jealously hang onto the power we have over our own lives. 

I was a lot like Herod.  I was a mover and a shaker.  I thought I was in control over my own life.  I had all the power over my own decisions.  Nobody was going to tell me how to live, especially not Jesus.  People would talk to me about Jesus and I would cut them off and drive them away.  I was the king of my life…then I got saved.  There was a dramatic change in my thinking.  I gave control over my life to the will of God.  If you look at my life it’s looks like I don’t have any control over it.  I’m out of the business that made me a great living and gave me power.  I’m not a hotshot executive any more.  I don’t even live in my country anymore.  I have a new king.

We’re like Herod when we don’t want to live the will of God for our lives.  We say things like, “I know what the Bible says, but this is what I’m doing.”  “The Bible says that behavior is sin, but it’s I think it’s all in how you interpret it.”  “I can be a Christian and sleep with my girlfriend, too.”  “I control my own life.”  These are examples of King Herod thinking.  We all want a savior, but we don’t want a KING.

If we allow Jesus to be king then we have to admit that as king He has a right to have expectations.  The problem with letting Him be king is that sometimes He expects us to do things that are difficult. 

Remember He asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son to test his faith.  He sent Joseph into slavery and prison to prepare him to lead Egypt.  He asked Moses to risk his life and go before pharaoh to demand God’s people be released so that he could lead them to the Promised Land.   Jesus interrupts lives and we don’t want interruptions. We want to be in control over what happens in our lives.  

That’s King Herod Thinking!

We hate authority.  We’re not going to let the preaching affect us.  “I hear what’s being preached, I even know that what’s being said is right, but I’m going to continue to do what I have always done.  I don’t care if it’s right or wrong.”  That’s King Herod thinking.  You’re thinking like Herod, “I don’t want another king in my life.”


Luke 2:25-30 (NKJV)
2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 29 "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation

Simeon was an old man.  He was looking for the “consolation of Israel.”  He was waiting for the one who would redeem Israel.  He was looking for the Christ, the Messiah: The salvation of mankind.  His life was given over to the will of God.  He knew Jesus had come to a savior.  He knew that His salvation would change lives.

Do you know why I became a pastor?  I remember what my life was like before salvation.  I had given up hope.  I was lonely and isolated.  I drank myself to sleep every night.  I suffered from severe depression and wanted to kill myself.  But Jesus saved my life.  He changed me.  The Gospel ignited hope in my life.  I was transformed by it.  I became a pastor because I wanted to see that same hope change other people’s lives. 

It has been a powerful thing to look at people in my congregation and see the change in them.  It’s amazing to look at how they’re living and know that Jesus has changed their lives.  Some of them are grasping the life-changing power of the Gospel.  That’s why I became a pastor to see that miracle take place in people’s lives. 

These are people who’ve stopped thinking like the innkeeper.  These are people who’ve stopped thinking like Herod.   They’ve begun to think like Simeon. 

Simeon didn’t have any doubts that Jesus was the answer.  He made room for Him in his life. He put Him in the main rooms of his heart. You could see Jesus in him.

He made Jesus the king over his life, even though Jesus had just been born.  Simeon’s whole life had been given over to seeing the salvation that Jesus brought into the world. He saw the hope and promise contained in Him.  

That’s Simeon Thinking!

When you look forward to being in the House of God:  When you look forward to being in the presence of God.  When you have desire to be abut the business of God:  When you want to see others receive the hope that you've received, then you've begun to think like Simeon. 

Simeon thinking is when you’ve turned your will over to His will, “God I want what you want.”

Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane saying, “Not my will but yours.”  John, while standing at the foot of the cross and accepting Mary to care for as his own mother.  Ananias taking the risk in going to visit Paul after all of his persecution of the church, and Paul after praying three times to have the thorn removed from his flesh accepting the words, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  These are examples of Simeon thinking.

Are you looking for Jesus’ influence in your life?  Are you looking for His will for your life?  Do you have room for Him in your life? Are you looking for a Savior AND a king?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then that’s Simeon thinking. 

One final thought: 

It’s Christmas time and all over the world people are preparing gifts for their loved ones, but I want you to see something.  This is the real gift of Christmas:

Romans 5:16-18 (NKJV)
5:16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

Through one man’s righteous act the free gift came.  That one righteous act is Jesus obedience and death on the cross.  The free gift that came through is salvation:  Eternal Life.

“The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men.  HE CAME TO DIE.”
– Billy Graham.

Take some time and read the Christmas Carols like God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.  Those carols are about Jesus defeat of sin and Satan on the cross.  They’re about Him coming to set us free of sin.  That’s the real gift of Christmas.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chris' Letters to the Taiwanians: Second Taiwanians

Editor’s Note:  The title of this comes from this being the second sermon in a series called, “Chris’ letters to the Taiwanians.”  They are both on the subject of Bible Reading and Study.  They are called “First Taiwanians”, and “Second Taiwanians.” 

A few years ago a test was given to five classes high school seniors.  Most of them failed the exam, completely.  Some were so confused that they thought Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers, or that Matthew, Mark, Luther and John wrote the Gospels.  Other said that Eve was created from an apple, and that the stories that Jesus used in teaching were called parodies.  More than eighty percent of the students couldn't complete such familiar quotations as “Many are called but few are______”, or “A soft answer turneth away _______.”

It is pretty obvious that these students weren't Bible scholars or even Bible readers.  One of the difficulties a pastor faces out in the field, is encouraging people to read their Bibles, faithfully.  We want them to know the Word of God and understand God’s will for their lives, but to know God they need to understand God’s Word; His message to His people.  In this post I want to show you that knowing your scripture, knowing what the Word of God says can protect you in times of trial and tribulation.

Genesis 3:1-7 (NKJV)
3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

How Easily Fooled

This is a very familiar passage of scripture.  This is where it all started; the very first instance of sin; the very first act of disobedience.  It is interesting to note how Eve was fooled by the devil.   He lied, she fell for it and took the whole human race down.  To borrow a phrase from the anti-war movement:  he lied – people died.

Look how this happened:  We find out the serpent is cunning; wily; sneaky.  We know, though, that this isn't just a serpent but the devil in disguise.  He comes to Eve and asks a really sneaky question – “Did God really say…”.  He’s asking, “Are you really sure that God said that?” 

Did God really say, “You shall not eat from EVERY Tree of the Garden?  Did He really say that?” 

I think the way he asks that is interesting.  God said they could eat of all the trees in the Garden except one, so they can’t eat from every tree in the Garden.  The question is really a twist of what God said.

Now look at Eve’s answer:

Genesis 3:2-3 (NKJV)
3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "

The only problem with that answer is that that isn't what God said.  God didn't say that.  Look what God did say:

Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV)
2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

So, Eve isn't accurate about the Word of God.  She’s not really sure what God did say, so she’s open to be misled.  She can be easily fooled because she’s not sure of the Word of God in this moment of temptation. 

Think about this.  Are there things in society that tempt you away from God’s will?  Things like, “We’re in love, we’re living together.  We’re married in the eyes of God.”  The Bible is specific that fornication without marriage is sin, but we hear lies and twisted truths all the time and if we’re not sure of the Word of God then we’re unable to defend ourselves in an argument.

Benjamin Franklin loved to argue.  Occasionally, he would find himself overwhelmed by the arguments of his friends.  At such times he often would say, “Give me a day to think the matter over, for I am correct.”

Afterward, he would go to his printing shop and set up some type in the style of the Bible, and express his position in Bible language.  He would then return the next day and proudly proclaim:

“Whatever you may think you cannot get away from the fact that the Holy Scripture supports my arguments.  As it is said in the Book of John…” The ruse worked every time.

That trick can only work if you don’t know the Bible.  I once had a homeless man tell me that he was justified in living like he was because the Apostle Paul was homeless. (We know from reading the Bible that Paul worked as a tent maker.)  Then he told me a story that Paul was hungry and had no food, so he made a fire and boiled water, then he put rocks in the boiling water.  All of the people in the town near where Paul was came out and placed vegetables and meat in the pot, to make a nutritious soup.  I had heard a story similar to that one before, but I couldn't really remember the context of the story, or where it came from.  I stopped for a moment to think about it, realizing that it is an old Russian folk tale called, “Stone Soup.”  I knew my Bible and realized immediately, that it wasn't a biblical story, had I not known I may have been as easily fooled as that man apparently was.

In the Garden of Eden, the command God gave was not to eat the fruit.  He didn't say anything about not touching it.  The devil, emboldened, then says, “You shall not surely die.”  He’s saying God’s a liar.  If Eve knew the Word of God, if she was sure of the Word of God, this bold-faced lie would have been a red flashing warning to her.  It’s a lie but Eve wasn't alarmed, she didn't see it for what it was.  Knowing the TRUTH will keep you from believing the LIE.

Genesis 3:5 (NKJV)
3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Now the devil begins to speak of God’s intentions.  He makes the lie bigger; he knows she doesn't know God’s words, so how can she be sure of God’s motivations.  She’s easily taken in by those words, especially, in light of what her eyes are telling her.

Genesis 3:5-6 (NKJV)
3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Her eyes tell her what the devil is saying makes sense.  The fruit looks like it's good to be eaten, so she can’t understand why God would forbid it.  She may think the devil’s right, it will make her wise and that’s what God is trying to prevent.  “If it will make me like God…I’m eating it.”

This is the temptation that destroyed the human race, because it worked.  Think about what this is: 

Her eyes saw it…It looks so good, I've got to have it.
It appealed to her flesh…I can be so wise.
It appealed to her pride…I can be like God.

Have you ever been tempted in that way?  That’s where temptation comes from:  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

1 John 2:16-17 (NKJV)
2:16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

What happened to Eve is the classic temptation.  The history of every temptation that leads to sin is the same: 

The outward object of temptation – The thing you desire. The inward commotion of the mind – The confusion. The lust and then the triumph of getting what you want, followed by the degradation that comes from sin.  It’s all in the story of the first sin.  In this case, where it all came from was a lack of Bible knowledge and understanding.  I know Eve didn't have a Bible, but she had God’s words, straight from God’s mouth. 

She knew God.  She’d met God.  She’d spent time with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.  It’s right here in Genesis chapter three.

Genesis 3:8 (NKJV)
3:8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

They were familiar with the sound of God walking in the Garden because they had direct access to God.  Not being clear in the Word of God led to the corruption of the earth and to the death of all mankind.

Romans 5:12 (NKJV)
5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--

After the Sin Comes the Clarity

Someone once said, “God’s word is like a highway sign.  You don’t have to pay attention to it, if you don’t care what happens to you.”

God’s word is like a warning sign.  The sign is out there; it’s in place.  It’s there to protect you, but if you don’t read it, it can’t protect you. Most of us know right from wrong, but sometimes we don’t see clearly what’s going on.Eve is deceived by the devil.  She doesn't see through the lies.  She doesn't understand what the devil is trying to do.  She misses it completely until after the deed is done.  Once the sin is committed, the clarity comes.

Genesis 3:7 (NKJV)
3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Now, she has clarity.  Now she knows what she’s done, but it’s too late.  The deal is done.  The devil has his victory.  Death has come into the world.  What a sad, sad day.  Now you might say, “My sin will not cause the death of mankind..  Nothing I could do could have such grave consequences.”  You’re probably right.  After Eve’s sin there’s not much our individual sins can do to harm mankind, but you have to take this down to a personal level.  YOUR sin can destroy YOUR eternity.  Your example may lead others into the same sin.  You can bring death (Hell) into the lives of others.

The real problem that we have is like Eve’s; often we are so caught up in lies and deceptions that we don’t even realize that what we’re doing is sin until it’s too late.  Then the clarity comes in as we see the consequences of that sin kick in, as we stand before God.  Then we’ll have clarity.  Then we’ll realize what we've done, but like Eve it’ll be too late.

Imagine this for a moment…At some point Eve realized that people now face death, sickness and suffering because of what she did – How do you think that felt?  After the sin, her eyes were opened; she saw that she was naked.  She knew what had happened but she couldn't take it back.  It was too late and it’s the same for us.  We can repent and God will forgive us, but often the consequences of the sin have been released.  Those consequences must still be paid. 

Adam and Eve got back into a right relationship with God.  We see that later in their lives, as their children are raised to make offerings to God, but they never got back into the Garden and people still die.  The consequences remain.

The problem is when those consequences affect innocent people.  Our children often reap the consequences of our sin.  If you don’t believe that ask a kid whose parents divorced because one of the parents was unfaithful.  Ask a woman who feels worthless because of her husband’s addiction to pornography.  Ask a man who’s buried in debt because of his wife’s selfishness.  Ask a family whose child is dead because of a drunk driver. 

How much easier would life be if people read the warning sign?  Find the clarity before the sin by knowing and understanding God’s Word.  Know what He’s saying so when temptation comes, you won’t be easily swayed by persuasive words.  The second greatest gift we have been given by God is the Bible; the Word of God, so we can use it to defeat the temptations, twists and lies of the devil.  If only Eve had had that understanding things might have been a bit different.

The Bible has been Given to Help You

A little boy saw his father using a square to see if a board he was planning was straight.  “Why are you so careful, daddy?” 

“We can’t guess in carpenter work,” his dad said, “You have to be just right.  People guess at too many things.  God doesn't like that way of living.”

“I guess there are no squares for living by,” said the boy.

“Yes, there are squares to live by, you will find them in the Bible.  Test all that you do by them, and you go straight in life, my boy.”

This is some very good advice.  The bible was given to us so that we can understand God’s mercy and love for us, and God’s expectation for us.

If we will read and know our Bible, we will be able to fight off so much in the way of temptation.  Let’s look at Jesus’ example for a moment:

After Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the spirit into the desert and was tempted three times by Satan.

Luke 4:1-4 (NKJV)
4:1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.' "

The lust of the flesh – He was hungry, the temptation was to fill his stomach.  Look at how Jesus answered the devil.  He quoted scripture…”It is written.”

Luke 4:5-8 (NKJV)
4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.' "

 The lust of the eyes – Look at the riches and power you can have.  Again, look at how Jesus answers.  He quoted scripture…”It is written.”  Finally:

Luke 4:9-12 (NKJV)
4:9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' 11 "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.' "

The pride of life – You’re special God loves you more.  In fact, this is where the devil twists scripture.  Just like with Eve when he said, “Did God really say…?”  Jesus knows and understands God words.  He recognized the twist and he corrects him. 

He used God’s words to protect Himself from the temptations.  In order to do that, though, He had to know what it really said.  He had to study and memorize them.  He had to know which scriptures would be appropriate with which to respond.  If we want to be able to protect ourselves we need to be able to correctly discern what’s right and what’s wrong or we will be as easily fooled as Eve.

Someone once said, “Should all the people dust off their Bibles, we would have one of the greatest dust storms of all time.” 

Let’s begin that dust storm… forget about the environmentalists, the world is already corrupt because Eve didn't know the Word of God.  We can begin to make that right, by knowing our way through the Word of God and fighting off the devil in our lives.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Christian Dating

The Young man poured out his heart’s devotion on paper to the girl of his dreams:


I would climb the highest mountain for your love.  I would swim the widest stream for a chance to see your smile.  I would cross the burning desert just to gaze into your eyes.  I would die at the stake to hold your hand for a single moment.

P.S.  I will see you Saturday…if it doesn't rain.

Today, I’m going to do something I’ve never done.  I’m going to post on dating and marriage.  The reason I’ve never done this is because I’ve never preached on dating and marriage, until now.  I’ve never had a congregation that had young adults who were dating or who were becoming the age where they would want to date, before this.  For the married couples who may be reading this, please bear in mind that if you have young children, they will date one day.  You need to instill the right values in them, now.  There are things people decide while dating that will have an affect on the rest of their lives. 

1 Timothy 5:1-2 (NKJV)
5:1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity.

Treat Women as Sisters

I realize that this is written to Timothy as a pastor, but it is important in what it tells us about how to treat people.  Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have “rules for dating.” Why not, you ask.  The reason is simple; in those days marriages were arranged between parents, for their own reasons. I know this will be a huge blow to young women but “He’s so cute” was never a reason a young man was considered for marriage to a young woman. 

This scripture is telling us that we should treat women with respect like sisters. Think about your sisters, men, how would you want other men to treat them?  What expectations would you have for a guy who’s dating your sister?  Would you want your sister treated with the respect with which you treat women?  That question is really asking, “Do you treat women with respect”?

I came across this document on the Internet a while back:

8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter

  1. Use your hands on my daughter and you’ll lose them after.
  2. You make her cry; I make you cry.
  3. Safe sex is a myth; anything you try will be hazardous to your health.
  4. Bring her home late, there’s no next date.
  5. If you pull into my driveway and honk you better be dropping off a package, because you’re sure not picking anything up.  (Alternate:  Only deliverymen honk, dates ring the doorbell…Once!
  6. No complaining while you’re waiting for her, if you’re bored you can change my oil.
  7. If your pants hang off your hips, I’ll gladly secure them with my staple gun.
  8. Dates must be in crowded public places.  You want romance?  Read a book.(1)
Now, this is meant to be humorous, but if you look beyond the attitude it’s really a father’s desire that his daughter be treated with respect.  We have become a society, though, that doesn’t value treating others with respect.  We expect to be treated with respect, but feel that we’re exempt from treating others respectfully. 

The Bible gives us a clue as to what it means to treat women with respect in the last phrase of our text “with all purity.”  What is purity?

According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary purity can be defined as:  Free from moral fault:  Innocent.

When we treat women without regard for their purity; when we have a physical relationship with them without marriage, we take something that doesn't belong to us.

Dating with no intention of marriage, is like clothes shopping with no money.  You’ll leave frustrated or take something that doesn't belong to you. (2)

The Bible defines for us when it is proper to come together:

Hebrews 13:4 (NKJV)
13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

So, a sexual relationship after marriage is honorable, but not before.  Fornication is a sexual relationship outside of marriage; God will judge that.  This ties into sexual purity, sexual purity is abstinence from sexual intercourse prior to marriage.  Maintaining sexual purity in your dating relationship is acting with respect for women.  It shows a concern for their relationship with God, their well-being and their future.  Look at this:

1 Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV)
6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

Or her own body, as the case may be.
When we have sex outside of marriage we sin against God, remember God will judge, but we also sin against ourselves.  This scripture says it’s a sin against our own bodies.  Now let me show you some statistics:

Men who marry as virgins are 36% less likely to divorce.  Women who marry as virgins are 24% less likely to divorce. (3)

Those who wait to until marriage to have sex and remain faithful in marriage report higher levels of life satisfaction compared to adults who engage in premarital or adulterous sex.  Those who wait until marriage and are faithful to their spouse also report notably higher happiness scores. (4)

So what do these statistics tell us?  That young people who abstain from sex before marriage are happier, more satisfied with life, and less likely to divorce.  God isn’t trying to spoil your fun, He’s trying to insure that your life be the best it can be.

John 10:10 (NKJV)
10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

This tells us that Jesus has come to give us a more abundant life, a happier, fuller life, but it also tells us that the devil wants to destroy it. 

Why Remain Pure?

Someone once said, “Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?”

The meaning of that is why make the commitment to marriage, when you can enjoy the benefits of the marriage bed without making commitments.  In simpler and perhaps cruder terms, why get married when you can have sex without it?

You know, marriage is a lot of work; two selfish people come together and have to figure out how to live with each other and maintain a relationship.  I want what I want – She wants what she wants.  Unfortunately, the two wants aren't always the same.  It takes compromise and commitment to be married, so that means sometimes you have to give up what you want so the other can have what they want. 

Sometimes men look at marriage and say, “It’s easier to stay single.  I can do what I want.  I don’t have to share my stuff.  I can check out a lot of women.  Being single is great.”  So, if women are going to let them have sex, in addition to all these other things, some men are not going to get married.  They don’t see a benefit to them.  If you’re dating a guy with that attitude, you don’t need him, he’s selfish and immature, which, by the way aren't good prospects for a healthy, happy marriage.  Look at this statement about the first marriage:

Genesis 2:24-25 (NKJV)
2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

What do we see here?  A MAN leaves his parents:  He’s grown up; he’s matured.  He’s not dependent on his parents anymore; he can make his own way in the world.  He has some resources of his own.

THEN he’s joined to a wife.  He’s united with her.  Then they become one (that’s a Bible euphemism for sex.)  They become one flesh.  They’re naked and there’s no shame.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of to be naked in front of your spouse, you’re one flesh. 

Do you know why sex is intended for marriage?  Sexual intimacy is intended to draw couples together.  There is a bond that is built between couples that are intimate that joins them together. 

Matthew 19:4-6 (NKJV)
19:4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."

This bond remains until one or the other dies.  Think about this for a moment.  A woman sleeps with her boyfriend and gets pregnant.  That couple is linked for life; even if they break up, even if they marry other people.  They still have that child between them.  There will always be that link.  They will have to work out taking care of the child.

How many marriages do you know where the wife got pregnant before the marriage, and so they “did the right thing and got married.”  Now they’re unhappy.  They’re struggling with the marriage and their feelings for each other.  They’re always fighting.  The problem is that they formed this tie before they cleaved together. 

     “She trapped me into marriage. 

     “He’s here, but he doesn't love me.”

They didn't treat each other with "all purity."  He didn't treat her with respect before marriage.  She allowed him to take what didn't belong to him and now they’re struggling with the consequences.  Even if there’s no child there’s still a tie, in a spiritual sense. 

1 Corinthians 6:16 (NKJV)
6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."

The Bible uses the word “harlot,” but the implication is just that there’s no marriage.  They’re not married to each other but the two become one flesh.  There is still that link that binds them together. 

Why buy the cow when the milk is free?  Why give the milk away in the first place?  That milk is intended to nourish your marriage.

How to Date like a Christian

I said this post was about Christian dating, but so far I haven’t said anything about how we’re supposed to date.  What is Christian dating like?

I think it would be simpler to first discuss non-Christian dating.  Non-Christian dating – The way everyone else is doing it.  The word dating in the 1920s was another word for prostitution.  Media; television, movies and music create an image of what a hip, modern dating relationship looks like.  It does nothing to promote Godliness. 

Non-Christians are waiting longer to get married, and sleeping and living together.  50% of adults are not married.  33% of all births are to unmarried women.  The myth is that if you’re living together or sleeping together you’ll have a better marriage.  That’s a lie.  The odds of your marriage failing are higher than those who don’t engage in that type of behavior. (5)

Christian dating is not like the world’s dating.  The following are MY recommendations:

  1. Date in groups or in public restaurants:  Places where there are a lot of people around.
  2. Don’t spend the night together.  When my wife and I were dating we separated by 10:30.  I WENT HOME.
  3. Avoid being physical.  Keep your hands to yourself.  I kissed my wife for the first time at the end of our wedding ceremony.  We weren't hanging all over each other and acting all lovey-dovey, either.
  4. Don’t be alone in private places.  The devil’s probably not going to be able to tempt you to get naked in the middle of Wal-Mart, but he might in a nice, romantic bedroom.
  5. Make God a part of your romance.  Let Him guide and direct you.  After all, God brought Eve to Adam. 

A good rule of thumb is don’t do anything you wouldn't want your pastor to see you doing.  If you can’t do it while your pastor is there…DON’T DO IT.  This will help you to avoid the dangers of dating, and it may help you to have a happy marriage. 

I’m not naive and I know that some people may have already engaged in fornication.  But the wonderful thing is that you can repent.  “God, I messed up and violated myself and my partner.”  God is faithful to forgive, but remember that repentance requires change.  Without change there is no repentance.  If you've done that, I would recommend separating for a while and being honest with your pastor.  Then prayerfully and with counsel, evaluate your relationship. 

When you begin to date, do so with the idea that you’re courting.  Courting means there is a seriousness about marriage, and do it the right way. 

Sex is a wonderful thing.  It’s a gift to marriage.  Waiting until the right time makes your wedding night a wonderful and joyous occasion.  It makes it special; the excitement and anticipation.  What a wonderful gift.  So value yourself and the gift God has given you.  Use it for its proper purpose, to create a closeness and intimacy in your MARRIAGE:  To make your marriage a lasting and happy one.

(1)  8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter: And other tips for a beleaguered Father (Not that any of them work.  W, Bruce Cameron , 2001, Workman

(2)  Twitter Feed:  Calvary Tweets:  Sept. 24, 2013

(3)  Pastor Mark Driscoll, Dating, Relating and Fornicating, October 26, 2011

(4)  Cohabitation Vs. Marriage:  26 Research Findings, Physicians for Life.org,

(5)  Pastor Mark Driscoll, Dating, Relating and Fornicating, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 7, 2013

Live in Excellence

These days we hear a lot about excellence, but the question for today is, “Are you living excellence in your day-to-day life?”  Even more importantly, “Are you living excellence in your walk with God?”  An excellent person is someone who’s willing to go above and beyond what we consider the normal standard.  Look at this quote:

Someone once said, “It’s a sad commentary on society that the new standard of good service is, “everything went the way it’s supposed to.”

That’s the usual standard of “It’s good enough.”  I’m doing the minimum work required to make it okay…to keep from trouble.  Is that what we want do?  Is the minimum what you’re boss is looking for from you, or is he looking for excellence?  Today I want to examine excellence in life and excellence in your walk with God.

Daniel 6:1-5 (NKJV)
6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God."


Daniel’s life is an amazing story of excellence.  He’s risen above the others, “because an excellent spirit was in him.”  So the king looks to make him chief of all the governors. Everyone will answer to him.  He was the one who distinguished himself.  That means he went above and beyond the norm.  He made himself indispensable; he was the “Go To guy.”

There is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers, It’s the story of people who have risen “distinguished themselves” by virtue of their success.  The Beatles are used as an example.  They are arguably the best Rock and Roll group ever.  They have been enormously successful but what has raised them above all the others?  According to this book they played their music as a group for more than 10,000 hours. 

In their early days they played in Munich Germany at small clubs.  They played almost every night.  They practiced for 8 hours a day and played for about 4 hours every night.  Because of this they played together for more than 10,000 hours and rose above everyone else.

Think about it for a moment.  Their music became their whole lives. They lived out their commitment to their craft.  They didn't blow off practice; they played together, between practice and concerts twelve hours a day.  They were committed to improvement.  They rose to distinction…just like Daniel.  Do you remember his story?

He was taken as a slave as a young man and he refused to compromise God’s standards about food:

Daniel 1:8 (NKJV)
1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

He’s refusing to compromise.  He’s refusing to lower his standards.  He’s standing firm in what God has asked of him.  Do you know what that really is?  It’s faithfulness.  He’s faithful to God’s standards.  He’s faithful to do what God expects.

You do what our bosses expect of you, don’t you?  You’re on time for work.  You’re not always on coffee breaks. You’re diligent. You do what your boss tells you.  But what about what you do for God?  Are you on time?  Are you diligent?  Are you responsive to authority?  Do you want to be excellent? 

Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.

Warren G. Bennis, Founder of the Leadership Institute at USC

Do you think it’s interesting that because of Daniel’s excellence his enemies couldn’t attack and destroy him?  They had to look for a way to defeat him that used his unwillingness to compromise his standards and adherence to God’s standards. 

Daniel 6:7 (NKJV)
6:7 All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

So they made it illegal to pray, knowing Daniel would continue to pray and worship.

Daniel 6:10 (NKJV)
6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

So, even though Daniel knew of the consequences – He knew what would happen:  He prayed anyway.

This is excellence.  Even when it would be easier and safer to compromise, you continue to hold to your standards.  Daniel set the standards for himself, and they were higher standards than everyone else’s.  That’s how he “distinguished himself.”

What do your standards look like?  Are your standards bold, do they stand out?  Are they limiting you or causing you to excel?  Do you think beyond the moment?  Do you just focus on what you’re being pressured to do or are you looking to the future?  Do you have a handle on the vision?  Are you striving to see the vision accomplished or do you only care about the individual task you’ve been assigned?  Do you commit yourself to being the best you can be or is good enough…good enough? The way you answer those questions will tell you something about you commitment to personal excellence.

Look at the things your involved in at church.  First, are you even involved at all?  Are you looking for ways to improve YOUR ministry?  Are you willing to invest, your finances and your time, in YOUR ministry?  Are you self-motivated or do you constantly need encouragement and reminders to complete YOUR ministry?  Do you follow up on things that need to be done?  Do you reach out and offer help to other people in ministry?  Do you want to have an EXCELLENT spirit? 

Examples of Excellence

I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.   Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.

Michael J. Fox Actor

Colossians 3:22-24 (NKJV)
3:22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

We are called to examples of excellence.  That word “heartily” speaks of having an abundant spirit; Diligently.  This scripture is written to those who were slaves; people who had to work with no expectation of reward.  The scripture says to do the work as id your doing it for the Lord, not because you HAVE to.  

This is interesting, because how do we look at ministry?  That word minister mean to serve; we serve in ministry.  So, then why do we look at our ministry as if we’re doing the church a favor? 

You know what I find interesting is that we hold volunteers to a lesser standard than we do workers.  I understand that a volunteer could be doing something else.  I understand that they’re giving of their time to do what they’re doing but why should it be inferior just because they volunteered.

There was a woman in the Riverside church, who would volunteer to help clean when there was a church event.  So she’d come over and basically did nothing.  The things she did do we would have to go back and do again because they weren't done properly.  She was a volunteer

She was a volunteer, but she wasn't a minister.  We have ministry.  This is a gift from God.  It’s a privilege.  We should do it heartily.  We should be an example of the excellence of Christ. 

Jesus was the only one of us who was perfect.  He was the only man who lived without sin.  He is the epitome of excellence.  We are His representatives on earth.  We should be trying to live up to who He is.  Do you realize that people form opinions about Jesus by the way we live and act? 

I had a General manager one time who did something that stood out in my mind.  There was a young man on our sales staff, who was a great salesman.  He could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo.  But one night he got involved with a girl and ended up with hickeys on his neck.  Bite marks.  When he came to work this general manager fired him on the spot.  When I asked him why he said, “He represents me and this company.  I don’t want people to associate that behavior with me.  It doesn't represent my moral character.” 

It didn't reflect his lifestyle.  As Christians we represent Jesus.  How we live reflects who Jesus is.  If Jesus is excellent then we must strive for excellence, as well.

How do we strive for excellence?  We can start by being on time for church.  We can be involved in the worship service.  We can do our best in our ministries, always looking for ways to improve it.  We can come to ministry practices prepared and ready.  We can care about the details, making sure that what is needed is ready and available.  We can be there to pray.  We can be there a little early so that visitors won’t feel awkward.  We can be friendly and outgoing.  These are the details and it is the details that separate adequate from excellent.

2 Corinthians 8:7 (NKJV)
8:7 But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also.

Taking care of the details is how you abound in diligence.

In Daniel 6, they looked for a way to get rid of Daniel.

Daniel 6:4 (NKJV)
6:4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.

They couldn't find anything wrong because he was FAITHFUL.  A faithful man takes care of the details.  Getting the job done is what’s expected.  Taking care of the details, too, that’s doing it excellently.

 I read a story of a man whose car was broken into.  They smashed his window and stole something out of his car.  So he called a company to come and replace the window.  The guy who came and replaced the window put in the new one…Then he vacuumed up all the broken glass in the car.  Then he made notes of scratches and dings and al, the problems with the car as a result of the break-in, with diagrams, so the man who have it for his insurance agent.  All of this was done outside in the bitter cold.

He was only expected to change the window, but he took care of the details, too – that’s excellence.

I read another story of a soldier who was in Afghanistan.  For his wife’s birthday he wanted to do something that he knew would make her happy.  She loved Pizza from a certain Pizza place.  So he called that place, from Afghanistan, and told them what he wanted to do.  He just ordered a pizza.  So this pizza place made a pizza for her in the shape of a heart.  On the way to the delivery of the pizza they stopped and bought flowers and balloons for her and delivered them all at NO charge.

All that was required was that they deliver a pizza, but they took it upon themselves to go the extra mile and take care of the details – that’s excellence.

One final story.  There is a town of 6,000 people in a remote part of Alaska.  Some joker played a prank on the entire town by convincing them that Taco Bell would open a fast-food restaurant in their little town.  Taco Bell found out.  They had no plans for opening a restaurant in that place.  But, they purchased enough meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and hot sauce for 10,000 tacos.  Then they used a helicopter to airlift a catering truck, all the food and a few employees so they could feed tacos to the people of Benton, Alaska…at no charge.

There was no action required on Taco Bell’s part, but they did something anyway – that’s excellence.

Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.

Edward Simmons   Artist

Just be Excellent

"If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today.  As of this second, quit doing less than excellent work."
Thomas J. Watson  Chairman of IBM in the 40s

Think about people you admire.  What is it that makes them so admirable?  Is it the courage to do the right thing even when it’s not to their advantage?  Is it their willingness to suffer so someone else doesn’t have to?  Is it the way they made their business successful while being concerned about their employees and their customer’s needs?  What is it that lifts them up in your eyes?  What is it that makes them excellent? 

I don’t want you to think that this is about business or about doing things.  This is really about our walk with God.  Daniel had an excellent spirit.  His excellence caused him to “distinguish himself.”  We should aspire to excellence as well to distinguish ourselves as Christians, so that people will see Jesus favorably because of our actions and lives.  When we lift Him up He will draw all men.

Daniel 5:11 (NKJV)
5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father--your father the king--made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.

That same Spirit dwells in you.  Show it to be an excellent Spirit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Spiritual Leadership 101: For Men

I want to start today’s post with a few quotes on leadership:

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.—Dwight D. Eisenhower
I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.-Ralph Nader
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. - Thomas Jefferson 
You don't lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Some of what I write here today may get me in a little trouble.  I’m sure there are those who won’t like some of the things I touch on in this post, but Richard Nixon once said, “If an individual wants to be a leader and isn't controversial, He never stood for anything.”  So this post will be on the topic of Spiritual Leadership:

Joshua 24:15 (NKJV)
24:15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Leadership Begins in the Home

This is Joshua, he’s declaring to all of Israel that his entire household will serve God.  He’s not saying as for me, I will serve the Lord.  He’s making the decision for his family. 

This takes place after the Promised Land has been conquered.  The Bible says they have been given rest from their enemies all around.   This is a time of peace, a time when they can take stock of the way they’re living their lives.

Joshua is like a true leader trying to move them into the Will of God here.  He’s trying to bring them all into the same understanding about God’s desire for Israel.  To do that he declares, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” 

There can really only be one leader.  It never works when there is more than one leader.  A committee can never get anything done quickly.  Even on the Board of Directors there is the chairman.  There can only be one leader, especially when it comes to spiritual leaders.  There can only be one leader.

In my house my wife and I are a united front when it comes to raising our children.  We work together, we discuss things, and we take the same stand.  If we disagree we discuss it in private away from the children, but there is only one leader in my house. Especially when it comes to spiritual matters.  Men, we are called to be spiritual leaders in our homes.  Someone once said, “Leadership is not making all the decisions; it’s seeing to it that the right person making the right decisions.”[i]

Look at this scripture:

Ephesians 5:22-25 (NKJV)
5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

Wives submit to your husbands, but first we must be submitted to Christ.  Jesus is the head of the church.  Our submission to each other comes out of our submission to Him.  We think of Jesus as our savior, and He is, but He’s more than just a savior.  He is also Lord; that means He is to be obeyed.  He commands us.  We are first submitted to the Lord, and secondly to each other.  Husbands love your wives; give yourself for her.  Wives submit to your husbands.  The Bible tells us why it is to be this way.

1 Timothy 2:12-14 (NKJV)
2:12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
God brought Eve to Adam, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone.  I will make a helper for him.”  A helper is not the leader.  That doesn't mean that men can give orders and demand responses.  It says, “Husbands love your wives.”  Love is not dictatorship.  This is what Love is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)
13:4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
That’s the Biblical description of love.  This is how we love our wives.  So, men we’re leaders in a Christian home and as leaders WE will be held accountable for the spiritual direction of our homes.  We will be accountable for our children’s grounding in the word of God.

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

We will be accountable, and if we’re accountable then we need to be sure that our kids are where they can be grounded in the word of God and that’s in church. My children have been in church since they were born.  They were born on a Wednesday night and were in church the following Sunday.  They aren’t allowed excuses from church.  Church attendance is not negotiable in our house, because I know they won’t be sitting around reading their Bibles if left to themselves.

The idea is to impress upon them that church isn’t a social function; church is about worshipping God – Our LORD.  We will be accountable for our families’ spiritual well being; we are called to lead them into the will of God.  Our families are our greatest ministries.  It’s up to us to LEAD them in the right direction, to teach them to put God before anything else.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in al, the things we have to do.  Life is busy.  There are many, many things to do all the time.  It is also easy to listen to our friends and family members who aren’t saved and all their advice.  “You’re trying to do too much.  You’re kids need their sleep.  You’ll make yourself sick.  You’re spending too much time at that church.” 

When I was working and pastoring at the same time, my co-workers were always telling me that I was burning the candle at both ends.  “You’re out late every night and at work early every morning.  You’re going to burn yourself out.  You’re going to die.”  Guess what, I did that for eight years as a pastor and nine years before that as a disciple and I’m still here. 

Joshua, in making this declaration is saying he doesn’t care what other people think, he’s going to do what he thinks is right.  Joshua will lead his family.  He’s the spiritual leader in HIS house.

One last thing I’ll say to young unmarried people.  Young man if you’re in a courting relationship, you need to be willing to lead there, too.  You need to hold yourself to God’s standards in a love relationship.  You must stand for purity before marriage.  Don’t pressure her to sleep with you and don’t allow yourself to be seduced.  The Bible tells us to flee sexual immorality.  In sin, the blessing of God is removed from your relationship.  Give your marriage the best opportunity to succeed by saving the blessing of sex for after the marriage, as God intended.

It is absurd that a man rule others, who cannot rule himself. – Latin proverb.

Spiritual leadership in Ministry

This is another side of spiritual leadership:

1 Timothy 3:8-13 (NKJV)
3:8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
These are the qualifications for ministry in the church. Let’s break down what this says:

Reverent means to honor God – Do you fear God?

Not double-tongued; practice what you preach. – Say what you mean and mean what you say.

No drinking; not greedy.

Let them be tested.  I don’t just turn over ministry to anyone who hasn’t proven how he lives.  There is a waiting period for ministry in our church.  This is the time of testing.  “Let them be tested.”  We want to see how you live,.

1 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)
3:12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

This is statement that goes back to the last point, we must be leaders in our own home.  We need to rule our children well.  They need to be obedient.  We need to teach them to obey.

I’ve seen children in church that are a huge distraction:  Running up and down the aisles, screaming and throwing things.  I’ve even seen kids standing during worship service reading comic books.  We’re not teaching them reverence.

If they’re in song service they need to be a part of the worship.  If you allow them to do other things, you’re not teaching them to worship God.  You’re not teaching them to give God priority in their lives.  They will grow up and downplay the need to worship and the priority of worship and may even retreat from serving God altogether; and if they do, woe to you.

Luke 17:2 (NKJV)
17:2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

The Greek word in this scripture that is translated as offend means to cause to stumble: To cause to fall into sin.  We’re not teaching them reverence.  Some parents even want to leave their children with relatives because they’re disruptive, but that doesn’t teach them to reverent.  We have to teach our children self-control.

My father died when my children were two years old. (They’re twins.) My children were present at my father’s funeral.  After the service when we were greeting people, people marveled because they didn’t realize that the kids were there.  They sat quietly throughout the one and half hour service.  They were used to being in church.  They were used to sitting quietly, because they knew what would happen if they were disruptive in church.  They learned that…we taught them that.  We enforced right behavior, and this is the key – we were consistent.

This will make me real popular:  I see the wives in my congregation.  They’re exhausted and they’re frustrated because the kids are too much for them.  Sometimes I have asked the men, “Do you stand up for your wives when the kid’s misbehave, or do you make them the bad guy all the time? ‘Woman, teach your children. Can’t you teach your kids, right?’”  It’s not husband and parent; it’s parents.  You are just as responsible for your children’s teaching as she is.  Give your wives a break.  It’s not babysitting when they’re your own children…it’s parenting.  The Bible doesn’t say, “Let Deacons be the wives of one husband ruling her house well.”  According to the Bible MEN are accountable for their children’s behavior.

My kids weren’t perfect little angels, in fact, they still aren’t.  We were rebuked for things our children did and so we’d have to deal with it.  It only took a few discipline sessions, then they’d behave, but sometimes after a while they’d backslide.  So we would have to be consistent and do it again.  Children will always test limits.  So, you constantly have to enforce the limits.

Joshua’s Declaration

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  This is Joshua showing us the will of God.  This is Joshua showing men how to live.  You know, it’s funny:  Men always want to be in charge.  We always want to be the ones who do the thinking and get others to do the work…except when it comes to leading at home.  At home we want to go off and do work and let our wives deal with all the issues and enforce all the rules. 

Leadership is example.  I want my kids in church so I go to church EVERY TIME.  I want my children to learn to give so I give my tithes and offerings.  I want my family to know how important it is to be a part of God’s will so I’m involved in what our church is doing. 

The question is, “Do you think it’s important that your family serve God?  Are you concerned about their eternal souls?  Do you believe what we’re preaching and teaching?  If you do how can you not want them to grasp it?  God has a plan for you and your wife and your kids, and you are accountable to God for whether or not they live up to that plan.  You can stand there in joy when he asks about your children.  Or you can stand there and mourn, because you missed your opportunity to lead them into God’s plan. 

They will have to answer to God for their choices, but you will answer for whether or not the choices they made were informed choices. 


[i] Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations