Married to a Seducer

HEARING gODVerizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005. In their commercials a so-called “test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.

The “catch phrase” caught on. The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down. It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect. Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems. And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.

PROPHETS

At the risk of selling him short, God has done the same. Even when the Kingdom had split in two, he kept sending his message. He gave the people of the Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” his call. He sent his own “technicians” to get the message out. We call them “prophets.”

PROSTITUTES

The job of the Verizon technician is unique. But not nearly as unique as the task given Hosea. Hosea, himself a prophet, appeared in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. So Hosea signed on with God. But God gave him a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her. What an incredible request! (Just imagine a young man with a sePROSTITUTEminary degree in hand trying to explain that one to a pastor search committee.)

The tough assignment was made even more difficult as Gomer left Hosea. She would conduct her ‘trans- actions’ with customers and all the time in her mind believing they were the ones supporting her. In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her necessities even during her times of unfaithfulness.

PIMPS

God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. Now picture this scene, as ugly as it is: Hosea pays some Hebrew “pimp” for some time with his wife, Gomer. When she enters the room expecting her next customer, she comes face-to-face with her husband. It is then that Hosea tells her again he loves her and wants her to come back home.

PICK IT UP

It’s the lived-out message that Hosea later gives in words. And it’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. You have the power to send God to voicemail and make him wait. Or you can answer his call today. The people of Israel had 208 years to pick up and they never did. The network is clear. The message is reliable. Can you hear him now?

DO YOU HAVE A PURITY STANDARD

RIGHT AND WRONGIs there any better question to ask in our culture than the one asked by the psalmist in Psalm 119: 9-10. He asks, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” Man, if you’ve got kids you’re a young person, that’s a great question to ask. How in the world, with all the temptations in this world, can we stay on the path of purity?

CULTURE SAYS!

Well, here’s what culture would tell you. Here’s what culture would say about everything: “Hey, just follow your heart. You’ve got a good heart. Follow your heart.” Listen: That’s the dumbest advice you could give anybody. Don’t follow your heart; your heart is deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says this: “The heart is deceitful above all things.” It will deceive and lie to you just to get its way.

I’ve seen so many married couples who followed their heart right out of marriage into adultery. Why? “Because my heart said, “He’s hot.” My heart said, “She smells good.” Don’t follow your heart. How can a young person keep their way pure? Here’s how the psalmist says, God, “by living according to your word.” Here’s what I’m going to do. “I will seek you with all my heart. Do not let me stray from your commands.”

THE FAMILY

Let’s applied that verse and translated it toward the family just for application. Here’s a different translation of this verse for the family. “How can our family stay on the path of purity?” Here’s the answer: Not by following our hearts, but by living according to your word. “We will seek you with all of our hearts. God, do not let us stray from your commands.”

UNMARRIED

Now, for those of you that aren’t married and don’t have a family right now, you might be thinking, “Yeah, sock it to them because it doesn’t matter to me because I purity 2don’t have a family yet so I can do whatever I want and then later on, I’ll get things right. I mean, right now I can sleep with who I want, I can drink what I want, I can smoke what I want, I can watch what I want. I can say what I want, I can do what I what.” “I can hang out with because, I’ll get it right later on when it matters, I mean, later on when I have a family.”

Listen to me: What you do today matters. You don’t build a life of righteousness on a foundation of sin. That’s so important I need to say it again. You don’t build a life of righteousness on a foundation of sin. If you want a harvest of righteousness in your family later, you plant seeds of righteousness in the ground today. “How can a young person stay pure? By living according to your word.”

What is going to be your standard of purity?

(Adapted from “Bless This Home” by Craig Groeschel)

Let’s Cohabitate!

The “Wise” Solomon

cohabitation 2Solomon is revered as the wisest man who ever lived. But was he really? When we look closer at Solomon’s choices we see a man who rejects God’s direction, especially when it came to love, sex and marriage. I mean, Solomon took polygamy to a whole new level. Right? I mean, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And God defined marriage differently than that.

Here’s what God says in Genesis 2, the very beginning of time, the first marriage and God defines marriage and he says, For this reason a man (singular )will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (not wives, wife), and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This word “united” is a strong word. It means to be bonded or glued together. And it really doesn’t allow for there to be more than one. It is this idea of one and one being united as one. And that’s how God designed it. That’s how God created it. That’s how he defines marriage.

“I Want to be Happy”

And Solomon decides, I want to do things differently. I want to be happy. My heart tells me this is what I should do and so that is what I’m going to do. And so in his pursuit of happiness he ignores what God has said.

And Solomon pays a significant price because he doesn’t do things God’s way. God says, “Here are my directions,” and Solomon says, “Yeah, well, I think this will work.” And you can just hear Solomon. He knows what God has said but he just loves her, he just loves her. “God I know what you have said but I just love wife number 274. I love her. I love her.” And he puts his hope in his own understanding, in his own feelings even though that violates what God has said.

I want you to think for a moment, what is kind of a cultural equivalent to this? In other words can you think of an area in our culture, in our society that goes against what God has said when it comes to marriage that we have kind of decided that we know better? We have kind of decided that how we feel about it makes the most sense. We have ignored what God has said. Can you think of an area like this?

Cultural Equivalent

I think of Cohabitation as an example of this. Couples living together before they are married. That has been on the increase since 1970. There is a 700% increase in couples that live together outside of marriage. Now when I sit down, and I have a number of times, and talk to couples who are living together and are not married and I just talk to them a little bit about here’s what God’s word says and here’s why he says this and here’s why these directions are best for you. And when I talk to these couples, one of the things I love about them is that so often they have a heart for commitment. They are taking marriage seriously and in their minds they don’t want to risk it. They don’t want to be part of a divorced generation like their parents. And they just want to be sure. And I appreciate that spirit.

And then you just start looking at the evidence. And the evidence just reinforces again that God knows what is best in this area of our lives. There is a Scripture verse in Proverbs that goes like this, it says, There is a way that seems right to a man (there is a way that feels right to us. It seems to make most sense. It seems to make the most rational approach. There’s a way that seems right), but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

And I think we can really paraphrase that verse and contextualize it for our application here and I think it would be fair to put it this way, “There’s a way that seems right to couples but in the end it leads to divorce.” Because that’s what we’re seeing.

The Research

This isn’t Christian or biblical research. This is secular research. University of Wisconsin reports that those who live together before gettingcohabitation 5 married and then get married have a 75% divorce rate. They also found out that 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples who are living together right now, only 15 out of every 100 will eventually get married and 10 years from now 85% of them won’t be married. And they just conclude that really this isn’t a good way to prepare for marriage. This is secular research and God is like, “Yeah, because I gave you these directions way back when.”

And the Bible tells us in numerous places about guarding the sacredness of marriage. Hebrews 13:4, Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. (Message) God’s oneness, this one man, one woman becoming one is really a beautiful gift that God gives us as a husband and as a wife but it has to be protected. It’s got to be guarded, that if we treat it lightly we lose out on what God wants for us. And so in his directions God said, “Look you’ve got to protect this. You’ve got to guard this. It valuable and sacred.”

And I’m sure Solomon thought, well maybe the next one, maybe the next one, maybe the next one. But the irony is that the more he added the less likely he was to discover the joy of that intimate relationship that he so desperately longed for. So you get to the end of his story and do you know what Solomon says at the end of his story, “I should have followed the directions. I should have done things God’s way.”

Thoughts?

(Adapted from “The King who had it all” by Kyle Idleman)

Your “Third Week Of March”

bathshebiaWhen Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address http://www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for: 1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel. 2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat). 3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers. Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David must have david repentswished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution. He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).

You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than any domain name you might secure.

Weird-because normal isn’t working!

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Weird-coverThese days, it’s normal to deal with financial debt, high divorce rates, and bad relationships. Maybe it’s time to shake things up. In our new teaching series at NVCC, beginning June 23, we explore life beyond normal into the WEIRD.

You will be invited to follow the teachings of Jesus and lead a weird life. Because even if we lay the Bible aside and just look at life practically, wouldn’t you agree that normal is not working? 

However, the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Scripture lead us off of the normal, broad path onto a narrow and different path. And if you want what normal people have, just keep on going with the flow of the world. But if you want what few have, you are going to have to do what few do and take the Bible seriously. If you will, you can have something way better than normal.

Scripture is clear, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:2) 

Weird people don’t think like normal people think. Because Normal Isn’t Working. Let us learn together how to think differently and live a life that brings honor to God, weird though it might be.

Marriage–Contract or Covenant?

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marriage  I want to make a very true statement and unpack it for you and that is this, “We need to recognize that marriage is a covenant not a contract”.  People today all over the world will treat it as a contract.  It is a piece of paper, it is a legal agreement, and it is so much more than that. 

You can see a great picture of this in the Old Testament in the Book of Malachi when the people are whining, “God, why won’t you answer our prayers”?  We are praying, where are you?  And God is basically going to say, “Men, you have been unfaithful to your wives and therefore I am not answering your prayers”.  You can read it all if you want to get the context.  Malachi 2:14 says, “Why aren’t you answering our prayers”?  Well, here’s why; because you have broken faith with her, your wife, though she is your partner and the wife of your marriage covenant,” not marriage contract, but marriage covenant. 

What is the difference?  A contract is based on mutual distrust.  It is I am in as far as you are in.  If you do me wrong I can get out.  When it comes to rental properties there always is a contract with the one renting. That is, if you don’t pay you don’t stay.  It is protecting the owner from the tenant because he doesn’t trust them to do the right thing.  But the contract also has a flip side, if the owner doesn’t deliver then the tenant could get out and that is the way a lot of people treat marriage.  Well, it is just a contract. If you do what I want we will stay in, if you don’t I won’t.  Someone breaks the contract, it is over. 

A covenant though is different.  A covenant is based on mutual commitment.  It is an unending, totally bindingmarriage3 commitment and it can be maintained by one person.  You may break this but I am not going to break my covenant vows before God.  In other words, I’m all in, every bit of me, totally in, completely, 100%.  There is no back door.  I am giving my covenant vows not before the State I live in but before the God of Heaven, that for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health I commit to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  It is a totally binding, all in, no back door, covenant vow to God.  Divorce is not even an option.  It is not a word in our vocabulary when it comes to our marriage. 

I like what the late Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham world-wide evangelist, one time a reporters were interviewing her and they said Ruth, have you ever thought about divorcing your husband Billy?  She said, “Never one day in my life have I thought about divorcing him.  I thought about murdering him on many occasions but never ever divorce.”  You see, divorce is not an option, not ever.  It is not something we are going to do, why?  Covenant!

 

marriage4Now, let me just say this with all the compassion I can.  For those of you who have been divorced, my purpose is not to heap condemnation on you because I know the pain that you felt and I know many of you didn’t want that.  I know some of you made mistakes and if you could go back you would do it different.  I am not trying to stir up pain or make anybody feel guilty, what I want to do is, I want to talk from this point forward and that is this; if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you get married, you stand before God and you make a promise to God and you enter into a covenant and the two become one.  It is not about me, you are not meeting my needs.  But, what about me?  No, no, no, it is about we serving He; as one together we serve as covenant partners in Christ. 

Sex Education

This Sunday, July 8, I will begin to address some issues related to sex in our Sunday gatherings. During the four week series I will include here on my blog information that relates to the Sunday message. Please forgive me if I might be a little too “bold” in what I have to say than what you are comfortable with. But my observation is that everyone seems to be talking about sex except the church. If God is the designer of sex and His instruction on it is of greatest importance, why don’t we discuss it? We would, instead, rather listen to what Satan, the deceiver, has to say about the subject. Therefore, the title for the series is “Satan’s Sex Ed.” Who are we really listening to when it comes to our sexual thoughts, feelings and practices?

Ed Young writes, “Far from being an isolated act with the significance of a sneeze, sex is one of the most intimate, life-altering, profound, and deeply spiritual experiences available to man. It is the most natural high our bodies can experience. Sex is a strong, strong force, and what we choose to do with it affects not only our own lives, but other lives as well. In fact, our collective view of sex can predict the fate of our very society.

Scholar D. Unwin wrote years ago in Sex and Culture, ‘In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on prenuptial and postnuptial continence.’ In other words, societies that place no value on premarital chastity and marital fidelity simply do not thrive. Unwin studied hundreds of years of history and concluded that the health and longevity of nations directly corresponded to the value placed on sexual purity. Societies whose sexual mores were strong prevailed. Those whose sexual mores were weak no longer exist. Could this be what ancient Israel’s King Solomon meant when he spoke of the “total ruin” which awaited those who disregarded God’s commands in this area (Proverbs 5:14)?”

Imagine! Ancient history and modern surveys confirm what God has always said: that sex is a multifaceted gift of deep importance. However, the goal of our society seems to be more of that of safe sex than godly sex. Godly sex is no contradiction in terms. Godly, undefiled, undiluted sex is what God intended for us from the very beginning. If we make “safe sex” our highest aim, we will fall far short of the awesome sexual experience God has in mind for us as His children. He desires much more than that for you and me.

These messages will be delivered at New Venture Christian Church, 530 Courthouse Rd, Richmond, VA 23236 or can be accessed on line at www.relaxedchurch.com  or through this link when they are up for podcast http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57, or the New Venture Christian church facebook page.