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)

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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)

God Needs A Home

god's handIt was perhaps the greatest opportunity ever. God tells Moses that he wants to come to his people and dwell right in the middle of their camp. Not on the outskirts. Not in the ‘burbs. But right in the middle of where they were living.

You might wonder, “What preparations would a people need to make for God to live in their midst?” Would it be like getting ready for weekend guests or someone special coming to dinner? You feel compelled to make sure your home looks as good as possible. You want to make a good impression and you want your guest to feel welcome.

God anticipated the question and told Moses what needed to be in place for his coming. First, he wanted to be close to them but there was the problem of sin that created a breach between them. So God provided Moses with instructions about the practice of sacrificing, offering a covering for the people’s indiscretions before a Holy God. Sin is serious stuff, not to be taken lightly, and the sacrifice of unblemished animals was necessary to give the people a picture of sin.

Second, he wanted to stay close to them. Moses was given the blueprints for the building of the Tabernacle. It’s a big word for “tent.” A portable place of worship. Kind of a mobile Motel 6. And he wanted to camp out right in the middle of where they were camping. God wanted to be close to his people.

But he also wanted them to be close to each other. So he declared a third thing to get ready. He gave them Ten Commandments concerning relationships. The first four commandments focus on how we are to demonstrate our love to God. The second set of six have to do with how to show love to other people. In seeing these relationships of love it was God’s desire that people would come tabernacleto know Him too.

Jesus said the same in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. . .  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God gave the Israelites guidelines so that, when they sought to live by them, other nations would see them as different and know that they were God’s people. God gave us Jesus so that, when we live like him, others will know that we are his people.

For those who know him, God took care of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. He tabernacles in the hearts of those who have drawn near to him. Could it be then that the degree to which we are obedient to him in this command to love each other is the degree of his presence we will find among us? It could be our greatest opportunity ever.

When the last in line gets chosen for the team

old couple 2The casting agent enters the room with her top picks for the show’s leading man and lady. The new series will follow the spellbinding story of a clan that builds a powerful, world-impacting family tree. This is the pilot, and it is crucial to make the right call on the individuals who will fall in love and launch this Kennedy-like family of influence and fame.

Producers and writers alike have waited breathlessly for this moment, the moment when who they have envisioned as the leading characters will be finally realized in an actor and actress. But when they turn to see who has been tapped for these most special of roles, the thud of their collective jaws hitting the majestic mahogany conference table muffles their mutual groans.

There before their wide eyes, instead of the expected vibrant, young couple with gleaming white teeth and tanned and toned bodies, stand a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman. Not what they had pictured for their production.

And yet, this is what God has chosen. His screenplay called for a couple to launch a new nation, one that would impact the entire world. As he would say, a nation through whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Abram and Sarai stand there, adorned perhaps by dusty old robes and crowned with wispy white hair and loosely fitting skin and as befuddled as anyone else. God chose them to begin a nation. An unlikely pair, especially after factoring in the fact that Sarai was barren. How could God expect to start a nation with a woman who could not bear children?

To complicate the story line, it will be 25 more years before they actually have their child of promise. By that time Abram and Saraiold couple will be 100 years old and 90 years old, respectively (and their names will be changed to Abraham and Sarah). Perhaps Social Security checks will help this special couple decorate the baby’s tent and they’ll be able take naps when the baby does. And the rest, as they say, is history. His story.

God picks people you and I wouldn’t necessarily select to take part in his story. In fact sometimes we are shocked who plays the starring roles in his stories. Unlike the way we do business, he taps people, not merely because of their abilities, but for their availability. God searches for people who are open to be used by him. Since he uses only those who are willing to be used for his purposes, there is no doubt that it is he who is doing the the wonder- working. Let there be no doubt, throughout history he is the one making things happen.

That’s good news, isn’t it? In the business world, you may not have a great pedigree. In academics, you may not be a Rhodes Scholar. You may not have a lot of money and you may have average looks. But you may be sitting in a pretty good position to be a top pick for God’s work.

A simple answer to all the violence.

violence 2

I look at all that is going on in our country and the world. Shootings and violence seem to be escalating daily. In some cases it just seems to be worse due to expanded media coverage that amplifies the picture. However, no one can deny the expansion of outright disregard for the lives of others and the determination to take life in violent ways.

As I study the scene the question comes to my mind, is there a simple explanation for it all? Are we making it more difficult than it really is? Are we looking for answers in all the wrong places? Are we attempting to make it something that it really isn’t? Are we exploiting the violence for personal agendas? Are we habitually or ignorantly ignoring the primary reason for it all?

At the risk of oversimplifying, could the reason for the escalation of killings and cold-blooded violence be traced back to a country and a world that insist on turning farther and farther away from God, Jehovah God,? Instead, the world, out of arrogance and self directed ambition, has turned more and more to its own ways. Over the last few decades, especially in America, there has been an intentional, by government and individuals, movement to turn from a belief in and an adherence to God. As a result, the downward spiral in our country has escalated.

So is it too naïve to just say that the reason for what we see, more than anything else, is the result of turning away from God and the truth of Scripture? Every man and womanhatred has chosen their own way. And when God is eliminated from the picture what we are experiencing is inevitable. We are left with no moral or spiritual code and every person becomes their own god and the value of life goes down exponentially.

Having stated that, I fear the future more than the past or the present. As America and Americans, as well as the rest of the world, moves farther away from Jehovah God and Scripture the violence picture will most certainly escalate.

We can look to gun control or mental health solutions or a number of other plans to stop violence. But none will provide any long term improvement. My observation is that our only hope is for the people of America and the world to turn back to God, Jehovah God rather than no god or some other god that advocates violent killing of innocent people.

So where are you with God?

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.

Ryan’s Story

I grew up in a church family.  I attended regularly throughout my childhood and teenage years.  I was baptized as an infant, and later confirmed into the Lutheran church in my early teens.  My parents were instrumental in teaching me about God and Christ, and always instilled the practical aspects of faith for daily living.

While I was always aware of God, and knew the teachings of the Bible, I never really had the relationship with him that I knew I should be cultivating.  In retrospect, I think that perhaps life never showed me just how much I need Him.  As I came into adulthood, not having a personal relationship with Christ made it easy for me to begin to question His purpose in my life and to feel like life was my journey that I was equipped to deal with independently.  In my twenties, I became busy with life; certainly too busy for Him, as I worked, earned my degree, dated, cultivated friendships, and distracted myself with frivolous pursuits.  I thought I was building the life that I wanted.

As I became more interested in myself, and more driven by my own ego and pleasure, I began to completely disregard God’s will for my life and ignored everything that would bring me closer to him, including the wisdom of my parents and my wife.  It’s hard for me to say this now, but I began to question that the Lord had a place in my life at all.  I was certainly not willing to bend to it if it did exist.  In shunning Him, I began a slide that took me to depths that strained all of my relationships and made me question everything about myself.

In the last 8 years, I’ve filled my life with all of the trappings of modern existence.  I was constantly in pursuit of one false idol after another.  They all lead to emptiness and despair.  Being constantly unfulfilled, and with all of the stresses of life, despite what appeared to be a successful business, wonderful family life, and a world of opportunity and promise, I suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety.  I was always too proud to deal with them, and as they subsided, I never took time to examine my life and why I was never happy.  As I time went on, I became unable to cope with daily things, and began to feel like I had no anchor and no direction.  I was completely lost.

In an effort to change my circumstances, and become happy, I made a terrible decision and separated from my wife.  She was the woman I loved, the mother of my children, and the person who had been the most positive influence on my life since I had come to know her 10 years prior.  I know now that this was God’s plan for me.  I had to clear the slate to find him.

Almost immediately after my wife  and I separated, I realized that nothing was better for me.  In fact, thing became far worse.  I began to suffer physically, losing 20 lbs. and became a shell of my former self in all other aspects.  I lost the ability to function at work and withdrew from everyone as I became more hopeless.

On February 25th of this year, as I sat alone in my apartment and estranged from my family, I began to cry.  I remembered all of the people who had loved me and still did.  Most importantly, I remembered God.  I spent that night alone with Him, unloading myself and asking for forgiveness for all of my pride and mistakes….everything I had misjudged and done improperly or with the wrong intentions.  I asked him for guidance and strength to find my way back to my life and my family.  I had finally realized after all of these years, that I could no longer do life without him.  I prayed for hours and began the relationship that I am ready to affirm in public (today in baptism).

Without God’s daily presence in my life now, I don’t know where I would be.  What I do know, and what many who know me can attest, is that I am different in Him.  With his power I have transformed in my thinking, and doing.  I have defeated my issues regarding happiness and contentment.  I have learned to be the father I have always wanted to be but struggled with.  I have become a better husband and began to repair the damage to the relationship I have with my wife.  Walking with God has helped me to love and give with the right motivations, and to build and rekindle relationships with strong Christian men and women who I learn from and hopefully give back to.

Because I opened my heart to God and let him back in, I will always look at 2011 as the year in which I gained my life.  I realize now that I am never alone, and with Him, I am always taken care of and given my needs regardless of my circumstance or the mountain I have to climb.  He has a plan for me and I am happy to know that all I have to do is be patient and look to him.

There is one verse that I have looked to many times on this journey and would like to share:  ‘But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’-Isaiah 40:31.

(Ryan’s story was shared before his baptism on November 27, 2011 at new Venture Christian Church)