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?

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)

Hold the spit!

spitting   This morning, as I came to the end of my run, I was in my cool down mode. I had just passed my house, when one of my neighbors, from across the street, backed out of his driveway. He saw me as I passed and cautiously asked, “I’m sorry, did I get too close to you?” “Of course not”, I said. He was not close at all.

 

As he drove away, I was in the process of clearing the thick saliva from my mouth, at the end of a 6 mile workout, and spitting it on the side of the road. At that moment, the thought came to me, “what if my neighbor thinks my spitting is a response to him?” You see, my neighbor is African-American. So I decided to hold my spit until he was well out of sight, and then I let it go.

 

As insignificant as this might seem, it was a wake-up call to me about how sensitive I need to be with my actions and reactions in today’s culture, especially when it comes to those of a different race or ethnicity. Racism is alive and strong today. Even though the Bible says God is no respecter of persons, we live in a culture that is charged with racist feelings and incidents. Some of these are intentional and calculated. Others may appear to be discriminatory but are anything but that.

 

One thing I don’t want to be is misinterpreted and seen as disrespectful or prejudiced in any way. There are times, though, when my actions might be misunderstood, so I have decided to hold my spit. In fact, here are a few other actions that I have decided to take when it comes to all people.

 

Equal Greetings: I want to welcome all people with the same kind of warmth. That means, going out of my way toprejudice greet and show acceptance. I will talk and interact with them. And there’s no better greeting than a good hug. So I hug those who are like me, and those who are different than I. I refuse to accept some and ignore others.

 

Equal respect: I will look at people when I talk to them. I will talk to them and not at them or past them. I will give my attention to them. Nothing is more aggravating and disrespectful than to deal with a person in a public service position, in a service sector job, who hardly acknowledges your presence. Respect means giving them my presence and attention.

 

Equal care: People get down and out. Times turn ugly rapidly. Ends don’t meet. Whether it is food, a ride, a little money for gas, clothes or whatever, I will see the need and not the color of the skin or the ethnicity of the person. And I will respond according to the need and my ability to meet that need whether they are like me or different from me.

 

Equal restraint: That means, as I began this post, refraining from any action that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I will hold my spit, turn after them instead of in front of them, be courteous and let them go in line in front of me even though I  am starving or in a big hurry. The Bible says to “abstain from all appearances of evil.” That could just as well say “abstain from all appearances of prejudice.”

 

racismEqual encouragement: Everyone needs encouragement. Life is hard. We get knocked down. Sometimes it is totally unexpected. Other times it is just what we deserved. It is easy to encourage those of our kind. It is also easy to encourage those who we know will encourage us back. It is maturity, being like Jesus, to encourage those who are different than us. After all, that woman that Jesus met at the well, who found the water of life in him, was of a different race and nationality that he was. He reached out and gave to her what no one else had ever offered, acceptance, encouragement, and new life. I will commit to doing the same!

 

So check the temperature, your outfit, your hair, your wallet to make sure you have money, the gas in your tank, the weather forecast, your schedule, and 1000 other things. But above all else, check your attitude about other people, other people who are different than you whether it be gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or whatever. May we be devoted to removing every hint of favoritism, discrimination and prejudice in how we act toward ALL PEOPLE. Hold the spit!

How has New Venture Christian Church changed your life?

whatifAn exciting part of our capital campaign has been a series of small groups in which the details of the campaign are explained and everyone is given a chance to ask any questions they might have. Even more exciting is hearing people tell about how New Venture has changed their lives. Here are just a few of the stories.

  • I have never been as connected with any other church as NVCC. I want to get involved and there are so many opportunities.
  • NV has not judged us for the things we have done in the past. They just accept us for who we are.
  • I don’t have to be dragged to church. It has changed our whole life, how we feel, think and deal with life.
  • I was baptized at NV and I am progressing on my journey.
  • Coming to NV has helped me become a better husband and father. It is nothing I have done. God is doing it.Print
  • NV has definitely changed my life. I have learned more about the Bible than I have even learned in my life.
  • New Venture has put us in a family
  • New Venture has helped me regain trust in people in the church. They’re not old and crotchety and I can enjoy his freedom at NV
  • NV has changed my life. Our lives were in a wreck and NV was just what we needed.
  • I know if I need anything I can call on anyone at NV and I know I will have help. It is my home. This is my family.
  • New Venture turned me around. NV taught me you didn’t have to be perfect. I never learned that in church growing up.

What is your story?

WHY AM I ALIVE? THE QUESTION OF EXISTENCE

thinking 2Why am I alive is not exactly a new question.  It was asked thousands of years ago.  In fact, Jeremiah asked it in Jeremiah 20:18, “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?”   Now there have probably been times in your life when you felt that way, too.  Was I born just to have a bunch of problems?  Was I put on this planet just to have heartache, grief and stress? 

Arthur Ashley Brilliant says “my life is a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot.  Jack Hanley wrote, “I hope life isn’t a joke, because I don’t get it.”  A guy named Dr. Hugh Moorhead, who is the Chairman at the Department of Philosophy at the Northeastern University, once wrote to 250 well-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals of the world and asked them, “What is the purpose of Life.”  And then he published all of their responses in a book.  The book is quite discouraging and depressing.  Some of these people offered their best guesses.  Some admitted they made up a purpose in life. Some admitted they didn’t have any idea as to what the purpose of life was and if Dr. Moorhead knew, would he please let them know.  Carl Yung, the famous psychiatrist said, “I don’t know the meaning, the purpose of life, but it looks as if something was meant by it.”  Isaac Asimov wrote, “As far as I can see, there is no purpose.”  Joseph Taylor, authored “I Have No Answers To The Meaning of Life And I No Longer Want to Search For Any.”

 

You know, those are tragic statements because the life without purpose isn’t a life worth living.  It is no coincidence that the suicide rate in our society has gone up.  It’s now the No. 2 killer of teenage students.  It is no surprise that we have so many shootings and mass killings. You see, if you take God and His purpose out of the equation, you don’t really have very many alternatives.  You can try the Mystical approach – the mystical approach says “look within and find your purpose within.”  You know if that really worked, all of us would know our purpose. I’m sure you’ve tried that.  I have and I bet everyone else has, thinking 3too.  And I didn’t find it there.  It takes more than looking within. 

 

Oprah  did a show a while back on discovering your purpose of life. At every single break during that hour show, she would say “Now, come back because we’re going to tell you your purpose.”  And every time they would come back and did they tell you it? No! They didn’t even come close.  They didn’t even attempt it.  In fact, as the credits were rolling at the end of that show, she kind of looks at the credits and says, “And remember, you’ve got to figure it out by yourself.” Looking within is not the answer. 

Then you can try the Philosophical approach – the survivalist says, “The purpose of life is just to stay alive.”  In other words, live as long as you can.  The Naturalist says, “The purpose of life is just to perpetuate itself.”  In other words, you’re just here for biological reasons.  Rap artist, Ice Tea, wrote, “The only reason we’re here is to reproduce. Just chill out and reproduce.  Keep the species alive.”  Doesn’t that just motivate you to want to jump out of bed in the morning?  It may motivate you to jump in to bed, I don’t know. 

 

The Hedonist writes, “The purpose of life is pleasure – have fun, party-hardy.” The Materialist says, “Life is all about the acquisition of things.”  You’re life is measured by the things you own.  You know the problem with that is that he who dies with the most toys, still dies.  And so, these are not really satisfying answers.

 

 The Mystical approach, the Philosophical approach or you can try the Self-Help approach.  You can go into any bookstore and find hundreds of books, probably, that talk about discovering your life purpose.  They all are basically the same thing.  They say the same thing; “You’ve got to invent your purpose.”  You’ve got to create your own purpose in life.  And they all give the same basic approach –“ discover your dreams, go after your goals, have some ambitions, dream big dreams, aim high, believe you can achieve, have faith, figure out what you’re good at, never give up, involve other people.” Now those are all good advice and they will, if you do those things, make you a success in life.  But being a success and knowing your purpose in life are not the same thing.  You can be a raving success in life and still never know, “What on earth am I here for?”  What did God put me on this earth for? 

 

thinkingYou see, the purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment.  It’s far greater than your own happiness.  Even your own peace of mind.  You were made by God and you were made for God and you were put here for His purposes.  And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense. 

 

Okay, why does God want us here?  Why are we alive?  Why are we on this planet?  Is there a reason?  Well, the Bible says this in Proverbs 16.4, “The Lord has made everything (circle everything) for His own purpose.”  It’s for His purpose.  Now God has never made anything without a purpose.  Every rock has a purpose, every plant has a purpose, every animal has a purpose and if you’re alive, you have a purpose.  If you want to know if God still has a purpose for your life, check your heart.  If it’s still beating, God still has a purpose for you here on earth. 

 

The truth is God has five purposes for your life. 

 

·        You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure (Worship)

 

·        You Were Formed for God’s Family (Fellowship)

 

·        You Were Created to Become Like Christ (Discipleship)

 

·        You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry)

 

·        You Were Made for a Mission. (Mission)

 

Those are the five reasons God put you on this planet. 

 

Right now, though, I just want us to see God’s motive.  Look at this next verse, Eph 1:4, ”Long before He laid down the earth’s foundation, He had us in His mind and settled on us as the focus of His love to be made whole and holy by His love.”  Notice again the phrase “the focus of His love”.  Cause if you don’t get anything else from reading this, I want you to understand this, God says He made you, to love you. You were created to be loved by God. 

 

God is love and God wanted to create something to love and so He created you.  He didn’t need you.  He wasn’t lonely.  But He made you in order to love you. He wanted you.  And before we can talk about anything else, you have to understand this is what on earth you’re here for – to be loved by God.

(Adapted from “What on earth am I here for? by Rick Warren)

Remember what matters most!

Is there any better time than right now to go back and pray the prayer of David? “God remind me what’s important in life.  Help me remember what matters most.”  Help me to focus on the things that really count.  When I focus on what really counts I begin to worry less about the things that are bad in this world and are out of my control.  We need to pray what David prayed in Psalm 39 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.”  And in Psalm 90 “Teach us to make the most of our time.”

Right now let’s be reminded of the most important truth in life. When we do, all the disappointments in life begin to diminish in magnitude. This is not a new truth. Everything I am going to say, you probably already know. But if you would take this truth and write it on a card and place it where it is a regular reminder to you it will keep your focus and energy where it needs to be most.  Put it on your refrigerator, put it on your dashboard in your car, put it up on the mirror in your bedroom, computer screen – look at it over and over and over.  If you will follow, if you will apply, if you will practice this truth you’ll have a healthier life.  You’ll have a happier family.  You’ll have a more productive business.  There will be far fewer divorces and separations in our culture if we will just listen to what God has said. And the political climate and results will begin to hold less and less sway in our hearts.

So here it is, the best use of life is love

1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Let love be your highest goal.”  Make it your number one priority.  Make it your primary objective.  Make it your greatest ambition.  Make it your life purpose.  Don’t put it in your Top Ten.  Don’t say, “One of the things I want in life is loving relationships.”  Make it number one!

Why does God say it’s all about love?  Why does God say to make it your highest goal?  Two reasons:

       1.  God says love is what life is all about.  1 Corinthians 13:3 in the Message paraphrase ”No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”  Who wants to be a millionaire?  You can have a million dollars but if you don’t have love God says you’re bankrupt.  It is amazing to me that too often we act like loving relationships are something we have to squeeze into our schedule, that we have to find time for quality time, that we have to make time for people in our lives.  That we have to just fit them into our lives as if loving relationships are an important part but just another important part along with many other things.  Wrong!  God doesn’t say that relationships are a part of your life.  God doesn’t say that loving relationships are an important part of your life.  God says loving relationships are your life.  That’s what life is all about.  It’s all about love.

One day a guy comes to Jesus and says, “I need Cliff Notes on the Bible.  Summarize the Bible for me.”  Jesus says, “Here it is.  Love God and love other people.  That’s it”.  “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”  In a word, Jesus is saying the point of life is “relationships”.  It’s not about achievement.  It’s not about the acquisition of things.  It’s about relationships.  It’s not about elections and voting. If you miss that you miss the point of life.  That’s the bottom line.  What matters most is loving relationships. 

If that’s true, why do we always allow our relationships to get the short end of the stick?  When we get misfocused and overloaded we start skimming relationally.  We fulfill all kinds of other commitments but we cut back on time with those we love.  We don’t give our relationships the time, the energy and the attention they deserve because we’re too busy with what we think are more important pressing matters.

Why do we do that?  Because we get busy.  Because we get preoccupied.  Because we get distracted with less important things.  We focus on the urgent rather than on the important and I hope you know the difference.  Not everything that’s urgent in your life is important in your life.  As a result we spend all of our time focusing on making a living, getting the job done, finishing the work, paying the bills, making progress, accomplishing the goal as if that’s the point of life.  It is not.  The point of life, God says, is love.  The point of life, God says, is relationship. 

2.  The other reason that God says you need to focus on it is it’s all that’s going to last.  The only thing that’s going to last in your life is love.  Everything else is eventually going to burn up.  It’s going to decay, fall apart.  1 Corinthians 13:13 ”There are three things that will endure: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”  If I were to ask you, “How many of you want to leave a legacy after you die?”   You’d all agree.  “How many of you want to make a difference with your life?”  You’d all say yes.  “How many of you would like to make a positive influence on this world that outlasts you?”  You’re all on board with that.

God has shown us how to leave a lasting legacy.  God has shown us how to make an enduring impression.  Fill your life with love.  He says “Faith, hope and love.  These are the things that will endure and the greatest of these is love.”  He’s saying love, not work, not wealth, not elected candidates is the key to a lasting legacy.  It’s love. 

We think it’s our achievements people are going to remember.  I hate to tell you this but nobody’s going to remember your achievements.  Five years from today nobody’s going to care what you’ve achieved.  Every trophy or award you’ve ever earned is eventually going to be trashed.  Remember all those trophies you got in Little League or Drama Club, Speech Club, bowling trophies.  They’re all going to be trashed, all your trophies.  You don’t have any of your grandparents’ trophies.  Why would you want to keep those?  You couldn’t care less about them.  People don’t really care about your accomplishments.  We know this.  We just forget it. 

We know this by watching people when they’re dying.  In watching people of the closing moments of their life when they stand on the edge of eternity, they’re evaluating their life; you never hear of a single person saying, “Bring me my diplomas!  I want to look at them one more time…Get me that gold watch I got for twenty-five years of service!  Show me my awards.  Show me my medals.”  Nobody asks to be brought trophies because we don’t surround our lives with objects when our life is ending.  What do we want around us when our life is ending?  People!  People who love us.  People who have a relationship with us. 

Here’s the point: You are eventually going to figure out in your final seconds that what matters are relationships.  Why don’t you figure it out sooner?  Why wait until you’re on your deathbed to figure out that things don’t matter.  Elections don’t matter in eternity. That the only thing that matters is relationships.  Nothing can take the place of loving relationships.  Fame can’t.  Wealth can’t.  Success can’t.  Success without love is empty, hollow, depressing.  Life is not about achievement and it’s not about accomplishment.  It’s about relationships.  When you get to heaven God is not going to say, “Now what was your career?  What did you accomplish in it? “ God is not going to say, “Can I see your bank balance and how much you’ve got in your portfolio.”  God is not going to say, “By the way, what about the hobbies that you enjoyed while I put you down on earth?”  He is not going to say, “What is that great cause you supported?”

What He’s going to say is, “How did you treat other people when you were here on earth?”   

I suggest that from this day forward for the rest of your life when you wake up in the morning, you set down on the edge of the bed and before you get off that bed you pray this prayer, “God, whether I get anything else done today and I may not get anything else done, but if all I accomplish today is I spend some time with You and with others, I want to make sure today I spend some time loving You and loving other people,” because that’s what life is all about.  If you miss that you have missed the point of life, and that day is a failure, that day is a waste. 

The greatest use of life is not achievement.  It’s love.  The problem is we get busy and stressed out and so into things that don’t last and we forget what we intuitively know.

So what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to change?  Or are you going to stand before God one day and explain why things were more important than people?  What excuse are you going to give for not putting first things first in your life?  Who do you need to start spending more time with?  Who do you need to reach out to? What do you need to cut out of your schedule?  What financial sacrifice do you need to make for things that really count? 

(Adapted from a message by Rick Warren)