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Archive for December, 2009

I am posting my notes for our upcoming Iron Men meeting.  What is Iron Men?  It’s a group of men in our church that meet once per week on Wednesdays at lunch (12 noon) to “sharpen” one another.  The Bible says in Proverbs, “As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.”  So, we come together to push one another to be better men.  Currently we are studying Ephesians chapter 5 in detail.  We are actually working on memorizing it.  Some have memorized up to 12 verses so far.  This week we are working on verses 13-14 and the reason I’m posting this, is because I believe many of us struggle with how to be in the world and not “of it” or “immersed” in it.  Take a look…

Iron Men-December 30, 2009

Ephesians 5:13-14

13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:13-14

Here are three great quotes that relate to our verses of study this week:

  • “The most powerful sin in your life is the one you haven’t confessed yet.”
  • “The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.”
  • “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting.  It’s been found difficult and left untried.”

Paul is teaching us that we are to expose sin by casting it in the light.  Yet…I find that it’s often easy to compromise.  There are many ways of compromising or taking part in the sins of others; by dabbling in sin on the edge or without going “whole hog.”  Yet, if we share with others in their sins even from “a distance,” we must expect to share in their plagues.  If we do not reprove or expose the sins of others, we have “fellowship” with them.  We must see that sin is a breach of God’s holy law.

To review briefly…we are to “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.”  The Greek verb koinoneo means “fellowship.”  But in verse 11 Paul uses an intensified form of the verb: sunkoinoneo, which means “intimate fellowship.”  We are not to be intimately involved with “the unfruitful works of darkness”–the ignorance and immorality of the world.  However that doesn’t mean we can’t talk with unsaved people. (More on this in a minute.)  We have been commissioned to reach them with the gospel, but we must not participate in their sin. Some people have suggested that our witness would be more effective if we got involved in their sin. That’s not true–it will destroy our testimony. The best way to witness to them is to avoid their evil deeds and show them a Christ-centered life.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul tells us that we shouldn’t associate with fornicators, covetors, and idolaters who claim to be Christians. But he didn’t forbid us from ministering to the people in the world characterized by those sins–they need us to reach out and love them. We only are commanded not to participate in their sin.

John MacArthur shares more on this by way of commentary on verses 13-14:

“The Lord Jesus plainly stated the biblical balance in His prayer (John 17:15-18): ‘I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.’ So we are to be in the world as Jesus was in the world, yet also not to be of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world. The way to keep this fine balance is to be sanctified (set apart) by God’s Word of truth. In our text, the apostle Paul is dealing with this issue as it concerned a church in a very pagan environment. How do we relate to our godless culture without becoming tainted by it? His answer is: We are to walk as children of light in this dark world, exposing the deeds of darkness.”

Do you remember the darkness you once walked in before knowing Christ?  Here’s an interesting perspective as described by Stephen Cole:

“Paul says that we formerly were darkness. We were spiritually blind. We not only didn’t see God’s glory and truth, we didn’t have the ability or desire to see such things. We didn’t sense our need for the Savior, because we thought we were good enough to go to heaven and we didn’t understand the absolute holiness and justice of God. So we lived entirely for ourselves and our own pleasure, avoiding the thought of death and eternity. But, when God saved us, He opened the eyes of our understanding so that we saw ‘the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6). We saw our true condition as guilty sinners, but we also saw the all sufficiency of Jesus and His death on the cross to cover all our sins. We had a new understanding of God’s Word and a new desire to know God and His truth more and more. We now hate the sin that we formerly lived in and we long to be like our Savior, holy in all our ways. We now walk in the light, rather than in darkness, because God has made us light in the Lord.”

Is this description by Mr. Cole true of us?

“But rather expose (reprove) them.” (v. 13)

The Greek word translated “reprove” in the King James means “to expose.” Rather than doing what people in the world do, we’re to expose their evil. You could call us the spiritual CIA: our job is to expose the crimes of darkness. Our tool is the Word of God: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16, NASB, emphasis added). We’re to expose evil by our life and by our words.

Our commission is to expose sin in the world because we are the light. If we don’t do it, it won’t be exposed. No one is ever saved unless he comes to God and repents of his sin. But unbelievers won’t know what sin is unless someone exposes it to them. Fewer and fewer lost people are going to church.  We must remember loving people while tolerating their sin is not evangelism. True evangelism makes people face the fact of their sin. Only we can do that because we are the light of the world.  But, if we are living like the sinners, then they will never be changed because the sin will never be exposed to them.  We must live differently from the world.

We expose the deeds of darkness by our godly lives as we maintain proper separation from the world. If we’re no different in our thinking, attitudes, words, and behavior than those that do not know Christ, we have no message to give them. If we profess to know Christ, but we’re not walking in the light, conforming our lives to His Word, then we would be better off not to let people know that we claim to be a Christian.  We hurt the cause of the Gospel to do so.  We shouldn’t link the holy name of the Lord with a disobedient lifestyle (2 Sam. 12:14). But, if we’re truly walking in the light, we can no longer join in the lifestyle of unbelievers.

We must be on our guard—bad company corrupts good character. We should not be best friends with an unbeliever once we have come to Christ. Our deepest friendships must be with those that share in common a love for Jesus Christ and the things of God. If we do not distance ourselves from our former friendships, those godless friends will pull us back into our old way of life. But, what about our witness you may ask? We must witness.  Yes! We must be alert to our purpose—to win the lost to Christ. Jesus was known as a “friend of sinners,” but He did not “hang out” with them to have a good time. He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). He kept a fine “balance” that is difficult to imitate. He maintained His holiness and yet He put sinners enough at ease so that they listened to His message. Jesus said (Matt. 5:16), “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

We must be bold to identify verbally with Christ when we are pressured to compromise our convictions. This gets back to how we respond to dirty jokes or to someone who wants us to view pornography. Here’s the principle: Be as bold in your witness for Christ as the other person is in his solicitation to evil. If they are bold for Satan, why shouldn’t you be just as bold for the Savior? Smile and say firmly, “That offends my Lord,” or, “I can’t do that.” If he presses the matter, say, “I used to love that sort of thing, but now I belong to Jesus Christ and I want to please Him.” And share your concern for him, that without God (just as we were), we are in fear of facing God’s judgment, but Jesus offers a full and free pardon if he will repent and believe in Christ.

After all, we are commissioned by God to verbally expose the evil of the world. We must diagnose it, confront it, and then offer the solution. Sin is a cancer that must be removed. You aren’t helping anyone by ignoring it. We can’t politely live in the world and love people without ever acknowledging sin. That’s not evangelism. People need to be convicted about their sin before they’ll ever see the need for a Savior. One problem we have is that we don’t see the contrast between light and darkness as dramatically as God sees it. So instead of avoiding the deeds of darkness, we may be tempted to play around with them. We should be mature enough spiritually that we search out evil and expose it, and then offer the diagnosis and cure. Unfortunately many Christians are barely able to keep themselves from darkness, let alone help others out of it. As believers we need to expose evil, and when we do, it will have an impact on our lives.

The evil deeds of the world desperately need to be reproved (exposed). The things they do are unspeakably evil. We are drowning in a sea of evil as heavily promoted by the media. The danger is we can get caught up in sin. But we must not compromise–don’t ever entertain evil. Yet by watching certain television programs or movies or music in our homes or cars, we teach our children to tolerate the very things we shouldn’t even talk about. We must get beyond struggling over our sin. We must grow strong in the Word so we can reprove others and expose evil.

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.”  (v.. 14)

This verse refers to what the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine, for the light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” That verse looked forward to the Messiah, and Paul’s interpretation looks back to what Christ has done. Many Bible commentators believe that Ephesians 5:14 is a line from an Easter hymn sung by the early church. They see it as an invitation–a gospel presentation. The sinner is the one who sleeps, the invitation is to awake and arise, and the Savior is Christ, who will give light. Like Rip Van Winkle, so many men and women are sleeping and are blind to their sin.  They must awake and arise from the dead and we must help them by showing them the light of Christ.

As a pastor I offer this concluding comment from that perspective.  The church “growth” movement of today tells us pastors that we should make the church a place where unbelievers feel “comfortable.” So, we’re told to avoid subjects like sin, righteous living, and the coming judgment. Instead, we’re told to focus on how to have a happy family, how to do well in business, how to overcome your addictions, and other “upbeat, self-help” topics. In other words, we’re not supposed to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness, so that we don’t offend anyone. Just tell them how much God loves them! But Jesus said that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to convict (same Greek word as “expose”) the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Without that conviction, unbelievers will not see their need and flee to the Savior. Forgiven little, they will love Jesus little. Paul’s strategy is better: Walk as a child of light, maintaining proper separation from the world and proper contact with the world. As we do, our godly lives and words will expose the deeds of darkness and some will awaken from the dead and Christ will shine on them, just as He has on us.

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Merry Christmas!

What a joy!  It’s Christmas again!  My mind is drawn to the “little ones” and the joy they have when opening presents…
Andrew and Clara…Oh how children enjoy Christmas

…but, may we not neglect to teach them the real meaning of Christmas and the greatest GIFT ever given (and the reason we give gifts during this season)…Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

 

Merry Christmas to all!!

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What happens when you die?

 

As a Pastor I get asked quite often “What happens when you die?”   I have taught on this subject for many years and what I have included in this post are my teaching notes.  Please understand that what has been given to us via Scripture is somewhat limited on the subject of Heaven particularly, but I hope that what is included below will be helpful as you consider what happens when you die.  These are complicated subjects and you will have to read through this post several times and study the passages noted to understand these concepts.  Be patient as you study.  You will be blessed!  Here goes!

Heaven

Heaven is the abode of God (Gen. 28:17, Matt. 5:34), where angels live and serve him (Gen. 28:12, Matt 22:30, Rev. 5:11).  Heaven is also the destination of the souls of people who have believed in and accepted Jesus Christ on Earth (John 3:3).  Heaven today is not the final or new Heaven.  (“Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away.”  Rev. 21:1).  My grandfather died in 1985 and I believe he is in heaven…but this is not the final heaven that the Apostle John told us about in the book of Revelation that I just quoted.  Here’s how this will work according to Scripture.  After the second coming of Jesus (at the Rapture), the spirits of people in the first Heaven will be reunited with their new, glorified bodies.  There are Bible scholars who believe we will have intermediate or “in-between” bodies while residing in the first Heaven.

Given the consistent physical descriptions of the intermediate (first) Heaven and those who dwell there, it seems possible—though this is certainly debatable—that between our earthly life and our bodily resurrection, God may grant us some physical form that will allow us to function as human beings while in that unnatural state “between bodies,” awaiting our bodily resurrection after the rapture.  Just as the intermediate state in the first Heaven is a bridge between life on the old or first Earth and the New Earth and New Heaven, perhaps intermediate bodies, or at least a physical form of some sort, serve as bridges between our present bodies and our resurrected bodies.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Heaven, Randy Alcorn

Alcorn goes on to say, “There is evidence that suggests this position could be correct.  For instance, the martyrs in the first or “old” Heaven are described as wearing clothes in Revelation 6:9-11.”  Remember, Jesus has not ushered in “eternity” at this point.  This passage in Scripture refers to the Tribulation period after the Rapture of the church.  It also appears the apostle John had a body when he visited the first Heaven, because he is said to have grasped, held, eaten and tasted things there (e.g., Rev. 10:9-10).  Some say that John simply had a vision when he was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ…so this is debatable as well.

Perhaps explaining it this way will help.  Today, when an unbeliever dies, his spirit (not his earthly body) goes to Hades, which means “the unseen world” or the realm of the dead.  When believers die, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord.  The apostle Paul said, “To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:6-8)  Paul also said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ.”  (Phil. 1:19-26).  One day Hades itself will be emptied of it’s dead (Rev. 20:13).  These people will then be cast into the Lake of Fire (Hell) to join Satan and his demons (Rev. 20:14-15).

It seems that human souls were not permitted into the first Heaven until Jesus took away sin by His death on the cross and ascended into Heaven.  When Jesus was on earth, He said in John 14:6 “…no man comes to the Father except through me.”  He also said that no one had yet entered heaven (John 3:13).  We also know that even the righteous people of the Old Testament went to this place called “Sheol” or “Hades” (a.k.a. “the grave”)—where they would not be left (abandoned) eternally, but would be taken to God (Psalm 16:10; 49:15; 73:24).

Many Bible authorities believe that the spirits of the Old Testament righteous (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Esther, Daniel, Isaiah, Ruth, etc.) were taken to the first Heaven by Jesus AFTER the crucifixion.  Many scholars believe Jesus Himself descended to Hades before His resurrection after His death on the cross to lead those righteous people to the first Heaven (Ephesians 4:7-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6).  The Bible teaches that the faith of these Old Testament saints was counted unto them as righteousness.  (Galatians 3:6-9)  Romans 4:5-8 covers this as well.  Verse 9 in Romans 4 says, “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”  (Also see Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3, 22).

Sheol or Hades

 

Sheol or Hades is a temporary place for the souls of people who have NOT accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  This doesn’t mean they are all “lost.”  (Remember, the Old Testament saints didn’t have the opportunity to accept Jesus as their “Lord and Savior.”  They were looking forward to the cross, as now, we look backward to the cross.) Many Bible Scholars believe these Old Testament saints went to Sheol or Hades as well as those that didn’t believe in God.  But, this place was separated between the righteous and the unrighteous.  “Sheol” is the Hebrew Old Testament term, which is the same place as “Hades” (which is the Greek New Testament term).

Sheol literally means “the place of the dead.”  Specifically today, it is a “prison” where souls await the final judgment at the White Throne (Rev. 20:11).  This is not Purgatory, a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that baptized souls who fall short of immediate entrance to Heaven at their death and who are not evil enough to go to Hell are sent to Purgatory.  Roman Catholics believe, in Purgatory, souls are punished for insufficient penitence of sins committed after baptism.  They also believe when the debt has been fully paid, these souls will have then been completely “purged” or purified and released to Heaven.  The Bible, however, does not teach this in any form or fashion and there is absolutely no Biblical basis for it.

Before Jesus came to the earth EVERYONE went to Sheol (Hades) at death.  Jesus plainly said in John 14:6 that “no one can come to the Father except through Him.”  In the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus described Lazarus as being comforted at Abraham’s side (“Abraham’s bosom”—called “paradise” by the Jews of Jesus’ time), and the evil, rich man as being in a “place of torment”—and indicated that their destination was determined by their actions on earth.  (As it is described by Jesus it is a place that is split in two sections that is separated by a chasm or gulf with “Paradise” on top and “Tartarus” or “Hades” on the bottom.  Tartarus is the place in Sheol where the wicked go and are punished after death known as a “sunless abyss.”)  Remember when Jesus told the thief on the cross that believed that he would be with Him (Jesus) that day in Paradise (Luke 23:43)?  Many scholars believe that Jesus, after His death, went to Hades (where Paradise was) and retrieved these souls and took them to the first or old Heaven (taking the captives and setting them free).  (See: Ephesians 4:7-10)

The New Heaven, New Earth and New Jerusalem

 

The current Heaven and earth will pass away (Matt 24:35; 2 Peter 3:7, 12, 13) and will be replaced with a new Heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).  Why will God do this?  Consider that God created the first Heaven and earth as part of His desire to have fellowship with human beings (Gen. 3:8-24).  Human beings chose to disobey God instead of keeping a relationship with Him.  Thus sin separated human beings from God.  Therefore, the earth was corrupted and must be purified by fire (2 Peter 3:5-7, 10-13) for Christ’s return for the Millennial reign (Rev. 20).  God’s infinite wisdom and love prompted the provision of a Savior (Jesus Christ, His own Son) to allow human beings to choose and receive Him by faith into their lives so they can be forgiven.  The acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior allows human beings to exist eternally with God again.  The earth as it exists today is greatly stained by sin.  The new earth—free from sin—is necessary to perfect God’s intentions.  He originally created the Garden of Eden to be lived in by Adam and Eve and their descendants sinless and perfect for all time.  The Bible states, God will interact with humans in the new earth, just as He intended to originally in the Garden of Eden (Rev. 21:3, 22:3-5).

The holy city, the New Jerusalem, is described in glorious terms.  It will shine in the brilliance of the light emanating from God himself (Rev. 21:11).  It will have walls of jasper—diamond (21:18), streets of pure gold (transparent), and gates of pearl (21:21).  It will contain the “tree of life” mentioned at the beginning at the time of the great separation of mankind from God (Gen. 3:22-23).  There will no longer be any curse against man or upon the earth (Rev. 22:3) and the throne of God will be the throne of both God and Jesus, the Lamb (the remover of the curse through His sacrifice on the cross—see 22:1).

Lake of Fire (Hell) or Gehenna

 

Lake of Fire (Gehenna) is Hell—the place of eternal torment for those whose names are not recorded in God’s “Book of Life” (those not “saved”).  The Lake of Fire or Hell (Gehenna) differs from “Hades” in that “Hades” is temporary, for souls only, while The Lake of Fire or Hell (Gehenna) is a place of eternal condemnation after the soul has been reunited with the body (John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:10-15).  Jesus used the word “Gehenna” when referring to the eternal Hell.  Gehenna was a horrifying garbage dump near Jerusalem, (outside the city walls), where human flesh—that of the vilest criminals—was burned in continual flames; a foul odor permeated the area.  Gehenna is an actual place in the Hinnom Valley just southwest of Jerusalem.  Solomon, in his later years, turned the valley from a natural paradise into a place where the idols of his wives’ pagan gods were worshipped.  Infants were sacrificed into the flames.  The valley later became a cesspool where garbage, waste, dead animals and bodies of criminals were dumped and burned.  Worms ate into the dead flesh until they were consumed by the blaze.  The fire never ceased (it was kept burning) so the stench would not overtake folks living in or near Jerusalem.  The apostle Judas, whom betrayed Jesus, hung himself here and his body burst open and spilled out (Acts 1:18-20).  To the Jews, Gehenna was considered absolute Hell.

The Bible teaches Hell is a place where the “fire never ceases” (Mark 9:43), where a lake of fire burns with sulfur (Rev. 19:20) and where the worm never dies (Mark 9:47, 48).  The “Lake of Fire” (or Hell as we call it) is also totally dark.  The flames will give off no light.  Since the only light at the end of time will be Jesus and He is in the New Heaven (Rev. 21: 23-25; 22:5), Hell will be eternally dark—a place where everyone and everything is separated from God forever (Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Jude 7,13; 2 Peter 2:17).  It is a place of horror described by Jesus where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  Oh may we warn people of this awful place and let them know that through Christ that Heaven can be theirs for all eternity.

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“The Dangers of Teens and ‘Hooking Up'”

Please forgive me for leading into this post with such a staggering chart…with no warning…no preface…no “buckle-up,” but, I believe we at times need to be shaken.  Shaken?  About what?  I believe about a serious subject that concerns our teens (young adults) and their sexual behavior.  I am currently reading a book by Dr. Joe McIkhaney, Jr and Dr. Freda M. Bush entitled “Hooked-New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children.”  It’s a fascinating and very enlightening book because it is written from a neuroscience perspective.   Here’s the upshot of the book:

Scientific research shows how sexual activity releases brain chemicals that trigger emotional bonding and a powerful desire to repeat the activity. Todayʹs young adults have discovered that ʺhooking upʺ is easy and addictive. Offering a Christian ʺphilosophy of sexuality,ʺ Drs. McIlhaney and Bush help parents and singles understand why ʺsafe sexʺ isnʹt safe at all.

There is a quote on the back of the book that says, “I had no idea having sex as a teenager could affect the rest of my life.”  Wow!  What a statement.  Another quote in the book from a 19-year old girl, Cheryl is heart breaking to me.  Cheryl says:

“When we broke up I just ached all over.  I didn’t miss having sex, but I missed having him so much more than I ever thought I would.  I still don’t understand what happened to me.” 

The book helps explain what happened to Cheryl as it dives into the mind and the impact having sex has on the developing brains of young adults.  The book details the following:

  • Sexual activity releases chemicals in the brain, creating emotional bonds between partners
  • Breaking these bonds can cause depression and make it harder to bond with your spouse in the future
  • Chemicals released in the brain during sex can become addictive
  • The human brain is not fully developed until a person reaches their mid-twenties.  Until then, it is harder to make wise relationship decisions

Take a look at this interview with the two doctors who wrote the book that is very enlightening.  It’s a little over 3 minutes long.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-OJ792VNzo

As I continue to work my way through the book, it has served to galvanize in my heart again the idea that the “Westernized” invention of “dating” or “recreational romance” is seriously causing major issues with our young adults as they play “revolving door” with relationships and then find they are not being able to “settle down” with one spouse for life after marriage.  

I want to cite a fairly lengthy section from the website “Bold Christian Living” from Jonathan Lindvall that helps explain why.

“Contemporary American dating practices preclude self-denial in young people. The essence of dating is flirting. Dating is recreational romance in which each party intentionally endeavors to cultivate the other’s desire, while recognizing the relationship is most likely temporary. Even in the church today most cannot imagine proceeding from singleness to marriage without the institutional flirting of dating. Most Christians have assumed that it is normal and healthy for young people to experience several dating relationships prior to selecting a spouse. These recreational romances are assumed to be emotional preparation for marriage. Let’s ponder this assumption, though. Are temporary romantic relationships really God’s ideal? As a young couple become romantically involved with one another they begin to bond emotionally. They increasingly share their hearts with one another. Their thoughts and imaginations are focused on their partner. They begin the God-designed process of becoming “one” even if there is virtually no physical relationship. They become one heart long before they become “one flesh.” They both understand, however, that the dating relationship does not involve any permanent commitments and that either party is free to break up the romance at any time, for any reason. They likely both dread the prospect of breaking up and hope that perhaps this is the relationship that will stick. In most cases, however, even Christian young people proceed through a number of serial romances before their marriage. So in breaking up these two hearts that have begun bonding are ripped apart. They each leave the relationship with at least some degree of heart-break. They might either display varying degrees of emotional devastation or simply toughen their feelings. Either way they leave the relationship emotionally wounded or scarred. But soon the pain of breaking up is forgotten as they develop a new romance with a different partner. In time, however, this relationship results in another heart-break and more emotional wounds that leave scars. Over a period of several years a young person will experience a number of such emotional bonds being severed. Some of the romances are serious and others admittedly so casual that breaking up is hardly painful at all. Yet the cumulative effect is that the young people’s hearts are becoming increasingly calloused. Some young people respond to this sequence by developing strategies to play the game in such a way as to always be the heart-breaker rather than the heart-broken. Even for Christian youth such flirtatious manipulation of others’ emotions sometimes becomes a source of increasing arrogance with each conquest. Finally the young person finds the one they will eventually marry. But the memories of past romances, the pattern of jilting partners when they lose their initial intense appeal or to avoid being vulnerable to being left oneself, the insecurity from fear of being dropped again, and the callouses cultivated to protect from further pain all become barriers to emotional (and later physical) unity. Yet we still insist that dating is somehow healthy preparation for marriage. Isn’t such emotional promiscuity more likely preparation for divorce than for marriage?”

For more of Lindvall’s article see:  http://boldchristianliving.com/articles/youthful-romance/the-dangers-of-dating-scriptural-romance—part-1.html

Should we wonder why there is so much divorce in our culture when we have so many dating relationships and then just because a preacher tells us to slide a ring on our finger that all of a sudden that “switching of partners” should stop?  Is it any wonder we have an almost 55% divorce rate in the Church.  That’s right!  I said the Church.  Barna Research Group reports that divorce is higher in evangelical churches today than in the culture at large.   (www.barna.org)  

I hope that we as parents and grandparents and even young adults reading this post will seriously think about the dating culture and the “hook up” scene that so permeates our society.  The Bible tells us plainly in Ephesians 5:3

But among you there should not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any impurity or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

My God help us to truly desire to be His holy people.  May we go the way of Scripture and not the culture, because as crazy as it sounds, even the scientific community is now jumping on the bandwagon of what Scripture has taught all along.

If interested, you can order the book (around $13) from Amazon.  Click here:  http://www.amazon.com/Hooked-Science-Casual-Affecting-Children/dp/0802450601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260470408&sr=1-1

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Did you know there are over 400,000 churches in America?  Did you also know there are about 6,000 movie theaters in America?   Can I ask a sobering question?  Which one (the church or the movie theater) is having the most influence on American Christians?  Now think about that.  You know for me…I don’t have to think about it long.  I know which one I believe is having the most influence on us.  I believe it’s the movie theaters and what the stars of the screen are doing.  Why? 

Simple.  We love our entertainment.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying all movies are bad…and I don’t want to be legalistic…I’m simply trying to make a point about the majority of our “entertainment.”  We just can’t seem to get enough of it.  Now again…don’t get me wrong…we love Jesus…oh yes we do…but, we REALLY love our movie stars, our music stars, our entertainment idols.  We have an appetite for entertainment that is almost insatiable. 

You don’t believe it.  Have you been watching the news lately?  Do you think the lead story over the last few days has been about Afghanistan or the economy or lost jobs in America?  Oh no!!  Not even close!  It’s been about Tiger Woods and his crash in his luxury SUV just outside his mansion in Florida.  It’s everywhere!  It’s NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN…you name it…in blogs…online…there it is…it’s everywhere.  Everybody wants to know.  What happened?  Was Tiger’s wife chasing him with a golf club to beat him up after a domestic fight?  Was he trying to escape?  What about all the scratches on his face and lips?  Why won’t he talk to the police?  Can I be very bold here? 

WHO CARES!!  Why is this so important to the existence of us as a people and to our future as a nation?  Why is this the lead story for our national news networks?  Why is it that balloon boy is covered like he and his family were a few weeks ago?  Why is it that we know more about the “party-crashers” in Washington that shook hands with Obama than we do about how our troops are doing that are defending our nation?  Why is it that Jon and Kate plus 8 grabs the national headlines for weeks on end?  I’ll tell you why…because WE…that means you and me…WE want to know…we just have to know…we vicariously want to live through the lives of these “stars” and we just can’t get enough!  How sad.  How deplorable.  How shallow.  We are Christians aren’t we?  Oh yes we are!  We’ll be in our 400,000 churches on Sunday…but, please…oh please…give us a front row seat to the “juicy stuff,” the latest hunk in the latest movie, how much weight somebody has lost or gained…you name it…just let us “in on it.” 

But are Christians really following this stuff.  You bet ya!  How do I know?  Because I’ve got ears and I’ve got eyes.  I can hear and see what “Christians” are attracted to today.  I am amazed at how we come and sit in our churches and listen to the Word of God on Sunday and the night before we’ve been in a folding theater seat watching “who knows what” in a darkened room with all our buddies.  Fast forward a few hours and there we are…we’re singing praises to the King of Kings with lifted voices and hands. 

Now I know what’s happening.  I’ve got some of you locked in and I’ve got your attention.  In fact, some of you reading this are getting mad.  You say, “You don’t know what I’m watching!”  “I’m not watching anything bad!”  “It’s not rated-R you know!”  “Who do you think you are?”  Well, I’m glad you asked…

I’m a Christian that believes the Word of God gives us guidance in how we are to live our lives and what we are to be about.  Can I share some Scripture with you?  It’s found in Ephesians 5:1-4:

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

Did you catch what is being described by the Apostle Paul here?  He tells us we are to be “imitators of God.”  That means we are to be like God.   We are to live “different” from the world.  We are not to watch anything that has even a hint…a trace…a smidgen of sexual immorality.  That means that you can just about put a blanket on most movies shown in the 6,000 theaters across this nation.  You can do the same with most of the shows on any night of any network on TV.  That means that the jokes we send, the things we laugh about that are “off color” are improper for GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE.  Did you catch that?  We are to be HOLY people.  HOLY!  Do you know what that word means?  It means there is to be absolutely nothing impure in our lives. 

But, we rationalize what we watch, listen to and talk about and say…”Oh, it’s not so bad.”  Oh my.  How this must crush the Father’s heart in Heaven.  Aren’t we to be different?  As Christians…aren’t we to be “in the world, but not of the world?”  But are we?  Are we truly a “peculiar” people?  I’ll tell you…I’ve struggled with this in my life, because no one wants to be “strange.”  We just want to fit in don’t we?  I mean everybody is talking about Tiger Woods and his wife right?  I mean, we’ve got to keep up and be “educated,” “in the know,” right?  We don’t want to look stupid do we?  Well, let me ask you…what would happen if someone asked us, “Hey, what do you think about Tiger and his wife…do you think he’s hiding something?”  And you said, “I don’t know, but I’m really not that interested in it.”  They say, “Why?”  And you say, “Well, I think there are more important and worthwhile things to think about and I just don’t want to get bogged down in that stuff.” 

Now I know what some of you are thinking…you are thinking…hey…that’s being a snob or some kind of “no-it-all.”  But, I would say, no it’s not…not if you say what you say in love and use it as an opportunity to share what is really important in your life…maybe you share about that person that you sung praises to on Sunday…in one of our 400,000 churches…maybe we talk about that person that you lifted hands to in worship a few days before.  You know…Christ.  The one that we are to love with all of our hearts, soul and strength.  The one we’ve supposedly given our lives to.  The one we say we have surrendered our lives to in submission and honor as our Lord.  Or is it that we really have a stronger allegiance to what we just “gotta see” at the movie theater…or on the tube?  Is it that we are more comfortable seeing the “latest/greatest” movie or video (that we wouldn’t honestly sit side by side with Christ beside of us, because we’d be too embarrassed or uncomfortable if we are honest) versus letting Jesus truly control our thoughts, desires and ambitions?

Christian…what are you (and what am I) allowing to occupy our minds?  Paul tells us: 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

My prayer is that those of us who occupy seats in the 400,000 churches across this land will occupy our minds with those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy instead of allowing the stuff of this world and the majority of what comes out of the 6,000 theaters and across the TV screens to suck us into the world.  The choice is ours.  Who’s winning the battle for your mind?

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