24Mar

Tough Text Tuesday: The Titus 2 Woman

“Train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” – Titus 2:4-5, ESV

Opening Thoughts:

blog50shousewifeProximity to a child does not automatically translate to good parenting. There is nothing inherently excellent or inherently sinful about being a stay at home mom. It’s a wonderful opportunity many take and there is no doubt their children benefit from it. It’s also a route many are simply unable to take or choose not to take. These women are not in a lesser class of womanhood and are in no way less faithful to God or the Bible.

Yet if today’s text is taken seemingly at face value, the Bible is commanding women to be stay-at-home moms only. That is not to say it is an easy job in any way. It is to say that if this particular text is read without context or interpretation, a stay at home mom is the only occupation available to women, and that that’s exactly what God wants and what God has designed.

Consequences of a Literal Interpretation

Somewhere along the line we got the idea that a literal reading of Scripture is always best. There was a popular saying in my church growing up, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” It’s a statement meant to convey Biblical authority as well as a heart and life that submits to such authority, which is great! However, the unintended negative consequence of such a phrase and/or interpretative outlook on Scripture is that it communicates an overly simplistic reading, refusing to acknowledge the consequences and harm such a reading can do to others, such as women in today’s text.

Notice what this means if this text is read without context:
Women can’t be school-teachers, nurses, or secretaries. They cannot work any place outside the home.
They cannot be lawyers or doctors or real estate agents or media buyers.
They cannot be executives or physical trainers or chefs.

Can you also hear the spiritual implications of such a conclusion? God doesn’t have a plan for you outside of the home. That’s only for men. The God who has created man AND woman EQUALLY in his image only has plans for men outside the home.

RIDICULOUS.

It seems logically inconsistent to call women to simultaneously be Titus 2 women and Proverbs 31 women with no other interpretation or context. The Proverbs 31 woman is a small business owner, a financially savvy woman managing more than grocery store coupons as she wheels and deals, selling and purchasing real estate holdings as she sees fit. The same people that point to Proverbs 31 as a guide for biblical womanhood will uphold the Titus 2 woman (working only from home) as a universally binding example of what biblical womanhood looks like. The two contradict each other without proper context or interpretation. In fact, this view would contradict many woman exemplified IN the Bible, not counting the hundred of thousands of women in the history of the Church, both ancient and modern, that have refused to be defined by such a narrow view of biblical womanhood.

The term “Biblical womanhood” needs to be reclaimed by those who have hijacked it to pigeon-hole women into a lifestyle not that different from a modern-day slave, useful for little more than child-bearing and cooking, treating their husbands as functional deities all in the name of following Jesus who uses women all throughout his ministry in tremendous positions of leadership, all of which occur…OUTSIDE THE HOME!

When Paul himself (who wrote our text today) finished the book of Romans, arguably the most profound and clear expression of Christian theology, he hands it not to a man, but to a woman, a deacon named Phoebe, to deliver and lecture upon. Phoebe probably didn’t live in a van (the only way she could have delivered Romans while never working outside the home…)

Now What?

Where do we go from here? Now that we’ve established that a simple interpretation of women are always supposed to work in the home is both harmful and inaccurate, how DO we interpret this text? This is where many objectors to this text fail because they just dismiss it. But as committed Christians, we must take all of the Bible seriously and wrestle to understand every part of it, not just that which is comfortable.

Paul is writing about the women in Titus’ church on the island of Crete, a place infamous for unheard levels of laziness and lifestyles that would make a sloth look productive. Could it be that these women were simply being lazy? There would not have been many, if any, opportunities for them to work at all outside the home in their male-dominated Greco-Roman culture.

This helps us rule out the possibility of  an interpretation which applies Paul’s words here to all women in all cultures at all times, especially those in today’s modern, Western society that have endless opportunities to work and do/accomplish what they feel led by God to do, both inside and outside the home.

Paul is simply calling women to be devoted mothers and faithful wives, much like he calls men to be devoted fathers and faithful husbands in Ephesians 5.

It is important for wives to love their husbands; it is also important for husbands to love their wives (Eph 5:25).  It is important for mothers to love their children; it is also important for fathers to love their children.  It is important for young women to be self-controlled and pure; it is also important for young men to be self-controlled and pure (2 Timothy 2:22).  It is important for women to be kind; it is important for everyone to be kind (Colossians 3:12).

Don’t ignore the hard texts. Keep seeking understanding and let’s stay humble together. You can be a Titus 2/Proverbs 31/ Jesus lovin’ woman and be the best Nurse Practitioner (so proud of my wife!) (insert your profession here).

Stay at Home Moms? You’re heroes! And I’m cheering for you big time.

Working Mommas? You’re heroes! And I’m cheering for you big time.

Titus 2 reminds godly, young women to not forsake their responsibilities as a wife and mother at home for the sake of their career or any other pursuit, and to remember that their true identity comes not from being able to produce/accomplish something, but from being known and loved by Jesus.

That’s a good reminder for us all.

 

24Mar

Marriage Monday: Nobody Owes You Happiness

Hey 20-somethings…and honestly a lot of 30-somethings…

I know it feels like you shouldn’t have to pay your dues, to work hard and long hours to get ahead. I know it feels like you should be able to have everything handed to you.

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to be on a budget? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if student loans were what so many of thought they were – fake Monopoly money that will one day just magically go away?

Many have labeled Millennials as the most entitled generation yet in history. Speaking as a Millennial, that critique often sounds uninformed and pretentious. However, more often that not, it’s true.

One of my favorite parts of our life right now is our friend group that is sprinkled with people in their 20s and 30s, both single and married. In may ways, our close friend group defies the stereotypical complaints about the Millennials.  Yet far too often, the stereotypes are true.

Today, many in their 20s and 30s are

  • Lazy
  • Easily distracted.
  • Undisciplined.
  • Selfish

This has enormous implications for marriage. I’ve been married for almost 4 years now and the one thing I haven’t gotten used too is seeing couples that have gotten married after us already divorced. It’s also heart-breaking as a pastor to see married couples divorce with young kids. And even though many married couples don’t divorce, the are far from the thriving marriage God desires for them. They simply expect it to magically happen because they married a crush from college or a high school sweetheart.

While each situation is somewhat unique to each marriage, there are many few dangers that lie lurking for Millennials in marriage. This attitude of entitlement, when extended and applied to marriage, puts people on a one-way path to divorce.

Truth: nobody owes you happiness. A thriving marriage doesn’t just happen because you marry whoever you were dating the back half of college. Anyone can survive in marriage. It takes hard work from both spouses to thrive.

A thriving marriage doesn’t happen overnight. But you can start TODAY to move toward one. Here’s 3 ways you can take action:

  1. Date Night: I’ve written about this before, but if you were to do ONE thing on this list, this is it. A date night will do wonders for your marriage. Men, make a plan. Be thoughtful. You don’t need a ton of money or creativity. You just need to be thoughtful and purposeful. Having a plan for date night shows your wife that you’ve cared about her enough to make a plan. ATTENTION MARRIED PEOPLE WITH KIDS: Do NOT take your kids on date night. Hire a sitter. Drop them off at your parents’ house. Arrange a date night co-op with other parents where you take turns watching kids so you and your spouse can have a one-on-one date night twice a month. Go to the dollar theaters. Take a walk in the park. Thriving marriages don’t just happen and one of the things they are built on is regular date nights.
  2. Go follow The Marriage Bed and The Pure Bed on Twitter. They tweet numerous times a day about faith, marriage, and sex – all from a Christian perspective. Share one of their tweets or articles with your spouse AND your own thoughts/applications from it.
  3. Change your phone background to a picture of just your spouse. Put their picture on your desk or in your car. Find little ways TODAY to show off how proud and grateful you are to be theirs.

What would you add to the list?

 

 

 

 

21Mar

Hate Finally Died Yesterday

Hate finally died yesterday.

It seemed like it would never come. It’s been going on for so long.

All the judgment.
All the wrath.
All the anger.

It finally came to an end yesterday…with his death.

So many people rejoiced. So many people cheered. So many people finally felt free….and rightfully so.

STOP.

The words above have nothing to do with Fred Phelps and everything to do with Jesus.

You, me, and Fred Phelps make three – all of us live(d) in a stage of grace that has not always been offered to us. Because Jesus changed everything.

So the words above “STOP” aren’t written about the death of Fred Phelps. They aren’t written in celebration of the death of Phelps, the former and founding pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, infamous worldwide for their picketing of military funerals and bullhorn protests proclaiming a message of divine hatred conveniently directed at everyone except them.

No, these words are written for the day Jesus, King of Kings yet Servant of Servants, was killed, nailed to a tree. These words are written for the day he was brutally bludgeoned then helplessly hung until he gasped and gave his last breath…for you, and me, and Fred Phelps.

THAT’S the day hate died. THAT’S the day the curtain in the temple was torn, miraculously in fact, from top to bottom, signifying nothing less than the complete absorption of God’s wrath toward all sinners and free access to God through Jesus.

Now our task is simple…to trust that Jesus is really that good. To trust that grace really is that amazing.

  • God doesn’t hate homosexuals.
  • God doesn’t hate Muslims.
  • God doesn’t hate lesbians.
  • God doesn’t hate soldiers.
  • God doesn’t hate atheists.

God HATES sin and JESUS paid for sin. It’s now simply our job to trust that Jesus’ work on our behalf is good enough so we don’t have to be and now we’re free to walk in obedience as our act of love and gratitude back to God.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” – Ephesians 2:13-18

Don’t mistake yourself. The death of Fred Phelps is nothing to rejoice over. You underestimate the power of the cross to break down the “dividing wall of hostility” if you find yourself gleefully reading his obituary.

Personally, I have great pity for him and his family. It seems possible that he might have lived his entire life without really ever tasting the goodness of God’s grace. As our pastor frequently says, “Grace received always becomes grace given.” I’m not sure to what level Phelps ever received grace because it didn’t seem like he ever gave much of it to others. However, it’s not our job to judge his life.

I sincerely hope to see Phelps in heaven one day. And if that last sentence makes your cringe, maybe heaven will be disappointing for you. I suspect God’s grace reaches much further and wider than you or I would be comfortable with, if we’re honest.

Phelps’ death made me reflect on the hatred that lies within my own heart, and to realize that there’s simply no reason for any level of it reside within me. I hope it does the same for you.

Can you trust that?

 

19Mar

Chop Wood & Carry Water

Chop wood and carry water.

It’s an old Chinese proverb that has the potential to save marriages, careers, relationships, and livelihoods.
I spent a month in China when I was in college and one of my favorite parts of the trip was the week we spent in this small village way up in the mountains. It was a very rural, almost primitive community. There were two things they had to do everyday:

Chop wood and carry water.

The cold always came so the fire always needed to be maintained.
Food always needed preparing and thirst always needed quenching so water was needed everyday. They didn’t have running water so someone always had to carry it.

It didn’t matter what happened that day, whether there were good experiences or bad. Chop wood and carry water.

Hall of Fame basketball coach Phil Jackson told Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant the same thing before, during, and after winning 6 and 5 championships, respectively. It kept them motivated, focused, and grounded.

You want to know how to be truly successful? – Chop wood and carry water.
You want to know how to have a thriving marriage? – Chop wood and carry water.
You want to know how to cultivate and maintain a positive reputation? – Chop wood and carry water.

This philosophy isn’t too idealistic. It’s not overly simplistic.

Adopt a “chop wood and carry water” attitude at work, at home, and in the community for the next 30 days and see if you’re not pleased with the results.

You’ll find yourself…

  1. Working harder
  2. Staying humble
  3. Appreciating others
  4. Doing the little things right
  5. Growing in discipline
  6. Staying focused before, during, and after success

Emotionally healthy people adopt a Chop Wood Carry Water mentality. They know that normal tasks need to get done every day.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer or a sanitation worker.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an executive or a stay-at-home Mom.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student or a grandparent.

Rise and shine. It’s time to chop wood and carry water. Who’s in?

10Mar

Outcast, Warrior, Daughter-Killer, God-Lover

Today’s Tough Text Tuesday comes from the story of Jephthah and his unnamed daughter, found in Judges 11. Since his story is 40 verses long, I won’t post the entire text here but I will say this as we begin: This is one of the most heart-breaking stories in the entire Bible. It’s unsettling. It’s disturbing. However, it will ultimately lead us closer to Jesus, if you let it. God wasn’t mistaken in including it.

Summary

Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. His dad, Gilead, was married to another woman when he was conceived and continued to have children with his wife after Jephthah (J) was born. When J’s half brothers grew up they weren’t too excited about J’s less than honorable origins. Instead of taking their concerns to their Dad, you know…the one who solicited J’s hooker mom, they take it out on J and kick him out of the family.

J then becomes captain of some thugs in the boonies. Something about him attracts other outcasts and they “went out with him,” like on raids, not on dates (v.3). So our outcast has become a mob boss and is causing all sorts of trouble. Saying he came from a broken home is an understatement.

Then God’s people (Israel) gets in trouble as the Ammonites wage war against them. Leaderless, they call out to J to lead them with his military might. He has to be convinced that’s what they really want but he eventually agrees. Even though he’s not directly appointed by God, “the Spirit of the LORD was upon” him, meaning the victory was already won.

Literally all they had to do was fight. God had already secured the victory. All J and God’s people had to do was trust God’s promise.

But surely that’s too good to be true, right? So J makes a tragic deal with God which is completely unnecessary. He tells God that if he gives them victory, J will sacrifice the first thing to come out of his house upon his safe return home.

J makes this rash vow in an effort to the earn the acceptance of God he already had. And his heart must have absolutely shattered when he arrives home and the first one to run out to greet him isn’t a dog, a lamb, or even a servant…but his daughter, his only child. J feels he must honor his vow, no matter what. So after a 2-month period of mourning and preparation for her impending death, J kills his daughter, his only child.

Problems and Questions

  • J misunderstood the character of God, thinking he had to earn God’s love or acceptance. Don’t we find our own unique ways to do the same every day?
  • Why did J make this vow in the first place? It seems like he was willing to even kill one of his servants without thinking twice if they were to come out to help him unload from his long journey. J was most likely incredibly desensitized to all the violence surrounding him and his friends, in addition to all the wars he would have participated in as a “mighty warrior” (11:1).
  • Why did he KEEP his vow? There’s nothing to indicate he had to, especially since the Bible clearly condemns human sacrifice before, during, and after J’s time. Ultimately, J doesn’t understand God’s grace. He doesn’t get that God desires obedience far and above any sacrifice we feel we should make to impress God.

A BIG Problem and Conclusion

J appears briefly in the “Hall of Fame of Faith” chapter, Hebrews 11. What?!?!? How in the world do we look at J to learn anything about a life of faith? How in the world can we follow a GOD who would put him there?

It doesn’t take a Bible genius to recognize some of the names of the other men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11. They all did something great for God but they also all made tremendous mistakes, including some pretty significant moments of unfaithfulness. Yet they are still recognized as the people of God.

So what’s going on?

I think what J, his gang-banger friends, and the rest of the Hebrews 11 crew can teach us is that God is ready and willing to use messed up people to further his kingdom. There’s nothing too bad to forgive and none of our worst actions or thoughts surprise God. In fact, the cross has paved the way for us to receive God’s grace for every one so we don’t need to make unnecessary vows or other attempts to earn the grace we can’t deserve yet freely have.

Should we emulate every action of the men and women we see trying to follow God in Scripture? Absolutely not. But they do know something we often forget: your mistakes don’t define you, no matter how big or small.

God is ready and waiting to use you TODAY. Will you let him?

10Mar

Who Has Better Sex?

To say Roger Staubach had an accomplished football career is an understatement.

  • He won the Heisman trophy in college.
  • He has been inducted into the college and professional football halls of fame
  • He is a 6-time Pro-Bowl selection (when that actually meant something).
  • He is a 2-time Super Bowl champion.
  • He won an MVP award.
  • On top of aaaaalll that, Staubach served 4 years as an officer in the Navy.

Despite all his incredible accolades, Staubach wanted to be known as a family man above all else. And he succeeded because he lived it out instead of simply talk about it.

In a 1975 nationally-televised interview, a CBS reporter asked former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach about his well-known reputation as a clean-cut, family man. She wanted to know what most people on the outside of a seemingly happy marriage want to know…

Isn’t it boring?

Doesn’t it get old really fast?

Don’t you eventually just get sick of each other?

Staubach’s response was one befitting his Hall of Fame character,

“Haha, everyone compares me to Joe Namath…off the field he’s a single bachelor swingin’ and I’m a married man with a family and he’s having all the fun…I enjoy sex just as much as Joe Namath! Only I do it with one girl, and it’s still fun.”

Joe Namath was also a famous quarterback who was well-known for his bachelor ways, and still is today at the age of 70. Who do you think has the better sex? Namath uses what he’s devoted to (career, fame, etc.) to have sex with a thousand nameless people. Yet he’s been alone most of his life. Staubach has sex with ONE person but it’s the same ONE person he’s raised kids and grandkids with. It’s the same ONE person he can truly be himself with. Who do you think has better sex?

Staubach’s commitment to a full, joyful life as a one-woman man needs to be re-embraced today:

Anyone can become a womanizer like Namath, notching his sexual belt with conquests. But it takes real courage and commitment to love like Staubach does, to be devoted to another person in the covenant of marriage.

And that’s what God wants, marriages that are created by people who are truly devoted to one another. But being faithful doesn’t necessarily mean you’re devoted. Pastor Darrin Patrick has written,

“You can coexist without loving. Your marriage may look good but not feel good. You may be married but only on a technicality – you are really more in a business arrangement than in love.”

A devoted marriage doesn’t happen over night. But there are some things anyone can begin doing today to move toward a fully-devoted, joyful marriage.

How to be a Devoted Spouse

  • Date your spouse. It doesn’t matter how much money you don’t have or how many kids you do, go on a date night. Regularly. It doesn’t have to be every week. But it does need to be consistent. Get out of the house. Hire a sitter. Eat at Taco Bell. Go out for ice cream. Take a walk in the park – it doesn’t matter! Remember how this was the stuff that was so exciting at the beginning? Keep it going! Some of my favorite moments in my marriage have come on cheap date nights after we tied the knot. If you’re smart like us and have gone through Financial Peace University, never fear. We have an envelope just for Date Night.
  • Stop looking at the menu. Men AND women: If you’re married, you’re no longer available. Neither is anyone else to you but your spouse, so stop looking at other people as if they are. Keep your eyes FIXED on your spouse. In private, don’t watch TV or your phone more than you watch them. In public, don’t look at others instead of them. Study them. Explore them. Learn them. Serve them.
  • Get physical. Sex is great! But there’s also tons of other ways to show your spouse you’re fully devoted to them. Hold hands. Give a hug. Cuddle after dinner. Make out. Gross the kids out. Finding ways to be physical in addition to sex will help your sex life become more meaningful and show your singular devotion.

Your spouse needs you to be more than faithful. Your spouse needs you to be fully devoted to them.

What else would you add to the list?

 

 

4Mar

If You Won’t Lead, Get out of the Way

Marriages, businesses, churches, and every part of the world are in constant need of leaders.

Yesterday, former Texas Rangers 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler made some scathing comments about his former team as well as their general manager. Kinsler was traded to the Detroit Tigers this off-season to make room for younger players and to help the Rangers fill a bigger need at first base with their acquisition of Prince Fielder.

Kinsler was an All-Star player for the Rangers for almost a decade and a fixture on both of their World Series teams. Being traded was a surprise for him but one he was comfortable with as he had clearly become unhappy in Texas. He didn’t agree with the new direction the team was going and had made that known on numerous occasions. He was vocal in his opinions about how the team had parted ways with former MVP Josh Hamilton and longtime clubhouse leader Michael Young.

“The team had changed. It was not the same personalities, not the same players, not the same chemistry. To be traded, it was refreshing to start new.”

But none of that really matters because Ian Kinsler never ran the Rangers. He’s a player. And the Rangers were far from re-building but it wouldn’t have mattered if they were.

Kinsler became the longest-tenured Ranger and was asked to step into a leadership position. He declined. He failed to step up. He chose to be selfish and focus solely on himself when his team needed him the most.

“I was bogged down. They wanted me to lead these young players, teach them the way to compete, when the only thing I should be worried about is how I’m performing in the game.”

Kinsler failed in the same way many people do today…

  • A wife is unsatisfied in her marriage because she needs her husband to put the video game controller down and step up and be a leader.
  • A business decides to head in a new and exciting direction but fails to make the necessary shift because leadership was comfortable with the way things were.
  • The Church in America is in massive decline due in part because people refuse to change and adapt to new ways of ministry (with an unchanging message) because “That’s just not the way we do things” or “This is how things have always been done here.”
  • A family member is in need and someone knows how to help but it would require an intense amount of sacrifice for a short period of time. The short-term sacrifice is not seen as worth it and the family member does not receive the help he/she so desperately needs.

The Rangers ultimately parted ways with Kinsler because they needed a leader and he wasn’t interested. Their parting message was simple and it applies in every area of our lives as well:

Four Things Leaders Do (and so should you)

  1. Leaders step up to fill a need. Leaders that step up for the very first time are able to do so because of the leaders that have already poured into them. You don’t need a long leadership resume to step up and fill a need when one arises.
  2. Leaders value the team above themselves. Husbands, value your wives more than yourself. CEOs, stop pillaging your companies for undue bonuses. Think of the people’s backs from whom your salary originates. Christians, church is NOT all about you and your preferences. It’s also not about your pastor’s preferences. It’s about living and inviting others into the radical, upside-down kingdom of God.
  3. Leaders know their role. Ian Kinsler was never in charge of deciding who he played with. He didn’t make calls on who stayed or went. Effective leaders focus on what lies within their control.
  4. Leaders replace themselves. This is one of my favorite aspects of the Church. I love seeing home groups multiply into several home groups. I have the undeserved joy of being able to disciple my best friend who has been a Christian almost a year and now he is discipling someone as well. Leaders take the time to invest their passion and knowledge into the next generation of leaders.

The world needs leaders today. Will you step up?

3Mar

Tough Text Tuesday: Philippians 4:13

This weeks marks a bit of a re-visioning process for the blog. If you were around yesterday you read the first article in a recurring series, “Marriage Monday.” I don’t pretend to have years of experience or wisdom about marriage but what I do have I learned from a little bit of experience and a lot of wisdom from couples who have successfully navigated decades of marriage.

Today marks another new recurring series, “Tough Text Tuesday.” I promise that’s as far as the alliteration goes. I think. Each Tuesday I’ll post about a verse or passage of Scripture that is easily misinterpreted, controversial, or simply difficult to understand. I hope to explain the text in such a way that shows Christians what interpretative options are available as well as distinguish between essential issues of the faith and non-essential issues. Non-essential issues may very well be important but they don’t deny a core aspect of the Gospel or nature of God. In other words, it’s okay to disagree about these things with people. Essential issues are non-negotiable (Jesus is God. Jesus died for our sins. God is love, etc).

Our first Tough Text Tuesday takes us to an extremely popular verse:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

tebowThis verse has been used most-often in Christian circles as athletic motivation. I remember going to FCA meetings in high school (side note: FCA is an INCREDIBLE organization) and we would talk about this verse within the context of succeeding on the athletic field.

An obvious problem arose when I asked myself, “What happens when I believe this verse and use it as athletic motivation for me while competing against someone doing the same?” When this verse is misinterpreted in this way, one is forced to conclude that God simply loves the winner more.

So, now what? How IS this verse to be interpreted and applied? There are a couple of truths that are always important to remember when interpreting any part of Scripture. One of those that will help us today is that every passage of Scripture must be first interpreted in the culture/time to which it was originally intended.

Paul pens these prolific (alliteration again..I knew I wasn’t done!) words in a difficult time in his life, to say the least. He was not facing an athletic opponent. He was literally on death row, awaiting his potential execution while under house arrest chained to a Roman guard 24/7. This was after he had already been shipwrecked, arrested, and ran out of several different cities.

When interpreting Scripture, context is HUGE. Let’s check out the two verses that immediately precedes v. 13,

11 I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

Another HUGE problem we run into when we interpret this verse as God fundamentally blessing whatever we set our minds to is that we leave zero room for suffering to be a part of God’s plan for us. This is a dangerous assumption about God’s will, one that Paul never made. He knows how to be brought low. Do we?

Conclusion

I pray you gain a deeper appreciation for this verse in particular and Scripture in general. I hope you can echo the claim of Paul that whether you have little or much, hunger or abundance, grief or happiness, that no matter what you have the capacity to obey whatever God commands you to do. This is the ultimate take-away for me with this passage. It’s a question we must ask of God instead of demands we get to make of Him…

God,

What would you have us do for you today? Whatever it is, we know we can do it, but not because of us. It’s all about YOU.

Amen.

3Mar

Marriage Monday: Vomit & Forgiveness

Attitudes are chosen. They are not something that happen to us or something that lies outside our control.

Far too often, we can make poor decisions based on an emotional reaction to someone else’s actions. Then we blame that person’s actions for bringing up that poor attitude in us, as if we didn’t have control of our reaction.

The truth is, attitudes and reactions are chosen. We have the power to respond in the best of ways when we encounter the worst of scenarios.

This principle illustrates itself most clearly in the arena of marriage.

It’s been proven over the course of our marriage…and every marriage lasting longer than 6 seconds, that spouses screw up. Wives hurt husbands. Husbands mistreat wives. We all find our own creative ways to do so but it’s a brokenness that plagues us all.

I remember when my wife and I were in pre-marital counseling and our pastor and his wife shared with us a verse that has helped shaped our marriage more than any other:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Shouldn’t it be easy to be tenderhearted to the one we love more than anyone else? Why would it be hard to forgive the one that makes us happier than anyone else?

Remember all those marriages that lasted longer than 6 seconds? They all have one thing in common: they’re made up of people who hurt the people they love most. Hurt people hurt people and it’s never easy to forgive, even if it’s your spouse…sometimes especially if it’s your spouse.

So what happens when you’re the spouse that gets hurt? What happens when the love of your life doesn’t act very loving? In these instances you have two options:

  1. Have a careless, emotional reaction that is somehow validated based on the actions of the one who hurt you.
  2. Choose to lead your heart instead of being led by it. Choose to forgive before you hear an apology.

Instead of always passively reacting to the actions of your spouse, choose today to take active action to display the forgiveness that we who are following Jesus can show because God first forgave us.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering where the vomit comes in. It happened yesterday and it has nothing to do with marriage but everything to do with choose how to respond to others.

It was a relatively typical Sunday morning and I was visiting with a few families lingering out in the foyer. All of a sudden I smelled something from near the coffee bar area that causes me to turn around.

It was a familiar smell. Vomit.

I followed the smell…and trail…of vomit into the men’s bathroom where I found a Dad cleaning up his young daughter who had gotten sick. When he finished cleaning her up and turned around I saw that he was covered in his daughter’s vomit. He had a nice shirt on and had plans to go out to lunch right after the service with some other family members. Apparently he was holding his daughter when she got sick and she actually threw up into his face and all over his shirt and jeans. This dude was soaked.

As I began filling up the mop bucket with soap and water I handed him a roll of paper towels and asked, “Man, are you okay?” He looked at his daughter and smiled simply before answering me, “Yeah, I’m great.” He was still covered in vomit. He hadn’t even started to think about himself. His heart was full and sincere because he decided a long time before his daughter up-chucked her Goldfish all over him that he was going to love her no matter what.

Hopefully your spouse doesn’t vomit all over you today. But now you know what to do just in case.

No matter what happens today, your love for your spouse is a choice. Choose to love well today.

 

28Feb

You Can’t #EndIt & Keep Porn

Today is Shine a Light on Slavery Day, a national campaign by the End It Movement. Their goal is stated simply:

“Join us and other Freedom Fighters from around the world as we SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY. Draw a RED X on your hand. Tell your world that slavery still exists and YOU WON’T STAND FOR IT. Just use your influence any way you can to help us carry the message of FREEDOM.” – http://enditmovement.com/

I’m really thankful for the work of the men and women at the End It Movement. We live in a time when it seems more popular to criticize those who are working to bring about real change instead of actually doing something to create the necessary change. While one could easily point out the flaws of a campaign based almost solely on awareness, the End It Movement has educated thousands of people on the horrors of sex trafficking, especially young people.

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When teenagers, college students, and adults alike hear that there are 27 million men, women, and children trapped in modern-day slavery, something begins to stir within them to seek out change.   Many have tried to explain away sex-trafficking as a lesser problem but several United Nations-sanctioned studies and sociologists all over the world keep coming up with estimates around 27 million people. Last year alone, red X’s were drawn and tweeted out to the world by US Senators, NBA/NFL/NHL/MLB players, Grammy-winning musicians, and world-renown pastors.

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While the End It Movement is great, specifically because of its high impact on younger generations, it’s also foolish. It’s not intrinsically foolish, only functionally foolish, and it’s not their fault. Their failure to succeed is tragic because…

The connection between pornography and sex trafficking  has been explored in depth by many people smarter than me. All the findings are conclusive and align with a simple supply-demand formula.

There is an enormous demand for pornography, specifically in our country.

Porn Usage Facts:

  • Porn sites get more visitors every month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter…combined.
  • 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet pornography before the age of 18.
  • The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11.
  • The 12-17 year-old age-group is the largest consumer of Internet pornography.

These stats clearly display that our nation is infatuated with porn. Demand has never been higher and porn (supply) has never been more accessible.

Pornography has become easier to produce and demand has risen to unheard of levels. The bad news – sex traffickers have gotten in on the action. They’ve realized that the more porn they produce, the more porn will be consumed and thus, the more money they make.

Sex traffickers are now targeting and exploiting young women for the explicit purpose of forcing them to produce pornography. So the next time you want to log on to that website or click on that seemingly harmless picture, remember that. Remember that that girl might not be enjoying what’s happening to her, and that what’s happening is nothing less than rape on tape, not consensual sex between two partners. One husband even sold his own wife into sex slavery where she was forced to produce pornographic videos.

The connection between porn usage and sex slavery is clear. Now, it’s time to really #EndIt.

You see, the two are far too closely intertwined. So, if you put a Red “X” on your hand today, I’m cheering you on! Now it’s time to be consistent. No more porn. End THAT too. It’s the only way to #EndIt at all.

Are you trapped in the cycle of porn? Are you a parent and need resources to talk to your kids about porn? If they’re 11, they’ve most likely already been exposed to porn but it’s never too late!Get started early! Check out the resources below and share this post with friends.

Related Articles:

  1. Even GQ Knows Porn is Bad
  2. Snapchat: Child Porn & Sex Predators
  3. 9 Resources for Parents: Navigating the Digital Age
  4. Who Has Better Sex?

Online Porn Resources

  • Covenant Eyes – A great website filtering system that monitors all aspects of Internet usage including mobile devices and emails a content report to an accountability partner every week.
  • XXX Church – A great website for porn recovery. It’s chock-full of resources and also offers a website-filtering/monitoring system that includes mobile devices as well.
  • Fight the New Drug Started on a college campus, Fight the New Drug is an organization of college students with absolutely zero political or religious allegiances. They present the proven, unbiased, scientific facts on how porn harms our brains, our relationships, and our society.
  • Free iPhone Porn Filter
  • A Parents’ Primer on Internet Pornography

 

Helpful Books

 

Ultimately, the Gospel is what sets porn addicts and all sinners, including you and me, free. For more on the power of the Gospel, watch the video below.

 

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