The Days of Our Lives, Part 3


Admit it, you have a love/hate relationship with late middle age, or the “senior years.”  That hate part begins around age 50 when you get your first letter from the AARP.  Why are they sending me this?, you may ask indignantly. The love part kicks in when your car insurance goes down because of your age.  The kids are grown and gone, the house is paid off, and if retirement is your thing, then you may look forward to that.  Still, you cope with aches and pains you didn’t have before, yet all of a sudden it seems as though the print in books or labels and newspapers got small and people mumble a lot more than they used to.  And where once you took only an aspirin once in a while, now you’re having to count out your pills before you drink your morning cup of coffee.

There can be great joy in getting older, but also anxiety and, for some of us frustration and sometimes even a little bit of melancholy, as we stare into the mirror at the that old person looking back and we wonder where the years went.  And for some, when they realize the years ahead are far fewer than the years behind, the gloom of depression hangs on and won’t let go.

Bruce Springstein, surely the luckiest entertainer in America, wrote a song about some friends who live in the past because they don’t like the way their lives turned out.  To them, the “Glory Days” are long gone.

But Springstein isn’t the only one who feels that the best years are past.  A lot of folks in their middle age think this way.  Christians may also be tempted to feel this way, but we should think twice, and here’s why.

God remains ever faithful 

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake nor their children begging bread.  They are always generous and lend freely;their children will be blessed.  (Psalms 37:23c-26 | NIV84) 

David wrote this psalm, and of course that last verse is simply the Lord saying that He will keep the promise He made to Abraham and successive generations.  But that small paragraph really packs a wallop, though.  The NIV84 is correct in making things conditional:  “If the Lord delights in a man’s ways,” then He will do something good for that man – he will “make his steps firm.”  In other words, if God likes what He sees a man doing, God will “establish” – “make firm” – that man’s steps.  This is a righteous man, not an evil man.  God will give a righteous man what he needs to help him along.  The righteous are not left up to their own devices.

Something else David learned in his old age was that though a righteous person be poor, they may still be blessed by God.  And if they “stumble” and if they fall off the spiritual wagon, God will be there to put him back on.  The psalmist has realized only what may be discovered when looking in the rear view mirror of life:  God was always wanted faithful, He remains faithful now, and he knows that God will always be faithful.  Charles Spurgeon wrote:

A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous; they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck.  Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before the One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose. 

An odd thing that happens as we age, for most of us anyway, is that our hair turns gray.  Some folks like to wash that gray out every few weeks, but the book of Proverbs tries to make us feel good about the gray:

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.  (Proverbs 16:31 | NIV84) 

Now, this is a proverb and it’s very general.  We all know gray-headed people who are not at all righteous.  What this particular proverb teaches is that generally speaking, throughout history a person who has lived long enough to have gray hair is proof of God’s blessings.  Lifespans during Old Testament times was quite a bit shorter than today; a lot of people didn’t live long enough to have gray hair. God’s blessings will always be evident, but no more so than a long life.

Here’s an interesting contrast:

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.  (Proverbs 20:29 | NIV84) 

God blesses His people in different ways at every stage of life.  Just because you’re older and don’t have the energy you had a few years ago, doesn’t mean the Lord is finished with you.

Victories ahead! 

Just because you’re older and gray headed, doesn’t mean that you should retire from serving the Lord, either.  Somebody who lived a long life was a fellow by the name of Caleb, and here’s how he felt about his old age:

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions…  (Joshua 14:7 | NIV84) 

“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.   Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” . Joshua 14:10-12 | NIV84) 

Can you imagine?  Eighty-five years old and still fighting – not forgetting God’s promises and still looking forward to victory!  And Caleb was indeed victorious once again.  The idea of “retirement” is a fairly recent phenomenon in America.  Once upon a time, a generation or two ago, people didn’t retire; they kept working as long as they could.  The notion that you could stop working while still in good health and travel or garden or whatever was unknown to our grandparents.  Not that retirement is a bad thing, but the attitude that says, “I’ve worked long enough now I’m going to take it easy,” isn’t a Biblical one and it certainly doesn’t apply to serving the Lord.  You’re never too old to work for God; there is always something you can do for the kingdom.

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”. (Psalms 92:14c-15 | NIV84) 

The overall theme of Psalm 92 is God’s faithfulness and enduring love.  That’s a common theme throughout all of Scripture; the God who was faithful when you were young is the same God now that you are old(er) and He’s still just as faithful and loves you just as much.  Neither of these two divine attributes dwindles with the years.  Using the metaphor of trees, the psalmist makes it clear that age doesn’t diminish the believer’s ability to prosper and “bear fruit,” that is, live a life of righteousness that it is obvious to all that you are a believer.  A big, leafy tree cannot be hidden and an older Christian shouldn’t hide out of sight, either.

A good reason to live a fruit-bearing life into old age is so that the younger generation may be inspired.  Never underestimate the power of your good example.  A.B. Simpson made the comment:

Begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness.  Worry, fear, distrust, care – all are poisonous!  Joy is a balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. 

He’s absolutely right!  You may not be in perfect health; you may creak a little when you walk and bend over, but you should ever rejoice in the Lord!  It’ll make you feel better and it will cause spiritual fruit to grow in your life.

Serve the Lord faithfully 

In your so-called golden years, you could sell your house, buy a boat and just sit on it all day, never interacting with anybody, or you could make yourself useful to the Lord, like good old Simeon did:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25-26 | NIV84) 

Jesus was just a baby when His earthly parents brought Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord, a custom of the day.  An elderly, devout believer was there, too.  Simeon, though old, wasn’t traveling the world and he wasn’t laying about his boat, or sitting on his porch in his rocking chair, but he was right where he should have been:  the house of the Lord.  God had told Simeon long ago that he would live long enough to see the Messiah, so we can understand why, holding God to His word, he hung around the Temple in expectation.  Who knows how long old Simeon held onto this Word from the Lord?  Yet here he was, waiting and looking and his patient faith was rewarded when he saw the baby Jesus.

But it wasn’t just an old man who was faithful.  There was an old lady too, a prophetess named Anna.  Like Simeon, she was faithful and never gave up on the Lord.

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  (Luke 2:37 – 38 | NIV84) 

Just like Simeon, Anna was still waiting for the redemption (the salvation) of Jerusalem.  But it wasn’t so much the event as it was the Word of God she clung to.  For her, and indeed for all faithful believers, there is joy in expectantly waiting for God’s Word to be fulfilled.

There are so many challenges in growing into middle age and passing middle age.  So many things change as we age; our circumstances, our bodies, some relationships, but serving the Lord and remaining faithful to Him should be a constant.  Billy Graham wrote some words of wisdom concerning this that deserve to noted:

Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter  years can be some of the  most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives. 

He’s right, and sometimes it all boils down to your perspective.  You can spend a lot of time commiserating about the state of the world today and pining for the glory days of your youth, or you leave the past behind and embrace what God wants you to be doing now.  It’s certain that there is something He wants of you.

The Days of Our Lives, Part 2



In our series, All The Days of our Lives, we’ve looked at Millennials.  Now to tackle what some would call “Baby Boomers.”  This is the second-largest demographic group in America, and takes in those born between 1946 and 1964.  Baby Boomers range in age from 52 to 70.  This particular generation, sometimes referred to as the “post World War Two generation,” is marked by these characteristics:

  • They are generally competitive. Especially those born just after the end of the War who took advantage of a booming economy and the GI Bill, they had to face overcrowded schools and stiff competition for jobs.
  • They are work-centric. Baby Boomers are defined by what they do.  Many are workaholics and cannot understand why Gen Xers and Millennials aren’t.
  • They are independent. In the 60’s they were the counter-culture crusaders.  They were against “the man,” and wanted to change the world.  Traditionally, Boomers like to challenge existing systems and institution and relish the conflict which results.
  • They are goal-oriented.
  • They are achievement-oriented.
  • They are career-focused.
  • “Career” means so much to them, Boomers don’t want anyone “nipping at their heels,” so they compete for promotions and recognition and take those things very seriously.

Many – probably the majority – of Baby Boomers were raised in the church.  Though they may not have had a “conversion experience,” they are very familiar with the Bible and it’s values tend to shape their worldview.  It’s not unusual for a Boomer to talk about their faith but not attend church and, in fact, often view dedication to one’s church as “provincial.”

Yet the Church and the Bible have much to say to the Baby Boomers.  Let’s look at three issues in particular.

Blessings of Godly living 

Those in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are usually entering or well into their peak earning years.  The kids are out of the house, which is close to being or already paid off, and many Boomers face a sort of second chance to do the things they may have wanted to do but couldn’t because of the challenges of buying a home and raising a family.  Along with this new-found freedom comes the responsibility to live (or to continue living) a Godly life.  Boomers need to understand that living a righteous life will result in blessings flowing into it.  This goes against their habitual way of thinking:  Blessings are earned.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water,which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  (Psalms 1:1-3 | NIV84) 

The thing that jumps off the page is not what the Godly man does, but rather what he does not do.  Generally speaking, Christianity is a very positive faith, but here the blessed man – who is blessed because he’s a Godly man – is known by some negatives.   He does not pay attention to what wicked people say; he does not fellowship with sinners or identify himself with those who mock the righteous.  The downhill progression is clever and obvious:

“Walk” suggests a casual or passing association with non-believers to the point where one takes their advice. “Stand” is a continued fellowship with persons consistently sinful in attitude and act. To “sit” with sinners  implies feeling right at home  with those who mock God and religion. The godly person is able to discern the downhill direction of wrong associations.

On the positive side, the Godly man loves the Word of God and it’s teachings are a part of his daily life.  He has successfully made the Bible the center of his thinking and decision making.  As we used to say in Sunday School,

The Christian is “Bible-bred, Bible-led, and Bible-fed.” 

Those who live Godly lives will be blessed.  It’s a fact; there’s no “perhaps” or “maybe” here.  God promises to bless those who live the righteous life.  Paul was somebody who discovered this to be true.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:11-13 | NIV84) 

You may not see the word “blessing” in that paragraph, but it’s there nonetheless.  “Contentment” might be the greatest blessing of all.  But it doesn’t mean what you think it does.  The Greek is a little complicated, but essentially what Paul is saying in verse 11 is something like this:

I  am adequate for every situation, having learned that circumstances don’t add or take away from my happiness. 

The Greek word carries the idea “competence.”  That’s a blessing!  A Godly person is competent in any and every circumstance of life.  That’s why the great apostle was able to write what he did in verse 13.  And mean every word of it.  David Brainerd observed:

We are a long time in learning that all our strength and salvation is in God. 

Blessing of the local Church 

Many pastors refer to “the church family.”  They’re referring to the members of a local congregation, and they are correct to do that.  When you regularly attend a local church, whether your name is on the roll or not, those people sitting in the pews all around you are members of your “church family.”  Here’s what Jesus said about that:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”   Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Matthew 12:46-50 | NIV84) 

This little incident is so brief and apparently innocuous, most of us miss its significance.  Some commentators miss it, too.  It’s not that we ought to treat believers as though they were family, as far as Jesus was concerned, other believers ARE our extended family.  We become members of God’s great family when we become born again.  Richard Cecil, Anglican clergyman, remarked:

The Union of Christians to Christ, their common Head, and by means of the influence they service from Him, one to another, may be illustrated by the loadstone.  It not only attracts the particles of iron to itself by the magnetic virtue, but by this virtue it unites them one to another. 

But being part of this family necessitates actually fellowshipping with them.  If you aren’t in regular contact with your spiritual family members, you are estranged from them; there’s a rupture in that relationship.  Christians were created for fellowship, not only with God, but with each other.  Going to church is more than an excuse for take up a collection or the pastor getting you to mow the church lawn.  Paul put it best when he wrote to the Ephesians:

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Ephesians 4:14-16 | NIV84) 

This paragraph speaks about the purpose for the various ministries that occur within any local church.  Baby Boomers may feel because of their hectic schedules or education or maturity they don’t need to regularly attend church.  That thinking is disastrous.  Here are Paul’s reasons for being part of a church family:

  • In verse 12, the ministries of the church serve to build up the faith of its members and teach it’s members how to share their faith with the lost;
  • Verse 13 indicates that church members are mature Christians. Maturity – spiritual growth – won’t take place outside of the church;
  • Verse 14 tells us that the world outside of the church is a dangerous place and that being a member of a local church and regularly participating in the life of that church enables you to stand firm in your faith; to discern truth from error. You’ll stand a better chance of staying out of the spiritual high weeds of error if you are in church.
  • Finally, we become more Christ-like the more we’re in church.

But belonging to a church is more than making sure your name in on the roll.  To be a part of God’s family resulting in receiving the blessing of being part of a local church begins with belonging to God first.  In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, we read this:

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.  “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.   (Malachi 3:16-17 | NIV84) 

A blessing of belonging to God is that He is always aware of us, all the time.  “They will be mine,” God said, indicating how He views His people:  We belong to Him – we are His possession.  Belonging to God guarantees our future as though we were His only child.  A.W. Tozer said this:

An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children.  He does not distribute Himself that each my have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.

Blessing of honoring parents 

One of the challenges Baby Boomers face is taking care of their elderly parents.  Both the Old and New Testaments speak about the responsibility God’s people have for looking after – honoring – their parents.

Listen to your father, who gave you life,and do not despise your mother when she is old.  (Proverbs 23:22 | NIV84) 

“Listen” means not only hear, but “pay attention to” and “heed” what your father says.  Boomers are never too old to ignore the wisdom of their fathers.  To “despise” one’s mother is worse than hating her; the Hebrew means thinking your mother is “insignificant” or “unimportant.”

No doubt it’s challenging for Boomers, who have so many irons in the fire, to be as thoughtful as they should be where their parents are concerned.  But Billy Graham hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone. 

How a person treats their parents is a good indicator of that individual’s character.  But even more, remember the sixth commandment is the only one that comes with a blessing attached to it:

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Exodus 20:12 | NIV84) 

There are many ways to honor your parents, but as we grow we should be aware that even though we may not live at home and we may have raised our own families and maybe even live in other cities or states or even countries, our parents are still our parents and remembering them and caring for them are simple ways to honor them which result in God’s blessings upon their lives and ours.

The Days of Our Lives, Part 1


In America today, the largest demographic group is the Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000.  As near as we can tell, there are upwards of 80 million of them, and not all of them are living in their parent’s basement, although many are.

In addition to that curious characteristic, here are a few things that characterize Millennials:

  • They are the most educated demographic in Western history;
  • They are technologically savvy, with mobile tech their passion;
  • They are civics oriented;
  • They are “conscious capitalists;”
  • They are less patriotic and more global in their thinking;
  • They are entrepreneurial;
  • They “pragmatic idealists,” believing in making their “dreams come true.”
  • They are socially liberal;
  • They are team players;
  • They are waiting much longer to get married;
  • They are non-religious but spiritual.

When we “baby boomers” understand how Millennials think and how they view their world, the things they say on YouTube and Twitter, how they vote, and why they don’t go to church make all the sense in the world.  As Christians, we need to understand something else:  The Bible speaks to the needs of Millennials, as it does to every other demographic.

Millennials, marriage, divorce, and the single life

Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If that is how it is, it is better not to marry!”  “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps.  Some are born without the ability to marry, and some are disabled by men, and some refuse to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone who can, accept my statement.”  (Matthew 19:10 – 12  | TLB) 

Jesus had been talking to some Pharisees about marriage and divorce.  As was their style, these religious types had asked Jesus some tricky questions in order to trip Him up.  But they were not prepared for this Jesus’ full-throttled endorsement of marriage.  It came about like this:

Some Pharisees came to interview him and tried to trap him into saying something that would ruin him. “Do you permit divorce?” they asked.  “Don’t you read the Scriptures?” he replied. “In them it is written that at the beginning God created man and woman, and that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one – no longer two, but one! And no man may divorce what God has joined together.”   (Matthew 19:3 – 5 | TLB) 

The Pharisees belied their view of marriage in the question they asked Jesus.  To them, marriage and divorce were a matter of legislation; to them it was about the law of the land.  But Jesus set them straight by taking them to the origin of marriage:  the Bible, and in particular, He went back to the very beginning, the book of Genesis.  While the Pharisees expected Jesus to talk about Deuteronomy and the law of Moses,  Jesus’ view of marriage predated Moses and was connected to the creation of man by God.  By our Lord’s reckoning, marriage is not the product of a particular culture or of a society’s evolution, but a creation of God Himself for man. 

And this is what Millennials, and in particular Christian Millennials, need to understand.  Marriage is based on the fact the God created “them” male and female, and “on that account” (KJV) of that, a man leaves his parents and shall become literally “glued” to his wife.  That’s a truth so subtle, most Bible readers miss it.  A man leaves home primarily to become forever (in life, anyway) attached to and identified with a woman!

But Jesus goes even further by indicating that no human being can break the bond between a man and woman that God Himself has created.  The implication of verse 5 is that any man who divides what God has, by His own creation joined together,  not only divides up two people, but he separates those two people from God’s will.  And that’s a serious thing!

Marriage is serious, but the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t think so.  They, not the Americans, were the first to make divorce easy.  Originally, God’s concession to His people was that a divorce was permitted only on account of adultery.  But by now, a man could get a divorce for just about any reason.  Jesus, now talking to His disciples, said this:

Jesus replied, “Moses did that in recognition of your hard and evil hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  And I tell you this, that anyone who divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.”  (Matthew 19:8, 9 |TLB) 

Jesus isn’t teaching His disciples about divorce, but about the serious, spiritual nature of marriage.  The disciple’s view of marriage, like that of Millennials of today, was shaped by their society.  They couldn’t get their minds wrapped around what the Bible really said about the issue.  What they said to Jesus proved that they didn’t yet have a Biblical worldview, but a secular worldview.  Essentially, their argument to Jesus was this:  If adultery is the only charge a husband can bring against his wife, isn’t it better to just stay single?  Making a statement like that shows that the disciples still thought that their societal norms carried more weight than the Bible and God’s will.  It wasn’t that the disciples were against marriage, but that they were reluctant to give up the Jewish ease of getting rid of a wife.  This whole exchange gave Jesus the chance to exalt marriage in order to show the seriousness of it.  Being in a committed marriage relationship is God’s plan for most people since the days of Creation, and the only way that happens is with the help of God:  “Only those whom God helps…”

Millennials and purity 

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  (1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 | TNIV) 

This is good advice for people of almost any age, but especially for Millennials.  In Paul’s day, Corinth had the deserved reputation of having a very immoral culture.  It was full of prostitutes and sex was a part of the local religious worship services.  Paul had become known as the preacher of the Gospel of freedom, and here’s how that sounded to the Corinthians:

You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  (1 Corinthians 6:13 |TNIV) 

Paul was the master at theological tight rope walking.  He had written to another congregation this:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 | TNIV) 

But that freedom FROM sin didn’t mean freedom TO sin.  To the Corinthians who were concerned about what kinds of food to eat, freedom in matters of what to have for supper did not equal freedom to pursue immorality.  Which, apparently, was happening.  In verse 13, Paul quoted a saying that was popular in Corinth:  “Food for the stomach and stomach for the food, and God will destroy them both.”   Even though God is mentioned, this saying is about as far from Biblical reality as you can get.  That saying equates something temporal – food – with something permanent – the body.  The body is permanent in that at some point in the future, it will be resurrected.  The Corinthians had a misunderstanding of the resurrection, which the apostle addresses in depth in chapter 15.  But for now, he barely hints at it by linking their ignorance of Christian resurrection to their treatment of the human body.  The body, contrary to what the Corinthian Christians thought, is just as eternal as the spirit and the soul, and therefore it should be treated as something of infinite value. 

Unfortunately, the secular view of the body prominent in Corinth found a home in the church.  That tendency to view the body as unimportant was behind three separate issues Paul addressed in this letter:

  • A immoral member of their congregation involved in a heinous sexual sin, 5:1 – 13;
  • Lawsuits among believers, 6:1 – 11;
  • Sexual relations with prostitutes, 6:12 – 20.

Paul’s overriding point in these three separate issues is that a Christian can’t do what he wants with his body.  Each of the three issues he dealt with involved serious immorality.  The Christian was set free, but that freedom had nothing to do with getting involved with any kind of immorality, sexual or otherwise. 

Millennials tend to think a lot like the Corinthian Christians.  They are not in church and a lot of them have never been exposed to the teachings of Scripture and are therefore unaware of what it really says about issues, in this case, the issue of the human body as it relates to  moral purity.  “It’s my body, it’s my choice,” is the rallying cry of the Millennials.  And yet it isn’t.  Verse 15 drives home a point:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  (1 Corinthians 6:15 | TNIV) 

In the context of this chapter, this verse makes it clear that union with a prostitute incompatible with the unity that exists between the Christian and Christ.  Immorality has a dreadful, real effect on the Christian that it doesn’t have on the non-Christian because the Christian has been united to Christ, but having sexual relations with a prostitute unites that Christian to her!

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  (1 Corinthians 6:16 | TNIV) 

The Corinthians and Millennials, and indeed Christians from all age groups, need to understand that the unity achieved by any immoral sexual union is greater than they imagine.  It’s not just a physical union but a spiritual one.

But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:17 | TNIV) 

A born again Christian is in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ – it’s a comprehensive union of both spirit and body.  The material and spiritual are one in this relationship, which is why immorality is a sin against the body and against God because the body is the temple of the Spirit and has been bought by the blood of Christ.  Therefore, nobody – no Corinthian and no Millennial – is free to do what he wants to with his body.

The ultimate purpose of the body is to manifest the character and person of God, not one’s own lusts.




The Burning Heart


Those troubadours from another generation put it this way:

In the burning heart
Just about to burst
There’s a quest for answers
An unquenchable thirst
In the darkest night
Rising like a spire
In the burning heart
The unmistakable fire

Survivor didn’t know it, but that “unquenchable thirst” is the greatest need in the Church of Jesus Christ today. Never before in Church History has there been such an educated clergy and laity. We know our theology and our doctrines inside and out and our understanding of Jesus Christ has never been as spacious and correct as it is today. And yet the Church, generally speaking, is as cold and impotent as it has ever been. Where is the passion in serving Jesus? Where is the excitement in going to church? Where is the expectation that God will do something extraordinary when we pray? We may sing “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” yet He stands in our midst wondering why we don’t love Him back in kind. It must seem to the “lover of our souls” that we are fickle lovers at best; hot one moment, cold and moody and distant the next. Without a doubt, “the burning heart” is what is desperately needed in the Church today – not a false, imitation fire, but a genuine fire – a fire of fervor, of passion, of devotion in serving the Lord.

In Luke 24, we read this startling statement:

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 | NIV84)

This verse is actually the end of one of the most interesting and compelling post-resurrection stories. Godet refers to this story as “one of the most admirable pieces in Luke’s Gospel,” and of all the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, only Luke records this one, though Mark alludes to it briefly.

We call this a “post-resurrection” appearance of Jesus and we are still living in the post-resurrection period of history. The Jesus Christ who appeared to these two disciples was the same Person as He was before His crucifixion, and yet He was completely difference. You and I as modern Christians love and serve this same Jesus and we frequently feel like these disciples did:

their faces downcast. (Luke 24:17b | NIV84)

Many different things cause us to have “downcast faces.” Whatever the cause, the result is always the same: We are depressed or discouraged; sometimes we lose our devotion to Christ – not our love for Him, mind you, but our passion cools. But though we may lose hope in Him, he doesn’t lose hope in us. And as Jesus inserted Himself into the lives of these two men, so He inserts Himself into our lives to restore us.

What these men still had and what they lacked

One thing is certain. These men, whatever else, still loved their Lord. Reading the account, this is obvious. They loved Him and they still believed in Him. Their faces may have been downcast, but they still had their faith. And Jesus was still on their minds. Their walk to Emmaus was not a journey of forgetfulness.

But something was wrong. Jesus once said this:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45 | NIV84)

These men certainly weren’t “evil men,” but their words revealed with they really thought about Jesus.

He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” (Luke 24:19-21 | NIV84)

Those verses tell us a couple of things. First, it’s pretty clear as far these disciples were concerned who was responsible for the crucifixion of their friend: the chief priests and the Roman leaders. There was no doubt. But second, you can tell these fellows are depressed and especially disillusioned: “…we had hoped.” But that hope was all in the past. With Jesus nowhere in sight, their hope was gone. Everything they said was in the past tense. They had hope, but not any more. Their hope was that “he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” This gives us a glimpse into how the disciples viewed the mission of Jesus. Jesus was going to do for them what Moses did for his people in Egypt. Their hope was that Jesus would be the great political Savior who would deliver them from the Romans. But that hope was evaporating as Jesus had died three days ago.

These men, who still loved Jesus and still believed in His mission, couldn’t see how any of it was going to come to pass now. They didn’t even believe the rumors that He had risen:

In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”. (Luke 24:22-24 | NIV84)

Instead of staying in Jerusalem with the other disciples, these two men who still loved Jesus decided there was no point in waiting for something that would never happen, so they off to Emmaus they went. They were sad and disappointed. The fire they once had for Jesus and His mission had cooled to the point where now there was no fire. No passion. No fervor.

And if that doesn’t describe the Church as a whole today, nothing does. No Church or member of a church would dare say that they no longer loved Jesus or that they’d lost faith in Him. Churches and Christians are undeniably loyal and faithful to the Jesus Christ, but there’s no fire in our bellies. We look around at the world around us – at all the violence and cultural rot – and we get discouraged and disillusioned as it seems wrong prevails over right and wickedness over righteousness. And we wonder if anything Jesus said is relevant today. We’ve come to measure the teachings of Christ against what others are teaching or against what we ourselves think and often His Word doesn’t measure up. Where once the church sung, “Jesus is the answer for the world today,” it has now joined the ranks of so many competing for government grants to do after school programs or is now employing secular methods for fulfilling the Great Commission. The tears have dried up as committees try to figure out just how worldly the church can be and still be considered “the House of God.”

How did we become like this?

This attitude arises, not so much because we no longer love Jesus, but because we’re no longer sure whether we can trust the Bible. We’re not sure the Gospel writers got it all right. We think that maybe the ancient psalmist wasn’t quite right, either. Many churches pay the barest of lip service to the supremacy of the Bible but in reality they’ve come to view it as “one word among many.” Even as Christ is walking so close to us, we’re perishing in His light because we just can’t see Him any more. We no longer have a clear vision of the majesty and sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 29:18 says it best:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 | KJV)

How Jesus dealt with these men

Jesus’ estimation of Cleopas and his pal is most surprising:

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25 | NIV84)

That’s not my estimation of these guys, it’s our Lord’s, and it’s surprising. This is Jesus at His most politically incorrect best. He thought they were complete, utter fools because they ceased to believe what their own prophets had said, referring to their Scriptures. They were mental incompetents because they didn’t believe the Word of God.

What does that say about all these Christians who have given into their fleeting doubts about the veracity of the Bible? If these disciples were foolish, then so are they.

But Jesus didn’t abandon these two men. He knew them and He knew their hearts. And though they had given into their doubts and allowed the circumstances of life to influence their faith, He saw what still remained. In Revelation, our Lord had something to say about certain churches. Here’s what He said to one in particular:

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2 | NIV84)

The church at Sardis wasn’t all bad – not by a long shot.

To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (Revelation 3:1 | NIV84)

This church was full of good deeds, and in their community they had a “reputation of being alive.” But Jesus’ estimation was that they were “dead.” A church looks alive when it’s full and making noise and doing “stuff” in the community. But a church is dead when it is spiritually dull. This church in Sardis looked good but was in the same shape as these two disciples on the road to Emmaus: the fire was gone.

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3 | NIV84)

Jesus urged the members of this church to remember the Word of God and simply obey it. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus did pretty much the same thing with these two disciples. Here’s how that went:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27 | NIV84)

And that’s all it took to result in their hearts burning. But there’s another way to look at it. Their hearts burned when He talked to them, not when they were talking about Him or talking to Him. That’s significant. Nothing happened to them when they questioned Him or complained and whined to Him. But when they stopped talking and let Him talk to them, the fire burned.

Jesus didn’t teach them anything they didn’t already know, He just put what they knew in perspective, as only He can.

There are really only two big take-aways from this story. First, it is absolutely essential to believe the Word of God. Jesus said these disciples were “fools” because they didn’t. When you doubt the Word, the fire fades.

Or as Pascal said:

Human knowledge must be understood to be believed, but divine knowledge must be believed to be understood.

And second, the Bible is a divine Book – it is not like any other book that has ever existed. It can only be understood with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45 | NIV84)

Paul put it this way:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 | NIV84)

If your faith has grown cold – the fire has perhaps gone out – examine your relationship with the Bible. It is the Word of God and it is food for your spirit. You can believe all the right doctrines. Your theology may be totally orthodox. You may never miss a church service. But if your passion for Christ just isn’t there and the things of God interest you less and less, you may miss the Savior as He passes by.

Slip Sliding Away


“Contrast” is a useful teaching tool. You can teach a child about “tall” and “short” by showing a picture of a tall person standing beside a short person. You can expose a lie by speaking the truth. The Bible is full of contrasts.

Here’s one, and it’s a startling one:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 | TNIV)

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” (Mark 14:71 | TNIV)

The startling thing is that the same man spoke both sentences, Peter! And before you think they are in wrong order, they aren’t. We could understand how a person could say, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about,” and then after a while; after getting to know Jesus, he would say, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” But that’s not how it happened. Peter’s denial of Jesus came just a few months after his declaration of who Jesus is.

What happened in the interim? How could Peter go from a Christ-confessing believer to a man who would outright lie and deny his faith? There’s actually a third verse that answers the second question:

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12 | TNIV)

The sad story of Peter’s denial of Jesus Christ is the sad story of backsliding, and it’s a sad story that teaches us two powerful lessons: anybody can backslide and it never happens all at once. The spoken and obvious denial of your faith that everybody can hear and see is always preceded an unspoken and internal denial of your faith in your heart.

How it started

Immediately after Peter made his ground-shaking, history-making confession of who Jesus Christ really is – the Messiah; the Savior – Jesus proceeded to tell His disciples how He was going to go about fulfilling His mission.  From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21 | TNIV)

That was a shocking thing for Jesus say, and it was an almost incomprehensible thing for His disciples to hear Him say. In the minds of the disciples, Jesus’ modus operandi didn’t make any sense at all; it went against everything they’d ever learned about the Messiah. It ran completely contrary to their expectations. And here is the very first indication of Peter’s backsliding, coming as it did right after his confession of faith:

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22 | TNIV)

You have to admit that it takes some gall to speak to the Messiah like that! Can you imagine telling Jesus, in essence, that He’s wrong? Now, we know that Peter loved his Lord, and maybe you can sympathize with his emotion here. He didn’t want Jesus to suffer. Who in the world would want somebody they loved and admired to hurt? But your emotions aren’t always right. In fact, your emotions are usually always wrong and going by how you feel almost always results in trouble.

Peter’s emotions were certainly out of step with the reality of Christ’s mission. In a moment, Peter went from a staunch follower and loyal supporter of the Messiah to somebody who would go so far as to intimate that he – a mere follower – knew more than his divine Leader. He went from doing what Jesus told him to do to telling Jesus what he was going to do for Him.

And that really is the seed of backsliding; not trusting that the Lord knows more than you do. It’s thinking that you know better; that while you understand that God has a will and plan for everybody’s life, somehow you’re an exception; that your situation – whatever it may be, good or bad – is so unique that you and only you are able to work things out. That is such a common mistake that even the best of saints – the most well-intentioned ones – make it all the time. What we fail to understand is that thinking we know more than God knows is the first, big step in putting yourself at a distance from Jesus.

Nobody in the history of the world had made such a truthful and profound confession as Peter did. Peter’s confession of Christ as Savior was inspired. And so is yours. But confessing Christ is not the end; it’s the starting point of your new life. And life – all life – needs to grow and mature. When it doesn’t, you begin to fall back. Remember: When you think you’re standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.

Steps away from Christ

What happened to Peter after his confession and rebuke of Jesus and His Cross is found in Mark 14. It’s a fascinating chapter to read because it’s like watching a train wreck – the train wreck of Peter’s faith. Don’t forget, shunning God’s will – in the case of Peter, it was shunning the Cross of Christ – is the first step away from Christ. Shunning God’s will is a big deal because it’s willful disobedience. Nowhere in the Bible does it say God’s people are to understand God’s will, only that they live in obedience to it. The Cross didn’t make sense to Peter, but it wasn’t his place to understand it, only to accept it. The next step Peter took in his backsliding away from Christ is this:

Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” (Mark 14:29 | TNIV)

That’s an impressive declaration. Or is it arrogance? What Peter is saying here reveals what he thought about Jesus, because he said it in response to something Jesus said:

“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ” ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” (Mark 14:27 | TNIV)

So Peter is basically telling Jesus, “Hey Lord, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m going to do!” That’s arrogance of the highest degree, especially when you consider the next step in Peter’s falling away:

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37, 38 | TNIV)

That’s actually a very frightening verse, especially in light of what Jesus told Peter just a few months earlier after Peter made his powerful confession:

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:17, 18 | TNIV)

Did you catch that? Jesus had changed Simon’s name to Peter after his confession, but now our Lord has gone back to calling Peter by his original name: Simon. Why wouldn’t he? At this point in his life, Peter isn’t moving ahead, he’s moving backwards – he’s reverting back to the way he was before he made his confession. It’s sad, really. Here was the guy who said he’d never fall away. Ever. But he couldn’t even stay awake long enough to pray.

The next step away from Jesus is found in verse 47:

Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. (Mark 14:47 | TNIV)

Mark doesn’t mention Peter’s name – he was his friend – but we know it was he who lopped of the ear of that poor schlub standing next to the high priest. Peter is moving farther and farther away from His Lord by trying to do things his own way. How far away? Verse 54 gives us a hint:

Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (Mark 14:54 | TNIV)

That’s right. He’s technically still “following” Jesus, just not real closely any more. And he’s finding comfort with the enemy, around his fire. That’s what happens when you follow Jesus from a distance; you get distracted by the things of the world; the “strange fires” all around you that feel so good.

Lessons from a backslider

The first and most obvious step in backsliding happens when we think we understand the genius of Christianity better than Jesus Christ does. The moment you rationalize some decision or some act that is contrary to God’s revealed will as being something good for you and the kingdom of God, you have begun to fall away. Following Jesus is an all-or-nothing proposition. He doesn’t really have much interest in your plans because your plans will fail. The way to success in living is doing it God’s way, not yours.

The second step is thinking you’re “all that and a bag of chips, too.” That’s what they say in the South, and it means simply this: When you start thinking you’re safe and that you’ll never, ever forsake Christ, you’re in deep trouble. Anybody who boasts about the security of his faith has already started to lose it.

The one who thinks he’s standing firm is the one who doesn’t feel the need to pray; he doesn’t have the energy to do it. Why should a guy like that waste time praying? After all, he’s got it all together, right? Wrong! A thousand times wrong! The man who is sure he is safe isn’t careful; he isn’t praying and he isn’t watching.

The third step in falling away from Jesus is the idea that you can make up by DOING for what you lack in BEING. Many Christians do this: They DO all kinds of acts of righteousness hoping that God will notice them and not the sorry state of their hearts. It is significant that the very last miracle Jesus performed during His earthly ministry was made necessary by the blundering zeal of an apostle who took matters in his own hands by DOING something for Jesus that was absolutely the wrong thing to do. And Jesus had to heal the man’s ear that Peter sliced off.

And the result of slip sliding away is that you will always – always – prefer the company of non-believers to that of believers. If you’re far from Jesus, you’re cold and your lonely. You will find a fire, and it won’t be a holy one. If you’d rather hang around non-Christians, you’d better ask yourself why. If you have no interest in going to church anymore, there’s a reason that likely has no thing to do with a long-winded pastor. When somebody who isn’t a believer comes up to and says something like, “I thought you were a Christian,” you’re in trouble.

The apostle Paul once wrote a letter to a church full of backsliders, and here’s what he said to them:

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7 | TNIV)

Good question. It’s a question that every Christian should be asking himself from time to time. Is someone or something keeping you from obeying the truth and thus causing you to slip-slide away? Are you closer to Jesus today than you were a month ago? Or has your relationship with Him grown stale and cold? Nobody needs to stay in that condition. All it takes is a decision to move ahead; to follow Jesus. The Paul Simon’s lyrics don’t have to come to pass in your life:

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

Famine For the Word of God


“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,“when I will send a famine through the land–not a famine of food or a thirst for water,but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,searching for the word of the Lord,but they will not find it. (Amos 8:11c-12 | NIV84)

Amos was not your run-of-the-mill Old Testament prophet. Not by a long shot. Technically he wasn’t even a prophet.

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. (Amos 7:14 | NIV84)

Here was an untrained, uneducated sheep-herder and tree farmer whom the Lord, in his wisdom, called to be His prophet. It’s not a seminary education that makes a preacher, it’s the call of God. He entered the scene during an interesting time in Hebrew history. Times were good for both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The economies of both kingdoms were booming and there was peace over the land. It all looked good, but serious problems were percolating under the surface. The greatest threat to the Northern Kingdom was the very prosperity she was enjoying.

God took a simple, hard working man to carry His message to this affluent, lazy, idolatrous people. But not just to God’s people. Amos actually began prophesying to other nations first, before leveling his sights on Israel and Judah. His first sermons were delivered to Damascus, then to Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Moab, and Judah. Finally he came to Israel. If his words were a little blunt and harsh to the nations around her, they were positively scorching and scathing when he spoke to Israel.

Even though Amos lived and spoke thousands of years ago, there are at least two really important lessons you may glean from his little book of prophecy. First, in his words we learn that God is the governor of all nations, not just of Israel and Judah. And God expects all nations to heed His Words and govern according to His will. Second, the message of Amos teaches that privilege creates responsibility. Those nations which had been blessed the most will be held accountable for how they used those blessings to both honor God and their citizens.

Sin, Suffering and Judgment

Verses 11 and 12, which talk about a famine for the Word of God, are actually the third point in Amos’ three-point sermon to God’s People. Here’s his outline:

Act One: Shady Business Practices

Israel was prospering; business was good; the economy was booming, but all was not as it seemed.

Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain,and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”–skimping the measure,boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals,selling even the sweepings with the wheat. (Amos 8:4-6 | NIV84)

That’s nefarious businessmen talking. Not all businessmen are nefarious but this bunch up in the Northern Kingdom was. They couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to end so that they could get back to business, but not just any business:  The business of ripping people off. In particular, the rights of the needy were trampled on by greedy and cold businesses. The Hebrew behind the English is graphic: These businessmen were literally “chasing after” the poor to take advantage of them. They couldn’t wait to invent clever ways to get money out of people’s pockets using highly suspect and devious means.

This kind of corruption wasn’t new and Amos wasn’t the only prophet to call out his people for their shameful practices. Isaiah wrote this:

So justice is far from us,and righteousness does not reach us.We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. (Isaiah 59:9 | NIV84)

Back in Amos, there’s a clever play-on-words going on that is lost in its English translation. In verse 4, the sinister businessmen were trying to “do away with” the poor, or they “caused the poor to cease.” The Hebrew word comes from a very familiar word: Sabbath. And over in verse 5, they couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to end. These were curious Jews indeed; completely narcissistic; nasty pieces of work.

But the Lord noticed what was going on, and He notices today, too. You may think that evil is triumphing over good, and it may well be at the moment. But it’s just temporary. The Lord will move and righteousness will be prevail.

Act 2:  Nature reflects more than God’s glory

In the New Testament and even in the the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament, we read about how nature reflects the majesty of God. But nature reflects more than that! Nature, from time to time in the history of God’s people, reflects God’s mood. It did in Genesis with a flood, will again when the Lord returns and it did when Samaria and Israel fell under the heavy hand of God’s judgment.

Will not the land tremble for this,and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads.I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.” (Amos 8:8 – 10 | NIV84)

In these verses, God uses nature to show His displeasure with how Israel was behaving. Some of what we’re reading is, of course, metaphorical, some is not. That’s not the point. The end of Israel is portrayed as a premature darkening of the sky. That nation, after Jeroboam II’s successful conquests, seemed to have risen to a new heights, “noon,” when the sun is at its brightest and hottest. Yet God will not let that light continue its normal course, but will turn it off suddenly and totally. Darkness is often used in Scripture to signify calamity and God’s displeasure.

The people’s fake religious festivals would be turned into reasons for mourning. The party atmosphere will come to an end when the whole nation swerves sideways as God ramps up His judgment. The good times were coming to end. And they did, when Assyria plowed Samaria into the ground.

Act 3:  The unquenchable famine

The next group of verses shows the progressive nature of God’s judgment. Things go from bad to worse the farther away from God His people wander. This judgment – a spiritual starvation – may well be the worst judgment of all.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,“when I will send a famine through the land–not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord,but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11c-12 | NIV84)

The “words of the Lord” refer to the light of His revelation. What the Lord is promising here is shocking. Those who have no regard for the Word of God will one day literally hunger and thirst for it, but won’t be able to find it. Like the old saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” That’s not in the Bible, incidentally, but it’s true nonetheless. Those who despise the Word of God and want it silenced will get their wish. He will stop speaking to them.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28 | NIV84)

God is nothing if not fair. If a person – Israel or some schmuck next door to you – dislikes the Word of God so much, God will let that person experience what life is like without it. It’s like a spiritual version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which a person finds out how cold and miserable the world is without the warmth of God’s Word in it.

It’s a sad fact, but our population today is so spiritually dull and historically ignorant that they have no idea the role Biblical teachings played in the foundation of the West and of the world in which they live. There’s a reason why for generations the West in general and America in particular have enjoyed such peace and prosperity; why we in the West are healthier and stronger than those in other cultures. And it’s sad that we might well be witnessing another fulfillment of Amos’ prophesy being fulfilled before our eyes as we despise the very teachings that made us great.

Think about that word “famine” and what it means. First, a “famine” suggests a serious lack of food and water for an extended period of time. Second, a “famine” implies a feeling of desperation as starving people look for food yet can’t find any. A spiritual famine is the same thing. Imagine people who want the Word of God but can’t find it anywhere. No matter where they look, they can’t find it. Imagine a time when a spiritually starving person wants desperately to hear the truth of God’s Word but can’t hear it!

Historically, that sad condition stretched on to the time of Christ with the funky spirituality of the Samaritans, a people who were the descendants of the very people who heard Amos’ prophesy firsthand.

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46a | NIV84)

That was the prevailing opinion of the people living in Nazareth, smack-dab in the Samaria region.

Back in Amos, we are told that men will “stagger” looking for the Word of God. “Stagger” is the Hebrew nua’, a word used of drunkards and the blind. The survivors of God’s judgment and their children will crave what their parents despised and refused.

The root cause of the famine

Amos tells us what was ultimately behind this judgment from God:

They who swear by the shame of Samaria,or say, ‘As surely as your god lives, O Dan,’or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’–they will fall,never to rise again.” (Amos 8:14 | NIV84)

The “shame of Samaria” was the worship of the calf. The people worshiping the calf were the ones who would starve for the truth of God’s real Word. What we’re talking about here is idolatry, which is still a problem to day. Any substitution of the creature in any form for the Creator results in an inability to receive the Word of God. If a person substitutes nature for God, education for God, family for God, politics for God, money for God, philosophy for God, then though the Word of God be all around him, he hears nothing. And people bereft of the Word of God are the most restless people of all. All the time, searching for what they cannot find. Peace, justice, contentment, love, all the things that come from a life based on Biblical teachings. It’s a fruitless search for something that cannot be found apart from the Word of God. There is no substitute for teachings of Scripture.

The Lord honors those who honor Him. He will restore a person or a nation that, at the very least, puts into practice the moral laws of Scripture. We’re not talking about converting all 300 million people in America – although can you imagine what a wonderful thing that would be! But can you imagine if a majority of those in leadership and a majority of our fellow citizens started to consider value of a Biblical worldview as opposed to a completely secular worldview? In the words of Louis Armstrong,

What a wonderful it would be.

Your Amazing Faith, Part 7

Jackie DeShannon sang a lot about love. She made the song, "What the World Needs Now" famous. She was right. The world "needs love, sweet love," but not just any love. The world needs the love of God.

Jackie DeShannon sang a lot about love. She made the song, “What the World Needs Now” famous. She was right. The world “needs love, sweet love,” but not just any love. The world needs the love of God.

Your amazing faith is what makes you an amazing person. That’s not a cliché, it’s a fact that is accomplished by the transforming work of God through the in dwelling of His Holy Spirit. That’s where your amazing faith came from in the first place: God. It was His gift to you when you heard the Word and responded in faith to it:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 | NIV84)

And your amazing faith, as amazing as it is, isn’t in itself, it isn’t in your abilities, or your dreams and hopes. Your faith isn’t your church or some talented individual. The object of your faith is God Himself, and His abilities and His Word, as Paul showed us during a raging storm at sea:

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. (Acts 27:25 | NIV84)

Not only did Paul discover the object of faith, but he also showed us the secret of faith – or more specifically, Paul showed us the secret to living righteously is in our amazing faith in Jesus Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 | NIV84)

You and I work so hard to avoid trials and trouble and if we happen to fall into trouble on account of our faith, those kinds of trials are what God uses to stretch and toughen up our amazing faith:

These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7 | NIV84)

Paul found out that living a righteous life was possible by having faith in Jesus Christ and living as He did, and He went on to show us how the Holy Spirit makes that possible:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a | NIV84)

That’s the power of faith – the fruit of the Spirit. And the prayer of faith is something James taught us about when he talked about praying for a sick person. There is power in prayer just as there is power in faith and the prayer of faith really boils down to exalting the amazing will of God:

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (James 5:15 | NIV84)

We come now to the last aspect of your amazing faith, and it’s found in the most pastoral letter in the New Testament:

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4c | NIV84)

John and his letter

In all, John wrote five pieces of literature that have been preserved for us in the New Testament; three letters, a book of prophecy, and one gospel. His first letter is unlike any other New Testament letter. Some scholars refer to it as an essay or a tract, and others refer to it as a sermon. It’s hard to categorize it, but it’s easy to see what John was trying to do. He wrote like a pastor, covering all manner of issues so as to build up and encourage his people in their faith. He writes with care, compassion, and passion.

The thing about John’s letters, and in particular his first one, is that they are chock full of theology. A lot of Christians hate that word almost as much as they hate the word “doctrine,” yet no believer can live without either. The “apostle of love,” as John is often referred to, covers such profound doctrines as sin and salvation, atonement and holy living. But unlike, say Paul in his letter to the Romans, John writes about various doctrines not in an academic, systematic philosophical manner, but he shows how these doctrines form the very foundation of our fellowship with God and how believing the right theology leads to a life of love.

John lived a very long life for a man of his day. He traveled with Jesus and wrote his letter sometime around the end of the first century, around 95 AD.

Faith is the victory

1 John 5:1 says a lot more than appears on the surface:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (1 John 5:1 | NIV84)

The word “believes” a Greek verb, pisteuon, and it’s a strong verb. Merely understanding the Gospel and confessing the truth of salvation does not make anybody a partaker of the life of God in Jesus Christ. It’s one thing to outwardly confess faith in Jesus Christ, as John had previously covered back in 4:2, 15. But what is outward must be inward first. Remember what Paul wrote:

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:10 | NIV84)

But when you couple the truth of verse 1 with what John says in verse 2, you get the notion that Christianity is absolutely exclusive:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (1 John 5:2 | NIV84)

Only Christians – only those who have experienced a conversion of the heart leading to a confession of the mouth, leading in turn to a wholehearted love and devotion to God and His Word – are children of God. In spite of what you may have heard to the contrary, not everybody is a “child of God.” In John’s Gospel, there is this interesting exchange between Jesus and some Jews.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” (John 8:42-44a | NIV84)

Wow! That’s Jesus talking, telling unbelievers that God is not their father, the devil is. A statement like that is like a deep line in the sand. If a person wants to be a child of God, then he must sign onto the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christianity is exclusive to Christians. Being a child of God is exclusive to Christians. And loving the children of God is part of loving God. You can’t claim to love God yet live out of fellowship with the body of Christ. The two go hand-in-hand. That’s why being in church is so important. It’s not that going to church saves you, it’s that being in regular fellowship with the local body of Christ is one way of showing your love and support for the children of God, and God Himself.

But again, actions without an inner commitment constitute nothing.

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome… (1 John 5:3 | NIV84)

Just to exclaim, “I love God” while you are in church amounts to exactly nothing. Anybody can say anything. John made that pretty clear a chapter back:

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20 | NIV84)

But now he adds the bit about non-negotiable obedience to God’s commands. In John’s thinking, that’s simply doing what God wants you to do; it’s living the way He wants you to. And that’s not hard to do, by the way. The world thinks it is. As far as the world is concerned, only one person a 10,000 is a “Saint.” But in the Kingdom, we all are. And if you forget what those “commands” are, John’s already told us:

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:23-24 | NIV84)

Love was a big deal to John, and it should be to you, too, if you consider yourself a Christian. We should be deliberately looking for ways to encourage fellow believers all the time. A phone call, an email, a text message, or a smile and good word can go so far in making the day a little for another Christian. Too often though, we find it easier to tear down a fellow believer, especially if we don’t like them in the first place. When we gossip or speak about another Christian using derogatory terms, then we aren’t being obedient to God. During the Second World War, there was a saying, “Loose lips sink ships.” Well, in our war against the forces of evil today, “loose lips sink lives” all the time. Your grandmother was right: If you don’t have something good to say about someone, don’t say anything.

And that gets us to the verse that got us into this whole thing:

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4 | NIV84)

Verse 4 is really just a continuation of verse 3, so let’s ignore the verse break and put the sentence together, the way John intended:

And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.

God’s commands are not too much for the believer, because the believer has been born of God and he, by virtue of his new birth, overcomes the world. What that means is simple. To John, “the world” is opposed to God and God’s people and that opposition is manifested in the form of disobedience. So when you, as a believer, are tempted to disobey the Word of God and live in a way that shames God and the body of Christ and hurts other believers, you are doing what “the world” wants you to do, not what God wants you to do.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 | NIV84)

The things of the world look so good and promise so much, but according to John, you never have to side with the world over Christ. It is entirely possible to live in constant obedience to the Will and Word of God because you have overcome the world; you are stronger than “the world.” By virtue of your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, you have already overcome this sinful world in the spiritual sense. In the practical, day-to-day sense, that same faith, which was given to you by God, empowers you to live in such a way as to glorify God and shun the world.

To overcome the world begins with being victorious over all the things in your life that have ever tempted you or will ever tempt you to go back to the ways of the world. Things like your attitude, your dreams, your desires, your ambition, your emotions, and so on. Your amazing faith gives you the strength to overcome those those inborn stumbling blocks so that you are equipped to overcome the world.

Your amazing faith, that incredible, indispensable gift from God, not only saved you and set you free from sin; it not only enables you live like Jesus lived and love like Jesus loved, it gives you what you need to live in complete victory over the evil in this world. It empowers you to live in obedience to God and to love other believers. Your amazing faith is such an integral part of your life, you can’t live without it.

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My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

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