In ‘sex-crazed culture,’ Bible makes ‘no exceptions’

give a holy temple to a holy godThe following is a post by Grace Thornton, assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist, in regard to a sermon series preached by David Platt.

Thornton writes:

Be careful about shaking your head at same-sex marriage, warned David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and author of the best-selling book “Radical.” Christians should grieve the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal ban on same-sex marriage, but believers should also be “careful not to be guilty of selective moral outrage when it comes to the issue of homosexuality,” Platt said.

Everyone, each individual, is bent toward sexual sin, Platt said.

“This is something that every sinful heart is prone to struggle with in some way or another,” said Platt, who preached in late June on the subject of the cross and sexuality. His two-part sermon series on 1 Corinthians 6 book-ended the week of the Supreme Court’s two rulings June 26 supporting gay marriage. 

“If we roll our eyes and shake our heads when we see the Supreme Court ruling on this case, yet we turn the channels on our TVs to watch the trivialization of sex on shows and advertisements, to surf the Internet to find images in order to satisfy our lusts, to go to movies that glamorize sex … and entertain sexual thoughts and desires outside of our own marriage, then we have missed the entire point,” Platt said.

Sins shouldn’t be acceptable just because they are the sins of the majority, he said. The church needs to declare war on every sexual sin that plagues Christians in order to show the world sexual purity and godly marriage.

“All throughout the Bible from cover to cover, sex is only celebrated … in the context of exclusive covenant relationship between a husband and wife. Period. There are no exceptions to that,” Platt said.

There’s no exception for homosexuality but there’s also no exception for adultery, promiscuity, pornography or masturbation, he said.

What’s happening in “our sex-crazed culture” today is essentially sex worship — the idea that “I would be happy if I had the freedom to express myself sexually,” Platt said.

“According to [secular culture], we’re not human if we can’t please our bodies however we desire, so any attempts to limit sexual expression are seen as oppressive and inhumane,” he said. “We set our minds on the things of the flesh, which is hostile to God, and we exchange God’s Word for our experience.”

So often the Bible is twisted to fit preference — as with the argument for homosexuality — or its supposed silence is interpreted as liberty, Platt said. For instance, he said, when he was a teenager he and others would ask the question, “How far is too far?”

“I never once heard a well-reasoned, objective answer based on Scripture,” he said, explaining that instead leaders would tell youth to pray, set boundaries and decide what they thought was right, because the Bible didn’t spell it out. So when he and other guys would talk about it, they would “do what teenage boys do” — set the standards as low as they could.

“I found myself in this dangerous gray area that led to guilt and failure,” Platt said, noting that even though he and his wife Heather didn’t have sex with each other or anyone else before their marriage, “that doesn’t mean we glorified God with our bodies.”

Platt urged unmarried men and women to consider that the reason God has no explicit instructions for sexual behavior between unmarried people in relationships is because God didn’t intend for them to engage in any at all.

“God in His Word has no category for two people who aren’t married but kinda sorta act like they are. It’s not mentioned one place,” he said. “That’s because they are your brother or sister in Christ and likely to be someone else’s spouse some day. If you say, ‘Well, I think I’m going to marry her,’ then marry her.

“Looking for a guideline? Don’t do anything with a brother or sister in Christ that you wouldn’t do with your brother or sister, or with someone else’s wife or husband.”

That also goes for how married people relate to people other than their spouse, he said, as well as in the case of pornography. Pornography isn’t at all relational as God intended for sexual activity to be, and in no way emulates the character of Christ.

“Men, these women are someone’s daughter — they aren’t objects, they are souls,” Platt said. “They need you to point them to Christ, not fuel their exploitation.”

Platt said he’s convinced the reason the mission field is dominated by so many single women is because pornography has such a grip on men that they are too weak to follow Christ’s call. Men need to fight the battle for the sake of unreached people worldwide and for the sake of God’s glory, he said.

“So much of the power of sin is found in its secrecy,” Platt said, urging Christians to be intentional about having accountability in place. “Guard yourself with godly friendships and Gospel accountability.”

And don’t give in to the desires of the flesh outside of marriage, even in masturbation, he said.

“God designed sex to be relational; masturbation is lustful,” Platt said. “It teaches people to satisfy themselves” and is isolating, noncommittal and self-centered. Masturbation “goes against the design of God” just as homosexuality does, he said.

“Let us give ourselves to His design and reclaim godly marriages” for the sake of Christ, families, the church and the world, he said.

Platt said he’s convinced that “living as a Christ follower is going to be harder, not easier, in the coming days” and that the Supreme Court decision will “have ramifications on religious liberty.”

But “marriage is a union that represents our union with Christ in heaven, and it will not go away,” Platt said. “It is wise to be confident in the resiliency of marriage, in the opportunity for the Gospel and in the sovereignty of our God.”

“Flee sexual sin and run to Christ,” he said.

The 10 Commandments of iPad Preaching

king_james_bible7[1]I have been preaching from an iPad for just over two years. It took me a couple of months to get the right apps and settings, but it has been a great tool for proclaiming God’s Word.

This morning I read this great post from Rick Warren’s “Pastor’s Toolbox” on The Ten Commandments of iPad Preaching.

Warren writes:

1. Thou shall turn off notifications.

The only thing worse than a cell phone ringing in the middle of a prayer is the preacher’s iPad ringing in the middle of a prayer.

Make sure to turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ switch in ‘Settings’. I also turn on ‘Airplane Mode’ just to make sure I don’t have anything popping up from Wi-Fi.

At one location I preached there was a very weak Wi-Fi signal that I didn’t have the password to. A Wi-Fi connection message kept popping up while I was preaching.

You don’t want any distractions from the message God has given you.

2. Thou shall turn off auto-lock.

I have forgotten to do this a few times. Five minutes into the message my iPad blacked out. It totally threw me off.

I had to pause what I was saying, open the iPad, and swipe to unlock before resuming the message. This is even worse if your iPad is password protected.

Always make sure to open up ‘Setting’, tap ‘General’ and set ‘Auto-Lock’ to ‘Never’.

3. Thou shall lower the brightness.

If the stage is dark and the brightness is too high your iPad will make your note stand glow. In addition, your face will light up like you are telling scary stories around a campfire. If you wear glasses, the iPad can also reflect off your lenses.

Eliminate this distraction. Adjust brightness accordingly. The goal is easy readability for you while glowing low enough so the audience doesn’t notice.

A cool trick that many people don’t know is that you can invert the colors on the iPad to make the screen dark. In ‘Setting’, tap ‘General’, then ‘Accessibility’, and switch ‘Invert Colors’ to ‘On’. (Update: A great tip pointed out by MaFt Morley in the comments is that you can set up a triple click of the home button to invert colors to save time. Setting > General > Accessibility > Triple Click.)

4. Thou shall not draw attention to your iPad.

Don’t show off your new gadget. Don’t say, “Look at this amazingly awesome piece of technology. Don’t you wish you were as cool as me?”

You are not an Apple commercial. This is a tool to help you as you proclaim God’s message. Don’t let the iPad become a distraction from the main focus.

I recommend getting a case that covers the logo. I use this amazing case that looks like a vintage book. Yes, it is as awesome as it looks. I definitely recommend it.

5. Thou shall use a PDF reader app for notes.

I love having an editable Pages doc in case I want to make last second changes, but hate preaching off the Pages App. One wrong tap and you deleted your notes, bring up the editing tools, keyboard, etc. It can be highly distracting. A PDF viewer eliminates distractions and keeps it simple.

You easily convert a Pages doc to a PDF. Tap the wrench-looking ‘Tools’ icon in the upper right corner. Hit ‘Share and Print’ then ‘Open in Another App’. Choose ‘PDF’ as a format then ‘Choose App’. You will then have the option to select any App that handles PDFs.

Some people like using free apps like iBooks or Kindle. However, my favorite is GoodReader, because it lets me add notes, highlight text (I color code illustrations, scripture, videos, etc.), and crop the document to eliminate margins and make the text larger and more readable. Its worth the extra couple bucks in my opinion.

6. Thou shall still carry a Bible.

This is just a personal preference, but I still like to have a physical Bible on stage with me.

Yes, I read and study the Bible almost entirely online or in my iPad or iPhone, but I find that there is just something powerful about a preacher holding a physical bible. It shows the audience that your authority comes from God, not Steve Jobs.

7. Thou shall make sure the iPad is fully charged.

Always make sure your iPad is fully charged. You do not want the battery dying mid-sermon. Have a charger with you just in case you need a last-minute power up before walking onto stage.

Fortunately the iPad has such an incredibly long battery life that this has rarely been a problem for me.

8. Thou shall have a backup.

Always, always, always have a backup. Either a physical copy of your notes or a Dropbox/Evernote/Google Doc you can pull up with your phone. You never know when technology might fail you. The battery could die unexpectedly, you could accidentally spill coffee on it, or it might freeze up for no reason on you.

Always be prepared just in case. I have had to pull out my backup a few times (more on that in commandment 9).

9. Thou shall not leave your iPad unattended.

I set my iPad down one time… just once! I forgot about it, walked away, and when I came back it was gone! Someone had the nerve to steal my iPad only two minutes before I stood up to preach!

I was upset, but not as upset as I would have been if I didn’t have a backup.

That is a $400 dollar mistake I will never make again! Just because you are in church doesn’t mean that someone won’t give into the temptation to steal an easy target.

10. Thou shall not have an open beverage next to your iPad.

I am all about baptism by full immersion – just not for my iPad!

If enough liquid spills on an iPad it is game over. You don’t want an open water bottle on your note stand. You might get excited while preaching, swing your arms around and accidentally knock it over.

Not only will you lose your iPad, you will have to explain to the elders why you cussed on stage. Just kidding.

Conclusion

Those are 10 things I have learned about preaching with an iPad, but I am always trying to learn more. What other tips you would suggest?

You can sign up to receive a weekly email from Pastor Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox at Pastors.com.

10 Commandments for Guest-Friendly Church Members

i love my churchThis is a great post by Thom Rainer on how to make guests more comfortable when visiting your church.

  • Thou shalt pray for people in the services whom you don’t recognize. They are likely guests who feel uncomfortable and uncertain.
  • Thou shalt smile. You only have to do so for about an hour. Guests feel welcome when they see smiling people. You can resume your somber expressions when you get home.
  • Thou shalt not sit on the ends of the rows. Move to the middle so guests don’t have to walk over you. You’ll survive in your new precarious position.
  • Thou shalt not fill up the back rows first. Move to the front so guests don’t have to walk in front of everyone if they get there late.
  • Thou shalt have ushers to help seat the guests. Ushers should have clearly-marked badges or shirts so that the guests know who can help them.
  • Thou shalt offer assistance to guests. If someone looks like they don’t know where to go, then they probably don’t know where to go. Get out of your comfort zone and ask them if you can help.
  • Thou shalt not gather too long in your holy huddles. Sure, it’s okay to talk to fellow members; but don’t stay there so long that you are not speaking to guests.
  • Thou shalt offer your seats to guests. I know that this move is a great sacrifice, but that family of four can’t fit in the three vacant seats next to you. Give it a try. You might actually feel good about your efforts.
  • Thou shalt not save seats. I know you want to have room for all of your friends and family, but do you know how a guest feels when he or she sees the vacant seats next to you occupied by three hymnals, one Bible, two coats, and an umbrella? You might as well put a “Do Not Trespass” sign on the seats.
  • Thou shalt greet someone you don’t know. Yes, it’s risky. They may actually be members you don’t know. And you may get caught in a 45-second conversation. You’ll be okay; I promise.

“Autopsy of a Deceased Church” by Thom Rainer

I was their church consultant in 2003. The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning.

The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me.

I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult.

On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.”

I was wrong. The church closed just a few weeks ago. Like many dying churches, it held on to life tenaciously. This church lasted ten years after my terminal diagnosis.

My friend from the church called to tell me the news. I took no pleasure in discovering that not only was my diagnosis correct, I had mostly gotten right all the signs of the impending death of the church. Together my friend and I reviewed the past ten years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are eleven things I learned.

  1. The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
  2. The church had no community-focused ministries.  This part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.
  3. Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently funded a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
  4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
  5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
  6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious.
  7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
  8. The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.
  9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
  10. The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.
  11. The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simple stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”

Though this story is bleak and discouraging, we must learn from such examples. As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, perhaps less than ten years.

What do you think of the autopsy on this church? What can we do to reverse these trends?

Source: Thomrainer.com

A Beautiful Aroma of Praise

Graceway MediaIn Luke 7.36-50 we read the story of a Pharisee opening his home to entertain Jesus for dinner. When a certain sinful woman in the town learns that Jesus is in the house, she approaches Him with an alabaster box. She opens the box and anoints Jesus’ feet with the costly perfume. You can easily imagine the aroma of her worship filling the entire home. She was  forgiven by Jesus and wanted to express her undying love and gratitude for the grace He had shown her.

Tomorrow as we gather together in churches all around the globe, I pray the beautiful aroma of worship which rises from our hearts will fill all of Heaven. I pray our ascending love and gratitude for His grace and forgiveness is well pleasing to God—”the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God…” and that to Him “…be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1.17).

“Alabaster Box” by Cece Winans has been one of my favorite worship songs for many years. I hope it adds to your Lord’s Day of Worship.

Leadership Insights from a Firefighter

heart of a servant leaderOver the years I have heard many different illustrations on being a good leader. Using examples from everyday life helps to clarify the role of a leader. I think “Five Leadership Insights from a Firefighter” by Chuck Lawless is a perfect example of taking a real-life experience and applying spiritual truths. His example emphasizes the importance of a unified team.

A leader may have different responsibility than those serving with him; however, they are each an equal part of one team. They are connected like fingers to a hand and must recognize the importance and necessity of the other if they are to succeed. Often times the leader of the group gets the most recognition; nevertheless, a great leader knows how react to praise in such a way that no one on the team is jealous or feels slighted.

I have had several friends who were firefighters, and I think Dr. Lawless does a fantastic job of describing the relationship between firefighters. He also challenges church leaders to create a team of many members who form one cohesive unit working together to accomplish one purpose—making disciples.

Lawless writes:

My father was a volunteer fireman when I was a boy, and I have vivid memories of his responding to emergencies when the signal sounded. On several Halloweens I dressed as a fireman. In a somewhat odd scene, our family sometimes shared lunch at the scene of a “practice” fire when the fire department burned down dilapidated buildings.

Following in my dad’s firefighting boots, I became a volunteer firefighter in my late 40s. Little did I realize how much I would learn about church leadership by serving with that team of first responders. Here are just a few of those insights.

1. Firefighters recognize the urgency of their role. The signal sounds, the details are given, and the firefighter springs into action. He must be focused on the task at hand, for a distracted firefighter is a dangerous one. In fact, everything else stops until he returns from dealing with the emergency.

I wish that were the case with all church leaders. We have the life-giving message of Christ to proclaim to the world. The signal has already sounded, and we know the details of the emergency—millions die every year without Christ. What would happen if we really recognize the emergency and prioritize evangelism again?

2. Firefighters understand the value of teamwork. From the truck driver to the pump operator to the Rapid Intervention Team (ready at any moment to rescue a fallen firefighter), every firefighter is critical to the team. More importantly, the other firefighters recognize that fact. They are trained to watch each other’s back, seldom if ever facing a raging fire alone. The best firefighters, in fact, are those that are both trained and trusted like brothers.

Church leaders, on the other hand, tend to be lone rangers. Not only are we not trained to be team players, but we also often don’t even trust one another enough to work together. Sometimes we’re simply too arrogant to ask for help. The danger is clear: church leaders who work alone are the most liable to being shot down in the spiritual battle that ministry entails.

3. Firefighters are well trained. Firefighters are required to complete training that includes book knowledge and practical training. Only when the recruit firefighter gives evidence of his ability is he granted permission to be an official firefighter. Even then, he is expected to complete additional practical education courses in order to stay current in his profession. Veteran firefighters walk alongside new firefighters, teaching them even as they together fight a fire.

I am a seminary professor, but training future ministers requires the support of the local church. We can provide head knowledge, but we can’t offer needed practical training apart from a church where praxis occurs under the care of a veteran pastor. Yet, church leaders are seemingly so busy that they have little time for this task.

4. Firefighters love what they do. Firefighters love the exhilaration of tackling and defeating a fire. Actually, they love the fire station, the fire trucks, the fire equipment, the firefighter uniform, their firefighting squad – almost everything associated with their task. They risk their lives every time the signal sounds, but they do so because they believe in what they are doing. They know that lives depend on them.

Perhaps here is where I am most concerned about young church leaders. Young leaders recognize that the North American church is in need of much reformation. We are reaching few non-believers, and church members sometimes live so much like the world that non-believers see the church as irrelevant. Some young leaders view the church in such a negative light that they find themselves trying to change a church they don’t love. That kind of leadership is quickly draining.

5. Firefighters serve proactively. Their role is to respond to fires, but that’s not the entirety of their role. Firefighters also educate the public on fire prevention. They visit local schools to teach children about fire safety. They enforce local codes to prevent open flames. In general, firefighters are always leading proactively so they won’t have fires to put out.

Good church leaders lead that way, too. They cast vision and build teams. They proactively make disciples. They know that if their leadership is only reactionary, the church will not move forward. In fact, they know that kind of leadership is not leadership at all.

Do You Dwell in God’s Presence?

king_james_bible7[1]“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob” (Ps. 24.1-6 NIV).

Hope to see you on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. as we worship Jesus together!

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