More Than I Ever Imagined

Prayer (2)I was blessed to grow up in a home with two parents who’s love for each other was a beautiful picture of Biblical love. Because of their love, I couldn’t wait to have a family of my own, so in 1980 at the age of sixteen I started praying for my wife. At first, my prayers were as shallow as most boys my age, you know, I wanted her to be pretty, have blonde hair, blue eyes, and be head over heals in love with me. As the years began to add up and I was still single, my prayers began to change. Oh, I still prayed for everything as before but I added that she needed to love Jesus, have a wonderful testimony, want to be on mission for the Lord, and once again be crazy about me.

I would love to say I patiently waited for the woman who perfectly matched up to my prayers, unfortunately my fear of being alone was greater than my trust in God’s timing, so I was in and out of a lot of relationships. In spite of my impatience, God was faithful and continued to prepare the perfect wife for me. I had to wait thirteen years to finally meet her, but it was well worth the previous heart-break, loneliness, sadness, and seemingly unanswered prayers.

Because we were both college students and poorer than a church mouse, img_0018our first date was at Subway where I could only afford a soft-drink and a couple of chocolate chip cookies. We spent several hours talking about our life’s journey and how we became Christians. As she shared about her life before and after meeting Jesus I was stunned at how she was listing off all that I had prayed for over the last thirteen years. She had already been on two mission trips, one to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the other to Trinidad and Tobago. It was quite clear that night just how in love she was with Jesus.  It was so clear I convinced her to marry me six months later.

Over the last twenty-three years of marriage, she has taught me so much about God’s love.  Shirley loves me unconditionally in spite of all my idiosyncrasies (a nice way of saying I have a lot of hang ups). I don’t have to perform, serve, or love her in any special way to earn or keep her love. She just loves me unconditionally. And yet, without a doubt I am the second man in her life, the first being Jesus, which is exactly what I was praying for all the way back in 1980. You see, it is her love relationship with Jesus that taught her how to love me.

So, today on our twenty-third wedding anniversary I am especially thankful toFebruary 2015 Almighty God for the way He answered the prayer of a sixteen year old boy by giving me so much more than I ever asked for in a wife. She is truly more than I ever imagined or deserved!

I love you Shirley!

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.

More Like Falling in Love

My BelovedYesterday my wife and I celebrated nineteen years of marriage. The memories of our meeting for the first time are still so clear in my mind. I was turning in my resume’ at the Office of Institutional Advancement so that my name could be added to the supply preaching list. There sitting at the desk was this incredibly beautiful twenty-year-old girl (I had used the word “woman” and my wife said she was a sweet young twenty-year-old) . As I talked to her boss I wanted to introduce myself to her, but I was at school to get a Theology Degree so I could be a better pastor. I just didn’t have time for dating. A few days later I showed up for my first New Testament class and guess who was sitting beside me? Yep, Shirley! I was determined to just focus on school, so I didn’t pay her much attention. After class she walked up to me and introduced herself. Needless to say I was surprised.

I wasn’t surprised because she approached me; even though that had never happened to me before. I was surprised because I had been praying for my wife since I was sixteen. My prayers had developed over the years, and because I was scared that I would not be smart enough to recognize God’s gift to me, I developed a very specific prayer. I prayed that when the right girl came along I would know it because she would ask if she could water my camels. This specific prayer came from the Old Testament when Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, so he sends his servant to find her. In Genesis 24.12-14 we see the prayer of this faithful servant:

Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even I can’t miss a sign from God when some girl asks to water my camels!

Over the next few months our relationship and love for each other grew deeper and deeper. The more I learned about her the more I wanted to know. I eventually realized that I could go on living my life alone and be happy; however, I also figured out just how much better life would be if she was by my side as my wife. Just six months after we met we were married. The joy of falling in love was awesome, but it didn’t compare to indescribable joy of being loved unconditionally. The way she has sacrificed, served, and supported me over the years has been a constant reassurance that we are one, and that nothing will ever separate us in this life.

On my way to work this morning I was thinking about the last nineteen years, when a song by Jason Gray came on the radio, “More Like Falling in Love.” The song is about falling in love with Jesus. Throughout the Bible God compares His great love for us to that of a marriage. In fact, throughout the New Testament those who are followers of Jesus are called the “Bride of Christ.” The song continually repeats the theme that following Jesus is more like falling in love rather than just believing, keeping some rules, or declaring your allegiance to Him. Religion is what I try to do to make myself acceptable to Jesus; whereas, being in love with Jesus means everything I do is an overflow of my love because I am already accepted by Him.

When we don’t know Jesus we can’t understand why anyone would give up so many things this world has to offer. It seems like you cut your weekend short by one day, you cut your income by at least ten percent, and you cut out all the things in life that are really fun. But just like my growing relationship with Shirley, the more we know about Jesus, the more we want to know. The more we experience His love the more we want to experience. Falling in love with Jesus brings growing joy and love into your life each and every day. Understanding all that He sacrificed, the ways He serves us, as well as His constant support even when we’re too weak to carry on reassures us that we are His beloved. He will never leave or forsake us. Even when we fail to live up to His commandments He still sees us as His holy bride dressed in the radiant white rob of righteousness.

When Christianity is more like falling in love there are no rules to keep, stories to believe, or even sacrifices to make. All of these and many more become the overflow of a love relationship that will last throughout all eternity. That love affair will one day carry us to heaven where we will see Him and be like Him.

Won’t you fall in love with Jesus today?

 Here is the song by Jason Gray “More Like Falling in Love.”

The Safeguard

Susie Hawkins’ post, “The Safeguard,” is a humorous reminder of our need for honest, healthy, and habitual communication with our spouse.

Hawkins writes:

I had noticed her looking at him, laughing a little too loud, practically swooning over the brilliance of his sermons and cleverness of his insights. But she was my good friend, and I didn’t consider it flirting, especially since my husband paid no attention to her whatsoever. She was just vivacious and outgoing.

My Bible study leader in our church (I’ll call her Ruth), was a trusted mentor and friend to me. She was the age of my own mom and had unusual spiritual maturity and discernment. So, I wasn’t surprised when she spoke very directly to me one day about my friend’s behavior. She had noticed and picked up on it instantly. I remember sitting at Ruth’s kitchen table with her eyes staring into mine, saying “Susie, you have to help your husband. You are his “safeguard” – your very presence can diffuse situations like this. Your relationship with him is God’s provision of protecting him from temptation. Don’t be foolish and ignore this, you need to bring it to his attention, talk with him about it and decide how you will handle it.”

I thought about Ruth’s comments all day and have replayed that conversation in my mind hundreds of times since then. How wise and discerning she was and I am forever grateful for her directness and exhortation to a young and sometimes naïve pastor’s wife.

The word “safeguard” is defined as something that serves as a protection, defense or that ensures safety (www.dictionary.com). Ruth was right on target, as usual. Husbands and wives are each other’s “safeguards” against the temptations of the enemy. Make no mistake about it – Satan is the prowling lion seeking to destroy testimonies and lives, especially of those in ministry.

Paul supports this concept in 1 Cor. 7: 1-6. Our bodies exclusively belong to one another, and our physical relationship is designed to bring us fulfillment within the boundaries of marriage. Guarding that is our charge, so that Satan will not have an opportunity to tempt us (vs. 7). I took Ruth’s warning as a wakeup call to be more intentional in being my husbands “safeguard”.

That evening my husband came home from the office, with a large box of homemade cookies, delivered by my friend to the church office that morning. (He had mentioned in his sermon on Sunday how much he loved chocolate chip cookies). Well, something happened to me when I saw that box. I was suddenly livid! I ripped the top off and said, “You want cookies? I’ll give you cookies!!” I proceeded to smash every cookie in that box with my fist until the entire box was tiny crumbs. My husband was staring at me and when I finally stopped, we burst into hysterical laughter. I’m not sure if what I saw in his eyes was relief or fear! But it quickly led to a very honest talk about this situation and how we would handle these things in the future. I was ready to send her a note saying, “Hey, my kids and I loved the cookies! Oh and by the way, YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH TO TAKE MY MAN!” But I calmed down – and learned an invaluable lesson that day. I must be intentional in guarding and investing in my marriage. I am my husband’s safeguard against the schemes of the enemy, he is mine, and we will do everything within our power and God’s to protect our relationship and our testimony.

I did learn one other thing – maybe I need to bake chocolate cookies a little more often?

Flourish is a ministry of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Chick-Fil-A Wednesday

I read this on Mike Huckabee’s Facebook page and think he has assessed the situation correctly. Regardless of your position on marriage, if you are an American that believes that our right to free speech is a gift that others have bought with their life’s blood, then you should be eating at Chick-fil-a tomorrow.

Huckabee writes:

A little over a week ago, I simply urged people to go and eat at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.  I mentioned it on my TV show and have been discussing it on my daily radio show.  The media has called it a “protest.”  It is most certainly not.  No one is protesting anything.  This is not a stand against a person, a group of people, or even someone else’s belief.  This is a simple act of having a meal at a place that sells chicken, not politics.  It’s to affirm to a Christian brother, Dan Cathy, that he has not been disenfranchised from his citizenship nor his right of free speech as a taxpaying American.  It is about taking a stand for businesses to be free of economic bullying and hate speech.  It is an opportunity to have a decent meal at a decent place that was founded and continues to be run by decent people who believe in treating their customers and employees with kindness and to say “thank you” to them.  The only protest that I know of… is coming from the chickens, who will give their lives in large numbers to accommodate what hopefully will be a big day at Chick Fil-A. Chick Fil-A neither proposed this nor has promoted it.  It was a simple idea I had and shared with a few friends, posted  the online and asked them to share with their friends.  I don’t have that many friends, but my friends seem to.  Since then, over 21 million have viewed my Facebook event page.  We are north of half a million people who have said they will eat at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday and still adding more.  Millions more are aware of it and might show up in one of the 1600 Chick Fil-A stores. The attacks on Christians are disturbing, especially by “wanna be tyrants, like the mayors of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D. C. who have vowed to either keep Chick Fil-A out of their communities or have openly said this business is not welcome because they (the mayors) don’t agree with the personal views of the Chick Fil- A CEO.  Not only is such a position by the mayors illegal and unconstitutional, but it’s disturbing to think that anyone elected to public office would publicly exhibit their bigotry toward Christians, their hypocrisy in singling out only Christians, but not others including Muslims who have even stronger beliefs about same sex marriage, and their contempt of the law regarding censorship and free speech.  On Wednesday, the lines might be long, but your presence and your purchase is a statement.  America doesn’t need more protesters-we’ll leave that to the Occupy crowd.  America needs more protectors of freedom, family, and faith.  And in this case, chicken nuggets!

Culture Is Redefining What’s Right, Wrong

Lillian Kwon’s article on Jonathan Falwell’s Mother’s Day sermon is fantastic and something every Christian needs to hear!

Joining pastors throughout the country in denouncing President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, Pastor Jonathan Falwell told thousands from the pulpit that they must protect the biblical definition of marriage, even if the culture and the president tries to redefine it.

“We’ve got to protect marriage; we’ve got to protect our families; we’ve got to protect the Church,” Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., preached Sunday. “I don’t care what the world says; I don’t care what the culture says; I don’t even care what the president says. With all due respect … the Bible says that God made them male and female and the two shall become one flesh.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman, period,” he said to applause from the congregation.

Falwell, son of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, had pondered and prayed about whether to continue his message series on “Holy Wars” or preach on something more pertinent to Mother’s Day on Sunday.

But he was convinced that there was no better day than Mother’s Day to talk about marriage and family especially at a time when those institutions are being attacked, he told the megachurch of some 20,000 members.

“We’ve got to understand that indeed we are in the midst of a battle … the battlefield is something that is very, very real in our lives,” he preached. It’s a battle that rages in our hearts, souls and minds, he added.

Satan, Falwell warned, is trying to keep people from enjoying God’s great blessings.

Reading from the New Testament, Galatians 5, Falwell listed adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lewdness as sins.

God, he stressed, provides a “very clear understanding so there is no gray area” on sexual sin. But the culture is redefining what a sexual relationship should be like, he lamented.

“We’re redefining what is right and what is wrong,” he said. “God knew that we were going to live in a culture today just as many in that day were living in where we redefine what sin is, where we change the idea of what sin is so that we can make room for the things that we want to do,” the Virginia pastor said.

“It’s easy when we understand that adultery is wrong and fornication (any sexual relationship outside of the bonds of marriage) is wrong but if we can change the definition of fornication then we can open all kinds of doors and that is where we live today.”

He continued, “When we do that …. when we begin to make cases for and explain away what the Bible says, then we begin to destroy our very souls and the battlefield is raging and Satan is winning.”

Americans are split on whether homosexual behavior is a sin. According to LifeWay Research, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans in September 2011, 44 percent say it is a sin and 43 percent disagree. Among born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, 82 percent call it a sin.

While exhorting the congregation to stand on the Word of God and be clear about what the Bible calls sin, Falwell urged caution.

“What is vitally important to understand is that while we stand on truth, we must speak the truth in the love of Jesus Christ,” he stressed. “There is no room in today’s culture and there better not be any room in the Church today to attack people who disagree with us. Rather, let them see the love of Jesus Christ in us.

“I will tell you this, that God loves homosexuals just as much as He loves Baptists. Jesus died on the cross for every single one of us.”

The message Christians should be spreading is about the gift of eternal life, he urged.

“Yes, the Bible does call sin sin but let me reveal to you through the Word of God not what God says ‘no’ to but rather what God gives us the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to and that is the incredible gift of God’s eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here is the link to read the entire Christian Post article: “Jonathan Falwell: Culture Is Redefining What’s Right, Wrong