A Day Without a Woman

“A Day Without a Woman” – Women’s rights groups organized a march on Washington today to celebrate International Women’s Day, and they encouraged women to stand together against inequality and injustice against women. They marched against President Trump and “the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.” The organizers asked women to take off work, avoid shopping, and basically not do the things they would normally do in a day. Thrown into the mix of all of the platforms of the movement was the platform of “reproductive justice,” which basically is a call for the right to kill unborn children at any point during pregnancy. The International Women’s Strike group included this statement on their website: “We demand free abortion without conditions.” Without conditions includes abortion at full-term just before birth, partial birth abortion, convenience abortion at any point during the pregnancy, and any other form of abortion the woman wishes to have without consideration of the baby’s rights. What about reproductive justice for the unborn?

I must hasten to say that I believe if a woman is doing the same job as a man, she should be paid the same, and women should be respected and regarded highly at all levels. In my opinion, this focus today had nothing to do with honoring women. It had everything to do with hatred of President Trump, pride, arrogance, self-servitude and self-aggrandizement. These attitudes are a total 180 from what the Bible teaches about love, servanthood and humility. Organizers of the event referred to themselves as an “army of love,” but I only see hatred (toward President Trump and maybe all men in general).

The only way our country will find healing during this terrible time of upheaval is if we will apply the golden rule (Do unto others what you want them to do unto you) and the Great Commandment (Love your neighbor as yourself). Marching with an agenda of hatred, acting with a motive of malevolence, or speaking with a goal of besmirching political leaders does not honor God and does not make for a strong Republic.

I would like to encourage a day that we would not call “A Day Without a Woman,” but maybe “A Day for a Woman.” Let’s serve the ladies in our lives and give them the respect that they deserve. Let’s thank God for the wonderful gift of women in our lives. If you’re a woman, it is my hope that you are appalled at what transpired today and would recommit yourself to the attributes and character qualities that best represent Jesus Christ. Then let’s have “A Day for Unity” where people of both sexes and all ethnicities stand together as Americans – not white Americans, black Americans, male or female Americans, Mexican-Americans – just Americans. Maybe we could follow that up with “A Day for Jesus” where all Christians share the wonderful stories of how Jesus Christ has changed our lives.

It’s time to come together. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Let’s all recommit ourselves to community and love. Let’s look around today to see who we can out serve. Focus on giving instead of receiving. Think of serving others instead of reclaiming our rights. That would be a real day worth celebrating.

Singing Anyone? Part 2

microphone-1209816_1920In my last blog, I asked the question: “What if I don’t want to sing?” It’s a valid question. We’ve all faced times where we had no song, but the problem is that God commands us throughout the Scripture to sing. I mentioned two causes for not wanting to sing. If you didn’t read my last blog, you may want to stop and read it now.

Whether we don’t sing because we think we can’t or because a sad circumstance has stolen our song, the solution is simple: sing anyway. God only wants a joyful noise, and we’ll find that singing may be God’s prescription to pull us out of the doldrums. It is amazing that while worship is directed to God, we benefit significantly. As we sing to God, he heals our hearts.

Another reason we are to sing has to do with people around us. You may think you’re doing the people around you a favor by not singing. Actually, you’re not. Colossians 3:16 commands us to sing to one another because our singing has mutual benefit: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Have you ever considered the idea that the person sitting next to you in worship is benefiting from your singing? Imagine a man beside you in worship next Sunday who may be struggling with a matter or a problem. He desperately needs help from God, and then he hears you singing with gusto and conviction about the faithfulness of God. Your song encouraged him with truth from God’s Word. Before long, he begins to join in with you in giving praise to God. This is one way Colossians 3:16 can be lived out in our lives. Though worship is for God, our singing can certainly bless others with spiritual encouragement. 

We can also teach others through singing by intentionally singing about theological truths. I’ve taught children how to share the gospel by putting music to the “Roman Road to Salvation” scriptures. I learned about the Old Testament story of Israel’s great revival of 1 Samuel 7 because I sang the old hymn “Come Thou Fount.” I had to look up the “here I raise mine Ebenezer” part, and read a wonderful story about God working in the lives of his people. Singing can have great value in teaching us God’s Word.

What if I don’t want to sing? Sing anyway. It honors the Lord, and someone in your life needs to hear it. You will benefit greatly by lifting your spirit and by opening up your hearts to spiritual truths. Music is a wonderful gift from a loving God, so, tilt your head back and sing for the glory of God.

 

Be Transformed

One tree in field

Transformation! At my church, we have begun a fall spiritual growth campaign called “Transformed,” and I’m really excited about how God is going to use it in our lives. I’ve been thinking a good bit about how God is in the transformation business. It began with Adam and Eve and it continues today in me and you. He takes that which is bad or useless and transforms it into good and useful. One thing that strikes me about transformation is that while God is in the business of changing lives, it really depends upon our willingness to change. I stressed in the first two messages of this series that God is the One who does the transforming, not us, but we have to put ourselves in the place of transformation. This “positioning” requires several things I would like to share.

First, we must long for transformation. We must ask ourselves if we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Transformation is not easy. It is often times painful. When was the last time you lost a significant amount of weight? That’s transformation, and it’s not easy. We must be able to see ourselves as we really are and long for what could be.

Second, we must be willing to incorporate the steps necessary to bring about transformation in our lives. It’s possible that we know what to do to transform our marriage or our finances, but it’s also possible that we’re not really sure. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share some principles that will help us with this process of change in my weekly sermon (you can listen to these messages online), and a number of books and resources are also available to help us with needed change in our lives. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to be willing to learn from others that God may place in your lives.

Third, we should set some goals in our lives for transformation. Based upon our reading, listening, prayer, and study, we should establish some S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time framed). I always encourage people to write out their goals. What are some goals you have in your life regarding spiritual transformation? What are some things you can do to place yourself in a position of transformation? For example, you could set goals to meet with God every day in Bible reading and prayer or attend worship at your church. What about transformation in your health or finances? What could you do to place yourself in a spot where God can bring transformation in your marriage, your family, or your career? Write out some goals. The series at SonRise will deal with transformation in the following areas of our lives: spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial, and vocational. Are you willing to set some goals in these areas and see what God can do through your life?

How Do You Say Goodbye to your Mother?

momHow do you say goodbye to your mother? My mother passed away last week. I kissed her the night before she died, told her I loved her, and told her that she would soon see Jesus. It was a sad time when she died the next day, but our sorrow was not for my mom. It was for us. My mother loved Jesus with all of her heart. The scripture is clear that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Even with Alzheimer’s, my mother lived out her faith. Just months before her death, she was not able to talk about much, but she could carry on a conversation about the Word of God. She would sing hymns and pray. A month before she passed, I was at my parent’s house doing some repairs, and my mom walked into the kitchen and said, “I need to pray for you.” We bowed our heads, and she started a prayer. My mother didn’t get past “Dear Heavenly Father,” but God knew exactly what was on her heart. I am confident that the Holy Spirit finished her prayer somewhere in the portals of Heaven.

My mother was passionate about sharing the gospel with everyone in the world. She lived out her passion and influenced thousands and thousands of people all over the world. I know that she personally led over 1000 children to Christ during the 13-year period she was a camp director. I learned last week that she had written a song or chorus. I can’t believe I didn’t know that. Many of the grandchildren knew it. All of the grandchildren and great grandchildren (at least those who were old enough to sing) sang her song at her funeral:

Everyone, everywhere needs to know of God’s love; for everyone, everywhere, Jesus came from above
To die on Calvary; His great love for all to see. Everyone, everywhere needs God’s love.

My oldest daughter told me yesterday that her two-year-old daughter asked her daddy to sing to her Grandma’s song. I am confident that my mother’s heart and life’s passion will continue to influence my family and the world for generations to come.

How do you say goodbye to your mother? If you and your mom are Christians, you don’t have to. The Bible is clear that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt my mother is in Heaven. I don’t have to say “goodbye” but rather “I’ll see you later.”

Finishing Strong

“I don’t think I can hike another quarter of a mile.” I think I have this thought every time I complete a hike on the Appalachian Trail, and this time was no different. My two youngest daughters and I just completed a 3-day, 47 mile hike through the beautiful Virginia mountains, and it thrilled me to watch my girls drink in the beauty of God’s creation. I wasn’t as thrilled with how bad they made me look as they were constantly having to stop to wait on me to catch up. It was interesting for me to think about how badly my feet hurt after three days of hiking. I thought back to my last seven-day hike through the mountains and remember having the similar pains and blisters at the end of that one. The difference is that one was three days and the other was seven days. How did I manage to go for four more days last time when I was ready to collapse after three days this week? Somehow, I always have just what I need to make the hike – no more and no less. I think that life is that way. While God gives us a surplus of grace, He usually only gives us just what we need in many other departments. Think back to your own experiences. Do you find that you have just enough energy to go through a 3-day family crisis and a 3-month personal trauma? God always meets us where we are and takes us to where we need to be. The scriptural truth is found in Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Whether it’s another day on the Appalachian Trail or the strength to go through another month barely making ends meet, God will be there to give you enough to finish strong. Do you trust Him?

 

The Resurrection

tombWhat difference does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make in your life? What difference does it make in a family and in a country? Christ’s resurrection certainly gives us perspective and hope. It reminds us that we too can have victory over death and the grave through Jesus, and our only hope for eternity is found in faith and trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Our hope finds new joy and anticipation as we too consider the empty tomb. Our Savior is not dead, but rather He is alive. This reality should change the way we live and respond to people and circumstances. It reminds us that we live for eternity and not just for time. It calls us to order our lives according to the teaching of God’s Word and show the world how the resurrection changes our character, our relationships, and how we treat those whom we do not even know. The resurrection creates a bond between believers throughout the world and helps us to better understand the broad concept of family. The Christian family is a global unit, and therefore when one Christian is hurting in Iraq, Christians across the world feel his sorrow. This means we cannot ignore the persecution of Christians regardless of where they live. We share a common faith with Christians everywhere, and therefore it is our responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters and to do everything in our power to help relieve their struggles. This means writing to our political leaders to express our views and concerns, supporting relief organizations that are reaching out to the persecuted, and praying for Christians who are living daily under the threat of persecution.

I recently listened to David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain as he shared an Easter message. I encourage you to listen to it. He underscored the role of a Christian nation in reaching out to the down trodden, the persecuted, and the abused. It was refreshing to hear him refer to Great Britain as a Christian nation, and it made me long to see our own nation embrace our Christian heritage. We can expect increased persecution of Christians in the next years, and it is paramount that we pray for our brothers and sisters and support them in any way possible. As we mentally gather at the empty tomb to see that Jesus has indeed risen, we will look around and discover that we share this wonder and awe as well as responsibility with Christians everywhere. Regardless of denominational title or geographical location, we are family together because the tomb is empty. May the death and resurrection of Jesus continue to impact our choices and actions as we live in light of the resurrection of Jesus.

Our Freedoms Under Attack

FreespeechIn my book, Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, I share that Christians can expect to be persecuted in the days ahead. We have a Christian brother who is being persecuted and whose 2nd Amendment rights have been trampled. I am speaking of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran of Atlanta. He published a book entitled “Who Told You That You Were Naked,” which is book about what the Bible has to say about sin. Within the book, he refers to homosexuality as being a sin – which of course the Bible does say. The mayor of Atlanta did not like Cochran’s position on this issue, which means the mayor does not just disagree with Chief Cochran but also with God, so he fired Chief Cochran. This is deplorable and quite frankly, shocking. Where are all of the people who marched in New York to protest recently? Where is the ACLU? There should be a national uproar over trampling the rights of an American citizen for one of the freedoms we hold dear – the freedom of speech. I’m writing this because I think Christians must voice their concern and outrage at this unfair treatment. Fire Chief Cochran is a member of a Baptist church in Atlanta and wrote the book on his own time and self-published it originally as a Bible study on the topic of sin. Please sign a petition that is distributed by the Georgia Baptist Convention and voice your opinion to Mayor Kasim Reed. The petition and contact information for the mayor can be found at this site: http://gabaptist.org/petition. If the mayor’s office was flooded with letters and e-mails expressing our outrage, I believe it could make a difference in reinstating the chief. I’m sure Kasim Reed has future political aspirations, and he must know that U. S. citizens do not look favorably on political leaders who use their authority to attack a basic American freedom. In Paris, terrorists attacked the freedom of speech by murdering 12 employees of a magazine publisher. In Atlanta, this freedom was attacked by firing the Fire Chief. Something must be done to not only protect Chief Cochran but also to protect the U. S. Constitution.

Joy Ride

joyI would like to share a portion of my newsletter article I published for our congregation at SonRise Baptist Church in an effort to challenge you to find joy in the new year.

Michael Card is one of my favorite recording artists from years ago (he is actually still writing and recording), and he released a CD about twenty years ago entitled Joy in the Journey. It was actually a compilation of his greatest hits (El Shaddai, Celebrate the Child, etc.). The title of that CD has been on my mind lately as I prepare to start a new teaching series on January 11: Joy Ride. Most of us share a dreaded disease that has defeating consequences called Destination Disease. We spend our whole lives looking forward to destinations instead of realizing that life is lived in the journey. As a child, we anticipate the destination of first grade and then middle school, high school, and graduation. The destination of college, first jobs, marriage, and parenting becomes a consuming focus. We eventually focus on our empty nest and ultimately on heaven and eternity. We go out of town on vacation and can’t wait to get there, wherever “there” is. If we are not careful, we spend our whole lives looking forward to the end of a journey instead of realizing life is really more about journeys than destinations. Joy Ride is a teaching series about finding joy in the journey. God has made us for joy, yet many of us feel that we will find joy only after we “arrive.”

As you begin a new year of possibilities, blessings, struggle, and failure, it is my hope and prayer that you find joy in the journey. God has made us for joy, and He invites us to join Him for the ride of a lifetime.

Absolute Truth

truthI recently shared some thoughts on Facebook and enjoyed various comments made by my friends. I thought I would carry the discussion on absolute truth over to my blog. Here’s some additional thoughts in response to some of the discussion.

 

Homophobia is not my problem. Sinophobia is. I am afraid of what sin can do in me, in you, in our culture, and in our world. I’ve seen it at work in my life for 52 years, and I see it unleashed in our culture. It is destroying us. One problem is our tendency to ignore sin in our lives. I’ve done it with the best of them. One way we try to ignore it is to justify our actions, ignore our actions or redefine our actions. We justify our actions often times by comparing ourselves to other people. I can always find someone worse than me; therefore, my sin doesn’t look so bad. The problem is that other people are not the standard – God is. Our culture is working to justify actions through talk or predispositions. Some scientists and media personnel are determined to justify an action that is contrary to the Bible by trying to show that a predisposition to a sinful lifestyle is pre-determined by an inborn quality. To say someone has a female brain in a male body justifies homosexual behavior. To say someone is naturally oversexed justifies a promiscuous lifestyle or an addiction to pornography. First of all, there has been no real evidence that someone is born with a predisposition toward homosexuality. The fact is; however, we are all born with a predisposition to sin. Homosexuality is not the only issue. Sin is the issue. The problem is that we do not want to call it sin. If we call our actions sinful, there must be a standard of righteousness. If sin exists, God must exist. If God exists, then we are accountable for our sins. It is easier for me to justify my behavior, whatever kind of sinful behavior that might be, than to be accountable for it.

 

I will hasten to say that Christians feel much better talking about someone else’s’ sinful behavior than their own. It feels more comfortable being critical of homosexuality while ignoring lust. The fact is that sin is sin. Jesus had to die for all of sin. I am grateful that God loves the sinner and meets us where we are, but if we are going to deal with our sin, we must first acknowledge that we are sinners. To acknowledge sin means that we must recognize a standard of moral truth. Is truth relative or absolute? Can something be wrong for me but not wrong for you?

 

There is a such thing as cultural truth. Cultural or geographical truth can be relative. For example, if you live in Great Britain, it is against the law for you to drive down the right side of the street. You are required to drive on the left. In the U.S., we are required to drive on the right. Obviously location is going to determine right and wrong in regard to that particular traffic law. I do believe there are some cultural issues addressed in the Bible, and for that matter, there are some cultural issues not addressed in the Bible. For example, God did not address the morality of slavery in the Bible. Though the practice of slavery was different in the N.T. times than it was in the 19th century, God doesn’t really address the moral issue of right and wrong regarding owning slaves. I have wondered if polygamy in the Old Testament fell into this category. Was it a cultural truth that was descriptive for that time but not prescriptive for all of time? There were more women in that culture than men. Is it possible that God allowed it as a means of taking care of women, but it was not His ideal? We do know that there were some cultural truths related to certain laws. The N.T. helps us to understand that there were some cultural laws that related to just the Jewish people in the O.T. that did not apply to N.T. believers. Peter had been taught not to eat unclean animals, but he then had a dream saying that all things were clean. Circumcision was required for Jewish males, but the N.T. makes it clear that it is not a law for every culture.

 

When I speak of absolute truth, I’m not talking about cultural issues but rather moral issues. Mistreating people is wrong for all people for all of time. Mistreating others is never justified. This is a moral absolute. In a recent Facebook note, I shared a statement about a transgender youth. Sadly, some people responded to her YouTube post with venom and hatred – even to the point where someone said they wanted to kill this youth. That is ridiculous and inexcusable. It is an absolute truth that mistreating people is always wrong. The Bible speaks to many moral truths, and the Bible sets a standard for absolute truth. Does this mean that Christians always have the right attitude about people and sin? No. Do Christians always act in a Christ-honoring way? Absolutely not! Just because a Christian acts ungodly does not mean that it is okay to ignore absolute truth. For that matter, just because a Christian acts wrongly toward you does not justify putting all Christians in the same category or dropping out of church or ignoring the teaching of the Bible. It’s funny that church is one of the few things in society we apply those standards to. For example, I’ve been treated badly at Walmart before by employees and customers. I still go to Walmart. When that happened, I acknowledged that a Walmart employee had a problem or a customer I confronted had issues (or maybe even I had issues), but I didn’t stop going to Walmart. Just because a Christian acts ungodly, I cannot write off the truth of God’s Word. The fact is a Christian’s misbehavior does not cause Romans 6:23 to be any less true for me or you: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

The real issue here has to do with whether or not moral truth is absolute. Regardless of what our culture says, I say that it is. I’ll share some more on this later, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts?

Truett Cathy

truettA great man closed his eyes this morning in the presence of his earthly family and opened them again in the presence of his heavenly family. When Truett Cathy passed away this morning, the world was greatly impacted because Mr. Cathy was a man who not only showed the world how to live, but he also showed us how to die.  I suppose many people in the Atlanta area could tell a Truett Cathy story, but mine involves a young teenager named David who needed a place to live. He lived in my home for a while, but because I have six children (and at the time my brother, his wife and five children lived with us), we really did not have room for him. I called Mr. Cathy’s assistant, and she told me to bring my young friend to their corporate office. We were ushered into Mr. Cathy’s office, and he treated us as if we were the most important appointment on his agenda. Never mind that he was late leaving to catch a plane for Europe where he had an important meeting, Mr. Cathy talked to David about choices in life. He offered my young friend a place to live and a very bright future, but he told David that he would have responsibilities and had to follow the rules. David agreed, and Mr. Cathy had his assistant take us up to the top floor of the office building. The top floor looked like a huge department store filled with name brand clothes and shoes of every size (for young people). David was allowed to choose clothes and shoes, and we were both overwhelmed by this man’s generosity. The next day, David went to live at one of Mr. Cathy’s homes for children.

Truett Cathy is an example of a man who lived from the inside out. Many years earlier, he had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ allowing Jesus to sit as King of his heart, and this decision impacted every decision he made for the rest of his life. This decision also determined his eternal destiny. While we sometimes wonder why Christians do not live out their faith, that was not the case with Truett Cathy, and the world is a better place because Mr. Cathy let his light shine for Jesus Christ. He is a model for the rest of us. Romans 1:17 says “The just will live by faith.” In other words, our lives should be different because we are people of faith. The world is desperate to see authentic Christianity, and Jesus has commissioned us to be like salt and light in the world. May the life and testimony of Truett Cathy not be forgotten as we press on to the day when we too will cross over to the other side.