Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Ways to Improve Immigration

I support increased immigration to the United States.  In general, people produce more than they consume, otherwise humans would have gone extinct a long time ago :).  Thus, in general, the more people we have in our nation, the better off we will be.  We have relatively low population density and a lot of land, so we could fit more people in easily enough.  The idea that immigration is bad because it takes jobs from Americans is fallacious.

The difficulty is, how do we let in the "good" people (law-abiding productive people) without also letting in the "bad" people (terrorists, drug runners, criminals, gangs, etc)?

I came up with several recommendations, and I'm guessing many of you have some even better ones.  Some of these overlap and even contradict.  But applying any of these would improve our immigration policies.

Reduce America's Attractiveness to "Takers"
  • 1. Cut welfare benefits so that more American citizens are willing to do manual labor, and fewer immigrants can "milk the system".
  • 2. Develop a penal code with harsher, more immediate punishments (rather than prison sentences), which is applied equally to both Americans and immigrants.  Make America unattractive to criminals.  Don't let bad immigrants get off with just deportation.
  • 3. End birthright citizenship.  Many people think it's hardwired into the 14th amendment, but the people who wrote the 14th amendment didn't think so.  More info here.
  • 4. National repentance.  Psalm 147:14. 

Track All Non-Citizens
  • 5. Secure the border.  This must happen for many of the following ideas to work.  Primary tools:
    • a. Border fence (one time cost)
    • b. Greatly increased number of border agents (ongoing cost)
    • c. Aerostats (helpful but limited)
  • 6. Make e-Verify required nationwide
  • 7. Require everyone to carry a non-counterfeitable photo ID.  Many of our illegal immigrants are using fake documents.  For many immigrants, a passport would do.  But some nations' IDs are compromised, and for immigrants from these countries, the US must provide an ID that cannot be counterfeited.  After this is implemented, people found in the US who don't have an ID should get deported.
  • 8. Mild probation-style monitoring.  Non-citizens could be required to briefly check in at any police station at a certain frequency (say, once a month or once a quarter) or wear an ankle monitor (homing device).  Violators of this probation get deported. 
  • 9. Defund "sanctuary cities"

Widen the Door for Productive Immigrants
  • 10. Greatly increase the use of sponsor-based visas.  Currently only employers and family members can sponsor immigrants. 
    • a. Stop letting government determine how many and what kinds of immigrants to take.
    • b. Let US citizens determine how generous to be and what risks to take, on a case by case basis.  This free market immigration would work far better than government sponsored immigration.
    • c. Allow each US citizen over the age of 21 to sponsor one immigrant at a time, anyone they choose. Sponsors accept responsibility for the immigrant's financial needs and behavior.
    • d. Sponsors post bond (either via cash payment or lien on real property) for the behavior of the immigrant.  The sponsor pays a steep fine if the immigrant commits a crime.  For serious crimes, the sponsor also loses the right to ever sponsor anyone again.
    • e. Security checks in place to prevent abuse by either immigrant or sponsor (such as sex traffic).
    • f. The sponsor is released from his responsibility (and reimbursed/released from his bond) when the immigrant either becomes a US citizen or leaves the US.  The sponsor is then free to sponsor a new immigrant.
But here's the real, bottom line, fastest way to solve the immigration problem: evangelize.  Tell people about Jesus!

  • a. The reason why some immigrants commit acts of terrorism or crime is because they don’t love Jesus.
  • b. The reason why some immigrants break the law to be here is because they don’t love Jesus.
  • c. The reason why American politicians have not crafted a responsible immigration plan that leaves room for compassion is because they love power rather than Jesus.
  • d. The reason why American citizens tolerate this state of affairs is because we love cheap tomatoes and low crime rates more than we love Jesus.
  • e. The reason why immigrants’ native countries are so impoverished and corrupt is because the people there don’t love Jesus.

The great commission was not “go help immigrants get transportation, lodging, education and employment” but “go make disciples, teach them to obey everything I’ve commanded you”.  Evangelism and discipleship is the ultimate way of teaching a person to fish.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Please Go.

I considered myself well educated about other countries and cultures.   

But last month I got to take my first trip overseas.  And last month I discovered that no amount of books or photographs or videos can convey what it is really like to be in a third world country.  The masses of people.  The pollution.  The poverty.  The spiritual lostness.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, being there in person is worth ten billion words. 

You just have to go.  You just have to go.  Please.

I'm writing especially to those of you who, like me, have never been overseas before.  If you're an average person in a developed country, you will get about 4000 weeks of life on earth.  I'm just asking you to take two of these weeks to experience for yourself how the rest of the world lives. 

You will come back with a greater relationship with Jesus, and a greater clarity on how the rest of your life should be spent.  

And if you're one of the very small percent of people who really can't go, then consider paying for a young person to go.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Makes a Good Prayer Meeting?

If you have never been to a bad prayer meeting, you need to get out more.  There is a reason why prayer meetings are going extinct.

But if you have never been to a good prayer meeting, you have missed something beautiful.  Your loss is more tragic than going through life never seeing a rainbow.

An easy way to evaluate a prayer meeting is to ask yourself afterwards, "Would my time have been better spent praying in private, than in this meeting?"  If you answer yes, the meeting was bad.  (Or you have no taste for the joys of Christianity and are probably not a Christian.) 

Generally, prayer meetings are bad because they fall into one or more of the following ditches:
  1. Coldness (apathy, lethargy, passionlessness, dryness)
  2. Weirdness (there are a lot of goofy spiritual ideas out there)
  3. Talking to men instead of God (preaching, gossiping, visiting, but not actually praying!)
  4. Organ recital (focusing on a litany of physical ailments and needs rather than gospel advancement)
  5. Loquaciousness (when one person hogs the floor)
The participants in our local Saeed prayer gathering
I was reminded of this when today's local prayer vigil for Saeed Abedini turned out to be the best prayer meeting I have been to in several years, avoiding all the ditches I just described.  I gave only three instructions:
  1. Try to keep your prayers below 2 minutes.  You can always pray again after someone else has had a turn.
  2. Try to base your prayers on Scripture.
  3. Don't talk about the prayer needs, just pray for them.
But simply giving good instructions does not create a good prayer meeting.  What does?  Why was today's prayer time so good?

I'm still pondering that question myself.  But I may have one small piece of the answer.  It seems more than coincidental to me that the best prayer meeting I have ever been in was also one dedicated to praying for the persecuted church.  And, when I speak of praying about persecution, I don't mean simply "God, make it stop and get me out of it!"

So many of the Psalms lend themselves directly to praying for the persecuted.  Paul's personal prayer requests often relate to persecution.  And, two of the most powerful prayer meetings in Acts (chapter 4 and chapter 12) were in response to persecution.

This reminds me of John Piper's words: "The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believers is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom."

Tell me your thoughts.  What can we do to see good prayer meetings more often?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How Do You Find God's Will?

We make choices every day.  Some of them are small: when should I eat? Others are big: should I move to another city?
Christians are slaves of Jesus.  We are not free to do everything.  When a Christian makes a choice, he does not ask “What do I want?”  He asks, “What does Jesus want?”  A Christian wants to obey Jesus always, in big choices and small choices.
But how do we know what Jesus wants?  The Bible tells us clearly about some things.  We know that Jesus wants us to honor our parents, to share our possessions with needy Christians, and to avoid sexual immorality.  We know this because the Bible tells us.
But we have many decisions that the Bible does not directly talk about.  Should you marry this person or that person?  Should you plant rice or beans?  Should you wear red clothes or white clothes today?
Christians want to please Jesus in every decision.  But if the Bible does not tell us, how do we know what to do?
Some Christians say, “If the Bible does not tell me, I will just follow my heart.”  By that they mean, “I will choose the path that makes me feel happy, or peaceful, or confident.”  But sometimes God wants us to do things that are frightening or uncomfortable.  We cannot rely on our emotions to lead us.
Other Christians say, “I will wait for a sign from God.”  They want God to give them a dream, a vision, a prophecy, a visit from an angel, a “fleece” like Gideon’s, or some circumstances that point them toward the right decision.  But even the devil can do miracles and send dreams.  Islam was started because a man listened to an angel.  So although God may use a sign to lead us, we cannot rely on signs.
Other Christians say, “We find the right path by thinking carefully.  God gave us minds, and we must use them to make wise choices.”  But the Bible says, “Do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).  Many times in the Bible God told people to do things that seem crazy to our minds.
So if we cannot trust our feelings, our minds, or even supernatural signs to show us the right path, how can we find it?
Let’s look at Psalm 25.  David is in danger from enemies (v. 2).  He needs to know what to do.  So he prays.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
  1. David seeks guidance from outside.  He needs more than his own feelings or intelligence for direction.
  2. David seeks guidance from God, not from other people.  The Bible says it is good to get advice from mature Christians (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 20:18, 24:6, etc).  But here we see that we can fully trust only God Himself.  David is dependent on God.  If God doesn’t lead him, David is doomed.  He has no other way to get direction.  
  3. Before David asks God to lead him (in verse 5), he asks God to teach him about God’s ways.  Before he says, “Show me the paths I should go in” he says, “Show me the paths that You go in”.  He wants to learn about the decisions that God makes, not just the decisions that he should make.  This is SO important.  David wants a relationship with God, he wants to know God, not just information from God.

    In the US, many people use GPS to navigate when they are driving their cars.  Their phones speak to them and tell them, “Turn right, go 50 meters, stop, move to the left” etc.  God is not a GPS for your life.  God is your Father.  Your Father does not want you to be a puppet or a robot.  He wants to reproduce His character in you.

    David wants to learn about God’s paths, to see the decisions God has made, so that David will have a heart like God’s heart.  Then David will make the right choices.  He will choose good things because he loves the same things God loves.  He will not need an angel or a dream to show him the way.  He will know the right choice because he knows God.  
Now look at verse 7:
Do not remember the sins of my youth
or my acts of rebellion;
in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me
because of Your goodness, Lord.

And verse 11:
Because of Your name, Lord,
forgive my sin, for it is great.

David is confessing his sin to God.  David asks God to forgive him for past times when David did not follow God.  We cannot refuse to follow God in some of our decisions, and seek His directions for other decisions.  We must repent of past sins before God will give us any guidance for the future.  

God does not guide everyone.  David tells us the kind of people whom God will lead.  Verse 8:
The Lord is good and upright;
therefore He shows sinners the way.

Isn’t this good news?  God is so good.  Even though we are sinners, He will teach us.  If God only helped perfect people, we would be lost forever!

Verse 9:
He leads the humble in what is right
and teaches them His way.
To be led by God, we must be humble.  God resists the proud but gives grace, including direction, to the humble.  Proud people think they already know the answer.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
This is my favorite verse in this Psalm.  It is a wonderful promise.  If you fear the Lord, He will show you what to do.  And that’s not all He’ll do for you:
13 His soul will abide in prosperity,
And his descendants will inherit the land.
14 The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He reveals His covenant to them.
Let me summarize what we have learned.  (The following is adapted from Led by the Spirit by Jim Elliff.)
  1. Repent for any sins you have not already confessed to God.  Trust in Jesus as the One who died so that you could be forgiven, and become God’s child.  (1 John 1:6-9)
  2. Pray for wisdom.  Do not doubt that God will show you the right thing to do.  (James 1:5)
  3. Seek to know God more than His answers.
  4. Examine your heart.  Is your main desire to do what God wants?  Or do you have a secret bias?  Seek to be willing to do whatever God wants.  Many people miss God’s direction because there are some things they do not want to do.
  5. Carefully examine the Bible to see if it gives any guidance.  Try to find out not only what God permits and does not permit, but also what God likes, what is dear to His heart.
  6. Write down your options.  Then list the benefits and dangers of each option.  Then examine the Bible to see if it says anything about these issues.  The Bible contains a lot more guidance than we expect.  
  7. When helpful, ask for advice from mature, godly, wise people.
  8. Act in faith to do whatever appears to be the wisest possible choice.  God can stop you if He wants.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Free Christian Shirt!

My evangelistic shirts are finally printed and available as both polos and tees. You can purchase them online at Would you like to get one for free? This video will tell you how!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

52 Lessons from My Father

My father's life has had a major impact on mine.  And that's a good thing.  Recently for his birthday I wrote down, in no particular order, fifty two life lessons that dad has tried to teach me.  If you've hung around dad very long, you've probably picked up some of these.  Some are simple, some are profound.  But that's what fatherhood is, showing the less mature how to apply God's wisdom in all areas of life, from the mundane to the awesome.

These are not a complete compendium of everything you need to know for life.  (There's a Book for that.)  You may not even agree with all of these.  But maybe this will cause you to reflect on the legacy of your own life.  Maybe it will inspire you to write down some lessons your father taught you, and then share them with a new generation?

1. Don’t be the cheapest seller.
2. Don’t go in debt.
3. Never buy a new car.
4. Men need to read Proverbs.
5. Open rebuke is better than vague politeness.
6. Have as many kids as God gives you.
7. Get up early to spend time with God.
8. Do physical work.
9. Learn to repair your own stuff.
10. College is optional.
11. Teach your kids at home, and don’t make your wife do it all.
12. Go with your wife to her doctor appointments.
13. Surprise your wife with flowers.
14. Call friends to see how they’re doing.
15. Help widows.
16. Spank kids with a flexible stick while they’re young.  It saves a lot of trouble later.
17. Never be ashamed of Jesus.  Evangelize at work.
18. Jesus, wife, kids, ministry, work.  (In that order.)
19. Don’t listen to rock music.
20. Listen to your wife’s advice.
21. Be liberal in giving money.  You can’t outgive God.
22. Forgive quickly.  Bitterness will rot your bones.
23. Efficiency is more important than frugality.
24. Throw things away.
25. God loves new beginnings.
26. Persistence is better than brilliance.
27. Don’t cause division at church.
28. Remember people’s successes and forget their sins.
29. TV is a waste of life.
30. Don’t eat junk food.  Better to spend money on healthy food than on doctors.
31. Learn everything you can.
32. Doing something imperfect is generally better than doing nothing at all.
33. Pray with confidence.
34. Don’t fear visiting people in the hospital.
35. Seek the success of others more than your own.
36. Lead family devotions.
37. Praise your kids when they do something right.
38. Flee sexual temptation.
39. Memorize Romans 6.
40. Shake hands like a man.
41. Help in the kitchen.
42. Stay off motorcycles and ATVs!
43. Read the Bible every day.
44. When you’ve done something wrong, say “Will you forgive me?” and not just “I’m sorry.”
45. Divorce is always wrong.
46. Floss your teeth.
47. Look people in the eye.
48. Show your teeth when you smile.
49. Leave the top shirt button unbuttoned, unless you’re wearing a tie.
50. Don’t be afraid to do something that others think weird, if it is necessary.
51. Put off current gratification for future benefit.
52. And of course… Little is much when God is in it.  Labor not for wealth or fame!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Watch "Audacity" For Free!

Ray Comfort's movie Audacity is now available for free viewing on YouTube.  Learn how to share the gospel with homosexuals!  Watch it, and share it with your friends!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Calvinist Armenian and the Man from Madagascar

Two men from The Master's Academy International stayed with us and shared in our church last Sunday. One of them, Faly Ravohangy, just arrived in the US with his family from Madagascar early this year; the other, Bryan, is a descendant of Armenians who fled the Turkish genocide.  (But he is not an Arminian Armenian.) 
From left to right: Faly, Bryan, Jim (our pastor, praying for them)
The mission of TMAI is to establish training centers for pastors around the world.  The English speaking world has an abundance of resources for pastors who want to learn how to teach the Bible better: books, videos, schools, seminars, and conferences.  Many third world pastors barely have a Bible in their own language.  This makes it very easy for false teachings to capture individual Christians, churches, or even whole nations.  Moreover, most third world pastors cannot afford to come to the US, learn English, and study in a good seminary.  So TMAI is taking the training to them.  So far they have 17 training centers in various locations around the world.  Bryan spent 5 years in TMAI's center in Samara, Russia; Faly aims to start a training center in his native Madagascar when he graduates from seminary himself. 

One thing that initially worried me about TMAI's approach is that their training is intellectually rigorous, which limits the number of students who can successfully complete their training.  There are far too few pastors in the world already, so wouldn't it be better to give a simpler education to a larger number of men?  But after meeting and hearing Faly and Bryan, I understand now that it is not an "either/or" choice.  We need to do both.  All men need to be filled up to their educational capacity with knowledge of how to teach the Bible well.  Some can go further than others.  But without training some at very high levels, if everyone is receiving only a Sunday School education, the church will remain immature and vulnerable to theological wolves and winds of false doctrine. 

Thus, TMAI is strategically aiming to capture the intellectual mountaintops of theology in the countries they serve.  Where the headwaters are pure, the river of Bible teaching will bring life as it flows down to the masses in the valley below. 

I encourage you to watch the video below and consider inviting TMAI representatives to share in your church.

The Most Strategic Way of Doing Missions from TMAI on Vimeo.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The ADA Protects Addicts?

On Monday I received this email from the White House.  To use a narcotic idiom, it blew my mind.  See if it does yours.  (More of my thoughts at the end.)

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of an historic piece of legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For the millions of Americans living with a disability, the ADA provides protection from discrimination and guarantees equal opportunities in order to promote accommodations that can help people live full, productive lives. As someone in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, I strongly share this ideal.
Just as people with physical disabilities benefit under the ADA, people in recovery from substance use disorders are also protected by this landmark legislation .  Our communities have a lot in common - we both face some of the same discrimination, stigma, and historical restriction of opportunities. Our shared experience brings us together.

With approximately 56.7 million Americans living with a disability and an estimated 21.6 million Americans living with a substance use disorder, we are a significant portion of the US population. 12 Despite our numbers, we still face stigma and discrimination in healthcare, education, housing, and employment. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is working to dismantle the stigma experienced by individuals with substance use disorders, just as the National Council on Disability (NCD) and many others are working to abolish discrimination and stigma surrounding all disabilities.  If we combine our numbers, our voices, and our collective experience, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard in all walks of life.
As we celebrate the ADA, let us commit to join forces to address the common challenges faced by our communities. Together, we can work on increasing access to treatment for all people and create a higher standard of care and accommodations through cultural competency training. We can make a significant impact in destigmatizing disability, encouraging compassion and tolerance, and advocating for equality for all persons.
We can carry out that work today, as we celebrate the ADA. But we can also continue that work as we celebrate National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Each September, ONDCP joins with the millions of people in recovery to observe Recovery Month, and I want to ask you to join the celebration.  
This year the theme is "Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!" 

Together, we can join voices to reduce stigma and spread our shared message of effective treatment and successful recovery for anybody with a substance use disorder or disability.

For more resources and to learn more, please visit these links:

That's the end of the letter.  This is a slick way to get votes: when a particular sin becomes popular enough to constitute a voting block, get it declared a disability so that the government can offer its victims protection.  If we get enough rapists, will they be declared disabled too, and need government protection from the "stigma" that is associated with committing rape?  
The big losers in this will be the addicts themselves.  The government's fig leaves of consolation, assuring the addicts that they are not really bad people, just people with a terrible disability, will not ease their consciences or cure their addictions.  Oh, that Christians would reach out to these addicts with the news of a Covering that can truly take away the stigma of addiction!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Call to Single Service

Below is the draft text of a sermon I hope to deliver later this year. Please check it out and let me know if you have any suggestions!

In this message I primarily want to encourage those of you who are single to remain single, if you can.  But first I want to speak to those of you who are already married.  When I speak about the benefits of singleness, you may start to think, “Oh, I wish I were not married!”  Do not let satan plant seeds of discontentment in your mind.  To be married is not a sin.  In fact, marriage is good.  Proverbs says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and receives favor from the Lord”.

As a married person, you have 5 blessings that a single person does not have.

Married people have balance.  God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make him a helper suitable to him.”  (Genesis 2:18) That’s why God created women.  Men and women see the world differently.  They have different emotional habits.  They have different physical characteristics.  Usually men are more courageous, and women are more kind.  When you get married, you become connected to another person who has strengths that match your weaknesses.  Your spouse will balance you.  Together, you will make wiser decisions than either of you would make alone.

Married people have holy, God-honoring sex. Marriage is the only way to have sex that is good and pleasing to God.  All sex outside marriage is sin, and brings God’s judgment.  Sex is a good gift from God; if you want to have sex, get married.  Paul said it’s better for unmarried people to remain single, but “they do not have self control, let them marry, because it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”  (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)

Married people can have children.  The Bible describes some disadvantages to getting married, but it shows no disadvantages to having children.  The Bible consistently speaks of children as a blessing from God.  If you are married, have as many children as you can.  Then work hard and long to train your children to know and love and follow Jesus.  You can disciple your children in a way you cannot disciple anyone else.

Marriage gives men preparation for church leadership.  A church leader must manage his family well, and train his children to be obedient and respectful (1 Timothy 3:4, Titus 1:6).  Paul says, “If a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”  (1 Timothy 3:5)  Leading a church is like leading a family.  Children need love and time and discipline and food.  Church members need love and time and discipline and food.  I was an elder in my church for 3 years.  If I had been a husband and father, I would have been better prepared for the hardships of church leadership.  I believe single men can be church leaders (look at Paul!) but they will have extra work to learn to lead.  Being an unmarried church leader is like trying to go to college without going to high school first.

Married people can also demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church.  Human marriage is designed by God as a temporary picture of an eternal reality.  The way a husband cares for his wife is supposed to show how Jesus loves His people, the church.  The way a wife respects her husband is meant to display how the church should honor and obey Jesus.  (Ephesians 5:22-33) As a single, I can tell a husband, “You must love your wife in the same way that Christ loves the church.” But only a married Christian man can show him what that looks like in very practical ways.

Those are 5 good reasons to marry. Now I will tell you two bad reasons to marry.

Don’t get married because you’re lonely.  Many married people are lonely too.  Don’t expect your spouse to fill the emptiness in your heart.  Only Jesus can do that.

Don’t get married because of social or family pressure.  Marriage is a very serious decision.   When you are single, you can decide to get married, but when you are married, you cannot decide to get single!  When you die, your decisions will be judged by Jesus, not by your family and friends.  

Marriage for the right reasons is very good.  But now I will tell you why I think it is better for single Christians to stay single, if they can.  

I say “if they can” because not everyone can stay single.  The disciples asked Jesus if it is better to remain unmarried.  Jesus said, “Not everyone can receive this, but only those to whom it has been given… If anyone can receive it, let him receive it.”  (Matthew 19:10-12)

How do you know if you should get married?  Try staying single!  If you discover that remaining celibate seems too hard, if your sexual desires are too distracting, then find a wife and enjoy God’s gift of marriage.  Just marry someone who loves Jesus as much as you do.   

Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 7.  I want to show you two facts which explain the value of singleness.

First, time is short.  Look at verse 26.

I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

In other words, if you are married, stay married, don’t get divorced.  If you are unmarried, don’t get married.  Did you notice the reason?  “The present distress”.  What is that?  Let’s keep reading.

28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 29 But this I say, brothers, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

Paul described the “present distress” with two more phrases: in verse 29, “the time has been shortened” and in verse 31, “the form of this world is passing away”.

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon.  Paul lived, and we live, in what the Bible calls “the last days”. When Jesus returns, this world will be destroyed.  Sinners will be thrown into hell.  Christians will be with Jesus forever.  We have only a short time to preach.  Because of this, life cannot go on as normal for us.  We do not have time to get busy with marriage and buying and rejoicing.
Second, marriage brings concerns.  Look at verse 32.

32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

When you are unmarried, you can spend more time praying and reading the Bible and serving the church and preaching the gospel.  When you are married, you need to take care of your wife and your children.  A single person can take bigger risks, and go to more dangerous places.  Single people are more expendable.  I can die, without worrying about what will happen to my wife and children.

Wars have usually been fought and won by single men.  They can die more readily, and therefore fight more bravely, than married men.  When you are a single young man and your country is fighting an evil enemy, you do not look for a wife.  You look for a military office and enlist.  The pleasures of marriage can wait until the war is over.  

The church is at war with the world and the devil.  We will fight until Jesus returns.  We fight to win sinners to God.  We fight to see people of all nations bow their knees before Jesus.  We fight with prayers and preaching, not with bullets and bombs.  We fight to save, not to kill.  But our fighting requires real sacrifice and real suffering.  One of the things that sometimes gets sacrificed is marriage.  

Soon we will be married to Jesus forever.  Why not give up your dream of 50 years of human marriage, and use the freedoms of your singleness to preach Jesus and serve His church?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Are Missionaries Heroes?

I received a forwarded email written by a former member of the United States Air Force, Joseph Calderone.  Here's part of what he said:
IMO the word "Hero" has lost it's real meaning. Hell everybody that served is now a hero. It's like giving everybody a trophy for just participating.

I remember on one occasion when I was wearing my KC hat a guy walked up and asked what a KC 135 was. I politely told him what all the stuff on my hat meant. He was interested and said "All you guys from the Vietnam war are hero's. I told him no, we just did our job. If you must label us you can call us Patriots, but not Heroes. 

He asked me what he and others his age could do to show their gratitude to all our troops. Told him to sign up as we did and sign that blank check. He thanked me for my service and as usual I just said as I always do, "It was a privilege". I never say "You are welcome".
This got me to thinking about parallels within the Christian church.  Do we regard missionaries as heroes?  Maybe they are just normal Christians, and the rest are draft-dodgers!  Do we regard it as a privilege (rather than a sacrifice or even simply as duty) to go to difficult places where Christ has not yet been preached?

Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.  -- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, July 17, 2015

Would You Wear This?

I'm designing a Christian shirt, and I want your help.

I wear Christian T-shirts, but I have a few pet peeves about them.  
  • Most of them have cheesy messages.  It's hard to find ones that are actually evangelistic.  (Although there are a few good ones out there.)
  • Most of them are dark colors, which are hot to wear in Arizona.
  • All of them are collarless, which makes them too informal for some settings.
  • None of them have pockets, which means you have to carry tracts somewhere else. 
So, I'm working with a T-shirt printing place to print a polo shirt, available in several light colors, with a pocket and collar, with "which thief are you?" on the front and "Don't you fear God, since we are under the same sentence of condemnation?" on the back.

Now I've gotten a "mock up" of what it will look like, and I want your suggestions on how to make it better.

Five things you should know:
  1. The shirt will be available in many different lighter tone colors
  2. It will have a front left pocket.
  3. I don't want anything overtly religious on the front side. I want the front side to start conversations. ("Which thief am I? What does that mean?")
  4. I want it to be artistic, but more importantly readable. Many of the Christian shirts on the market today are hard to read.
  5. Adding multiple ink colors increases the price of the shirt.
Now that you know all of that, I would be so grateful (and will give you a discount on the finished product!) if you would be willing to give me your honest suggestions on ways it can be improved.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fighting Sexual Lust

In a few months I may have a chance to speak on the subject of fighting sexual lust.  Here is the draft text of my message.  Let me know if you have suggestions on ways it can be improved!

A lion is following you.  This lion wants to catch you and kill you.  This lion has already destroyed many great men.  He killed the strongest man in history, Samson.  He defeated the best king of Israel, David.  And he destroyed the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon.  This lion is sexual lust.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Matt 5:27,28) It is not enough to avoid the physical act of sex outside marriage.  We must not sin sexually with our eyes and our thoughts.  God can see our thoughts.
Sexual desire is like a fire.  Within a stove, fire is a wonderful tool to cook food and stay warm.  Sex within marriage is similarly wonderful.   But outside proper boundaries, fire destroys.  Like fire, lust is never satisfied, and continues to grow in power and danger.

In the next verses, Jesus says, “ If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”  (Matt 5:29,30) The fire of sexual lust can send us to the fires of hell.  So we must fight it with all our strength.  

But we cannot win the fight if we are wearing chains.  Jesus said, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”  (John 8:34) A non-Christian cannot stop sinning.  Maybe they can stop certain expressions of sin on the outside, but they cannot change the sinfulness of their hearts.  Only Jesus can break the chains of our sin.  Only Jesus can change us from the inside, giving us a new heart.  Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free”!  (John 8:36)

If you are fighting sexual lust or any other sin, there is only one way to freedom.  Come to Jesus!  

Our sins, including our sexual sins, deserve punishment.  We deserve to go to hell.  We cannot earn God’s forgiveness.  We cannot erase our guilt.  But Jesus died, taking the punishment we deserve.  When we turn from our sin and trust in Jesus alone, God forgives us.  Jesus paid the debt that we owed to God.  Jesus, who never lusted, gave us His perfect record of righteousness.  

We know that Christians do still sin.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  (1 John 1:8)  When we see Jesus, then we will never sin again.  “When we see Him, we will be like Him, because we will see Him the way He is.”  (1 John 3:2)

But there is good news for us even before Jesus returns.  Jesus’ death freed us from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin.  We don’t have to sin any more.  We are not slaves to sin.  

Did you know that a dead man never sins?  You could hold a pornographic magazine in front of a dead man, and he would not lust.  Romans 6 says, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” (v. 6, 7, 11)

If you are not a Christian, I can give you no hope in escaping sexual addiction.  But if you are a Christian, you have great hope for change.  God’s Holy Spirit lives inside you.  He will give you the desire and power to obey God.  

If you are a Christian, you have weapons in the fight against the lion of lust.  

Getting married can be helpful.  Paul said, “If they do not have self control, let them marry.  It is better to marry than to burn.”  (1 Cor. 7:9)  By getting married, you can experience sex in a holy and good way, with your spouse.  It is sex with joy, not guilt.  But perhaps you cannot get married.  Or perhaps you are already married and you still struggle with sexual lust.  You have more weapons.

First, get busy!  David sinned with Bathsheba because he didn’t go with his army to the battle. (2 Samuel 12:1-5)  Idleness breeds sin.  Find ways to serve people, especially needy people in your church.  Find opportunities to tell people about Jesus.  The harvest is abundant, and the laborers are few.  

You have the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  When Jesus was tempted by satan, He quoted Scripture verses to satan.  David said, “I have treasured your Word in my heart, so that I will not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)  Memorize some verses from the Bible.  Then, when temptation comes, start quoting the verses.  Say them aloud if you need.  God’s Word is powerful!

Lions usually travel in groups.  You can weaken lust by fighting the other sins that travel with it.  Yielding to other sinful passions, like anger, will weaken you against the passion of sexual lust.

Sexual sin is often connected with worshiping idols.  When the Israelites worshipped the golden calf at Mount Sinai, “they sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”  (Exodus 32:6)  Notice the connection with food also.  Being a glutton weakens you in fighting sexual lust.  

Show honor to your parents.  Listen to their advice.  Do not follow them to sin, but respect their position as your parents.  God can use your parents to speak wisdom to you, that will help you to avoid the traps of sin.  In Proverbs, a father tells his son, “If you receive my words… then you will understand the fear of the Lord… so you will be delivered from the adulteress with her smooth words.”  (Proverbs 2:1, 5, 16)

The biggest reason why Christians fail to defeat lust is pride.  Pride cuts us off from God’s help.  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  (James 4:6) Our pride is very clever.  It can appear at least four ways.

  1. The “I can keep my sin a secret” pride.  If you hide your sin, you will never defeat it.  “He who covers his sin, will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes it will find mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) “Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)  “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:7)  Don’t keep your sin in the dark.  If you are a man struggling with lust, tell a few other Christian men in your church about it.  If you are a woman, find some Christian women.  Ask them to pray for you and to question you frequently about your spiritual health.  If you live alone, move into a house with other people.  
  2. The “I am strong now” pride.  Becoming a Christian does not mean that you will be able to look at pornographic magazines without lusting.  Don’t think, “Because I am a Christian, I can watch dirty TV and it will not cause me to sin.”  No, being a Christian means you have the power to turn the TV off or even to remove the TV from your home.  If your mobile phone causes you to sin, get rid of it!   “Let the person who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  (1 Corinthians 10:12)
  3. The “I want to look good” pride.  This is a sneaky pride.  Sometimes people are eager to break their sinful habits.  But they want to be free so that they can respect themselves.  They don’t want to depend on Jesus’ purity, they want to be able to boast in their own purity.  They worship freedom from sin, instead of worshipping Jesus.
  4. The “I will punish myself” pride.  This may be the most clever pride of all.  Some people try to atone for their sexual sin.  When they fall into sin, they loathe themselves. They try to earn God’s forgiveness by rolling in guilt.  But Jesus already suffered for sin.  When we try to earn our own righteousness by punishing ourselves, we tell Jesus, “I don’t need You or Your death.”  

We cannot defeat sin simply by saying “no”.  Holiness is not simply avoiding evil, it is loving good.  You will yield to lust unless you believe that Jesus is more pleasurable and satisfying than sex.  When we take God’s gift of sex and use it outside marriage, we are telling God, “Sex is better than You are!”  We turn God’s gift into an idol.  We worship the creation (sex) instead of our Creator.  Sexual lust is a sin against God.  Jacob’s son Joseph told Potiphar’s wife, who wanted to commit adultery with Joseph, “How could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  (Genesis 39:9)

The Bible says that in God’s presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).  Do you believe that?  Then you will not fall into lust.  Jesus said that the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8).  Do you believe that?  Then you will avoid looking at naked people so that you can see God instead.  Both lust and God promise you happiness and satisfaction.  But only one of them is telling the truth.  Victory comes when you believe what God promises, not what lust promises.