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.