Archive for May 11, 2012
Tags: Christ, Epistle to the Galatians, Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians, God, James, Jesu, Paul
Ever been caught in the middle of a fight? When I was a kid in junior high school, two of my buddies had a disagreement and planned to prove their dominant masculinity in a fight at the park after school. “Red” was a friend from my youth group at church, and Larry was a buddy from my neighborhood. As we walked to the park after school that day, all of Red’s friends were following him, while all of Larry’s friends clustered around him. I didn’t know what to do. Both of them were my friends. So I decided to do the diplomatic thing. First, I walked for a bit with Larry, and then I slipped over to Red’s side of the street. I’ll never forget what Red said to me. “Joe, you’re either my friend or Larry’s friend. You can’t have it both ways. Make up your mind.”
I knew right away that what he said had a ring of truth to it. Not unlike Red’s remark to me, the apostle James jabs us with a stinging warning: “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
I doubt that any of us would want to be on the wrong side of that equation. Yet it’s so easy to sidle up to the ways of the world. How can we know whose side we’re really on? Thankfully, Paul gives us a clue. In Galatians 5:19-21, just before he gives the famous list of the fruits of the Spirit, he lists several examples of how friendship with the world shows up in our actions: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
If you find yourself in that list, you’re making a huge statement about whose side you’re on. And here’s a scary thought—not only are you a friend of the world, but an enemy of God when your actions stand in sharp contrast to His will and His ways. Thankfully, Paul doesn’t leave us in enemy territory. He goes on to list some examples of what friendship with God looks like: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Jesus Himself made the grounds for friendship with Him clear when He said to His disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Doing His will is what proves our friendship with Him, and it is what empowers us to bear much fruit to His glory!
So, whose side are you on? Friendship with Jesus is proven when we walk with Him in His will and His ways, which means that friendship with Jesus is a choice—a choice between Him and the ways of this fallen world.
Take it from me, James, Paul, and my friend Red, you can’t have it both ways. So be sure that you’re walking in Jesus’ crowd!
- Read carefully through the lists in Galatians 5:19-23. Which list best describes you? Would the people who know you agree with your answer?
- What do you think James meant when he used the phrase “adulterous people”? How does it affect you to think of your relationship with God and the world in terms of a love relationship?
- None of us wants to be described as an “enemy of God.” What do we need to do to prevent that from happening?
- Remember, God’s most passionate desire for your life is that you will bear fruit. Do you have that passion in common with Him?
- Think of a practical way that you can be a friend of God today. (Hint: consult the list in Galatians 5:22-23.)
Tags: God, Huldah, Jerusalem, Jew, Josiah, Sefer Torah, Shallum, Torah
“Hilkiah and those the king had sent with himwent to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.” — 2 Chronicles 34:22
During the time of Josiah, there lived three renowned prophets. Jewish tradition teaches that Jeremiah prophesied in the streets of Jerusalem; Tzefaniah prophesied in the synagogues; and Huldah – a woman – had a school for women. Together they formed the spiritual leadership of the nation.
Josiah was a good king and took on the huge task of restoring God’s Temple. Kings before him had neglected and even desecrated the holy space. During the renovations the workers were thrilled to uncover an ancient Torah scroll that had been hidden away in the Temple walls. But the joy was short lived when they discovered that the scroll was open to an ominous section in Deuteronomy that describes all of the terrible things that will happen to the Jewish people if they forsake the ways of God. The king was deeply shaken and heartbroken, remembering how his father and grandfather had lived. He rent his clothes and ordered his men to take the scroll to a prophet for further clarification and advisement.
From all of the great prophets that were available at the time, the men chose to go to Huldah. Why?
The truth is that any prophet they would have gone to would have said exactly the same thing. A prophet is required to speak the word of God word for word. The king and his men already had a good idea of what the prophet was going to tell them. They knew that they could not change what they were about to hear, but they could change the way in which it was said. Huldah, as a compassionate woman, would give over the prophecy with love and grace. If they were about to hear bad news, at least she would break it gently.
As Josiah anticipated, Huldah prophesied that the Jewish people were about to experience the exile described in Deuteronomy. It wouldn’t happen in Josiah’s lifetime because of his righteousness, but it was on its way.
The reaction to the prophecy is positive. Josiah leads the people in repentance and even though they never fully return to God, perhaps it was that strengthening of spirit that gave the Jews the ability to withstand the harsh exile. This productive reaction and positive outcome can be attributed to Huldah. Had another prophet conveyed the message it might have lead to despair and more distance from God. But Huldah’s gentle tone inspired hope and encouraged change.
Every time we speak, people hear so much more than just the words we say. They hear how we say them. So whenever we open our mouths to speak, we have an opportunity to encourage and give hope through our words and tone, or we have the ability to tear down and cause despair.
As it says in Proverbs, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (16:24).
Tags: Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Child pornography, Morality in Media, New York, New York Court of Appeals, New York State, Victoria Graffeo
Recently our staff took some time to look back over the last couple of decades of ministry, discuss the current battles of today, and project where we might be in another 10, 15, 25 years. The picture we painted wasn’t pretty.
When this ministry began over 25 years ago, the pornography we fought was available only by way of magazine, video, or a seedy strip club or “adult” bookstore that no “respectable” person would want to be seen entering. Now, there is a flood of the most horrific pornography at the click of a mouse in the privacy of our homes – allowing those with a “respectable” reputation to have their cake and eat it too.
While pornography is still considered offensive by many, we are also seeing it lose its stigma. How much further will we fall? It’s obvious the trend is a downward one. We know that pornography leads to further desensitization and declination. It also leads the user to seek out harder and harder images. So what will the next 25 years bring?
In looking ahead, our fear is that the next group of victims will more and more be children. Of course we are already seeing that. It seems as if every night on our local news there is another report of Criminal Sexual Conduct against a child.
Today the public is repulsed and angered at such crimes victimizing and preying upon these innocent little ones, but what about in another 25 years? Will America slowly lose that indignation and repulsion regarding sex with kids? Tragically, that answer could very well be yes. In 1987 few would have predicted the cultural shift we’ve seen in regards to the acceptance of homosexuality, the proliferation of pornography, and the immense attack upon marriage – even from an American president.
Two recent examples indicate to me we are already on that path toward the further sexualization of children. Will it begin by lowering the age of consent for sex with younger teens? Or legalizing child pornography? Or lessening punishment for child predators to a slap on the wrist?
Welcome to the year 2037, for it seems we are already there.
A recent news story making headlines in our local area is of a 59 year old male teacher who engaged in a sexual relationship with a 16 year old female student. The school district at first tried to cover it up, allowing the teacher to resign and paid him the remainder of his salary – without contacting authorities to report the crime. The girl, now 17, is pregnant with his child as the case recently went before the courts. At the court hearing, the teacher’s attorney told reporters: “It’s a love story. That’s what it is.”
How sickening! Not only would this 59 year old man prey upon a young girl, but that his lawyer would have the gall to refer to criminal sexual conduct as “a love story.”
All too often we are hearing such repugnant reports of teachers or other authority figures preying upon youth. Most people are still outraged by such crimes, but is the groundwork being laid to make this more acceptable? That is exactly what this attorney is doing by calling it a “love story.”
In this case the prosecutors struck a deal with the teacher giving him just a slap on the wrist for this disgusting crime and abuse of authority. The teacher agreed to plead to a lesser charge and the prosecutor agreed not to pursue charges of criminal sexual conduct. In addition, the teacher will lose his teaching certificate – not much of a punishment for a 59 year old already at the end of his teaching career.
According to a news report, the prosecutor will recommend that the teacher be sentenced within the guidelines of the lesser felony charges the teacher pleaded to. “The prosecutor said that recommended time was between zero and nine months in prison, though the crime is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a $4,000 fine.” The teacher “will likely only spend a few months in prison — if he is incarcerated at all.”
Here we have a sexual crime against a minor treated virtually as a misdemeanor. Don’t pay a few speeding tickets and you could get more jail time than this pervert.
The next example on our road to 2037 came this week from a New York Court of Appeals which ruled it is legal to view child pornography on the Internet. Yes, you read that right. This appeals court has ruled viewing child porn online is not a crime.
Writing for the majority opinion, Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick stated: “Merely viewing Web images of child pornography does not, absent other proof, constitute either possession or procurement within the meaning of our Penal Law. …”
“… Child pornography is the photographic record of the sexual abuse of a child so it is a singular outrage that the highest court in New York State has decriminalized the act of viewing of child pornography by computer.
Children live with shame and hurt from knowing that a record of their abuse circulates on the Internet. Each time these photos are viewed, the child is revictimized. Some children never recover from the experience.
Child pornography should be treated as a very serious violation of the human dignity of the victims and those who take enjoyment from the despicable act of viewing such material should be harshly punished. What the New York court has done is to give permission to pedophiles and child molesters to continue the sexual molestation and recording of child sex abuse. …”
So here we are in 2012 and the future is already at our doorstep. Viewing child pornography declared legal; teachers having sex with students and getting a slap on the wrist. Children treated as sexual objects.
Where’s the “take action” link? Is there anything we can do to stop this increasing wickedness and degradation?
A first step is to protect your own children and grandchildren. Protect them of course from sexual predators, but also protect their hearts and minds. Shield them from the desensitizing sexual messages of TV, movies, and music. Don’t allow your daughters to dress provocatively. Teach your sons to respect and show regard toward girls/women and teach your daughters to respect themselves. Talk to your children about God’s perfect plan regarding sexuality.
Secondly, we as God’s people should be fervently praying for the Lord’s mercy and intervention in our wicked nation. As Nehemiah wept before God on behalf of his nation, may we cry out for repentance and revival across America.
Tags: Canaan, Christ, Christianity, God, Jesu, Jesus Christ, Jordan, Resurrection
First and foremost Christ teaches resurrection and life. The power of Christianity is life. It brings us not merely law, duty, example, with high and holy teaching and admonition. It brings us the power to follow the higher ideal and the life that spontaneously does the things commanded. But it is not only life, but resurrection life.
And it begins with a real crisis, a definite transaction, a point of time as clear as the morning dawn. It is not an everlasting dying and an eternal struggle to live. But it is all expressed in a tense that denotes definiteness, fixedness and finished action. We actually died at a certain point and as actually began to live the resurrection life.
And death is only the pathway and portal,
To the life that shall die nevermore;
And the cross leadeth up to the crown everlasting,
Tags: Dairy Queen, Denny, Ezekiel, God, holyspirit, Israel, Lord, Prayer
…and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws.
I want to live the best kind of life. I want to make my life count. I don’t want to waste my life, living for transient and silly things. I want to live for what really matters.
My desire to live significantly is even stronger these days since I recently turned 55. By most measures, I am now a full-fledged senior citizen. This means, among other things, that I now get a senior discount at Denny’s, Dairy Queen, and Dunkin’ Donuts. (Of course I’ll be careful not to overuse this discount in order to maximize the number of years I can use it!) More seriously, though, becoming 55 reminds me that I have only so much time left on this earth, and that I want to use it well.
One approach to living well emphasizes following the rules. Life is governed by an elaborate list of dos and don’ts. If we do the right things and avoid the wrong things, then we’ll live the best kind of life. Sometimes Christians are tempted to think of life in these terms. We fall into a legalism that promises the best kind of life, but cannot deliver on its promise.
This is not to say, however, that rules don’t matter, especially God‘s rules. It is right to love your neighbor and wrong to hate your neighbor. And, if you seek to love and to avoid hate, you will experience a better sort of life. But no matter how hard you try to love and not hate, you’ll find that you simply cannot follow the rules consistently.
God offers a different approach to living. He says, “I will give you my spirit so that you can walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws” (36:27). In other words, God will help us to live in the best kind of way. We will, in fact, follow his rules, not because we approach life legalistically, but because his Spirit guides and directs us. Moreover, the Spirit will lead us to do that which we would never have considered possible and will empower us for contributing to God’s work in the world. Whether we’re at work or in school, whether we’re meeting with our colleagues or hanging out with friends, the Spirit of God will be at work in and through us, guiding us, inspiring us, empowering us, and, therefore, helping us to live the best kind of life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to approach life from a legalistic point of view? Why? How is this working for you? In what ways have you experienced the presence and power of the Holy Spirit?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I want to live the best kind of life. I know that following your commandments will always be the best for me. Thus, it is tempting for me to turn my life into a game of dos and don’ts. Yet, this approach to living always falls short because I am unable to follow through.
How much I need your help, Lord! And how much help you give me! Thank you for the gift of your Spirit. Thank you for dwelling within me, for healing, renewing, and empowering me. Thank you for leading me in your paths. Help me, Lord, to walk at all times in your Spirit. May I be attentive to you and your direction, so that I might live for your purposes and glory. Amen.
Tags: Book of Proverbs, God, Hunger, Jesu, Poverty, Solomon, Soup kitchen, United States
Statistics are tricky. While numbers give us information, sometimes they can also desensitize us to the people those numbers represent. This hit me recently as I read a statistic: Every year 15 million people die from hunger. That’s chilling, and for those of us who live in cultures of plenty, it’s hard to fathom. In 2008, nearly 9 million children died before their fifth birthday, with a third of those deaths related to hunger. These are staggering numbers, but they are much more than numbers. They are individuals loved by God.
We can show the Father’s heart of love by responding to people’s physical needs. Solomon wrote, “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Prov. 14:31). We can show mercy to the needy by volunteering at a soup kitchen, assisting in a job search, financially supporting the drilling of wells in places in need of fresh water, distributing food in poverty-stricken regions, teaching a trade, or providing lunches for school children.
Accepting this responsibility honors the Father and His concern for all. And those who are starving might be better able to hear the message of the cross if their stomachs aren’t growling.