Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The forces of nature are powerful. When Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans last year, the results were devastating. We saw houses in the media, severely damaged by the fury of winds and waves. But I could show you other houses in New Orleans in similar condition, not crumbling because of storms, but because of termites!
Before the hurricane struck, New Orleans was being consumed by termites. Within the past decade, 2 billion dollars in damage was done to the city and it costs about 500 million dollars a year to treat them.
Temptation to infidelity works much the same way. It eats away at a marriage until it collapses. We see the destruction of a home. From outside we see what appears the sudden disintegration of a marriage. But not so. It is seldom a sudden storm that brings the relationship down. Rather bite by delicious bite more and more love is eaten away by the pursuit of lust. Then one day the home becomes rubble.
Joseph's story can show us how to exterminate the termites of sexual sin before they destroy our home.
1. THE DANGER THAT HE FACED (v.1-7). Consider:
· ITS SOURCE. Joseph was a red-blooded young man with all the sexual desire any man his age possesses. God has created us as sexual beings. He made us male and female. He has ordained that the act of sex be within the boundaries of marriage.
Sin is always exceeding the boundaries God has established. It is the perverting of God-given drives fulfilled in forbidden ways. God has placed within us appetite. We need to eat to live. But when we become gluttons it is sin. God has put thirst in us. We can't survive long without water. But when we get drunk with alcohol we sin. We need rest. But too much is sloth and that is sin. Sexual temptation is an appeal to legitimate desires to be fulfilled illicitly.
· ITS SPHERE. Temptation comes to Joseph as he goes about his normal course of life. You don't have to go to some topless bar or sleazy brothel. The termites of temptation will come to you. Your home is in danger. Satan wants to wreck it!
2. THE DECISION THAT HE FORTIFIED (v.8-10) We see:
· A MAN OF CONVICTION (v.8-9) I cannot imagine that this is the first time Joseph had considered these issues and how to respond. His prompt obedience flowed from a life of conviction. He knew God's demands and had determined to follow them. Rom.12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...." We are either being conformed to the world or transformed by the Word. Do you have biblical convictions?
· A MAN OF COMMITMENT (v.10) James said, "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you." But he won't go far and he won't stay long. The devil will be back especially if the devil is in a blue dress.
You made a vow--keep it! You made a promise before God and His people--honor it! No one made you pledge to forsake all others and be faithful to your spouse. It was your choice and now you can choose to keep that commitment.
3. THE DEITY THAT HE FEARED (v.9b) Joseph had a healthy fear of a Holy God. I'm not talking about terror as though God is an abusive Father. He is love, but He is also the Righteous Judge.
· THE REASONING "How can I...?" Joseph had thought through the consequences of yielding to sin. Have you? Here is a list of some of them:
Effects of Infidelity
Nobody is immune to sexual temptation. It is a serious problem and deserves serious attention. This article is meant to be a helpful reminder of how terrible the consequences of falling to sexual temptation can be. If You rehearse these consequences on a regular basis, you will be able to identify the fog of sin's deception which will motivate you to think and live purely today - which is the only way to prevent immorality tomorrow.
CONSEQUENCES WHICH CONCERN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
· Grieving of the Lord who redeemed me.
· Displeasure of the One whose opinion most matters to me.
· Discrediting the name of Yahweh - dragging his name into the mud.
· Loss of reward and commendation from God.
· One day having to look at Jesus face to face and explain why I did it.
· Forcing God to discipline me in various ways.
CONSEQUENCES WHICH CONCERN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY SPOUSE AND MY FAMILY
· Untold hurt to ___________________ (fill in spouse's name).
· Loss of _______________'s respect.
· Loss of _______________'s trust.
· If my blindness should continue or if ____________ is unable to forgive me, I could lose him/her.
· Loss of my children's respect.
· Loss of my children's trust.
· If my infidelity should continue or my children are unable to forgive me, I could lose them.
· Loss of example and credibility, nullifying my influence on my family who need to build on their relationships with Christ.
· Because of my present failure, future generations of my family may have difficulty in this area.
· Shame to my family would result.
· The probability that my mother and father would know about my unfaithfulness, and how it would hurt them (possibly even blaming themselves).
CONSEQUENCES BROUGHT UPON MYSELF AS A RESULT OF MY CONDUCT
· Shame and life-long embarrassment to myself.
· Discrediting my own name.
· Loss of self-respect.
· Terrible feelings of guilt are hard to shake; even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?
· Plaguing memories and flashbacks that could taint future intimacy with my spouse.
· Failure in the area of sexual temptation may affect my ability to to know "right from wrong" in other important moral areas, having defiled my conscience.
CONSEQUENCES WHICH CONCERN MY FRIENDS AND MINISTRY
· Shame and hurt to my friends and especially those I have taught about Christ and discipled toward spiritual maturity.
· Shame to my church family.
· Shame and hurt to those I work with at _________________________ (fill name of business).
· Weakened faith of those I have ministered to.
· Loss of my children's respect.
· Irretrievable loss of years of witnessing to my unsaved friends and family.
· Possibly keeping some from accepting Christ, being lost for eternity.
· Years of training and/or experience in my ministry wasted for at least a long period of time, maybe for good.
· Surrender of the thing I am called to and love to do (consider aspects of my gifts as used in ministry).
· Following in the footsteps of others I know of whose immorality caused me to grieve.
· Pain to innocent people around me who would get hit by my shrapnel (ie. the sins of Achan, David, and others).
· Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the enemy of God and all that is good.
· Laughter, rejoicing and blasphemous smugness by those who disrespect God and the church (2 Sam. 12:14) .
· Heaping judgment and endless problems on the person I committed adultery with.
· Possible physical consequences (pregnancy from adultery, STD's, AIDS, etc.).
Keep your mind on the things of God, especially upon His Word. Here are a few scripture verses upon which to meditate:
Hold onto instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.--Proverbs 4:13
I have made a covenant with my eyes, how then could I gaze at a virgin?--Job 31:1
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked, or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it, turn from it and go on your way."--Proverbs 4:14-15
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.--Proverbs 4:23
And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.--Romans 6:13
Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body... Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!... Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body... For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."--I Corinthians 6:13-20
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.--Galatians 6:7
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one woman (a one woman kind of man)--I Timothy 3:2
Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.--I Timothy 5:1,2
· THE RESULTS "sin against God?" Ultimately what makes sin to be sin is that it is against God. He sets the standards and He has the right to do so. David confessed in Psalm 51, "Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight."
4. THE DESTRUCTION THAT HE FLED (v.11-12) There is:
· TEMPTATION THAT CANNOT BE EVADED (v.11-12a) We don't have to go looking for sexual temptation--it's everywhere. This is the world we live in, where sex is used to sell cars, perfume, even hamburgers. Modesty has gone the way of the dinosaur. The way people dress and the way they talk, even church folk, is scandalous. We have forgotten how to blush.
· TEMPTATION THAT CAN BE ESCAPED (v.12b) While we can't get away from all temptation, we can flee before the temptation leads into sin. There comes a point of decision. The Bible says, "Flee fornication!"
The Internet poses great dangers. Even though it can be a powerful tool for good (I am using it now), it can also pose grave peril to the unwary. For men who are highly visual we are always but one click away from a world of pornographic images that can begin a downward slide into an abyss of sin. For women who are highly relational they are but one click away from a chatroom where emotional entanglements can enslave and lead to deepening discussions and finally adultery.
5. THE DIFFICULTY THAT HE FACED (v.13-20) It has never been easy to lead a godly life. Joseph wasn't free and clear.
· INTIMIDATION (v.13-18) It has been said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Mrs. Potiphar was the original Desperate Housewife and now she seeks revenge. If you try to stand for God, you will face the world's wrath. It is not easy to stay pure no matter our age or marital status. But for teens and college age singles there are pressures we can scarcely imagine. Consider the following commentary on our culture from Kairos Journal:
Polysexual and Heteroflexible in a New York High School
During the late-afternoon, free period, Alair, Molly, Ilia, Nathan, Jason, Elle, and Nikki gather in a second-floor hallway of Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan. This is their "cuddle puddle," where "[t]here are girls petting girls and girls petting guys and guys petting girls."1 "Exploring their sexuality," these high school juniors are coining terms to describe themselves:
"[P]olysexual, ambisexual, pansexual, pansensual, polyfide, bi-curious, bi-queer, fluid, metroflexible, heteroflexible, heterosexual with lesbian tendencies" or, as Alair puts it, "just sexual." The terms are designed less to achieve specificity than to leave all options open.2
Alair estimates that at least 80% of her female friends are experimenting with lesbianism: "It's either to please a man, or to try it out, or just to be fun, or cause you're bored, or just cause you like it . . . whatever."3 Though not nearly so high, the national average is still alarming. In 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics announced that the percentage of 15 to 19-year-old girls claiming a lesbian encounter (11%) matched that of the general female populace. In other words, girls are rushing into same-sex experiences at a higher rate than before. Indeed, Cornell professor Ritch Savin-Williams believes the youth rate is more nearly 20%.4
At the same high school, four other students have written a joint diary, published as The Notebook Girls.5 Though their language is vile, their behavior deplorable, and their revelations shameless, these four "young ladies" now matriculate at elite colleges--Washington (in St. Louis), Cornell, Wesleyan, and Princeton.6 Far from social outcasts, they are celebrities, with a book contract from Time-Warner. While most of their sexual talk focuses on illicit alliances with boys, they are quite open to same-sex encounters. One of the girls, Julia, writes of her relationship with "Tori":
You guys, I really like her and I can't stop thinking about her! But what does this mean? Am I a lez, I don't think so . . . I mean, I never actually thought I was gay, does that mean I'm definitely not? It's weird and scary to think about if I am . . . I'm just really confused. Not that I need to categorize myself, but I just want to know. What am I? Ahh! . . . Riding the sexuality carousel is not fun. Well, maybe a little bit.7
And so she goes wandering, sadly, without a moral compass, afraid of being "homophobic" and assured by the culture, at every turn, that homosexuality is normal (e.g., some of her classmates observe a "Day of Silence" in honor those "silenced" by the stigma of homosexuality,8 operate or visit a same-sex kissing-booth on the school's "Gayday,"9 and view or appear in plays at a "hardcore boho lesbian theater in the [Greenwich] village."10
Reflecting on her sexual cuddling and puddling, Alair's thoughts turned to her mom and dad: "My parents are awesome. I think they've tried to raise me slightly quirky, like in a very hippie little way, and it totally backfired on them . . . I went further than I think they wanted me to go."11 Alas, the blind have led the blind and are all dismayed, cultural sophistication notwithstanding.
Churches inclined to think of youth ministry in terms of entertainment or sanctified baby-sitting must understand that their young people are facing incredible social pressure to conform to the worst the "adult" world has to offer. But what an opportunity for youth pastors to raise up biblically acute, socially alert, spiritually sound, sexually pure, and even joyful representatives of Christ to a student culture adrift in a sea of self-gratification and self-destruction. What a time and place for salt and light.
Alex Morris,"The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School," New York, February 6, 2006, 23, http://newyorkmetro.com/news/features/15589/ (accessed May 15, 2006).
Julia Baskin, Lindsey Newman, Sophie Pollitt-Cohen, and Courtney Toombs, The Notebook Girls (New York: Warner Books, 2006), no page numbers given in the book.
Baskin, et al.
How we must pray and set the standard for young people or marriage as we know it will sink into a black hole of immorality!
· ISOLATION (v.19-20) Don't you think Satan whispered in Joseph's ear, "You could have been enjoying the pleasure of a woman's body, but instead you're locked up in jail." The devil still tries to tell us we're missing out. We feel isolated in a world of pleasure seekers. It's not easy to stand alone, but observe:
6. THE DELIGHT THAT HE FOUND (v.21-23) There was:
· A PRESENT FAVOR (v.21-22) God blessed Joseph. Studies have shown that a committed monogamous relationship results in the most fulfilling sexual pleasure. Then we will have:
· A PROSPEROUS FUTURE (v.23) God had a great plan in place for Joseph. He became a ruler and savior of his people. Joseph married and had children. His legacy of faith is a shining beacon to all of us. What would have happened had be failed?
On Memorial Day we honor those brave men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Many of the first to die in any war are the Marines who always seem to be on the forefront of the fight. They have a motto, "Semper Fidelis" Latin for "always faithful." When they roll my cold corpse into the church and my wife comes by the coffin, my prayer is that she can look in and say about me, "Semper Fidelis!" I want my kids to be able to say of their Dad, "Semper Fidelis." Most of all, one day I want Jesus to say, "Semper Fidelis"--ALWAYS FAITHFUL!
One of the results of our recent church member survey was a confirmation of what I knew to be true--there is a diversity of opinion about worship style at Pole Creek--and many of these opinions are strongly held. About an equal number of people wanted more Southern Gospel and more contemporary music, with some wanting more hymns. Most wanted the blended style of music that we are currently trying to do. So what can we do? Basically, the best thing is to keep doing what is working--a middle of the road mix that appeals to the broadest range of worshippers. Yet in saying this, we recognize the impossibility of pleasing everyone. The survey and the opinions expressed are still important to us, even if we can't accommodate everyone's wishes. It was important for you to state your desire and important for us to hear it. One of the things it does is to give your leaders an opportunity to discuss these issues with you. I want to share the following article I came across recently. It deals with so called worship wars. I am so thankful that the people of Pole Creek love the Lord and love the church enough that they have not started a war over worship (what a contradiction that is anyway). There has been a little sniping from time to time, however. I guess I'm an idealist, but I happen to think that as long as music is sound in theology and honors God, I should listen, learn and join in offering praise to God--traditional, contemporary, classical, blue grass--and I do. Do I have a style I prefer over others? Yes. Should I force everyone to have that same preference? No. In the opening statement of this article Ken Johnson deals with the reality that in some places it would be better for members to leave rather than create strife in the church. Again, I am grateful that so far as I know we have none who have caused such contention and do not stand in need of such radical surgery. As previously mentioned, I am an idealist. One day we will all offer worship together in heaven and so I think we ought to begin tuning up on earth today. That means we would accommodate others musical tastes out of love for our family and would participate regardless of our preferred style out of love for our Father. So ponder this:
Worship wars – are they still around?
by Ken Johnson, consultant 16 May 2006
This may sound harsh, but church members who don’t like the worship style, need to find another church that uses the style they prefer. It doesn’t matter whether they have gone to a church their whole life; if the congregation has approved a pastor and his or her leadership, then members need to either go along or leave. There is nothing wrong with finding another church, but there is something wrong with starting a fight over worship style.
Great expectations for worship
Here is what I expect when I go to worship: A joyous celebration that includes laughter, quiet time, teaching, getting to know other people, participation—mine and others—affirmation, challenge, something new and creative every time, … the list could go on and on.
What do you expect in worship?
Paul said to the church he started in Philippians when he was trying to get them to move forward "... But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3: 13-14 NIV).
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.
I love that sentence because it has so much meaning. Why is it that some Christians are always behind the rest of the world? Why do we have to worship the same way that people did 30, 40, or 50 years ago? Why can’t we realize that when God created the heavens and the earth he continued and created man and woman and gave them brains so they could be creative and produce new things?
When the first wheel was created God didn’t say, "That’s good, now don’t build anything better." He allowed us freedom; he even encouraged us to continue in our inventive ways. Yes, I know, sometimes we go a little too far in some of our creations, but God also gave us a brain and a conscience to know when to stop. Yes, sometimes we don’t listen to our conscience and we go overboard, but that is the reason he allows us freedom to make our own choices and to hopefully learn from our mistakes.
Our purpose as Christians is to win people for Christ. Are we doing that when we are fighting over worship styles?
Why do some churches say, "We are not going to change our worship style even if the church dies. If people want to come to this church they will have to accept what we do. If they don’t then they need to go to another church." Our culture has changed just like the cultures before us. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact it is important that we transform what we do as our culture changes or the church will die.
In the middle to late ‘60s we began using choruses in worship and the contemporary Christian music phenomenon began, which for the "worship purists" was a difficult pill to swallow. In the ‘70s we began developing many different products like models and colors of cars, literally thousands of different kinds of light bulbs, a wide variety of magazines, and at the same time an amazing evolution in worship began. We became creative in our worship, much to the chagrin of the mainline church.
Worship service length is an area of contention. I haven’t found anywhere in the Bible or in any historical writings where it gives the length of the service. So how long should the service be? Is there a magical time limit of 60 minutes?
Bobby Sanderson, minister of music at the First Baptist Church, Columbus, Miss., listed these questions in the church newsletter:
1. Is worship about God or is it about what I like?
2. Do I seek God’s presence or the comfort of being with friends and doing what is familiar?
3. When is the last time God "blind-sided" me and spoke in a way I did not expect?
4. Am I so contemporary I lose the transcendence of God?
5. Am I so traditional that I forget God’s relevance?
6. Do I see myself as part of an audience giving approval/disapproval to worship leaders?
7. Can God use what I don’t like?
8. Am I more into music than the spoken word?
9. Do I ignore the command to sing just to get to the "message?"
10. Do I leave worship with a clear sense of what I’m supposed to do?
11. Is the style of worship more important to me than the object of worship?
12. Do I love God’s presence as much as the songs I sing and play?
13. Can I worship God when it’s hard work and my joy is running low?
Do any of these apply to you?
If we are worshiping God, and Jesus is the center of our lives, then we should unite, not fight. A church needs to hire the pastor that they feel is right for it and trust that person to lead them in the right direction. This simple strategy would preclude fighting.
Worship, especially corporate worship, is a main ingredient of the Christian faith. Worship time usually includes many different people, each one as important as the other, so the church needs to find ways to minister to all of them. We need to minister to all of the people some of the time, because we won’t be able to minister to all of the people all of the time. This calls for variety in our worship.
Why are there different denominations and styles of worship? Are they there so people can choose how they want to worship? The variety makes that choice simple.
I believe that every time Christians worship, God speaks to those people he wants to hear. So you need to provide a wide variety of music and worship experiences to meet as many needs as possible. Go to worship this week with an open mind, looking for God to speak to you and you will go home wanting to go to church again next Sunday.
Ken Johnson is a graduate of Church Central Consultant Training. He heads the Ken Johnson Group, consulting small to medium-sized churches that are struggling to stay alive.
Reprinted with permission © 2005, Ken Johnson, President and CEO of The Ken Johnson Group, LLC. To contact Ken, or for permission to reprint this article, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or click here for FREE issues of Newsletter Tips for the 20th Century Church and The Phantom Pew Sitter or a FREE lifetime subscription.
I appreciate Ken giving me permission to share this with you. My prayer is that all of us will move forward together in love. Let me close by sharing an experience. Several years ago I had the privilege of going on mission trips to Brazil and India. As I met with my fellow believers I experienced a worship style that was little like mine. I did not know the language. I did not know the ritual. The music was strange to me. BUT I WORSHIPPED! It was powerful to encounter God even in a strange culture--to find the warmth of love and passion for God that I could join with despite the differences--for you see worship is essentially not a form or musical style--it is a matter of the heart. Jesus said that the only acceptable worship is in spirit and truth.
Some of you think at times you are in a foreign country, I suppose. Things have changed too much so that the church of your past is no longer the same or things have not changed enough to suit some of you. But, if you will open your heart--I believe you can encounter God--AND THAT'S WORTHY WORSHIP!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
“There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all-powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.” (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)
Only a fool denies the existence of God (Ps.14:1). All about us we see the handiwork of the Creator with the very stars shouting out, “There is a God!” (Psalm 19:1-6). But though creation bears faithful witness to the existence of God, it cannot tell us a lot about Him. So, God has revealed Himself through His Word. Scripture never tries to prove the existence of God—the assumption is that He is and always was. When the beginning began, there was God (Gen.1:1).
So, who is this God and what does the Bible reveal of Him?
· There is one God. (Deut.6:4). We are monotheists (worshippers of one God) and not polytheists (worshippers of many gods).
· He is the one living and true God. (Josh.3:10). Hence we have the first two commandments engraved by the finger of God on tablets of stone prohibiting any other god or fashioning some inanimate image of God. While Moslems are monotheists—the one god they worship is a false god—Allah—not the true and living God we worship.
· He is intelligent. (Ex.3:7). He possesses rational thought and all that entails in the ability to exercise reason, make decisions and feel emotions.
· He is spiritual. (John 4:24). He has no physical form as we do—not bound by time and space. He is immortal and invisible (1 Tim.1:17).
· He is personal. (Ps.100:3). God is not some cosmic force. He is not some “it” floating around the universe. He is intimately acquainted with us and speaks to us.
· He is the Creator. (Gen.1). Nothing exists that He has not made. As such, He is not in the creation, not a part of the rivers and trees, but stands apart from and above all as the One who fashioned them.
· He is the Redeemer. (Isa.47:4). God has taken the initiative to save us from sin and apart from His gracious intervention we would be hopelessly lost.
· He is the Preserver. (Deut.6:24). He holds everything together by His power. He sustains our life and protects His children.
· He is the Ruler of the Universe. (Ex.15:18). God is the absolute Sovereign, undisputed King over all.
· He is infinite in holiness. (Isa.6:3). God is without sin and indeed incapable of it!
· He is perfect. (Deut.32:4). He never errs. God never has to say, “Oops!”
· He is all-powerful. (Gen.17:1). He is limitless in His power—Almighty God!
· He is all knowing. (1 Sam.2:3). He is never surprised. In every realm of knowledge He is the source and the expert of that wisdom. His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. God never has to scrap a plan and resort to plan B. He knows before we do something what we are going to do (Isa.42:9).
· To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. (Deut.6:5). He demands and deserves absolute allegiance and affection.
· The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being. (Matt.28:19; John 1:1-18). Now then! How are we to explain this? We worship one God, not three—yet this One exists in three persons. We can suggest an illustration. Water is a solid at and below 32 degrees, a liquid above 32 and below 212, and at 212 degrees Fahrenheit becomes a gas, but it is still water. I am one person and yet at the same time I am a father, a son and a brother. Yet, these illustrations break down and are not adequate explanations. For God doesn’t change from one form to another—first as Father and then becomes the Son and when He wants to assumes the identity of the Spirit. He doesn’t just fulfill three different roles, but is three Persons—yet One! The brilliant theologian, Paul the Apostle said it this way, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great…” (1 Tim.3:16a NIV) and “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. ‘Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?’ ” (Rom.11:33-34 The Message).
Look at it this way. If I could fully explain God and if you could fully understand God, then there is no God! He would be limited to our intelligence and a product of human invention. But no—He is above and beyond all that we can think and imagine—so much more. We could more readily expect an amoeba to grasp calculus than for us to fully comprehend God. But, we can know Him and have a personal relationship with Him. This infinite God will be the focus of the endless exploration of eternity—a boundless adventure of discovery. What we can and do know about Him now has been revealed in His Word and today we are invited to launch out into His arms and begin to know Him.
“We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Cor.13:9-12 The Message)
What a day that will be!
Monday, May 15, 2006
There is no doubt that a godly woman can make a significant difference. Susanna Wesley was married at age 19 to a minister, Samuel Wesley. They had 19 children. Since Samuel was often gone preaching, she had the primary responsibility for raising the children. Daily, she prayed for each of the 19. Weekly, she met with each one for an hour discussing spiritual matters. Two of her children, John and Charles, grew up to impact the world for Christ. Susanna Wesley was a woman of maximum impact. But all of us can be persons of maximum impact. My old work glove is a "work" glove in name only--until my hand fills it and then that glove can do all that I can do. A tool in my toolbox has great potential, but that's all there is until it is yielded to my control. So God can take ordinary people and accomplish extraordinary things as he fills us and wields us with His omnipotent hand. Our Scripture passage shows us how. First, we observe:
1. A LEGACY OF PREEMINENCE (v.1-9) Here is one of the three preeminent figures of the Old Testament. Abraham, along with Moses and David, tower above all others as giants of faith. God chose Abraham and Sarah to be people of maximum impact. What was so special about them? "For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Gen.18:19). God knew these parents would raise their children in the right way and impact generations. God would build a nation from Abraham’s family and out of that nation would come the Savior, Jesus Christ. “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen. 22:16-18). That is the spiritual legacy of these parents. Their heritage of faith is extolled in Hebrews 11:8-13, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
Never underestimate your power as a parent to bring good or evil for generations to come. "Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars. The great American preacher, Jonathan Edwards lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny. 'The memory of the just is blessed; but the name of the wicked shall rot.' (Prov. 10:7)."
2. A LIFE OF PROMINENCE (v.10-21, 50-52) In Abraham’s servant, we see an illustration of true greatness. Jesus taught that service is the way to true greatness, and He is the highest example, in that He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Not all of us are parents, and not all the women here are mothers, but the fact is all of us have the potential for maximum impact if we will but give ourselves to faithful service to God. That is the life of prominence. We have noted that parents certainly have the potential to influence the world, but so do those who are childless and those who are single. I don’t care how many books Dan Brown sells and how many buy tickets to see the DaVinci Code movie—the fact is that Jesus never married—not Mary Magdalene, not any woman, and never had biological children. He was single and yet His life has changed history and eternity. If in the providence of God you are still single, or perhaps you are married but have no children, you are not second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. Another man, who was a maximum impact Christian was the single adult, Paul the Apostle. Pretty prominent fellow, wouldn’t you agree? Any person who will yield himself or herself unreservedly to the will of God has awesome potential. Yet, if we do marry, then make it:
3. A LOVE OF PERMANENCE (v.58-67) Here is Isaac’s wedding, and through Rebekah and Isaac will flow all the covenant blessing of God. Most of us will marry eventually. Young people, what do you look for to find a love for a lifetime? There should be:
· Attraction (v.16a) God made us physical beings with sexual desires. If you don’t find your potential mate attractive, don’t marry them! But along with that physical attraction we need:
· Purity (v.16b “a virgin”) Rebekah was morally pure. Dress in a manner that is attractive without being seductive. Don’t listen to that lie, “If you love me, you’ll let me.” That’s not love--it’s lust! You want your wedding night to be special. You don't want your honeymoon to be ho-hum.
· Spiritual compatibility (v.3-4) That’s the issue here. Marry only a committed Christian. Don’t date one who isn’t. God wants us to find someone spiritually compatible to form a union that will have maximum impact on the world.
· Prayer and seeking the will of God (v.12, 26-27, 63-64) What joy it is to know that I am with the woman God designed for me before the world was formed! She was an answer to prayer!
Commit yourself today to be a person of maximum impact!
Monday, May 08, 2006
I've been reading a lot lately about men and church--how guys are dropping out and even those who continue to come are taking a more passive role. What can be done? What's the diagnosis and what's the cure? IT CERTAINLY ISN'T BEATING MEN UP (I mean, verbally, of course)! We've tried that. It doesn't work. Following is an article I read today that triggered this. Read it and see what you think guys (and gals too).
Why Some Men Don't Like Church
Paul Coughlin, Author
Promise Keepers held a Media Day in March where they discussed the problem of why men don't go to church as much as women.I heard about this event from my friend Dave Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church. His book is worth your time. I'm glad Promise Keepers took this issue head on because the facts are staggering. More women attend church throughout the world than men, with the possible exception of Eastern Orthodox. The discrepancy is greatest in African American churches in the United States. Attendance is more equal in Judaism and Islam.
Many of my readers have told me why they stopped going to church and what they would like to see in order to want to attend again. So here are the "Top 10 Reasons Why Some Men Don't Go to Church," and when they do go they spend more time checking their watches and working on their To Do lists than partaking in soul work.
1. Men are told over and over to be innocent as doves, but are not shown or encouraged to be wise as serpents. This has handcuffed men in all major aspects of life, robbing them of power and strength. Jesus never said that personal piety alone will get us to the abundant he has for us, but you wouldn't know this from a typical church service. The same word for 'wise" that Jesus used can also be translated as shrewd and cunning. Jesus commendsshrewd behavior as found in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16). We largely condemn shrewdness and think it's synonymous with criminal behavior. The church wants nice men. Jesus, according to his own words, wants shrewd ones.
2. We preach from the NGB: Nice Guy Bible (Retail Price: Your Soul). We emphasize the sweet stuff and let the tougher stuff go right on by. That sweet stuff won't save a man (or woman) from the Dark Night of The Soul, a highly mentioned phrase first written by St. John of the Cross. But the more rugged Scriptures can and do. For example, it was the book of Ecclesiastes that brought President Abraham Lincoln more solace during the Civil War than another other writing. Unfortunately the meatier and more penetrating scriptures aren't emphasized much today. As a result, much of what we label as spiritual living just isn't "real" to your average guy.
3. We contend that the ideal Christian man is unemotional and if married, sacrifices everything for his wife. But Jesus was anything but stoic. If we were honest, we would say that Jesus was a bad Christian man because he got angry so much. According to the latest study from the University of Virginia, this false expectation toward stoicism sets men up for divorce from women who want an emotionally engaged husband (Our upcoming book Married But Not Engaged takes this issue head on by showing wives of passive and unemotional husbands what they should and shouldn't do to help.) And men who sacrifice all their wants and needs for their spouse eventually bore their spouse. Following such advice increases their chances of divorce.
4. Men have been told to avoid anger at all costs, which isn't what the Bible says. They have not been shown a better way: how to properly handle this primary emotion for guys since unresolved anger can lead to depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and even impotency.
5. We promote a dangerous caricature of "gentle Jesus meek and mild," an infamous and ludicrous term penned by the late John Wesley. This dangerous caricature is as fictitious as anything you'll find in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. We can't blame Hollywood or the mainstream media. We can blame ourselves. This caricature has encouraged Christian men to be nice to a fault, damaging their lives and those who are under their timid care.
6. Men, compared to women, are a problem to be fixed instead of a gender to be appreciated at church. This is mighty unattractive and unbiblical. Some of these churches have also given men the unbiblical belief that women are more moral and spiritual, an intrinsically shame-filled message that is also a form of gender bigotry.
7. The church and Christian radio have failed to support a married man's need for regular sexual intimacy with his wife, which is an insult and a betrayal. We are men, not eunuchs.
8. Christian men are unintentionally encouraged to become the plaything of other men in a misguided attempt to bolster their "Christian witness." We have been turned into doormats and anvils, instead of bold hammers like the fathers of our faith. We are encouraged to worship at the altar of other people's approval. Proverbs 28:1 says that the righteous are as bold as lions. Bold men are both rare and not really welcomed at church.
9. We unintentionally create spiritual veal: overprotected children who are taught to embrace false humility and false meekness. Kids who rarely, if ever, disagree with authority, even when it's corrupt. Mild children afraid of the world because they are not shown how to live in the real world (See February's Dispatch and the story, "Suicide and the 'Nice' Christian Teen. All previous newsletters can be found on the Free Newsletter portion of our website). Sons and daughters who don't possess a powerful opinion or functioning will because they are deemed unChristian, which sets them up for destructive peer pressure (I deal with this tragic problem in next year's release of Raising Good Kids in a 'Nice' World). This list goes on. Men sense this and do not want this transformation to occur in their children. So they stay away. Sunday School too often creates nice and passive kids instead of good ones.
10. Worship music is often too sentimental for guy tastes.
Let me share a recent church service experience that highlights Reason #7.
I heard yet another sermon telling me that I need to be sexually pure. It was a good and right message that included the usual remedies: More daily Bible reading and prayer; flee temptation the way Joseph fled from Potiphar's wife (Gen 39); and strict accountability among others.
This minister was preaching to a group of largely married men. And like many messages designed to help men, it wasn't so much wrong as it was incomplete. Most of these men were sitting next to their wives, who according to the Bible are to help create a monogamous relationship. But he did not include them in his matrix of sexual purity. I, like usual, was treated like a problem to be fixed outside of the real context of my marital union.
After the sermon I talked with another married guy, a former missionary who told me that his wife leaned over to him and asked during the homily, "Are you attracted to other women?" He bravely answered, "I find other women attractive when I'm not sexually satisfied at home." These may be tough words to hear, but they are true for many men. To pretend like they are not is to deny reality and the real heart and struggle of many men. We ignore them at the expense of healthy families.
My goal isn't to beat anyone up. It's to make a difficult situation better by pointing out the real problem and then offering solutions that speak to a man's life. So here's a sample script of what I wish the good minister would have added to his homily in order to help fix this problem we face.
"Now ladies, I want to help you as well. As we both know, your husband's sexual desires don't exist in a vacuum. They are tied to you as well. You can help your husband in his battle for sexual purity by doing what you can to become the object of his sexual desires.
I know that sexuality is a complicated and combustible topic. So an admonition to one couple may not apply for another. I also know that when men get grumpy and rough around the edges that they can be as attractive as an IRS payment.
"But at the same time, I know that many Christian men want to be more attracted to their wives and yet their wives don't sense the gravity of their situation. Let me tell you about an excellent resource and see if it might apply to your marriage. It's called Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex. You can pick it up at most any bookstore. Women who read it say it really helped them put their husband's sexual needs in perspective. Let's close in prayer."
Why isn't this real, truthful, and gracious addendum added to most church services when we discuss a married man's sexual temptations, a man who is usually sitting next to his wife at the time? Because it's outside the box. It's not part of the official script. It doesn't sound "Christian," and it runs the risk of offending a minority of prudish women who desperately need to be offended for their own good and the good of their families. The only minister who I have heard who has worked such thinking into a sermon is T.D. Jakes. I'm sure there's more, but it's safe to say that this important message is not as common as it needs to be--that is if we're serious about men attending church, which I'm not convinced we are.
Spiraling church attendance is what happens when you do not speak to who men really are and what men really need in order to mature spiritually. Perhaps this decline is what happens before a better direction is forged. A Good Guy Rebellion direction.
Let's blaze this new path, each of us in our own way using whatever gifts and resources we have before us today. Be warned that you may gain a few enemies. But unlike in years past when Christian Nice Guys made people mad because they were weak and passive, they will be ruffling feathers because they are good and strong. Jesus said to pray for our enemies. He never said we couldn't (or wouldn't) have any.
Paul Coughlin is the author of No More Christian Nice Guy and a soon to be released companion Study Guide. He and his wife Sandy are the authors of Married But Not Engaged: Why Men Check Out and What You Can Do to Create The Intimacy You Desire, due out in July from Bethany House. Visit him online at www.christianniceguy.com
So, what do you think? In the midst of our longing for revival in the church and family, how can we expect it if it doesn't begin with those who are to be the spiritual leaders of the church and family--the men?
Thursday, May 04, 2006
If you are going to buy a car, wouldn't it make sense to take her for a test drive? You are investing a lot of money. You want to be sure that you are getting the performance you desire. When it comes to marriage--a lot of folks increasingly accept that philosophy. Many of these claim to be Christians and find no contradiction in cohabitation and following Christ. Consider the following article:
What’s Wrong with Living Together Unmarried?
Christopher Ash is Director of the Cornhill Training Course in London. He is the author of Marriage: Sex in the Service of God (Nottingham, UK: InterVarsity Press, 2003), which contains fuller discussion of the issues in this article; also of Out of the Storm: Questions and Consolations from the Book of Job (Nottingham, UK: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
“So, can you show me from the Bible that it’s wrong for me to be living with my girlfriend?”
It comes to light that a Christian young man in your church is living with his girlfriend, unmarried. When you challenge him about this he responds with the question above. He is not aggressive, though perhaps a little defensive. But he really does seem to want to know the answer. He has not been a Christian long. All—or nearly all—his non-Christian peer group are living together, and really it hasn’t seriously occurred to him that it is wrong, let alone scandalous. So what is his pastor to say?
It will not do simply to show him New Testament texts forbidding ‘fornication’ (most English versions) or ‘sexual immorality’ (NIV), as he will quite reasonably ask how we know that these texts forbid faithful public living together unmarried. Actually I am sure the Greek word porneia translated ‘fornication’ or ‘sexual immorality’ does in general refer to all sexual intimacy outside marriage. But to demonstrate this is not a trivial matter.
“And after all,” our young man may say, “we are living as if man and wife, and the marriage certificate is ‘just a piece of paper.’ And there really doesn’t seem to be anything convincing in the Bible which makes a marriage ceremony essential. So what we are doing is morally responsible, and not at all like fornication or sexual immorality. I am not paying her for sex, as a man does with a prostitute. We are not breaking marriage vows by having an affair. We are not sneaking off for secret assignations in a covert and shameful way. On the contrary, we have quite openly moved in together. We love one another, and we are faithful to one another. So what’s wrong?”
It is important for we who are pastors to consider our answer. For this young man’s questions are not trivial. We are not saying he ought to marry because we are social conservatives who prefer the old way of doing things. We have no simple and convincing Bible proof text to quote. I myself doubt if there is an answer that can be condensed into a sound bite. But I want to suggest the lines along which our answer might run. Which are as follows:
1. Jesus taught clearly and forcefully that the sexual relationship of man and woman ought to be faithful and lifelong. We are not to separate what God has joined (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). Any sexual relationship between a man and a woman that is not accompanied by the intention of lifelong faithfulness is, by definition, displeasing to God and immoral. It is not possible for a sexual relationship to be moral and intentionally transient. (It is essential to the definition of marriage that both parties pledge themselves to lifelong faithfulness; the fact that, sadly, some marriages later break does not change the fact that marriage is always built upon this pledge.) So there are two kinds of sexual relationship, ones that are built upon the pledge of lifelong faithfulness, and ones that are not.
2. There is a very great difference between public pledge and private assurances. This difference is not appreciated as it ought to be. In our privatized and individualistic culture we think there is little or no difference between private assurances exchanged between lovers on the sofa and public pledges made before witnesses (which is marriage).
But, in fact, there is a very great difference. A private assurance is, as we all sadly know, terribly easy to break. After all, when it comes to it, it is my word against hers/his as to what exactly was said. My reputation suffers minimal loss if I break a private word. BUT when I make a pledge before witnesses, I place my whole integrity and public reputation on the line. This is what happens in a marriage. I pledge publicly that I will be faithful to this woman alone until death separates us. Everybody knows I have made this pledge, for marriage vows (even if made before only a few witnesses) are unboundedly public. When I tell people I am married, they know that this means (by definition) I have publicly pledged lifelong faithfulness.
This means I am agreeing with Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce. By publicly pledging lifelong faithfulness I agree that I ought never to be the one who breaks the marriage. And if I do break it (that is, be the one who actually causes it to break, never mind who does the technical legal business of suing for divorce), everyone will know I have broken my clear vow. And my reputation and integrity will suffer. So the stakes are rightly high in marriage. For public vows nail my public integrity to the maintenance of our marriage.
But unmarried cohabitation never has this clarity of commitment. Whatever private understandings may have been entered into (and these vary enormously), the whole relationship is surrounded by a public haze of ambiguous commitment. When a woman introduces her ‘boyfriend’ or ‘partner’ (horrible word), we are left to guess the nature of their relationship. When a cohabitation breaks, we do not know what private understandings or assurances have been broken and by whom.
3. Furthermore, in marriage there is public clarity that the vows have been made equally by man and wife. Whereas all too often in cohabitations there is a disparity of expectation. Typically (though not always) the woman expects the relationship to last (and persuades herself that her man has committed himself to her) while the man regards the whole business as much more of a “let’s see how it goes” relationship.
4. To the unmarried couple we may therefore say, “Either your relationship is committed for life or it is immoral. If it is not immoral, you must be committed for life. In which case, you ought to be willing to stand up and say so. For what reason might there be for keeping your commitment private? Answer: none. On the contrary, if you really love one another, you will make the public commitment, since this commitment aligns the resources of wider families and society behind you, holds you to it by our expectations that you will be a man and a woman of your word. Public commitment therefore buttresses your relationship and makes it more likely to last (much more likely, as the statistics indicate). And if you are not willing to make this public commitment, the only possible reason is that you are not really committed like this at all and do not really love one another. In which case your relationship is immoral.”
That sounds a touch harsh, and it will need to be said in the context of a pastor who loves and cares; but it does need to be said to any professing Christian couple who really think it is moral to live together unmarried. For although they think they love one another, actually they do not love one another very much—and certainly not enough to make sex moral. (from Kairos Journal)
What's wrong with taking her (or him) for a test drive? People are not cars. They have feelings and memories. Sexual intimacy is one of the most powerful experiences one can have--for good or for bad. To be pleasing to God requires that powerful gift be reserved for marriage.
The character played by Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky stalks Tom Cruise's character. She says, "Don't you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not?"
That's a fact!
God has something better for you. If you'd like to talk about how you and your "live in" can have love for a lifetime instead, please contact one of our pastors. With a balance of conviction and compassion we will do all we can to help you.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
“THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAMILY”
If you are constructing a house, it will only be as strong as its foundation. That is true of building a family. Our home must be constructed with Christ as the cornerstone and built on the bedrock of Bible truth.
The psalmist asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3) There has never been a time in our nation’s history when the family has been in greater peril. The very foundations are being destroyed. Because we have departed from God and His Word, human life has been devalued and home life destabilized.
We still remember the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf coast. Similarly, a storm surge of sin has swept across America leaving human debris in its evil tide. The evidence is everywhere—abortion, infanticide, genetic engineering, physician assisted suicide, divorce, polygamy, pornography, homosexuality and such.
The foundations are being destroyed. What can the righteous do? We must faithfully proclaim the foundational truths of the family. We must purpose to live by them. In Scripture we see the family is:
1. A DIVINE PRODUCT (1:26) When I look at my watch, I know there is a watchmaker. It is the product of a designer. So human life and the family is the handiwork of God. It is not the product of random mutations, of chance, a cosmic accident, the product of millions of years of evolution. Nothing has been so destructive a weapon in the Devil’s hands as the deception of Darwinism. Evolution is an evil that has invaded all our culture and has shaken our foundations.
If human life is just a result of the survival of the fittest and we are here by chance, then what purpose is there to life? What would be wrong with abortion? Why is life sacred? What makes a human child any different than an animal? In this thinking, abortion should not only be legal, but encouraged. It will enable us to cull out the inferior and engineer a master race. Hitler would have loved to live to see this.
Those who fully buy into evolution must conclude that there is nothing sacred about marriage and the family as we have known it. Such customs and traditions have merely evolved and will continue to change. There is no room for a God who has spoken with authority in this system of belief. That is a destructive lie. The fact is that the family is a Divine product. It has:
2. A DIVINE PATTERN (1:27) Here we see male and female created for each other. Each is different by design—not just physically, but in every way—equally made in the image of God—neither superior to the other, but different in their roles. Now what our politically correct society does is try to obliterate all distinctions in the sexes in the name of equality. The harmful effects of this lie are many. Gender lines are blurred and boys and girls grow up confused about what it means to be male and female and how to embrace their sexuality.
Not only has radical feminism attacked the foundations of family life with its demand for sex sameness, but militant homosexuals are taking the assault to another level. A determined war is being waged on traditional marriage to break down all barriers to accept every kind of perversion. That’s why you can have “Brokeback Mountain” a film about two cowboys messing around with each other be so celebrated and promoted. The farther we move from the Creator, the deeper we plunge into sin. Scripture is plain about the inevitable results (Rom.1:18-32). The family as founded by God has:
3. A DIVINE PURPOSE (1:28) Sex is God’s gift for procreation of the species and pleasure of the spouses and both are important. Lest you think, that God is anti-sex, you should know He created it. Hugh Hefner did not invent sex as some would suppose. While the Bible condemns sex outside of marriage as sin, it celebrates sex within marriage. There is an entire book of the Bible devoted to the joy of married love—the Song of Solomon. The Bible says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) Sex as mere skin to skin in a casual relationship is wrong, but sex as two souls committed in marriage is wonderful. But when we abandon that humans are created in the image of God, just highly developed animals, then we buy into the philosophy promoted by the Bloodhound Gang in a song that says, “You and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals. Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.”
Our culture also celebrates people living together and having children out of wedlock. Hollywood stars glamorize it. Single mothers trying to raise kids on their own is too often the result—and kids need a father in the home. Yet consider the following article from Kairos Journal:
“Father Hunger”—Why Children Need a Dad
On May 19, 1992, national controversy erupted after Vice President Dan Quayle gave a speech on “family values.” Quayle argued that “when families fail, society fails” and outlined ways to build strong homes in America. The media, however, zeroed in on one line in the address: “It doesn't help matters,” the Vice President observed,
when primetime TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice.”1
That relatively brief comment about a sitcom in an otherwise lengthy and substantive address proved to be too much for some people to handle. Quayle was pilloried by late night comedians, attacked in the op-ed pages, and ridiculed for clinging to the outmoded beliefs of the past. But the Vice-President, it turns out, had the last laugh. Less than a year after the infamous “Murphy Brown Speech,” Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a leading sociologist at Rutgers University, wrote a cover story for The Atlantic Monthly that said it all: “Dan Quayle Was Right.”2
Study after study bears out the fact that children need a father in the home.3 Sadly, as David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, has documented, the United States is increasingly a “fatherless America.” He reports, that in 1995, only 35 percent of children lived with their father. Furthermore, somewhere between one quarter and one half of all children never (or almost never) see their biological fathers.4
Those statistics are especially tragic in light of research that shows that the presence of a biological father, married to a mother, dramatically improves the well-being of children and society.5 Fathers protect their children; reports of child abuse—physical and sexual—have increased with the rise in fatherlessness.6 Fathers stem violence: “Sixty percent of America’s rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates come from fatherless homes.”7 Fathers contribute to their children’s academic success; fatherless kids are twice as likely to drop out of high school.8 Fathers deter teenage pregnancy; girls are 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant if they lack a father’s daily contribution.9 A bevy of additional research bolsters the claim that little boys and girls need Dad.10
In spite of the evidence, some still persist in arguing that fathers are dispensable. In January of 2004, Suzi Leather, chair of Great Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, downplayed the distinctions between male and female parents: “It is the quality of the relationship that matters not that a man or woman are involved.”11 She wanted to keep doctors from discouraging single women from having kids. What is truly remarkable is that Leather’s viewpoint continues to enjoy mainstream status in the culture.
But this debate is not ultimately just about sociological data. It is about hurting children; children who suffer from what one author calls “father hunger”:
It’s an ache in the heart, a gnawing anxiety in the gut. It’s a longing for a man, not just a woman, who will care for you, protect you, and show you how to survive in the world. For a boy, especially, it’s the raw, persistent, desperate hunger for dependable male love, and for an image of maleness that is not at odds with love. Father hunger.12
Looking back, Vice President Quayle’s warning seems prophetic. The pangs of father hunger are still felt everywhere.
God’s intent was to fill the earth with godly offspring, products of a functional family of faith!
4. A DIVINE PROVISION (1:29-30) We are stewards of creation. We’ve been given its resources. So many have accepted the myth of overpopulation and dwindling resources.
Our world is not overpopulated. You can drive for miles down the interstate without seeing scarcely a house. Sure, you'll come to cities and villages and metropolitan areas densely populated, but most of America is still wide open spaces. I've been to India that is often described as an example of overpopulation. It is true that in the urban areas there are wall to wall people, but when you leave those cities you find vasts forests and fields with few residents.
Do people starve to death in India? Every day. But it isn't because of dwindling resources. They grow enough grain to feed their population, but rats devour much of it. You can't kill the rats because in Hinduism they may be Grandma reincarnated, and some definitely resemble a brother-in-law! People starve to death there because of false religion. In other places there is famine because of brutal regimes attempting genocide, dictators hoarding the nation's resources and foreign aid, denying it to entire people groups. In America we throw away enough food to feed the world. Selfishness and sin are the reasons that people perish--not that God hasn't provided enough food.
Then, for the family, there is:
5. A DIVINE PRONOUNCEMENT (1:31) God pronounces blessing on all those who build a family by His blueprint. How can we do that? If the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? We must repent--that word literally means to change our mind. We must believe and receive the truth rather than the lies spawned in hell. Rather than conforming to our culture, we must renew our minds by the Word of God. Then, building our family on a foundation of faith, God can gaze on us and declare, "Very good!"
Dan Quayle, “Address to the Commonwealth Club of California,” ( Commonwealth Club, California, May 19, 1992), Commonwealthclub.org, http://www.commonwealthclub.org/archive/20thcentury/92-05quayle-speech.html.
Whitehead had the research to back her thesis up. See Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, “Dan Quayle Was Right,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 1993, 47-84. Whitehead followed up her article with the thoroughly researched work, The Divorce Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
See Kairos Journal articles, "Top Ten Father Facts," "Fathers Are Shepherds" & "What's a Dad to Do?"
It is commonly reported that over half of all marriages now end in divorce and that the mother is usually granted custody of the kids. While forty percent of these mothers lived with the father for a time, cohabiting partners rarely stay together. See Paul R. Amato and Julie M. Sobolewski, “The Effects of Divorce on Fathers and Children: Nonresidential Fathers and Stepfathers,” in The Role of the Father in Child Development, ed. Michael E. Lamb (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2004), 341, 342, 348. Among family specialists, the above statistics are rarely contested. “We are all aware of the increase in marital breakdown, single-parent families and the dramatic change in women’s position in society—all of which reduce the significance of fathers . . . Nonetheless, we believe that good fathers are profoundly important for the child’s development and the establishment of sound mental health. . .” Judith Trowell, “Setting the Scene,” in The Importance of Fathers: A Psychoanalytic Re-evaluation, eds. Judith Trowell and Alicia Etchegoyen (New York: Taylor & Francis, Inc., 2002), 17. “Increased divorce rates and the inexorable rise in single-parent families have contributed to a social climate in which fathers, as consistent and stable role models, are increasingly unavailable to the next generation. Even unstable fathering role models are in short supply.” Anton Obholzer, “Foreword,” in The Importance of Fathers, xv. “Marriages are not only breaking up in large numbers, but the institution itself is in decline. The marriage rate is dropping. In place of marriage we are witnessing the rapid rise of nonmarital cohabitation, which by its very nature implies a lower level of commitment. More problematic still is the increase in ‘single parenting by choice.’” David Popenoe, Life without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), 5.
“Overall, the high level of divorce in American society has not only undermined the goal of encouraging greater paternal involvement in children’s lives, but also increased risk of a variety of financial, educational, and psychological problems for children.” Ibid., 360. “[I]t is clear that the absence of the biological father reduces children’s access to important economic, parental, and community resources. The loss of those resources affects cognitive development and future opportunities.” Sara McLanahan, “Growing Up without a Father,” in Lost Fathers: The Politics of Fatherlessness in America, ed. Cynthia R. Daniels (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 91.
Popenoe, Ibid., 66-73.
Ibid., 63. This may be because, as studies have shown, fathers contribute something to discipline that, generally speaking, mothers do not. Ibid., 146. Positively speaking, it has been shown that the presence of fathers leads to more compassionate, affectionate adults. Ibid., 148-149.
McLanahan, “Growing Up without a Father,” 86.
Sociologists note that fathers are more likely to roughhouse with their young children. In such contexts, kids are exposed to healthy competition and risk-taking skills. Furthermore, they learn how to regulate their emotions and practice self-control. Popenoe, Ibid., 144. Additionally, fathers complement a mother’s discipline: “Several studies have found that fathers are more effective than mothers at getting quick action.” Ibid., 146.
Jeremy Laurence, “IVF Revolution: ‘It’s the Relationships Quality that Counts, not People’s Sex,’” The Independent, January 21, 2004, 6. Italics added. A copy of this article can be found at http://www.canadiancrc.com/articles/Indep_Suzi_Leather_relationships_21JAN04.htm (accessed August 10, 2005).
Maggie Gallagher, “Father Hunger,” in Lost Fathers, 165.