I don’t know if your life is like mine, but I find that time is moving at breakneck speed. I hardly get a new week started when it seems like the week is over and I am looking at a new week. It seems that just a few minutes ago it was New Year’s Day and now we are in April already. Time is moving on. They say that time moves quicker the older you get. I don’t know why that is, but it certainly seems true.
I want to give you a couple of suggestions to help you make the most use of your time. Psalm 90 states that we are to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.
- Make God an essential part of your time. Begin your day with Him with Bible reading and prayer. Make sure that He is the focus of your time throughout the week. Church attendance is not optional! It is not a waste of time but rather it is a way to capitalize on your time.
- Plan your week as much as possible. At the beginning of every week, try to write down the things that you need to accomplish and when you are going to do them.
- Prioritize your time with your family. If you have young children in your home, remember that they will be grown and gone from your home soon. You have this moment to make a difference in their lives. If your children are grown and gone, make sure that you and your spouse make time to be with each other. Eat meals together as a family. Talk at the table and encourage one another.
- Turn off the television and read a good, helpful book. When was the last time you can remember reading to expand your mind and grow intellectually and spiritually? Encourage your children in this matter of reading. It will help them more than they know.
- Finally, assess your week. How was it spent? How you did you manage your time? When you fail, determine that the following week will be better.
I hope that you will have a great week!
I am a blessed man because I am saved and part of a great church family that I have the privilege to pastor. Beyond my salvation, one of the greatest blessings in my life is my family—my wife, children and grandchildren. I counsel people all the time that struggle in their family relationships. I am thankful because family relationships have never been a struggle for me. I may have faced a few challenges but never a struggle. It is sad to hear people speak of husband and wife relationships that are adversarial rather than what God intended. Lord willing, this coming May, my wife and I will celebrate our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. It has been a great joy to have this dear woman walk by my side and encourage me as a man, husband, father and preacher. I am blessed!
I hate it when a parent is dealing with a rebellious child that is causing great strife in his life. My wife and I raised three normal, healthy boys. They were all twenty-two months apart. We got married young and started having children right away. I think back about how dumb I was then and how many foolish decisions I made. However, God blessed in spite of my foolishness. I think He did because I was real. I wasn’t a hypocrite, and my boys knew that. I am thankful that all three of my sons are happily married to wonderful women that we think of as our own daughters. These unions have given us nine precious grandchildren with number ten due in March. We have fun as a family.
Let me give you a few thoughts about healthy families.
- Healthy families worship God together. If your children live under your roof, there should be no debate about whether or not they are going to church. Also, you should have a time when you gather everyone together for a family altar. What a blessing to talk about God and His Word, and then to talk to God as a family within the framework of the home.
- Healthy families enjoy time together. We live in a fragmented society. It seems that everyone has his own interests; even when people are home, they separate to different places rather than congregate. I think a wise parent will limit text messaging, cell phone use and even time spent on the internet. By the way, it is not just children and teens that have problems with this; even parents get caught up in the texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter push. Why not have a family night? Why not require or even demand that the family eat meals together as much as possible? You should make your children turn off their cell phones at a certain hour. Phones and internet should not interrupt family meetings, dinner or devotions. Learn to go for walks together, play games, ride bikes or go for family outings.
- Healthy families keep God first in all aspects of their lives. A Christ-centered education is important. We have a Christian school associated with our church. While it is not perfect, it offers a great education and provides a safe haven in comparison to public education. We also have families in our church that home school which offers many a great way to educate their children. For those choosing that alternative, the curriculum should be Christian, not some state-sponsored, internet-based public education that just keeps kids out of the public school. It still brainwashes them with the secular-humanistic agenda. I believe that for the most part, a Christian young person leaving home for college should attend a Christian college. For those not going away to school, they need to stay grounded and involved in their local church throughout their college training.
- Healthy families screen their children’s friends. When you see subtle hints of sneakiness or lack of integrity in the life of one of your children’s friends, for the sake of your children, you must deal with it. I think we need to curtail high school dating. There is nothing wrong with group dates when perhaps a young man escorts a young lady to a special church or Christian school event, but this idea of young people pairing off and getting serious by “going together” leads to a whole raft of social problems. It is not healthy for the family.
- Healthy families are led by spiritually healthy moms and dads. A parent’s spiritual health is the key to keeping the family healthy spiritually. Husbands and wives need to be on the same page in these matters. It is of utmost importance.
Let me encourage you to do some measuring in these areas to see how you are doing in this matter of a healthy family.
We were all shocked on Friday, December 14, with the events that unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts were broken when we learned of the horrific deaths of twenty children, only six and seven years old, and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School that dreadful morning. We were left shaking in the wake of this tragedy. We can only begin to imagine the pain that the parents, relatives and friends are feeling.
The question that plagues our minds the most during times like these is why. Why did this man do this? Why did those innocent children and adults have to die? Why are we seeing a proliferation of these kinds of events in our nation? I am not sure that anyone can give a complete answer to satisfy all the “why” questions, but I want to offer a few thoughts.
- It seems pretty obvious to me that one reason this man did this is because of sin and evil. If good exists, than evil also has to exist; otherwise, we have nothing to measure good against. While the Bible states that we are all sinners, some men and women seem to allow sin to take them to extremes in their behavior. Throughout history we find that there are always madmen or women that approve of or do terrible things. I am not discounting a mental issue in this case; however, to kill harmless, sweet children means that the devil himself somehow got a hold of his life. It caused him to rationalize this heinous crime.
- It also seems pretty obvious to Bible believers that when a culture removes God from their thinking and living, that removal opens up ways for evil and the devil to work in greater ways. We have to admit that we have seen the erosion of God from America’s thinking, living and behavior. While it may sound good for politicians to say “God bless America,” it is not enough if they use their power and position to influence the culture to be anti-God. They do this when they enact, pass and promote laws that completely ignore God’s stated moral code. So how can God bless America when America ignores God or works to eradicate Him from pretty much all aspects of our public life? The answer to that question is that He can’t and won’t. A study of the Old Testament and God’s relationship to His people, Israel, shows that similar things happen when they rejected God in their living while paying token homage to him with their lips.
The next logical question ought to be—what should we do now?
- We should pray for the community of Newtown, for the parents that have suffered this horrendous loss and for the families that have been so tragically touched.
- We should pray for a softening of American’s hearts so they are more receptive to the Gospel. We should pray for repentance and turning back to God in our culture.
- We should pray for God to purge, purify and empower His people to boldly share the Gospel message in this sad culture in which we are living.
- We should finally look for opportunities to speak for Christ and share our faith with boldness, fervor but also with great compassion. We can give people hope when things look hopeless!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and it officially begins the holiday season. This year, for the first time in my life, I won’t be able to speak to my dad on Thanksgiving, nor will I get the chance to visit with him at Christmas. You see, on April 5, my dad said his last goodbyes to us on this side and slipped away to his Heavenly Home. He was greeted on the other side by the Saviour that he so faithfully served throughout his adult life. At this time last year, I did not realize as we sat around the table that it would be our last Thanksgiving together or that it would be the last Christmas I would spend with my dad. If I had known, I suppose I would have relished the opportunity to sit and visit with him more.
My dad was born as a twin in 1929. He and his twin brother, Richard, grew up as part of the “greatest generation.” They were “depression” babies, and my dad often spoke of the fact that his family, like so many other families at the time, was fairly poor. He spoke of getting just an orange or a piece of candy in a stocking at Christmas. If he ever got more than that, it was one thing that he had to share with his brother.
My dad loved the holidays. As a boy growing up, I remember the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas being filled with Christmas carols my dad played on the record player. Dad loved going to a tree farm in the country to find the right tree—at least he thought it was the right tree. We would bring the tree home, set it outside for a day or two, and then bring it into the house for trimming. Trimming the Christmas tree was a big deal. We would get the fancy glasses my mom kept in the china cabinet and sip Ginger Ale from them while the carols played and the tree was adorned with lights, ornaments, tinsel, and garland.
When my sisters and I grew up and went away to college, Dad looked forward to Christmas even more because he knew that the kids were coming home. My older sister and I got married within a year of each other, and it was not long before children were born. Christmas and Thanksgiving became an even bigger deal to Dad. He loved his seven grandsons. Two of them lived out of town most of his life, but the other five grew up around him, and he just loved it.
Family was very important to my dad. He was so proud that his only son grew up to be the pastor of the church he helped establish and build. Until his final days, Dad was a fixture at Cleveland Baptist. He worked on staff at the church until he finally resigned at the end of 2000. After that, every morning at about 9:00, Dad would drive on to the church property to spend a few hours milling around and checking up on things. Then he would leave just before lunch to head home to tinker or work on some project.
Just after the first of the year Dad had a problem during church on a Sunday morning; this was beginning of the end for him. Through a series of events, he was finally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the end of February. It was fast and fairly well spread by the time we received the diagnosis. He progressively got worse. Then came that Thursday afternoon, April 5, when Dad slipped from this world into the next. He died the Thursday before the celebration of the Resurrection. I have to tell you that when we celebrated Resurrection Sunday this year, it was real special to me. I have always been grateful for my living Saviour, but it took on a special significance this year.
Likewise, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be very special and different for me this year. You see, I am now the patriarch of my family, and I am looking at them in a different way. I think I will just sit and relish in the moments this holiday season and remember what used to be and all the while enjoying what is!
I challenge you to not let the rush of holiday season, the thrill of “Black Friday” or even the drudgery of the crowds take away from the significance of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have these moments because of Christ, and we need to use them to love the people around us!
Enjoy the moments,
Tomorrow, November 6, 2012, our country goes to the polls, and by the end of the day, we will know who will be the next president of our country for the next four years. Apart from third-party candidates, the two real contenders for the presidency in this hard fought battle are President Barak Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Most people know that these two men have very different agendas for leading our country. Based on past track record and promises made during the campaign, there is no doubt in my mind that President Obama leans towards socialism and desires to increase the size and cost of government. Governor Romney wants to take our country back to a more capitalistic, smaller government. There is more at stake than just the political agenda.
The two candidates also have very different views on social issues. President Obama has a liberal, progressive mindset in the matter of morals and social issues. He approves of same-sex marriage and abortion on demand with little, if any, restrictions. He favors progressive, liberal judges that believe the Constitution is an evolving document and who find no problem legislating from the bench. Thus, when there are vacancies on the bench, those would be the type of judges he would appoint. Governor Romney, on the other side, has voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage. Also, he has stated that he is not in favor of abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or saving the mother’s life. He indicates that he would appoint judges that believe the Constitution is a fixed document that does not change with the whims of society. He would appoint conservative justices who would be in alignment with the fixed Constitution mindset.
Yes, tomorrow is a big day in our country. What America decides at the polls will set the direction of our government for the next four years. At this juncture, I have heard that this election is a toss-up. Both men have been campaigning feverishly and pushing hard to visit the swing states to get their final message out. The candidates have spent a lot of time and money trying to sway Ohioans to vote for them.
Today my concern is what America will look like in four years. I am convinced that if President Obama is re-elected, we will be so buried in debt and socially twisted that we will never recover. I don’t live in fear, but I am concerned for my grandchildren who will inherit this nation and its messes, both financially and socially. I realize that there is no political salvation. Regardless of who is elected, God is still God, and Jesus will still be the living Savior. However, I think we can all see that it does make a difference who is elected as president tomorrow. These next four years are critical to the direction of our country.
I have spent today fasting and praying for my country. Regardless if President Obama is re-elected or we have a President-elect, Mitt Romney, I will love my country and still be an American on Wednesday morning. My prayer is that Governor Romney will win this election decisively, and our nation will begin to heal from the rancor that has been such a large part of the political landscape the last several months.
The real need of America is not political, but spiritual. Christians have the answer, but we must be willing to do more than just talk about it. We must be willing to live the Christian life, and then boldly share our faith with the lost world. Nothing will help America more than God’s people living powerful lives of credibility and boldly sharing our faith. Unfortunately, for too long and for too many Christians, there has been little difference in their lifestyle from the unsaved world. The things that would make a difference have been sorely lacking in many believer’s lives. It is time to make a change! It is time to let God be God and His Word and Spirit direct our daily lives.
Pray with me for America — not just today and tomorrow, but every day! We need to pray for God to awaken America to her great spiritual need. It would be wonderful to see hundreds of thousands swept into the kingdom of God. I would love to see one more moving of God on a national and world level before the Lord returns. That is my prayer!
I just returned from a week out of the office. My week away was not a vacation, a mission trip or a preaching meeting. It was actually a time to get away from my daily routine of office, ministry and work. It was a time to reflect, pray, think, read and prepare for the future. I have never taken time to go away and focus on planning and preparation. I suppose in the past I could not justify going away to “just” think and pray. In my mind, productivity was tied to physical activity — doing things that could be seen; things that had some form of tangible measurement. What I just did was not tangible in the sense that you can see some physical thing that was accomplished. There are, however, some things that will come out of this four day break that will have a tangible aspect to them.
Being alone with God and being in a place where there were few distractions enabled me to focus. I was able to do some much needed reading. I read several New Testament books. I read the Bible daily for my personal devotions, but on this trip I read with eyes open to seeing what God was saying to me about the ministry of CBC. I read two other good books that inspired me to greater things at the church. I was able to think about the future and what it might hold for us. I was able to contemplate God and His work in my life and the life of this church.
Let me give you a few thoughts that may be helpful to you. First, our world is busy. It is difficult in the daily aspects of living and ministry to be quiet and still long enough for God to really deal with our hearts. Because of that, it is good to take some time to get away in a quiet place–whether for an hour, a day or a week to hear from God. Second, record the thoughts God impresses upon your heart. Your time alone with Him can be quickly lost when you return to normal unless you have taken time to record the thoughts.
When I returned from my time away, my assistant gave me a paper I had prepared almost ten years ago. It contained my ten year plan for the ministry. As I perused this document, I saw that the Lord had enabled me to accomplish many of the things on that list. If I had not recorded those thoughts and spent time with the Lord figuring out what He wanted, then I would not be able to sit here today thanking Him for His great grace in accomplishing some mighty tasks.
Third, turn off your cell phone, computer, iPad or whatever else you use to keep you tethered to the outside world. We get addicted to constantly checking social networking sites and email updates. Turn them off and give your total focus to this time alone with God.
Let me encourage you seek the Lord. Spend time with Him. Be still and quiet enough to hear His voice. When He speaks and impresses matters upon your heart, write them down. As the days go by it is important that we not miss what God wants! Our lives will soon be over, and we must live our lives with the end in view!
We live in such strange times. A few weeks ago, early on a Friday morning, a mentally disturbed man took out his frustration and anger on the unsuspecting patrons of a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were sent into eternity and another fifty-eight were wounded, some of them critically. On August 5, another mass killing took place, this time in Wisconsin, when another deranged man walked into a Sikh meeting place, opened fire, killing six and critically injuring three more. In both cases it was a lone gunman that caused death and destruction in so many lives. While these are isolated cases and not connected, there does seem to be an uptick in their frequency.
Have you looked around our country recently? America is in deep water in the realm of morality. For the first time in history there are more unmarried households than married, and divorce is a real problem in our world. More and more children are being reared in single parent homes. Too many children in our country are living without the guidance and direction of their fathers.
The statistics of the negative effects of children reared in these kinds of homes is alarming. According to statistical facts found in a book entitled, “Correct, Not Politically Correct” written by Frank Turek, children from fatherless homes account for:
- 60% of America’s rapists
- 63% of America’s youth suicides
- 70% of America’s long-term prison inmates
- 70% of America’s reform school attendees
- 71% of America’s teenage pregnancies
- 71% of America’s high school dropouts
- 72% of America’s adolescent murders
- 85% of America’s youth prisoners
- 85% of America’s youth with behavioral disorders
- 90% of America’s runaways
We are currently in the throes of the great marriage debate in our nation. We have mayors of major cities in our country, as well as President Barak Obama, saying they favor same-sex marriage. Now there is talk that the Democratic Party is looking at putting “same-sex marriage” as part of their platform. There has also been a release of hateful vitriol by many in the media, the homosexual crowd, and those in the entertainment industry against Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A. All Mr. Cathy did was answer a question on a radio interview about his position and opinion on marriage and the family. He said he believed in traditional marriage as defined in the Bible, between one man and one woman, and that we were inviting the wrath of Almighty God by moving away from that definition as a society. This is considered by some liberals and many in the homosexual crowd as hate-speech.
Beyond these troubling issues we have an economy that is stagnate. We have a national debt that is soaring out of control because our elected officials cannot agree to rein in spending. We have mandated health care that will literally bankrupt small business and cause taxes to escalate. Our politicians are so divided they can’t pass a budget or agree on simple issues. The divide between conservative values and morality and those who don’t embrace them seems to be growing wider by the day. The end result is an inability to get anything done in government. It is frustrating to watch our country being held in such a state.
Then we have credibility problems among the Christian community. Christian people seem to be facing and dealing with the same problems and issues as the unsaved world. Divorce is a problem, and there seems to be hypocrisy in spiritual leadership in many places. Some men refuse to take a stand and speak out for fear of reprisal from their church or the community in which they minister. Others are nothing more than hypocrites saying and preaching one thing and living another. Recently a pastor well known among Independent Baptists was dismissed by his mega-church deacon board because he was immoral with a minor. This same pastor has preached strange doctrine for years and was very arrogant and proud. No one could confront him or speak to him about his positions because he had this large ministry and thousands listened to him preach each week. For that reason many of us distanced ourselves from him and refused to associate or fellowship with him or those that ran with him.
When I think of all these problems that we are dealing with as both Americans and Christians, I am reminded about the book of I Samuel. I have been preaching through this book on Sunday nights at Cleveland Baptist. When you read the first several chapters, you will see dark moments in the nation of Israel. The reason it was dark and difficult is because Israel was lacking spiritually. The priests and spiritual leaders were poor examples to the people. In fact, their conduct and behavior both in the ministry and outside the ministry was so unbecoming that “men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (I Samuel 2:17). Their behavior was so bad that God said He was going to bring judgment on the house of Eli. God sent a message through an unnamed prophet that Eli and his two sons would die. The prophecy was fulfilled in a battle with the Philistines. The two sons of Eli died on the battlefield, and Eli died when he received word that Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines and his two sons were dead. Unfortunately, their lack of credibility had a very negative effect on the nation. They, too, mirrored immoral, ungodly behavior and embraced false religion.
Times were tough in Israel, yet God was at work. In the midst of the darkness, there began to be light that seemed to grow brighter and brighter as days went on. I am speaking of the life of a child named Samuel. He grew into a man of God that brought the nation back to God.
In some respects, we are in similar circumstances. We are living in dark hours morally, spiritually, politically, and economically. In spite of the darkness, there is light — the light of truth found in the Word of God. The Bible speaks clearly of a day when Jesus Christ will return and the final days of this world will begin to unfold. What a day that will be when we hear the trump of God and the voice of an archangel.
Don’t think I am a fatalist and believe we should just sit back and wait for Christ; that is not the case at all. I do believe He is coming, and it motivates me to live a righteous and holy life. However, I also believe that we could see God move one more time in this world before Christ’s return. Here are few things God’s people should be doing.
- We need to pray for a spiritual awakening among the people of the world.
- We need to get thoroughly right with God and walk in the Holy Spirit’s power.
- We need to love people and show them grace even when they are not kind to us and even when their lives and lifestyle are not what they ought to be.
- We need to make sure we work on our homes and families. If you are married, work on your marriage and make sure you model the truths found in Scripture. Train your children to know and live for God.
- Pray for your pastor and your church leaders to be people of great faith and credibility.
- Live in the light that Christ will soon return.
We are either part of the solution or we are part of the problem. By God’s grace let’s be a part of the solution.
The power of influence is huge. A little over a week ago the Supreme Court gave us their ruling on the constitutionality of what the nation has come to know as Obamacare. Most conservative court watchers said that they were sure that the mandate that people had to buy a product, in this case insurance, would have been ruled unconstitutional. It was their opinion that the conservative element of the Supreme Court would have come down with that majority opinion.
We now know that is not the way it played out. The deciding vote for the liberal and majority opinion was cast by Chief Justice John Roberts. Justice Roberts has been, up to this point, a very solid conservative and has almost always sided with the other socially conservative justices on the court. Recently, there was a news story circulating on some talk shows that Chief Justice Roberts’ vote was influenced by pressure from the liberal media. In essence, if this story is true, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court caved to pressure to change his vote to uphold this landmark health care law.
In our world we are witnessing first-hand that the power of influence for people to change to more socially acceptable positions is everywhere. We are living in a world where many corporations cave to the pressure and influence of the homosexual agenda. Corporations like Home Depot, Kroger, and J.C. Penney have bought into the homosexual mindset. These corporations have become sponsors of the homosexual agenda by giving dollars to events that promote their radical, immoral agenda. J.C. Penney had a Father’s Day advertisement that featured a homosexual male couple with children. I am glad to say that many of these corporations are paying in the pocketbook for their affiliation with these kinds of activities. Beyond corporations, mayors from Ohio’s ten largest cities have signed a resolution stating their opposition to Ohio’s Marriage Amendment. Their influence is being used to push for a repeal of this amendment to be put on Ohio’s ballot in 2013.
This kind of thing goes on and almost seems normal in a world where people do not believe in an absolute right and wrong. For many in our world truth is not absolute and is constantly changing. For some people something is true if they want it to be whether it is or not. We live in a world where homosexuality is pushing to be legitimized and not considered wrong or sinful. In their eyes, it is not wrong or sinful because they don’t want it to be; that should be good enough for the rest of us. They are working very hard to bring their pressure of acceptance to bear on all of us.
When I think of what is happening in this regard, it reminds me of the children’s story entitled The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you are familiar with the story, you remember the Emperor was influenced to purchase a very costly new outfit of clothing being sold by a couple of swindlers. They told the Emperor that the clothing that they were making was being woven out of special thread by a special seamstress and not just anyone could appreciate or even see this thread or cloth. It could only be seen by those that were very intelligent. The Emperor (not wanting to look foolish) said that he, of course, could see the cloth. He paid them handsomely for this new outfit. He went about to dress himself in this very special outfit that, in reality, he could not see, touch or handle but felt the pressure to accept as real. He put it on and then paraded through the streets. All of the adults felt that they could not speak up because they did not want to insult the Emperor or make him look foolish. They all pretended that he was wearing these fancy new clothes; however, there was one child watching the Emperor parade through the streets with nothing on but his undergarments. This little child said, “Hey look! The Emperor is wearing no clothes.” All of a sudden everyone started laughing, and the Emperor felt like a fool. He had been made a fool by the power of influence. It took the sincerity of a truthful child to point out what everyone knew, but they were afraid to say. They were being pressured to keep silent because they did not want to disagree with the powers at play. I sense this is where we are today in this moral debate.
May God help us to have the courage to speak the truth in love. The truth is that homosexuality is sinful; it is a deviant choice in the regard to one’s sexual behavior and as such it should not be granted special rights and privileges. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where more and more people are afraid to speak the truth. Don’t cave to the pressure!
Last week I conducted a wedding for a fine young couple. I estimate that I have conducted close to one-hundred weddings in my thirty-four years of ministry at Cleveland Baptist Church. There is something to be said about young people that grow up in church, have a heart for God, and want to live their lives to please Him. It was a blessing to see that this young couple had purposely saved themselves for this moment when God would give them the gift of a spouse. What a testimony to the world that God can and does very unique and special things if we are willing to follow His plan.
In the last several years, things have drastically changed in our society. Today we are debating what marriage is and how it should be defined. The talk of same-sex marriage is very much at the center of the public arena. President Obama recently placed his approval on same-sex marriage. To listen to mainstream media one would think that this deviant behavior is all but a done deal in our world. I am not quite sure that is true, and I pray that it is not. The reason I am not sure is because in every state where the definition of marriage was voted on, the majority voted to define marriage the same way God defines it in the Bible. It seems that only an extreme group in our society is pushing this envelope. I suppose, given enough time, and a lack of change for the better in our country, that new definitions will probably prevail. I see how subtly the devil has worked to make this a reality. Let me explain.
I grew up in the 60s and graduated from high school in 1975. It was the height of the hippie revolution – a time when “Rock and Roll” music and “free love” was bantered about. My generation is known as “Baby Boomers,” and the philosophy that we grew up with has led to the moral depravity of the current generation. There are two elements that are negatively affecting our society. In my opinion, both these elements have had a terrible effect in depleting our moral foundation.
The first element is the fact that so many heterosexual couples are living together without being married. This used to be looked upon with great reproach and was referred to in the 70s and 80s as “shacking up.” As time progressed, this became a normal and accepted aspect of our culture. Today it seems that more heterosexuals are living together than are marrying. The 2010 census revealed that for the first time in our history, unmarried households out-numbered married households. One of the things that led to the proliferation of couples living together was the divorce rate. When you live in a world where it is all about you, what you want, and what makes you happy, it translates into a lot of selfish behavior. Thus the divorce rate skyrocketed and unmarried couples thought they should give marriage a trial run. The mindset of “Let’s see how this fits and if we are truly compatible!” is prevalent.
I believe the second thing that led to the demise of our culture has been teaching evolution as fact. To teach evolution means you have to cast doubt on Scripture. For years, our public education system has pumped their anti-God, anti-Bible, and anti-moral mentality into the hearts of the nation’s youth. When a person doesn’t believe that there is a God and thinks that he is a god, he tends to believe that he can set his own rules for behavior. Thus people are living together playing house, and now the thing that seems to be getting the most attention is the homosexual crowd wanting legitimate standing in our society. They want legalized marriage. They want to be recognized as normal, and they want acceptance from every facet of society. To publicly stand in opposition to this crowd and speak your mind is something that is resisted. You could be labeled as “homophobe” and could be considered to promote “hate-speech!”
What a world we live in. We have heterosexuals that don’t care about marriage, and we have homosexuals that are clamoring and desirous of marriage. What does that say about the world we live in? It states to me that we need to have God’s power and that we must get busy sharing Christ with the lost world. I think it is important that we allow our voices to be heard in this matter by sharing our faith and Saviour. Beyond that, we must not shy away from public debate. We must be willing to take a stand in our culture and be counted among those that are the salt of the earth.
On Sunday, April 29, we concluded our World Missions Conference for this year. The Missions Conference is a powerful and monumental time in our church’s calendar. This year, God brought together a wonderful and eclectic group of missionaries. We were privileged to host nine families for the conference. We had the Dave Barnhouse family heading to Zambia, the Stephen Byrd family to Ecuador, Sam Bunnell going to Panama, the Joel Michel family heading to the Netherlands, the Phil Rizzo family planting a church in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the Rodney Ruppel family on furlough from Cambodia. We also had Cleveland Baptist Church sent missionaries: the Robert Mickey family home from Kenya, the Jim Pranger family home from Hungary, and the James Pranger family heading to Russia. All these families were a blessing and encouragement to our church family. We are so grateful for their response to God’s call and the fact that, by God’s grace, we can partner with them in reaching the world.
Why is the World Missions Conference always such a powerful meeting? I think I can answer that question.
- Missions is the church’s responsibility. When Jesus left this world, He commissioned His church to go into “all the world” with the Gospel message. This is more than just the message of salvation; it is also administering baptism and then training or discipling. If we are going to be successful in doing what Christ gave us to do, churches must be planted in order to carry out the three directives given by the Lord. There is something special about new churches being birthed. It is much like birthing physical babies. There is great joy when children and grandchildren are born. By partnering with missionaries, we are helping them birth churches, and we have great joy from that element of our spiritual life. It is what Christ has put us here to do!
- Missionaries are some of the finest Christians you could ever meet. All Christians should be willing to live in complete and total obedience to Christ. Missionaries, by their very response to God’s call, are following Christ wherever He wants them to go. For some, it means leaving behind their home, family, and the American way of life. It means being thrust into a new culture and learning a new language. It may mean getting out of their comfort zone and meeting new people. It means loving and caring those that Christ loves. When we see the sacrifices these missionaries are willing to make, it should cause us to want to have a part in what they are doing.
- We set aside this time in our church calendar so we can focus on the thing that is dearest to the heart of God. It has been said, “God had one Son and that Son was a missionary.” It was Jesus that said “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” When we focus on what God focuses on, we get a special blessing from the Lord. Hearing from and interacting with these great servants of the Lord stirs our hearts because God is stirring their hearts.
- Finally, when we talk about missions, we talk about making a financial investment. It means making decisions and choices about our resources above a tithe in order to help missionaries get to and stay on the field. They are willing to go to the far corners of the world, but it takes people being faithful in their financial support to keep them on the field. It takes people praying that God will protect, provide, and encourage these missionaries. This kind of focus endears us to what the Christian life is all about.
I trust that as you read this post, God stirs in your heart to be faithful to your promise of finances but also to pray for the missionary family of Cleveland Baptist Church. For more than forty years, I have participated in giving to Faith Promise Missions. It has been one of the joys in my life to watch God do great things by faith in my heart. I trust that you, too, will know that same joy by being involved in faith giving to the missions’ program of Cleveland Baptist Church.
Living for Jesus,