Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking For Single Ladies

Let me begin by saying, I am not looking for single ladies. God has graciously given me my princess and she is "every woman in the world to me" (a little Air Supply reference if you're old enough to remember that). It is this blog post that is looking for single ladies and here is the reason why: Almost on a weekly basis I see statuses on Facebook from single ladies bemoaning the fact the the recent boyfriend has yet again turned out to be a dud. Most of these posts are made by young adult women but there are similar posts from ladies both younger and older. Obviously I know these ladies or I wouldn't be seeing their posts. (I'm not one of these people who accepts every friend request I get.) So, if you are reading this and you fit the description above (some of you single ladies will not so don't think I'm lumping you all into one big pot), please give me a moment to speak into your life. Allow me to speak to you as a pastor, a friend, and a father of two daughters myself. Afterwards, you can do whatever you want with the information I offer to you.

First off, let me shock you into reality by being extremely blunt; do you honestly think you are going to find Prince Charming by hanging out in clubs and/or bars? (I'll let that sink in for a moment.) While not impossible that there may be a diamond in the rough to be discovered, there is a huge amount of "rough" to sift through in those places. Are you seriously searching for a committed man among a group of guys just looking for a party? How many times must you be "surprised" before the light comes on? Again, it's not to say that it is completely impossible, but your track record of failed relationships should be some sort of indication as to how difficult this task is. (I said I was going to be blunt. Now keep reading.)

Perhaps you didn't have a father in your life to teach you by word and example what you should look for in a man or where a good man can be found. An absent father is a very difficult thing to deal with as a girl grows up. On the other hand, maybe you had a father who was committed to and loved your mother, but you decided you were going to do things your way and thus far things have not worked out so swimmingly. No matter what your background, perhaps as we enter a new year it is time for you to change tactics.

Ladies, as you are searching for your Prince Charming you need to consider things from your would-be prince's viewpoint. Do you think this loving, strong, committed, one-lady man who will cherish you and be a strong father figure for your future children wakes up in the morning and says to himself, "I think I will go looking for the bride of my dreams at the local clubs tonight"? Do you not understand that he is looking for his princess? Most likely he is not looking for the drunk girl who is flashing her stuff all around and will jump in bed with him within a week of a relationship. He is looking for a strong, confident, beauty who is sweet, joyful, and full of life. He is looking for someone responsible to perhaps engage in a committed relationship that is more than merely physical.

This may be difficult for some of you to hear and may even make you angry, but the facts are the facts. If you keep hanging out in the sewer you will attract nothing but rats. You can get angry at all the jerks you have dated but it is you who keep pulling guys from the bag marked "jerks". If you really want better material you have to shop at a different store. (Now you have to be with me ladies because I just made a shopping reference.)

How about in this new year that is coming, starting with New Year's Eve, you begin to consider yourself a princess worthy of a prince? Instead shaking your stuff for the dogs, guard your beauty and sex appeal like the precious treasure that it is. Don't treat yourself like all you are worthy of is frat boys looking for a good time and an easy score. Become responsible. Act like an adult. Find better friends. Have higher standards. Consider where the princes are looking for princesses. It's not about money, it's about your lifestyle.

Finally ladies, you must understand that above all you will not find fulfillment in a man, no more than a man will find total fulfillment in a woman. You really have to find you completeness in your Creator. He is the One who made you and He is the One who has a plan for your life if you will follow Him. When you walk with God who knew you before you were born, you will find strength, purpose, and true life. You will gain a standard that exposes losers before you get involved with them. You will carry yourself with strength and dignity (something most guys in the party scene find unattractive). Then God can give you a man who is worthy of His daughter and together that team will do wonders! No, it will never be a perfect life because we are all flawed, but it will be a happy and fulfilling life.

So, my dear ladies, if you are tired of being hurt and sick of your jaded heart, stop blaming the riffraff you keep attaching yourself too and look elsewhere. Find yourself in God who created you and allow Him to build you a better lifestyle (not necessarily a rich and famous lifestyle) and give Him the place in your life to be match-maker when the time is right. God certainly did right by me and while I am by no means perfect, I hope my wife feels the same way about me.

Here's to a better year for all my single lady friends both young and old.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Real X-Factor

It's that time of year again where singing and talent competitions are all over the television. (Of course, I'm not sure there are too many times when there is not at least one of these shows on the air.) The concept of the shows is actually quite brilliant. There are all kinds of talented people out there who might never be discovered by conventional means. These shows offer a forum for those who would probably otherwise remain in the shadows to have their shot to let their talent shine in front of those who can do something with it in the entertainment industry. And while the talent search goes on money comes pouring in through advertisers who eagerly hope to grasp the attention of thousands of viewers. These shows are money making machines!

The basic format is pretty much the same for each show. Candidates get up on stage and perform before a panel of three or four judges who then determine if the individual has what it takes to be a star. Back for its second season in the search for talent is The X-Factor. This singing competition begins by hosting auditions in cities all over the country. The four judges banter back and forth over those performing on stage. Sometimes the judges are unimpressed, sometimes they are insulting, and sometime they are moved to tears. And we, the audience, drink up every minute of it. I have to admit that I sometimes get a laugh out of some of the people who try out and are clearly not singers and I have even been impressed by some who belt out notes you would not expect.

While all of this is good entertainment, the forum reminds me of another more important event that will take place for each and every one of us. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Each one of us will one day stand before the judgment seat. Only we will not face a panel of judges. We will face only One. We will stand alone to give an account for our actions. It won't matter in that moment what others have done, for this is your judgment. Their turn will come. So what is it that will cause the Judge of the universe to look favorably upon you? To put it simply, He is looking for the X-Factor.

"X" in Greek is the letter Chi which is the first letter of Χριστός (Christ). The X has for over a thousand years been used to represent Christ in a type of abbreviation. That is why Christmas is sometimes abbreviated X-mas. Christ is the X!

Many people who realize they will stand before God in judgment one day, get the idea that there will be some sort of scale there and if our good deeds outweigh the bad the Judge will rule in our favor. Not so! The Scripture makes this point hundreds of times but I will just highlight one verse; James 2:10 - "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." To put that simply, one sin committed is as good as all sins committed. There is no small sin. If you go back to the picture of the scale; one sin is like a boulder and all our good deeds are like feathers. We have no hope of tipping the scale.

You may be asking the same thing as the disciples, "Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:25) That's where we get to the X-Factor or Christ-Factor. God is not looking for your good works or your religiosity to save you. "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" - Matthew 7:22-23. Having a religious belief does not impress the Judge. Being "good" does not impress the Judge. What then is the Judge looking for? The Christ-Factor. Have you accepted God's provision of forgiveness through the cross of Christ and now live your life according to His word in response to that gift of salvation? Have you not only received Christ as Savior, but also as Lord allowing Him to transform your life and conform it to Him? This is the real X-Factor!

There are many who willing place themselves before a panel of judges in order to have a shot at fame and fortune. Yet, all these things are temporary. The eternal question must be, when you stand before the Judge of the universe (whether gladly or fearfully) will you have the X-Factor the Lord is looking for? For those who do, their reward will be greater than any talent competition can hope to offer.

1 Corinthians 2:9 - But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sex Slave

Have you ever done any "people watching" at the mall? I enjoy doing this (mostly because I hate shopping). Often times, when my wife is shopping at a store in the mall, I will park myself on a bench and watch the people go by. Given enough time one will see all sorts of things ranging from the comical to the downright bizarre. One can watch others as they interact with their families, friends, or sometimes their invisible companions. People watching certainly helps the time pass and keeps a man from constantly texting his wife, "Are you done yet? Can we go?"

I had the opportunity to do some people watching last night. After dropping my son off at work I decided to take advantage of those hours and get some studying done. I chose to go to a book store in the mall that had a coffee shop. I ordered a caramel macchiato (one of the few coffees that actually have any flavor at this particular place) and sat down in a comfy chair with a table to begin my studying.

About twenty or thirty minutes into my studies I noticed some movement at the magazine racks my chair was facing. I looked up to see a man in his late fifties or early sixties looking over the magazines with great interest. As I watched him he quickly went for the top row which of course contained the pornography. He picked one up and flipped through it and then returning that one to the rack he selected another.

At first, I chuckled to myself and thought, "Check out that dirty old man." However, I soon felt a check in my heart as God let me know that He did not find this situation amusing. This man was in bondage; probably for many years. With new eyes and understanding I continued to watch as this man went from one magazine to the next. He began to pick up pornography that was sealed in bags and feverishly tear it open like a junkie who just received a long over due supply of heroine. My heart began to break for this man as I watched him be consumed by his lust. Then suddenly he placed everything back and departed.

Over the next several hours my studies were interrupted as I observed other individuals going to the magazine rack, even one woman. Some came alone and hovered around the rack acting like they were only browsing, but they knew what they were there for. One man started off slowly, picking up a health magazine with a swimsuit model on the front. It wasn't long before he had his engine revved up enough to drop the mild stuff and go for the flesh feast in the top row. Others played around continuing to pass back and forth, their eyes constantly glancing to the top shelf. I could almost hear the temptation calling to them and see the struggle they were having with their flesh.

This struggle with sexual sin is nothing new, but it is very prevalent in our society among both men and women. Before I continue, let me point out that sex within the context that God created it for is a good and wonderful thing. It is sex outside of God's intended design that leads to bondage. In the book of John chapter 8 verse 34, Jesus is quoted as saying, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." Let's face it; that's true. We want to pretend that we are the ones who have it under control, but the fact is (especially when is comes to sexual sin) our flesh is calling the shots. Men and woman become slaves to their sex drive.

So how does one get emancipated from this type of slavery? If you proceed down two verses in John chapter 8 you will see Jesus also said in verse 36, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." You may think to yourself, "That's great news! So the Lord can set me free of this and I'll never be tempted again." While the Lord does that on occasion, it is not the typical way He works. Some Christians have a very un-Biblical idea that if you are born-again as Jesus said you must be (John 3:3) and have the Holy Spirit you will never experience temptation again. Nowhere does the Bible teach such nonsense. In fact, it acknowledges quite the opposite!

A slave can be set free but a slave can return to his slavery if he chooses so. Many people have broken free of drugs only to make a choice to "have one last one for old times sake" and put themselves right back into bondage. Freedom does not absolve us of responsibility. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." We have to exercise self-control over our body, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, if we are to remain in the freedom Christ offers.

There are many good books and sermons on this subject and I certainly can't cover everything in this blog. (I suspect that it is already getting too long.) However, I will mention two things briefly.

First, learn the art of running away. 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to, "Flee sexual immorality." An individual does not fight temptation by getting into a staring contest with it. The longer you lock on to something tempting the more you insure your defeat. 1 Corinthians 10:13 informs us that, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Some people use this verse to teach the false idea that God will never give you more that you can handle. Clearly that is not what is being addressed here. Temptation is being addressed and God promises, not to give your strength to stare it down, but to provide a way of escape. If you find yourself in the magazine rack of temptation there are to openings on either side. Choose one and run!

Second, learn to steer clear of temptation's usual hangouts. Proverbs chapter 5 deals with the seductress who lures individuals into her grip with her sexual temptations. Verse 8 gives the best advice of all by telling us, "Remove your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house," Stay away and you won't have the problem of avoiding a staring contest! If you know temptation awaits down one aisle, choose another. If you know that a certain situation will lead you into temptation, avoid placing yourself in that situation. Every individual who entered that magazine rack seemed to know what was there. I didn't notice anyone taken by surprise. There were some who struggled, but they all came for a reason. If you avoid the street of the seductress, whenever possible, you won't have to deal with her siren's call.

The slavery of sex outside of God's design is a major issue today. People from all walks of life are chained to it. The Lord created this to be His wedding gift for a man and a woman to enjoy within the confines of a committed covenant marriage. But like the rest of His good creation, mankind has perverted it into something that ultimately brings us into bondage. Do not despair, however, because there is true freedom to be found in Christ and there is strength available in the Holy Spirit to remain free. If you are bound by this chain of sexual sin and have had enough, I urge you to contact a strong disciple of Christ and begin the journey towards freedom. May God bless you to experience His power to break chains!