Pure Religion!

-An Orphan’s Story!

I married the granddaughter of an orphan! When my wife’s grandfather was a young boy, his father died; and, his mother remarried.  Unfortunately, her new husband out NOT to be the kind of man she thought he was.  He held no regard for her children; and, when she died, he considered them disposable; and, had them removed from his home. My wife’s grandfather was a 14-year old boy when the authorities placed him in an orphanage where he was physically abused; until it was discovered and he was removed and placed in a foster-care home where he was loved & cared for. Eventually, he came to faith in Jesus Christ, married my wife’s grandmother & they established a Christian home together. A home that produced a legacy of faith with children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren who’ve grown up loving Jesus. What a great story, right! An “orphan’s story” with a happy ending!

-An Orphan Crisis!

Unfortunately, that’s the exception. There is an orphan crisis in our world! I was shocked to discover that there are more than 153 million orphans worldwide! That’s staggering! If orphans were a country, of their own, their population would rank 9th in the world, ahead of Russia! 100 million of them live or work on the streets. They survive by selling flowers or cigarettes, by watching cars; and, many sell their bodies, for sex, or engage in criminal activity. Many, of these street children, are subjected to abuse, neglect, exploitation; or, in extreme cases, are murdered by “death squads” paid by their governments to “clean up” the image of their cities.

-It’s Easy To Become Hard-Hearted!

So, why am I sharing all this with you? Why should you care? It’s so easy to become hardened to all the images, isn’t it? We’re bombarded with the infomercials! The sad faces. The sad music. The compelling stories. All meant to move us to reach into our wallets ad pay up! And, we can try and rationalize that so many of the agencies out there, who claim to be helping the orphan population, are just siphoning off huge amounts, from the giving, to support elaborate lifestyles for their big-name CEO’s. So, let me tell you why this is important to you! Because we can’t just ignore what God’s Word says about it! God has an opinion & we need to listen!

-Look After Orphans!

It’s a statement inspired by God’s Holy Spirit— “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1:27.  What was that? “PURE RELIGION” is looking after orphans & widows? Is James supporting a salvation of good deeds? No, he’s not! The book James authored dovetails quite nicely with Paul’s book to the Romans. James is NOT saying that your good deeds, like caring for orphans & widows, will result in salvation! Rather, that the result of genuine, saving faith, in Jesus—or, “pure religion” he calls it—is to love others! Like orphans, widows & the marginalized of society! God gives us a heart to love & serve them!

 

How God Wants Us To Pray!

-He Wants Us To Repent!

So, let me tell you what I believe God wants us to do if our prayer life looks like the typical Christian! I believe He wants us to repent of our prayerlessness! I believe He wants us to denounce all our human efforts & admit our total helplessness when it comes to getting God’s work done in our human strength! And, I believe, that in order to accomplish that, He wants us to change some habits in our lives— He wants us to ADD TIME to PRAY into our schedules! That means we might need to actually move some other things OUT of our schedule! And, then, He wants us to pray with absolute dependence on Him!

-Pray Over A Crisis Of Faith!

I believe all these things, about prayer, based on the many and various texts of Scripture on the subject! Take Acts chapter 12, the first 5 verses, for instance. It begins:  “About that time King Herod cruelly attacked some who belonged to the church, and he killed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the days of Unleavened Bread.  After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church.” We can draw a prayer principle from that reading. When trouble comes our way, God uses our crisis of faith, in His Sovereignty, to get us engaged, with Him, in prayer!

-The Human Way We Pray!

There’s something dreadfully human about the way we pray when life is great! When the job is secure, when the marriage is healthy, when there’s plenty of money, when life’s great… WE DON’T PRAY! That says, “We got this”, doesn’t it? We have the false sense that the job’s secure, the marriage is healthy, and, there’s plenty of money because, “We got this!” Because we’re so good at living life! We credit ourselves for the good life. But, God knows how self-deluded we are! When Israel entered the promised land— AFTER God had miraculously delivered them from slavery to Egypt;  AFTER God had dried up the Red Sea so they could safely cross;  AFTER God had fed them with manna & quail in the desert;  AFTER God had preserved their clothing & sandals for 40 years in the wilderness— He knew they would be tempted to take credit for their good life. He warned them!

-Be Careful Not To Forget The Lord!

God knew how Israel would respond to His going before them & dispossessing the land from wicked nations & handing over to them homes, and cities, and land that they hadn’t earned. He warned them: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers… a land with large & beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig & vineyards & olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat & are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” Deut. 6:10-12. What do we have that God has not given us? But we get comfortable & forget, don’t we?

A Distinctly Christ-Centered Home!

-It Starts With Communication!

(PART 1) I’m quite sure that everyone would agree that communication plays a huge part in family relationships! I heard of a man & wife, who had only a dog that they loved like a child. One day the wife headed out on a business trip; and, when she got to her destination she called home to check in with her husband. “How are things going?” she asked. His reply was shocking: “The dog’s dead.” “What,” she asked, “why would you just come right out and say it like that? That’s devastating! Couldn’t you have told me that news a little differently? I’m miles from home & you just blurt it out there, ‘the dog’s dead.’” “Well, I don’t know how else to say it,” he responded, “I mean he’s dead!” “Well,” she said, “you could have broke the news to me in stages.” “Like, what do you mean?” he asked. “Well, when I first called, you could have told me the dog fell off the roof; and, then when I check in later you might have said you had to take the dog to the animal hospital & he wasn’t doing well. The next day you might have told me to sit down & brace yourself; but, our darling dog has passed away! You could have done it like that so I could have handled it better.” “Ok, I get it,” he said, “I’m sorry! I’ll try & do better next time.” “Ok, thanks, honey” she said, “I just needed to clear that up! So, how is my mother?” There was a pause, “She’s on the roof!” While that story may or may not have an awful lot to do with a distinctly Christ-centered home, I thought it worth the chuckle it would generate.

-A Uniquely Distinct Home!

So, let me begin with this series of posts with the following statement—the life of a Christian husband & wife will be uniquely distinct from the marriages of the world! If you intend to follow Jesus, you need to settle that in your heart! The world will think us crazy; but, that’s the world’s wisdom & always remember: “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” 1 Cor. 1:25. As long as we live by “the Book”, our world view will never be accepted by the unbelieving crowd. We need to be okay with that! Don’t be abrasive about it! Always be kind & respectful when sharing your position! Just know that your view will be rejected!

-Your Life As A Christian Wife!

According to the Holy Spirit, of God, who inspired Peter to write these words, your life as a Christian wife will be marked by a submission to your own husband. “In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live” 1 Peter 3:1.  Ladies, you’ll make no friends with the “Women’s Movement” if submission marks your relationship with your husband; but, you will be a friend of God! That word “submit”—in the original Greek language—means to submit “voluntarily” to your husbands lead. And, notice how significant that could play in an unbelieving husband’s life. If your husband is disobedient to God, God may use YOUR obedience to win your husband over to the Lord! (PART II Next Week)

 

God’s Design For The Family!

-We’re All Someone’s Son Or Daughter!

Family & parenting are subjects that all of us can relate to! We’re all part of a family. We’re all someone’s son or daughter. If we’re married, we’re someone’s husband or wife. If not, we’re probably hoping to one day be someone’s husband or wife.  Most of us either have kids; or, we HOPE to have a family someday! Our infinitely wise Creator designed a husband & wife to complement; or, complete each other. And, He’s also designed the family to work together a certain way!

-Something Beautiful Happens!

When the family works the way that God designed it, something awesome and beautiful happens! Families bring glory to God; and, joy to each family member, when God’s design specifications are followed by faith. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter, to the ancient Church of Colosse, that is hated by the world! But, if, by faith, you will believe God’s Word; and, live it out— by the power of God’s Holy Spirit— your family will bring glory to God; and, you will find joy! Your life will be a blessing to your family; and, to everyone you rub shoulders with in life.  “And whatever you do,” Paul begins, “in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them. Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged” Colossians 3:17-21.

-Do It God’s Way!

Whatever you do, Paul says, do it God’s way, according to His design—including husbands, wives & family! That’s the context here! Wives! He begins with wives— if you wanna bring glory to God & live a joy-filled life—Be submissive to your husband! Now, the order has perplexed a number of believers. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to begin with instruction to the wives? I don’t know! There are a number of differing opinions; and, I do have my own opinion. I think it has to do with the meaning of that word “submit” or “be submissive.” The word, in the original language, meant “a VOLUNTARY attitude of giving in, assuming responsibility & carrying a burden.” The key word is “VOLUNTARY.” The wife VOLUNTARILY submits to her husband.

-Not Meant To Lord It Over Her!

So, here’s the message I think the Spirit wants to convey— the husband is not meant to LORD it over his wife by demanding that she submit! Rather, the wife is to willingly, voluntarily, submit! If the husband were addressed first, we might have read into it that the husbands’ responsibility is to demand that his wife submit. So, God removes any inclination the husband might have, to demand submission, by addressing the wives first:  “Ladies, you need to voluntarily give in to your husband’s lead.” God commands this— not, because the wife is incapable! Not because she’s not his equal! Don’t confuse “submission” with “inequality”! We submit to our bosses at work; not, because of inequality; but, because of order! God designed an order to the home. Even Jesus submitted to His parents as part of the created order!

 

Designed To Complement!

-Is Gender Inequality Real?

Gender inequality is receiving a lot of attention these days. I’m referring to the claim that there is unequal treatment of individuals based on their gender. Some of this mistreatment is “perceived”; but, much of it is very real! Some claim there is a gender pay gap; and, in many cases the facts support that claim! There’s also a resulting link to career advancement— that one’s gender impedes their advancement up the company ladder!

-There’s Perspective With Age!

I’ve mentioned before— about growing older— that one of the few advantages I have, over those younger than me, is that I have a “PERSPECTIVE” they can’t possibly have! I have a kind of panoramic view of time since growing up in the 1960’s. More than just a historical perspective, I lived it! I remember when Bobby Riggs challenged Billie Jean King to a tennis match that became known as the “Battle of the Sexes.” It received international attention; and, when King won, it became a kind of “rally cry” to what has been the women’s movement!

-Gender Resentment’s Not Cool!

Now, let me be clear about something! I admit that from the beginning of time, men, in general, have been guilty of inflicting much harm & gender inequality against women; and, I applaud many of the changes that have been made to correct that! At the same time—here is my “old man” perspective— I have noted, in my lifetime, a deep pervasive gender resentment has bubbled up & boiled over in our day. We’re at this “zero-sum competition”! As a society we’re not looking for the WIN-WIN. There’s this lack of togetherness & teamwork between the sexes! It’s become “US against THEM”; and, the only way one gender wins is if the opposite gender loses! It’s “EITHER-OR” when it ought to be “BOTH-AND.” Either men rule the world; or, women do! The sexes are more divided than ever; and, the sexual orientation & “sexual identity” issues are the natural fallout of this fighting between the genders! The world is lost & confused & needs to be rescued & the Church can help bring sanity to the struggle by embracing the counsel of God’s word & living it out in our homes & in the public square & let me add that we bring that discussion with LOVE, PATIENCE & GENTLENESS!

-The Way God Designed Us!

God’s design for the man & the woman promotes beauty & harmony in the relationship between the sexes! God’s design for men & women is absolute equality in status; but, a difference in the roles! All the cultural debate over homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, public policy concerning women being drafted for combat, church debates over women pastors, and, marital conflicts over “who’s in charge” in the home— ALL of it is addressed directly or by implication in God’s Word. When determining our roles, as men and women, God & His Word must shape our opinions, not the culture! To do otherwise is deadly! The culture is broken & doesn’t have the answers! It all begins with Genesis in my next post!

Living In A Sexually Immoral Culture!

-Where To Find The Best Counsel?

The 7th chapter, of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, contains some of the best counsel available on sex and marriage.  And, though he opens with an endorsement for celibacy, he quickly adds that “…because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband” 1 Corinthians 7:2.  In a sexually charged culture, like Corinth was, marriage is God’s gift for most believers.  Why? Because it’s the only sexual activity that God ordains!

-An Undefiled Marriage Bed!

The author, of Hebrews, puts it like this:  “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers” Hebrews 13:4.  The “marriage bed” was an idiom synonymous with “sex.” So, respect it, because God will judge the immoral or adulterous person who “plays the part” of a married person sexually! But, they’re not married, they’re just “playing house.” When you belong to a culture where sexual immorality is so prevalent—like it was in Corinth & like it is in our own country—God’s answer is, “Get Married!” In the 9th verse of Paul’s Corinthian letter, the Holy Spirit prompts him to write that, “…if they do not have self-control (to REMAIN CELIBATE), they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

-Marriage: A Deterrent To Immorality!

So, marriage is a helpful deterrent to sexual immorality! That might not seem like the best motive for getting married; but, Paul & the Spirit of God are just being practical! It’s better than immorality!  At the same time, Paul qualifies the gift of marriage with some stipulations. Marriage does not guarantee freedom from sexual immorality. Marriage partners have a sexual responsibility to each other. Don’t misunderstand what Paul is saying here! Marriage is a deterrent to living a life of sexual immorality; but, ONLY if the husband and wife carry out their sexual responsibilities to one another.  “A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.  A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

-Being Sexually Responsible!

There’s a lot going on in those 3 verses. Paul is preaching “monogamy.” He’s preaching a “heterosexual” relationship. And, he’s preaching that a husband & a wife have a sexual responsibility to fulfill with each other. Some translations actually speak of it as a “debt” or an “obligation.” Again, that doesn’t sound very romantic; but, this is serious stuff Paul is talking about. You can’t say it much stronger than he does in v.5—”Don’t DEPRIVE one another sexually…” Some translations render it, “…don’t DEFRAUD one another…” The husband’s body does not belong to him alone! And, the wife’s body does not belong to her alone! When you use sex as a “weapon” to punish some bad behavior, you think your spouse committed against you, you defraud them & place them in a vulnerable place to fall into sexual sin, Paul says. Don’t do it!

 

What Sexual Health Looks Like!

-It’s Not What You Think!

Unfortunately, marriage & parenting are the butt of a lot of jokes in our society. We sing a lot of sad songs about lost love; and, it seems that’s one way we manage the pain.  Like the story of a woman whose husband lay in bed dying, going in and out of a coma. One day he briefly awoke & reached out to his wife to draw her close.  As she sat next to him, he began to whisper some of his remembrances to her:  “Honey, you’ve been right there beside me through all the rough times.  You were there when I got fired. You were there when my business failed.  You were there when we lost the house.  And, you’ve been right here—the whole time—by my side even as my health failed & I lay dying.” He paused briefly & asked, “You know what?” “What, dearest?” She asked as she wiped a tear from her eye.  “I think you’re bad luck” he said; and, then slipped back into a coma!

-Flawless Marriage Counseling!

I’m pretty confident that everyone enters into marriage longing for a partnership that remains strong & healthy! I hope that it doesn’t surprise you when I say that God’s Word provides us with the ONLY flawless counsel for building those healthy marriages; and, for training up godly children! If you’re a relatively new follower of Jesus, you may be surprised to find out how much the Bible has to say about marriage & sex & family! But, think about it! It was God who created marriage! And, it was God who created sex! He created the family, too! So, it really only makes sense that we would go to the SOURCE for wisdom & counsel in these areas!

-A Foundational Bible Text!

A foundational text on the subject of marriage, sex, and the family is 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. It’s incredibly practical; and, if you’ll commit to obeying the words of Scripture—rather, than listening to the foolish, so-called “wisdom” of the world—you’ll have that strong & happy marriage that everyone longs for.  It’s an intriguing passage! What the Apostle Paul says to the Church of Corinth—and, these are words inspired by God’s Holy Spirit—are completely out-of-step with the world’s wisdom and the societal norms for family & for human sexuality! So, choose who you’re going to listen to!

-Where Healthy Sex Happens!

If you just google “A Healthy Sex Life” you’ll get results like “10 Signs You Have A Healthy Sex Life”—but, not one sign is attached to marriage between a man & a woman! Your google search results will also include articles on sexual dysfunction & how to maintain an active sex life; but, again, with no reference to marriage! But, according to God, “Healthy Sex” ONLY happens in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman! Over & over, the Word of God warns us against the ramifications of sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman! All other sexual activities are spiritually unhealthy because it is disobedience to God’s word! But, it can also prove to be physically & emotionally unhealthy! It has a trickle down effect, negatively impacting others downline! Next Week: We’ll get into 1 Cor. 7.