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Friday, March 30, 2012

A Little Self-Examination

Let’s do a little exercise.

Get a piece of paper.

Write “1 . . . 2 . . . 3” vertically down the side of the page with some room in between.

Fill in up to three of those blanks on the paper to complete the sentence, “I would be happier if . . . .” (Be honest—you won’t learn anything if you just put what you think you ought to put or if you put nothing at all.)

Now write next to each one on a scale of 0 to 10 how confident you are that it is going to happen (0 = not going to happen, 10 = definitely going to happen).

Now write next to each one on a scale of 0 to 10 whether this is something God has promised (0 = God never even hinted at this, 10 = God has clearly said he will do this).

What you’ve written is a picture of your faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Our faith is as strong as our confidence. To the extent we’re not sure that something will come to pass, we lack faith in it. But that verse in Hebrews also introduces a long account of godly people whose faith was in God’s promises of things that only God could do. If our faith is not in what God has told us by his word and Spirit will happen, then we don’t have faith—we have wishful thinking.

From the example of this chapter, probably the greatest faith we can have is 100% confidence in Jesus’ second coming and our resurrection and for that to be where all our hope is placed. People with that level and kind of faith are enormously happy even while they still long for what they haven’t yet received. But when our faith is weak—placed in lesser things with lesser confidence—our joy is weak.

“Now without faith it is impossible to please [God], for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Our hopeful faith not only makes us happy; it makes God happy, and we don’t make him happy without it. If you’re missing that faith, you probably do have at least a little, because if you didn’t you probably would not have been interested to read this far. So if you have a little faith, the best thing you can do to get more is to say to God repeatedly, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Then read the Bible repeatedly to focus your mind on God’s promises for you to have faith in. “This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith” (1 John 5:5).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cultural Shifts and Preaching about Sex

I’m preaching through 1 Corinthians, and on Sunday I’ll be preaching on 6:12-20, which means I’m going to be preaching about sex. A lot. It won’t be exhaustive, but it will be intensive, and I’m excited about it.

Now, as demographers define generations (such as, for example, the Baby Boom Generation), we have six generations in my church. The oldest generation are all homebound and the youngest generation will be elsewhere in the building at least during the sermon, so the number of generations I’ll be preaching to about sex is four. These four generations represent an indescribably vast shift in cultural attitudes, customs, and even law with respect to sex. As I’m preparing myself to preach I recognize (and will acknowledge at the beginning of my sermon) that the oldest generation listening to my sermon will probably be deeply uncomfortable and perhaps even angry at what I say on Sunday and how I say it. But if I preach the text in a way that would have been appropriate fifty years ago—with subtle speech, dancing around the edges, relying on polite innuendo and euphemism to convey a coded message that I could trust all adults to understand and all children to misunderstand—then half of my church today won’t understand what I’m talking about. It’s not just that it won’t be impactive: it won’t be comprehensible. That’s how hypersexualized and vulgar our society has become.

But as hard as it may be to believe, that won’t last. English-speaking society has been here before. We’ve swung from the strict Puritan 17th century to the licentious 18th to the prude Victorian 19th to the wild, Jazz-Age early 20th century to the outwardly upright mid-20th through the Sexual Revolution to the debauched era we live in today, probably the most extreme of them all. And mark my words, the pendulum will swing back again. And as it approaches the truth that sex is wonderful and to be celebrated but is to be vigilantly contained within the healthy boundaries of marriage, it will accelerate and fly to the opposite extreme position that it is a dirty and destructive thing not to be spoken of or (ideally) engaged in.

And when that happens late in my career as a preacher, I’m going to keep preaching about sex. And I hope that there are other preachers with me who are willing to risk being kicked out of their churches for offending their congregants and violating taboo. Because it is the failure of preachers to preach candidly a Bible passage like 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 fifty and sixty years ago that is partly responsible for the sad condition of devastated and confused people today.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

FREE Kindle eBook: "On Freedom and Destiny"

Perhaps you haven’t yet purchased my first book On Freedom and Destiny: How God’s Will and Yours Intersect.

Perhaps you have a Kindle or a Kindle app.

Perhaps you would like On Freedom and Destiny for free.

You’re in luck.

This weekend, until the end of Sunday, you can download On Freedom and Destiny on Kindle for FREE.

As a matter of fact, On Freedom and Destiny is currently the #1 free title in the Kindle Store in both the Theology and Christian Living categories. By Sunday night I’d like to see it crack the Top 100 in all categories. So please help yourself to a copy and pass the word on to your friends. And enjoy.