Stop Your Dilly-Dallying. It’s Time to Break Up.

 

BCF - CopyI sat down the other day with a young man who was considering joining our church. He had a number of reservations. In fact, it took him 90 minutes to articulate all his doubts. From the age of our members to the worship music we play, he had lots of changes to suggest. As a church planter, my job is to recruit anyone and everyone to my church. But I didn’t recruit him. In fact, I told him, “Friend, this is obviously not your church.”

God is not the author of confusion. The difficult decisions you face aren’t actually that hard to make. God has usually given you the answer before you even ask Him the question.

mbI used to sell cars, and I sold a lot of them. It was my job to talk everyone I could into buying whatever I was selling, and no one did it better. Customers would come in and we’d drive the cars and talk about the numbers. Sometimes a customer would come visit 2 or 3 times before they made their purchase. This is normal; buying a car is a big decision.

However, after 3 visits, I stopped playing around. At that point, they were wasting their time, and more importantly, they were wasting mine. To these customers, I would say, “You’ve been here 3 times already. We’ve driven the car twice. You’re still not sure. Sir, this just isn’t your car. If you’ve spent 2 weeks thinking about a decision and you still haven’t made up your mind, you need to buy some other car.”

Back when I was dating, I had bad experiences with extended dead-end courtships. Three times I dated young women who thought I would eventually marry them. In each case, after 2 years, I finally admitted to myself and to them that our relationship wasn’t going anywhere. And in each case, the breakup was excruciating.

sad womanAfter the last breakup, I vowed that I would not let a relationship last more than 2 weeks if it wasn’t with the woman I was going to marry. For over a year, I ended one dead-end relationship after another, each with far less pain than if I had let the relationships string along. Sometimes there wasn’t a strong emotional connection; other times we lacked attraction; some women just weren’t interesting or fun to be with. A few were still hung up on ex-boyfriends.

Finally I met a young Christian woman who seemed perfect, but my roommate didn’t like her, and his girlfriend really couldn’t stand her. After 2 weeks, they reminded me of my vow.  On the 14th day exactly, I called her up and broke things off.

Less than an hour later, our doorbell rang. The girl I had just dumped was standing at the door, as angry as she was beautiful. She told me I wasn’t going to break up with her on the phone. She was obviously burning mad. I couldn’t believe she had come over. I was having trouble not smiling out of nervousness.

Selfors Family 2 - Copy - Copy
Me, with the woman who wouldn’t give up, and the children God has given us.

I invited her in and something strange happened. The moment she walked through the doorway into our apartment, I somehow knew that I would marry her.

And I did. Seventeen years later, I can say that opening that door was the smartest thing I ever did. But it’s a decision I never could have made if I hadn’t decisively broken off all those unfruitful courtships.

Decision time

Young man, if you aren’t sure your girlfriend is your future spouse, she’s not. You have no business dating her. She’ll end up very hurt in the end. Let her go now, not later. Call her. Right now.

Young woman, if your boyfriend won’t talk about marriage, or if he won’t set a date to get married (a near one), you have your answer. His reticence is a window into his subconscious. He has his doubts about you, and you only stand to get hurt when he eventually admits it.

(Don’t convince yourself that you’re not sure about marriage either. Your self-deception grows out of your desire not to lose him, but you will lose him eventually anyway and the breakup will leave you devastated.)

In your heart, you want to marry a man who cannot imagine life without you – who will beg you to marry him – not one who is dragged reluctantly to the altar. Don’t settle for anything less.

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You May Be Shocked to Hear How God Speaks Today

I have a friend – who is now retired – who used to have a high security clearance for a government intelligence agency. She said one of the questions they asked her in getting her clearance was, “Do you hear voices in your head?” Presumably, the CIA thinks it’s more than a little wacky to think God still speaks to people.

But haven’t you ever heard a Christian say, “God told me to do this” or, “God told me to do that,” and wondered just how that works? They often seem sincere. Does God really speak to us today, and if so, how? And how do we know if it’s really God talking, and not just our imagination?

What if we are just putting a religious veneer on something we want to do anyway? Folks can come up with some ridiculous things and claim God told them to do it.

The following is a talk I gave on hearing God speak. You may be surprised to hear what I have to say.

“My parents forced me to go to church and I resented it, so I give my kids a choice.”

Engaged ParentingAs a parent, you’ve got three places to go for wisdom about raising your kids. First, you can go with what seems right to you. This is called “intuitive parenting.”

The Bible says intuitive parenting is dumb: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Being your own compass is going to get you – and your kids – lost.

Take the example above, of a parent who won’t force their religious traditions on their kids. It sounds like a pretty solid argument. We know how kids like to rebel.

But it doesn’t make any sense once you think about it. There are a lot of things you make your kids do that they may resent, but that they will someday force their own kids to do anyway: doing chores & homework, obeying, honoring their curfew and going to bed at a reasonable hour, to name a few. You don’t leave it up to them to decide if stealing is okay. The most important things your kids need to do cannot be left to reverse psychology.

Dad and Daughter(That means if you don’t let your kids decide for themselves whether it’s right to beat the cat or spit on your carpet, you need to bring them to church, unwillingly if necessary.)

The second way to navigate the minefield of parenting is to rely on the advice of experts. Many parents tout the advanced degrees of the high-minded authorities they follow. It’s difficult to refute a great resumé.

But I hear three reputable experts give three contrary opinions.  One authority warns that parents should never praise their kids, lest they become attention hounds. Another says to compliment them at every opportunity – even for simply breathing if that’s all they’re doing right. A third says to give them props, but only for serious achievements.  All three experts are highly educated and have loyal followings, with similarly successful track records as parents.

(If they’re honest, these “experts” will probably admit that they didn’t always take their own advice. Their actual execution may have been much more similar than it seems.)

So which expert do you follow? It ends up going back to intuitive parenting. You go with whoever sounds best to you, and that’s no way to achieve success.

happy mother and daughterThe final way to raise kids is to submit your parenting to Christ’s lordship. In other words, in every situation, you follow what Scripture teaches you.

The Bible tells parents to be loving, encouraging, attentive, generous, fair and tough, without favoritism or meanness. We have to know when to say no, but find ways to say yes.

Scriptures give parents (and especially fathers, when available) the responsibility to teach their kids about God. The job doesn’t fall to pastors, youth leaders, school teachers or (least of all) peers.

God gives us absolute authority over our minor children, which comes with complete responsibility.

If you decide to parent your own way, you have no one to blame but yourself if they never turn to God. The experts won’t refund the money you spent on their books when their sure-fire systems fail. Only God makes a real guarantee with his instructions.

The Bible says, “In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).  God has made countless promises in the Scriptures that if we’ll simply follow his guidance, we will ultimately succeed as parents because He will make us successful.

Don’t Worry. No Court Can Ever Steal Our Blessing.

rainbow whitehouse
Noah would be furious.

Jesus said to his Apostles, “Whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew 10:14-15).

Many Christians argue that today, America is that “city” under judgement, having rejected Christ and his Law. Moreover, they argue that America was once a nation which merited God’s favor, and that the nation’s recent infatuation with homosexuality is tipping the scales of God’s judgment against us.

Below, I will argue the lamentable advance of homosexuality in America is not an imminent threat to God’s blessing on America, nor even a crisis for the church.

I believe the Bible gives us clear instructions on how to deal with life as a minority in a godless society. A sound reading of the Scriptures does not point to a divine judgment coming upon America as a result of what 5 of our judges have done.  The chorus of fear coming from our pulpits it unproductive.

The argument I make is purely biblical. My opinion is worthless; only the Word matters, and I have included more than 70 links to appropriate passages, supporting each of my points with Scripture.

Vote, but don’t panic.

First, living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin.

Society doesn’t get to define what sin is. The Bible does. No matter how much of a cultural norm homosexuality becomes, it will always be a sin because of God’s unchanging Word.

That doesn’t automatically mean Christians are responsible to pass laws opposing homosexuals.

Jesus did nothing to reform the Roman Empire. He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Today, we would call that the church.

The way a Christian approaches politics is going to depend in large part on whether they see America as an Israel-like nation that God blessed on its merits (or judged for its sin), or as a Rome-like empire which God blessed despite its flaws. The following arguments presuppose that the latter is true.

parade
Grateful Americans

I love America.

I didn’t grow up here, and I think that makes me appreciate America more. I moved to the States when I was 18.

I love that in America, there is always a store open 24 hours (nothing is ever open when you need it in Europe). I love our cheap gas, our dollar menus and our low taxes. My bikes always got stolen in Germany; not so here.

I love that Americans are generally friendly (at least here in the South). I love our kick-butt military, our buffet restaurants (they didn’t have those across the pond) and pickup trucks.

Throughout its history, America has more to bless the world than any other nation. From the way we win wars without territorial ambitions, to the way we treat enemy POWs, to the way we venerate our soldiers, America’s good heart has been clearly shown.

And I love that we have so many Christians here.

scales
These can’t save you.

The 51% rule isn’t really a rule.

Lost people often believe in a 51% god. If you’re more good than bad, you go to Heaven when you die. Most people figure they make it.

Many folks who are panicking about America right now are thinking that our country used to be a majority Christian nation, and now that it seems to be less than 50% Christian, we are about to see God’s hammer come down. “I know America isn’t perfect, but we used to be mostly good,” they argue.

But God’s actual standard for an individual is perfection. All people are sinners who need Christ’s grace, through faith in Him, to be saved. If we’re 51% good, we end up in Hell. In fact, 99.99% goodness still sends us there.

If countries were judged like that, we’d be toast. Could you imagine every single person in a whole country loving God? You won’t see that until we get to Heaven. And there is no biblical support for claiming that God judges nations by the 51% rule.

Not as Mao as he could have been.
Not as Mao as he could have been.

The “I’m better than other people” standard doesn’t work, either.

Other lost people believe in a god who measures your righteousness against other people’s. “I’m not Hitler or anything.”

One worried Christian told me, “America isn’t perfect, but we’ve done more for God than any other country.” If that’s the standard, we’re good to go, since the rest of the world seems to be sliding backwards even faster than we are. But being better than France is not God’s standard for righteousness.

If we are going to compare ourselves to anyone, God says to compare ourselves to Him. “Be holy, because I am holy,” He says. America has never been as holy as God; no country has.

But America is blessed for its remnant, not for its holiness.

All my life, I have heard preachers and politicians talking about how angry God must be with America, since we weren’t as righteous as we used to be. In the 1980s, Billy Graham warned that God couldn’t bless America because of our sin. It wasn’t new talk. The sky has always been falling.

wjb
William Jennings Bryan: 19th Century Prophet or Chicken Little?

The 1896 Democratic Presidential candidate Williams Jennings Bryan warned that God would take his loving hand off America if we annexed the Philippines (seriously?). Bryan was wrong; we didn’t let the Philippines go until 1946, by which point God had given America 50% of the world’s GDP.

Even Thomas Jefferson thought God should be mad at America, more than 2 centuries ago.

But countries aren’t people. Nations cannot be saved and they cannot go to hell; they are inanimate. The 51% rule (which doesn’t really exist anyway) doesn’t apply, and neither does the “I’m better than Stalin” standard. Thank goodness, we are not even held to perfection, like people are.

Nations are judged for their righteous remnants. A nation can be favored for the sake of its God-fearing residents, even if the believers are just a tiny minority. This has always been the source of God’s special blessing on America.

Uh…that’s sort of circular, dude.

According to Pew, around 27% of Americans are evangelicals (born-again Christians). It’s not like we’ve taken over. Not even close. Assuming this number is correct (although 27% is likely inflated), 73% of Americans are serving another god besides the Jesus Christ of the Bible: they worship themselves.

Can America be blessed because of just 27% of its population?

The Bible says it can.

And certainly God has blessed America. Our wealth and power are unparalleled in history. But the degree to which we are able to bring God’s blessing onto this country has more to do with the faithfulness of the church than it does with our forcing unbelievers to fake it. If even 5% of Americans truly loved God, He would bless America more than if all 100% of Americans were merely forced to act like they did.

Ask yourself:  If your son or daughter moved to a certain city, wouldn’t you want that place to be blessed for their sake?  God sees America that same way.  Even the evil Babylonian Empire was blessed because of the presence of our spiritual ancestors.

God’s favor cannot be won or lost in Washington, in Hollywood, or in San Francisco. Instead, it depends on the unity, faithfulness and prayerfulness of our churches.

in god we trust
Not as much as we should

But what about “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord?”

Psalm 33:12 is talking specifically about Old Testament Israel, which today is the church. In the same sentence, the psalmist says, “…the people who He has chosen for his own inheritance.” It’s not a promise for Norway, or any other political state.

In other words, if we want America to be blessed, the church in America must be holy. An entire holy country is unachievable, since Satan owns this world. But Christ’s church will be presented to Him spotless.

But shouldn’t we push for laws to make this a Christian nation?

If America had a government based on the Bible…

…it would be illegal to have affairs. In fact, cheaters would be executed (Leviticus 20:10). (And no, Jesus didn’t relax this rule. The “woman caught in adultery” passage is known to be apocryphal, being absent from the early manuscripts.)

…dishonoring one’s parents would bring the death penalty (Exodus 21:17).

…practicing homosexuals would be killed (Exodus 20:13).

…tithing would be compulsory (Matthew 23:23).

gay church
Apostate church: Willing to claim God said what the Bible says He didn’t

Remarkably, 94% of evangelicals disapprove of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, but only small fraction of these actually tithe. We love to judge people who sin differently than us. I know a lot of church folks would not appreciate the Supreme Court mandating the 10% rule.

Passing these laws wouldn’t affect me or other born-again believers. The small percentage of Americans who fear God will not be having any affairs, we honor our parents, and we have no desire to sleep with people of the same sex. And we tithe. If the draconian laws above were passed, it wouldn’t hurt us a bit.

But I don’t believe that the Bible supports us forcing such laws on America.

What if 100% of Americans were born-again believers?  

A Christian is a person who God has forgiven and who has been given a new heart. Their new nature makes them want to follows God’s laws; they don’t need coercion. The Bible says “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). If a person is led by the Spirit, living a righteous life is easy.

In a nation where everyone was a born-again believer, adultery and homosexuality wouldn’t be issues. We wouldn’t have to pass draconian laws against sinful behaviors. We wouldn’t need cops, courts or condoms. There would be no locks on doors or cameras in stores. There would be no rapes, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, or single mothers. Every child would have a mom and a dad.

But we are a long way from every American being a born-again believer.

mount rushmore
Two devout Christians, a deist and an agnostic

America has never been perfect, and we are at our worst when we pretend to be.

America was founded by a mix of Christians and deists (forerunners of today’s atheists). Some were men of great, living faith.

But our forefathers – who we rightly hold up as heroes – were not establishing a theocracy. Given the populace they endeavored to govern, they couldn’t have done so if they had wanted to.

What our founders sought to do was radical at the time. Although flawed, their design recognized the value of man as an image-bearer of God. There was nothing like it in the world at the time. And to the degree they failed to recognize the worth of blacks and women, they were mirroring the universal condition of minorities in that dark age. You can’t judge George Washington for not having a Facebook page.

Washington: Loved God deeply

Unfortunately, the belief that our laws were modeled on the 10 Commandments is largely unfounded. Murder, stealing and perjury (6th, 8th & 9th Commandments) are illegal everywhere in the world, including non-Christian nations. Worshiping other gods, casting idols and using the Lord’s name in vain (1st, 2nd & 3th Commandments) are perfectly legal here in America, and have always been. In fact, the 1st Amendment codifies forever the right of Americans to break the 1st Commandment.

It is disingenuous to claim that our laws are based on the Bible. No President has ever sought to establish a theocracy here, and I will argue that this is just what God wants.

Why can’t the 27% (who are saved) force the 73% (who are lost) to live like saved people?

Lost people don’t have new hearts, and their old hearts are magnetically drawn to sin. Asking unbelievers to live under special Christian laws is cruel and futile. It’s like shooting a dog because he won’t eat cat food. It’s not in the nature of a lost person to be able to follow biblical mandates.

mob
“We’re here to show our Christian love.”

Our attempts to legally require all Americans to live like Christians have been heartbreaking. In 1949, perhaps the high-point for Christianity in America, a business man in Spokane, Washington, was sent to prison for 10 years for sodomy. At the same time, a doctor was arrested there for practicing homosexuality, but he killed himself before he was convicted. The papers cheered his suicide.

This isn’t Christ-like. These were unbelieving men – or perhaps struggling Christians – being harshly judged for failing to live under Christian law in a nation of sinners. But Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”

If we could get 51% of Americans to agree, would it be good to make the other 49% live by the Bible’s rules?

No.

The problem is that lost people can’t just leave America. Non-Christians have jobs, homes and families here. It’s not right to make them choose between living by righteous rules their hearts won’t let them follow or abandoning everything. And forcing unbelievers to pretend to be Christian in order to enjoy the benefits of our country would lead to false conversions.

If Christians were to become a majority in America (which we are not), we would need to “show love for the alien, for we were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). That means not demanding that they follow our customs, unless their not doing so hurts other people.

preacher
A President for all the people.

Even as a Christian, I would be concerned about whether biblical rules could be wisely turned into legislation in a fallen world.

I belonged to a church with a megalomaniac for a pastor. He was a good Christian guy, but he was a control freak. So I left. Bizarrely, he wouldn’t let me quit his church until a special hearing was conducted by the council of elders, which he controlled. And I actually showed up for their little trial! The insanity of not letting me quit eventually became apparent to his kangaroo court, which graciously voted me off the island. Unfortunately, even now I get emails and phone calls from men in his church claiming I am in rebellion against their authority. And the Fuhrer himself won’t talk to me.

The point? Whether a church will permit me to leave or not, if I want to quit, I am going to quit. They can’t stop me. And there is no biblical support for their Hotel-California-style church membership.

It’s not that easy to leave a country. If some maniac like my old pastor is elected president of the Christian Republic of America, we’ll be stuck living under his oppressive, Pharisaical rules. I’d rather live in the America we’ve got – flaws and all – than in a dictatorial theocracy. Unless Jesus Himself comes back to be the ruler, I am not interested in bowing down to an American pope.

gay bar
Not a good place to hold a Bible study

Isn’t America better off without homosexuals?

If someone is not a Christian, the Bible does not let me judge what they do, unless it’s hurting me, my family, or my fellow Americans.

Thieves, liars and murderers clearly hurt society. There ought to be laws against these things, and there are.

Abortion hurts America. We wouldn’t have a Social Security funding crisis if we hadn’t killed 55 million young taxpayers since 1972. There ought to be a law against murdering babies. It’s as fiscally dumb as it is morally wrong.

In terms of societal impact, homosexuality isn’t abortion. Gay marriage limits population growth, but so does abstinence, and no one is advocating a ban on that. Singleness is not a biblical sin, despite its procreative shortcomings.

Overall, there are not that many homosexuals. They are just 1.6% of Americans. If 1.6% of us got frosted by Elsa the Frozen lady, American society would survive. That this small number of people have stepped out of reproductive status is hardly impactful.

The societal harm of homosexuality is negligible. If a genie in a bottle were to let me delete 3 societal woes in America, I would maybe strike TV, alcohol and pornography before I erased homosexuality, and the first two aren’t even sinful per se.

gay wedding
Nooooo…I would not like a piece of that cake.

Aren’t the arguments for homosexuality poor?

I cringe when I hear the media justifying homosexuality. “You can’t help who you love” is double-distilled stupidity. When I took my marriage vows, I was very much saying that I can help who I love. If homosexuals can’t control who they love, why were they clamoring for the right to make lifetime vows to begin with?

They say, “Homosexuality can’t be wrong if I was born this way.” Really? If I am born with a desire to kill someone, that makes it okay? If I have a natural inclination to steal, cheat and lie – and we all do – then I have a special right to do so? This is absurd.

The special test to determine if you were really supposed to be born a girl absurdly fails to search for a Y-chromosome, never mind a simple check inside your underpants. I hope people pay good money for those tests.

While I know how aggravating these arguments can be, homosexuals shouldn’t have to justify to the American government what they want to do if it’s not hurting someone else. They will pay a price for their sin, but it is not my job to dish out the penalty.

Happier times

Isn’t it wrong to redefine marriage?

Here, our logic is just as poor as the homosexuals’.

First, as Americans, we have already redefined marriage. America has defined marriage as a temporary arrangement where you spend 8 years emotionally abusing another human being, then divorce, repeating the exercise 3 years later. It’s like we’re mad that our in-flight movie is cancelled when the wings have fallen off the plane.

Second, the “slippery slope” arguments against redefining marriage are weak. So what if homosexual marriage leads to bigamy? If a lost man wants to marry two women, I won’t begrudge him his misery. If an unbeliever wants to become one with his Winnebago, let him. No one made me the judge of unbelievers.

Christian marriage cannot be redefined. The Bible will always ensure that. But what lost people do with their lexicon is up to them.

But isn’t homosexuality a sin?

Unquestionably, yes.

But homosexuality isn’t the nail in anyone’s coffin. Only faith in Christ can save people (John 14:6), and without Him, even the smallest sin will send a person to hell (Romans 6:23). If an unbeliever is going to hell anyway, there is little reason they shouldn’t be gay. If the last lifeboat has left the Titanic without you, don’t worry about giving up smoking; skip your workout; have some whiskey with your bacon.

“I knew we should have flown.”

(But the last lifeboat hasn’t left yet, so get onboard!)

A straight lost person is just as condemned as a gay one. Telling an unbeliever they shouldn’t be gay is like telling a hospice patient to watch his cholesterol. Lost people need Christ, not Christian rules. If they are born again, they will want to honor God with their sexuality.

What about Christian homosexuals?

Christians sin. Unfortunately, we sin all the time. But we must repent and fight against our flesh’s desire to keep on sinning, or we’re not actually saved. Some Christians struggle with homosexual lust, and some engage in homosexual acts.   And they strive valiantly to overcome their sin with God’s help.

President Carter:  Forgot his Bible in the nightstand at the Whitehouse; Thinks he remembers it saying God is okay with gay marriage.
President Carter: Forgot his Bible in the nightstand at the White House; thinks he remembers it saying God is okay with gay marriage.

But when, in order to justify their desires, they twist (or ignore) the Scriptures, claiming that Jesus is okay with homosexuality, they are making for themselves a new god and proving that they were never Christians to begin with.

When self-described Christians say that homosexuality is not sinful, they are doing harm to those gullible enough to believe them. One of the tragedies of 9/11 is the way officials sent people back into Tower 2 after Tower 1 was struck, with assurances that they would be safe. Ignoring God’s Law is not safe.

Fortunately, many Christians who surrender to their lusts for a season are ultimately restored to their first love. One secular study says that nearly 2/3rds of people who once practiced homosexuality no longer do so.

Tony Miano:  Arrested in England for publicly preaching that homosexuality is a sin.
Tony Miano: Arrested in England for publicly preaching that homosexuality is a sin.

Won’t this lead to persecution of the church?

It certainly seems like that’s where the homosexual lobby would like to take it. Fortunately, God and our constitution have protected us thus far.

I won’t marry homosexual couples because I only do Christian weddings. There is no such thing as biblical gay marriage. If the government wants to lock me up for that, please come visit me in prison. It would be an honor to be persecuted for refusing to let the government make me sin against God.

I sort of hope I’m the first one they sue for not marrying gays in the church. I had a transgender lawyer who wanted to play guitar in our worship band, but (s)he wouldn’t sue me when I declined the offer. I was ready to do my service for our country in protection our religious liberties.

“The church thrives under a good persecution,” a friend of mine likes to say. If the persecution gets really bad, our 27% number will drop down to the real figure, and we’ll get serious about relying on God – not a bad outcome.

Back at you.

How are we supposed to deal with homosexuals?

We are to love them unconditionally. We are not to covet the special privileges the gay lobby wins for them, which could foster unforgiveness in our hearts.

If a homosexual asks for your opinion, make sure it is the Bible you are lovingly standing on. Our opinions, fears and prejudices mean nothing. God’s Word is our authority. If someone claims to be a Christian but says that homosexuality is not a sin, have the Scriptures ready in your mind to strongly oppose them.

We should always avoid entertainment which promotes homosexuality, or which trivializes the breaking of any of God’s Law. Flashlights are not bright during the day; it is our contrast with this dark world that makes us a light. Remember that America is judged on the faithfulness of its remnant, and not on the perversity of its heathen.

We are only sojourners here.

As grand as a Christian America sounds, it’s not likely that we’ll be able to persuade the 73% to come on board. At least not before we go to live in a new country God has already prepared for us.

At best, I’ve got about 40 years left as an American. I plan on enjoying every minute of it. But I am already a citizen of a different kingdom. As much as I love America, I’m ready to go home. If, by the day I die, the Supreme Court has ruled that boys are girls and girls are boys, it’ll just make me that much happier to be homeward bound.

In the meantime, I will continue to trust in God’s promise to bless our entire land for the sake of His faithful remnant here.

5 Reasons I Am Excited About This Sunday

Brier Creek Elementary 2I’m excited about our service this Sunday, July 5, 2015.  I think it will be memorable for 5 reasons:

We will meet at Brier Creek Elementary School for the first time. 

The new chairs and equipment look great!

We have more people helping with setup than ever, which makes it so much more fun.

We have the band Faith Tower returning to lead worship this Sunday.  I really enjoyed them last time they came.

I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to the new setup.

Please come this weekend, and think about inviting a friend to this very special worship service.

5 Things Christians Say God Told Them (but He Didn’t)

3We believe God still speaks.

His foremost voice today is through his Word.  Everything He ever wrote to us in the Bible is still applicable to our lives today. Whatever situation I am in, if I can find what God said about it in the Scriptures, I know exactly what his will is for my life.

God also speaks through his “still, small voice,” that inner leading which often contains Scripture.  He speaks through open doors and closed doors.  He can check our spirits or excite our hearts.  Sometimes, other believers speak to us for God, often without realizing they are doing it.  He can speak through signs and dreams.

The ability to hear from God is the most important thing a person must learn after putting their faith in Him.  How can we claim to have a real relationship with God if we never hear from Him, feel Him or truly experience Him?

Christians who have open communications with Jesus enjoy their faith walks.  A presumably atheist Stanford University professor named Tanya Luhrmann did a huge study of evangelicals, doing hundreds of interviews.  She determined that Christians who felt that God spoke to them prayed more often and with much greater enjoyment than Christians who never heard from Him.  These unsurprising results were published in the New York Times.

Having a dynamic, 2-way prayer life with God is fun.  One-way praying to God is boring.  No shock here.

But going from faith to relationship can be a perilous journey.

As a pastor, I have counseled many people.  Often, they have difficult decisions to make which they would love for God to help them with.  This is great.

God said, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”  God wants to help you make decisions.  This Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  How can it be bad to ask God for wisdom?

It’s not.  Until you start hearing things that aren’t God.  Over the years, many people have told me, “God told me…”  Often what comes next cannot have been God.  I am left to argue with what someone claims God told them.  I can’t win.

Here are the most common things people claim God told them, with the reason God can’t have actually said it (or probably didn’t):

1. God wants me to leave my spouse.  There are a handful of situations where God gives you the option of ending a marriage.  Infidelity (which includes pornography) and abandonment by a non-Christian are examples of justifications for divorce listed in the Bible.  The doctrine of graded absolutism (an issue for another day) allows a woman to leave her violent (or mentally ill) husband without guilt, provided it is for the purpose of preventing serious harm to her present or future children, or even to save her own life.  If, however, you have already fallen in love with someone else, I have serious doubts about your ability to hear God.  We are told in the Scriptures to guard our hearts.  How can I know what God is saying to my heart if my heart is carried away in sin?   The sheer number of people claiming God told them to exit their relationship suggests the voice of God is widely misinterpreted here.  “I don’t love her anymore,” “God never wanted us married to begin with,” and “God wants me to be happy,” are all lousy excuses for divorce.

(If you’re divorced, please don’t let this make you feel condemned. Whatever mistakes we made yesterday, we need to move on from, if indeed your divorce was a mistake.  No one here is judging you.  But if you are contemplating a divorce for some goofy reason, don’t do it!)

2. God is okay with _____, where _____ is a sin.  If what God is telling you in your prayer closet does not agree with Scripture, you’re not hearing from God.  As Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken.”  God cannot say one thing in the Scriptures and say something different to you.  He cannot contradict Himself.  He just can’t.  So God is not okay with your homosexual relationship (even though you feel so in love), your pornography (even though your wife is cold) or your decision not to tithe (even though money is tight).  If you don’t test everything you hear against what the Bible says, you will be badly misled.  Think of this:  Why is it that whenever there is a contradiction between God’s “voice” and his written Word, the person always prefers to obey the voice?  Isn’t that proof that, in such cases, we aren’t really hearing from God, but we’re simply telling ourselves what we want to hear?

3. God told me to find another church.  God tells people to change churches all the time.  But not the day after the elders have attempted to rescue you from a sin.  Not right after you didn’t get your way on a committee vote.  Not the week after you didn’t get appointed to the deacon board.  Leave if you must, but don’t claim it was God who spoke to you, when clearly your flesh is in complete control.

4. God told me to quit my job, even though I don’t have another one lined up yet.  God said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”  If God wants you to quit your job, He’ll help you make a plan for what happens next.  Quitting without a plan is not “living by faith.”  It’s reckless.  I have a number of friends who have fallen into this trap:  They hate their jobs, so they assume God is telling them to quit.  God teaches us to be happy in all circumstances, and God promises us we’ll live through many bad situations.  “In this life we will have many problems.”  We are to be joyful always.  Depression is not a Word from God.  If you are miserable, be aware that quitting your job may well make you more so. 

5. God told me to buy lottery tickets.  This is not a big one, but it’s a frequent one in my circles.  People in financial distress will tell me that God spoke to them, saying He wants them playing the lottery.  But God is sovereign.  If He wants you to win the lottery, He can arrange for you to find a lottery ticket.  He doesn’t need you to buy one, adding to your financial problems.  I notice that men who claim God told them to gamble always want me to keep it a secret.  If you won’t tell your small group what God is telling you, you should know in your heart that it isn’t Him speaking.

Moses said that he wished that all believers were prophets.  Thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they can be.  It takes practice, patience and diligence to get to a place where we can safely figure out if that leading is from God, from the devil, or from our own sinful hearts.

Come visit our new church in Raleigh, Brier Creek Fellowship, where we are continuing our study on “Hearing God’s Voice.”