Top 10 Issues Faced by Today’s Families

We at Corydon Baptist Church have just finished a two month sermon series aimed at the family.  While in my mind “Family Ministry” is never-ending and all-encompassing (because the church itself is a family regardless of our various life situations), I have been pondering how to use this blog to wrap up the last two months of sermons and emphases.  While digging through some files this week, I came across a study done by Lifeway Research titled “The Top 10 Issues Facing Today’s Family.”  (You can view the article here: http://www.lifeway.com/article/164120/ )  Here are the Top 5 (with some brief comments by me) per this particular study:

1.  Anti-Christian Culture.  The article defined this as “the stripping away of Christian heritage and traditional values.”  I affirm that our culture is definitely growing more and more anti-Christian.  Nearly every view point is tolerated in the name of “tolerance” except the biblical one!  And if you think our local public schools are somehow immune to doggedly promoting the Darwinian secular humanistic worldview just because they say a prayer every morning over the loud speaker, then you are obviously not reading your children’s textbooks or listening to the few conservative Christian teachers who are fighting the darkness of this system daily.  Our children and adults are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of godless thinking and man-centered ideology.  Guard those TV sets, or maybe sell them.  Be careful about putting iphones in your pre-teens’ hands.  Computer access is so widespread you can hardly keep your kids off them.  Why not send your teens to a Christian Worldview camp this summer like the one run by Summit Ministries?

2.  Divorce – defined as “the ongoing wave of broken marriages and families both within the church and without.”  Perhaps nothing has so fractured families in our nation and churches as rampant divorce.  It is time for Christian couples to take divorce off the table, to not even consider it an option.  If divorce is not an option in our marriages, then this forces us to make some changes and pursue holiness, forgiveness, repentance, and Christ-likeness.  And these are the things that make marriage great and glorious!

3.  Busyness – “the participation in numerous activities crowding out quality family fellowship.”  Friends, I could write a novel on this one!  Men working 60-70 hours per week is devastating families.  We make excuses that “we have to work” or “have to keep my job” but how many of us have ever had a heart-to-heart with our bosses explaining the importance we place on time with our families and worshipping with our eternal family?  How many have asked for reduced hours, less overtime?  How many will aggressively seek another job, even if it means less of that precious idol (money) but more time to pursue holiness in our homes and churches?  And then there’s sports.  I like sports, but I must tell you Christian parents that riding a hard bench for hours and hours to “support” your child at the expense of true family time and more time spent doing life together with your family of God in Christ is NOT time well spent.  For many Christians, sports literally drive their whole home for months and months out of every year.  How much gas money is spent on sports in your family?  How much do you give to missionaries?  Is sports idolatry hurting your ability to do life deeply in small groups or small Bible study groups?  Do you spend more time doing sports than you do reading the Bible with your kids, or serving in your church’s ministries?  What eternal value are your kids really deriving from involvement in sports?  And what other hobbies are you doing that also harm and do not help your biological or spiritual family?  Busyness is the real American Idol!!!  May we repent for God’s glory and the eternal sake of our children who may be champs on the fields but chumps in their love and loyalty to King Jesus and His bride.

4.  Lack of a Father Figure – “The absence of a father in the home or lack of strong participation in the family.”  Can I just say that even the way this point is worded shows how far we have fallen in our nation and churches.  “Lack of a Father Figure.”  Why not just say “lack of a father”?  We are told 4 of 10 children in our country now grow up fatherless.  If God is serious about caring for orphans (and He is), then we American believers need not look far to find them!  We are now living in a Feminist Utopia in America.  How do you like it?  Sadly, even fathers who are in the home and involved in their children’s lives are NOT leading spiritually, are not reading and teaching the Bible to their wives and children, and are not ensuring their children drink deeply of gospel life together in the local church as God intends.  They are physically present but spiritually absent.  Dads be warned – you leave all that “spiritual stuff” up to your wives at the eternal peril of your own soul, not to mention that of your precious children.

5.  Lack of Discipline – “the death of respectful behavior as a norm in our schools, churches, and families.”  The recent outrage at the bullying of an elderly school bus monitor serves our point here.  Why do these kids treat anyone, much less a grandma, that way?  Well, let’s see, they are not even with parents 80% of every week, so they are raising themselves.  Or, they are being raised in a system that extols the virtues of philosophies like relativism (no absolute right and wrong).  Boys do not have strong fathers, and girls have to learn to fight for survival in a sea of these over-sexed boys.  Parents are told never to physically discipline a child.  Teachers cannot even think about it!  Parents blame teachers for their child’s misbehavior.  Hard work is missing from a child’s upbringing.  It’s all fun and video games in the a/c all the time.  Ask our military drill instructors what kind of young men and women our nation is producing.  They see it first hand and are given the impossible task of converting the competely undisciplined into the most disciplined fighting force in the world (though I think that status is crumbling before our eyes as our spineless generals cave to demands of liberal politicians and themselves promote sinfulness in the ranks).  Where is this all heading?

Well, next post we’ll deal with the last 5 issues listed in this survey.  These top five have given me a headache!  I am so glad God is in control and I rest in His promise to one day make all things new in Christ the King.  Until then, however, my heart aches for families at CBC to grow into a committed body of believers who are training up the next generation to live as those who truly grasp the significance of calling one another “brothers and sisters in Christ.”  That bond meant so much to the early church because in their society, the blood family was the strongest possible of human relations and links.  But today we don’t “get it” because our blood families are in disarray, and because our ties to so many other social groups supercede our ties to our church family.

God help us make sacrifices to reclaim His vision and truly grow into the “household of God” (Gal 6:10).  For His glory in the gospel of Christ, and for the eternal good of the generations to come!        

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Amos Humtsoe - Good points- Transformation need to be started from parents first.

Finishing Well

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children is their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6).

Last Sunday, June 17th, 2012, my Dad preached his last sermon as the Pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Richmond, KY.  He retired after pastoring that congregation for over 31 years.  All his children and grandchildren were present.  It was precious. 

Rarely am I rendered speechless!  But, as I sat and listened to my Dad preach his final sermon as Pastor of that church that I grew up in, I was speechless.  It was such an odd experience for me.  The emotions even still are so mixed and scrambled that I cannot really make heads or tails of them.  I was grateful to a church that stood by my family for 31 years, messy and demanding as it was on them.  I pondered how many people from that church my Dad had buried (only one man who was on the pulpit search committee that called him there is still alive).  My wife’s own parents are two of the members of that church that my Dad buried.  I was sad at the closing of an era.  Cleaning out the home (parsonage) where I grew up with my sister and two brothers was almost surreal (not to mention the effect it is having on my brother who has lived there practically all his life and only recently got married and moved out).

But, as the Country Crooner-Theologian Patty Loveless once said in a song, “Life’s about changing nothing ever stays the same.” 

Well, almost nothing stays the same. 

My Dad chose to preach as his final sermon the very first sermon he preached as Pastor of Broadway Baptist Church over 31 years previously.  Now, that’s a testimony to consistency in the pulpit!  The gospel never changes!  The sermon centered on the bloody cross-work of Jesus the Christ on behalf of all those He would save.  My heart and soul were moved to yet deeper adoration and awe of the awful cost Jesus paid to rescue me from sin and death and damnation.  My Dad ended his pastorate the way he began it – by preaching Christ crucified and risen for the salvation of unworthy sinners!

Jack Marshburn, the Pastor I was privileged to serve with in NC for nearly 10 years, likes to tell preachers he’s praying that they will end well.  That’s a prayer for grace-enabled, gospel-infused endurance.  That’s a prayer for faithful Bible preaching.  That’s a prayer to fight the good fight and finish the course for God’s glory in the gospel of Christ.

Last Sunday I saw my Dad finish well by the amazing grace of God’s Spirit.  I was so proud to be his son.  I am so proud to be his son.  May the Lord grant Dad many more years to proclaim the good news of Jesus, and may He also give Dad some days of rest in his “glory years.”

Thank you, our Lord and Savior for choosing to give me a Dad who loves you and whose zeal for Your gospel has not waned through the years, but has only grown stronger!  I am so blessed.  I give You glory and worship Your Holy Name.  Please draw ever-nearer Dad in his “retired” years.  Fill his heart with Your love and His eyes with Your glory.  For Jesus’ sake, amen. 

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Death and “Name It, Claim It” Theology

Not many weeks ago, a man in our local area died.  There is no need to call his name, as most believers in the Southeastern Indiana region will know about him already.  He wrote a book.  Though I have only read bits and pieces of the book, it was clear to me where he was headed with it.  He began the book by speaking of a “more spiritual” way to read the Bible than all of us ignorant folk who just believe God says what He means and that God actually gave us an accurate history of His dealings with mankind and of the sending of His Son to save sinners.

In short, the man who died not long ago was a “Name It, Claim It” theologian.  Now, this was not his only error.  He also taught that Jesus is not going to return (come again) in the flesh.  Remember, for him everything is “spiritual” as he defines the term.  And, he is one of the few who really knows what “spiritual” means.  Can you say ancient gnosticism repackaged?

But I digress.  The point I wish to make in this post is that this man who taught people in this area that nothing harmful will happen to you if you have spiritual eyes and true faith . . . well, he died.

Now I am not rejoicing in his death.  It saddens me especially since I am not at all sure where he is spending eternity.  But, it must be pointed out that death is the ultimate proof of the fallacy of “Name It, Claim It” theology!  Death is the ultimate expression and manifestation of being under the curse of God for sin.

God told Adam, “In the day you eat of it, you will surely die” (Gen 2:17).

The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek 18:4).

For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

You see, no amount of faith prevents the ultimate “harm” from coming to us.  No, we are ALL under the curse of death because we are ALL sinners.  Death is the ultimate “sickness” is it not?  One can be healthy and wealthy all his days but when death comes a knockin’ all that means squat (see Luke 16:19-31).  I do not mean to be crass or disrespectful, but someone needs to start asking the obvious question:

Why has no “Name It, Claim It” theologian ever escaped death?

Shouldn’t their faith have overcome this most poignant manifestation of sin’s curse?  They say true faith prevents any and all things harmful or unheatlhy or unprosperous from happening to us.  But, “they” still die.

Friends, do not be fooled.  True Christianity is lived in weakness and trembling, because that is when God shows off how strong He is (2 Cor 7:7-12).  True Christianity knows that sin will bring about its certain consequence in us – death.  True Christinaity knows that sin’s ultimate consequence – death – does not have final say because Jesus the Lord smashed its skull with His perfect life, atoning death, and powerful resurrection from the grave (Col 2:8-15)!  True Christianity longs for the resurrected body that is conformed to that of the Savior’s (Rom 8:28-30; Phil 3:7-11; 1 John 3:1-3).  True Christianity knows that because Jesus conquered sin and death, He can and will make good on His promise to raise up His followers, not just spiritually through the new birth, but literally one day (John 5:25-29; 1 Thess 4:16; Rev 20).  One day those in Christ will die no more and have no more sickness or tears or pain (Rev 21).  But that day is obviously not yet!

Why can no one “Name It and Claim It” when it comes to our arch enemy – death?  Indeed, One did “Name It, Claim It” over death.  Only One has ever demonstrated such powerful faith:

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again (John 10:17-18).

Jesus is the Death Conqueror!  He is the only One who ever demanded that death give up its grip on Him!  He commanded death!  Our faith had better be in Him, in what He has done, in who He is, and in what He will do, period.  And whatever trust and faith we have in Him, all redounds to the praise of His glory and grace (Eph 2:8-10).

The arrogance of the “Name It, Claim It” doctrine is dealt a death blow by death itself. 

To anyone flirting with this dangerous false teaching, I urge you to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and cry out for mercy to Jesus.  When your faith has found its resting place in Him, and not in faith itself, then and only then will death lose its sting over you (1 Cor 15:54-57).

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Train Whistles and Eden

Nearly every day since we settled into our new home in Depauw, IN my wife and I speak of being amazed that God has given us such an amazing home on such a gorgeous piece of property.  The home we purchased (or are paying the bank for) sat empty for a year or more and we are astounded!  Now, the home is not lavish.  It is a simple home built in 1964 by a couple who had been, up until we moved in, its only occupants.  And, the property may not suit a city boy’s fancy.  But we truly feel like the Lord reserved this spot just for us.  We are amazed!

One of the things we think is cool about our neck of the woods are the sounds of train whistles in the evenings.  In Southern Indiana train tracks are very much still active, and we have a train that runs several times a day in the valley about a mile below our house.  The sound of the whistle is nostalgic.  It makes us long for a by-gone time as it echoes on the hills.  Kinda eery, even, how it generates a weird longing in me for yesteryear.

So often this is true of us spiritually, as well.  Deep within us human beings lies buried a sense of tragic loss.  Something is not just missing; something has gone tragically wrong with us and the whole world around us!  We’ve lost something precious, but because of sin’s effects in us we grope blindly to find it until God’s grace in Christ comes to us via the gospel.  This sense of loss is surely one of those truths we sinners “suppress in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18).

Something has been lost!  In the beginning of creation, God pronounced things “very good” (Gen 1:31).  But very quickly in the Bible’s history of this world we see tragedy strike the human race, and consequently the rest of creation (we were, after all, supposed to be ruling the creation as God’s vice-regents).  The first man and woman, called Adam and Eve, tried to be autonomous.  They wanted to achieve something no human ever can or ever will – complete freedom to act as one desires with nothing to prevent one’s will from becoming reality.  This kind of freedom only exists in God!  We were not made autonomous creatures, but very dependent beings.  The limited freedom we had in Eden disappeared in a flash when Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator God.

Now, we are even more dependent creatures!  The promised freedom of sin and Satan backfired BIG TIME.  Instead of more freedom we got less – so much less that we became and have ever since been slaves (see John 8:34).  Now, we cannot not sin (bad English grammar, but still true).

I hear well-meaning Christians somtimes say we need to “return to Eden.”  I get the sentiment.  It’s the “train whistle syndrome.”  For sure, Eden would beat the mess we live in now!  But here’s the kicker – God always had more in store for His people than Eden.  If you and I could go back to Eden somehow, we’d still mess it up just like Adam did.  How do I know this?  Because Adam represented us all.  And, God chose him to be our representative.  Adam perfectly represented us all as human beings.  If we were Adam, we’d have bitten the forbidden fruit, too, maybe even sooner in the creation narrative than he did!

A preacher I heard one time said Adam and Eve sinned to try to be more like God but they didn’t understand they were already as much like God as they were ever going to get.  Let me just say, “I hope not!”  If that were true, we are hopeless and doomed to repeat an endless cycle of disobeying our Majestic Creator.

This really is the point of Romans 5:12-14.  Because we are “in Adam” we all sin and we all die.  We are Adam’s race, his children.  He perfectly represented us in that Garden on that fateful day recorded in Genesis 3.  We sin and die because of our union with Adam, our head.  But praise and glory to God His purpose and plan was always for something bigger and better than Adam and Eve in a Garden!

The rest of Romans 5 tells us of a new race of people – recipients of “the free gift” which is not like the lost freedom of Eden.  “For if because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abudance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (v. 17).

Hallelujah!  Jesus perfectly represents His people, too!  Those saved by grace through faith in Jesus are no longer just “in Adam.”  We are now “in Christ,” the Second Adam.  His righteousness is given to His people.  His headship reigns.  His glory is being restored in us, dear Christians!

And the Second Adam, Christ Jesus, promises us something far better than Eden.  The Bible’s whole story-line is that through the Eternal Son of God who became flesh and died in place of His wrath-deserving people, God is moving His redeemed people from a Garden to a City!  And the City is better (though as a country boy it seems counter-intuitive for me to say such a thing).

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:3-4).

Now, that’s a train whistle worth longing for!  That’s true freedom!

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In Remembrance

Just a quick “Thank You” to our military on Memorial Day seems far too small.  Not to mention those who have bled the grounds of the world red on our behalf as Americans.  We are spoiled rotten by God’s mercy in this Nation, and one of the primary means God has used to protect us and our freedoms is our military’s sacrifices.  So, to troops past and present, I say “Thank You.”  We met and worshipped yesterday in freedom (spiritual and political).  We should be quick to thank God for Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Sailors and their families serving around the globe.  Thank you!

That said, let us never forget the words of the Psalmist: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we will trust in the Name of the Lord our God.”

May God keep us a free people, but if He does give this Nation justice (and what we deserve from Him is wrath), may we as His people in Christ cry out with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!” 

And God give us grace to fix our eyes on the only Ultimate sacrifice that will matter forever: “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His stripes you were healed.  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).

May we never forget the cross, the blood, the resurrection life in Jesus Christ the King!   

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Leon Nichols - 14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 KJV

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