Terry Francis, one of the Evangelists at East Shelby, shares some of his thoughts and discoveries from studying the scriptures. Feel free to check back for new posts!
Many people spent the week in an outrage about the latest showing of immorality on the Grammy Awards. (I say latest because it certainly is not the first). This latest exhibition included a Satanic performance, a mass wedding promoting same-sex marriage, and the usual awards for immoral songs and artists.
The Grammys lived up to expectations. They were the typical worldly serving focused on the flesh. They certainly offer the things of this world—lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15–17). In those few hours you saw many of the works of the flesh promoted: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, rivalries, drunkenness, orgies, etc. (Galatians 5:19–21). As disturbing as that it is, we shouldn’t be surprised.
The Grammy Awards and its display took attention away from another major development last week. The Disney channel used its popular show “Good Luck Charlie” to introduce its first same-sex couple.
Many were surprised and shocked at these two happenings. Why? Why are we shocked that Hollywood once again has offered up a smorgasbord of immorality. After all, Hollywood is one of Satan’s most effective slaves. Not only do they promote immorality, sometimes they convince us to pay to see it.
We aren’t the first culture to deal with immorality. Paul on two occasions gives details of the desensitized immoral culture of his time (Romans 1:26–32; 2 Timothy 3:1–5). The church in Corinth was made up of people who had left immorality behind—the same kind of immorality the Grammys promoted. Listen to how Paul described them:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. —1 Corinthians 6:9–11
Notice that Paul said they were washed, sanctified, and justified. Focus in on that word sanctified. That word means “to set apart for a sacred purpose or to religious use.” We need to set aside our lives for a sacred purpose. That would include our minds. Our minds should be set apart for righteousness. Paul gave us a good guideline for that:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. —Philippians 4:8
We should think on the things Paul describes so our minds can be set apart for religious use. That means we need to learn to turn off our TVs and focus on other things. Hollywood is not typically going to provide us with entertainment that promotes the virtuous things of Philippians 4:8. We will have to seek it out on our own. But that is our job—not Hollywood’s. It’s our job to fill our mind with the right stuff.
Just how important is our mind? The wise man said, “Keep James says that every sin begins as a desire (1:15). your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Every part of your life begins in the heart—the biblical heart is our mind. Every word, every decision, and every habit began as a thought in your mind. If we fill our minds with the immorality that our culture serves up, it will create thoughts and desires that lead to sin.
Keep your heart with vigilance. Be careful what you allow into your mind—and especially what enters the mind of your children. Your life depends on it!
The Thursday morning news brought two stories that reminded me of the need for teaching on marriage. First, after thirty-nine years of marriage Captain & Tennille are getting divorced. Apparently love won’t keep them together—not even muskrat love.
The other news item featured the state of Arkansas which now has the second highest divorce rate in the country. The study by the American Journal of Sociology considered several reasons for the high rate of divorces in the South. Blame was placed on economic hardships, lower education rates, and the conservative religious culture.
Researchers blame the pressure to marry young, the disapproval of cohabitation before marriage, abstinence-based sex education and limited resources for emergency contraception as reasons why more conservative states create less-solid marriages. That’s right. The intellectuals in our society have a solution to divorce: fornication. If religious people would be more willing to promote a more sexual lifestyle to their young people, marriages would actually last longer. Divorce can be avoided with a little sexual immorality apparently. You can’t help but think of Isaiah’s words: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
The solution to the problem of divorce is not more immorality before marriage—it is more maturity in marriage. While I have no scientific research or sociological study to prove that, I have witnessed the damage immaturity has on the home. The Bible’s concept of immaturity certainly would cause problems for any marriage. Consider the infantile behavior as Paul described it to the Corinthians:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? —1 Corinthians 3:1–3
Notice the hallmarks of those who were infants, or immature. Paul says that the infantile Corinthian brethren were fully of jealousy and strife. He adds that they were behaving as humans.
While this text applies to the church in its context, the principles have a strong application to the home. There is no room in the marriage relationship for jealousy and strife. A husband and wife who are constantly embattled against one another is as logical as the person who constantly seeks to harm their own body. After all, the husband and wife are to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
The Bible also teaches that biblical marriage should feature behavior that is better than “human.” Paul compares the home in Ephesians 5 to the relationship of Christ and the Church. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (v. 25). No human would sacrifice himself the way that Jesus did. Wives are supposed to submit to their husbands as they would to the Lord—think “non-human” (v. 22). Marriage is a relationship that features two people who are patterning their relationship after the relationship with God. We shouldn’t act merely like humans—we must act godly towards one another.
Marriages don’t need more immorality before the ceremony. Marriages need more mature people who are committed to one another. Marriages need people who are willing to “in humility count [their mate] more significant then [themselves]” (Philippians 2:3). Marriages need husbands mature enough to die for their wives. Marriages need wives mature enough to live for their husbands. Isn’t that exactly what Ephesians 5 teaches?
Do not follow the vain teachings of men. We must continue to hold fast to our “conservative religious culture” regardless of what others may tell us it creates. Why? Because God’s way works! We simply must work within His way.
Over the past couple of weeks, personal experiences reminded me of just how difficult it is to control the tongue. James said, “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). Let me confess quickly: I am not a perfect man!
Perhaps we all need a quick refresher course for controlling our words. Consider a few things to remember:
- Listen more—talk less. James said we should “be quick to hear, slow to speak slow to anger” (James 1:19). A wise man once pointed out that our ears can’t work if our jaws are moving. That’s a great principle to remember!
- Control your thoughts. Jesus said, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:10–11). He later explained, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (v. 18). Our words always being as thoughts. We fail to control our tongues because we failed to control our thoughts.
- Put others first. James also said, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14). Paul said we should “count others more significant than [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3). Sometimes we struggle to control our words because we are more interested in “good ol’ number one” than we are others. If we would put the needs of others ahead of ourselves, we would refrain from saying some of the hurtful things we often say.
- Remember your words can do great damage. James compared them to a forest fire (James 3:5–6). That damage often goes further than we realize. One gossiper asked his victim for forgiveness. The victim handed him a feather pillow and asked him to go and spread the feathers all over town. While this confused the confessed gossiper, he complied and returned to the victim and asked if he was forgiven. The victim then requested that he go and collect all of the feathers. “That’s impossible!” cried the gossiper. “Exactly,” replied the victim. “While I forgive you I also want to show you that the damage you have done is impossible to repair.” Be careful what you say—you can never completely repair the damage done.
Please understand, this article is written to me and for me. I’m just sharing it with you. Hopefully it will help you as you attempt to learn to tame the tongue.
The news of the newly born monarch of England has dominated the media for months. Monday afternoon, the official announcement was made that William and Kate were parents of baby boy. It’s amazing to consider the amount of publicity the birth of this child has caused.
Two thousand years ago another king was born. But He arrived on the scene with far less pomp and circumstance. There was no special labor wing for him to be born in. He was born in a manger typically used to take care of animals (Luke 2:7). There were no paparazzi outside of the manger. His first visitors were a group of unbathed shepherds that came from the fields (Luke 2:8–16). His birth was described hundreds of years prior to the event as “a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2). He was born to a woman who was almost put away by His earthly father because of the appearance of immorality (Matthew 1:18–19, 23). They called him Jesus (Matthew 1:25).
This Jesus of Nazareth grew up much differently than the new monarch of England will. He was a relatively unknown son of a carpenter from Nazareth. There were signs of His coming impact on the world. There was the announcement of Him brining salvation by Simeon at his circumcision (Luke 2:25–32). There was the reaction of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:38). There was the annual trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. At twelve, Jesus remained at the temple as His parents left to be in his “Father’s house” (Luke 2:42–49). His mother collected these memories—she knew His greatness. But most people ignored Him.
It was His mother who pushed Him to begin revealing His true power. Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding ceremony that his mother attended. They had run out of wine. She knew who He was and what He could do. It was the beginning of His ministry and work (John 2:1–11). What is recorded for us in the rest of the Gospels is the historical record of this son of a carpenter who grew up to be the “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14, 1:16). The fulfillment of that promise to Abraham hundreds of years before that through his seed the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1–3).
There’s no doubt it is unique to witness the birth of a monarch. But we should be more mindful of the King born in a manger thousands of years ago in Bethlehem. Without that birth, our lives would have no meaning and no hope. Praise God because a King was born that day!
Recently I talked with a recovering alcoholic. He has been sober for almost ten years now. The anonymous groups and recovering addict culture has always intrigued me because we can learn so much from them. The purpose of anonymous groups is to overcome habitual personal struggles. We can apply lessons and principles from their journey to our own struggles.
At times he was emotional about his journey of recovery and the work required to remain sober. His most interesting statement was: “I pray that every day I will have the opportunity to share my story with one person… That’s the best way for me to remain sober.”
We have another word for what he described as sharing his story—evangelism. Evangelism is defined as “crusading zeal” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). The recovering alcoholic shares his story with others as a zealous crusade against alcoholism. His goal is to have the opportunity to help just one person every day overcome their struggle with drugs and/or alcohol. The process of helping others overcome helps him overcome as well.
When it comes to the Gospel and evangelism, I’m afraid we have the wrong perspective. We often evangelize simply because we are commanded to. We think of the “Great Commission” passages (Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–16) and we think about “going into all the world” with the same checklist mentality as we do other things—things such as assembling with the saints, reading our bible, praying, etc. We do these things because “God said so.” We do them because “we have to.”
There’s a much better motivation for teaching others about Christ than simply fulfilling a command. Teaching others accomplishes so much more than just saving others. It saves us. Isn’t what Paul told Timothy?
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. —1 Timothy 4:13-16
The work of exhortation, teaching, and reading Scripture would save others as well as Timothy. Paul understood what my recovering alcoholic friend understands—the best way to stay away from destructive behavior is to maintain a zealous campaign against that behavior.
We should all pray the daily prayer that we can share our story with just one person. There’s no better way to prevent our own return to our destructive behavior than helping others avoid the same destruction.