Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Grace: a common word, the ultimate word

[This was published in the Kinston Free Press, 10/29/16]

Many people “say grace” before their meal. Others lament that “folks have lost the little graces,” meaning the small acts of courtesy and honor in daily life. If you play the piano you know about grace notes. If you dance elegantly you move with grace. If you like old movies you remember Grace Kelly.

But what does grace really mean? Where does it come from, and why does it matter?

The Apostle Paul writes to Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Jesus is the one who appeared. So, he is the grace of God… in person. St John says the same thing: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Everything Jesus did was grace and truth all at once.

Jesus is the Grace of God walking around on earth. His healing, teaching and miracles. His kindness with many, his severity with some. This is God’s grace in Christ. But it’s deeper too.

Paul also describes Jesus’ entire mission as grace. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor; so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus exhibited grace by coming… for our sakes… from heaven’s riches to our utter poverty on earth… so that we can come to heaven’s riches. His whole mission is an act of grace.

Grace is salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9). God rescues us by his utter goodwill toward sinners and his initiative to accomplish good toward us. Our part? To take him at his words and respond in awe, humility and devotion: “Lord, your grace overwhelms me! I believe it: your love for me, your forgiveness for my sin, and your adoption of me. I surrender to you.”

Jesus is God’s grace personified. His mission is God’s grace activated. His saving us from our sins is God’s grace outpoured. Why does this matter? Because without grace we have no chance in life or death. What do I mean? It’s very simple: without God coming to us in grace, we could never come to him by our goodness. We could never overcome the barrier of our sins, the canyon of our rebellion, the deadness of our selfish and proud hearts. But God breaks down our rebel, wandering hearts—and makes us alive—by his gentle grace.

His love, kindness, and pursuit of us. His mercy, goodwill, and generosity. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins, his resurrection for our new life. The invitation of peace with God through Jesus. This is grace. And it’s nearly unbelievable!

Grace is the greatest word in any language, because it’s the greatest person, mission and gift from God! When you and I hope for mercy from our boss, or forgiveness from our love ones, we are giving evidence of the universal heart-longing for this thing called grace. This common word is actually the starting word of hope for the world. Our acts of grace to one another reflect God’s ultimate Act of Grace in Christ. May we never miss the reality that our signpost actions point to.

Election Clarity: a friend’s perspective

[NOTE: You may have seen this about clarity on the presidential election.  Kevin DeYoung wrote it 2 weeks ago.  You can read the original here. His blog is worth reading (especially on Mondays!!). I thought these 10 thoughts were extremely helpful in sifting thoughts as I get ready to vote in my first US election. I hope it helps you.]

“Seeking Clarity in this Confusing Election Season: Ten Thoughts”

I’ve been the pastor at my church since the summer of 2004. That means this is the fourth presidential election we have been through together. In each of the previous three, there have been moments—small, isolated moments—of conflict surrounding the election. Things have been stirred up by email chains, social media fodder, and sometimes by things I have said. I hope these brief reflections will not be in the category of “stirring up,” but rather might provide some clarity about what Christians should agree on and what we may not have to agree on.

Here we go.

1. Since this will come up in every comment and has been asked by my own parishioners dozens of times, I’ll make clear from the outset: I will vote for President, but I will not vote for either of the major party candidates. I have been critical of both candidates—more so than in any previous presidential election—because I believe both fail to clear a basic threshold of personal integrity, sound judgment, and trustworthiness.

2. This does not mean I think every Christian must come to the same decision in order to be a good Christian. There are simply too many prudential matters in the mix for Christians to be adamant that you absolutely cannot vote for so and so. Someone may think Trump is a lecherous oaf, but still conclude that his policies and judicial appointments have a better chance of being good for the nation. Likewise, someone may find Clinton’s position on abortion utterly deplorable, but conclude that Trump’s pro-life credentials are untrustworthy and that Clinton is less likely to be recklessly incompetent. Others may be convinced that an unpopular Clinton presidency may be better for conservative principles in the long run than a train wreck Trump administration would be. Some people may think voting third party is a waste. Others may figure it is one way to send a message that the system failed us this time around. Or maybe they really, really like Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin or whomever. Do I agree with all these arguments? No. But am I able to tell Christians that these arguments are manifestly unbiblical? No. They are conclusions that require prudential judgments. While our church might discipline a member for holding the positions Clinton holds or for behaving the way Trump has behaved, this does not mean we have biblical grounds for disciplining a church member who, for any number of reasons and calculations, may decide that voting for either candidate (or neither) makes the most sense. And if we wouldn’t discipline someone for a presidential vote, we should stop short of saying such a vote is sinful and shameful.

3. While it is not the role of pastors to tell their people who to vote for, it is our role to interpret Scripture and point out theological carelessness. Yes, David was a great sinner who was used mightily by the Lord. Yes, God forgives sinners and so must we. But David repented of his sin (see Psalm 51). Being a sinner like David doesn’t qualify anyone for anything, except for the redeeming blood of Christ and the saving grace that will be given to all those who truly repent and believe.

4. Likewise, Cyrus was a pagan ruler used by God for the good of his people. Which establishes that God can use pagan rulers for the good of his people. The example itself says nothing about whether God will use a particular pagan ruler, or whether God would have us vote for said pagan ruler if given the chance.

5. Even if you are a hold-your-noser instead of a NeverTrumper, every Christian should agree that Trump’s comments about women and his actions toward women (not to mention the way he has spoken of minorities) have been horrid. We embarrass ourselves when we try to defend the indefensible. And to claim it was merely locker room talk (which it wasn’t), or that you’ve heard worse (sadly, many have), or all men have spoken like that before (they haven’t) only serves to excuse sins that need to be forgiven not minimized.

6. And what about Clinton? It’s true, some conservative evangelical Christians have voiced more criticism about Trump than about Clinton. I imagine this is because most conservative evangelical Christians do not consider Clinton a viable option because of her extreme views on abortion. The conversation among most white evangelicals is not Trump or Clinton but Trump or not Trump. But certainly Clinton is no paragon of virtue either. It is hard to think she can be trusted with money, with power, with classified information, or with simply telling the truth.

7. But we are not voting for Pastor-in-Chief! Agreed. I don’t insist that the President of the United States has to be qualified to be a leader in our churches or even a member in our churches. And yes, many presidents have been morally bankrupt. But we can’t say what we would do then with what we know now. More importantly (and more theologically), we must not be moral relativists. The Bible does not teach that every sin is the same, nor does it suggest that private character is an irrelevant consideration for public service. There is nothing about sitting in the Oval Office that magically transforms people into something other than what they have been. If anything, power tempts even good people to be bad and makes bad people even worse. Our candidates will always be imperfect. When and where that imperfection crosses the line into “morally unfit” may be a matter of discretion, but it must be a matter that matters.

8. Likewise, to criticize a candidate’s egregious moral faults is not “casting the first stone.” We are not killing them or condemning them as irredeemably lost. The question is not whether Trump or Clinton are perfect moral examples, or whether we have failings in our past, or whether grace can cover all our sins. I evaluate presidential candidates with the same sort of grid I’d use for a staff evaluation: character, convictions, competence, and chemistry. Obviously, I don’t look for all the same things in a president as I would for an associate pastor. But I do think that in both cases a person’s ethical compass is crucial. The Founding Fathers, however imperfect they were in practice, were at least agreed that a Republic cannot long endure apart from the cultivation of virtue. I’d like to see the President defend and pursue the same.

9.There is a tendency, on both sides, to treat “our side” differently than we treat “their side.” Would the same Christian leaders excusing Trump’s statements ever think to excuse the same from Clinton (Bill or Hillary)? Of course not. Would liberals be overlooking Bill Clinton’s treatment of women (and Hillary’s role in downplaying or silencing accusations) if a Republican candidate (or spouse) had the same trail of serious allegations? No way. So much of politics is “defend our guy at all costs” and “seek and destroy their guy at all costs.” The church must show a better way.

10. I am interested in politics, always have been. I follow the ups and downs and ins and outs of the campaign season closely. I love my country and care about who wins and loses. Elections have consequences. Yet I’m much more interested in the church—my church and the Church. Our fidelity to biblical truth, our personal holiness, our sincerity, our consistency, our ability to speak with grace and truth, our unwillingness to confuse the kingdom of this world with the kingdom of Christ, our realism in the midst of utopian promises, our hope in the midst of fear and loathing, our winsome witness to the gospel—to embody these realities week after week is more important than what happens on the second Tuesday in November.

The Mafia or Moses: you choose

imgresHere’s a rich speech from Harry S Truman addressing a conference on Law Enforcement Problems called by the Attorney General, dated February 15, 1950. The major problem they are addressing is the rise of the Mob, Organized Crime, the Underworld, as well as the danger of totalitarianism.

It’s worth the read, even making the adjustment for our days: (1) Not the Mob so much as a decline in integrity as a whole in our moral fabric; (2) Totalitarianism not meaning the USSR, but the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ (Pope Benedict) and the Politically Correct hyper-movement.

He spends a good deal of time on training up children.  He also notes the roots of the Bill of Rights & all our laws come from Mount Sinai! Would that today’s national leaders hold the same understanding.

I’ve bolded the lines I thought were most helpful.  Enjoy and Consider what he says.

 

Mr. Attorney General, and gentlemen of the Conference:
When the Attorney General told me of his plan to hold this Conference, I welcomed the idea. It seemed to me that it would be most useful for Federal, State, and local officials concerned with law enforcement problems to gather together to devise ways and means of making law enforcement better and more effective.

There has been a substantial postwar increase in crime in this country, particularly in crimes of violence. This is disturbing, but it is one of the inevitable results of war, and the dislocations that spring from war. It is one of the many reasons why we must work with other nations for a permanent peace.

I might remind you that after every war this country has ever been engaged in, we have had exactly the same problems to face. After the Revolutionary War we had almost exactly the same problems with which we are faced now, out of which came the Alien and Sedition laws, which we finally had to repeal because they did not agree with the Bill of Rights. Then, after the War Between the States, or the Civil War, we had all sorts of banditry. My State was famous for some of the great bandits of that time, if you recall. We had the same situation after World War I. We had a terrible time then with the increase in crimes of violence. We managed to handle the situation, and I am just as sure as I stand here that we will do it again.

This postwar increase in crime has been accompanied by a resurgence of underworld forces–forces which thrive on vice and greed. This underworld has used its resources to corrupt the moral fiber of some of our citizens and some of our communities. It carries a large share of the responsibility for the general increase in crime in the last few years.

This is a problem that, in one degree or another, affects every community in the country, and every level of government. Our rural areas as well as our cities are involved in this.

It is important, therefore, that we work together in combating organized crime in all its forms. We must use our courts and our law enforcement agencies, and the moral forces of our people, to put down organized crime wherever it appears.

At the same time, we must aid and encourage gentler forces to do their work of prevention and cure. These forces include education, religion, and home training, family and child guidance, and wholesome recreation.

The most important business in this Nation–or any other nation, for that matter–is raising and training children. If those children have the proper environment at home, and educationally, very, very few of them ever turn out wrong. I don’t think we put enough stress on the necessity of implanting in the child’s mind the moral code under which we live.

The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.

If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state.

Above all, we must recognize that human misery breeds most of our crime. We must wipe out our slums, improve the health of our citizens, and eliminate the inequalities of opportunity which embitter men and women and turn them toward lawlessness. In the long run, these programs represent the greatest of all anticrime measures.

And I want to emphasize, particularly, equality of opportunity. I think every child in the Nation, regardless of his race, creed, or color, should have the right to a proper education. And when he has finished that education, he ought to have the right in industry to fair treatment in employment. If he is able and willing to do the job, he ought to be given a chance to do that job, no matter what his religious connections are, or what his color is.

I am particularly anxious that we should do everything within our power to protect the minds and hearts of our children from the moral corruption that accompanies organized crime. Our children are our greatest resource, and our greatest asset–the hope of our future, and the future of the world. We must not permit the existence of conditions which cause our children to believe that crime is inevitable and normal. We must teach idealism–honor, ethics, decency, the moral law. We must teach that we should do right because it is right, and not in the hope of any material reward. That is what our moral code is based on: do to the other fellow as you would have him do to you. If we would continue that all through our lives, we wouldn’t have organized crime–if everybody would do that.

Our local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies have a major role to play in this whole task of crime suppression.

As law enforcement officers you have great powers. At the same time you must never forget that hand in hand with those powers go great responsibilities. You must make certain that these powers are not used for personal gain, or from any personal motive. Too often organized crime is made possible by corruption of law enforcement officials.

But, far more than that, we must always remember that you are officers of the law in a great democratic nation which owes its birth to the indignation of its citizens against the encroachment of police and governmental powers against their individual freedoms.

Now there isn’t any difference, so far as I can see, in the manner in which totalitarian states treat individuals than there is in the racketeers’ handling of these lawless rackets with which we are sometimes faced. And the reason that our Government is strong, and the greatest democracy in the world, is because we have a Bill of Rights.

You should be vigilant to enforce the laws which protect our citizens from violence or intimidation in the exercise of their constitutional and legal rights. The strength of our institutions depends in large measure upon the vigorous efforts to prevent mob violence, and other forms of interference with basic rights–the right to a fair trial, the right to vote, and the right to exercise freedom of speech, assembly, and petition.

It is just as much your duty to protect the innocent as it is to prosecute the guilty. The friendless, the weak, the victims of prejudice and public excitement are entitled to the same quality of justice and fair play that the rich, the powerful, the well-connected, and the fellow with pull thinks he can get.

Moreover, the guilty as well as the innocent are entitled to due process of law. They are entitled to a fair trial. They are entitled to counsel. They are entitled to fair treatment from the police. The law enforcement officer has the same duty as the citizen-indeed, he has a higher duty–to abide by the letter and spirit of our Constitution and laws. You yourselves must be careful to obey the letter of the law. You yourselves must be intellectually honest in the enforcement of the law.

Now as President of the United States, I have the most honorable and the greatest job in the world–the greatest position that can come to any man on earth. I am invested with certain great powers by the Constitution of the United States in the operation of the Government of the United States. But I was put into this place by the people of the United States. I am the servant of the people. And in the first place, I am a citizen of this great country. And as a citizen it is my duty as President of the United States to be exceedingly careful in obedience to the Constitution and the laws of this great Nation.

I believe that as President it is necessary for me to be more careful in obeying the laws than for any other person to be careful. I never infringe a traffic rule. I never exercise the prerogatives which I sometimes have of going through red lights. I never exercise the prerogative of taking advantage of my position as President of the United States, because I believe, first, that I am a citizen, and that as a citizen I ought to obey the laws first and foremost.

And every one of you has that same responsibility. You yourselves, as I said, must be intellectually honest in the enforcement of the Constitution and the laws of the United States. And if you are not, you are not a good public official.

I know that it would be easier to catch and jail criminals if we did not have a Bill of Rights in our Federal and State constitutions. But I thank God every day that it is there, that that Bill of Rights is a fundamental law. That is what distinguishes us from the totalitarian powers. I am confident that you share these convictions with me, and that you will not lose sight of them in your efforts to wipe out organized crime and reduce lawlessness.

I know that your discussions here will be fruitful. I hope that you develop a sound plan by means of which the cooperative efforts of every American law enforcement agency will be effectively brought to bear upon organized crime.

Your task does not end with today’s meeting. It only begins with today’s meeting. The spade work must be done in the communities where you live and work. It will be your task to mobilize local opinion and resources against organized crime and the conditions which create it.

In this task I pledge my wholehearted support.
Thank you very much.

[Citation: Harry S. Truman: “Address Before the Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement Problems.,” February 15, 1950. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13707]

On Babies and Heaven

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[Originally published on October 3, 2015. I republish it because I learned of friends this week who lost their little one in the womb over the summer.]

“Will I see Joshua again?”

Joshua is my son, who died at about 20 weeks of age, inside the womb. He was perfectly formed–4 limbs, ribs, toes, fingers (with fingernails!), hairs on his back, and a beautiful little face. (Insert compelling case for protecting the lives of unborn children here…)

He died at 20 weeks simply because his umbilical cord became tangled and kinked. Our doctor was very quick to shepherd my wife: “there is nothing you did to cause this, and nothing you could have done to prevent this.” He’s right.

My question, “Will I see Joshua again?” is shared by any who have lost babies in the womb, or as newborns and infants. Even at the start of life, we’re still reminded of the brokenness of this world!

Pastor Sam Storms provides a simple case for the fact that God’s mercy extends to those, like Joshua, who die very young, before the so-called ‘age of accountability.’ Click this link for his whole blog post. The best of the reasons are:

“1. In Romans 1:20 Paul describes recipients of general revelation as being “without excuse.” They can’t blame their unbelief on a lack of evidence. There is sufficient revelation of God’s existence in the natural order to establish the moral accountability of all who witness it. Might this imply that those who are not recipients of general revelation (i.e., infants) are therefore not accountable to God or subject to wrath? In other words, wouldn’t those who die in infancy have an “excuse” in that they neither receive general revelation nor have the capacity to respond to it?

“4. There is the consistent testimony of Scripture that people are judged on the basis of sins committed voluntary and consciously in the body (see 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Rev. 20:11–12). In other words, eternal judgment is always based on conscious rejection of divine revelation (whether in creation, conscience, or Christ) and willful disobedience. Are infants capable of either? There is no explicit account in Scripture of any other judgment based on any other grounds. Thus, those dying in infancy are saved because they do not (indeed cannot) satisfy the conditions for divine judgment.

“6. We have what would appear to be clear biblical evidence that at least some infants are regenerate in the womb, such that if they died in their infancy they would be saved. This provides at least a theoretical basis for considering whether the same may be true of all who die in infancy. As Ronald Nash points out, “If this sort of thing happens even once, it can certainly happen in other cases.” Supporting texts include Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 1:15.

“8. Let me close with an argument that’s entirely subjective (and therefore of questionable evidential value). Given our understanding of God’s character as presented in Scripture, does he appear as the kind of God who would eternally condemn infants on no other ground than that of Adam’s transgression? Again, this is a subjective (and perhaps sentimental) question. But it deserves an answer, nonetheless.”  [http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/do-all-infants-go-to-heaven]

The God of Scripture is gracious and compassionate, and loves us humans dearly. He is just and kind, and will never be unjust. Scripture gives hope to parents who have suffered the death of young ones, that until they consciously choose to rebel, until they understand God’s grace and reject it, God receives them to himself at death.  I take great comfort and joy in the confidence that my son Joshua is with the Lord. Frankly it’s fun to think that my dad who died 30 years ago has gotten to meet one of his grandkids!

The Last will be first First.

arrow_circleYesterday at Grace we learned how Jesus corrects us, comforts us and warns us about (1) what God really thinks of rich people; and (2) how we as his followers make all sorts of judgment calls about how God is being generous to others.

We studied Matthew 19:23-20:16. It was convicting! And encouraging!

Take some time this week to work through this study guide. We prepare it for our housechurches to use following the sermons.  study-guide-2016-09-25

Why “authority” is not a bad word

arrow_circleToday, we jumped back into Matthew’s gospel, and did a 30,000 foot review/preview.

We considered 4 ways that Matthew highlights the authority in Jesus throughout his account. Today, we often think of “authority” as a word that puts us in a straight-jacket. Or, we think of it as corrupt, laughable, cynical.

Matthew demonstrates that Jesus is the greatest authority of all time. And for good reason. You can download the study guide to ‘take home’ what we learned this morning. Study Guide 2016.09.04

As always, leave a comment or ask a question! I’d love to be of help.

Seeing Jesus as the prime “Authentic Authority” will help us immeasurably in daily life, and in the life to come!

If only I’d believed INRIX!

imgres-1Last Friday, we were on I-85, an hour north of Charlotte, heading to a Panthers pre-season game. I saw the DOT sign: “heavy congestion ahead 10 miles.” I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t really believe it. “Probably someone forgot to change the message. We’re cruising along perfectly… it’s gonna be alright.” I was already tasting the Spaghetti at Sue’s mom’s house.

A few more minutes passed. A few more miles. Some red tail lights up ahead. Now, red brake lights. But still we’re moving near the speed limit. I checked the INRIX traffic app, and the southbound interstate was red—indicating traffic at a stop—very close to us, but our blue dot was still rolling. I wasn’t convinced INRIX was right, and passed by the exit.

The last exit. Within ¼ mile, we were dead stopped. We’d move a few yards here or there. But it took 8 minutes to go less than half a mile.

I didn’t heed the warnings, I waved them off. Things were going smoothly, we were sailing along. Until it was too late. Now I was stuck in the thick of the traffic jam. Then I finally checked the note on INRIX: “accident at exit 60. 58 minute delay.” (Exit 60 was a good 6 miles ahead).

Lose an HOUR?!?! No way. We can’t afford to. Kickoff is counting down. There was only one way out of this jam: Turn around. At a break in the highway divider, I snuck through, turned our van around, and headed north. I was the 4th car to do so. We took side roads to by-pass the accident.

The only way out of that traffic jam was to turn around. As I was sitting there—with plenty of time to think—it occurred to me: this is a parable of my life. So often I ignore the warning signs of trouble ahead, and I careen right into a traffic jam in life.

  • The kids are pressing my buttons, I can tell they are doing it (they might not even know it), and I blow my top. I knew I was going to.
  • The dumb show or movie that you really shouldn’t watch, but, well, you know, you’re home alone tonight… I’ll just watch the first 5 minutes…
  • The little twinge of jealousy when your boss starts to praise a coworker, or when your neighbor starts to say how great so-and-so is. You drop a little sarcasm to put them down a bit. The rest jump on and it becomes real gossip, real fast.
  • The misunderstanding with your wife. She said, he said. But, really, she needs to come to me to apologize. Though, maybe I was too harsh. Nah, I’m going to bed.

We see the warning signs all over the place… but it seems that we just keep careening into the traffic jam.

The only thing to do is get out. Drive across the grass, through the highway divider, and head north. The bible’s word for this is to “repent”. That means to change your thinking, to turn 180 degrees.

When Peter told the Jerusalem crowd who Jesus REALLY is (The One and Only World-Rescuer), they said, “what do we do?” He answered: “Repent and be baptized. Every one of you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Turn around, trust who Jesus is, and let him get you out of the traffic jam mess your life has become. He’s written the DOT signs and INRIX app that we’ve ignored. But, still, he will help us when we call. Repent: call out to him and say, “I’m on the way wrong direction. Will you take over?”

This is the only doorway to your days being filled with His purposes and your joy. How many more traffic signs will you ignore?

Lost no more!

41Gyiatp+JL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Last week at Grace we considered the journey people often take in coming to Christ. We used the book, “I Once Was Lost” as our learning guide, and discovered that individuals with no real knowledge of Jesus typically come to a point of surrender by passing through 5 thresholds.

Everts and Schaupp discovered these thresholds in their work with thousands of students on college campuses over the past two decades.

To download a pdf of my book notes, click this link: I Once was Lost – Everts and Schaupp.

You can click here to order the book from amazon.

A Prayer for Teachers

images-2The school year is upon us, and teachers, coaches, assistants, specialists & administrators are hard at work. Whether in the public schools, in private schools, homeschools, colleges or tech schools, they are preparing to invest in the next generation.

Here is a prayer to pray for this upcoming year, and to commission teachers et al., to the task ahead.

Father at the start of a new school year, we pause to give thanks: that all knowledge comes from you, all truth, all facts, all wisdom and clarity. They are good gifts from you.

You also have given to us teachers who will help the next generation learn the way your world works, and how you have wired each of them.

Dear Lord, we pray for our teachers, and all in influence over our kids—coaches, assistants, administrators. Will you grant them to have your heart for kids, and for truth.

Grant that each classroom is filled to overflowing with grace, peace, wisdom and truth.

Grant that every homeschool mom and every football coach and everyone in between would exhibit the gentle, strong character of Christ.

We pray for our campuses – that they would be havens in a tough world.

Grant safety, protection, and real goodwill. Grant students to grow into maturity this year.

Grant that the schools in our area would be tops in the state. Lord, that seems like a tough prayer, but you have put in place a teaching faculty of your choosing. Thank you, and use them to form the character of our kids, as well as their educational goals.

We pray that these schools would bring you glory, bring students lasting growth, and bring teachers joy at a job well-done, and because of a calling lived-out by your grace.

We ask this in the matchless name of The Teacher of Righteousness, even Christ Jesus. Amen.

God’s Grace and Porn

imgres-1Friends,

Many, way too many, are fighting this battle. All of us are tempted to sin–this is universal. And different sins lure us with greater or lesser strength. For some, it’s envy. For others, it’s bitterness. For many it’s lust.

The inner drive (which is from God–he created sex, after all), the Fall into sin which warps all of God’s good gifts, the cultural moment of highlighting the human body and sexuality, and the near-universality of private and portable screens… well, these 4 factors combine to make porn and lust a real problem for so many.

Three tools for you today:

A) At Grace today, we tackled this subject.  You can watch the sermon by clicking here.

B) We also emailed out the following to our congregation. Read it and take it to heart.

Grace family,

Today, as part of the “Any Questions” series, Jason addressed pornography and God’s grace.  We want you to know that there is hope and help in this area of struggle.

If you would like help, there are several ways you can get started.

  1. Personal assessment: There is a downloadable pdf available on our website. Just scroll to the bottom and you’ll see it. www.gracekinston.org
  1. Accountability: We find greater success in this battle when we are not in it alone.There are caring, grace-filled folks at Grace who would come along side in accountability with you. If you’re interested in getting an accountability partner, you can email kent@gracekinston.org (men) orSusan@gracekinston.org (women), and they will connect you confidentially with someone.
  1. Further resources: 

At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry – Steve Gallagher (Pure Life Ministries). A simple and helpful introduction to the dynamics of sexual sin, and how God brings us toward Christlikeness. 

Wired for Intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain – William M. Struthers (Intervarsity Press). A focused look at how porn re-wires (physiologically) the male brain, and how God’s grace can un-wire it!

Grace for Shame: The forgotten gospel – John Forrester (Pastor’s Attic). Porn is like many sins, it brings a deep sense of shame. While the ‘gospel of forgiveness’ is crucial, it’s also rational and often doesn’t touch our inner sense of shame. The gospel is also ‘acceptance’ before God… not based on what we’ve done, but based on God’s grace.  It’s God’s grace for our shame.  This book is not strictly about porn or sexual sin, but is a real help for apprehending a the fulness of the gospel’s blessings.   [end of church email]

C) Don’t miss investigating and installing filters and blockers and parental guides on your screens.

  • Covenant Eyes or x3watch are two tools for computers.
  • SafeTeens is a service that allows you (as a parent) to know exactly what activity is happening on your teen’s phone (sent and received: texts & photos, deleted texts/photos, etc.).
  • Netflix, Hulu – install the parental guides and keep the code a secret.
  • Computer, phones and TVs in a public place at home. Bedrooms and screens are too tempting.

These are helps for the journey.

The biggest help is this: you are not alone… so talk to someone about your own struggle. Get a Christ-following friend in this with you, and together you will see God’s grace and growth in this area. (listen to the sermon for more on this!)

Let’s watch God grow us into greater Christlikeness, more victory over sin, and greater reliance on him.

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