Category Archives: Commandments

Christian Response to Illegal Immigration

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brandieIn recent months, thousands of illegal immigrant children have crossed over the Mexico border into the United States.  These children range in age from 17 down to 5 and 6 years old.  They are without parents or guardians, they do not speak the English language, and they are here without any belongings in a foreign country.  This volatile immigration crisis has already cost the United States $263 million this year alone, adding a substantial burden to our government’s pre-existing financial budget crisis.

I’ve read many statements and articles about this current immigration crisis, and to be honest, I’m not sure what my opinion should be.  My heart aches for these children who were so freely sent across the border and are now living in unknown territory with both hostile protestors wanting these children gone and friendly faces who are willing to take them in and give them the bare necessities to survive.  The judicious part of me recognizes this as complete disregard and disobedience towards the laws of this land and therefore they should be treated as illegal immigrants and sent back to their country.   But then I find myself asking again… is this what Christ would do to these children?

The subject of these illegal immigrant children has created great debates among politicians, educators, families and friends, and even church members.  Both sides of this debate are very passionate about their opinions and seek out to have their beliefs justified.  I read all of this and find myself asking… what should my response be?  And more importantly, what should my CHRISTIAN response be?  Putting my heart and feelings aside, what does the Bible tell me about illegal immigration?

Democrat or Republican, Christian or non-Christian, we all believe this one truth – if you enter into a country illegally, you are violating the nation’s laws.  There is a proper way to enter into a country and those laws are set in place not only for the country’s safety, but for those traveling as well.  As Christians, not only do we believe that it is against the law to illegally cross borders into another country, but that those illegal aliens are also breaking the laws of God.

This is what the Bible tells us about obeying our governing authorities in Romans 13:1-5: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

Whether we personally voted for or agree with our current government leaders, we must still respect them.  This means, we must respect their governing decisions whether we agree with them or not, knowing that God’s will is better than our own and that He will use every opportunity to bring others into His kingdom.  1 Peter 2:13-14 reminds us, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”  This does not mean we must agree with them or refrain from sharing our opinion when asked, but we must speak with respect to our authority figures and governing officials.  We must believe that our elected officials will uphold the laws of the land and God.  We must believe that our government will find the best solution for those who break the laws and believe they will judge them accordingly because they have been given the divine authority to do so.  We must believe that our government will prevent similar situations from occurring again.  Whether or not our government enforces the established laws, the church (and individual Christians) should not knowingly support illegal activity.  To do so, would be breaking the will of God as well as condoning the sins of others, including illegal immigrants.  To be clear, those who violate the laws of the government are also violating the laws of God and this is sin; those who support or assist in the violating of the laws of both land and God is sinning.

At the very same time, Christians are called to have compassion and mercy for others, including those who have knowingly broken the laws.  We must somehow separate the fact that the citizens of Mexico have illegally sent their children across the border and broken the law.  We must express compassion and mercy in both our thoughts and our actions.  Our hearts must not be hardened to those who sin, regardless of age or circumstance.  Our hearts must not be hardened to those who illegally cross borders seeking refuge, work, or a better life for themselves and their family.

But dare I say that these children did not knowingly break the law but were likely forced to cross the border?  Would this change our hearts towards their status within our country?  Would we render aid faster, educate them, and feed and clothe them if we found out they were forced across borders and left behind parents and families who had already deserted them?  Would this make a difference in the eyes of God? 1 John 3:17 says, But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”  Regardless of how or why these small and vulnerable children entered our country, I think it would be best if we helped them on their feet and equipped them with skills and resources to go back to their country.  This might require our own citizens to help and render aid.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  As citizens of eternal heaven, Christians need to remember that we too have broken the laws of the land and the laws of God.  None of us are without sin.  The laws of land do vary in regards to the consequences served, but in the eyes of God, you sinned.  We have all disobeyed God and we all have the ability to accept His grace and mercy.  To show Christ to others, we must all extend that same grace and mercy to others.

Our best answer to the illegal immigration crisis right now can be found in Scripture and through the loving nature of our God. What is God calling you to do to help our country with this crisis?  How is God calling you to help these immigrant children?

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Blessed are the Peacemakers

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peacemakers

Can you think of a single day in your life where there has not been conflict with another person? How about conflict that happens to be around you but doesn’t involve you personally? There always seems to be some form of tension or bickering in our lives. There is conflict on the national level, in our homes and in relationships, and in our work places. As hard as we try and as perfect as we think we are, the truth is – we all have trouble avoiding conflict.

Matthew 5:9 reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peace does not come from an organization or by man alone. It comes only through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Jesus wants us to be His ambassadors, a member of His peace corp. Not only does He want us to cease fighting with others, He wants us to also make peace. And it all begins with the work Christ does in us first.

As sinful humans, we need to recognize our own spiritual poverty and admit that we need Jesus as our Savior. We must humble our hearts and mourn the fact that we often wander away from God. We must surrender ourselves completely to the only One who can do something for us and in us. We must become a new creation as written in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Just as God did, He asks us to bring peace first and then focus on reconciliation.

As a Christian we must desire righteousness and aspire to make things right in our personal lives and for those around us. We must desire mercy because our hearts are thankful for the mercy bestowed upon us. We must desire a pure heart because what’s in our hearts produces our behavior. When our outward expressions match our inward conditions, then peacemaking will be possible. We must want to have right relationships with one another. But we cannot be peacemakers until we are at peace with God.

The problem does not lie within our marriages or children. It does not lie within our communities and nation. The problem is not out there… the problem is in our hearts. Until we have peace with God, we are not in a position to be peacemakers. We must allow God to fully meet our needs and rest in His promises. It is only then that we cease seeking to have control over people and manipulate circumstances in order to have our needs met. We will relax knowing God has already met our needs through Christ Jesus.

What is the source of our conflicts and disputes? James 4:1-3 says it best – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” It’s perfectly clear, the source of our conflicts is our insufficiency and our desire to make circumstances and people do what we want to fill a void. The truth is that only God can fill that void. When we are at peace with God, we do not lust and over desire. While it’s okay to desire things it becomes sin when those desires become more important than obeying God, treating people respectfully, and tending to our relationships. It is with lust that we become envious and quarrel. All of this can be quieted when we realize that God “will meet all of our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We must allow God to meet our deepest needs and then we can pursue peace.

How do we pursue peace? Romans 14:19 tells us “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

We are required to INITIATE peace. God wants us to be part of the holy order, for us to be the first to initiate peace. Are you waiting for the other person to take the first step, even if they are the ones who wronged you? The Bible tells us that “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” We are told that even if we are the person who has been wronged that we are CALLED to initiate peace. Someone has to be the mature person in every conflict and take the first step towards peace. Why not you? Are you the mature person?

We then are required to COMMUNICATE with love. Ephesians 4:15 commands us, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is the principle of good biblical communication – speaking clearly, in truth, and in love. Never speak out of anger or hold on to your negative feelings. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to speak the truth in love… as long as it works. We need to keep communicating even when the other person doesn’t respond the appropriate way and even if they never come around to listening.

When communicating, our voices must remain calm and our words need to be void of manipulation. Don’t punish the other person with silence or act holier by simply not arguing at all. Ephesians 2:26 remind us, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”. If we conceal our anger instead of calmly talking it out with the other person, we begin to build up resentment. Sometimes we may even forget why we became angry in the first place! Our hearts become hardened and toxic and we begin to take everything personally, becoming easily offended. Resolve your differences as quickly as possible and move forward.

Ephesians 4:29 reminds us of this when communicating – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Do not bring up what happened days, weeks, months, or even years ago. Use words that are only good for improvement, be positive and fruitful.

Nothing should come out of our mouth that doesn’t already have a solution. And invite them into your solution and refrain from commanding them to do and see things your way. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). The same must be true for our speech. Avoid criticism and use only positive words that are intended to build up the other person and the relationship.

Now we can begin to NEGOTIATE. Conflicts begin when two or more people believe they are right about something. But we must remind ourselves that every time there is a conflict, there will always be a solution. There is a creative third alternative than your way and their way. Only then when you look at everything, can you begin to get creative and find a solution. Be honest about the true needs, compromise. Give up complete control. You don’t have to agree with someone, if it’s a non-moral issue, just simply agree to disagree, it doesn’t really matter. God created us all differently! Sometimes we have different opinions to keep us out of trouble. We must give away our selfishness, our preferences, and love.

God made us for relationships. We are blessed with opportunities to share, love, and be flexible. It’s what it means to live in this world and be a part of the community. Intimacy brings about conflict and the resolutions of conflict produce peace and love. Pursue the things that make peace and the building up of one another. Don’t be shocked by it, afraid of it, or try to escape it; it’s a part of His plan. As we negotiate our differences we find ourselves in a better place.

The final step in creating peace is to ABDICATE. For some of us, letting go and moving forward is the hardest part of creating peace but must let go of past wrongs, all of them. Don’t collect and hoard past sins of other people. Don’t get historical in arguments or use them as a leverage to get your way. To be a peacemaker, we MUST let things go. Let go of our need to be right. It’s worthless, it has no value, and nobody is impressed with how many times you’ve been right. This means we need to relinquish our need to win. The reality is, we need to lose some argument on occasion. And it’s ok if only you and God know you are right. But you cannot be right all the time. Humility reminds us that we just might be wrong. Just the consideration of possibly being wrong causes us to be humble and yield to conflict. This does not include moral and ethical issues as we must not compromise our values. We are talking about humility that we are poor in spirit. We yield because we recognize that we are sinners and that we make mistakes.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Aren’t you glad that God initiated peacemaking with us first? He didn’t wait for us to come and die for our sins. He didn’t meet us halfway; He met us all the way. He sent His only begotten Son to die FOR US. Jesus came in the appearance of a man – the creator of the universe was willing to be seen as wrong. He hung on the cross to be seen as a criminal even though He was a Savior, to be seen as taking on the sin of the whole world, to be seen in a guilty state. He didn’t need to be seen as right or as a god in that moment and in doing so, He became the peacemaker. He asks us to repent, to turn away from the ways we think will fulfill us so that we can be turned humbled before Him.

As Christians, we are most like him when we initiate peace, communicate peace, negotiate peace, and when we abdicate and relinquish so that peace can happen. The blessings is this – we will be called the children of God. When we become peacemakers, people will look at us, recognize us, and see Jesus in us. He initiated, He communicated, He negotiated and He abdicated. We must become the catalyst and in ALL circumstances promote peace and bring people together. We must help others meet their Creator and become a part of the peacemaking process.

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How Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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vday1Valentine’s Day… dare I say it’s probably a more loathed holiday versus a loved holiday, contrary to its theme and modern intent?  Christians have been very bold in their disgrace towards the commercialization of Easter and Christmas; why are we not as vocal about Valentine’s Day?  And should we?  Although it is a holiday aimed at sharing love with those closest to us, is it a secular celebration?  What are the origins of Valentine’s Day and are there really Christian foundations in this holiday? Is there any harm in cupid, red hearts, candy, flowers, and romantic dinners?

At one time, a pre-Roman pastoral festival known as Lupercalia was observed from February 13th through the 15th.  This three-day festival time of celebration was acclaimed to refine the city, deter evil spirits, and increase health and fertility.  As Christianity continued to grow, the festival was adapted over time by different cultures and people began to add their own customs.

The patron St. was a priest and physician in ancient Rome and was well-known for his kindness and generosity towards others.  He spent much of his time caring for the poor, performing good deeds, and healing the sick and afflicting.  He was arrested by the Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus (268-270 AD) during the time of Christian persecution.  During his time under arrest he healed his attending officer’s blind, adopted daughter which led to the officers’ family’s conversion to Christianity.  Gothicus heard of these “deeds” and ordered St. Valentine to be beheaded on February 14th.

While the Lupercalia festival was still highly respected, it was Pope Gelasius who officially added February 14th as a holiday on the church list in 496 AD, known as St. Valentine’s Day.  From that point forward, this day was honored and celebrated in memory of St. Valentine for his life of service.  The new name of the Lupercalia festival was easily adapted and new elements to the holiday were quickly added into the fold.  The emphasis on the holiday was never meant to reflect romantic love but to honor St. Valentine and mirror agape love and goodwill towards all people.  It was never about cards, flowers, and chocolate candy.  But somehow the commercialization has managed to taint the holiday and steer our focus away from loving others in need.

God is not opposed to us loving others; it’s quite the opposite.  He commands us to love others unconditionally.  God wants us to show love to others through words and actions, Let us not love in word or talk bur in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.  While God wants romantic love shared between a husband and wife, He wants us to show love to others as well.  We should be doing both year-round, not just on a single day when an overly-commercialized holiday says we should be showing love to our significant other.  It should be our mission to love others at all times and make sure our actions show God’s love.

Romans 15:13 says this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is the highest and most respected form of love.  As Christians, we certainly need to love and honor the spouse God blessed us with, but we need to do away with our love for “things”.  Let’s celebrate the holiday in memory of Saint Valentine – by doing something special and anonymously for someone in need.  Spend the day and your money modestly on others.

Click HERE for some Valentine family games that celebrate God’s love and HERE for Valentine devotionals.

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What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?

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031Tattoos, at one time, were thought to be a mark of rebellion, a sign of adulthood and the freedom to make your own choices with your own body and no parent could stop you. As the years have progressed, Christians have continued with this trend of new-found independence and started putting Christian tattoos on their body to represent their faith and belief in the Bible and Jesus Christ. Others believe that all tattoos, regardless of their significance or symbol of your religion, are a mark of the beast and should be strictly forbidden. These theories confuse both Christians and non-Christians causing judgment to easily swell. The question remains – What is tattooing? And what does God say about tattoos? Are there really such things as Christian tattoos or is this an oxymoron?

The Bible speaks of tattoos (some translations use the word “marks”) as early as the beginning of time. In Leviticus 19, the Lord is speaking to Moses, giving the command that he must go and share with the Israelites; “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.’” This command seems simple enough! The origin of the tattoo was rooted and practiced in the demonic and pagan realm. The tattoos were given during religious ceremonies and were intended to put the bodily soul in accordance with supernatural forces. Many times dancing and chanting were also done during these tattoo ceremonies to exorcise demons. Regardless if your Bible uses the word tattoos or marks, the context of the word heeds a warning to the Israelites from joining occult practices and entering false religions. Be assured, this is STILL a warning for us today!!

The Bible also teaches us that our bodies are a holy temple for the Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” As believers, the Holy Spirit resides in our bodies as our conscience and voice of God and Truth. The scripture is very clear about this issue – our bodies are not our own. We must treat our bodies respectably and we must pray extremely hard before making any kind of permanent mark on the Lord’s dwelling.

And what is the stuff about the “mark of the beast”? 2 Timothy 3:1 warns us, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” Many believe we are living in the end times and that even today “cutting the flesh” allows satan and the demonic realm to easily enter your body. This blood-letting practice has origins in the cultic dominion (as stated above). We even read in the New Testament about Legion (Mark 5:1-9) who was possessed by demons and attempted to cut himself with stones to unleash the evil spirits locked inside his body. This serves as another illustration that mentions the cutting of the skin and its relationship with the occult and the demonic origins.

This command is not just an outdated Old Testament law. This is a moral law and was applicable then as much as it is now. It is just as important as many others given to Moses to share with the Israelites – do not make idols for yourselves (Lev 5:4), do not steal (Lev 5:11), and do not make your daughter a prostitute (Lev 5:29), among many others.

If you are a Christian with a tattoo, spend time in prayer asking God to cleanse your soul and use the mark on your body as a testament to his love and grace. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Have faith and ask God to use you for His greater purpose. If you are struggling with the desire for a new tattoo, spend time in prayer. Then spend more time in prayer. Ask God what He wants marked on His dwelling place. Ask God what He wants His money spent on. Are you willing to take that chance to allow evil spirits to enter your soul through this practice of blood-letting?

As a reminder, do not judge those who have tattoos. We do not know where their heart was when they received their tattoos and we do not know if they had received the word of God about this very issue. We cannot testify for them about receiving the facts and origins of tattoos. We must simply pray for them and ask God to use them to bring others to Christ.

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Should Christians Shop on Thanksgiving Day?

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thanksDoes anyone else have a growing concern about our gradually fading Thanksgiving holiday?  Is anyone else offended that stores nationwide have already announced their Christmas shopping ads and broadcasted their earlier-than-ever Thanksgiving DAY opening times?  What was once a full day completely focused on giving thanks, relaxing, and spending time with family has now become just another day for holiday shopping.  I can only imagine this holiday will soon begin to feel like any other day as we put our selfish wants in front of the need to set aside time for rest and give thanks.

While Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, it is still a national holiday set aside for giving thanks.  This is the most perfect opportunity for Christians to stand up for what is simply “right”.  We are commanded to give thanks daily as written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is no better opportunity for Christians to be bold and claim this ONE day a year when our entire nation sets aside to give thanks in all circumstances.  I believe it is our duty to continue this worldly tradition, if nothing else just the simple opportunity to show others the importance of being thankful in all circumstances.

What would be the negative effects if Christians surrendered to the early holiday shopping hours and disregarded a day of thanks and rest?  We would be those shoppers who told the world we care more about great holiday deals than we do about spending time with family.  We would be the shoppers who took employees away from their families and made them spend the day on their feet dealing with crowds and selfish people.  We would be the Christian shoppers who missed an opportunity to be Christ in this world by simply ignoring a national holiday for giving thanks.

So what should Christians do about the early store hours and the growing desire to skip Thanksgiving and shop all day?  Is it wrong to take advantage of some good deals?  What if we are spending time with family WHILE shopping?  What’s so bad about feasting with family, taking a long nap, and hitting the stores before midnight?

This is a question that only you can answer and it needs to be based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Does God really want you to honor this day by spending time with family?  Do you have a problem making time for family and need someone to make you take a day of rest?  Do you NEED this day to reflect on the past year?  How often do you truly give thanks in all circumstances?  Would Christians really make a difference if we all held tight to the tradition of setting aside just one day for Thanksgiving?

I believe the Thanksgiving holiday is a gift.  It’s a gift to our family – a paid holiday, a day we see family we may not always make time for, a day when we reflect on the previous year and give thanks to God for all things (including the happy times as well as the not-so-happy times), and a gift of just one day devoted to good food and rest.  A gift to be appreciated from our Father, as started in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”.

Why would we not want to take advantage of this great holiday?  Why do we want to tell the world that shopping is more important than a holiday?  Would we be okay if our employers took this paid holiday away and made us take vacation days since we aren’t using the day as a time to give thanks, the very intention of the holiday?  What would Christians think if shopping hours and great holiday deals took over Christmas day?  Would we regret allowing Thanksgiving Day to slip through our fingers?

Spend time in prayer and ask God what He wants from you.  Ask Him how he wants you to spend your Thanksgiving holiday.

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What does the Bible Say About Pornography?

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james115The term “pornography” is not mentioned in the Bible because books, movies, cellphones, computers, magazines, and televisions did not exist in biblical times.  However, God did know the sinful thoughts of man and gave us plenty of warning about sexual sins.  He gave us very solid moral teachings that can be found throughout the Bible about the many different types of inappropriate sexual behaviors.  Forbidden sexual acts specifically mentioned in the Bible as sin include homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9), sex with animals (Exodus 22:19), incest (Leviticus 18:6-18), idolatry (Deuteronomy 5:21), fornication and sex outside of marriage (Matthew 15:19), orgies (Galatians 5:19-21), adultery (Exodus 20:14), and even rape (Deuteronomy 22:25).  The penalty for these sins, as stated in the Bible, is death.

Romans 8:5-8 tells us, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”  God wants our minds and hearts to be pure of sinful thoughts and feelings.  He wants us to keep our focus on heavenly things and ignore the sins of the flesh that crave our attention.  When we view pornography, when our attention is focused on lust and adultery, we cannot do the will of God.  We must be “transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Christians also need to remember that our bodies are not our own.  1 Corinthians 3:16 reads, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  As believers, the Holy Spirit lives in our bodies.  He is there to help us discern right from wrong; He is our conscious who speaks to us in times of need.  Our bodies are meant for the dwelling of our Lord, not for immoral sexual pleasures.  I dare say that it breaks our Father’s heart when we disrespect and use the good and perfect body God created in His very own image.

Pornography and lust destroys human relationships!  It dictates the satisfaction of your heart and only leaves you wanting more.  Pornography robs your joy and steals your heart.  It leaves broken hearts and shattered marriages, broken and molested children, addicted adults, wrecked and shamed teenagers.  God didn’t intend for those things to attract our hearts.  He wants us to hold true to His teachings and wants us to experience sex and love fully when married.

It is true that Christ died for our sins.  While we have freedom and redemption in Christ, we do not have freedom to sin.  As fully committed Christians who have given our life over to Christ, we must strive to live a life like Christ.  While we can never truly achieve this goal because Christ was the perfect and sinless man, we can make it our goal every day to attempt to live sin-free.  Fighting sin and temptation is part of walking with Christ.  Taking those temptations and handing them over to Christ and then leaning on Him for strength is part of walking with Christ.  Christianity is about avoiding sin and keeping our minds and hearts pure.

Christianity is also about forgiveness.  Jesus dies for us, while we were sinners.  He chose to walk this earth and take the brutal punishment of death on a cross so that we would be forgiven of our sins and live a life eternally in heaven.  Forgiveness is not a license to sin.  Once we commit our lives to Christ, we make a stand for Christ and adhere to immoral sexual behaviors.  We must strive to fight sin at all costs.  Fight the urge to look at pictures, to gawk and lust after a stranger or famous person, fight the urge to stop at the bar or adult club on your way home, and fight the desire to befriend members of the opposite sex.  Satan wants nothing more than to find your weakness; he will take hold of it and make it his goal to ruin your walk with Christ.  Give God the glory and fight temptation!

Turn your back on all kinds of pornography.  Ask a fellow Christian of the same sex to hold you accountable.  Keep your hearts and mind focused on the things of Christ and fight the temptation of satan.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind. Then you will be able to test and approve
what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect
will. For by the grace given me I say to every one
of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than
you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober
judgment, in accordance with the faith God has
distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:2-3

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Dating and Sexual Purity

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LoveSexual purity seems like such a foreign concept in our current society but really the issue of sex, purity, and even dating needs to be talked about more often and even to every generation.  Sex has become so casual that we now see it boldly displayed on TV, in movies, plastered on billboards, in our hands on mobile devices, and even carelessly mentioned in songs that we sing.  The temptation to have sex before marriage is becoming more and more prevalent as images constantly infiltrate the minds of us all.  It’s past time we get back to the fundamentals of our biblical standards for sex and relationships.

Here is what the Bible says about purity:

1 Corinthians 6:18 – Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Hebrews 13:4 – Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Matthew 5:28 – But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Colossians 3:5 – Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – 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.

Proverbs 6:32 – He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.

And these verses are just to name a few!  The Bible is very firm on the commandment to remain pure and abstain from sexual immorality and lust.  Not in ANY verse in the Holy Bible will you find a divergence that allows for sex outside of marriage, for an approved opportunity to lust, or for the exception to adultery.  Purity is a commandment from God and we must adhere to the standards God has placed in our lives so that we may live righteously and pleasing in the eyes of God.  It’s the path best made for us, why would we not want this for ourselves?

Sex before marriage HAS and CAN ruin lives.  So how do we steer clear of the temptation and desires that society is persistently throwing in our face?  The best way to stay pure is to keep our hearts wholesome and avoid situations that make us think about taking that next step in a relationship.

For our family, this starts at dating.  We’ve remained very clear on our stance of dating in our home – if you aren’t looking for a lifetime spouse, then you should not be dating.  Simple solution!  The sole purpose of dating is to find a spouse and when you enter into a relationship, there our physical and emotional boundaries that will need to be set beforehand to guard to your heart.  If you always remain in a cluster of friends, these boundaries are never a factor to be considered.  Relationships are about commitments and our youth should not be making any sort of commitment to anyone, other than to God.  And even as adults, our first commitment is still to God, then our spouse.  Our hearts need to be mindful on living a Christ-like life and pleasing to our Father.  Matthew 5:8 reads, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  We must trust God with ALL of our lives and ALL our hearts and when He sees fit that you are ready for marriage, He will show you the perfect helpmate.  Really, dating is not ever necessary if we fully rely on God and have faith that He will bring the perfect person before you.

We must want purity and clean hearts for our children.  We must talk about it, teach it, and live these same standards for the younger generations to see.  We teach our children to not put themselves in any situation where they will have to decide which path to take.  We teach our children that they were created in the image of God, that they are enough, and that they do not need to seek the approval of anyone other than Jesus Christ.  We teach our children that satan is real and he will use every opportunity to hinder their walk with Christ and want nothing more than to lead them down an ugly path and away from Jesus.  We teach them to rely on Christ daily and in all circumstances.

Passion and sex is a beautiful thing, no question about it.  It is a gift from God… but to be used with our spouse.  This does not just imply sex, but emotional attachments as well.  Any attachment made to a person outside of marriage, changes your life and satan will use these past experiences to haunt you and tempt you as an adult.  He has used this tactic for centuries and you will not be exempt from his schemes.  He isn’t creative!  He simply twists God’s truths and we continue to cling to those lies with excuses – God wants us to love others; God created sex; What if this person I’m dating is the right one; But we’ve setup boundaries; etc. If you have to “guess” if someone may be the one, then they aren’t.  Have faith in Him.  Trust God with your life and follow His prompting to remain pure in heart, mind, and body.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  When you are tempted, stop and listen to the direction God wants for you.  Your body is a temple for God, treat it with respect and pleasing in the eyes of our Father.

For those who have already made this decision, you need to accept God’s grace and redemption for your life.  We all fail; we all attempt to walk a path that we think is best for us.  Christ came for us and died on the cross for our sins.  He shed His blood for all sin.  God knows we can’t walk this life alone and sometimes He allows us to make our own negative choices so that we can fall and come to see our need for Him.  While He doesn’t want us to fail or see us hurt, He allows us free will so that we can recognize our need for a Savior.  You can tell your testimony and be a light to those who are struggling.

Psalm 119:133 – Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

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Thou Shalt Not Steal

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stealAnything taken by you that does not belong to you is a firm definition of stealing.  If it belongs to someone else and you take it (accidentally, purposely, or with good intentions), it is stealing.  God knew this would be a problem in all of society and spoke this as one of the 10 Commandments.  In Exodus 20:15, the Bible reads, “Thou shalt not steal.”  Plain and simple!  He doesn’t even give us exceptions to stealing.  If it isn’t yours, you should not EVER take it.

We acquire things through WORK:

Ephesians 4:28 – He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 – For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.

1 Timothy 5:8 – If anyone who does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

We are commanded to work.  The Bible is clear that if you are physically able to work, you must work.  It is NOT acceptable to sit back and do nothing and expect things to be given to you.  Nobody owes you anything!  If you are freeloading at home while your parents are working, you need to move out and get a job.  If you are floating around from one place to the next mooching off of others, you need to get a job.  If you are the person who is allowing your child to sleep all day and do nothing, you are enabling them and creating an environment for them to sin; they are stealing from you, and worse, they are stealing from the person who could really use your help.  We are commanded to work so that we can not only provide for ourselves but also provide for others who are truly in need.  It is not okay for you to freely acquire things from someone else’s earned resources.

We acquire things through PRAYER:

Matthew 21:22 – If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

James 4:3 – When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

There are things we acquire by working, but there are things God withholds from us that we cannot acquire by working.  The only method we can acquire these things is through prayer.  God knows what we need before we ask Him but asking God for these things draws us closer to Him.  Blessings are available to each person and family and some are only available if we ask.  God will definitely send blessings down on us when we least expect it.  But what Father doesn’t want to give His children extra blessings when we go to Him in prayer?  We do need to be mindful about our prayers though.  God will not drop money in our laps when we intend to gamble, quit our job, or waste it away at nothing.  However, God would LOVE to send you blessings that you will turn around and use in His name.  Blessings given by God to be used for His glory are the most desirable and promising blessings available.

We acquire things through GIVING:

Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

The Lord wants us to give to His kingdom.  He wants us to use our blessings to give to others.  This isn’t just about our finances, but includes our time and energy as well.  If we give a little, we receive a little.  If we give much, we will receive much.  This doesn’t mean that the person who makes more money and gives more will receive more.  It is proportional giving and giving from the heart.  Are we giving of our ‘first  fruits’ as we are called to do?  Are we giving all that we can?  Are we giving until it hurts a little and ultimately makes us lean more on God?   Take a look at you bank statement and your calendar – they tell a story and say a whole lot about our giving.

As humans, we’ve come up with some fairly creative ways to steal.  Sometimes we completely seize items that do not belong to us; we take what we want, when we want it, and completely ignore the owner’s emotions attached to the item.  Sometimes we use deception to steal.  We deceive people into taking what rightfully belongs to them or we deceive ourselves and convince ourselves that because we have given of our time and efforts, we deserve something when it truly doesn’t belong to us.  And then there are times we simply withhold information or items to make ourselves look better or to avoid trouble.

-Have you ever stolen a car or someone else’s bicycle?

-Have you ever stolen a piece of candy or forgotten to pay for your drink at the store?

-Have you ever eaten a banana or grapes at the grocery store before purchasing them?

-Have you spent time on Facebook while on the clock at work? Or reading the most current sports reports when your time should be spent doing the work you are paid to do?

-Have you withheld information on paperwork so that the end result benefits you most?

We steal because we simply don’t trust God to provide everything.  But hasn’t he always provided everything we’ve needed?  So why do we continue to withhold our giving to God and others?  We like to think we are in control of ourselves, our circumstance, our surroundings, our futures, etc.  This may be a little news flash… we are not in control – but God is!

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

We’ve all taken something that does not belong to us at one time or another in our lives.  And today, we must open our eyes to our deceitful nature and begin to use our time and resources more effectively for His glory and His kingdom.  If we look ahead with heaven in view rather than the world in view we may find it is a little easier to give and give according to how God has called each of us to give.

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Why Go to Church?

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6a0133f0b2fdc2970b0177440bf370970dThere seems to be a growing number of people who proclaim to be a Christian but seldom, if ever, attend church.  Church has always been a necessary component of the Christian faith, so why have we allowed satan to convince us that church is not important and can be pushed back another week, another month or even to the next holiday?  Why have we lost sight of the focus of church and the importance of a community of believers?  Let me clarify before we go any further… Church is not the building we gather in rather it is the Community of Believers that gather on a consistent basis.

The Bible commands believers to commune and gather together.  Hebrews 10:24-27 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left”.  We are warned that if we do not follow this commandment, the charge to attend church with our fellow believers, that we are sinning.  This is not a judgment of believers but a fact based on scripture.

Going to church is our outward visible appearance that we love and worship God.  Jesus says in Matthews 10:32-33, “’Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.’”  It is a public gathering of people who confess they are sinners and need the redemption of Jesus Christ.  Church is not about receiving blessings but returning our blessings, giving thanks, and praising our God.  Attending church is the least we can do for our God who gave His ONLY Son to die on the cross for our sins!

A time of fellowship with other believers is extremely important to Christ followers.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:20 that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  It is true that God is always with us, even outside of the church walls, but He tells us there is special time of the Lord’s presence when communities of believers come together in His name.  And who doesn’t want to experience this extraordinary visitation from the Lord?  We are also called to hold our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable for their transgressions (Matthew 15).  The same must be true for us; we need to also be held accountable for our wrongdoings.  We must live life with our church members and learn to love, forgive, and cleanse each other from sin.  Your church will be the people there when times get tough and they will be the hands and feet of Christ when satan attacks you and your family.  Likewise, you will be given opportunities to bless those inside the church and build them up as believers, serving each other as Christ has called us to do.  John 16:33 reminds us that this life will not always be easy but we will find peace in our Savior who has overcome the world.  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  It is when we are gathered with and surrounded by other believers that we are challenged and strengthened to be the best that God has called us to be.

Attending church regularly also builds your spiritual strength and knowledge.  Every day we will fight the enemy and stand firm in our faith.  Sermons, lessons, music, praise and worship, offerings, and a community of believers is your weapon against the enemy.  Ephesians 6 tells us about the armor of God – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  We must always be ready for battle, to fight the good fight.  If we slack in our time with God and other believers, we won’t be fully prepared to do His work.

We must also remember the commandment in Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”  While the Sabbath is often recognized to be Sundays, we are free from the bondage of this old law.  Your Sabbath may not be on a Sunday, but you do need to acknowledge God’s standard and set aside a specific day for your Sabbath.  There is no wrong time to attend church and remember our God.  But there is a consequence for NOT keeping this commandment.  We are called and expected to remember the Lord’s Day in worship and prayer.

Yes, Christians should go to church.  We have nothing to lose and yet everything to gain!

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Value Life

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exodus20-13Exodus 30:13 says, “Thou shall not kill.”

We hear about murder daily on the news it seems.  This commandment appears so easy to follow, one we may often brush aside, believing we don’t really have to worry about it since we surely won’t ever take the life of another human being.  But there is more to this commandment than just killing a person to their death.  This scripture includes the killing of others physically, emotionally, passively, and spiritually.

A person is guilty of physical murder when they commit a homicide, suicide, or are involved in an abortion.  In the year 2010 in the United Sates alone, 12,996 homicides were committed, 38,364 suicides were executed, and more than 1.2 million abortions were performed.  These are the numbers of lost American lives.  Killing people physically is the most understood part of this commandment but yet it happens all too frequently.   As Christians, we are commanded to not support murder of any kind.  There is NO justification in the killing of innocent lives.

Emotional murder is speaking out against another person with hateful words.  James 4:11 says this, “Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”  We need to be careful not to use people or diminish them.  We may not even be aware that our words hurt others and must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these times to us.  Our focus should be to love others continually and extend grace.  We must be sincere and active-minded towards others, acknowledging their achievements and giving gratitude and thanks in all circumstances.

We commit passive murder when we fail to meet the needs of others.   This type of murder encompasses many forms including seeing a homeless person and failing to share food and hope, seeing a person struggling to walk and not giving them a helping hand, seeing a child or adult in an abusive situation and not contacting authorities.  When we receive the eternal gift of salvation, we are also given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit prompts us to take action and we fail to do so, we commit passive murder.  We must be attentive and seek every opportunity to help others in need.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we should be sure we are also meeting the spiritual needs of others.  In Acts 20:27, Luke writes, “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”  We are commanded to share the gospel to everyone and always seeking to share the gift of eternal life.  Nobody should be damned to eternal life in hell.  Someone took the time to share the gospel with you and saved your soul, we should have the same spirit of giving and an overwhelming desire to see others come to know Christ as their personal Savior.  How sad will it be when we come face to face with our God and we see missed opportunities?  We serve a God of forgiveness and second chances.  Someone gave you that second chance and hope for your future, we must share the same hope to others.

A person is NOT guilty of murder when they are defending our nation in war or when capital punishment is being enforced.  Romans 13:1 says this, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”  Government is a mandate of God and God has given society the governing authority over its people.  Our government protects the people from the hands of those who seek evil.  Righteous war that is ordained by God will have exhausted all peaceful measures first and will have been appointed by appropriate authorities.  Righteous war is fought with good intentions for all mankind and has a reasonable expectation to succeed.  Righteous war combats against those doing evil and, if possible, avoiding the death of innocent civilians.  Righteous war must have the ultimate goal of establishing peace.  The Bible is very clear about making peace with our enemies but it also gives grounds for war to protect the kingdom of God here on earth.

How sad it is that sometimes we commit murder and never even realize it?  How many opportunities have we missed to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ because we failed to meet the needs of others or share the gospel?  How many times have our words or actions (and sometimes lack of actions) caused a slow and painful death to someone else?  We should all desire to align ourselves with scripture and submit to His obedience.  We have the Truth in our hands and we are commanded to obey His word.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  We are all guilty of murder and we must all repent and lead a life that’s pleasing and honoring to our Heavenly Father.

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