Boundaries

Pacific Highway“There are boundaries that exist for our good.” These words are incredibly difficult for me to speak in my flesh, that is, when rising up from my humanity. I dislike the concept of boundaries. I recognize their inherent worth in principle, but, at times, the desires of man’s nature make those boundaries seem intrusive and even impossible.

Yet, if we comprehend the metanarrative of God’s purposeful design then we must acknowledge the value of boundaries. To reject boundaries or to resist their purpose is to subject ourselves to incalculable suffering. Early one morning, I scanned through the channels of the television and came upon a movie about transgressed boundaries. The full story line is inconsequential except for its value in illustrating my point. It was a story of forbidden love and how the draw of the heart brought two people together, even momentarily. Doing so damaged a marriage commitment. In fact, the commitment to marriage had been modified to become “open” so that the heart could wander and fulfill its passions. The storyline presented the case that casting off boundaries, while ultimately causing heartache, freed the heart to experience great and blissful happiness and fulfillment, even if it were only temporary. I was reminded of the gracious and loving gift of boundaries.

Some see God as “old fashioned” because He instructs people to avoid certain things. From the declaration to not eat from the “certain” tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), to the counsel of the writer of Proverbs about the foolishness of lustful naivety (Proverbs 7) and its magnetic draw toward adultery and death (Proverbs 5), Scripture gives us boundaries to guard us and guide us toward unspeakable joy. These boundaries, when tested by the heart, seem oppressive; however, when comprehended by the faithful Christian, are instruments that promote ultimate peace, pleasure, and satisfaction.

“Rules were made to be broken,” as the saying goes, is a recipe for disaster. Time will not allow me to unpack stories of those who have wept before me over adulterous relationships that began as unchecked flirtatiousness. There are not enough hours to detail the immense suffering that resulted from stealing from a trusted friend or family member. We cannot even begin to examine the costs of addiction that began as one pill or one beer to relax. In nearly every case, the grief-stricken person can detail the moment that the heart approached the biblical boundary for the final skirmish and transgressed it.

Truly, boundaries seem archaic at times and the draw of human nature (or you may call the heart) seems overwhelmingly strong; however, can we ever claim that this is unusual to us? Is this not the struggle in Genesis 4 in the heart of Cain? Is this not the allure that seized David’s heart when looking upon Bathsheba? IS this not the battle raging in Peter’s heart as he warmed himself over a stove in Caiaphas’ courtyard (Matthew 27:69ff)?

Dear friends, God always designed us to battle the pull of the heart toward rebellion…not because His ego was massive but because God desired to save us from the consequences of the morning after, and the one after that, and the one after that.

The storyline of the movie positioned the experience of forbidden love as something positive. The “adversary” convinced Cain that his happiness would follow the destruction of his brother Abel. The naïve young man of Proverbs 7 fell headlong into destruction, convinced that the beautiful woman would be his “ticket” to ultimate pleasure. Truthfully, the “enemy” has always packaged rebellion as the means to happiness but the consequences outlive the momentary pleasure. God’s boundaries promote joy over suffering, pleasure over pain, and holiness over dishonor. They are His gracious and loving gift.

Far from her door! Proverbs 5:8-9

2014-10-10 12.46.03In my circles, it is a foregone conclusion that falling into temptation or succumbing to sin is deadly. I don’t know any believer (Christ follower) who would affirm that you are “cool” having an affair. I don’t know any, for that matter, who would affirm sin in any form as an acceptable course of action.

So how do so many with such strong convictions fall prey to the allure of the enemy of Holy God? Could it be that we simply walked too close to the line?

That is the point of the writer here in Proverbs 5:8-9. Now the “her” he is speaking of is the “adulterous woman” who is a beautiful, flattering temptress who represents NSA (no strings attached) pleasure (v.3). She is a recurring figure throughout the Proverbs and may seem like the Christian’s greatest enemy. Actually though, she is simply a distracting tool of the enemy; whereas, the greatest weakness of the Christian is simply his own lack of discipline.

In this chapter, we find that the young man knew instruction (v.1) and was accountable to a discipler (vv.1-2, 12-14, et.al). He was aware of the predicted outcome of engaging in sin (vv.4-5, 9-11). His issue is not a lack of knowledge or an ignorance of consequences, but a deficiency in discipline.

“Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house, or you will give your vigor to others and your years to the cruel one.” Proverbs 5:8-9.

The warning is for the man to stay FAR AWAY from the temptation! “Hey pastor,” you might ask, “Isn’t Christ powerful enough to deliver the man from a doorstep?” Sure! The issue is not Christ’s power but the man’s discipline. If he has knowledge and accountability and the Spirit of God within him telling him to stay away from the door (but no woman introduced on the scene)…and he still cannot yield to the voice of Wisdom, what are the chances that he will suddenly strengthen his resolve when a beautiful woman starts whispering “sweet nothings”in his ear?

Not only does the man need to stay away from the adulteress, but he has a positive activity commended to him as well. Vv.15-19 tell him to be satisfied with his own wife.

“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, ler her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilerated always with her love.” Proverbs 5:15-19.

Look at your wife the way you’d be tempted to look at the adulteress. Determine to focus on her. Remove the rivals in your mind or attention. Give yourself only to her! [Consequently, this is the greatest danger in my opinion with pornography- not that there aren’t good cases to be made for cheapening the imago dei of women posing naked or having sex on camera. Frankly though…again in my opinion, my declared and determined allegiance is to my one wife and to our One God!] If I introduce my eyes or mind to another woman’s sexuality, I create a rival (in my mind) for my wife. How is that ever good? If I dishonor my vows to my wife OR cause another woman to dishonor her vows to her husband or to her Creator’s purpose…how is that ever good?

So…all in all, don’t even get close to thinking about the other woman’s doorway. If you do and you wander too close, the enemy of God will use her to destroy your wife (present or future…in case you’re single and read this) and to provoke you to dishonor the God who created and redeemed you.

 

Pastor’s Reflections…How Christians may lose their edge on the LGBT issue

open-bible 2In the wake of Memorial day Weekend in Pensacola, I have been reflecting on the approach of the church to our city’s celebration of the LGBT lifestyle. By no means am I claiming to have the definitive answer on how the church SHOULD respond to these events in our city, but as I have considered it, I think it is worthy of our conversation. It takes courage to address an issue, considering it in light of the Scriptures until we have come to a place of biblical clarity. To facilitate the discussion, let me state a few assumptions.

  • Biblically speaking, homosexuality is wrong. It is sin. It is no more sin than other sins and it is no less sin than other sins. It is simply sin.
  • The church cannot embrace and/or adopt sin or modify God’s Word as it relates to sin. Whether I like it or don’t like it, lying is a sin, killing is sin, homosexuality is sin, etc.
  • The church is accountable to God for how we represent God’s position toward sin and those who sin.
  • The church is accountable to the culture at large for how we represent God’s position on sin and those who sin. IOW…we cannot say to the culture something that is untrue about God. If God has spoken on an issue, we become a stumbling block to the culture if we do not act truthfully toward them on behalf of God.

With these assumptions in place, I am concerned about the fine line we walk between loving those who sin and celebrating sin itself. As a guy who thinks (unapologetically) like a missionary and who wants all people to accept Christ Jesus as Lord by faith, I am concerned that if we are not careful as the church, we can step over the line from demonstrating love and acceptance toward those who (like us) commit sin…and start to ignore the sin…or worse…we actually celebrate it as normal.

A couple of examples may illuminate the issue:

  • If a gay person comes into the church, it seems appropriate to love him as another person created in the image of God. He should be embraced as a person who is of great value to our King. At the same time, we could not accept him into membership while he still holds an acceptance or affinity with his sin. Until he sees sin the way God sees sin, he cannot come to repentance, thus he cannot be redeemed.
  • If the same gay person came in with his partner to fellowship and sing and “pal around” with church members as they sought to act as a couple…the church may blur the lines to allow unrepentant sinners to persist in the assembly unless we challenge the sin and are seeking a receptivity in the heart fo the gay couple.
  • Finally, if a church sets out to open a hospitality booth at a LGBT parade (or our current Memorial Day festivities at Pensacola Beach) and distribute water bottles, sunscreen, or other items…is it crossing a line and beginning to celebrate the sin itself? If not, why not? Now I understand how this effort might be evangelistic if there is a message of God’s love conveyed (verbally, in writing, etc). My concern is not so much with that as it is with simply being a “presence” in the midst of these activities…as if to communicate love and ACCEPTANCE of the sin and inadvertently communicating that God is “ok” with the sinner’s choice to sin.

While I don’t have all of the answers, I know that there is a message communicated by the church’s actions…so I am curious where you might think the “line” is in our activity. Love to hear your thoughts.

#P5: God’s Grace in Exposing our Sin

Pastor's Five, P5 logoFollowing the multiplied sins related to Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to the king (David) who seemed to have succeeded in covering up his sin and eliminating the loose ends that could trip him up later. David seems to be in the clear, at least on the surface, then God sends the prophet who tells David a story about a man who has everything and takes the sole possession of a poor neighbor. David’s response:

“The David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.’ Nathan then said to David, ‘You are the man!’…” 2 Samuel 12:5-7a, NASB.

We don’t often think of God as gracious as He is exposing our sin. Take Chuck Colson for example. One of the hatchet men for Nixon during Watergate who was exposed. He came to faith in Christ and admitted his wrongdoing. God used him powerfully as the founder of Prison Fellowship. Neither his salvation (arguably) nor the fruits of his ministry would have occurred without the exposure of his sin.

Sin breaks our fellowship with God. Unrepentant sinners live disfellowshipped…having no active relationship with Him except as a rebellious child toward a judging parent. This break in fellowship persists until we have confessed our sin and responded to God in repentance. This does not occur until the sin is first EXPOSED!

Nathan calls David out. Notice that David’s response to the fable about the “ewe lamb” is a response of anger. It has been my experience that we get the most angry about other peoples’ sins that mirror our own. I have a few guys who accuse me of being a “controlling dictator” at times. I imagine every leader has borne that weighty criticism from time to time and don’t argue that I am immune from the allure of power…but the reason that this “control” issue is so prevalent with these brothers…is that they are controlling guys. They are used to being in charge and think they know best…so when they are not driving, they are critical of the driver. They are angered because the sins of others illuminate the sins in their own makeup. [Consequently, I know a lot of preachers who preach the hardest and the loudest against the sins that have the deepest roots in their own hearts.]

Nathan’s exposure of David’s sin is not comfortable…for Nathan or David, but it is necessary to start the process of reconciliation (v.13).

It is important to note that while David confessed his sin (see also Psalm 51 which is written because of this incident), the consequences of the sin are not removed. Ultimately, David will not die because of His sin. One died in His place (that is Jesus). However, the consequences and fallout from the sin persist. [This is a shocker for those with a Sunday School faith in the modern church]. Yet, the consequences are bearable because God traverses the road back to restoration with us. While we have consequences, following repentance, we also have fellowship. That changes everything.

A wise reader will meditate on the fact that God may be at work exposing sin and sinful tendencies in his own life. What is God saying? Rather than hating the exposure…yield to it and allow the flood of God’s redemptive and restorative love wash over you. There is a path back but it only begins as you acknowledge the sin that God is exposing.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: When kings don’t go to war

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel…but David stayed at Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1, NASB.

Those who know me know that I am fond of the statement that I live everyday one “stupid act” away from ruining my ministry and destroying those closest to me. In this way, I am no different than every other man or woman I know…except perhaps in the scope of influence that goes with my position.

David’s great sin…with Bathsheba…is no different than many others. He committed adultery. Horrible sin but not outside the realm of possibilities for a man of his stature in the era he lived. I say that, not to excuse David but to remind us that his mistake was simply that…a mistake…or was it? Could it be that the sin of adultery was simply the natural consequence a series of decisions that left him in a vulnerable place?

Observe:

  • David was not where he was supposed to be. Kings went out with their armies. David sent out his army while staying behind.
  • David was overconfident. This led to his actions of staying behind. He had great success in battle. His army was powerful. He simply let the generals handle it.
  • There was no accountability. The more power or influence a man has, the more accountability he needs in his life. All of David’s strong men were gone. No one but a few domestic servants around and they were not going to challenge him.
  • David perceived that no one was watching. Alone times are the worst times of temptation. When we think that there is no consequence, we do dumb things.
  • David’s actions contributed to the sins of others. Bathsheba sinned against God and her husband at the behest of the king. Joab sent a man to die in battle at the instruction of the king.
  • David thought he could cover up his sin. After all, he had the “midas touch” in so many areas. Problem is, God does not let his “children” cover their sins for long. Every sin is uncovered. The saved man uncovers it (confesses it unto Salvation). The lost man has it uncovered at the judgment and then he pays the penalty for it.

Now, in reality, we will never avoid all sin. We should make it our aim in Christ to do so but we will never achieve perfection on our own in the flesh. At the same time, we are FOOLISH to CHOOSE to leave ourselves vulnerable to overwhelming temptation. David entered into this sin with his eyes open. NO WAY! He did not know when he slept with Bathsheba that it would lead to such death and destruction! Probably not, but he knew it was unwise and he knew it was sin and he knew it dishonored God. The consequences of the sin…simply followed after the willful choice. This is what happens when kings don’t go to war.

Shalom, CA