This morning I read these verses from Ephesians 4:14-16,
...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
As I survey the world around me I notice a common trend occurring in our western cultures: childhood is remaining long after childhood. This is universal, affecting every demographic -- even God's church. Many followers of Jesus are succumbing to the false idea that God's love means He doesn't mind childishness. After all, we are saved by grace, right? But doesn't love require reproof?
Our ministry is focused on helping sexually broken individuals and families find healing and hope through the power of Jesus Christ. We provide resources and training tools to also help Christian leaders be better equipped when helping people break free from sexual struggles or strongholds. To minister effectively it is imperative that we hold in balance grace and truth. When imbalance occurs between these two perspectives, the essence of love is lost.
I have 3 teenagers, two girls and a boy. I love them dearly. And my love is expressed to them in varying measures of grace and truth. Would I be loving my children if I never corrected them? Would I be loving my children if I gave them everything they wanted? Certainly there are ways to discipline and correct that are kind and gentle, but discipline and correction are not optional if I am to love my children well.
God deals with us in the same way. He loves us dearly. And His love is expressed in varying measures of grace and truth -- perfectly revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, who was "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Would God be loving if He never corrected us? Would God be loving if He gave us everything we wanted? God certainly disciplines and corrects us in kind and gentle ways, but His discipline and correction are not optional if He is to truly love us well.
Today there are many who want to deceive us into believing that love doesn't require correction and accountability -- which is why so many remain stuck in childhood! We live in a world that reasons with its eyes and thinks with its emotions. If it looks good, pursue it. If it feels good, do it. After all, if it looks good and feels good it must be good, right? The Author of Good, the Creator of everything, would disagree. We are to live as He designed us -- to be holy and set apart, those who truly love in word and deed. In short, those who grow up.
It is time for courageous love to step forward in God's church. Time to "speak the truth in love" and not cower to the false teachers in society who present a "love" that may look good on the outside and feel good for a moment, but in the end leads to bitter division and a trail of broken hearts and immature character. True love is rooted in truth and expressed through grace for the purpose of growing us up into the likeness of Christ.
This year resolve to be a courageous lover, one who mirrors your heavenly Father to the broken world around you. Doing so will make you a beacon on a hill and provide hope and direction for those who need more than a mere facade of love. Let's show the world what "grown up" love is all about.
I had a great conversation with Dr. Juli Slattery recently about the #MeToo social media explosion surrounding the issue of sexual harassment and abuse. (This conversation will air on our Pure Sex Radio podcast later this month.) Juli asked my reaction as a Christian man to some of the blanket accusations against all men (i.e. "men are pigs", "all men are predators", etc.). I want to expound on two thoughts I shared with her in hopes of encouraging you to recognize and seize the gospel opportunities that can emerge when such news breaks.
#MeToo Breaks my Heart for the Wounded
When I heard the news about Harvey Weinstein and then the flood over other Hollywood insiders and various other leaders accused of sexual harassment my first reaction was heartbreak. This kind of news exposes once again the degree to which sexual sin wounds people. Lives are changed dramatically by such trauma and it is evidenced in the emotional pain that erupts even years after the abuse ends.
But my heart isn't the only heart to break over such injustice and abuse. God's heart breaks too. In fact, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, could carry the #MeToo banner Himself. He was abused and maligned, treated unjustly. He identifies personally with the painful feelings of being hurt at the hands of another. He knows better than anyone what it feels like to have someone else's brokenness dumped on Him.
But in the heartbreak I hear whispers of hope. As the stories piled up one after another of the abused and hurt, I saw opportunity after opportunity to bring the Good News of the suffering Savior, Jesus, to each of these wounded, and often angry, victims. Their experiences of abuse need not be the end of the story. Maybe this is the time in their lives when they can encounter what a real man should look like. And he looks like Jesus.
#MeToo Demands that Men of Integrity Step Forward
After feeling heartbroken my next reaction to the #MeToo story was somewhat defensive, but in a good way. I thought, Wait a minute! Not every man is a slug of a human being who only victimizes women. There actually are good men, men of integrity who follow God and seek to reflect His goodness in the world around them. Yeah, we need these men to take a step forward and offer their strength in gracious and humble ways. Such men can bring healing and reconciliation to the wounded. Such men reveal the heart and love of Jesus.
This is what must happen when the gospel takes root in a man's soul. He must not only allow God to transform his own character, but also be willing and obedient to pour this hope and healing out onto those around him. The time has come for godly men to "go public" with their godliness, because true godliness is not abusive nor demeaning. True godliness is walking like Jesus, touching the wounded and marginalized with compassion and truth.
Men of God, if you are with me take a step forward today and offer your strength in humility to those who are feeling weak. Maybe this is reaching out to a local crisis center to see how you can assist. Maybe this is stepping in or speaking up at work when you see questionable behavior or speech. Maybe this is being more intentional in praying for all those who have posted or wished they posted #MeToo on social media.
Don't be afraid to join the conversation. We know you aren't perfect. But the road to healing and reconciliation isn't traveled by perfect people. It is traveled by courageous people who "love [their] neighbor as [themselves]." Will you be courageous and fight for justice and healing? #MeToo
Hugh Hefner died this week. The modern king of porn and sexual decadence is no longer on his throne. But don't be fooled into thinking that porn and sexual decadence died with him. The battle for integrity and righteousness rages on.
I had two simultaneous emotions when I saw that Hefner died. First, I felt overwhelming sadness for him. Such a talented, smart, entrepreneurial guy who wasted his life on the pursuit of that which does not satisfy (nor save) the soul. Second, I felt invigorated for the work I do in ministry. The man Hefner may be gone, but the legacy of his destructive work lives on with a vengeance. We need more soldiers in the battle for purity.
Please don't misinterpret my feelings to conclude that I have some kind of hatred for Hugh Hefner. I didn't hate the man. I pitied him. And I pity all the disciples of porn he led astray for nearly 65 years. I work every day in the trenches of destroyed lives and families because of the myths Hefner promoted about fulfillment and joy being found in the wonderland of unbridled sexual desires.
But my pity for Hefner and his porn disciples doesn't cause me to shrink away in disgust or despair. It moves me to stand up and to light a candle of hope for all those still in the darkness of disillusionment. To reach out and help those who are discovering that the promises of porn to bring ultimate pleasure are just facades covering up pain and deception and the fruitlessness of self-centered living.
My hope and prayer is that the flurry of news media that will certainly seek to honor and celebrate Hefner will cause people to consider the actual implications of his legacy: Hefner sparked a 65-year slow-burn holocaust on the American family. Is that really worthy of celebration and honor? Have we become so "politically correct" that we "call evil good and good evil?" (Isa. 5:20) Woe to us if we do!
Will you stand with me, candle of hope in hand, and pray for God to use this man's death to spark a "revival of righteousness" in our land -- starting in our churches? Will you speak boldly of the love and grace of Jesus Christ to forgive those who confess their sins and humble themselves before God? Will you live out a life of integrity and purity as an example for a world that is so sexually broken?
Finally, will you pray for the family and friends of Hugh Hefner? There is still hope for them to "see the Light" and write a different legacy for future generations.
His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. 2 Chron. 17:6a
I'm not a theologian, but I love God's Word and read it every day. One of my favorite ways to read through the Bible is chronologically. In case you didn't know, the content of the Bible is not laid out in the order that it occurred in history. This year I'm once again reading the Bible chronologically.
Sometime in early June I found myself reading in the book of 2 Chronicles. This is a book that highlights much of the nation of Israel's early history as they struggled to establish a unified kingdom (very unsuccessfully, I might add). There were many kings who came and went, most of whom were not good kings, regularly summarized by these words, "And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord." But a few kings would have positive things said about them, that they obeyed the Lord and walked in his commandments. One such king was a man named Jehoshaphat.
While Jehoshaphat was certainly not perfect (no king is other than Jesus), he had this said of him: His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. (2 Chron. 17:6a) Wow! What a wonderful badge to be pinned on the chest of any human being. These words leapt off the pages of Scripture and sunk deep into my soul. Oh, Lord, how I long to be labeled with such words of commendation.
What does it mean to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord?"
Courage is defined as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." I think everyone (especially men) would like to be described as courageous. We want that noble quality that emboldens us to face difficulties with bravery, even heroism. But anyone can exhibit the actions of courage, even those of poor character. What separates the merely courageous from those who are courageous "in the ways of the Lord?"
To boil down "the ways of Lord" you could simply go to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." And in another place in the law (Lev. 19:18) it says, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."
These are the two passages that Jesus drew from when millennia later he would be asked by a religious leader what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This is the way of the Lord: to love God and love others in obedience to God's law.
But the Scriptures did not say that Jehoshaphat simply acted courageously in the ways of the Lord. It says his heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. Why is this significant? Because it is from the heart that we live. What is in the heart is what makes a person righteous or unrighteous before God (Mark 7:14-23). It was Jehoshaphat's heart that was being commended by God, not merely his actions.
How can you and I have this same commendation pinned on our lives? In exactly the same way it was for Jehoshaphat: to obey God from a pure heart. Are there areas in your life in which you are not obeying the Word of God? Or are you obeying the "letter" of God's law but with impure motives, maybe trying to impress people instead of truly serving God for His own sake? Check your heart and ask God for boldness of character in the face of temptation and opposition.
The world we live in today is begging for us to blend in and abandon our Christian beliefs. You and I have a choice: to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord" or to "do what is evil in the sight of the Lord." What is in your heart to do today? May you grow in courageous love day by day...
by Dan Allender
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