Regular followers to this blog know full well that I haven’t been consistently posting for some time now. My reason is simple: I’ve come to believe that God is putting a period to this particular sentence of my life. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say or simply gotten lazy. The issue is that, as best I can tell, God is moving me away from blog-writing and on to other avenues of ministry. I can’t even say for sure right now what those other avenues are. All I know is the inspiration, passion, and zeal for writing new material for posting has systematically left me as God has been winding down this season of my life.
My longtime readers might recall that I once took an extended break of almost a year from writing the blog. Then I came back from that hiatus and plunged myself again into posting good material on a regular basis. In my opinion, I wrote some of my best posts during that second phase of the blog. With that said, though, I seriously doubt there will be a third phase. As the title of this post indicates, I think I’m finished now.
I do, however, want to be clear about the fact that the blog will remain alive and well here on the internet. All told I’ve written over 450 posts, and each of them will remain right here to be read at anyone’s leisure. Along those lines, if you like my writing and consider it a blessing in your life, let me encourage you to use either the “Archives” section or the “Categories” section to read the posts you’ve never read. Posts I wrote some time ago will seem thoroughly fresh and new to you if you’ve never read them.
By the way, if you ever go to a post and find an empty space at the top of it, just know that a picture was once there. If you know your way around a computer, you might be able to reload the picture. I myself am not 100% sure why some pictures remain and others disappear after a while. Then again, I’m not exactly a computer guru. Of course, the pictures are only for the “newer” posts anyway. I posted material for years without incorporating pictures into the headings. So if the post is old enough, you won’t have to worry about what happened to the accompanying picture.
One other thing, I’m going to keep the comments option active at least for the foreseeable future. So if you want to leave a comment under some post, feel free. For the most part, the comments have been positive and encouraging. Every now and then, though, I’ve found myself in a running debate with someone. On some rare instances, I’ve even chosen to delete comments or not approve them in the first place. I’ll just see how things trend going forward. If there ever comes a time when allowing comments becomes more trouble than its worth, I’ll shut down that option. Again, though, your comments are welcome for now.
Well, I guess that’s about it. Let me close by offering a profound and sincere, “THANK YOU!” to anyone who has ever read or will ever read anything that I’ve written. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you giving me a hearing. I’m especially grateful to those of you who took the extra step of becoming subscribers to this blog. You’ll never know how much encouragement I drew from your confidence. And let me reiterate that if you will click on either the “Archives” section or the “Category” section you will surely find various posts that you either missed over the years or would do well to read again. Trust me, there’s some good stuff to be found if you’re willing to dig just a little. Is that no more than me trying to keep my readership numbers up? No. I just know how much heart, soul, and prayer I poured into the things I wrote, and God can definitely use such “bread” in your life if you will allow Him to feed you.
On his website, my friend Malcolm Woody recently wrote a devotional series entitled “Grace Notes.” Each devotion launched off from a Christian song (either a classic hymn or a contemporary song) to offer some insights into the subject of God’s grace, His completely UNDESERVED favor. You can link to Malcolm’s site at: http://www.malcolmwoody.com.
Those devotions got me to revisiting a thought that first struck me years ago. It’s the idea that it’s very difficult for a child who places his/her faith in Christ to properly understand God’s grace. Mind you that I’m not saying that a child can’t experience salvation and thus ACCESS that grace. I myself was saved by grace through faith when I was a young boy. Certainly kids have no problem accepting Jesus as their Savior. Certainly they can understand a good bit about heaven and hell. Certainly they can be taught what sin is. And certainly they can become full-fledged Christians. What I’m saying is that the typical child can’t properly appreciate God’s grace because, let’s face it, that child hasn’t exactly lived a hard-core life of sin prior to salvation.
Really, when kids get saved from sin, what sins do they have in mind? Lying to mommy? Stealing the change off daddy’s dresser? Thinking bad thoughts toward a brother? Pulling a sister’s hair? Getting into trouble at school? No doubt these are indeed legitimate sins and, therefore, require the forgiveness offered in Christ. But, seriously, when you talk with the average child about becoming a new creation and being born again through the regeneration of the indwelling Holy Spirit, does that child really grasp the major difference between his/her old life and the new one?
On the other hand, let me offer the hypothetical case of a 50-year-old drug addict who gets saved. This guy has been through two marriages. He’s cheated on both wives. His kids won’t talk to him anymore. He can’t hold down a job. He’s lost everything. He’s ruined his physical health as well as his mental health. He lives on the streets. He steals to get the money for his next high. He cusses. He’s crude. He doesn’t own a Bible. He doesn’t pray. And he’s never once darkened the doors of a church. Then a street-ministry worker shows him kindness, presents the gospel to him, and the guy places his belief in Christ. You see, that man can truly understand what he got saved from!
As we study the New Testament’s salvation experiences, it isn’t hard to see that virtually all of them are the stories of adults. Yes, Acts 16:15 mentions Lydia’s “household” getting baptized, a fact that would seem to imply some small children. The same is true of the Philippian jailor’s household later in the same chapter. But such stories are the exceptions to the rule. Far and away, the New Testament’s salvation accounts are the stories of adults, not children. Take the apostle Paul for example. Before he came to faith in Christ he was a devout Pharisee, a persecutor of Christians, and even an executioner of them. It’s no wonder that someone like that could write so passionately about salvation by grace. Not only did he know full well that his “works” merited eternal damnation, he also knew what a 180-degree change Jesus had brought to his life.
Typically, however, who is it that gets saved in our churches today? Statistics show that most of our baptisms are kids. Getting even more specific, usually these are kids who got saved during Sunday School, Bible school, or a summer camp. So am I complaining about this? No, I thank God for every child who gets saved anytime, anywhere. As I said earlier, I was one of those kids. My point is simply that a child who gets saved is incapable of understanding saving grace the way a Saul of Tarsus can understand it.
It wasn’t a 4th grader who wrote Amazing Grace. It was John Newton, an infidel hard case who worked on a slave trading ship before he alienated his fellow crewmen to the point where they gave him over to become the property of a slave trader in West Africa. You see, it takes a man like that to truly understand what a lost, spiritually blind “wretch” he once was. I’ve baptized a lot of kids in my time, but I doubt that even one of them thought of himself or herself as being a “wretch” without Jesus.
Please understand that I’m not advocating that we make children wait until they are older to accept Jesus as Savior. Neither do I want to see them fall headlong into lives of sin and immorality before they get saved. It’s just that a kid can’t appreciate saving grace as much as a man or woman who has some mileage, much of it over unholy roads, on them. To be sure, there aren’t many advantages to getting saved later in life. There is, however, this one, and it’s a very real one.
We preachers are constantly encouraged to use effective illustrations and make our sermons more like “storytelling.” It’s advice that I really do try to implement. After all, Jesus was the greatest communicator who ever lived and His favorite style of sermon was a parable. He understood that not everybody enjoys hearing a three-point outline featuring alliteration. Everybody does, however, love a good story.
Unfortunately, the New Testament epistles make for difficult storytelling. Preach from the four gospels? No problem. They are nothing but stories from Christ’s life. Preach from the book of Acts? No problem. Acts is simply a continuation of the storyline begun in the gospels. But preach from Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.? Ah, that’s tougher. If you are going to do any storytelling from them, you are going to have to get creative. Can you say, “Hand me my book of sermon illustrations”?
This explains why many preachers find it easier to preach from the Old Testament than the New Testament. You won’t find any epistles in the Old Testament. The closest you’ll get is Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, & the Song of Solomon. It also helps that the majority of the Old Testament is the storyline of ancient Israel and so many of the stories have happy endings. For example, God promises Abraham and the barren Sarah a son and eventually makes good on that promise. Joseph becomes the second in command of all Egypt. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. Joshua leads them into the promised land of Canaan. The shepherd boy David slays a giant and later becomes king. Solomon builds God’s temple. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego come out of Babylon’s fiery furnace unscathed. Daniel comes out of the lions’ den the same way. Esther saves the Jews from being exterminated in Persia. On and on the list goes.
This doesn’t mean that every Old Testament story ends well for God’s people. Far from it. Generally speaking, though, whenever a story doesn’t it’s because God is whipping His people because of their sin. Admittedly, I’m painting with very broad strokes here, but you get the gist of what I’m saying. The Old Testament features a ton of stories that leave us with a smile on our face. Israel at its best, at its pinnacle in service to God, typically enjoyed a favored status in regards to worldly matters.
But what about the stories of the New Testament? Well, while there are certainly several that fit this same bill, it’s undeniable that a significant change takes place in the New Testament. The stage for it gets set with stories such as John the Baptist getting beheaded, Jesus getting crucified, Stephen getting stoned to death, and James getting killed by a sword. And once that stage is set, then comes the full on persecution of God’s people (the church). At that point, serving God usually means trouble instead of favor, problems instead of prosperity, and rejection instead of acceptance. As evidence of this, consider Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 concerning the life of the apostles:
To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
Sometimes I think about how some of those famous stories from the Old Testament would probably have different endings if they took place in the New Testament timeline. Sodom and Gomorrah would be allowed to stand because God would want their citizens to be afforded every possible opportunity to repent and turn to Him. Can’t we make that argument based upon 2 Peter 3:9? The Red Sea wouldn’t part for Moses and the Israelites because God would want them to remain as slaves in Egypt and eventually, through Christian teaching and influence, abolish the practice of slavery in Egypt. Isn’t that how the Christians of the Roman empire eventually brought down slavery in the empire? Goliath would kill David, but David’s courage and zeal for God would cause Goliath to seek David’s God and become a Christian. Isn’t that what happened with Saul of Tarus after he had not only been present for Stephen’s stoning but ordered the deaths of many Christians himself?
Do you see now why I say that a significant change takes place over the pages of the New Testament? And do you also see why I say that preaching from the Old Testament is easier than preaching from the New Testament? You tell me, which is more appealing to our ears, the story of how Joshua and the Israelites defeated Jericho when Jericho’s walls came crashing down (Joshua 6:1-27) or Christ’s teaching about turning the other cheek in regards to your enemies (Luke 6:29)? You know the answer. Would you rather preach a sermon on the Angel of the Lord passing through the camp of the wicked Assyrians one night and slaying 185,00 of them (2 Kings 19:35-37) or one on loving your enemies and praying for those who spitefully persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44)? Again, you know the answer.
At the bottom line, the real question is this: Living in this era in which we live, does God want our lives to look more like an Old Testament story or a New Testament one? I think we know the answer to that too. In light of this, perhaps we need to change our usual way of operating. Rather than always running to the pages of the Old Testament to seek pleasing answers for the troublesome situations in our lives, maybe we’d be better advised to major on what the New Testament has to say concerning those situations. From a preaching standpoint, this won’t make for popular sermons featuring desirable storytelling. It will, however, make for deeper preaching, preaching that is more Christ-centered, preaching that definitely needs to be heard.
You would be correct to label me as a big fan of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’ve seen every episode many times and have also seen every big-screen movie based upon the series. While I enjoy the first Star Trek shows and movies (the ones with Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones McCoy, Scotty, etc.), William Shatner as Captain Kirk is a little too much for me. I much prefer Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the starship Enterprise in The Next Generation series. As for all the other Star Trek spinoffs (Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise), I never really got into them. My apologies to any rabid “trekkies” out there who might take offense to that. Also, I don’t want any Christians hating me over the fact that the entire Star Trek universal view builds off a basic foundation of evolution. I’m perfectly capable of enjoying some sci-fi entertainment without forsaking my belief in the Biblical account of creation.
The only place I can find Star Trek: The Next Generation these days is on BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation channel, and a few weeks back I happened to catch an episode entitled “Homeward.” The storyline involved Captain Picard and his crew violating the “prime directive.” For those of you who don’t know, the “prime directive” is Starfleet’s most important rule. It forbids interfering with the natural societal development of an alien civilization and culture. For example, a Starfleet officer can’t just beam down to a planet populated by a primitive, backward people and say, “Hi, I traveled here in a spaceship from Earth. Let’s talk.” That, you see, would inflict that alien race with a knowledge they simply aren’t ready to handle. It’s only when an alien race starts sending out spaceships themselves that Captain Picard and his crew can rightfully initiate contact with them. Of course, the “prime directive” gets violated multiple times over the course of the series, always resulting in major problems. Evidently the show’s writers thought such problems made for good t.v.
Anyway, let me get back to the “Homeward” episode. I won’t bore you with all the details, but a certain Starfleet anthropologist has been working in a disguised observation post on an alien planet to covertly study a race known as the Boraalans. Unfortunately, the whole setup goes awry and Captain Picard and his crew are forced to get involved in an effort to salvage the situation without the Boraalans finding out about deep space, starships, advanced technology, and other races. As usual, however, problems arise. In particular, one young Boraalan ends up walking the corridors and halls of the Enterprise, seeing wonders he can’t fathom and meeting crew members he never dreamed could exist.
In the end, the young man is faced with a choice. He can remain on the Enterprise and build a new life for himself out there roaming the galaxies or he can return to his home planet and basically fake it for the rest of his life, allowing his people to continue to believe that their planet and race are utterly unique in the universe. Sadly, he can’t reconcile himself to either option and chooses instead to take his own life. Overall the episode has a happy ending, but the casualty bothers Picard and he regrets that the young man couldn’t return to his home and ultimately become a bridge to link his people with Picard’s people.
Okay, so where am I going with all this? Well, it strikes me that sometimes in this life we get to the place where we have simply outgrown our little world. At that point, like that young Boraalan, we can either embrace the newness of the great unknown and step out in faith to meet it or timidly shrink back to the comfortable confines of the life we have always known.
As long as I am running with t.v. illustrations today, I’ll also throw in a word about the famous episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Opie kills the mother bird with his slingshot and then takes up the responsibility of raising her babies. He keeps them in a cage until he realizes they are flipping and flopping all around the cage as they are trying to fly. Opie says to Andy, “Pa, I think they need a bigger cage,” to which Andy responds by explaining that they do need a bigger cage, the cage of flying free in nature. Opie then sets them free and watches each one fly off. Christian, what I’m saying is that sometimes you reach a place in your life where you need a bigger cage if you are going to continue growing and thriving in your faith-building adventure with Christ.
It is with all of this in mind that I encourage you to use the beginning of this new year to take real stock of your life. Where are you these days? Are you happy with your current situation? Are you content to continue on down the road you are traveling? Are you satisfied with your place? The truth is that many people are. And, for that matter, God may want you to remain right where you are, doing exactly what you are doing, for many years to come. That’s a very real possibility that you need to consider.
Ah, but then there are those other seasons in life, those where God is leading you to explore a brand new world or fly out of your confining cage (depending upon which of my two t.v. illustrations you like best). He called Abraham to leave his hometown of Ur and journey to a new land, the land of Canaan. He called Moses to leave his comfortable existence, return to Egypt, and take up the biggest challenge of his life. He called Nehemiah to leave behind his life in a Persian palace, travel to Jerusalem, and lead a small group of followers in the rebuilding of the city’s walls. Jesus called Matthew to leave behind his occupation as a tax collector and follow Him into a new existence. He did the same thing in calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to drop their fishing nets and go with Him wherever He went.
You see, the Lord knows that one of the greatest killers of faith and dependence upon Him is the blandness of a humdrum existence in which we know all the answers before the questions are even asked because we’ve got the test memorized. That’s what can happen when we stay in one place, doing one thing, for too long. We become too comfortable, too confident in our own abilities, too predictable, and too spiritually complacent. That’s when a new galaxy or a bigger cage is needed. Such times of drastic change and upheaval drive us to the Lord and compel us to seek His daily guidance and provision. And that, after all, is how He wants us to live.
Every Christmas I preach the familiar story of Christ’s birth. Over the course of twenty years of doing that, I’ve come up with a list of questions the Bible simply doesn’t answer concerning the story. Here are seven of them. Don’t worry if you can’t answer these because no one can. This is just to get you to thinking in a fresh way about Christ’s birth.
Question #1: Exactly how did Joseph and the very pregnant Mary travel to Bethlehem? Did they walk? Did they both ride donkeys or camels? Did Joseph walk while Mary rode? Were they are part of a caravan that was traveling that way?
Question #2: Was Jesus born during the day or at night? I know, I know, the shepherds were watching over their flocks by night. But that’s only when the angel appeared to them and announced the birth. The way the story reads Mary gave birth shortly after she and Joseph arrived in town and found the local inn full. Well, they certainly wouldn’t have been traveling at night, would they? It’s probably best to guess that the couple arrived in town in the afternoon and she gave birth that night.
Question #3: How long was Mary in labor? Some births happen fairly quickly. Others drag on for hours. What was the case with Christ’s birth?
Question #4: Who delivered the baby Jesus? If we stay strictly with the Biblical account, the only candidate is Joseph. That would make him the very first person who ever saw God in human flesh, touched Him, and held Him. I like that idea. But did Joseph know anything about delivering babies and cutting umbilical cords? Or did someone (a doctor? a woman?) from the crowded town of Bethlehem deliver the baby?
Question #5: Exactly where was Jesus born there in Bethlehem? His first crib was a manger, and a manger is an animal’s feeding trough. So the birth must have taken place in a livestock pen. But what kind of pen was it? Was it a local cave? There is a famous cave in Bethlehem that purports to be the site. Or was it some kind of building, perhaps one that housed the animals of the travelers who were staying overnight at the inn?
Question #6: When the shepherds made “widely known” what they had seen that night, did any of the listeners go to the site and see the baby? The Bible doesn’t mention anyone doing so, but I kind of suspect that some folks did. I think that I’d have gone out of curiosity if nothing else.
Question #7: When did Jesus fully understand who He was and what He came to do? It’s hard to believe that He was lying there in that manger, looking around at Mary, Joseph, and those shepherds, and thinking to himself, “I came to die for you people.” What do little babies think about? I don’t know, I can’t remember. Some people point to the story from Luke 2:41-50 as conclusive proof that, at the very least, Jesus fully understood by the time He was 12. I don’t disagree with that, but it still leaves the exact time of His realization open for debate.
Okay, all you Bible students mull these questions over for a while and see what answers you think best fit. Like I said, there aren’t “right” or “wrong” answers here, at least not while we’re on this earth. I just wanted you to spend some time really pondering the reason for the season. Merry Christmas from the Mckinneys, and may we all give our lives unreservedly to that little baby who grew up, lived a sinless life, died on a cross for the sins of the human race, arose from the dead, ascended back to heaven, and now offers salvation to anyone who will believe in Him as Savior.
When I was young, let’s say ten years old or so, I spent a lot of summer days with my cousins, the Bennetts (Darrell, Susie, Billy, and Roger). Since both my parents worked, I didn’t have anyone to chaperone me when school was out. The solution was to let me spend the days at the Bennetts’ house. Their mother, Betty Jean, was my dad’s older sister. She was a stay-at-home mom who had a P.H.D. in babysitting. Of course, the problem with that whole arrangement was the fact that my cousins and I never stayed in the house where she could adequately keep an eye on us. Instead, most of our time was spent out and about exploring the local woods.
A dilapidated old car sat in the woods just above the Bennetts’ house. I didn’t know who the car belonged to at the time, but I’ve since learned that Betty Jean’s husband Bill had parked it there when the motor had gone bad. Trust me, he had no plans to fix that car. Its windows were all busted out, the interior was little more than a shell, and the whole thing was well on its way to rusting down completely. For all I know, what’s left of it is still sitting there.
One day as our crew was out patrolling the area we noticed that bees had built a huge nest inside that car. I’m thinking that it was a yellow-jackets nest, but it could have been hornets. I do vividly recall that the basketball-sized nest was located just above the driver’s side door. Naturally, kids being kids, we took it as a personal challenge to bring down that nest. It was just the kind of project for which lazy summer days are made.
After studying the nest for a while, we noticed that its one entrance was in the front at the bottom. Since bees were constantly flying in and out of that entrance, a frontal attack wasn’t advisable. So we made our way around to the car’s passenger’s side. I can’t remember if we opened the passenger door or if it was already off the hinges, but somehow we snuck our way inside that car and got behind that massive nest. Now the only question to be answered was, When we started pelting that nest with rocks, would those bees fly out the front or the back to attack? We gambled on the front, gathered our rocks, and cautiously, one kid at a time, began bombing the nest.
We grew more and more bold with each thrown rock because no matter where the rocks struck the nest, the bees flew out that one hole in the front. They just kept roaring out, stingers locked and loaded, seeking to deal with their attackers, but they couldn’t find us. The air was dark with them just outside that driver’s side window, but all remained clear on the other side of the car where we were. That allowed us to take turns easing inside the car and throwing our rocks. I can just picture us there, laughing like crazed madmen, as one by one we stoned that poor nest into oblivion. And throughout the entire affair not one of us got stung. If only we had channeled such genius toward purposes that were less mischievous and more productive for society. Oh well.
As I think back upon that day from my childhood, I’m reminded that we Christians oftentimes have our own trouble figuring out where the attacks upon us are coming from. We fly around, all stirred up and righteously indignant, but our holy zeal is misdirected and our efforts ultimately fail. Why? It’s because we have trouble locating our true attacker. And just who is our true attacker? It’s Satan. The abortionists are carrying out his agenda. The gambling industry is doing his bidding. He convinces the homosexuals that what they are doing is morally acceptable. He energizes the pornographers. He inspires the producers and directors of filthy television shows and Hollywood movies. He is the power behind the throne of evil dictators and warmongers. Yes, he’s the one who is constantly bombing us and thus creating the mess that we call this world.
Notice carefully what the Bible teaches in the following passages:
Then Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him (Elymas the sorcerer) and said, “O full of all deceit all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9-10)
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do…” (John 8:44)
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world… (Revelation 12:9)
You see, Christian, the one who is bombing our nest from behind is Satan and the people he uses to accomplish his work are merely the rocks thrown from his hand. I’m not excusing these people or letting them off the hook for their sins. Surely God will hold each one accountable for his/her actions. I’m simply pointing out that, in a very real sense, these folks don’t even do their own bidding. They think they are free and liberated to do as they please, but in truth they aren’t independent at all. Satan has them deceived. He has their minds blinded. They want to do the desires of his heart rather than the desires of their own hearts.
Please keep this in mind, Christian, whenever you find yourself out there on the front lines of the cultural war. It’s so easy to despise or hate the people who think and act in ungodly ways. But don’t let yourself fall into the trap of failing to see them for who they really are. They are pawns in the hands of an evil lord. They are puppets dancing on the strings of a wicked puppeteer. They are children whose minds have become warped under the tutelage and training of their twisted father. They are the victims of a sinister brainwashing carried out by a master in the art. Again, I’m not attempting to alleviate them from all their guilt and accountability. There’s no doubt that each of them currently stands under the foreboding shadow of God’s impending judgment. I just want you to understand that the one who is doing the actual rock throwing is Satan.
There is a certain website that I visit each day to get what it calls “alternative news.” The news comes from a wide range of offbeat topics, everything from new archaeological findings to experiments scientists are currently conducting to recent sightings of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and UFOs. Obviously, the information isn’t stuff that ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, or CNN would cover. That’s not to say, though, that it isn’t interesting. It’s just not mainstream. Each news story gives you a brief snippet of the facts. Then you are offered a link to the site that has the entire story if you want to read more. (By the way, I do also visit Yahoo News and MSN News daily and watch my local news just so that I don’t build my world completely around alternative news. I don’t want you worrying about me too much!)
Today one of the alternative news articles carried the heading “Germany To Ban Sex With Animals.” Well, curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on the link. You just have to follow up on a headline like that, don’t you? The link ran me to an outfit called Spiegel Online International, and from all indications the story is legit. It seems that Germany is now planning to ban “zoophilia” (sex with animals). That word itself was a new one on me. When did it replace “bestiality”? Anyway, according to the story, zoophilia was legalized in Germany in 1969. Ever since then, animal rights groups have been pushing to make the act a crime. Now the German government is ready to heed their demands and start levying fines of up to 25,000 euros ($32,400 U.S. dollars) for each case of zoophilia.
Now, one would think that passing such a law would be perfectly logical and acceptable to everybody. I mean, it’s a no-brainer, right? But hold on a minute, the law’s proposal has the Germans who practice zoophilia all upset. Okay, how many such people could there be? Five? Twenty? Fifty? Would you believe that one estimate puts the number at over 100,000? Admittedly, that estimate is probably dicey. Since people aren’t exactly lining up to admit that they engage in zoophilia, any attempt at creating an accurate estimate is patently impossible.
Nevertheless, though, it seems that Germany does have a fairly large number of people who practice zoophilia. I say that because they’ve formed a group called ZETA (Zoophile Engagement For Tolerance & Information). To me that would make their initials ZETAI, but I’ll let that go because these folks have far bigger problems. The group’s chairman, Michael Kiok, says, “We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification. We don’t force them to do anything.” I guess the fact that animals can’t speak helps with that. For the record, Kiok lives with an Alsatian dog named Cessie and says that he has had special feelings for animals since he was four or five and those feelings took on erotic elements in his teens.
The article then goes on to explain that zoophilia has been banned in several European countries, including France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Sweden is currently preparing such a ban as well. However, the practice is still legal in Denmark and, at least for now, Germany. Wow, I had no idea that all of Europe was grappling with the issue of zoophilia. What things you can learn by reading alternative news!
As I read that story, however, I just kept thinking how relevant the Bible forevermore is. We don’t have to wonder about God’s opinion of zoophilia (bestiality) because it’s right there in the book. You see, such sexual perversion was common practice among the inhabitants of Canaan, the land that God gave to Israel. That left God with the perfect opening to address the sin in that body of law that He gave to Israel. In Leviticus 18:23, we read:
Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion.
Under Israelite law, the act was even a capital punishment offense. Exodus 22:19 says:
Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.
Furthermore, according to Leviticus 20:15-16, the animal was also supposed to be put to death:
If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.
And then there is Deuteronomy 27:21, which says:
‘Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.’ “And all the people shall say, “Amen.’”
Of course, any passage from the Old Testament law must always come with the codicil that we don’t live under that law. The law was given to a specific people (the Jews) who lived in a specific dispensation of centuries (after the Exodus from Egypt and before the coming of Jesus). So please don’t accuse me of advocating the killing of those who engage in zoophilia. I’m simply pointing out that by studying God’s law we can get His verdict on certain subjects. One of those subjects is zoophilia (bestiality), and He is clearly opposed to it. But isn’t it sad how, even after all these years of human history have passed, mankind still loves to commit history’s same old sins? It reminds me of another Bible passage, Ecclesiastes 1:9-10:
That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.
Football season is still going strong in the college and professional ranks, but it’s been over for some time now for my son Royce’s 5th/6th grade team. Since he played center, I helped out a little bit coaching our linemen. Our head line coach was a guy named Stacy Peterson. Even though I’d gone to high school with Stacy and had loosely known him for years, we’d always run in different circles and had never done any one-on-on talking. So I was glad to get to know him better over the course of the season. Trust me, the guy knows a thing or two about being a lineman. Of course, that didn’t surprise me. After all, he did play college ball.
As I look back over our season, the one thing that stands out to me the most about Stacy is a certain coaching philosophy that he had. It went as follows: If you aren’t getting better by doing a drill, shut it down and do another drill that allows you to get better. For example, let’s say that our linemen were sleepwalking their way through a drill involving the blocking sleds. After a rebuke or two, Stacy would finally say something like, “Okay, we’re not getting better here. Let’s set up some cones and work on our footwork.” If all else failed and he was out of options for alternative drills, he’d say, “Well, if we can’t get better by doing drills, we can at least get in better shape by running. So start running and I’ll tell you when to stop.” The point is that Stacy was all about making practice time efficient and productive. His time was too valuable for anything less. If a ten-minute span went by in which our players weren’t a little better at football than they had been the previous ten minutes, he saw that as ten minutes wasted.
I’ve been a pastor for over nineteen years now, and so I speak with some expertise when I say that a lot of Christians sleepwalk their way through serving Christ and, thus, never get much better at it. They aren’t any more involved at church than they were five years ago. They don’t know much more Bible than they did ten years ago. They spend the same amount of time in prayer, if not less, as they did two years ago. They witness to the same number of people they always have: none. They aren’t giving an increased amount of money to church or parachurch ministries. You get the idea. These Christians are doing their “drilling” for Jesus, but somehow all of it isn’t making them better at serving Him. Call them casual. Call them comfortable. Call them satisfied. Call them apathetic. Call them disengaged. But whatever you call them, don’t call them improving.
I realize that this post might work better as one for New Year’s Day, but for some reason the Lord burdened me to write it today, here toward the end of November. So tell me Christian, does it have your name on it? Where are you right now in your service to Christ? Are you on fire for Him? Is your service to Him growing? Are you excited about what He is doing through you to affect the lives of others? Or is your service stagnated and stationary? Have you plateaued? Even worse, are you backslidden?
If you have to admit that you currently aren’t getting better at serving Christ, let me encourage you to apply Stacy’s coaching philosophy to your life. Step out in faith and try something new for Jesus. Volunteer to teach a Sunday School class. Take up the challenge of reading the Bible through in a year. Get a notebook and start a prayer journal in which you write down not only your daily prayer requests but also how you see God answer them. Muster up the courage (coupled with tact) and witness to a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, or a family member. With the Christmas season upon us, either increase your giving to your local church or make a one-time gift to a Christian organization that can surely use it. Even if you can’t give financially, give of your time or your other resources. Find a way. Make it happen. Whatever you do, don’t keep halfheartedly doing your same old “drills” over and over again and expecting different results.
In 1 Corinthians 15:58, the apostle Paul encourages Christians to always be “abounding in the work of the Lord.” That word “abounding” has always stood out to me in that verse. There is such a vibrancy to it, such a vitality. It calls to my mind Olympic athletes bounding down a track-and-field event, muscles rippling, functioning in perfect harmony and form as they power the athletes along. But how does an athlete reach such an impressive state of performance in his field? I’ll tell you, with each training drill and exercise, he gets better. Every day, every week, every month, every year, he just keeps on getting better until he finally reaches that idealized state the world sees on television. You see, Christian, Stacy’s philosophy will work in terms of spiritual drills just as well as it works in terms of football ones. We simply have to make the commitment to keep constantly getting better. And what I’m asking today is, How are you doing on that?
A man bought a talking parrot that had once been a bar owner’s pet. Sitting in that bar every night, the bird had learned some, shall we say, interesting words. More than once it embarrassed its new owner by squawking out some cuss word in the presence of company. So the man decided to teach the bird a lesson by letting it spend ten minutes in his deep freezer. When he finally retrieved the chilled bird, he looked at it and said, “Now I don’t want to hear any more bad words out of you. Do you understand?” The bird squawked, “Yes. But I’ve just got to ask, What in the world did that turkey say?”
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving day, that day marked by turkeys, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, family get-togethers, a Macy’s parade, football games, and all the rest of it. (Unfortunately, more and more it’s also now being marked by Christmas shopping as well, but don’t me started on that.) But will the day be marked by your thankfulness? Well, that’s up to you, isn’t it?
It strikes me that perspective is one of the secrets to be truly thankful. For example, if you’ve been grumbling because you haven’t been able to buy yourself a new pair of shoes in a while, consider a story from the life of noted gospel singer Charles M. Alexander. Traveling was a major part of Alexander’s life, as he was frequently a featured singer for the preaching tours of the likes of R.A. Torrey and John Wilber Chapman. One day an impoverished little fellow named Sam was helping Alexander pack his suitcase. The boy said, “Mister Charlie, would you have any old clothes you ain’t makin’ use of?” Since Alexander’s clothes were obviously too big for the boy, Alexander moved on to the subject of shoes. He said, “Well, Sam, what about shoes? What size do you wear?” Sam answered, “That mostly ‘pends on who gives ‘em. Sometimes I wear sixes and sometimes I wear elevens.” Remember that story tomorrow and be thankful for your shoes!
2 Timothy 3:1-5 is a very well known passage. It says:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
You’ll note that even though that is quite a list of sinful conduct, the word “unthankful” is right there on it. As a matter of fact, the word begins the list of the “un” words: unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving. I’ve heard many sermons from this passage, all painting the picture that we surely are living in the “last days.” As preachers like to say of such passages, “Reading these words is like reading the headlines of this morning’s newspaper.” Well, if that’s the case (and I certainly don’t disagree with the assertion), surely an attitude of unthankfulness abounds these days.
But let it not be so with you. Never forget that whatever is authentically “good” in your life, comes from God. As James 1:17 says:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights….
Psalm 136:1 can be placed right alongside that verse. It says:
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!….
So tomorrow I want you to make a special point of being thankful to God for all the good gifts with which He has blessed you. Better yet, why don’t you just go ahead and get a head start on tomorrow by being thankful today? Even better still, why don’t you just start being thankful right now and never stop? Do your best to live out the words that David wrote in Psalm 30:12:
…O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
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