I Was Born This Way

I didn?t choose to be like this, I was born this way. ?This is just who I am. ?So how can it be wrong?

This morning I preached a message on homosexuality and our hope in Christ to change.? But many homosexuals say they were born that way, so how can it be wrong, or how can they hope to change?

In 1 CO 6.9-11 Paul says that homosexuals, the sexually immoral, adulterers, drunkards, the greedy, revilers and swindlers won?t go to heaven. ?Then he makes a stunning statement:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Did you catch that? ??And such were some of you.? ?Past tense. ?They ?were? at one time, but weren?t any longer. ?Some had been drunkards but were no longer. ?Some had been adulterers, but were no longer. Some ?were? homosexuals, but now they were no longer. ?They had changed when Jesus washed, sanctified and justified them.

In a sense, homosexuals are born that way, because we are all born with a fallen nature which leads us into various kinds of sin. Some tend to lust after the opposite sex; others toward the same sex.? Some tend toward anger or drunkenness or greed. ?In every case, it feels ?natural? because it springs from our sin nature.

When I?m tempted to lust, it feels like I can?t help it. ?When I?m angry, it just surges up from within me. ?It?s not like I make a conscious decision: Hmmm, let?s see.? That person is really provoking me. Should I get angry? No, anger just ?naturally? boils up within me.

Ephesians 2:3 says we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.? These powerful sinful ?passions? and ?desires? feel ?natural? because they spring from our fallen nature. ?They truly are our desires.? But we must remember this truth:

God?s Word must be our standard of right and wrong, not our feelings or desires.

Because our feelings and desires are a poor barometer of the truth.

In fact, God commands us to do all kinds of things that run counter to our feelings: to rejoice in all things, to love our enemies, to be humble, to die to ourselves. ?None of these are natural.

The whole Christian life is about trusting and obeying God?s Word by the power of the Spirit, and not trusting our feelings or our senses.? The ?good fight of faith? is the fight to trust God?s word rather than our circumstances or emotions.

Jesus is the hope of homosexuals – and adulterers and slaves to pornography and alcohol and anger and money and pride.? If we ask, Jesus can change who we are to past tense – ?And such were some of you.?

photo by Charlie Jobson (too busy!)

Songwriting Tip: Watch Your Prosody

pros?o?dy* (praw’ suh dee) ?noun
1. The science or study of poetic meters and versification.
2.Linguistics . the stress and intonation patterns of an utterance.

A common mistake beginning songwriters make is failing to watch their prosody.

What the heck is prosody, you ask.? Prosody is how you accent words and syllables – where you put the emphasis. ?Generally when writing songs and poetry, we want to accent a phrase like we?d speak it.

For example, we wouldn?t say, ?I?m goING to the suPERmarKET this afTERRRRRRRnoon.? ?Unless you?re wierd. ?We must be careful to put the emPHAAAHHsis on the right sylLAHHHHble.

When songwriting we must watch our prosody – what syllables are you holding; on which syllable do you hit that powerful high note? ?A good test is – Does the way this line is sung sound natural, like the way I would say it? ?Do I emphasize the same syllables I would emphasize when I speak the line?

There you go. ?Now you know what prosody is.? Now you can impress your friends at parties. ?Just throw in a line like: ?You know the other day, I was just tweaking my prosody as I was working on my versification and intonation.? ?You?ll be really popular.

*Dictionary.com

Signature Snobbery

This is the age of techno-snobbery, and all the hipster companies include signatures after outgoing messages, like ?Sent from my iPad,? or ?Sent from my Blackberry.?

I’m almost ashamed to tell you, but someone recently blessed me with the gift of an iPad.? I almost feel guilty to own one, because I was a techno coveter before. ?I?d go to Starbucks, unfold my old laptop like I was setting up a three-story scaffold, and look across the coffee shop at the cool person with the sleek computer with the glowing apple on it, and be ashamed of my techno-lowliness. When they flipped the lid of their sleek silver laptop, within nanoseconds they?d be investing on E-Trade, before my Jurassic period clunker would even recognize there was an internet server somewhere within a 20-mile radius.

If you don’t own an iPad or a Blackberry, you need not suffer the humiliation of techno-shame. You can still give the impression of being a hipster.? All you need to do is add the right signature to your email. ?Here are some suggestions:

  • Sent from my Lunar Transponder
  • Sent from my Stealthtooth. Never mind that this device doesn?t exist; all your friends will be envious of you for having one.? When they see you and say they can’t see it in your ear, just smile and say, “Why do you think they call it ‘Stealthtooth?'”
  • Sent from my Treadmill. This gives the impression that even while working out, you?re doing email, which heaps mountains of guilt on your friends, because they?re not exercising, let alone doing email at the same time.

Here are 3 more signatures that will definitely impress:

  • Sent by my Chauffeur
  • Sent from my Hot Tub
  • Sent from my Private Table at the Country Club

And here?s a signature for the truly super-spiritual:

  • Sent from my iPray.? You can sound even more spiritual by adding “Day 6 of my fast.”

But in the end, it might be better to come across lowly and humble:

  • Sent from my old, slow, virus-infected desktop

Got any more ideas for impressive signatures?


* iPray drawing done on my iPad

A Surefire Way to Be Unhappy

You’re stuck in a happiness rut and you want to know how to get out.

I understand. I’ve been there before. Sometimes I just get so sick of being happy that I’ve got to take drastic action.

There is one sure fire to get yourself out of a happiness rut:

Make yourself the center of everything.

It’s so simple yet so beautiful. Put yourself and your personal fulfillment at the center of everything that you’re doing. Push God’s glory out of the way and bring your own fulfillment smack dab into the middle.

This solution works with pretty much anything. Parenting is painful when it’s all about you and what you want. Ministry becomes miserable when personal satisfaction and public accolades become the top goal. Work is a nightmare when you’re constantly aware of how unhappy it makes you.

Whatever you do, keep God and his glory and his purposes out of sight. Don’t get tangled up in that stuff. You might accidentally forget about yourself and start being joyful.

Trust me on this. I’m an expert. Make it all about you and you can be unhappy all the time.

Leave Success Ratings To God

Who wants to be a failure?

Who wants to tank at work or in school? ?What parent wants to see her children reject Christ or plunge into sin? ?What pastor enjoys seeing his church shrivel or creep along like a spiritual garden slug?

For many years I joked (to cover my sense of failure) that church growth experts were studying our church because they?d never seen a church lose so many people so quickly.

We live in a culture that worships success and attainment. ?We celebrate the Steve Jobs?s and Michael Jordans of the world. ?And Christians are often seduced by the Pied Piper of Success.? In his book, A Passion For Faithfulness, J. I. Packer says:

The passion for success constantly becomes a spiritual problem–really, a lapse into idolatry–in the lives of God?s servants today. ?To want to succeed in things that matter is of course natural, and not wrong in itself, but to feel that one must at all costs be able to project oneself to others as a success is an almost demonized state of mind, from which deliverance is needed.

The world?s idea that everyone, from childhood up, should be able to succeed at all times in measurable ways, and that it is a great disgrace not to, hangs over the Christian community like a pall of acrid smoke…

I know many parents who faithfully shared the gospel with their children from the time they could understand it. ?Yet a number of those children are not serving Christ. It?s easy for parents to feel like shameful failures when despite their best efforts and years of prayers, their child rejects the Lord. ?On the flip side, when a child gets saved at a young age, a parent can think it?s because of their excellent parenting skills.

I know pastors whose churches failed and others who have labored for years and seen limited growth. ?Are they are failures?? Packer also says:

The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success as God sees it. ?Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.

This is liberating! ?Leave success ratings to God. ?In the end, we can?t know how God measures our ?success.?? Let us seek to be faithful, not successful.? Jesus won’t welcome us to heaven with, “Well done good and successful servant,” but “good and faithful servant.”

Kevin DeYoung and Dave Harvey on Cultivating Godly Habits

Kevin DeYoung is a pastor, author, and Michigan State fan. Dave Harvey is an author and is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries. Today they both answer the question, ?What is a godly habit that has significantly affected your walk with the Lord, and how did you cultivate that habit?? This is part four of the ?Godly Habits? series.

You can read part 1 and part 2 and part 3.

Kevin answers:

Good question. When I was in college I developed the habit of going on prayer walks. Sometimes this involves praying for the people and places I walk by, but usually it simply means I have my prayer time while walking. I don’t walk fast. In fact, I’m sure I sort of meander around. The goal is not exercise, but simply to keep my body active. It helps me focus, stay awake, and pray longer. I frequently will go out walking to pray with others too. It makes prayer easier and more enjoyable for me.

Dave took a slightly different approach to the question and answered:

Since habits are so addictive, I?ve tried to move more outside-the-box in my application.? For instance, I like to practice ?self-encouragement? ? a merger of the biblical command to encourage with my hearts demand for approval.? Each day I make a conscious effort to encourage myself in some new and creative manner.? It could be a fragrance choice, (?That cologne is exquisite Dave.?), or perhaps an incisive comment I just made (?That insight was stupendous, I mean really Solomon-like.?), or maybe a much needed back-slapping on marriage or parenting (?Kimm & the kids will be writing books about you one day slugger!?).? Self-encouragement fills the void left by others who overlook my qualities.? It never fully satisfies, but I think it qualifies as a habit.? I?ve seen others, like for instance your father Mark, use it to great advantage.

Tim Challies On Cultivating Godly Habits

Tim Challies is an author, prolific blogger, and actually invented the Internet. Today Tim answers the question, “What is a godly habit that has significantly affected your walk with the Lord, and how did you cultivate that habit?” This is part three of the “Godly Habits” series. You can read part 1 and part 2.

Tim answers:

Thanks for asking, Stephen. If I may be so bold, I want to change the question just a little bit, substituting the word discipline in place of habit. Let me talk about one discipline I’ve learned that has seriously benefited my walk with the Lord.

The discipline I want to point to is that of inviting people to probe deep into my life. This is something I do now largely with my fellow elders at Grace Fellowship Church (gfcto.com). Together we ask tough questions, we answer honestly, and we invite input, even (and perhaps especially) if it is input that can be difficult to hear. We all feel that we need to be more committed to godliness than to comfort and so we invite encouragement, sharpening and rebuke from one another.

This is not an opportunity for us to complain about all that is wrong about one another. Instead, it is a time in which we seek to ensure that we are living lives that match the high office God has called us to. We know we cannot do this without the assistance of other men who are also committed to godliness. And so we spend time every week simply getting into one another’s lives.

Having such relationships has already been invaluable in helping me identify, battle and overcome certain sins that have afflicted me. It has also helped me become a better elder as these men have helped me identify weaknesses and blind spots. And I know that God will continue to use this as one of his means of grace toward me.

Matt Perman on Cultivating Godly Habits (Part Two)

This is part two of the “Godly Habits” series. Today Matt Perman answers the question, “What is a godly habit that has significantly strengthened your walk with the Lord, and how did you cultivate that habit?”

Matt is the director of strategy at Desiring God Ministries. He also blogs on productivity and management at What?s Best Next. You can read part one here.

?

Matt answers:

One habit that has seriously benefited my walk with the Lord has been reading. When I was a kid I would look through the Bible out of curiosity and for answers to various questions. I didn’t read many books, though, because I thought it was largely a waste of time–that it was better to be outside. Towards the end of high school, though, I encountered an RC Sproul video at an FCA meeting and I thought “this is really interesting–and this guy is giving very helpful answers to the main objections to Christianity that I’m seeing people bring up.” That showed me that there were helpful resources out there.

Around this time I also started thumbing through various books on the faith when I would come across them at people’s houses or when I was near a bookstore. The first book I ever bought was actually a book on Bible prophecy. It captured my interest and led to reading becoming a formal habit–although now I would disagree with most of the teaching of that book! Reading books on Bible prophecy led to books on apologetics, which led to books on theology, and on and on. A whole new world opened up and I continue reading all that I can to this day.

Thanks Matt! Stay tuned as we talk to Tim Challies tomorrow.

The book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney is a helpful book in this regard. You can get it here.

Matt Perman on Cultivating Godly Habits (Part 1)

One issue that I’m always interested in is that of cultivating godly habits. Scripture makes it clear that growth in godliness requires discipline, and so I’m always interested in how other Christians have cultivated habits of godliness in their lives. I recently asked several people to tell me about godly habits they have cultivated and how they cultivated those habits.

Today and tomorrow we’re talking with Matt Perman. Matt is the director of strategy at Desiring God Ministries. He also blogs on productivity and management at What’s Best Next.

Me: Matt, what is one godly habit that you’ve cultivated over the years, and how have you cultivated that habit?

Matt: This is probably one of the most common answers that people give, but I’d have to say daily prayer. This habit started for me back when I was about 6 or 7. One of my brothers came in to my room one night and said “you should pray every night for 5 minutes.” That settled it for me. I started praying every night both because it was the right thing to do and because it seemed natural to communicate with God. On the nights when I didn’t feel like it, the understanding that this is what people should be doing–that it was the right thing to do–kept me doing it. And when I skipped nights–sometimes for a while–I always knew I needed to get back to it.

One of the things that has made this habit so important in my life is not simply the fact that prayer is in itself so central to the Christian life, but rather the early age at which God brought this habit in to my life–long before I knew anything about daily devotions and such. And this began because of the simple example of my older brothers and one of them deciding, for some reason, to tell me that I should do the same.

Thanks Matt! Stay tuned for part 2 of Matt’s answer tomorrow.

The book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney is a helpful book in this regard. You can get it here.