Before Breaking Bad


For the longest time I thought I was teaching my son to obey so he would avoid the “bad guys” (obeying us means obeying teachers, laws, and police in the future). But the reality is I am teaching him to obey so he doesn’t become the bad guy. So he doesn’t become the person that causes parents to hold their children close when he walks by, the person that causes others to fear, the reason you lock your doors at night. Because, in the end, the fundamental difference between a good guy and a bad guy is obedience.

Hebrews 12:7-11
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Proverbs 13:24
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Some Considerations in Your Battle for Purity


I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but in light of some recent conversations (and conversations I’ve had throughout my ministry), I want to share some considerations in the form of questions you may not have thought through before that may help you in your battle against impurity.

1. Are you upset that you “messed up” because you dishonored your God or because you broke  your streak?

People often fall into the pit of guilt and despair because they gave into temptation when they were “doing so well.” It is not uncommon for the man sitting across from me to tell me how long he had not looked at pornography or masturbated. To me, this kind of thinking is all wrong. Like all other sins, impurity should bother you because of the holiness of God and  your adoration of Him. When you are more upset that you broke your streak of being pure for x number of weeks, then you are focused more on  yourself than you are on God. In other words, when looking at the question above, former worships God but the latter worships self, the former leads to heart repentance while the latter leads to legalism, the former turns to grace but the latter relies on human effort. It is the difference between godly sorry that leads to repentance without regret and worldly sorry that leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10). Remember:  just because you haven’t committed the act in a while doesn’t mean you’ve repented; it may simply mean you’ve been busy or your internet is on the fritz. God looks at the heart.

This is about having a high view of God. Ultimately, the more you love and adore your Savior, the more  you will want to obey Him not merely out of an adherence to the law but out of a hatred of dishonoring the object of your greatest affection. It is the difference between the young men and the fathers in 1 John 2. One of the keys in battling impurity is not merely memorizing and meditating on rich and helpful passages on lust and purity but also meditating on the character of God. Learn to worship God not only for what He has done for you but also for who He is.

2. What are the other sins that are enabling this vice?

The sin of impurity is wretched in and of itself. However, you may be losing the battle because you are only focusing on the impurity and, subsequently, only seeking the Scriptures where this particular issue is addressed while neglecting other contributing sins. One glaring sin that leads to impurity is selfishness/pride. Especially for the married man, but also true for the single man, immorality takes quite a bit of self-centeredness to go through with. The sin of lustful passion in 1 Thessalonians 4 is prohibited, in part, because it defrauds your brother. As John MacArthur writes, there are “destructive social and spiritual implications of illegitimate sexual activity.” In my experience, those who struggle greatly with impurity exhibit selfishness and a general lack of consideration in other areas.

Single men:  pornography and/or masturbation are training you to be selfish in bed which will affect your future marriage and violate the selflessness that you are commanded to have in all relationships including, if not especially, your marriage (even while having sex). Married men:  it takes an especially wicked degree of selfishness to perform such acts with anyone (including yourself) that is not the wife you have committed to.

There may be other sins that are involved such as laziness, a lack of gratitude to God, or unbelief in His promises, to name just a few. Be sure you are not so fixated on the main problem that you fail to prayerfully and realistically evaluate your life for other issues that may be peripheral or may turn out to be the actual main issue.

3. Why are you not physically satisfied by your wife?

Impurity will naturally affect your relationship and attraction to your wife, but I want you to also consider other issues in your marriage that may be hindering  your pursuit of purity and holiness. Are there marriage issues that need to be dealt with? Is your wife denying you her body in violation of 1 Corinthians 7:3? Are you depriving her? If so, why? Is your marriage upside down because you are not fulfilling your roles? These are just some questions to think through and may lead to a long overdue hard talk with your spouse. Perhaps a counselor should be sought.

4. Is a belief in a false generalization hindering your battle?

I understand that it is a roundabout way of sharing about an embarrassing struggle by referring to the sin that “all men struggle with.” This may be a generalization that you merely vocalize but do not believe. In case you do believe it, let me assure you that I know for a fact that not all men struggle with this issue. When it comes down to it, however, it really doesn’t matter how many people struggle with impurity. One of the dangers of believing this misconception is that you use it as a justification to give in to temptation (“after all, I am a man, and all men struggle with this, so…”). Additionally, there is danger in finding fellowship in that which Christ died for rather than Christ Himself.

5. Are you measuring success in days or holiness?

This ties into our first question, but I want to elaborate. Aids such as internet filters and accountability partners remove distractions so you can deal with the holiness of your heart. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you have conquered this sin because your internet block has kept you from looking at porn. After all, you have enough in your head to make you sin for the rest of your life without ever looking at another woman (or  man). Additionally, the fear of having to tell your accountability partner that you messed up is merely a help so you can start addressing the sin out of a fear of God. I often send my kids out to play in the backyard so I can focus on my work but it does no good if I send them out to play and just twiddle around on Facebook all day. Use the removal of temptations to get to work without distractions.

The sin of lust and its various outworkings (masturbation, pornography, unbiblical sex, spousal abuse, etc.) is downright nasty but also one of the sins that men and women often give up on or simply get used to. It must be battled in such a way that you can proverbially say you have torn out your eye (Matt. 5:29). In this post, I have written in a way so as to address a man’s lust for a woman though these questions should help in other scenarios whether heterosexual or homosexual. I pray this is a help to you in your pursuit of holiness and a high view of God.

You Can’t Hurt a Non-Existent Testimony

Won’t I be hurting my testimony if I refuse to go to my gay friend’s wedding?

This is a question that comes up in various forms (another would be:  …if I don’t go drinking with my friends after work?). The assumption is that declining one’s invitation will make you look judgmental causing unbelievers to deem you unloving which, in turn, ruins any chance of evangelism.

However, if your gay friend is surprised that you refuse to attend his wedding, then you haven’t established much of a testimony in the first place.

A Christian testimony is living out what you believe in a way that honors the Lord (i.e., is consistent with Scripture). Being a good testimony is not about making unbelievers comfortable or happy. It’s about lovingly and graciously living out the truth while keeping in mind that “loving and gracious” does not mean watering down or shutting up. Yes, this will make many uncomfortable and angry, but as long as God’s Word evokes these feelings, rather than your abrasive personality, it’s okay. God’s a big boy, He can take the hits; just make sure you get out of His way.

If you truly live the way God desires in your witness to others, your gay friends will respect you for what you believe because it fleshes out in your love for and service to them. They may invite you to their wedding out of respect, but they know you won’t attend because they are aware of your convictions (which include a non-judgmental love for them).

Although not everyone will respond in the same way, the point is that we cannot cower in fear in regards to our faith but, at the same time, must fuse our boldness and clarity with humility and grace. This is what a true Christian testimony is about.

Cultivating a High View of God


Picture a simple light socket and bulb with 2 wires protruding from the base. Without a power supply attached to each wire, the light will not illuminate. If I were to pop out a couple batteries from my watch and attach one to each wire, the light bulb would produce light but ever so dimly. If I were to switch out those watch batteries for AAA’s, then D’s, then car batteries, and finally an electrical outlet in my home, the bulb would glow brighter and brighter.

The light bulb, here, is the gospel. Specifically, how much you value the gospel. One battery is a high view of God and the other is a high view of your sin. Each feeds the other, and the greater you understand who God is and the greater you understand how wicked you are, the more you will appreciate what He has done for you. This is the gospel.

If you have a low view of God and a low view of your sin, you will appreciate the gospel, but ever so dimly. The goal for the believer is to develop a high view of God and, subsequently, a high view of the wickedness of his sin, which will, in turn, help him appreciate the gospel that much more.

Christianity is not about a religion but a relationship. Like a child who grows to adulthood, the more he matures intellectually and emotionally, the more he appreciates the sacrifices his parents have made and, thus, obey more fully. As toddlers, we obey simply because that’s the way it is. Mommy says jump, I jump. There is a basic understanding of authority, and obedience is simply the only option. As we grow into teenagers, we know that disobedience has consequences. We know the rules and will get by with the minimum often obeying externally while our hearts are not into it. If given the chance to spend time with our parents or our friends, we will choose our friends every time. In the end, we obey to avoid punishment and to appease our parents if even at a bare minimum. When we are adults, we grow to appreciate all that our parents have done. We obey them not because we feel we have to, but because we absolutely adore them and want to do what pleases them. For example, when I visit my mom, and she whips up my favorite meal then asks me to do the dishes, I don’t do them expecting my $1 reward for chores nor do I fear being grounded for disobedience. No. I wash those dishes because I love my mom. I want to please her as I finally understand how much she has sacrificed for me over the years.

Nothing has changed with what my parents sacrificed for me. The only thing that has changed is my understanding of those sacrifices. The same idea comes with our relationship with God. However, one big difference between natural human growth and spiritual growth is that spiritual growth is not automatic. We must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” and that begins with a high view of God and a high view of our sin.

So how do we cultivate such views? Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 is a good starting point. Here’s a man who was already called by God to be a prophet. He had the right perspective, but this vision instantly blows up his view of God and himself. Let’s take a look.

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.  2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”  4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.  5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 

The train of God’s robe represents His power and majesty. So great is God, that the train of His robe did not only cover His throne, but completely filled the temple. Were this vision to appear before me where I type, His train would smash through the door of my office filling my entire home, breaking through the threshold of my house then filling my street, blocking traffic and canvasing my neighbors windows casting a shadow over my entire  neighborhood. That is how great God is.

Then Isaiah sees the majestic seraphim, a type of angel. With their wings showing their reverence by covering their eyes, their humility by covering their feet, and their constant worship and praise in uninterrupted flight and calling out “Holy, holy, holy.”

Here, we see 2 ways that Isaiah instantly grew in his high view of God:  he saw God for who He is and he saw others see God for who He is. In other words, Isaiah didn’t just see a vision from God, he saw a vision of God. For us today, we are to read and meditate on the Word (see God for who He is) and spend time in true fellowship with God’s people (see others see God for who He is).

Now look at Isaiah’s response to this vision:  his instant high view of God led to an instant high view of his sin. So much so that he not only was afraid for his own life but also for that of the nation of Israel. The reason he had this reaction is because in that moment, he had a full realization that God’s holiness and man’s sin are totally incompatible. So how is it that we can worship God without fear of decimation? The gospel.

The higher view you have of God and the higher view you have of your sin, the greater appreciation you have for the gospel.

The beauty of all of this is as  you grow in these areas, you can unscrew the light bulb of the gospel and screw in the light bulb of prayer, a godly marriage, overcoming pornography, anxiety, and any other spiritual endeavor with which you struggle.

It all begins with a high view of God and a high view of sin.

Greed is Good

Stack of One Hundred Dollar Bills U.S.

The scene is a familiar one. You get a call from a headhunter offering you a better job with better pay. You think, you pray, you get excited…then the negotiations begin. As your boss and the courting company battle it out for your employment, you start to think about all you can buy with that extra cash.

Then the guilt hits. Am I being greedy? Am lacking faith in God’s provision? Am I falling into the trap of loving money?

These are all good questions to ask oneself so that your promotion falls in line with doing all to the glory of God. But, there’s another way to look at it. I recently found myself in an SMS conversation with a friend who was in this very situation. Here’s what I told him:

“Keep in mind that it’s only greedy if you plan to use the money yourself. Those of us in a position to make more money should because the more money we have, the more money we can give away.”

It’s wrong to be greedy, it’s good to be greedy for others. Okay, being “greedy for others” is not really a thing, but I think you get my point. The call to sacrifice for the Lord and follow Christ’s example of serving and considering others as more important than yourself (cf. Phil. 2:3-8; Matt. 20:26-28) absolutely includes your finances. So though you may make enough to meet your needs, why not try to make more so that you can give that extra away? Get out of the mindset that the money you make is yours because, in the end, our money is given to us by the Lord to handle faithfully as stewards of that which is not truly ours. So, if you can make more, why not do so to give more? If you are willing to work extra hours to buy that extra car or pay for that special holiday, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same to help others? Instead of turning down the extra work because you don’t need the money, think of others who do.

And if you aren’t in a position to make more money, the same principle applies but can be worded like this:  the more money you save, the more money you can give away. Turn off those extra lights, cut down your water bill, or buy something that’s not organic and give away the money you save.

After all, someone has to fund the missionaries, pro-life agenda, conservative candidates, and the church. Why not you? And then a little more.

Disciplining in Anger is the Opposite of Love


Disciplining a child is important, but disciplining in anger is the opposite of love, and the biblical principles behind this statement are quite simple.

Discipline, regardless of what form it takes, is for the betterment of the child. To teach a young boy or girl right from wrong and danger from safe, discipline must be used because reason and experience are lacking at such a young age. So, we discipline to teach, for example, that fire and running into the street are bad. In other words, discipline is to be completely selfless on the part of the parent as the goal is to help someone other than ourselves, namely the child.

Anger, on the other hand, is all about us. It is, in a word, selfish. I get angry when I am hurt, I am offended, I don’t get what I want, I am embarrassed…I, I, I, me, me me. Selfish.

To summarize:  discipline is (ideally) selfless while anger is selfish.

So, when you discipline out of anger, it is not because you want to help someone else but because you yourself believe you have been wronged in some way.

Allow me to wax eloquent.

The point of Christian discipline is ultimately holiness – holiness modeled by the parents and holiness taught to the kids. When we discipline our children, we are modeling the discipline we receive from God which is explained well in Hebrews 12:5-11 which reminds us that “whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (v.6). The writer goes on to say that those who do not receive the discipline of the Lord are not the children of God. That is to say, all God’s children are disciplined by Him. Then, in verse 10, we are given the purpose of discipline:  “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” So, again, the purpose of discipline is the holiness of those receiving the discipline. This is our goal as parents as well. To put it another way, we discipline our children for their sake not ours.

On the other hand, when we get angry, it’s all about us. We are hurt, we are offended, we don’t like the situation, etc., so we get angry. It’s the belief that we are entitled to get what we want, the way we want, when we want; a lie that comes from the pit of hell. (Ironically, it is when kids believe these very same things that parents blow up at them.) Anger stems from not getting what we want and is, thus, a result of the sin of self-centered pride. It is no wonder the Lord equates anger with murder in the Sermon on the Mount which is followed by a multitude of New Testament passages stating that anger is sin (not to mention the multitude of proverbs connected anger with the fool – Prov. 12:16; 14:29; 19:11; 27:3; 29:8,11; Eccl. 7:9).

Anger is anger and cannot be justified or moralized simply because it is directed against your children. In fact, a strong case can be made for the opposite. There are many reasons anger can be said to be unholy outside of the simple truth that the Bible says so, and one of the main explanations is that anger is selfish. This is where we get to the main proposition of this article:  anger is all about self whereas love is all about others. Thus, discipline is to focus on “them” whereas anger focuses on “us”. When I discipline my children, the goal is to make them, ultimately, more like Christ. How can I do that when I am not exemplifying Christ, the ultimate example of humility and selflessness? If I am disciplining in anger, I am definitely not exemplifying Christ.

It helps to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. When a med student works himself to the point of weariness, this is not punishment but discipline with the goal of becoming a good doctor. Similarly, the athlete’s agonizing training is not punishment, it is discipline for an ultimate prize. In the same way, discipline is a form of training that has a goal which is to teach the child to turn to and obey the Lord. In other words, discipline is not an end in and of itself. Punishment, however, is the end goal:  inflicting pain or loss due to a fault committed. Biblical discipline’s goal is to inflict punishment so that the fault committed will not be committed again with the understanding of why (namely, God demands it and not merely because Dad is scary).

I think this point can be further explained by a list of dangers of disciplining in anger.

Disciplining in anger…

  1. Appeases your wrath rather than teaching them to avoid God’s.
  2. Stems from a sinful heart rather than a love for God or your children.
  3. Makes children fear you not God.
  4. Teaches them when to avoid Mom and Dad at certain times rather than obeying God all the time.
  5. Is inconsistent (discipline is based on a parent’s subjective ever-changing mood rather than God’s objective unchanging  character).
  6. Involves the very real danger of physically hurting your child as anger can make you apply uncontrolled force (physically and verbally).
  7. Stems from unholy motivations (not only when an objective fault has transpired but also when Mom or Dad are embarrassed, had a bad day at work, etc.).

If you struggle with disciplining in anger, the remedy should be clear by now:  love your kids. It’s not that those who get angry at their children do not love them, but if you apply the biblical definitions of love and anger, then the more you love your kids with a selfless, biblical love then the less you will want to punish them to appease yourself.

When my children need to be disciplined, my wife and I make sure that we let them know what they did wrong in a way that they understand. We tell them they need to be disciplined, and, afterwards, tell them again why this occurred and what they did wrong. All of this is done calmly and without yelling. The end result is that  even after the discipline occurs, our kids are appreciative and loving and have even thanked us for doing what we did (we have never instructed them to do this or implied that they should). They are not scared of us or crying afterwards because we have not given them any reason to fear us through inconsistent or unpredictable yelling or undue punishment. They know the process is to teach them in a way that points to someone bigger than us. We are trying to help them and protect them from the wrath of the Creator whereas anger would make them think they need protection from us (and they would be right!)

Though we are imperfect beings, we are striving to do things God’s way for God’s glory, and I hope this helps you to do the same.

The Dangers of Refusing Service


Our culture’s growing sense of self-reliance has permeated the church to the degree that Christians are often hesitant to accept acts of service from other Christians. Whether it’s a fear of inconveniencing others, pride, or some other heart issue, refusing to be blessed by God through others has some serious consequences. Here are a few.

Builds a Mindset of Selfishness

When sharing the gospel, the more you are rejected the more you withdraw and hesitate to continue. The same principle applies to service – the more you refuse others’ offers to help the less they feel comfortable offering. After a while, a status quo of not serving others is developed which, in turn, can lead to selfishness because if experience trains you to stop thinking about others then you will naturally only think of yourself. Take this to a level where this mindset flows through the whole church body and you have yourself a church that is violating that which it is created to do:  to worship God corporately. Paul makes it clear that the way we are to be of the “same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” is to follow the example of Christ and look out for others to the point that you “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:2-7). That’s hard to do when you refuse to let anyone look out for you.

Creates a Culture of Individualism Rather than Family

If we succeed in building a mindset that focuses only on ourselves, then we hinder the reason for the creation of the local church. In the end, we are all responsible for our own commitments to Christ, but the Lord, in understanding our needs and frailties, gave us an incredibly wise and gracious gift in the local church. From the top down, every aspect of Christianity is connected to the local church which is to be the HQ of all spirituality. What makes the gears of this amazing machine run smoothly is the sense of family exhibited through the One Another’s and deep-seated care that leads us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). If you circle out to the context of this verse, you will see that Paul is talking about the body and the members of it. Keep going and you read phrases like “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (v.9a), “contributing to the needs of the saints” (v.13), “Be of the same mind” (v.16), and so on. In other words, you can’t be a true church if you’re not in each others’ lives and you can’t be in each others’ lives if you refuse any attempt to be served.

As a pastor, I am often asked by new members and visitors if there are opportunities to serve in the church. What they are looking for is some sort of formal service such as folding bulletins or greeting visitors. While these acts of service are important and helpful, the more important acts of service are those of Mary rather than Martha. When we are more focused on the formal than the One Another’s there is a problem of misplaced priorities and a kink in our relationships which can breed a culture of self-sufficiency which is dangerous and leads to a multitude of other sins. Iron sharpens iron not itself (Prov. 27:17).

Focuses on Others Above Christ

When I counsel married couples, it is common to see that each spouse finds it challenging to fulfill his or her biblical responsibilities in marriage because the other responds in a way that makes them each shy away from their God-given roles. This is a natural response and is akin to what we are talking about here:  when our gracious advances are rejected we ungraciously retreat. However, what I tell these couples I will tell you – we are ultimately serving Christ and not others. Other people are secondary; they are an added bonus when we do the right thing. In other words, still do what you are commanded to do regardless of what the other person says or does in response because it’s more about Christ than them. When we tell people that we don’t need that prayer, hot meal, or word of encouragement we are inadvertently telling them that our estimation of what we think we need or don’t need is more important than what Christ commands.

Robs Others of Heavenly Reward

When it comes to material gain, most of us would not hesitate to help someone out if doing a good deed for us would mean a promotion at work, extra credit at school, or a badge on a Boy Scout sash. But it is easy to forget that the same principle applies, though to an incomparably greater degree, when it comes to amassing reward in heaven. Our Lord tells us to focus on treasures in heaven rather than earthly treasure (Mt. 6:19-22) and these heavenly rewards are earned, in part, through serving others. When you deny others an opportunity to serve you deny them the opportunity to add to their eternal riches. Who are you to do that?

We need to honor God by serving others and that includes allowing others to serve us. Like any rusted part, if you have developed a habit of not letting others serve you, starting out may seem difficult and awkward at first but give it a few go’s and pretty soon it’ll work like new. And if I may take this analogy a bit further, the oil to your rust is going back and figuring out why you don’t let others serve you in the first place. If it’s sin, repent. If it’s culture (church, family, or otherwise), prioritize God’s Word. If it turns out you don’t let others serve you because you hate serving others then you might want to reevaluate who is first in your life; is it God and others or self?

Regardless of the situation, we need to maximize the efficacy of the church by serving and being served.