Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing: Cultivating Joy In Singleness

by Spencer Harmon
by Spencer Harmon

Marriage celebrations aren’t always joyful.  

There are certainly those overflowing with joy:  the older couple reminiscing on their wedding joy, the newly engaged couple dreaming of their own wedding day, the parents of the bride and groom beaming with pride.  However, marriage celebrations can also be painful reminders of a persistent suffering – the suffering of singleness.  To be sure, there are singles who are not suffering.  They are content with their season of life, enjoying the freedom that singleness brings.  For others, however, singleness is a burden that they struggle to carry.  They long for the companionship of a spouse, to come home to a friend,  and the intimacy of love.  

You may know exactly what I’m talking about.  You enjoy weddings, engagement parties, and celebrating the excitement of matrimony with friends.  Yet, there is a tinge of pain – perhaps felt on the drive home or as you hear another couple make vows – that reverberates in your heart.  You long to rejoice with your friends, but struggle with this unmet desire.  

On top of this, you hear the call of the Bible to rejoice with those who rejoice, but your heart does not feel it.  How am I supposed to rejoice while suffering?  Can this sorrow and joy exist within the same heart?

The Composite Joy of the Body of Christ

If we are honest, many of us hear the call to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15) as a call to force a crooked smile on your face at an engagement party.  We think: “Good for them!”, and may genuinely mean it.  However, the dominant tone of our hearts is a deep groan of “How long, O Lord?”

But rejoicing with those who rejoice is not like a forced smile on a family photo.  It is an ownership of the joy of another because it sees God at work.  The joy you are called to experience at your friend’s’ engagement party or marriage ceremony is not some blind naivete  that ignores your own desires to be married.  Instead, it is a celebration of God’s good plans in the life of someone who is deeply connected to you.

This means that your joy is meant to be a composite joy. The joy of the Christian is equally composed of the work of God in their own life and the work of God in the lives of fellow Christians.  This is what Paul means when he writes that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).  The joy of the Christian is a many-membered tapestry that interweaves the threads of our lives with one another.

So then, the engagement party or marriage ceremony of your friend is actually an opportunity to experience real, warm-hearted joy.  Most of the time when we find it difficult to celebrate with another Christian, it is not because it is not possible.  Rather, it’s because we are not willing to experience joy in this way.  We limit the potential moments of rejoicing in our lives to those times when things align to our preferences.  The world transforms into the size of a clenched fist that holds its plans, rather than the big world where our happy God is busy blessing his children (Jeremiah 32:41).

How do you see other believers?  Are they only a catalyst of despair anytime they get something you don’t have?  Or are they a member of the same body as you so that their joy is your joy?  Are you soaking yourself in the picture of the church as your family so that the metaphor becomes reality?  The key to rejoicing with those who rejoice is to see the victories of others as your own.

Joy and Sorrow Under the Same Roof

But most of us are not dominated by only despair at the engagement party or marriage ceremony.  Instead, we often experience a tangled web of rejoicing and sorrow, pleasure and frustration, contentment and restlessness.  We rejoice to see God at work, but the desire for marriage aches like a tender bruise being pressed.  This isn’t selfishness – it’s a reminder of a unwanted suffering.

Singles often experience unnecessary guilt because they don’t understand the idea of earnest waiting.  Earnest waiting happens when the truths of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility meet in some suffering in our lives.  When Christians suffer, two responses are to exist in their hearts.  First, they are to wait on the Lord.  The posture of our hearts is to be one of a weaned child trusting its parent (Ps. 131:2).  We are to not take matters into our own hands, but hope fully in our God (Psalm 37:34, 62:5, Proverbs 20:22).  For many Christian singles, this is the primary battleground.  However, Christians are also to be persistent with the Lord.  A wrong application of the sovereignty of God is to assume that we are not to pray for relief from suffering.  Although the heroes of our faith trusted God, Hannah prayed for a child (1 Samuel 1:9-18), the church in Acts prayed for Peter to be released from prison (Acts 12:5), and Jesus honors the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).

It is not sinful to feel the sting of unwanted singleness at a marriage ceremony.  It is sinful to allow this sting to translate into a grumbling heart towards the Lord and others.  You can be sorrowful and yet rejoice at the same time.  You cannot grumble and rejoice at the same time.  Do your sorrows roll up into prayer toward the God who knows your needs?  Or do your sorrow’s knot up your soul with a complaining heart?

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

The pendulum could currently be swinging to either extreme for you.  You may be sorrowful, rejoicing, or both.  Either way, God calls you to take steps of faith now.  Are you sorrowful?  Call on friends to partner with you in your prayer for a spouse and for a heart that waits on the Lord.  Are you rejoicing?  Cultivate a lifestyle that loses itself in the joy of others.  Go all out to celebrate the work of God in the lives of others through attending parties, serving on the day of the wedding, and giving your life away for the good of others.  In other words: live the Christian life – weeping and laughing, repenting and believing, grateful while groaning.

These truths are not to be exclusively applied to singleness and marriage.  The Christian life is full of trials, and yet we are called to rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12-13).  We are not called to merely rejoice with those who rejoice; we are called to rejoice in God (Habakkuk 3:18, Philippians 4:4).  This rejoicing in God is the bedrock to rejoicing with others.  In singleness, and a million other sufferings, our hearts must be confident that he does not withhold good things from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

 

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

An Open Letter To My New Born Daughter

baby-feet-bw
by Spencer Harmon

“Welcome to the world, MJ!”

Those were some of your mother’s first words to you when she first held you in her arms. We stared at you, half-delirious from staying up all night, in awe that you would be given to us. In those moments, joy and responsibility compounded. I realized I was a father.

I want you to know that this world is wonderful place. You will slowly come awake to the world around you, and you will discover magnificent things. Here there is potential for friendships so precious that your heart aches with love. Here you will be paralyzed by beauty because you fear you will lose that phantom sense of wonder if you move. Here you will experience the joy of self-forgetfulness as you play sports, or read a book, or stare at a night sky. There is adventure to be had here, mysteries to explore here – we have a beautiful Creator, and this world is a beautiful creation.

As you wake up to the beauty of this world, you will experience a parallel reality: this world is broken. Soon, you are going to feel the sting of sin and the pain of the curse. You are going to get hurt here, MJ. Pain will be an unwanted escort during your pilgrimage on earth. This world is full of sorrow, shame, and deception – and although I am going to do my best to protect you from the jagged teeth of this cursed world, I know that you will feel its bite.

There is an even more distressing facet of the brokenness of the world: you are broken, too. Soon, the seed of rebellion planted in your nature will bloom into a dark rose of twisted motivations, attitudes, and actions. You see, all of us are born slaves to sin. You have been born into a race of rebels. You have inherited a nature bent on rebellion against the God who created you and gave you to your mother and I. You will not only feel the effects of this curse on yourself, you will spread its effects to others – whether you like it or not. Defiance is your native tongue, a language as old as Adam.

You might be fearful as you hear about this cursed world, and your sinful nature. But there’s hope on the far horizon. You see, although this world is broken, it will be restored. This world is pregnant with hope, and the suffering you see in nature and in yourself are the labor pains. Although this world is stained with brokenness, our rebellion has been met with redemption. God has started a rescue plan to recreate this world, and to recreate people. The plan has already started.

MJ, this world will be made new, and you can be made new with it. This newness comes through death and resurrection. As you see yourself as part of the rebellion, you must surrender – yourself, your rights, your very life. You must die. But as you die, you will be reborn. The very God who made this world and you, gave his Son over to death for you so that you can rise to new life.

This world is a mist that is quickly fading. Many will tell you in the years to come that this is all that there is, and so you should take on their identity and sing their anthem. But there is a country that is coming that has an eternal foundation, and whose citizens live forever. I’m praying its anthem drowns our all songs but it’s own.

I love you, MJ. My prayer is that your life is full, and your heart is made new. I’m praying we will sing the song of the better country together – forever.

An Invitation to Renew

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

     
    The Book of Revelation can intimidate many Christians. The Apostle John intended the book to propel us forward in godliness instead of paralyzing us. I pray these short messages (approximately 25 min each) will peak your interest in the final book of the Bible.

     

    Eight Reasons to Renew Your Heart | Revelation 16 | A sermon on conversion 

    Powerful Pictures to Renew Your Mind | Revelation 17-19 | A sermon on sexual immorality 

    New Worlds to Renew Your Strength | Revelation 21 | A sermon on suffering 

    Imagery to Ignite Your Soul | Revelation 4 | A sermon on spiritual apathy 

     
     

    These messages where given at First Baptist Church in Versailles, Kentucky at a Disciple-Now Retreat.

    Apocrawho?

    Image
    by Sean Perron

    Apocrawho?

    For all those who are curious about the Apocrypha (Perhaps you don’t care about the apocrypha. No worries – you will live and should skip this post) I recently read the book of Enoch and 4 Ezra (often called 2 Esdras) which are not a part of the Protestant Scriptures. This was my first time reading through these books and will probably be my last. My assessment of these Apocryphal books is that they are unnecessary and ultimately dangerous. As I read, I jotted down notes and here are my conclusions.

    How many Ezras are there?

    There is only one Ezra and he didn’t write this book. Nevertheless, the book of 4 Ezra is an attempt to use the clout behind Ezra’s name to answer profound religious and philosophical questions. The author is portrayed as Ezra and the story is comprised of visions which answer questions posed by the inquisitive prophet. The setting of the book is during the time of Ezra despite the fact that the book was composed sometime between A.D. 70 and the third century.

    While I do not address the issue of using a pseudonym (This author is using another person’s name to establish your credibility) in this post, it cannot be fully ignored in the final assessment. Given the reality that so much material is dependent upon the book of Revelation and that 4 Ezra was written after the death of the apostles, there appears to be insurmountable evidence making this book unconvincing and dubious in its message and motivation. Will the real Ezra please stand up?

    Pros:

    Before giving a critical evaluation of 4 Ezra, it is important to point out several commendable and noteworthy aspects of the book.

    1) Literary Features

    4 Ezra has several passages that offer vivid imagery and memorable phrases. The book includes well written parables and intricate visions that engage the mind and cause the reader to think critically. Examples of well crafted writing include phrases such as “blood shall trickle out of the wood” (7:19) and “a wave is greater than a drop of water.” (9:16) Perhaps one of the most memorable visions is in chapter 13 which describes the powerful return of the Messiah. The Messiah effortlessly destroys his enemies and the gathers his people by his side. He consumes his foes with fire and lightning and them warmly welcomes all those who have obeyed his commands. This imagery draws the reader in and can make a lasting impression.

    2) Real Questions

    The book of 4 Ezra is not for shallow thinkers. The narrative is carried along by questions that Ezra asks of God and the angelic beings. Each question is intense and laden with emotion. These questions are helpful in that they relate to real inquiries posed by countless people throughout history. He is concerned about why so many people go to hell and the problem of evil appears to be heavy upon Ezra’s mind. Another one of the most pervasive questions concerns the destruction of the Jewish temple and the concern that God has forsaken his chosen people. These questions are near to the human heart and will continue to exist until the end of time. But the real question is does 4 Ezra answer them correctly?

    3) Some Accuracy

    4 Ezra contains a handful of theological nuggets that should be commended. In 7:98, the angel states that the highlight of heaven will be beholding the face of God. “The seventh order, which is greater than all those what have been mentioned, is that they will exult boldly, and that they will trust confidently, and rejoice fearlessly, for they hasten to see the face of him who they served in life…” This resonates accurately with the Christian experience and is confirmed by 1 Peter 1:18 and Revelation 22:4. Consequently, the worst aspect of hell will be the glory of God in wrathful judgment. This is pointed out in 7:87 which reads, “they will waste away in shame and be consumed in disgrace, and wither with fear, at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they lived…” 4 Ezra rightly places the emphasis on God’s presence in heaven and hell. Heaven is wonderful because God’s glorious joy is always present and hell is terrible because God’s glorious wrath never leaves.

    Related to this issue is the correct teaching that God’s judgment is final. In 7:105 it says, “The Day of Judgment is final and shows to all the stamp of truth.” 4 Ezra does not teach a third afterlife destination or holding place such as purgatory. This aligns correctly with Hebrews 9:27 which teaches that judgment immediately follows death.

    Cons:

    1) Depends on the Bible

    For the avid reader of the Protestant Scriptures, it does not take long to realize that 4 Ezra borrows a lot from the Bible. Verse after verse alludes to the Torah and the book of Job (6:49; 10:33). There are multiple allusions to the Apocalypse of John and the book of Daniel. Several passages in 4 Ezra appear to be snapshots of the book of Revelation with only minute modifications. It was sort of like looking at familiar photos through a sepia filter. Phrases from Revelation such as “Sovereign Lord” and “How Long?” are used repeatedly in the book of Ezra (4:33, 38; 5:23; 6:11, 59; 7:17). Images such as multitudes sealed by God with white robes around the presence of the Lord singing songs with crowns on their heads are clearly adapted straight from Revelation chapters 4-6 (3:36-48). There are also allusions to Jesus’ words from the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24.

    It is curious that 4 Ezra never directly references any of these biblical authors. Only on one occasion in 12:11 is the writer Daniel mentioned but it is not in relation to a quotation. While many biblical authors make allusions to other biblical passages, 4 Ezra is markedly different. 4 Ezra borrows but never gives back. The New Testament authors make allusions while also repeatedly referencing other biblical authors.

    2) Differs from the Bible

    4 Ezra differs from the Bible in several ways. For instance, the interactions between Ezra and the divine beings are unusual when compared to inspired apocalyptic literature. 4 Ezra focuses on the names of angels and limits Ezra’s interaction with God (4:36). The angels are commanding, harsh and abrasive (7:19). They rebuke Ezra and even deem him worthy or unworthy of revelation. This seems to give them more authority to angels than is appropriate (7:103). It is also concerning that the divine beings make Ezra work for special revelation. On multiple occasions throughout the narrative, the divine beings withhold information from Ezra until he fasts for a certain amount of time or until he completes a task they have requested (6:30; 9:23). These factors are not characteristic of either Old Testament or New Testament apocalyptic literature within the Protestant Scriptures. These factors lend a substantial amount of evidence showing that 4 Ezra does not align with inspired writings.

    3) Distorts the Bible

    The fact that 4 Ezra borrows from the Bible is not necessarily a flaw by itself. Yet problems arise when 4 Ezra goes beyond what the Bible teaches and even misrepresents historic Christian doctrines. In addition to the unusual interaction with angelic beings, the issue of salvation is very unclear in the book of Ezra.

    It appears that the major focus of the book is salvation by works. There are references to the mercy of God and to fearing the Lord, but these are heavily overshadowed by commands and statements of righteousness by works. For instance, the angelic being encourages Ezra that he will be saved “for you have a treasure of works laid up with the Most High, but it will not be shown to you until the last times.” (7:77). Again in the same chapter, the angel says those will be saved who have “carefully served the Most High, though they were in danger every hour, so as to keep the Law of the Lawgiver perfectly.” (7:90) These statements are not balanced out by the saving grace of God (7:167-70; 9:8; 14:34).

    An important exchange takes place between Ezra and a being (unknown entity which is either God or an angel). Ezra eventually pleads with the Lord for grace for mankind. In 8:35-36, he states, “For in truth there is no one among those who have grown up who has not sinned. For in this, Lord, your uprightness and goodness will be declared, if you have mercy on those who have no stock of good deeds.” He truly understands the truth of Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

    This is part of a deep seated plea for grace and forgiveness for sin. However the response from God is calloused and cold. God responds by saying, “For indeed I will not think about the forming of those who have sinned, or their death or judgment or destruction, but I will rejoice over the fashioning of the upright, over their pilgrimage also, and their salvation and the reward they will receive.” (8:37-40). This response from the divine being in 4 Ezra is not the response of the God from the true Scriptures.

    God is just but he also shows unfathomable grace to sinners. There is no salvation apart from his grace alone. 4 Ezra is markedly different than the apocalyptic literature found in the book of Revelation. Revelation 22:17 offers the water of eternal life without price. The multitudes in Revelation gather around the one who has freed them by his own blood and was slain before the foundation of the world. Those who endure to the end in the Revelation 12:11 are only those who place total confidence in the finished work of Jesus.

    Final Remarks:

    An astute reader will soon realize that 4 Ezra really has nothing to offer. There is nothing groundbreaking that is not found in other passages in the protestant canon. There is nothing new under the sun and there is certainly nothing new in the book of 4 Ezra. This shows the unoriginality of the author and his need to build off inspired Scripture.

    The places 4 Ezra deviates from the Scriptures are in more detailed descriptions, intricate visions and distorted doctrine. While there are some positive aspects of 4 Ezra, the ultimate verdict is that it is dangerous. The theology found in this work is unclear at best and heretical at worst.

    4 Ezra has some commendable passages that engage the reader to think critically but it has several significant flaws. To put it mildly, the book is unnecessary. To put it bluntly, the book is blasphemous. Renee Jarrett helpfully pointed this out and brought to my mind the passage in Revelation 22:18. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book…” Although unintentional by the mysterious author, the benefit of reading 4 Ezra is seeing its shortcomings and realizing the sufficiency of the Scripture.

     

    Of Sins and Cinemas

    Image
    by Spencer Harmon

    Iron Man 3.  The Great Gatsby.  Star Trek.  Man of Steel.  The Wolverine.  300.

    Within the next three months, you are most likely going to be invited to see one of these movies.  And not only these, a vast array of other highly anticipated summer films.  Your favorite stars, your favorite stories, during your favorite season.  From the ultra-conservative who only watches movies recommended by their pastor, to the movie connoisseur who finds “gospel” even in the most explicit films, the cinema often creates blurry lines for Christians who live in between two worlds. Here are a few categories and cautions to be thinking about as you consider going to the theater for the hottest summer flicks.

    Research.  You should never feel victimized by sin at the movie theater.  In our day, there are several resources available to you to aid in making a decision about going to see a movie at the theater.  First, a simple glance at the rating of a movie can save you a lot of heartache.  If the movie is rated R for sexual content and nudity, don’t go.  Is this legalism?  No.  It’s fleeing sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), and it will help you see God (Matthew 5:8).  Yet, some movies demand more careful thought.  At this point, I always find it helpful to check a movie review site.  You can find sites that offer a Christian perspective, or just the facts.  Either way, you should never walk out of the theater feeling taken advantage of – the resources are available.  Take and use!

    Bail.  Sometimes, whether because of neglect or some other outlying circumstance, you will find yourself in the theater when the movie goes downhill.  If the movie is causing you to sin, you should leave.  Walking out of the theater does several things.  First, it tells the truth.  When you leave the theater during a sex scene, you are telling the truth about marriage, sex, covenant love, and purity.  When you leave the theater during uncalled for, excessive, cruel, and unnecessary gore and violence, you are telling the truth about courage, honor, dignity, and human worth.  Second, it provokes conversation.  Why did you leave the theater?  Why do you care so much about what you watch that it would cause you to walk out?  Third, and most importantly, it protects your soul.  We can grieve the Holy Spirit by the things that we do and say (Ephesians 4:30), and we should be striving to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).  Sometimes, obedience means saying excuse me, sidestepping out of the aisle, and waiting in the lobby of the theater.

    Engage.  No matter what you are watching, you should watch movies like a Christian.  There are glorious amounts of truth to be gleaned at the cinema, but horrendous amounts of deceit to be rejected as well.  Ask yourself good questions while watching the film:  What are the makers of this film trying to say to me?  How do the relationships, circumstances, and actions of the characters relate to how the Bible presents life?  Hebrews 5:14 says that mature Christians are those who, “…have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” Movies present wonderful opportunities to exercise moral discernment.  Don’t watch passively.

    Engage Together.  Let movies that you see with friends lead to good discussion.  It is good at times to take a few moments to gawk at incredible special effects in the movies, but if that is all you ever talk about you are missing out on a world of fellowship.  Ask questions in the car on the way not just about things you liked and disliked, but things you agreed with and disagreed with.  Let the movie spur you on to depth.  Movies can lead to conversations about war, marriage, love, hate, relationships, divorce, death, eternity, God, politics, and a million other important life issues.  Engage in these discussions during the summer – let these talks take you late into the night.

    Beware of Infiltration.  There is nothing like a steady diet of Hollywood to corrupt your view on beauty, truth, and goodness.  Don’t forget that the Bible says that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (Proverbs 31:30) when you see nothing but coke-bottle figures, and rough whisked buff tough guys presented as beauty.  Don’t forget that you are called to forgive and show grace (Ephesians 4:32), even though revenge is portrayed as the only way to respond to hurt.  All too easily, Hollywood begins informing your values instead of Scripture.  It rouses your feelings before faith, your passions before principles.

    Beware of Saturation.  It seems that during the summer, every Friday holds a new film.  Every film claims to be the film of the year.  And you don’t want to miss out, do you?  Remember that you are called to seek the Lord’s presence (Psalm 105:4), and enjoy his free grace, not gorge on movies.  Sure, enjoy a movie with friends; however, don’t become so saturated with the newest and  latest this summer that the only means of “fellowship” you know is happening in front of movies instead of in real conversation about real life things.

    Remember, the aim at the theater is not to please your friends, please yourself, or your pastor.  The aim is to please God and honor him with life.  Holiness happens in the small circumstances. It happens with steps. The thoughtful response, the restrained tongue, and even the intentional watcher of film glorify God.  It’s here that the battles are fought.

    No Valor

    by Sean Perron

    I am earnestly concerned about the slow cooking idea that is beginning to circulate among evangelicals regarding this year’s election. I recently read an article about pastors encouraging their congregations not to vote this year. They are arguing that Christian voters have no other option except to either stay at home or vote for a third party. They say we can’t vote for someone who promotes gay marriage nor should we vote for someone who follows Joseph Smith. Beware little flock! Beware of the planet owners. Stay inside this November…

    But should Christians follow this advice?

    I openly confess that I am writing with an agenda. I propose that if you do not vote this election year, you will be unfaithful to your duty as a Christian citizen, a failure as a clear thinking individual, and will be responsible contributing to a mindset that fuels immorality and wickedness.

    The idea that Christians should avoid the polls this year because of their religious beliefs is a disgrace that is blinded by misguided conviction. This trumpet is blown by pastors who think they are calling their brothers and sisters to victory but are actually calling them to retreat while thousands are being killed on the battlefield. If you are an evangelical considering staying at home this election season, please consider the following points:

    1) There will always be beliefs a presidential candidate holds that we will disagree with.

    It should be our prayer that every president would believe in the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. I wish every presidential candidate would turn from their sin and seek the kind face of God. But Eden is gone and along with it went the perfect president. If we are honest, every presidential candidate will believe, do, and promote things that we disagree with. Yet we can rally behind a candidate with our vote even if he falls drastically short of the ideal.
    Christians are in the world and Jesus calls us to continue to remain in the world and help change it. But you and I can’t change an election by remaining on our couch, even if the cushions are stuffed with conviction.

    2) There are more important issues at stake than baptism of the dead

    I fully agree that Mormonism is wrong and leading many people away from the one true and living God. However, I am not baptizing the dead but I am trying to save the living. It is no secret that Barack Obama promotes abortion. It is also known that Mitt Romney is not fully pro life. He believes abortion in the instances of rape is permissible. He does not hold the Biblical position. But it is clear that Mitt Romney opposes Roe vs. Wade. It will only take one more pro-life supreme Court justice to turn the tide against abortion. The next president doesn’t determine everything about this issue but may have the opportunity to appoint new justices. This alone should awaken a flame in us to care about voting. This year you are given the option to help save lives and promote the sanctity of life. 5,000 abortions is better than 5 million abortions.

    3) Not voting is voting

    Last month, a famous pastor tweeted, “Been told not voting for Romney is a vote for Obama. That’s alright since that must mean not voting for Obama is a vote for Romney.”

    While this is a cute quip, it makes a poor math equation.  Let me attempt to write on the chalkboard:

    • If Dick votes for Obama, and Jane does not vote, then the tally is 1 to 0.
    • If Dick votes for Obama, and Jane votes for Romney, then the tally is 1 to 1.
    • If Dick and Jane vote for Obama while Spot stays in the dog house, then the tally is 2 to 0.
    • See Obama win, watch Romney lose.

    Or, for those who favor a third party, if Dick brings all of his friends to vote for Obama and Jane and all of her friends vote for Ralph, then the tally is 1,000,000 to 300.

    Although we may wish it were not true, to vote for a third party has the same outcome as not voting. While it may sound reformational to write-in a ballet and say, “I’m voting my convictions”, it is actually the equivalent to firing a blank. It makes a loud noise and produces nothing. You win the battle of conviction but lose the war of reality. Christians cannot afford to pittel away their vote this year. We are people who redeem the time because Christ is drawing near.

    4) You are responsible for your vote or lack thereof

    If Christians do not vote, someone else will, and they might vote for killing babies or marrying homosexuals.  There are many issues at hand such as: abortion, big government, bankrupting health care, international relations and military disarmament. And like it or not, you and I are responsible for what we say or do not say.

    The Christian voter who stays at home should be ashamed that he did not consider all the issues at hand and stand for what they could. God has given the American Christians a simple opportunity to impact their country. To neglect this blessing is  to insult God. If you have the God-given opportunity to vote for babies to have a chance at life, and instead you neglect that because you disagree with a man’s view of the Trinity, you are the most pitied of all men.

    I fully heartily agree with the recent article Denny Burk wrote in the SBTS Towers,

    “At the last judgement you will not be able to claim ignorance about your duty to defend innocent human life. Remember, more than 50 million innocent human lives have been snuffed out legally since 1973. If somehow you were unaware of this fact before reading this essay, you now know better. You are accountable for this knowledge, and your vote should reflect it.”

    5) Consider Courage

    If you will allow me to take it up a notch, we finally must consider courage.

    Do you think it is brave to “no show” when thousands of soldiers have given their lives to make the polls available to us?  They were valiant to give everything for the freedom we are taking advantage of.  Yes, because of their valor we are free to sit on our rumps. But I cannot.  And if you sit, you must know that there is no courage in making the election a spectatorial event. There is no impact. There is no boldness. There is only shame. There is no valor in not voting.

    Choke Hold Tolerance

    by Spencer Harmon

    Things are getting serious when all my tolerant friends are intolerant.  It bothers me when my friends start putting up fences and locking the doors to the inclusive club.  Since my high school days, there have always been those around me who have been so flabbergasted by my view on marriage and family. It’s as if they are saying, “Didn’t you get the memo?  Our generation is inclusive; we are tolerant.  And we don’t have any tolerance…er…patience for puritanical, close minded, brain washed conservatives”

    There is something very wrong with my generation when they wave the banner of peace, understanding, and tolerance, and then call me a hate monger when I share my views.  So, I need to ask the question of my generation before they put the super glue on my lips and ask me to purse:  does disagreement with a view automatically mean you hate them?

    Before you count my chickens before they’re hatched, this is not another article about Chic Fil-a.  Although, I must say that it just may be the tastiest stuff in our small corner of the Milky Way and could probably make even the strictest vegetarian compromise in a moment of weakness.  However, it’s not my goal to defend their rights to speech, business, and the liberty to have their own view on the family.  My problem is my generation; my beef is not just the chicken-haters, but my snarky friends who argue for tolerance with their hands around your neck.

    Just so my cards are on the table:  I’m a conservative, evangelical Christian, who thinks that the traditional view on marriage is the right one, and who really, really, loves homosexual people.  Throughout high school I had to explain to many of my friends why I thought that homosexuality was wrong, how my beliefs influence my actions, and how my disagreement with homosexuality does not entail homophobia, hate speech, or any affiliation with Westboro Baptist Church.

    Over the last few weeks I have heard people call dear friends in my faith things like “homophobes” and “hateful”.  When I enquire the reasoning for this, it is not because they have said anything particularly hateful, but rather hold a viewpoint that is different from their own.  Really?  Has it come to this, Generation Tolerance?  Has our tolerance become intolerable?  Is it no longer possible for opposing views to exist in the atmosphere of conversation without kicking out the opinion that disagrees with your own?

    I am sincerely sorry for the actions of many Christians who have wronged those they disagree with; however, that does not mean conversations have to end with the one interaction.  When you have a bad plate of food you don’t give up on eating, you push the dish to the side (or try to “tolerate” it), and eat your next meal with hopeful expectations.  You don’t call food dirty names like “garbage”, “poison”, and “taste bud hater” just because of your singular experience.

    We Christians have much to learn from this recent debacle.  Has your temperature sky rocketed at the thought of being maligned or not tolerated?  Now, remember that feeling next time you want to shut someone down who does not agree with your viewpoint.  Listening to someone does not mean you agree with them.  We would do well if we would apply “treat others how you want to be treated” to public discourse and the exchange of ideas and viewpoints.  Let us keep the faith with all vigilance – with tears in our eyes for our dying world and eager ears longing for understanding.

    So please, let’s save the mud slinging for November and get on with the issues.  There are a group of twenty-somethings who want to talk about these things. Yes, we think that marriage matters, family is important, and want to be a part of the conversation.  No, we do not agree with the popular opinions of Gaga and the Muppets; however, we would like to talk about why.  And maybe, just maybe, we won’t be the monsters that some people so desperately want us to be.

    How To Be a Biblical Groomsman

    Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”  John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
    John 3:25-30     

    Being a groomsman has sacred significance.  The bride and groom are asking you to be witnesses of a covenant before God and to hold them accountable to it.  So, how can you glorify God and love the groom while being a part of his wedding party?

    1. Be grateful
      As John thinks about his ministry success preparing the way for Christ, he does not seek to keep it; rather, he acknowledges that his ministry was a gift from God.  In the same way, groomsmen ought to recognize the gift that their dear brother has been to them, and thank God for it joyfully.  Don’t spend the bachelor party, rehearsal dinner, and wedding thinking about how you’re losing a friend to marriage; instead, rejoice for the gift of friendship.
    2.  Step to the side 
      In the same way that John recognized that, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” we ought to recognize that this marriage is not about us.  Rather, we should spend our time before, during, and after the wedding lifting up the meaning of marriage.  In the dressing room before the wedding let the stories of good times and belly laughs abound, but our primary role is to remind the groom of Christ and  highlight the weight of marriage.
    3.  Let his joy be your joy
      John says that he, “rejoices greatly at the bridegrooms voice.  Therefore, this joy of mine is complete”  In the same way, let the tears fill your eyes when your brother sees his bride for the first time walking down that aisle and his jaw drops a bit.  He is not thinking about you.  As a matter of fact, he probably has forgotten that you exist.  He is loving his bride.  His heart is filling with joy.  And as his heart fills with joy, yours should as well.

    It is our great joy to share in one of the clearest human expressions of the gospel outside of the spoken word.  Let the weight of standing to the side hit us; and let us all – groomsmen, bridesmaids, bride and groom – decrease so that He may increase.

     

    Spencer Harmon