Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sermon preview--The Eighth Commandment

What is integrity? The American Heritage Dictionary contains three definitions: The first is, “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.” That’s what we’ve been talking about these past eight weeks. But the other two definitions are rather interesting: “The state of being unimpaired; soundness.” “The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.” Many of you have bought a house before. It’s not like buying a pair of pants or a bicycle. There’s a painstaking process that goes along with it. You pay out of your own pocket to have inspections done because you want to make sure the house has integrity before you put money into it. It has to be sound: Is the foundation cracked? Does the roof leak? Do all the locks work? It also has to be complete: if any of the appliances have quit working, you need to know that. The inspectors then present you with a list of problems they found, areas of the house where the integrity was compromised. If you’re wise, you then take that list and give it to the seller, saying, “Here is what you need to repair or replace before we will buy this house.” And that is how God deals with us. He expects us to have integrity. Please understand. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Just like we don’t expect our house to be just like a mansion in River Oaks. We just want it to be the best, soundest and most complete house it can be. In the same way, God doesn’t expect the impossible of us either. He just wants us to be complete; to have integrity. That is why He gave us these last four commandments. A person with integrity is faithful sexually, is forthright when it comes to money, is truthful at all times, and is free from greed and covetousness. Just like with that house, He often presents us with a list of things we need to repair. This Sunday the Holy Spirit will provide us with a list of changes we need to make, because the eighth commandment goes a lot further than we think. There is something in this commandment to challenge every one of us. I hope you'll be there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sermon preview--The Seventh Commandment

The commercial only aired once, during the Super Bowl a few years ago. A woman sits in a nice restaurant. A man arrives late. He shushes her to focus on his cell phone call, gawks at a passing waitress, tries to discourage the woman from eating cheesecake lest she get fat. He then gets up and leaves, saying, "Happy Anniversary, Honey." The voice-over says, "Have you ever been on a terrible blind date? Now imagine that date lasts the rest of your life. Maybe it's time for something new." The spot ends with the woman and a handsome stranger in the restaurant making come-hither eyes at one another.

The company that sponsored the ad (which will go nameless here) bills itself as a dating service for people who are already in a relationship. They have previously advertised with billboards saying, "Life is short. Have an affair." In one of those all-too-rare moments that restore one's faith in humanity, there was tremendous public outrage over the Super Bowl commercial, such that subsequent ads have been rejected by the networks. At the very least, society at large still thinks it's wrong to be unfaithful to one's spouse. But plenty of people still buy the message of that commercial. And popular culture, through tawdry soap operas, cheap romance novels, and even classic movies like Dr. Zhivago, sell us the message that forbidden love is exciting, romantic. Sometimes, our culture seems to say, adultery IS the right thing.

What does God have to say about the subject? And why did He single out adultery as a topic of one of His Ten Commandments? Are we permitted to indulge mentally in what is forbidden physically? And how can we set a pattern for life that will keep us faithful for a lifetime? We'll talk about that and more this Sunday.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sermon Preview--The Sixth Commandment

This week, the murder trial of Casey Anthony, a single mother accused of killing her two-year old daughter in 2008, ended in acquittal. Millions of Americans have been following the case on television and internet, and there was widespread public surprise at the verdict. I must confess that I have not followed this case closely. I don't really have an informed opinion on the subject, except that I believe people who watch The Nancy Grace Show for more than five cumulative minutes are in severe danger of losing their mental and spiritual health. But even that is just my opinion. I have no idea if Casey Anthony was guilty or not, or if not, why she behaved the way she did after the death of her daughter. I have no idea whether or not the prosecution overreached by shooting for the death penalty, or if they did a poor job presenting their evidence, or if the Anthony family's profound dysfunction is an explanation for the bizarre nature of this case.

Here is what I do know: The death of little Caylee Anthony is a profound tragedy that grieves the heart of the God who created her in His own image...and should grieve us all as well. I have heard many people question why this case garnered so much media attention. "Why do we focus on the death of one little girl, when thousands of children die every DAY in our world, many from preventable causes like too little food or drinking water?" They have a point. But we also need to remember that everyone of those children matters to God just as much as Caylee. As do the people who die in our current war in Afghanistan, including American troops, Afghan civilians, and even Taliban fighters. As do you. Each human life has an inherent value and dignity in God's eyes that you and I do not fully comprehend...if we did, it would radically change the way we live in innumerable ways. That's the message of the sixth commandment. It's not enough to simply not murder your enemy; In order to obey this command, you have to value each human life like God does.

I don't plan to speak about the Casey Anthony trial this Sunday--you've probably heard enough about that already. But I will talk about what it means to value life like the God who created life...and what difference it would make in our lives if we did. I hope you'll be there.