Today we were able to attend church services, unlike last week when a horrible migraine kept me at home. When I got there, it seemed like they needed help in the nursery, which I was only too happy to give, since I love helping with the babies! This meant I missed the sermon, but since I had listened to a great sermon series this week online, I didn't feel bad about it. Hubby went on in with the rest of the crew, and after services he and my oldest son told me the sermon was a good one, but it was about, well, that p--n------y thing (they thankfully sent the littlest ones to wee church). Ugh. I am not at all sorry I missed that one (sorry Pastor Dave!).
However, since the topic is one that is often ignored in churches, and one I think is necessary to address, I want to suggest the series of sermons by Andy Stanley that I listened to this week for your edification (good word, huh?). It follows along a similar vein---that of setting limits for yourself and standing firm to your convictions---but it is a bit more family-friendly and would be appropriate to listen to with middlers and up.
The sermon series is entitled: Guardrails. It can be found here in its entirety. You just need to scroll through the available titles until you come to the one called Guardrails. There are six sermons in this series, and they all address the concept that while the Bible does draw absolutes for many things, other things are a bit less defined. Rather than becoming a legalist and drawing up a list of rules a mile long that everyone NEEDS to follow to be a good Christian, Andy Stanley proposes that we each need to pray and listen to God for guidance in the things that are not defined in exact terms and develop our own set of "guardrails" to protect us from getting into situations where we will break the rules God does absolutely define.
I know I am not being terribly clear here. Let me see if I can give you an example. You know that the seventh commandment is to not commit adultery (that's right, isn't it?). So, given that, the obvious thing is to wait until marriage before becoming intimate with someone and to not cheat on your spouse once married. The Bible also warns us that even thinking those sorts of thoughts is the same thing as doing them.
Now, what "guardrails" can you implement for yourself (remember, this is you we are worried about, not everybody else) that will help you stay faithful in mind, body, and spirit? Before marriage, you might make sure you are never in a situation where you are alone with a member of the opposite sex where you might be tempted to impropriety...for some that would mean no kissing or hugging, for others no holding hands, and for others it might even mean avoiding sitting next to someone of the opposite sex. Someone else might decide they feel led to courtship rather than dating. Another single person might feel they want to have an accountability partner, or to make a pledge to a parent to remain pure. A young lady might decide to not read any sort of romance novels, even though her friends do. A young man might avoid certain TV shows and movies his friends watch, or choose not to be friends with a certain co-worker because he tells off-color jokes and looks at online p---. Each person needs to figure out what their own "guardrails" are. You just need to make sure your "guardrail" is something that starts waaaaay before the danger zone, just like a real guardrail does. If the "guardrail" starts too late, it can't protect you. Sure, you might recover, but things will never be the same.
Married couples might be accountable to each other for the time they spend online. They might agree to never spend a night away from each other, or to never eat a meal or have a meeting with a member of the opposite sex alone, even for business purposes. They could agree to watch only movies of a certain rating, or to cancel their cable subscription. She might only have friends he approves of, and he vice versa. They might choose to have a weekly date night to keep their relationship fresh so they are never tempted, or they might choose to avoid office parties and other get-togethers they consider to be a danger to their closeness. They might pledge to watch what they say about each other to others and to limit their friendships to couples who think in a similar way. They might choose to sign a covenant with each other to remain faithful, instead of seeing marriage as a semi-permanent contract. Or they might do a couple's Bible study, or pray together nightly, or always spend the first twenty minutes after he/they get home holding hands and telling each other about their days. Whatever it takes for each person to put up a hedge, or a guardrail, around themselves so that they can avoid sin, is what they need to do. Doing this will help prevent those crashes that cause damage to relationships with each other and with God and to ourselves.
Well, I hope I explained that enough to get you interested, but not so much that you don't want to listen to the sermons now. Andy Stanley does a great job with the subject. It was also interesting to hear about his life and his relationship with his wife and family. I really respect his father and it is nice to witness the fruits of a Godly upbringing and good choices.
Give Guardrails a try this week (I listened to each one of the sermons in the series this week and enjoyed them all) and let me know what you think.
And here is an excellent article by Dr. James MacDonald, the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, that goes perfectly with today's sermon. He talks about the Five Moral Fences he has set up as a pastor.
Praying that you and your families have a blessed Sunday.