When God Makes Diamonds


I preached from this passage in the Book of James a couple of weeks ago:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
-James 1:2-4

I’m not sure why I felt drawn to the first chapter of James, but I suspect I my listeners needed to hear this encouragement.  I know I did–I felt like I was preaching to myself more than anyone in the congregation.

James presents an uncomfortable truth in this text:  there are some qualities God can only develop in us through trials.  Enduring these tests will give us perseverance (“steadfastness”), which will eventually result in maturity (“perfect and complete”).

I wish this wasn’t true–I wish there was some shortcut to being more Christlike and more dependent on the Lord.  But the experience of millions of believers (including yours truly) confirms what the Word of God teaches in this passage.

As I meditated on this text I started thinking about diamonds, which are some of the most precious stones in the world.  My mind wandered back to my whirlwind romance and my quest for the perfect engagement ring for Mare Cris.  I did a little research to get an idea of how these beautiful gemstones are made.  Geologists universally agree that diamonds are formed under crushing pressure and intense heat.

Think about that for a second: crushing pressure and intense heat.  God uses the most hostile conditions imaginable to create the world’s most exquisite and valuable objects.

He also uses trials and suffering to produce something of eternal value: a saint.  Please remember this if you are in the midst of a painful test.

Facebook and Fidelity

2000px-F_icon.svgA few years ago I read about the negative effect social media is having on marriages.  A survey by a British legal service, for example, found that Facebook was involved in 30% of their divorce cases (it has been blamed for 20% of divorce cases here in the States).

Needless to say, I don’t believe social media is evil (it’s how my wife and I first “met”).  But I do understand the inherent risks of using Facebook and similar sites.  Many spouses are led astray by ease and anonymity with which they can interact with the opposite sex.

Here are some simple steps my wife and I have taken to protect our marriage and keep healthy boundaries in our online interactions.

1.  Complete Transparency:

My wife and I have complete access to each others’ social media and email accounts.  This is, in my opinion, the most important step we take to guard our marriage.  She is welcome to open my computer/tablet and look at any email, chat, or profile (the same goes for my cell phone).  I am free to do the same with her.  This is not something we regularly do–the point is not to have a “weekly inspection.”  It’s all about attitude–we both understand that having a private online world is harmful and dangerous.

2.  Boundaries in Communications with the Opposite Sex:

It is not uncommon for young ladies to email me asking for relationship advice (it’s the nature of having this kind of blog).  I do respond to their questions as a pastor/minister.  I also keep in touch with a few classmates, workmates, and former ministry team members of the opposite sex.  But I do not get involved in frequent, lengthy chats  with women.  A message here and there is fine, but daily, intimate conversations are reserved for my wife.

3.  Profile Picture:

A while back I decided that my profile picture on Facebook will always be one of my wife and me together (she does the same with her profile).  The reason is pretty simple: we want anyone to runs across our individual profiles to know we’re happily married.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I believe this first impression does send a powerful signal.

4.  Public Pages:

Another step I’ve taken is to put a little more emphasis on my public Facebook page.  This is especially helpful for bloggers or public figures who want a way to connect with people that is a little less personal.  My wife is an administrator on my page and can read any message that a follower might send.

More Ideas:

Some  may decide to be even more cautious with social media.  Mare Cris and I haven’t taken these steps, but they are worth considering.

Joint Account(s):

I know of some married couples that have decided to delete their individual accounts and just use a single account as husband and wife.


Another option is to simply deactivate your Facebook account altogether.

Hopefully I’ve given you some helpful ideas for guarding your marriage while using social media.  You may want to read Hedges by Jerry Jenkins for more advice on this topic.

Same-Sex “Marriage”: Helpful Links/Articles

I’d like to share some of the most helpful/meaningful articles I have read over the past week or so.  Many of these were written in direct response to the Supreme Court’s historic decision regarding same-sex “marriage.”

I have updated my post called The Gospel and Gay “Marriage.” It isn’t that much different than before but I’ve done a little bit of editing to (hopefully) improve it.  This has been one of the most frequently read post on my blog for several weeks.

Russell Moore explained Why the Church Should neither Cave nor Panic about the Decision on Gay Marriage.   I really like the way Moore addresses issues with grace and truth–he makes me proud to be a Southern Baptist.  One of the most striking things he said is that the church should be ready to minister to “refugees from the sexual revolution”–those whose lives have been damaged by sexual sin.  Moore actually has posted several articles and videos this week that are worth checking out.

Kevin DeYoung wrote an excellent post called Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay MarriageHe later added 40 Questions for Christians now Waving Rainbow Flags. These are great questions for professing Christians who claim the Bible has nothing negative to say about homosexuality.

Carey Nieuwhof has written this post: Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders from a Canadian.   He is ministers in Canada, where same-sex “marriage” has been legal for a decade. Note: this pastor’s last point is about judging.  I don’t think he is saying we should avoid preach against sin.  I think he is talking about the unfortunate way some Christians behave on social media, etc.

Denny Burk has written a post on Protecting Your Church Against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits. This post includes a free booklet with some sample bylaws, etc.

I also ran across a couple of articles written my men who spent a decade in the gay lifestyle and left it after coming to Christ.

The first one is entitled  I was the Other Man: an Insider’s Look at Why Gay Marriage Will Not Work.* Blogger and author Joseph Sciambra described the secret frustration and despair he encountered among “monogamous” homosexual couples.

“I believe God has something better for every gay man and woman that far outweighs the expected hopes and promises of gay marriage or even a gay life,” said Mattie Walk in Gay Marriage, Krispy Kreme Donuts and Freddie Mercury. Amen to that!

This will likely be the last post I write about this issue for a while.  As I’ve mentioned before, most of the broken hearts/lives I encounter are caused by other forms of sexual immorality (premarital sex, adultery, etc.).

*You may argue that this man’s testimony does not accurately represent the gay culture or same-sex couples.   It may not in all cases, but I think his experiences are a lot more common that than what the media would have you believe.

A Long Week in the USA

I have to say I’m ready for this week to be over.  Watching the news has been emotionally draining in ways I’m not sure I have ever experienced before.

Sunday was the first worship service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston since a senseless shooting left nine of her members dead.    Worshipers demonstrated grace and forgiveness that is only possible through the power of the gospel.  “No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church,” proclaimed their pastor.  Mourners of all races gathered inside and outside the church building in a powerful demonstration of support and solidarity.

Dylan Roof was trying to start a race war by attacking innocent people in the one place everyone should feel welcome and safe.  His senseless, depraved act caused just the opposite–South Carolina and other states decided to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from state monuments.

I support the removal of this flag from state property.  To me it is simply a familiar historical symbol I’ve seen all my life–part of the landscape here in the South.  But as Russell Moore has pointed out, it represents something completely different to African-Americans.

Having said that, the anti-flag movement I’ve seen this week has reached a level that borders on insanity.  Case in point: Apple has removed all Civil War video games from its app store because the Confederate soldiers in the game march under . . . the Confederate flag.  It seems a gesture of peace and goodwill is quickly turning into hysteria.

Friday the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex “marriage” is a right protected under the US law.  This was no surprise to me, but I was deeply grieved nonetheless (you can check out The Gospel and Gay “Marriage” if you want to know my convictions on this).

I should make something clear before I go any further:  I do not long for America to return to the “glory days” of previous eras.  Our history of sexual sin is as old as the country itself, not to mention our unfair treatment of racial and ethnic minorities.

But it breaks my heart to see people proudly marching to their eternal destruction, rainbow flag in hand.

Friday’s news included President Barrack Obama’s eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney (one of the nine killed in the attack), who was the pastor of the Emanuel AME Church as well as a state Senator.  His thoughtful speech seemed like a sermon at times, and he surprised the attendees by leading them in Amazing Grace, a cherished hymn of the Christian faith.white-house-rainbow-3

Later that evening the White House would be lit up with rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling. I find these contradicting messages from our President completely bizarre, though he’s not the first politician guilty of picking and choosing only the parts of the Christian faith that suit his taste.

Both the power of God and the deceitfulness of sin have been on full display in the United States of America this week.

The Lord has reminded me of some important truths through these events.  I’ll share them in hopes of encouraging my fellow believers.

1.  This world and this country are not my home.  Peter admonished the ancient believers to see themselves as “temporary residents” of this world (1 Peter 2:11).  I’ve been reminded not to hold too tightly to anything this temporal life has to offer.   I am just a sojourner, bound to see some ugly scenery on my way home.

2.  Everything that I see was foretold long ago.  Paul told Timothy the last days would include “difficult times” with people “scoffing at God.”  He even said they “will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2nd Timothy 3:1-5).   Unholy acts have fulfilled holy warnings spoken centuries ago.  God is not surprised–neither should I be.

3. Jesus promised His strength in the midst of a hostile world.  Jesus never said following Him would be an easy path that is celebrated by the masses.  He told his followers, in fact, that we will have trouble in this world.  But He didn’t stop there–He reminded us that He has overcome this world (John 16:33)!

As a believer I’m called to take up my cross and follow Jesus, regardless of changes in the political wind.  That’s just what I intent to do.

Scripture quotes have been taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible.