The Real Problem with Ashley Madison

“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NRSV)

I like to think I’m fairly aware of most trends that are out there.  it’s all a part of being  a pastor who wants to speak Biblical truth into the world. But here are some things of which I’m not aware, and to be honest, I can’t really say my life is enhanced by knowing them.  There is something to be said for being blissfully ignorant.

Such is the case with Ashley Madison.  Until a week ago I might have assumed that Ashley Madison was Dolly Madison’s more preppy younger sister. Now of course I know different.  This Madison has nothing to do with flags, or snack cakes.

Ashley Madison, in case you were unaware (and if you were I apologize for dragging you into the light) is a website company designed to promote extra-marital affairs. The idea is that you pay to be a member and then you can browse all the other members. If you make a connection I assume you pay then, as well. Again, I’m thankfully unaware of the mechanics.

It’s big business, this discreet cheating.  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, the website has been recently hacked and thousands upon thousands of names of those using the website were revealed on the internet. Names, credit card account numbers everything. Basically enough information was sent out that it would be difficult for those named to claim it’s all a mistake.

The fall out was predictable.  Divorce lawsuits rose, people threatened to sue the company for not protecting their anonymity, even rumors of clergy being caught and of some committing suicide.

Look, we all get it’s an awful seamy situation.  Let’s just take that as a given. So let’s look beyond the company and look at why we, especially as Christians, ought to speak out more against adultery in all it’s factors. And before you get too comfortable, knowing you’ve never had an affair, those of you looking at porn?  Those of you in an “emotional” relationship that isn’t your spouse, I’m talking to you as well.(Take a gander at what Jesus says about lusting in your heart in Matthew 6-7)

First The Bible is clear that all good things given to us in life are to point us back to God and to His character.  In other words, God calls us to be faithful in marriage because He is faithful. When we choose to be unfaithful it’s as if we deny God’s fidelity. Or at the very least hide it from the world.  Marriage and lifelong faithfulness are given to us to help us see in a very concrete way how God is faithful to us.

Faithfulness in a marriage, marriage itself really, is a gift from God. He made it. Thought it up, designed it and gave it to us.  It’s not ours to abuse. When we abuse the gift of faithfulness in marriage its as if we trample a gift from God under our feet.

You were designed for monogamy. I hate to break it to the James Bond’s of the world, but we were created to have life long monogamous relationships. It’s how you were designed. Every Scripture passage I’ve looked at, and every study I’ve seen point to the idea that rather than love waning over the years, that love and passion and intimacy actually increases and deepens the longer one is married and faithful. No matter what the world tells us monogamy does not equal monotony.

If you doubt the above, I’d like to point out that the owners of Ashley Madison, a married couple, said they would never use the site or cheat on one another, because it would devastate the other person and end their marriage. Even they sense they were created for something better than what they pander.

You are a part of the Body of Christ.  You marriage is a reflection of the Body of Christ. Genesis says we are made one. So let’s dispel the idea that as long as no one knows, no one gets hurt. When you cheat, by an affair, the internet, that harmless flirtation you are hurting the body of Christ. In particular a part you have chosen, and promised to cherish above all others. If you are one you carry them into the affair.  If you have kids, guess what, you take them as well.

This blog was a little longer than usual, but bear with me for just a moment. I’m coming to the good part. First let’s all take time to be thankful that we have a God who is faithful even when we aren’t.  Secondly if you are in a faithful relationship, be thankful for the person God has given you.  Love and cherish them.  Begin to see that how you love one another is a devotional to God.  And if you are struggling please know this. Jesus loves you. He will forgive you.  He can heal you and restore that which is broken. I’ll take HIs faithfulness over what the world offers every time.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

Life Is Fleeting…Sort of

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Revelations 21:1 NIV)

Life is fleeting. That’s one of those phrases we say, or read all the time without really thinking about what it means, let alone ask ourselves how that plays out in our own daily lives.

Life is fleeting. Fleet. It’s fast. And that’s true. Life does move at an incredibly rapid rate and the longer we live on this earth the more time and events seem to accelerate around us.  How else can I explain the fact my youngest daughter,who I would swear to you is still a baby, graduates from High School this year? How did that happen? Yep, me and Tevye wandering around singing “Sunrise Sunset”

Life is Fleeting: It doesn’t wait for us. If you have an opportunity to make something happen then you better do it.  You may never get a second chance. Life may move on without you if you aren’t careful.

Life is fleeting. Before you know it, life can be over. While we act as if we have all the time in the world, the truth is our lives exist only by the most fragile of threads. Our lives resemble a candle lit in the darkness. They seem powerful and bright but the slightest puff of air, and blow it out.

Life is fleeting. I’ve seen so many examples of this in the past several weeks. I’ve had two friends from college die in the past week or so. One succumbing to a long-term illness, the other to a car wreck that took his life and the life of his wife.  I received a phone call asking me to pray for the family of a young boy, still in elementary school who dies suddenly. I’ve prayed for those who are watching loved ones beginning to fade away. Watching for that last strand of life to snap. Life is fleeting.

Life is fleeting.  And in the swiftness of life as it moves from cradle to grave it also seems incredibly unfair. I’ve read many testimonies of how God used people to change other’s lives. And now they are gone. C’mon Jesus. Couldn’t you have let them stick around a little longer and help a few others?

Life is… No that’s not right. Life isn’t fleeting at all. If life were fleeting what we do on this earth really wouldn’t matter much would it? Why even bother knowing that in the blink of an eye we’ll be gone. What difference does what we do  or think, or do make anyway? Life is fleeting.

God’s word reminds  us that life isn’t fleeting at all.  Rather it’s eternal. Jesus tells us in John 14 that He is preparing a place for us in Heaven. Our Scripture from Revelation reminds us that the Bible ends laiming  the eternal joy of those who have faith in Christ as Jesus receives us home.

Life is eternal. Oh yes, our life here on earth passes quickly, but it’s supposed to. This was never meant to be our home. How sad if it were? Do we want a world of decay and war where every good things fades away from time to be our home?

Life is eternal. The reality is that my friends who have died, because of their faith in Jesus, are not gone. They are alive. More alive than anyone reading this blog. Every sin washed away, every tear wiped from their eye by God. Every scar removed.

Life is eternal. So choose well where you spend your time and what you tend to dwell on. Learn to dwell more on the things of life that have eternal significance and not so much those things that have only a temporal value.

Life is eternal. So give your life, if you haven’t yet to Jesus. Every decision we make in life has eternal significance. How we treat others has an eternal significance. How we care for the hungry or hurting. But the most important decision we will ever make is to accept Jesus as our lord and savior.

Life is eternal.  What will you do with yours?
In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

Fire

As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. ” (Matthew 3:11 NASV)

One of the places, perhaps “The place” I wanted to see on our Wesley Heritage tour was Aldersgate Street, and in particular the place where Wesley had his heart “strangely warmed”.  I mean, let’s face it, if you’re from a Wesleyan Heritage that’s the spot isn’t it? The true birthplace of the Methodist movement began truly when John Wesley had his heart warmed and realized he was loved by God.

Sadly it’s not there. Well Aldersgate Street is still there, but the room in which Wesley had that encounter with the Holy Spirit no longer exists. While much of our Methodist heritage in London survived the bombings during World War 2, sadly Aldersgate, and that little room did not.  The street has been routed, new buildings built out of the rubble.

All is not lost, however. While you won’t find a preserved room on that spot you will find the London Museum. Outside of the museum doors in the, as far as we know, spot where John Wesley had his heartwarming experience there is a huge monument commemorating the moment.  You can see it below

Take a moment to look at the monument. You’ll notice it’s in the shape of a flame, not unlike the flame in the United Methodist denomination’s symbol. Fire, a flame, A heart warmed, The Holy Spirit.

In the Scripture at the top of our blog we are reminded that Jesus came to Baptize us with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. Notice  it’s a both and. Jesus came to baptize us, pour over us, drench us in the Holy Spirit and in fire.

As Wesley discovered, fire warms us.  And the closer to the fire we are the warmer we get. We cannot have our hearts warmed while keeping Jesus and the Holy Spirit at arm’s length. How tragic is the Christian who will spend time reading and studying about Jesus yet refuse to embrace Him.

Fire changes things. It burns and turns things to ash. When something is touched by a fire there is an actual chemical change that happens inside. When someone is set ablaze with the Holy Spirit there will be change. Our old way of viewing the world changes. Sin loses it’s grip on our lives. hope and joy spring from our hearts.

Fire hurts.  While getting warmed by a fire is pleasant, falling into the fire is painful.  Jesus came not to get us close to the fire, but to Baptize us in it. Our spiritual formation is not always intended to be a pain free experience. Having the chaff in our lives burned away causes us to make decisions  and live in a way the world may not understand. This can be painful. The Fire of the Holy Spirit reveals the image of Christ within us.  And the more we look like Jesus, the more the world treats us like Jesus.

Fire spreads.  When I was in early High School one of the praise songs we sang was “Pass It On”. It’s now in the hymnal. You know you are getting older when your praise songs find their way into the hymnal.  But the song begins “it only takes a spark to get a fire going”.  When a heart is set on fire with the Holy Spirit it spreads. People notice a fire and are drawn to it. Renewal and revival will not come to our churches through a program. God has never changed lives by a program. But when God’s people are willing to be set on fire? When the Holy Spirit touches the dry tinder of the hearts of this world? God touched the hearts of John Charles Wesley. And through them millions have come to Jesus. What could He do with your heart?

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

Both Doors

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)

I’ve gained a new appreciation for what we call old.  For instance, our home is over 100 years old. I would consider that an old, or at least and older home.  Or at least I did until our recent rip to the UK.  It’s odd to visit homes that were built in the 14th or 15th century. To them, our 100 year old home would be considered a new build.

That may be why those churches that share a Wesleyan heritage can  look at the New Room in Bristol, England and appreciate it with no irony. The New Room is the oldest Methodist chapel in existence, having been built in 1739. It is known as the cradle of the Methodist movement.  I suppose in a country with homes that date back many centuries a chapel built in 1739 might still be considered new.

I toured the New Room a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but be caught up in the importance of that place. John Wesley stood in an preached from the pulpit. It was there that many of Charles Wesley’s hymns were first sung. Would it have been there that O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” was first lifted up with the gusto it so richly deserves? Perhaps.   John Wesley would often sit in the balcony window and evaluate his young preachers.  No pressure there!

But what impressed me the most about the New Room were the two statues of the Wesley brothers. As you find the New Room, and you have to look for it, it’s a bit down an alley, you are greeted in the front courtyard by a statue of Charles Wesley looking as if he is about to burst into song himself.

If you continue through the chapel and go out the back into the back courtyard, you’ll find a statue of John Wesley saddled up on his hose ready to take the gospel  into the world.

In my mind, these two statues bracketing the first Methodist chapel, describe in a very poignant way what it’s supposed to mean to be a United Methodist, and sadly what at times we seem to have forgotten as a denomination.

Charles reminds us of our need for vital, life transforming worship.   Early Methodists, much to John Wesley’s chagrin, were known as enthusiasts. They were enthusiastic about worship. They sang at the top of their voices, they shouted God’s praise. They lifted the name of Jesus up and they rejoiced. And God began to breathe life back into these souls as they sought to live out a Biblical orthodox faith.

But a Methodist wasn’t content to merely sit and worship. At some point they had to go out the “back door” as go forth to share the Gospel as John Wesley did,loudly proclaiming “The World is my Parish”.  Evangelism, witnessing was as much a part of the vitality of their faith as was enthusiastic worship.

The statues remind us there is a rhythm to our Wesleyan faith. Its about coming and going. Worship and evangelism, a life changed offering new life to others. The Wesley’s understood there was a symbiotic relationship between the two. The more powerful one’s worship the more the Holy Spirit compels us to witness. The more we share of Jesus, the greater our times of worship.

How sad it is that many within our denomination content themselves with entering the front door and never leave. We act as is worship is all we need to do to have a vital faith. We find ourselves more than willing to argue over worship styles, types of music or worship times.  Yet we remain strangely silent over any insistence that we share Jesus with the lost.

We wonder why there seems to be something missing in worship despite our best efforts to stay on the cutting edge of the newest worship trends. Perhaps true vitality and, dare I say it, enthusiasm in worship isn’t about the newest song from Hillsong, high quality cameras,  moving Latin requiems, incense of bells. Perhaps what brings vitality to  our worship are hearts who share the Gospel and truly believe Jesus has come to save anyone who calls on His name.

Using the front door is great. I love to worship. But let us never forget to truly be United Methodists, we have to use both doors. We are called to come. We are also called to go.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

All Around Us

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.
9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10 NIV)
    Technology has made me a cynic. With advances like CGI and even simple Photoshop we have come to know that seeing isn’t necessarily believing. our eyes can be fooled. Things are not, we have come to believe, what we see them to be.  Models are airbrushed movies are enhanced, photos will fool us.
    When I’ve looked at epicures of the Irish countryside, I’ve always assumed that the pictures have been altered. they’ve been enhanced somehow.  grass and hills simply are not that vibrant a green.  And I’ve no doubt there is some judicious use of filters. But perhaps not as much as we may have imagined.
  I’ve just returned from a trip exploring our Wesleyan heritage in England, and a short tour of Ireland. We didn’t get very far in our drive through Ireland for me to see how wrong I was.
   I’ll chalk it up to being raised around Kentucky bluegrass, but I was unprepared for the beauty and the vibrancy of the Irish landscape. Driving around the fabled Ring of Kerry I was amazed at God’s handiwork in creation. The picture might give you some idea.
  It’s easy to see why Celtic spirituality was so influenced by nature. They saw their gods all around them in the trees, the hills and the grass. Early Celtic Christianity did the same thing. They saw God all around them, as if nature itself was a reminder of God’s love and care. If he could make a masterpiece like this, imagine what He is doing in all of us.
  St, Patrick took up this theme in his hymn known as the breastplate of St. Patrick. many will be familiar with this excerpt taken from the much longer hymn:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
 St. Patrick saw Jesus surrounding him, as nature itself surrounds us. And as Jesus surrounds and protects so, so then does He begin to shine through us.
  John Wesley would echo a hearty amen to this prayer, for it truly describes his understanding of God’s grace. Gods grace goes before us before we are ever aware of Him, God loves us and calls us  into a relationship with Him.  His grace surrounds us forgiving us, reconciling us to the heavenly father, restoring us. God’s grace fills us, makes us holy until the image of Christ shines through us.
  Today, I just want to remind you that God’s grace does surround you. You may not always see it, or recognize it, but it is there. God is creating a masterpiece in your life. May you today see His grace, be filled with His spirit and may your eyes shine with His love and your words speak of His goodness.
  Let me suggest that you set a period of time aside, say a few weeks, and begin your day with the breastplate of St, Patrick. Not only is it a great way to start your day, but the more aware we are of the surrounding grace of God, the more God is able to do with your lives.
In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><