★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★

Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post. 

 

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? ★ , I shared about the resent Missions Trip to Zaragoza, Mexico I went on with my church to  partner with a local church called Ranchos Dos Countries.  Today I want to build upon that and tell you about an amazing God story that happened while I was there.  Before I do that, I want to give a little context about the trip because I was not even supposed to go.  Our church had a meeting several months earlier in which they talked about all the different opportunities available for the year.  My daughter heard about the student trip to Mexico and wanted to go with the other teenagers. But at the time of signups there was not a lot of information and I was uncomfortable to send her out of the country for the first time.  So we decided to go on the family Missions trip instead.  Though it was not my plan to go, it was without a doubt the plan of God that I’d be there as I would find out just two days after getting there.  But to get there I had to go through much spiritual warfare. I have been on a high pressure project and the timing of the trip could not have been worse in regards to executing the work but it was exactly what I needed!!

My part on the mission trip was to share my testimony of how God has changed my life with the men of Zaragoza.  If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know full well that I have made many mistakes and had a very dark life before accepting Jesus as my savior in 1998.  So when I was asked to share my testimony, I accepted the responsibility without hesitation because I love to share how God used my wife to lead me out the life I was enslaved in. But unbeknownst to me, this time God wanted me to share an unabridged testimony.  I have shared openly about the past problems with drugs, alcoholism, partying, depression, pornography and the night I almost committed suicide.  This time however, God placed on my heart to share about the abuse that happened in my teenage years , which up until this point I had only shared with a handful of people.  Though I believe I had been healed from the abuse, the stigma and shame kept me from being 100% open and transparent with others about this trauma.  Now people who know me personally would not agree with that assessment probably, but for me I want my life to serve as a warning to others, and that cannot be fully realized if I hold back any part of the story that God has carried me through.  And let me tell you, I am so thankful I did, because I believe that there was still some amount of healing that needed to be done which happened that week in Mexico!

So…back to the God story I want to share with you.  I was ready to air all the dirty laundry and leave the “baggage” back in Texas, those thoughts of condemnation and shame which have weighed me down, and go full throttle to minister to the men in Mexico.  I was warned that because Zaragoza is a small community where everyone knows everyone, it will be a challenge to get the men to share.  In addition to that, inside my head there was spiritual warfare right before I started to speak because of the age gap between most of the men and me, most being 20 years older than me, God showed up in a powerful way and cut right through all the blockades!  As I sat in a small one room schoolhouse

with (16) leather-faced men who had been hardened by the sun and by life, God worked through me to reach these men.  Strongholds were broken and breakthroughs were made that I have never seen before!!   The truth of James 5:16 (ESV) was realized in a mighty way…

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

As I shared my story and confessed my sins and opened up about the abuse, God softened the hearts of these men. They saw that regardless of what has happened in the past, He can heal and deliver anyone from any bondage of sin, shame or guilt.  Tears flowed in that small schoolhouse as man after man confessed sins and regrets of past mistakes.  The greatest moment for me though was when the last man to speak shared that he was sexually abused too!!  It was incredible to see the raw honesty and deliverance from the enemy that happened!!!  And all I had to do was be a conduit for God’s love,  grace and forgiveness to flow.  Charles Stanley has this great life lesson on the verse from James we just read, he said…

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.  We cannot obey God without being in regular, close fellowship with other believers.  He has designed us so that many of our needs can only be met through mutual interdependence.”

Jesus Himself needed fellowship with others.  Almost immediately He started His ministry, Jesus invited men to follow Him and become His disciples, see Luke Chapter 5.  So if Jesus saw the value in surrounding Himself with others shouldn’t we??  This is something that in the past two years I have been doing and I have seen such tremendous growth and strengthening in my faith walk.  And it is that sharpening that enabled me to finally break free to share what I did.  I just finished a Bible reading plan called “Play The Man” from Mark Batterson and he made this powerful point:

“A man of conscience is a change agent—a force to be reckoned with.  As Andrew Jackson observed, “One man with courage makes a majority.”  He’s not blown here and there by trending winds.  He’s anchored to the Word of God, and that anchor holds him through ups and downs, through thick and thin.”

When you’re a man (or woman) of conscience you can overcome sin and adversity in life but you must be dialed in to God!  To be a change agent, a force to be reckoned with, you must study God’s Word because that is where true freedom will come!  I will close with this truth from John 8:31-32 (NLT)…

“Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

The truth will set you free!!  What I experienced in Mexico with those men you can experience too IF you are willing to be a conduit for God to speak through.  You don’t need to a seminary degree or to know the Bible cover to cover, it’s just about being willing to be transparent with your struggles and available to share the truth of God’s Word that will encourage and transform people’s lives!!

 

If you would like to read more on this topic check out: 

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – Be the MAN to Carry the Light ★

★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Be the MAN to Carry the Light ★

Happy Father’s Day!  Today’s post is not just for men, but for everyone who has a man in their life, whether it be their father, husband, son, uncle, nephew or friend.  The third Sunday of June has a different impact on you depending on what your relationship is  with the man you call Father, Dad or Daddy.  I shared about my Father  in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★, about my parents divorcing when I was 5 years old and how my relationship with my father was nonexistent from the age 12 until we reconnected at the 36.  There was hole in my heart for many years that drove me to need approval from others.  The muse for this Thought came shortly after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro had finished and I saw this interview that Michael Phelps did for ESPN called “The Evolution of Michael Phelps” that blew me away!

Okay if you did not play the video, STOP READING AND WATCH THE INTERVIEW, it’s worth it and it is the backbone for this post.  I have always been a fan of Michael Phelps even after the infamous “bong photo” hit the front page of the newspaper six months after the Beijing Olympics in 2014.  Retirement it seems, gave the Olympian way too much time on his hands.  As I watched the video, I was reminded of what Proverbs 16:27a (TLB) warns:

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

Boredom opened the door for the enemy to attack and much like we have been talking about in our Temptation Series, Michael yielded to many self-destructive behaviors.  When the photo of Phelps using marijuana was released, it was incredible how the world turned on him.  Parodies and jokes were everywhere and of course shock that he blew it.  It’s interesting that the world we live in is always looking to find someone to idolize but it seems that they love it even better when someone crash and burns!  The media news outlets love the “fall from grace” stories – “If it bleeds, it leads” unfortunately.

In addition to addressing the photo, the interview gave insight into the swimmer’s life about his complicated relationship with his father, Fred, his second DUI arrest in 2014 and the time that he spent in a Behavioral Rehab Facility in which he contemplated suicide after the second DUI arrest in 10 years!  As I watched the brokenness of Michael Phelps over the void that his father’s absence created, I could not help but compare how not having my father in my life not only influenced, but shaped my life to continually strive for the approval of others.

Though to the rest of the world saw Michael Phelps as an unstoppable machine in the water and a picture of perfection and excellence, Michael was silently dying inside and had reached the point of no return in September of 2014.  It is hard to believe that the man who “is the greatest Olympian of all time,” winning (23) medals, (19) – being gold winning at the point in 2014 would make this statement:

“I was a train wreck; I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth.  There were times where I didn’t want to be here.  It was not good, I felt lost.” 

BUT that is how the enemy works!  You can have the adulation of the world, be on the top of your profession or head of the class and still end up feeling worthless and alone.  That was my story too, though I was far from an Olympian, I had success in my life and still felt empty inside as well.  If the most decorated Olympian in history could feel this way at the age of 31, how many other people are struggling with the same insecurities, the same father wounds and the same addictions that threaten to take them out?  My prayer is that God would use me to take back territory that the enemy has stolen and to be a friend like Ray Lewis was to Michael Phelps to help lead people out of the darkness.  The video revealed how Michael’s friend and former linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, came alongside of him.  Ray gave him the book called “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?” by Rick Warren which helped Phelps to come out of the darkness his was in.  I love what Rick Warren said in the book:

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

Boy if we could grasp this, how different would this world be?  Like me, Michael Phelps parents divorced when he was young (age 9) and he too had his own “father wound” that scarred and imprisoned the Olympian to also strive to be better than everyone else to achieve the acceptance from his father that alluded him.  BUT that does not have to be how the story ends!  You may be reading this today with a similar story of not having the greatest earthly father, but I want you to know there is a Heavenly Father who can be all that you never had and more.  God is in the business of changing lives and rewriting even the most tragic story.  We all love a comeback story and that is what can happen to you if you just trust that God is a good, good Father!  It doesn’t matter what you did, how badly you sinned, it only matters what you do next!  Will you continue in the downward spiral or will you turn things around and repent.  That is what God did for me and for Michael Phelps.  As a result of Michael embracing “a higher power” as he referred to God in the interview, and working through his broken relationship with his father, Phelps came back and won another (4) gold medals and (1) silver in Brazil just 2 years after his life hit rock bottom!

Shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympic, I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★ in which I shared about a wonderful moment that I had with my mom when went to Washington DC in 1996 and she to was able to touch the Olympic Torch as the relay went through the Nation’s Capitol on the way to the Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Historic Relay with the Torch has been a huge part of opening ceremonies and for the past 10 months I have been mulling over this Thought for the Day about what exactly does it mean to “Be the MAN to Carry the Light?” I saw this image

and the powerful symbolism that the Torch is for the Olympic games and realized that it also has a spiritual connection to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)…

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We are to Be The Light!  To let it shine as we carry it wherever we go, sharing it with everyone we come into contact with.  As a husband and father I realize the immense responsibility that I have as to constantly be checking where I am at in my personal walk with God in order to be an effective leader in my home.  As a man, this is a God-given role that we must take very serious.  I read this from Charles Stanley that I thought was really good…

“Sometimes we mistakenly think that Grace excuses us from the hard work of growing spiritually.  It doesn’t.  The Bible says that “because of practice” we have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (see Hebrews 5:14).  That means we grow by allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us, by obeying God, and by making godly decisions.”

Grace is at the heart of the Christian faith.  God is always one prayer away, ready to forgive and restore us just as He did for Michael Phelps, BUT we still have to put in Olympian-like effort to stay the course and live out our lives to make impact on the world.  We all what to make a difference in this life to be remembered by those in our life, I know I do.  My heart’s desire is to be a world changer, first to my wife and daughters and then to anyone God would send my way in order to break through the darkness and the hold that the enemy had on this world!  John 1:5 (ESV) says::

 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

My constant prayer is that God would help me to overcome the attacks of the enemy in both my life and in the lives of others!  That I would be of value for the building of His kingdom here on earth!  John 8:12 (NLT) says:

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’”

Jesus gave us the model to emulate.  I want to be more like Jesus in every way!  Something that I often pray is for Him to direct me, to mold me and use me for HIS glory!  To be the man to carry the light for the building of His kingdom!  I will close with this thought from John Eldredge that he wrote in the pocket booklet called “You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know”:

“You, Dad, are the most powerful man in the world…At least in their world…Never forget that no one is as powerful as you are in the lives of your sons and daughters.

Mother is love and tenderness and mercy.  She is a picture of the heart of God.

But identity – especially gender identity – is bestowed by the father.  A boy learns if he is a man, if he has what it takes, from his dad.  A girl learns if she is worth pursuing, if she is lovely, from her dad.  That’s just the way God set this whole thing up.  This power He has given to you.”

On this Father’s Day, I want to leave you with this challenge to impart to your son that he has what it takes, and/or if you have a daughter make sure she know that she is lovely and worthy to be pursued!  Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV) instructs:

 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

That is what a man who is worthy to carry the light does!

 

If you want to learn more about healing Father Wounds, check out John Eldredge book called “Wild At Heart – Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.”

Or you can watch the weekend retreat event call “Wild At Heart Boot Camp” on RightNow Media.

 

If you want to learn more about making a difference, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – What Does It Mean To Be A Man? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

★ Thought for the Day – What Difference Does a Daddy Make? ★

 

If you are interested here are posts focused on what I learned from James MacDonald’s book called “Act Like Men, 40 Days to Biblical Manhood.”

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Compromise (Part 5) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the Consequences of Compromise.  If you have missed the previous posts we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (click here).  We then studied about alcohol and drugs (click here), pornography and promiscuity (click here), adultery (click here), and most recently gluttony (click here).

Last Sunday the pastor at my church said that Satan wants us to bail out or compromise which got me thinking about this Thought for the Day because you can see this happening constantly in our cultureToday we will delve into the pitfall of compromise.  If you have been following our blog, you know that this is a topic that we have explored quite a bit in the past; and that is because if this area is out of line, then every other part of your life will be affected.  If we say we are a Christian then we must be very careful not to allow things “to slip” in this department.  Now I am not living in a fantasy-land, I would love to say that all temptations goes away once you accept Christ as your savior but that would be denying what 1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV) warns.

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Temptation is real and will never go away while we are on this side of heaven. And compromise is a slow fade…What we say, the jokes we laugh at, how act should align with the faith we profess.  I truly feel that how we handle ourselves should be the same regardless of who we are with.  What do you think about that?  Is that possible?  I can honestly say that I try to be the same person whether it is with my daughters, my wife, a co-worker, my pastor or a stranger.  Something that I have always tried to keep in mind is what I once heard motivational speaker, author and former pastor John Maxwell say:

“I am always one step away from stupid.”

What a humble statement and great wisdom too!  No matter how far along you are in your journey, you are always one bad decision away from blowing it!  In an instant we could ruin our legacy and reputation that we have built over a lifetime of good choices.  Peer pressure from friends, or demands from employers/clients, or one’s own ambition to climb the corporate ladder can exert a huge gravitational pull towards compromising our moral or ethical beliefs.  That is why we must heed the warning of 1 Corinthians and be mindful not to give into the enticements that satan dangles in front of us, whether it be cheating on an exam or our spouse, turning a blind eye to corruption or willingly partaking in it.  This may be cliché but you will never regret doing the right thing and not going along with what people are doing.  2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) instructs…

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.  How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness?  How can light live with darkness?  What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil?  How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?  And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.  Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.  And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.””

When we allow ourselves to be influenced by how we will be perceived or to make choices that we know are not God honoring, we open ourselves to some devastating consequences.

Today’s case study fell victim to the trap of yielding to the court of public opinion.  Saul was the first king of the Israelites and was anointed by the prophet Samuel to lead.  On the outside, he appeared to be quite “kingly,” but on the inside he desired only to garner the people’s approval and would do anything for that affirmation.  For those not familiar with King Saul here’s the cliff notes version about this man.

We are first introduced to the man in 1 Samuel 9:1-2:

“There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin.  He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin.  His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.”

So Saul came from a wealthy family and looked the part as well.  In verse 17, he received a great endorsement from the prophet Samuel…

“When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said, ‘That’s the man I told you about!  He will rule my people.’”

So he came from the right family, he looked the part and had the right supports.  Saul had everyone hoodwinked including the prophet of God.  It’s interesting though, when it came time to appoint Saul as King of Israel, he was nowhere to be found.  1 Samuel 10:21b-24 says:

“And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them.  But when they looked for him, he had disappeared!  So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”

And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”  So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.

Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

“Long live the king!?”  The people cheered to receive a king that was “hiding among the baggage” at the time of appointment!  From the onset, Saul proved he did not have what it takes; you can read all about his reign in 1 Samuel 11-13.  As war continued with the Philistines, and hopelessness was spreading amongst the ranks, Saul’s true colors came out as he waited for Samuel.  1 Samuel 13:8-14 (NLT) recalls:

“Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come.  Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away.  So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!”  And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.  Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle.  So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’  So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you.  Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart.  The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

As a result of not trusting in God and his desire to keep his men in line, Saul violated God’s command that only his prophet could present the offering so he lost the kingdom as a result of giving into compromise!  The same can happen to us in our jobs, our marriages or our friendships if we too follow in the way of Saul.  I got this fortune cookie once that I thought was priceless…

“Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.”

We need to practice discernment and realize that it is our choice as to what we give into.  Now I don’t subscribe to fortune cookie wisdom, so let’s see what the Bible says…

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13

Satan doesn’t make us do anything; we make the decision whether or not to compromise.  This is something that I am hoping has come through loud and clear that yielding to temptation is on us but if we trust God He will help us through it!  Living a life of truth is everything!  In the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we discussed all about the attacks of satan, spiritual warfare and the importance of putting on the Armor of God.  In Ephesians 6:14 (NLT) it says:

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”

The Belt of Truth is intended to hold everything together.  The Apostle Paul gave this advice because without living a life of integrity everything will fall apart.  Proverbs 21:21 (ESV) has this promise for everyone who will choose a different path:

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

But will we choose to pursue the tough road, the road to righteousness?  Or will go the much simpler, more traveled road of compromise?  I will close this with this thought from Jimmy Evans:

“There’s a difference between committing a sin and practicing a sin.”  

We all make mistakes; the key is what you do once you have made it.  Will you continue in that compromise or sin, or will you come clean with God and set things straight.  The starting point goes back to trusting God.  We need to daily renew our mind and our relationship with our heavenly Father in order to serve God in our school, friendships, vocations and our families!  That is why this site is called “Daily Dependence,” because we all need to keep Christ at the center of our lives!  What will you choose to do?

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Got Values? ★

★ Thought for the Day – How Important is Integrity? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★

★ Thought for the Day – Talent vs. Integrity ★  

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Gluttony (Part 4) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the trap of Gluttony.  If you have missed the previous posts, here’s a quick recap:

  • We first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (click here).
  • We then studied about alcohol and drugs by focusing on Noah (click here),
  • Next was about Lust and exploring the connection between Pornography and Promiscuity (click here).
  • Most recently was the pitfall of adultery through the life of King David (click here).

Today’s topic is not one that I see discussed too often but one that I felt led to share because of a brother in my Lifegroup who has shared about the temptation to medicate his problems through food.  I would like to start off with this question…When you hear the word “gluttony” or someone who is a “glutton,” what comes to mind?  Food, overeating for sure, but how about someone who is obese or grossly overweight?  Now I am not being rude or unkind, that is what I thought a glutton was but that is not the case.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as:

“One given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking.”  

And Dictionary.com defines it as:

“A person who eats and drinks excessively or voraciously.” 

Nothing in those definitions state that someone yielding to gluttony is overweight as I had initially thought.  For this Thought we will focus on the excessive indulgence of food.  I would dare say that most Americans could fit that description.  In our “SUPER-SIZED” Society we are prone to gorging ourselves way past what our bodies require for fuel.  In a Barna Research Group study, the #3 top self-reported temptations that Americas owned up to has to do with today’s pitfall!  According to survey:

“Fifty-five percent are often or sometimes overwhelmed by the temptation to eat too much.”  Source: New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation

55% of Americans are overwhelmed by the temptation to eat too much!!  I stumbled across this graphic and found it quite interesting as to one reason that I never considered being a factor.  It got my head scratching that I need to reevaluate which plate that I grab out of the cupboard because I know myself; I am not disciplined in portion control and will just fill up every inch with food.  Therein lies the problem, Gluttony is a serious failure in self-discipline.  Todd Hunter made this great point in his book “Our Favorite Sins”

“Most of the time temptation begins with something good: food, rest, God-approved sex, the need to be loved and accepted.”

The problem is when we allow Satan to take something good and twist it around and pervert it to something evil.  That is how I see gluttony now.  As I prepared for this post, I started to search the Bible.  Surprisingly there is not much on the subject but what I did find was quite severe.  The first reference I found was Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (ESV).

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’  Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.  So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” 

Harsh!  Stone the drunkard and glutton to death??  Boy I am glad this is not how they are treated today since I have fallen victim to both snares in my life!   Another reference is Proverbs 28:7 (ESV) which says:

“The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.” 

And Proverbs 23:20-21 (ESV) warns:

“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” 

When I read this passage I felt convicted big time because of a recent trip to Texas de Brazil.  My project manager took the Architectural Team out for lunch as a thank you for all our hard work.  This is a picture of my plate which I am embarrassed to confess was just the beginning of all the meat I devoured.

The more I pondered on this and looked at the definition of a glutton, I realized that I am ensnared by the temptation of consuming way too much, way too often.  Our case study today also succumbed to his voracious appetite with disastrous consequences.  The man I am referring to is Esau.  For those not familiar with this Old Testament character here’s the cliff notes breakdown of this man of great potential whose undoing was a bowl of stew!

Esau was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, (the patriarch of the Israelites).  He was the first-born son and had a twin brother named Jacob.  In Genesis 25:27-28 we are given some valuable insight to the man:

“When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.  Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

Just like in any family, siblings tend to be complete opposites.  I know that is the case for my daughters but one of the most disturbing differences between these twin brothers was the partiality from their parents.  If you were to contemporize the difference, Esau was a “man’s man,” who was a tough outdoors-man and Daddy’s favorite!  In that time period being the first-born son Esau was entitled for a double inheritance as well as the “blessing” from his father.  Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth had this description of Esau:

“As a young man he was not accustomed to holding anything back.  He may have lived on the edge of danger, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification.  Having his father’s favor did nothing to inhibit this behavior.  But Esau had a serious problem—his brother Jacob.”  Source: From Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture

Esau’s younger brother Jacob was indeed a problem but we have to keep in mind that he was without a doubt the underdog, the forgotten son by his father and worse yet, he did not live up to what Dad was looking for in a son.  Effectively Jacob was “a momma’s boy” who was excessively influenced by and attached to his mother Rebekah (see Genesis 27 which tells of how she helped Jacob steal the blessing from Esau.)  But before Jacob stole the blessing, he was able to steal something just as valuable from Esau as a result of his lack of will power and gluttonous ways!  Genesis 25:29-34 (ESV) says:

“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  

And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)

Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.”

Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”

Jacob said, “Swear to me now.”

So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  

Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way.  

Thus Esau despised his birthright.” 

A little dramatic no?  He gives up a double inheritance for some red stew!  On the surface you would think it was because of hunger, but I see it more about the failure to resist giving into instant gratification.  Charles Stanley had this great insight on Genesis 25:34…

“In ‘despising’ his birthright, Esau proved himself ‘godless’ (see Hebrews 12:16) because he considered filling his empty stomach more important than the spiritual promises of God to Abraham.  To avoid making Esau’s grave mistake, always remember the H. A. L. T. principle.  Whenever you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, be very careful because you are especially vulnerable to sin.  Before making a decision, stop and see God.  The more you give into your feelings of weakness and look for ways to fill your needs apart from God, the more you’ll reap the terrible consequences of it.”

Esau took his birthright for granted and threw it away just for a momentary fulfillment.  We need to be very careful when we are in these valley moments and remember the H. A. L. T. principle as it is applicable for all temptations we face.  Hebrews 12:16-17 (NLT) has this startling reference to Esau:

“Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”  

How sad that Esau lost everything to Jacob, in part because of gluttony.  That is why I love the Bible; God never hides the mistakes His people made in order that we could learn from it.

We talked in previous posts about the Fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23:

The last fruit being “self-control.”  That is exactly what Esau was lacking.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives within us, (see Romans 8:11.)  The closer we get to Jesus, the more we should embody the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.  The temptation of Gluttony is all about excess and when we give into it we are going down a road like Esau.  John Piper had this to say:

“Gluttony is having a craving for food that conquers you.  The text of Scripture that holds out the challenge to me on this issue is 1 Corinthians 6:12where Paul says — specifically in regard to food and drink — that he will not be enslaved by anything.  He is saying, ‘I have one master, Jesus Christ, and I don’t want any other master.’”

If that verse sounds familiar, it is because we have discussed this in several posts already but it warrants review one more time.  1 Corinthians 6:12-14, 19-20 (ESV) says:

“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.  ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’ — and God will destroy both one and the other.  The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” 

“The Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” is something I have heard pastors and others use in regards to weight control but in reality the context is about sexual immorality, (see the verses in between 6:15-18.)  But I do think it is applicable nonetheless as we should honor God with every aspect of our lives.  To that end, as I mentioned earlier, I asked the guys in my lifegroup for their perspective of what they had learned about temptation and addictions.  Here is what one had to say…

“Addiction is really a lot of the same chemical process.  The only real difference is the flavor of medication.

Temptation itself is not bad or sin.  Jesus was tempted in every way we are.  Sin happens when you give in to it.  Deep down turning from it involves seeking God…daily, and doing deep introspection to the root cause.  Why am I wanting to stuff my face what emotion is driving it?

Like sex addiction, food addiction is driven by emotion… specifically trying to medicate some deep wound.  A person needs to start asking themselves the question why!  Why do I want to eat?  What am I feeling?”

I love the honesty and truth in that statement!  It was only until recently that my friend shared about his struggles with overeating.  What a great warning to watch out if you are using food to medicate for deeper issues.  Be careful that you are not ignoring the red flags or trying to repress your emotions.  The key comes back to self-control!  Though this may seem like a lesser temptation, and not that big of a deal, Esau shows how when left unchecked, gluttony can result in some pretty significant consequences.  The other key is to realize that you did not get entangled in this particular sin overnight so it will take hard work and some time to break the sin habit.  I read this in ‘The Art Of Celebration’ Bible Reading Plan which I thought nailed it on the head:

“We may be frustrated with patterns of sin that repeat in our lives, our niggling character flaws and lack of discipline.  We may want “one-click” holiness.  But Jesus doesn’t wave a magic wand of saintly character over us. 

Don’t lose heart – He’s not finished with us yet.  He promises to finish what he started in us.  We can change.  He will change us.”

Don’t lose heart and trust God that He can and will help you in this area of temptation.  I will close with this final word from Psalm 34:8:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man [or woman] who takes refuge in Him.”

If we want to break the cycle of sin-repent, sin-repent, we must take refuge in God!

Check back soon for the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Compromise (Part 5) ★

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Fair-Weather Faith ★

I hope you have been enjoying our Temptation Series and though I had planned to be writing about “Avoiding the Consequences of Gluttony,” the Lord redirected me to write about today’s topic.  I have never heard of the expression of “Fair Weather Faith,” but the title came to me in perfect clarity.  I have heard of Fair-Weather Friends and Fair-Weather Fans.  Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “fair-weather” as being:

“loyal or helpful only during times of success and happiness.”

We all have had people in our lives that seemed like they would be there through thick and thin but only to disappear once you needed them the most.  Proverbs 17:17 (ESV) describes the type of friends we believed those people to have been:

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ we talked a lot about the importance of fostering Biblical Community through “Fight Clubs” and how true friends are developed as a result.  If you missed it, I highly recommended catching up.

As for the second “Fair-Weather” term’…In 2010 the Texas Rangers broke an 11 year playoff drought when they made it to the coveted series; it was amazing how all of a sudden there was a huge outpouring of fandom with the ‘claw’ and ‘antlers,’ along with Josh Hamilton jerseys that popped up everywhere you looked.  To me, it was the truest example of Fair-Weather Fans because before that season I lived in Texas for 3 years with virtually no mention of the Arlington based team.  Based on those two examples you could see where this post will be going.  When I googled “Fair-Weather Faith” I discovered that there is a song with the exact title from the rock band Extreme and then I also this comic that really makes the point perfectly!

“Fair-Weather Faith” exists only during times of success and happiness.  People with this milquetoast approach to faith will serve God when life is good, but once times get tough, it dissipates as quickly as the morning dew.  In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus warned about those who had faith like this (see Luke 8:4-15).

We also get some insight from the Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT) in which Jesus said this in The Message to the Church in Laodicea:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

That is some strong words from Jesus but remember that He is the savior of the world so we best heed His advice.

As I was talking about this Thought with my family, my 16-year-old daughter made this great statement which I will pose to you:

“Do you have fair-weather faith or faith that can weather, when life isn’t fair?”

This is a question we all must ask ourselves and come to terms with BEFORE the Storms of Life roll in…The muse for this Thought came last Saturday when I was texting a friend of mine to try to encourage him because he was over a 1,000 miles away from home at the Cancer Center of America.  And His response rocked me to the core!

“I’m just getting out of bed.  It’s 8:30 here.  I’m in either day 3 or 4 of my first cycle.  I think it’s the 3rd, but today’s nurses are saying 4th.  I mean what do I know – except the one who’s been getting to actually see the changeover from one bag to another  

But throughout the round of chemo, I’ve felt incredibly well.  God’s grace has been amazing.  He really is a good, good Father. 

Day by day, His grace sustains me and He continuously shows me that He is still God and that He still heals. 

I’ve committed to live out this journey in stewardship of whatever He desires.  There will be a story to tell that I believe will touch lives. 

I’ve been walking everyday around the hallways and just praying for everyone I see in a room.”  

WOW!  As I read these texts from my friend Avito I was absolutely blown away from his extreme faith.  He is battling a rare type of cancer: a primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma.  I am no doctor, but once you hear the word ‘cancer,’ fear and trepidation grips your heart and once you add “rare” on top of that, I would imagine that an emotional paralysis of sort would follow.  I am uncertain how I would react to such a diagnosis.  When you read those words above, it is clear that Avito has truly leaned on his faith in God almighty, the creator of Heaven and Earth.  He’s fought a brave fight against the cancer and recently decided to pursue an integrative cancer treatment that incorporates a naturopathic element with the conventional methods to treating the lymphoma.  If you were to ask him why he can stare at this challenge with such a sense of peace, Avito would calmly but with much faith tell you,

“How can you not when you get a diagnosis, and immediately then be assured with a Holy Spirit whisper that says more loudly, ‘This sickness is not onto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified in it.’” 

Absolutely incredible…talk about the fulfillment of Hebrews 10:23 (NLT):

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”

Will you trust God when a diagnosis of cancer is pronounced, or the loss of a child unexpectantly happens?  Or if you are laid off from your job or bankruptcy is filled.  Where will your faith be at those times?  When the rubber meets the road, you (and me too) need to:

“Let Your Faith Speak so loud your heart can’t hear what doubt is saying.” 

Doubt is a powerful force, one that Satan continually uses against us.  Since the beginning of time, he has been filling our minds with thoughts that God has failed or abandoned us, that the circumstance or diagnosis we are facing is impossible but that just is not so!

“Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.”

God is sovereign and in control and it is precisely at those moments of greatest trial that we need to hold fast to the Lord.  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – What Does God’s Love Mean? ★ I shared about my wife contracting Lyme’s Disease in the summer of 2013.  For those of you who don’t know about this often misdiagnosed illness, Lyme’s Disease is a debilitating disease that affects the neurological system when a bacterium enters the body from a deer tick bite.  As a result of this contagion, the body is devastated and if it is left untreated it can cause paralysis and in some cases even death.  As the darkness surrounded my wife and our family, we grabbed hold of God like never before and searched through the Bible for encouragement.  My old Pastor from NJ gave this advice long ago to pray the scriptures back to God.  So that is exactly what we did, we prayed and prayed for healing and deliverance.

One verse that brought us great comfort was James 5:13-16 (NLT) which describes the “The Power of Prayer”

 “Are any of you suffering hardships?  You should pray.  Are any of you happy?  You should sing praises.  Are any of you sick?  You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.  And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

My wife suffered many days as we prayed and waited for the medication to take effect.  For three days I prayed and fasted for her to come out of the fog and for the debilitating fatigue that was wreaking havoc on her body to pass.  On the darkest night, we called on our Pastor for prayer and I anointed my wife with oil as James instructed and through God’s mercy and the medication finally taking effect she took a turn for the better.  As I think back on that summer and how my wife’s sickness affected our family, if our faith was not rock solid before we went into that storm I don’t know what would have happened.  We grew closer to God in that season than in any other time of our life.  God was there with us, I know that with every fiber of my being!  Every step of the way, our Heavenly Father providing everything we needed but we would never have experienced it if our faith was Fair-weathered.  I was reading Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV) the other day and was reminded about His provision and the many, many benefits of serving Him…

“Bless the Lord, O My Soul Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Charles Stanley had this great life lesson…

“God wants every part of us – body, soul, and spirit – to grow closer to Him and to enter into a joyful relationship with Him.  He seeks worshipers who will gladly give everything they are to Him.” 

Like a good father, God wants to be a part of every moment of our lives if we will invite Him in.  The question is will you worship God even in the darkest hour?  In Christ we can find strength for the struggle and faith for the fight, we just need to make the decision to trust in Him.  What will you choose?

I am going to close this Thought a little different than I normally do.  Since the muse for this post was my friend’s unshakeable faith I wanted to tell you a little more about him and his lovely family.  Avito and his wife, Shelly, met in Bible college in 1997.  They married in 1999 and 10 years later decided that adoption would be the means through which they would build their family.  Avito and Shelly adopted (3) brothers in 2009 and then again in 2016 they felt the strong desire to yet again expand their family through adoption; a process that started in July of 2016 when (3) new siblings were placed in their home while waiting for the final adoption to come.

Joy did come that morning, but it was rather short-lived, or so it seemed.  Just weeks after having placement of these recent three new kids, Avito started experiencing things that just didn’t feel right in his body.  After weeks and many doctor visits and follow ups, he was finally admitted to Baylor Grapevine where he was subsequently diagnosed with a somewhat rare type of cancer: a primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma.  The tumor is near the thymus gland in his chest, close to his heart.  Avito is now having Chemotherapy done at the Cancer Center of America in Phoenix, Arizona.  Last Saturday was the first of a minimum of (6) rounds.  The rounds are 3 weeks apart so he will get one week of treatment, go home for two weeks, and then go back to Phoenix for the next 18 months.  Unbeknownst to me, when God placed Avito on my heart to reach out last Saturday, he was just beginning the arduous journey.  Here is a picture of this beautiful family

Why am I sharing all of this?  Well I am glad you asked…I wanted to invite you into my brother in Christ’s story so that you could prayer for God’s healing and provision for Avito, Shelly and their (6) adopted children.  Also I wanted to see if you would like to come alongside of this wonderful family who are going through a frightening and expensive storm of life.  If you would like to help them financially you can got to their “Let’s Beat Lymphoma Together | Medical Expenses – YouCaring” page here:

https://www.youcaring.com/avitozaldivar-807100

Thank you for your prayers and consideration of financial support!  God Bless!

If you’re interested in digging deeper on developing your faith, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – STRENGTH FOR THE STRUGGLE ★

★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★ 

Also if you are going through a storm right now, here are some Scripture Verses to Stand On.  (Just right click on the verses to download.)

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★

In yesterday’s post (Part 3a) we introduced the dangers of pornography and promiscuity and how important it was to avoid yielding to these Temptations because they can escalate into more devastating sins.  We also discussed that sexual integrity is possible IF we will follow what the Word of God has to say.  If you haven’t read Part 3a I highly recommend that you do, because it sets the foundation for today’s Thought for the Day which we will see what happens when we don’t shut down the carnal desires inside of us and ignore the warnings signs.  Our case study is someone who probably thought he was too powerful to ever fall, but fall did he ever.  I am speaking of King David, a man after God’s own heart, (see 1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).

David was a complex man.  For those not familiar with him, he was youngest of (8) children who tended his father’s sheep and played the harp.  But before you think that he was soft or weak, we find out in 1 Samuel 17:34-36 that David would chase after lions and bears with nothing but a club after a lamb was stolen from the flock and killed them.  David is also known for slaying Goliath the Giant, the Philistine’s prized warrior who had come to wage war on the nation of Israel.  Eventually David became king over Israel and was referred to by God as a “Man of War” in 1 Chronicles 28:2-3!  By all accounts David was a mighty strong man, but though the King was able to overcome every nation that came against him, his undoing was his flesh!  Lust was his Achilles’ heel, his kryptonite, the one vulnerable chink in his armor that brought David to his knees, literally!  But I am getting ahead of myself; let’s continue to understand the man a little more.  In 1 Samuel 18:17-30, 25:39-42 and, 2 Samuel 3:2–5, 11:26-27, 5:13 the names of David’s (8) wives are listed.  And the in 2 Samuel 5:13 (NLT) it says:

“After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters.”

David clearly had an overactive libido and his failure to master the temptation of lust caused him to go down a path I bet he never dreamed possible.  Whether you know the Bible well or not, you have probably heard something about David and Bathsheba, a story that reads much like a Shakespearean tragedy.  

You can read the whole story about David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25 but here’s the Cliff Notes version of the sordid affair.  The chronicle of David and Bathsheba is a cautionary tale about adultery and how we must watch out for guideposts along the path of life alerting us to danger.  There were many warning signs and opportunities for David to “course correct” but he ignored each and every one of them.  I pray that this powerful King’s “fall from grace” will resonate with us that we can avoid the pitfall of lust.  Now we will be primarily speaking of a man’s failure to overcome lust but this is something that women need to be wary of the Satan’s traps like connecting with an old boyfriend on Facebook, sharing intimate details with a male friend / co-worker, or losing oneself in romance novels that could be considered a form of pornography in itself.  In response to a question about whether it is okay to watch the new 50 Shades of Grey movie, Mark Driscoll made this point about how to make good decisions…

“Whether it’s what movies to watch, what songs to listen to, or any other number of choices, determining the godliness of a decision depends on one simple question…Does this glorify Christ, or does it gratify my sinful desires?  Source: “Is It Ok To Watch 50 Shades Darker?” video 

Does this ___________ (fill in the blank) glorify Christ, or does it gratify my sinful desires?  That is a decision even man and woman needs to make for themselves.

Okay tangent is over; now back to David and his poor decisions.  It all started quite innocently.  David took a day off, or rather a season off.  Let me explain…unlike today, it was customary at that time for the King to go to battle with his troops.  David however stayed behind and one day after waking up from a nap he saw a beautiful woman bathing from the roof of his palace.  Red flag #1No problem, he saw something he shouldn’t so all he needs to do is just look away right?  Unfortunately he didn’t.  Instead, David inquired about who she was and the flame of flirtation was fanned.  But there’s no problem with flirting right?  It’s okay if he looks as long as he doesn’t touch right?  Maybe you are thinking that right now but that’s not what the Word of God instructs.  In Job 31:1 (NLT) it says:

“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.”

This would be a passage of scripture David would have known about and yet he dismissed it clearly.  Jesus elevated the requirement when He said in Matthew 5:27-28 (NLT):

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I like how The Message translates verse 28

“But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed.  Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body.  Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.”

Looking is not any better than touching and we need to realize that it will corrupt our heart.  So back to the story…David is told that Bathsheba is married and one would think that being “a man after God’s own heart” he will let it go right?  Nope.  Warning sign #2 ignored.  David sent messengers to bring Bathsheba to the palace and in 1 Samuel 11:4 it records that he slept with her.  We are not given any details about if it was coerced or consensual, but the sin of adultery was committed nonetheless.  Remember the verse we read in the last post from James 1:15?  When sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death, and such is the case with David because Bathsheba conceived after their affair!  I am reminded of Proverbs 6:26b-29 (NLT) which warns that:

“…sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life.  Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?  Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?  So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife.  He who embraces her will not go unpunished.”

Here’s guidepost #3 that the King would have been wise enough that he could have changed the downward spiral but instead of coming clean about the affair, David sends for her husband Uriah the Hittite to return back from the battle lines in order to try to cover up the illegitimate pregnancy.  But it turns out that Uriah was far more honorable than the King he served.  David tried to get him to sleep with Bathsheba twice, but her husband would not.  2 Samuel 11:11 says:

“Uriah replied, ‘The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields.  How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife?  I swear that I would never do such a thing.’”

So here we land at the proverbial fork in the road with Signpost #4 in which David is out of options, it’s time to confess right?  Once again, the King ignores the peril and in 1 Samuel 11:14-15 we see how David arranged for Uriah’s Death:

“So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver.  The letter instructed Joab, ‘Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.’”

Wow!  This passage has always been hard for me to understand because not only did David arrange for Uriah’s death, but he sent him to deliver his own death sentence all because of David’s adulterous lust and inability to take responsibility for his actions.  What’s even more shocking to me was the fact that Joab actually participated in the murder!  You know that the Bible is true by the fact that the dirty laundry is aired out for all to see.  God does not allow skeletons to be kept locked away in the closet.  Jesus said in Luke 8:17 (NLT),

“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

Another warning from scripture is from Proverbs 6:32-34 (NLT) which says:

“But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself.  He will be wounded and disgraced.  His shame will never be erased.  For the woman’s jealous husband will be furious, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.”

Now in the case of Uriah, he never knew the betrayal of his King, but the truth remains, what is done in the dark will be exposed eventually and when it does, wrath will result from the spouse who was cheated on.  I have a friend who is walking through the healing process from committing adultery on his wife and I remember so clearly when he told me that the woman’s husband contacted him at work and the viciousness that was unleashed on him.

In the post called ★ Act Like Men – “Before the Fall” ★, I shared this powerful illustration that James MacDonald called the “5 Steps that get a man where he never planned to go” that explains the plunge that lust took David.

Each subsequent compromise led David one step further and further away from God.  James MacDonald made these two astute points:

“Feelings tend to become actions…What the mind desires, the will exercises and goes after.”  And… “When we dwell on desire, yielding is just a matter of time.”

Lust led him to progressively escalate his sin to cover the previous one.  Temptation works much like boiling a frog in water; the heat slowly builds until it is too late and then it is boiled alive.  The eventual consummation of sin is just the final nail in the coffin.  Conceding to temptation is a slow fade of the man or woman who fails to recognize the guideposts.  Here’s the sad fact about giving into temptation…

“You don’t realize all that you are giving up in the moment of temptation.”  Unknown

But Romans 13:14 (ESV) gives us the remedy!

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

There needs to be a zero tolerance approach to lust.  We read 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 in the last post that gives a very clear command!

“Flee from sexual immorality!”  And if we fail to, we need to repent and ask God to forgive us.  That is eventually what David did after God sent his prophet Nathan to confront him.  David confessed his guilt and had to face some pretty tough consequences.  2 Samuel 12:13-18a says:

“Then David confessed to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.  Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the word of the Lord by doing this, your child will die.’

After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife.  David begged God to spare the child.  He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground.  The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused.

Then on the seventh day the child died.”

Ouch!  David went from being referred to as a “Man after God’s own heart,” to becoming an adulterer, liar, conspirator and murderer.  And in the end he lost the child that was conceived as a consequence of his sin.

David cried out to God in Psalms 51:7-12 (NLT)

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me — now let me rejoice.  Don’t keep looking at my sins.  Remove the stain of my guilt.  Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”

Yes David was “a man after God’s own heart,” but a man still the same who was susceptible to the same temptations we all face. The trouble is he that he let his guard down and failed to overcome the lust within himself!  In our introductory post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★, we read the warning of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10  but today I want to look at the hope that the Apostle Paul gives in verses 11-13 (ESV)

“And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.  ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’ — and God will destroy both one and the other.  The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

Verse 12 is so powerful…“I will not be dominated by anything.”  When we give into temptation we are no longer in control of our lives, making us vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and a slave!

I will close with this council from my friend had when I asked him what he would share with someone who is trying to heal from the affair.  This is based on a male perspective but it certainly applies for a woman who may have committed adultery as well:

  • Boundaries, accountability, transparency, and honesty with God, your wife, and another man of God are fundamental to overcoming temptations regarding infidelity.
  • Healthy boundaries with the opposite sex are your first line of defense against this type of temptation, e.g. no personal friendships, no personal conversations, no private interactions.
  • Accountability partners that are not afraid to search your heart and ask the hard questions helps cover the areas that go beyond boundaries, e.g. thoughts and feelings.
  • Full transparency into every aspect of your life with God, your wife, and another man of God provides the best line of defense by shedding light on everything you do and removes the ability to hide anything.
  • Complete honesty, good, bad, or ugly, is necessary for any of this to work, whether trying to prevent infidelity from happening or healing afterwards.

Romans 12:1 (NLT) which says:

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.”

Don’t allow lust to enslave you, instead let your life and body be holy and pleasing to God!

Here is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Gluttony (Part 4) ★

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course ★

★ Act Like Men – “Before the Fall” ★

Resources for those struggling with Sexual Integrity

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3a) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the Consequences of Lust.  If you have missed the previous posts, we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (you can click here to catch up).  We then studied Noah and the trap of alcohol and drugs (click here.)  This Thought will delve into an equally harmful pitfall which you may initially think is harmless but can easily go terribly wrong.  Initially I thought we would be able to cover the temptation of Lust in this post but since it is such a broad topic, we will split this one in to a Part A and B.  We will touch upon (3) areas which are interconnected as each enticement results in a subsequent escalating behavior that can destroy lives whether it is one’s reputation, relationships, and even employment.  Three outlets of Lust that can result are…Pornography, Promiscuity and Adultery.  There definitely are many other deviant behaviors that can be unleashed if Lust is unfettered but we will not venture into that darkness.

The Barna Research Group published an article called “New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation” on January 25, 2013 and here is some of their findings from a study they conducted:

“Though sexual sins are nothing new, viewing pornography online continues to escalate and take on new forms as the Internet and social media evolve.  Nearly one in five Americans (18%) say they are tempted to view pornography or sexually inappropriate content online.”

Now before we get started, I just want to make sure we are all on the same page…Pornography can be movies, pictures, magazines, books, etc. that show or describe naked people or sex for arousal.  It used to be that you had to go to newsstand to buy a pornographic magazine or go into a seedy X-rated store to purchase videos but the dawn of the internet changed everything.  Now pornographic content is available to anyone who has access to a computer, tablet or cell phone.  My prayer for today is that if the area of Sexual Integrity has been compromised in your life, that God would open your eyes to the dangers of giving into lustful or fleshly desires.  I pray that because you may be reading this post and not even think that Lust or viewing pornography as something to be avoided.  Here are two shocking statistics from another article published from the Barna Research study called the “The Porn Phenomenon”:

Source: “Teens & Young Adults Use Porn More Than Anyone Else,” January 28, 2016

Not recycling is more immoral than viewing porn!!!!  How far down has our world degraded too??!!  But even though the culture may view it as not a big deal, the Word of God has a much different viewpoint… 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV) commands:

In our last post ★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★, we discussed that in the End Times there will be Godlessness and rampant immorality, but that God sent Jesus to rescue us from Satan’s stranglehold in every area of life including Lust.  We are to glorify God with our body and when we go down the dark road of pornography, promiscuity is a natural result.  A simple way of defining promiscuity is having sex before marriage and potentially with multiple partners.  Maybe you’re reading this and thinking: “What’s wrong with that?  Shouldn’t we experiment before marriage to know what we like?”  I know that is how I felt and that is exactly the trap that Satan sets through pornography and he will use any medium available.  I read this quote from Jimmy Evans who nailed it when he said:

“Movies, television, magazines, and the Internet all display glamorized views of sexual immorality.  They don’t show the disease.  They don’t show the heartache that always results.  They just show the fun—and it makes us feel like we’re missing out.”  Source: “The Secrets of Lifelong Passion and Intimacy”

Everywhere we look sexual immorality is celebrated with no consequences or repercussions.  “If it makes you feel good, go ahead and try it,” or “click here to see what everyone’s talking about…”  FOMO reigns supreme!  “Fear Of Missing Out” is not a new idea, it started back in Garden of Eden when Satan first planted the seed of doubt (see Genesis 3:1,) and it is alive and well today!  The antidote to Satan’s venom is the truth that is found in the Word of God.  Romans 13:13-14 (NLT) offers this for those who believe in Jesus:

“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.  Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

It always comes back to a choice.  We have to choose not to place ourselves in a vulnerable position by engaging in wild parties with alcohol and drugs because our inhibitions are greatly diminished.  Many use Satan as a scapegoat, saying “The Devil made me do it.”  And while it is true that he uses pornography to entrap people, James 1:14-15 (NLT) clearly shows that:

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

James was Jesus’ little brother so who better to instruct us right?  It is our decision to whether we yield to what the Devil puts in front of us and when we do the consequences can be life changing.  That is why understanding the destructive nature of pornography is key to have victory in the area of sexual integrity.  But that will never happen if we don’t at first understand that pornography is just a worthless counterfeit of what God’s plan for Marriage which inevitably will lead to promiscuity.  Sex is intended to be the glue to unite a man and woman in a covenantal relationship.  Unfortunately long before they say “I do,” pornography distorts and pollutes the intimacy that was to be enjoyed between a husband and wife.  When we give into the temptation of lust, we are trading beauty for filth which I know all too well.  Like that statistic above, I was exposed to pornography around 12 years old and I was hooked.  Long before I accepted Jesus and way too young to really process just what I was seeing, Satan was like a boa constrictor that just squeezing and squeezing the life from me.  It repulses me to think of all garbage I allowed before my eyes and I wish I had never seen it.  But there is hope!  Regardless of what culture may say, people can and do change if they are willing to put the work.

Psalms 119:9-11 (NLT) says:

“How can a young person stay pure?  By obeying your word.  I have tried hard to find you — don’t let me wander from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Too easy?  Perhaps but I truly believe that reading God’s Word, the Bible is the way to overcome Satan’s plans of corruption. You cannot just right over and over “I will not sin” on a chalkboard like in school or “will yourself” not to give into temptation thinking that your strong enough to resist.  I cannot tell you how many times I thought that but ended up failing.  1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) warns…

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

And Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) says:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The first step is recognizing that there is a problem and then establishing the proper boundaries.  Tomorrow we will look into the “man after God’s own heart” who allowed the lust in his heart to go unabated.  I will close with this advice from Woodrow Kroll of how to gain victory in life…

“Like our cell phone, Satan has an app for everything. He specializes in getting us off focus.  Now the way to refocus is to set everything else aside, shut everything else out of our life.  Sit done, sit still, open our Bible, and begin to absorb what God has for us.  This doesn’t have to take hours but the more we focus on God and His Word the more we lose focus on the things that Satan tempts us with.”  

Here is part B of this post which is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course ★

★ Act Like Men – “Before the Fall” ★

Resources for those struggling with Sexual Integrity

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★

Today we are going to off ramp from our Temptation Series and take a look at what the Bible has to say about “The End Times.”  For those who may not know what I am referring when I say “The End Times,” let me give you the Cliff Notes overview from a Christian perspective or worldview.  You may have also heard of it referred to as the end of time, end of days, last days, final days, or Armageddon.  It is a future time-period described in the last book of the Bible called Revelation.  John, the last surviving disciple of Jesus Christ was visited on the Island of Patmos by Jesus Himself.  He was given a unique glimpse of what future events will come to pass.  Within the 22 chapters of this book of prophecy, John is shown some terrifying judgments for the people left behind after the Jesus “raptures” or takes up His Church.  People who do not believe in Jesus at the time He returns will go through what is called the Tribulation, a 7 year period of judgement and great suffering.  This will precede the second coming of Christ which is spoken about in Chapter 19 of Revelation.  In the final battle between good and evil, Jesus will throw down the Antichrist along with his power structure and usher in the Kingdom of God with His Millennial reign (a thousand years of peace.)  This doctrine is called “Premillennialism.”  Here is a chart I found that is a great visual to help understand the timeline.

Even though we are pausing from the Pitfalls of Temptation, one could say that many of the signs that we are living in the End Times is indicative of the rampant immorality and yielding to carnal desires.  So do you think we are living in the End Times?  I saw this comic which made me chuckle…

In my teenage years and early 20’s, I was in NYC often whether for recreation or attending college.  I have seen people on the street corner and subway station with a sandwich board or sign proclaiming loudly this message that “The end is near!”  Many passerby’s, inducing myself avoided eye contact but you have to admit when you turn on the nightly news or check your twitter feed, the similarities are undeniable.  Jesus said in Luke 21:8-11  (NLT) in response to His disciples of what will be the signs that the “End Times” are near:

“He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and saying, ‘The time has come!’  But don’t believe them.  And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic.  Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.”  

Then He added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.”

Sound familiar?  Sounds a lot like that “crazy guy with the sandwich board,” but more importantly it is what CNN is reporting daily.  Before you start to think that I have gone off the deep end, I want to assure you that if you call yourself a Christian or Christ follower there is nothing to fear because Jesus will come back and Rapture [or take up] His Church to Heaven before all the terrifying events occur that the Book of Revelation tells of, (see Luke 17:26-35.)

Typically there are two positions that people take towards “End Times” prophecy and reading the Book of Revelation…either they will avoid it at all costs because of fear or because of the complexity.  Or they will embrace it and try to learn and understand this elusive book.  I fall in the discovery category myself and recently I have been spending a lot of time studying the subject.  In full disclosure, I am far from an expert on the subject matter but I have in the course of my walk with God I have listened to great teachings from:

  • Kevin Brennan, (my Pastor from our old church in NJ who led me to Christ in 1998.)
  • Woodrow Kroll, (the former radio host of “Back to the Bible” and a spiritual giant in my development as a Christian after I was saved.)
  • And most recently Jimmy Evans (who you may know from Marriage Today.)

My resurgence in to studying the Book of Revelation was actually fueled by my 13-year-old daughter who asked to read it with her.  When I asked her out all the books to read, why Revelation?  She responded:

“Because it is a complicated book and I want to understand it!”       

At first I was hesitant because I felt unqualified to lead her in the readings but in the end we read it together along with the Charles Stanley Life Principles Study Bible and it was incredible!  I am also a firm believer of what Revelation 1:3 (ESV) says:

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

So if you are fearful or reluctant to read this mysterious book of prophecy, I want to encourage you to start reading it for yourself along with a good study Bible from with a respected teacher.  As I have been taking in as much End Times teaching as I can to share with my daughter, I listened to an incredible series from Jimmy Evans who preached from 5 different vantage points that demonstrate how we could very well be living in the End Times.  (I have copied the links below if you want to check out for yourself.)  As I was listening to one of the messages, Jimmy Evans shared 2 Timothy 3:1-8 (ESV) which talks about the “Godlessness in the Last Days”…

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be

1.    lovers of self,
2.    
lovers of money,
3.    proud,
4.    arrogant,
5.    
abusive,
6.    
disobedient to their parents,
7.    
ungrateful,
8.    
unholy,
9.    
heartless,
10.  
unappeasable,
11.  slanderous,
12.  
without self-control,
13.  
brutal,
14.  
not loving good,
15.  
treacherous,
16.  
reckless,
17.  
swollen with conceit,
18.  
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
19.  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. 

Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.”

I “bulletized” or restructured this passage to go along with the observation Jimmy Evans made about how the Apostle Paul uses (19) different measures of the immorality in the End Times.  Jimmy Evans said:

“Why does he use 19?  It explains the full spectrum of immorality.  Immorality isn’t just about sexuality.  Immorality is about our character.  And when a person becomes immoral, it affects every fiber of their character.  It’s like cancer.  Once you become immoral it just goes into every area of your being…Immorality destroys people’s lives.”

2 Timothy was written circa A.D. 66-67, so when you read this list it is quite interesting to see how much our culture, almost 2,000 years after these words were penned, perfectly reflects this passage!  Immorality is all about our character and we must be very careful about the compromise we allow into our lives.  I wholeheartedly agree that immortality is like a cancer that will eat us away if we do not keep up our defenses.  Jimmy Evans broke down these (19) measures into (4) categories:

1.  Exultation of Self and Narcissism
2.  Rejection of Authority
3.  Rejection of Moral Standards
4.  Disloyal, Unloving and Verbally Viscous  

Before Jesus Christ intersected my life in August 1998, I must confess that many of these categories were true in my life.  As I shared with you in the last post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★, my life was full of unrighteous behaviors and as we unpack all the pitfalls or traps we can find ourselves from the various temptations that Satan lays out in front of us, every one of them can fall into one of these (4) categories.  Psalm 14:1 (ESV) says:

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”

BUT for those who know they are a sinner and believe in God’s plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you will see that there is hope though the restorative work of Jesus in us!  This week on the Church calendar is called “Holy Week,” which is the remembrance of all the events that led up to Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, death, burial and resurrection.

It started on:

For the believer this is a special week as we remember the brutal sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross as part of God’s rescue plan for humanity.  John 3:16 says:

Praise God that He made a way for us to have eternal life!  I love this graphic that illustrates our need perfectly…

The matter is black and white.  SIN is the PROBLEM and JESUS is the ANSWER!  Our choices, the temptations we decide to indulge in will lead to sin, which then in turn separates us from God.  We can try all kinds of things to bridge the gap from doing “good deeds” or trying to be “religious” or deceiving ourselves that we are moral because we haven’t done ______ (fill in the blank) like he/she has.  BUT hear me in this; NOTHING can help us cross the divide except faith in Jesus!  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says:

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 

All past, present, and future sins that anyone will ever make was paid once one and for all on the cross when Jesus took our place.  Every person that will ever call on Jesus is covered by His redemptive blood and is available to anyone who asks (see Ephesians 2:8-9.)

If you are reading this and have never made the choice to follow Jesus, I want to encourage you accept God’s salvation plan through the death and resurrection of His Son.  All you need to do is pray to God to receive eternal life.  Below is a simple prayer you can pray to start your relationship, the words you say really don’t matter, there is nothing special about them, but the emotion and belief in your heart does.

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation (see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17!)  You can contact me at DailyDependence@gmail.com if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ; I would love to discuss your decision more.

Now for those who are believers in Christ and you have the truth in you so the second coming of Jesus should not be something to worry about, nor should reading the book of Revelation be something to fear or dread.  As believers in Christ, (including those of you who may have just prayed that prayer to receive Christ…) we will not experience any of the frightening imaginary that John speaks of.  I believe it is important to study Bible prophecy because though the cross and resurrection is critical to remember and be thankful for, even more importantly is the fact that Jesus is now on His throne in Heaven making intersection between us and God the Father (see Romans 8:32-34.)

The cross is the emblem for the Christian faith but He’s not on it anymore and ultimately unless we study prophecy we will not know the signs and the times of His Second coming.  We must not be ignorant of the future.  Revelation 16:15 (NLT) says:

“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief!  Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.”

Jesus used similar language in Luke 12:37-40 when He warned everyone to be ready for His Second Coming.  The Apostle Paul also described the second coming of Christ as “a thief in night” 1 Thessalonians 5:2.  And in 2 Peter 3:10, the Apostle Peter also said the same thing “the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.”  The enemy wants you scared but the only people who need to be afraid are those who are not following Jesus.  Read the verse again “Blessed are all who are watching for me.”  We should all be eager for His return. 

Many people question “why do bad things happen to good people” and “why do good things happen to bad people.”  The answer…Sin.  We live in a broken and fallen world and just like those (19) measures of Godlessness that we read earlier in 2 Timothy, there is without a doubt evil in this world but take heart, judgement is coming for all those who commit unspeakable acts and refusing to repent and turn to God.  Revelation 19:11-16 (NKJV) gives a vivid picture of Christ’s return on a White Horse:

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

This imaginary could be disturbing but if you are a believer in Jesus, there is nothing to worry about.  I love what Woodrow Kroll said:

“The book of Revelation is a great book of encouragement if you are on the right side.  You have to be on the victory side.”

And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the victory side is with Jesus!  Revelation 11:15 (ESV) says:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Jesus is coming back for all His followers and then will judge the world after the 7 year tribulation has ended.  I want to ask one more question for those who still are undecided on whether to accept Jesus as your savior or not…

If you were to die today, would you be ready to meet Jesus?  Are you right now ready to stand before Jesus? 

I urge you not to wait until it is too late.  Like Jimmy Evans, I too believe we are living in the End Times and the last thing you want to do is to delay the decision to follow Christ and be left behind when Jesus returns for His Church! 

The Choice is yours, what will you do with this truth you received today?

 

Today’s post covered a lot of ground so to help you in your development; here are several different resources…

If you would like to read more about God’s restorative power check out:

★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Though we are halfway through I made a Holy Week Reading Plan to read in my own devotion time if you would like to follow along with the last week of Jesus’ last week on Earth.

If you want to catch up on our Temptation Series you can check out these

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★

If you would like to study more on the End Times here are the resources that I mentioned earlier:

  • Back to the Bible broadcasts from Woodrow Kroll called:

Journey through Revelation

  • Sermon series from Jimmy Evans on the End Times called:

 Israel at a Tipping Point

 Truth at a Tipping Point

Technology at a Tipping Point

Time at a Tipping Point

Morality at a Tipping Point

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★

Today is Part 2 in Our Temptation Series.  If you have missed the previous post, we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study called ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★.  As we develop each temptation trap or “pitfall,” we will use a biblical case study as well as someone who I know or myself to make it current.  I have combined these two “pitfalls” that we can fall victim to into one post since they typically go hand in hand.  At least they did for me.  I learned this lesson the hard way as I failed in both areas and was trapped in a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior involving alcohol and drugs.

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★, I shared about how my family of origin was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, verbal attacks, physical abuse, and adultery all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Not surprisingly, that was the year that my parents divorced.  My teenage years and early twenties were characterized with drugs and alcohol, living life far from God and doing whatever felt good and benefited me.  I used the excuse that I came from a broken home to self-medicate my problems away instead of facing them head long.  I hated the face I saw in the mirror and so I surrounded myself with people who would no challenge me to change but instead accepted me because they were involved in the same self-destructive behaviors.  The people I associated with liked to party and drink excessively and I had no problem joining in and that has not changed 27 years later.

“According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” 

“According to the 2015 NSDUH, an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had AUD.” Source: NSDUH Alcohol Facts and Statistics

What these statistics don’t comment on is the problem that abusing alcohol can escalate to more serious narcotics.  I remember my first time that I experimented with marijuana (or pot) like it was yesterday.  I was 15 years old at a party and had consumed so much alcohol that when the joint went around the circle I was too intoxicated to say no.  It is hard enough to resist temptation but when you surround yourself with the wrong people, compromise will always follow.  My drinking problem placed me in no position to make the right choice, and was the gateway to a life of illegal drugs that lasted almost 10 years before God used my girlfriend (now wife,) to lead me out of that dark life.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that I don’t remember reading anything in the Bible that directly says do not do drugs, but I think we can all agree that the effects of prolonged drug use can have devastating effects.  In a great article call “Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot” John Piper made this great parallel:

“In regard to drunkenness — and a marijuana high is a kind of drunkenness — the Bible says,

‘In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder [or viper].  Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.’  (Proverbs 23:32-33). 

In other words, it leads away from the kind of sober-mindedness and self-control that is essential in using the mind for the glory of God.”

Amen!!  John Piper also said:

“In everything you do, ask yourself: Is this making Jesus look like the treasure He is?”  

So if you are rationalizing that marijuana or other drugs are not mentioned in the Bible, ask yourself, is hitting the bong or snorting that line of cocaine making Jesus look like the treasure He is supposed to be in your life?  Whether it be the temptation of drugs or alcohol, yielding to either only feeds your sinful nature and the Bible has much to say about that!  Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT) says:

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. 

Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

What a list!  We will unpack much of these pitfalls in the next 5 posts.  Verse 21 is also quite sobering (no pun intended)…“anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God!” 

Our case study today from the Old Testament that best exemplifies yielding to the temptation and its disastrous consequences is the man Noah.  You may be thinking to yourself, wait a second, “wasn’t he the man God used to build an ark to save two of every kind of animal from the flood that God was sending to punish the world because of the increasing immorality?”  The answer is yes!  Genesis 6:9-19 says:

“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

As a result of his righteousness, God saved Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives from destruction.  The whole epic story can be found in Genesis Chapters 6-9 but what is not really ever discussed is what happens after the flood recedes and God makes His covenant with Noah and all his descendents to never flood the Earth again.  We remember the rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant but what happens after that?

Genesis 9:18-28 recalls how after the flood had receded Noah planted a vineyard and one night he got drunk and was found inside his tent naked by his youngest son Ham who shamed his father by telling his two brothers about being passed out drunk.  But instead of joining in their brother’s disrespect, Shem and Japheth covered their father’s nakedness.  Verses 24-27 recounts:

“When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done.  Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham:

‘May Canaan be cursed!
May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.’

Then Noah said,

‘May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant!
May God expand the territory of Japheth!
May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.’”

Wow that seems extreme doesn’t it?  But that is exactly what happens when we allow alcohol (and drugs) to have priority in our lives.  It will result in us doing and saying things that we would not normally do, and ultimately will wreak havoc in our lives and the one’s we love.  Noah was 601 years old when he left the ark (Genesis 8:13) and lived until he was 950 (Genesis 9:29).  It’s sad to me that after that night of drunkenness there is nothing more to report about this righteous man who was the only person in God’s eyes worthy to be saved in all the earth.  There is nothing to support this, but could it be that his vineyard became an idol and his yielding to the temptation of alcohol rendered Noah ineffectual or useless to expand the Kingdom of God?   

I have been doing a bible study with my neighbor on the Book of Genesis and God showed me something that I never saw before.  When you look at the dependents of Noah’s three sons:

You can see that the blessing on Shem’s descendants and the Curse on Canaan and his descendants came to pass.  We discussed Abram (also known as Abraham) and Lot in the previous post about how God blessed them both who were in the lineage of Shem.  Abraham was the patriarch of the Israelite’s who were constantly plagued by the highlighted names above who were not only the descendants of Canaan but also from Ham’s other sons as well.  When you think of it, centuries of wars and death can be traced back to one night of drunkenness!

Proverbs 20:1 (NLT) says:

“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
     Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.”

And that is certainly the case for Noah.  Perhaps the reason why we read nothing more about Noah’s subsequent 349 years after the miraculous survival from the flood is because he was led astray and spent those years in conflict with his son and grandchildren as a result of Noah’s pride being hurt.  I read a great article called “Wise Up About Alcohol” by James MacDonald in which he advocated complete abstinence from alcohol which was quite compelling.  In his conclusion, he said:

“The Bible does not require abstinence, but I believe it recommends it as the wiser choice.

‘Abstain from all appearance of evil.’  1 Thessalonians 5:22
‘I will not be brought under the power of anything.’  1 Corinthians 6:12
‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ John 8:32

You say, ‘Free from what?’ — free from addictive patterns of sinfulness that don’t lead to the righteousness which can be found in Christ alone.”

Now whether you agree with complete abstinence from alcohol or not, don’t miss the point that we need to be to be aware of the hold that it has on us.  In 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT), the Apostle Paul says:

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ — but not everything is good for you.  And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.”

Now 1 Corinthians 6:12 is a warning about “Avoiding Sexual Sin” which will unpack in the next post but I wanted to highlight the last part of the verse which says:

“I must not become a slave to anything.”

The ESV translation says “I will not be dominated by anything.”  When we cannot say no to another drink or another hit, snort or pill of __________ (fill in the blank) then that is exactly what is happening!  We are a slave to alcohol and drugs and have allowed our lives to be dominated!  I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the most quoted verses on temptation from 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)…

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Charles Stanley has this life lesson:

“We will face temptation just as the Old Testament saints did, but we do not have to choose disobedience to God.  Why?  Because the power of sin over us was defeated at the Cross.  If we’ve trusted Christ as our savior, His Spirit lives in us – giving us the power and wisdom to overcome our sinful impulses so we can obey Him.  So whenever you are tempted, ask God to remind you of the terrible consequences that would follow the transgression and to fill your heart with love and obedience for Him – because that is a sure way of escape.”

I love, love, love that advice to that “whenever you are tempted, ask God to remind you of the terrible consequences that would follow the transgression.”  How much different would our lives be if we were to pray this?  And if we would, I believe that we would see the fruition of Galatians 5:22-25 (NLT) manifested!

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!  Those who belong to Christ 

 Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

You know the expression, ‘save the best for last?’  When you look at the ninth “Fruit of the Spirit,” it is self-control.  I think mastery of this area can unlock the key to overcoming temptation and avoiding the consequences that will result if we fail to.  I will close with this from John MacArthur about what it means to live in the Spirit:

“The Spirit-filled life is overflowing with gratitude, joy, right relationships, and good behavior — quite a contrast to those enslaved by alcohol.  You may not be seeking your joy in drugs or alcohol, but are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit?”  From Living Under The Influence

Are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit?  The answer to that question will speak volumes to whether you will continue to yield to alcohol and drugs and whether the truth of God is in us!

“Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.”  1 John 3:19 (NLT)

Here is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3a) ★

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★

Here are some great articles called:

“Wise Up About Alcohol” by James MacDonald

“Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot by John Piper

Living “Under the Influence” by John MacArthur 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★

Weird title for a Thought for the Day huh?  Well I hope it was interesting enough to get you to click on the link.  Today I want to unpack the idea of being a “Chain Reaction Catalyst!”  Now the term chain reaction may not be foreign but just so we are all on the same page, I will share the definition in the context of this post from what Dictionary.com defines a Chain Reaction as.  It is:

“a series of events in which each event is the result of the one preceding and the cause of the one following.”

Some examples of chain reactions, is what happens after the first stick is set ablaze in a book of matches or after the initial domino is pushed.

Now you probably have heard of a catalyst in relation to a chemical reaction.  In preparation for this Thought, I googled “what are examples of a catalyst,” and this is one result I found:

“The catalytic converter in a car contains platinum, which serves as a catalyst to change carbon monoxide, which is toxic, into carbon dioxide.”

Why am I sharing this?  Well it is because the dreaded “check engine light” is currently on in my car.  The error code that I was told suggests I have a problem with my catalytic converter.  And in the movie, Rachel’s step father also had an issue with his catalytic converter also.  I found the coincidence too funny not to share.  Okay “squirrel moment” is over…

Dictionary.com defines a Catalyst as:

a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.

So a Chain Reaction Catalyst is someone who causes a series of positive events to happen as a result of their influence.  I believe that God desires every person who calls themselves a believer in Jesus to be bold in sharing their faith and being a world changer!

Last night I was watching the movie “I’m Not Ashamed” with my family about a girl who embodied what it means to be a Chain Reaction Catalyst. The movie came out last Fall (10/21/16) but unfortunately we missed seeing it in the Theaters.

For those who are not familiar, it is based on the inspiring and powerful true story of Rachel Joy Scott who was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999.  It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the 18 year anniversary of that horrific day when 2 students went on a shooting spree.  At the time, it was one of the nation’s most deadly mass shootings.  This movie was incredible, not because of the acting, though it was good, or because of the screenplay, in which the way the story unfolded was exceptional.  No, what made the film extraordinary for me was the fact that it was drawn from the actual journal writings of Rachel Joy Scott.  A lot of the dialogue and scenes came straight from Rachel’s own words and were also influenced by her mother Beth.  In the movie we catch a glimpse of her mother’s faith in action.  Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) instructs us that we should:

“Train up a child in the way he [she] should go; even when he [she] is old he [she] will not depart from it.”

There is no doubt that Rachael’s mom had a significant influence on the fine young woman she became and clearly trained her up in the way she should go.  Rachel was just 17 years old when one of the shooters asked her “Do you believe in God?”  She answered yes to the question even though she knew it would end her life.  I was thankful that the movie handled this in a very sensitive way.  I can remember that heart wrenching day like it was yesterday, and to this day I cannot hear the name “Columbine” without horror and sorrow welling up inside.  As a new Christian, having only just given my heart to Jesus in August of 1998, Rachel being a devout believer, or “Christ Follower” resonated with me.  What would I do if I was confronted with that question?  The movie title was based on Romans 1:16  (ESV):

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

It is undeniable that Rachel was not ashamed to the point of giving her life up for her faith.

As I sat on the couch with my 16 year old daughter watching the movie, there was a beautiful moment as a young Rachel traced her hands and wrote these prophetic worlds:

“These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.”

I found this on the memorial website for the Columbine High School shootings.   What is unbelievably miraculous is that through her witness and death, Rachel’s story of compassion and love for her fellow students and desire to be a world changer has done just that.  She reminded me a lot of my daughter who is just one year younger, who also was part of the school outreach program called “Rachel’s Challenge” which is an anti-bullying program that promotes Rachel’s belief that she wrote in an essay just a month before her murder:

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.  People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

That is so powerful!!  We will never know how far a little kindness can go!  It’s hard to believe this was penned by a 17 year old!  The intent of Rachel’s Challenge is to start a chain reaction of the same kind of compassion in school’s everywhere!

The question I want to pose to you is…Do you want to be a world changer?  Do you want to make a difference?  Than we need to follow Rachel’s example and stand up for what we believe in, for what is right!  Romans 12:2 (ESV) says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are instructed by the apostle Paul to be in the world but not of it!  To be a catalyst of change, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and allow Him to use us and guide us, even if others don’t understand or persecute us for our faith.  We need to be unashamedly proud to be a Christ Follower.  But that does not happen without work.  Much like as an athlete has to train and discipline themselves to improve; we have to put in the work to grow in our faith.  I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ about Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) which says:

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. 

As our roots grow in Christ, our faith will be strengthened and we will be equipped to help others.  Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on these 2 powerful verses from Colossians and the life we can have in Christ…

“How did you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  By faith.  And that is exactly how you grow in maturity – by faith.  The ability to accomplish all God has planned for you is within you through the presence, power, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  So if you wish to develop your relationship with Him and become all you were created to be, you must willingly surrender yourself to His promptings and trust Him, no matter what He commands you to do.”

You might not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the lives you come in contact with.  Just like Rachel Scott, you never know how many lives you can change and what ripple effect will start but your single act of compassion.  Whether it would be that person sitting alone at the lunch table at school or the person in the next cubicle that you know is going through a tough time or maybe a neighbor who does not know God well and needs to develop a relationship with Jesus.  It all comes down to whether you be that match or that single domino that will be the Chain Reaction Catalyst that will make a difference not matter what the cost!

God has given everyone us talents, skills and gifts to impact this world.  The question is…Are you using them for His glory?  Or do you use then for your advantage or personal gain?  I don’t mean that you take advantage of people or scam people but that you’re missing the opportunities God has provided to use your gifts to spur others on to deepen their faith!  I will close with this quote from Rachel Joy Scott’s persona journal…

“I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus.”

Our lives are in God’s hands, we can make a world of difference if we are willing, and if we are not ashamed of our faith!

Go out today and be a Chain Reaction Catalyst!

 

If you would like to read more on this topic check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Stand Up for What is Right ★

★ Thought for the Day – Talent vs. Integrity ★

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a whole “LOT” of trouble ★

In our last post called ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★, we explored the importance of what my church calls “Fight Clubs,” which are bible studies with 2-3 people of the same gender who gather together to:

1.  Fight for Truth
2.  Fight Your Sin and
3.  Fight for Others

Today we are going to focus on the aspect of “fighting our sin.”  We all have to deal with some form of temptation. It may be obvious like alcohol or drug addiction. It could be with what the Bible calls “the lust of the flesh,” which essentially is what is allowed to be looked at on the internet, TV or even magazines in the grocery store that feeds inappropriate sexual behavior like pornography, promiscuity or adultery.  Or it could be saying no to the second helping of food, or not continually gorging on snacks and desserts (something that is hard to do especially right now with Girls Scout Cookies being sold everywhere you go…hahaha!)  But there may be some less obvious temptations to be aware of.  Perhaps it’s a preferred college that is a known “party school,” or a job offer that would be great for “career advancement,” but the company conducts business with questionable ethics.  Or if I haven’t gotten you yet, (which I doubt if you’re being honest,) it could be that you need to avoid the temptation to get the latest gossip, aka the “dirt” or juicy morsel about a friend’s break up or what mistake someone has made.  Or here’s a temptation you may not have thought of…Anger – giving into the rage that you have allowed to build up within you.  So whether it is alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuity / adultery, gluttony, moral / ethical compromise, gossiping, or anger, the Word of God has much to say on the subject.  As a result this post will only scratch the surface and will serve as an introduction to a series of posts that will delve much deeper into each of these temptations.

There are two parts to temptation: the Spiritual and Physical.  If you have been around our blog you have heard me talk about spiritual warfare often because we need to be aware of the war that is raging.  Now this is not a license to sin, allowing us to “cop-out” of taking responsibility for our actions by saying “the Devil made me do it.”  But there is without a doubt a really battle going on between good and evil in the unseen world, see Ephesians 6:10-17.  The war is for our soul, which Satan will use temptation to draw us away from God which started at the beginning of time with a simple question that is recorded in Genesis 3:1 (NLT)…

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“Did God really say…?” is a question we have all heard in some form or another to get us to doubt the truth of God’s Word or to rationalize a sin that we are flirting with.  Just like any good prosecuting attorney, Satan screams lies into our mind to establish “reasonable doubt.”  Charles Stanley has this life lesson on Genesis 3:1…

“Satan often begins his temptations by questioning God’s commands and suggesting that obedience is not really necessary.  Don’t fall for his trap!  We do ourselves great harm when we believe that we will find greater blessing in doing our own thing than in obeying God.  Obedience is necessary and always results in blessings.”

I especially like that last part, “Obedience is necessary and always results in blessings.”  But too often we want the blessing of God WITHOUT obeying His commands.  What we fail to realize, is that God’s commands are there not to keep us from what is fun and fulfilling, but to keep us safe from what will destroy our soul and body so we don’t become like some sad country song.  Have you ever heard this joke?

“What do you get when you play a country song backwards?”

Answer:  “You get your house back, your wife back, your dog back, your truck back.”

As an avid fan of the genre, I can tell you that there tons of stories set to music about heartbreak and loss as a result of bad choices.  Today we are going to look at the saddest man in the entire Bible and how his life really could be the subject of a country song!  We will unpack how he started out on top of the world but went horribly wrong by giving into the second part of temptation – the Physical.  Do you know who that is?  If you answered Job, I would say good guess but you would be incorrect. Though he went through unbelievable trials of losing all he had monetarily (property and livestock), his children and also his health, in the end he was blessed abundantly by God.  If you read Job 42:10, 12a, 17 it shows how in the end Job came out all right. No, the person I am referring to is Lot, Abram’s nephew.  What makes his life so sad is his failure to avoid temptation and fight his sin.

Lot is a great case study to serve as a cautionary tale to illustrate how critical it is for us to battle against those weaknesses that can wreak havoc in our lives.  In full disclosure, I do want to mention that a lot of what I will talk about was influenced by a sermon I heard back in 2013 called The Devil Made Me Do It! by Perry Noble (who is the former Pastor of NewSpring Church.)  Perry Noble called Lot “the saddest story in the Bible” because as a result from failing to “just say no” to temptation, he went from “riches to rags.”  In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NLT) the Apostle Paul gives us this warning…

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people — none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Ouch!!  Strong words for sure but I think in this instant gratification generation of “I want what I want and I want it now,” it is sorely needed.  Perry Noble made this simple but profound statement in his message that:

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Boy is that true not only today, but for Lot as well.  For those who may not remember the story of Lot I will give you the cliff notes version of his decline in the Book of Genesis.  I pray you would be open to what God wants to speak into your life about temptation and allow Lot’s “hindsight” to be our “foresight.”  We can learn a lot from Lot!  (Pun intended…Hahaha!  Sorry I couldn’t help myself.)

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  • Genesis 12:1-5 is where we first meet Lot. He was the nephew of Abram (also known as Abraham) the patriarch of Israelites who was instructed to leave everything behind and go to the land God was giving him.  Abram brought with him, his wife and nephew Lot.  Here we learn that when we surround ourselves with Godly people, we will be brought to places we never could have gotten to without them!
  • Genesis 13:5-17 records how Lot had become very wealthy as he traveled with his uncle and how trouble broke out between their herdsmen because the land could not support all the livestock that the two of them had…#FirstWorldProblems!!  Here is a great truth, when we associate with people who are pursuing God, their blessings will overflow onto us. So to save the relationship, Abram suggested that they separate and offered Lot “first dibs” on where he wanted to settle.  Lot chose the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley near Sodom.  If you don’t recognize that name, Sodom was the city that God destroyed because of the rampant immorality!  (See verse 13.)  Regardless of this, Lot chose to move his Tents near there.  How often do we make decisions based on “what looks good” rather than “what is good?” 
  • You’ve heard the expression “guilt by association” right? I don’t know the etymology of that expression but it definitely could have roots in Genesis 14:10-17 which shows the consequences of associating with evil.  War came upon the city of Sodom and Gomorrah resulting in Lot being taken captive with the rest of the citizens.  As a result of living near Sodom, Lot was swept away.  We all have those people in our lives that continually seem to make the wrong choice and find themselves in need of rescuing.  Ultimately Lot was “bailed out” by his uncle Abram who mobilized 318 men to go rescue him and the other prisoners.  The trouble is that you never know when one bad decision will cost you everything.  That is the danger of flirting with temptation by associating with corrupt and immoral people as Lot did!  I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 15:33…

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  • There is a break in the action with Lot for five chapters and then Genesis 19:1-26 picks us with two angels entering into Sodom looking for Lot and found him sitting at the entrance of the city (which in that time was reserved for leaders of the city!)  Lot went from pitching his tents on the outskirts of the city to becoming a prominent member of the morally corrupt community.  Talk about the fulfillment of 1 Corinthians 15:33!  The angels were there to warn Lot and his family that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah as a result of his uncle once again bailing him out; (see Genesis 18:22-33 which tells us how Abraham Interceded for Sodom to try to stop God’s wrath from being unleashed.)  These 26 verses in Chapter 19 are jammed pack with drama and some pretty disturbing truths about Lot and the men of Sodom who came knocking on Lot’s door, (after he convinced the two angels to stay at his home,) in Genesis 9:5-8 the men of Sodom were looking to rape the angels:

“They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you?  Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him.  “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing.  Look, I have two virgin daughters.  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish.  But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection.”

“Please, my brothers?”  Ugh!  How far Lot fell!!!  He went from being blessed by his proximity to Abraham to now calling these wicked men “brothers!”  And if that was not awful enough, he offered his daughters to be raped by the men of the city in their place!  How would you like a father like that?  The story spirals further out of control as the angels plead with Lot to gather his wife, daughters and future sons-in-law as the time was close that God was going to reign down judgement on the city.  Lot was only able to convince his wife and daughters to flee the city but as they hurried out of the city, the angels warned them not to look back at the destruction.  In verse 26 it records the consequence of disobedience…

“But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.116-daily-dependence-remember-lots-wifeSo now because Lot went towards “what looked good,” instead of “what was good,” all he had was gone including his wife!  Flirting with Temptation will never end well…eventually you will give in to it and will have to reap the consequences!

  • But the story doesn’t end there.  Genesis 19:30-38 offers the final proof that Lot is the saddest man in the Bible.  Fearing for his life, Lot and his two daughters ended up living in a cave in the mountains isolated from all other people.  Since there were no other men around, Lot’s daughters conspired together to get him drunk and have sex with their father in order to have children to “continue the family line.”  And that is exactly what they did in two consecutive nights.  The Bible records that Lot was so drunk “he was unaware of her lying down or getting up again.”  Both conceived, the older daughter’s son “became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites,” and the younger daughter’s son the “became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites.”  How unbelievably pathetic Lot had become that he would get so drunk that he was unaware of having sex with each daughter!  And for those who know your Old Testament, the Moabites and Ammonites were constant thorns in the side of the nation of Israel (who are he descendants of Abraham.)      

Lot went from being blessed abundantly because of his proximity to Abraham, to ending up living in a cave with his daughters who got him drunk so he could impregnate them.  I am sure if you could ask Lot, “Where do you see your life ending up?”  He never would have dreamed that moving his tents to a place near Sodom would have landed him in a cave without his wife, broke and two grandchildren that he would play a part in conceiving!

The key to Avoiding a whole “Lot” of trouble is to fight against the Temptations that come before each of us.  Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) says:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Our heart is the starting for all of our problems if we fail to guard it!  I asked the guys in my lifegroup for their perspective of what they have learned about temptation and here is what one had to say which was quite profound!

“The biggest way to help overcome temptation is through connection with others.  Having relationships with people who are real and well-grounded spiritually.  You need authentic people who will truly hold you accountable.  The opposite of addiction is not sobriety… it is connection.  So much of the time temptation and desire to sin happens in the absence of others.  Having connection to people helps fight against that.”  Tom Duarte

Amen!!!  Accountability is critical!  God never intended for us to live life isolated from others.  When we and connected to other Godly people we can overcome!    Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:

116-daily-dependence-ecclesiastes-4-12“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

We are stronger together!  And look at what Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT) shows the benefits of avoiding temptation:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

We need to be led by the Spirit!  And when we are then our lives with show the evidence of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” (See Galatians 5:22-23.)

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If you notice the last fruit, it is “self-control” which I dare say may be the most important one!  It is a lack of self-control that will lead to succumbing to the temptation resulting in sin.  Jesus’ little brother offers this truth in James 1:15 (NLT)…

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

Just like Lot, we must protect ourselves from “our own desires” that will give way to sinful actions because in the end it will result in death!  Here is my prayer for you!!

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.”  Philippians 1:9-10 (NLT)

In the upcoming posts, I hope God will speak through you as we study about pitfalls of yielding to various temptations.  If we bury our head in the sand like Lot, we WILL suffer the consequences!

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Here is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

      Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2)

Also if you want to delve deeper on this topic, check out the posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

★ Act Like Men – “The Sampson Syndrome” ★

And as mentioned earlier, here is an incredible “The Devil Made Me Do It!” on the life of Lot by Perry Noble.

https://newspring.cc/sermons/angelsdemons/temptation-the-devil-made-me-do-it

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

115-daily-dependence-community-that-mattersIn the last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★, we talked about the importance of going to church because God’s plan is to use the body of believers to display His character and to meet the needs of those who are hurting and under resources.  We also talked about how in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are instructed to motivate one another and not neglect meeting together, as some people do.  I had some good discussions with people since that post asking, “What about meeting in small groups or one on one with other believers?”  So I thought I would explore that in today’s Thought.  The timing was impeccable, as I was asked to share at a Men’s Breakfast yesterday about my experience with meeting in small group settings.  So part of this post will be the testimony of how God has worked in and through me as I have focused on building community that matters.  I am not sharing this so that you would think highly of me but rather to show how awesome God in how He is using this broken man to reach as many people as I possibly can.

First and foremost though, I believe that a time of corporate worship (i.e. Church) is essential for us to grow in the Lord as Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs.  (If you want to learn more check out ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★).  But just like you don’t eat once a week, we do need additional opportunities to gather with other believers to be nourished in our faith to grow and be “sharpened” as Proverbs 27:17 instructs…

115-daily-dependnece-proverbs-27-17-as-iron-sharpens-iron-so-a-friend-sharpens-a-friend

On Wednesday nights my wife and I are part of a Lifegroup from church which is a meeting with 10 other people that we “do life together” and study God’s Word.  The purpose is to build biblical community so that when the storms of life hit (and they will,) there is a group of people who are “waiting in the wings” to come alongside and help you.

Another opportunity to build community is to have a small group bible study or what my church has called a “Fight Club”.

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The purpose of a Fight Club is for 2 to 3 people of the same gender to meet and talk about the Bible, share about issues they’re having in their life and pray for one another.  It is based on this prayer that my Pastor challenged the church to pray to daily that we would have:

"A HUNGER for God's Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And a BURDEN for people."  Marty Collier
“A HUNGER for God’s Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And a BURDEN for people.”  Marty Collier

Unbeknownst to me, this would radically change me, and awaken a fire in me for biblical community.  And I would encourage you to pray it daily too!

Fight Clubs can be or Women or Men who want to deepen their relationship with God and with other believers.  For me it obviously revolved building a biblical community with other men, something that I always wanted but had escaped me until June 6, 2015 was when I was first introduced to the idea of a Fight Club.  We formed the first Fight Club I was a part of from the guys in our Lifegroup since we knew each other already.  It was great gathering with these men because it was the beginning of something that I always wanted in my life…to be part of a brotherhood!  We met through the summer until our schedules changed.  Then our group multiplied from 1 to 3 groups as we disbanded and formed new ones.  Since then I’ve been meeting with 1 to 2 other guys on Thursday mornings for breakfast as schedules have permitted.  As we have built biblical community together, I realized the need to reach out to as many men as possible but just did not know how to accomplish within an already busy schedule of balancing my work and home life.

THE UNLIKELY SOLUTION

In the post, ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, we delved into the importance of developing a quiet time with God each day.  For the past 6 years I have made a practice of starting my quiet time at 4:30 am before my wife and kids get up.  You may be thinking, “4:30 in the morning that is crazy!”  But I have found in my life, unless I prioritize reading and studying the Bible in my day it won’t get done.  As I have prayed for God to give me “a burden for people” several of my good friends in my neighborhood came to mind so I offered to do a Fight Club with my neighbor at 5 am since he was only two doors down and shockingly he agreed.  We have been meeting since August 2016.  When we started, he was in a good place in regards to already attending church services and a part of a lifegroup but like me, he didn’t have a close connection with another guy either.  We had a good friendship but through the Fight Club it has reached a deeper level as we have shared our lives and struggles together.  Last November he received the terrible news that the cancer he thought he had beaten was back.  The Fight Club created the opportunity for me to support him as he is now battling Stage 4 liver cancer.  I am thankful that God has given me the privilege to walk alongside of him during this dark time.  That would not have happened if I had not invited him in the first place to study the Bible with me.

But the testimony doesn’t end there.  My oldest daughter has a friend who needed help with some issues he was going through. We met at Starbucks back in September 2016 and I shared my testimony with him of how God delivered me out of the same darkness he was in.  God used my past mistakes to open the door to connect with this 15-year-old.  Since then we have been meeting after school on Fridays for a Bible study which has included my daughter and another neighbor’s son as well.  I know by the rules of the Fight Club, she should not be a part of so we will just call this a Bible Study…hahaha!  On November 6, 2016, my daughter’s friend attended Sunday morning service for the first time.  When the Pastor opened up the altar for prayer, he went down and accepted Jesus as his Savior!  He now attends the student services every Wednesday night, Sunday morning services and volunteers in the children’s ministry.  He is in fire for God and has been inviting his friends from his former lifestyle to church and our Friday afternoon Bible study including his former drug dealer!  That would not have happened if I had not invited him in the first place to study the Bible with me.

But the testimony doesn’t end there.  This past December, I started meeting with a friend from church at 5 am on Friday mornings to study the Bible.  As I mentioned earlier, we all need “sharpening” in our walk with God (Proverbs 27:17).  Sometimes you are doing the sharpening (as a mentor) and sometimes you are sharpened (as a mentee or with someone who is a peer.)  In this case it is the latter and it has been amazing to see how he has strengthened me and our friendship has grown.  And then just two weeks ago, two more guys started coming over my house before the sun rises as well…Another friend from church that will certainly be sharpening me and another neighbor of mine who is just engaging with the Bible for the first time! 

My hope and prayer is that every single morning I will have another man across the dining room table from me studying God’s Word!  You never know what God can, and will do through you when you participate in a Fight Club!   That is of course; if you are open to being used by Him.  If you are reading this today and feeling insecure about sharing your life with other people, I want to encourage you with one of my favorite quotes that is so true!

115-daily-dependence-god-doesnt-call-the-qualified-he-qualifies-the-called
“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED,  He qualifies the CALLED!”

There is nothing special about me, but God is clearly doing something through me as a result of being open to be used by Him.  How else can you explain 4 guys being willing to meet at 5 am to study the Bible?  You never know the ripple effect that can happen in the life of that person you reach out to.  God can exponentially multiply your impact for generations if you will trust Him today, and take a step of faith to start a Fight Club on your own!  And just to calm your nerves it doesn’t have to be at 5 am, that’s just when I have decided to have mine.  Hahaha!

115-daily-dependence-colossians-2-6-7I will close with this final Word of encouragement from Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT):

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

As you let your roots grow down into Jesus and you come closer to Him through the reading of His, God to change your heart and you will have “A HUNGER for God’s Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And A BURDEN for people.”  The Bible is the Path to Life!   

 

If you want to delve deeper on this topic, check out the posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Are You Qualified? ★

★ Act Like Men – “Strength To Love” ★

 

Also here is an incredible message that talks about how critical it is to build biblical community!

“Are you to afraid to Go There?” – Preston Morrison and Tim Ross

 

 

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★

Well 23 days have passed since we rung in 2017.  We have a new President of the United States and there has been a little over 3 weeks to work on our New Year’s Resolutions that we promised that we would do…so how are you doing with those resolutions?  Have you kicked the mistakes and habits of 2016 yet?  In the post114-daily-dependence-kicking-the-habits-of-2016-away ★ Thought for the Day – Unstoppable Determination for God’s Holiness ★, I shared that I don’t believe in resolutions because they are pretty much worthless and that I was challenged to think of them more as “Commitments” instead because you either change or you don’t.  We all have choices before us on whether we want to continue in the same old habits or not.  Today if you are reading this and you don’t know the plan of God for your life, I want you to encourage you to open your mind and heart to what He wants to do in your life as you read this post.

God said through the prophet Jeremiah: 114-daily-dependence-jeremiah-29-11

Jeremiah 29:11 is a famous Bible verse that you see all the time adorned on T-shirts and displayed on plaques and coffee mugs…(I even have one myself.)  It is a verse that I have been encouraged by and have shared with others to help comfort them in their time of need.  But have you even wondered what God’s plan is for you specifically?  The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:6 (NLT)…

“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children.  Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

If the term Gentile is an unfamiliar to you, it simply means a person who is not Jewish.  When the Jews rejected Jesus, the door was opened for everyone who is not a direct descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jews.  John 1:10-12 (NLT) says:

“He [Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

You can also read more about it in Jesus’ “Parable of the Evil Farmers.”  Until this point there was a huge chasm between the Gentiles and Jews.  Jesus paved the way to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to Himself.  Psalms 133:1 says:

“How Good and Pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.”
“How Good and Pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Regardless if you are a Jew or a Gentile, if you believe in Jesus, you are God’s people and He desires there to be unity in His Church.  Paul went on to say in Ephesians 3:10-11:

“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

People who are skeptical of church, or perhaps were hurt in the past by hypocrisy, or “holier than thou” attitudes question “why do I need to go to church?”  They justify it by saying “I can have a relationship with God on my own.”  Now while that is true that we can have a one on one with our Heavenly Father, the verse we just read is clear that the plan of God was “to use the church to display His wisdom.”  It is through gathering with other believers that our faith is strengthened and will grow exponentially faster than if we try to go it alone.  Charles Stanley said,

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.” 

And Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) furthers that point with this:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

As the “church,” God wants us to leverage our relationship with those that are in our sphere of influence.  To encourage and build others up in the faith, which cannot be done in isolation.

Last weekend I was at my church’s retreat for the Junior High and High School students.  The keynote speaker was David Marvin from the “Porch” at Watermark Church who spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.  He made this statement that has resounded ever since in my spirit,

“Every person you have ever looked at will live somewhere for eternity…either with God or without God.”

If you are a Christian, that is a haunting reality that should motivate us to want to reach those who are lost and far away from God.  For those of you reading this today who do not call yourself a Christian or maybe a better way to say it, a “Christ Follower,” I want you to know that God loves you so much.

114-daily-dependence-ephesians-3-you-area-loved-by-jesusAnd when you place your faith in Jesus, you will experience freedom like you never dreamed possible.  The Apostle Paul continues in Ephesians 3:12 with this truth:

“Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.  So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here.  I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

When you believe in Jesus, you have access to God like never before because until you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior the SIN in your life will keep you away from Him.  You may say “I am a good person,” but that just is not enough.  We are all sinners and have fallen short of what God desires for our life (see Romans 3:23.)  And with that access comes the unfolding of His plan in your life!

I love what Sandi Krakowski once said:

“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”
“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”

God is just waiting for you to take a step in His direction.  The invitation is open to you but you need to make the choice to follow Jesus.  If you want to start your relationship with Him today just go to this post, ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ and can read more about what this means and as well as a simple prayer that you can say to God that can start you down the path.  Just like a loving father, God is willing, ready and able to help us out whatever mess we have made of our lives.  (If you want to read more on the Father Heart of God just check out the “Parable of the Prodigal (or lost) Son” from Luke 15:11-32.)

Maybe you have made the commitment to Christ and have started on the journey to develop your relationship; I wanted to remind you of the truth of what Tim Keller said that:

“God invites us to come as we are, not to stay as we are.”

The amazing thing about God is that He will take us back regardless of the filth that we find ourselves in but the expectation is that once we have made the choice, we must continue to grow in our faith so that we can enjoy that new life!  Colossians 1:23 (NLT) says:

“But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.  The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”

The Good News is this…God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice and payment for our sins.  Through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection, a bridge has been created to restore the relationship with God WHEN we believe in Jesus.  (See also 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 6:6-7)  And so like Paul, we need to be standing firmly in our faith and actively pressing on to learn and grow.  If we are not advancing in our walk with God, we are regressing or drifting away…One of my favorite John Wooden quotes which I will close this Thought for Today is….

114-daily-dependence-john-wooden-choices“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” 

So the choice is yours today…Do you start a relationship with Jesus and be a part of God’s Mysterious Plan that will forever change your legacy and family tree?  Or if you are a believer already will you start today to pursue your relationship more fervently?  I want to challenge you to throw out the useless “resolutions” and “choose to commit” to a new trajectory so that you’re not repeating the same old habits from 2016 and regretting 12 months from now that your life is different from it was today!  Because “in the end, the choice you make, makes you!”

If you are interested in learning more on the Grace of God, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

 

Or if you want to deepen your relationship check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★

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According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary Anxiety is the

fear or nervousness about what might happen.” 

Have you ever suffered from anxiety?  Ever wondered how you were going to handle a situation at school that might result in a fight?  Or how to handle a co-worker / client that has been causing problems that will jeopardize meeting the project deadline?  Or perhaps where the money was going to come to pay for the mortgage at the end of the month?  Well statistically if you are reading this, you have experienced anxiety in one form or another.

“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population.”  (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)

I certainly can be counted within that 40 million!   Today I want to pose this idea that we don’t need to live life this way.  Based on the Word of God we can ANNIHILATE ANXIETY!

But first let’s look at the definition again.  Anxiety is the “fear or nervousness about what MIGHT happen.”  MIGHT being the key word!  Now by no means am I lessening the significance of anxiety, quite the contrary, it is a very serious issue, one which will wreak havoc if left unabated.  I know myself, I will run scenario after scenario of how something will go or what my response will be “if    (fill in the blank)   happens.”  This is not necessarily a bad thing in some cases, in fact as an Architect it’s necessary to vet out different courses of action; but when it comes down to the difficult, life altering decisions, don’t you wish that you could hear from God for the right direction to go in?  Well I would submit that you can today, though it may not be audibly like in the past.

This peaked my interest and I started to look into the first (5) books of the Bible.  God spoke to:

In Deuteronomy 34:10 (NLT) it says that:

“There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

Oh to be Moses right?  To have face to face contact with God!  I stopped here in my list though there are many other Old Testament characters who have heard audibly from God because it is Joshua, Moses’ successor who I think can be an encouragement to us today as the issues we face seem insurmountable!  But before we unpack how Joshua can help, there’s something else I would like to talk about first.  I shared with you in our last post, ★ Thought for the Day – Turn the Other Cheek ★, that I was having some stress because of someone who lied about me and that I had to take the high road and turn the other cheek instead of demanding vindication.  Today I am going to be vulnerable to you and reveal that it is much more than “some stress,” and that there have been more incidents that have caused extreme anxiety and poison in my Spirit.  And unfortunately I have allowed the venom to spill over into other areas of my life and steal my joy when I am away from work.  In fact I just had a heart to heart with my daughter to apologize for my words that have hurt her.  It is amazing how when anxiety is unchecked how it can run your life.  I have had trouble reading the bible and my quiet time with God has been lackluster at best and it is also why there has only been 1 post in the last two months but God is so merciful!  On Thursday morning (12/1/16), God spoke so clearly to me when I saw this notification from the Verse of the Day from the YouVersion Bible App:

Talk about a wake-up call!  Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  Great questions!  It’s because I had lost my way.  I had lost hope and my focus was distracted by the cares and worries of my life!

After seeing the Psalms I then stumbled onto this edit from Philippians 4:6-7 on twitter:

111-daily-dependence-philippians-4-6-7Then as I was driving to meet a buddy for breakfast I heard this song “Shoulders” from the band FOR KING & COUNTRY.  The lyrics are so powerful

When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near 

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue

What a great reminder. We need to be careful as we are “in the valley” that we don’t allow ourselves to be distracted by all the worries of the world and lose sight of the truth that we are never alone!  We have a father in heaven who loves us dearly and has provided His Son to be an example of how we should live.  And when Jesus walked this earth He would get alone and pray for help from His Father, (see Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12, Luke 22:41-44.)  And so that is what we need to do too!  In addition to following His example, because I have trusted in Jesus, God has given me the Holy Spirit to live within me to be my comforter, (See John 14:16-18, 16:13).  The lyrics also brought me back to 1999 when I baptized on Easter and when I read Psalm 23 as part of my public declaration.  I wanted to share what verse 4 says:

111-daily-dependence-psalm-23-4-walk-through-valley“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4 (ESV)

So God spoke to me through the Verse of the Day, Twitter, a song on the radio which brought up when I was baptized 17-1/2 years ago to speak into my Spirit that I am not alone and that even though I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I should not allow fear and anxiety to rule my life!  I told you that I was meeting a friend well he ended up oversleeping so while I waited for him, God gave me the idea to write this Thought and lead me to the final verse that He spoke to me in 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)…

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”

You see that God does still speak but we need to have our hearts in tune with Him.  In Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV) it says that:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

Do you know what the antidote to anxiety and fear?  In Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) we are the answer…FAITH!

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” 

My wife who suffered terribly from anxiety as a result of contracting Lyme’s Disease said this to me this morning:

“Anxiety is a mind game that forces you to choose fear or faith!”

It took her 3 long years to battle through the effects of this silent disease that so few people know about that affects your nervous system and causing extreme anxiety and panic attacks.  Today I am so thankful that she is able to work out again and has overcome the anxiety that once plagued her mind.  I saw this edit which is so fitting since she loved to workout…111-daily-dependence-faith-shows-you-how-to-handle-life

“Faith doesn’t take the weight off your life.  It shows you how to handle it.”

We started off this post talking about the Old Testament characters that God spoke to and I left you hanging about Joshua, a man who had an extraordinary amount of faith!  Joshua lost his mentor, Moses and was given the mantle to lead an entire nation into the “Promised Land” with the understanding that he would have to go into battle against an overwhelming force with a plan that was completely dependent on God doing what He said He would.  In Joshua 6:2-5 (ESV) it says:

“And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.  You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once.  Thus shall you do for six days.  Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark.  On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.  And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.’”

You can read that whole account here in Joshua 5:13-6:50.  I am reminded that I am not the only one who is facing insurmountable challenges.  Talk about some extreme faith!  Think about going to tell your army, “Okay everyone, I heard from the Lord and the plan is, we will walk around Jericho for 7 days and then at the end of the march, the priests will blow the trumpets and everyone will shout really loud and the walls will come down!”  That alone I think took a lot of faith but to actually go and do as God instructed is a completely different thing altogether!  What Joshua knew and what we need to know is that:

111-daily-dependence-all-progress-takes-place-outside-the-comfort-zoneIs there something that you feel God wants you to do?  Could it be to be a friend to that person who sits alone every day at lunch?  Or to be a friend to someone you know going through a divorce or a terminal disease?  Or perhaps to invite that person to church that God has placed on your heart who you know is far from Him right now?

As the Advent season ramps up and the list of things to do grows, pause and ask God what could you do for someone else during this Christmas season.  I will close with the same encouragement that Joshua gave to the people of Israel:

111-daily-dependence-fit-family-joshua-1-9

Don’t let fear and anxiety rule your life and take away the joy of this season.  Have this mindset that:

111-daily-dependence-fear-will-not-conquer-me

If you are interested to read more on this topic check out these posts called:

★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★

We also did a series on James MacDonald’s book called “Act Like Men” Book that is based on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 that will encourage you!

111-daily-dependence-1-corinthians%e2%80%ac-%e2%80%ad16-13

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★

In our last post, ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★, we dug into how our family of origin can influence the trajectory of our lives and that we need to follow in how Jesus did not allow the doubts of his juggernaut derail His mission on this earth.  Today I want to build upon that foundation to help us move to the next level.  With my Mom’s passing being so recent, I can’t help but think about the past and the fact that I am the last in my family line.  My mother, my father, my grandparents are all gone which lands the responsibility solely on my shoulders.  I was going through old photos and stumbled upon this one from 1996 when my Mom and I went on a vacation to Washington D.C.  109-daily-dependence-olympic-torch-relayMy Mom (in the pink) got a rare opportunity to touch the Olympic Torch that was part of the historic relay that marked the hundredth anniversary of the Modern Games which started in Olympia Greece and ended in Atlanta, Georgia.  109-daily-dependence-1996-atlanta-olympic-torchIt’s interesting that the Torch is a symbol of the Olympic Games commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, but now it is a wonderful memory of a time that my Mom and I shared today.  At the end of the relay, the fire is used to lite the cauldron which is kept burning throughout the celebration of the Olympics for all to see.  I did a little research and found out that Muhammad Ali was the one who lit the 1996 Olympic cauldron in Atlanta at the opening ceremony.  Now 20 years later both Ali and my mother are gone but their memory lives on.

Light has so much significance from providing heat to driving out the darkness and that is what has been on my heart of late.  As I was writing this Thought, I just saw an All Laundry Detergent advertisement for their All PowerCore Pacs Oxi product using the classic gospel song called “This Little Light of Mine.”  Now my past did not include singing it myself but its meaning is far more valuable to be used to sell laundry detergent!  Today’s Thought will unpack its significance.

There is such darkness in the world…You don’t have to look to far to see the pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness, pessimism and skepticism abounds and I believe that is a result of a lack of people who genuinely care for anyone other than themselves.  And that lack of empathy is the perfect breeding ground for hate to well up.  Martin Luther King, Jr. made this powerful statement that:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

In a time of such great turmoil in our country, I think it’s high time we start heeding Dr. King’s words and be the light that drives out the darkness!  As believers in Jesus, it falls upon each of us to be that light that drives out the darkness.  Jesus was the ultimate example.  In John 8:12 (NLT) it records that:

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’”

Dr. King was a great man of God who believed in that mission and followed in Jesus’ example.  Jesus offers another way to live.  His mission on earth was to lead all people to His Father so that we could have eternal life in Heaven.  In Matthew 5:14, 16 (NKJV), Jesus said,

“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The song that All Detergent is currently using to sell their product is based on Jesus’ command to “Let it shine!”  But what does it mean to “let your light shine?”  Is it for cleaner clothes?  I think not!  Charles Stanley has this great life lesson on this verse…

“Does anyone know that you are a light burning with the fire of heaven?  What “good works” do they see you doing that reflect well on your heavenly Father?  How does your faith cause you to behave differently from anyone else?”   

Great questions right?  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★ we looked at the need to always make sure we are maturing in our walks with God and understanding what God’s heart is!  Charles Stanley’s questions are critical for us to answer.  So let me ask you, when was the last time you said an encouraging word to a person hurting or helped someone in need or went out of your way to do for anyone beside yourself?  John 1:5 (ESV) made this declaration about Jesus that:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We need to overcome the darkness but shining our light.  I love this quote from Marvin J. Ashton that I believe this captures beautifully of what it means to let it shine!

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”

The light burning in our heart as a result of chasing after Jesus should result in our behaviors and actions being different from others.  Our concern for others should spur us on to make an impact and leave people better than you found them!  I will close with a reminder of the mission from Luke 19:10 (ESV):

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus came to save the lost and we called to do the same!  Here is a prayer from Louie Giglio to help us do that very thing…

“God today, open one door for me to be salt and light for someone in my city to either lift somebody up, to share my faith, to invite along or just meet one need.  In Jesus name!” 

This prayer is from the message called “Jesus is the Lead Story” from Louie Giglio, Passion City Church.

Let your light shine today!

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Here’s the latest design from Share IT! Christian Clothing as a great reminder of the mission!

 

If you want to learn more about making a difference, check out:

 ★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★

God has been speaking into my heart about the importance of family and being the husband and father that He’s called me to be.  We’ve talked about living a lasting legacy earlier this year but today I wanted to look back and see how our family of origin can affect whom we become.  In his famous book, “The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are,” Christian Psychologist and Author Kevin Leman made this powerful statement:

“How parents interact with each child as he or she enters the family circle determines in great part that child’s final destiny.”

As a parent of two daughters, I think about that all the time.  Leman outlined some common characteristics of how depending on whether you were born first, in the middle or the last child, aka “the baby,” that placement in the family tree had a huge impact on the trajectory and development of your personality DNA.  The first-born commonly is known to be driven and very responsible in all they do…The middle child often feels overlooked and desires peace so they play the role of the negotiator in the family…And the “Baby” gets away with murder, and tends to be the comedian of the family…Now of course there are exceptions to the rule, these are just generalities, other factors can plat a part. (If you would like a great summary of the book I saw this article called 10 Ways That Birth Order Affects Your Children.)

108-daily-dependence-x-men-juggernaut-comic-bookSuffice to say, the Family Juggernaut plays a significant role in our development.  Now depending on your sex, and/or if you were a comic book reader as a child, right now images from X-Men stories of “The Unstoppable Juggernaut” are coming up in the rolodex of memories.  Supervillain, Cain Marko who was the stepbrother of Charles Xavier, also known as Professor X, was abused by his father as Charles became the favored “son.”  Resentment and animosity festered in Cain’s heart.  One day he received superhuman strength that literally made him unstoppable and gave him the power to destroy the one who replaced Cain in his father’s heart.

The biblical comparison of Cain and Abel is hard to miss, (see Genesis Chapter 4).  108-daily-dependence-juggernaut-professor-x-standoffNow though this may be a bit of a rabbit trail, I think it’s apropos to show how family dynamics can shape you.  Cain’s hatred and jealousy both in the comic book and the Biblical account led to a murderous rage.  It is also where I first learned the word juggernaut which means:

“A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution.”

And that is what the family is!  An overwhelming force in our life that has a huge and powerful influence on us.  Jane Isay, the author of “Secrets and Lies, Mom Still Likes You Best, and Walking on Eggshells” had this to say about Families that was quite interesting:

“Families are the survival mechanism of the human race.  They all are complicated, even though many people think that theirs is the most difficult one.  Behind the closed door of every home is a group of people who love each other, who disappoint each other, who come into conflict, and who are deeply connected.”

Amen?  Now I don’t know much about her, nor have I read the book, but I am sure familiar with competing with my brother and sister for the love of my mom and consequently walking on eggshells as to not break the delicate peace and harmony in the home.  I love how she described the family unit, as the “survival mechanism of the human race” and that families are all “complicated.”  Truer words have never been spoken!  Statistics show that many people would probably answer the question, “What’s your family like?” with the curt response of…

108-daily-dependence-its-complicated

I know I would have to say that of my family of origin.  My family was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, verbal attacks, physical abuse, and adultery all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Not surprisingly, that was the year that my parents divorced.  I shared in the ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 1 ★ post how my childhood felt more like a chess match where I was a pawn pinned between the King and Queen who were battling one another, using me to hurt the other.  I know that the conflict I witnessed and was a part of shaped my desire for peace in my home today.  I also know that at times when I lose my temper that is also a result of seeing how both my parents handled (or didn’t) conflict resolution.  But here’s the beauty of walking with God, my legacy can be changed through the power from above.  But it is a choice.  Romans 12:2 (ESV) says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Great advice right, but how do you renew your mind?  And how do you know the will of God?  Glad you asked, through a quiet time with God.  Praying, reading the bible, journaling are all ways that you can be transformed.  Recently during my quiet time, I have been reading the gospel of Mark which was the muse for this Thought for the Day…Have you ever thought about Jesus’ Family Situation?  What it was like growing up as the Messiah, the Savior of the World?  How was it to have half brothers and sisters who grew up and knew Jesus for 30 years before His ministry started?  Unfortunately the Bible does not give much background other than that Jesus followed in the path of Joseph, (the man who raised him as his own Son) and became a carpenter.  Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) recounts the start of His Ministry:

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”  

The Gospel of Mark moves at a rather brisk pace recounting the ministry of Jesus over the next two chapters with people being healed who were lepers, disfigured, paralyzed and set free demonic possession.  It’s interesting to note that after some time had passed, Mark 3:20-21 (ESV) we see what happens when Jesus goes to visit His family.  I wonder how many people will relate to this experience.

“Then He [Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.  And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

Did you catch that?  Jesus’ ministry is exploding and lives are being changed as a result of incredible miracles but “His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”  How sad that Jesus’ own family did not believe He was the Christ!  A friend of mine and me were talking about this point and he made an interesting point…

“Makes me wonder what was it like for Jesus’ family while he was growing up?  If his own family couldn’t see Him for who He is, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us when folks don’t get it.”

Seems INCREDIBLY HARD TO BELIEVE, but just 10 verses later, you can see Jesus definitely had doubters in the family…Mark 3:31-35 (ESV) records:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.”

And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said,

“Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.””

These verses always confounded me because why would Jesus not want to go see His mother and brothers?  Could it be that they did not support His ministry?  It seems that would be the case as He makes the declaration that “my family” are those who do the will of God.  The passage does not mention Joseph so the assumption is that he’s not alive at the time of Jesus’ ministry, especially when you consider John 19:26-27 when Jesus is dying on the cross and arranges for His disciple John to take care of His Mother when He’s gone.  I can understand Jesus’ brothers doubting, but Mary?  Did she miss the point?  Did she forget all the miracles that happened in order for Jesus to even be born?  We did a 25 day series of posts called #Reason For The Season last December#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1where we looked at the extraordinary events leading up to, and including Jesus’ birth and why we should be thankful during the Advent Season.  (If you have not read the posts I highly recommend you click the link and spend some time experiencing the familiar Nativity Story from a fresh perspective.)  Personally, God opened my eyes and heart in a new way to His indescribable love for me.  As I meditated on the events that happened over 2,000 years ago, I was astounded by how He moved heaven and earth for the possibility of having a relationship with me through sacrifice of His Son Jesus!  I just heard John Gray preach at Elevation Church’s Code Orange Revival and he made this profound statement:

“Do you understand how valuable you are?  That an eternal God gave up His most prized possession just in case you wanted to have relationship with Him.  He didn’t even let His Son die for an ‘absolute.’  He let Him die for a ‘just in case.'”

God gave up His most prized possession just in case we wanted the relationship with Him!!!  Wow!

Okay back to Mary and Joseph… I have to wonder though did they not share with Jesus’ siblings growing up with something like, “Oh by the way kids, your older brother Jesus, well He is the savior of the world.”  I mean I know it would be awkward at first but it was truth.  We can see that it was not only His family who doubted but also those in the His community as well.  Mark 6:1-6 (ESV) tells what happened when Jesus returned to His home again:

“He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him.  And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying,

“Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to Him?  How are such mighty works done by His hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not His sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at Him.

And Jesus said to them,

“A prophet is not without honor, except in His hometown and among His relatives and in His own household.”

And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He marveled because of their unbelief.  And He went about among the villages teaching.”

They took offense at Him!”  30 years of living among these people and they take offense at the wisdom God gave Jesus!  It is clear that Jesus’ family of origin and community had an effect on Him to the point that it thwarted His ability to do a “mighty work there.”  One could argue that healing anyone is a mighty work, but how much more would Jesus have done if there was not so much opposition and unbelief.  If Jesus was not understood by His Family and hometown it should not surprise you when you are.

108-daily-dependence-keep-rejoicing

The key is what will you do when not if you face opposition?  Will you let fear, doubt and criticism stop you?  Without a doubt, our birth order and associations will influence and impact us but will we make the choice to rise above the past and move forward to become the man or woman who God created us to be?  Jeremiah 29:11 says:

108-daily-dependence-jeremiah-29-11Remember you are so valuable that God gave up His Son just in case you want to have a relationship with Him!  And it is through that relationship that His plan and purpose for your life will be revealed!

And for the believer let’s continue in what the author of Hebrews commanded in chapter 3, verse 13:

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  Hebrews 3:13 (NASB)

Walk today with new purpose today because you are part of a NEW Family Juggernaut as a child of God!

If you want to learn more about developing a quiet time, check out:

★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★

 

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – The Lord is Near ★

107-daily-dependence-psalm-34-18-the-lord-is-near-to-the-brokenheartedPsalm 34:18 (ESV) says

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Yesterday was the five month anniversary of My Mom’s passing away.  I shared this
Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom about what a profound affect my Mom had on me in spite of the hard life she lived.  Over the weekend my daughter had a school project to write about something that shaped her and she handed me he iPad to show me what she wrote about.  With tears in my eyes this is what I read:

I’ve seen unmatched beauties,
the breathtaking marvels of
glorious skies painted daily with radiant colors,
towering mountains adorned with flowering garments,
and magnificent trees dancing to the song of the wind,
yet out of all these wonders
the greatest one I’ve known to be
is the diverse pieces that molded me,
the puzzle of who I am.

Soaking up sunshine with Grandma on the beach
is the earliest memory piece my mind can reach.
Wrestling to stay afloat with each powerful wave
taught me to stand tall and be brave. 
Finding the tiny treasures the tides left behind
gave me an awestruck frame of mind.
Relishing each moment in the oceanic paradise
lured me into thinking that life is so nice.

Years later, Grandma, who is overflowing with a love that’s as sure as the rising of the sun, invited me over to look through old photos
extracting a story from each picture
celebrating and delighting in the victories of the past
remembering the struggles that shaped our family
entrusting me with her memories and wisdom
showing me life’s charm and kindness

Soon my cheerful mindset challenged
One phone call shattering the illusion I lived in
A hospital calling to inform of my precious grandma’s stroke
She was at the brink of death
under close examination from doctors
in an uncomfortably quiet hospital room
without consciousness or her usual warm spirit
in an ordinary hospitable bed
where people she used to visit would have laid.

When Grandma’s stroke stole her away from us
I had to choose
to move past my damaged perspective of life
to push forward by overthrowing sorrow’s reign
to celebrate by dwelling on the good memories I had with her
to endure with the same strength I had as I little girl in the ocean waves

These are the qualities she has passed on to me.

Each memory,
each moment,
each puzzle piece,
from giggles on the beach
and the lavishing of stories
to uncontrollable sobs after a final breath,
has been united into a beautiful and irreplaceable masterpiece.
My life may not have been a smooth road
but I wouldn’t trade the heartbreaks that have
molded me from a
naive young girl with fleeting happiness
to a strong fighter
who can excavate joy from any circumstance.

It’s not lost on me how God is working through my daughter to bring back the truth of Psalm 34:18 that she finished this poem on the five month anniversary of her Grandma’s passing!  If you are hurting today over the loss of someone, look around for God, He is always there to comfort you!  He’s close to the brokenhearted!

If you want to read more on the love of God, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – What Does God’s Love Mean? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Grief is a Passage, Not a Place ★

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★ Thought for the Day – How Many Licks to Forgiveness ★

106 - Daily Dependence - Candy SocksMonday was the first day of school for my daughters – My eldest is now a sophomore in High School and my baby is in her last year of middle school.  It is hard to believe how fast time has gone by!  It seems like just yesterday my wife and I were bringing them home from the hospital.  First day of school is always tough…Well that afternoon my mother-in-law gave them this little gift of vintage candy themed socks.  This pair was especially interesting to me…

106 - Daily Dependence - Mr. Owl Socks

Do you remember Mr. Owl?  I may be dating myself but I grew up with this question:

“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?”

It seemed like this commercial stayed on the air forever.

I discovered that it is actually the longest running commercial in American television history.  It first appeared in 1970 and depicted a boy on a quest to find the answer to that famous question.  Believing that Mr. Owl was the smartest of all, he handed over his Tootsie Pop expecting to get the definitive answer on how many licks it takes to get to the center; but instead the temptation was too great and after just three licks Mr. Owl bites to get to that gooey goodness.  I thought this quote was the perfect way to open this “Thought for the Day.”

106 - Daily Dependence - Forgiveness Is Not A Tootsie Pop
“Forgiveness is not a Tootsie Pop so stop counting.”

This reminds me of a conversation that is recorded between Jesus and His disciple Peter in Matthew 18:21-22:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,  

‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?’  

 Jesus answered,

 ‘I tell you not seven times but seventy times seven.’”

Jesus’s response was probably not what Peter was expecting…”seventy times seven” is a whole lot of forgiving!  But that was not what He really meant; Jesus’ point really was signaling that there should be no limit to how many times we offer our forgiveness.  And just like it’s hard to keep track of the number of licks, it would be very difficult for us to keep up with that many offenses against us.  Instead of tallying each offense, we must follow what Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) says,

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in  Christ God forgave you.”

I would like to unpack these truths of “What Forgiveness Is and Is Not…”

But first, I would like to share something that God showed me the other morning in my quiet time about his character.  Genesis Chapter 3 records the fall of man, when the Serpent (AKA Satan) deceived the Woman to eat the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” and how she then gave it to her husband Adam who ate it too.  A familiar tale that has been captured in numerous artistic depictions and shared during Sunday Schools everywhere as a cautionary tale of not allowing the enemy to twist God’s Words which will lead to sinning.  In Genesis 3:13-20 God rendered the consequences to Adam and Eve’s rebellion, (because there are always consequences to sin – See Galatians 6:7).  He first cursed the Serpent, then the Woman and finally Adam.  But what amazed me this week was what the next verse says…

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”  Genesis 3:21 (ESV)

Now I can’t tell you how many times I have read this story and flew right past this verse but tell me something, have you ever been betrayed and instantly responded by taking care of their needs?  But that is exactly what God did, which leads us into our first reality…

I read this quote from Ken Sande that I thought was great!

“Overlook an Offense—Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly overlooking an offense.  Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness, and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger.”  From “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict,”

And Proverbs 19:11 (NIV1984) says:

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense”

If you wait until you “feel like” forgiving, then it will probably never happen.  In His historic Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us a new model for living in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)…

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The sun rising on both the evil and the good, and God sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  That is an important truth to put on the sticky side of your brain.  And we need to be ready to not only forgive but to love and pray for those who hurt us.  No doubt this is a hard command to swallow, which segways us to point #2…

Essential?  Does that seem extreme?  Not so much when you look at what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT):

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Forgive or else you will not be forgiven.  Pretty cut and dry…It does not get any simpler than that.  2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) gives this promise:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,  I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

Truth # 3…

Forgiving someone is not intended about allow yourself to be a doormat to be walked all over but rather it is intended to set you free from bitterness. Unforgiveness can birth bitterness but we don’t have to swallow it.  Robert Morris had this to say about

“We’re all going to taste bitterness in our life, but you have the choice whether you’re going to drink it.”

See Hebrews 12:14-15 also.  All of us will experience pain in this life, and if we don’t master bitterness, depression can result.  I once heard this great quote that

“Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

And even though I know this is true, I fall victim to this over and over.  Growing up, the way I handled being hurt by people was to completely write them off.  If you betrayed me, you were dead to me.  Holding a grudge was my modus operandi and I am sad to say that I did not just drink bitterness but gulped it in huge amounts.  Since 1998 when I gave my heart to Jesus, He has been redeeming my broken and unforgiving heart.  I have experience Truth #4 is in my life…

Many people believe just the opposite.  They think that forgiveness is for those who inflict pain but it really is for the one who has been crushed.  Max Lucado said it best when he penned these poignant words!

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner!”
“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner!”

 What an image and truth!  When we refuse to forgive, we are effectively slamming the cell door shut, and locking ourselves in a prison of our own making.  Jesus again said in Luke 6:35-36 (ESV):106 - Daily Dependence - Luke 6-36

“But love your enemies, and do good, andlend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” which leads us into our fifth and final truth…  

Dictionary.com has this definition of Act: “a deed; performance,” whereas an Attitude is a…

“manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind.”

Forgiveness is not “a one and done.”  It is a continual, purposeful mindset that is a choice which is essential and a gift for the offended.  I love what Martin Luther King Jr. said that makes this point perfectly!

Jesus modeled this in his final moments as recorded in Luke 23:34  (ESV),

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

After being disrespected, spat upon, slapped, beaten, flogged and nailed to a Roman Cross, Jesus looks up to heaven to intercede on our behalf!  What an attitude of forgiveness!  William Blake said:106 - Daily Dependence - The Glory of Christianity is to Conquer By Forgiveness (3)

“The Glory of Christianity is to Conquer By Forgiveness,”

So the question is will you “Conquer By Forgiveness”…will you forgive others as God has forgiven and loved you?  Think about it, Adam rebelled against God, sin entered the world and we were separated from Him forever.  To resolve this, God sent His Son Jesus as the payment for my sin so that all we need to do is accept the sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sin that came into the world.  Romans 5:18-19 (NLT) says,

“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”

One man ushered sin into the world but what is more important is that one man, Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of sin over our lives if we make the right choice.  One of my favorite quotes from John Wooden is:

“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do.  So keep in the mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

Remember, forgiveness is not a Tootsie Pop.  Don’t even try to count the number of times you have forgiven someone.  In God’s reality, there is no number of licks you will take that you will ever be justified to stop forgiving.  So now the choice is yours.  What will you do with this information?  You know what God would do, He will always forgive a repent person.  And in return, He expects us to show others the same mercy you have received.  Will you do the same?  Because in the end, the choice you make, makes you!

If you are interested to read more about Forgiveness, check out this two part series of posts called:

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness In Action ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – The Pitfalls of Money ★

105 - Daily Dependence - Pitfalls of Money Banner

In t105 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Nighthe post, ★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★, we spent a lot of time talking about games and the importance of “Family Game Nights.”  Today’s Thought for the Day will build upon that and contrast the “Pitfalls of Money” with one of our family’s favorite games to play…Monopoly!  105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly LogoMy prayer is that as we look at this classic board game and some of the mistakes we can make in our finances, God will move in your heart as you see what His Word has to say on the topic.  In the last post we did on finances called ★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★ I shared that my passion for handling finances God’s has been fueled by Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway Church and from Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University (FPU) Class.  Between them, I have grown in leaps and bounds in my understanding of what the Bible has to say about money and possessions, and if we are not careful, the monopoly it can have on our hearts…pun intended.  Dictionary.com had this definition for:

Mo·nop·o·ly
[muh-nop-uh-lee]
Noun

  1. The exclusive possession or control of something.
  2. A board game in which a player attempts to gain a monopoly of real estate by advancing around the board and purchasing property, acquiring capital by collecting rent from other players whose pieces land on that property.

It’s interesting that the board game that our family loves to play made it in the very definition of the word.  As I went through our game cabinet I was shocked to see how many versions we have:

105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly Editions

And most recently we purchased the Electronic Edition of Monopoly.  105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly - Electronic BankingWe have made the most of the summer playing one version or another almost daily.  I think that it is one of the best board games because of the “real world” exposure that children get to learn that will equip them for life, if they’re paying attention that is.

105 - Daily Dependence - Cliff Notes on MonopolyFor those who have not played the game or haven’t played it in a while, I will give you a quick refresher.  Here are the cliff notes on the game.  Everyone starts off on “Go” with the same amount of money and no properties.  Players get to be the Banker, learning how to “make change” and give payments to others, (I am constantly amazed at how fast my youngest daughter can do the math on what is owed.)  They understand the value of “passing Go” a.k.a. getting paid a salary and how you need to wait to “earn” additional money by going around the board.  The biggest aspect of course is buying property and trying to get a monopoly (owning all real estate associated with that color); once accomplished Houses and Hotels can be purchased which is key to get more rent when an opponent lands on the space.  The realities of Paying Rent, Income Tax, landing on “Chance” and going to Jail are also experienced throughout the game which are great lessons as well.  And if you are unsuccessful, you could end up in Bankruptcy, thus forcing you out of the game which is an important experience to have that in life you will endure failure and losses.  The last player left in the game wins.

According to the official rules:

105 - Daily Dependence - The Games of Life“The object of the game is to become the wealthiest player,” which introduces our first pitfall to learn from…

105 - Daily Dependence - 1 Timothy 6-10 - The Love of MoneyGREED – The quest to be rich has brought many people pain.  1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV) warns

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Now that does not say money is evil, but “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  Many have misunderstood that verse and had a skewed view of what the Bible says.  That last part is quite alarming to me that because of the misplaced love, people “have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  The Love of Money is a huge pitfall in life which left unchecked can result in leaving the path that God desires for us to pursue earthly riches.  

Our second pitfall is the cousin to Greed and that is…

105 - Daily Dependence - Pitfalls of Money - Discontentment

DISCONTENTMENT.  If there is one thing that the game of Monopoly breeds is discontentment but Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) offers an alternative with a promise:

“Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.  For God has said,

‘I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.’

It all boils down to contentment and whether you can be satisfied with what God has provided.  This is an area that I struggle in myself.  Not so much because I need the latest and greatest gadget but more because I would like to see more traction or faster results in debt payment and the “emergency fund” growth.  How about you?  Are you content in what God has provided?  Many struggle in this area, striving tirelessly to acquire more and more which leads to excessive hours spent in the office and time away from home.  And just like we all compete to have the most monopolies and end the game with the most money, we need to be watchful in this area that discontentment does not grow in our hearts.  Proverbs 23:4-5 (NLT) gives this counsel…

“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
    Be wise enough to know when to quit.

In the blink of an eye wealth disappears,
    for it will sprout wings
    and fly away like an eagle.”

Two-thirds of the parables that Jesus taught about were on money and possessions, because GREED and DISCONTENTMENT can pitfalls for you and me if we are not careful.  Jesus taught about the stewardship or management of our finances not for personal gain but to be a blessing to others and that is through our …

105 - Daily Dependence - Giving

105 - Daily Dependence - 2 Corinthians 9-7 - Cheerful GiverGIVING!  2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) says:

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on this verse:

“In giving, as in all areas of Christian living, God wants our hearts to respond to Him in obedience.  He wants willing, joyful, eager participation in His work, not grumbling or halfhearted compliance.”

It’s all about the heart.  Are you cheerful when the plate or basket comes around during the offering or do you begrudgingly put the money or check in?  In Luke 21:1-4 (ESV) it records how God views our giving…

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””

It’s not about giving everything but the heart of the giver.  Do you give because you love God and want to see His Kingdom advanced here on Earth or out of compulsion?  There’s a big difference.  God does not need our money (see Psalms 24:1,) but He does want our heart to love what He loves and that is people!  The antidote to greed and discontentment is…

105 - Daily Dependence - GenerosityGENEROSITY!  Proverbs 11:24-25 (NLT) says…

“Give freely and become more wealthy;
    be stingy and lose everything.

The generous will prosper;
    those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

This is not the normal thinking though is it?  “Give freely and become more wealthy?”  That makes no sense in the natural, but in God’s economy, “the generous will prosper!”  I have seen time and time again how God have blessed me when I was not tight-fisted with my money but rather when I stayed the course in my tithing and offerings I saw how God threw open the floodgates of heaven and provided for all my needs, (Malachi 3:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 for more.)  God promises to refresh those who refresh others.  The question presented before you today is…Will you allow money to be a pitfall or to be a blessing to others?

I will close with this final thought from Charles Stanley:

“God is not after our time, talents, or bank accounts.  He already owns the world and everything in it (Exodus 19:5).  His greatest desire is to have a personal and intimate relationship with you for all eternity.”

Today I pray you will be challenged to see you finances in a new light that will unlock a new level of faith and trust in God because “His greatest desire is to have a personal and intimate relationship with you for all eternity!”

If you are interested in reading more about how about the Biblical Worldview of Money (How our Finances and Possessions should be handled from God’s Perspective), check out other posts in our collection of posts called:

$ Building Your Money Muscle $

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★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

What do you think of this title for the Thought for the Day?  Hopefully it has peaked your interest to find out.  Today I pray that God would open up your mind to the possibilities of being able to share your faith in an easy and ingenious way.  But before I reveal that to you, let me ask you a question…How are you at sharing your faith?  Many people have emotions ranging from uncomfortable to pure terror when it comes to expressing why they believe in Jesus Christ to others.  Reasons can be because of a lack of knowledge of the bible or timidity to talk about it or the spiritual warfare from the Devil.  But the Apostle Paul offers this truth from 2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NLT)…

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Him.  With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.”

I remember once, hearing Robert Morris of Gateway Church talk about how easy it is to share your faith.  It seemed so elementary but so many people miss it…“Just share your story.”  You don’t have to be a theologian to “share the Good News of Jesus Christ,” all you need is to just tell people what God has done in your life.  Our job is to point people to Jesus, just like Jesus came to point people to God.  As Jesus was comforting His disciples in John 14:1-6 about having to go away to prepare a place in “His Father’s House,” Thomas asked a very direct question asking where He was going and in verse 6 Jesus gave this reply:

104 - Daily Dependence - John 14-6 - One Way“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6 (NKJV)

Jesus is the Way to the Father and to eternal life in Heaven.  Hebrews 10:19-20 (NLT) gives is this confidence…

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.”

104 - Daily Dependence - TetelestaiWhen Jesus died on the cross He said “Tetelestai” which means “It Is Finished!” which is recorded in John 19:30…

104 - Daily Dependence - John 19-30 - IIF - It Is Finished!
Jesus said, “it is finished.” Then He bowed His head and released His Spirit.”

“IT IS FINISHED” – These were the last words He spoke before dying on the cross. Jesus said this because He knew His mission was done…Everything necessary for His people to have a relationship with God WAS ACCOMPLISHED!  Not only are our sins paid for, but also salvation, forgiveness, and grace is offered to all.  Because it is finished, all who trust and believe in Jesus can have a relationship with their heavenly Father.  If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, check out this post called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ that will lead you in making that decision.

For those who know this truth today, then I urge you to follow the advice from the Apostle Peter…

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”  1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

The time is now!  Don’t wait to share your faith with your children and other young people who are in your sphere of influence.  According to a study that the Barna Research Group conducted, they found

“…that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.” 

What this tells me is that we have a very short window to reach people for the Kingdom of God, and once a person passes the age of 21, the percentage drops considerably.  Such a sad reality!  But at the same time, what an opportunity to share our faith easily with these shirts!  Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 (NLT)

“The harvest is great, but the workers are few."
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”

And finally in Philemon 1:6 (ESV), the Apostle Paul gives this encouragement…

“and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

So the question is…Will you Share It?  I pray that you will activate your faith starting today with everyone you come into contact!

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

Today’s Thought for the Day will tie together (2) Fortune 500 Companies that have helped influenced the culture we live in and how people view Christianity.  At the time of post, according to the Fortune 500 List, the first company Hasbro just missed the top by ranking at 550 but their impact on our families is significant.

103 - Daily Dependence - Fortune 500 - Hasbro

103 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Night InfographicI am not sure if they coined the phrase “Family Game Night,” but clearly Hasbro has done very well capitalizing on their products.  I found this Infographic on The Board Game Family website that is from a study conducted in 2013 by Wakefield Research Group for the Hasbro Gaming Company.  They found that:

“91% of those polled said playing games gives their family’s mood a positive boost.  And 96% of families who play games together say that they feel close!”

103 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Night Statistics

In a world in love with their smart phones, iPads and Tablets, I bet in the past 3 years that statistic above is probably much higher than 61% of families having a hard time disconnecting from their devices.  There is so much competing for our attention these days.  Now I know it is self-serving that Hasbro sponsored this survey and that they found that families playing games = happiness, but as a participant in our own Family Game Nights, I can testify that is definitely true!  There are so many great memories just from these few games that I pulled out of our game cabinet…

103 - Daily Dependence - Game Night

And there definitely are members who have dominated…For instance, my youngest is the master of monopoly, my oldest daughter rules in Rummikub, my wife baffles us with the number of words she finds in Boggle, and I have a lot of success in Scrabble.  Hours upon hours of great family bonding have been spent competing with each other.  It’s interesting though as I dug through the cabinet, I was surprised to find that we no longer had Candy Land.  103 - Daily Dependence - Candyland Game BoardI remember racing to arrive at “Candy Castle” first with both of my girls but I guess we gave it away at some point.  I googled Candy Land and found this on Wikipedia that jogged my memory of why we no longer have the game:

“Candy Land…requires no reading and minimal counting skills, making it suitable for young children. Due to the design of the game, there is no strategy involved: players are never required to make choices, just follow directions.  The winner is predetermined by the shuffle of the cards.”

Besides the fact that the game is rated for ages 3 and up, (and I now have two teenagers), the underlined sentence above is why we don’t have the game any longer.  Now in our family everyone is extremely competitive so a game that has no challenge, no strategy or choices really has no place in the game cabinet…hahaha!  But I think that people view Christianity in the same way sometimes; if you were to become a Christian your choices are limited and you have to follow a bunch of rules…But that is a lie from the enemy!  It reminds me a powerful scene from 2014 God’s Not Dead movie in which Mina’s mother who is suffering from Demetria has a moment of lucidity and compares a life outside of God as a Comfortable Prison Cell, (click here to watch). 103 - Daily Dependence - God's Not Dead - Comfy Jail Cell Quote

The devil wants you to believe that life is more fun without God and that if you become a Christian you will be controlled and have no options just like if you were playing Candy Land.  Jesus said in John 10:10 (ESV) that:

103 - Daily Dependence - John 10-10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The thief, aka the Devil or Satan wants to ruin your life, whereas God sent Jesus to rescue us.  His offer is far greater than any counterfeit that the Devil tempt us with, but unfortunately many fall into the trap that life outside God’s involvement is better, and instead of landing on “Candy Castle,” you will end up in “Molasses Swamp”…okay no more Candy Land references… Jesus is extending a life line to every one of us if we will grab hold of it.  He is our lifesaver!  Acts 13:38-39 (NIV) instructs us…

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

And in John 8:36 (NIV) Jesus said,

“So if the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Here are some additional Bible Verses about the Freedom we have over sin and darkness when we follow Jesus that would be good to memorize if you struggle to remember the truth.  How are you with memorizing scripture?  If you are like me, it’s a struggle to remember where key verses are located but I believe it is okay if you can’t recall the exact “chapter and verse” in the Bible so long as you get the truth in your heart…THAT IS WHAT MATTERS!  A trick I have that may help you is to google the part of the verse I remember and 9 out of 10 times I find what I am looking for.

But there is someone, or some fish who does not have that luxury…Dory.

103 - Daily Dependence - Finding Dory

Were you wondering when I was going to get to the second Fortune 500 Company?  Well just to be consistent, here is the ranking and stats of Disney in the prestigious list…

103 - Daily Dependence - Fortune 500 - Disney

103 - Daily Dependence - Walt Disney

Walt Disney was a master at creating a fantasy world that everyone wanted to be a part of.  This castle for instance at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida is an icon of his legacy.  Every child knows the Magic Kingdom as being “The Most Magical Place On Earth” (and the parents agree, all their money “magically” disappears!)  In the much-anticipated sequel to the 2003 blockbuster hit Finding Nemo, 103 - Daily Dependence - Finding NemoDisney has landed gold with the reprisal of the forgetful Blue Tang Fish. In Finding Dory, which has quickly become the #1 U.S. hit of 2016, grossing $437.8 million (according to Box Office Mojo.), we learn all about Dory’s past and how she was separated from her parents, as well as the background on her unusual introductory statement…

“Hi I’m Dory and I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

I was amazed at how good the sequel was, and the issues that were tackled like raising special needs children, being orphaned, friendship and the importance of family!  The movie is also unique in that it is the most “family friendly” offering from Disney in years, which as avid movie buff and a discerning parent of what I expose my children to, I appreciate the good lessons without the questionable content to worry about.  103 - Daily Dependence - Family VacationI was thinking about the movie last week when our family went on vacation to North Carolina for a family reunion, (which was so special since it has been 3 months ago that we lost my mom.)  To get there, we decided to do a cross-country drive from Texas which was a first for us.  We also added a stop at Destin and Pensacola to hit the beach which was amazing!  All in all we logged 2,740 miles and had an amazing family time as we sang, played games and talked.  But for those who have driven hundreds of miles you know how wearisome it can get…As we were driving my wife made pun off of Dory’s other catch phase…“Just Keep Swimming…”

103 - Daily Dependence - Just Keep Swimming Alt 1

As the miles rolled on, she said, “Just keep diving…driving…driving…” Hahaha!  But I think there is a great life principle to gain from Dory’s optimistic outlook.  She had to overcome a disability, being separated from her parents and being alone, and yet she had an incredible perspective: “Just Keep Swimming!”  Or another way to say it is you keep going when you face adversities in life.  I think too often people have an unrealistic view of the Christian Faith.  They think just because you are a Christian that they should never have any problems.  But that simply is not the case because when you become a Christian you become an enemy to the little god of this world, the Devil.  I shared about how opposition will always come when we serve God in a post called ★ Thought for the Day – Opposition Will Come ★, (which would be good for you to read also.)  Ultimately opposition is a good thing.  Strange statement?  Not really when you are looking through the correct lens.  I love how Jack Graham said it:

“Perhaps today you’d admit that you’re a little discouraged by how difficult the Christian life can be.  If so, I want to offer you a word of encouragement: The opposition you face is actually a sure sign that you’re doing something right!  Because if the devil leaves you alone, that means you must not be worth trying to discourage!”

Easier said than done right?  But I think with the right perspective, we can persevere and flourish.  How do I know this?  John Chapter 17 reveals the heart of Jesus with an incredible prayer for you and me.  We don’t have time to unpack the whole prayer but in verses 13-14 he prayed to God…

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.  I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”

Now you may say this does not cover me but in just four verses later Jesus prayed…

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.   I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”  (John 17:20-21)

I know I talk often about spiritual warfare, that we have a very real enemy who wants to steal and kill and destroy” you and I as we covered already.  And now we see Jesus praying for our protection.  You see people have a skewed perspective of Christianity because Satan is always on the prowl (see 1 Peter 1:8).  But I encourage you to persevere and just keep chasing after God like Dory example has shown us.  I will close with this final though from Susie Larson:
103 - Daily Dependence - Susie Larson - Your Beautiful Purpose - Potential

Embrace that truth today!

If you are interested in reading more, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Anxious to Do the Will of God? ★ 

★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

My pastor shared this quote fro102 - Daily Dependence - Billy Graham - A Good Fatherm Billy Graham last Sunday for his Father’s Day message…

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

It was a great introductory quote to engage all the Fathers in the room for sure, (I know I was…)  He went on to say that we need to be intentional in our own spiritual growth, intentional in our instruction/discipline, and intentional in our affection towards our children.  He also said that we need to be “Marked by God’s Word!”  Now if you’ve been following our blog, you know we’ve been talking a lot about reading the Bible and pursuing God so it should not be a surprise to any of you that this resonated with me; but it also got me thinking about that statement…“Am I really marked?'”  I think that it’s a good thing to step back and do an honest self-evaluation when you are given a challenge like that.  I love what our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt said in regards to honest self-evaluation…

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.”
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Amen?  I love that so much!!  Not only for the sarcasm but also the truth!! How would things be different if we would stop and take a moment to “think” before we “put our f102 - Daily Dependence - Self-Evaluationoot in our mouths” and make a mess of things?

In two months I will be required by my company to do a task that I absolutely hate…the dreaded self-evaluation.  I know that the purpose is to give my supervisor an understanding of what I believe I have accomplished in the past year but it feels so much like “tooting my own horn.”  Now don’t get me wrong, I do avail myself of the opportunity but I attempt to be honest in the evaluation which leads me to the muse for this Thought for the Day”…

Romans 12:3 (NLT) says…

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

102 - Daily Dependence - X_ (1)It’s time to get honest…so what do you think of that?  Be careful how quickly you answer…Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) sheds some light on how good we are at evaluating ourselves…

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?”

When I think over my life and of all the mistakes I’ve made, the careless words and foolish choices that could have gotten me in much more than some hot water, it’s hard to believe that I am the same person.  There is so much I regret, but that makes me also so grateful for the life that I have as a born again believer in Jesus.  I truly am a changed man as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

102 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation - Copy

But even after walking with the Lord for the past 18 years, I still find myself saying and doing things I wish I wouldn’t.  It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15 (ESV)

“For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

That unfortunately is the human condition…we are all sinners and fall short of what God desires for our life, (see Romans 3:23).  The key is not to give up chasing after God, even after we fail to the right thing.  My wife an expression she always says that we need to 102 - Daily Dependence - Strive for Progress Not Perfection“strive for progress, not perfection.”  The reality is we can never achieve perfection this side of heaven but if we are always striving for progress, our life will be in an upward curve.  Even if we stumble, as long as we pick ourselves up and get back on track pursuing God’s desire for us, we will always be improving.  And we need to be very careful not to allow the enemy to get a foothold in our minds that we will never change.  Romans 3:24 (ESV) piggybacks on the fact that though we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” with this beautiful truth that we…

102 - Daily Dependence - License to Sin“are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”

Of course this is not a license to sin!  Too often people try to play the “Grace card” as a way to justify continuing to sin.  That is not what Grace is about!  Grace is a gift to overcome sin not to justify it!

102 - Daily Dependence - Grace is Not A License to Sin

Going back to my Pastor’s statement about being “Marked by God’s Word,” I was reading Romans 12:9-21 the other morning from the English Stand Version (ESV) Translation and it had this heading…“Marks of the True Christian.”  Check it out, it is a powerful list!  To paraphrase, a “True Christian” should be genuine in their love for others…Should hate evil and be on fire to serve the Lord even though they may go through trouble.  A “Marked Christian’s” mission should be to live in harmony with everyone regardless of what they may do to us!  Verse 21 wraps up “The Mark of a True Christian” with this…

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Not what the typical human response is though huh?  I know it’s certainly was not mine until I started walking with God in 1998.  Before that, I can testify that was not my attitude at all…I was self-centered, egotistical and lived my life with one objective…it was all about me!  If you hurt me that was it, I would cut you out of my life, regardless of your attempts to seek forgiveness…you were dead to me.  I never thought about helping others, I just wanted my needs met.  But everything has changed since accepting Jesus as my savior.  Now I look for opportunities to help others, to be an encouragement and look out for those God brings into my life.

There was a man in the early church that I endeavor to be like which Acts 4:36 (NLT) introduces us to…

“For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).  He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.”

What a name!  “A Son of Encouragement!”  He is described in greater detail in Acts 11:24 (NLT)…

“Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.  And many people were brought to the Lord.”

That is my prayer, to be “A Son of Encouragement and to be a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith,” that many people will come to the Lord as a result!”  You see after all the “evaluation” is done and I realize I can never meet God’s standard of Holiness, I step back and realize despite all my shortcomings and failings, God loves me nonetheless!!!!

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible, he had this life lesson on this verse …

“Despite the Corinthian’s problems, Paul could see their genuine spiritual gifts, their repentance, and their love for God, and he wanted these things to encourage them to further growth. Likewise, we must always make sure we are maturing in our walks with Him by examining whether or not we are expressing His likeness and character in increasing measure (see also 2 Peter 1:3-8).

“We must always make sure we are maturing in our walks with Him!”  It’s a command!  But something I have  realize and I hope you gleam this as well, I can never meet God’s standard of Holiness, I just need to step back and acknowledge that despite all my shortcomings and failings, God loves me nonetheless!!!!  I will close with Acts 15:11 (NLT)…

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” 

You see there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore or any less!  Matt Redman has this beautiful song called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” that is a beautiful reminder of how important and loved we are regardless of what we do, nothing is beyond God’s ability to forgive, no matter “how unforgivable” we may feel that it is…It is by the undeserved grace of God that we are saved!

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Leaving It All On The Field ★

We just wrapped up a series on 3 pursuits of God that will change your life…Through PrayerReading the Bible…and Living a Life of Worship.  I thought it only fitting to build upon that foundation and talk about being a person who can have the maximum impact for the Kingdom of God!  In his book “Becoming a Person of Influence,” John Maxwell gave this practical advice, which also serves as the perfect introduction for this post….he said:

“Not everyone you influence will think the same way you do.  You have to help them not only believe that they can succeed, but also show them that you want them to succeed.  How do you do that?

Expect it: People can sense your underlying attitude no matter what you say or do.  If you have an expectation for your people to be successful, they will know it.

Verbalize itPeople need to hear you tell themthat you believe in them and want them to succeed.  Become a positive prophet of their success.

Reinforce it: You can never do too much when it comes to believing in people.

Once people recognize and understand that you genuinely want to see them succeed and are committed to helping them, they will begin to believe they can accomplish what you give them to do.”

Now this was written from a business world perspective but I think that we can easily see how the same advice could be applied to helping us make an impact on those around us.  You may ask why is it important th101 - Daily Dependence - Proverbs 27-17 - Iron Sharpens Ironat we leverage our influence for the kingdom of God?  The answer can found in Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)…

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Whether male or female, God will use you to help others grow in their walk with Him.  After all we all need encouragement, whether we are willing to admit it or not, everyone needs a mentor…People who are living their life for God and pursuing Him in the areas that we just concluded in our Back to the Basics series.  And just like John Maxwell said…

“Not everyone you influence will think the same way you do.  You have to help them not only believe that they can succeed, but also show them that you want them to succeed.

This101 - Daily Dependence - Romans 15-13 is the whole reason why “I Do What I Do!”  My hope and prayer is that in some way I can have some positive influence and to help you succeed in your walk in God.  Here is a great verse to motivate you…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

The key though is to trust in God…boy that sure is hard sometimes when you are in the middle of a storm!  But look at the rewards if we do…”joy and peace and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!”  That is some good stuff!  My brother in-law posted this the other day which I loved…

“Faith…Is see101 - Daily Dependence - Faithing LIGHT with your HEART…When all your EYES see is DARKNESS.”  Unknown 

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who made this famous statement to “leave it all on the field.”  The idea that when the game is over, there should be nothing left…All our strength and energy should be completely depleted.  Well just like in football, I believe that God is asking each one of us to do the same.  The goal of our life, each and every day should be completed absolutely spent…physically, emotionally and spiritually for the enlargement of God’s Kingdom!  “Leave it all on the field” so that you will never think back to a day and say “I wish I would have told them this,” or “if only I had done _____ (fill in the blank)…to encourage them, then it might have been different.  John Greenleaf Whittier once said:

“For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’”

I think that the apostle Paul was the truest example of “leaving it all on the field.”  In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (ESV) we get a little insight into what Pail went through to expand the kingdom of God.

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

Impressive list huh?  I think if any one of us experienced even one of these persecutions it would probably crush us, but I think verse 28 is the most intriguing part. Look at it again…

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

Apart from the other things, Paul finishes with this unbelievable statement that he feels a “daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”  Talk about living a life of sacrifice!  In wrapping up his list, I find it remarkable that his anxiety for all the churches is what he would finish on. You would think the 39 lashes or being beaten with rods or the stoning would be the closing statement but it’s not…it’s all about reaching the lost!!  Talk about leaving it all on the field!!!  Paul authored most of the New Testament and had a huge influence in the early church.  He was also a mentor to many.  One such person was Timothy who he referred to as “my child in the faith” (see 1 Timothy 1:2) and “my beloved child” (see 2 Timothy 1:2).  In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul wrote to Timothy a final word of encouragement…

“As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.  The time of my death is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.  And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”  

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Let this be your rallying cry to give everything you have!  The choice is yours, what will you do?  I pray you will choose to leave it all out on the field for the Lord!

 

If you would like to read more on perseverance check out these 2 posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming ★

★ Thought for the Day – The Storms of Life ★

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★

Today is the final segment in our series of the 3 Worthy Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.  We first introduced these pursuits in the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ in which we saw through the life of Jonah that God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  The first Pursuit of our series was called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ in which we saw how critical prayer is through the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10.  In the second post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we covered the importance of reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible.  In today’s post we will unpack the final Pursuit…Worship.

100 - Daily Dependence - Worship EmojiWhat is worship?  It is a noun?  Is it a verb?  Yes…It’s actually both. 

Let’s start off with what Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary had this simple definition of worship as:

  • the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god
  • the act of worshipping God or a god
  • excessive admiration for someone

Before we get too deep, too fast, I wanted to look at that last meaning…excessive admiration for someone.”  Another word for admiration is adoration which means 100 - Daily Dependence - Five Below Storedeep love.  My youngest daughter without a doubt has a deep love for Five Below. Any time she gets some money she wants to go shopping.  I have to say I am a fan of the store myself because you can some pretty cool stuff for $5 or less.  One visit, as we went through the aisles, I saw this mug which blew me away!

100 - Daily Dependence - I love Me Mug

What a sign of the times!  We live in such a self-indulgent culture that screams look at me, listen to what I have to say, it’s all about me.  You don’t have to go too far down on your Twitter or Instagram feed before you see an example of person making that proclamation of “I love me” through their excessive selfies!  I saw these alarming statistics on infogr.am site:

100 - Daily Dependence - Selfie Statistics

“1 million ‘Selfies’ taken globally each day!!!”  Not that is a “whole lotta lovin” of oneself!!  The Apostle Paul talked in 2 Timothy about the coming “Godlessness in the Last Days.”  In verses 1-2 he said:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,”

And the list goes on, you can read the rest in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.  Doesn’t that sound very familiar to today’s culture?  Now am I saying that taking a selfie = Godlessness?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I have taken my fair share with the people in my life to capture a moment.  But what I am saying is that we need to be very careful that being a “lover of self” is a slippery slope!  We need to renew our mind each day and not follow whatever is trending on Twitter!  See Romans 12:2.

In our last post called ★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★ we talked about how reading God’s Word, and “doing” what it says will move us from being babies in the faith to mature in our walk with God.  The same is true for our worship.  We need to not be so self-centered that everything has to be all about us and follow what 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT) says:

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

When we were babies it was true that the world did revolve around us but that was due to our helpless state but just like as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, we need to put away childish behaviors and start adoring the One who truly matters!  1 Chronicles 29:11 (NLT) gives us another way to live…

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things.”

Going back to Merriam-Webster’s definition…Worship is “the act of worshiping God or a god.”  The strikethrough is based on what the Jesus said in Luke 4:8:

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”

Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 from the Old Testament.  So how do you Worship God?  In how you treat others (see Luke 6:31-35, Mark 12:29-33), how we take care of people in need (see Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27), and even how generous we are (see Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Timothy 5:8).  Another way to Worship God is through music.  David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, played the harp and loved to worship God through music.  He wrote in Psalms 150:1-6 (NASB)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

I love that declaration…”Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”  What a call to action!  This should be freeing to all of us because David said “Let everything,” not the talented or gifted, so if you are shy or feel like you do not have a good enough voice, memorize Psalms 150:6 and Worship the Lord whether in your home, car or church!  We live in such an incredible time period where there are some many different genres and styles of worship, from classic hymns to modern praise and worship.  How doesn’t matter as long as you do!

100 - Daily Dependence - Worshippers

I love what worship leader John David Hessler said…

“Songs become like a diving board to get us back in to the deep water of the Lord’s heart.  I love how a song can somehow contain an eternal moment inside of it.”

I cannot agree more with that!  I love music of all kinds but especially worship music.  I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  But I think that my favorite times of listening to worship music is when I am in church because as I am experiencing “an eternal moment” along with others which users in Holy Spirit’s presence because God inhabits the praises of his people, see Psalms 22:3-4.  Referred to as “Worship Service” or “Corporate Worship,” the gathering together of other believers in Christ to sing praises to God leads us into the final definition that I would like to delve into…Worship is…“the act of showing respect and love for  a  God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God.” The strikethrough and capitalization of “God” is based on 1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) says:

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

God is worthy of our worship and is just waiting for us to turn from our wicked ways, see 2 Chronicles 7:14…The question is will you worship Him?  Will you give up on focusing just on what you want and what make you happy?  Will you look for opportunities to help others, to look out for the overwhelmed, under resourced and people far away?

Though we examined each PURSUIT separately, they are intrinsically linked…at some point you need to realize your brokenness and need of a change in your life, resulting in a PRAYER to God to accept Jesus as your Savior.  In response to that prayer, you start developing a relationship with God through reading His WORD.  And the outcome of gaining knowledge of God and His Son, your love and adoration deepens which leads to WORSHIP.  This is a picture of what happens during a church service, whether you attend on Saturday or Sunday.  Regardless of what denomination or congregation you belong to, if it is a Bible preaching church, each PURSUIT is represented during the corporate time of honoring God.

I will close with this last thought that I think encapsulates the truest sense of Worship…

“Worship is so much more than the songs we sing on Sunday morning.  It is the life that we live the rest of the week.”  Unknown

And how could I talk about worship and not give you a song too?  Here is an incredible song called “Simplicity” by Rend Collective.  Let this just fill your spirit!

Here are a couple of lyrics…

I come with my broken soul
To you the perfect one
To worship you in spirit and truth
Only you 

Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where you are
Cause I’m coming back to my first love
Only you

You’re the reason I sing
The reason I sing

I pray that today you would focus on Adoration That Matters and live your life worshiping the One true God and give your heart to His Son Jesus Christ!

If you would like to read more on this, check out the post ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

 

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★

In our last post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we discussed the importance of reading the bible if we want to grow in our walk with God.  And that what you feed your mind is what you will become.  My daughter reminded me of the movie we saw a year ago called “Tomorrowland” (which was really awesome and is on Redbox now.)  In the movie they had a quote about an Old Cherokee Proverb that within everyone is two wolves fighting a battle…I looked up the background and thought it was a great illustration of what we all face…

A99 - Daily Dependence - Tomorrowland - 2 Wolves Quoten old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. 

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.  

One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”  

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. 

The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

WHICH WOLF ARE YOU FEEDING?  

I love that answer to the question “Which wolf will win?”…“The one you feed.”  There is such truth in that statement that if we could grasp it today, our lives could be forever changed!  In the Bible, Romans 8:5-6 (NLT) supports this truth:

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature [or ‘flesh’ as other Bible translations call it,] think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature [flesh] control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

We always have a choice about what we will feed, our flesh or our spirit…Today I would like springboard off of our last post and speak to those who have been walking with God and reading the Bible to pose the question, are you a parasite?  Strange question huh?  When you hear the word parasite a few nasty examples come to my mind like tapeworms, fleas, and barnacles.  I read somewhere that Tapeworms attach themselves to the insides of the intestines of animals such as cows, pigs, and humans.  They get food by eating the host’s partly digested food, depriving the host of nutrients.  Gross huh?  Vocabulary.com had this definition for what a PARASITE is:

“A creature that lives off another organism is a parasite. The parasite might not hurt the host, but it doesn’t do anything to help it, either.”

Can you think of an example of a creature that feeds off of another but doesn’t hurt the host?  I will give you a hint…you may have some living in your home…babies of course!  But we hardly would consider them a parasite right…right?  Hahaha!  There is nothing more beautiful than a nursing baby.  After all it was God’s design that a woman’s body would transform to be able to provide nourishment for her child BUT as the baby gets older, it is time to transition to solid food.

The question…Are You a Parasite? Was intended to get your attention but maybe a less graphic way to start the dialogue would be to say, are you doing anything with what you are reading in the Bible or are you in a perpetual feeding mode?  I heard a quote from a country preacher named Vance Havner who said:

99 - Daily Dependence - Vance Havner - How Far You've Come
“How long you’ve been a Christian only tells how long you’ve been on the road.  It doesn’t tell how far you’ve come.” Vance Havner

When I first heard of this quote I thought of it in comparison to 1 Timothy 4:12 about not letting anyone “think less of you because you are young.”  But recently I have thought it more along the lines of not believing you’re mature just because of how long you’ve been calling yourself a Christian.  Do you consider yourself mature?  Or should I say are you continuing to mature in your faith?  I an article from Albert Mohler he quoted researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli who said:

“Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it.  And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”  How bad is it?  Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.  “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time.  They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm.  The bottom line?  “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”

And from another article I saw these statistics…

99 - Daily Dependence - The State of the Bible - 6 Trends for 2014 - Barna Reserach
“The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014” – Barna Research

What a sad reality!  Would you consider yourself illiterate when it comes to your knowledge of the Bible?  Just like you cannot become mature just by the number of years you are a Christian, just owning a Bible is not enough, we need to read and know it!  This lack of maturity is not a new phenomenon.  In approximately 55 AD, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 to encourage the Corinthian Church to grow in their faith.  They were not ready for the deeper truths that he wanted to share with them…In verse 2, Paul said:

“I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready,”

For the purpose of this Thought for the Day, I am going to assume that we are all “within the 37% who read the Bible more than once a week” that the Barna Research Group found.  And with that baseline, I want to challenge you to look within and ask yourself…Does that 1 Corinthians 3:2 statement describe you?  Have you been on the path for decades, reading God’s Word, going to church, attending Bible Studies and yet you still are not ready to move on to solid food?  Hebrews 5:12 (NLT) gives this stark wake up call!

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“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.”

Convicting huh?  It was definitely true of me!  I accepted Jesus as my savior in August of 1998 and though I would describe myself as “being on fire for God,” my development was far from that.  I attended church yes but did not read the Bible.  It was not until 12 years later that one conversation with Todd McIntyre, the Men’s Pastor at Gateway Church changed everything!  In the post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, I shared how he helped me see the need to reconcile my relationship with my estranged father and also opened my eyes to the need to develop the spiritual discipline of reading the bible daily which has paid dividends!  I have grown more in the last six years then I did in the preceding 12!  It is interesting to think how one conversation changed the whole trajectory of my life!  But that would not have happened unless I actually listened to Pastor Todd’s counsel and put it into practice!  James 1:22-25 (NLT) says:

99 - Daily Dependence - James 1-22 - Be Doers of the Word“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

In our Wednesday night Lifegroup, we have been going through a Bible Study by Francis Chan on RightNowMedia from the Book of James.  In the third lesson (which was based on James 1:19-27,) Francis Chan nailed it as he pounds on the truth of this passage…He said,

“Satan is thrilled when believers pack out churches to hear the Word of God and then they walk away and do nothing and yet feel like they’ve accomplished something.  Their deceiving [themselves], they’re doing Satan’s job for Him!”

Amen?  We need to be DOERS of the Word not just HEARERS.  Too often that people say “I am not being fed,” so they move on to another church, never realizing that maybe it has nothing to with the Pastor or the church but with them.  You cannot grow without putting in the work yourself.  Being a parasite can also be by living your life only on the basis of someone else’s faith.  Maybe it’s someone who brought you to Christ in the first place, like a parent who dragged you to church every Sunday, or a friend who made you feel obligated to accept Christ.  You never really developed a personal relationship with Christ but rather you are going with the flow of someone else’s faith.  

99 - Daily Dependence - Milk to Meat - MaturingSo then how do we go from MILK to MEAT, and mature as a believer?  I am glad you asked…Stop being a parasite.  Stop leeching onto others for your growth.  Stop depending on others or the Pastor/Church for your spiritual development.  You have to take responsibility for your own development.  Just like you cannot survive on one meal a week, you cannot depend on 1 hour on a Sunday morning to be the only source of nourishment that you give your Spirit!  It must happen daily.  If you don’t apply the knowledge that you hear than you will never grow and you will remain stagnant.  I say this all the time but it’s so true…Nothing changes if nothing changes!  Today decide to…Feed Yourself!

99 - Daily Dependence - Feed Yourself

 

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