★ Thought for the Day – Audience of ONE ★

Today’s Thought has been in the hopper for quite some time.  I have mulled over and over for at least six months now.  The title is an expression that my wife has periodically brought up in conversation with me for why we should do the things that we do.  It’s all for the Kingdom of God.  That’s a tough one isn’t it??  To live your life doing things for an “audience of one.”  For those who are believers in Christ, you know the “Christianese” answer right?  “Of course my reasons are only for the glory of God,” but if you’re being honest, I’m sure that from time to time, you too have looked for that “atta-boy” or “atta-girl” after you have gone out you way to help someone or do something.  This is something that I have struggled with for most of my life both before becoming a Christian and after.  Yeah I would believe that my motivations were pure but in reality I would look for the approval of others or recognition for the “good deed” that I had done.  I think this photo captures my point…

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 15: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs in concert at Allstate Arena on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gabriel Grams/Getty Images)

We all want to have our efforts appreciated.  When you look at this performer he sure is enjoying the accolades from the audience, but the real question is…could you still put forth tremendous effort to a theater like this?

That is the true test!  Can we still labor for God and work our hearts out with no acknowledgement at all?  Can you spend yourself even if no one ever knows what you did?  That is what I want to unpack today!

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

The Apostle Paul addressed this perfectly in this Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

That last part is particularly convicting to me.  If we call ourselves a follower of Jesus Christ and live our lives trying to please others, you have to evaluate who is “LORD of your life”.  YOU or GOD?! 

At first I did not even realize this character flaw but God used my wife to challenge me why do I do what I do?  “Am I trying to win the Approval of human beings or of God?”  It wasn’t until I attended the Act Like Men conference back in November 2014 that God opened my eyes that I needed to address this issue in my heart.  The conference was based on James MacDonald’s book with the same name that reveals what Biblical Manhood is.

During the conference MacDonald invited the men to respond to what God was speaking into their hearts.  I was one of these men on my knees repenting of how I sought after the praise of people over the glorification of God.  Oftentimes it is hard to see the chinks in our armor and how self-absorbed we can be.  I think Paul David Tripp nailed it when he said:

“Be aware that the kingdom of self is a costume kingdom.  It does a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.”  

Wow!  Could it be that we are completely hoodwinked or deceived to believe that we are serving God while all the time really serving ourselves??

It’s not until recently that I realized why I had sought the approval of others  so vehemently.  God has been working mightily in my heart for the past couple weeks.  In the last post called ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★, I talked about my experience with the men of Zaragoza while on a missions trip to Mexico.  As part of my testimony, I shared about how my father wanted nothing to do with me once my mom and I moved from Pennsylvania to New York. As I prepared for the Bible Study, God revealed to me that I not only had a father wound, but one from my grandfather as well.  The move to the TriState area (NY) was not for a change of scenery but out of necessity because we were out of money; and so we moved into the house that my mom grew up in.  We lived in the upstairs apartment from my grandfather but even though there was only a floor separating us, we might as well have lived on another planet.  The journey to, and “life in the city” was overwhelming for this country boy. Though it was only a 2 hour and 15 minute drive, life was completely different. Instead of dirt roads, there were miles and miles of freeways.  I went from riding my bike everywhere to taking a city bus or subway.  And from being rejected by my father to my grandfather.

As a boy of 12 years old, I was excited to get to know my grandfather but unfortunately I found out pretty quick that he wanted nothing to do with me.  So as I experienced a second arrow to my heart, a deep ceded need for a man’s approval was birthed.  In his 2001 groundbreaking book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” John Eldredge spoke about how every man has received a wound or wounds in their life from their father regardless of how good they might have been.  He made this profound statement about how this injury is dealt with:

“Men either overcompensate for their wound and become driven, or they shrink back and go passive.  Often it’s an odd mixture of both.”

I have realized that my drive and aggressiveness in life has been motivated unconsciously to prove that I am worthy of love and have “what it takes.”  At the time I did not realize that the rejection of my father and grandfather had cultivated a deep need for the approval of those in my life, especially men because of the absence of any masculine influence.  And a result, my motives behind why I would help others was more for commendation than genuine love of others.

Back in 2014 I dealt with the symptom of the issue but not the root.  I did not fully know why I was so desperate for attention but now I am much more in tune with the cause; and have truly come to terms that I must be motivated by, and content with, the audience of the One!!  I need to keep this on the sticky side of my brain!

I am going go old school and go to the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 10:31:

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

As part of the Temptation Series, we have unpacked about avoiding the consequences of alcohol and gluttony which you may be thinking why am I using this verse now, well I’m glad you asked.  Chapter 10 deals with idolatry, about the danger of worshiping things that do not please God (alcohol, gluttony and partying – See 1 Corinthians 10:6-11).  We need to be aware that giving ourselves over to anything other than God is a slippery slope.  The last part of verse 31 is what I want to focus on.

This is something that can radically change a person’s life if they will put in the work.  It is really easy to focus on yourself, as Tripp said the kingdom of self does “a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.”  So it’s not just enough to be helping others and serving God, we need to always be checking our motives!

In this self-promoting, indulgent world it is very easy to get derailed by all the “highlights” of people’s lives tweeted and shared online; and seek the approval from the world instead of our Heavenly Father.  If we are not careful we can become imprisoned to the acceptance we receive on social media.  I read this quote somewhere and thought it was perfect…

“A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

If we seek to be changed, God will answer.  In Ezekiel 36:26, He spoke through the project and said,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Amen?  Do you want that?  I will close with these song lyrics from Francesca Battistelli’s song called “He Knows My Name” in which she proclaims…

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh

Check it out and let the lyrics wash over your soul!

 

The question remains…

Why do you do what you do?? 

Is it for God or for man’s approval? 

Is it enough to be famous in your father’s eyes only? 

I pray you will be! 

If you want to dig deeper into understanding how loved you are, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★  

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

And for the men, here are the posts of 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 – 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 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 – 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 – 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 – 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!

99 - Daily Dependence - Hebrews 5-12 - Milk to Meat
“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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★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

96 - Daily Dependence - Follow Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life 3About a year ago we posted ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, in which we looked at how one conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus changed his life and how if we will be open to listening to the call of God, we could be used to change the life of others.  I shared in ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ about how I had a fantastic conversation with a man in the next seat on the flight home from Indiana which has continued with us texting back and forth about God and matters of faith.  I have also been trading emails with a member of my project team about life.  We went from discussing the Presidential Election to Trump’s Wall to handle immigration to what he thought about God which opened the door to the subject of today’s post.  I would like to use his 6 questions to delve into the hot-button topic of “How God could send someone to Hell that never heard the gospel?”  At the end of this post I will give you two messages from Pastors that I greatly respect and have sat under the teaching of for years (one in person and one through Podcast.)  But I digress…I will paste my answer to each question in order of how he asked them…

1.  Why is there not a Gospel of Jesus?  So much was written by flawed men. 

Though man is certainly flawed, the Bible was written by the direction of God.  Part of my faith is that the Bible is the inherent Word of God.  The first thing to understand is that though Jesus’ name is not on the top of any book, every word in the bible is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God” and was intended to be a road map or instruction manual for how to live.

2.  How can Christianity which is all about Christ claim that all people who don’t accept Jesus go to hell and suffer for all eternity?

Regardless of the racial, social or economic background, every single person has been told of the existence of God…By God Himself.  God has placed a God-shaped hole in everyone one of us.  Every person has questioned where they came from, how they came about and ultimately what will happen after we breathe our last breath.  The question is, do you look up or do you rebel against the truth?  Also any sentient being cannot look at the magnificence of a sunrise, or the gentle breeze across halcyon wheat fields or the giggle of a child’s laughter and not wonder if there is not something greater than themselves.  Again the question is, do you open your mind up to the possibility or repress the stirring?  Pastor Robert Morris made statement:

“The Bible says that since the beginning of time, God has revealed Himself to every person both internally and externally.  Every person is born with a conscience, given to them by God, that gives them guidance about right and wrong.  Scripture says that creation itself is proof of His existence, and promises that every person who makes an effort to seek God will find Him.  Therefore, no one has an excuse.  We can see God if we’ll only look.”

Ultimately you have to understand that

“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

Because God is just and holy many people see these 2 attributes as negatives, but there has to be consequences for Sin.  But what many people struggle is that:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

3.  Could you believe that a person like the Dali Lama who is kind and completely about peace in the world would go to Hell?

This question is a difficult one to answer.  I cannot truly answer that question because God is the who judges and will decide who is destined to go to Hell or not.  Jesus did say in John 14:6 (NLT),

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father [God] except through me.

The question though is from the presupposition that there are actually kind and good people.  Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says,

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless.  No one does good, not a single one.”” 

And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Sin is very real and though people may strive to be kind and peaceful; there is no one who is perfect.  See Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 5:12-17.  To make matters worse, 2 Corinthians 4:4 which talks about how “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.”  It is interesting to note that people were never intended to go to Hell.  God created Man to have a relationship with Him and set Him in the Garden of Eden which was paradise on earth.  Robert Morris made this point:

“Hell was created for Satan and his angels, (see Matthew 25:41) when they inexcusably and rebelliously rejected God without cause.  God sent His Son so that no one else would ever have to go there.  God gave every person a free will.  We can choose to love Him or to reject Him.  The people in heaven are those who have chosen Him.  Many others reject Him, in spite of His unlimited goodness.  Our eternal destiny is not His choice, but ours.  Hell wasn’t created for people, but according to Isaiah 5:14, it was enlarged because people inexcusably reject God.  So, the question is, ‘How could anyone reject a loving God?’”

Isn’t that a fascinating thought?  Instead of viewing it from the perspective that God is sending people to Hell, the truth is that People are choosing to go to Hell because of their blatant rejection of the free gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross!  You can read more on this in the post ★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★.

4.  How do I have faith when Christianity and all other religions say we go to hell if we don’t believe?  Christianity is all about Jesus and Christianity says we go to hell when for many life is stacked against them even to the point they may not have even heard of him?

In addition to what I stated above, in a message that I just heard, Steven Furtick made this profound faith…

“The Opposite of Faith is not doubt.  The Opposite of Faith is certainty.

Faith is meant to be more than a formality.

Faith was meant to be more than a feeling.

Faith was meant to be more than a formula.

In fact if you can reduce it to a formula and make sense out of it, it ain’t faith.”

It’s normal to have doubts and to question but in the end, there will be some things we just will never know this side of heaven.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says,

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

God is the only one who knows whose heart belongs to Him and whose has rebelled.

5.  Is the simple answer that parts of the bible while true there maybe parts that are not because they were not written by Christ?

As I mentioned above, The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the entire Bible is true.  Charles Stanley made this statement.

“The truth of God’s Word applies to all men and women in every culture, in every age, in every walk of life…Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the Bible enlightens each individual to recognize personal sin, the need for salvation, and the best possible life course.”

For me the Bible is my anchor of my life.  I believe if people truly want to grow in their faith and live a victorious in life than dusting off the Bible on the nightstand and opening it up is a necessity!  In an older post called ★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★, I wrote about the importance of knowing the whole Bible because of its relevance to our life.  Check it out; it looks through the lens of the Ten Commandments.

6.  What do you think is the greatest sin with respect to sins against others? 

There are definitely sins that I believe are worse than others, rape, murder, child abuse to name a few but the Bible has something very different to say.  In asking this question I asked if he were referring to the Ten Commandments or perhaps “The seven deadly sins” – Pride, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Greed but regardless of what he was asking, there is a really easy answer that comes from Jesus’ little brother James where he said;

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”  James 2:10-13 (NLT)

We as humans are broken, sinful people in need of Savior to rescue us from ourselves, see Psalms 14:1-3, Romans 3:23-26 and Romans 5:8-9.

I will tell you what I told him, that I am truly honored that you have opened your heart for us to dialogue about God and to share with you what I have learned through the study of His Word.  I will close with this final truth of Who is God and what do we mean to Him…James 1:16-18 (NLT)

“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

We are His prized possession and all God wants from us is a relationship with Him!  Here is a blog I wrote that expands much deeper called…★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★, would love to hear your thoughts!

Here are so follow-up resources…

★  “Tough question…How can a loving God send people to Hell” – Robert Morris

http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/life/events/the-end-what-happens-next/session/2011/08/13/a-tough-question#.TkvLcu7ZdUB.gmail

★  “Functional Faith” – Steven Furtick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=935vFzx722c&sns=em

Check back soon as we will be posting ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★  that will continue our series of the 3 Pursuits that will lead to a successful life!

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★ Re|Engage – Completion ★

ReEngage - Lesson 15Well we are in the final stretch!  The last two lessons are on Completion and Diligence.  Throughout the series of posts we have been talking about the importance of applying everything we are learning.  My daughter has this quote on the lock screen of her iPad and I thought about what a profound statement it is…

“God’s Word is like a can of paint…it’s value is in its application.”  Steven Furtick

It reminds me of James 1:22-25:

“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.”

If you don’t apply the knowledge that you hear than you will never grow and your marriage will become stagnant.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

The reading focused on this Principle:  Embrace Oneness.

The main idea of Lesson 15 was:

“Part of God’s design in marriage is to use your spouse to conform you into His image. You need to allow your spouse to partner with you in spiritual growth.”

Have you ever thought of marriage from that perspective?  That your spouse is there to help you become more like God?  I love how lesson 15 started off with this quote,

“Reformer Martin Luther once said that he learned more about what it means to be a follower of Christ in a marriage then he did in a monastery. In a monastery, one can isolate. But in marriage, there is no place to hide.”

Amen??  “There is no place to hide.”  Sooner or later the ugly sides of us are going to come out.  But as they said in the reading…

“Your spouse is to complete you in a way that no one else can and encourage your spiritual growth through their unique role in your life.”

“Previous lessons have pointed out that the goal of marriage is oneness, discussing both physical and emotional intimacy. Oneness is also to include spiritual intimacy, and one of the primary ways to promote spiritual oneness is to partner with your spouse in their spiritual growth.”

They asked this question in the reading, How do you help your spouse become more like Christ?  When I first read that question, it took me by surprise because I don’t know if I ever really thought about helping my spouse become more like Christ consciously. But I like what, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV) says…

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

“This passage is talking about how to help four different groups of people, but both you and your spouse often will need the same four things.”

Admonish the Idle.

“There are times when the most loving thing you can do is to help your spouse see their own sin.

Another way to say it is to help them see the blind spots that they have…Those areas that they are not realizing they have a problem…could be working too much, drinking too much or not making your marriage a priority.  This me seem like “Circle infringement,” but keep in mind the council that they offered in the book,

“Admonishing always needs to be done in love and humility.”

I know that we have really emphasized the need for you to “draw the circle around yourself and work on everyone inside,” but this is the point in your journey that you and your spouse start to have overlapping circles…And if you allow the overlap, then God can really use them to help mold you into the person that He intended you to be.

Encourage the Fainthearted.

There will be times when they are fully aware of their shortcomings and are trying to work on issues. Praise your spouse for their efforts, regardless of how small they may seem to you.  Praise them for successes!  Try to overlook the small offenses.

“Pointing out small ways they are changing and growing is motivating and is a great way to help your spouse become who God intended them to be.”

Help the Weak.

“Sometimes your spouse will need more than truth and encouragement; they will also need your tangible expression of support.”

Be Patient with Them All.

“Change in people generally occurs over time. If you are being honest with your spouse, encouraging and helping them along the way, then continue to do so as you pray and wait to let God bring about the change.”

Did you catch that last part?  “Then continue to do so as you pray and wait to let God bring about the change.”  We MUST pray for our spouse and be patient as God moves in their hearts.  Patience one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that can be really challenging sometimes but I think it is one that if we master it, we will reap the rewards in our marriages!

“Helping someone grow will always be difficult, but there is no greater joy than having a front-row seat to life-change.”

This is so true!!  It may be difficult but oh so rewarding!  One of my favorite quotes was,

“Authors Gary and Betsy Ricucci said, ‘One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”

I never thought of my spouse that way before this class, but that description is dead on!

“The 24/7 spotlight that marriage puts on your life will fully expose who you really are.  You can pretend at work and with your friends, but your quirks, sin patterns and selfishness will become fully exposed to your spouse overtime.”

We heard this quote in Lesson 8 but it is worth repeating… Author Gary Thomas asked this interesting question that I will pose to you…“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”What do you think of that?

“The challenge is to see marriage primarily as a way to become more like Christ by helping you to become a serving, forgiving and more patient person.”

You could look at it this way, Marriage is the vehicle to humbleness.

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Diligence ★

Or if you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here . . .

https://dailydependence.wordpress.com/category/reengage-class/?order=asc

 

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★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Last year I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – What is the X-Factor of Leadership? ★, which examined how the X-Factor of Leadership is humble service to others through the example that Jesus gave to His 12 disciples.  On the eve of Jesus’ brutal death on the cross, He celebrated one last Passover meal together with His disciples, the people closest to Him.  Referred oftentimes as “The Last Super,” Jesus gave us a powerful demonstration and pattern to follow of what servant leadership is all about when He, the Son of God took on the role of a slave/servant and took hold of a jar of water and basin and washed His disciples’ feet.  One by one, foot by foot, Jesus humbled Himself and cleaned the day’s grime from their sandal-wearing feet…POWERFUL!  If you missed it, I encourage you to check it out because it will give you some needed background to this post.

Yesterday was “Good Friday,” which for Jesus was anything but that.  For us though, it changed everything!  By dying on the cross, Jesus stole the power of death and provided a pathway for you and me to overcome the Devil and have eternal life!!  But before we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection, I thought we could look at the events leading up to Sunday.  Last week, my Pastor gave a great overview of Holy Week which I was very familiar with having grown up Catholic.  His sermon encouraged me to spend some time just reading and meditating on the events of this week through the Gospel of Luke.  If you are interested in reading what happened, they are recorded in Luke 19:28 – 24:12.  For those not familiar, Holy Week is the time period from Palm Sunday when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem to Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter).  As I studied the story of Easter in Luke, I discovered some interesting things.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was heralded as a King riding in on the back of a Donkey and though we all know what happens just 5 days later on Friday, I was amazed about how Jesus made the most of every opportunity.  In Luke 21:37-38 it says that:

“Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.  The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him.” 

Even though He knew what awaited Him, Jesus spent each day teaching the very people who later would call for His crucifixion!  Michelle Myers made this astute observation:

“The crowd shouted “Hosanna” on Sunday…and shouted “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Good Friday was a horrible day but I think that Saturday was probably the saddest day because all the hopes and expectations that Jesus’ followers had were crushed, and crucified on that cross along with Him.  Today’s “Thought,” is all about the transition period between the death of expectations and the resurrection of the dead.  And how, if you find yourself in that circumstance today, whether you are a believer in Jesus or not, there is hope in these two powerful words…BUT GOD!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God

Before that though, I would like to give a little context.  Luke 22:1-6 offers the background…As the Festival of Unleavened Bread (also called the Passover) was approaching, the leading priests were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  In verses 3-5 it says:

“Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.  They were delighted, and they promised to give him money.”

One man from among the inner circle accepted a bribe to betray His master.  As Judas waited for his opportunity, Jesus continued to show love to him even to the point of washing his feet!!  And the amazing thing, Jesus knew as he was washing Judas’ feet, see Luke 22:21-22 and John 13:18-30 which recalls when Jesus made the announcement that one of them would betray Him!  In the late 15th-century, Leonardo da Vinci captured that moment in his famous painting called “The Last Supper” 95 - Daily Dependence - Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supperas each disciple, including Judas asked Jesus if it was them.  Shortly after, Judas left to put his plan in action.  Unaffected by his departure, Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that Satan was going to “sift each of them like wheat” and that the spiritual warfare was going to be intense.  He also prepared them for what their life was going to be like after He was gone, see Luke 22:31-38What love!  Just hours before He would be viciously tortured and nailed to a Roman Cross, 95 - Daily Dependence - Crown and NailsJesus cared so much for these men that He would wash their feet, celebrate with them and offer counsel for the future!  After the Passover meal, Jesus did what He had been doing all week, and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray for strength for what Friday was going to bring.  In Luke 22:47-48 it recalls how Jesus was betrayed and arrested.  As He pleaded for His disciples to pray that they will not fall into temptation, the passage says:

But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss.  But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 

When I read these words, God spoke so clearly into my spirit that “WE ARE ALL JUDAS!” 

WE ALL HAVE betrayed Jesus in our disobedience and choices that we have made.

WE ALL HAVE sinned and fallen short of what God desires for our life and…

WE ALL HAVE NO POWER to overcome sin without Jesus.

BUT GOD can change us if we will open our hearts!  Look at this amazing truth from Ephesians 2:1-9!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God - Ephesians 2 - 1-9

BUT GOD!  Two little words but when they are combined the impossible is possible!  When we say yes to Jesus, “we are made alive with Christ,” it’s like hitting the “reset button.”  95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System - ResetThe “reset button” is probably one of the greatest inventions on video game systems.  Do you remember what game system this is from?  Long before Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or Sony PlayStation there was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  For those who remember this, you are old like me.  Hahaha!  This classic 80’s game system 95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System 2was a major pastime of my childhood.  Hours upon hours were spent playing games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Donkey Kong Jr. and The Legend of Zelda to name a few.  The reset button was a constant go to when I was “knocked out” by Tyson or killed by a barrel or failed to rescue Princess Zelda, I would immediately jump up and hit the button which was like a do-over or clean slate.  95 - Daily Dependence - Martin Parker Street Art - Reset Your LifeI saw this sign creation from street artist Martin Parker that so perfectly illustrates what the purpose of the Cross and the reality of Easter!  We all get the opportunity to “reset our life” when we recognize that we are in need of a savior and surrender our will to God.  When we come to the end of ourselves and see that we cannot be “good enough” or “do enough” to earn our way to heaven.  When we see the cross for what it truly is, the ransom payment for our past, present and future mistakes!  God wants a relationship with you and me and so He provided a way though the death and resurrection of His Son.  In the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★, we looked at the life of Jonah and saw an example of how God will move heaven and earth in order to pursue you and me!  God did the same thing when He sent Jesus to Earth.  1 John 4:9 (NLT) says:

“God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.”  

As I have been studying the book of Jonah recently, it is amazing the jewels that are contained in this well-known story.  Jonah and the Fish is not just a children’s story made up to teach a life lesson about the price of disobedience but was a true story.  Jesus validated Jonah’s miraculous experience in Matthew 12:40 (NLT), Jesus said:

“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”

Yesterday was the remembrance of how Jesus was crucified over 2,000+ years ago and the payment for the sins of the world.  He died on Friday BUT GOD raised Him from the dead 3 days later!  Today as we wait for Resurrection Sunday, I want to put these two powerful words on the sticky side of your brain…“BUT GOD!”  You may feel like things will never change…that your circumstance is hopeless…that things are hopeless.  But that is simply not true!  I am living proof that nothing is impossible for God.  All you need to do is open your heart!  Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT) is an amazing verse to show that when you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you can be alive and free!!

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.

For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

Jesus came to set you and I free, will you accept Him?  Revelation 1:18 (NKJV) says,

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Jesus left the majesty of heaven and became flesh and blood to deliver a message of hope to a world desperately in need of a Savior.  He is ready to extend grace and mercy to you today.  So what should our response be?  Will you surrender your life to Him?  If you are ready to make a decision that will change your life, here is a simple prayer you can pray:

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 on the cross 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 prayed that in earnest, welcome to the Kingdom of God!  I encourage you to find a bible teaching church and pursue your new relationship with Jesus!  If you want to read more about developing your faith, check out our segment on the blog called “Back to the Basics”

Now for the believer who may be struggling today or perhaps your walk with God has been in a lull…I want to challenge you to make a change today!  Worship Pastor Wade Joye made this statement that resonated in me!

“Easter is not an event we celebrate; it’s a reality we live in.”   

Just like Christmas, Easter should not be a “one and done” event.  It should be part of our DNA.  Don’t be a “Chreaster”… (a person who calls themselves a Christian but only attends church on Christmas and Easter.)  If you want to have a vibrant faith, then you need to put in the work.  We are doing a series right now about three worthy pursuits of God that will change the trajectory of our life with God.  Through Prayer, Reading God’s Word (the Bible) and Worship (both in song and church attendance) we can live a victorious life!  Paul instructs us in Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

As a believer in Jesus Christ, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead is in you!  If you are in need of refreshment of your Spirit today, ask and you will receive that!  Jesus is the Resurrected King who is ready to resurrect you and me.  If you want to grow you need to make steps to do things differently.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

In anticipation of Easter tomorrow, I will close with this…“He is Risen!”

I pray that this year, you will experience Christ in a new way!  Happy Easter!

 

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

In our last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ we dug into the life of Jonah and saw through his life how God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  We also introduced that we would be doing a 3 part series of how if we would respond to God’s “Never-Ending Pursuit” of us that would result in a victorious life for us.  As a refresher the trilogy of posts will delve into these 3 Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer Word Worship BannerSimple enough right?  But I know myself; in the busyness of life establishing (and maintaining) a consistent “quiet time” can be a challenge.  Not familiar with that term?  You can check out this post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★ that goes in-depth about it but in a nut shell, it is simply being intentional about having a conversation with God through prayer, reading the Bible (Word) and for me I enjoy having worship music on.  This could be at night or in the early morning, or any time in between that does not really matter, what matters is spending time with God.  The pursuit of our Father in Heaven is all He desires!  God wants a relationship with us.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer EmojiSo in our inaugural post of this series let’s talk about “opening the pipeline” aka – Prayer.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) we get a very clear picture of what God is desiring:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 Chronicles 7-14 - If My People Would Pray“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.”

“If my people” would “humble themselves and pray and seek” Him and turn away from sinning, God will hear us and forgive us!  Wow!  This is not an obligatory prayer before your meal, or a lukewarm petition.  God’s desire is for us to truly want to pray, to be passionate in our time with Him.  And it is not intended to be a monologue…that you tell Him all that you need and then say Amen…It should be a dialogue where you listen for a response which could be an impression you feel or something that you comes to mind.  And this is something that is developed over time.

Before I accepted Jesus as my savior and pursued a relationship with God I know I prayed many milquetoast and meaningless prayers where I bargained with Him like God let me pass this test and I’ll go to church this week, or God get me through this hangover and I will never drink again.  The problem with these prayers is that they were not sincere and were just attempts to bribe God to get me out of trouble.  Too often we pray when things are terrible for God to help us out but once that is done God gets nothing…no thanks, no gratitude even if He did everything we prayed.

There is a song by the late great country singer Johnny Cash called a “Boy named Sue.”  He tells the story about how his father named him Sue and that he spent his life fighting everyone as a result of it.  The song most certainly is fictitious but in the Bible there is a man who was the equivalent to Sue.  His name was Jabez.  In 1 Chronicles 4:9 it says that:

“His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’”

The name his mother gave Jabez literally means…“he causes or will cause great pain.”  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but in Old Testament times, a person’s name was an indication of his future.  And a name like Jabez was like a curse that would predestine a person to a life of ridicule and grief just like the “boy named Sue.”  However, Jabez rose above the curse with a very simple prayer.

In 1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to God saying:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
And enlarge my territory,
That your hand would be with me,
And that you would keep me from evil,
That I may not cause pain!
So, God granted what he requested.”

Jabez was a man who knew the power of prayer and is a great example of how to open the pipeline to God.  First and foremost we can learn that just like Jabez, we need to believe with all our heart that God will honor our prayer.  Now Jabez’s prayer may seem to be common sense but how many of you have ever prayed so boldly?  Most people feel that they should be grateful for whatever they have and it’s better not to press your luck by asking for more since there is so much suffering in the world.  That is completely opposite from the truth.  If you look at the first part of his prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 1 - Oh, that you would bless me indeed

Jabez is asking God to provide him with resources.  Now don’t misunderstand me, that does not mean that you can ask God for a Rolls Royce or a mansion in Beverly Hills.  As we discussed in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★, “God is not a vending machine!  Too many pastors and churches have sown into the “prosperity gospel” where you “give to get,” or in this case that you are praying for God to give you with lots of stuff!   That is not what blessing means.  The kind of blessing Jabez is talking about in a biblical sense is to ask God for “supernatural favor.”  It is asking God to bless us not with more of what we can do for ourselves, but for Him to do the miraculous through us to glorify the kingdom of God.  What a different perspective then the conventional though of our culture.  God has so many blessings for us and is just waiting for us to ask for them.  In Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV1984) it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jabez asked and he received.  The prayer of Jabez is a special prayer asking for God’s blessings.  But something you have to realize is that God’s blessings are not always the blessings that we think that they ought to be.  The blessings that He will bestow upon us are so much more abundant than we could even imagine.  When Jabez asked God to “bless him indeed” he didn’t say “God I could use a new car, or a million dollars”; rather he left it up to God to decide how, when and where to bless him.  He prayed that God would give him nothing more and nothing less than what God had planned for his life.  The blessing can come in many different forms and for reasons that you would never expect.  In the second part of Jabez’s Prayer he asked for God to:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 - Enlarge my territory

Now when I first read that I immediately thought of real estate.  That Jabez wanted more land but what he was really asking for was more influence, more responsibility and more opportunity to make a difference for God in his life.  Asking your territory to be enlarged is a very dangerous request though.  You are saying to God give me a greater sphere of influence and more opportunities to impact people for Christ.  It is being totally open for God to use you as a tool for His purpose.  That means stepping out of your comfortable schedules and routines and being ready at any moment to fulfill God’s master plan.  It means seeing “interruptions” as “opportunities!”  This was true for me on Thursday on my flight home from a business trip in Indiana.  My plan was to plug-in my ear buds to relax with some music and write this post!  But as a man sat down next to me and proceeded to talk with me, God opened an incredible door to speak life into his situation.  Though I was exhausted from 2 days of meetings, and had other plans for the 2 hour flight, I was thrilled to be able to partner with God to share the truth from His Word to help encourage him.  It truly was the highlight of my day!

When you ask for your territory to be enlarged, it is an awesome responsibility but the rewards are immeasurable.  More than any other part of the prayer of Jabez, this concept of “enlarging my territory” has to be the most bizarre and unexpected request.  How many people do you know go up to their boss and say “would you give me more work and responsibility?”  Most people feel that whatever they are currently doing is enough and that they do not have the skills to handle anything more.

Through the Holy Spirit, He will speak the words of encouragement or healing or compassion that the person needs to hear.  That is what happened to me on Thursday!  The man in seat 16A asked me if I was a pastor but I am not, I’m an architect, and he kept saying “how is it that you know all of this?”  The answer unequivocally is God!  That is the point of this part of Jabez’s prayer, by asking for “the expansion” you are taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that when you are reaching out to people who God will give the words to speak when you are open to be used, He will break all the boundaries and restraints holding you back.  The third part of Jabez’s prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 3 - That your hand would be with meIs the equivalent of the Star Wars catch-phrase…“May the Force Be With You.”  Jabez realized that once God started to bless him with resources and expanded his territory that he was going to need help.  It is all too common for people to ask for more responsibility and once it has been given they feel overwhelmed and begin to doubt themselves.  It is at this point that we need the hand of God to carry us and work the impossible through us.  In his book “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life,” Bruce Wilkinson said that:

“The Hand of God is a biblical term for God’s power and presence in the lives of His people…As God’s chosen, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed…unless God Steps in.”

I shared some of this in the ★ Why I Do What I do ★ section of the blog, starting this blog was a huge step of faith because of the commitment level.  It takes much more effort than just throwing up a status update.  But God certainly expanded my territory through this blog and without a doubt has had his hand on my preventing epic failure.  He has equipped me with a boldness to share things from my heart and do things that I never imagined possible.  It has been an amazing experience!  The fourth part of the Prayer of Jabez states:

94 - Daily Dependence - 4 - And that you would keep me from evilThis is critical to pray.  As God blesses us, and our territory is expanded and the supernatural power is surging through us, we are most vulnerable to stumble and fail.  When you are enjoying spiritual victories and seeing God’s unbelievable plan unfolding it is easy to feel invincible and impervious to the attacks of the devil.  But, Jabez knew that once you start treading on the devil’s territory, a giant target would be placed on you.  You become public enemy #1 in his eyes.  I can attest to that fact.  With the devil’s attention focused on you like this, it’s best if you don’t try to play with temptation.  Don’t fall into the devil’s trap by testing your strength to resist from sinning because that is the quickest way to fail.  Bruce Wilkinson made this point in the book that:

“It is better to stay out of the arena than to challenge the lion.”

What is the best offense?  A good defense!  And that of course as you can already guess, is prayer!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles how to pray, “The Model Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 is often referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer,” or as I knew it growing up, “The Our Father.”  The final verse shows how important to pray to God for deliverance:

“And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:13

In regard to temptation it is best not to press your luck.  If there is no temptation we will not sin; so stay clear of situations that will lead you to sin or cause harm to you or someone else.

There is such a tremendous power in prayer.  When Jesus was on the earth He was always praying to the Father.  In fact the only thing that the apostles ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.  Jesus’ ministry was not just about healing and preaching but about praying.  He lived a life of Prayer.  It was through His prayers that God worked all the miracles and wonders.  In the life of Jabez, here was a man who started off badly but ended victorious from a simple prayer.  And let’s not miss the final part of that prayer…

94 - Daily Dependence - 5 - That I may not cause painI love the self-realization of Jabez, to know that he is fallible and in need of God to protect him from hurting other people.

And God’s response…“So, God granted what he requested.”  I heard a missionary say once:

“That when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.

God will work in your life through your prayers.  When you pray, you are opening up a pipeline to the creator of heaven and earth and the possibilities are endless!!  Your pray doesn’t have to be a formal, rehearsed prayer but rather God desires it to be one from the heart.  You don’t have to have your eyes closed or be in church.  Sometimes the most powerful prayers can be in the car as you’re driving to work or school.  Regardless of what you are doing, or who you are with, God will honor your prayers and welcome the fellowship time between you and Him.  Talk to God like a friend and open your heart to Him.  The miraculous can be done with a prayer!

If you are interested, you can check out the second installment called

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are a You Feeding On? ★

that covers the Pursuit of Feeding on God’s Word!

or

If you the introductory post, you can go here:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★

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★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

21 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Lights Too BrightsI hope you have been enjoying all the comics…They bring levity while simultaneously helping raise awareness to a much-needed area to discuss.  A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook the day before Thanksgiving that had 21 - Daily Dependence - Stop Premature Christmas Decoratingme laughing…

“Stop Premature Christmas Decorating”

…but I have to say I agree.  Not sure where you fall in this debate but for me, the day after Thanksgiving is the starting point of the decorating season whether inside or outside…It is not a sin of course if you did it beforehand…this is just my preference, hahaha!  Don’t get me wrong I am not ant-decorating, just pro post-Thanksgiving.  I love seeing all the neighbors decorate their houses, and often times we will slow down to “oh and ah.”  My co-worker was telling me of two house on his block who each year their displays get bigger and bigger due to their neighborly competition… As you can see there is not much lawn left…hahaha!

21 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Lights - Competition with NeighborsHe said they literally grow their display after each person put something else out to outdo the other.  Too funny!  There is a park near my house that rivals these houses for sure and definitely did have to prematurely decorate because there were a total of with 4 million lights to set up along a 2 mile path/drive!  Each year they set up this Holiday Light extravaganza that draws thousands of cars to our area to drive through the incredible displays.  

21 - Daily Dependence - Prairie Lights FilmstripThough I am not a runner to say the least, this year we participated with our lifegroup from church in the “Sneak-a-Peek 5K Run & Walk” the weekend before thanksgiving.  My wife and I walked along the trail with our good friends as our kids blazed passed us…hahaha!  The light show is really something to see, but my favorite for sure is the last picture of the film strip above…The Nativity Scene for sure!  Hard to see amidst all the other decorations, but here is a focused view…21 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Lights - NativityThough I take exception to the depiction of the Wise Men because they were not present that night Jesus was born, (…we will discuss in tomorrow’s ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★,) this illuminated display sure popped along the pathway because of it brilliance.

Matthew 2:1-10 (NKJV)21 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men will be our passage from the Christmas narrative that centers on the Star that led the Visitors from the East to come to worship the newborn king of the Jews!  Let’s begin with verses 1-2…

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’”

Though we are not told specifically, it is believed that the Wise Men were from the region where Daniel and the other Israelites spent 70 years of captivity, (605-530 B.C.)  Daniel was a powerful prophet of God who spoke of the second coming of the Messiah (which you can study on your own in the book of Daniel, chapters 9 through 12, speak of Daniel’s prophecies about the second Advent or coming of Jesus that will be a conquering King, unlike His first Advent as a humble baby.)  Daniel held a high office in the Babylonian Empire and wielded great influence on the people, and as a result the Wise Men probably learned from Daniel’s teachings about the coming savior of the world.  Let’s pick up the story with verse 3…

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Stop…That verse is so peculiar to me.  But it also is quite revealing, showing the darkside of Herod, (no I will not be making any Star Wars tie-in here…) and the darkness that rested Jerusalem.  This news that the Wise Men brought should have brought great joy as it much-anticipated fulfillment of the prophecies of old but instead, Herod was “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Very sad…Okay back to verses 4-8…

“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah 5:2]:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” 

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Herod’s neighborly competitiveness was much greater than trying to have the best light display; he was obsessed with being king over Israel, and was determined to do whatever it took to keep his throne!  (You can read in Matthew 2:16-18 about the level he went to, but that is for another day…)  We finish out today’s narrative with verses 9-10…

“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

The wise men traveled hundreds of miles, following the star that they saw in the East and when they reached their destination, “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”  Is that your reaction to the coming of December 25?  Or have you become preoccupied with the trappings that this season brings?  I shared this on ★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★ post, but it warrants repeating…

"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."  Matthew 5:14, 16 (NKJV)
“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.”

Like the Star for the Wise Men, we too should let our light shine for all to see!  We should be filled with “exceedingly great joy” because of Jesus!

“To let the light of Jesus shine through us and to bring honor and glory to God, we first and foremost have to have Jesus in us.”  Marty Collier

Herod had no room in his heart for the true KING that came in the form of a baby over 2,000 years ago, what about you?  Are you shrouded in darkness and feeling lost?  You don’t have to be…Jesus offers another way.  In John 8:12b (NKJV) Jesus said to the crowd,

“I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Following Jesus and having a relationship with Him will bring you into the light and will give you a hope and future that you WILL NEVER HAVE A PART FORM HIM!  I am thankful not only for the Star that led the Wise Men to Jesus but for the Savior of the World that was found there!  If you want to learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus, check out our ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★, you will never be disappointed choosing to follow Jesus!  Worship him as the Wise Men did so many years ago!!

21 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men SilhouettesAs an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to  “The Twelve Voices of Christmas audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Herod – The Voice of Deception” who was the biggest enemy in the Christmas story!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness

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★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

In yesterday’s post, ★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★ we looked at Luke 2:8-14 (KJV) which was the proclamation of Jesus’ birth from the Angel of the Lord to The Shepherds who were nearby in the fields.  The Angels not only proclaimed the Good News but verses 13-14 tells us…“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  So not only was the night sky set ablaze from the glory of the Angels’ radiance but they also worshiped the Savior of the World in song from a “multitude of the heavenly host!”  And I think that they give us a great example that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!  15 - Daily Dependence - Bring Christmas Cheer By SingingWe discussed yesterday about placing ourselves within the story and imagining what that must have been like to see brilliance of the Glory of the Lord and be told the news that everyone in Israel was longing to hear for hundreds of years.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will look at Christmas through the Shepherd’s eyes.  Angels from heaven visited Shepherds in the field to proclaim that the Savior of the world has been born in the City of David.  That is pretty incredible news but as we have been discussing over the past 2 weeks, all too often we can miss the significance, miss the whole “Reason” for the “Season” by being a Bible reader but not a Bible absorber, and never find Jesus in a meaningful way within these passages.

The light and beauty of the Angel’s praises filled the night as they announced the greatest event in history to lowly Shepherds.  What an honor the Shepherds were given, not only to be visited by Angels but also to be the first to hear of Jesus’ birth.  Have you ever wondered why the Shepherds were honored?  What made them so special?  If you look at the Shepherds, 15 - Daily Dependence - Shepherd in Fieldthey were just average men, living amongst animals.  By the measure of this world, you would think a King or rich man would be the first to hear the news, someone of “significance.”  We give such reverence to people who have acquired great wealth or power.  But God doesn’t work that way.  He seeks out the most unlikely of people to use them in His master plan.  My pastor, whom I was saved under his teaching back in NJ in 1998, said it perfectly in one of his messages…

“The people that men consider to be NOBODIES, God considered them to be SOMEBODYS.”  Kevin Brennan

In those days the Shepherds were part of the lowest class in society, likened to thieves and scoundrels, yet God sent His angels to proclaim the birth of His Son to the most undesirable of all people!  I like how Matt Chandler put it in his sermon called Advent (Part 2) – Tell of His Coming: The Shepherds and Angels,.”

“God brings glory to Himself, by being the power, the authority, and the presence by which all things happen.  So when God calls, rescues, redeems, calls to Himself…He calls among the weak, and broken so that He is most glorified…

God often times, if not always, calls people to Himself that are undesirable, they are unlikely, they are unhealthy, they are the last person you would ever think…In fact if you pay attention throughout the Bible, this is almost His M.O., in fact being super strong might disqualify you.”

Now if this visitation and heavenly announcement was not amazing enough we will pick up the story with what the Shepherds’ response was which to me is what I find almost just as amazing…Luke 2:15-20 says,

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the Shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the Shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

So it was the Shepherds who were first to know and spread the word, not rich men or kings.  Incredible!  Look at the response from these lowly recipients of God’s message to the world…After the Angels went back to heaven; the Shepherds left the fields and their flocks and went out in faith to see what the Angels announced to them.  To me this is amazing because the Shepherds could have stayed with their flocks and just discussed what happened.  They could have waited until daylight to go.  But to them everything else was secondary to going to see the fulfillment of prophecy.  Instead they set out immediately, leaving behind what was the source of their livelihood, and even though it was dangerous to travel at night, the Shepherds did not let Christmas pass them by and so the last became first to proclaim the good news that Christ had come, See Matthew 19:29-30 (NIV1984).  God never does anything as we expect Him to…Amen?  That is what I love about Him…He is the God of the miraculous and unexpected.  The Hope and Salvation of the World was not trumpeted in Jerusalem to Kings of men, but to Shepherds in an obsolete part of the countryside to the lowly and insignificant (in the world’s eyes,) in order to show us that God works in small, unnoticed places like a manger in a Palestinian stable. 15 - Daily Dependence - Silent NightAnd that is what we need to understand this Christmas…That night in the stable our hope and our salvation was born and we CANNOT let this Christmas season pass us by without accepting the free gift that God gave us through the birth of His Son!  Philippians 2:6-8 says,

“Though He [Jesus] was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“What defines Jesus’s humility is the fact that it is mainly a conscious act of putting Himself in a lowly, servant role for the good of others.”

Unfortunately that realization has been lost in the commercialism and materialism in the current state of this world.  This “Reason for the Season” started out about looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of the Shepherds, but there is more that the Holy Spirit wants to say.  We need to look deeper than the Shepherds and the Angels.  We need to look to the “babe in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.”  Since the start of this blog, we have been posting in a series called “Back to the Basics” in order to understand our faith and set our minds and hearts on Jesus, focusing on what is really important.  We have talked about the “Gifts of the Spirit” and using them to help minister to people.  And we talked about being radical for Jesus that “1 Conversation Change a Life.”  Today as you read this blog, I pray a conversation is happening within your Spirit between you and God.  I pray that you will really examine what this season means and strip away any preconceived notions you have about Jesus, push out the noise of the obligations of the “things to do” and take captive your thoughts to ignore the lies of Satan as he attempts to discourage you through circumstances.  It’s not about Christmas trees, or presents or anything else that some a marketing department tells you.  Christmas is about Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and was born into a dark, damp, dirty place.  He came not to be served but to serve to give us an example for us on how we should treat one another with humility and love…Not for 25 days in December, but for 365 days!  He is the bridge and our access to heaven.  1 Timothy 2:3-6 says that we should make prayers and requests for everyone that:

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.”

Don’t let the significance of Christmas pass you by.  The advent calendar, though I didn’t realize it when I was growing up is a tool for us to get out hearts and minds in the right place for the birthday of our savior.  But you don’t need a calendar to do this – just talk to Him.  I challenge all of you to spend each day this month and consider the love and grace of God in sending His son.  Pray, read the Bible and thank God for the Gift of His Son to a world lost in sin and hopelessness.  Start this month and continue each and every month…Get to know Jesus.  Will you be like the Shepherds and step out in faith, trusting in a higher power?  Ron Hutchcraft once said that there are (5) things that you can do with Jesus.  You can:

1.  Reject Him,
2.  Ignore Him,
3.  Postpone Him,
4.  Agree with Him or
5.  Commit your life to Him.

You can flat-out say ‘I want nothing to do with Him.’  Or you can take the apathetic approach and ‘decide to do nothing.’  You could postpone Him, that is say ‘yes I’m interested but I want to live life my own way, I will get to accepting Him as my savior eventually.’  You could agree with Him, believing in the parables and bible stories but decide that ‘you still want to do things your own way.’  And then there’s the last thing you could do and that is to accept the sacrifice he made on the cross and ‘commit your life to Him.’  Today I want to ask you, will you reject Jesus or Commit your life to Him.  Will you continue to run your life on your own terms or will you stop and accept what that baby in the manger did for you and me?

If you are ready to accept Jesus, here is a simple payer to pray, the words that you use are not important but it is your act of submission and humility to accept God’s Son that does…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.  I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.  I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.  Please take my life I freely give it to you.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!

If you prayed that in faith and truly believe this, then I have Great News!  You are a new creation and will be spending eternity in Heaven!  I urge you to tell people about your decision and to find a Bible teaching church and get yourself a Bible.  I have been reading this year the New Living Translation (NLT) and highly recommend it as a good place to start!  Humility is the key!  Let us not forget the Glory of our Lord that was presented to lowly Shepherds this Christmas.  For those who seek Him will surely find Him.  Yet, not as a babe, but as a King, who one day will reign over all.

Here is a great follow up to today’s “Reason for the Season” from Ron Hutchcraft who explains more about how Jesus is the “THE BRIDGE TO GOD”…★ Just Click Here ★

 

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Shepherds – The Voice of Declaration.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Shepherd’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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

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Hahaha!!  That to me is hysterical but true!  We are going to examine in today’s “Reason for the Season” that following God’s plan is not always going to be easy but that we can have peace that surpasses understanding   Peace that is not depending on circumstances but on the faith in Jesus! (See Philippians 4:6-8.)  Day 7 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan said,

“From the very beginning of time, peace was understood to be not simply the absence of that which is bad, but also the presence of that which is good.  In the Bible, the Hebrew word used for peace is “shalom.”  Shalom means wholeness, complete flourishing of a person’s life.  Biblically, shalom is often used to reference a person’s life being whole with God.  God created everything to operate in perfect harmony with one another and with God.  This is shalom; this is peace.”

That is the type of peace that I am talking about, not as a result of not having problems at the moment but peace in the midst of problems because of your relationship with God the Father.  Growing up in Pennsylvania my mom became a huge “Country and Western” music fan.  I remember how endless the car rides were as this honky-tonk noise droned on and because we lived in the country everywhere we went was a minimum of a 20 minute drive.  It’s funny though, decades later I am a country music fan as well…I guess the brainwashing worked hahaha!  There was one song from Lynn Anderson entitled “Rose Garden” (released in 1970) that had this opening lyric that I still remember it so clearly…

“I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden.  Along with sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain some time.” 

My mom used to say to me growing up that God never promised us a rose garden.  Good advice from a good ol’ country and western song, but it does align with scripture as well…Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)… 

God sends His sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  That is an important truth to put on the sticky side of your brain.  Just because you are living a life sold out for God does not mean you will not face adversity.  In fact because we live in a fallen world, full of sin, and have a real enemy, Satan, there will always be warfare…See Ephesians 6:10-17.  As I was talking with my wife about this post and the “Rose 11 - Daily Dependence - Rose and ThornGarden” song, she made this astute point that along with the beauty of the rose comes the thorns.  Much like the verse from Matthew 5:44-45, there’s a great paradox that exists with the rose…There’s beauty and ugliness…delicateness and jaggedness…joy and pain.  I think it is a great symbol for what God wants to speak into our hearts today.  Abraham Lincoln once said,

 “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Such a great perspective isn’t it?  As you ponder on these truths, I would also point out that God did not spare His own Son from the cruelty and torment of the cross.  And the same is true for Jesus’ earthly parents, God definitely did not spare Mary and Joseph from adversity…From the start, there was much to overcome from the believability of the Immaculate Conception that Mary became pregnant even while being a virgin (see ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★); to Joseph accepting his part in God’s plan and ultimately all the gossip that people would spread about the assumed scandalous pregnancy (see ★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★) and now the next boot is about to drop as they are told they must make a 11 - Daily Dependence - Map of Nazareth to BethlehamPilgrimage to Bethlehem as told in Luke 2:1-5 (NLT) says,

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.  He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Five little verses that if we are not careful we can skip right over to get to the birth of Jesus in verse 6 but Joseph and Mary did not get to skip over the fatigue, danger and uncertainty of what this journey would bring.  The trek probably was done on foot or maybe there was a donkey for Mary to ride on as some many pictures and movies speculate, but regardless it could not have been easy.  Responding to the decree to take part in the Roman Empire Census, Joseph took his pregnant fiancé to be counted but had to do so on the back of a donkey!  How many women would want to have traded places with Mary for that road trip??  With only 5 verses of information, there is not much known about the route so here is a current map of the region which Google Maps outputted if you were to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem which is a little over a 100 mile expedition.  I have always wondered what that must have been like.

11 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story PosterThere is a movie that came out in 2006, called “The Nativity Story” which does an excellent job in depicting what the long and arduous journey to Bethlehem might have been like for a pregnant Mary riding on a donkey through the barren land.  Unlike other movies which are primarily based on the Birth of Jesus, The Nativity Story focuses a lot on life in Nazareth and showing Mary living the simple life of a teenager and the development of her getting engaged to Joseph the local carpenter.  The visitation of Gabriel and trip to see Elizabeth are well done but what is really powerful is how the movie shows the scorn of the community from the virgin conception once she returns to Nazareth and Joseph’s struggle to believe her seemingly outlandish story.  The only exception that I have with the movie is the depiction of the Magi at the Nativity which Matthew 2:1-10, makes clear that they visited a house not a stable, a child not baby but we will get to that on Day 21.  As you can tell this is a phenomenal Hollywood offering form a very different perspective.  And ultimately that is what we all need, a different perspective!  If I may go back to the imagery of the rose and thorn, when Jesus was being prepared to die on the cross, it says in John 19:2 (NLT) that,

“The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put a purple robe on Him.”

Jesus died for you and I and regardless if life is not falling into place the way you think it should or if you are facing trials does not mean that God is not with you.  Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) says,

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

Regardless of what you are going through, God loves you and is working behind the scenes providing all that we need.  John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Yes following Jesus will cost you but its worth it!  Romans 8:28 (NASB) is promise we have from God that,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

No matter what happens in life, we can be thankful this truth!!

Earlier we read in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB) that Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven,” so as an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to  “The Twelve Voices of Christmas audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Herod – The Voice of Deception” who was the biggest enemy in the Christmas story!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 107 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Stable HomeI love the cheesy humor in this comic.  I resonate with this pun from Joseph consoling Mary as he tries to make the best out things after finding out there is “no room in the inn,” as this is how I tend to bring levity to bad situations.  But today I want to look into the life of a man who does not get much coverage in the Christmas story but yet his influence was great.  When you think of the major characters in the Christmas Story, who comes to mind, other thank Jesus of course…The Angel Gabriel?  The Virgin Mary?  The Angel’s announcement of the Birth of the Messiah to the Shepherds?  Or perhaps the Wise Men from the East? What about Joseph?  You know Mary’s husband…In all the Hollywood movie adaptations, Joseph does not get very much attention and so we will remedy that and be focusing on the character of this mighty man of God.

Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT) is told from Joseph’s point of view about Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  (If you missed ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★ we looked into Luke 1:26-38 which is Mary’s point of view.)  As a husband and father of two daughters, I would have found it very difficult to be in Joseph’s position.  Not only trusting that the child is indeed from God but also to endure the daily judgement and speculation of who’s the “real” father’s identity is that must have been pervasive in the small town of Nazareth.  Gossip isn’t a new thing and you know how news spreads in a small town…everyone knows everybody else’s business.  Joseph was a man who clearly thought of others above Himself.  When faced with the betrayal of Mary’s pregnancy, before the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm the truth (see Matthew 1:20), but right before that verse 19 gives us some insight to his character…

“Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”

Amazing!  “He decided to break the engagement quietly,” and by deciding to do that, Joseph would have never ended the scrutiny or dispelled the rumors of whose child it was.  You know it would be one thing to make that decision after the dream, but to decide that beforehand shows what an incredible amount of integrity Joseph possessed.  In Matthew 1:22-25 (NLT) it says,

“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.  And Joseph named him Jesus.”

This furthers the point that Joseph was a man above reproach, because not only did he have an unwavering acceptance to being part of God’s plan for Jesus’ arrival on Earth, and took Mary as his wife, but he abstained from having sexual relations with “his wife” until AFTER Jesus’ birth.  Joseph was an ordinary man who trusted God so much that he was willing to believe the extraordinary and walked it out!  He is a model of integrity and I pray that we would all grab hold of this attitude to accept whatever God’s Will is.  I had heard a sermon some years ago from David Smith, one of Gateway Church’s Elders and he said this about integrity…

“Integrity is when your behavior matches your beliefs … when what you SAY and what you DO aren’t separate … it’s an INTEGRATED lifestyle.  Integrity will bring you peace.  Trust, Respect, Honor and Influence will happen for you if you walk with integrity.” 

It is certain that long before the news of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was already living that “INTEGRATED lifestyle” in which he had peace in his life and was probably a trusted, respected, honored man who had influence within the community that made him the ideal candidate to participate in God’s plan…To be the stepfather of the Son of God.  Joseph must have had unparalleled confidence and trust in God to walk the path that was laid out before him, which could have only resulted from knowing His character and understanding God’s love for Joseph and the children of Israel.  We posted recently this ★ Thought for the Day – Confidence IN WHOSE You Are ★, if you want to learn more about how you are the Apple of God’s Eye, just like Joseph was!  God will take you and me exactly how we are (see Romans 5:1-8 for further evidence!)  I saw this image and it got me thinking…

07 - Daily Dependnece - What I Want for Christmas“What I Want for Christmas is someone to say ‘come as you are’ and mean it.” 

Every one of us wants to be accepted regardless of the baggage we have from past mistakes.  Today I want to speak on behalf of God and say there is unwavering acceptance from your heavenly Father; He will accept you just the way you are!  And if you have accepted Jesus as your savior but you still feel unworthy because of the lies of Satan, Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) says,

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

That is the truth that Joseph walked in as well!  Though he probably received much condemnation from the people around him when he chose to take Mary as his wife and be the father of Jesus, Joseph was confident in whose he was and that was enough.  Tony Evans talked about what is available to you if you have faith in God, he said,

“God will often wait to do His big thing until you have done what He has asked you to do.  He does this because He wants us to see Him in a way we’ve never seen Him before.  He wants us to experience Him in a way that we’ve never experienced Him before.  He wants us to see the connection between our act of faith and His deliverance.  He wants to be more than just a Cosmic-Santa Claus with a pocketful of miracles to throw down.  God wants a relationship with you.”

Amen?  If you are reading this and you have not trusted Jesus to be your savior, you can develop a relationship with God through Jesus today!  Go to ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★, which will lead you on how to make that decision today.  I am so thankful that God uses ordinary people to do the extraordinary and for Joseph’s example to spur us on to have unwavering acceptance of God’s providence in our lives!  And if you too want for “someone to say ‘come as you are’ and mean it,” then here it is from Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28 (NASB)…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I will close with this song from Crowder that echoes this truth, aptly names “Come As You Are.”

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Joseph – The Voice of Reason.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Joseph’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… ★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-Mas? – Part 2 ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★

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05 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Gabriel_1The Birth of Jesus Foretold – Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary.  She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen?  I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.  What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!  People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.  For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.

Wow!  This is such an incredible story.  Many times we can read a familiar part of the Christmas story and just glaze over what is actually being said.  Often times I like to put myself in the story to understand it more fully.  First off, what would I do if an Angel appeared to me?  Cower in terror I am sure!  Everywhere in scripture that an Angel appears to a human their very first words are the same “Don’t be afraid.”  Just the sight of a Messenger of God evoked such terror.  Now think of Mary, and what it was like to see and Angel and being a teenager!!  Though scripture does not say how old she was, Mary was probably around 13 or 14 years old which was the traditional betrothal or engagement age.  The artistic rendering above is more commonly the type of depiction you see of the interaction between the two of them, and perhaps afterward Gabriel comforting words Mary had that composure, but I think this is probably how it first appeared and what I image myself being like.  05 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Gabriel_3As Gabriel was making his second proclamation to a human being, this time to Mary, I wonder if he changed his approach after Zechariah’s response of disbelief (that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant in their old age) because now he is giving supporting evidence that the impossible can and is currently being fulfilled.  (If you missed it, go back and read, ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★.)  What an encouragement Luke 1:37 (NLT) is, not only for Mary but for us today:

“For the Word of God will never fail.”

The New Kings James Version (NKJV) translates it,

“For nothing is impossible with God.”

I love Mary’s response in verse 38 to the Gabriel that though she was a virgin, she would give birth to the son of God. 

“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.”05 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Gabriel_4

Amazing faith!  If you want to delve a little deeper about Faith, we posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says,

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

There is much uncertainty in this world, but one certain thing I know is that God will never change and so long as I place my faith in Him I WILL NEVER GO WRONG!  I am so thankful for Mary’s extraordinary example of Faith and I pray that I would have the same as well!  May we not only keep sight of the “Reason” for the “Season” but also to trust in God with the same measure of faith as Mary!  I will close with this beautiful prayer from Susie Larson,

“Today, may the Holy Spirit awaken your heart, stir up your faith, and empower your steps! May Jesus open your eyes to all you possess in Him. May you raise your shield of faith, draw a line in the sand, tell the enemy of your soul, ‘No More!’ and refuse to be bullied by your fears. God’s perfect love surrounds you, fills you, and covers you. He’s got you. In Christ Jesus, your soul is heir to His Kingdom. Everything He has is yours. Remember who you are today. Remember whose you are. Heaven knows your name.”

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Mary – The Voice of Wonder.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Mary’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 104 - Reverend Fun - Too EarlyWell Back Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are behind us!  So now what big thing will the marketers do to get our hard-earned dollar!  I heard a an advertisement for T.J. Maxx which I started laughing so hard from. The announcer said,

“What if this season was spelled by L-O-V-E instead of S-A-L-E?”

Kind of ironic that a Radio Ad for T.J. Maxx would talk about Love in order to sell product but I think there’s something we can learn!  This is the season of Love not sales!  I love what Art Fettig said,

“Some businessmen are saying this could be the greatest Christmas ever.  I always thought that the first one was.”

Amen!  My thoughts exactly!!  Below is a post from my daughter’s Instagram page called Undeserved Grace that she posted a year ago, (when she was 14 years old!)  It is amazing how God spoke through her and it captures exactly what I wanted to share for the Reason for the Season today!

Holiday music blares through speakers.  [ JINGLE BELLS JINGLE BELLS 🎵 ] Aisle shelves are filled with wrapping paper, decorations and batteries, and of course, signs promising to beat competitors’ prices.

To some, it is definitely not the “most wonderful time of the year”. It’s easy to envision long lines at the checkout counter, unbearable traffic, the hassle of battling crowds for the perfect gift, but we can’t let all the hustle and bustle take away from the family, friends, and joy that comes while remembering the birth of our Savior.  Let’s not pass by the magic.  The wonder.  The miracle.  The celebration.  Because without Christ, there would be no Christmas.

Every year we are warned against the sins of commercialism. 🚫  We are told to stop focusing on presents, decorating, and spending money.  Point taken.  But it can be tempting to get distracted by the warnings ad nauseam and miss out on the joys of celebrating. 🎉

Heaven and earth proclaim
Come on, let’s celebrate
It’s Christmas 🎄

Think about this.  Jesus wasn’t born in the best of circumstances.  The political rule was like a dictatorship.  Most people were struggling to get by financially.  So Jesus shows up in the midst of shaky times, deflating most expectations, and with barnyard animals and the stench of manure accompanying his teenage mom in labor.  Not the best kind of set up for a promised Messiah.  But wait.  It was time to celebrate!

Heaven rejoiced.  Angels whooped and hollered, shouting out praises.  The angel of the Lord appeared to unassuming shepherds and said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).  Good news and great joy!  Then a host of other angels came on the scene and joined the festivities shouting, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).  It was a time of worship.  Praise.  Thanksgiving.  Celebration.

So instead of feeling condemned, annoyed, or frustrated by overzealous retailers, mad shoppers, or Bah Humbug-ers, celebrate!  Celebrate Christmas with a spirit of adoration and joy.  Celebrate by stringing up twinkling lights on your front door.  Celebrate by humming the tunes of Nat King Cole and “Silent Night.”  Celebrate by giving to those in need.

If you need to, dial back your trips to the mall and spending habits.  And, of course, keep your perspective in check.  But d