Trip Hazard!

-We’re Our Own Biggest Problem!

There are several verses, in the Old Testament book of Psalms, that bring “trip hazards” to mind as I read them! This wisdom literature points us to ourselves! We, ourselves, are probably the most problematic “trip hazard” that we face as we attempt to walk with God. For example, Israel’s King David says that any unconfessed sin we hold onto will harm our health! “When I kept silent, (about my sin),” he says, “my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat” (Psalm 32:3).  Even our bones become brittle when we hold onto our sin! Our strength is sapped like every day is a 100-degree day!

-God’s Heavy Hand Against Us!

God’s hand is heavy against us as long as we refuse to confess our sin to Him! “But,” he says, “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin” (v.5).  I vividly remember carrying the burden of my sin as a 13-year old boy. But, when I confessed my sin & accepted Jesus’ payment for my sin, by His death on the cross, I remember how my guilt vanished! What a great Psalm! Mark it in your Bibles! You’ll need it when Satan comes to accuse you of your sin— ”You say you’re a follower of Jesus? And, look at you! You’re nothing but a sinner!”  Rebuke the devil! Remind him that you’ve been forgiven for every sin you’ve ever committed! Once & for all they were nailed to Christ’s tree of crucifixion. Your sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus! God promises never to count them against you again! He makes you righteous in Christ!

-You Really Aren’t Strong Enough!

But, there’s another way that we are our own worst “trip hazard.” We get in the way when we think that we can do life in our strength! One of the clearest signs we have a problem, in this area, is our lack of prayer & our lack of time spent in Scripture! When we fail to pray & when we fail to read His Word, we’re telling God—by our actions—that, “I Got This! I don’t need your help, God!” We erroneously think we’re strong enough! We’re wise enough! We trust our resources! The nation of Israel’s failure, in this area, should serve as a warning to us:  “A king is not saved by a large army; a warrior will not be delivered by great strength. The horse is a false hope for safety; it provides no escape by its great power” Psalm 33:16. Large armies won’t save us!

-Fear God!

The great strength of a warrior will not deliver him! A horse’s great power offers false hope! Our strength & intelligence & ingenuity is a curse when we depend on it to save us! Rather, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him—those who depend on His faithful love to deliver them from death and to keep them alive in famine. We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield” Psalm 33:18. We need to fear God for His great power! Depend on His faithful love to deliver you! He alone should be our help & shield! Though it’s never fun when our world is crashing around us, it proves to be a blessing when we see God turn things around! And, He’ll only do that after we’ve come to the end of ourselves! When all our resources & all our strength & all our wisdom just isn’t enough! It’s incredibly freeing to stop trying to be your own Savior; and, everyone else’s Savior too! To let God be God; and, admit you don’t know what to do next!

Praise God!

-Your Deepest, Darkest Secret!

Do you realize that you really can be honest with God about everything! Even the deepest, darkest secrets— that you’re reluctant to share with anyone— you can share with God! You can tell Him everything! He already knows how you feel; so, just be honest with Him! Be transparent with Him— “Lord, I know I shouldn’t feel like this; but, I do! Help me!” And, when He answers your prayer, offer Him praise! That’s the pattern we see in Scripture! For example, the writer of Psalm 30 says:  “LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me” (v.2).  King David wrote that Psalm. He cried to God for help & God answered!

-Don’t Put Limitations On God!

And, don’t limit your understanding of God’s healing to the physical. There is a spiritual & emotional part of you also! And, there are times when life is so painful that we need God’s healing in all three—physically, spiritually & emotionally! Perhaps David is alluding to some pain that was self-induced by his sin because he speaks of God’s anger a couple of verses later:  “Sing to Yahweh, you, His faithful ones, and praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning” (30:4).  And, he concludes this Psalm with this praise to God:  “You turned my lament into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness so that I can sing to You and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You forever” (30:11-12). 

-Don’t Depend On Improved Circumstances!

What began as a Psalm of lament, David says, God has turned into dancing! And, for that He praises God! We need God’s help to speak the gospel into every negative situation of our life! God will redeem it all! Just remember that our worst day in heaven, with Him, will still be better than our best day in this life! Keep things in perspective! Don’t depend on your circumstances to improve! They may! But, they may not! But, God is faithful even when the circumstances are not! Depend on Him regardless of your circumstances.

-Brokenness Into Dancing!

By Jesus’ work on the cross, God removes the great canyon between Himself & us— that our sin created— and, He turns our brokenness into dancing! Offer Him praise! So, be honest with him about your suffering! But, don’t stop there! Be honest with Him about your sin; because He forgives! And, then, praise Him for that! Praise Him for forgiveness! There is no bigger burden you can carry through life than your sin! Again, it’s David who writes the 32nd Psalm out of deep shame & guilt over his sin! But, he no longer lives under the weight of his sin!

-Experience Forgiveness!

He’s experienced forgiveness! Look at the start of his psalm:  “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). Do you lack joy in your life? Is it because you’re haunted by your past sins? They can be forgiven! God gladly forgives sin & covers it by the shed blood of His Son, Jesus, on the cross! But, forgiveness comes when we get honest with God! No more deceit, David says here! We have to own our sins! Own our misdeeds! Then, we have to humble ourselves before God & agree with Him that we’re guilty of sin. That’s what David says next:  “When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat” (v.3). Our unconfessed sin even harms our health! So, ask God to forgive! He will!

Thank You God For Pain!

-Enslaved By Our Idols!

Did you know that God will allow our idols to enslave us in order to drive us back to Himself? It’s true! In the Old Testament book of Judges, it says that God, “…sold Israel to their enemies around them, and they could no longer resist their enemies. Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly” (2:14).  You may find that disturbing that “…the Lord was against them”; and, that He “…brought disaster on them.” Or, perhaps you can relate! Have you ever felt like God was against you & that He was bringing disaster into your life? Well, He might be! But, if He is, it’s only temporary & He means to use the disaster to encourage you to repent, over your sin, and return to the Lord!

-All Idols Are Frauds!

That’s what He did with Israel! He meant to show them that their idols were all frauds! That the idols that they bowed down to would never satisfy or deliver them! Only God can satisfy and deliver! We see the pattern in the next chapter of Judges:  “The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs. The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He sold them to Cushan-rishathaim…” (3:7).  When their idols failed to deliver, v.9 says, “Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up Othniel…as a deliverer to save the Israelites.”  So, from an application standpoint, we need to look at pain & struggles differently!

-Ask God To Reveal Your Idols!

Some times, we need to thank God for pain! When you’re facing difficulties, in life, ask God to reveal any idols that you may be depending on— money, health, education, leisure, etc.— and, confess it as sin if you’re guilty! And, then, turn back to the Lord! It’s His goodness that leads us to repentance! Otherwise, when we fail to repent, God’s absence from His rightful place in our life can lead to shocking moral depravity! There’s a story, in Judges 19-21, that is one of the most unbelievable in all of Scripture.  A Levite, who was supposed to be a religious leader in Israel, has a concubine! Do you know what a concubine is? She’s someone who voluntarily enslaves & sells herself to a man primarily for sexual pleasure— kind of a “friend with benefits” as has been popularized in our own immoral culture! So this Levite has broken some of the clear commands that God had given Israel, through Moses, way before they even entered Canaan land. The concubine didn’t have an equal status as a wife; so, when she got angry, with her situation, she left the Levite & went home to her parents. After awhile, he goes to see her, they make up and return home!

-Shocking Moral Depravity!

On the way home, they spend the night in an Israelite city. The text says, “…perverted men of the city surrounded the house…and demanded of the owner that he, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him” (19:22). When they couldn’t  have the Levite, they took his concubine, raped & abused her all night, leaving her for dead! So, the Levite took her home, cut her up into 12 pieces & sent her body parts throughout the 12 territories of Israel! Shocking, right? I can’t even come up with an English word that adequately describes that story! God doesn’t sugar-coat the atrocities that sinful men are capable of! God’s absence from our lives; or, from the conscience of a nation, can lead to shocking moral depravity. Let’s learn to be thankful when God interrupts our sin with some pain to get our attention! And, then, let’s confess our idols as sin and repent!

Is God Pruning You?

-Pruning Produces More Fruit!

My parents used to grow grapes; and, there were times when they had to cut away the dead branches that produced no grapes! But, they also cut back “living” branches; so, the vine would use it’s resources to produce more “fruit”—GRAPES! In the timeline, of John 15, Jesus is preparing His disciples for life after His death, resurrection & ascension. He begins with these words: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (vs. 1-2).

-Things To Come!

As you move, through the rest of the chapter, Jesus tells them that 2 things will come after his departure. First, He says there will be defections from inside the faith; or, inside the church body! People, who claimed to be followers of Jesus, will walk away from “the Faith.” They’ll quit! It’s not for them! And, second, Jesus tells them there will be persecution from the outside! Bogus faith inside the church & suffering from the outside! And, He uses the metaphor of a vine, a branch; and, the fruit produced, to illustrate the difference between a true disciple of Jesus and a fraud! Jesus is the Vine! The Father is the Vinedresser! And, there are 2 different kinds of branches here—ONE that bears NO FRUIT! And, the Father REMOVES it! And, the other—that produces FRUIT! And, the Father prunes it so that it produces more fruit!

-Responding To God’s Pruning!

So, here’s the bottom line—It is our RESPONSE to God’s pruning that proves what kind of branch we are! Are you a dead branch that produces no fruit? Or, a living, healthy branch that responds to the painful process, of pruning, by producing more fruit? Let’s talk about some of the points that Jesus makes, about fruitfulness, through His use of the metaphor of the Vine & the branches! First, He clearly indicates that fruitfulness is expected from every genuine disciple of Jesus. In the first 3 verses, of John 15, He says that if you don’t bear fruit, it’s because you’re “not abiding” in the Vine! In other words, you’re NOT “IN CHRIST.” So, what kind of fruit should we expect to see growing in the life of a follower of Jesus? While several passages answer that question; perhaps, none better than Galatians 5.

-The Fruit Of The Spirit!

The Apostle Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, wrote the Church of Galatia to tell them that the indwelling Spirit will produce fruit in their life that looks like this: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (vs. 22-24). That’s some of the low hanging fruit that’s produced by those who belong to Jesus! The Spirit produces it! If you’re a believer, Jesus invested His life in you! And, He expects a “return”— or, FRUIT— from His investment! We’ll come back to this next week!

Supernatural Prayer!

-Lot’s Of Goofy Ideas About Prayer!

The world— and, even the church— has some pretty goofy ideas about prayer! For some, prayer is like magic! If your faith is strong enough, YOU can pray the sick back to health! YOU can pray the dead back to life! I’ve heard prayers— by some who claimed to be believers— that sounded more like witchcraft or New Age spirituality, where, prayer is like “The Force”; and, the battle against the dark side! And, if God is going to win, YOU have to support Him with your payers! In other words, the fate of the world; and, even of GOD, is in YOUR hands; or, in your prayers!

-Blasphemous Prayer!

Then, there is the blasphemous “Word of Faith” teaching on prayer; or, the “Prosperity Gospel” that makes God out to be little more than your personal “Jeannie In A Bottle.” You want health, wealth & prosperity? Just name it and claim it! God is helpless against the power of YOUR words if you claim it in Jesus’ name! He has to give it to you! That’s a perversion of what Jesus taught His disciples to pray! It’s a perversion of what prayer looks like in the New Testament.

-Why Is Real Prayer Supernatural?

Prayer, in the New Testament, was SUPERNATURAL! I mean, by that, that prayer was an absolute reliance & dependence on God. These perversions of prayer are humanistic in nature. The power is INSIDE us! Biblical prayer, instead, depends on the power of God that is OUTSIDE us! We’re admitting to our WEAKNESS; and, to our inability to affect change! We’re trusting in a SUPERNATURAL God to do what we cannot do! Biblical prayer is expressed helplessness & a dependence on God’s power! Let me put it another way:  whatever we don’t pray about, we’re basically telling God, “I got this,” right? Don’t need you for this one, God! Let me get personal! How many of you get up early enough Sunday mornings to pray that God would move powerfully in your Worship service? How many of you prayed specifically for a certain person that needs to be saved? Whatever ministry you might be part of in your church, do you pray regularly over it? For people that are part of it? I doubt that most of you really believe you can do God’s work without His SUPERNATURAL help! But, if you’re not praying over it regularly it kind of casts doubt!

-What Are Your Expectations?

We need the Holy Spirit’s conviction that if we’re not spending significant time appealing to God, in passionate prayer, that we shouldn’t expect him to do any supernatural work in our midst, in our lives,  or, in our church! By our failure to pray, we’re telling God, “I got this! Don’t need your help!” Listen, the Holy Spirit doesn’t need our self-centered know how! He doesn’t need us at all! But, it seems to be God’s M.O. to engage His people in deep, passionate, humble, helpless & desperate prayer BEFORE He does His great,  SUPERNATURAL work! He includes us; and, He uses our prayer to grow, in us, a deeper dependence on HIS power, rather, than our own! Will you repent of your false views of prayer; or, your prayerlessness? God help us!

 

When Good Sex Goes Bad!

-When It Happens Outside Marriage!

According to God—who, by the way, CREATED sex—healthy sex only happens in a marriage between a man & a woman! The Word of God warns us against the ramifications of sexual conduct outside the safety of marriage between a man and a woman! All other sexual activities are spiritually unhealthy because it’s disobedience to God and His Word. But, it can also prove to be physically and emotionally unhealthy! And, the effects tend to have a trickle down effect. It can negatively impact your family & your children downline.

-Messing Up People’s Lives!

When your sex life doesn’t comply with Scripture, you can mess up a lot of people’s lives! One more consideration for those of you who think you’ve already messed up too badly! That you’re hopeless! Maybe you grew up in a worldly environment & were never even taught these Biblical truths. Or, maybe you grew up hearing them; but, you thought you were smart enough to beat “the system”; so, you played around with sex & you’re paying the price for it now! Well, thanks to Jesus’ work on the cross, you’re not beyond repair!

-Good News For Those Who Messed Up!

The Gospel is good news to every sinner, regardless the sin! We have a God who makes beauty from ashes! There is forgiveness & restoration through the cross! So, don’t hide behind your sin any longer! Confess it so you can be healed (James 5:16). And, from this day forward, plant your feet on the firm foundation of God’s Word, when it comes to your sex life! God’s Word alone provides us the only flawless counsel for building healthy marriages. In the book of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul shares several points, about sexuality, as God directs us:  “It is good for a man not to have relations with a woman. But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband….I say the following as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one person in this way and another in that way. I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am” 1 Corinthians 7:1, 6-8.

-Is Celibacy A Gift?

What Paul is encouraging here is “celibacy.” He seems to indicate that “celibacy” is God’s gift for some individuals! So, if you can’t imagine being celibate, that probably means that you don’t have that gift! I purposely used the word celibacy, instead of “singleness”—because celibacy more accurately defines what Paul is describing here—celibacy is abstaining from ALL sexual relations! Whereas, in our culture, “singleness” is often preferred because there are no sexual attachments or boundaries—it’s “Sex In The City!” It’s friends with “benefits.” So, being “single” doesn’t necessarily express what Paul is thinking! When he says, “It is good for a man not to have relations with a woman” (v.1) he’s using it as a euphemism for “sexual intercourse”; and, the context of v.2 bears that out. So, celibacy can be a good & honorable gift from God!

 

What Sexual Health Looks Like!

-It’s Not What You Think!

Unfortunately, marriage & parenting are the butt of a lot of jokes in our society. We sing a lot of sad songs about lost love; and, it seems that’s one way we manage the pain.  Like the story of a woman whose husband lay in bed dying, going in and out of a coma. One day he briefly awoke & reached out to his wife to draw her close.  As she sat next to him, he began to whisper some of his remembrances to her:  “Honey, you’ve been right there beside me through all the rough times.  You were there when I got fired. You were there when my business failed.  You were there when we lost the house.  And, you’ve been right here—the whole time—by my side even as my health failed & I lay dying.” He paused briefly & asked, “You know what?” “What, dearest?” She asked as she wiped a tear from her eye.  “I think you’re bad luck” he said; and, then slipped back into a coma!

-Flawless Marriage Counseling!

I’m pretty confident that everyone enters into marriage longing for a partnership that remains strong & healthy! I hope that it doesn’t surprise you when I say that God’s Word provides us with the ONLY flawless counsel for building those healthy marriages; and, for training up godly children! If you’re a relatively new follower of Jesus, you may be surprised to find out how much the Bible has to say about marriage & sex & family! But, think about it! It was God who created marriage! And, it was God who created sex! He created the family, too! So, it really only makes sense that we would go to the SOURCE for wisdom & counsel in these areas!

-A Foundational Bible Text!

A foundational text on the subject of marriage, sex, and the family is 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. It’s incredibly practical; and, if you’ll commit to obeying the words of Scripture—rather, than listening to the foolish, so-called “wisdom” of the world—you’ll have that strong & happy marriage that everyone longs for.  It’s an intriguing passage! What the Apostle Paul says to the Church of Corinth—and, these are words inspired by God’s Holy Spirit—are completely out-of-step with the world’s wisdom and the societal norms for family & for human sexuality! So, choose who you’re going to listen to!

-Where Healthy Sex Happens!

If you just google “A Healthy Sex Life” you’ll get results like “10 Signs You Have A Healthy Sex Life”—but, not one sign is attached to marriage between a man & a woman! Your google search results will also include articles on sexual dysfunction & how to maintain an active sex life; but, again, with no reference to marriage! But, according to God, “Healthy Sex” ONLY happens in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman! Over & over, the Word of God warns us against the ramifications of sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman! All other sexual activities are spiritually unhealthy because it is disobedience to God’s word! But, it can also prove to be physically & emotionally unhealthy! It has a trickle down effect, negatively impacting others downline! Next Week: We’ll get into 1 Cor. 7.

 

How To Measure Generosity!

I’ve Left For Some Vacation Time!        Next Post June 13!

-I’m Naturally Selfish!

I confess to you that I’m not naturally a very generous man. I mean, by that, that I’m prone to be selfish! It is almost never my 1st inclination to give financially to meet a need. I have to be prompted by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. His Spirit prods me to commit a generous “act”; but, constant generosity just doesn’t flow instinctively from me. It’s not one of my gifts! So, I’ve had to ask the Lord to plant generous thoughts in my heart.

-Not The $100 Bill!

I remember one time, during a worship service, that I felt the Lord elbow me to give the bill in my wallet to whatever ministry was participating in our service. When I opened my wallet I saw that it contained a $100 bill—now, I want you to know that’s not a regular thing with me—but, that day I had a $100 bill; and, in front of it a $20 bill. “Lord, certainly you mean for me to give that $20 bill, right?” But, I felt a very distinct impression that He wanted me to give the $100 bill; so, reluctantly, I did!

-I’ve Never Missed What I Gave!

Through the years I’ve felt similarly pressed to give, sometimes more & sometimes less. But, here’s my testimony—I’ve never missed what I’ve given! It has always been absorbed by God’s abundant generosity; so, I’ve always had enough! Here’s what I hope to get across to you in this post—when you give, from a generous heart, it costs you nothing! In other words, you won’t lose what you give away! But, the person who hoards & selfishly holds onto his money, when the offering plate is passed, tends toward poverty! That person lives with the constant struggle to make ends meet. “One person gives freely, yet gains more; another withholds what is right, only to become poor. A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water” Proverbs 11:24-25. To paraphrase, using The Message, “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” God measures our generosity by our sacrifice! That doesn’t make sense to the unbelieving world. The world says, “If I want to have more, I have to KEEP more.” But, that’s not true in God’s economy—”If I want to have more, I have to give it away!”

-You Can’t Outgive God!

There’s a principle here that says you can’t out give God! Now be careful here! Don’t draw an unbiblical conclusion like those who twist Scripture & preach a “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel.” God is NOT an investment broker! Don’t expect to put a $100 bill in the offering plate & get $1000 back. Giving that way is not generosity, it’s GREED! The God who knows our heart also knows the motives behind our giving! He measure our generosity by what we sacrifice to give; and, it’s not a sacrifice when we expect to get something back! No, it’s the world of the generous that gets “larger” and “larger.” It might be extra cash in your pocket; but, probably not! Like God extending the life of the Israelites robes & sandals to last 40 years in the wilderness, He may bless us with the extended life of our appliances & vehicles & health!