He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. Psalm 7:14
An interesting and challenging truth. Sinning NEVER brings us the fulfillment, satisfaction, and contentment that we think it will. We sin because we think it will bring us those things. But it NEVER does. Therein lays the disillusionment. I have learned the hard way that this is true.
I choose to lash out in anger at someone I love because I think it will make feel better – besides, they deserve it. Afterwards I am left feeling remorseful and embarrassed. I just cut someone I claim to love. The thought that anger was a good choice was wrong. I am disillusioned with my choice.
I choose to gossip about someone who has hurt me because I think I need to justify myself and must therefore discredit them. Afterwards I feel immature and stupid. The thought that gossip was a good choice was wrong. I am disillusioned with my choice.
I choose to harbor hate in my heart toward someone who has wronged me because I think God has made me judge, jury, and executioner. Afterwards I feel distant from God and very hypocritical. I am disillusioned with my choice.
Sin – evil – trouble always begins within us as a thought. We are pregnant with it. We give birth to it when we act upon it.
- It is always our choice. We never have to sin. I could choose not to. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
- Choosing to sin will always lead to disillusionment. It is always the wrong choice. It will never do for us what we think it will. Our own heart leads us astray. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Father, help me to always think true thoughts and know that ungodly behavior is always the wrong choice. Amen.
The day after Thanksgiving. For some it’s a shopping marathon day. For other’s a day to rest and sleep off the Turkey hangover. For my family it’s always marked the start of Christmas music. I LOVE Christmas music. I look forward to it every year. Here’s a list of some of my favorite albums (in no particular order). What are some of yours?
- Alabama Christmas – by Alabama (grew up listening to this one. It’s always the first of the season)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas - by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
- Christmas (From the Realms of Glory) – by Bebo Norman
- Merry Christmas - by Bing Crosby
- Christmas Time is Here – by Erin O’Donnell
- Cowboy Christmas - by Gene Autry
- North Point Christmas - by North Point Live
- Christmas Offerings – by Third Day
- City on a Hill: It’s Christmas Time – by various artists
- Various songs by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Today I spoke at the funeral of a long-time friend. It’s been a long, hard, sad, good day.
Hard because I will miss him. Hard because I feel so bad for his wife and daughters who must now figure out how to do life without him. Hard because I always feel bullied by my own mortality when I bury a friend.
Good because I know he is not suffering anymore. Good because I know he was a faithful follower of Christ – he is very much alive in heaven right now. Good because I like to speak at friend’s funerals – it allows me to serve the family and honor our friendship.
Good for one more reason. Funerals of friends remind me that my days are numbered as well. It might be tonight – it might be 50 years from now – but eventually I am going to draw my last breath and exit this world.
Solomon phrased it this way:
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
Gut check time:
Am I living my life with no regrets?
Am I seeking first the kingdom of God?
Am I loving my wife and children the way I should?
Am I convinced that people need to hear the gospel so that they too can face death unafraid?
My friend Ed was one of the good guys. He lived well. He died well. I desperately want to do the same. I needed that reminder.
This past Wednesday evening was awesome! Our high school youth group (Oasis) joined together with 3 other high school ministries in the area for a night of worship and prayer. We called the event Go! based on the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Our goal in doing this event was to help our students understand how God wants to use them to reach their schools. The harsh reality is that even when we combine with other ministries, we represent a small fraction of the student population in this area. There are so many who have yet to experience the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
Some highlights from the event:
- I loved seeing denominational walls come down as we joined in worship together.
- I was encouraged to see our students step up and take seriously the challenge to pray for their friends and school.
- It was exciting to see our students make connections with classmates that they didn’t know were believers.
Please join us in praying for the Gospel to be advanced on the campus of each of the high schools in this area.
Last week Karen and I were able to get away for five days, to a rustic bed-n-breakfast type place about four hours north in Michigan. We were part of a pastor’s spiritual renewal retreat hosted by Broom Tree Ministries. (http://www.broomtreeministries.org/default.aspx)
It was a rare and cherished opportunity to:
- Escape the TV and cell phone
- Sleep in
- Eat a banana split every night at 8:30PM (I had to – a tradition of this place!)
- Have a full day ahead of me without a single meeting, deadline, or obligation
- Leisurely pray and read God’s word – without preparing for a sermon
- Watch a hilarious marriage seminar on DVD
- Enjoy delicious coffee in a small town coffee shop
- Hang out with other ministry couples from backgrounds and settings very different from my own
- Not have to take my dogs out to poop 3-5 times per day – then have to pick it up (I love my dogs, but not that!)
- Take a nap
- Walk through the woods
- Pray aimlessly
- Share a heavy burden with the retreat facilitators (Listening ears + wise counsel = lightened load!)
- Spend massive, glorious amounts of time with my beautiful wife of 30+ years
I am grateful beyond words. I feel good. I even look good (if you squint pretty hard). I am rested, restored, and ready to continue serving the kingdom of God.
It was a very good week.
On Thursday night, at Pit Stop (middle school youth group), I wrapped up a teaching series called When Things Get Ugly. We spent the past couple weeks talking about some of the more nasty parts of relationships. I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts from last night’s lesson on dealing with betrayal…what should we do when someone violates our trust. I focused on 3 important steps:
- Deal with the Anger. Psalm 4:4 tells us “In your anger do not sin”. Anger is a strong emotion and can very easily lead us into decisions that we regret. When responding to someone who has betrayed us a couple things can help us to avoid straying into sin.
1 – Delay your response. Don’t fire back, give it some time so that you can settle down a bit and respond more appropriately. Type that email, but don’t send it yet. Wait until tomorrow to make that phone call.
2 – Stick to the issue, don’t attack the person. When discussing the problem, don’t attack their character, simply let them know how there action negatively affected you and the pain it has caused you. When you stick to the issue rather than the person you’re less likely to stir up a defensive response.
- Choose to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” When we understand how much God has forgiven us, we understand that we’ll never be asked to forgive someone more than we’ve been forgiven. Choosing to hold a grudge (not forgive) only harms us. It holds us down and robs us of joy. A couple suggestions to help with this decision.
1 – Confess your bitterness to God. Bitterness is sin. When we confess it to God and ask him to work on our hearts, we’re taking the first step on the path to forgiveness.
2 – Say the words “I release you from the way you hurt me”. Maybe you can’t say it to their face yet. That’s fine, start by saying it to yourself. Repeat it as often as necessary. Eventually your emotions will get in line with your will.
- Seek Reconciliation. II Corinthians 5:18 says “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. Forgiveness says I don’t hold that against you anymore, but reconciliation is the restoring of that relationship. It’s the repairing part. A couple suggestions to help with this
1 – Start small. You’re not doing either of you any good if you act like nothing happened. Start spending time together again and rebuilding trust.
2 – Don’t bring up the past. If you said you forgive them, show that you mean it by not bringing it up again. It’s not that you forget that it happened, it’s that no good comes from bringing it up again. You’ve forgiven them, time to stop making them pay for it.
Wherever you’re at on your spiritual journey, I hope that you’ll follow the Father’s example and learn to deal with Betrayal in a way that honors Him.
I’m a copy cat. Every time the men’s ministry starts reading a book, I run out and get it. I’ve yet to be disappointed at their selection. In the fall, they started reading “King’s Cross”, by Timothy Keller, so in the fall, I started reading “King’s Cross”, by Timothy Keller. I’m not too far along, but so far it is an outstanding book.
One of the sections that really resonated with me is the story of the paralytic being lowered through the roof as Jesus is teaching. The man wanted to be healed – he wanted to walk again. If only he could walk, then his life would be perfect; he would be happy. But what does Jesus’ say to him? “Your sins are forgiven”. Hmmm…probably not what the man really wanted. But Jesus was going deeper. Jesus knew that the man’s inability to walk was not his real problem; his real problem was sin.
How many of us are guilty of this? We live our day-to-day lives with the constant phrase of “if only I had……, then my life would be perfect; then I will be happy”. I used to live this way. I used to look at my circumstances, and think that “if only we had more money, then….”, “if only the girls were older, then….”. But this is not the way to live. Jesus wants us to understand that HE is the way. Yes – He knows what we want, but more importantly, He knows what we need. I’m happy to say that since accepting Christ as my savior and truly following Him, I don’t do this anymore (at least not very often or for very long). I don’t worry about the future; I trust that God has His best intentions for my life. I don’t just sit idly by and let stuff happen to me, but I try to trust in Him and not sweat the small stuff – and most of it is small stuff. And are we really happier when we get what we think we want? I’d argue not necessarily – we just move on to wanting something else.
If you aren’t reading this book, I recommend it. It is not easy living life trusting in yourself – I know – I’ve been there. Turn to Christ. He knows what you need, and although He may not give you the answer that you think you want, He will always give you what you need.
I love this song! I hope you enjoy it.
Praise God that he brings life out of death.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17
When I was a kid I absolutely loved Halloween. I remember being a blood-sucking vampire, a clown, a hobo, a skeleton and a 50’s greaser – among other costumes! We would race from house to house and take home ginormous bags of candy. My candy would last about 3 weeks. My little brother’s candy would last until Easter. I would eventually start pilfering from his stockpile. Our neighborhood was completely over-run by all sorts of ghosts, princesses and goblins! It was so much fun!!
Now in our culture – the observation of, or participation, in Halloween can be controversial among Christians. Some see it as the devil’s holiday – to be completely shunned by those who follow Christ. Other believers are at the other end of the spectrum – they see no problem with Halloween. What doo you think?
Justin Holcomb has written an excellent article on this topic. He does a much better job on this subject than I could ever do. Read it and tell me what you think.
Me? I really agree with Mark. I think he hit the nail on the head.
Again…what do you think? Each person must follow their own convictions – without condemning those who disagree.
My costume tonight? I’m going to be “middle-aged man watching Monday Night Football”. Should be fun. But no candy for me!