It is interesting how many times people feel that their situations are so different than anyone else in the world. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “That would never happen to me.” 

It is like these people have convinced themselves that they live outside the influence of the world. Any factors that were present in other people’s lives are not present with them. They are immune to failing. 

I was reading Proverbs 7 and came across this passage:

And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth.

Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths,

for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng.

Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

The reader is being warned of this temptress. She lures men into her home. She seduces them and tells them she has everything ready to “take our fill of love til morning” (verse 18). Her husband is gone, and they can do whatever they please.

But the reader is warned that this event will “cost him his life” (verse 23). 

It is interesting to me that Solomon (the author of most of the Proverbs) does not encourage his readers to go ahead and try out the temptation. He never says that perhaps their fate will be different. Maybe, just maybe, the two of them will find true love this time, and the sin will not end up in integrity being tarnished and lives being ruined.

I believe that in this passage Solomon is not just referring to sexual temptation, but all sin that leads us away and entices us (check out James 1:12-18). 

We need to stop allowing ourselves to sin. We need to not have any tolerance for any kind of sin in our lives. I would even take it a step further and say we need to keep the appearance of sin out of our lives.

It is so deadly and can drag us away so easily that we should not even walk down the same street as the temptress. 

If you know of a place where you are tempted to sin, stay far away from it.

If there are people who you know tempt you to sin, do not hang out with them.

There is absolutely nothing that should be more important that living a righteous life before God. When you feel tempted to sin, get out of the situation. Run (quite literally) for your life. It is incredibly sad when someone who has been living so closely with the Savior, decides to allow sin into their lives and they go down a spiraling path.

And please, please, don’t shrug it off and say “that would never happen to me.” 

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Well it is Friday again. For many people Friday is the end of the work week. It is that final day in the way of a relaxing weekend.

Soon it will be time to head back home and just relax with the family. Others may go out and spend the night with friends. We all have different routines that we do on our days off.

It is good that we take time off from the normal. God even commands that we take a Sabbath. If we work all of the time we will burn out; our bodies are just not meant for it.

I do hope and pray, however, that in checking your work attitude at the door, you don’t leave your Christianity.

The weekends are known for their parties. From high school on up, there always seem to be some sort of party, bar hoping, or clubbing going on and they are particularly popular on the weekend.

If you are a Christian you are called to a different life. We should not proclaim Christ during the week and then put Him in a box on Friday and Saturday, only to repent on Sunday.

James 2 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, especially starting with verse 14. Here is what verse 14-17 says:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to the, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

That is some pretty strong language. James is not saying that is not preferable to not live out your faith. No. He says that faith is dead if there are no works to back it up.

Now I know that good works do not save a person. We cannot help enough old ladies across the road or simply not cheat enough that God would look at us and say “Well okay. You were a really good person, you can come on in.”

However, once we have accepted that gift of salvation that God offers to us through Jesus Christ, there are things we must do.

It is not good enough to stand up at a Winter Jam conference, say the prayer that Jeremy Camp leads you in and then live like that is it for the rest of your life. “Now I can live however I want because I’m saved.”

That is wrong for a couple reasons but the one we are focusing on today is how we live after our conversion.

Now that the Holy Spirit has come into our lives, we are expected to live differently. According to Ephesians 2:10 we have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

God has given us good works to do! They are a part of our Christian walk.

If it is not for works of faith, how can we show God we love Him? If we do not do good works, how will the world see that we are different? How will others believe the message of Jesus if we do not speak it and live it?

Faith is more than just something cognitive. It must leave our heads and overflow through our feet and hands. In fact on of the most powerful passages of Scripture to me is James 2:19

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!

The demons know of God’s existence. They “believe” in Him. Our faith should be way more than just acknowledging God’s existence. We should be living out His commands everyday, even on the weekends.

So as we quickly approach this weekend I would encourage you to take a look at your life. Are you checking God at the door along with your work attitude? Are you still living out your faith as you spend time with family or friends?

Is there a difference in your living now that you are a Christian? If not, what do you need to do to change? What steps do you need to take?

Let nothing stop you from doing the good works God has given you to do every single day!

The Perfect Father

February 23, 2012

Over the last couple days I have been able to spend a little more time with my son. My wife was very sick, so to help out I was spending time with him.

I don’t always get to spend as much time with Noah as I would like, so when I get to it is really special to me. We got to do everything together. One of my favorite times with him was when we went on a run together (I also got to learn some new rules about this, but we wont go over those now).

I would strap him in his stroller and just take off. He would turn around and look at me and smile or laugh. He would un-Velcro his shoes and then turn around to make sure I saw. He would wave at every person that we saw and bark at every dog. It was just a great time.

During these couple days I occurred to me how much I cherished our time together, even in the “mundane” parts of the day (I use quotes because with a 17 month old there are not really mundane times). This made me think about my connection with God.

God loves it when we spend time with Him. He looks forward to times when we gather together with the body of Christ. But that is not the only time of week He wants to hear from us.

God is our Father. I know that not everyone has had good experiences with their fathers. Many men who have children run out before the child is born. Others stick around for a while and then split. Then you have fathers who abuse in one of many ways either the mother or his children.

Far too many men are taking the coward’s way out and not being a good presence in their children’s lives. It infuriates me because it makes society leery of men in general. I am striving to be the best father I can be and I don’t need everyone second guessing me because of the stupid choices of others.

It is not just the present and good earthly fathers that get a bad reputation. God does as well. He is called our heavenly father. But as a result of earthly fathers not doing their jobs, people do not like that image.

The thought of having another Father who will abandon, abuse, or not love does not sound appealing.

That is not how God is!

God is the perfect Father. He loves us more than we could ever know.

The Bible tells us to “pray continually,” and to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Why would the Bible want us to do this?

Because God wants to spend time with us! He wants to hear about our everyday lives. We pray at all times so that He is on our minds because we are most certainly on His. We present our requests to God because He wants to hear them and give us what is good.

In the book of Psalms we find a righteous man being described as one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” We take delight in following our fathers and listening to his rules.

Right now my son goes crazy when we verbally praise him. And he also seems to take it a bit harder when I tell him no. Our heavenly Father also has a way He desires us to live. Not to make our lives miserable but because He loves us and wants what is best for us. When we realize that, then we delight in doing what He asks.

Our heavenly Father also loves us so much to discipline us. I am not talking about any kind of abuse, but rather discipline through love. He wants us to know when we have not followed Him and there are consequences for that. But he does these because He wants us to stay on the right path.

Our heavenly Father loves to spend time with us and He wants what is best for us. If you have not had a good relationship with your father, give God a chance. Don’t let your perceptions ruin that.

If you are a Father, look at the example that God gives us and follow it. Be the best father you can be by following the example of the best.

200 million Christians are persecuted around the world every single day. When I heard that number I didn’t even know what to think. All over this globe, every day there are Christians being beaten, tortured, or killed. We are not just talking 1 or 2 Christians.

200 million.

I came across this video and it changed the way my day was going to play out. I was getting ready to speak at FCA this morning and had a whole 5 minute devo planned out (I know a WHOLE 5 minutes!).

Then I watched this video and I could not think about anything else. It made me start thinking about my own life.

It made me think about the lives of the students I was going to be speaking to.

It made me think about my family and friends.

We have it so nice here in the United States of America. We have a wonderful country where we can worship as we like. I know that these rights are being questioned and it seems like the government is going to do all they can to cause Christians to worship differently, but right now, they don’t.

We gather freely on Sunday mornings, greeting each other with smiles and hugs. We talk about our weeks together and worship with live bands. We have voices and hands lifted high.

And we do all of it, with no thought of someone coming in to take our lives.

Now here is the real kicker for me. Those Christians who are persecuted every day, do much of the same things we do.

They continue to meet together. They sing songs and read Scriptures. They talk about their weeks and encourage and challenge each other. They do all this knowing that at any moment, their lives could be taken for it.

It does not stop them from going out and sharing Jesus with the world around them.

One man in the video above says he was asked “Why are you not scared?” His response was “Because perfect love cast out all fear.”

What if we lived like that? What if we were not afraid of being made fun of? What if we were not afraid of standing out? What if we stopped living the lives of “Sunday Christians” and boldly proclaimed Jesus to the world around us?

What if we started raising our children according to the Scriptures, even if that meant they were upset with us from time to time?

1 John 4:4 “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

Stop living like you are defeated. Stop living as if you have received the poor end of the deal.

We are children of God! He loves us enough that He sent Jesus to die for us! And the best part is, Jesus did not stay in the tomb.

God has won, which means we are on the victorious side. We must make a stand for our faith. We have to reach out to the hurting and share Jesus with them. There is no option. As Christians we are ALL called to live differently.

So get out there and start changing the world around you.

What would change if we started living as true disciples of Jesus every day?

Have you ever run across someone who was just annoying? For some reason this person just rubs you the wrong way.

It could be that he won’t stop talking. Perhaps it is the way she puts emphasis on the way she looks and then makes sure everyone knows it. Or she constantly says things like “I’m ugly” just so you will give her a pick-me-up.

Maybe it is the way he walks, or how she talks.

I’m sure if I give you time you will think about someone doing something that you found annoying at some point in your life.

Think about this scenario. You and your friends always get together and go out to eat every Thursday evening. It is just a group of you going to hang out and talk about your weeks together. Or to spend some time bashing on each other, whatever you do when you go to eat with your friends.

Someone mentions a restaurant in town that is a favorite with pretty much everybody. You all start talking about it excitedly but in the back of your mind you know that “Frank” won’t want to go there.

The place serves alcohol and that really bothers him. He always talks about how he can’t go in places that serve alcohol because he has seen the effects of it and he cannot support a business that would do that.

He is ALWAYS ruining places to go and eat. So you all choose Burger King.

How annoying right? Can’t somebody just suck it up for once and stop thinking about themselves long enough for the rest of us to have a good time?

If you find yourself thinking that way you had better re-evaluate your priorities.

I wrote a post a while back about how being stronger does not give someone more rights. In this post though I want to focus on our attitude when we are interacting with “the weaker brother.”

It should not be a chore for us to help out a brother or sister in Christ. Very often they are not trying to ruin our fun or be a bother. They are actually dealing with something spiritually and they need our help and encouragement so that we do not drive them away.

Here in the mid-west just about everybody hunts. Even those living in the city will leave during hunting season to go find a place to do that. So hunting and eating red meat is just something we do (within the last couple years my wife has discovered deer meat and she would eat it for every meal. I think it makes her sad that I don’t hunt).

However if we run into a brother or sister who cannot reconcile God commanding us to take care of his creation and us going out and killing it then our response should not be to poke fun.

If we know a brother or sister who does not eat meat because it violates their conscience before God we should not put them down! We should honor that, because to force them to do something against their conscience is to force them to sin in their eyes. It could greatly hinder their relationship with God.

I’m not saying that you have to give up eating meat, drinking wine, listening to secular music, watching R rated movies, using contraception, or any number of things. But we must stop treating people who view those as sins for themselves as just a bother!

It is not often that we run into true innocence in our world. It is taken away so very quickly. If there are those who still cling to that in any area of their lives, it should be celebrated by us not put down.

This has been something I have been thinking about recently and I have been doing some heavy thinking about who in my life I treat with disdain because they make my life more difficult by thinking something is a sin that I don’t.

I encourage you to do the same! Pray for that brother or sister. Don’t pray that they would change their mind but pray that they would keep growing in Christ.

Also be sure to pray for yourself that your attitude would change toward them and that you would never be a stumbling block in their path.

What are some other examples of sins that are not directly stated in the Bible? Have you ever run across someone who views it as a sin? How did you respond?

Continuing With Endurance

February 15, 2012

It is amazing to me how many times people (myself included) make commitments or have aspirations and then never keep them. We start out with such vigor and determination, and yet we stop after a few weeks or months.

The passion fades and the idea just falls by the wayside with all of the other ideas we had that we stared and then stopped.

I have done this with working out, reading through the Bible in a year, journaling, dieting, calling a friend every week, and so much more!

It is always something different that keeps me from meeting my end goal. I run into a spell of being tired all of the time. Sometimes I have had an injury. I may just have way too many items on my plate so I have to get rid of one. The list goes on and on of the excuses I use to get out of my new commitment.

So how can we keep from dropping the ball again?

Make a plan. One reason that I see that people quit a commitment or quit on a goal is they have not really sat down to come up with a plan. They think something is a cool idea so they say to themselves, “Sure I will do that too.” The problem is they forget to factor in all of their other life activities. They also forget that it takes time to start a habit so they must really make an effort if they want to succeed.

Come up with a “why?” Why do you want to accomplish this? Is it to look good? for your family? the doctor said if you don’t you will die? What is the reason to begin this change? When you pin down your why (and you should probably pen it down as well) you will have a much greater chance of success. This way when you get frustrated or the passion begins to fade, you can look to your “why” and that will help you to keep pushing on.

Set small goals. This goes along with making a plan. Once you figure out what it is you want to accomplish you should sit down and come up with a series of smaller goals. How will you be able to tell you are making progress? If it is losing 20lbs, then make goals of when you want to be down 2 1/2 or 5lbs. These small victories will give you the motivation to keep moving forward for the larger one.

We often think about doing these kinds of things in the business world. Often we have difficulty transferring over into our personal lives. There is an even smaller carry-over into our spiritual lives.

Scripture tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The problem is, our race is a very long one. When we become a Christian at a young age the race can seem like it will never end. We should always keep our eyes on the end goal. However, it helps if we make smaller goals along the way.

We should hide Scripture in our hearts. How about we start memorizing one verse every week or every other week.

If reading through the bible in a year seems like a lot to do, pick a book and go through it in a month.

Too often we get frustrated so we never even start. Don’t let that happen! Come up with a plan, write down your “why”, and start setting goals and meeting them.

Keep running with endurance. Don’t become disqualified. The rewards are great!

The Power of a Voice

February 14, 2012

If you have read this blog very long you know that I have a son. This little man rocks my world every single day. He is 17 months old now and gets into everything that he possibly can. It is amazing to watch his little wheels turn as he tries to solve a problem like, “Mom put the remote control way up there where I can’t reach it. How can I fix that?”

From the first time I met him he was special to me. My wife had to have an emergency c-section with him and  there were other complications as well so they had to put her completely under. So I waited in the other room as they finished the procedure.

All of a sudden I heard the scream of a newborn traveling down the hallway. I knew either I had the most advanced baby in the world and he was running down the hall, or someone was carrying him to the nursery. I was then taken in and I had to stand there as the nurses checked him out to make sure all was well.

They finally told me I could come up and touch him. So I walked up to the hospital crib and put my hand on his chest and gently rubbed back and forth between his chest and stomach. I stared saying, “Noah, it’s okay buddy. Daddy is right here.” Then the most incredible thing in the world happened; he stopped crying! He laid there and just listened to me.

After a few moments I had to step back and let the nurses work. Once I did, he began to scream again.

My son knew my voice! All of that time feeling a little ridiculous as I talked to my pregnant wife’s belly really worked. He really did know who I was, or at least that I had been in his life for a while and that I was safe.

It was at that point that this John 10:2-4,  began to make sense:

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

God speaks into our lives all of the time. He does it through His word or through events and people in our lives. When we spend our lives listening to the voice of God, we can distinguish it from all of the other noise. It becomes familiar to us. I am not really talking about the audible voice of God, instead what I mean is we can tell what God desires for us.

We will be able to distinguish between the Holy Spirit prompting us to action or our own selfish desires. The voice of God becomes something that we welcome.

I think many people avoid God because they are afraid of what He might say. He may ask them to change or do something they feel they are not ready to do. But during those times God is right there like a new father letting us know that He will be there for us and take care of us.

It is so comforting to know that I have a Father in Heaven who really does watch out for me! He wants the very best. Sometimes that means encouraging me to do challenging things but it is all for my good.

We can relax and stop screaming like a newborn when we sit and listen to the voice of God telling us He is there.

Being a Real Man

February 7, 2012

It is funny to me when someone feels the need to genuinely put me down. At one point in my life (jr. high and early high school) it really bothered me, but now I look at the person doing the insulting and feel compassion for them.

On young man feels the need to do this on a regular basis. I’m not that tall (about 5’6″) and I don’t weigh a whole lot, so I guess you could say that I am a small person.

But this young man comes up to tell me, “You’re short. You need to grow.” Which I then thank him for telling me the obvious and let him know that since I will be turning 24 next month, the likeliness of me growing is not very good.

It makes me think of what our culture tells to men. There are many mixed messages that are sent our way.

One of those messages tells us that we can continue being boys for a long time. It is normal and acceptable for a man to keep acting like a boy until he is even in his lat 30s. Pathetic.

The other messages we receive are how to be “men.”

It is more many to be tall,

to be ripped

to talk trash

to drink beer

to work a good job and make a lot of money

to have sex

to be the ruler of the remote control

to be able to grow a lumberjack beard

and so on.

What gets me though is the emphasis emphasis Christian men put on these items. Even Christian men fall to the idea that you must do certain culturally acceptable things to really be a man.

God has a different idea. God tells us that it is our character that really makes us men! Here is a passage from 1 Timothy 3  where God talks about men:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.  He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity  (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

There is a lot there. I also know that some of those phrases are argued over (husband of one wife). But if we desire to be a real man, a godly man, then we must wrestle over these verses.

You can say “but it says he who aspires to be an overseer!” But these were qualities that they wanted everyone to exemplify. This was not just something that the elders needed to follow. All men were expected to work on these.

How different would our world be today if these were the qualities of a man that were pushed and not the ones that currently? Pick one and start working on it. Go and set the example!

Which one do you think would be the easiest for you? The most difficult?

There are so many ideas about the right direction of this country floating around out there. Some people think we are right on track while others feel we are falling into the very fires of Hell.

I just finished the book The Coming Revolution: Signs From America’s Past That Signal Our Nation’s Future by Dr. Richard G. Lee. I found this book and got it free through booksneeze.com. I have read articles about our nations future but I have never read a book on it so I thought I would give it a try.

Dr. Lee starts his book out by talking about how he feels about our country. He loves the USA very much and desires to see it progress and be a great nation. He believes it to be the greatest nation on earth. He thinks, though, we are heading down a very dangerous path. He believes we are heading away from what the founding fathers wanted for our country.

Lee then spends much of the book taking the reader through part of our nation’s history. He starts at the time people started landing in what will later become the United States of America. He explains how much of an influence the settlers’ faith had on their lives. Many settlements failed in the beginning but it seemed as though when they stopped trying to serve selfish goals and put God at the middle of their settlements that they survived.

Most settlements had churches in them and the members of the community were expected to attend. Not all settlements had the same churches but the ones that were there played an important role to those groups of people.

We are also led through the great influence that preachers had during the time leading up to as well as during the Revolution. Preachers would preach sermons that motivated their congregations to action. The members of these communities looked up to what their preachers had to say as well as what the Word of God said. It continued to be the same for the founding fathers.

Dr. Lee wraps the book up by giving some specific ways we can get involved in our government. He believe that a revolution is coming. He does not think this revolution will be violent because it does not have to be but a great change will be happening because people are upset with the government.

I did not agree with all of the ideas present in this book but I really loved reading through the history of our country. It was really sad for me to read that many history textbooks do not include some major parts of our history.

I did agree that we should know more about our history. If we really want to continue to progress as a country, we should value where it is we came from. Taking a look into our past can help us keep from making the same kinds of mistakes. Of course I had a professor in college who liked to say, “The only thing we learn from history is that nobody learns from history.”

I also really appreciated the practical steps he gave the readers in the last couple chapters. It shows that he is not just someone making a speech but that he really wants to help make the change he is writing about. If you are interested in history or like to follow-up on ideas that make our country great I would recommend this book to you.

A couple months ago my wife and I switched doctors. We were going to one OBGYN during my wife’s pregnancy but he over books himself so much that each appointment was 3 1/2-4 hours behind.

Last month we had an appointment with our new doctor and we were in and out of the appointment within an hour, even with blood work drawn. It was wonderful to feel like our time was important and everyone in the office was very nice and helpful.

Then we had the 18 week check-up. We were supposed to get an ultrasound done as well as get a chance to see the doctor. Well the ultrasound technician was very sick and had gone home. Then our doctor’s father was having some sort of heart test done so she was with him.

We sat in the office 2 hours and only talked with a couple of nurses and then our appointment was rescheduled for 2 weeks from now.

Sometimes things just do not go exactly as we think they will. We may think an event will only take an hour or so but may in fact take up half the day.

Maybe traffic is really bad causing you to be late. Sometimes people don’t show up when they promise they will. Parents, children, teachers, friends, and coworkers can all let us down. These may not be big let-downs but sometimes they are.

We need to figure out what to do in those times.

Pray. If the person we are waiting on has not shown up and has not called to let us know why, maybe something is wrong. We should pray for that person. If they have really let us down and serious action needs to be taken, then prayer for God’s guidance to make the right decisions is a must.

Make the best of the situation. This does not always mean to just shrug it off, but for the smaller, less dire situations, it does. My wife and I had a great time joking around and talking in the doctor’s office yesterday. It was time just the two of us had to ourselves where we could enjoy each others company. Instead of getting upset, have some fun.

If the situation is more serious but nothing can be done about it yet, try to make the best of it until something can be done to change the situation. Even when the situation can be changed we must act in a Christ-like manner.

Ask yourself what God would want from you. How would God want you to treat the people around you? What would God want you to say to those causing this inconvenience? If you are like me, you may actually need to think about these answers before the situation comes up. This is not to always expect the bad but do prepare for it when needed.

Sometimes things just do not go the way we plan them. That can be very frustrating but there are actions we can take to do the best we can in situations we do not have much control over.

What other actions do you take when situations do not go as you plan?