stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

When we hear John 10:10, we often focus in on the full life part for a couple of reasons.  First, the church has been doing an extensive series on what the full life could and should look like in various areas of your life, so you might be programmed to think on it by now.  Second, a more abundant life is prettier to look at than stealing, killing, and destroying.  But that first part is equally as important in understanding the verse, as well as being able to objectively assess our own actions.  Are they of God or are we working for the thief?

If I told you that the thief often does his killing, stealing, and destroying through people, you might readily agree.  That makes sense, because someone you know pops into your head when I say that.  But what if the person he’s using to destroy things in your life or the lives of others is you?  It’s hard to imagine.  First of all, it’s hard to imagine oneself as the problem, because people tend to have a blindspot regarding their own weaknesses.  It’s easier to see how someone else is a problem, because we are affected by their issues.  When I act out, I don’t necessarily feel the forces of my actions, and feelings are usually key to discerning these kinds of things.  It’s also hard to image when we consider our proximity to God.  Aren’t I too close with Him to be working for the thief?

Well, before you dismiss the suggestion that you could be operating as the thief’s destroyer, simply because you are a good Christian and close to God, I want you to consider a Matthew 16:21-23.

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Peter was as close to Jesus as any man who ever lived.  He literally walked with Jesus daily for about three years, listening to His teaching, being mentored by Him, and working for Him.  He was close to God.  And right here, he’s trying to do the right thing based on his closeness to God and belief in Jesus.  But what does Jesus say?  “Get away from me, Satan.”  Peter, the close friend of Jesus, found himself working for the Devil, not out of ill intentions, but out of his own good intentions with were contrary to God’s desire.  Had he weighed his words – something he isn’t known for – he might not have said them, but he didn’t weigh, and he did say.

We must be careful to consider our words and actions.  We must weigh them against what God desires, not what want to see happen, good as it may be.  Sometimes, out of our good intentions, and certainly out of our selfish desires, we can end up being the destroyer.  It’s not a fitting job title for a Christian, though, so before acting or saying, ask yourself a question.  “Will this bring life, or is it destructive?”

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach on God’s desire for marriages.  You can listen HERE if you missed it.  I mentioned that I didn’t have time to go into everything I wanted to talk about due to time constraints, but I said I would post some of what I had intended to say for you here.  So what I will be doing is actually pasting the part of my message I cut, describing the power of some wilderness traps marriages face on their way to trouble.  Certainly there are more than the few I’ve listed, but it would be nearly impossible to write about all of them.  So again, I encourage you to prayerfully seek God and ask Him to reveal to you traps you may be caught in in your marriage or your life, and then allow Him to show you how you are free from them.

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I want to name just a few that are fast tracking a lot of marriages for divorce and that shouldn’t be in any marriage, much less a Christian marriage. One selfish act that can lead to divorce is pornography usage. This is a sin, according to Matthew 5:27-30. It is a form of adultery or cheating on one’s spouse, and any way you might be cheating on your spouse is wrong. There are no two ways around it. Pornography is wrong, and it is unhealthy. It changes a person. And it leads to divorce. According to a recent study, 56% of all divorces are precipitated by one or both spouses’ regularly viewing pornography.[1]   This is serious business, and it’s something to be stopped right away.  (For further information on the effects pornography has on the user, his spouse, and his children, you can read a research paper I recently completed on the matter by clicking Selph_Research_Paper_Pornography.)

A marriage that’s in trouble may also include having an emotional affair. An emotional affair mimics closeness and emotional intimacy of an affair without ever becoming physical. Some people think that’s just a made up phrase, not a real thing, but it is real, and the same study that I just mentioned states that it is a precipitating factor for 68% of all divorces.[2]  Again, this is something that ought to be stopped right away. If it means severing a relationship and ending a friendship, so be it. Better to lose a friend of the opposite sex than to lose your spouse.

One more area that could stand to be mentioned is abuse. There should never be abuse in any relationship ever. It shouldn’t be in a marriage, in a parenting relationship, between friends, or anywhere. Abuse has no place. And although every bad thing in a marriage can be solved and can be healed through Christ, if your physical safety or the safety of your children is being compromised by physical or sexual abuse, you should go somewhere safe. Don’t stay. Physical and sexual abuse are obviously very serious issues, but they are only two kinds of marital abuse. There is also mental abuse, which comes in the form of put downs, intimidation, condescension, and publically shaming a person. There is verbal abuse, which can also be emotional abuse, and includes consistent yelling, talking over your spouse, using loud and threatening language, and being constantly argumentative. There is also mental abuse, which involves consistently lying, manipulating, and twisting things around to find blame. None of this should be in a marriage. If you are doing this to your spouse, you need to stop.

To reiterate, you do not need to wander aimlessly in the wilderness in your marriage, nor do you need to be enslaved to your past.  As a child of God, you have the power to be free if you would choose to be.

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[1] Mary J. C. L. Tarver, “Pornography & the End of Eros,” Studia Canonica 44, no. 2 (2010): 344, accessed May 1, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/863135473?accountid=12085.

[2] Tarver, 344.

a good mom

I have a good mom.  I’ve always known that she is a good mom.  And even though I thought I really appreciated her for what she’d done, I now understand that I couldn’t fully appreciate her, because I didn’t understand.  I didn’t understand, because she never sat me down and explained how all consuming my siblings and I were.  But you’ve met me, and there are three more like me, all equally difficult to deal with in our own way – except Steve, who set the standard for difficulty – so you have to know that raising us was not a walk in the park.  Having kids myself has allowed me to see my mom’s struggle and pains through Sarah’s motherhood, and even then, I’m only observing, not experiencing it on their level.  But I do get a decent picture, as Sarah is also a great mom and just the right mom for our kids.  There’s no one else that could do the amazing job she does.

So what makes my mom and Sarah good moms, anyway?

Love.  You can take 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, replace the word “love” with Sarah’s name or my mom’s name, and you wouldn’t feel like you were lying your way through it.  That is not to say that they are perfect and never step outside that, but their consistent character reflects the love described in these verses.  Try it with your name.  Does it work?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Sacrifice.  There are certain things I suppose you do not or cannot do once a child enters your life, particularly if you choose to take on a servant leader role like Jesus.  Philippians 2 tells us to have the same mind in us that Christ had when He humbled Himself and cared more for us than His position, and they do.

Godly.  Timothy was a young man who helped turn the world upside down for Christ, as the church started and began to spread.  His father was not a believer.  You know who was?  His mom and grandma.  That’s through whom he learned the truth.  Now, my dad is a believer, and I am a believer, but just Timothy benefitted from the Godly example set by his mom, so did I, and so do my sons.  My mom was a stay at home mom, and so is Sarah, so they were the primary spiritual influences in their children’s lives while the dads were working elsewhere, outside the home.  That does not diminish my dad’s impact on me, nor does it take away the impact I’m having on my sons, but it shines light on the powerful impact a mom can have.

These are just a few things that make them great.  I could write pages on it, but I will not, not for you, anyway.  I’ll try to be sure to share more with them personally.

What do you think makes a mom a good mom?

my unstoppable playlist

On Sunday, we looked at what God said about us, and He has a lot of good things to say.  We ended by looking at Romans 8:31, which says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Of course, the answer is that no one can stop us when God is for us.

On my way to church Sunday morning, before preaching, I listened to a song a couple of times that speaks to this truth, because it pumps me up.  It gets me ready to go do something.  Then I began to think about other songs that remind me that I am unstoppable in Christ, so I made a playlist with ska, rap, worship, and metal songs.  Here are some songs to encourage you, from many different genres, beginning with some old school ska and the song I listened to Sunday.  Listen to them when you have a change, and remember that you’re unstoppable.

The O.C. Supertones – Who Can be Against me?

Andy Mineo – You Can’t Stop Me (Rap)

Also, here’s the youth band doing their version of it back in August:

Disciple – Dead Militia (Metal)

Jonny Lang – Don’t Stop (For Anything) (Blues)

Chris Tomlin – Our God (Worship)

 

There are times when it is necessary for us to take a stand and fight.  There are other times when it is necessary to sit down and be quiet.  Knowing when to fight and when to be still can be difficult for many, and I’m not too sure there’s a broad answer to give that covers all situations.  But there is wise direction on when and how given in the Bible and demonstrated by Jesus.  I do think, for instance, it is good to defend one’s faith.  I do not think it’s good to speak arrogantly and snipe at opponents of our faith, though.  I also don’t think it’s good to be of the fighting mindset, always looking for an offender with which to argue.

2 Timothy 2: 23-25 says, “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.”  We aren’t to engage in foolish, ignorant arguments with people who don’t believe and want to fight with you over why you do.  This probably includes getting into it on Reddit and in the YouTube comment section, but it can also mean walking away from people you know and love for a minute.  When someone’s lone goal is to humiliate you and argue with you, it’s not your calling to outsmart, humiliate, and disprove them.  However, it is your job to share the truth of the Bible.  As Pastor Dave (not our Pastor Dave) in “God’s Not Dead,” said to Josh, “Don’t try to be clever.  Be content with the truth.”

Most of the arguing a Christian will ever do will be with other Christians, though.  Some fight, because they are modern day Pharisees and want to condemn all other Christians for a lack of holiness.  Many of us, upon hearing these kinds of assaults, feel like it’s our turn and job to fight back and let them know what’s really up.  While that kind of fighting sounds admirable, it’s not the correct battle for Christians.  I used to love those kinds of fights, but I’m older, more tired, and perhaps a little wiser.  I have a general refusal to engage in fighting or arguing.  I can have a discussion, and I don’t mind if we disagree throughout the discussion, but once someone else decides it’s not okay that we don’t disagree and gets aggressive in trying to change what I can clearly see in Scripture, I give them one or two warnings before disengaging.  I’m just not interested in that type of fight.  There are no winners, and it’s unbiblical to proceed, anyway.  Even when you really want to, you really don’t have to fight every time an opportunity presents itself.

Titus 3:9-10: “9 Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. 10 If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them.”

legacy

What is a legacy? It can mean something old, outdated, or classic. It could be a throw back style, like legacy jerseys or Jordans or whatever. It can be someone who had a better deal than the current deal and has been grandfathered in.  But it can also mean, “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

A parent can pass down more than wealth. They can also pass down work ethic, good habits, bad habits, parenting styles, and more. My sense of humor is a legacy passed down to me by my dad. I’m so much like him in that way, it’s scary. Or it can be annoying, if you’re my mom or my wife. It’s a little over the top when we get together for a holiday, and you have my dad, my two brothers, me, and my two nephews who all have the same sense of humor and similar personality. It all goes back to my dad. He passed it down.

So what do you want to be your legacy? What do you want to be known for? We will all be remembered for something, and for the most part, we can control what that is. You can write your own legacy.

In 1888 a man named Alfred lost his brother Ludvig died.  A French publication errantly published Alfred’s obituary, though. The paper wasn’t too kind, admonishing him for his invention of dynamite.  The obituary said, “Le marchand de la mort est mort,” which means, “The merchant of death is dead.” It continued, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Alfred was distraught with what he read and wasn’t happy with how he would be remembered, so he decided to change his life, so as to be remembered differently.

Do you know Alfred?  On 27 November 1895, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside most of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes.  Nobel’s will allocated 94% of his total assets, 31,225,000 Swedish kronor, to establish the five Nobel Prizes.

Did any of you know anything about Dr. Nobel other than the fact that he established the Nobel prizes? I didn’t. So his legacy is that of peace and altruism, despite what it would have been had he died when his brother did. His legacy is what he has left behind. What do you want to leave behind? Do you want to be remembered for what you’ve already done or something else? For your mistakes or your successes? What do you want?

I need quiet

Loud, purposeless noises bother me.  If I’m trying to concentrate, even noises with a purpose really frustrate me.  I have trouble hearing what I’m trying to listen to or concentrating on the task at hand when there is a lot of noise going on around me.  For example, even if the TV is more than loud enough to be heard, and Sarah can hear it just fine, I might not be able to discern what is being said, because other noises in the house are preventing me from processing it.  It’s annoying to me, because I miss a lot; and it’s annoying to Sarah, because the only ways for me to understand are to turn the TV way up and turn the captions on (neither of which she is a fan of).  I can basically only hear the loudest thing in the room well, and everything else is just static noise in the background.

There are other kinds of noise in my life that drive me crazy: seeing a lot of junk email when I open my email in the morning, hearing or seeing constant complaining, most TV commercials, which are still louder than the show you’re watching no matter what the FCA has decreed, and even an overbooked schedule.  These things bother me, and I just want to escape.  They keep me from seeing, hearing, and focusing on what I want to be taking in.  So I’ve started eliminating them.  I’ve probably unsubscribed from 20 email lists recently that I was on for one reason or another.  If someone only ever complains on Facebook, I won’t unfriend them, but I will hide their posts.  I’ve taken to seeking more quiet in my life and then allowing God to fill that quiet, as opposed to allowing it to be filled with nonsense.

Jesus did this, and when I read Luke 5, I realized it was something He was demonstrating that I should have been following.  In that chapter, Jesus heals some people, so everyone goes looking for Him to have Him heal them or their loved ones.  But in verse 16, it says, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  There were important things to say and be done, but He withdrew to quiet, solitary places, and He spent time with God the Father.  He sought quiet and then filled the quiet with listening to God.  I’m trying to do that now.  I used to listen to the radio or my iPod to and from work.  Lately, I’ve been using at least one of those trips to listen to my Bible.  I’m planning to go through the entire Bible this year.  I read some of it, and I listen to some of it in the car.  Now instead of being filled with sports, nonsense, and commercials every time I’m in the car, several car rides have been spent listening to Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Psalms, and Proverbs, because that’s where I have been in my reading.

I’m shutting things out.  Sometimes I’m shutting people out.  I need to, because I need quiet.  I used to feel too guilty to ever not check my email and respond right away, but not anymore.  I noticed that Jesus disconnected from people who wanted to hear Him teach and be healed, so He could be quiet and pray.  I think I can unplug from email, talk radio, and Facebook from time to time, too.

What do you need to disconnect from, so you can seek God in the quiet?

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