Courageous Leadership and Church Hypocrisy

Micah 1-4

Focus: Micah 3:8 “But I am full of the courage that the Lord’s Spirit gives, and have a strong commitment to justice. This enables me to confront Jacob with its rebellion, and Israel with its sin.”

Recently, I participated in a weekend class in San Antonio. As I was flying home, I was able to share the Gospel with the girl sitting next to me. It turns out that she grew up in the Church and has since left because of hypocrisy. She said, “My mom keeps pressuring me to get baptized. But I don’t want anything to do with her religion. She has had affairs with several men and has wrecked four other marriages outside of her own. There are four men who she slept with, and I am not sure which one of them is my actual dad.” From my own family background, I can understand why she feels the way she does.

My heart grieved because sadly her story is not an isolated incident in the Church. Incidentally, hypocrisy is a problem that has molded the reputation of God’s people throughout history. Those who claim to be Christians are failing in epic proportions. The reason for this is because of weak passive leadership that fails to confront evil. Today, more than ever, we need people who are bold and willing to stand up against injustice, rebellion and sin. I am not exclusively talking about church pastors, administrators, or volunteer leadership. I am talking about every individual who claims to follow Christ. It does not take a title to lead! In fact, all of God’s people are called to step up and confront evil, especially evil in the Church.

Micah was once such person who God used to stand up against Israel’s sin. Through the prophecy of Micah, God promised that he would destroy the land and remove his people and place them in captivity if they did not turn away from their wickedness. Fortunately, at the time of Micah’s prophecy, the prophecy against God’s people never materialized. Hezekiah, the king at the time, listened to the prophet of God and was instrumental in leading Israel to revival. God delayed his wrath. Micah was filled with God’s spirit- his life was transformed. He was also deeply committed to justice.

There are many of us who are angry and discouraged because of such hypocracy. However, hypocrisy can only come to an end when the “angry and discouraged” are filled with God’s spirit and deeply committed to justice. In other words, the angry and discouraged must first be spiritually transformed. Jesus said that we must first take the long out of our own eye before we confront others who are in sin. Then, once we are living by truth, we must be willing take initiative to engage with others who are not living by truth. This takes courage and a deeply rooted commitment to doing what is right, even when it is hard.

If you are that person who is frustrated with people who claim to be holy but who are not living out their claim, then you are the person that God wants to use. Do not wait for someone else to deal with the problem. You are the answer! There is no plan B. Those who have been transformed by the love of Christ must be deeply committed to confronting evil in a way that honors God. It was because of Micah’s faithfulness that Hezekiah was transformed, and he in turned led the revival of God’s people. It will be because of you who, being transformed, are courageously committed to justice in a way that challenges those who are doing wrong. Who or what do you need to confront today?

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Why Government Cannot Solve Our Problems

Matthew 6:22, “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”

The other day I was involved in a discussion about the economy, politics, and religion. It did not take long for me to see that my friend and I have different views. He believes that having more government control will solve our nation’s problems. I cannot disagree more.

The truth is that regardless of how government is organized, there will be a tendency toward evil and injustice. Someone will aways get the short end of the stick. It does not matter whether we have more or less government intervention in personal or corporate affairs because Scripture teaches that human beings prize the wrong things in their hearts.

Jesus said that if our eye is clear, our body will be full of light. Jesus was indicating that humans do not have clear vision. We are vision impaired, and we need our eye sight restored. Until our vision is corrected, our life can only be filled with darkness. Even the purest desires are clouded. In a very real sense, our eyes must undergo a spiritual lasik surgery if we wish to see see clearly.

When we see clearly, we see Christ. We treasure Jesus above everything else and our life changes. It changes how we view our self, and it profoundly changes the way we treat others. Jesus said that if we love Him we will obey His commands. The life that sees Christ is changed to such a degree that it produces new fruit.

Jesus is teaching that the fundamental problem with human beings is that our blindness causes us to love things instead of the Creator, and consequently we are inclined towards selfishness and greed. No human government can correct this problem. It would be like “the blind leading the blind.” If we are to be governed well, individually and corporately our eyes must be opened.

This is not to suggest that people are incapable of altruism, but that even the most altruistic people have a nature that is corrupted by the deceit of sin. Eventually, the greatest humanitarian efforts fail in practice because they are lead by people who are ultimately filled with greed, envy and selfishness. It is a problem that we all struggle with that can only be fixed when our eyes are opened from blindness by the work of God’s Spirit, as we yield our lives to Christ.

What does God’s future grace have to do with now?

1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Recently my wife and I started studying the book of 1 Peter together. It has been a rich time of encouragement for both of us. Specifically, I have been encouraged about the role that God’s future grace plays in my life now. To illustrate how this works, consider how summer vacations and Christmas breaks played a role in your life as a child.

When I was a young boy it seemed like the school days took forever, and weeks would linger. Depending on the time of year, my heart would yearn for Christmas break or Summer vacation. It is what drove me to get through the semester. I knew that there would be rewards of play and rest waiting at the end of weeks of hard work. My grades on papers and tests did not stir my heart to go on. Instead, I pressed on by looking forward to spending days playing outside, going on a trip, or enjoying some other rewarding experience that was in the future.

The same concept is what God’s future grace does for our life in the here and now. While we can appreciate the effects of present and past Grace that help us in the moment, such moments of the present and past are only intended to be a platform of trust for our faith to stand on. God’s past grace helps us to know we are not crazy to trust Him for what He has promised for our future. Past grace is not the only means of encouraging us and stirring us on through life- just like papers and quizzes in school substantiated our studies for the moment but failed to drive us through the semester or year.

Looking forward to greater rewards has enormous value for our faith. Knowing God’s promises helps us to know what we are working toward. There will be a day when Jesus Christ is fully revealed in the lives of believers. In that day, there will be no more death, sickness or pain. Injustice and unrighteousness will no longer exist. Our hearts will be fully and permanently repaired, and we will forever enjoy the fullness of God’s grace on our lives as He originally intended. This is greater than any summer vacation or Christmas break, and it should spur us on towards love and good deeds as we that day coming near.

Knowing what our future holds should empower us for our decisions that we will make today. Living for the future is not about being spiritually AWOL and oblivious to present needs. Instead, we ought to see our present struggles and experiences in light of God’s grace. From that, our faith should rest secure for the glory that is yet to come, and we can be moved to overcome anything that stands in our way or tempts us to go astray. How has God’s past grace on your life helped you to trust Him? Do you know all that he has in store for you? How does that empower you for the present moment?

An Ebenezer for the Wandering Heart

1 Samuel 7:12, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

Growing up in the Church had its good points and bad points. The church in particular that my family attended was definitely an independent, fundamental conservative church. That’s not a bad thing. One of the things that goes along with churches like mine is hymns. That’s all we would sing. Back then I certainly did not have a deep appreciation for hymns, but as I learn more about the Bible and grow in my faith, I have come to love the richness that is found in many hymns.

In  particular, the hymn Come Thou Fount has become an anthem for my life in recent years. When I was younger, I never understood the second verse. There is a line that says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come.” No one ever knew what an “Ebenezer” is. But we sang it anyway. Come to find out that after all these years, Ebenezer is a memorial stone erected by Samuel to mark where God helped Israel to defeat the Philistines – north of Jerusalem. It means, “Up to here the LORD has helped us.”

What was so amazing about this battle is that Israel had been deeply ensnared in idolatry, yet God had delivered her from a great struggle. This is a beautiful picture of how great God’s love is for His people. He did not chose the perfect and the strong to represent Him. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, “But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.” Weak vessels are chosen so that God might demonstrate His strength to the nations.

Not much has changed since then. God still choses the weak so that He can do great things in them and receive the glory. Because we know this, we need to look at our circumstances and struggles in a different way. Every trial, temptation and tough time in life is an Ebenezer where we have an opportunity to witness God’s help.

To see God working does not need to be in grand moments. For example, today we finally sold our washer and dryer. This might not seem like a big deal, but really it is a simple Ebenezer, a stone erected in my life, that helps me to remember the greatness of God. Because our washer and dryer sold, I no longer have the stress of worrying about it. It also provided money that we need. Another stone of the faithfulness of God is the fact that we moved on campus at DTS. It is a better environment to raise our son in; it is a better place for me to study; it is better for our sleep; there is less stress. We are so thankful to be where we are. These are both almost silly examples, but they are small reminders that will be foundational for when bigger trials come.

What is most amazing is that my life continues to be blessed in the middle of my weaknesses. I am not a perfect guy. I have struggles with anger, worrying, lust, jealousy and other problems at times. Hopefully each of these struggles will become less and less as I get older, but nonetheless, what I am trying to demonstrate is that I am just as unfaithful as any other except for the grace of God that keeps me from doing these things regularly. While they do not control me, in my weakest of flesh, they are there. I am no greater than His people Israel. Yet God still pursues me while I am weak with a heart that is prone to wander from allegiance to Him!

One of the greatest things we can do is that thing that grandma always told me, “Count your blessings.” Just like the hymn, Count Your Blessings, we should count them and name them one by one and see what the Lord has done. When we are attune to the blessings in our life, we will find a mountain of Ebenezers for our wandering hearts! How has God blessed you recently? What can you look back on in your life as strength for the moments when you struggle the most? These are God’s Ebenezer’s for you so that you would know Him and trust Him more!

Breaking Social Barriers

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John 4:27, “At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?'”

High school was as difficult for me as it is for anyone. While I was not the most popular, people still knew me. For the most part, people liked me, but in some ways I felt like a misfit. I belonged to a youth group at my church, and that was a great experience. But when it came to school, I had a hard time clicking with others. I joined the band, played football, and ran track. I did the whole nine yards. But one thing I remember as well as anything was the desire to belong.

I found it hard to belong to certain groups because it meant ostracizing others. Belonging to one group of people might mean sacrificing my reputation with other friends. My goal was to have my first allegiance always be to Christ, so that put a damper on how loyal I was to any group.

Most of us can identify with the desire to fit in. Many go great lengths to be accepted, and when they finally find their ring of friends, they will do anything to keep it- including the exclusion of others. In the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, the disciples faced the exact same pressure to want to belong. In following Jesus, they finally have become involved with something in their life that has brought them deeper meaning. But what happens when the opportunity to belong begins to crumble?

In many ways, life was good for the disciples. They were following a leader who turned out to be the Messiah, the one who would deliver Israel. He could do ridiculously amazing miracles, and he had an impeccable knowledge of Torah, the “Bible” of the day. No one could argue with him. Not only that, but he could turn water into wine. How fun is that?! All was well until…

Jesus had this way of habitually jeopardizing the reputation of the disciples. In some ways, I wonder if the disciples were ever embarrassed for Jesus. Did he know what He was doing when He acted certain ways? After all, the Messiah should act like one, shouldn’t he?

This story is no different. At face value, Jesus “blows it.” He crosses social lines by talking with this Samaritan woman. In some ways, the text suggests that she was a prostitute. Regardless, she was Samaritan and she was woman. It would be an understatement to say it was taboo for a Jew to hang out with a Samaritan. Even more, a man, and certainly a Rabbi, would never approach a woman who was not his wife. Jesus violated social norms in order to extend mercy and grace to the outcast.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to reflect on…

Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to buy some food. When they entered back into the scene they were amazed to discover Jesus entertaining this woman. Amazed is a euphemism for “pooped bricks”. I can picture their jaws hanging open and the groceries slowly dropping to the ground as the disciples were thinking to themselves, “Jesus, stop! What are you doing?! You are messing up everything. Why are you hanging out with her? Don’t let anyone see you. They will never take you seriously. Start acting like the Messiah is supposed to act.” That is essentially how scripture paints their unspoken thoughts as it says, “‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?” Breaking social barriers is shocking for others to see and often difficult to understand.

The story gets even better when the woman hurries into the city to tell everyone how her life was changed. It seems that the disciples were catching on to what was happening, so they tried to distract Jesus from paying further attention to the Samaritan people and thus harming his reputation even more. In effect, they said, “Would you look at the time? Hey Jesus, you’re hungry, right? Yeah, its time to eat Bro. Darn, we know you hate to miss out on ministry, but we gotta eat and run.” The temporal need for food became a distraction for the greater need to help others.  Distractions from good often come from those who are our social contemporaries and in the form of temporal obligations.

It turns out that Jesus stayed in that town for 2 more days and he did plenty more miracles- enough socializing with the outcast to make those closest to Him stock up on Rolaids. When we read this story, we all need to ask, “Who is our Samaritan woman of our day?” Who is it that we would never be seen with? Who is that person or people that if you saw your friend or pastor with, you would ask to yourself, “What are you doing hanging out with them? Isn’t that inappropriate?” Hopefully we don’t have that thought in us. Following Jesus means that we will transcend social barriers and distractions that would keep us from ministering to others.

Transcending social barriers eclipses the personal prejudice and barricades that are put up against others. What is interesting is that the very desire to belong often feeds intolerance of others. For some reason we intuitively think we cannot have both/ and. We think that if we demonstrate acceptance of those different than us, then our friends may think less of us. This would not happen in a genuine friendship, and regardless, a follower of Christ is ultimately concerned about what the King expects.

The reality is that we all struggle in some way with reaching out to those who are different. So my proposal is that we stop being amazed in the same way the disciples were when they saw Jesus ministering to the Samaritan woman. Extending love to weird people should not be shocking. It should be as normal as loving “normal” people. Who do you know that you have neglected, ignored or failed to help because they are different than you? What are some practical ways that you can extend mercy and grace in their life?


Call of Duty

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Luke 12:35, “Get dressed for service and keep your lamps burning;”

Call of Duty is a popular video game that simulates the infantry and combined arms warfare of World War II. It is also a legal term describing the necessity to carry out a job or duty. While I enjoy playing video games, I have come to realize that there is a weight of responsibility that comes with being a Christ follower. Not everyone who prays a “prayer of Salvation” or calls themselves “Christian”, or goes to church will be a part of God’s Kingdom.

In Luke 12, Jesus gives a stern warning against greed. As I read this, I tuned in closely because materialism is a huge problem where we live. The sad thing is that most church-goers are blind to their struggle with this problem. Not only does materialism & greed dominate personal lives, but it has seeped into the seems of many mainline churches. From the moment you enter a parking lot in some of these places, it becomes apparent that they have a “cruise ship” mentality rather than a “battleship” mentality. There is a world of difference.

In this passage, Jesus reminds us not to be obsessed with the materials of this world. Churches and individuals who build their ministry with a cruise ship platform will eventually sink. All material investments eventually go bad and get worn out. Trends come and go like whirlwinds. Our primary concern should be about God’s Kingdom. Jesus was teaching his disciples to stay focused on their responsibilities and that the needs of life will be supplied to meet the demands of duty (Lk 12:29-31).

But more than that we have been given a call of duty. If there is something that anyone should not miss, this is it! Luke 12:35 says, “Get dressed for service and keep your lamps burning;” In the Greek, it better renders,“Let your loins be girded,” an idiom referring to the practice of tucking the ends of the long cloak (outer garment) into the belt to shorten it in preparation for activities like running, journeying or being employed in any labor. We are to be working servants of Christ.

Additionally, Jesus said to keep our lamps burning. That is, make sure we are ready and waiting. Christianity is not about laboring in vain. We are on a battleship working and carrying out our duties watching for the return of Christ when he comes to establish His Kingdom. We are to be waiting servants of Christ.

As I evaluate my life, I hope to grow to be a more faithful steward of Christ. Upon further reading in Luke 12, one will find that Jesus goes on to talk about what happens to unfaithful stewards in His Kingdom. It is not good! I have to ask, “What is distracting me for carrying out my call? How can I be more intentional in how I live as a faithful steward? Am I truly on mission for Christ? How so? What are my spending habits like and how do I use my time? We all need to ask these questions.

The Christian life is a missional life. Are you fulfilling your call of duty?

Am I truly good?

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Luke 10:29, “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Today as I was reading through Luke’s Gospel, I was challenged by the lawyer’s question (even though it was asked in a skeptical manner), “Who is my neighbor?” I was even more challenged by Jesus’ response. Apparently, in some ways, I think that I am an under-resourced person with more neighbors than I really want to care for.

One of my greatest struggles that I have had since living in Dallas is knowing what to do with all the people who are in need. There are a lot of homeless and countless others who are struggling in significant ways. This problem has challenged my heart because, as of lately, I tend to guard my resources since my own budget is tight.

In the context of the situation described by Luke, it was evident that this lawyer who was testing Jesus was one who knew all the right answers. I think we can all identify with that in some way. Many of us have grown up in the church and know all the right answers to spiritual questions. We even feel a sense of pride in what we know. Some of us can even quote scriptures or sing spiritual songs as our answer to the world’s problems. But we will see that is not what Jesus is looking for.

In this story, Jesus answers the lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor?” The narrative describes a man who was on his way to Jericho when he was robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead. There were three people whose lives came in contact with the beaten man. They each demonstrated their version of what was good, yet only one was right.

The first man was a priest. He happened to be going down the same road as a beaten robbed man left for dead on a path, yet he meticulously walked around this man when he saw him. This is probably because certain ceremonial laws forbade priests from touching sick or dying people, the priest did what was considered ceremonially clean. It was more convenient to walk around the dying person than to help him and then have to go through the necessary rituals to restore ceremonial cleanness. The priest continued on his journey. His religion got in the way of compassion.

The second person was a Levite. Levites were the tribe of people where the priestly line came from. Levites were God’s chosen people who helped serve in the temple. So it is not surprising that this man’s response was the same as the priest’s. He walked around the body and continued on his journey. It was the right thing to do, after all.

Third, we read about the Samaritan. Samaritan’s were the social outcasts of their day. They were perceived as unclean, repulsive, rebellious people to the religious elite. Samaritans were considered so bad that Jewish people would avoid traveling through Samaria at all costs, even if it meant traveling miles out of the way to get to their destination. The element of shock is that the Samaritan, the social and religious outcast, was the one who was good.

The Samaritan had compassion on the one in need. He spent a significant amount of his resources on the neighbor who he did not even know. It does not take a religious expert to know that the Samaritan was the one who was good. There are several thoughts that go through my mind when I observe the Samaritan’s response:

  1. The Samaritan was able to identify the need and respond in a meaningful way.
  2. Doing the right thing was not an issue that needed to be prayed about or something that took the counsel of others
  3. There was a genuine concern for the one in need
  4. You don’t have to be religious to be compassionate
  5. No one told the Samaritan to be merciful

While there are several more observations that I can draw, I think that the few are noteworthy to help us see what we need to look for when examining ourselves as we respond to those in need. Jesus told the lawyer to “Go and do likewise.”

I am challenged because I know that right now I struggle to use my resources to help others in need. I am reminded that it is easy to make excuses why I cannot help others. Inconvenience, a perceived lack of money, other duties (religious and non-religious), and apathy are a few hindrances that keep me from being a faithfully compassionate person. I suspect that others may have some of the same struggles. But it does not have to be that way.

Jesus was not asking us to be precarious with our resources for the sake of people we do not know. Rather, He simply asked us to be compassionate on those who we have the ability to help. The calling is to extend genuine concern and love to others in a meaningful way. That may mean thinking creatively about how to meet needs when money is not available.

We must avoid “walking around the one in need” by saying, “I’ll pray for you” or “I would love to help, but I have to go to church,” or “You do not believe or live like me, so I cannot help.” There are many excuses that can be used to avoid helping others, but rather than dwelling on why we are not compassionate, we should take a moment to rethink how we can extend love to others, even when it is hard.

Is there someone you know you have the ability to help in a meaningful way? How can you extend compassion in a practical way to this person?

When It’s Too Late

First, I just want to mention quickly that I did get my workout in early this morning. 5:30am came early at 3:45 when my son John decided that he wanted to be the first to rise. There was no going back to sleep and I felt like a Mack Truck had rolled over me. But nevertheless, I went to the gym and burned almost 600 calories today. That with old fashioned Cheerios and the morning Joe seemed to perk me up.

While I am journaling about my 100 day challenge, I do not want to get out of the habit of sharing what I am learning in Scripture. Last night my wife and I read through Psalm 80. In short, this is a petition for God to intervene on behalf of Israel whose land and people were getting pillaged and raped by the Assyrians. They were experiencing God’s judgment because of their disobedience. God was simply being faithful to His promise in Torah. If Israel disobeyed and were unfaithful to Yahweh, they would be driven from the land. It was that simple.

A couple things stuck out to me in this passage. First, Israel was begging for God’s intervention. They were in trouble. They were suffering the consequences for their unfaithfulness. It was too late at that point to undo what had been done. Israel was completely at the mercy of God.

Second, Israel’s ability to survive and thrive is solely dependant on God’s mighty hand of protection and provision. The psalmist pleads, “O God, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Any hope for health and prosperity is completely at the mercy of God.

Third, just because the Psalmist pleads on behalf of the people does not guarantee God’s intervention. However, this passage reminds us of something incredibly significant. The Psalmist openly reminds God that this land and people that are being pillaged and raped are God’s. In essence, it is like saying, “Do something! This is your property you created for your pleasure. Don’t you care?”

I believe the answer is “Yes”, God does care. He is always doing what is best for His people. There is nothing in life that is not intended to direct his people’s hearts toward God, including every evil and injustice. God, at times, can use the wicked and ungodly to discipline His people- like what we see in this passage. God is always in a process of redeeming a people unto himself. He is saving a remnant from those whose hearts reject Him. Because of His justice and for the sake of His name and His love working together with the free will of man, God cultivates people’s hearts to turn toward Him. He created them for His pleasure, and His grace and loving kindness allow for our salvation so that we can be place back to our original purpose. And God is still just because of the work of Christ on the cross. His wrath was completely poured out on Christ for the sins of mankind and we are allowed to return our hearts to God.

So, when it is too late and God’s people have crossed the line, it is OK to suffer the consequences. God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12). When this happens, we are experiencing the tender mercy of God doing what it takes to bring us back to Him, the giver of life. When we cross the line, our responsibility is to endure the discipline of God. There is hope because of the truth that we are reminded of by the Psalmist: we are God’s people. He knows when we are being “raped and pillaged” by the injustices of this world. When we experience God’s discipline, it should be responded to by humility. God is simply returning our hearts toward Him.

This Generation: Sex and Seduction

Proverbs 7

Focus: Proverbs 7:4-5: Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding a close relative, so that they may keep you from the adulterous woman, from the loose woman who flatters you with her words.

Last Friday the craziest thing happened to me when I went to get my hair cut. Usually, I go to Supercuts because I can get a Haircutdecent trim for around $15. The line was too long, so I called 411 and found a men’s salon and spa where I was told I could get a cut for $16. I think I can afford an extra buck to save time! 🙂 So when I get there, I am stunned to see all the LCD TV’s glittering the walls with ESPN and CNN. What more does a guy need?

As I sat down and waited, I was about to find out that apparently we men need a whole lot more! The receptionist offered me some water with berries floating on the surface (I was impressed!). Then she took me on a tour of the place and pointed out 2 keggers, a liquor cabinet, the massage rooms and pedicure pools. I said, “I’ll just take the haircut!” I also couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous the stylists were. They all looked like super models! (And let’s just say they were not in their “Sunday Best” dress!!!) I was amazed to see how everyone of them had problems with their clothing shrinking in the dryer!

As I sat down, I had a choice to make. I had to decide who my relatives were. I was looking for my “sister” and another “close relative”: wisdom and understanding. Immediately I knew the strategy of this hair parlor. Their business strategy was sex and seduction! Was I shocked? Not really.

For me, as I think about this situation, it seems to be iconic of the generation today. Sex and seduction are twins that have pranced around flattering people with words for years! Today the speech of sex and seduction is communicated through many media: TV, Internet, radio, magazines, fashion, clothing, perfumes, words, music, bad philosophy and psychology, and the list goes on.

As we are bombarded with sex and seduction, we have to choose how we will respond. In my situation, I actually shared about my faith, family, church, and politics with the beautiful woman who trimmed my hair. Seriously, she was shocked. I wasn’t. She said that no one had ever talked with her before in the salon about those topics. Judging by the combination of alcohol and the business strategy of this parlor, I would assume that most men don’t come there just for the trim. They like the LCD TV’s! RIIIIGHT!

The truth is that sex and seduction are beautiful when they are in their proper place. I prefer these to be coming from my wife. God created sex to be enjoyed in a monogamous relationship in marriage: Just like a fire is made to burn in a pit or fireplace. When sex is taken outside of the place God created for it to be enjoyed, it is inevitable for destruction and pain to follow close behind (just like what happens when fire is taken outside of the fireplace).

If there is one thing this generation needs as it experiences and enjoys sex, it is close family relationships with wisdom and understanding. Discernment will go a long way in helping us to stay away from the pain of the seductive woman, and it will lead us to the true pleasures that are found when we enjoy God’s gifts through the means he intended.

By the way….that hair cut…it actually costed $60 +$12 tip, not $16!!!! Ahhhh! I had heard the receptionist wrong! Can you believe there are knobheads who pay that much for a hair cut?!!!

Disciplined Training

Psalm 66

Focus 66:12, “You allowed men to ride over our heads; we passed through fire and water, but you brought us out into a wide open place.”

I grew up in the small town of Newaygo, Michigan. There wasn’t a whole lot to do at any point in the year, so when school was in, I played sports. Football was big in our town. We had a great football team when I was there. We made it to the state semi-finals but lost to the team that went on to eventually win the state title in our class.

At any level of sports, Championships are birthed before the season ever starts. Being a champion requires mental toughness, physical endurance and the best team work. Hell week is the worst. There is nothing like running until you are nauseous or those two-a-days where you collapse into your bed and can hardly get up the next morning- all to do it all over again for an entire week or two! But the tough work is what will bring the reward.

Spiritually, God wants His people to be Champions. He wants us to overcome the obstacles and challenges that would otherwise sink us. Jesus came to give us life and to give it to the fullest, but the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Winning spiritually requires disciplined training. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.”

There are times when we can be intentional about our spiritual discipline, but there are also times when God brings us into severe training. We call this training, “trials.” This is what the writer describes when he writes that God, “allowed men to ride over our heads; we passed through fire and water.” God brings his people through tough situations so that they can be stronger and have greater endurance.

The purpose for trials and temptations are not for our misery. Rather, God wants us to be brought into a “wide open place.” This is a place of abundance and freedom. The fruit that grows in the life of a believer requires cultivating in order to fully ripen. Just as winning a Championship is relatively impossible without intense training and discipline, so also is the fruit of obedience and maturity impossible to obtain without trials. Faithfulness cannot be built without opportunity for habitual obedience. That means there must be trials so that our hearts can be proved strong.

If you are experiencing the trial of your life, be encouraged. You might wonder where in the world God is, but in due time you will see that he is closer than you have ever realized. He is there as a coach making you do the things you don’t want to do so that you can be the person that you have always wanted to be! He is there training you toward godliness that has “great gain.” He is bringing you to a wide open place where He can bring you an abundance of blessing!