Training or Trying

Besetting sin is the one that keeps coming back. You return to it like a dog returns to its vomit, to borrow a phrase from the Bible. That may sound disgusting, but you are disgusted with yourself every time you recommit this particular sin. The problem is you try so hard not to. That is the problem; you’re trying not to instead of training not to.

It takes discipline to live a holy life. The Apostle Paul says we are striving for a crown. We are in a race and there can be only one victor. Victory over sin has already been won; Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross and leaving the tomb empty. So we need to live our lives in such a victory. Even though there can be only one winner in a race, we can experience victory in Jesus if we will commit ourselves to loving and obeying Him. We need to run the race because in the end we have an everlasting crown waiting for us on the other side:

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Foolish Heart

A very popular song from the 80’s was Foolish Heart by Steve Perry. Perry is warning his heart against foolishly falling in love, warns his heart that it has “been wrong before, don’t be wrong anymore.”

Many people live their lives as “one and done” if they are hurt in a relationship in order to protect themselves. Perry is wisely recognizing that our hearts can deceive us. We believe we know ourselves and yet Scripture tells us otherwise:

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Cutting Through the Deception

Random House Dictionary defines deception as, “The state of being deceived.” It further defines deceive “To mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude.” The biggest deceivers in our lives are usually us. I can convince myself that I am living a life pleasing to Christ, all the while going back to a besetting sin like a dog returns to his vomit.

Self-deception is not a 21st Century phenomenon; the Apostle John addressed this delusion from which many in the new church suffered:

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Stopped Loving God

At a recent men’s Bible study, we had split up into small prayer groups when one of the gentlemen in my group said that he had once fallen out of love with God. I told my group I once believed that is what happened, but in actuality we stop loving God.

When someone falls out of love with another, that relationship is usually over. This is how so many divorces happen. However, if a person has stopped loving another, they’ve allowed their love to grow dormant, and that can be rekindled with purposeful effort.

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An Opportunity to Escape

The call of God on the Christian’s life can be frightening. We say we want to serve the Lord, and yet we pray “except” prayers. You know which ones I’m talking about; “Lord, I’ll do anything and go anywhere you want me to except…” You can fill in the rest.

What we don’t realize is that we when refuse His call, we are being disobedient to God. One of the most infamous acts of disobedience in the Bible is that of Jonah. God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the wickedness of that city. The Bible tells us:

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Behavior Betraying Beliefs

One of my greatest challenges as a Christian is being judgmental. At times it seems like there is a fine line between standing on the word of God and casting my personal judgments upon another. If I am going to be a dispenser of grace, I have to take into account the dual nature of a Christian. This does not mean that I excuse sin, but I should not be quick to judge a person as lost because of their behavior. As my pastor says, “Sometimes are beliefs don’t match our behavior.”

Pastor Dennis was talking of the time when David pretended to be insane in the land of Gath, the home of Goliath. Saul had been pursuing David to kill him out of jealousy and David fearfully fled to enemy territory instead of relying on God to protect him. This is why in his later years David could write:

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A Shrinking God

In the past week it has become abundantly clear that the American church is in a state of panic. We are panicking about the outcome of an election that is still over four months away. We are making predictions as though we have eyes into the future. The sad part of all this is these predictions of doom and gloom are the same ones I’ve heard in the last eight years. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oswald Chamber once wrote that fear is calculating without God. For some reason, Christians cannot imagine God intervening into the affairs of man, including our elections. It is sad that of all the Founding Fathers who were Christians, it took a non-believer in Benjamin Franklin to remind them of a sovereign God:

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Recognizing Love Again

Recognizing Love AgainYesterday I was meditating on a bible lesson I had taught the previous night about failure. I sensed a great spirit of hurt in my group, some of it visible on faces.

It occurred to me that some in the room had been hurt while in love. Failing at love can cause you to never want to love again. The hurt can be so devastating that you imagine never recovering. A part of you does not want to recover because it means giving up. That’s only half-true; you may be moving on from a love lost forever, but you’ve not given up on love.

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Joining the Were’s

Men are using ladies’ bathrooms. Government is so corrupt that we willingly support morally corrupt candidates. Society is so debased that it opposes any biblical standards. Christians compromise their beliefs because it is the road less traveled. Is there any hope remaining for this nation? The answer is, of course, yes.

However, for that hope to be realized Americans in general, and Christians specifically, are going to have to understand the root of America’s problems. America is not facing a political or economic problem. If that were the case our country’s issues would have been resolved long ago. America’s national malady is that we are spiritually sick. We no longer, outside and inside the church, allow the Bible to be our moral compass.

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The Gift of Liberty

Regardless the candidate for president, no man or woman can save America. No man or woman can make America great again. No man or woman alone is trustworthy enough to not have to be under constitutional checks and balances. No man or woman has all the answers to the needs of our nation. That is the description of a king or queen. We threw off the tyranny of king during the American Revolution.

What many voters, regardless the candidate, are seeking from whom they support is some form of kingship or soft tyranny. Our government was designed to not allow one person to have that type of power. Somehow we believe if it is our guy or gal then they will not be corrupted by the power and stay on the straight and narrow. As James Madison once said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

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Despairing of Relief

Author and Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of when he first began his preaching ministry, no less than five minutes into his sermon, he would pass out cold. He would just faint right in the middle of his message. He jokingly says this is not a good attribute for an aspiring preacher. Thankfully he’s overcome this tendency, although the feelings do arise at times.

While physically fainting can be an intimidating condition to deal with, spiritual fainting is an even greater obstacle to overcome. Whenever tribulation comes, we can either fight through it or faint because of it. It all depends on our spiritual strength:

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Rest for Our Souls

One thing I’ve learned about other Christians and myself during this election cycle is too often we see things through our own eyes instead of eyes of faith. We fear what man is and can do to us, thereby no longer fearing God and rejecting His will for our lives. We trust in our own strength and wiles instead of seeking deliverance and forgiveness from God.

Some have given up. They believe there is no hope for America and are waiting for God’s judgment to fall on our nation. This defeatist attitude comes from weariness and a misplaced focus on man. Too many churches across America have checked out of society to the point that the church as a whole is no longer sought out for its take on current issues.

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Facing Our Sins Squarely

One of the more concerning things I’ve heard Donald Trump say is that he has never sought forgiveness from God because he’s never seen a need to. This is not exclusive to Mr. Trump; I myself once believed this. So did most Christians before they saw their need for Christ. As much as I needed Jesus Christ to save me, so does The Donald and all who believe as him. This is not my political opinion; this is what the Bible teaches:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)

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The Greatest Thief of Joy

I know people who make worrying an Olympic sport. I don’t mean to insult those who worry, but I want those who are habitual worriers to lean in a little closer and listen carefully. Never in the Bible are we told to worry; quite the opposite. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we are told to “fear not” and “do not worry.” When we are commanded to do something and we do the opposite, we sin.

No doubt none of you worriers consider yourselves a sinner for this reason. I understand that, but just as important as overcoming sin, I want you to realize that worry steals your joy and affects your health. The Apostle Paul was a man greatly persecuted for his faith and in fact he wrote the following words from a Roman jail:

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A Terror to Ourselves

The devil does a good job of convincing us to sin through temptation. After we sin, he does an even better job on us by getting us to believe the lie that God would never forgive such a horrible sin. If that doesn’t work, Satan will try to convince you that your sin isn’t that bad, and that God is just trying to keep you from enjoying life to its fullest. It’s literally the oldest trick in the book; the Bible that is:

    “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made…For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1a, 5)

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The Unbecomingness of Worldly Ambition

Ambition is not a bad thing. Ambition is what motivates us to set and reach goals. However, worldly ambition is quite another thing. Worldly ambition can make us overly self-confident, deceitful, and not fit for the kingdom. A Christian who is driven by worldly ambition is an oxymoron. Jesus explains:

    “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)

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Pure in My Own Eyes

Self-righteousness is a dangerous trap to fall into. Satan tries to get us to believe that we are not as bad as God’s word and our conscience show us. We love to compare ourselves to others, becoming the ultimate plank-eye. We have x-ray vision that allows us to find the speck in our brother’s eye and have become immune to the plank in ours. The Bible has a remedy for this:

    “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits.” (Proverbs 16:2)

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Altered Plans

If you were to put your ear to the future, that crashing sound you would hear is 1 out of 4 New Year’s resolutions being broken. The amazing part of that statistic is that it is that low, even though only 45% of Americans actually make resolutions. So why do we fail so frequently? We fail at shaping our futures because life happens.

Imagine setting up a business venture or even a mission trip. You have your plan all set, you’ve even raised money and hired a staff. Then while you’re just getting ready to launch, you have a dream in which God is telling you to not go forward, but in an entirely different direction. Would you obey or would you fret about altering your already set plans? The Apostle Paul actually faced a similar situation:

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Rejecting Cain’s Worship

thHave you ever heard someone say, “I can worship God anyway and anywhere I want?” Perhaps you’ve said or thought this. I know it is a convenient thought, but convenience is rarely the path we should take. When it comes to worshipping God, we have to do as He commands. We don’t get to pick and choose.

Many people get upset with me when I tell them this, but at least they haven’t wanted to kill me. Do you realize that the first murder ever committed by man was rooted in God’s rejection of man’s self-determined worship style? Have you ever heard of Cain?

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Not Having to Sin

I’m guilty of believing sin in my life is inevitable. If I resign myself to sinning again, then sin is sure to come. However, if I commit myself to not sinning anymore, then I have changed my goal to holiness. The sin for the Christian is a matter of if, not when:

    “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)

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