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October 16, 2019, 10:27 AM

Lessons from Man’s Best Friend


Last Christmas, Emily finally gave in and allowed us to get a dog. Of course we got him for the kids, but naturally, he has become like one of the kids to us. He has become a part of the family and is pretty special to us. He has perfected the “puppy dog eyes” when he wants something and how to give attitude when he is mad at us. As I said, he’s like one of the kids. But for all of his good qualities and behavior, he does do some things that I find quite irritating. For instance, 3am bathroom breaks, going into the kids' rooms and waking them up at 7am on Saturday mornings, licking me on my bald head, and the way he chews up clothes hangers. The Bible talks about a particular habit that dogs have that is just a touch beyond irritating and leans to the side of repulsive. This teaching became abundantly clear to our family when Thor, our dog, got sick and vomited. While Emily and I were trying to get things together to clean it up, Thor began to clean it up himself. Toby thought this was cool and the girls were grossed out. It was a good opportunity for us as a family to discuss Proverbs 26:11. It says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Some may think that’s a little over the top and offensive but there is much truth in it. First of all, the offense of the illustration is how God sees our sin and how repulsed He is when we continually return to it. Yet His mercy and grace always extend beyond the depth of our sin.

Secondly, sometimes the Lord allows us to return to our vomit after He repeatedly prevents and protects us from it. Not because He hates us but because that may be the only way we get our belly full, so to speak. Take for instance the Israelites living in the divided kingdom. Captivity was the eventual fate for both Israel and Judah because of their allowing and partaking in idolatry. In Daniel chapter one, we find Daniel and his friends as a part of the people having been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and carried away to Babylon. Babylon was a place well known to be a major participant of idolatry and pagan worship. So, because of the people’s inability to remain faithful to God and abstain from idolatry, He allowed them to be carried away into a land consumed with idolatry. I can’t help but think that this was, in part, to allow them to get a belly full of the vomit of their sin of idolatry. Maybe their exposure to the sin would cause them to realize the folly of their ways and drive them to repentance and returning to God. In essence, God gave them over to the desires of the heart in order to cause them to eventually repent and return to Him.

Paul uses a similar rationale in 1 Corinthians 5 in dealing with the immoral brother. He says in verse 5 to hand the brother over to Satan that the sinful nature might be destroyed and the man’s soul be saved. The idea is to allow the man to get a belly full of his sin to the point he becomes sick of it and broken over his fallen condition and repents. This should not be confused as a license or encouragement to sin. God demands holiness and we are called to holiness through Christ. The prodigal son had to get to the point of being disgusted with his circumstances so that he would return to the father.

There is nothing pretty about a dog licking his own vomit and I intend in no way to glamorize sin. It’s the difference between eating from the King’s table and licking the vomit off the ground. Choose life and blessing by living according to the Word. Choose salvation in Jesus and walk faithfully according to His commands.  If you've been dining on the dog's cuisine, confess and repent and turn back to God that you may taste and see that the Lord is good.  

https://youtu.be/yOzf0VrDNGU

Robert




October 1, 2019, 11:00 AM

Human Sticker Burr


I guess it’s that time of the year again. It seems as if overnight our yard was taken over by the great Texas sticker burr, aka, Cenchrus echinatus. One of the strange things my wife noticed about our yard was that the sticker burrs seemed to be most heavily concentrated around the edges, right up next to the sidewalk and driveway where we park. Once you tip-toe past them in this area, they are more scattered and it is easier to maneuver through the yard. I could just mow over them but that would only serve as a temporary solution and make the problem worse when it returned. I could put chemicals on them to kill them off but that can be harmful to the other grass and the environment. There is one way to eradicate the problem but it takes time, persistence, and tremendous effort. The secret is found in the fact that, while the tops of the weed are troublesome, the roots are very superficial and can easily be dug up with a garden hoe or shovel. This removal of the root system prevents future growth but needs to be done on a regular basis to prevent new growth.

Paul talks about people, who in my mind, are similar to the sticker burr. In Romans 1:28-32 Paul addresses some things that often don’t get considered as being in the same category of sins he lists in verses 24-27. Those who are filled with bitterness, deceit, envy, and hatred or who are gossips, slanderers, and arrogant are identified by Paul as being equally guilty as those who commit the “big sins.” I think if Paul were to write this letter today he would probably include using social media to insult and “throw shade” at others rather than being mature and doing what they Bible says about going to that person to work toward a resolution. These types of people seem to pop up in churches like the weeds among the good grass. Their behavior can be painful to those who come in contact with them and often require an intentional tip-toeing around. They can be located in the areas that people notice first and discourage them from becoming further involved in the church. The problem isn’t necessarily their actions, but the lack of depth of their roots. Because their roots aren’t deep, all they are capable of producing is fruit that doesn’t require much more than a superficial faith and like stickers that grow in bunches close together, they usually gravitate toward each other. It’s these people we must be fervent to pray for, not only that their hearts would change, but also that the Lord would protect us as we traverse around them. God has a way of eradicating the “sticker burr Christians” and even provides the Biblical process for this in Matthew 18, but hopefully, it doesn’t get to that point.

I know Paul also says in Romans 2:1-11 that we’re not supposed to condemn others or be judgmental. The type of judgment he is speaking of is the judgment reserved for God, for His judgment is based on His attributes, and none of us are God. The Bible does teach that we should evaluate the fruit of a person in order to know them. Matthew 7 begins with instructions not to judge in this manner but goes on to say in 7:18-20 that a tree will be known by its recognizable fruit. So while we shouldn’t judge others, we should evaluate behavior based on the standard the Judge has set forth in His Word. A tree will be known by its fruit just as the heart of a person is made known by their fruit.

Don’t be a sticker burr. Pray for those that are.




September 23, 2019, 11:52 AM

Answering the Bell


 

Mike Tyson began his professional boxing career in 1985. At just 20 years old he became the youngest man to be crowned the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world. While in his prime, and still considered by some, he was known as the baddest man on the planet. He fought with such a ferocity that even before his opponents stepped into the ring, many of them were scared to death as the fear and intimidation of Tyson showed in their behavior. The overwhelming majority of Tyson’s victories were by brutal knockout and came in the early rounds of the fight. (I like to joke that I have more knockouts than Tyson because I put people to sleep every Sunday.) One of the keys to being a successful boxer is not only being able to throw a good punch but also being able to endure the onslaught of punches that are taken. The most vulnerable time for a boxer is when he gets tired, overconfident, or complacent and drops his guard. That’s when he can get completely blindsided and knocked to the canvas. It happens to all of us in life from time to time. We get some sort of unexpected news, a bad report from the doctor, a child goes on a wayward tangent, or someone secretly devises a plan of attack that you never saw coming and hits you with it when you have your guard down. There are times when we all get knocked down, and as some of Tyson’s opponents, we’re afraid to get back up even if we’re able. If you can understand what I’m talking about, then let me encourage you a little bit. First of all, never forget that there is an enemy that wars against God and every follower of Christ. It’s not the person throwing the metaphorical punches at you, they are simply acting under the influence of him. Secondly, if the enemy is attacking you, it just might be because he feels threated by you and is trying to take you out. Thirdly, don’t try to fight this battle in your own strength. If the enemy we face is spiritual, of the principalities of evil and darkness, then do your fighting in the spiritual realm. Cast your cares on Christ because He cares for you. As you lay on the canvas of life feeling like the 10 count is just about up, remember that the power to answer the bell is found in the victory of Jesus Christ that has overcome this world and that our faith in Him makes us overcomers as well. Habakkuk in 2:4 says that the righteous shall live by faith. More literally the verse states that the righteous will live by faithfulness. The faithfulness that comes by faith in God through Jesus Christ. Faith that is called by Paul in Ephesians 6:16, the shield by which we are able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the enemy. Note that Paul doesn’t just say that the shield of faith can simply block the arrows of the enemy. He says that the faith of the believer living faithfully to God can extinguish the arrows and rend them powerless. Because when we live in faithfulness to God, He is our defender, our rock, our refuge, our ever-present help in times of need, our cleft, our peace, our provider, our hope, our victory, and the strength we need to continue answering the bell. We realize that it’s not about us, but about a battle taking place on a grander scale in the spiritual realm. That’s why it is so important to not only pick up the shield of faith but every piece of the armor of God. Paul concludes the section about armor with a command to continue in prayer throughout the course of standing by faith. Part of that is calling out to God by name those people that the enemy is utilizing. Nehemiah 6:14 is a perfect example of offering up people by name for God to intervene in their life in order to accomplish His purpose. In the mean-time, just keep answering the bell.

Robert




September 18, 2019, 10:58 AM

Role Reversal


In the days of kings and kingdoms, when battles raged for lands and dominance, there weren’t methods of communication like what we have today. The victors would use various gruesome methods to display what would happen to anyone that might oppose them in the future. Sometimes it would be crucifixion, impaling, or hanging the bodies up at the city gates. Another way was to send the head of a conquered king or insurrectionist to the people he represented to signify utter defeat. We all have battles we face and sometimes it feels hopeless to even continue fighting. When the enemy seems to be gaining ground and winning at every turn it can cause a person’s heart to grow weary. But one thing can be said, it ain’t over yet. Paul said in 2Timothy 1:12 that he was willing to endure the hardships of this life without shame or despair because he knew the One in whom he had believed and was convinced that He is able to guard that which Paul had committed to Him. Paul reminded Timothy that regardless of how things may be playing out in the earthly realm, the victory had already been won in the heavenly realm. It can sometimes be very difficult to remember that when we are in the middle of being assaulted by the enemy and the schemes of darkness. But take heart. Think back to the story of David and Goliath. Not just the fact that the giant was slain by the little shepherd boy with a sling and a stone. Think of how David refused to be intimidated by the insults, size, training, weapons, or armor of Goliath. Remember that David declared the victory would be given him by the Lord, the God of angel armies. Recall that David told Goliath that he was going to cut off his head and all the world would know there is a God in Israel. Now stop just a second and think about that statement in 1Samuel 17:48 where David said he was going to cut off Goliath’s head. David had nothing but a sling and some stones. There was only one way he was going to decapitate the giant. But that’s exactly what happened, fast forward to verse 51. As David stands triumphant over the slain giant, He takes the very weapon the enemy had come against him with and cuts Goliath’s head off. The weapon of the enemy was now being used to emphasize God bringing victory for David. Hear this, the very weapon that the enemy is coming at you with to attack you, to keep you from victory in life, from living for Christ, or even making you think you’re not able to be saved, just might be the thing God is going to use to shame him with. If addiction is the enemy’s sword in your life, come to Christ and let God use that past to reach those caught in the same lies. If it’s a weapon of self-esteem or depression, God can break those chains and allow you to be the voice of hope someone needs to hear. There are so many examples that could be inserted at this point. Keep fighting in the strength of Lord and He just might use the weapon of the enemy to send a message of defeat to all the forces of darkness and victory to all who hope in Christ. The cross was turned from a symbol of death, shame, and fear to the banner of victory, life, and salvation in Jesus.

 

https://youtu.be/aJFhHf-NjRg




September 10, 2019, 11:48 AM

Waiting for Othniel


The last few years I have been fortunate to be able to take a group of pre-teen students to camp. One of my favorite things to do during free time is fishing in the pond. I enjoy fishing but seldom get the chance to do it. Since I don’t fish very often, I’m not that good at it. Not only do I not catch very many fish, I usually spend more time making a mess of the line than actually fishing. There was a time this past summer when we were fishing at camp that I somehow created what is known as a “bird’s nest” in the fishing line. Now, this wasn’t the first time I had done this but this time I was determined to fix it on my own. It was so hot that day and I was sweating profusely and swatting at mosquitos the size of half-dollars all while trying most unsuccessfully to untangle the mess I had created. Finally, after spending a good 30-45 minutes in my vain attempt, I called out to my friend Ronnie who is an avid fisherman. See, I was determined to not ask for help because I didn’t want anyone to know I had messed up and my pride said I could fix it on my own. As he approached me, he jokingly scolding me for making such a big mess and lovingly laughed at my ineptitude. So much for my pride. He showed me grace and took time away from his fishing to help me. To add to my shame and frustration, it took Ronnie all of about 37 seconds to fix what I had spent nearly an hour working on and had only seemed to make worse. Before he went back to fishing he told me next time to let him know so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time suffering with it.

I was reminded of that principle recently while studying in the Book of Judges. The Israelites had started well in the journey of conquering the Promised Land, but not long after Joshua died, the people began to drift away from the Lord. Judges 3:7 tells us that they had begun doing evil in the eyes of the Lord and turn to worship other gods. Because of their sin God sent an oppressor to punish them. Verse 8 says that the king of Aram Naharaim ruled over them for eight years. It was at this point the Israelites cried out to God and He sent them a deliverer, Othniel, to save them from this oppression.

I wondered, why the term of eight years? I thought of many scenarios that might be plausible, but in the end, one struck me in the heart. They didn’t cry out to God until after eight years. For whatever reason, they endured the consequences of their sin and broken relationship with God for eight years. This draws to my mind the prodigal son who, after a season of suffering because of poor choices, came to his senses and headed back toward his father. Too many times people try to fix things on their own or get caught up in worry about what other people may say. This causes them to forget about the grace of God that is waiting for the cry for help.

If this is you, simply stop right now and cry out to God for help. God uses circumstances to accomplish His purpose in the lives of people and sometimes that purpose is to drive them back to Him. Don’t keep trying to fix things on your own, you’ll only wind up making them worse. Confess your sin, repent, and cry out to God for your deliverer to come and set you free from the oppression of sin. Othniel set the people free for a period of 40 years, Jesus can set you free for eternity.

Robert

https://youtu.be/9JXl1czvh7g


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