I thought I’d do a little experiment this morning while waiting for my car to be repaired. I decided to turn the TV off since no one else was in the room yet. For the first hour several joined me and no one turned the TV on. Everyone was reading. But my quiet time didn’t last long. A woman walked in and said, “Is the TV broken?” I smiled and said, “I think that we are just enjoying some quiet while being productive.” Then she said something to me as if she didn’t hear a word I said, saying, “Do you mind if I turn the TV on? It won’t bother you will it?” I said “No problem.” Why did I say that? It is a problem of course it will distract me! So on came the tv and everyone in the room who was reading stopped and began watching the same news that they had already read in the newspaper or heard on the radio that morning. An hour later, I was alone again. So off went the TV. A few more came to sit in the waiting room and no one seem to care that the TV was off. Then another lady came in and started asking where the remote was. She then turned it to a soap opera and again, every eye was upon the TV. My experience that morning confirmed what I already knew. We as a culture are amusing ourselves to death. We have become addicted to the TV and sitcoms and soap operas, which include programs like Lost and American Idol, and have become a nation that is held captive by its amusements. Action is needed and it starts by removing the idol so that we may recover out of the snare of the devil, who has taken us captive at his will. Tim 2:26
In an article by Chuck Swindoll, he was asked how he intended to spend the remainder of his years (he is 75 years old). Here is his response: I want to preach till the last breath in my lungs runs out. Nothing is more bothersome to me than retiring. Weird things happen when you disengage; first you get negative, then you start telling people about your latest surgeries, and eventually you lose touch. I want to stay in touch.
Here it is as requested: “http://vimeo.com/5526290″
Have you ever heard the statement “I will do right because it is right to do right?” When I first came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior I possessed a world view that I titled BTS–BEAT THE SYSTEM. If there was a short cut I would take it! But God would soon teach me that were no short cuts in life. I was first introduced the statement, “I will do right because it’s right to do right” while attending a Bible College for a masters degree. The phrase didn’t mean much to me at the time until a professor called out to me while I was cutting across the grass to get to class. He kindly explained to me that if cut corners on campus, I would cut corners in life—little did he know that that is what had defined my life up to that point. Then he looked at me and said, “Mark, cutting corners might be easier at first, but when a man does right simply because it’s right to do right, he will find great satisfaction in life and God will be well pleased.” That single moment opened to door for my character to change and 33 years later, I know this to be true. In Proverbs 18:9 Solomon writes, “He also that is lazy in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” In other words, he who takes short cuts in life will find that his life is really cut short.
Previously I wrote about the reasons for the curse in Genesis 3. Mainly, God gave us the curse so that those who would be self sufficient and rely upon their own strength, cunning, and control, would eventually experience frustration that would lead to despair. Why? So that we would turn to God and allow him to be our sufficiency. The Apostle Paul understood this well when he wrote, “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” I can understand that, but there was a part of the curse that has baffled me for years. It is the part about Adam and Eve’s response to their sin: The text reads, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked.” I don’t know about you but that seems a little strange. How could they have not known that they were naked all that time! And what is it about this nakedness that God is trying to communicate. So I decided to do a little searching and lo and behold and I couldn’t believe my eyes! As I looked up the Genesis story in the Hebrew language I noticed that the serpent was cunning, subtle, more than all of the beasts of the field. This root word for cunning and subtle is ARaM in Hebrew. When Adam and Eve saw that they were naked, guess what? The word naked is the same root word for cunning and subtle. They became like the beguiling serpent. They followed his ways and became like him. Therefore God needed to cover them and redeem them. There are only two influences in our lives today: God and Satan…and he is the father of lies, cunning, and deception. And the one you spend the most time with is the one you will most like
How do you respond when someone speaks unkindly to you? First Peter 1, God teaches us that we have been called to endure grief when wronged, and to entrust ourselves to Him who judges righteously. I don’t know why, but God continually brings irritable people my way. And the one I will never forget was at the drive through at the bank. My 7 year old daughter was seated in the front seat and her 3 year old brother was in the car-seat in the back. Seeing my daughter in the front, the teller sent my receipt and a lolly pop. Realizing she didn’t see my son in the back seat and trying to avoid ISD, Infantile Stress Disorder, I pushed the call button and asked for another lolly pop. What I received wasn’t a lolly pop. A voice from the intercom arrogantly announcing: “We don’t give suckers to adults.” I don’t know what happens to me when I’ve been assaulted but this strange surge phenomenon occurs within me. So I pushed the button again and firmly announced that the sucker was not for me but for the child in the backseat that she obviously didn’t see from her high position.” I thought that was a pretty good come back until I heard these words. But to understand them fully, you need to know that our family plays a game called “sightings!” Whenever we see evidence of God being near…through an act of kindness or a beautiful sunset, the first one to recognize His presence yells out “sighting!” Well after I made my bold announcement to the teller, Jennifer meekly called out, “Sighting.” I looked at her and ready to enter child imagination I said, where do you see Him? And I will never forget this; she said, “In the kind words that you could have said to this lady, who needed there daddy.”
Fifteen years ago I would have been classified as an angry parent and spouse. But when I gave God back his job grace began to flourish in my home. Though I was saved by grace, I lived my life under the influence of the curse. Now some of you are wondering what I mean by “living under the curse.” Well, the curse came in Genesis after Adam and Eve sinned. I would like to focus on three of the things happened when God passed down this curse upon mankind. The first was that the serpent would now crawl on its belly eating dust all the days of its life. The second phase was placed upon the woman. In the KJV it says that in sorrow she would bring forth children. And to Adam it says, “That in sorrow he would bring forth the fruit of the ground.” The word sorrow in Hebrew carries the idea of &”intensive labor.” That is where we get the idea of a woman who is pregnant, being in labor. In other words, it is going to be hard work to bring children into this world and to raise them. And Adam is in for the same trouble with his work in sorrow or with intensive labor he will make his living trouble, weeds, thorns, and lay offs. It is important to understand that the curse was given by God to purposely frustrate mankind, in order to help us. We’re never intended to live life apart from God’s help. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain! Too many today are trying to control their family and secure their future through their own self effort. It is time to relinquish our control and turn to God. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, his grace really is sufficient for us.
Have you ever found a needle in a haystack? Alan and his wife, Leisa, were tired after spending all day raking up leaves and pine straw from the backyard of his mother-in-law’s home. Even their 4-year-old daughter, Lydia, had tried to help. Now, after hours of back-breaking work, the yard looked great. Towering pine trees stood majestic against the orange sunset, and the Smiths shared in the satisfaction of seeing the 12 huge lawn bags piled up in the center of the grass. But satisfaction quickly turned to dismay when Leisa discovered her diamond wedding ring had somehow slipped off during the chore. It could be anywhere on the lawn or in one of those bags. She gasped. Sick with despair, Alan realized there was only one solution. He huddled his family together and encouraged them, let’s just ask God for help. He knows where it is. Suddenly, little Lydia jumped and said, I know where it is! She walked over to the bag in the middle of the pile and after spilling just a small amount of the pine straw, out came the ring.
What a wonderful experience for the Smith family, not just because they found something of value, but because they now understood the value of prayer. God could have chosen not to answer this prayer but instead he acted on behalf of a family who did. Over the last decade I have observed an alarming trend of Christian parents, teens, and children who no longer converse with God about the little things. Jesus said to ask and we would receive. I don’t think little Lydia will ever forget that day. God’s design is really quite simple we have not because we ask not.
Have you ever heard of Christian Hedonism before? Christian Hedonism was first introduced to me through author and Bible teacher, John Piper. When I first read about Christian Hedonism in his book, Desiring God, I read that chapter over and over again. It sparked something in me that has remained with me years later. In fact, there is rarely a morning when I wake up that my first thoughts are not influenced by Christian Hedonism. Christian Hedonism has so influenced my life that I am happier than I have ever been. Ok, enough delay…the word Hedonism refers to one who lives for pleasure. Christian Hedonism is simply one who lives for the pleasure of God. John Piper conveys it this way in his book, Desiring God…he first quotes the old Westminster Confession which reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God AND enjoy him forever.” But John changed one word in the Confession and by doing so, it changed my life and countless others who are also now Christian Hedonists. John Piper’s alternate Westminster’s Confession now reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.” Yes it is that simple…God wants us to enjoy him and he desires to enjoy us. Thinking this way can change your entire outlook on life. Everything you do can now be done with the thought that you are living life in partnership with God—he receives enjoyment or glory as you live your life creatively, or kindly, mercifully, or humbly. And reciprocally, you receive enjoyment in how God lives his life through you. Galatians 2:20 states that “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the live which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me