Articles

Entangled

Here’s a lesson on getting entangled.

Earlier this spring/summer, we took down all our old fencing around the property. It was in really bad shape. Most of it was collected by a metal recycling company and taken away. But one small section was forgotten. This woven wire fencing section was rolled up, smashed and laid on the ground, and we forgot about it. Just the other day Anna noticed it and asked me to pick it up and get rid of it so that the goats wouldn’t get injured on it.

No problem, just a small section of fence, right? Wrong. Weeks and weeks worth of grass and weeds grew up in between all of that fencing, and now a simple job that should have taken 30 seconds took us over an hour. Lindsay (my daughter) and I had to pull, cut, tear, yank, etc. because the fencing was completely intertwined with the grass and weeds.

So, I felt a sermon illustration coming on…

I said, “This is what happens, Lindsay, in life. When you get so interwoven with the things of this world, pulling away from it is no simple task. What would have been a simple, ‘No,’ at the beginning is not so easy after you’re entangled.”

It was a simple but effective illustration of the parable of the Sower and how the seed (the Word of God) fell among the weeds/thorns and got entangled and choked which led to being unfruitful in God’s kingdom (Matthew 13).

Lindsay later followed up with another point. She said, like the fence, when you try to pull away after having been so entangled, you still have remnants of the world in you. All that torn grass and weeds were still woven throughout the fencing.

So, be warned about getting so interwoven with the world. It’s a bear to break away afterwards!

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
(2 Peter 2:20)

In Faith, Love, and Work

Thank you, Shane, for writing this past week. This article was supposed to go out yesterday (Friday), but some glitch happened. So…here it is. Have a great weekend! God bless.


Who are we if we are Christians? We are those whom Jesus has added to His body as a result of our obedience to His gospel…having understood who we are and the need of salvation we have, confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness from our sins, being baptized (literal meaning is immersion) in water symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and becoming a new spiritual being no longer slave to sin but to righteousness endeavoring to serve God faithfully with a repentant heart. We are, as Christians, family and brethren. As such, we should choose to rely on each other (Ephesians 4:16), agree to work together (Acts 9:26-28), be responsible/accountable to one another (Romans 12:4-8), love one another (Romans 12:9-10). This list is not all inclusive but communicates the idea we are in this together, should work for one another, look out for one another, love one another, etc.

There is benefit in choosing to be part of Christ’s body and the lives of your brethren. Chiefly, choosing this fellowship reassures us that we are in fact not alone!

“…knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:9; NKJV)

We are a community which is distinguished by faith, hope, and love. Paul recognizes this in his salutation to the Thessalonians, a body/family in Christ Jesus. “…remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor or love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; NKJV)

Each of these distinguishing marks of identity are outgoing…Faith – Towards GOD – Rests in the Past, Hope – Towards the Future – Looks to the Future, and Love – Toward Others – Works in the Present. Together they focus our lives and we find ourselves being drawn up towards GOD in faith, out towards others in love, and on towards His coming in hope!

Faith, hope and love sound like rather abstract qualities, but they have concrete, practical results.

Each is productive…when you sow there will be reaping! Faith works! Love labors! Hope endures!

“…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 THESS1:9-10; NKJV)

When you chose first and choose daily to be a disciple of Jesus, this is who you are. If you are sowing the seeds of spiritual blessings daily this is who you are. If you choose to die to self and live for Jesus…this is who you are. We make these choices for our Lord and Savior and for the brothers and sisters we serve with in our journey from earth to heaven. We are not alone. Hold the line! Choose victory today!

Do Good

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10; NKJV)

 We are empowered to be a change agent for good in all of our relationships. We stand firm on the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope of our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. We have a peace that surpasses all understanding in the tranquility of right relationship with the Great I Am. We are free to love others how He has loved us and God will be at work.

The great spiritual battle rages on around us and I pray we will become stronger in it rather than bitter or beaten down. We will be hurt and tired for sure. We will are all at risk of becoming defeated or bitter even when we feel like our hearts and spirit are at their strongest. Yet we have a choice to not allow the devil even an inch, put on the whole armor of God, and allow the love of God to prevail in our choices.

We focus on the steadfastness of the Lord and not the fickle or hurtful people in our lives.

We choose to see His smiling face rather than the downtrodden or frowning faces we encounter.

We concentrate on the majesty of our God and not the messes we find ourselves or those we care about sinking in.

We love people from a position of strength in our loving, abiding relationship with the Lord.

We are the first to forgive and we forgive often and we sow mercy and grace.

We work to find common ground with those in conflict, reminding ourselves of the relationship we have or desire in Christ…that God wants us all in the Book of Life.

We die to ourselves (Galatians 2:20) and in doing so we die to other people’s criticism AND praise and focus only on the glory of God and its revelation in our relationships in love.

No matter the situation, we cannot sow evil and produce good, sow discord and produce unity, sow lies and produce truth, sow sin and produce holiness. Those around us might not understand this and have no interest in seeing it. But if we do good…if we sow repentance, compassion, love…we can trust that the increase belongs to the Lord (1 Cor 3:7) and He is working.

Remember the Golden Rule.

“…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12; NKJV)

Look for the Golden Result. People might just surprise you and return to you what you have given to them. Do good, be different, be a light, be the reason people ask “why do you behave that way”, be ready to tell them your story about Jesus, and trust God!

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway, Came at the evening, cold and gray, To chasm, vast and deep and wide, Through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim; The sullen stream had no fears for him; But he turned when safe on the other side, And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “You are wasting strength with building here; Your journey will end with the ending day; You never again must pass this way; You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide — Why build you the bridge at the eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There followeth after me today, A youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been naught to me To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be, He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.” Will Allen Dromgoole

I came across this poem during one of my Air Force leadership classes and have kept it and shared with others when the opportunity presented itself. It resonated with me for all kinds of different reasons but today I wanted to share as we think about Choices and Consequences.

In thinking about my children as I write this, there are two things that come to mind in terms of raising them and the choices/consequences in their lives. First, I have always desired that my kids would not have to face the same heartaches and tough patches that I did due to bad decisions or improper focus. Secondly, I am sometimes frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged with the decisions my kids make and the reasoning they offer me when I ask them “why would you do that” or “what were you thinking?

Disappointed or not, what I know to be true in this is that my kids have to live their own life and make their own path. This is a hard thing to accept at times, especially when my kids stand on the brink of disaster or destruction…and I am not being melodramatic here…they don’t know how close they are sometimes to tragedy or how hurtful they are being.

In times like this, I look to my Heavenly Father and I have to believe He feels the same way about me most every day. Knowing that and what He has done and is doing for me puts my mind right for my kids. Though He is the Great I Am and is in need of nothing…He took the time to build a bridge of reconciliation with Him in Jesus. Further, He continues to work in my life to build bridges over perilous chasms in my life and most importantly…no matter how off track I get, the most important Bridge…the one that leads me home…Jesus…is always there. He is my Rock and I have Him because my Heavenly Father gave Him for me and closed the gap of sin because He knew I was going to have to pass that way and I would not get across on my own.

So…for my kids…for you kids, we can’t control their choices and might have to let them live through some pretty tough circumstances when they choose poorly. That doesn’t mean we stop parenting, stop demonstrating Jesus, stop teaching them the truth, stop loving them, or stop believing God is at work. Those are all bridges we need to continue to build…even if we don’t think we have the time or there might not seem a good reason to do so. If we do that, if we choose to build those bridges, then when most needed our kids will have a safe passage they might not otherwise have and if we do our jobs right…they will always have a way back home to us…and most importantly they will recognize their way back home to their Heavenly Father.

Sowing and Reaping: Simple, Difficult, Complex

Let’s continue our discussion from yesterday regarding “choices” and “consequences”. We are in control of our choices and we understand that our actions (based on those choices) have consequences. Wrong actions have negative consequences and right actions have positive consequences. This is biblical pattern and the foundation of the discussion in Galatians 6:6-10.

I have to sow to reap.

“The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4; NKJV); Matt 25

I will reap the same kind as I sowed.

“He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, and the rod of his anger will fail.” (Proverbs 22:8; NKJV); Job 4:8

I will reap more than I sow.

“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7; NKJV); Mark 10:29-30

 I will reap in proportion to what I sow.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38; NKJV); 2 Corinthians 9:6

I will reap in a different season than when I sow.

“Be patient…the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7; NKJV); Matt 5:12

These principles are simple and easy to understand and we know that we are to sow Godly choices, thoughts, and behaviors in order to reap everlasting life. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption and a whole lot of trouble. This is where it can become difficult…in the application.

 We are all living a lifetime of mistakes and so we don’t always sow what we should and find ourselves in trouble. This could be a momentary lapse in judgement or a prolonged choice to seek after pleasures, activities, or interests that are contrary to what God has called us to. Application of this principle is where the rubber meets the road and we don’t always get it right.

This becomes even more complex if we consider the fact we are not living in a bubble and we live each day in the context of our relationships. It is bad enough we hurt ourselves with our bad choices and negative consequences, but we also are in danger of hurting those closest to us. Further, even if we are right where we are supposed to be and making good choices; it might be that those who we have the most interaction with or care about the most are making (or have made) bad choices and their consequences/circumstances impact our lives negatively.

What if someone sows anger into their life and our relationship…do we get to be angry back? What if someone sows judgment, do we get to withhold mercy? No, we don’t. And I am not talking about tolerating sinful behavior, we cannot do that. What I am talking about is not allowing the consequences of that behavior to change how we see our God, His blessings, His peace, or the freedom He provides to love like He loves. If we hold firm and stay close to Him, we will have the reassurance, love, joy, etc. we need regardless of how the consequences of others impacts us. Further, if we are able to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, even if someone is full of the fruit of the flesh, we are right where God wants to us to be in order to be an influence for good. It doesn’t always feel good and it isn’t always easy, but if we are sowing love…we will reap love either today or in eternity. We control our choices…not the choices of others or the consequences associated with those choices. Choose God.

God has chosen us and He has given us a leadership role to fill at home and in the relationships we share with the women in our lives.  Some of us might be the only Godly man some women know and we certainly are the most important to our wives, daughters, and sisters in Christ.  He chose us, He has chosen to redeem us and He has left us here so that we will be blessing to those in our lives.  He is working and He will work for us and with us for the benefit of everyone…He doesn’t want anyone to end up anywhere other than at home with Him.

Choices Have Consequences

Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, introduces the concept of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern is the area that we have no control over. For this discussion, I adapted this concept and changed “Influence” to “Consequences” and “Concern” to “Choice”.

Throughout the Bible we see the concept of the “Law of the Harvest” or the “Law of Sowing and Reaping”. The idea is that in order for us to receive a return we must first take action and put in the work. To build upon this further, we “choose” to work and have control over this aspect of the equation. The “consequence” of those choices is a result and therefore not something we directly control and/or avoid past the choices we make.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  This is a cause and effect relationship…there is a reaction to every action…we are free to choose but slave to the consequence. So what? How does it fit with God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and hope? In what ways will it impact how we live and our relationships with those in our lives?

We should not be of the mind that because God has forgiven us (or others) that all of the negative consequences of our (or others) sins will be washed away. That isn’t how it works. Conversely, if we have negative things happen in our lives, we shouldn’t think that God really hasn’t forgiven us or that He doesn’t really love us because we are suffering.

Forgiveness and consequences are not opposite ends of a spectrum. Together, they establish an essential part of the Lord’s plan for believers. Forgiveness is relational. The Father sent Jesus to make a sacrifice on our behalf, and by so doing reconciled us to Himself. By His mercy alone, we can have communion with the Lord. On the other hand, consequences are circumstantial.  Consider an illustration of this from the cross itself. Christ made it clear that the thief dying with him was completely forgiven (Luke 23:39-43). Yet moments later, the man died an excruciating death. The thief’s sins had been erased in God’s sight because he chose to believe in Jesus, but he suffered the punishment for his crime…the consequence of his previous bad choices.

Consequences from sin are not an indication that a person isn’t saved or that God is angry with the individual. The Lord frequently allows some painful situations to continue so He can teach lessons we would otherwise never learn. Very few things motivate us to give Him our undivided attention like being faced with the cost of our wrong choices. When we draw near to the Lord, He reveals how to respond correctly to painful circumstances. Unprecedented spiritual growth will often result.

We all have scars. Their purpose is not to cause us grief as a daily reminder of our sin, but rather to remind us of how gracious and merciful the Lord is.  He loves us and chooses to work though us despite our past mistakes and wrong choices. Further, as we bear scars from past sins we often become the most effective at leading unbelievers to know Jesus as their Savior.

Our attitude toward negative consequences affects how we relate to our heavenly Father and to others. A negative approach could lead us to become bitter, whereas a positive attitude could bring us to a point of understanding and gratitude for the daily reminders of divine mercy…and how we can have grace with those in our lives. We can view our scars as monuments to God’s grace, or as ongoing punishment.  I encourage you to see them as proof of your spiritual healing and if you do, you will change even when circumstances stay the same.

Rest assured, sinful choices have consequences, if not in this life, then in the next. We are blessed, though, because the principle of reaping and sowing works in a positive way as well: “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8). We can sow good seeds that will turn negative situations into positive ones.

Don’t spend the bulk of your time trying to convince God to remove painful consequences. Try praising Him instead. Receive His blessings, be at peace, sow love, and allow that to change your life and the lives of those you love.

NOTE: Some thoughts taken directly from "Charles Stanley's Handbook for Christian Living" (1996).

When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!


What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

Lucky Charm Marshmallows

This morning, as I was sitting on the front porch, the cats were eating (now, ignore the title of this blog, they were not eating Lucky Charms). We recently bought the El-Cheapo barn cat food and decided to feed it to the cats. They revolted. So, then we mixed the El-Cheapo with our regular cat food. Again the cats revolted, but in a different way.

Watching them this morning, I observed that they picked out the cat food they liked, and left the El-Cheapo stuff in the bowl. By the way, just so you know, El-Cheapo is not an official brand.

You know, this is just like how kids (and adults) are with Lucky Charms. They pick out the yummy colorful marshmallows and leave the boring brown stuff.

It seems like a theme…it is how folks sometimes approach studying the Word of God. Are we only looking for the yummy colorful marshmallows, while ignoring the things that make us uncomfortable, or are “too hard”?

Consider this and compare it to the heart of David toward “all” of God’s word, especially as he wrote about it in Psalm 119. “All of your commandments are faithful” (vs. 86), and “all your commandments are righteousness” (vs. 172). David didn’t just pick out the pink hearts and blue moons, he wanted all of God’s word.

Another point to consider is this: the cats do come back later and finish the El-Cheapo stuff. Why? Because they are hungry.

If you are hungry, you will eat. If you are hungry for God’s word, you will take in more than just the stuff that tastes yummy. In fact, your spiritual palette and taste buds will change to where you actually like the “boring brown stuff.” Just like David did, pray for God to increase your desire and heart for His word (Psalm 119:32-36).

Psalm 119:20 – “My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times.”

A Lesson from Song of Songs

Thanks to Jason Salyers for sharing these thoughts from Solomon’s Song of Songs.


Consider the Bride and Groom’s interaction (pulled out of poetic form for space, from the ESV).

She: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; 3 your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.

Others: We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.

She: I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept! Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?

He: If you do not know, O most beautiful among women, follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your young goats beside the shepherds’ tents. I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. 10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.

Others: 11 We will make for you ornaments of gold, studded with silver.

She: 12 While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. 13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts. 14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.

He: 15 Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.

She: 16 Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green; 17 the beams of our house are cedar; our rafters are pine. 2 1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). When we consider this first chapter of the Song of Songs, how do we teach or train ourselves and others with these verses? Unfortunately, for many, there is an “un-comfortability” factor with these verses because our own claims to propriety. “Men and women should not speak to each other in this way!” Out of context, that may be true, but in the context God has given us (Husband and Wife, Bride and Groom) we should reevaluate our own preferences versus God’s.

Consider how the woman refers to herself – she recognizes and accepts her appearance “I am very dark, but lovely.” This is not lascivious, prideful, or a striving for an adornment beyond the meek and quiet spirit. This is an interaction of a woman who knows herself and the place she has with husband.

Next Consider the words they are willing to say to one another, thoughts that reflect desire for one another, love of form and appearance, and a recognition and confidence in the place or position they have with their spouse. In Christianity today, this form of speech many would consider inappropriate, or even sinful. Yet, that takes the Word of God and uses it against itself. Christians must be careful not to pervert the Word of God for a desire to bind something God has not bound.

Finally, recognize they do have the desire to share their feelings with one another. You or I, we may not be capable of expressing these words in this form (the influence of our society removing our ability to speak as the Word of God speaks). However, the thoughts, intentions behind the words must still be brought forth, “Behold you are beautiful.”