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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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No Free Lunch

No Free Lunch “‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing” (quote source here). The phrase was popularized by Nobel Prize winning free-market economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006) in his 1975 book with the same title. The adage “indicates an acknowledgement that in reality a person or a society cannot get ‘something for nothing’. Even if something appears to be free, there is always a cost to the person or to society as a whole” (quote source here).

There is no free lunch, folks. And while looking for it at the bottom of it all is greed. In a 2012 article titled, Greed, Justice and Deception,” by Edward Hadas, the opening paragraph states:

Greed contributes to all the economic and financial woes of prosperous societies. The United States and other rich countries produce much more than is needed to support all of their people in comfort, so if desires were all truly modest, there would be few problems. Greed encourages people to decide that their own share is too small. Greed influences the popular desire for GDP growth (more, faster), financial gains (higher house prices as a human right) and total economic security (guaranteed pension, come what may). Voters’ greed encourages governments to spend more and tax less (quote source here).

He goes on to state:

The problem is profound, and not merely economic. In all domains, greed can be crude. Think of a toddler reaching for a sibling’s toy or slice of cake. But it often masquerades as a virtuous desire for a deal that is “only fair.”

. . .Greed distorts everyone’s perceptions and judgments. The rich are particularly easy targets in a society which is theoretically committed to equality. Consider how bankers responded to their boom-time bonuses – almost all measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. On most trading floors the mood on announcement-day was funereal. To a man (there were few women traders), they were persuaded that their rewards were unjustly low. Only members of their charmed circle could possibly see anything other than greed at work.

However, the temptation to feel hard done by is not limited to the rich; it is universal. The welfare state with its entitlements culture has helped propagate disguised greed among the poor; the inflation of house prices did the same for the middle classes. If bankers were greedy when they lent excessively to homeowner-speculators, the borrowers were at least as greedy when they signed on for loans they could not afford to repay. The rapid increase of medical costs, for rich and poor alike, is best explained by disguised entitlements-greed in a domain where justice can easily be invoked to demand the prolongation of life at any cost (quote source here).

“Greed distorts everyone’s perceptions and judgments.” A concise definition for greed is “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed” (quote source: Merriam-Webster.com). Of course, I dare say that all of us have a rather warped idea of what constitutes a “need.” And most of what we think are “needs” are really “wants.” For example, we may not really need a new car, but we sure want one. And the iPhone 5 ends up being replaced as soon as the iPhone 6 hit the market. And clothes? Well, you get the picture. The list of “wants” is endless. Our actual needs are really very, very basic–food, clothing, shelter (and I’m not talking about the fancy and/or expensive stuff either), safety, love. Beyond that, we get into our “want” categories. And that’s where greed takes hold.

The Bible has a lot to say about greed and none of it is good. The following is taken from GotGuestions?org in answer to this question:

Question: “What does the Bible say about greed?”

Answer: There are many warnings in the Bible about giving in to greed and longing for riches. Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal… You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:19 and 24). Did Jesus pursue the acquisition of money? No. On the contrary, He became poor for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9) and had “no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The only disciple concerned with wealth was the embezzler Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Greed and a desire for riches are traps that bring ruin and destruction. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” and Christians are warned, “Do not put your trust in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:9-1017-18). Covetousness, or wanting more than we have, is idolatry. “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). The principle to remember is contained in Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

It is the love of money, and not money itself, that is the problem. The love of money is a sin because it gets in the way of worshiping God. Jesus said it was very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:16-22Luke 10:17-31). By instructing him to give up his money, Jesus pointed out the young man’s main problem: greed. The man could not follow Christ because he was following money. His love of this world interfered with his love for God.

People are more likely to cry out to God when they are in need than when they have plenty. Too often, the wealthy become complacent and self-satisfied and ascribe their riches to their own efforts instead of acknowledging that every good gift comes from God. The easier our lives become, the more enjoyment we derive from our wealth, the greater the temptation to store up treasures on earth, instead of in heaven. If we focus on earthly things like material wealth and possessions, then we fail to give God the glory and worship He deserves. We are to serve God, not waste our time trying to become rich (Proverbs 23:4). Our heart’s desire should be to store up riches in heaven and not worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-34). (Quote source here.)

Gain the world lose your soul“The only disciple concerned with wealth was the embezzler Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.” That should give every single one of us who call ourselves Christian a big pause for thought. What are we willing to do to get rich if we could do it? If we are willing to do anything, including betraying anyone to get rich (and no reason is good enough), we are on very shaky ground. And we are exactly like Judas.

Also, as stated above, Greed and a desire for riches are traps that bring ruin and destruction. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” and Christians are warned, “Do not put your trust in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:9-1017-18). Covetousness, or wanting more than we have, is idolatry.” And in answer to the question, “Why is the love of money a root of all kinds of evil?” GotQuestions?org makes the following statement:

Why is the love of money a root of all kinds of evil? To help us answer this, we must look at the passage in its greater context. Near the end of the letter (1 Timothy 6:2–10), Paul is exhorting Timothy regarding the need to “teach and urge these things” to his congregation, “these things” referring back to earlier material in the epistle. Paul then warns Timothy about false teachers who will seek to warp and pervert the content of sound doctrine for their own greedy gain (verses 3–5). Now notice what the apostle says at the end of verse 5: “Imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” These false teachers do what they do for the fame and notoriety they achieve, along with the financial rewards it brings.

Paul wants to steer Timothy away from that trap. In doing so, he tells him the real source of “great gain;” namely, godliness with true contentment (verse 6). Contentment, in a biblical sense, is the recognition that we come into the world with nothing and that everything we have is a gift from God’s hands (verses 7–8). Yet those who desire to be rich (i.e., those who have the “love of money”) are the ones who are led into temptation and fall into a snare (verse 9). Paul concludes the passage by telling Timothy that the love of money leads to all sorts of sin and evil. (Quote source here).

As Edward Hadas stated in his article at the beginning of this post, greed is incredibly deceptive. We can often see it in others, but not in ourselves. And in America, the desire to be rich is everywhere and it has invaded the church culture, too. It has even invaded pulpits and entire congregations.

Greed is never satisfied. “The greedy will use deception to acquire material goods. The greedy will lie and use false pretenses to acquired goods at the expense of others” (quote source here). In an example given of a woman who won the lottery, she stated afterwards, “People are so mean. I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you” (quote source here). When it comes to greed, it touches everybody, and it can destroy everybody, too. Jesus made it very clear when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). And don’t even fool yourself into thinking you can somehow be the exception to that rule.

The bottom line on greed is this:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9).

Greed destroys everything it touches, and it will destroy us in the end if we allow it free reign in our lives. We live in a culture that consumes anything it can get its hands on without any thought for the consequences. Don’t get pulled into that mess, and if you are already there, get out now . . . .

Do not be deceived . . .

God is not mocked . . . 

Don’t learn that lesson the hard way . . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul,” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin & Mandisa):

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Photo #2 credit here

Does Sin Have Us Tied Up?

Sin's strangleholdI had a boss several years ago who told me once that he never asked for permission to do anything, but rather he asked for forgiveness after the fact if what he did got him into trouble with his supervisor (a woman). He had a rather charming way about him and he knew the weaknesses of his supervisor and he knew that no matter what he did, she would always relent. And she did. And you have no idea how much that ticked me off. He was the most ineffective boss I have ever had. In fact, he was never around — ever. During the 15 months that he was my supervisor I can count on one hand the number of times he actually met with me to discuss anything. However, I heard later what he had been saying about me behind my back, and it wasn’t very nice. His supervisor had known me a lot longer then she knew him and knew my work ethic (in fact, she was the reason I worked there as we met at a conference a few years earlier and we hit it off immediately at that time), yet she believed him because he was a charmer and she never asked me for my side of the story. (See note in “Comments” section below this post for additional information–I actually worked at that university for almost four years total.)

I never got a hearing in that particular case and I’m not even sure what happened, but when I decided I had had enough of it and found another job and resigned, his supervisor was totally upset with me because I was leaving. In fact, she mentioned to me that she had plans for me–unfortunately, she never let me know that until it was too late. In all that time she never asked me anything, but depended on him to tell her everything that was going on at our off-campus location. And he lied to her. A lot.

Something happened at the time I turned in my resignation that caused him, a few days later, to suddenly turn in his own resignation and he actually ended up leaving before I did as I gave a one-month notice of resignation (to this day I do not know exactly what happened as I was not included in any of the communications). I did hear through the grapevine that he had been threatened with being fired, and his resignation was very sudden and unexpected. Unfortunately, scenarios like the one I experienced happen all-too-frequently in the workplace today.

This scenario reminds me of the way many Christians in our society relate to sin . . . as long as they don’t get caught, it’s fine and they keep on doing it. But when they do get caught, they pull out their “ace card” and ask God for forgiveness. Well, God is not as easily fooled as my boss’s supervisor was fooled (until it was too late for her to rectify the situation). God knows our heart attitude and whether there is any sincerity in our asking for forgiveness. Genuine repentant produces a changed life–not a perfect life but a genuinely changed life (and from a grateful heart, too). Getting caught and then making excuses for wrongdoing with a weak “please forgive me” when the attitude hasn’t changed at all has nothing to do with genuine repentance. And if we are just looking to find out how much we can get away with, a repeat performance is soon to happen again. Making excuses has nothing to do with genuine contriteness.

I was reading a devotion this morning (actually, two devotions from two different sources) and the first one from Open Windows,” titled, “Does Sin Have You Tied Up?” written by Terry Bowman, starts with the following passage reading in Proverbs 5:21-23 (NIV):

For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
    and he examines all your paths.
The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;
    the cords of their sins hold them fast.
For lack of discipline they will die,
    led astray by their own great folly.

Mr. Bowman writes:

While the writer of this proverb specifically warned of the perils of adultery, his words apply to all sin. Though we may attempt to hide our iniquity, God sees it and holds us accountable. Sin entangles us just as a thin strand of silk binds an insect [e.g., a spider’s web]. Deceived by our desires and lusts, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the web of disobedience. Each successive transgression adds another strand until we are ensnared firmly in the trap of sin. We are left to face the consequences of having indulged ourselves in our unrestrained lusts and passions.

Take hope. That’s not the end of the story. Jesus broke the web of sin that binds humanity. All believers are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. When we obey His leading, we overcome sin and can walk away from temptation.

Spider's webSo often today (as it has been since the beginning of time), we revel in our sin. Take gossip, for example, although I don’t want to get into naming a “list” of sins but rather a pervasive heart attitude that cares more for self then anyone else, including God. As A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) stated well over fifty years ago, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking” (quote source here). Unfortunately, that Christian life centers around us and what we want most of the time and not on God, and that type of living tends to view God as a magic genie, available to grant us our every wish, whim, or want.

The second devotion I read is from Our Daily Bread and is titled, I’m . . . Uh . . . Sorry,” by Dave Branon. The scripture reading is from Psalm 51:1-17. Here’s what he wrote:

The news is quick to report all the details of famous people’s wrongdoings and their subsequent confessions. Perhaps it’s an athlete who was arrested for driving while drunk. Or it could be a politician caught in an indiscretion. Only God knows the heart, but when we hear a stuttered “I’m . . . uh . . . sorry,” we may wonder if they are truly repentant or just sorry they got caught.

When we read the confession of the famous King David we see what looks like genuine contriteness. In his public discussion of his sins in Psalm 51, this disgraced monarch—who had an embarrassing record of flagrant sins which he had kept hidden (2 Sam. 12:1-13; Ps. 32:3-5)—pleads for mercy.

He recognized that his sin was an affront to God—not just to people—and that God alone can judge him (Ps. 51:1-6). He realized that he must be cleansed by God (vv.7-10), and he celebrated his restoration through service and worship (vv.11-17).

All of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. When we feel the heavy burden of sin weighing us down, we have the blessing of confession and forgiveness (1 John 1:9) to lift us up. Isn’t it just like our great God to turn even our sins into an opportunity to grow in His grace and power and love!

There is a huge difference between being truly repentant or just being sorry we got caught, and we can read and hear it in David’s words in Psalm 51:1-17:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

When was the last time we felt that way about sin? More often then not, we are far more like my former boss, who did what he wanted to do regardless of any consequences because that is what he wanted to do, knowing that he could go to his supervisor and she would relent so he could do it all over again. There was no real repentance on his part, and eventually, he paid the piper for it, too.

Genuine repentance before God washes us clean. King David aptly stated this when he said his sacrifice was “a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” that God will not despise. Do we really view our sin as evil in God’s sight (Ps. 51:4)? Or do we just play with it and excuse it off until we get caught?

Jesus Christ did not go to the cross just so that we can make excuses for our sin. And if we truly believe in Him as Savior and Lord we shouldn’t be looking for excuses anyway. Genuine repentance washes us clean. I John 1:9, clearly written to a Christian audience, states “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Pay attention to the last part of that verse“and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That means if we are genuinely repentant, the “excuse making” stops dead in it’s tracks.

So which will it be? Making excuses or genuine repentance? Do we really want to be free from the stranglehold sin has on our lives, no matter how pleasurable sin can be? And who do we really want to serve–ourselves or Jesus Christ? Do we want to say, like David, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)? Or do we want our own way? The choice is ours . . .

And the price we pay is not just temporary . . .

It’s eternal . . . .

YouTube Video: Here, once again, is Shirley Caesar singing Bob Dylan’s song, “Gotta Serve Somebody”:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Standing Firm

lighthouse in the stormIt goes without saying that we live in difficult times. The degree of difficulty ebbs and flows with the circumstances we find ourselves in and/or the trauma currently experienced in society and the world at large (such as The Great Depression and more recently during periods of acute recession and unemployment). When the going gets rough, the greatest temptation is to take the easy way out if we can find one and even if that means compromising what we believe (well, what we say we believe).

A term was coined for this type of behavior back in the 1960’s called “situation ethics.” Situation ethics is defined as “A system of ethics that evaluates acts in light of their situational context rather than by the application of moral absolutes” (quote course here). With the publication of the book, Situation Ethics: The New Morality,” in 1966, the author, Joseph F. Fletcher, an Episcopal priest, ignited a firestorm. This book “was hailed by many as a much-needed reformation of morality–and as an invitation to anarchy by others. Proposing an ethic of loving concern, Fletcher suggests that certain acts–such as lying, premarital sex, adultery, or even murder–might be morally right, depending on the circumstances. Hotly debated on television, in magazines and newspapers, in churches, and in the classroom, Fletcher’s provocative thesis remains a powerful force in contemporary discussions of morality” (quote source here).

For the Christian, “situation ethics” is not an option although that floodgate has been opened in the church at large in our society since the 1960’s. Church discipline of any kind rarely exists today except when a “celebrity” type gets caught up in a moral dilemma and exposed by the media. And sin and it’s consequences are rarely topics in Sunday sermons anymore either. We hear more sermons on “learning to forgive ourselves” today then we hear on genuine repentance and getting right with God. When did the focus become “us”? The focus should be on God and Jesus Christ and our response to Him. He is the Potter and we are the clay (see Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Romans 9:21).

There are a number of verses in the Bible that admonish us to “stand firm” (click here for a list). To “stand firm” means to “refuse to abandon one’s opinion or belief” (quote source here). For example, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to “. . . stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58). And several verses later he states in I Corinthians 16:13“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

“Let nothing move you . . . . be on your guard . . . .” Spiritual lethargy sets in the moment we let down our guard and are swayed by the motives or rationale of others (or our own) who are trying to persuade us to compromise when it comes to sin. Lying is a good example. People don’t think twice about lying nowadays if it will serve their own purpose. And very often, sexual immorality is up for grabs, too. And the divorce rate speaks volumes about the state of Christianity in our culture today. And what about the love of money and all the possessions (and people) it can buy? I Timothy 6: 7-10 has much to say about this, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

lighthouse in the storm#2The writer of Hebrews addresses the issue of spiritual lethargy in Heb. 5:11-14: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” If we depend on what we get in a sermon on Sunday morning or a quickie five-minute devotion during the week to get us through the week (and this life) without ever taking time to really develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ on an intimate and regular basis, we are in for serious spiritual lethargy and compromise in our lives. And if you are truly looking for a way out of spiritual lethargy, my suggestion is to start by reading all thirteen chapters in Hebrews–a chapter at a time.

We don’t need more sermons designed to make us feel better about ourselves. What we need is a big dose of reality, folks. And if sermons don’t challenge us in that direction (and sermons should only be a starting place leading us to spiritual maturity), we need to get into the Bible and start understanding what it has to say to us about life and living as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (and we should be doing that regularly anyway on top of listening to sermons). We cannot depend on others to do our homework. We didn’t get by with that in school or college and we can’t get by with it in life, either . . . not if we truly want to live lives pleasing to God instead of just pleasing ourselves.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and we tend to forget that all the time. We react to people and their words or actions and forget about the spiritual forces behind those words and actions that are actively at work in our world. Ephesians 6:10-18 is clear about this warfare:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

There is that admonishment again to “Stand firm then . . .” (v. 14). Our weapons are “truth,” “righteousness,” “the gospel of peace,” “the shield of faith,” “the  helmet of salvation,” “the sword of the Spirit” (the Bible),  and “prayer.” Read through those verses again. That is the armor that God provides for us to wear.

Don’t let the lure of this world and a case of “situation ethics” throw you off track from running the race and running it well. And don’t let the love of money and all it can buy persuade you to turn away, either, “for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (I Tim. 6:7).

I Corinthians 10 gives those of us living today warnings from Israel’s history so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes they made. You can read them by clicking on this link. The last three verses, I Cor. 10:10-13, state the following:

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

As the Apostle Paul stated at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

“. . . but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Do you long for His appearing? If so, that’s you and me, folks. I do, and I hope you do, too . . . .

So let’s stand firm . . . .

YouTube video: “The Reason That I’m Standing” by The Crabb Family:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Eye In The Sky

Big Brother is watching you.” Of course, Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and “he is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence – where the ruling Party wields total power for its own sake over the inhabitants” (source: Wikipedia.com). 

“In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’, which is the core ‘truth’ of the propaganda system in this state. Since the publication of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ the term ‘Big Brother’ has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance (quote source here).

In 1949 when Orwell’s book was first published, this story-line most likely made for great science-fiction reading; however in today’s world, not so much . . . .

Do you own a cell phone? A GPS system? Any other type of electronic device such as a computer or laptop, iPad, etc.? If so, your every conversation can be recorded, your every communication via technology can be traced, and your every move can be trackedAnd even if you don’t own any of these devices, you can still be tracked without knowing it. In fact, “a new type of speed cameras which can use satellites to measure average speed over long distances are being tested in Britain” to track a network of streets or an entire residential area (quote source here). Also, “The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all U.S. telecommunications companies modify their equipment to allow easy wiretapping of telephone, VoIP, and broadband internet traffic . . . . The Total Information Awareness program, of the Information Awareness Office, designed numerous technologies to be used to perform mass surveillance” (source: Wikipedia.com).

Now, granted, the average person walking the streets is not necessarily in fear of constant surveillance, but the technology is there to do so. All it takes is someone with evil intent and a fair amount of money to do it. Private investigators did this (and probably still do) before the proliferation of technology and satellites and other types of surveillance devices blanketed the earth. Now your own computer, iPad, cell phone, GPS system, etc., can be used to record and track you.

I say all of this not to scare you, but to make you aware of the world around us. And even with all of this 24/7 “tracking” that is available to private individuals, corporations, governments, military, etc., for not altogether altruistic reasons, there is still One who keeps track of even them (as well as all of us, too).

I read a devotion this morning that got me thinking about this topic of surveillance in the first place. It’s from Our Daily Bread and is the devotion for today, November 17, 2012, titled Eye In The Sky:

Eye In The Sky

Psalm 139:1-10

“The Lord will guide you continually . . .” ~Isaiah 58:11a

Creating a system by which an “eye in the sky” can help guide cars and planes and boats all the time is complicated. For instance, the Global Positioning System (GPS) that most people are familiar with works because there are always 24 to 32 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 12,500 miles. These satellites must maintain a constant speed and altitude if the guidance they provide is to be accurate.

Today’s complicated GPS is just a tiny analogy of what God can do. God promised the nation of Israel: “The Lord will guide you continually” (Isa. 58:11). The psalmist was aware that there was no place he could go without God knowing where he was (Ps. 139:7-8). Long before GPS, God sat “above the circle of the earth” (Isa. 40:22) and saw everything.

The knowledge that there is someone who tracks you wherever you are can bring fear to those who are trying to get away. But for the Christian, this brings great joy and assurance. No matter where he was, the psalmist was confident that God’s hand would lead him (Ps. 139:10).

God has promised to guide and lead you today. He’s the best Guide you could have, and He wants to lead you along the right paths. ~ C.P. Hia

We need God’s guidance from above;
And as we trust Him for direction,
His daily leading and His love,
He’ll give to us His full protection. ~Fitzhugh

To avoid going wrong, follow God’s leading.

One of the most encouraging passages of Scripture in the entire Bible is Psalm 139. Here are the first sixteen verses of that psalm from The Message Bible:

“God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

“Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”
~Psalm 139:1-16 MSG

I find those last three lines enormously encouraging: “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” In a world where personal privacy and individual rights are being replaced at an ever increasing rate by “Big Brother” no matter how you define it, to know that God has prepared every single one of our days on this earth before we even lived one day of them is mind boggling. And even “Big Brother” can’t hold a candle to that kind of tracking!

I personally find Psalm 139 of great comfort right now as God is fully aware of these past three and a half years of unemployment, and He knows exactly where He is taking me. Read those verses in Psalm 139 above once more and really think about their implications.

. . . He knows everything we are going to say before we even say it
. . . He’s always been there in every circumstance–in the past, right now, and up ahead
. . . And He’s always present — always . . .

I don’t know about you but such knowledge is almost more than the human mind can comprehend . . . “The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day” (v. 16).

WOW . . . .

And think of it . . . not even the latest technology and tracking devices available today can keep up with God’s tracking system. None of them! That should give us great confidence no matter what the future holds for us and this old world of ours.

God is in ultimate control, not man.
And He gets the last say, not us.

“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”
~Isaiah 58:11 NKJV

YouTube Video: “Hail to the King” (2007) by Shannon Wexelberg (from the “Faithful God” CD):

Photo credit here

A Devoted Heart

“God has a plan for your life, but before you can see it unfold, you have to be willing to allow Him to test your faithfulness” (quote from reblogged post below). Sometimes that testing can take years and include trials and temptations so severe we don’t think we can stand anymore (and many cave in at that point). But He has promised if we stay true to Him and don’t cave in that He will never take us beyond what we can endure and will provide a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Let’s read it: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Do we believe that?

The preceding verses (v. 6-12) clearly show us how we can bankrupt ourselves in the process. There are four sins listed that we must keep ourselves from setting our hearts on:

(1) Idolatry (v. 7)–Idolatry is putting anything or anyone before God–that means any person–spouse, children, parents, sports or movie stars, leaders, lovers, etc.,–as well as money, materialism, prosperity, careers, illicit sex (adultery and sex outside of marriage), power, greed and the list goes on.

(2) Immorality (v. 8)–We don’t take this one very seriously at all anymore in America. The only sex approved by God is in the marriage relationship. Period. Read I Cor. 10:8 if we don’t think God doesn’t take this one seriously.

(3) Testing God (v. 9)–Not being content with what God has provided for us regardless of whether it is a little or a lot but always wanting more.

(4) Grumbling (v. 10)–In the Exodus experience of God’s people in the wilderness, the people grumbled incessantly for the first two years and because of it they were made to wander in the desert for another 38 years until every last grumbler had died–the grumblers never reached the Promised Land. God takes grumbling very seriously.

There is an excellent study on I Cor. 10:1-13 titled It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over at Bible.org. A quote from the third paragraph should give every single one of us who call ourselves Christian pause for thought: “The Apostle Paul is going to warn us about the dreadful and severe consequences of sin. He is also going to challenge us to avoid sin and persevere in our Christian lives. Paul will argue that there is a very real possibility that many Christians will not finish their Christian lives well . . . .” Do we want to finish well? Many won’t . . . .

God tests our faithfulness in many ways great and small. However, do we recognize the test when it comes, or do we default to what we want to do instead? It pays to remember that this life is not a dress rehearsal . . . .

It’s the real deal and the only one we get . . .

So how are we living ours?

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The Daily Way

Once while visiting President Roosevelt in the White House, Wendell Willkie asked, “Mr. President, why do you keep that frail, sickly man—Harry Hopkins—constantly at your elbow?”

Without hesitation, Roosevelt replied, “Through that door flows an incessant stream of men and women who almost invariably want something from me. Harry Hopkins only desires to serve and to do that well. He must stay near me.”

The same thing can be said of David. When Samuel first saw him, he almost questioned God’s judgment. The Lord’s choice for Israel’s future king was the youngest of Jesse’s sons. He was ruddy in appearance and did not look like kingly material. But Samuel wasn’t able to see David from God’s perspective.

Many times, for us to gain God’s perspective we have to be willing to let go of our limited and often personality-skewed viewpoint. David was a man whose heart was devoted to God…

View original post 149 more words

Injustice

“Pride keeps people from seeking the truth about themselves. Many don’t like to consider their own depravity” (quote from Open Windows,” Summer 2012, July 13). How true. Jesus made a statement in Luke 5:31-32 that we all need to hear. He was talking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, but it’s relevant to all of us today. He said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Most of us think we are doing okay and are relatively healthy, and that its the “others” out there who are sick and messing up our world. We think we are right and those “others” are wrong. Truth is, we are all sick–maybe not physically, but spiritually. The prophet Jeremiah made this statement a long time ago:

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“ ‘I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve.’ ”
~Jeremiah 17:9-10

This is why we need a Savior, and the Savior is not us. If you think that mankind is inherently good with a few bad apples thrown in, read the following with me written by Dr. Charles Swindoll on the topic of injustice:

Injustice

Amos 5:14-15, 24

The old prophet Habakkuk wrote relevant words of truth when he put this down in the first chapter of his prophecy: “Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore, the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted” (Hab. 1:3-4).

The writer of those words died centuries ago, but oh, how his words live on! If you are even slightly aware of everything happening in the world around us, you know how up-to-date his words really are.

The criminal is now the hero, sadly misunderstood and mistreated. The victim is the selfish sadist who decides to press charges because he is bigoted, rash, or confused. The courtroom now resembles a stage peopled by actors vying for starring roles, rather than a dignified chamber of law and order: Judges and juries can be bought, bribed, swayed, or wooed, given sufficient time in the legal pressure cooker. Jury members, who used to be anonymous and sequestered in the name of fairness and objectivity, now appear on talk shows.

Remember that beloved childhood tale of Little Red Riding Hood? Well, if that scenario took place today, here’s what would probably happen.

After the heroic woodcutter rescued Little Red Riding Hood by killing the wolf, who had already eaten her grandmother and then tried to kill Little Red, there would be an inquest. At this time, certain “facts” would emerge. First of all, the wolf, prior to his execution, had not been advised of his rights. Then, the ACLU would enter the picture, maintaining that the hungry and needy wolf was merely “doing his thing” and thus did not deserve death.

On this basis the judge would decide that there was no valid legal basis for charges against the wolf and, therefore, the woodcutter was guilty of unaggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He would then be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to ninety-nine years.

A year from the date of the incident at grandmother’s, her cottage would be dedicated as a shrine for the wolf who had bled and died there. Wreaths would be placed there in memory of the brave, martyred wolf. There would not be a dry eye in the whole forest.

If this were not so tragic and true a picture, it would be amusing. But frankly, I’m not laughing. Injustice isn’t at all funny.

Sometimes justice truly is blind.
Shouldn’t we be helping to remove the blindfold?

(Source: Day by Day” by Dr. Charles Swindoll,
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 169)

This was written years ago and things have only gotten worse since then. And it’s not just the justice system that is corrupt. The greed on Wall Street has crashed our financial system twice–on September 17, 2001, and again, on September 29, 2008. And Wall Street now has Washington DC in their back pockets (watch Inside Job–a documentary about the greed that crashed Wall Street in 2008 if you don’t believe me). That documentary will chill you to your bones. And it has only gotten worse since 2008.

Unfortunately, the corruption has spread into our churches (not all, of course, but many). Bigger, better, more more more. Jesus Christ is no longer the main topic. He’s hidden behind “social justice” causes or morality or pop-psychology or a myriad of other “gospels” (see my post on Counterfeit Gospels). The words of the prophet Amos from centuries ago read like front page news regarding many of our churches across the land:

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”
~Amos 5:21-24 MSG

It’s not about us and how we can fix the problems in this world. And, it’s not about us turning a blind eye to what is going on in the world because we think it doesn’t affect us in our safe little self-made cocoons. It’s not about how much better we think we are then all those corrupt “others” out there messing everything up.

No . . . it’s not about us at all. And it’s pride that tells us otherwise.

Amos give us the solution: “Seek good and not evil—and live! You talk about God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, being your best friend. Well, live like it, and maybe it will happen. Hate evil and love good, then work it out in the public square. Maybe God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will notice your remnant and be gracious” (Amos 5:14-15 MSG). But in order to be part of the solution, you have to seek the Savior–because it’s about Him, and it’s not about us.

The words of the prophet Isaiah ring out across our land today,

“Seek God while he’s here to be found, 
pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life 
and the evil their way of thinking.
Let them come back to God, who is merciful, 
come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.”
~Isaiah 55:6-7 MSG

Seek God while he may still be found. The opportunity will not last forever. Now is the time. The words of Jesus Christ are there for everyone who will come to Him, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). I like how The Message version states it: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

His invitation is open to all.

Don’t let pride stop you from accepting it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Takin’ It To The Streets” composed and sung by Michael MacDonald (Doobie Brothers):

Photo credit here

What About Fidelity?

There’s an interesting video showing right now on FoxBusiness.com titled Baby Boomers Divorce Rate Skyrocketing.” Of course, these couples are in their 50s and 60s, and one of the stats in this video states that two-thirds of the divorces among Baby Boomers are initiated by the wives. Apparently, the divorce rate among Baby Boomers has doubled in the past twenty years. And, the attorney in the video states that “one third of all divorce filings contain the word ‘Facebook’ . . . and it is turning the divorce world upside down . . . one out of two (divorce) pleadings has something to do with ‘Facebook.’  (Source: Video link cited above includes a transcript button to the right of the video.)

A quote from another article on The Telegraph states, “Divorce lawyers claim the explosion in the popularity of websites such as Facebook and Bebo is tempting to people to cheat on their partners. Suspicious spouses have also used the websites to find evidence of flirting and even affairs which have led to divorce. One law firm, which specializes in divorce, claimed almost one in five petitions they processed cited Facebook.” This article is not specific to Baby Boomers and includes all age groups.

Infidelity is commonplace anymore. Cheating is the norm. And it appears nobody thinks twice about it unless they get caught. Whoa . . . what happened to integrity, ethics, commitment, the marriage vows? And what about fidelity?

While the following story by Dr. Charles Swindoll does not speak specifically to the subject of fidelity/infidelity as it relates to marriage and divorce, it does speak to the whole issue of fidelity and what it truly represents. Let’s read it:

What About Fidelity?

Proverbs 6:27-29, 32-33

I just returned from our nation’s capital where I was privileged to spend time with many of the highest ranking officers in the military. If you have ever wondered if there is anyone in the upper echelon of the military who loves Christ, wonder no longer. Many of these men and women are magnificent models of strong Christian commitment who frequently put their faith on the line.

While sitting around a table one morning, the subject of moral purity surfaced. They spoke of the importance of an officer’s having a clean record and maintaining strong character traits if he or she hoped to be trusted in larger realms and promoted to higher ranks. Their commitment to personal integrity was expressed so spontaneously and sincerely.

As I listened to them, I was humiliated to think that a standard of high moral character was still of paramount importance among military officers while within the ranks of the clergy an epidemic of impurity rages.

As Christian leaders, we need to reaffirm our commitment to moral purity and to private lives that are absolutely free of secret sins. While forgiveness continues to be the pulse-beat of a grace-oriented ministry, a firm commitment to holiness remains vital. Those who adopt a deceptive, compromising life of hypocrisy are responsible for the damage that occurs when they are found out. Nor are the consequences erased, even though they may repent and seek the Lord’s and others’ forgiveness.

Often, we are too quick to breeze past the damage that has been done, attempting to hurry the process of forgiveness at the expense of the restoration process. A contrite heart has no expectations and makes no demands; it acknowledges that the deception and the extent of continued sin result in the continued forfeiture of many of the privileges that were once enjoyed. Please read that again. If you’ve gotten soft on this issue, stop and read the daily reading suggested above (also cited below). Don’t try to explain these verses away. They mean exactly what they say.

The issue here is not a lack of forgiveness; it’s the faulty thinking that forgiveness is synonymous with the returning of all rights and privileges.

Never has the truth of Peter’s words resounded more clearly: “It it time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (I Peter 4:17).

Proverbs 6:27-29 (NIV1984)

Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.

Proverbs 6:32-33 (NIV1984)

But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment;
whoever does so destroys himself.
Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.

As believers, we need to reaffirm our commitment to moral purity
and to private lives that are absolutely free of secret sin.

Source:  Day by Day” by Dr. Charles Swindoll
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 118

Those are very serious words to consider in a world where “anything goes.” While I have never been married and, therefore, have never had to endure the pain caused by an unfaithful spouse and a divorce, this issue of fidelity hits all of us, single or married, right between the eyes. If we call ourselves Christian, no excuse will cover it. None . . . .

Living a life of moral purity in a world that scoffs at such a notion isn’t easy, but then we are not to be conformed to this world as Romans 12:2 reminds us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The longer we linger at the door of temptation when the opportunity presents itself the more likely we are to go through it.

I Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” God has promised to provide a way out of the temptation so that we can endure it and not succumb to it. The real issue is, do we want Him to? 

As Dr. Swindoll states at the end of his devotion, “As believers, we need to reaffirm our commitment to moral purity and to private lives that are absolutely free of secret sin.”

Are we willing to take a stand in a world that scoffs at sin?

Update: I found an interesting Bible study on Bible.org on I Corinthians 10:1-13 titled It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over that every Christian should read. It encompasses four major areas where sin can take hold in our lives and how it will destroy us. Those four areas are:

1. Idolatry: Putting anything or anyone ahead of God in our lives.
2. Immorality: The consequences of allowing immorality into our lives is staggering.
3. Testing God: Complaining even though God has faithfully provided for us.
4. Grumbling: Grumbling incessantly and never being satisfied.

In I Cor. 10:1-13, the Apostle Paul gives us a little history lesson from Old Testament Israel when God brought them out of Egypt and slavery and brought them into the wilderness to test them before entering the Promised Land. We need to heed that lesson today regarding two spiritual realities (taken from the article):  (1) All of God’s people experience great spiritual privileges (10:1-5), and (2) many of God’s people experience great spiritual failure (10:6-13). And here’s the very hard lesson we cannot ignore: “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness” (10:5). Approximately two million people came out of Egypt and entered the wilderness; and only two, Joshua and Caleb, came out of the wilderness and entered the Promised Land forty years later. The four areas of sin mentioned above destroyed all but two of them.

Yes, let us take heed . . . .

“These are all warning markers—
danger!—in our history books,
written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes.
Our positions in the story are parallel—
they at the beginning, we at the end—
and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were.
Don’t be so naive and self-confident.
You’re not exempt.
You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.
Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless.
Cultivate God-confidence”
(I Cor. 10:11-12 MSG)

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