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5 Questions to Keep you From Making a Big Mistake

5 Questions to Keep you From Making a Big Mistake

In 1 Samuel 24 David has an opportunity to take Saul’s life and bring an end to a long, dangerous, abusive episode.  But instead David decides to cut only the corner of his robe.

Small decisions can lead to big mistakes.  David explains the ‘why’ of what he did by saying, “I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.”  As much rage, anger, and frustration as there must have been in David in that moment, he made a clear headed decision that kept him from committing a personally damaging sin.

Our bodies are full of feelings, our mind filled with fantasy, our ears are filled with condoning voices, our eyes are filled with gratification, our lives are full of passion; all of which make us easy prey for temptation.  But we are not animals, we are living souls that are capable of self-control. If you can question yourself, you can control yourself.  Here are five questions to ask before you make a small decision that may lead to a big mistake.

QUESTION YOURSELF/CONTROL YOURSELF

  1.  Will I hurt or embarrass my family?

In the moment what you feel or think to be harmless may be extremely shameful to your family.  It may be gratifying to you, but it is embarrassing to them.  Sin is never an act of self, it always impacts others.  Think of them before you do for you!

Take it a step further.  In your mind you may be able to justify what you are about to do, but ask this question before you lose control, can I tell my family what I’m about to do?  Before you visit that website, can you tell you wife without it bringing harm to your relationship - probably not.  Before you give yourself to that conversation with that guy, clear it with your husband - no chance.  Before you go to that party - ask your parents!  If you have to hide it, it is harmful!  Good questions help you get control. 

2)  Will I fuel slander and gossip?

There are plenty of people who feed on failure.  Starve them!  For the Christian, the stakes are even higher.  We know the battles that rage within us.  We know we are not perfect.  We know about the struggles, but we are also well aware of the standard - Christ!  Will your decision give people something to talk about that would diminish the glory of Christ?  Would it hurt the witness of your church?  Does it give people more reason to turn away from the gospel?  Be careful before you lose control.

Let’s give them something to think about rather than something to talk about.

3)  What will I have to give up if I get caught?

When David made the decision to spare Saul’s life he did so because he knew what he would gain in the ‘now’ would cost him most ‘later.’  He could have ended Saul’s life and become the king he was anointed to be, but he could have also incited civil war.  This was a way to become the king, but this was not the right way to become the king. 

Temptation promises pleasure now, but it blinds you to the coming chapter of the consequence.  The immediate gain is not worth what you really stand to lose.  It’s not about what you get, but about what you give up.    

4)  What is the clear Biblical teaching?

Mark Twain said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand that bother me.”  The Bible is more easily understood that we desire for it to be.  Most of the problem we have with the Bible comes down to the fact that we don’t want to do what it says.  

Because the Bible is God’s inspired word, disobeying the Bible is disobeying God.  Temptation would lead us to exile the Bible from our minds and hearts and to place it back on the shelf of forgetfulness.  The Bible gives clear, simple guidance about the goals of Christ-likeness in all things that it draws clear boundaries of morality for those who would dare to love God and live for Him.  

5)  Can I get permission rather than forgiveness?

It is a humorous quip, “I had rather get forgiveness than permission” but it is a massive mistake.  We would presume that God gives forgiveness for anything, at anytime, to anyone.  That is a mistaken assumption.  The Bible is very clear that you are playing with fire when you commit presumptuous sin.  Presuming on God’s grace is deadly ground.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26–31 (ESV)

Many call that a hard saying of the Bible.  It may be hard to fully explain, but I think it is very easy to understand.  I may not be able to offer you a satisfactory explanation of every nuance of it, but the big picture is plain to see - don’t mess with God’s grace.  I can summarize it like this, don’t go there - it’s bad!

So before you lose control, why not reverse confession?  Confess to God what you are going to do rather than confess to God what you did.  What do I mean?

Many people make a mistake in confession.  They simply say something like, “God forgive me of all my sin.”  That is a statement, that is not a confession.  A confession is an explanation of what one has done.  The essence of the word confession is agreement.  You agree with the authority that what you did was wrong.  

Confession is an ugly conversation with God.  You are naming your sin before holiness.  In true confession sin has a name - fornication, adultery, gluttony, perversion, violence, envy, jealousy, slander, rebellion.  

So before you do what you are about to do, go before a holy God and see how it sounds.  Tell Him what the temptation promises and what is in your heart that entices you to disobey him. That is indeed a sobering moment that may just save you from a tragic mistake.  It is worth the pause to get control!

 

What are the questions you ask yourself that help you make decisions?  How do you establish accountability and control in your life?  Leave a comment, I want to hear from you.

This content was taken from the later part of a sermon I preached entitled Personal Fouls.  Watch it here:

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Making Sense of the Storm (Annual Re-Post)

Making Sense of the Storm (Annual Re-Post)

I pray no storm ahead of me trumps the tragedy of this fateful day now almost 6 years ago.  Yet every year, the first storms of spring always remind me of what was for so many in our area at the time and what could have been for me and for my family.  Storms not only bring destruction, but they also bring questions.  Storms are weather occurrences, but the word also seems to be used often as a metaphorical description of the various trials of life.  So, as it seems we are in for some wind tonight in our area, here is my annual repost of Making Sense of the Storm.  Hopefully it will be a blessing to you whatever your weather.

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On Wednesday afternoon our youth pastor and I took a generator to the home of a family in our church that had been hit by a tornado that morning.  They were scrambling to try repair their home to the point that it would be secure.  We all knew there were more storms coming and they would be worse.  I am not a carpenter.  In moments of urgent carpentry all I am is in the way.  When I go on a missions trip my job is to carry stuff in Jesus’ name.  So we did not stay long and I was home by early afternoon settling in for a long night of wild weatherman radar watching. 

Some people may think tower-cams are cool, I think they are nearly useless.  Anytime there is a storm we get a tower-cam image of a sleepy wet town.  Most of the time you can see little to nothing because the camera is drenched and shaking.  The weather man then discloses what the rest of us didn’t know, that it is windy and raining in Podunk.  Wednesday was different.  On the Tuscaloosa tower-cam entered a dark cloud that reached to the ground.  As it got closer you could tell it was circulating.  In a few moments it revealed itself to be a perfectly formed tornado, grey and sinister.  My wife and I watched in stunned shock knowing that property was being destroyed, lives were changing, people were dying.  As the camera panned to include a shot of Bryant Denny Stadium with a massive tornado in the background the screen went green; disconnect.  I have lived in Alabama long enough to know how these storms track.  I looked at my wife and said, “That thing is headed straight for us.” 

Within the hour we were hunkered down in the basement.  My daughters were crying.  We were praying knowing full well that the words, “It is all going to be O.K.” may not be within the realm of possibility.  I have seen hundreds of disasters on television.  Never have I had one headed for me.  The awful part of it all was that there was no evacuation, nowhere to go, there was no escape.  All you could do is wait and wonder if this would be the last time you would know your home as it is.  You wondered if you may be hurt or if you may die.  I tried to convey none of these ideas to my family, but I didn’t have to.  Though we didn’t verbalize what we felt each of us were easy enough to read.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  I tweeted, “Praying for all our people.  Serious situation here.  May God be merciful to us.”  After the obvious questions we were left with only one, “Would God answer our prayers?” 

The tornado that destroyed Tuscaloosa and West Jefferson County tracked 180 miles across Alabama.  We live in a span of about the only 30 miles in which it did not touch down.  As it passed our home the air was still, then green, then violent, then black as night, then light as day.  For about 30 minutes before and after it passed roof shingles, sheet metal, splintered wood, insulation, and paper fell from the sky.  My wife found a $6,000 check in our driveway.  The moment was surreal.  I had no doubt that God had done something for us, but as I picked up the pieces of other people’s lives raining down on my yard I wondered, “What had God done for them?”

I know thousands of people across that 180 mile stretch of death prayed as hard as we did and believed just as much as we did.  Some of them are dead.  Some of them lost everything.  Some of them, like us, rejoiced that we were spared.  Situations like this foster questions from both believers and skeptics.  My wife heard a woman on the radio crying asking why God didn’t answer the prayers of the people who died?  As she ripped through her list of questions she rattled off, “Did they not have enough faith?”  Some people call tornados an act of God.  Insurance companies do.  Some people see them as so random and unforgiving that they conclude there cannot possibly be a God. 

How do we make sense of a storm?

For some it may be way too early to read this.  For others it may be too late.  Yet I write this so that you may “Feel my Faith” and perhaps to help those of you who find this on time to sort through what you feel, and perhaps find some Biblical basis for it all.  If the Bible promised us what many preachers have tried, that if you have enough faith, do right, and believe God then all things will be wonderful - then Wednesday would have made me an atheist.  Yet the Bible is more honest about life and its storms than many Bible Belt preachers have been over the last few decades.  The Bible is full of storms and God.  In fact, Jesus used the illustration of a devastating storm as the concluding illustration of what many regard to be His most famous teaching, The Sermon on the Mount. 

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  Matthew 7:24-27

The Bible is honest enough to tell us that there will be storms and we are candidates to be materially devastated no matter what we believe or how much or how little faith we have.  In 180 miles atheists, agnostics, preachers, babies, mothers, Christians, and otherwise all died in the storm.  We live in a world that was devastated by sin long before it was devastated by storms.  These moments are a part of our story.  Because we live so small we fail to realize there is evil everyday.  There are pockets of the world in which people are swept away by the hundreds and we simply sleep, or watch football, or eat burgers.  It could be argued that our daily indifference is evil.  At the very least storms reveal to us that we are unaware and bank too much on what is totally insecure.  Jesus interprets the true power of the storm.  Storms have nothing to do with what buildings are made of.  We have yet to build one strong enough to withstand the storm.  Storms are about what we are made of.  Storms make us question what we believe.  That is what we are doing.  Storms are also a litmus test to tell us whether what we believe is strong enough to help us make sense of reality and survive.

The Bible is honest about the reality of storms.  We live in a sin scarred world.  The Bible is also honest in telling us that none of us have ever suffered from the evil in this planet like God has.  God lost His Son in an incredibly unjust storm.  The storm of the crucifixion had nothing to do with weather, but people.  The wrath of man that Jesus suffered was unpredictable, unrelenting, and unforgiving.  Yet in the midst of the storm, He forgave us (Luke 23:34).  That moment changed everything for us.  Then the meaning of that moment was secured when Jesus rose from the dead.  The honesty of the Bible is that everything about this life and the planet that hosts us has gone wrong due to sin.  There will be storms.  The honesty of the gospel is that there is coming a day when everything will be made right in Jesus.  When this happens, there will never be another storm.  The hope of the gospel is that everything we experience in this life is temporary.  Storms prove that the size of your home is inconsequential.  Yet, the decisions we make, the way we respond, the things we believe are eternally consequential.  The gospel gives us hope that there is eternal life; immune from pandemic, safe from the storm, victorious over death, Hell, and the grave.  What was taken from us on Wednesday, in Christ, can be returned, raised, and redeemed.  If we die in Him, we will live again. 

What did God do for us in the storm?  There is no accurate way to use the storm to prove or honestly question whether there is a God, though many will try.  The crucifixion settled the question of theodicy.  We constantly resurrect it.  The news media will continue to flash before us the death toll.  Has anyone taken the time to count the miracles?  Those stories will emerge, but will they be reported?  Yet none of this will help us make sense of the storm.  We will never be able to adequately calculate the ways of God.  So how do we make sense of this?  We realize that sin has devastated the world.  The storm is only symptomatic of a greater problem.  As long as this world continues as it is, we will rebuild, and other storms will come and destroy what we have done.  We will never engineer something eternal and we will never become immortal.  Storms are not about stuff, storms are about people.  They reveal whether we believe in something strong enough to endure, that give us hope beyond the grave, that places our values in something greater than things that can be easily blown away.  Storms teach us that ultimately nothing in this life is secure.

So I stood there praying, looking at my family, wondering if this would be the last time I would see them on this side of the storm.  When I saw the tornado hit Tuscaloosa I knew that no matter who I was, or how I prayed, the reality was that I too was a candidate to suffer great loss.  In that moment all I had was the gospel.  I knew that if we lost everything, our home, our church building . . . that everything would be fine.  I knew that if I lost my family, I would be devastated, but they would be fine.  I knew that if I died, they would be devastated, but they would know that I was fine.  Whether we lived or died, with our lives hanging in the balance we too could say with confidence as Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).”  That is how we made sense of the storm and will continue to do so. 

May the people of God rise up and help one another recover and to make sense of the storm.  And may the days ahead be filled with love, recovery, healing, and the gospel.

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Word # 4 in Your Financial Turnaround - GIVE and that = TRUST

Word # 4 in Your Financial Turnaround - GIVE and that = TRUST

This week I am giving you four words that are the keys to your financial turnaround.  So far you have BUDGET, WORK and SAVE. If you want to read those posts, click here for BUDGET, here for WORK, and here for SAVE. Otherwise, here is your final word.

Give - Malachi 3:8-12, 2 Corinthians 6:6-9

Money decisions are not based on amounts, but on affections.  The Bible often uses your willingness to give as a tangible test of your affections.  Jesus stated it plainly, “You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).”  He also stated that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34). 

We give obediently and generously.  Out of obedience we bring the Lord our tithe, or the first tenth of what we make.  I believe in a practice traditionally known as storehouse tithing as taught in Malachi 3:8-12.  For me, the storehouse is my local church.  I give to the local church because it is a place of regular collection, accountability, and faithful distribution for missions and ministry.  We see this practice in the early church, Acts 2 and Acts 4.    

Out of generosity we bring the offering.  An offering is what one brings to the Lord above the tithe.  We obey in the tithe because our God is the Lord and He is right.  But we also bring Him the offering because our God is Savior and He is good.

I also believe that because the Bible teaches that tithing is an act of obedience, that we have yet to give an offering until we have first brought the tithe.   

The Bible talks also about the generous giving of alms, or the gifts we give to others to help meet their daily needs.  Because the Lord has helped us, we look to be helpful to others. 

As good as it sounds to give, it is counterintuitive to our nature to actually let it go.  If we are working hard to budget and save, how can we afford to just give it away?  My answer would be that we can’t afford not to give.  

The Bible is filled with God’s promises of reaping and sowing.  With the measure that we give, it will be measured back to us (Luke 6:38).  This could be said of any of the big 3 matters of our stewardship, TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE.

Why does giving work?  The simple answer is that God blesses it.  There is no way to calculate on paper the blessings of God, but it works.  In Malachi 3 God invites His people to “put me to the test, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

In the same passage God also says that one of the blessings will be that he will “rebuke the devourer for you.”  In an agricultural society the devourer is all the small things that threaten to destroy the harvest.  In the broader application I believe the devourer is all of the little things that add up to major expenses.

Giving works because of God’s blessings, but the practical answer is that giving works because generous people are good stewards of their resources.  They are not wasteful.  They pay attention to what they have and how best to use it and it multiplies to their benefit. 

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Those four words: BUDGET + WORK + SAVE + GIVE are the keys to financial blessing.  The truth of the matter is that none of them are new.  There is nothing here that is profound.  These four words, when it comes to our money, truly are timeless.  The problem is not in the principles, it is in the practice. We do not need anything new, we just need to practice some self-control and discipline and do what works.

Those four words, practiced well, working together, will equate to a financial turnaround 100% of the time, but in actuality these four words BUDGET + WORK + SAVE + GIVE = TRUST.  

The end of the matter in all things is that we must trust and obey the Lord.  The money is not ours, it is His.  We are His stewards and He is a good and benevolent master who seeks to multiply His graces in His people.  He has given us everything we need to know about how to handle the money He gives us in His Word.  Work HIS plan!  God is an an amazing financial advisor with a proven track record.

Before you go, maybe there are other Biblical principles that you have found helpful in handling finances.  Please share them with me.  I am always eager to learn more about what God’s Word says about money.  

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Word #3 in Your Financial Turnaround - SAVE

Word #3 in Your Financial Turnaround - SAVE

This week I am giving you four words that are the keys to your financial turnaround.  I have given you the first two: BUDGET and WORK.  If you want to read those posts, click here for BUDGET and here for WORK.  Otherwise, here is your third word.

Word #3, Save - Proverbs 6:6-8

Once you start budgeting and working you can begin saving.  Maybe you are already budgeting and working, but saving . . . not so much.  Why not?  Probably because the budget is too tight and there is nothing left over to save.  And there’s the problem.  Savings don’t come off the excess, they come off the top.  Saving money must be intentional, not accidental.

Making room for savings is critical.  For one, you never know what a day may hold.  We all need an emergency fund.  An oil change every few months won’t break the bank.  Replacing your AC unit in July will!  Save for it.  Life isn’t perfect.  Things break.  People get sick.  You may miss work.  If you have money set aside for such a time as this, you have immediately eliminated a great deal of worry and stress.

Another important aspect of saving is learning to pay with cash.  In a consumer driven economy it is easy to throw down a piece of plastic and get what you want even if you can’t immediately afford it.  

You may not have the the $1100 for that 4K flat screen you really want for your Super Bowl party, but the retailer has made it easy for you to have it now!  Buy it now - pay later.  $35 a month.  You budgeted for it.  You can afford it.  Why not?

The problem is in what you REALLY pay.  In a standard consumer credit deal at 18% interest, your $1,100 4K TV will actually cost you $1,431!  Stores don’t extend credit to you to make it easy for you to get a TV from them.  They extend credit to you so that they can make it easy for them to get more money out of you.

Saving money, SAVES YOU MONEY!  Saving money eliminates stress!  How much would it ease the burden on your mind to have a few thousand dollars set aside in the bank?  How great would it be to go on vacation in June and not be paying for it until December?  How merry would your Christmas be if you were not paying for it until April?  

If you budget, work, and save - you pay for what you need and truly enjoy what you want!  

 So now you have three of the four words.  BUDGET + WORK + SAVE + _______ = your financial turnaround!  Tomorrow, we will finish the equation.  Until then, share with me; what is your biggest hindrance to saving money?  Do you put away a little money each week for vacation or maybe for Christmas?  What is something that you saved for that gave you great satisfaction when you bought it?

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Brian Branam
My biggest hurdle to saving money was not budgetting every cent and putting realistic deadline to pay my debts. Once I've decided ... Read More
Thursday, 26 January 2017 12:22
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The 2nd Word in Your Turnaround - Work!

The 2nd Word in Your Turnaround - Work!

This week I am giving you four words that are the keys to your financial turnaround.  Yesterday I gave you the first one, BUDGET.  If you want to read that post, click here.  Otherwise, here is your second word.

Word #2, Work - 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Proverbs 13:4

In 2 Thessalonians Paul was addressing a small group of Christians who thought that if Christ was going to return soon, why work?  The problem is that the longer the return of Christ lingered, they became an increasing burden on the church.  They felt as if it was the obligation of the church to provide for them during their time of elective unemployment.  Paul sent them a very clear message, you don’t work, you don’t eat.  Your choice!

There is no way to justify lazy.  People who elect not to work place undue burden on people who do.  Why?  Because everything costs something.

Budgeting works best when there is a healthy income stream.  Cutting wasteful spending is critical, but budgeting also helps you see that with a better cash flow your situation may be able to change quickly.  You may become more motivated to work harder for a promotion.  You may see room to take on a side job or two to help fill the gap.  

Work the plan and plan to work!

Furthermore, there is a dignity to work.  The Bible says that when God created the earth, that he put man in the garden to tend and to keep it (Gen. 2:7ff).  A lot of people misunderstand the creation and fall story in Genesis 1-3.  Work was not the curse.  Man was given work to do before he was cursed in sin.  Harder work, work that doesn’t work, working and it not working - that’s the curse (Gen. 3:18-19)!

The Bible places a dignity on work.  It is right for us to contribute to our society whether it be by making high level decisions about the economy or serving tables in a restaurant, there is dignity in all of it.  There is no dignity in deciding to be dependent if one is able to work.  It is a part of our purpose to be the images of a God who is always at work.  Let’s go to work!  

Now you have the first two words of the equation.  BUDGET + WORK + ________ + ________ = your financial turnaround!  I will give you word #3 tomorrow.  Don’t miss it.

 

Until then, answer me this.  What motivates you in your job?  Do you enjoy what you do?  Why or why not? Please scroll to the bottom of the page and share your thoughts.

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Brian Branam
The asnwer is not glamourous. What motivates me at my job is, in order, the little energy I need to do my job well, the money and ... Read More
Thursday, 26 January 2017 12:12
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