Marriage is hard. Most people start out in romance and end up with wrestling. There is a reason marriage contains so much tension and the Bible explains it. In this 90 Second Sermon learn why marriage is hard and why you should not give up on it.
Marriage is hard. Most people start out in romance and end up with wrestling. There is a reason marriage contains so much tension and the Bible explains it. In this 90 Second Sermon learn why marriage is hard and why you should not give up on it.
A man can easily get discouraged with life and give up on himself. Feelings of inferiority and a loss of significance become defeating. He eventually feels as if he is not good enough for anyone and not good at anything.
God gave Adam significance when he was created and restored his significance after his biggest mistake. When we seek significance outside of what God gives, it turns to dust. Watch this 90 second sermon and don't give up on yourself.
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
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:
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.
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.
I’ll go ahead and say it. A male . . . posting about Valentine’s Day . . . on February 15. Typical.
Like the typical male I do fall short when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Not only do I get there late, as with this post, but most of the time I fail to see it coming. On Sunday afternoon my wife and I were walking down the sidewalk and she said something about Valentine’s Day coming up on Tuesday. My reply, “This Tuesday?”
So late Tuesday afternoon I find myself standing in an all male line being served by an all female staff at our local fruity bouquet store. I would like to send a consumer complaint to management if I may, that’s not fair!
The dude coming out of the door as I came in looked beaten down. His eyes met mine and without saying a word I read his mind, “It’s bad in there . . . like Saving Private Ryan bad.”
The poor Hispanic man in front of me pointed sheepishly at a giant helium balloon in the store that read, “I love you” and in broken English asked if he could have one attached to his fruity assortment. The lady behind the counter alerted him that all she had left were balloons in “Ain-glaaaaiiiiis”. “Isssss ttttthhhhaaaaattttt OOOOO.KKKKKK?” I think she was also attempting some form of Spanish sign language as she exaggerated every syllable.
Hey sis, it’s 5:00 on Valentine’s Day, Desperado will take one in German if that’s all you’ve got. You’re holding up the line!
So it was my turn.
“I need . . .”
“Well all we have is a box of 12 chocolate covered strawberries.”
Which was EXACTLY what I wanted!
“Well you’ll have to wait.” Which in femal-ese translates to, “Go rot in the loser husband line Mr. Last Minute.”
Finally she arrived with my box and asked if I needed a card.
Though verbally holiday assaulted I was unfazed. She couldn’t believe it. She had one last shot at me with which she would now take it upon herself to whip me on behalf of my wife. And so; began the verbal tongue lashing as she punched in the total on the cash register. “You men always wait until the last minute . . .”
I cut her off as I took my debit card and box of chocolate love. “Mam, I’m taking my wife on a cruise to Jamaica next week!”
One guy gave me a high five as I headed out the door. I could hear the distant applause of men all over the strip mall. I strutted out of the eat your gift store as a Valentine’s Day hero for every man.
So, whereas this post may come too late for this year, allow me to save your skin next year just in case you don’t have a cruise in your back pocket. Here are 5 things your wife and family really wanted from you on Valentine’s Day.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” One of the prominent themes in Scripture is the power of words. It is with His words that God created the world. In John 1 Jesus is the Word made flesh. Throughout Proverbs we read that words have the power to heal and to destroy. My wife tells me often, “Use your words.”
As excited as my wife is about going on our cruise she also let me know during a conversation on Valentine’s Day that she wants me to cherish her with my words. She doesn’t just want me to tell her I love her. She wants to to expand the thought, elaborate, string together some sentences and come up with some paragraphs.
While men aren’t completely non-verbal, we do tend to be low-verbal. We have to be intentional to speak up and express our love with our words.
Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
When I came home yesterday my youngest daughter was in the after school position. By after school position I mean recliner, blanket, and TLC. Somewhere along the lines The LEARNING Channel has deviated from educating us about oddly shaped deep sea creatures with no eyes to counting pounds and kids. If you have birthed double digits or you weigh nearly 4 digits, TLC will probably give you a show.
My default move in a time like this is to immediately grab the bike and head outside (and it was an incredible day) or go downstairs and hit the weights. But it was Valentine’s Day, so I stayed and counted kids on TV with my daughter. While it was excruciating in some respects, it wasn’t about the Duggars I assure you, it was about her.
I stayed off my phone. I stayed off the computer. I did my best to remove distraction and focus on my family. We played a game. We sat around the table at dinner. The result was a lot of laughs and some meaningful conversations.
Next year on Valentine’s Day, give them your undivided attention.
I would recommend a timely article by Rob Moll on Christianity Today’s Pastor website entitled The Spiritual Power of Physical Touch. Moll draws attention to not only our physical need for touch, but to the power of touch throughout the Bible. The prodigal son was embraced by his father. The elders of Ephesus weep over Paul as he departs. The beloved apostle leans on Jesus’ chest at the last supper.
Moll speaks to the increasing isolation that is caused by social sterilization in our culture. Because we link all physical contact with sex we have lost the kindness of a simple touch.
“Touch is an essential human need. When we shake hands or put an arm across a friend’s shoulder, the body releases neurological chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin that feel good, while also inhibiting chemicals that cause stress. But touch doesn’t just feel good; it is vital to being human. When babies and children are deprived of touch, their brain development is permanently impaired, which can destroy the growth of social abilities and result in lower intelligence.”
“When we do touch, it is often marked by awkwardness. A loved one is hurting so we give a ‘side hug,’ reassuring ourselves perhaps that she ‘needs her space.’”
While it is true that we do need to buy a few things on Valentine’s Day, you can’t put a price on hugs and kisses for the wife and kids.
A Helping Hand
The Bible talks often about the Christ-likeness of serving others. Hebrews 6:6 calls the Lord “my helper.” Verse 16 in the same passage tells us that doing good to others pleases God.
My wife often reminds me of the pressure she feels on holidays. There’s a great deal of that I can’t remove because she’s mom. No one can do it like she can. She is the heart of our home and her influence on special days is irreplaceable.
However, an incredible gift for any day, not just Valentine’s Day is to make your wife feel less like a slave and more like a queen.
My wife doesn’t mind doing it, but she wants to know I love it.
Acknowledge the effort. Tell her it is special. It is no big deal to her to do it if you will make a big deal about it!
Clean up. Cook something. Contribute - don’t just sit there! And by the way, don’t think you have climbed Everest just because you did the dishes once. They may not throw you a parade, but I promise you a little effort in service is much loved!
A Special Memory
In his epistles Paul often talked about his fond remembrances of the people to which he is writing. There has been no greater special memory given to a human than when Mary is told she is carrying the Son of God. The Bible says, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Give your family something for their heart to ponder. One of my staff members said that it is a tradition for her family to get a heart shaped pizza from the same restaurant every Valentine’s Day. In times past ours was to cook steak and have a family candlelight dinner . . . until we went through an unfortunate string of Valentine’s Day stomach viruses. Now we cannot stomach steak in mid-February.
So this year we joined the greasy heart shaped pizza crowd and played a game. I’m not sure it is our new tradition, but it created a great memory.
Memories and family traditions are important. They provide anchors for the heart. They are comforting points of stability for the soul.
It is good to interrupt life, break the cycles of life to create traditions and make memories. Give your family something to remember.
Those are five great gifts, affirming words, undivided attention, meaningful touch, a helping hand, and a special memory. And to the fellows, I know we often use the line, “Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday for card sales. . . yada, yada, yada . . . we ought to show our love everyday, not just Valentine’s Day.” Bingo! Those five gifts never get old. Give them daily
Before you go, what’s your favorite family Valentine’s Day tradition? Leave it in the comments below. I would LOVE to hear from you!