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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Resisting temptation

Here are a baker’s dozen of practical ideas I have found to be helpful in resisting temptation and avoiding sin, especially as it relates to sexual temptation:

  • Remember who you are in Christ (Romans 6:1-14).
  • Listen to the alarms.
  • Recognize when/where you are vulnerable.
  • Limit your input (Job 31:1, 7, 9). The more input you receive, the harder it is to be satisfied with one person.
  • Don’t be a temptation to the opposite sex. (Women – Dress thoughtfully, so as not to tempt a man. Men – Speak carefully, so as not to flirt with a woman.)
  • Count the cost (Colossians 3:4). Think of the consequences.
  • Ruthlessly kill temptation (Colossians 3:5).
  • Satisfy each other in marriage (Proverbs 5:15-20), so as to protect your spouse from being tempted.
  • Call someone. Maintain accountability.
  • Run! (1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:22).
  • Rely on God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
  • Guard your heart.
  • Pursue Christ.
 
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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in Personal growth, Scripture, Theology

 

How holy do you want to be?

On three different occasions in the gospels, Jesus challenged his audience to take decisive action in avoiding sin (Matthew 5:29-30; 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48). He says to remove whatever is leading you into sin, even if it is your right hand, right foot, or right eye. Jesus is not advocating a literal self-maiming, but rather a ruthless moral self-denial. Since the right side of the body was considered to be the dominant side, he is suggesting that to avoid sin, we must be willing to sacrifice even the best part of our life. When he states that it is better to go into heaven missing a body part rather than go into hell as a whole person, his point is that a temporal loss, however painful, is better than an eternal loss.

I’m not sure that we really agree with that. Many of us would say we want to be holy, but only in moderation. We want to order holiness as a side dish, not as a main course. We want to buy a pound of holiness from the grocery store, not a truck load from the manufacturer.

As Jesus points out, holiness is not something we gain through osmosis. It requires decisive action. “If your eye causes you to sin,  don’t look. If your foot causes you to sin, don’t go. If your hand causes you to sin,  don’t do it.” Through his use of hyperbole, Jesus is emphasizing single-eyed, single-handed, single-hearted devotion. We must take decisive action to avoid sin.

In order to avoid sin and pursue holiness, am I willing to:

  • Turn off the TV, rather than surfing and “hoping” to catch a risque program?
  • Change my daily routine, in order to stop a bad habit or start a new one?
  • Drive home a different way, so as to avoid a suggestive billboard or store?
  • Cancel a magazine subscription, or at least skip the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?
  • Cancel cable TV, or at least block the premium movie channels?
  • Put filters on my computer to block access to sex-related websites?
  • Change jobs to avoid co-workers who constantly provide temptation?
  • Refuse to see an R-rated movie, even if it an Academy Award winner?
  • Be out of step with culture because I don’t watch blockbuster movies, miss out on hit TV shows, don’t read best-selling novels, and/or keep us with the latest gossip?

To what extent am I willing to pursue holiness? How holy do I want to be?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2009 in Personal growth, Scripture, Theology

 

Noah Today

What if God told Noah to build an ark in 2008? What obstacles might he have to overcome? A friend sent me the link to NOAH TODAY. Discover a politically correct updated version of the story of Noah. Pretty funny and way too accurate.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2009 in Culture, Fun

 

The incredible, shrinking vision

About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2009 in Church, Personal growth

 

A guide for prayer

Several years ago, my friend, Tim Jack, put together “A biblical prayer guide,” using Scripture to guide a person in praying for specific issues and needs. I have used it on several occasions to lead corporate prayer times at church and found it to be very helpful.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2009 in Prayer

 

Thank God for grace

On his deathbed, a Salvation Army leader stated,

“I deserve to be damned; I deserve to be in hell; but God interfered.”

Cited by Mark Dever in Twelve challenges churches face.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2009 in Books, Quotes, Theology

 

When your plane goes down

Yesterday’s news lauded the heroic efforts of Capt. C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger as he landed his crippled jet on the Hudson River. The fact that he landed an “80,000 pound glider” safely on water and all the passengers and crew lived to tell the tale is astonishing indeed. It is the stuff of legend. Being a 29-year veteran at US Airways, a former Air Force fighter pilot, training three days a year on what to do in an emergency such as losing both engines, and leading a safety consulting firm helped prepare him for this event and bring about a happy ending.

What would happen if that occurred in your life? If an unintended accident crippled you, would you walk away unscathed? If you lost two of the engines of your life, say your job and your health, could you land safely and find shelter? Could you survive the crash?

Ephesians 4:13-14 indicates that one of the marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to withstand the storms of life.

“. . . until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (ESV – English Standard Version)

According to this passage, a knowledge of God helps develop this kind of stability. Rather than book learning, this type of knowledge is gained by experience. It is not learned solely in the classroom or even the flight simulator, but it is gained in real life, on-the-job training. It comes through a combination of Bible study and seeing God answer prayer in daily life.

There is an important sequence in this passage. Maturity comes before the storm. Gaining a first-hand knowledge of God leads to stability in our lives.

Just as Capt. Sullenberger prepared for disaster before it happened, so we too need to know God better before the warning lights of our life begin to flash.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2009 in News stories, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Seeking clarity

Like most churches, United Evangelical Free Church struggles to fulfill her purpose. Oh, we know what it is. We have multiple statements and documents that tell us what our vision, mission, goals, purpose, philosophy, and core values are. I should know. I’ve written most of them.

That, in itself, is the problem. We have too many different statements. It’s hard for people to remember them all, let alone know what they mean.

Over the past year, our youth pastor and I have read Simple Church: Returning to God’s process of making disciples, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, and Essential Church?: Reclaiming a generation of dropouts, by Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer. The books challenged me to think through what we were trying to accomplish as a church. They prompted me to sift through all the statements we had written about our vision, mission, goals, and philosophy. In addition, I read what my previous church had crafted for their purpose. In the midst of my reflection, I have been preaching a series trying to clarify our purpose and cast vision for the next year.

The result was the development of the following diagram and revised purpose statement. Between the two, they synthesize all of our statements on vision, mission, goals, and philosophy into one phrase that captures the irreducible minimum of what we as a church are all about. It also communicates the idea of movement towards maturity.

uefc-purpose-and-path-4

At United Evangelical Free Church, we are “Building a community to change the world.” We seek to Glorify God by Connecting people to Christ, the church, and one another; so that we can Grow in our faith, character, and skills; in order to Serve the cause of Christ with our time, talents, and treasures; and to Share the message of the gospel where we live, work, and go to school; both locally, and as far around the world as we can reach.

If you have difficulty reading the picture, here is a pdf file of the statement and diagram.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2009 in Church

 

Maybe planes can land on water

US Airways jet crashes in Hudson River.”

Hudson River plane crash

Maybe I need to start paying attention to the announcements about “in the event of a water landing your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.” Either that or I need to start thanking the pilot for safe landings. WOW!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2009 in News stories

 

Atheist holy day

Someone sent me the following story. While Snopes.com indicates the event did not happen, they do offer the following insight: “The power of illustrative anecdotes often lies not in how well they present reality, but in how well they reflect the core beliefs of their audience.” Enjoy the story.

****************

In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days.  He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days.

The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days. The case was brought before a judge.  After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring,”Case dismissed!”

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case?  The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others.  The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and  Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.”

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, “But you do.  Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.”       

The lawyer said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”

The judge said, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool.  Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2009 in Culture, Fun

 
 
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