When I was a student in Christian Training Center we took a missions trip to the desert of Sonora, Mexico, where we participated in dedicating a church in a small impoverished village. The simple adobe church structure only had electricity to one solitary light bulb hanging from the exposed rafters (powered by a generator), but was artfully decorated with toilet paper streamers also hanging from the rafters. There was only one door and several openings for windows, but all remained wide open because of the intense heat.
We stayed at a motel a few miles away, but it was more like a 1950s motor park. The final day we were preparing to depart and knew we had an all day excursion in the desert before we would have safe drinking water available. We all went to the office to purchase water, pop or juice from the cooler. By the time I got there, the cooler only had three bottles left, all Mexican beer. I told the group leader my dilemma. He said, “You’ve got to drink something”, and walked out the door. So, I bought a bottle of Mexican beer and drank it. It lasted me all day.
When I surrendered my life to Christ two years before, I was an alcoholic and was instantly delivered from my bondage. Since the Lord set me free, I had no intention of stepping back into that lifestyle. That would be offensive to the gift of God. So, this was a struggle for me to compromise on that commitment. I was new to my faith and feared God doing some “judgment” in my life, but that never happened. I learned something about God’s grace and about how valuable pure water can be when you’re thirsty.
“Good news from far away refreshes like cold water when you are thirsty.” (Proverbs 25:25).
Nine years ago my Urologist identified a potential problem with my prostate gland. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had my prostate removed. Two years later I learned they had not gotten it all and I had to undergo radiation to that area. Its now been five years that I am cancer-free! The same Urologist just gave me the good news earlier this week.
I have to do a routine check-up with this Dr. every year to be sure it doesn’t come back. Its like sin in our lives. If I don’t do a regular spiritual check-up that sin which was dealt with on the cross can creep back in again and I can be worse off than before. I’ve had that happen. I can’t trust myself. Jesus said, “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45). We can’t survive empty, we must be filled with something.
Just as I claim deliverance over cancer, so I also claim deliverance over sin. And I need to do routine check-ups. Here’s my prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
In our church we’re just developing plans for the next Small Group Semester starting in February. We have to plan ahead because we list these group opportunities in a catalog that we print up and distribute. This time around I’m leading three small groups. On Wednesday evening the Wednesday ABF will take a break from our Harmony of the Gospels study to participate in a video teaching by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend on 12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy.
Each week in the series (beginning March 1, 2017) they will be teaching on a different common Christian belief that can keep you in bondage rather than setting you free. After we watch these famous authors speak about the common misconception Christians believe and teach, we will break into small groups and share our experience with this teaching and how it has impacted us.
Nothing is more exciting to me than to see Christians liberated from a false teaching that keeps us bound up. Jesus said, ‘The truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). But I say a half-truth can be worth nothing. Let’s not be driven crazy, but into wisdom.
The Republicans in Washington are exciting about the new possibilities once the Republican-controlled Congress takes over when President-elect Trump becomes the leader. They jumped the gun and announced a move to shut down the independent Ethics Panel that keeps an eye on Congress. If there’s one thing we need in Washington its an ethics watchdog (for both parties). Trump immediately began a tweat campaign publicly about how gutting the ethics panel was not the right priority. The Republicans immediately back-pedaled to give an appearance they are on the same page with the incoming President.
Choosing priorities when there are so many things we want to change can be troublesome. If you could take your entire paycheck and pay bills or go shopping, one will have priority over the other. We have to weigh things out and decide what is most important. Keeping relationships good or getting a job done correctly calls for establishing priorities. One will always trump the other. So, what are the priorities in your life? Where do you want to be five years from now? Once you decide on your goals, the next step is to decide on how you will get there. That’s where priorities are established.
Is the priority of your church to have a nice worship service, fellowship time, and a good sermon? Or is your church’s priority to make disciples who have deep roots in Christ? What is the most important thing in your church? That must become the nonnegotiable priority. Begin discipling someone now.
Back in 1986 Halley’s Comet moved across the Indiana night sky. The news media had trumped it up to be some glorious sight in the sky. They said this viewing would be brighter than many centuries and that it would light up the night; a once in a lifetime experience. When it came, I had to use my binoculars to see the tail. After all the hype I was greatly disappointed.
Some Christians make Christianity like that. They hype it up and then when someone comes to Christ they expect all their problems to go away. They walk away from the faith disappointed, never to return. The fact is, my faith in Christ is more like the old streetlight that shines in darkness every night. It is always faithful and always present. The Comet may be an unusual sight that soon diminishes, but through Christ and the Holy Spirit, God will always be there for us.
I don’t need a ‘flash in the pan’ excitement in my life, I need something solid and unmoving. I need a God who will hold me up all the time; who will give me strength for the long haul. And Jesus Christ has been that for me. How about you? Is He more like the comet or the streetlight?
Five years ago we got a new kitten. Anita felt sorry for our adult female cat (named Michael Tyson because she bit Adam’s ear) being all alone, so we agreed to get a baby kitten. This one was a male and just old enough to separate from its mother. Anita asked me to name him, so he was dubbed ‘Gizmo’. She asked me what that meant, and I replied that its a nickname for ‘Gadget’.
But Tyson was not about to be consoled by the male Gizmo. She hissed and batted him around. So, Anita was sitting on the porch trying to get them to make friends. Not happening. These two cats were going to have to work out their differences on their own as they carried out their ‘turf war’ and established their own ‘pecking order’.
I was reflecting on Anita’s vain efforts later while mowing the lawn and the Lord spoke to my heart. What was going on between those cats is what goes on in a marriage. The only way young married couples work out their own ‘turf wars’ is to verbally bat each other around a bit until they learn how to find what works for them. Over the years we become set in our ways and settled in our own dysfunctions. We need to speak up and communicate to learn how to “get along” with each other. Fear of rejection by our spouse can make that open communication a problem.
My desire is to take these last 30 Marriage Tips, follow them each up with discussion questions, and make a booklet available to married couples as a self-help guide to get them unstuck. Pray that I can get this accomplished in 2017.
There is a taboo topic out there that Christians don’t want to talk about. We treat this taboo topic as if it is the unpardonable sin that we must keep hidden. And that ‘religious spirit’ moves people into dark places for fulfillment. The taboo topic is sexual intimacy.
God created man “male and female” (Genesis 1:27). The first command in the Bible is to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God thought up the idea of sex. In your marriage there is nothing dirty, unclean, or immoral before God. Read the Song of Solomon in a modern English translation. This is how He thinks. Before Sin entered the earth the Bible says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Nakedness and sexual intimacy are an essential part of the marriage relationship. It is the emotional ‘glue’ that holds the relationship together. Men and women in their youth are driven by the raging hormones released within them. This is all by God’s design to pull people into lasting relationships.
But as we age the hormones decrease and our bodies don’t work like they used to. But the need for intimacy and unashamed acceptance is still there. And we must fight to keep that part of our relationship alive. It may take a little help from the doctor or a sex therapist, but this is essential to keep your marriage passionate. If this is important to you, talk about this with your partner. Talk about your expectations and what your needs are in this area. Men/women think differently, so you can’t guess what they think about intimacy. You have to ask. Nothing should be off limits with your spouse. How often do you want to make love? What do you enjoy in foreplay and what do you not? If you want to build a fire in your relationship, you have to know where the spark is and what fuel is needed. A candid conversation is appropriate. You’ve never been at this stage in your life before. Embrace it and make the most of it.
A religious spirit seeks to kill, steal, and destroy your intimacy. Start talking again because this is God’s will for your life.