Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Finding Our Way to Jesus

Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee.  They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.”  Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.  Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.  But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.  Those who love their life in this world will lose it.  Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.  Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am.  And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. 
John 12:20-26 (NLT)
There are enough confusing issues in life today to destroy just about anyone’s sense of direction and purpose. 
In today’s text we have the two foundational truths for followers of Jesus that give both direction and eternal purpose. 
The first truth is that following Jesus means telling others.  Philip and Andrew found themselves in conversation with others who were curious about Jesus.  They went together to ask Jesus what to do.  This example is “Christianity-101”; we always take our questions and issues to Jesus in prayer.  A servant always seeks the Master’s will; we always seek to honor the Master.
The second truth is that serving Jesus won’t necessarily make you popular or rich.  Jesus’ response to Philip and Andrew was a glimpse of the passion to come, Christ’s arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection.  In this answer the Lord was setting the tone for all true Christian living – unselfish serving is life in God.
There is much good being done by the Church in this world – true ministry that reaches many for the kingdom of God; much of it is done in unselfish submission to the will of God.
Then again, there is much done that is driven by worldly agenda; selfishness dies hard!
Some preach a so-called “Gospel” who are really proclaiming the opposite of these two foundational truths.  The preachers of personal prosperity point you in a direction away from unselfishness, and toward greed.  Of necessity this violates both foundational issues.  When “following Jesus” means amassing personal wealth and popularity, you can hardly be concerned about telling others about Jesus, or giving unselfishly.
But, let me say it one more time, selfishness dies hard.
If you’re interested in following the real Jesus, you have to kill the selfishness within.  That’s what He did in Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion:
“My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.  Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”  Matthew 26:39b (NLT)
If you’re interested in following the real Jesus, it has got to be HIS will, not mine.

For You Today

I have a probing question I must answer every day when I first wake up, and I recommend it if you want to be a follower of Jesus Christ – whose will am I seeking today?
This question will renew your purposes to live a life honoring to God, and set your direction for the day to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

[1] Title Image: Peter McDermott, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Singing Hills and Applauding Trees

Monday, March 23, 2015
The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.  You will live in joy and peace.  The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!"
Isaiah 55:10-12 (NLT)
I was reminded of two things recently:
First:  It is a lot of work to write 600 words every morning, put it on a blog site, record it like a sermon, process the video and not repeat yourself (too often).
This first realization was a gift from my friend, David.  I am preaching a series on the seven deadly sins, and happened to mention in the sermon on “sloth” (laziness) that this was one of my natural proclivities – I can be “at rest” anywhere, anytime, for no particular reason, other than I like it and it’s easier to procrastinate from a motionless state! 
David had the kind thoughtfulness to catch me after the sermon and he reminded me that a lazy person would not do this every morning.  With all due modesty and humility I can muster – the guy’s right.  This is a lot of work, but I need it like my next breath – this quiet, early morning reading, praying, reflecting, and writing-out what I hear in my soul. 
In the final analysis, this isn’t “work” per se, it is more the working-out of my life-song; this is what I do to praise God from whom all blessings flow.  If I didn’t do this, the rocks would be taking my place, calling out His name in worship.  I must do it! 
So…thank you David, yes, I’m not lazy – but the “work” is really my blessing.
A second realization was:  I have a VERY HIGH view of Scripture
This second realization happened in one of those niggling clergy “debates” over whether the Bible is actually “the Word of God” (or if it is just a collection of man’s writings about God). 
It didn’t take long for my “high view” to surface – that the word is THE WORD
I really don’t know how or why some people would even want to get to a place where they denigrate the authority of God’s gift to us of His revealed truth.  But there’s no denying it, such “ministers” muddy the water when people hear their ministerial doubt rather than proclamation of holy writ.  And I really don’t know why they would ever want to be in ministry in the first place if they have such doubt.  As Goethe said, preacher, tell me what you believe; I have enough doubts of my own.
God proclaims his truth, like the waters from heaven with their life-giving arrival to the fields, will accomplish what he sends it to do…provide us with living growth; He provides us with rivers of living water that flow from the throne and back to His presence, all the while nourishing, growing, and transforming everything it touches. 
And the crop of Jehovah’s doing is a connection of blood-colored eternal life, streaming from Heaven to Bethlehem, Calvary and back to Heaven.  And the Word of God catches us along in that stream and we are One with the Father.  It is His life-song!
And so, if you’re listening to this devotion today, the music you heard at the start (and if you hang in another 20 seconds will hear at the end) is my bride at the piano, doing her life-song, playing Trees of the Field[2], a song inspired by Isaiah’s fields rejoicing and trees applauding.
Yes, life isn’t bad at all when the music is right!

For You Today

How about joining the hills in song and the applauding trees as we give praise to our Father, the blessed One who accomplishes everything in us and for us that we need to be his vineyard

[1] Title Image: By Tadam (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Writen by Stuart Dauermann, published in 17 hymnals (see more here at Hymnary.org)

Good Stuff to Give Up in Lent #6 ENVY

In an article USA Today reported,

Nine year old James Darby wrote the following letter to President Clinton on April 29, 1994:  'Dear Mr. Clinton, I want you to stop the killing in the city.  People is dead and I think that somebody might kill me.  So would you please stop the people from deading.  I'm asking you nicely to stop it.  I know you can do it.  Do it.  I know you could.  Your friend, James.'  Before he could get an answer to his letter, James Darby was gunned down in New Orleans in a drive-by shooting."[2]

In major cities across the land we are acting out the inheritance of Cain.  Why do we do it, and why did Cain start it all?  Envy!

Why are there wars, riots, racism?  Why are children killing children in our schools?  Why do one in five American children carry some kind of weapon to school every day?  Envy!

Envy is always born of hatred and greed. Envy is murdering your brother in your heart, because of the sin of covetousness which imagines, that person has more than I do, and he should give it to me. 

Envy was wrapped up in what the late Senator Ted Kennedy said, "Frankly, I don't mind not being President.  I just mind that someone else is."[3] 

Envy is a sin of lust; and this sin has a process that will, when it is finished, bring forth death.

These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.  James 1.15 (NLT)

Our purpose this morning is to examine that process, the downward spiral of envy:

Envy's Cradle

Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant.  When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!”  Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.  When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.   Genesis 4:1-2  (NLT)

With the exception of Adam and Eve, who never experienced teething, or dirty diapers, every one of us had our beginnings in the cradle. 

What was it like to live in the first family?


We are prone to think of Cain as being an ugly character, despicable from the beginning.  I don't think so.  Cain was loved.  His name means, I have gotten a man from the Lord.  Eve named him.  He was the sign of more life to come, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.  Adam and Eve had sinned, but God had forgiven and promised a Redeemer, a Savior, someone to make everything right again.  Cain was the offspring that would crush the serpent for his deception.  His name is connected with the verb in Hebrew which means to create.  Eve, the sinner, was allowed to return in part to God's original purpose for mankind – participation in the creation. 

Eve looked at Cain as the promised Messiah.  We look at Cain's hands and imagine the bloody club that killed his brother; Eve kissed those little baby fingers.  Cain was a loved, probably spoiled, only child. 


Cain was a tiller of the ground, while his brother Abel was a tender of sheep.  It was never a question of the work that Cain did; it was the obedience he didn't do that rankled God.


The rub came for Cain, I'm certain, when his brother Abel arrived.  Abel's name means, Son of Adam.  Now, Cain was firstborn, and Abel was the younger.  In Hebrew culture (as contemporary Western culture) the name Jr. belongs to the firstborn.  In ancient times it meant everything, including a double portion of inheritance. 

Could this be a problem of favoritism that fueled the fires of envy between the brothers?  Did Eve step out of her submissive role, naming Cain before Adam got home from tilling the ground? 

Either way, the sibling rivalry is not new.  When our firstborn was 18 months old, we brought home her new brother from the hospital.  Soon the new baby developed a peculiar problem of screaming every time Elizabeth would feed him.  We finally discovered the older sister would get great delight out of standing behind Mom, and pinching her little baby brother's outstretched arm while Mom wasn't looking. 

Envy's cradle is that little place where rivalry begins.

Envy's Crouch

Verse 7 says that sin crouches at the door when we do not do well -- what a vivid picture.  How does this happen? 

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted Abel and his gift.    Genesis 4:3-4 (NLT)

Cain knew the right thing to do.  His parents had certainly told him of the sacrifice of God, and the necessity of blood to atone for sin.  He either didn't want to, or was too lazy, or too proud to ask his brother to trade some of his produce for a suitable animal.  Cain discarded his allegiance to the Lord.

When you forsake God's instruction, you forsake God.  You discard your allegiance.

but he did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.  “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain.  “Why do you look so dejected?    Genesis 4.5-6  (NLT)

God rejected Cain's offering as unacceptable, but received Abel's.  Wow!  What a thing to do when there was already a sibling rivalry going.  Didn't God ever read Dr. Spock?  Man, you're supposed to be soothing and kind to a child throwing a tantrum, aren't you?


God knew, and we know, that you confront something as unholy as a tantrum.  Isn't it interesting that the very first anger and temper tantrum was experienced at the altar – the church house?  It is a true saying that religion will either redeem or damn a person. 

Attitude is usually the dividing line.  Cain discarded his allegiance, and God confronted his attitude, and warned him that if he didn't change his ways, his pathway would have a serious collision course....

You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.”   Genesis 4:7 (NLT)
Here is the very first mention of the word "sin" in Scripture.  Preacher Clarence Macartney wrote: 

What is the saddest word in the Bible and in human speech?  What is the word that is the fountain of woe, the mother of sorrows, as universal as human nature, as eternal as human history?  What is the word that is the cause of all war and violence and hatred and sorrow and pain?  What is the word that is man's worst enemy?  What is the word that nailed the Son of God to the Cross?  That word is, Sin."[4]

The Lord said sin was at the "door."  Isn't this the foothold the Bible talks about – the one Satan looks for in the life of a believer?  Crouching is generally the position of the predator, waiting for the right opportunity to spring on the prey.  My friends, sin does that! 

Another preacher said it well, "It is easier to find [a man] who has never sinned than to find one who has never committed the same sin twice."[5]  

Sin multiplies quickly.  It only took a short time in the history of man for sin to jump from munching on forbidden fruit to murdering of brothers.  It all happened in one family. 

Part of Eve's punishment was a nature that "desired" her husband -- desired to rule over him, dominate him.  Sin is crouching at the door for each of us, waiting for envy to rise, take a foothold and rule over our lives. 

From envy’s cradle, to envy’s crouch, to...

Envy's Compulsion

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.”  And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.      Genesis 4:8 (NLT)
I do not know if Cain lured his brother into the field with a premeditated design to kill him.  I do know, however, that once the hatred of envy enters a man and settles in his heart, it won't be long before the desire becomes a deed. 

Some years ago a lady in Arkansas called the local police station to ask if there was a penalty for fighting, and if so, how much.  The sergeant told her that she could be charged with assault and battery.  The fine was $100, and he asked her why she needed to know.    She said, "Oh, well, I want to beat up my sister.  I just needed to see if I can afford it."

Once you allow envy a foothold, sin is already crouching at the door, and the “foothold will become a compulsion. 

One of the reasons Christians ought to come to the altar privately and publicly, is that humility will drive out the envy that is crouching in our hearts.  If you haven't been to the altar since the day you got saved, today would be a good time to come, kneel, and feel the sweet release of joy God will give you.  That's the "doing well" God tried to tell Cain about. 

Envy is birthed in the cradle, crouches at your door's heart if you entertain him, and grows into a fully blown compulsion which will do the deed, and require.....

Envy's Cover-Up

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother?  Where is Abel?”         “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”   Genesis 4:9 (NLT)

Isn't it interesting how Cain inherited his father's "reaction mechanism?"  When God asked the question, Cain wanted to squirm away from a direct answer, just like Adam.  Now, Adam was the first, and admittedly, he was breaking new ground; he didn't have an earthly father to learn from about lying to his father.  But Cain did!  And Cain didn't learn from daddy's folly.  Someone wisely said, anger gets us in trouble; pride keeps us there.

Pride will keep you from confession.   (Or confession will keep you from pride!)  Cain did not want to confess his murderous ways to God, so he lied.  A four year old was asked his definition of a lie.  He said, "A lie is an abomination before the Lord -- and a very present help in time of trouble." 

He was wrong!  Lies, distorted truth, cover-up – none of these work with God.  God wants the unvarnished truth from you.  He already knows what you've done; He is simply awaiting your confession. 

If you refuse to confess and let Jesus take the marks of sin on Him, you prefer the mark of Cain, which is...

Envy's Cost

Notice the progression here:  The "mark of Cain" is the result of the growth of envy in the human heart.  It begins in the cradle with a soiled and fallen human nature that leans towards sin.  It crouches at the door of your heart, awaiting the opportunity to take up residence.  It becomes a fully grown compulsion, springing into the deed of death.  It repulses the truth and opts for a cover-up, even in the face of God. 

And, my friends, be not deceived, God is not mocked, envy has a cost...

But the Lord said, “What have you done?  Listen!  Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!    Genesis 4.10 (NLT)

The discovery of sin is not so much that God has found out.  God always knows!  It is that moment when God confronts you with your sin.  When I was a child, my mother always knew!  It was just a matter of time before she made me face things I'd done. 

Beloved, in a confrontation with Almighty God, the creator of heaven, earth, and the universe; the eternal Father, who could enter time and space as an infant, yet be the God with no name – in a confrontation with ultimate truth, you lose!  The mark of Cain means your sin is uncovered whether you want it that way or not.

Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood.  No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work!  From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”  Genesis 4:11-12 (NLT)
Sin is a downward spiral.  When Adam first sinned, the ground became cursed.  When Cain sinned, the curse came back from the ground.  Adam had to fight thorns and thistles in his tilling of the ground – now Cain would have an even greater struggle, as sin reduced even further the yield of produce. 

Sin has a degrading effect on creation.  The mark of Cain means we walk in the reduced strength of our own resources.  We walk without God's help.

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear!   Genesis 4.13 (NLT)

Cain said, I can't bear it!  To bear means to accept the burden.  A common reaction in grief is, I can't believe it; I can't believe she's gone -- I can't believe he's dead.  

I can't bear this punishment.  I can't believe God would do this to me.  What do you mean there's a hell?  How could a loving God punish people? 

My friends, in the words of the great philosopher, Lucy, "Get over it; Get a life; That's the way it is!"  We may deny sin – that is the mark of Cain.  God confronts us with our sin.

You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer.  Anyone who finds me will kill me!” The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.”  Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.  So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.   Genesis 4:14-16 (NLT)

Three words show us the final significance of the mark of Cain:  fugitive (in Hebrew, noo-ah), vagabond (nood), and Nod.  The first two words are adjectives, used in the sense of nouns; they describe the inner lostness of Cain.  "Noo-ah" and "nood"  mean wandering and shaking, signs of someone who has lost his way, and is searching for some sign of home. 

When the Bible says Cain dwelt in the land of Nod, God is telling us Cain was dwelling in lostness, always wandering, always shaking his head in disbelief.  This is the mark of Cain – he dwelt in what he was – lost.  Why would no one kill him?  How can you kill a dead man?  To be lost is to be dead, without God. 

My friends, Sin brings forth destruction of the soul.  It brings a wandering lostness that you dwell in. 

You can try to fill up the void with things that are bright and shiny.  You can try to fill up the void with sex and hobbies.  You can try to fill up the void with activities and religion.  But the mark of Cain means you're already dead!

How do we stay clear of the mark of Cain, Preacher.  Tell me what can wash away that horrible mark.  I don't want to be lost; I don't want to wander. 

Only one thing in the universe can scrub that well – the blood of the Lamb. 

"What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Oh, precious is the flow, That makes me white as snow,
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Friend, you may have come in with the mark of Cain.  You can go out with the seal of the Spirit of God.  God wants you whole -- the Devil wants you marked.  Choose!

[1] Title image:  Carl Spitzweg, via Wikimedia Commons
[2]7-14-94, 3a
[3]From a Gridiron Dinner, quoted in Forbes Magazine, (Apr 20, 1987), 22
[4]Clarence Edward Macartney, THE GREATEST WORDS IN THE BIBLE AND IN HUMAN SPEECH, (Nashville, Cokesbury Press, 1938), 11
[5]Clovis G. Chappell, THE VILLAGE TRAGEDY, (NY, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1925), 73

Friday, March 20, 2015

Good Stuff to Give Up in Lent #4 LUST

“You must not commit adultery.     Exodus 20:14 (NLT)
Sex is one of the most powerful forces in humankind.  It is powerfully good as an integral component of a healthy relationship between a husband and wife; it is also one of the greatest problems we have today, when it is abused, outside of the ways God designed it. 

This morning we want to investigate that correct usage as we look at the fourth of seven deadly sins - lustGod’s design for sexual activity is that we are to be faithful within marriage, and abstinent outside of marriage.

Returning from Sunday School one day, where the Ten Commandments had been the topic, [the] young son asked his father, Daddy, what does it mean when it says, Thou shalt not commit agriculture?  There was hardly a beat between the question and [the father’s] smooth reply:  Son, that just means that you’re not supposed to plow the other man’s field.[2]
The Hebrew word for adultery is naaph.  It originally meant to pollute with admixture, to water-down something pure with an additive.  A marriage is made of two who become one.  Any other mixture in that pot is pollution. 

Abstinence means no sexual activity at all.  The Bible calls sex between unmarried people fornication.  You might say, Pastor, please, this is the 21st century.  Well, I do understand what goes on -- and so does God.  He destroyed the world with a flood when it got out of hand before.  The definition of adultery doesn’t change because a new generation comes on the scene.  When it comes to morality, God said,

For I am the LORD, I change not....    Malachi 3:6a
Jesus gave us a further word when it comes to this,

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Matthew 5:28 (NLT)
The new morality aside, the definition is unquestioned.  In marriage, nobody else’s field.  If you’re not married -- every field is off limits! 

And when it comes to the definition of adultery – wishing in your mind that you could play in the field makes you an adulterer!

Why is adultery so bad?  After all -- two consenting adults, nobody else finding out?  What’s so bad?  One reason; and (at least) five results,

Sex is one of the strongest instinctual forms of behavior known to man.  God designed it that way for the preservation of our race.  For that reason, we can understand how difficult it can be to make sound decisions while under the spell – that flush/rush of dizzying euphoria we call love

Mostly, it is lust. 

The wrong of two people engaging in sex, when they are not under the life-long commitment of marriage, is that they cannot make sound decisions with sex in the way! 

And it does get in the way!  If it didn’t, the manufacturers of everything from Calvin Klein underwear to beer wouldn’t spend zillions on sexually oriented TV spots.  Sex/lust does get our attention! 

And when your attention is riveted on the heat of attraction, you will not be concerned with whether this person will look good the next morning.  You will not be thinking about which Sunday School class the two of you ought to join.  Sex first clouds the water!  That’s the reason to abstain!


The Demise of Personal Integrity. 

When a person does not say no in this vital area of life, he will likely never choose to hold back.  In choosing a partner for marriage you would like to think that after the wedding he or she will stay faithful. 

Cheating brings paralyzing guilt.  It is sin that is internal – depriving us of holding our head up, knowing we have broken what should be reserved as a special intimacy for only our lifetime partner.

 The Demise of respect for life. 

Adultery and fornication are means of personal abuse.  Years ago in seminary I had to write a paper on an Old Testament passage.  I chose this text.  In reviewing the paper I came across this part:

This commandment (as the others) is designed to keep man from destroying himself.  In sexual promiscuity there is a violation of personality because it involves the use of one human being by another.  This destroys the used and the user.         

    Human life becomes cheap when self-gratification is the point. 

The Demise of childhood.   

Pregnancy among high school students, and even middle schoolers, is rampant.  And with each passing generation the sexual pressure starts younger. 

Babies who raise babies don’t do as good a job as people who have waited and planned.  Parents ought not to allow their children to date early.  Use some common sense!  It’s not cute -- it’s lethal!  Kids ought to have a childhood, not provide one for a baby they’re not equipped to raise.

The Demise of the home. 

Half of all marriages stung by an extra-marital affair end in divorce.  The other half stay together -- but don’t imagine they don’t struggle with the demons in the middle of the night. 

The Demise of our nation. 

When the home disappears, so does the strength of the nation.  In the Old Testament, David had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba.  It led to a murderous conspiracy on David’s part.  His ability to be God’s leader was stunted.  The shepherd boy, who God called a man after mine own heart, became the shamed man who cried out in agony over his sin:

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.  Wash me clean from my guilt.  Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.  Psalm 51:1-3 (NLT)
In our day heroes are falling one by one.  Ministers, leaders, even presidents fall to sexual scandal.  A nation cannot stand in immorality.  God is not mocked.  The disaster of adultery is evident in our land.

Ignoring God’s way brings His judgment and pain! 

What is the “UP” side to sexual integrity?

Sexual integrity has benefits, and they are summed up in the positive view of this commandment:

Sexual integrity (abstinence when not married, fidelity in marriage, and a thought-life to match) helps build a sense of positive, uplifting relationship, which provides a firm foundation for all of life’s true pleasures, as well as a framework of moral stability for society
These few positive benefits are not an exhaustive list -- they simply underscore the design of God for marriage.  They are suggested by the scriptures.  Note:

Marriage creates union

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Ephesians 5:31

Marriage creates fulfillment

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”  Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

Marriage creates joy

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.    Proverbs 5:18

Marriage creates stability

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Matthew 19:6b

How can I keep my life pure?

I know that sexual integrity is the right thing.  I know God’s way is best.  How can I cooperate with God on this and succeed in my life?  It’s tough out there today!

START...with a commitment to sexual integrity.  To be successful in anything requires commitment.  Faith is included here.  If you don’t believe sexual integrity can be done today, you won’t stand a chance.  It is not easy, but it is possible.  God requires our obedience. 

Some of us have decided this – some long ago, with 50 years or more of success.  The Word of God demands a decision on this.  You make the decision in your heart.  Ask God to cleanse your past failures -- or even the failure you’re in right now, if that’s the case.  He said he would forgive the repentant person,

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.   Psalms 51:17  (NLT)
Willingness is always the beginning place with God.  He abhors and resists pride.  If you’re serious about sexual integrity, begin with a contrite and broken spirit…Start!

STRENGTHEN...every advantage you have.  Tennyson wrote, Be loyal to the royal within you. 

What wonderful advice.  Your inner thought life is where Satan will trip you up on sexual matters.  If you’re serious about being an overcomer in this area, begin to work on your thoughts.  Read your Bible.  Concentrate on good and wholesome things.  Watch what you watch on TV.  You can’t expect to watch TV and movies that depict sexual episodes, and then think your thoughts are going to be of God.  Be careful little eyes what you see.

STAY AWAKE...Attachment and attraction to the opposite sex are as natural as breathing. Sex is a strong drive.  Attraction begins with a first glance.  Attachment begins with the second look.  The Bible says to flee immorality.  Stay awake about those lingering glances and conversations.  The key is, Bail out early! 

I have a wonderful tie that seems to catch eyes quickly.  I was visiting at a hospital once and got on the elevator.  A woman commented on the tie.  My words came out before she finished talking, My sweet wife buys ‘em, an’ I wears ‘em! 

If you’re married and meet someone of the opposite sex – bring your spouse into the conversation before the first 30 seconds are up!  That will liberate you, and let the other person know where you stand and where the appropriate distance between you should stand!

Start, strengthen, stay-awake, and…


What if you have done all this and you still blow it?  Start again.

What if you’ve blown it so many times you’ve lost hope?  Start again. 

What if you can’t trust yourself anymore?  Start again. 

Get some help. See your Pastor, a counselor.  Get a trusted friend who will help you to remain accountable. 

The place to begin is with contriteness.  Start with God.  He is in the forgiving business.  There is not a sin He won’t forgive except the rejection of His Son, Jesus.   Your affair wasn’t the unpardonable sin -- He will forgive if you’re honest and lay it all out before Him in prayer. 

They brought a woman to Jesus.  She was caught in the very act.  She could have been stoned.  She hung her head while the self-righteous folk ridiculed her. 

They wanted Jesus to condemn her, or release her and prove He was a lawbreaker.  Jesus showed them He was in the caring business – He shamed them, and they left one by one.  Then Jesus turned to the adulterous woman and told her she was free to go!  Now she had a new chance – a new start. 

Just don’t repeat the same old mistakes. 

Jesus gave that woman a second chance to start her life; he’ll give it to you too!

[1] Title image:  Carl Spitzweg, via Wikimedia Commons
[2]Reader’s Digest, July 1979, p.87