guard your heart

2

Category : God, bible, living a life of faith, sin

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“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4: 23)

I wonder how many of us make a serious effort to guard our hearts.  Do we make our decisions based on protecting our heart?  Or do we make our decisions based on excitement, envy, desire, passion?

I don’t often like to talk about current events, but sometimes they serve as a good illustration.  Take the case of Ben Roethlisberger being accused of sexual assault.  I don’t know if he did it (if he does, he deserves to go to jail) if he didn’t, in many ways his life is ruined.  The same is true of the accuser.  If she’s a victim, something precious has been taken from her.  If she made up the story, then something is deeply broken inside her.

This whole incident occurred because they slept together.

I’m not here to moralize or judge, especially about people who may not have a relationship with God.  Yet I am here to point out: there’s a reason God gave us the 10 commandments.  It’s not to take away our fun.  It’s not so he can reserve good things for himself.  It’s because our hearts need protecting.  Every single time we violate the 10 commandments our heart is wounded.  Yet most of us don’t’ feel that way.  Why?  I think it’s because for most of us, our heart are so badly damaged we can barely feel them anymore.  We can’t imagine what it would be like to have a protected, guarded, safe heart.

Is it any wonder we live in an age of increasing skepticism and cynicism?

Our hearts are precious.  Maybe we should treat them that way.

will the evildoers never learn

1

Category : God, R3, failure, sin

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I rarely start out with such inflammatory headings.  R3 is a place for people to explore what it means to live out a life of faith.  I am fully aware that a lot of people who read R3 aren’t self-identified Christians.  That’s fine.  You don’t have to be.  So while I don’t pull any punches, I also don’t intentionally mean to offend people.  Insulting someone is never a way to show God’s love for each of us.

But there is something about the nature of sin that’s been bothering me the last few weeks.  And there is no easy way to say it.  The fact is, the damage sin causes shouldn’t be “sugar coated.”  So allow me to be as blunt as David was when he wrote Psalm 53: “Will the evildoers never learn?

I’m not the first to ask.  And I won’t be the last.  Ever since that fateful decision by Adam & Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, things have been a mess.  It seems that we simply can’t stop following in their footsteps.

Why?  Why is it “evildoers never learn.”  And by the way, those evildoers – that’s us, all of us.

Are we so blinded by our pride that we can’t even see where our actions lead?  Are we so sure that we can fix any problem we make that we simply don’t care?  Or is the devil just too good at tricking us into believing that God is holding out.  Or maybe we are just so blind we fall for his same tricks every time.  Even Tom couldn’t fool Jerry every time!

What I find disturbing in all of this is that I am no different.  And neither are you.  We are all held captive to sin.  We all fall short of where we were designed to be.  And none of us can seem to break the cycle.  That’s how powerful sin is.  That’s how much control it has.

That’s why Jesus is so important.  He’s broken the chains of sin.  When we are in relationship with him, in God’s eyes we are sin free.  But sin still lingers on us.  It still hurts our relationships with others (and God).  It still causes pain and suffering.  It still destroys like a thief in the night.

Pavlov, in his famous experiment, taught dogs to salivate by hearing a bell.  If dogs can do something like that, why can’t we break free from sin?

God never gives us more than we can handle

1

Category : God, bible, hope, sin, trust

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God will never give us more than we can carry.

Or at least that’s what we’re told.  But is this true?  Unfortunately it’s actually a more complicated answer than you might guess.  The Bible never uses this exact phrase (the closest is 1 Corinthians 10:13).  Which means God never explicitly promises this protection.  Yet I believe it is true.  I believe that it’s in line with God’s character to never give us more than we can carry.

Sometimes, though, we pick up extra baggage along the way.

It wasn’t God’s intention for us to have this new problem (whatever it may be).  We did it all on our own.  Yet we start blaming God for what we’re experiencing.  As if he’s somehow responsible for us ignoring his advice!

Sin leads to things God never intended for us to handle.  The more we move away from how we were designed, they more things break down.  That’s a fundamental principle of how the world works.  If you build a house and forget to lay the foundation first, you’re going to have problems.  If I’m trying to write out this post and I just randomly type letters, you won’t be able to read it (some of you may suspect I do this already).

God may never give us more than we can handle, but we have a knack of making things difficult on ourselves.

Why do we do it then?  Why do we fall into the traps of addictions or greed when we know it will only harm us?  I have  to wonder if this is partly a pride issue.  We’ve become so full of ourselves, that we think we must be the solution to everything.  So we just keep piling on problem after problem, bad choice after bad choice with the foolish belief that we can “handle it.”

In his book, Wide Awake, Erwin McManus says, “I love this about Daniel and Esther – they did what they could and let God fill in the blanks where they didn’t know how it could possibly work out.” (Wide Awake, p. 73)

We worry so much about having everything perfectly mapped out before we move and act.  But maybe that’s not always the right way to do it.  Maybe what we need to do most is to act, and trust God will be in the gaps.  Maybe the reason we have so little faith in miracles, is that we leave so little room for them.

I believe that God never gives me more than I can handle.  But I also believe that 9 times out of 10 I’m an idiot.  I allow my pride to control my behaviors, and I end up making my burden too heavy.

Here is my challenge to you (and myself).  Something will come up this week.  I don’t know what it will be.  But it will be more than you know how to handle.  Pray about it.  And then whatever God tells you to do – act on it.  Don’t worry if you don’t know how it will shake out.  Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what the “plan” looks like.  Trust that God’s foolishness is better than your wisdom, and God’s weakness is better than your strength.  I think we’ll all be amazed at what happens when we let God be God.

knowledge of good and evil

2

Category : Genesis, God, living a life of faith, sin

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It seems that we are in a constant search for freedom.  We want to be free; we long to be free.  Yet we always seem to end up in bondage.  This weekend Steve McNair (who always seemed to have a knack of beating my beloved Steelers) was murdered.  The police aren’t saying exactly what happened, but from early reports it looks like it is a murder suicide (or possibly a double murder).  It also appears that McNair was having an affair with a young woman.

Now if this is all true (and it appears to be) my question is simple.  Why?  Why did McNair feel the need to be with someone other than his wife?  Was it because he felt trapped?  Was it because he wanted the freedom of sexuality?  Because it sure looks like what he got wasn’t freedom, but pain and suffering.

When God created Adam and Eve he gave them one command, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17)

Adam and Eve had complete freedom.  They could have any fruit but one.  Yet they couldn’t resist that tree.  And they exchanged their freedom for suffering.

They thought God was holding out on them.  They thought that rule was silly, and just God being insecure and maybe even a jerk.  They thought they knew better than the person who created them.  They thought they could violate the one rule God set forth.

Have you noticed how we didn’t get knowledge of good, we just got knowledge of evil?

Adam and Eve already had complete freedom.  They already had a perfect relationship with God.  They were even soul mates.  They lived in comfort.  They were provided for.  They lived without fear and guilt.  What they got wasn’t knowledge of good – they already knew that just by looking around.  What they got was knowledge of what it means to suffer.

Steve McNair is no different than any of us.  We all sacrifice our freedom for temptations.  For some of us we give up freedom of heatlh to feed an eating disorder or drug addiction.  Some of us give up freedom of love to experience the bondage of lust and pornograhpy.  Whatever it is – we are all exactly like Steve McNair – vulnerable to temptation, because we think God is holding out on us.

As you go about your week, remember this story.  Don’t sacrifice your freedom for bondage.

quote of the day: temptation

Category : God, faith, hope, sin

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“Temptation is a sign that Satan hates you, not a sign of weakness or worldliness.” (Purpose Driven Life, p. 205)

When you read and study as much as I do, rarely are you stopped in your tracks by a quote.  This quote, however, actually caused me to hold my breath as I read it.  So often we think that our temptations are weakness.  “If only I could change” we think.  But is it possible that the reason we face so much temptation is because there is an intelligent force working against God’s will?  And if that’s true, should we carry that guilt of not being perfect?

Paul tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  Yet I have a hard time believing it. I want to be perfect for God, and get disappointed (and a little depressed) when I’m not.

I can’t live my life the way God intended until I let go of the guilt.  Until I can turn to God and say, “I am sorry” and really accept his response of “I forgive you” I will never be free.

And it’s that freedom that Jesus died for.