Are You A Thief?

Don't Be A ThiefThere are different kinds of thieves. There’s the one that acknowledges, “I’m a thief. I take things that don’t belong to me. I use cunning and skill, and force if I need to.” Then there’s the one who steals quietly without ever realizing he’s stealing.

In the Ten Commandments when God says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15), guess what type of thief He’s talking about? It’s not the brazen, bold thief, but the one who may not even realize he’s stealing.

The Hebrew word for steal means move by stealth, take something secretly, or deceive someone. How can we steal?

All of these are subtle, stealthy, secretive ways of robbing someone of time, ideas, value, interest, credit, or even actual possessions!

So here are 4 ways to avoid becoming an thief:

  1. Learn to be content with what you have—Philippians 4:12-13.
  2. Don’t let worry rule your life—Matthew 6:25-34.
  3. Work hard for your employer or employees—Ephesians 6:5-9.
  4. If you have stolen, make full restitution as quickly as possible—Luke 19:8.

Every one of the Ten Commandments are broken in our hearts long before they are worked out in our bodies. So listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you to make sure you are not a sneaky thief!

If you are in the Cedar Springs area, I’d love for you to join me next Sunday as we continue this series called The Love In The Law.

7 Ways To Avoid Becoming An Adulterer

DisciplineGod said quite simple, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18). This entire verse is just one word in the Hebrew language—na’aph—but it packs quite a punch.

Na’aph has two dimensions to it: physical and spiritual. Physically it prohibits sexual relations between a married person and someone not their spouse. Closely related to adultery is fornication, which is unmarried people engaging in sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage. Spiritually na’aph prohibits worship of anything other than Jehovah God.

This means that an inappropriate intimate relationship on the physical level affects our spiritual relationship with God, and vice versa. That is why immoral sexual acts are almost always incorporated into the worship of false gods. But which came first? Did someone leave behind God’s design for sexuality and begin a downward slide away from Him, or did someone’s heart stray from God and the evidence was the illicit sexual acts? It starts when we leave God’s love behind (see Romans 1:21-32).

Adultery and fornication are fueled by lust. Lust is rooted in selfishness. And by it’s very definition, selfishness kills love. Adulterers and fornicators cannot truly love each other; they are only using each other to satisfy their own selfish cravings, and in so doing, they are actually abusing each other.

So here are 7 ways to avoid becoming an adulterer:

  1. Love God passionately—Mark 12:30.
  2. If you’re married, invest in your marriage—emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.
  3. If you’re single, develop discipline. I define discipline as choosing what you want most over what you want now.
  4. Guard your eyes—Job 31:1.
  5. Avoid tempting places—Proverbs 5:8.
  6. Fill your mind with God’s Word—Proverbs 6:20-24.
  7. Have an accountability friend—Proverbs 7:6-9.

Any sexual relationship outside of God’s prescription—one man married to one woman for life—short-circuits God’s design, so it can never fully satisfy. Adultery and fornication break God’s heart because of the damage it does to our relationship with Him and to our relationships with each other.

I will be continuing our look at the Ten Commandments in our series The Love In The Law this coming Sunday. Please join us!

10 Ways Children Can Honor Their Parents

Honor your parentsThe Bible is fairly clear on a child’s relationship with his or her parents:

The Bible also gives some directives for parents:

So children are to honor their parents, and their parents are to behave honorably. This can be a virtuous cycle, if both parent and child are doing this correctly. But what if a parent is not behaving honorably? Does the child still have to honor that parent?

In a word: Yes. The Bible doesn’t give children an option on this command. Nowhere do we read, “Only obey your Christian parents,” or “Honor your father only if he’s godly,” or “Respect your mother only if she is virtuous.” Children are simply called upon to honor and obey.

I like what Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote—

“Honor does not mean unquestioned obedience, we truly honor our parents when we hold them accountable to God’s law. If my parents abandon me, I will honor them by seeking, though not forcing, reconciliation. If my parents abuse me, I will honor them by praying for them, so that they might see their error – and by escaping, if possible, so that they cannot continue to sin upon me. If my parents are unfaithful, I will honor them by calling for righteousness and by being willing to forgive them when they repent. If they are breaking the law, I will honor them by calling the police. Making them accountable to the highest moral order is honoring them in that I esteem them capable of responsible action.

So here are 10 biblical ways children can honor their parents—

  1. Guard your thoughts about them.
  2. Obey their lawful commands.
  3. Submit to their correction.
  4. Hold them accountable to the moral law.
  5. Show appreciation for what they have given you.
  6. Keep them connected to the family (socially, emotionally, financially, physically).
  7. Don’t expect too much of them.
  8. Don’t resent them for what they aren’t, or for what they didn’t do.
  9. Forgive them and seek reconciliation.
  10. Emulate their virtues and reverse their shortcomings.

Not only does this please God, but it opens us up to the blessing He wants to give to children who honor their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:2-3).

If you are in the Cedar Springs area, I’d love to have you join us next Sunday as we continue our look at The Love In The Law.

Putting Your Money Where Your Hair Is

SavannahEveryone is probably familiar with the phrase, “Putting your money where your mouth is.” Quite simply we mean, “I believe what I’m saying strongly enough that I would back it up with my money.”

A young lady at Calvary Assembly of God, Savannah Tolar, is taking this one step further. She’s not only putting her money on the line to back up what she says, but she’s putting her hair on the line too!

Savannah, like many people, has been impacted by cancer in her immediate family. As a mother of a beautiful baby boy, she has also been troubled by the lack of funding for childhood cancer research. Savannah wants this lack of funding changed so that a cure for this dreaded disease can be found as soon as possible.

In fact, she believes this so strongly that she is willing to put her beautiful hair on the line. As you probably know, many children undergoing intensive cancer treatments end up losing their hair as a side effect of their chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Savannah is standing in solidarity with those brave kids by allowing her head to be shaved.

Although Savannah has set a goal to raise $3000 for childhood cancer research, I believe we can help her go way beyond this. Please click here to go to Savannah’s page, read her story, and then make a generous donation. On November 26, Savannah will be shaving her head as she stands with those kids who are fighting back against cancer.

Let’s all get behind this!

Way to go, Savannah … I am so proud of you!

UPDATE: To see how Savannah did in her fundraising please click here.

Make A Holy Rest

Sabbath = do somethingWe are an on-the-go-all-the-time society. It seems to be a status symbol to be always “on.” If not a status symbol, maybe there’s a fear of what we might miss, “If I don’t keep up on the latest TV shows [sports team, books, music, Dancing With The Stars], I’ll feel out of place when my friends are talking about it.”

Even when we do slow down, often what we call a “rest” really isn’t. (Have you ever needed a vacation to recover from your vacation?)

This all-go, never-stop lifestyle is not only unsustainable and unhealthy, it’s also displeasing to God. In His love for us, God says we need to take a Sabbath rest (see Exodus 20:8 and Deuteronomy 5:12). The problem is: we think “Sabbath” means doing nothing, and we feel guilty for doing nothing when there is still so much to do.

Here’s the good news: Sabbath ≠ doing nothing.

Take a look at the origin of the Sabbath—And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. (Genesis 2:2 KJV)

That’s an unusual phrase—His work which He had made—which is repeated twice, so let’s dig into two specific words: work and made.

The verb tense for work is imperfect, which means God still had work to do. But the verb tense for made is perfect. So instead of trying to find more time in His week, God made His “To Do” list fit the timeframe. Then far from doing nothing on the Sabbath day, God reviewed His work, appreciated the beauty of Creation, and celebrated all that had been made.

This is what He calls us to do as well. Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8 and Deuteronomy 5:12 all tell us the Sabbath is to be holy = special, withdrawn from the usual … unique. God doesn’t want us to do nothing on the Sabbath, but to do what we don’t normally have the time to do the rest of the week.

Our modern cliché says, “You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone.” But the Sabbath says, “Stop, appreciate God’s blessings, and celebrate them while you can still enjoy them.”

God doesn’t ask you to take a rest. Instead He asks you to make your “To Do” list fit into six days, so that there can be a unique day of appreciation and celebration.

So … how are you doing on making a Sabbath?

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Ten Commandments in our series The Love In The Law.

Don’t Misuse God’s Name

Representing God's nameYou’ve heard the old nursery rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. We all know this isn’t true: words do hurt, and names that people call us may leave lasting wounds.

Words and names are important to God. God used His word to create the universe (God said, “Let there by light”); Jesus was called The Word (see John 1:1); God has named people and even renamed them to reflect their character or destiny.

The most important name of all is God’s own name, so the Third Commandment says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God…” (Exodus 20:7). How can we misuse God’s name? There are five ways—

(1) As emptiness or nothingness

  • Are our words empty? Do we use filler phrases like “Oh my God!” that neither talk to Jehovah or about Jehovah? We shouldn’t use God’s name unless we’re talking to Him or about Him in a respectful way.

(2) In vanity

  • In reality this means calling ourselves a Christian, but speaking in an un-Christlike way.
  • “Giving God a ‘bad name’ might diminish or demolish people’s belief, respect, and awe for God, a tragedy for a world that needs holiness. … It is a major responsibility to represent God; one which should not be taken lightly.” —Dr. Laura Schlessinger

(3) Being insincere

  • Are our promises empty, or is our word our bond? If we have to use phrases like “I swear to God that I will…” then that means we cannot be trusted on our own merits. When we claim to be Christians but cannot be trusted, we undermine the trustworthiness of God in the minds of other people.
  • “The godly man, therefore, will make promises cautiously but keep them conscientiously once they are made, knowing that irresponsibility and unreliability here are great and grievous sins.” —J.I. Packer

(4) Having an unholy vocabulary

  • Holy means something set apart for a special use. Perhaps there are words we use to describe God that we are also using for lesser things. It might be good to listen to how the Holy Spirit would challenge us to have a unique vocabulary to talk to or about our unique God.

(5) Worthlessness of conduct

  • As the cliche goes, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” So we need to make sure that we both talk like Jesus talked and live like Jesus lived.

Anything less than these standards just may be misusing God’s holy name and character by misrepresenting Him or giving Him a “bad name.” What do you think?

I am continuing our look at the Ten Commandments in our series The Love In The Law next Sunday. I would absolutely love it if you could join us!

Smashing Idols

Puny idolsWhen looking at God’s commandments, we must look at them through a lens of love. If God—the Lawgiver—is love, then all of His laws must be saturated in His love.

So what happens when we look at the Second Commandment through this lens? The wording is simple: “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” (Exodus 20:4-6). If the First Commandment says, “I love you so much that I want to be the One and Only God you have a relationship with” then the Second Commandment says, “Because of this loving relationship, don’t try to make Me smaller to fit your worldview, but let Me by fully Me!

This idolatry starts in our minds, long before we ever create anything with our hands. Idolatry is a mental state that says, “I can define the Creator. I can figure out all of His dimensions. I can predict what He’s going to do. God operates just as I expect Him to.”

But God says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” (Isaiah 55:8).

The Apostle Paul warned us of exchanging God’s uncontainable glory and majesty for something that we can neatly contain in our box: …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator… (Romans 1:21-25).

William Barclay offers this commentary about the flimsiness of idols: “In Greek the word idol has in it the sense of unreality. Plato used it for the illusions of this world as opposed to the unchangeable realities of eternity.” Our puny thoughts about God can create the idols that keep us from the reality of God. 

So how do we avoid this idolatry? Quite simply: we smash every mental idol!

…We refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So… what idols do you need to smash?

Join me next Sunday as we continue our series The Love In The Law.

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