The Dark Side

Romans 7:14-25
Romans 7:14-25

Even people who aren’t fans of Star Wars know Darth Vader. When he tells Luke to “Join the Dark Side.” They know what he’s talking about, don’t they? In the fictional mythos of Star Wars, all matter is made up of an energy field called “the Force.” One can either be a practitioner of the Light Side of the Force (Good) or the Dark Side of the Force (Evil). The Dark Side draws from raw emotions like anger, rage, hatred, fear, aggression, and passion. Sounds an awful lot like the flesh, doesn’t it?

Romans 7:14-25 talks about “The Conflict of Two Natures

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

This all sounds pretty horrendous, doesn’t it? There is a war raging in our very bodies and even Paul was powerless to control it! Now if Paul, arguably the greatest born-again Christian ever to have lived, could not master this inner-conflict, how can we?

Easy. Look at the next verse in chapter 8:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

No condemnation. The greek here for “no” is “oudias” – not a single one. There is not a single condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That is how we do it! The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set us free!

God knows we will falter. That’s why He sent Jesus as our mediator. Only Jesus could win that battle. And now we are hidden in the precious Blood of The Lamb. Only through the intervention of Christ are we not condemned for repeatedly falling short.

The Dark Side and The Light Side pretty much sums up the inward struggle between our flesh and spirit. We would be well advised to remember what Yoda said, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

May God’s Love be with you

Shade From The Heat

Isaiah 25:4
Isaiah 25:4

I was fortunate enough to go to Bonnaroo in 2007 and then again in 2008. For those who don’t know, Bonnaroo is a 4-day music festival held in Manchester, TN. Well, let me tell you: Tennessee is hot and Tennessee in June is really HOT! So, I made one important improvement from 2007 to 2008. This one small change made my second venture exponentially better.

I brought a canopy. The canopy provided shade. Shade made all the difference.

Without shade, we were up with the sun: 6:30am. And then you are out in it, man. Until the sun goes down. There is no escape! In fact, one thing I noticed throughout the day were the shadows of the trees. Everyone was looking for shade all day. The only shade was from the trees. So all around, people were sitting in the perfect shape of trees without realizing it. It was as if the shadow of the trees were made of people.

That’s how important shade can be. It protects you from the elements. Without it, you are exposed. You are vulnerable. Eventually, you will perish.

“For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall” (Isaiah 25:4 NASB).

It may be strange to think of God as shade. Don’t we usually think of Him as perfect radiant Light? But God is also shade in the sense that He is cool and refreshing to a parched and dried soul. He offers rest and reprieve from the elements that will eventually overcome us.

We can finally rest in His shelter. We can revitalize. We can survive only with His loving cover. Without God in our lives offering His divine shade, we are in the desert at noon with no water, no cover… and no hope.

May God’s Love be with you

Addendum: My Christian walk has graduated me from Bonnaroo to Creation Festival. And thank God for that! I give God all the glory for the amazing new song He has given me to sing. (Psa. 96:1)

Weight Loss

Hebrews 12:1
Hebrews 12:1

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a story once that always stuck with me. It was called, “Harrison Bergeron.” It told of a future where the government forced people to wear “handicaps” in order to make everyone equal. If you were really graceful, you wore heavy weights to make you clumsy. If you were handsome, you had to wear a hideous mask. That way no one felt insecure or sad about not being as graceful or as handsome as anyone else.

Anyways, there’s a scene in which a beautiful ballerina is on TV. She is weighted down with 200lb weights because she is so incredibly graceful. She is masked because of her great beauty. Of course, her dance is not very good. It’s been “handicapped” so much that she is now average.

This is political fiction. However, the tragic image of that ballerina trying so hard to perform even though she is so clearly hindered perfectly illustrates how sin can literally weigh us down.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1, HCSB).

Think of it this way: sin has actual weight. We are told to lay aside the sin. We all know that. But we are also told to lay aside the weight. Extra weight slows our progress. Sin slows our progress. Sin ensnares us. It trips us up. Just like the ballerina weighted down, if we are full of the weight of sin, our performance will suffer.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

David was a man who knew the weight of sin. He knew all too well just how ensnaring it can be. But he also knew the sweet freedom that comes with throwing off that weight. He knew how much easier it was to continue on the path of righteousness without it!

Want to lose some unnecessary weight? Lay aside sin! But please don’t dare think you can do this weight-loss program on your own. Ask Jesus for help. He’s the only one that can take every weight and the sin that SO EASILY ensnares us, and cast it aside so we can join him in the light.

May God’s Love be with you

The John 3:16 Sign

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Recently I was asked: What’s up with people at sporting events holding up a “John 3:16” sign? To a Christian this verse is so fundamental that you assume everyone knows it, right? I mean, it’s only the most well-known of all Scripture. But to some people, it may not be common knowledge. You would be surprised who doesn’t know what that sign even means!

So it goes like this:

You have one guy with a sign that says “DEFENSE” (sometimes two signs; one that is a “D” and the other that’s an actual little fence) and you have the one guy holding up a big-head cutout of the coach’s face or something. And then you see one guy with a curious little sign that reads, “John 3:16.” Is there a John on the team? Does he wear #316?

Of course not, the John in the sign refers to the Epistle of John in the Bible. And 3:16 are coordinates within that letter – third chapter and sixteenth verse. Which reads:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)

Ok, but why? A professional football game hardly seems like the place to bring up religion.

Ask Tim Tebow. He famously wrote the verse on his black eye strips during games. You see, the Christian’s duty isn’t just to believe in Christ, it’s to share his faith. He is trying to spark your curiosity. Maybe you’ll write it down and look it up or ask your friend or something. Or he is trying to remind those who already know the verse. When else could he tell 80,000 people about Jesus (or if he gets on TV, millions!)

Why John 3:16?

If the Bible could be summed up in one verse, it would be John 3:16. It is the entire Christian faith in a nutshell. This guy is trying to get the most out of the little time he has. If I could only point someone to one verse, it would be John 3:16.

I assume I am writing to mainly Christians… but if I am not, and you always wondered what that sign meant, I hope you now have a better idea.

Now, I’ve never gone to a game with a John 3:16 sign, but I’m not against them. If you are going to put up a sign for the whole world to see, why not one about God’s love for mankind? Sounds better than, “Go Team” to me!

May God’s Love be with you

Real Love

1 John 4:10
1 John 4:10

We throw the “L” word out for just about everything nowadays. Man, I love peanut butter. I loooove Parks & Recreation! I love lamp. It’s no secret that words lose their impact when used so flippantly. But everyone knows when I say I love hot sauce, I don’t actually love-love it. I just really like it! Real love, love-love is reserved for special things.

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. – 1 John 4:10

I love my wife. It’s easy for me to love her. She is so lovable! I love my daughter. It’s easy for me to love her. She is my very heart. But John says real love is loving the unlovable. Namely, us! We were unlovable, yet God loved us still. He loved us so much, He sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Wrapping your brain around that fundamental idea may take a lifetime. The more you meditate on it, the more you will find yourself in tears.

A “Thanks” doesn’t quite cut it, does it? Undeserved love is such an immense gift. I really can’t even put it into words properly. The only proper response is total praise, total adoration, and total devotion.

Valentine’s Day is the day to profess your love. By all means, tell your special people that you love them. But don’t forget about the One who loved you first. Tell Him too.

May God’s Love be with you

This will help: Misty Edwards, “Lovesick

Written Invitation

Your Witten Invitation • Matt. 11:28-30
Your Witten Invitation • Matt. 11:28-30

What are you waiting for, “a written invitation?” That’s a funny phrase, isn’t it? The more I think about it, the funnier it gets.

Consider this your written invitation.

You have been officially invited. Jesus cordially invites you right now at this very second.

Frustrated? Hurt? Tired? Jesus invites you to His rest. This is His personal offer to you specifically:

““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB).

RSVP today! Please reply by: Now!

Warning: this invite has a expiration date. It will not last forever. There will come a day that it will be void. Then it’s too late. Don’t miss out on these incredible “savings.”

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17, NASB).

This is God basically saying it’s FREE! For a limited time! Come now while there is still time. Collect your free gift of His Grace. He is just giving it away!

If you were waiting for a written invitation, well, now you don’t have an excuse.

May God’s Love be with you

Luck

Proverbs 16:33
Proverbs 16:33

good luck • bad luck • lucky stars • lady luck • lucky break • lucky duck • lucky streak • happy-go-lucky • luck of the Irish • luck of the draw • tough luck

Think we may be obsessed with luck?

What’s that mean, luck? What is luck? One definition is: “Success brought by chance rather than by action.”

Luck? There is no such thing.

“One God and Father of all, WHO IS OVER ALL and through all and in all.” – Eph. 4:6 [emphasis added]

God rules over all things. He is through all and in all.

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:36

All things are:

  • From Him.
  • Through Him.
  • For Him.

That doesn’t leave any room for chance or fortune. We are not floating through space without direction and purpose. God ordains every single microscopic event that happens. Life is not a gamble. Nothing is a fluke. Events in your life are not superfluous or arbitrary.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the LORD.” – Prov. 16:33

Every decision is ordered from the LORD. Divine power trumps luck.

Saying something is “luck” or “lucky” may just be a habit. Start a new habit! Instead of saying “You are so lucky,” say, “You are so blessed!” That’s way more accurate anyways.

May God’s Love be with you.

Real Medicine

Proverbs 4:20-22
Proverbs 4:20-22

My wife was telling me how she really enjoyed a message she heard from Joyce Meyer. In it, Joyce mentioned how wonderful medicine is. Got a headache? No problem. Tylenol can help. It knows where to go and what to do to help you.

But you have to put it in your body first.

It wouldn’t do any good to take that Tylenol and place it on top of your head. It activates once it’s inside you.

God’s Word can’t do any good for you until its in you. You must place it in your heart. Once inside, God’s Word knows where to go and what to do to help you. If The Bible remains just a book that you flip through here and there, it’s doing about as good as placing it on top of your head.

“My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.” Proverbs 4:20-22

The more you get into The Word, the more The Word gets into you! It is life and health to all your body.

God is the Great Physician and His Word is the the medicine your soul so desperately needs to be healed!

Take two and call me in the morning.

May God’s Love be with you

Dungeon Songs

Acts 16:24
Acts 16:25

Ever get a song stuck in your head? Of course you have! The Belle Stars’, “Iko Iko” from the movie, “Rain Man” used to get it’s catchy claws on my brain and not let go.

Well, how about after you’ve been arrested… in a dungeon… at midnight? Still got a song rattling around up there? Kind of different, huh? Well, that’s exactly what Paul and Silas were doing when they were in prison in Philippi:

“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;” (Acts 16:25)

Nowadays, songs that get stuck in my head are Christian worship songs. That may sound weird to you, but to me it isn’t. A couple of years ago I took the K-Love “30-Day Challenge” of listening to only Christian music for a month… and I never looked back. That’s not my point, my point is this: we lay up things in our heart. They can either be things of God or things not of God. When you wake up with a Christian song or a Scripture verse in your head, then this is the “song in the night” that God has given you!

“The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalms 42:8)

Prison at midnight might not seem like a great place for singing. But in fact, it was ideal. Note that “the prisoners were listening to them.” What a witness! How many of Paul and Silas’s fellow inmates were converted that night? It’s hard to tell.

It’s also hard to tell who’s listening to you. And make no mistake, nonbelievers are listening. What are you singing? What songs are stuck in your head? God can give you songs in the night and it will be a prayer to the God of your life!

May God’s Love be with you

Re: Daily Devotion with Greg Laurie, “Songs in the Night”

Foolish Arguments

2 Timothy 2:23,24
2 Timothy 2:23,24

Recently there was a debate over Creationism between Bill Nye (The Science Guy) and Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis). Here’s the link if you missed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI

Both parties were respectful of the other’s stance, therefore this was a civil debate rather than a heated argument. However, I couldn’t help but think of  2 Timothy 2:23,24:

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (NIV)

Paul purposely and repeatedly cautioned Timothy against “un-instructive” questions that ultimately benefited no one. These type of arguments breed pointless feuds among Christians and ministers let alone with secularists. Don’t have anything to do with them. Other translations read: Reject them. Flee from them. Avoid them.

Before there is a backlash, allow me be plain: Asking questions is not foolish and stupid. We are encouraged to do so! However, whether the earth is 6,000 years old or 6,000,000,00 years old really doesn’t change my relationship with the LORD in the littlest bit.

In the end, our focus should be on Jesus. A good student imitates his/her teacher. Our teacher is Jesus. He did not have anything to do with foolish arguments, quarrels, or disputes. He was a beacon of meekness, mildness, and gentleness.

Our Faith grows from believing and practicing what God desires, not from guessing how old a rock is.

May God’s Love be with you