Don’t Feed the Beast

I was having coffee with a good friend recently when we shared a moment of accountability. ”How’s the battle with lust?” It’s an honest question men will readily ask/answer who sincerely desire to live Godly lives.

His response caught me in a good way… “It’s been going well. I haven’t been feeding the beast.“ I thought this was a helpful and accurate description (and even said I would be “borrowing” it.)

Wild Dog

It’s true with any sin and certainly with lust. It can either be fed or starved. We can entertain thoughts or we can guard thoughts. We can stare or we can look away. We can expose ourselves to anything and everything or we can filter what we bring into our lives.

The outcome for either choice is real.

If we choose to feed it, it will get stronger. The more we feed it… the greater its appetite becomes. If we choose to starve it, it will get weaker. Starve it long enough, and it may well eventually die.

This is why Colossians 3:5 (NLT) says, “… put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Some things need to be killed and the only way to do so is to starve it to death.

It is likely that most of us have a sin that we have been feeding for far too long. We may not even know that we have doing it. As a result, it is healthy and strong because we have given it too much power. It’s time to take away its power, even if it’s one meal at a time.

What sin have you been feeding that you need to start starving? How have you seen this to be true in your own life?

Belonging & Desire

Though brief, the Song of Solomon could be described as one of the world’s earliest romance novels. It’s detailed descriptions of affection between two lovers is enough to make even a grown man blush.

Verse 10 of chapter 7 offers a beautiful summary statement that captures the heart and essence of romance… ”I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”

Solomon 7:10

We find within this single sentence two essential components of romantic love: the blessing of belonging and the delight of desire.

Blessing of Belonging

Every human being longs to belong. This is all the more true in romantic relationships.

It’s why a teenage girl graffitis his name on her school folder. It’s why a young man gives up his hard-earned letterman jacket to be draped over her small shoulders. (Is this still a thing?) It’s why we change a relationship status on social media sites. It’s the underlying reason behind promise/engagement/wedding rings.

All of these say to the world, “I belong. I am accepted.”

When the woman says, “I am my beloved’s,” this is the implication. She is experiencing the blessing of belonging… the assurance and comfort of having been sought after, found and wanted. She has found the security of his love.

Delight of Desire

All desire has direction… our desires move us. They take us towards something or someone. Desire compels us toward action.

Just like belonging, every person wants to be wanted. They want to be the object of desire.

The woman tells us that her man has a desire and that “his desire is for me.” What a statement!

He wants something, he longs for something, and it is her. She is the object of his affection. She is the object for which his desire is being directed and is confident in his love for her. Life without her would be no life at all. “I am what he wants.”

Belonging and desire are beneficial to all relationships, but they are must-haves for lovers. If a person doesn’t feel accepted or wanted, you can forget about any resemblance of romance. With them, you have the makings of an epic love story.

How would you evaluate these in your own relationship? Does your partner have the security of belonging? Do they feel like the object of your desire? What can you begin doing today to improve in both of these areas?

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered and cannot be shouted, perhaps it should not be said at all.

Nothing to Prove

You've got nothing to prove and only One to please.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Thanks to Steven Furtick for this great quote!

Great Expectations

Expectations

Most people live in a tension of having expectations about something and subsequently dealing with the reality of whether or not those expectations become a reality.

This happens at work, ministry, marriage, and just about every area of life.

The reality of this tension means people usually do one of two things. They either set high expectations and are disappointed when those are not met or they stop having expectations altogether in order to avoid disappointment.

But there is a viable, healthy third alternative:

Set your expectations high, but be satisfied when you don’t meet them.

Continue to aim high. Dream big and want the best for things in your life. This allows us to accomplish greater things, to excel, and to do more than we think we might have otherwise.

But… whenever you don’t meet the mark set by those high expectations, don’t get discouraged. Be content. Be satisfied knowing that you did what you could and continue having high expectations.

Where do you typically find yourself in this tension?

Practical Potluck Theology

I like food and I like parties and I think God does too. I also think the church is overdo for some practical potluck theology.

potluck

Numerous passages in Scripture encourage the enjoyment of food and drink (Eccl. 9:7; Isa. 25:6; Rev. 19:9.) Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding party (John 2:1-11). He enjoyed enough dinner parties to be accused of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matt. 11:19) and he shared a post-resurrection beach barbecue with his disciples (Luke 24:40-43). 1 Corinthians 10:31 even says, “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Every aspect of a Christian’s life, including a potluck, has the potential to honor God.

So here are three practical tips for making the most of our church potlucks:

1. Make It Homemade

Far too many potlucks reveal the same scenario. It’s minutes before meal time. Little thought or effort has gone into preparing, so a mad dash is made to the grocery store. The cheapest, most convenient item is snatched up and subsequently plunked down on the table. (I understand that not everyone has the funds and/or talent for food, but this is not usually the issue.)

Instead, pull out your best recipe, spend some time in the kitchen (or over the grill) and put some heart and soul into it. It shows that you care and it’s a tangible demonstration of love for those who will partake of your culinary creation.

2. Consider Others

Potlucks have a way of turning humble saints into greedy gluttons (reference the Corinthians and Paul’s rebuke in 1 Cor. 11:17-34). The first few leave a tornado-like path of destruction while the rest of the poor souls sift through the rubble.

Let’s remember that this meal is not about getting your needs met (in this case, your stomach full) and it’s not about everyone getting what they want. It’s about people coming together in unity and doing what they can to demonstrate that other people are more important than themselves (Phil. 2:3).

3. Be Present

The best kind of feasts include much more than what goes in our mouths. They involve celebration, laughter, conversation, and people being present in the moment. While the food and drink should be savored and enjoyed, so should the people.

Be where you are. Don’t rush through the moment. Interact with others… tell stories. Get to know someone new. Laugh, play and take your time and don’t keep your face stuck in your phone.

When we do these things we will begin to understand and experience for ourselves why God values the celebration of the shared meal.

What have you experienced at your church potlucks and food celebrations? 

Choosing To Love- The only reason I’m still married.

Donovan and ShellyMy wife and I recently celebrated 18 years of marriage, and it’s for one reason only… choosing to love.

If someone were to graph our marriage, we would see mostly good moments, quite a few high points, and a few low spots. Truth be told, Shelly (my wife) is easy to be married to. I, on the other hand, am not.

During one of our more trying seasons, I remember Shelly saying to me, “I love you, but I don’t like you.” It took me a minute, but I understood exactly what she was trying to say.

When the New Testament was written, there were four major Greek words for what we now singularly call ”love.”

Eros love is a romantic love. It exists between people who are physically attracted to one another. As you might imagine, eros is lost when romance or physical attraction is lost.

Storge, is a love that exists because of familiarity. We would associate it with fondness or affection. It naturally exists in relationships between parents and children or maybe between close friends. It’s strength is also it’s weakness, because when familiarity or fondness goes, storge goes with it.

Phileo love is when someone has a strong emotional connection to someone or something. We might characterize it primarily as a feeling. As we’ve seen with the previous loves, when feelings fade, phileo fades.

Agape, the fourth and final love, is altogether different and is essential to the health and long-term success of any marriage. It’s the love my wife gives to me and is the reason I’m still married.

Agape love is not emotional, it’s volitional. It’s a deliberate choice- an act of the will. Agape says “I’ve made a decision to love you.” It has nothing to do with whether someone deserves our love. It’s a unique love because of what it does, not because of how it feels.

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling… no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…” C.S. Lewis

Jesus teaches us that there is a superior kind of love that is greater and stronger than all other loves. The “I’m choosing” love that is agape. This is why He can paradoxically tell us to love (agape) our enemies. He doesn’t command us to be fond of our enemies or to have good feelings for our enemies, He commands us to choose to act in a loving way towards them.

So, do we resign ourselves to being stuck in a marriage where there is no eros (romance), storge (fondness) or phileo (feeling) love? Not necessarily.

Tim Keller says it well, “Love is an action first and a feeling second. If you love people, eventually you’ll come to like them.” When we choose to love (agape), many times feelings will follow. This is what gets us through the low spots.

Any other lesser-love will fail both you and your marriage. They always will. But there is a greater love that is available should we embrace it. A love that makes marriages last… it’s called agape.

What kind of results have you seen from these different kinds of love in your own marriage?

Making Progess- Four Simple Steps to Getting Where You Want to Be

Most people have an area of their life, either personally or professionally, they would like to work on to make improvements. The challenge isn’t having the desire to make something better, it’s actually doing something about it.

Doc - Jan 24, 2013, 12-05 PM

Here is the simplest approach I’ve found to make changes in whatever area you want to work on.

1) Know where you are.

This is the easiest step and probably the reason you’re even thinking about making changes in the first place… there’s an element of dissatisfaction.

2) Identify where you want to be.

Be as specific as possible. The more you can “see” what it would look like and be like the better.

3) Decide what you have to do to get there.

This is your “to-do” list. Again, be as specific as possible without bogging yourself down to the point that you get overwhelmed.

4) Do it.

This is always the hardest step, but when we see how the “doing” actually moves us where we want to be, it serves as a powerful motivator.

What other advice or recommendations would you offer to help someone get where they want to be?

Lessons From Lance Armstrong We All Need To Remember

The story of Lance Armstrong’s fall should not surprise us. Fundamentally, it is a story about a struggle against sin. Though the details change from person to person, his story is an old one and is often repeated.

Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong

Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve in the garden. To greatly simplify how the events of the “original sin” unfolded, it went something like this: they saw the fruit, they wanted the fruit, they took the fruit, and then they desperately tried to hide the fact that they had taken the fruit.

That’s how the story of sin goes… we see, we want, we take, we hide. None of us escapes it.

As we wrestle with sin in our own lives, we would do well to keep these five things in mind:

1. Sin is Alluring

We all know that when sin begins to draw us in, we’re not exactly thinking straight. We might know something’s wrong, but sin whispers in our ear until we find a way to rationalize and justify our actions (James 1:14-15).

2. Sin is Never Secret

We would like to think that we can keep things hidden, but sin has a remarkable way of being uncovered and discovered. It’s better to just assume that it will. Even ‘secret’ sins will not remain secret forever (Luke 12:2-3, 1 Cor. 4:5).

3. Sin Affects Self

Sin carries a heavy burden. It causes separation in our relationship with God. We miss out on God’s presence and power in our lives. It traps us in guilt and shame and immobilizes us from ministry. It numbs our hearts, steals our joy, and robs us of abundant life.

4. Sin Affects Others

My sin cannot be isolated from you and your sin cannot be isolated from me. There is always a direct and/or indirect effect of our sin on others. Alexander Maclaren says it well, “… no man’s sin terminates in himself.”

5. Sin Has a Solution

Jesus went to the cross to rescue us from our sin. His grace is amazing because he offers us the forgiveness none of us deserve. He lovingly fixes, redeems and restores everything we made a mess and “makes all things new.”

What other lessons have you seen or learned about our shared struggle with sin?

The Secret to Anxiety Free Decision Making

People make thousands of choices every day. While most are fairly trivial, all of us occasionally face decisions that carry greater weight. The pressure to make just the “right choice” often results in a deluge of negative emotions including anxiety, fear, and even paralysis in making the decision.

Decision Dice

Many times, the pressure is actually self-induced based upon an untrue assumption. What is the assumption? Perfect knowledge.

It’s stating the obvious, but the truth is, human beings are not omniscient (all-knowing.) That means we do not have perfect knowledge and we will never entirely understand the myriad of factors related to any situation. This is why Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… do not lean on your own understanding.”

So, take into consideration any wisdom that God has given that relates to your decision and make your choice. You may or may not make the perfect decision, or even the best decision, but that’s okay. Why? Because of the secret to anxiety free decision-making… grace.

God’s grace is not only sufficient to cover our sins, His grace is sufficient to make up for any and all of shortcomings that come as a result of our sinful condition of imperfect knowledge. (Even our most self-assured decisions are guarded by His grace.)

Don’t have all the facts? It’s okay, you have grace. Afraid you might make the wrong decision? Don’t fear, rest in God’s grace. Feeling anxious over what’s best? You shouldn’t. Remember the unfailing power of God’s grace that is completely and totally sufficient to make up for any imperfections in your decision.

What decision are you facing right now that you need to trust God’s grace for?

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