Fight the Tide: Purity

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As a nation (and even as a church in many ways), we have allowed the enemy to steal our purity out of our hands.

I believe we can get it back, but it will be a battle and the minute you begin to fight, the enemy will be right there headstrong against you. Satan knows that sexual sin can keep people in bondage like no other, but I have good news – the enemy has been defeated! So dust off your sword, put on your armor, and fight for your purity! Here’s three things that have helped me over the years that you can actively do to fight against the tide of impurity:

1. Memorize The Word – Psalm 119:9, 11 say, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to Your word…I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” One of our biggest weapons for fighting the enemy according to Ephesians 6 is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Memorize it. Hide it in Your heart. Write it down on post-it-notes and stick it everywhere you will see it often.

Here’s a topical list of Purity Scriptures that have helped me over the years.

2. Remove The Source

In college I walked into one of my friend’s rooms and on his TV there was an index card with this on it: “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile” (Psalm 101:3).

Sometimes the only way to not look at something with approval is to not look at it at all – even if it means removing it. Take extreme measures! I think this is what Jesus meant when He said to gouge your eye out if it causes you to sin.

Thus, when my golf magazine arrived recently with a scantily clad woman on the cover, I simply tore the cover off. It’s better for me to simply remove the temptation.

3. Bounce Your Eyes

The book Every Man’s Battle recommends that you “bounce your eyes” when you are tempted to fixate on something you know you shouldn’t. While difficult at first, the concept really does work. If you train yourself to look away from temptation and say a prayer, asking God to help you, you will find your eyes don’t stay where they shouldn’t and thus your mind stays more pure.

Memorizing the Word and calling it to mind in moments of temptation, removing the source of temptation, and bouncing your eyes from temptation are three practical ways you can fight for your purity. The bottom line is: fight! Pray for someone to hold you accountable and fight with them.

What’s one thing you can do today to fight for your purity?

Fight the Tide: Debt

I’m indebted to Dave Ramsey for many ideas in this post. Please click here to obtain some of his great resources on personal finance.

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The second area we need to fight against the tide of our culture in is debt. Considering the average American spends $1.25 for every $1 they make, we must fight against how others around us are using their money.

While the Bible doesn’t necessarily say it’s a sin to have debt, it seems to point to it as something that will come with some consequences: Proverbs 22:7 says, “the borrower is servant to the lender.” Being a servant to a lender may come with less peace and an increased stress level, amongst other things.

So, what should we do? I’d like to offer three ideas towards financial peace – two words which Dave Ramsey says don’t go together very well (but are possible to obtain!):

1. Make a budget and use cash. You need to know where your money is going. Write down every dollar you spend each month and compare it to what’s coming in. What’s going out must be equal to or less than what’s coming in. If it’s not, you’ll have to decide what you can live without, simply put. When you pay with cash your brain actually registers that a transaction is happening. With plastic, this doesn’t happen – you don’t feel like you’re spending money and thus, statistics prove you spend much more with plastic than cash.

2. Create an Emergency Fund. Stuff just happens, right? Dave Ramsey suggests saving $1,000 in an emergency fund as the first thing you do in your financial plan. Most emergencies fall within this amount, so having this set aside will ensure that you can move forward with other financial priorities and not be stressed about a furnace repair, your child breaking your glasses, or your muffler falling off. Oh, and Christmas is not an emergency.

3. Pay off All Debt Besides Your House. Sure, one day you should work towards your house, but not at first. Dave Ramsey suggests something called “The Debt Snowball” to help you do this. My wife and I had combined student loans totaling $28,500 coming into marriage. My wife was in school our first couple years of marriage, so we didn’t get ahead much in that season, but we did learn how to live off of just my income. When she got hired as a teacher, we tithed 10% of her income, saved 10% and put 80% towards our student loans. We paid them off in two years, one month before our first child was born. As new parents, the feeling of having no debt besides our house was phenomenal. Sure, we sacrificed putting A/C in our house amongst other things at the time, but it was worth it.

This whole conversation is about deciding what’s most important and what you can live without. Driving used cars we’ve paid for in cash has allowed us to start a 529 plan for our son and give more. We’d like to remodel our bathroom, but are choosing not to until we’ve saved the cash to do it. All in all, it’s encouraged us to be more content and enjoy the things we do have rather than always looking ahead to what we’d like to have.

What’s one thing you can do starting right now to fight the tide against debt? Make a plan and act on it!

Fight the Tide: Consumerism

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For a long time I thought that the tensions I felt as someone trying to follow Jesus were a bad thing. In reality, I’ve learned that not having any tension is a sign that something is amiss.

The Bible says that we are “foreigners” here on earth and we ought to abstain or run away from earthly desires that wage war against our soul (see 1 Peter 2:11).

Thus, we may see how the culture looks around us, or even imitate it (knowingly or unknowingly), and then Jesus awakens us to the areas in which He doesn’t want us to look like the world, and tension is produced.

I’ve learned that these spots of tension are good. This is where Jesus is speaking to us. This is where there’s a choice presented to fight against the tide of the culture and obey Jesus, or to go with the norm.

I’m going to write a three-post series called “Fight the Tide” in which I discuss three areas of tension I’ve dealt with in my life: consumerism, debt, and purity. There’s certainly many more, but these are three that are so rampant in our culture, and it’s time that we fight the tide in these areas for His names’ sake.

Recently, something stood out to me in Colossians 3:5. Here, Paul gives a list of behaviors to “put to death.” Look at what he says about greed in this verse: “…and greed, which is idolatry.”

Greed is idolatry.

If this is true, which it is, then we have many idols.

Idols aren’t necessarily statues we erect so we can bow down to them. According to this verse, idols can be things we don’t even have, but things we want!

My whole life I’ve struggled with consumerism. I’ve become painfully aware of it in my adult years and have truly been trying to fight against the tide in this area, but it’s not easy.

Recently I needed some new clothes, so I bought some of them used and then said no to the pair of jeans I really wanted, because I would have had to go beyond the cash I had in my hand.

I’ve also been considering not buying the latest greatest phone next time my contract is up. It will save money and remind me that I can live without the newest, coolest thing.

I wish I had better answers for how to fight the tide when it comes to consumerism, but I think it’s a case by case thing we deal with while listening to the Holy Spirit. A couple tools that help:

1) Meditating on verses like 1 Timothy 1:6 (and others): “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

2) Listening to songs like Vertical Church Band’s If I Have You and Ben Cantelon’s Worth it All also help.

Wrestle with the tension of being a Jesus-follower in a foreign land. Fight against the tide of consumerism.

Jesus, please forgive us of the times we’ve followed our culture more than You. Please deepen our walk with you. Speak to us and help us to be obedient to Your still small voice, especially as it comes to fighting against greed – which is idolatry. Let us have no other gods before You, for You are Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

An Easter Reflection

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As with any holiday in the church calendar, we have an opportunity to come nearer to Jesus. However, it’s also possible to get so caught up in the tradition of the holiday that before we know it, the holiday has come and gone and we’ve missed out on an opportunity to grow closer to the One who all the traditions stem from.

So, in the midst of Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets, I’d like like to suggest that you take a few minutes to yourself and reflect on the following questions this Easter:

1) What has been raised in my life along with Jesus? What is one or more areas in your life which were sinful that have now died with Christ and risen with Him? Where are you free where you were once a slave? Spend some time reflecting upon this and giving thanks and praise to God for His salvation and it’s impact on us!

2) What is one area of my life that still needs resurrected? Sin is powerful and even once we are in Christ, sanctification (the process of becoming more like Jesus) takes time. What’s one are in your life which you know is still sinful or where you haven’t fully let go and surrendered to Jesus? Spend some time identifying that area and praying that God’s resurrection power would come into your heart in a fresh way and transform it.

Romans 8:11: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Lord, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross and the empty tomb. Thank you that all of our sins have been paid for through the death of your son, the spotless Lamb. Thank you for all the ways in which you’ve made us new! Please continue to transform us – don’t let us stay the same this Easter – continue to make us look more like you Jesus. In Your mighty and matchless name, Amen.

Appreciating the Dance in Marriage – The 80:20 Ratio

The-80-20-Ratio-The-Secret-to-760x422In 1 Corinthians 7:28, the apostle Paul says that “those who marry will face many troubles in this life.” In this passage, Paul is making a case that a single person will be less divided than a married person in their ability to serve the Lord. While he clearly states marriage is not a sin, he just reminds us that some trouble will no doubt occur for those who marry.

Thus, enter what Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls “The 80:20 Ratio.”

Dr. Eggerichs says that in many marriages, things are good about 80% of the time. There is a 20% that is going to exist even if a couple is totally selfless and loves Jesus – this is what Paul is referring to as trouble.* Simple personality differences. Differences of opinions. If left unchecked, this 20% can overtake the 80%, and before you know it, the marriage has become more negative than positive.

If couples could realize that conflict, or the 20%, is bound to occur, they could learn to “do the dance” so to speak of working through it, and the 20% could remain at 20%, or even decrease – it may even be possible to learn to appreciate the dance as it can teach us so much.

Let me give an example of what Paul is referring to when he says “trouble,” as well as how “the dance” operates:

My wife works fairly late each Wednesday night. When she comes home, she needs to wind down which she likes to do by watching a TV show before bed. It’s a legitimate need of hers.

Meanwhile, I’ve put our son down to bed and cleaned up the house, and some Wednesday nights I just want to go to sleep, even though she wants me to stay up with her. It’s a legitimate need of mine.

Who’s right? We both are.

Thus, enters the dance. We have to talk through it, either one of us submitting to the other, or coming up with a third solution.

Or, we could allow this small trouble to grow, and this 20% moment could blow out of proportion.

This is just an example – this could be applied to big and little things ranging from finances, to parenting, to sex, to how one squeezes the toothpaste.

The point is, we need to learn to realize that trouble will come (sometimes we get mad that we are having the trouble in the first place!), and learning to “do the dance” is a must.

It’s possible, with God’s help, we may even learn to appreciate the dance as it may lead to better solutions than we would have come up with as individuals.

God wants us to be one in our marriages.

Do you find yourself getting frustrated that there are frustrations in your marriage?

Trouble is bound to come for those who are married – let’s learn to “do the dance” so we can keep 80% (or more) of our marriage good.

*Please realize that 80 and 20 are arbitrary numbers chosen for example only – for some couples it may be more or less, etc.

Popsicle Prayers

IMG_448467240As our family has grown, the pace of our life has increased, as has the tension of struggling to find space to truly pray for others. While we have rhythms with quiet time, praying before meals, and bedtime prayers, we desired to have a space where we could pray for the many friends and family we have, as well as those special requests that come along. If we say “yes” to praying for someone who asks, we not only want to honor that, but we want to lift up those things in faith knowing that God will hear and respond.

Thus, enter “Popsicle Prayers.” My wife Emily had the idea of writing down our family, friends, and those special requests on popsicle sticks and putting them in a jar. Each time we sit down to eat dinner together, we have our son Atticus pick a popsicle stick from the jar (which he loves by the way). Then, we simply pray for that person and their needs along with thanking Jesus for our food.

Some of the benefits of this exercise we’ve found are:

-It doesn’t require additional time to be set aside – we include it when we already pray before meals

-It ensures that we can truly pray for all of those we care about in some sort of rotation

-Our son is learning to pray for others

So, I’m sharing this with you because if you are on the go and desire to create a bit more space for your family to pray, this is a simple and practical way to do it. Feel free to tweak and play with this idea, and I’d love to hear what you do with it or other ways you’ve found to incorporate prayer into your family life!

Knowing God (Week 5): Truly Knowing Him

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Rather than focusing on a specific attribute for this final post in the Knowing God series, I’d like to give a final overview of the topic, along with some application.

While it is good to know things about God, the ultimate goal is to truly know God and have a relationship with Him.

I can say I know Tiger Woods, but this wouldn’t be true. I don’t have a relationship with him. I know he’s a golfer who made some mistakes, and now has a lot of work to do if he wants to catch Jack Nicklaus’s records. But I don’t know Tiger Woods.

Similarly, knowing facts about God, doesn’t necessarily mean we truly know God.

Nonetheless, learning the information about the attributes of God is an important component of knowing Him better; it leads to a stirring of our hearts, which births a desire to know God better.

The prayer I’ve been praying for myself and everyone else on this knowing God journey has been what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17).

Maybe you know a lot about God, but don’t feel a deep connection with Him right now.

Maybe you know Him well but are longing to get to know Him even better.

No matter what position you’re in, ask God to give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better, and see how He responds.