Psalm 85:15--But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth
1 Peter 1:14,15—As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
Do you ever wonder why is it so hard to be holy? Why is it so difficult to abstain from sin? The Holy Spirit brought to mind something that was instantly convicting. I sin because I am not focused on honoring God’s will and reputation.
A friend of mine who is part of an international Christian organization shared with me that when a survey was taken with one of their ministries, 100% of the respondents admitted problems with sexual purity. Struggles ranged from marital infidelity to widespread use of pornography. The ease with which people have access to pornography on the internet is creating a crisis throughout the worldwide community of those who follow Jesus.
When God chose to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, out of love for Abraham and Lot, He sent angels to rescue Lot and his family. After literally pulling, Lot, his wife and two daughters out of Sodom, the angels told them, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back and don’t stop anywhere on the plain! Run to the mountains, or you will be swept away!” (19:17) But Lot was too afraid to flee to the mountains so he begged that the angels permit him to reach the small town of Bela. His rescuers agreed to his request and Bela became known as Zoar which means “small place.”
Addicere has serious problems. She is obsessed with pornography and she dares not take even a sip of alcohol or she will soon be drunk. This young woman is amazingly talented and comes from a home with loving parents who raised her with strong moral values. Yet despite their good example, their daughter is on a road that will end in tragedy if she does not come to a crucial spiritual understanding.
Last week I stayed at the Crown Astor in New Orleans for a military conference. On Friday night I got almost no sleep. On the fifth floor near my room was a group of visiting university students. Evidently, the guys partnered with girls to drink and engage in loud and vulgar revelry. It saddened me to think how many parents don’t care or have no idea what their children are doing.
Nahum 3:3,5,6—Charging horseman, flashing sword, shining spear; heaps of slain, mounds of corpses, dead bodies without end—they stumble over their dead . . . I am against you. This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. I will lift your skirts over your face and display your nakedness to nations, your shame to kingdoms. I will throw filth on you and treat you with contempt; I will make a spectacle of you.
Do you ever wonder what the point is for reading books of the Bible that primarily contain prophecies of God’s impending judgment against certain people and nations? Jonah, Nahum and Zephaniah all prophesied against the Assyrian empire. When Nahum predicted the impending destruction of the capital city, Nineveh, Assur-bani-pal was its evil king. Nineveh was full of bloodshed, deceit, plundering and constant warring against others (3:1).
My sinuses filled and it became ridiculous trying to breathe at night. Slowly I found my energy ebbing while my frustration grew at constantly being stuffed. Most of the summer was like this. I went to the doctor and she prescribed medication. It did not help. I went back and she gave me a stronger prescription which worked wonderfully until it ran out. Again my head felt like a piñata. I’ve never had allergies and I didn’t think I was allergic to Wisconsin but something clearly was wrong.
I can imagine what happened. She had lived there too long. Over time, she grew increasingly used to the sleaze to the point where the vices probably no longer shocked her. No doubt she and her friends gossiped about the bizarre and strange conduct of the city’s inhabitants. Perhaps she was close to the two men soon to marry her daughters. Even her husband hesitated—unsure about leaving. In the end when the persistent angels grabbed their hands and pulled the four of them outside the city warning them to run and not look back, she didn’t get far before she turned away just once to see what should not be seen. That turning away made her a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19)
Jamaal and Hannah spend hours each day playing video games. Their mother Roxanne*, says it is “okay”—at least they are not doing drugs or out on the street involved with the wrong crowd. Today we have Jamaals and Hannahs in their mid-thirties who devote hours each day to gaming. Their spiritual lives are mediocre and their contribution to advancing heaven’s agenda is abysmal. Their parents let them feed their infatuations when they were younger so long as the obsession was “harmless.” But there is no such thing as a harmless infatuation.
John 5:15—The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Never underestimate the need for approval. A man is sick for 38 years. Jesus sees him and knows his situation. He asks him if he would like to get well. Instead of answering “Yes!,” the man shares a pool of woes. You can read about it in John 5:1-7.
How fantastic would it be if we could read minds? Imagine if you could see the exact thoughts running through the brains of your family, neighbors, coworkers and even enemies! Perhaps it would not be such a great thing. It might be convicting, maddening, or massively discouraging. I propose that our behavior would be the main element that triggered people’s thoughts towards us and this would certainly heighten our awareness of consequences.
When I read newspaper and internet stories and listen to the radio and television one word leaps to mind--scheming! Republicans accuse the President and the Democratic-controlled Congress of trying to impose socialism. Democrats accuse Republicans of fear mongering and not caring about the American people. Special interest groups accuse Supreme Court justices for not holding to the Constitution. Radio talk hosts accuse the media of sensationalism and distortion. There is no happiness and unity is as easy to find as a unicorn. Perhaps we would do well to pause and to consider the nature of man.
One of the reasons I love to study the Bible is the amazing way God speaks to the times in which we live. Read what the prophet Hosea wrote to his countrymen sometime between 755 and 722 B.C. and see if his words speak to your nation.
Have you ever boycotted a product because its maker was associated with wrongdoing? A company that endorses corruption or whose reputation is tainted by sleazy actions will not last long. Reputation is not something to be taken lightly.
1 Chronicles 5:1—These were the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel. He was the firstborn, but his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, because Rueben defiled his father’s bed. He is not listed in the genealogy according to birthright.
If ever there was a need for prayer, it will be for a man named Obama. He inherits a nation at war with a stressed out economy. He will pilot a land divided in opinion in the midst of a world looking for a messiah. He will render senior leadership in a most complicated government with junior experience and little room for failure. He will face a press that is woeful in gathering all the facts and enemies that would love to see this nation destroyed. He will need wisdom from above in a culture that increasingly follows an ethical theory and practice “that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in God.”*
Eldon, an elderly couple, a widow and I chatted as we descended from the 14thfloor on our way to the banquet. Suddenly the elevator lurched and we heard what sounded like slipping chains or misaligned gears and we came to a stop somewhere just below the 6thfloor. If the cables holding us broke I figured we had about a 7-story fall and who knows what injuries we might sustain. The notion of death crossed my mind and I thought how weird and unforeseen it would be to die with my great one-star-Lord-loving boss in a hotel elevator!
I received an email last week along with scores of other pastors, from a man by the name of Rick. Because of the poor representation in Salem, Oregon’s capital, by spiritual leaders against the impending legislation that grants civil liberties and benefits to homosexuals he was spurred to send out an exhortation. He feels we are failing in our duties as shepherds to speak out against sin. His appeal caused me to think much about what it means to be earnest.