Addicted To The Present
“Let us eat and drink, you say, “for tomorrow we die! Isaiah 22:13
“For as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their God is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:18-21
You are a creature of the present! We all are. The present powerfully overrides the future; even when there is something future greatly anticipated which might be adversely impacted by what you do now. It is in your DNA which was enormously redirected by what happened in Eden. The fruit of the tree right in front of Eve’s eyes was more desirable for her to immediately satisfy her appetite of mind and body than God’s words of warning that there would be seriously bad consequences. We have Eve’s and Adam’s nature too, you know; subsequently, we always perceive the “need to satisfy a present demand even when it means sacrificing the future. Among those who do have an assurance of future eternal life, coming from trusting in the only way to life by faith in Jesus Christ, are terribly influenced by immediate desires. Again, it is an addiction of a fallen nature leading inevitably to pain when God’s warning is ignored.
The Apostle Paul writes that we ought to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18) That is the rub, isn’t it? The seen is too powerful to fight, unless faith is even more powerful. The addiction of the seen and the present must be broken by what is infinitely more important. This is what faith is about.
The PAYH works with young men to whom the addiction of the present is the predominant force in their life. Six or eighteen months are to them a lifetime away. So the contemplation or possibility of eternal life or a transformed life (which is an unknown to them) isn’t even on their radar screen, especially if it can’t happen or be experienced today with the click of a finger. After all, life transformation by its very nature needs to be lived out to experience the transformative changes as it faces the demands of life in one challenge after another. The demands of what they have already known are powerful forces which dominate daily dreams and desires. “Feed the appetite, their mind and body cry out, “the future can take care of itself. The prevailing thinking is I will cross that bridge when I come to it in the future, while the future keeps getting pushed off by the ever-rolling present.
In a recent article in Science Observer entitled “Addicts Bet on the Present the author wrote, “Humans can use abstract ideas to veto their biological instincts. You can go on a hunger strike until literally you die in pursuit of an idea. There’s no other animal on the planet that can do that,” explains Read Montague, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Addicts seem to lose some of this capacity, he says: “What it means to be an addict is that consequences that might happen in the future—good things that you may forgo, or bad things that you may not be able to avoid—can no longer stop you from chasing your habit.”
Yet in varying forms this malediction of addiction to the present, even when the addiction is not necessarily substance abuse, rears its ugly head in all of our lives. It will be so until eternity’s promise is so overwhelmingly present and desirable in you that it literally slays the addiction of the seen and those temptations dissipate as not worthy of consideration. The addiction of the present ought to be anticipated in your heart and mind simply because staying in God’s Word will not let you forget it. His Word is an ever-present “light to your path. It shines a light on the present that puts it in right perspective. It is like a “blue light that shows things your naked eye will not pick up without. Do not be misled; even a Christian fights addiction to the present. The addiction can only be broken by another habit, the habit of being in the Word, the discipline of your faith, and the constant of being in prayer. They NEVER become unnecessary in combatting addiction to the present. Be addicted rather to the future; the future of eternity with Christ. Never let that out of your sight.
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Biting Your Lip In An Age of Persecution
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:32
“Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives. Ezekiel 13:22
Very recently during the World Cup, as avid watchers were being distracted by watching a game, Muslim Jihadists entered Kenyan homes with weapons and once determining the inhabitants were not Muslim, and especially if they were followers of Jesus, they executed them on the spot. This has not happened yet in America, but it is coming. What is true in America and elsewhere is that many Christians have concluded that “silence is golden as God’s commandments are broken and ignored in their midst, and evil continues its march through the society, with the approval of the majority, either by verbal approval, even if half-hearted, or by silent acquiescence. To remain silent is essentially to approve. In this case the “discretion of silence is not the better part of valor or obedience to God’s instruction (see above texts). Silence is an encouragement for neighbors (your fellowman) to continue in evil practices and will fail to save any lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the face of persecution which took his life as a twentieth century martyr said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
The “downside of speaking out is exactly why you choose to remain silent in the first place; the invitation of persecution through scorn or worse. Remember your Lord’s words, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward IN HEAVEN, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12) However, the Word of God directs the tone and choice of your words as you stand up to evil choices and calling evil what it is: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6); and, always “Speaking the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
Yet, the Scriptures do not approve of biting your lip when truth is “stumbling in the streets. Rather, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13.16). Your deeds AND your words are equivalent to the watchman on the walls who sounds the trumpet (Ezekiel 33). Do not succumb to blandness, but rather retain your salt, the salt of a true disciple of Jesus, who is your life. Where would we be if we only had the example of God’s deeds and not His Words to accompany those deeds, like Creation and atonement? General revelation, like Creation and the Incarnation, falls on deaf ears because of our hardness, but when God spoke, what he had done came to life in the majesty of truth; General and Special Revelation combine to bring life!
If silent, and I might add low-information and non-salty, professing Christians had only exercised their right to vote, received as a blessing from God, America would not have the current administration, which flouts its opposition to God’s Law and hastens the slide of America into Godlessness, categorized elsewhere as “slouching toward Gomorrah. The GENUINE Christian will not choose to be a spiritual recluse in his or her world; the Bible does not allow for such. Your opportunities to speak and do righteous deeds are numerous, even if you are not looking for them. If you indeed are a follower of the Lamb, those opportunities are flowing toward you like a river. How long will you nuance the opportunities away and hold back from speaking clearly, boldly, and in love, so that the words of life may clearly find their mark? I fear too many are so cautious and slow to get to the point of the Good News that the attentiveness of your listeners dissipates into their continued march into a hardness of their practices and worldview; all the time thinking that you approve of their actions and ill-conceived philosophy of life. Relationship building is important, but how many months and years must pass before a clear view of the gospel message is presented?
The time really is short. It is past time for every true believer to attend to Paul’s words of truth: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching (talking, conversing) to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet (and mouths) of those who bring good news! (Romans 10:14-15) You cannot do this if you continue to bite your lip; silence is not golden where the gospel is concerned.
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The Other Side of the Equation
Listen to the news, a conversation at work, or even around the ball field and it isn’t uncommon to hear the statement; “The problem is…
Fill in the blank with any kind of issue from workplace to home to youth today to marriage to really just about anything. Problems, problems, problems. It’s hard not to grow discouraged when all you hear anyone talk about is all that’s wrong.
Why do problems exist? It’s easy to lay the responsibility at the feet of people, society, government, selfishness, etc. But sometimes problems can be far simpler. When you are hungry and there is no food around to eat, that’s a problem. From something as simple as a sandwich to topics far more complicated, when we want anything and there is no immediate way to meet that desire, a problem exists.
But what about the other side of the equation? Solutions come as we discover how to meet those needs. At the base of all those needs, are our desires. Some good, some bad. Problems are rooted in desires, so it is not a huge stretch to say that the problems I see are rooted in me. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan He was calling the audience’s attention to not only who took action, but exposed that their own inaction was rooted in themselves.
So how do we change the tenor of our conversation where we move from describing the problem to speaking of the solution? The beginning of that change is with our own perspective. In the book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller makes the point that “Only you have complete access to your own selfishness, and only you have complete responsibility for it. That means the only person’s selfishness we can control is our own.
Wow. The solution to the problem starts with me. Change starts with one, it starts with me. So when you hear people discussing problems, you have to recognize the first place to start is with yourself. If you don’t like what you see in your children, start with you. If you don’t like what you see in your church, start with you. If you don’t like what you see in your community and work place, start with you. You can be a part of the solution, so take action.
So, here are some suggestions on how to take action:
- Be accountable – That means tell others what action you are going to take. By telling others, it makes it harder to back out of what you want to do.
- Be willing to discuss the “how’s rather than the “what if’s – Pretending doesn’t really get you anywhere, it also wastes time and prevents you from starting. When you think about how, it changes your perspective from negative to positive.
- Start where you are. Maybe your mission field is to bring the Gospel to China. Or you want to see cancer cured. Or you want to be a part of changing the lives of youth and their families. No matter how big a problem you want to solve, you have to start where you are and you do that by starting with one. Confidence grows over time.
- Start small. Every step you take doesn’t have to be massive. You simply have to start by taking small steps and repeating them over and over again.
- Nurture ideas, take action. Ideas are important but they are also easy. They only become significant when put to action.
- Be excited. Why would anyone get behind something if you are not excited about it? Excitement builds confidence, changes perspective, but most of all, it’s contagious.
Change starts with one, it starts with you. If you are tired of hearing people speak of the problems, be a part of changing the tone of the conversation. Move the discussion from the problems to asking what the solution is. The whole atmosphere will change from negative to positive. Be a part of change! Take action today and start with you.
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Lead Them To The Cross
“He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior…You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth…Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. From the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:15, 18, 46, and 47
Many fathers have done well and many have not. Some have started well and faded in the good course. Some have begun badly and redeemed their calling by repenting the past. It is never too late to have it turned around. God’s indomitable grace is always able to overcome the consequences of bad parenting even though the path has been filled with heartbreak; it is the finish line that ultimately matters the most for a father and his children. It is better by far to start well and continue the race to the end, but this is not often the reality. No matter where you are on the life journey of a father, it is never too late to turn to the most important character trait of being a father: leading your children to the Rock!
The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) is a powerful passage for fathers. It points you to the One who is the model for every father and shows His character traits as He does what every father ought to emulate in loving his children, who are the apple of His eye; and in your case, the apple of your eye. For every father there is no more important part of being a father than this: leading your children by word and example to the Rock of their salvation! Your circumstances may be very difficult, your health may be poor, your time may be short, but if you are a father, whatever circumstances or time God grants you, your highest priority as a father is to somehow lead them to the Rock, the Savior.
This doesn’t begin when they are a teenager; it doesn’t even begin when they are five; it begins before conception by loving God foremost and loving their mother as yourself. If God your Father knew you in the womb (Psalm 139), you also must treasure this time in your child’s life. You guard your child by loving and caring for his mother through the prenatal period, praying with discipline for your development as a father and the development of your child; and practicing the traits of practical and spiritual fathering; how will you carry out this task: “commanding your children to obey carefully all the words of this law, which is your life.
Non-conversant infants are daily being nurtured in the incubator of the home, and the demeanor of this atmosphere communicates volumes long before your child can tell you about it. Augustine once said, “Give me a child until he is seven and he is mine for life. Whose will your child be by the time he or she is seven, fourteen, twenty-one? I hope he or she will be yours, because you are fully God’s, and because you obey His words, your child will also in emulating you; because you have gone repeatedly to the Rock yourself, and by example and word, you have led him or her there. Children want a father they can securely follow and children have a natural proclivity to follow a father whose life and character are worth following.
Unfortunately for them and for you this doesn’t always happen when the years of their young life are so powerfully impressionable. This Father’s Day be reminded of this truth: wherever you are in the life journey of being a father, which continues to the end of this life, it is never too late for you to go to the Rock, repent, turn from your past, and by example first and word second, lead your adult children, and grandchildren to the Rock. The failure of the past does not need to leave you in paralysis, continuing your status quo because you believe it’s too late. Jesus has not come and you have not died; use the time you have left to get yourself right with Him, and then by the example of your love and care, coupled with the observable change in you, with genuine apology, restore relationships with your children and pray earnestly for their salvation. Every child yearns for a loving, right relationship with their father even though many years of rough passage have gone by. The familial connection seldom loses its power, especially when the child, even as a parent them self, sees a transformation in their Daddy.
Never underestimate the power of grace to redeem the past, and bring genuine hope to the present.
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Sleep That Will Kill
“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. I Thessalonians 5:6-10
In the Vietnam War one of my difficult tasks as a Rifle Platoon Leader was keeping the soldiers in my platoon awake when they were on guard in the enemy occupied jungle where we were bivouacked for the night; sleep often meant death. On the other hand, insomnia is a wretched thing, though in Vietnam on guard duty it would have come in handy! Billions and billions of dollars are spent on sleep aids all over the world every year. We require sleep; sleep is necessary to life and sanity. This Bible passage speaks, however, of TWO kinds of sleep; physical and spiritual. Most people who are asleep spiritually have absolutely no idea they are. Physical sleep deprivation is all too obvious. Everyone knows when they are sleep deprived and they let you know it too! Very few know until they are in deep crisis, and not even know what to do then, that they are immersed in deadly spiritual sleep. It is not that there is no fair warning about this disease; the Bible literally shouts throughout its pages, “Wake up, wake up, before it is too late! The dreadful consequence of spiritual sleep descends in a moment on all those who are blissfully “enjoying it just like “a thief in the night or “a pregnant woman going into labor. (I Thessalonians 5:1-3) No one can precisely predict when they will be precipitously awakened to literal terror with no means of escape (Psalm 73:18-20). The pain of insomnia is no comparison!
Most people whether professing Christians or of some other religion, whether practical or intentional atheists or agnostics, would never describe themselves as asleep. In fact, they would vehemently deny it saying they are the ones awake to a modern world and life; awake to science, awake to antinomianism, awake to the reasonableness of denying the existence of absolutes, awake to the freedom of living life without restraint, awake to the meaning and practice of tolerance (except the tolerance, of course, of those who disagree with them). This does not describe a free person; rather a prisoner to their own vices, possessing a woeful inability to be satisfied in relationships in any permanent fashion, always requiring some means of escape from the realities of their lives. One can truly hear the “spiritual snore of the society as we see it crumbling around us; families breaking apart, violent homicidal responses to trivial things, mental instability, abuse of women and children, slave trafficking, oppression of all kinds of people throughout the world, truth repeatedly violated and stumbling in the streets. Yes, spiritual sleep has descended almost universally on a world oblivious to the promised return of Christ. Most deny spiritual sleep because they have no idea what it is.
There is the spiritual sleep of willful ignorance; ignorance of spiritual truths, ignorance of the existence of God, of a moral universe where spiritual principles govern, and there are consequences of immoral behavior; ignorance of the reality of sin, its curses and its antidote. There is the spiritual sleep of addictions; illegal and legal substance abuse, to include medical prescription abuse, even legal marijuana abuse; alcohol or sexual addictions, entertainment, and its opposite, boredom addictions; anything to avoid reality, living life mired in illusions and fantasy, not knowing or experiencing life’s true beauty, freedom, and hope of eternal life. If these addictions describe you or someone you know, an awakening from sleep must be jump started soon; for procrastination, according to this text, is disastrous, the action of a fool. This text describes a spiritually awake person as one who is self-controlled, no addictions or abuses are tolerated or required; alert, with their spiritual senses firing on all cylinders (the meaning of being filled with the Spirit- Ephesians 5:17-18); clear-headed, knowing what and Who truth is; practicing faith and love as protectors of their inner being; and possessing the assurance and hope of their own salvation, as a helmet protecting their brain without need of sedation.
I know a dear friend who has struggled with the horrific malady of being bi-polar for much of her life. She is down to two meds (some prescriptions are necessary when chemistries are out of whack, but not too much, nor too many which numbs alertness and self-control, and the ability to walk in intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ) and beautifully radiant in a life of ministering to others with faith and love, and visibly and verbally possessing the sure hope of salvation (I Corinthians 13:13).
Spiritual sleep and lethargy is rampant in this world; just be sure that it is not invading your life and deceiving you of its presence. It is a sleep that will kill!
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