Gaining by Abstaining

1 Thess 4_3_4_Gaining By Abstaining

If you’re like me, you probably learned only half the truth.  As a child I thought that to “abstain” from anything was to go completely without it – to give something up totally, at least for a period of time.

That’s not wrong – it’s just incomplete.  The Greek word used in Scripture for “abstain” is formed by two smaller words that literally mean “to have one thing by letting go of another.”  The actual focus in abstinence is NOT on what is given up, but upon what is GAINED by doing so!

Take for example Paul’s instructions below regarding immoral sexual activity.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable… (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

Certainly the followers of Christ were to forego sex outside of marriage.  However to focus solely on what they were “giving up” was only part of the story.  When Scripture tells us to give something up, it generally provides a better alternative.  In the passage above, what is gained while letting go of immorality is self-control, holiness, and honor.  May we never overlook God’s better alternatives.

Think about the things God may have asked you to do without.  Now, ask Him to show you all you’ll gain by doing so. –Dave

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No Solitary Stones

1 Peter 2_4_5_No Solitary Stones

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

It’s a beautiful picture really.  As we draw near to Christ, THE living Stone, we become like living stones ourselves.  Stones which God puts together in unique ways to form spiritual houses which serve Him.

I know very little about building houses; however, I know that a single stone can’t make a house by itself.  A house needs many stones to be complete.  Stones which form a foundation.  Stones which form exterior walls; some for interior walls.  Other stones become steps, a few become doorways.  Each individual stone is important, but no stone alone makes much of anything.

To illustrate this point one Sunday, I printed off a picture of my local church, cut it into dozens of individual jigsaw style puzzle pieces, and wrote the name of one member of my class on the back of each piece.  We then attempted to complete the puzzle.  As is often true, a few people were absent, leaving big holes in our “spiritual building.”

Please don’t misunderstand; an occasional absence is unavoidable.  But if individual “stones” are frequently gone, God’s spiritual house is incomplete.  If you’ve gotten out of the habit of taking your place in the local church, why not get plugged in early this New Year? –Dave

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No More!

Ezekiel 23_27_No More

You will not look on these things with longing or remember Egypt anymore. (Ezekiel 23:27)

Another New Year is upon us and many people will be trying to make changes.  Some will try to pick up new, healthy habits; others will try to lay down some old, ugly ones.  Whether it’s dealing with unhealthy eating, toxic relationships, or some form of addiction, giving up something that’s been a large part of our life is HARD.

In fact, a common hurdle in overcoming any bad habit is conquering the fear that things will never actually change.  There is a very real concern that the thing/person/activity we’ve indulged will continue to have its hold on us.  The craving will never cease.

Friends, that’s a lie!  Any number of former addicts will tell you that the cravings that once ruled their thinking and behavior fade with time.  But not only that, God wants to help you replace anything in your life that competes with Him.  Such was the case when the Israelites were practicing idolatry.  God’s people had incorporated the worship of lifeless idols into their everyday practices.

Yet God didn’t want His people to worship anything but Him – so He put an end to the pull idols had on their hearts.  They would not long for, or remember with fondness, “those days.”  Not only would God help them be rid of their unhealthy practices, He would help them forget they had ever been caught up in them too!

If this new year finds you clinging to an old habit or sin – ask the Lord to end your longing for it.  He is faithful, and He wants nothing to master your life but Him.  –Dave

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Swing That Bat!

2 Timothy 1_7_Swing that Bat

His childhood story was very relatable!  As Al shared his experience in Little League baseball, my mind went back to my own.  I was decent at most sports – but baseball and I never got along too well.  The reason?  I was bad at it.  Besides, Little League pitchers are wild and baseballs hurt when they hit you!  In fact, my team’s “best” pitcher was known as “Beanie” Henry because he hit so many batters!

But I digress.  Back to Al’s story.  He too wasn’t a future All-Star and he frequently struck out at the plate.  So frequent were his swings and misses, he figured his only shot at reaching base was to either be walked or hit by a pitch.  So he determined never again to lift the bat from his shoulder.  For the rest of his first and only season, he never took another swing!  In his words:

When a man swings and misses, he knows failure and humiliation. Incompetence is exposed and shame is the by-product.  Even if he swings and hits, he feels the pressure of expectations.  After all, if you hit once, you should be able to hit again.  It is easier to rest the bat on your shoulder and wait for the occasional walk.

Sadly, that’s a picture of many of our lives – standing still, afraid to budge.  Wanting to move but holding back because of a prior and greater commitment to safety.  It’s always safety first – in jobs, relationships, or living out our faith.

Yet to be fully alive, the bat must be lifted from the shoulder and frequently swung!  Sometimes we’ll make contact, sometimes we won’t.  But God created us to take the swing.  He doesn’t want us simply holding the bat in fear.  Today, ask the Lord to help you exercise the spirit of boldness He’s given you, then swing that bat! –Dave

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

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Accidental Reminder

Exodus 13_8_9_Accidental Reminder

It had been a whirlwind holiday season.  In addition to the usual Christmas festivities, our family celebrated my parents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary the following weekend.  “Busy” doesn’t begin to describe the week!

However once the New Year had passed, I pulled the memory card from my camera and viewed the scenes I’d captured (but couldn’t remember taking) on my laptop.  And there it was – a video that I hadn’t intended to take!  At some point while unwrapping gifts Christmas morning with just my immediate family (wife and two daughters), I had apparently hit “Record” on my camera and set it down under the tree. Lol.

For the next 8 minutes and 57 seconds, the video showed nothing but the underneath side of our tree.  But the audio captured 9 minutes of non-stop running commentary!  There were multiple conversations, numerous inside jokes, and a TON of laughter.  I belly-laughed again while listening to the audio.

Why share this with you today?  Because I think we all need these simple reminders of God’s goodness to us.  As I was rushing through the Christmas season, about all I could see were the endless activities.  But in His goodness, God gave me an “accidental reminder” of the joy He’s provided to me through my family.  It was a sweet kiss on the cheek from heaven.

When times get busy or difficult, we tend to forget God’s goodness to us.  That’s why He encourages us to remember.  What reminders of God’s goodness can you point to today? –Dave

On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. (Exodus 13:8-9)

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Numbered Days, Wise Hearts

Sunday_Psalm 90_12_Numbered Days

Lord, make us aware of the brevity of life, that we might use our time wisely.

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From Themselves

Habakkuk 1_7_From Themselves

During their reign of power, the Babylonians were feared throughout the world.  At one point, God used Babylon to humble His chosen people, Israel.  Recently when I read a portion of that story, I found something I’d overlooked previously.  About the Babylonians, God said:

They are fierce and terrifying; their views of justice and sovereignty stem from themselves…their strength is their god.  (Habakkuk 1:7,11, HCSB)

It’s fascinating (and chilling) to see the link the Lord makes between people being terrifying and the fact that such people derive their views of justice and power solely from themselves.  When man sees himself as the highest power, watch out!  He’s his own god and whatever he says goes.  Such people believe they’re accountable to no one.  The result?  Fierce and powerful people who do terrifying things to those who are weaker.

My hope today is not that we will end the reigns of terror brought by others, but that as followers of Christ we will continuously surrender to the Sovereign One.  That we will look to the Lord as our source of strength and allow Him to define right and wrong.  If we don’t, we’re just as likely to become little terrors to those around us.

The passage warrants the question:  Who truly calls the shots in your life?  Is it God, or is it you?  –Dave

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