Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Breaking Boards For The Glory Of God

Fighting sin is a lot like a karate chop.

I know a guy who decided to quit looking at porn and quit masturbating. He came to me and expressed some concern about the concept of never looking, ever again, and never touching himself, ever again. It's understandably hard to think about it, much the same way it would be for a drug addict to imagine never using their drug of choice, ever.

I told him, "Your focus is wrong. The sin is still the focus of your attention, even if you are saying 'I'm focusing on not sinning', because NOT sinning still puts the focus on the sin."

When we focus on not sinning, we still put the focus on sin--it's just what we do with it is different. The focus should instead be, How could I glorify God now that I'm not sinning like this?

This is why I'm saying that fighting sin is a lot like a karate chop. I've heard (and am not sure if it's true but will use the analogy anyway because that's how I roll) that when you go to break a board with a firm chop or punch, the focus should NOT be the wood. You want your hand, or fist, to get to a point two feet or so past the board. Just take your hand, and move it very quickly from where it's at, to the point behind the board. Guess what: The ultimate goal of breaking the board has been achieved but the focus was different.

The reason why they say to aim past the board is because when your focus is on the board itself, whether you realize it or not, your fist actually slows down enough that you will probably fail. Much the same way, you will probably fail if you focus simply on not sinning. You will sin though, and it's going to sting. It'll sting when you break the board as well, but not as bad as when your fist is stopped cold.

Snakes on a Spiritual Plane

Today I was reading in Psalm 18 and a lot of things jumped out. Here it is for your convenience:

The Lord Is My Rock and My Fortress
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:
18:1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.

46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who delivered me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you rescued me from the man of violence.

49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.

When I got to my lowest point of sin I basically had the same response of just turning to God to help me. I can't believe how much my life mirrors this psalm in what He's done...

None of us can save ourselves from the kind of sin that is impulsive. That kind of sin is never satisfied with a status quo, it always wants more. The only way to get out is to just plead with God to take it from you.

Bear in mind that what I'm talking about here is the type of sin that is more of an addiction than anything else--the kind where you sin because of the manufactured desire to do it. All of us sin, even after we're saved but it's the "slip-up" kind, not the "gotta-do-it" sort.

I've been tossing the word picture around about describing sin as a giant boa constrictor. They're big, strong snakes and they kill by crushing... but they're not very fast creatures. You have to stand still for awhile for one to catch you, and even then, it takes a little while for it to get enough coils around you.

Then it starts squeezing.

How similar is that? How often do we not consider that sins like drugs, or lust, or pornography are like a very sneaky snake that WILL crush you if you stand still long enough? The first picture you look at or the first joint you smoke is like seeing the snake's head appear maybe a few feet away. But it's a few feet away right? And as long as it's over there you're safe. So keep puffing.

Pretty soon it's at your feet, kind of gliding across your shoes. Look, it doesn't even have fangs and if I stand still long enough it'll probably slither away. It can't bite me, so I'm not in any danger.

Then it's actually on you, maybe a few coils around the shoulders, around a leg, around the waist. This sure is a friendly snake, you think. But it's also fairly heavy and you can sense the rippling muscle underneath its graceful, beautiful yet deadly form.

And then it starts to squeeze.

See, the problem is that you didn't move. As soon as you saw the snake, you should have been in the next county. Why is it so hard to keep a presence of mind about ourselves to just watch out for snakes? We know they're out there.

Friends, please be aware that sin is a very real, very powerful and intelligent enemy. I used to play a game that was about a special ops team that would covertly do missions. A motto used in there was, "The more you sweat in peace time, the less you bleed in war." There is no better way to display the idea here, which is, if you think sin has given up attacking you, you're wrong. The best way to defeat an enemy is to wait between attacks. Constant wailing on a target just calluses them up and makes it more difficult to kill them, so sin will wait... for a more opportune time. Even Satan waited for a better time, and he was tempting Jesus.

Battles are often decided within the first conflict. An army will have the best chance of success when their enemy is caught off guard. Run in, kill as many as possible, and if not successful, then it'll be easier to pick them off later on.

Keep on your guard.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Not too long ago I was talking with my friend Billsey about the topic of purification. Something he said made certain verses stand out to me, and I'd like to share with you this possibly new angle.

Take a look at Phillipians 3:8

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

When I got ready to make this entry, I had to ask for that reference again so I wouldn't spend much time finding it. I was told this by him:

Philippians 3:8. In the King James the translators used "dung"; in the
NIV they used "rubbish". According to what I've always been told,
"dung" is the better translation. Remember to get the context.

The thing is, people often forget that being purified is a process that takes a lifetime. To use the analogy a little more bluntly, if being purified is like pooping, keep in mind that you (should) poop every day. You are getting rid of wastes that, if left in your body, can cause you harm or even become fatal.

Much the same way, in your Christian walk, if you don't take the time to purify yourself, or to let yourself be purified by God and the Word, you too will suffer the same result.

I get upset at myself that I'm still sinning. Looking back at my own life I see mistakes made that I can't take back, but then looking ahead there's a long way to go. It's hard.

The point of this entry is to let you know that the process of being purified is not something that will happen instantly. It will take ALL the time of your life, and then God brings you home. Most human attributes we try to apply to God are of things that would take time. For example: Smelting gold to burn off the dross... takes time. So does building, or creating a proper foundation. Purifying through fire is a time-taking task as well. Many things about God are in His own time. Our constant purification is one of these things.

Folks, don't let the slowness of purification stymie you. Tempering metal is not done with open flame but with hot coals. God is working to make you stronger, and this is something that will take time.

Take care,