Encourage Yourself in the Lord

Several years ago, I got an offer to go work for a company in Dallas. I drove down to check everything out. Wow. I couldn’t believe rush hour traffic. Rush hour started at three o’clock and lasted until seven o’clock every evening. That is four hours. Your commute from home to work could easily be ninety minutes to two hours. My friends did it often. They would leave for the office by 6 a.m. so they could beat traffic on the way to the office, and they would come home at seven. I thought about the quality of life, and I turned that job down quickly.

In rush hour, you are never alone. There’s traffic everywhere. Everywhere you look, you see people, and you can wave and smile at people. On the other hand, sometimes if you’re driving at night on a country road, you may not see anyone for an hour.


Scripture says there is a wide path and a narrow path. I think of it in terms of traffic. The wide path is like rush hour traffic. It’s busy. Most people are on this road, going in the same direction. They’re all on a mission to get somewhere, from here to there, point A to point B. The narrow path is the less-traveled road. The people on it are few and far between. You might be walking all by yourself for a while before you see another person passing by.
I think the narrow path in Christ can feel lonely at times. You can look around and see the busy rush hour traffic, but you don’t jump in and join it. You choose to take a secondary road. It’s like deciding, “I’m getting off of interstate 40 onto this side road. I’m going to take the backwoods route.”
Think about it. When you get off onto those secondary roads, they’re more peaceful and winding. They’re beautiful. But sometimes the rest stop is a backwoods mechanic shop with a filthy bathroom. The towns are few and far between. Sometimes you have to pee in the grass. It can be challenging to take the narrow path of God because it isn’t traveled by as many people.
Christians can fall into the trap of doing things because everyone else is doing them. Sometimes we don’t even think about it or we figure, “It’s okay for this family, so it’s okay for our family.” I see Christians doing this every day. They give their kids wider and wider boundaries. What they are doing is taking them from the narrow path to the wide path. Their children start exposing themselves to entertainment and other influences that may jeopardize their purity. Before you know it, instead of following God, they are following the world.
As Christians, we need to protect the wellspring of life that is our heart and make good choices. I believe Christians should be out front. People should want to be like us. They should be following our way and wanting to make the choices we’re making because our fruit is awesome. We don’t look like the world. We love the world, but we don’t look like the world. We’re in the world but not of the world.
I will tell you right now, making the decision to stay on the narrow path no matter what is lonely at times. You are going to find that your friends on the narrow path are a wide range of ages, say seventy down to twelve. There are so few people that you have to change your perspective of what your friendship circle should look like so you can be close with people who you know are making these choices with you.
I would encourage you to connect, but when you feel lonely, encourage yourself in the Lord. Keep yourself encouraged like David in 1 Samuel 30. Don’t look to anyone else to encourage you. Enjoy their encouragement when it comes along but don’t rely on it. Don’t stand on it for strength. Stand on the Lord and His strength and remember what He has done for you already.

God Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever, Part 2

Let’s just walk through the Bible. Some people have the question, “If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then how do you reconcile the Old and the New Testaments?” They read the Old Testament through the wrath of God, constantly seeing that God was angry and correcting. You have to know that in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit didn’t live inside of people. Once they had gone really evil, starting to agree with the enemy, there was no correction other than the rod for them. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit to guide them. They didn’t have the power of God to overcome their temptations. They just became increasingly worse and worse.

If you look at the Word, God always provided for His children. From the beginning of time, He provided for Adam and Eve. Even when they left the garden, He provided the clothing. He provided the first sacrifice for them. They didn’t even have to sacrifice the first animal. He did it. God did it. He is a provider.
From the beginning of time, He has been a provider. From the beginning of time, He has been good. From the beginning of time, everything He created was good. From the beginning of time, He gave us choices. From the beginning of time, He told us we had a choice between life and death.
That still exists in the New Testament, the new covenant, today. Not just in the Old Testament, but every day, they had a choice in the old covenant. In the new covenant, they have a choice, too. They have a choice to reject Jesus. In the old covenant, they were given curses for every time they disobeyed. But if you look at the new covenant, in Galatians 3, it says Jesus became the cursed for us. If you read John 16:8, it says the Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of their sin. Their sin is that they do not believe in Jesus. 

There is one sin outstanding against mankind after Jesus came. That one sin is what separates us from receiving the power of the Holy Spirit to instruct us, guide us, comfort us, and love us. There is just one sin. That is it. Before, it was all the sins. If you look at it, God Himself took the wrath—through the body of Jesus Christ—for every sin. He took the payment. 1 John 2:2 says He died for the sins of the whole world. They are abolished. They are erased as far as the east is from the west. They are finished. It is a finished work.

This is a story. It is not a concrete thing that happened at one point in time. It has been a story of God creating us and redeeming us since Genesis 1. He created us. And since the fall, He has been redeeming us. There are dimensions to the process, so when we believe in Jesus, we are made new and we are being made new. One day, in the new world, we are going to be fully made new in a glorified body. It’s incredible. It’s an incredible story.
Only religion would keep you trapped in the mindset that God is mad and angry. If you read Isaiah 54:9, it says, “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again” (NIV). He is finished with it. He is in the prophecy of Jesus Christ. He is saying, “I am putting all of my wrath and all of my anger into Jesus’ body so you don’t have to bear it.” 

That is the same loving God who created us, redeemed us, and gave provision for Adam and Eve. He is a good God. He is a good Father. He loves you. He wants you well. He prospers you. He is continually on your side. He is standing for you. Jesus is interceding for you. He is praying to the Father all the time. He says this if you have not asked. If you ask not, then you won’t have it. If you ask, you will. He is saying, “Hey, I am just this simple Father who loves you so much. If you would just ask, it is right here waiting for you.”
But sometimes, we are so afraid He is a wrathful God who is going to be angry if we ask for something selfish or we ask for anything, we don’t even bother asking. What is really happening is we are putting ourselves in the seat of God instead of Him. It’s like saying, “Hey, I’m the one who decides what I am going to ask for and what I am not going to ask for. I am the one who is not going to tell Him the desires of my heart.” 

In intimate relationships, you share those things. Back and forth, you’re like, “These are the desires of my heart. This is what I love. I just want this so much.” It’s a conversation. It’s not begging. It’s not a vending machine. It’s not like ask and receive. It’s literally an ongoing dialog with this lover of your soul.
That is the God who gave us the Holy Spirit that lives in us, guides us, talks to us, and comforts us at every corner and in everything as long as we welcome Him and say, “Holy Spirit, would You speak to me today? Would You guide me today? Will You tell me which way to drive when I pull out of the driveway? Would You continue to remind me that there’s no condemnation in You and I am not supposed to live under condemnation? I just love You, Father.”
That God is the same. Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the “exact representation” of God (NIV). He represents exactly who God has been since the beginning of time. If you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the four Gospels—you will find that Jesus is loving and kind. He is for people. He is not against people. He wants to work in their lives. Many times, He healed entire crowds. That is who He is. 

Jesus took the punishment we deserved and took it upon Him. Not getting the punishment you deserve is called mercy. Not only that, but then He gave us a gift. That gift is called grace. That grace is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift to us that will tell us and warn us of things to come and remind us of the things we have forgotten if we would just listen and receive.
Yes, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is love. It is who He is. It’s not what He does. He is the Redeemer. He is continuing to redeem us every day until we have our new bodies.

Temple Fitness: Food Lust

Lust is a desire of the flesh. The flesh continues to press on to want and crave more and more. Its thought process is not being taken captive. But the Bible says to take every thought captive, not just some thoughts: “… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). If you are constantly thinking about food—“What am I going to fix for dinner?” “How am I going to flavor that better?” “Maybe I should get this”—you become an idolater in the grocery store, idolizing everything that makes your mouth water. 

The lust we have for food in our society is no different from the lust people have to satisfy sexual desires. It is something pushing us into sin, gluttony, and consumption. We put other things above our God. Anything we put above God is an idol. 

If we place a high importance on food preparation and the cravings of our flesh and we are constantly trying to please our taste buds, it’s food lust. Regardless of whether you are going after a cookie, a cake, a flavored hamburger, or a turkey burger—anything that requires our mind’s conception is an idol. What are we supposed to do? We are supposed to keep our minds on God. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (ESV). This is the truth. God keeps our mind in perfect peace because it stays on Him. When you are not in perfect peace, it is because your mind is on something else.

A lot of times, with the way we have created food for pleasure, it’s easy to dive in and find something that is always pleasing in every meal. I think this is what makes us fat. It’s like, “Oh, I love cheese. Cheese makes it better.” Sometimes we need to shut down our taste buds so we can get back to enjoying raw food as Jesus did. When He walked, He simply pulled a fig off a tree and ate it. He didn’t pit it, blend it, and mix it in cookie dough to make it a pleasurable cookie. He ate the fig, and it was pleasing. It was fuel. It was good because He ate food in its raw form.

Food lust is a real struggle. It’s a sin in our society that has us spending millions of dollars for food every year. It has us exchanging recipes and buying recipe books to make all the raw resources in a new way so it will taste better.