Last night, we started a new series at GW for the summer, entitled “Guideposts on The Way” for our evening worship time. I am so excited about presenting this series, and hope you’ll join us for it on Sunday nights at 6pm in our Fellowship Hall.
What verses do you think of when you think of core, foundational, strongholds of our faith? What verses do you think of when you need the strength to hold on? What verses do you think of when you’re lost and need to find your way?
I love watching signs on the interstate. I especially like the signs that tell me how far away I am from a certain destination. I grew to appreciate interstate and road signs even more when I lived in Houston. Its easy to get turned around and lost in a big city.
However, road signs don’t always mean a lot to us – especially when we can’t understand them! Imagine, being an American driving on the streets in Shanghai without a modern day GPS to get us from place to place, and all you had were the road signs. By the time you matched up all the characters in their language – it would take you hours to get anywhere!
I like it when I can understand the signs. I like it when they mean something to me, and guide me like they are meant to do. That’s why I like Jesus. He’s my guidepost. He’s not only shown us the way, HE IS THE WAY!
In John 14:6, Jesus tells us “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Our ultimate journey is taking us toward Heaven, and Jesus is guiding us on the way.
We get pulled in a lot of different directions, and its easy to get distracted. But, we have a Savior who has shown us a reliable, well worn path, and many have gone down that path of faith. I invite you to check back every so often to see a new “Guidepost” and read about passages that can show us the way.
None of these will be overly complicated. None of these will lead you on a treacherous journey. These verses will simply guide us.
Addiction is a word that is heavily associated with things such as alcohol, smoking and drug abuse. The problem with that is for those of us who have absolutely no problem with alcohol or drug abuse, we tend to feel like addiction can’t take a hold of us. Like to drink soft drinks multiple times a day? Can’t start your day without a cup of coffee? Do you have a compulsive need to finish that bag of chips you just opened?
Want to go deeper? Addiction is NOT just dealing with things you consume. Pornography is one of the things that has a grasp on many. Maybe you don’t struggle with pornography, so you feel as if you don’t have an addiction problem to anything – but you just might.
Facebook much? Pinterest much? Text much? Candy Crush too much? Have you played Temple Run so many times that your thumbs are raw? Do you find yourself going to the internet to look at one thing, and two hours later wonder where your time went because you got sucked into a vortex of web surfing?
The real problem with addiction is that it is possible to be addicted to pretty much anything – and whether that addiction is to something hardcore like alcohol, drugs, or pornography, or whether it is to something less physically dangerous like Facebook, the internet, or games on your phone – it consumes you.
I’m fearful for people when they start to go down a path with things that consume them. Denial is a big part of the problem with addiction.
After years of consuming diet soft drinks, specifically Diet Dr. Pepper, I realized I had a problem. I could not go 5 minutes in the morning without cracking open a can and enjoying the bubbly fizz and taste of that sweet nectar of carbonation. The caffeine would kick in, and I’d be good to go. That is, I’d be good to go until I got to the office, or to a gas station, or to a fast food restaurant, or anywhere else where I could grab another diet drink.
One in the morning, one when I got to the office, one for lunch, one after lunch, one in the afternoon as a pick me up, one at dinner, one before bed. If I had gone to a restaurant that day, I would have gotten 3 or 4 refills as well. I was hooked. The thought of drinking anything else but a diet soft drink repulsed me. I knew I had a problem.
I had tried in the past to get off of drinking my diet drinks, but to no avail. The longest I had gone was a month or so, but I would always cave in, giving in to stress or cravings. But this time, on March 23, 2012, I woke up with a mission. I was going to stop depending on this chemical to provide me with life.
Today, I have gone 410 days without having a soft drink. 99% of what I consume as a beverage is straight up water. And let me tell you, its liberating.
Food tastes better, life is better, my stomach feels better, and I rarely have headaches anymore.
But do you want to know what happened? My addiction moved from diet soft drinks to other things. I started to eat more, specifically chips. I started to play mind numbing games on my phone/ipad to calm me down. Thats when it hit me – addiction is going to try to find a way to rule your life, especially when you have an addiction problem.
The problem with addiction is that it is a constant struggle. It rears its ugly head when it can. It reminds you that you need something to fill the void of something else that filled a void.
Its overpowering. Its strong. Can’t have a drink? Can’t have a smoke? That’s fine, fill it with food. Fill it with pornography. Fill it with ___________ . Addiction can rule your life.
We tend to trivialize some addictions. Coffee – oh, I’m not addicted to coffee, I don’t have to have it…yet you’re nonfunctional without it in the mornings.
Facebook? Oh, I could close my account right now and never miss it…yet you get off the computer and go straight to your Facebook app on your phone.
I noticed the other night how addicted we are to just filling a void with something. Its almost as if we are scared of the quiet, scared of just doing nothing, scared of having to interact. My little girl was watching a show while sitting on my lap. I had my phone in my hand scrolling through facebook. My wife had her computer out looking through Pinterest. Show goes off, my daughter goes to bed, we come back downstairs, I get my computer out, scroll through Facebook some more, and my wife gets out her computer and does the same.
So I’ve made a more conscious effort to quit relying on other things to fill the void in my life. Maybe I should God fill that void. If you were to clock your time – do you spend more time on Facebook or more time with God in prayer and scripture each day?
Do you spend more money a month on Starbucks or soft drinks than you put in the collection plate on Sunday?
Or if you do have a serious addiction to dangerous things such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography – have you sought help?
If you’re looking for something to fill the void of a past or current addiction, or if you see yourself struggling with something that could very easily become an addiction – do something about it.
Turn to God.
Turn to a friend.
Turn to a spouse.
Don’t go at it alone. Get some help.
Facebook, the internet, Candy Crush, coffee, soft drinks, drugs, alcohol, the list goes on and on – don’t let these things define who you are. Don’t let them control you.
And when you give up your addictions, don’t replace them with other bad addictions. Let go, and Let God in to your life.
I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it is to write this. However, sometimes, you just have to do hard things, right? I can’t even count how many times I’ve written about this topic – countless – but I’m going to bring it up yet again.
I know that I am not a “thin” man. However, I’ve never felt like I was a morbidly obese man.
Today, I found out that officially – I am. If I were to apply for health insurance coverage today based upon my current weight, I would be denied coverage. Fortunately, they won’t raise rates from where you initially qualified, but this is still a very sobering thought.
I will lay it all on the line – and fully disclose a few things. I’ve been trying. In fact, at times I’m rather upset that what I’m doing is not working. Tomorrow marks 300 days without any soft drinks, teas, juices…pretty much anything but water. I’ve also gone 160 days without eating french fries. I’ve given up two of my biggest vices so I can lose weight. But it hasn’t worked.
I lift weights 3-5 times a week. I’ve increased cardio. I’m eating better – but I’m still fat.
There’s nothing more humbling than putting on a pair of pants and having them not fit the right way. There’s nothing more troubling than bending over to tie your shoes and having to stop to catch your breath. There’s nothing worse than having a job where you stand in front of people each and every week several times and feeling like all eyes are on the flaws of your physicality.
Here’s the problem – I don’t really feel like I am “morbidly obese” person. But according to my health insurance, if I were to qualify for the preferred or basic coverage – I would have to lose 31 pounds up to 40 pounds. I honestly feel like if I were to lose that much I’d be a beanpole. But – if I want to save money and have good coverage – I have to do it.
I’ve never really cared that much about reaching a “number” for my weight. But apparently, that number is extremely important for insurance purposes.
Here’s where you come in. The book of James tells us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” While I don’t feel like I am confessing a sin, I am asking for prayers that I can be healed of my cravings, my lack of willpower, my lack of desire to stay focused on this endeavor, and that my health can improve.
I know there are people out there who are struggling with more issues than being overweight – but let’s face it, we all have struggles with our identity and our appearance. Will you pray for me? And if you need prayers in this same situation, can I pray for you? Let’s support each other in these endeavors. May God give us the willpower we need to stay the course for good health.
Its been a challenge, to say the least.
For me, I had to give up my biggest addiction – Diet Dr. Pepper – of which I was drinking 6-8 cans a day, sometimes more.
While the taste of Diet. Dr. Pepper to me was absolutely divine, it had gotten to a point where I wasn’t even drinking it for the taste, I was drinking it because my body demanded it, and I had such a strong craving I could not deny myself.
I was invited to come and speak at a Area Wide Youth Service at the Ashland City Church of Christ on the topic of sobriety. I was also invited to go and speak at the Mayfair Church of Christ for their Wednesday evening service on the topic of temptation. As I began to study and prepare for these two topics – I realized I had no business speaking to people on how to avoid when I could not avoid things myself.
So, on Friday morning, March 23, I cracked open my usual morning can of Diet. Dr. Pepper, drank about 4 sips of it, and felt sick about it. I could no longer continue letting one thing have such control of me. I put the can back in the fridge, got a bottle of water, and didn’t turn back.
That can stayed in the fridge for a good 60 days or so, along with 12 fresh cans. I was tempted and tried every single day, but did not give in. My life was not going to be controlled by a craving.
Finally, my wife asked me what my long term goal was going to be, and at that point, I realized I didn’t really have one. On Saturday, it will have been 100 days since I last put that wonderful beverage can to my lips. 100 days is a monumental moment for someone who was pouring the beverage down his throat every chance he got. But I have to say…now what?
Most of us have a problem with this – once we think we have a hold on something, we realize we don’t. I’ve kicked that sin for so many days, I have control of it now! Next thing we know, its back in our lives, because we have slowly let it take control again.
I feel like at this point in my life, I could keep them out of my life forever. But at every meal, there is a temptation and a craving still. Not too long ago, I had stopped at a Zaxby’s to eat some dinner. I was by myself. I had my cup for my water, filled it with ice, and instinctively reached for the Diet Coke, and filled my glass half full before even realizing what I was doing. I quickly poured it out and rinsed my glass, and filled it with water instead.
That just shows me how powerful cravings and temptations are. Sometimes, they have such control over us that we don’t even realize the effect they are having on us.
So, here’s to another 100 days – its become a personal challenge. I challenge you to do the same. Give up something for 100 days. Believe me when I say that if I can give up my Diet Dr. Pepper addiction, you can give up yours for 100 days.
What is it in your life that is controlling you? Maybe you need to give up Facebook for 100 days. Maybe you need to give up french fries. Maybe you need to give up smoking, drinking, cursing, soft drinks, or something else that has you wrapped around its finger.
Give it up – for 100 days – and see how much better you feel! Take control of your life again!
As I think back on the year we have just finished, I can’t help be be ever so thankful to God for what He has blessed me and my family with. Our God is an amazing God, and there is truly none like Him.
Even though God is not confined by space and time, we here on earth are bound by its limitations. The start of the New Year is probably not that big of a deal to God. For various reasons, however, we as humans are infatuated by the end of a year and the beginning of a new one.
For many of us, it gives us a chance to put something behind us. For some, its a time to make resolutions for the new year. While thinking of how I want to start my 2012, my mind goes to Colossians 1:9-14.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may life a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in ever way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all peer according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
I look at this and wonder about a lot of things, namely:
1. What would our lives look like if in the past we had taken time to pray this prayer for ourselves and each other?
2. What could our 2012 look like if we do the same?
When was the last time you prayed for God to fill you with the knowledge of His will? Not just a tiny bit, but filled! Wouldn’t you love to be filled with the practical knowledge of God’s will? Wouldn’t you love to understand even more what God has in store for you in your life? Instead of guessing, why not pray that his will be revealed in your life?
In verse 10, Paul prays that the Colossians will also bear fruit in every good work. Not just one good work, but in every good work, so God will be glorified! Are you being fruitful? Are you willing to pray for God to help you bear more fruit for Him in 2012?
He also prays they will grow in their knowledge of God. Think of the impact you can have on your life and others if you pray to grow in the knowledge of God, and pray the same for others! How will you daily increase in your knowledge of God this year?
Finally, Paul prays they will be strengthened with all power so we can have endurance and patience. There is a power to experience, a glorious wondrous power to experience, if allow God to do so. Remember, Philippians 4:13? I can do ALL things through Christ.
He also prays for their patience. Were you lacking in patience in 2011? Maybe its time to step up and pray for more of it. I know I need it. Patience is so hard to have, that maybe it would serve us well to pray for more of it!
God, will you bless us in 2012? May you help us to desire to be filled with your will. May we be filled with your wisdom and spiritual understanding. In 2012, may we walk in a way that is worthy of wearing your name.
May we bear good fruit this year.
May we grow in our knowledge of you.
Will you please give us the endurance we need to make it through this year? We know there will be constant attacks from the evil one.
Will you give us patience with each other, with the world, with everyone we come in contact with?
Bless us in these ways, so we can share in your inheritance!
In case you weren’t aware, my wife and I about a year ago, after being dedicated Dave Ramsey listeners, proudly became Debt Free. One of the hardest things about being debt free is remaining debt free. Its so tempting at times to justify things, saying “we’re debt free, so let’s go ahead and get it”. However, then you remember how much freedom there is in being debt free, and you remember how your goal is to continue to be that way, and it makes decisions a lot easier.
Again, I’m not bashing anyone who is not debt free. We aren’t officially debt free, because we do still have a mortgage. However, aside from that we owe nothing to anyone! I want to encourage all of you who think that debt is a way of life, to rethink that idea. Being a minister for all of my adult life, I have not brought in a ton of money. I feel we live a very modest life style. We don’t have a lot of luxuries.
So, when it came time this past week to look for a new car for Kristen, we had a lot of things to think about. We have enough money to get a car payment and it not break our backs completely. We would have been able to get a newer car with less miles. But it would have completely nullified all we had worked towards. We had been setting aside money knowing this day was coming. We got a decent offer for our trade in, and we put cash towards the new car, and walked out of the dealer with a 2005 Toyota Highlander with 72,000 miles on it.
We’ve always liked the Highlanders. The new models are very attractive. However, we knew that we didn’t have $30,000 to buy one, nor did we want to pay $300 a month towards something for 5-6 years. So we settled on a much cheaper vehicle.
No, its not new. No, its not as shiny. But its an upgrade from the 04 CRV. And most of all, my wife is ECSTATIC!! I really want to encourage everyone to aim for a debt free life! YOU CAN DO IT!! I know you can!
Here’s a picture of Josie and Kristen with the new ride:
I remember being in college, driving home from Henderson, TN to Lebanon, TN, and turning on Super Talk 99.7 in Nashville. I heard some crazy guy talking about money. Seeing as I didn’t have any money, I thought maybe I should take a moment and listen to this guy. My life has never been the same.
Dave Ramsey has helped many people over many years. His ideas just make sense, at least, for some people. Some of his key points:
1. Don’t have credit cards
2. Don’t spend money you don’t have
3. Pay off debt
4. Don’t lease cars or even have a car payment
There are many other things that he recommends, but you get the gist. He hates debt. I have learned to hate it as well.
When I got of college, I decided I was going to try to adopt the Dave Ramsey suggestions. I still don’t have a credit card. I haven’t had a car payment since 2005. We paid cash for both of the cars we own now (mine has 168,000 miles on it…) and never plan on having a car payment again.
Dave Ramsey understands that paying off a home is a really big deal, and is pretty hard for most people in a quick amount of time. He encourages everyone to pay off student loans, credit card debt (which I’ve never had), car debt, etc, and after that happens, you start saving for college for kids, etc. He wants you pay off your home, but he has a systematic way of doing it.
We paid off Kristen’s old blue Honda CRV about 5 years ago. We paid off my old Ford Explorer before we got married. We paid off Kristen’s Student Loans about 4 years ago. The hardest part was my student loan. I had well over $25,000 in Student Loans. We had spent a lot of our savings on paying off the other loans, and we got a little lazy in paying off mine. We convinced ourselves that the $180 a month payment just wasn’t that big a deal, and we lived with it.
After we moved to Houston, we decided enough was enough. Once again, we lived on less than we make, and paid off my loans. Over the past 6 months, we paid off $18,000 in loans, and now, we are officially debt free except our house. You have no idea how great this feels. I’m hoping we’ll change our family tree. I’m hoping our children won’t have to take out student loans. I’m hoping that our children will think car payments are stupid.
All said and done, almost 7 years of marriage, we’ve paid off about $45,000 in debt. $18,000 of that was in the last 6 months! $3837 of it was today.
Did you know that the average car payment in America is over $400 a month financed over 6-7 years. That is RIDICULOUS! Believe me, I’ve wanted some newer cars in the past. I’ve dreamed of owning a nice truck since we’ve been married, but no vehicle is better than being debt free.
Now believe me, we’re not rich, and now that we’re debt free doesn’t mean that we’re going to be rich. What we are is happy. Its great when it comes Christmas time that we don’t pay for it for the next 6 months. We’re ecstatic that now we can start saving for things we really want, instead of having to pay off debt.
The thing is, YOU CAN DO THIS TOO! If we can do it, anyone can do it. Many of my friends have done this, or are working towards this, and I know you can too! I’d love to answer any questions you have. You can learn a lot at http://www.daveramsey.com or by downloading his iPhone app, which has answers to lots of questions right at your fingertips!
Now, if we can just teach our politicians to live on less than they make…
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”
Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”…
…When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”
Okay, so sabbatical probably isn’t the best choice of words, but let me sum it up like this — I’m taking a break from some things.
Actually, this is a sabbatical to be more productive. I have found myself checking facebook, emails, goofing off a lot more than I need to be. I have found myself glued to the television about the Health Care debate. It has been eating into my personal time with God, time with my family, and time spent working for God.
Don’t get me wrong, none of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when you find yourself turning to your phone to check facebook statuses, check your email, look at a sports score, etc. — it consumes too much of your time.
So this week, if you see an update on facebook from me, it will be for one of three reasons:
1. Automatic update from this blog
2. Accountability post for working out (which I always do right before the workout)
3. Some sort of emergency prayer request
Basically, its a self imposed internet shortage. I’m in charge of our worship service on Sunday in its totality. So, I owe it to the people who worship at West University to limit distractions and help them gain their focus in the service on Sunday.
I’m going to focus this week on taking a sabbatical from the world, and spend my time focusing on God and what I can do for Him. Feel free to join me.