The scripture we read this morning at early morning prayers (did I mention this begins at 5 a.m.?) was the last half of Jeremiah 9. In the midst of a chapter about gloom and doom we have verses 23-24. The Lord himself tells us “If you want something to boast about, let it be that you know and understands me!” It is amazing that this is even possible. The Creator of the universe desires me to know him – and that this is the epitome of accomplishment!
It is not any fruit of wisdom, the greatest book we could possibly write or document that would be admired and followed by all that impresses God. It is not anything we might accomplish through physical strength or political power that impresses him. Becoming one of the richest people in the world and buying glamorous homes around the world or a gem collection that surpasses all that British royalty possess would only elicit a ho-hum from Him.
What really gets the Almighty’s attention is how much we know Him. Not just a a lot of facts about Him, but really know His nature, what He cares about, what He delights in, what His favorite things are. When we’ve regularly meditated on His overwhelming loving kindness, that is demonstrated so well in the Bible and so evident all around us. When we feel His deep concern and pain over the injustices done to the lowest of the world. When we know the Holy One’s ability to always do and be right. When we feel His urging us on to take up the righteousness of His Son. Then, the Lord says we have something worth boasting of.
Knowing God, really knowing him is the hope we have through the darkest circumstances. When we’ve fallen hard and suffer the consequences of our sin, the focus on God, who He is will change everything.
Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Did Jesus really mean for us to gouge out our eye? Marco Polo writes of one who did just that. The man was a shoemaker and struggled with thoughts of lust after seeing a young woman’s ankle (he goes on to tell a story of the man praying for a mountain to move, but that’s a story for another time). I’ve read of another man who plucked out his eye, only to be dismayed that he could still lust.
Jesus is making the point that your eternal salvation is extremely valuable. He is telling us to do whatever it takes to secure your future. Jesus is radical sometimes and if we need to get radical to follow him, so bit it. Sometimes we need to get radical to fight our sin. This often is the case with porn. If we need to download a program to block it such as Content Protect, then we do it. If we need to set up an accountability partner to check our web browsing, like X3 by XXXchurch, then we do it. If we need to rid ourselves of the internet and smartphone completely, then we do it. They are not worth our soul.
God has brought me victory through other avenues. I’ve mentioned them in my advise to ones caught in Ashley Madison. I’ll be posting more about them soon. But I urge you, now, Get desperate to rid yourself of lust or anything else coming between you and your God. Pray for his direction. Pray to experience him through the temptations. And commit to do whatever he tells you to do.
Most of the years growing up, my family vacationed in Colorado. We always joined other members of Mom’s family. We all loved the mountains. They were so beautiful! The Maroon Bells, shown here were one of the places we visited. Cragged rocks clad in white reached almost to the heavens. Crystal clear streams cascading down in waterfalls, eventually settling in the purest lakes. The change from the near flat world of west Texas was so dramatic. The plants, trees, and flowers were also completely different from what we were used to. We would camp out, hike and fish. I started collecting rocks at the age of six, a hobby I would keep into manhood. It was so wonderful being able to pick up beautiful crystals.
We moved to Colorado Springs when I was 13. But we didn’t live very close to my cousins or my new friends at church. I felt very lonely a lot of the time, missing Abilene and Danny, my best friend. Some things I did with my brother, but mostly I spent hours finding things to entertain myself with: Shooting BBs and a bow and arrows, hitting a tether ball back and forth on a pole, throwing darts and knives. I got pretty good with one knife, eventually using and almost always hitting the 2” side of a 2 x 4 for a target (which is actually 1 3/4″). I missed Danny, my best friend terribly. Somewhere in there, I remembered the pictures of a naked woman we had found and began to “dumpster dive”. I wasn’t just looking for more pictures. I also found other interesting trash: old transistor radios, pieces of metal and wood for building something, anything cool. At fifteen I hit pay dirt and found a couple of Playboy magazines. It took only a minute to be hooked on professional pornography, keeping them this time as “my own little secret”.
It has been helpful for me to do a bit analyzing about the associations of feeling with temptations that tend to bring them on.
I think often our emotions are mixed in with our fleshly desires, giving them more power and importance. These desires intensify the emotions we appreciate, while lessoning the effect of negative ones. I found it was really an illusion in this case. Have you had times where you’ve experienced this?
Malachi 3: Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness…
Jesus is foretold as a refiner and soap. I used to make jewelry for a jewelry store. I usually made it using old gold and silver. As the old gold fully melted, impurities would come to the top. Once I was making a couple of personal items, rings that hold a crystal on a watch. One of them came out well and was easily formed completely round on a mandrel. I then turned quite easily on a small lathe. The other ended up with a stubborn place. I had difficulty making it round. It was not easy to start over so I persevered. I eventually traded the rawhide mallet I was using for a small brass hammer, then a heavier steel one.
I think sometimes we are like them both. Sometimes we are very cooperative with the Saviors reforming other times we resist, not wanting to give up what Jesus wants to change. It seems then trouble and pain increase. They are there to drive home the lesson. So when we feel we are going though a time of trouble or pain, it is a good idea to ask the Lord to show us what we need to learn through this.
We come to know the Lord better and the suffering he went though for our sake when we go through suffering ourselves. But only in drawing close to God does this happen. Otherwise we only learn bitterness and despair.
There is a another purpose fulfilled when we use our pain to help others going through suffering and hardships. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
May we let no pain or hardship go to waste.
Often, as parents, our children don’t want o listen to what is best for them. When my son, Clint was little he typically wanted to drink more than eat. He was happiest with a sippy cup full of juice. But he couldn’t get all of the nutrients he needed in juice, so we would take it away from him and say “Eat your vegetables first, then you can have more to drink.” At first this advice would be met with crying “Juice, juice”. or maybe a sad “Ju-i-ce” said in such a forlorn voice it was hard not to give in. But eventually he accepted the inevitable and ate his vegetables.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” the very familiar 23rd Psalm says. David was long a shepherd boy. He knew the habit of lambs to want to just run and play. Some times they had to have encouragement with the shepherd’s crook to lie down – to eat and then rest. A lamb might choose to only run, play, and eat in clover. But they need a variety of pasture. A shepherd worth his salt will lead the lamb to other pastures, so they will get what they really need.
In John 10, we have this great passage about Jesus being the good shepherd. His flock know his voice and follow him. Our choice may be to only run and play, then lie down in a bed of ease. But Jesus knows what is best for us. He may lead us, at times, to hardship as that is how we will grow the most. He does not necessarily cause the hardship, but will allow it for our own good. In those times, we are to “press in” to his lead, learn the lessons he wishes to show us, then take on his comfort – lie down in his green pasture.
My wife and I have lived with the American military community in S. Korea for the past 2 1/2 years. One of the interesting differences with Korean churches is that most have an early (5am) morning prayer service – every day. My wife and I began joining in with the nearest church some time ago, first only once or twice a week but eventually, most days. It has been a great blessing. Each day we sing a song and look at a passage of scripture, most of the time a chapter. This mornings reading was Psalms 80. I’d like to call attention to three verses.
3. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
7. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
19. Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
The prayer is the same in each verse except for greater reminder of who it is that is being called on. He is God, he is omnipotent (all powerful) and he has hosts of extremely powerful beings waiting to take an order concerning us. Scripture tells us he uses both to work in our lives. Paul says in Ephesians 1 that his immeasurably great power is at work toward those who believe. And Hebrews 1:12 says in the affirmative “Are not the angels ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
The most interesting part of the prayers is the saving power of just God’s look. Certainly I know the feeling of looking upon either of my children and beaming. I did a bit of that the last couple of days after leaning how well my son is doing at a New Mexico State Law Enforcement Academy. God looks on his children with even more care and love.
But it’s also a reference to God’s glory. His glory is active, emanating from him with the power to save.
He will rescue us. We’ve just got to keep the faith.