In too deep

I’ve never been a big fan of swimming in the ocean. A key reason for that is probably because I live in Washington and the ocean here is cold. If I lived in Hawaii, I may have a different opinion on that. When I was a kid, I remember going to the ocean with my family and swimming through the waves. It started with a little wave jumping then turned in to swimming with the waves, through the waves, under the waves.  It was fun at first. That is, until I went in too deep. It was then I discovered how powerful the waves really were. I caught a big one… well, it caught me, actually. Under the water I went, unable to come up, as wave after wave pounded on me. It felt like I was in a wash machine. It was a scary moment, being held underwater, unable to come up for a breath. Fortunately, my dad grabbed a hold of me and pulled me up.


The problem wasn’t the ocean. It was that I had gone in too deep. I had not treated it with respect. I had allowed the waves to tempt me, calling me into the power of their pull. In life, we can have the same kind of problems. Problems like allowing ourselves to be pulled into the power of temptation. We can get in over our heads, and we can get in too deep. In the book of Exodus, Aaron had the same problem. And instead of swimming for the shore, he went in deeper.

Exodus 32:22-24 22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Before you read on, I’d encourage you to open your Bible and read all of Exodus 32 so that you can see what is really going on here. Because Aaron isn’t so innocent. The truth is, the people did come to him and ask him to make them a god. They did get impatient and wonder where in the world Moses had wandered off to. But he did absolutely nothing to be a leader in the situation. And I think that in the midst of this conversation, he knew he had blown it. He was busted. He made a stinkin’ calf out of gold for the people to worship!

Yes, Aaron was in deep. Instead of swimming for shore, though, he went in deeper. This was his moment to confess, to come clean. It was his opportunity to say “I blew it, Moses. I’m sorry. I was afraid and so I gave in.” But that’s not what he said. He told Moses that he threw the gold in the fire and a calf magically came out. There’s no way that Moses bought this lame story, but nonetheless, this is what Aaron’s brain told his mouth to say.

When we get in too deep, we have a choice to make. We can go in even deeper like Aaron and try to cover it up, or we can swim to shore and come clean. Don’t be lame like Aaron. Don’t start sputtering nonsense about a golden calf magically appearing. The people in your life aren’t buying it. Just come clean. Own it, deal with the consequences, and move forward. Everyone will be glad you did.

Just say “no”

Titus 2:11-14 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

You don’t have to teach a child to say “no.”  Have you noticed that?  They are naturals at it.  The problem is that they aren’t naturals at saying no to the stuff that will hurt them.  You actually have to train them to say no to those things.  Say no to drugs, say no to being mean, say no to sin.  Our flesh says “yes” before we even know what hit us!

It’s no different for Christians, either.  But for some reason, we think that when we get saved, it will happen automatically.  It doesn’t, does it?  In this chapter of Titus, Paul says that the grace of God teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions.  Yes, we have to learn to say “no.”

We’ve got to stop wallowing around in our self-pity wondering why we couldn’t resist the temptation.  We have got to stop wearing condemnation like a blanket because we failed.  We better stop trying to figure out what is terribly wrong with us.  I’ll to you what’s wrong with you: you didn’t say “no.”  And you need to learn how to.  Say it with me, just two small letters – n……o……. no.  You can do it friends.  When temptation comes, learn to say no. When the enemy tries to drag you down the wrong path, say no.  It’s not an automatic; you have to choose it.  So choose it today and see what happens.

I’m watching you

Luke 17:1-3a  1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So watch yourselves.

In the movie, “Meet the Parents,” there is a scene in which Jack gets right up in Gaylord’s face and says… “I’m watching you.”  He does the whole fingers on the eyes thing.  It’s pretty funny and kind of nerve-racking at the same time.   It will do something to someone when they are being watched.  It is motivating, I guess.   Jesus said to watch ourselves.  We had better pay attention to what we are doing, because it matters to others.  Yes, our actions do affect others.  This is something to be aware of; it’s something to watch.

When I read Luke 17:1 today, it jumped off the page and smacked me in the face.  “People are gonna sin,” Jesus said.  It’s true; there will be things that cause us to sin.  But Jesus had a pretty hefty warning for those who caused people to sin.  Which really should make us think: am I causing anyone to sin?  Am I being a source of distraction for someone?  Or even worse… am I actually turning someone off to Jesus rather than attracting them to Him?

These are real questions that warrant the two finger eye point.  I think Jesus is serious about this.  He really does want us to think about how we affect others.  Because we so often think in terms of “me.”  And Jesus made it clear that you have an impact greater than you.  We must be conscious of this; we must consider how our actions are affecting others.  Let’s not be a stumbling block; let’s not cause a brother or sister to sin.  For surely someone is watching you.

Baywatch Jesus

2 Samuel 22:17-18    “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 

Ever feel like what you are up against is just too strong? Maybe it is an obstacle, or a work situation, or even a temptation.  At times you feel powerless to do anything about it.  You give in, give out, and give up.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  You serve a God who is so much stronger than the storm you are facing.

In 2 Samuel 22, David paints us a picture of what God does when we call to Him for help.  Imagine swimming out in the ocean, when you find yourself out farther than you want to be.  The current starts pulling on you and you realize you are no longer in control.  You fight to swim to shore, but the waves keep pulling you out.  You begin to panic and start to lose energy.  The ocean is just too strong.  You cry out for help at the top of your weary lungs hoping against all odds that someone will hear you and come to your aid.  Out of nowhere, a hand reaches out to you.   It carries you against the current and through the crashing waves and brings you to dry land.  When you look up, you see him: your rescuer… maybe he’s even wearing red shorts.  It’s like Baywatch Jesus.

I love this picture (not the red shorts part), because David so aptly shows us the picture of a rescuing God.  When we are about to be swallowed up, He reaches down and pulls us out.  When the enemy comes pressing in, Jesus steps in.  When the hardships of life feel like they are too strong, we have a savior who is stronger!  Like David, I praise Him today.  Like David, I turn to Him in my time of need.  When I feel weak, I cry out for help and He is there.  When temptation comes, I don’t have to drown – I can call on my Baywatch Jesus to pull me out.

Oh… that’s what sin feels like

2 Samuel 13:12-15 12 “Don’t, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.  15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

Sin is such a filthy liar.  It tells you that it will be good, that it will satisfy your desires.  It tells you that it will feel good and give you a high.  But it leaves the part out about the giant crash after the high.  Sin is a trick, the ultimate bait and switch.  It promises excitement of life and delivers death.

Amnon learned first-hand the effects of sin.  He had a gross heart to begin with polluted by his uncontrolled thoughts.  He wanted to have sex with his half-sister.  He claimed to be madly in love with her.  But it wasn’t really love, it was out of control lust.  His cousin didn’t help, either.  He gave Amnon the bright idea of faking sickness to get alone with his sister, Tamar.  He trapped her in his room and asked her to come to bed with him.  She gave him an out – she called out his sinful heart and even went as far to saying she would marry him if he wanted her so badly.  But he wouldn’t listen.  Instead, he raped her.

That’s because sin must be satisfied now. It is impulsive and demanding.  It mocks self-control and demands its own way.  But it always disappoints.  In verse 15, it says that after Amnon raped Tamar, he hated her with intense hatred.  He had been duped by his wicked heart.  What he thought was love was really lust and temptation and wickedness.  And he felt the full effects of the let down of sin.  He felt hatred, guilt, and disgust.  That’s what sin will do to you.  It promises satisfaction then condemns you once you pursue it.  It is a false hope, a false happiness, a false everything.  Sin is a fraud and should be arrested on such charges.

So we have two choices:  we can either live with the determination to keep sin behind bars or we can let sin put us behind bars.  What will you choose today?

I’m not playing your game

Judges 16:15-17   15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.  17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

What is the deal with Samson and the women who nag him?  I just don’t understand what his deal is.  Now we all probably know this story – it’s the one where Samson gets a really short haircut and loses all his strength.  It wasn’t really the hair that gave him the strength, it was his covenant with God regarding his hair.  And for some reason, he took that covenant less seriously than this girl Delilah. While that bothers me as I read today, it isn’t what bothers me the most.  In fact, I don’t really blame Delilah at all – she was just trying to earn some cash.

Here’s what I don’t get: why in the world did Samson play along with her little games?  That was his first mistake: entertaining sin.  Because even though he new that he would be able to defeat her little devices, he made a terrible choice by playing the game in the first place.  The way he got to his demise was by playing along with her little games.  That is simply ludicrous.  She finally wore him down and he gave in.  C’mon Samson!  You would have never been in that situation if you would have just said, “I’m not playing along with your little games and I will not tell you the secret of my strength.  Drop it.”

We get ourselves into the same predicaments.  We play little games with sin.  We go places, watch things, and have conversations that we should never be having.  But we do it because we are pretty sure that we are stronger than the temptation.  And in most cases we probably are.  The problem is that, like Delilah, sin is persistent.  After a while, it will get you in a little deeper and finally wear you down.  One day you will be celebrating your victory and the next you will find yourself with a shaved head.  It just isn’t worth it.  So we must think farther ahead when it comes to such things.  We’ve got to look at these temptations not for what they are today, but what they will be in a month if we entertain them.  Today, look sin in the face and say, “I’m not playing along with your little games. Drop it!”

BONUS: Here’s a nice little Tim Hawkins video about Samson and Delilah.  Enjoy.

What a nag!

Judges 14:15-17 15 On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to rob us?”  16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”   “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.

Oh my goodness – are you kidding me?  This whole scenario is ridiculous.  Samson makes a deal with the Philistines that if they can solve his riddle he will pay up, but if they can’t they will owe him.  He gives them a very obscure riddle that they cannot solve.   So his wife, a Philistine herself, begs and pleads for him to tell her the answer.  Of course she plans on telling the Philistines the answer so they can win the bet.  Geesh – leave and cleave lady.  Where’s the loyalty to your new husband?

I guess there wasn’t any.  She wanted to do him in from the very beginning of their marriage.  She whined and cried for a week straight.  It makes me think of a 3-year-old whining: pleeeeeaaaaassssseeeee,  daaaaaaaaaady.   Oh my.  That would probably get on my nerves too.  And not to be a jerk or a chauvinist or anything, but this wife of his was quite a nag.  She really was in the truest sense of the word.  She nagged him until he gave in. He was the strongest man to ever live, but somehow he was a weak, lovesick puppy when it came to his wife.

You know what else is a nag?  Temptation.  That is exactly what temptation is.  It bothers you.  It tries to wear you down.  It tries to exploit your weaknesses to get the best of you.  And it doesn’t seem to want to give up either.  It will whine and cry for a week if it has to.  I’ll tell you what – we have got to be stronger than Samson.  We have to ignore the nagging of sin.  And God has equipped us for it.  He has given us the Holy Spirit; He has given us the full armor of God.  As Paul wrote, we have no obligation to the flesh.  So don’t give up and don’t give in today.  So what if temptation comes around whining and crying like a 3-year-old.  Put it in a time out and move on with your life in Christ Jesus.