28 June 2012

A Simple Comparison


Ecclesiastes 2:17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit

According to Ecclesiastes 2:17, Solomon was a man who hated life.   Which is an amazing thing when you consider the fact that Solomon had everything that people think will make their lives wonderful.  He had wealth; he had wisdom; he had women.  He had power; he had fortune; he had fame.  He had peace; he had comfort; he had success.  Solomon had more than we could ever dream of having.  He built more than we could ever dream of building.  He accomplished more than we could ever hope to accomplish. 

But it left him empty.  He said it was vanity.  He hated life. 

If any of us had the chance to trade places with Solomon – to have all that he had; to experience all that he’d experienced; to know all that he knew – we’d jump at the chance.  But if you’re saved and love the Lord and obey the scripture, then Solomon would jump at the chance to trade places with you!

Why?  As good and as perfect and as attractive as his life might seem to the modern American, he hated it.  He was angry, miserable, depressed. 

But if you’re saved, love God, and obey the scripture, here’s what the Bible says about you…


1 Peter 3:10-11 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 

Is God always right?  Is the Bible completely true?  Is there anything in God’s word that’s a lie?  Does God know what He’s talking about?  If we really believe those things, then it could not get any more clear:

If you want to end up hating life, then go after everything you come across that you think might make you happy.  And if you want to love life, then make your life about loving God and serving God and pleasing God and ministering to others. 

It’s as simple as that…if you believe the Bible.  We all just have to come to the point where we really believe that it’s true.  Enough to go ahead and try it out.  Hope that you will.

Psalm 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

25 June 2012

The Wise Man's Eyes

The past two weeks were spent taking our annual boys’ and girls’ trips (which I’m now using as my excuse for the lack of posts).  We had a great time spending 3 days with each group over on the west coast of Florida.  Our days were full of activity, enjoying God’s creation and enjoying one another’s company.  At the end of the day we would gather as a group to talk about the day, lay out our plans for the next day, and spend some time in the Bible. 

These devotions were profitable times, so I wanted to pass along some notes on the things we discussed.

This first word of instruction was actually given to the guys before we even got started with our first activity of the trip – collecting shark’s teeth at Venice Beach, the shark tooth capital of the world.  (Which was great, except for the fact that we decided to store our finds in an empty, plastic water bottle.  It is not hard to imagine what happened to that bottle before the end of the trip.)

Though the spot where we were on Venice Beach was nice and fairly secluded, we do live in modern-day America.  In Florida, no less.  So regardless of whether we go to Venice Beach or any beach (or the “coast” for all us Independent Baptists), just going out in any public place requires an ability to deal with seeing things that we’d be better off not seeing.  

The scripture says in Lamentations 3:51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.  And in Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

We have to be careful about what we allow to enter into our eyes, because it is impossible to keep what enters into our eyes from affecting our hearts, and it is impossible to keep what enters our hearts from affecting the very issues of our lives.  (Think hard on that before you take your next dose of Hollywood.  Learn to practice some remote CONTROL.)

This battle is one that is faced by the entire fallen human race, but it seems to be a difficult and important battle for the male gender in particular.  So here are two ways from the Bible that I gave to our young men on how to deal with living in a society that would fill our eyes and seek to fill our hearts with things that shouldn’t be there. 


Sometimes you can't help what you see.  But you can always help what you look at.  A young man who wants to guard his heart and keep his thoughts pure must learn to choose not look at some things that he sees. 

The Bible says we live in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Philippians 2:15).  There are certain things we can avoid (insert long list here), but there are certain things we can’t.  A person can’t drive down the highway without seeing things you shouldn’t see.  A person can’t go through a check-out line at the grocery store without seeing plenty he’d be better off not seeing. 

But a person can choose to divert his gaze.  A young man can choose to focus his attention elsewhere.  A young man must learn not to look at the things that he sees.

The Bible puts it this way in Ecclesiastes 2:14 The wise man's eyes are in his head...

Remember David?  And the sin he committed with Bathsheeba?  Adultery? That led to murder?  There is a very definite progression in the events of 2 Samuel 11.  

David’s first problem was that he wasn't where he was supposed to be or doing what he was supposed to be doing (v. 1).  Instead, he was at home at his palace, walking on the roof of his house, and there he saw a woman washing herself (v. 2).  Maybe Bathsheeba shouldn't have been washing herself where she was washing herself.  Maybe David shouldn't have been walking where he was walking.  The Bible’s not totally clear on that.  But whoever's fault it was, David saw this beautiful woman.  

But the story did not have to go on.  David could have stopped this whole thing right then and there.  He could have turned away.  He could have simply walked back inside. 

But that's not what he did.  The Bible says that he found Bathsheeba very beautiful to "look upon" (v. 2).  Seeing and looking are two different things.  David saw.  Then he decided to look at what he saw.  And before he took her (v. 4), the Bible says that he enquired after her (v. 3).  Which leads us to our next point…


A young man’s attempts to stay his mind on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, or good report, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) will be fought and opposed by the world, the flesh, and the devil every step of the way. 

We live in a dirty world.  We’re encumbered by this sinful flesh (Romans 7:18) and these hearts that are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).  

Even if it were possible to keep ourselves from every influence that would defile (impossible and outside the will of God – John 17:15; 1 Corinthians 5:10), we would still have to learn to do as scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

David didn’t have to look at what he saw.  And he didn’t have to dwell on the wicked plan immediately devised by his wicked heart. 

At times, you might not be able to control what thoughts somehow enter your mind.  But you can always choose what you do with those thoughts.  Temptation cannot always be avoided.  But thoughts can always be controlled.  The flesh can always be refused.

The battle of temptation is fought and won in the mind.  That’s why it’s so important to fill your heart with the word of God and fill your home with the songs of God and fill your mouth with the praise of God (Psalm 119:11; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19).  So when the moment of temptation comes, you’re better able to immediately divert your thoughts to what is good and what is right.  

05 June 2012

Beholding Vanity

Have I ever mentioned that Psalm 119 is one of my favorite chapters (yes and yes)?  For any who might not be aware, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  Its theme?  The importance of the word of God.  Of its 176 verses, all but 2 make specific reference to God’s word, law, commandments, statutes, judgments, etc. 

Last time through, I noticed one of those verses that I just didn’t remember being there the last 25+ times I read it (only the Bible).  The Holy Spirit used the verse to point out an important truth to me and has been “bringing it to my remembrance” ever since (John 14:26).

The verse is Psalm 119:37.  Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

When I read that, my mind goes immediately to another important verse -- Psalm 101:3.  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

But Psalm 119:37 takes Psalm 101:3 a step further.  It moves past removing from our vision that which is WICKED and challenges us to go ahead and get rid of that which is VAIN. 

My family does not own a TV.  There are a number of reasons for that.  In no particular order, (1) We can think of some much better ways to spend $100 a month than sending it to the cable company.  (2) Most -- as in as close to all as you can get without being all -- of the “programming” (think about that word) is WICKED and unfit to watch.  (3) It’s bad for kids’ brains.  (My wife can supply the details on that one.)  (4) Even if there were a few shows a week that we didn’t think fell under the condemnation of Psalm 101:3, we really couldn’t afford to waste the time it would take to watch them (Psalm 119:37).

I’m not saying that makes us more spiritual.  That’s just what we have chosen to do (or not do).  But in this modern age of technology, who needs a TV.  We have computers.  We have internet access.  Here’s where the Holy Spirit took a scalpel labeled Psalm 119:37 and did a little Hebrews 4:12 “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and…discern[ing] of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

I may not waste my time and money on TV, but it’s not an infrequent occurrence for me to be studying my Bible or preparing a lesson or just trying to get something productive done when, for no apparent reason, I’m all of a sudden tempted to check the headlines…or check the scores…or check the weather…or read that email that just came in…or see who that text message was from…or (fill in the blank). 

It’s not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with those things.  It’s just that oftentimes, there’s not a lot of substance to them (VANITY).  In Psalm 119:37, David prayed what I have come to recognize as a very good, very needful prayer.  Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity…

Think about it.  How much time do you spend on Facebook?  Compare that to how much time you spend in God’s book.  Could you not be doing more of what’s needful if you weren’t so occupied with what often amounts to vanity?

How many tweets have you sent into the tweetosphere this week?  And how many prayers have you sent up to God’s throne this week?  Would the time spent doing one not have been more wisely invested doing the other? 

How many games do you need on your phone?  How many times do you have to win a game of solitaire in order to feel successful?  How many verses did you memorize last month?  What sins in your life have you waged war against in the recent future?

Do you really need to check the weather…7 times a day?  (Walking to the mailbox and taking a look at the clouds might be a better alternative.)  

Will the outcome of the game be any different because you watched the play-by-play tracker?  

What difference will it really make whether or not you’re up with what’s going on in the news?  (You might find yourself a bit less depressed on the blissfully unaware side of things.) 

Back to the TV thing.  Those hours you spent watching TV last month (try counting them) -- what did you get out of them?  Anything that brought you closer to the Lord?  Anything that strengthened your family?  Anything that made your life better in any way?  

So you got a bit of rest and relaxation.  Nobody can blame you for that.  But there are some other options on the far less wicked (Psalm 101:3) and vain (Psalm 119:37) side of things. 

I’m just saying that with a Bible to learn and a God to serve and family to raise and a church to build up and a world that’s lost and dying and going to hell, we’d do well to spend less of our time beholding vanity.  That is, if you want to press toward the mark (Philippians 3:14) and follow hard after God (Psalm 63:8). 

The verse was a help to me.  Hope it will be a blessing and help to you both now and in the days to come.