I never had a sister, but my sons have one, which means I have a daughter.
Now, our oldest son is two years younger than our daughter, who is the
oldest, but it was interesting to see as I watched their relationship what
I had missed growing up. Oh, there was a lot of kidding around; the kids
called it "busting." They had some exciting disagreements growing up
because, well, they're two very different people.
There were some hugs, there was some advice, there was sometimes some
conflict, but one thing was really clear in that relationship - no one had
ever better do my son's sister wrong. Even though he's two years younger,
he was her personal - I'm going to make up a word here - "look-out-forer."
I'm looking out for her! In fact, when any guy wanted to date her, he
first had to pass my son's very high requirements. Oh, he's younger, but
he was his sister's protector. Now, if you're a sister, it's nice to have a brother like that.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about "Every
Sister Needs a Brother."
Now, our word for today from the Word of God comes from 1 Timothy 5, and
I'm going to be reading verse 2. It's a road map for relationships
between, well, men and women in general, but particularly between young
men and young women. He is addressing Timothy, who is a young man, and
Paul says, "Treat the younger men as brothers, the older women as
mothers," and then get this part, "and treat the younger women as sisters
with absolute purity."
Now, if you grow up in our culture today, that's not the message you're
getting. Oh, no, our culture says, "Hey, if you're a young man, treat the
younger woman as a conquest; as a lover." But that's not God's design. He
says, "Treat the younger women as sisters." Now, what does that mean? Does
that mean you tease them all the time? Does that mean you argue with them,
which brothers and sisters are known to do? No. Do you know what I think
it's referring to?
See, the love of a brother for a sister is, after all is said and done,
protective love. It's like my son and daughter, "I'm not going to let
anything happen to you that could hurt you, Sis." That's how young men are
supposed to view young women. Not as targets, not as conquests, not as
things to use.
That's why it says, "Treat them with absolute purity" so you won't hurt
them. You're supposed to guard your sister. That means you look at the
women around you and say, "I will not use you. I will not push you for
physical involvement. I won't even think about taking your greatest gift
from you - your virginity. I won't let my mind wander into scenes where I
reduce you to being a thing. I will guard your reputation, sister. I will
guard your purity. I will guard your character." Now, that's manhood! And
you know what? Ask a lot of young women today, and they'll tell you there
is a critical shortage of that kind of man.
See, what happens is you begin to say, "I'm going to develop some sisters
here." So, you begin to develop friendships, and not just romances. And
that becomes more important than just a passionate romance. You open the
door to some real legitimate closeness, and really getting to know
somebody. And you do that by finally throwing your sexual agenda out the
Now, if you're a woman, by the way you dress, the way you act, the way you
talk, the way you move, encourage this kind of relationship. Remember the
kind of bait you offer determines the kind of catch you get. Act like you
want brothers. Act like you want guys who will be friends, not users; not
conquerors. And men, cultivate sisters; a level of sharing and caring that
the sexual conquerors will never even get close to. Treat her like family.
She's your sister, man! And every sister needs a brother.
I saw one of those bumper frames for your license plate. It said, "Happiness is being a grandparent." Oh, that's the truth! I mean, I remember when I was a little kid. Happiness was having a grandparent with you, especially my grandmother. Because it always meant surprises; it meant going out to eat, and it almost always meant money! That's what grandparents are for, of course, to spoil kids. Any time I knew that I would be seeing Grandma I was excited to see what surprises she would bring. If we're that way about grandma, we should really be looking forward to what Father has for us today; that's Father with a capital F.
As you know, life is divided into 24-hour chunks. We have this sort of death and resurrection thing that takes place every day. You know, we sort of die about 10:00, 11:00, or 12:00 o'clock at night, and sort of start all over again the next morning. It's like beginning again the next day. So, life isn't this big old blob - life. It just really comes down to these 24-hour things doesn't it: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc.? There's a very interesting look in the Bible at a day in the life of a child of God, because that's really what it amounts to...have a good day. That's how you live the life of a Christian, you have a good day.
Go back to the book of Psalms, and here's what a day in the life looks like at beginning and end; sunrise and sunset in the life of a child of God. Our word for today from the Word of God, Psalm 5:3: "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation."
Okay, that's one end of the day. Let's go to the other end of the day. The sun has gone down now. Psalm 4:8 (same page in my Bible) says this; "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Now, it's interesting as you read this morning beginning with the Lord, beginning this 24-hour period of time. It talks about the many moods
of praying. There's not just one mood of praying; it's sort of like Baskin Robbins. There are a lot of flavors you can pray in. It says, "Give ear to my words, O Lord." Okay, that's just kind of making a statement. Then it says, "Consider my sighing." This is the kind of praying when you're totally depleted; you don't even know what to say. "O Lord, I can hardly get this out." And then it says, "Listen to my cry..." my cry for help.
This is desperation. And then he says, "I lay my requests before the Lord" every morning laying out the concerns of my heart.
By the way, did you do that this morning? Do you do that every morning? Talk to Him and say, "Lord, here's what I'm afraid of today; here's what I'm hoping for today; here's what I'm dreaming about; here's what I'm crying about; here are the people I love; here are the needs I'm anticipating." You empty your hands. Now, how can you tell if you've really prayed or if you just went through the motions? Notice that it says, "I lay my request before the Lord and wait in expectation." Hey, that's like Grandma's visit; waiting in expectation for her surprises. You know you've really prayed when you get off your knees expectantly and you go through your day looking for the fingerprints of God on that day. It may not be like I thought it would be, but there will be His surprises. Expectation is the byproduct of faith. So, are you uh... expecting? You say, "No, I'm a man. How could I be expecting?" No, I mean expecting good things from God. Expecting God's touch on what you've turned over to Him.
No wonder at night we can lie down and sleep in peace. You allow time each morning to turn over the specifics of that day to Jesus, and then you live in an air of expectancy. My grandmother seldom disappointed me, and your Heavenly Father never will.
When our sons were playing football, the varsity guys let them know an
important factor in impressing the coach. He'll be looking for you in the
weight room, not just at practice. Coaches know serious that athletes
serve their time in the weight room, concentrating on becoming stronger.
They're not there because it's fun, it's not. But because it's important
to winning the battle. One measure of your growing strength is what the
lifters call your bench press. That's not lifting a bench of course, but
it's how much you can lift over your head as you lie on a weight bench.
I've worked with a lot of football players and weight lifters, but I've
seldom met one who's content to keep the amount they can lift where it is.
They're always adding a little more weight to that bar. So, if your bench
press is 170 pounds, you want to go to 180... 190. If you've been lifting
200, you work to get it to 210... 220. Always pressing more.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "God's
Weight Room." Now, it's a principle of physical strength - and it's a principle in
God's gym as well. If you want to get stronger, you constantly have to be
lifting something heavier than you've lifted before. God, of course, isn't
just building biceps and triceps, he's building the one kind of strength
in us that opens up all He has for us. He is building faith muscles - the
ability to trust Him more than you've trusted Him before. Because "without
faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Now, if you're just
proceeding on the basis of what you can see, what you can figure out, what
you can pull off, then God isn't very happy with you. God's will requires
moving by faith, which is by God's definition, "being certain of what we
do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).
So how does God help you build more faith muscles so you can win greater
victories than ever before? Well, by giving you something to lift that is
heavier than you've ever had to lift before. Since God continually uses
Abraham as His example of a life of faith, let's check out how Abraham
performed in God's gym. In Romans 4, beginning with verse 19, our word for
today from the Word of God, we see how he handled this very heavy
situation. The promise of God that He would defy all reproductive biology
and give them a son through their aging bodies and then the long wait that
ensued between the promise and the fulfillment.
The Bible says, "Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that
his body was as good as dead - since he was about 100 years old and that
Sarah's womb was also dead." Now notice, faith does not deny that there
are daunting realities in the situation or the apparent impossibility of
an answer. It says though, "Yet he did not waver through unbelief
regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave
glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He
had promised." Abraham lifts by faith what he had never lifted before and
he is "strengthened in his faith." That's how it works. Greater weight to
develop greater faith to experience greater things.
You may have been wondering why God has allowed such a heavy burden into
your life right now. It may very well be, not that He's unhappy with you,
but that He loves you enough to help you become stronger than you've ever
been before. He's building your faith muscles. If He only trusted you with
what you've lifted before, you'd only have as much faith as you've had
before. And He's growing you for greater things, for future battles, for
more miraculous victories. But you have to serve your time in the weight
room - not because it's fun, but because it's the only way to get strong
enough to play spiritual varsity.
God's your spotter. He won't allow you to have more weight than you can
handle right now. He's promised that. But He will give you something
heavier than you lifted before, so you can become more powerful in Him
than you've ever been before.
Many of the world's greatest dramas are not on a stage or a screen, but they are played out in that quadrennial spectacle we call the Olympics. One year Britain's representative in the 400-meter race, Derek Redmond, went down in the back stretch with a torn right hamstring. As the medical attendants approached, Redmond fought to his feet and set out hopping, desperately trying to finish the race. He knew he wouldn't win, he was just trying to finish.
When he reached the final stretch, a man came out of the stands, pushed past a security guard, and ran to Redmond and hugged him. That man was Jim Redmond, Derek's father, and he said to him, "Son, you don't have to do this." Gritting his teeth and with tears in his eyes, his son said, "Yes, I do."
His father's reply, "Well, then, we're going to finish this together." Derek's head was sometimes buried in his father's shoulder, but they stayed in his lane to the end. When they crossed the finish line, the crowd stood to its feet, cheered, and wept as those two men finished the race.
Moses says to Israel in Deuteronomy 1:29-31 , "Then I said to you, 'Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.'"
Maybe today you are tired, banged up, or stressed out, and like that 400-meter runner in the Olympics, you are staggering right now. You're having a hard time finishing your race. You started well, and you have been running hard, but you're about to go down. Maybe you have been hit by discouragement, illness, family trouble, a lack of support, or a lack of help. Maybe you've run into obstacles or pain and you are hurting, and there is still more of the race ahead of you. God wants to give you the good news that someone has left the stands to help you. He is coming to the track to help you finish the rest of the way.
It's your Heavenly Father.
God left the stands to come to the cross, and there He rescued us from the sin wounds that would have kept us from reaching heaven. He knows we can't make it alone. He is an all-powerful Father who offers to carry us, but we have to let Him. If we are too proud to collapse in His arms and surrender to His control, then our power is limited, and we're not going to make it. If we will totally release control to Him and, in the words of Scripture, humble ourselves, we will have all His power. Even little children know where the power is when they sing, "...they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me."
Each of us experience days when we just don't have any more to give. Maybe you're there now. It's those moments in the race that can take you deeper into the love and power of Jesus than you have ever been before. Your Father is not a spectator in the stands today. His arm is around you right now, where you are. Listen to His voice saying, "We're going to finish this together!"
"We were closer when we were poorer." The lady who told me that was
speaking about her marriage, and she wasn't poor any more. You could tell
that by looking at her. She was very affluent. But she was telling me that
she and her husband were closer in the early days of their relationship
when they were pinching pennies, and scraping by, and wondering how they
were going to pay the rent, and fighting the wolf at the door. But they
were at least fighting the wolf together.
Now, since that conversation with that lady I've had many opportunities to
quote her at, oh, women's luncheons and dinners. And I always see women's
head nodding in agreement as if that's been the case in their life too.
Apparently there's something about not having much that can make a
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Very
Needy, Very Close."
The Apostle Paul knew about poor making you close, in life's most
important relationship that is. He talked about it in our word for today
from the Word of God. It's in 2 Corinthians 12:9. He says, quoting the
Lord, "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is
made perfect in weakness.' Therefore (Paul says) I will boast all the more
gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power will rest on me. That
is why, for Christ's sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in
hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am
I've had the wonderful privilege of meeting believers from a lot of other
countries: Haiti, Africa, India, a lot of places like that. And I've
noticed something about them. It's something, honestly, that I covet. They
seem to live in the supernatural more than I do, and more than most
Christians I know in this country. They seem to pray powerfully and they
expect and honestly they often get miracles. They're radically Christian.
And I feel like a pale office worker who hasn't been out in the sun all
year, standing next to someone who just got back from Florida with a deep
spiritual tan. I want what they have. And one believer summed up their
secret. He said, "Ron, we live in a poor village. We have no regular
support. We don't have organizations or manuals or tools. We only have
God." I can't get those words out of my heart, "We only have God."
See, they're rich in God because they're poor in earth. They're very needy
and they're very close to God. Now, our Christianity is active, and
sophisticated, and well managed, well planned, well financed, and often
pretty powerless. The early church had little machinery and much power. We
seem to have much machinery and, yeah, little power.
I guess there are three roads that we rich Christians can take. One, we
can continue with our mediocrity, doing the biggest things that man can
do. Two, we can learn God's power through a time when He strips us of all
the earth things that we are depending on. Or three, we could use all God
has given us, but put no trust in it.
You know, couples can have a lot but hold it loosely and still love each
other as if they were living on pork and beans. A Christian can live in
America and have it all but ask God to teach them childlike dependency.
All that we have blinds us to our total need - our desperate need - of
God and His power. We're as needy as the Christian from India, barely
surviving in his village. We just don't recognize it. We just don't admit
it. We just don't acknowledge it. We just don't live like it.
When you recognize how poor you are, you're really rich. Whether we live
in a condo or a hut; whether we eat filet or rice, we only have God.
I can't remember the names of all seven of Snow White's dwarfs, but I
don't feel bad about that. I do remember one - Grumpy. Actually I've heard
that the Grumpy shirt is one of Disney's big sellers these days. I might
know why. Grumpy is kind of the mood of a whole lot of people these days.
I mean, you know, when you take just the state of politics in America,
most people don't seem to be very excited about anybody. We've got one
group who wants us to stop spending money, and then there are some who
want people to stop making money. And there are some who don't like what
the President's doing, and some don't like what Congress is doing. And a
lot of people aren't impressed with any candidate so far. "Hello, Grumpy!"
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "None of the Above."
See, if there was a "none of the above" choice on the ballot, he might
just win. I mean, it doesn't matter whether you're in America or many
other countries of the world, we're just hurting for a leader who won't
let us down; who can actually do something about the baffling tangle of
problems we have. And it's not just politicians who've let us down.
Sometimes parents fail us...a church or a pastor fails us...a leader that
we've looked to disappoints us...betrays us.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Our leaders are a lot like us. And I
know I sure haven't been everything people needed me to be. I'm sure I've
disappointed folks along the way.
As much as human leaders may have let us down, it doesn't change the fact
that our hearts are hungry for someone to look to; someone who can take us
where we haven't been able to go ourselves. Who totally lives what he
says...who not only promises hope but delivers it...who can fix the
unfixable...who we can follow with the confidence that they care about us
more than they care about themselves.
That's Jesus, and only Jesus. As our word for today from the Word of God
in Romans 10:11 tells us, "Anyone who believes in Him will never be
disappointed." I sure haven't been. This Man who had the power to walk out
of His grave has had more than enough power to change what I couldn't;
people I couldn't change, problems I couldn't fix, dark parts of me that I
couldn't control. He's led me on roads that didn't always make sense on
the first mile, but always ended up putting me in a better place.
And there's no doubt about Him caring more about me than about Himself. He
offered Himself to be nailed to a cross and separated from God so my sins
could be erased and I could be with Him in heaven forever. And anybody who
loves me enough to die for me will never do me wrong.
There really is a hole in our hearts that's starved for a loving leader
for our life. A "shepherd" as Jesus said. He said, "My sheep listen to My
voice; I know them, and they follow Me." And where does following Him end
up? He said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish" (John
10:27-28). That's a promise that only Jesus can make, and only Jesus can
keep. And it may be that in a heart that's listening today that feels lost
inside, needing someone to look to, looking for that person who can fix
what you can't fix, take you where you've never been able to go, make
sense out of the scattered pieces of the puzzle, then you're ready for
Jesus and He's ready for you.
Why don't you reach out to Him today and say, "Jesus, I'm Yours. You died
for me; I can trust You. I'm Yours." Go to our website. Find out there how
to be sure you've begun your personal relationship with Him. Go to
Remember a couple of years ago, we heard a plane crashed in the Hudson
River? And I thought it was just going to be massive carnage. Instead we
saw "the miracle on the Hudson." This jetliner's engines had been totally
disabled, it looked like there was going to be a tragic crash. But their
captain, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, was a veteran fighter pilot,
airline pilot and crash investigator; probably one of the few pilots who
could bring them in safely. And he was the one at the controls.
I've been on some flights where I wish I could have picked the captain in
the cockpit. I've never been able to pick the pilot for my flight, but I
got to pick the pilot for my life, and it's Captain Jesus.
He's the one Pilot who can bring you in safely...no matter what happens.
Mystery rides were part of growing up at our house. Usually it was a
Sunday afternoon, and I'd pile our three kids, who were little then and
never will be again, into our car for a ride. I think we explored every
corner of our area. And as we did, we discovered over the years, a lot of
great things. But I've got one son who's a lot like me. He wants to know
the plan before we leave.
"Hey, Dad, where are we going? Where are we going to eat? What are we
going to eat? What are we going to do while we're there? How long will we
be there? What time are we going to get home?" He would pump me with
questions; I felt like I was being interrogated by a police sergeant.
Sometimes I knew it was better not to explain where we were going. Oh,
we've done things that would have sounded boring if I had told about them,
but they turned out to be exciting and I knew they would. Plus surprises
are fun anyway. So, my kids got used to hearing two words when we were
about to begin a mystery trip, "Trust me." I don't think I let them down.
It was good training for journeys with their other Father.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Going
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from the life of the Apostle
Paul; he's still Saul of Tarsus here. Acts 9 - he's on his way to wipe out
Christians. He missed some in Jerusalem. So he said, "I'll get them in
Damascus. They all went there; I'll find them in Syria." We begin in verse
3: "As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven
flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him,
'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?' 'Well, who are you, Lord?' Saul
asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now, get up
and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'"
Now, it's interesting that Saul's training for his whole life in Christ
began immediately with a mystery trip. Yeah, did you notice that? He has
just opened up to Jesus, and the Lord says, "Go into the city and you will
be told." "Lord, what do you want me to do there? Who am I going to meet
there? How am I even going to be able to see; I'm blind right now?" The
Lord says, "Go and you will be told." Well, he spent the rest of his life
living like that.
In Acts 20, when he was on his way to Jerusalem as the great Apostle Paul
and his friends were trying to discourage him, he said, "Compelled by the
Spirit, I am going not knowing." See, you have a heavenly Father who often
takes His children on mystery trips. Maybe you're on one of His mystery
trips right now. There's a good destination He's got in mind, but right
now He's telling you just the next step. In essence, He's saying to you as
He did to Saul, "Go, and you will be told as you are on the way."
It may well be that you're in the middle of one of those times right now,
and the tendency is to say, "Now, Lord, if you'll just give me all the
information, give me all the facts, I'll start going that direction." And
the Lord says, "No, you start moving in that direction I've told you to
go, and you'll get more information as you go."
Now, maybe you're waiting to have all your questions answered before you
move, and right now there are more question marks than there are periods
or exclamation points for sure. Can you almost hear your Father saying as
He bundles you into His car, "Trust Me, let's start traveling together."
Hey, He died for you. Is He ever going to do you wrong? God's mystery
trips always lead to a destination that is selected with you in mind for
your good. So, why not settle back, enjoy the trip, and let Him drive.
Trust your Father and don't be afraid of going not knowing.
Bill Cosby did a classic comedy routine about it, and I'm not sure it's that funny, frankly. You get up and you go into the other room to get something, then you can't remember for the life of you what you went in there for until you go back and sit down. Oh, ever happen to you? That's the harmless kind of forgetfulness. But too many of us have had loved ones who, as the years went on, remembered less and less; sometimes even the people who loved them. When people's memory goes, they can become very easily disoriented; they can make some very bad decisions and even place themselves in great danger.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The High Cost of Forgetting."
For the most part, there's not much you can do about memory loss - the mental kind, that is. But there is something you can do about spiritual memory loss, because forgetting spiritually can be pretty damaging, too.
It was, in fact, one fundamental reason why God's ancient people kept wandering from God, messing up their lives, and suffering God's judgment. And it's one reason we make the same kinds of mistakes. In Psalm 106, beginning in verse 12, our word for today from the Word of God, God summarizes the unhappy history of His people then and now. "They believed His promises and sang His praise." That's the good news. "But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel." Now, the results were disobedience and resulting judgment. In the same psalm, God says that at other times, "They gave no thought to Your miracles; they did not remember Your many kindnesses, and they rebelled..." (Psalm 106:7) "...they forgot the God who saved them" (Psalm 106:21). Again, disastrous results.
We're all prone to quickly forget the great God we have and the amazing things that He's done for us. And like a person who loses their cognitive memory, we start to get disoriented - to wander where we never should wander - to leave God's ways and to leave God's will, and to experience the pain of God's correction and judgment or simply the painful consequences of our own wrong choices.
But unlike cognitive memory loss, there's a simple antidote for spiritual forgetting. It's called praise; regular, specific, conscious praise to God for who He is and what He's done. Praise is actually a discipline - a deliberate focusing of your thoughts on things you have to thank God for. We should wake up praising. As we're getting ready in the morning, we should train our mind and heart to be expressing thanks to God, enumerating things we appreciate about Him. Talk about getting your day off to a right kind of start! Whenever we pray, we should train ourselves to begin with praises to God before we rush to our requests. And through the day, we need to be looking for evidences of God (I call them God sightings.) all over the place and then sending up thanks to God for them.
When we stop praising God, we start forgetting God. And when we forget the kind of God we have, we start wandering, we start getting hurt, and we are much more likely to take matters into our own hands, to panic, to get impatient, to get discouraged or to get depressed. But the more you train yourself to be a "praiser," the less mistakes you're going to make - the less regrets you're going to have. You lose so much when you forget.
I was speaking at a youth conference, and we all had breakfast in the
cafeteria together. And then when we got together for our morning session
I said, "Now, I want you guys to imagine that somebody who was at
breakfast with us comes in the room and his cheeks are all puffy and you
ask him what's wrong, and he just goes, "uh...uh... uh..." And you go,
"Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Here's a piece of paper." And you give him
a piece of paper and he writes down, "I'm starved." Now I ask him, "Did
you eat breakfast?" "Uh-huh." "And you're still hungry?" "Uh-huh." And
then I would ask him, "Did you swallow it?" "Huh-uh." "Oh, maybe that's
why you're still hungry." See, it isn't enough just to ingest your food;
you've got to swallow it for it to do anything for you.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about
"Swallowing What You Eat."
Now, our word for today from the Word of God is in Joshua 1:8. And you
might say it's about spiritual eating and spiritual digestion, because
ingestion is not enough to satisfy your appetite. Ingesting food is not
enough to nourish you. Joshua 1:8 puts it this way in the biblical formula
for personal success. It says this, "Do not let this book of the law (the
Bible) depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night."
In other words, be saturated with the Bible. Take a Bible bath. You should
be in it day and night, really knowing what it's saying. But listen, it
says, "So that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you
will be prosperous and successful."
Did you catch those words "careful to do"? It doesn't say, "I want you to
read the Bible to just know what it says." I want you to read the Bible to
do what it says. The purpose of being in God's Word is to memorize it,
meditate on it, but then to do what you read. In other words, until the
Bible gets into your real life; until you've found a change you're going
to make because of what you've read, all you've done is sort of take it
in, kind of hold it in your mouth spiritually, but it's not in your system.
So when you study the Bible, if you're going to read it to do something,
that means before you close the Bible each morning when you're with the
Lord, you say, "Lord, help me make a connection to something I'm going to
face today." Always make that connection between what you're reading and
what your life is doing right now. So, if you're reading about loving your
brother, you say, "Okay, which brother am I having a hard time loving?"
Okay, "Love your Ralph." Or whoever's the hard guy to love.
If it's talking about patience, you say, "Let's see, who do I need to be
more patient with right now? Okay, Lord, help me be more patient with my
Mom, or my wife." If it's talking about temptation, then you say, "Which
temptation am I facing right now?" And you put that temptation into the
verse. So if it says, "Do not let sin control your body." Then which sin?
Okay, so you put in there, "Do not let gossip control your body (the one
you struggle with, whatever it is)."
For example, in James 1. Let's try this. You're reading the book of James,
and it says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of
many kinds." Now if you're just ingesting, you'd kind of go, "Today I read
about trials." Now, wait a minute. No, no! Which trial are you facing
right now?" You go, "Oh, man, my boss!" Or you might say if you're
married, "My in-laws." Okay, then make it in the verse, "Whenever you face
trials of many kinds (with your boss), (with your in-laws) because you
know that the testing of your faith (by your boss), (your in-laws)
develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may
be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Now, that verse could just be about trials in general, or it could be
about someone or something you're facing today. When you make that
connection, you begin to swallow what you're eating. God's got a lot of
fat children who've never put into use what they're reading.
Every day ask yourself the question, "What am I going to do because of
what I read?" And once you do that and start to make those changes, you
are well on your way to an exciting new you; one day, one change at a time.
Hey, don't be content to just ingest the Bible, digest it. That's the only way you grow.
People do the craziest things to lose weight. I know. We will take away all the normal food out of our lives, and then it's tremendous. You can have water, grapefruit, all the lettuce can eat, lots of celery, and watery soup. You can lose weight that way, but you know what? Take it from an old diet expert here, you can't keep it lost. You just can't live that way. You just can't always eat just grapefruit and unlimited lettuce. You have to find some new foods that you can eat and enjoy for the rest of your life. Otherwise you violate the key principle: If you're going to take away something you enjoy, you had better put something good in its' place if you want the change to last. Actually that applies to spiritual change.
In our word for today from the Word of God in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul is writing to young men and he's talking about a subject that would have to do with young men. He talks about the "evil desires of youth." He says, "Look, I know especially when you're young that one of the challenges spiritually is controlling your glands, and your sexuality, and your feelings toward the opposite sex." And he talks about something you should lose. You could almost call it losing spiritual weight. Except here it's losing a bad habit.
He says, "Flee the evil desires of youth." Okay, that's the diet plan; that's the fattening things you've got to lose. But I'm glad he doesn't leave it there, because he gives you something new to put in its place. He says, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue..." Okay, it's not just running from things. There's something you need to chase. "...and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace."
I'm afraid that a lot of Christians would just stop with the negative - with the prohibition. "Flee youthful lusts, my son." And he's right when he says that, and we're right to have those negatives. Don't cheapen sex, don't fill yourself up with destructive music, or websites, or worldly amusements. Don't go out with unbelievers, don't read magazines that have garbage values, and don't watch junk TV.
But notice that Paul doesn't stop with a "don't." He says, "Go chasing..." And then he says, "...pursue some good stuff to do. Go after faith." Well, that means adventures that can stretch you and your faith in God. He says, "Go after love." In other words, be pursuing bridges to other people; more ways to put them first. He says, "Be a peacemaker between other people." He gives one don't and four do's. That's a spiritual diet that can have lasting
affects. Lasting results because you've got many more things you are doing than things you stopped doing.
Jesus talked about a man who swept the house and got rid of an evil spirit, but he didn't have anything in the house after the spirit was gone. And seven spirits worse came back because there was a vacuum. See, I don't think we can just be against things; we've got to be for a lot more things. We've got to invest in alternatives to the wrong thing.
We should major on healthy friendships, invest in those, encourage those, spend money for our kids to have good input and fun family times without regrets, and healthy recreation to develop their abilities. Go on spiritual missions together in your neighborhood or somewhere else in the world.
I think as Christians we should be known for being too busy doing good things to miss the things we're not doing. Let's be known not for what we're against, but for the great things we're for.