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HYDRATE – Winning From the Inside 31 (Matthew 6:24) Magnify

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

A man named Hippolytus was martyred in Rome in the third century. In the recorded incident it says he was a soldier who participated in the torture execution of St. Lawrence but converted as a result of that martyr’s example. He was then sentenced to be torn apart by horses. I mention this gruesome story for the purpose of trying to brand an image in our brains as to what happens to us (not physically…but every other way) when we try to serve multiple masters.

Have you ever said, “I’m torn between two ideas…I’m not sure what I should do?” Jesus warns us straight up that if you and I have multiple foundational authorities then we will end up hating one and loving the other. Which one do you think we naturally will have a tendency to obey? Its fair to say that if you obey one, that’s the one you love. If you disobey the other, that’s the one you hate. I think we naturally are drawn to love the easy master, the popular master, the master that requires less resistance, less sacrifice. That all sounds good until we think about the other master…the one that requires us to sacrifice, give, work hard, put in the extra effort, pay the price. What’s wrong with taking the easy road? I say, everything! I know you agree with me that the route that requires sacrifice, giving, hard work, extra effort, a price, is the route that is ultimately better for us. It most definitely makes for a better story when its over. But its so natural to want to travel the easy road. When we choose the easy road, who pays the price? The road doesn’t. We do! Why is it that we naturally want to choose the easy, lazy, and damaging path for a short term reward at the cost of a long term lasting reward? Its all crazy! The pull of the two forces is exhausting. We are actually told this in the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote about it in Galatians 5:17. He said, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” That passage has a heavy feel to it. It paints a picture of a man/woman in a continual wrestling match. A continual wrestling match is exhausting from all perspectives. It leads me to take another look at the picture above of the man being pulled apart.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Paul warns us that the two forces are constantly fighting each other. It doesn’t say that they will constantly being striving to pull you apart, it says they fight each other. This idea gives me hope in that it seems I can train myself to obey the right way every time. Isn’t that a possibility? If I have no hope that I can actually develop the discipline to choose the right path every time, then I am a dejected and hopeless man. Jesus says not to have two masters. Paul says the two masters will continually fight each other. We know that we will be tempted by both masters until we die, but we also know that we get to choose which one wins. This fact comforts me, challenges me, and inspires me to want to win and thus choose the right master/choice every time!

Some might argue and say, “Trent, we are sinners and none of us are perfect, its not possible to choose right every time.”

I would disagree. If I get technical with this argument then I would argue back that a choice is always a choice that can be made in the right way…every time. A mistake, an accident…even when it’s sin, isn’t necessarily a choice…sometimes mistakes/accidents happen so fast, it really wasn’t a choice. It happened. I think these accidental sins are what John references in 1 John 5:16-17. John mentions a sin that doesn’t lead to death and sins that do lead to death. Choosing sin and Falling into sin are very different motives and very different sins. Jesus has compassion for one and despises the other, although both can be forgiven, if the person who sinned confesses and repents as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I believe that we can choose the right way every time. Examples?
You can choose not to murder…every time you are tempted.
You can choose not to gossip…every time you are tempted.
You can choose to forgive…every time you are hurt.
You can choose to not to steal…every time theft is an option.
You can choose to only drink a little and not get drunk…every time you have alcohol present.
You can choose to do the right thing every time…even when the wrong thing is easier.

If I really love you, then I will stick to my guns on this thought. You and I can choose right every time! When we don’t choose right, the only person we should blame is ourselves. When we choose wrong, then the reality is that we actually chose wrong twice. When I choose wrong, I chose to commit a sin and also chose to ignore my best master Jesus Christ. Choosing to do this is inexcusable. I think when I make the wrong choice, I can explain it, but it doesn’t excuse it. I must, then, face the truth and admit that I simply chose to ignore what Jesus commanded me to do. When I do this, I can’t think of more dangerous way to live.

The hard truth is this. These choices to sin don’t just happen in one instant. A tough example is the example of when someone has a sexual affair. The people committing the sin didn’t just wake up the next morning wondering what happened. No! The affair more than likely started months earlier. In the case of a man who chose to go to a bar and have a one night stand, he actually started having marriage problems way earlier than just that night. In the case of a couple who had a sexual affair, it actually started at the office when they chose to begin to playfully and “harmlessly” tease one another. Then over the next couple of weeks and months this teasing couple actually look forward to getting to the office a bit early, they put on an extra spray of cologne/perfume before they leave for the office.

When we choose to obey the wrong choice at the cost of obeying Jesus, it actually started with a secret. In option one above, the man who had the one night stand refused to talk to his accountability partner at church and instead chose to keep it a secret that he was struggling in his marriage. In the example of the couple at the office, they both, secretly, put that extra spray on, and left for the office early.

Honoring the wrong master…always…starts with a secret. Whether the master is money…which I haven’t talked about in this post, or any other master that is trying to pull you away from Jesus who paid the price to be your master. Jesus earned the right to be your master. Every other master is simply a selfish bastard that wants to justify its evil by having you as company!

Here’s the way to wrap this post up. A Master is simply a Magnifying Glass. Many times the two masters that are pulling at you, are both good. In fact all sin is usually doing a good thing…out of bounds. Examples? Sex is good thing…only with your spouse. Money is good…love of money is the root of all evil. Alcohol is good…too much alcohol is evil. Ambition is good, selfish ambition is evil. Lust is good, lust for created things is evil.

Which master will you choose? Each choice you make, actually is two choices being made. Love one…Hate the other…two choices. When we choose the master who is not Jesus…we actually are saying with our actions…(actions speak louder than words)…”Jesus…I hate you!”

Masters are simply magnifying glasses that show, in a big way, who we really are. Money is just a magnifying glass that exposes who you really are and thus magnifies how you use the gift of money. Sex is a magnifying glass that exposes (no pun intended) who you are as you choose who you have sex with…do you honor God with your sex or the devil with your sex? (Love one/Hate the other) Jesus Christ is a magnifying glass, that when you choose to live for Him, it magnifies to everybody around you, who you are. The devil is a magnifying glass, that when you choose to live for him, he magnifies to everybody around you, who you are.

It helps me to think of everything as a magnifying glass that when I choose it, the whole world sees who I am, MAGNIFIED. Do I live big for Jesus or for other masters?

You cannot serve two masters…you will hate one at the cost of loving the other.

I choose to love Jesus Christ. I want to Magnify Him and when I do, He magnifies me back…and the world notices!
You will be presented with the opportunity to follow many different masters today.
Which one will you allow to magnify you?


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INIDE 19 (Mt. 5:38-39) “Turn the other cheek.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Matthew 5:38-39
(NIV)

DRINK IT IN:
Are you one of millions who are confused by this passage? Doesn’t this passage seem to say, just be a punching bag? This Scripture verse and the next two, in my opinion, have been misunderstood for way too long. I hope after you read this, you will have total clarity on what Jesus meant and your new understanding of it will help you advance the strengths of the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.” What an easy passage. What an easy law to understand. Call me sick, but I often wish this Old Testament Law were still in affect. If you are a person of peace and innocence, you would never have to worry about this law. If something bad happened to you, it would have been very clear what to do about it. This passage would have caused anyone to strive to avoid/resist an evil person. For if evil were done to you, you could return evil back to the person and it be perfectly acceptable. I don’t know about you, but personally, I have no desire to injure someone’s eye or remove someone’s tooth…even if it happened to me first. This fact would cause me to resist an evil person. To resist an evil person is to run from them, to avoid them and completely stay away from them. To do this I would have to always be alert and in avoidance mode. It would cause me to fear evil people. I don’t necessarily fear having my tooth knocked out or eye injured, although it would be horrible, but what I don’t like about this law is that if it happens to me, I’m supposed to do the same back to the person. I would resist an evil person for fear of having to pluck out his eye or knock out his tooth. To resist an evil person is the same as resisting chocolate. To resist is to completely say no. To keep it out of my life. To resist is to not take a bite, or eat the whole chocolate bar. Resist, means to stay away from. Agree?

Enter Jesus and the New Testament times.

Jesus walks onto the scene and says, “Do NOT resist an evil person.” Don’t avoid them, don’t run from them, and do not fear them. Do not resist an evil person, is best understood when compared to this phrase; do not resist a chocolate bar.

So what is Jesus saying when He says, “Do not resist an evil person?” I think to fully understand what Jesus is saying here we have to read some other things that He said, or the Bible says.

I think I have to mention Deuteronomy 32:35(NLT) immediately. I want to preface everything I am about to write with this passage. “I will take revenge; I will pay them back.” The “I” is God, not us. Revenge is God’s business, not mankind’s. Verse 36 goes on to say, “Indeed the Lord will give justice to His people.” Another passage that is good to preface what I’m about to write is Proverbs 19:11 (NLT) “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” Alright, a couple more verses like this to reinforce the powerful message of kindness and love and respect from the Bible. Romans 12:14 (NLT) “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Over and over in the Bible, we can read passages that reiterate to not return evil for evil. We will be known by our love. So, in what I’m about to write, please understand that we are to be a daily demonstration of Jesus Christ. Jesus bore the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control on a daily basis, everyday of His life. We are to do the same. Revenge belongs to God.

However…
Nowhere in Scripture are we taught that Christians are to be a walking mat. We are not told to take another beating. I think Matthew 5:38-39 has been taught incorrectly way too much and thus has been misunderstood for a long time. Read the passage again from Jesus, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

At its simplest reading, it seems to read as if Jesus is telling us to stay around evil people and if they beat us, turn the other cheek, ignore it, and take another beating from the other side. If you are a Christian wife, just stick around your evil husband as he beats you and take another one for the Gipper, because you might save the soul of your husband someday….just cover the bruises with make up! (I wish there were a font for cynicism and sarcasm.)

Many people think that we are supposed to act just like Jesus as He was being crucified. I agree that we should, if we are being crucified. When was the last time you witnessed a Christian being crucified? Are you in danger of being crucified today? If you are, then please behave just like Jesus. He didn’t resist the evil that was happening to Him. He forgave while He was on the cross. He took the beating…over…and over…and over….and over. Please understand something here. This is what Jesus was born for. He was born to be the sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered so that all of mankind’s sins could be forgiven. This is not something you can duplicate or replicate. We can replicate Jesus’ forgiveness. We can replicate His love for others. We can replicate His holy behavior. However, what happened to Jesus on the cross and the fact that He allowed it to happen to Him, is not a standard of how we should live our lives as we live amongst evil in a dark world. Jesus is not asking you to lay down your cross and be crucified for the sins of the evil person you are not resisting. Only Jesus was required to lay down His cross and lay down on it for the Father. Jesus is asking you TAKE UP your cross and carry it. He laid down His Cross and was mutilated and annihilated on it. You are to TAKE UP your cross and carry it. Let me explain how this is different and how Matthew 5:38-39 should empower you to hold your head high and walk right into the mix of darkness and evil and continue to shine like a bright light.

What does Jesus really mean when He says things like, “Don’t resist an evil person”…and…”if you get struck, turn the other cheek?”

Please be patient with, me as I preface what I’m about to write, with two more very important teachings of Scripture, especially for this specific passage, and thus be able to fully understand what Jesus means by this turn the other cheek stuff.

The first passage is one Jesus spoke and is recorded in Matthew 10:16.(NLT) I wrote about this specific passage in HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court.” I will write more about it when I get to this exact teaching of Jesus as I follow the order of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The passage Jesus spoke says this, “Be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” Jesus told us to behave this way when we are around evil.

The second passage is one that Paul wrote in Romans 12:21. (NLT) “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Can you see how it could be seen as a contradiction when you compare Romans 12:21 with Jesus’ total submission and passivity on the cross? He just let them kill Him. He was conquered by evil. (Some could argue that He knew He would be raised from the dead in 3 days and nights. I think that is a fair argument, but, the reality is that Jesus’ purpose was to be killed so as to pay for all the sins we’ve committed. Nothing we do or should do can be compared to that, ever.) Jesus came to earth to be conquered and killed. Thank God that He rose from the grave, but when His heart beat its last and we see the water and blood come out of his chest when the Roman guard pierces him with a spear….Jesus was officially conquered. Dead.

So, how do we measure and compare these two passages; “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good,’ and “be as shrewd as a snake and harmless as a dove,” with “Don’t resist an evil person, if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek?” It seems that some actions of Christians that are backed up with this passage seem to tell us to be conquered by evil. But Jesus is really saying…do not let evil conquer you. In fact, conquer evil! I love that. Conquer evil by doing good.

These three passages seem to cause contradiction. We know that the Bible does not have any contradictions. If the Bible doesn’t have any contradictions, but we understand this as a contradiction, then the Bible is not wrong, our understanding of the passage is wrong.

Let’s correct our misunderstanding.

I wish I could stand before you right now and demonstrate this passage to you instead of try to explain it through writing. But here is my best effort.

If you look really carefully at Matthew 5:38-39, you will notice that Jesus is very specific about which cheek you get struck on. It is specifically written, “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek.” If Jesus wanted us to just keep getting struck and to be a walking mat for an evil person, then He would have very simply stated, If someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. He didn’t say this. He said, “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek, turn to them the other (left) cheek.”

This paints a very clear picture for us, especially when we understand some basic Hebrew/Jewish culture practices that coincide with this passage.

I have had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Lands many times and my plan is to go back every 2 years, taking a group of 50 or less each time. If you are ever interested, please contact me and I’ll get your name on the list for the next trip. When I travel to this incredible place I always make it a point to find an elderly person who is has always been Jewish and I speak with them about ideas I have about the Bible. I am convinced, that having a strong understanding of ancient Hebrew culture, is the best way to understand what Jesus taught in the Scriptures. I am shocked at how Christians think of Jesus and try to understand what Jesus taught by using their own cultures to understand it. Many Christians are guilty of thinking that Jesus’ teachings are based off of the the culture they live in today. For instance, I think many Christians that live in America think that Jesus is white skinned and thinks with western culture presuppositions. However, Jesus was raised in a Jewish home, where He would have learned the Jewish Culture and followed it very seriously. Jesus’ skin would have been a dark olive tone and He would have been what the average Jewish man looked like in that day. Did you know that the average Jewish man in Jesus’ time was 5’4″ tall? The Old Testament says that there was nothing about Jesus’ physical appearance that made Him stand out from the average person. That’s all beside the point I want to teach here. My point, in all of what I just wrote, is that having an understanding of the Jewish Culture is the best way to understand what Jesus meant when He taught. I can, pretty confidently say, that if there is a passage in Scripture that is causing you confusion, then the confusion would probably end if you understood what is confusing you through a Jewish Culture and a Jewish understanding. The rest of this post is teaching Matthew 5:38-39 through the understanding of the Jewish culture and understanding of this passage.

Here are the details.

In the Jewish Culture your Right Hand is the hand of power, control and protection. Think with me about some things that Scripture records. The Bible references the Right hand of God. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. The right hand of fellowship. The strong right hand of God. Right hand of God’s protection. I would guess that the creation of the word RIGHTeous is a derivative of the word Right. You get the idea? Should I say sorry to all the South-paws” out there!? LOL

Now, understanding the powerful right hand of God and how important this is to the Jewish people, here is something I learned from an elderly person in Jerusalem during one of my trips.

The people in the Bible times had a very different life than the ones we live. For a fun example, think with me about sewer systems and using the toilet. There are ancient toilets that still remain to this day and it is fun to see how they would have used the toilet back in those days. (I love weird stuff like that) What I’m about to write is not written to be weird or gross, but to help us all understand this teaching about turning the other cheek. In Jesus’ day, toilet paper was nonexistent, unlike in America today. Even today, my trips to South America and Africa have shown that toilet paper is still not readily available to a majority of the population around the world. So, in Jesus time, how did the people clean themselves after going to the bathroom? The farm boy in me wants to ask it like it is. How did they wipe their butts in Jesus’ day? In the Jewish culture, as long as someone wasn’t very poor, they would carry with them a stick with a natural sponge attached to it. This cleaning instrument would be kept under their robe at all times unless it was being used in the toilet room. After going to the bathroom, the person would use his LEFT hand to grip the cleaning instrument, dip it in the clean water in front of them and then clean themselves. I say all this to say that the left hand, in the Hebrew culture, was considered an unclean hand…for reasons you should now understand. It was considered very inappropriate and gross to use your left hand for anything that entailed public interaction. The left hand was for personal use only. Whether or not you think that is right or wrong is not the point. The point is…a Jewish person in Jesus’ time didn’t touch other people with his left hand in any way…ever.

Back to Jesus’ teaching about someone striking you on the right cheek. Question. If you know you do not use your left hand for public use at anytime, and at the same time you are going to strike somebody on the right cheek, what hand do you use, and how would that hand have to be angled to strike that right cheek accordingly? I have added a picture of me below to help you visualize and imitate this striking the right cheek stuff! Go for it. Strike away…just remember its really not me, don’t break your computer!

In the picture above, my right cheek is more readily available to be slapped. So, go ahead and slap my right cheek with your right hand. If you are like me, then when you imitated a slapping or striking pattern to strike my RIGHT cheek, it was awkward. UNLESS…you used the back side of your right hand. Try it again, but this time “back-hand” my right cheek? It works! Note this…when you struck “me” with the back side of your right hand, you actually gave me what is called a “smite.”

Now, back to Matthew 5:38-39. The actual word should not be translated strike, but SMITE. The word smite has many definitions linked to it. You can look it up yourself and see that there are many ways to smite somebody. To smite someone is another way of saying you are going to kill them, punch them, ridicule them, etc. Smite is not a word we use in our culture so much today, so most of the translations we have in our Bibles today use the word, strike, slap or other terms that are more culturally relevant. The use of these words may be more relevant to our current cultures, but they also make it very easy to misunderstand what Jesus is actually trying to say in this passage.

In one of my conversations with an elderly woman in Jerusalem, when I asked her about this passage, she explained to me that to be struck with the back of the right hand (smite) is the ultimate form of ridicule and discrimination. In the Jewish culture, when someone took the back of their right hand and gave you a smite across your right cheek, it was their way of saying they are above you and better than you. To receive a smite across the face was very demeaning and embarrassing. (I imagine a snobby person with their black leather gloves in their right hand, looking down over their designer glasses and smiting me with the gloves across my right cheek and face…very demeaning.) Do you get the idea?

So, go back to my picture above. Imagine, after you have given me a “smite” across my right cheek with the back of your right hand…and I did not “resist” you, but instead simply stood my ground with you and turned my left cheek to you, as if to say, “go ahead and smite my left cheek.”

Now, try something. Go ahead, and do the motion of giving me a smite, with the back of your right hand delivered to my OTHER (Left) cheek? You can’t do it without looking like an idiot. This fact, in your indignant anger, would force you, at this point, to do one of two things. One, you would walk away and yourself be humbled as I stood my ground against you. Or two, it would cause you to use your open right hand or with a closed fist to slap or punch me and therefore admit you are my equal.(More on this in a moment.) The whole point of a smite, is to show the person you are giving the smite to, that you are better than they are. So, if you struck me with your open right hand or closed fist, how would that make you admit that we are equals? Where do you think the sport of boxing comes from? In our boxing world when two men or women enter the competitive ring, you never see a lightweight going toe to toe with a heavy weight. No, always light weight vs. lightweight, or middleweight vs. middleweight. From the beginning of competitive boxing, two equals always got in the ring to determine who could outbox who. Boxing is with a closed fist for punching or in some cases open handed slaps between two equals. The elderly lady, I visited with in Jerusalem, told me that in the Hebrew culture, to slap or punch somebody is to admit that you are an equal with the person you are fighting. Smiting/back handing is a way to demonstrate dominance over the one being struck.

So, back to my picture above. If after your gave me a smite on the right cheek, I then turn the other cheek (left cheek) as if to say, “go ahead, try it again!” By doing this, I actually put you in a predicament of several factors. First, I am NOT resisting you, like Jesus commands in the passage. I am actually standing up to you. I am also obeying what Jesus said about being sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. If I turn my left cheek to you after you gave me a smite on my right cheek, I am strategically setting you up to admit that you are my equal, when your whole point of the smite was to demean me and demonstrate to the witnesses watching, that you think you are better than me. And third, I also obey the scripture of Romans 12:21 that says, conquer evil by doing good.

Do you get this?
After you smite me on the right cheek, I then turn to you my left cheek…in this moment, now answer the following questions…
In my position in front of you and with my left facial cheek exposed towards you…
Am I seen as a person of timidity?
Am I seen as a person of revenge?
Am I seen as a person who is weak?
Am I seen as a person who is just asking for another beating?
Am I seen as a person of patient endurance?
Am I seen as a person of strategy?
Am I seen as a person of strength?
Am I inspiring to those who are watching?

You see, when I turn that other cheek, the person who wants to strike me again is forced to make a decision. Slap me or punch me and demonstrate that you are my equal. I would be okay with that! Or walk away and demonstrate to the witnesses that they just got outsmarted, outwitted and outplayed.

You CONQUERED evil, by DOING good!

And, the whole time, they remained holy, pure, and an inspiration of what it means to be a follower of Jesus!

There’s more. The next verse following this turn the other cheek passage…does the same thing but in a court setting and while facing a lawsuit. If you like what you just read about turning the other cheek, the next two posts are of the same nature but about being taken to court, or being forced to carry something for someone.

As you go out and about in the world and undoubtedly will be confronted by different kind of evil remember to
Conquer evil by doing good!
Turn the other cheek and watch them squirm!

You will be known as a follower of Jesus Christ, and as having incredible patient strength, and self control!
That’s living like Jesus.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 15 (Mt.5:27) “Adultery/Lust”


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27

DRINK IT IN:
I think Jesus had the gift of being direct. Wouldn’t you agree? It doesn’t seem like Jesus’ listeners ever had to wonder what He was thinking, because He just said it. I find this trait refreshing about people. Oh, it can be irritating, but to me, its better to know what’s going on inside the head of someone, than to wonder. Which do you prefer and why?

Jesus was being very direct here. He was leaving nothing up in the air for interpretation alterations. He made it very clear that Adultery is sin and He took it one step further. He said to even look lustfully upon a person is adultery as well. We should all be in agreement that “Actions speak louder than words.” The action of adultery is sin and evil. But Jesus takes this issue deeper. I think Jesus loved to talk about foundations and origins. In my opinion, Jesus was warning us about the dangers of what goes unspoken in our lives yet impacts us. The thoughts, feelings, emotions, mental images, that are alive inside our brains and hearts, are just as serious to God as real actions. In my Hydrate post #12 titled “Words,” I wrote about how Jesus says that the WORD itself is not where the evil resides. The evil resides inside the heart and becomes evident through the spoken word. Jesus is saying that what is in the heart ends up being spoken as words. So it is in this case with adultery. It starts in the heart. It starts internally. Its starts as a secret. I don’t know who originally said it, but someone once said, “a secret is the beginning of sin.”

Jesus doesn’t give us any “wiggle room” here. (As I typed the word wiggle, my mind just sang the lyrics “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle…Yeah” to the popularly funny and inappropriate song sung by LMFAO) And that just proves a point I am trying to make. When we see and hear and think about things it is a natural thing to internalize them. It just happens. I have only heard that song on the radio a few times, but its inside my head now and probably always will be. And this brings me right to the point I want us to have great clarity about. Before I go there, let me pause and ask…Do I have to go any further about Adultery being wrong? Just in case you are trying justify any sexually deviant behavior outside your relationship with your spouse, as non-adulterous, I want to clarify. Sex with another person, who is not your spouse of the opposite sex, is adulterous. It is Adultery. Period. The End. Done. If you desire to argue that…there is something deeply wrong in you. Stop it.

Let’s get to clarity as we go through this writing. I have a question for you. Just because I thought about the inappropriate song by LMFAO, did I sin? The answer is no. Because to have an initial thought about something is not sin. You would have to remove your brain to not have this happen. To have an initial thought about something like this, is called temptation. TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN. Temptation to sin, is not sin. Let’s make this practical to the subject at hand, adultery.

Jesus says that if we even look upon a person with lust in our heart, we have committed adultery. So what does it mean to “look upon a person with lust in our heart?” Have you noticed that Jesus never says it is a sin to lust? Go back and look up the verses. Lust, by itself is not sin. For if this is the case, then Lusting for Life would be sin. Lusting for Holiness would be sin. According to Wikipedia, “Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one’s desire.” Did you get that? Please read it one more time. I can lust for God and other things. Its fascinating to me that we link lust with sex, but lust can be linked to anything holy OR unholy. Lust, in and of itself is simply a desire that God created us to have. It’s closely linked with passion and drive. So, here is the deal. WHAT we lust upon makes it holy or not. Please agree with me on this. I know its a different kind of thinking, but its important to have clarity on this. I speak with men, frequently, who feel like they are cursed, because of the strong desire that they have inside of them. When I explain to them that they have the gift of lust inside of them, and every person does, and that they need to manage and guide that lust, IT FREES THEM! There is a popular book out called “Every man’s battle.” I know the premise of the book and how its about helping men conquer sexual temptation. I would just prefer that the book be titled, “Every man’s Gift!” Desire is a gift! Desire is a synonym of lust. To call this desire, a battle, is to set a premise that there is something wrong with the way God created man. I know the authors did not intend this reality, but I have visited with many men who believe they have a curse, and it is titles like this book that instigate such feelings. So, does it bother you that I say that, “lust is a gift that we must manage…not a battle that we fight.” Do you sense the difference? Its a little tweak with a big difference. My definition gives a man an adventure to live, the standard definition gives a man a “disease” that he hopes he can survive with.

To remove lust/desire from a man would be to remove the engine from a Corvette. The engine is the power that drives the corvette to achieve the great feats that it can. To remove the engine from a corvette, because it’s too dangerous…now that would be a sad day! Do not forget that God created man with feelings, emotions, strengths, desire and then He created woman to compliment and team with man. God then created this incredible thing called sex for us to enjoy and to use as a form of creation that gives us little people that grow into big people and the cycle continues! Managed in a holy and honorable way and It remains exciting and thrilling. It most definitely is not a curse. Sin is the curse, not desire/lust. Lust unmanaged and focused on ungodly things is sin, but not lust itself. Again, we can lust for God and life! Let me create a hypothetical situation. Its not really hypothetical, because every man and maybe every woman has experienced it. I am going to make this hypothetical situation about a man who sees a beautiful woman walk by. Does the man notice that the she walked by? The only way he didn’t notice, is if this hypothetical situation happened in a hospital room and the man is in a coma! But I think He still would notice! LOL. Let’s imagine that this beautiful woman walked by, as the man was sitting in an outdoor patio by himself, having lunch. Once the man notices that she walks by, what happens next is critical, when it comes to spiritual health. If the man begins to mentally undress her and think of doing sexual acts with her, then he has taken his lust and turned it into adultery. But, if the man, as he notices her, takes his eyes off of her and says a prayer like this, “Lord, you are a wonderful creator, please help me to appreciate you by giving you thanks for how you have created woman, I do not want to dishonor you by worshipping the created, but you the creator,” now, he has not committed adultery and he has actually turned a sexually tempting scenario into a form of worshipping to God. There is no doubt that God was honored in that hypothetical situation.

The man managed his desire/lust. This management is a holy thing that honors God. Lust for the Creator, not the created. Big difference. Let me reinforce it this way. Thoughts aren’t sin, evil thoughts are. Sex isn’t sin, sexual immorality is. Testimony isn’t sin, false testimony is. Alcohol is not sin, drunkenness is. Money is not evil, love of money is. Taking naps is not evil, slothfulness is. Actions are not sin, evil actions are. Material goods are not sin, greed is. Anger is not sin, anger out of control is sin. I could go on and on. Please understand this, and if you do, it will free you to live like you’ve always dreamed as a Christian.

Jesus obviously hates sin. I also think that Jesus’ greatest focus was on the origins of sin. It is simple wisdom to want to prevent the action of sin by managing the seed of internal thoughts. Thoughts are the seeds that grow into a full fledged plants that produce fruit. Jesus is challenging us to focus on the seed and the plant will grow from there. He says, adultery is sin, but even thinking lustfully upon a person is sin as well. Be careful what you do with the God created lust that lives inside of you. Manage it well.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Do you have any Secrets that left unchecked can become sin?

What did you wake up thinking about this morning?

If you continue to dwell on what you woke up thinking about, will it lead to holiness or evil?
What “controversial” things do you have in your life that if taken too far become evil? (Things that tend to “stir” up controversy are Alcohol, sex, power, money, tattoos, materialism, _______________________, __________________________. (What am I leaving out?)

Today, I challenge you to guard your thoughts. They are the origins of Holy or Evil behavior. A great passage of Scripture to help you do this is

Philippians 4:8-9…
“8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your THOUGHTS on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. THINK about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. THEN the God of peace will be with you.”

What a challenge!
Lust for it.


HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 8 (Mt.5:10-12) “Persecution”


“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in Heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
Matthew 5:10-12

DRINK IT IN:
When was the last time you were persecuted for being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Now…don’t misunderstand me here. Please don’t be like the people who stand out on street corners and yell from their megaphones, spew hate by picketing military funerals, or demand that people follow Jesus. These groups of people think they are honoring Jesus. They get more ‘pumped up’ when they get arrested, make the news and stir up controversy, because they think they are facing persecution on behalf of Jesus for doing good. This is not a biblical thing. This is not a holy thing. This is not something that Jesus did. These groups or individuals will state that their 1st Amendment rights give them the right to behave the way they do. They are right in the fact that legally, their 1st Amendment rights allow them to behave this way. However, the “laws” of God take priority over the “laws” of the land. In this case, they honor their 1st Amendment rights and dishonor their Lord and Savior. Jesus was always very kind and gentle to the people who were far from Him. I think that Jesus would use a mega-phone to let these kinds of people, who are behaving this way on street corners, know that they are actually doing harm to the Kingdom of Heaven…but I think He would “one-up” them…He would use a whip!

So, back to my question. When has your holy behavior landed you in “hot-water?” When have you been demoted for standing for Jesus in a gentle way? When did you not get the promotion because you refused to do things “under the table?” When were you left out of the circle of friends because you keep the “bar” to high? When were you last seen carrying your Bible to a lunch break to spend time with God? When was the last time you actually had to pay more taxes because you refused to lie about your income? When was the last time you dropped your ego and actually agreed to go to marital counseling with your spouse? When was the last time you got flipped off because you simply refused to drive ‘that’ fast? When was the last time people rolled their eyes at you for leading your family in prayer before your meal at a nice restaurant? When was the last time you gently spoke your biblical opinion about a hot “political” topic during a discussion about abortion, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or other “hot” topics? When was the last time you took one of your Saturday’s off and helped a neighbor in need? When was the last time you “persecuted” your bank account and personal lifestyle because you chose to give 10% of your income to the Lord’s work? The questions could go on for miles, but I think we get the idea.

Persecution comes in many forms. I’m simply asking when was the last time you faced any on behalf of Jesus Christ?

The following is a passage in Scripture that explains what happened to some Christians a long time ago for taking a stand, in love, for Jesus Christ.
“But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”
(Hebrews 11:35-40, NLT)

SWEAT IT OUT:
Would you take 30 seconds and sit quietly and see if God would remind you of an area(s) in your life where you could take a gentle, stronger stand for Him? And If you do, take a gentle stronger stand for Him, it might have you being a bit persecuted?

I pray for you that you will take that gentle strong stand. I pray that you will be persecuted for doing it. I pray that you will be happy about it. I pray you will be glad about it.

For if you do…You know that the Kingdom of Heaven is Yours.
Well…that is what Jesus says.


Just another day? Really?


This photo is riveting to me. Haunting. It evokes powerful emotions in me. It creates a squeeze inside of me that could only come from the part of my body that is called soul.

I am just one week from my return from Uganda Africa where I met thousands of people just like the child in this picture.

Every time I see this picture I swear I hear God saying to me all kinds of things. Here are a few things that I think God has spoken to me in the multiple times I have viewed this picture; “This world is not about you and your plans.” “You are back home with everything you need, she is still there praying for many things to happen in her life.” “She just wants to crawl up in your lap and be held.” “Its not stuff she wants…she wants to know if she matters.” “She is wondering if she’ll be thought about again.” “She is wondering if you’ll ever come back to see her again.” “I’m not the answer to her prayers, you are.”

So here’s my questions for you and me today…
“Can you lay your life down, so a stranger can live?”
“Can you take want you need and take less than you give?”

Here’s the deal with this little girl in Uganda Africa and the millions of other children around the world in circumstances like hers.

She didn’t choose to be born where she was born. You didn’t choose to be born where you were born. I sometimes wonder if I got the lucky sided flip of the coin that allowed me to be born in a place with ample food, clean water, education and conveniences; “Heads!” And the young girl,in the picture, got the unlucky side as the coin spun on the floor and came to its final rest. “Tails!”

The fact is that I know better. There is no coin toss in matters such as these. God chose me to be born where I was born and to have the things that I have. It doesn’t make me better or you better. It actually puts more pressure on you and me. “To whom much is given, much is required.” I will be held more accountable because of the material I’ve been given and will have to give an account for how I used God’s material that He loaned to me. Will I have used it all on my self? Will I take what I need and take less than I give?

During my life, I suppose that I want to give as much as this little girl gives. When I showed up, she smiled and waved and crawled up into my lap and gave of her love and friendship and affection, her trust. She gave me everything she had. It was a gift for Kings. I felt like a king in her presence. Accepting the presents of her self.

So…now…I’m back home. Her wave goodbye haunts me. I don’t know how you will respond and how you will give and what “sacrifices” you will make to contribute back to the life of this little girl and the millions like her that weren’t born here. All I can do is speak for myself.

I, until God makes it clear to stop, will spend the rest of my life being an advocate for these little ones and big ones who are just like this little girl. I will be asking for your help. Your gift. Your time. Your service. I will ask you to never stop thinking about these. The people Jesus calls, “the least of these.” The people that Jesus says if we invest in their lives we are actually and personally investing in Jesus’ life. “That which you do for the least of these, you do unto me.”

She’s waving at you. You hold the choice to make that wave a wave of Hello or Goodbye.
Stay tuned.
I will ask you someday to respond to the wave of this child. Respond with your money, your time, your talents, your prayers and your heart.

Trent

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