The power of self-control

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”  Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)

 An individual who has mastered both their emotions and bodily appetites will be someone of wisdom and maturity.

Are you a person of self-control?  The above proverb informs us that if any one lacks self-control, they are like a city that has lost its all-important defenses.

Ancient middle eastern cities relied on high, fortified walls to keep enemies at bay.  Any breach, or opening, into these walls was a place for violent intruders to enter the city.

Solomon, the writer of most of Proverbs, used this striking metaphor to instruct readers of the importance of self-control.  Without such, he warns, we become vulnerable to any number of enemies.   We are left spiritually naked without necessary defenses.

Too many of us lack self-control, hurting not only ourselves, but those around us.

For example, the ever increasing rates of obesity in this country is shocking.  Individuals who are within their normal weight level are becoming the exception rather than the norm.

Recently, while riding my bike to the park where I exercise, the  people I saw walking to their cars or driving on my neighborhood street were each grossly overweight.  I made a mental note of this travesty without having any clue that I would be writing about it the next day.

I spend much time among university students and have front-row seats to an entire population that, in general, lacks self-control.  One predominant area where this is seen, or rather heard, is in their foul language.  They drop more f-bombs in one day than what the US military dropped over Vietnam in its multi-year conflict.

Over-eating and not being able to control the tongue are unmistakeable signs of a lack of self-control.  According to the wisdom of Solomon, this signifies that the walls of these people’s cities have been breached by an enemy, creating vulnerabilities into its defenses.

Experience teaches us that sin never operates by itself.  It loves company.  In other words, an individual guilty of over-eating will surely lack self-control in other areas of their life.  They might regularly get angry over trifles, burst out in foul language, incessantly gossip, be frequently overcome by lust, etc.

This is a fact established in Scripture.  Paul exhorted us in the New Testament book of Romans to “not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness (6:12-13a)…for just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification (vs. 19b)

Sin breeds more sin as surely as righteousness breeds more righteousness.  This is a “Law of the Spiritual.”

Strive to become a person of self-control.  Ask God for this wonderful gift.



Lies hurt

A friend of mine recently lied to me.  That hurts.

It wasn’t one of those insignificant “white lies” that some people claim are no big deal.  This particular lie damaged our friendship.

Lying is a serious matter.  Lies breed distrust and can cause serious emotional pain.  Her lie makes me question whether anything she has said is true.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”  Proverbs 12:22 (NASB)

The NET Bible puts it this way:

“The LORD abhors a person who lies, but those who deal truthfully are his delight.”

Note how God views lying; it is an abomination to Him.  This is a strong word, defined as, “a person or thing that is disgusting; intense aversion or loathing; a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc.”

I have learned that habitual liars cannot be trusted, with emphasis on the word habitual.  Even the best of us, those who detest lying in all of its wretched forms, occasionally stumble into lying.

For example, imagine I ask someone I trust to read my blog and tell me what they think of my writing.  Not wanting to hurt my feelings, they could say, “Great…some of the best writing on the Internet!”  In reality, though, they might actually think, “My two-year-old can write better than this garbage.”

I’m not talking about this type of lying, as regrettable as it is; I’m targeting those whose lying is a normal part of who they are.  These people lie as easily as they tell the truth.  If telling the truth benefits them, they are truthful, but if lying is more expedient and advances their agenda, then telling lies is acceptable.

I was aware that my friend was not the most truthful person because I heard her lie to her own family members.  In my more clear headed moments, I understood that if she lied to those closest to her then she was capable of lying to me.  But I never thought she would actually lie to me.

When that moment arrives when you realize that someone you trusted has lied to you in a matter of importance, it’s shocking.  You feel violated and angry, disbelieving that this person could do this to you.

Worse, you question every thing they now tell you, thinking, “Are they lying to me again? ”  That sacred trust you once shared is shattered.  Putting the pieces back together might be impossible.  Something in your relationship has changed forever.

I don’t believe most of us realize how grave a matter lying is.  The Bible lumps liars into the same group of the following unsavory characters:

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  Revelation 21:8

Maybe its time for some of us to do some serious soul-searching, followed by repentance.


The slavery of debt

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”  Proverbs 22:7

The practical wisdom found in Proverbs, if diligently followed, can save us from pain and anguish.  This is why I have tried to regularly incorporate the reading of Proverbs into my morning quiet times for decades.

A Christian’s faith should not only affect the spiritual aspect of their being, but also the practical side of their daily lives.  We should not be accused of “being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”

Money is a major part of this practical dimension of a person’s life.  As this Proverb teaches, money is something that we should be the master of and never the master to.

One sign that you are a slave to money is debt; how much debt you owe determines the degree of this voluntary servitude.  The greater the debt, the tighter the chains that hold you in bondage.

Romans 13: 8 (a) says “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…” (NASB).  This verse, coupled with Proverbs 22:7, have been the greatest influences in guiding and shaping my financial life.  Effectively, they sum up my philosophy on how I decide to spend–or not spend–my money.

If at all possible, I try to avoid debt in every form, from credit card debt to mortgages.  Though at one time in my life I used credit (debt) to purchase a home and a new truck, I soon sold the former and paid off the latter.  I have been debt free for years.

I abhor paying bank’s interest and fees.  I pay off my credit card bills in full every month, only carrying a balance on those that do not charge me interest until the promotional period ends.  These are paid in full before the promotion ends.

Thankfully, I have no mortgage debt or car payments, discipling myself to live beneath my means.  This translates into freedom which I value far above slavery.  I don’t live in a fancy house, but at least I can call this humble abode my own.

We often speak of the power of God’s Word, of its supernatural ability to transform our lives.  As I mentioned above, we often fail to understand that this transformation should not only reach into the spiritual, but also the practical aspects of our lives.

The power of Jesus is able to deliver us not only from our bondage to sin (lust, greed, hatred, lying, etc.)–the spiritual aspect of our salvation–but also from the practical aspect of the poor choices we make in life, such as debt.

This is why reading and meditating on Proverbs can transform the practical, every day, nuts and bolts aspect of our lives.  I encourage you to mine its rich ore on a regular basis.



The problem with the tongue

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from trouble.”  Proverbs 21:23

I’ve added a new page, titled “Weekly Wisdom,” where I hope to bring you various posts throughout the week highlighting “Pearls of Wisdom” from the timeless book of Proverbs.

If a teenager or young adult would like advice on how they can improve their lives, a systematic, daily reading in Proverbs ranks at the top of the “to do” list.

I have found Proverbs a “must read” for all of us, young or old, who need direction and guidance in life.  I look back on my immersion in the wisdom of Proverbs as one of the reasons I am even half sane today.

People have problems with their tongues and the things that come out of their mouths.  I have struggled with an unruly and undisciplined tongue my entire life, and this small member of my body has started many a raging forest fire.

Solomon, the writer of most of Proverbs, spoke much on the problems of the tongue.  In today’s verse, we learn that guarding the words that come out of our mouths will save us from a crushing weight of grief and pain.

But it was not only Solomon who warned against the destructive power of the tongue; the New Testament writers also warn us of the explosive and damaging nature of an undisciplined mouth.  James wrote the following:

“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

James gives some incredible insight into the destructive power of the tongue.  Most fail to realize that what comes out of our mouths so often determines the path of our lives.

I will return to this theme, but for now, let’s start our day with the understanding of the power of the tongue to literally shape the path of our existense.  Ask God for wisdom on how you can properly use the tongue for good.

Wisdom v. foolishness

I have a lifelong fascination with the difference between a life lived wisely and one lived foolishly.

Am I a wise man or a foolish one?  Socrates said  the “unexamined life is not worth living.”  To go through life and not thoroughly examine this question would be tragic.

Jesus talked about the wise and foolish man:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

Jesus was clear on whom He considers wise or foolish.  The wise hear His words and obeys them; the foolish hear but fail to obey.   The difference cannot be overstated.

At one time in America, most children attended Sunday school.  They at least heard the words of Jesus; whether or not they obeyed them was a different story.  Contrast this with post-Christian America where few young people attend church at all, don’t go to Sunday school, so never have a chance to even hear the words of Jesus…much less obey them.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find ourselves surrounded by so many foolish people?

I plan on often returning to this theme in my blogs.  Being a wise man has been a major goal throughout my life, but I’m not sure I have done so well in this critical area.

How about you?

Things no one likes to think about…

Abortion is one of those things.

It’s not a topic that you casually bring up to fill in those uncomfortable dead spaces over dinner with your girlfriend.

But it is a topic you will have to face, sooner or later, if you are sleeping with that girlfriend.

The other day on the University of Arizona (UA) campus, I asked a female student:  “What would you do if you found out you were pregnant?”

The question caught her off guard, even though less than a minute before she admitted she and her boyfriend were sleeping together.  Soon, she admitted to the obvious:  if you are having sex with someone, the reality of getting pregnant is simply part of the equation.  No birth control is 100% effective; you have to prepare for the unexpected.

This jarring reality, that an imminent pregnancy loomed in her future, was something–unbelievably–that she had not seriously considered.  It continually astonishes me how ill-prepared people are in regard to this all important issue.

Can I ask you, friend, what you would do if you found out you were unexpectedly pregnant?  Or what you would do if you received a call from your girlfriend informing you she was pregnant with your baby?

So many people choose to kill their own child when faced with this news, using all sorts of excuses why they must do so:  “I’m not ready to be a parent yet,” or “It will ruin my career,” or “It’s just a blob of tissue, so it’s no big deal.”

What if you are wrong about this being “just a blob of tissue”?  What if you discovered that the life growing within you is nothing less than a full human being…only developing and very small at the moment?  How would you feel if you knew you were killing your very own flesh and blood, denying him or her the chance your mother gave you?

These are just a few of the reasons why the unpopular issue of abortion is critical to discuss.  If we were not talking about ending human life,  I can understand people not being enthusiastic about bringing the subject up at the dinner table.

But if we are indeed talking about ending human life, the subject should be shouted from the housetops 24/7 with no time off for weekends or holidays.


What do you think of open-air preachers?

“Brother Jed” (Jed Smock) has been preaching on university campuses across the United States for approximately 40 years, using a preaching style known as “confrontational evangelism.”

If you are the object of this kind of “evangelism,” you might find yourself being called a whore, a slut, a hussy,  a masturbator, etc… all done, in Brother Jed’s opinion, for the glory of God.

Some of Smock’s more memorable sayings are:

“A masturbator today is a homosexual tomorrow.”

“I don’t know how the whorehouses in this town stay open with you sorority girls giving it away for free!”

But perhaps what Brother Jed has become infamous for is his singing of the “Gay Song.”  Here is a Youtube link:

I must confess to something:  I know that I should not laugh at this song, but I can’t help not to each time I watch Jed singing it.  When something is so over the top and as offensive as this is, you can’t help yourself.

When someone thinks of the stereotypical street preacher, Brother Jed is doubtless the caricature that comes to mind.  This is unfortunate, for what few people realize is that Jesus was an open-air preacher, as were virtually all of His twelve apostles and early followers.  Street, or “open-air” preaching, was how the Gospel was propagated throughout the known world in the early centuries after His resurrection.

Certainly, one cannot conceive of Jesus singing the “Gay Song” or speaking in the carnal, sexually  explicit manner that has become the trademark of Smock’s ministry.  Not surprisingly, Jed remains a lighting rod of controversy when he arrives on campuses and has his fair share of detractors, and curiously, has ardent supporters.

Sadly, those who pattern their preaching ministries after Jed’s are undermining the effectiveness of this powerful medium of proclaiming the “Good News.”

Not only this, they are bringing shame on the Name of Jesus, causing many who are offended by their unloving speech and antics to paint all Christians with the same broad brush.  This is the great tradgedy.

Jesus gave this pattern for anyone engaged in the “ministry of the soul”:

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Matthew 9:13 (NIV)

We would all do well to go and do likewise.