decisions

The Story of Your Life (The Path of Life)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR7KfFfse3k]

When we tell the story of their lives, we mention three different things: What’s been done for us, what’s been done to us, and what we decided to do. “What’s been done for us” is another way of talking about the things others have done that prepared us or helped us through life.

  • I was born and raised as a Weber, surrounded by godly family. I have one sibling by birth and one by adoption. My parents loved me.
  • I was born Mennonite. I learned the Bible and good theology; my pastors and Sunday School teachers and youth leaders taught me about God and for the most part showed me Christ.
  • I was born and raised in Alabama, moved to Oregon, then to Ohio where I naturally became a Buckeye. These were important experiences in molding my life.
  • My parents sent me to Christian schools all my life. I made godly friends; my teachers taught me taught me truth and modeled both justice and grace as they put up with a lot from me.
  • Doctors sowed up my cut-off toes (and both bad knees and a foot and soon a shoulder)
  • TC Christian and this church have put up with me while giving me time to mature as a teacher, a preacher, a pastor, a coach, and person.
  • My wife said “yes” and then has said “I forgive you” a lot of times.
  • My friends put up with my idiosyncracies and faults.
  • Jesus Christ gave his life so that I could live.

 So “What’s been done for us” is a list of things that have helped us to thrive. “What’s been done to us” is another way of saying things that happened that made life hard.

  • I was mocked as a kid because I was overweight.
  • So many of my peers rejected when we lived in Oregon, or would be nice when I was at their house then join in with the mockers at school.
  • I felt so alone in high school. I spent plenty of nights crying myself to sleep.
  • As an adult in Ohio I went through such a profound time of depression I missed a month or two of work because of exhaustion and other physical symptoms. My wife called her mom and said, “Pray for Anthony. He’s falling apart.”
  • I have adult-onset ADD.
  • Our church in Ohio became so volatile that it pushed me out of the Mennonite circle and even out of Ohio.
  • My dad was at one point over 300 lbs. I have genetics that tend in that direction.
  • I have had neighbors who scream and curse at each other while I’m outside playing with my boys
  • My Dad died from pancreatic cancer.

If “What’s been done for us” chronicles the things that helped us thrive, then “What’s been done to us” chronicles the things we have to survive.  These are the things sometimes simply challenge us and other times threaten to break us. This is what some have called the “dark threads” in the tapestry of our lives. I love the scene in the Lord of the Rings where Frodo is talking to Gandalf in the mines of Moriah. Frodo says that he wishes the ring had never come to him, and that the unfolding events weren't happening. Gandalf responds, " So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

We all have rings that we wish had never come to us. We all wish we did not have to see such times. But…it’s not ours to decide. Our choice involves what we do with the time (or the situations) that are given to us. And that’s the third part of the story: “What We Do.”

  • I didn't ask for my temper, but  kicked a mower and cut off a couple toes.
  • I played basketball above all other sports.
  • I didn't plan to meet Sheila, but I chose to marry Sheila.
  • I committed my life to Christ.
  • I went to college and got degrees.
  • I moved to TC, and have worked at TC Christian and this church.
  • I was blessed with some great jobs, but I chose to work myself into the ground and fall apart.

Sometimes, this list of “What’s Been Done For Us and To Us” and “What We Do”all jumble together. My Mennonite heritage was both a gift and a burden. My ADD is on some days a gift for me and on other days a burden to me. My wife and I will both tell you that on some days we each feel like the other was a gift, and on other days we each feel like the other was a burden.  In all these areas, I still made decisions about what kind of person to be.

As our lives unfold these things will continue.  The things done for us and to us are going to happen. Some of those things will amaze us and some of those things will dismay us. That’s life. We can’t get around it. Part of what we mean when we talk about “trust” and “faith” in our life with Christ is that we believe that God is sovereign and faithful in the midst of any circumstance.

 I think that’s what we mean when we say things like, “Let go and let God.” Huge chunks of our life story are written for us. We won’t always like certain chapters, and we will love others. But we know that the Author and Finisher of our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)  has it under control. We can always find his words, his voice, his presence in the text, and we know that no matter what we think of the story, He is going to write the final, eternal chapter, and all that happened before then will fade away.

Meanwhile, how can we write our part in our story in a way that honors God?  Andy Stanley wrote in Principles of the Path (and I paraphrase slightly) that we can never accomplish the will of God by violating the principles of God, breaking the specific commands of God, or ignoring the wisdom of God. So let’s look at how we can live in the will of God by using these three tools He has given us.

  • General Principles: Will I violate or affirm a general principle found in God’s Word?
  • Specific Commands: Will I break or keep a specific command found in God’s Word?
  • Practical Wisdom: What will I harvest if I plant this?

Should I go to college or get a job?

General Principle: Lots of verses tell us to steward our time and money. Specific Command: You probably aren’t going to find one. Practical Wisdom: Is found in the counsel of others and an inventory of our skills and goals.

 I’m earning money. What can I do with it that writes Godly wisdom into my story?

 General Principle: Don’t love money (Hebrews 13:5; Proverbs 19:17). Specific Command: Be generous and ready to share (1 Timothy 6:17-19; 1 John 3:17). Practical Wisdom: I don’t want to be controlled by money (Ecclesiastes 5:10;Matthew 6:24).

 Someone has sinned against me. I have been wronged! What should I do?

 General Principle: Love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34). Specific Command: Forgive repentant sinners (Matthew 6:14-15). Practical Wisdom: Do for others what you want done for you (Matthew 7:12)

 My kids are just bad / My parents are failures. How should I respond with wisdom?

General Principle: Honor all people (1 Peter 2:17). Specific Command: Honor your parents/love your wife/respect your husband/don’t provoke kids (Ephesians 6; Colossians 3). Practical Wisdom: Homes with mutual honor flourish (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Our stories will continue to be written. What’s done to us and for us is out of our control. What God enables us to do is not. God’s principles, God’s commands, and God’s wisdom can help us to tell a story that builds us up, blesses those around us, and ultimately points toward a Savior who has lived the greatest story of all.

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  • Make a list of the Things Done For You, Things Done To You, and Things You Have Done that have worked together to bring you where you are today. Be honest! Which ones should you celebrate (things done for you and things you have done well) and which ones should you surrender (trusting God with what’s been done to you to God; repenting for the areas in which you have failed).
  • How is God writing your story both then and now?
  • What story do you want to tell 10 years from now (in your family, your finances, friendships, education, personal integrity, health, understanding of the Bible, walk with Christ, prayer life).What must you do to get there?

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I am deeply indebted to Andy Stanley's "The Principles of the Path" for the main ideas in this series (and some of specific language, such as "Direction, not intention, determines as our destination"). I highly encourage you to buy and consume this excellent book!

Divine GPS: Submission and Trust (The Path of Life)

I remember a television game show when I was young where, when a contestant won, they were asked to choose one of three prizes that were behind closed curtains. Generally there would be one of very little monetary value behind one, and then another of greater value, and lastly, one of very great value: like an all expense paid trip, plus a set of expensive luggage, plus…..a pocket full of cash to spend on the trip. Seems that more often than not, the contestant would choose the lesser-valued items - and then, of course, everyone would GASP when the other curtains were opened and the other wonderful prizes were revealed!

The contestants can’t be blamed, of course, for their poor choices because there was NO WAY TO KNOW what was behind each curtain! If the curtains had been wide open from the start of the game show, I suspect most contestants would have chosen more wisely. This morning we’ll look at three important premises about our choices, and hopefully, we’ll gain some insight into charting a better course for ourselves from here on. Here’s the first premise:

Premise 1 - Choices are now – outcomes are later.

Well, Duh, you might say. Seems so obvious! The student who doesn’t study on Sunday night for a scheduled test on Monday morning isn’t surprised when he fails miserably. The ice fisherman who drives his Trail Blazer out onto the lake the morning after the first freeze isn’t surprised when his SUV becomes a submarine. These cause and effect situations aren’t a great surprise to any of us. and generally we survive these without destroying our lives. But a lot of these outcomes aren’t just later; they’re often much later!In the real world of living successfully, it’s these choice-patterns with the distant outcomes that tend to really matter in our lives.

  •  the long spell between the first cigarette at 15 years old and the emphysema at 45 or lung cancer at 60
  •  the connection between frequent, casual sex as a teenager and cervical cancer at 30.
  • the workaholic dad, always working extra hours at 30, then realizing at 50 that he doesn’t know his grown children.
  •  the young-married couple who decides to put $100 into the bank every payday, and ends up with a significant saving’s account at retirement.

Patterns have a cumulative effect, whether for good or bad. And although each of these scenarios make sense in retrospect, they often elude us while they’re happening. But it need not be so!

Premise 2 – Choosing (and following) the right path begins with submission to God. …..not information!

We seldom fail for lack of information. John 13:17, reads, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them!"   In Andy Stanley’s book (Principles of the Path) he tells a sad story of a couple, Ed and Linda, who had been married for two decades, but now are on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce.

“As they sat tearfully in my office they told of how they met with a financial advisor ten years prior. Together, they devised a plan to reduce debt and even create savings. They said it seemed like a highly doable strategy to turn things around and they left the financial planner’s office with a lot of optimism. So why were they sitting in my office drowning in red ink, I asked. Upon arriving home with the road map to financial freedom in their hands, Ed put the binder full of information in a drawer and never looked at it again. It wasn’t that Linda disagreed with the plan. On the contrary, they thought both it was highly doable. They just never doable’d it!”

If you were in some of the conversations in my church office over these thirty-plus years I’ve been on staff, or if you were to spend time with pastor Anthony or Pastor Scott, we could each tell you of numerous situations just like this one in Andy’s book. We could give many examples of meeting with folks in the midst of difficult situations or entanglements. Often it seemed to us that the “way out” was fairly straightforward, and we’d give step-by-step plans for moving out of the bad place and into a better place in life only to find out later that the advice went totally unheeded. Our problem is seldom due to lack of sufficient information. What we lack is the willingness to DO what the information clearly points to.

What does SUBMISSION to God look like? Submission is voluntarily placing oneself under the control of another. Biblically speaking, that would be voluntarily placing yourself under the control of God. Wow! Interesting how something what sounds so simple could be so difficult! Interesting: The word, SUBMIT, is a Greek word which was originally a military term meaning “to arrange troop divisions under the command of a leader.” In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, of cooperating, of sharing a burden.” In other words, when the word submit is used in the Bible, it refers not only to a yielding and obedient attitude of the heart, but also, and equally importantly, to an attitude of co-operation and support. Our failure to trust or submit to our Heavenly Father will lead to unintended destinations, complete with unintended consequences. Our human wisdom and the resulting choices we make, simply don’t stack up against the perfection of God’s wisdom and choices for us.

Proverbs 3:5 says is so well: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; RE: “lean not” – the term translated lean literally means to prop something up against something else; to be supported by it. Picture propping our life up “against God.” In simple terms it means trusting God’s Word rather than our logic. Proverbs 3:6 says,  "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  Not “most of” your ways….ALL of your ways - dating, sex, marriage, parenting, entertainment, jobs, finances, etc. - All means all. Acknowledge now means a token tip of the hat, but then it meant to recognize who He is (speaking) and to respond accordingly. In other words, do what he says. 

 Premise 3 – Independence is our problem.

And it is the opposite of submission. Independence leads us to trust (or, lean on) our own wisdom. In simplest language…it’s pride, also known as The Reason I Sometimes do Stupid Stuff!” If ever there was a man who could have trusted his own ability is was Solomon (the wisest man who ever lived). We read the following in 1 Kings 3:7-13:

" O LORD my God, now you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am among your own chosen people, a nation so great they are too numerous to count! 9 Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great nation of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s reply and was glad that he had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people and have not asked for a long life or riches for yourself or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding mind such as no one else has ever had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and honor! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!"

Solomon starts well, but…  

"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. 2 The LORD had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations, because the women they married would lead them to worship their gods. Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. 3 He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. And sure enough, they led his heart away from the LORD. 4 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship their gods instead of trusting only in the LORD his God, as his father, David, had done. 5 Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites." (1 Kings 11:1-5)

God didn’t tell Solomon that He’ll straighten out the paths that Solomon chooses. God said, "I’ll choose your paths!" But Solomon thought he “knew better” than God…and he goes terribly wrong, harming himself and their entire nation. Pride, perhaps more than anything else, has the potential to override God’s wisdom. Here was the wisest man in the world, brought down by arrogance. Declaring dependency on a foreign King rather than God. (We do this!) Solomon went astray, not because he lacked wisdom, but because he was not submitted to God. 

The Heart of the Matter (The Path of Life)

Have you ever justified something in a way that you know made no sense – but it was the best you had in the moment? We have this very human tendency to use our mind to justify after the fact what our heart desired in the moment. We do things we feel like doing, then in hindsight we scramble to come up with reasons that at least seem good to us. We listen to our hearts, then tell our heads to justify our actions. “Follow your heart, listen to your heart” are mantras we hear in some form all the time.

 The problem is that it's a bad philosophy of life. And since God is for us, and He cares about us enough to give us some insight into how we work and how life works, it’s no surprise that the Bible has given us some insight into why simply “following your heart” is a bad idea.

The prophet Jeremiah records God’s message to the Israelites at a time when they had walked far from God. After telling them that those who trust in the strength of people are like bushes in a wasteland where there’s no water and the ground is sowed with salt, he makes a sharp contrast:

Blessed is the one who trusts in Me alone;
 the Eternal will be his confidence. He is like a tree planted by water,
 sending out its roots beside the stream.
 It does not fear the heat or even drought.
 Its leaves stay green and its fruit is dependable, no matter what it faces. (Jeremiah 17:7-9)

 The person who trusts in God is grounded, fearless, and bears fruit, which is another way of saying that this kind of person is being everything he or she was made to be. Awesome! Jeremiah continues: 

 The heart is most devious and incurably sick. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:10)

 Well. This seems like an abrupt change of thought. The context is that God is explaining how life in His path will bring life, but a life in rebellion to him will bring some serious trouble. The Septuagint says, "The heart is deep," a bottomless pit full of sin. Perhaps that is why Proverbs 28:26 warns us, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” I am going to give us two principles to help us avoid the trouble lurking in our heart, and two principles to help us embrace the wisdom that comes from God.

First Principle to Help Us Avoid Trouble: Own our problems.

They rarely come from lack of information or insight. They usually come from a lack of commitment to truth. We choose to do things often without thinking and specifically without thinking of the consequences. We follow our heart and just decide we don’t really want to wrestle with why we are doing a particular thing, or what the consequences will be. Then when we get caught (or our head kicks in), something wells up from within this bottomless container of deceit and we justify the desires of our hearts rather than taking the opportunity to challenge the goodness of what we wanted.

In 1 Samuel 15:13-20, God told Saul to come back from a battle with nothing. He was not supposed to collect spoils of war – the Israelites weren’t supposed to be a marauding tribe. But Saul brings back a bunch of livestock. God speaks to the prophet Samuel, Samuel goes to confront him, and the following happens:

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

 “Sure, I disobeyed God…but I did it so I could worship him better!” That’s a gutsy excuse. Saul wants to justify what his heart desires: keeping the spoils of war. He did the wrong thing, but thinks he can make it right if can find a really good justification. Samuel gives the well-known response:

“But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

 Saul’s problem was not a lack of information or insight. He knew God’s instruction. Saul’s problem was a lack of obedience, of commitment to truth and submission to God.

Second Principle To Help Us Avoid Trouble: Question our reasons.

How many times have you asked your kids, “Why did you do that?” Or, “What were you thinking?” And they get this deer-in-the-headlights look because they weren’t thinking. They were just doing, and usually their justifications or excuses are pretty transparent.  We adults are a little quicker on our feet, and we can come up with some clever excuses. We try to smooth over our bad decisions by coming up with reasons, and we treat all our reasons as if they are legitimate even if they are not. Simply having a reason doesn’t make the reason good or the action right. 

  • The married man who wants to flirt with the cute lady at work justifies what his heart desires: “I just want to make sure she is doing her job well.”
  • The workaholic who is avoiding conflict at home or the emptiness inside justifies: “We really need the money right now.”
  • The employee who cheats on time cards or take small things justifies: “Everybody knows we don't get paid enough.”
  • The person who gossips justifies: “I just want other people to know how to pray.”
  • The person who holds a grudge justifies: “If I let it go I will just enable their bad behavior. I don’t think they will ever change. They earned it!”
  • I knew a lady in Ohio who moved from counselor to counselor. She always claimed that they never understand her, or they don’t listen, or… The reality is they held up a mirror she didn’t want to see. It seemed easier to avoid, and she never got to the heart of the issue that kept her in counseling for years.
  • I knew a man who moved from church to church because “the people are judgmental. “ Or maybe, when people are honest, he didn't want to hear it.

 They all had reasons. But simply having a reason doesn’t make the reason good or the action right. When our reasons follow our decisions, that’s often a bad sign. If we follow our heart and then use our head, we will often either regret what we did or scramble to find a way to justify what we shouldn’t have done.  We need to bring our head and our heart together.

So What Is The Solution?

First Principle To Help Us Embrace Wisdom: Give our hearts and minds to Christ.

God offers to do a work in us that is independent of our ability to live well. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God’s message to Israel was:

 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your sin-hardened heart of stone and give you a tender, Spirit-lead heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.” (Ezekiel 36:24-29)

Paul wrote to the early church in Rome:

  “In light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:1-2)

 In addition, God gives us His Word to guide us:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

So we have God’s Spirit within you to transform our hearts and God’s Word in front of us to help us discern the battlefield inside us.

Second Principle To Help Us Embrace Wisdom: Make sure you have good reasons for your decisions. 

First of all, be honest. This may be tough, but think of something you really want to do (or something you are doing) and answer this question: 

  • The real reason I check in on that girl at work is…
  • The real reason I don't’ talk with my spouse is…
  • The real reason I don’t call my kids (or parents) is…
  • The real reason I drink too much…
  • The real reason I don’t go to church regularly…
  • The real reason I don’t pray…
  • The real reason I don’t want to forgive them…
  • The real reason I pad my time card…
  • The real reason I stopped and bought 3 cups of coffee today…
  • The real reason I watch “Glee”…
  • The real reason I want to buy a new house…
  • The real reason I want to change jobs…
  • The real reason I want to date someone new…
  • The real reason I avoid warning signs about my health
  • The real reason I am pulling back from people
  • The real reason I don’t want to commit fully to Christ…

Second, be proactive.

There are at least three questions to ask when facing decisions.

  • If someone in my circumstance came to me for advice, what would I recommend? Would I tell them to do what I am about to do? Would I tell them to buy a car they can’t afford? Would I tell them to withdraw from conflict instead of confront it? Would I tell them to hold a grudge?
  • What do my godly friends think?  Not just any friends, because people with a different set of values will reach conclusions that are not necessarily biblical. It’s not like Christians have the corner on good advice. But specifically when it comes to ethical decisions, be sure you give weight to a godly voice that you have good reason to trust.
  • In light of my past experience and future hopes, what is the wise thing to do?  Has this worked before? If not, why do I think it will work now?  Last time I yelled at my kids, was that productive? I want to be a person whose thought life is pure – is what I’m watching or listening to going to lead me to that place?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t rely on your own understanding. In everything you do, acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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I am deeply indebted to Andy Stanley's "The Principles of the Path" for the main ideas in this series (and some of specific language, such as "Direction, not intention, determines as our destination"). I highly encourage you to buy and consume this excellent book!

The Great Disconnect (The Path of Life)*

We have to be honest about how we got to where we are. We have to own the ways in which we chose to take certain steps, and those steps turned into a journey, and the journey brought us to our destination. Our direction determines our destination.* We often have a pretty good idea about how we want our destination to look, but we undermine the very goals we are trying to reach: 

  • She wants to marry a great Christian guy - but hangs out at night clubs and goes through man after man.
  • He want a great sex life once he’s married - but beds every girl he can.
  • She wants a great relationship with her husband - but prioritizes the kids.
  • She want a great relationship with his kids – but never enters into their world.
  • He want his kids to respect him - but openly flirts with other people or never treats the kids respectfully.
  • He want to develop closeness to God - but spends all her time on the internet or watching football
  • He want to grow old with his wife, kids and grandkids - but neglects his health and his relationship with everyone on that list
  • She wants her children to make God a priority - but skips church all the time and never actually take up a cross and experience the resurrection life in Christ
  • He wants to get a high-paying job - but never works hard or studies.

Then they end up at destinations they don’t want and get bewildered – “How did I get here?” In many ways, they pushed the dominoes. One by one. We have to be honest about how where we are got disconnected from where we want to be. We forget that God has put a principle in place in the world: we will harvest a destination that will match what we planted with our decisions. Our attention determines your decisions, and our decisions determine our destination.

Proverbs 7:6-27 gives us insight into this progression. This passage shows how our current reality is connected to our past decisions. It “connects the dots” by gives us some signs that will warn us when we are moving toward a place we don’t want to be. The writer presents Wisdom and Folly as two different women, one calling us in the direction life in the Kingdom of God, the other calling us to sin and destruction.

"One day I was at the window of my house,
looking out through my lattice shutters, And there among the usual crowd of the gullible people
I spotted a naive young man. He was going down the street near the corner where she lived—that mysterious and evil woman —
taking the road that led directly to her house."

Warning Sign #1: Hanging out with a bad crowd. Warning Sign #2: Being gullible and naïve. Warning Sign #3: Heading down a bad road. This is a bad combination. He is easily deceived - he’s not that good as sensing whether things are heading the wrong way or not. He’s on a road that has an obvious conclusion but is unaware. And the crowd is not providing any good advice for him. If he was even aware and steady he could be with a bad crowd in a bad situation as a holy presence. If he were with a crowd of good friends they would be on a mission trip as they ministered to others in this compromised situation. But none of that is happening. He lacks moral and social common sense. It’s a bad start.

Bad friends will put you into compromising situations so that you will compromise. They will encourage and applaud your downfall. Good friends will walk you through and away from bad situations, and encourage and applaud your honor and integrity.

"At the end of the day, as night approached
and darkness crept in, I saw her! A woman came out to meet him. She was dressed like a prostitute and devious with her affections. Here’s what I know about her: she is loud and obnoxious, a rebel against what is proper and decent."


 Warning Sign #4: Noisy rebellion against all that is proper and decent. I know it’s cool to talk about being rebellious and beating the system and not listening to the man. But you have to rebel against the right things. If I rebel against my doctor’s orders, I’m foolish. If I rebel against the ad campaign that tells me I can go to Vegas and do what I want, I’m wise. I am grieved by all the award shows on TV that reward vulgar language, blatant sexuality and anti-religious sentiment as if somehow saying and doing those things makes the artists exceptional geniuses. “They’re are so cool!” No, they lack social and moral common sense. Time Magazine recently listed 100 movers and shakers. Miley Cyrus was lauded for boldly and smartly recreating herself after her Hannah Montana phase. If you think that shift is heroic, smart or cool, you’ve bought the lie. It’s a tragedy worthy or our tears and prayers.

When rebellion looks sexy and edgy, you’re probably rebelling against the wrong thing. Godly rebellion is a gritty and costly fight the true, good, and noble.

“She’s always on the move—anxious to get out of the house and down the street; at times in the open,
at others lurking around every corner.”

Warning Sign #5: Restlessness instead of peace. She is never satisfied, never at peace, never at rest. Something’s not right. It’s not as if she is restless because she is responding to God’s call, or because she realizes she is wasting her life. No, it’s a restlessness to bring others into her sin. It’s the nature of sin to never be satisfied. C.S. Lewis described it in The Screwtape Letters as “an ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure.

”As I am watching them, she grabs him and kisses him,
then shamelessly tells him: ‘It was my turn to offer a peace offering,
 and today I paid my vows and prepared a feast with my portion, so now I come to see you.
I really want to be with you, and what luck! I have found you! You’ll be impressed. I have decorated my couch,
laid colorful Egyptian linens over where we will be together, and perfumed the bed with exotic oils and herbs: myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon."

Warning Sign #6: When you justify something because other religious people do it. She is apparently Jewish, since she took her peace offering to the temple (she sacrificed something) and returned home with her portion. In other words, she’s an observant Jew. Sin often hides behind religious pretension. “My friends said it was okay, and they go to church.” The mind justifies what the heart desires. Guard your heart and mind.

Warning Sign #7: When someone has to sell you something that shouldn’t need selling. I’ll be honest: if my wife says, “You know, I was thinking…” she doesn’t have to tack on all kinds of extras. I don’t need to be tricked or enticed for sex. I’m not thinking, “I wonder if we have the Egyptian linens and cinnamon.” Satan can never give us something in the fullness of God’s design. Sin always deprives us of the something good in what we pursue. And so it has to make up for it by bringing in all kinds of other good things to prop up the experience when it fails to deliver as promised.

When something that ought to be good and fulfilling on its own merits has to be surrounded by really cool things for it to seem good and fulfilling, that’s a warning sign.

"Come in, and we will be intoxicated with love until sunrise;
we will delight ourselves in our affections. You don’t need to worry; my husband is long gone by now,
away from home on a distant journey. He took a bag of money with him,
 so I don’t expect him home until next month."

Warning Sign #8: The allure of penalty-free sin. It’s so easy to think, “Well, what I’m about to do won’t hurt anybody. We are both adults and we agreed. I can do this with no consequences.” But sin always has wages; it will pay you for the work you do in its service. Sin promises short-term pleasure at the expense of long term joy, but you will eventually harvest what you plant.

"It worked! She enticed him with seductive words, seduced him with her smooth talk. Right away he followed her home.
He followed her like a bull being led to the slaughter,
like a deer heading toward a trap, like a bird flying straight into a net.
 He had no clue his life was at stake; everything was about to change. This is why it is so important that you listen to me, my sons,
and pay attention to all I am telling you. Do not let your mind wonder about her ways;
do not lose yourself and drift down her path, for she’s claimed one life after another,
victim after victim, too many to count. Her house is the gateway to the grave;
every step toward her is a step toward death’s dark chamber."

Our decisions determine our destination. We have to be honest about how the choices we’ve made have influenced where we are. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – God is for you. He has revealed principles in the Bible that are for our benefit. God does not want you to end up in the dark chamber of spiritual death.

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* I have pulled the main principle in this series from Andy Stanley's book Principles of the Path. I highly recommend that you read it!