Christian Living

That Time I Stole a Candy Bar

“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.(Prov 9:17)

When I was in the 3rd grade, I came to the realization that theft was not a career option. I was grocery shopping with my mother in the town we lived – Pryor, OK – when she sent me to another aisle to retrieve a few items. While I was meandering to that aisle, I walked down the candy section.

For reasons I cannot explain, there was a candy bar that looked too good to pass by. I knew my mother wouldn’t buy it for me and because I had no money, the only option in my little depraved mind at that point was to steal it. So, I broke the 8th Commandment. I placed the candy bar into my pocket carefully and quietly, made it home without anyone knowing, and then proceeded to eat it in the privacy of my room.

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Some days later, my mom was washing our clothes and found a certain candy wrapper in one of my pockets that she knew was probably consumed without her permission. So, she asked me if I had recently stolen or eaten a candy bar without her permission. I, of course, pretended to not know what she was talking about – breaking the 9th Commandment. Then, she showed me the wadded-up candy wrapper. I was caught, and discipline followed.

I have often thought about why I stole that candy bar in the first place. It wasn’t like I was stealing $1,000,000 or something. It was a candy bar that probably cost 50-cents.

After reading the above referenced proverb, the answer became clear: I stole that candy bar because it was a risky and dangerous move. I stole it because I knew it was wrong and thought I could get away with it. And if I had got away with it, I can only imagine how that might have fueled my ego and thirst for greater stolen goods.

One of Satan’s oldest tricks in his book is to convince us that those things that are forbidden are sweeter than the things we are permitted. Just ask Eve about that forbidden apple if it was worth it. Or ask the man who had an affair and lost his family if that forbidden act was worth it.

Sin is never worth it. Risking God’s provisions for one taste of sweet water is never worth it. Taking a piece of bread that is forbidden is never worth it.

The alternative is to be delighted in God and what He gives us. It is to find our hunger and thirst quenched in knowing Him (Matthew 5:6).

May we never be content with dribbling at the promised pleasure of the world but rejoice in God’s gracious gifts that allow us to see His faithfulness and goodness to us.

Don’t Envy Violence

“Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.” (Prov 3:31)

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When I read this verse, my first question is, “Who wants to be like a violent man, anyway? What does he have that is so enviable?”

And then when I am honest with my heart and fleshly tendencies within it, I thought about one of my temptations when I drive. I have said often that if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit living within me that I might be in prison for road rage. I too often want to act out outwardly towards those who drive erratically or don’t drive like I want them to drive. Instead of doing something outwardly, I think violent thoughts.

Now, before you get overly worried about my last few sentences, those thoughts are NOT, “I wish that guy would die” or “I hope he gets in a car wreck.” But I will admit that often I do think, “I hope he gets punished for what he just did to me! He needs to get what comes to come!” And then I might even think, “How come he gets away with that?”

So, in short, I am envying a violent man. Solomon says, “Don’t do that!”

But why?

A violent man gets what he wants. He gets his way. A violent man seeks to control others through various forms of violence – physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, etc. As long as there is a violent man, he will have someone or some people he abuses. And as long as he has that, he will have power and control.

A righteous man should not covet control or power which leads a man to violence. He should not give glory to those who manipulate, bully or abuse.

Q/A Friday: How Does Suffering Benefit Me?

I Peter 3:14 says that suffering can be for the sake of righteousness. Let me give you a list of blessings for those who “suffer for righteousness sake.”

Suffering can be a blessing because suffering can strengthen the inner man. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (I Peter 5:10). Sufferers gain the strength they need from an omnipotent God. Without this promise, suffering would destroy all of us.

Suffering can be a blessing because it brings about endurance. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Sufferers learn to cherish the reality of surviving the trial by the grace of God.

Suffering can be a blessing because it deepens one’s appreciation for eternity. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:17-18). How many of us have been in the middle of suffering and been only able to focus on one truth? In eternity, this will all be gone.

Suffering can be a blessing because God is on our side. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). When God is with you, as John Knox likes to say, you are always in the majority. You are always on the winning side. Suffering will not be the end of you.

Suffering can be a blessing because God’s grace is sufficient. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10). In every suffering, God gives us the exact dosage of grace we need.

Suffering can be a blessing because the church is with you. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (I Corinthians 12:26). The body of Christ becomes so important to us when we face a trial. Without the church, we are very much alone.

Suffering can be a blessing because it can be a testimony to others. Remember the blind man in John 9? Jesus said he suffered in order for God’s works to be displayed in Him (John 9:3). As a result of God’s healing of him, he would be a walking, talking, seeing witness for the Gospel to everyone around him.

Suffering can be a blessing because it purifies. “So that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:7). Sin is purged during suffering, worldly pleasures are pushed aside, priorities are set, lessons are learned, etc.

Suffering can be a blessing because it identifies with Christ. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (II Timothy 1:8). To live as Christ is to suffer as Christ.

Suffering can be a blessing because it can comfort other sufferers. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Corinthians 1:3-4). People who suffer can approach others suffering and say “I know how you feel. I have been in your shoes. Let me help you.”

You could add to the list these blessings of suffering: to strengthen our commitment to God, to produce discernment, to help us be more empathetic, to discipline our thinking, to show us true wisdom, to deepen our relationship with Christ, to lead us to repent of sin, to teach us to be more thankful, and to increase our faith. The blessings of suffering are life-changing.

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

A Saintly Response to Learning

One of the most elite physics laboratories in the world is in England at Cambridge. It is called Cavendish Laboratory. This Laboratory was founded in 1874 and has been home to some 29 Nobel Prize winners.

It was here the discovery of X-rays and electrons took place. Nuclear fission was 1st experimented with here. The 1st model of DNA was completed here.

Well, an interesting fact about this place of science is that above the entrance to this lab is a quotation of Psalm 111:2 – “The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.”

It was put there by the founders of this Laboratory. It would seem an appropriate reminder to a place where the works of God have been studied for some 137 years.

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The psalmist has said that “the works of the LORD are great.” He means that God’s works are great in number and magnitude and size and abundance. You don’t even have to be a Christian to observe God’s greatness; we learn that in Romans 1:19-20 –

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

God’s works are great in design, number, magnitude, and excellence. In other words, how can we put any of it into words? Everything He does is overwhelming.

Job writes, “He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number” (Job 9:10).

On another occasion, the psalmist writes, “O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep” (Ps 92:5).

When we consider God’s works, we get lost in their wonder.

They are so great that they are to be “studied by all.” The saints’ delight is to study God’s works: creation, provision, preservation, salvation, revelation, etc.

I cannot understand professing Christians who don’t want to study the greatness of God – who say they hate theology. People who love God want to know everything there is to know about someone. Every time you learn something – in history, science, current news, sports, etc. – it is fresh ground for praise.

Q/A Friday: What Are Some Biblical Ways to Respond to Temptation?

First, recall Scripture that you have memorized. Psalm 119:11 reminds us, “Your word I have treasured (or “made it a home”) in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Jesus lives this out with each and every temptation coming from Satan (Matthew 4:1-11).

If there’s a reason to memorize Scripture it is that Scripture memory enables us to remember what sin is, be reminded about the promise of a way of escape and then step away from that fleshly temptation. If we pretend to be able to battle sin without the understanding of what God says is sin, we are fools and are doomed to fail. We are walking into a battle with no weapons. We are a lame duck.

In all fairness, we know that Scripture memory does not guarantee obedience in the face of obedience but it does a long way in getting us where we need to be.

Those words of Scripture, as Jesus says, have to abide in you (John 15:4-5).

Second, walk in reliance with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Someone who is acting fleshly (or carnally) is not walking in the Spirit. To rely on the Holy Spirit is not to rely on yourself. It is about giving up control and acknowledging your weakness. It means that when God says, “I won’t remove the thorn because my grace is sufficient. And when you realize your weakness, you are strong because of the Holy Spirit’s empowering (II Corinthians 12:9).

Someone who is relying on the Spirit is not trusting in their own so-called ideas and decisions but always seeking God 1st and being led to do His will. And when you are living holy, walking in the Spirit, choosing obedience often, and seeing growth in your life, it’s like your spiritual armor is further fortified and your resistance to sin is not as vulnerable when you are trying to face it on your own.

Third, be encouraged by the body of Christ. We are called many things: the body, branches, the bride, a building, a priesthood, a flock., and a family. Each Christian in this church needs other Christians. We don’t have to face temptations alone. When we are struggling with a sin or facing a temptation, we can pray for one another (James 5:16), instruct each other (Romans 15:14), bear with one another (Ephesians 4:2), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25), be concerned for each other (I Corinthians 12:25), and carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Fourth, pray. What was Jesus doing in the wilderness? Fasting and praying. What did Jesus tell His disciples to do in the Garden of Gethsemane in order to not fall into temptation? (Mark 14) Pray. After Paul explained the armor of God, what does he tell us to do as a first response? To pray about all of this, at all times and to be on the alert always (Ephesians 6:11-18).

One way that God uses every temptation is by revealing to us who or what we are dependent upon when temptation comes. Showing dependence upon God will result in prayer; showing dependence elsewhere will result in prayerlessness. This was what we saw with Jesus in the wilderness. Satan was testing his trust.

Fifth, flee from sin and flee to God. When all else fails, run if you can! Sometimes battling temptation means that we remove ourselves from the scene. When Potiphar’s wife presents herself to us to sexually compromise, we run no matter what she tries to take in return (Genesis 39). Flee sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18). Flee from idolatry (I Corinthians 10:14). Flee youthful passion (II Timothy 2:22). Flee all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6:9-10). When we talk about fleeing, we are talking about speed, aggression, and effort (I Timothy 6:11).

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

A Steadfast Heart

O God, my heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory” (Psalm 108:1).

David says, “My heart is steadfast”; it’s like he was saying, “My heart is made up; it won’t move. Trust me; it won’t move. It is resolute.” David was firm and decided and did not waver in his purpose. He was committed to praising God above all else … even his troubles. David was not swayed or moved by the events that had occurred. He did not doubt the justice or the goodness or the mercy of God. He was determined to praise him; his heart was not shaken.

This is not as common as it should be today.

Image result for alexander maclarenThere aren’t many who always praise God no matter the circumstance. People waffle; people flip-flop; people change their convictions as often as they do their preferences.

Alexander Maclaren, a Scottish Baptist minister from the late 1800s, preached in a sermon entitled “The Fixed Heart”,

“For a fixed heart I must have a fixed determination and not a mere fluctuation and soon broken intention. I must have a steadfast affection, and not merely a fluttering love that, like some butterfly, lights now on this, now on that sweet flower, but which has a flight straight as a carrier pigeon to its cot, which shall bear me direct to God. And I must have a continuous realization of my dependence upon God and of God’s sweet sufficiency going with me all through the dusty day. … Ah, brethren! How unlike the broken, interrupted, divergent lines that we draw is our average Christianity fairly represented by such words as these of my text? Do they not rather make us burn with shame when we think that a man who lived in the twilight of God’s revelation, and was weighed upon by distresses such as wrung this psalm out of him, should have poured out this resolve, which we who love in the sunlight and are flooded with blessings find it hard to echo with sincerity and truth? Fixed hearts are rare amongst the Christians of thus day.”