Mike Stand is one of the original members of the Punk rock group the Altar Boys. Mike served as the lead singer of this iconic Christian band. Back in the late 1980’s, Mike left the Altar Boys to pursue a solo career releasing a few albums on his own. While there are a number of songs I could have featured today, Do I Stand Alone applies well to current events.
And I sought a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none, Ezekiel 22:30.
History is full of cycles, times where people were obedient to God and periods of compromise that led cultures to do what’s right in their own eyes. The book of Judges illustrates this point as good leadership results in blessings while poor leaders brought curses upon Israel, Judges 21:25. The prophet lived in a day when Israelites were afraid to take a stand for God. Like Mike sings, are you willing to stand today?
Today’s song comes from a group that helped me slowly wean myself off of secular music. Fighter reminds of those classic rock bands of the 1980’s. When Amy Wolter takes over the lead vocals, Fighter’s sound becomes reminiscent of Pat Benatar. When Jim Wolter takes control of the microphone, Fighter contains a blend of Asia and Cinderella. Today’s song Nice Guy is a hard hitting tune that addresses addiction, compromise, and spiritual discipline.
And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; Hebrews 12:5.
No one likes to be the adult in the room all the time, but discipline is a way to keep the curious out of trouble. Like the words of Patrick Swayze in the 1989 film Road House, a bouncer has to know when it’s time to not be Nice. Swayze plays the cooler, only using violence when it’s absolutely necessary. From a biblical perspective, discipline is a necessary evil, a tool to correct the misguided. May the lyrics of Nice Guy remind you of the importance of rebuking other believers when someone is setting a bad example.
Delusions occur when a false belief is accepted, or a judgment is made about an external reality. Author Chester Kylstra refers to this as ungodly beliefs in his book Restoring the Foundations. One of the best illustrations of a delusion happens in the film Rudy. Waiting for a bus to take him to Notre Dame, Rudy’s father tries to stop Rudy from chasing his childhood dream. According to Rudy’s father, he’s not smart and talented enough. This delusion prevented Rudy’s father from ever achieving his full potential in life.
If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts], 1 John 1:8.
Ungodly beliefs are not the only delusion that human beings endure. As sin enters your life in the form of enticement or lust, when the seed of sin is planted in your minds it’s only a matter of time before you will give into temptation, James 1:13-15. Unfortunately, to make yourself feel better, you might compare yourself with other people to conceal your own spiritual condition, Romans 2:1. This delusion comes in the form of justification and rationalization like the apostle Paul’s own struggle in Romans 7:15.
And by unlimited seduction to evil and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing (going to perdition) because they did not welcome the Truth but refused to love it that they might be saved. 11 Therefore God sends upon them a misleading influence, a working of error and a strong delusion to make them believe what is false, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11.
The apostle Paul alludes to full blown sin in the passage above, James 1:15. Like an addict struggling to unhook their lives from an unhealthy substance, seduction is another delusion that you must confront. Anyone who has failed to break a bad habit understands the helpless feeling of compromise, asking God for forgiveness before indulging sinful passions. One of the lies of the Devil is that you’ll never change. Yet, if you follow Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 10:13, God does provide a way out of temptation as long as you are willing to break free from sinful delusions.
New York was the first state to create a law for individuals driving under the influence of alcohol. The first reported DUI arrest was in 1910. Modern laws use a person’s blood alcohol level to determine if someone is driving while intoxicated or over the legal limit, .1 percent which may vary from state to state. While the Bible warns about getting drunk, there are is another force that deserves careful attention.
Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze! 6 And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man’s nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna), James 3:5-6.
The section of the Bible known as the Catholic Letters begins with a warning about words. James 1:19 introduces the influence of anger on your speech. James 2:17 suggests that if the words you use don’t reflect your personal relationship with God that your faith is either dead or dying. In the passage above, the earthly brother of Jesus illustrates what happens to your language under the influence of a sinful nature.
But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment [to express itself], got a hold on me and aroused and stimulated all kinds of forbidden desires (lust, covetousness). For without the Law sin is dead [the sense of it is inactive and a lifeless thing]. 9 Once I was alive, but quite apart from and unconscious of the Law. But when the commandment came, sin lived again and I died (was sentenced by the Law to death).10 And the very legal ordinance which was designed and intended to bring life actually proved [to mean to me] death, Romans 7:8-10.
Since not everyone is outgoing, the apostle Paul provides an internal analysis above of how sinful desires can hold you back spiritually. While the human mind is a beautiful thing to waste, Eve was the first victim when she allowed lies about God to be planted within her thoughts, Genesis 3:4-6. Any foreign influence starts off subtle with a compromise. Yet, once your judgment becomes clouded, enticement and lust open your mind to that which once was forbidden. The only way to break free from the influence of the sinful nature is by embracing the harvest of righteousness, James 3:17-18.
I was first introduced to musical chairs in grade school. This group activity was used as an ice breaker, a fun exercise to get to know other students. However, when I entered high school, I was introduced to full contact musical chairs. What started out as a routine game, ended in a scrum for the final empty chair. While playing on an elevated stage in a gym, I bounced off one of my fellow competitors. Before I could regain my balance, I flew off the stage, going into a defensive tuck and roll.
Now therefore, [reverently] fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the [Euphrates] River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord, Joshua 24:14.
Last weekend, I heard an interesting sermon that used three different chairs. As Jentezen Franklin defined chairs labeled conflict, compromise, and commitment, human beings play their own game of musical chairs daily. Depending upon how you exercise free will, you will find yourself in one of these three chairs. Subsequently, the actions, choices, and decisions that you make become part of musical chairs of faith. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they are actually playing this game.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, Joshua 24:15.
Those who select the chair of commitment tend to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. Whenever poor choices are made, convictions influence consciences to get up when the wrong chair is chosen. Meanwhile, the seat called compromise is like playing a game of hot potatoes. Depending upon your emotions, feelings or mood, decisions vary. Thus, carnal and fleshly desires tend to over rule spiritual hunger. The final chair is the least desirable, but takes little effort to sit down. The longer you stay here, the more comfortable you become. As you wake up today, choose commitment by following in the footsteps of Joshua.
The Phantom Menace was released in 1999; also known as Star Wars: Episode 1. Written and directed by George Lucas, this film is set 32 years before the original Star Wars, going back in time after the first three movies, Episodes 4-6. The phantom is revealed when the evil Trade Federation plots to take over the peaceful planet of Naboo. This act forces Jedi warrior Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi into action.
You were running [the race] well; who has interfered and prevented you from obeying the truth? 8 This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ], Galatians 5:7-8.
America was introduced to the term menace through the Comic Strip turned sitcom Dennis the Menace in 1959. This series preceded The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings on CBS from October 1959 to July 1963. Dennis’ character is an energetic, well meaning, but trouble prone boy who has a tendency to become a mischievous child. Like an accident waiting to happen, a real menace leaves behind a trail of danger, hazards and peril.
But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the [g]sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.
Whenever individuals are tempted by their sinful nature, people are at risk at becoming a menace to society. Sure, initial signs of compromise are subtle, but as flirting with fleshly desires becomes a habit, actions, behavior and words will quickly change. Like something out of the movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, even family and friends won’t recognize you as evil spreads from the inside out. I pray that this blog serves as a warning so that the Holy Spirit awakens those currently ensnared by their sinful nature.
During my final year of college, I joined an accountability group. The official title of this weekly gathering was a Reunion Group with men whom I met during a Walk to Emmaus Retreat. This sharing group involved giving a brief summary of your week which included your moment closest to Christ and furthest away from God. Since we started meeting on Monday nights in the fall, most of this group stuck around to watch Monday Night Football afterwards. Unfortunately, when I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio over break and the summer, I blended into the world like a chameleon. Instead of developing into a light for Christ, I regularly walked in darkness like the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
“Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, and to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd to prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” 5 Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:4-7.
You don’t have to squander your wealth in wild living such as Luke 15:13-15 to become a prodigal. Rather, idleness, too much free time and a lack of vision can lead a man after God’s own heart into sinful addictions. Instead of going to work, David took the Spring off, wandering around the roof of his palace until a naked woman got his attention. Like any curious man, David inquired into the status of this woman, hoping that she was single. When the answer was no, the power of being king went to David’s head, allowing compromise to imagine the possibilities of just one night with this beautiful woman. A follower of Jesus describes this state as lust and enticement dragging individuals away from common sense until sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presenceand do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.
After David realized that he was the person in Nathan’s analogy, Psalm 51 becomes a prayer for forgiveness. Prior to this confession, sin had entangled David within a pit of despair. Psalm 55:4-5 describes a spirit of conviction and guilt that overwhelms souls when you are revealed as the prodigal. This narcissistic mindset blinds individuals from seeing the truth, the wayward of selfish decisions. While David does provide a blueprint for reconciliation, the reality that I have become the prodigal is a tough pill to swallow. It only took one week of skipping church, sleeping in on Sunday to lead me on the slippery slope that I resid. Doing the right thing sounds so easy, but the apostle Paul reminds readers of Romans 7 that sin influences you to do what you hate. Thus, the next time you find yourself like me, shocked to be the prodigal, take these biblical passages to heart so that forgiveness arrives in the morning, Lamentations 3:19-23.
Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to be designated as a sanctuary city. This 1979 decision was designed to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. Today, there are 36 other United State cities that have adopted this policy. In recent years, churches in border states have been recruited to hide and protect illegal immigrants. From time to time, I see cable news exclusives of local pastors defending their position. This is where religion and politics mix.
But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district, Acts 13:50.
During the first century, Jewish leaders were fearful of the Jesus movement. As more Jews converted to Christianity, influence and political power was being lost. Thus, high priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots sought whatever means necessary to stop any other Jews from turning their back on their Jewish heritage. According to Luke, Jewish leaders used prominent, powerful and wealthy individuals to drive Christian leaders from their district. This is where religious obsessions cloud minds and judgment.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.
An earthly brother of Jesus makes an interesting observation in the passage above. Religion and politics can and will mix from time to time, but if your tongue leads you astray, religion is worthless. Jesus uses an analogy of a city on a hill in his Sermon on the Mount. Christians are suppose to stand out, like a city with bright lights in the dark. Actions, behavior and words reflect what is inside of your heart. Unfortunately, the pressure of religion and politics may result in compromise, temptation or unexpected words. When religion and politics and a fall from grace ensues, may conviction bring you back to the place where God desires.
No one likes to be described as being weak. This condition or state of lacking strength is an insult that doesn’t sit well. Nonetheless, if you are honest with yourself, everyone has a weakness, a chink in their armor. During a battle, enemies will examine and study their opponent, trying to ascertain their most vulnerable position.
Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1
Compromise, doubt and rationalization are elements that an invisible adversary narrows in on. Human minds are attacked day after day with some falling for the same trick time after time. Evil thoughts are planted within minds in the form of a subtle whisper, “did God really say?” As time has evolved, children have altered this question, “did my parents really say that?” “My coach, counselor, teacher or relative won’t mind if I do this?”
Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.
As a former victim, Peter compares the Devil to a powerful predator. As ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, Satan scans the globe daily stalking his next potential prey. Despite this warning, countless souls fail to take this threat seriously. Subsequently, articles, breaking news and headlines detail the most recent Christian who has fallen, caught in another shocking sin. Perhaps, this blog will awaken souls to this spiritual emergency so that future individuals do not fall for this same old trick anymore.
On May 14th, 2018 the United States Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law on commercialized sports betting. Prior to this ruling, Las Vegas was one of the few places in this country to legally place a bet on March Madness or the Super Bowl. This decision has opened the door for other states to grab a piece of the pie. Based upon initial reports, one hundred and fifty billion dollars in illegal wages are made every year. Thus, for states like Delaware and New Jersey who have recently passed legislation to allow gambling on sports, local government officials are betting on the future.
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it, Proverbs 13:11.
If gambling on sports was illegal until now, one has to wonder why would past legislators initially outlaw this practice? King Solomon referred to the love of money as vanity, Ecclesiastes 5:10. A first century doctor warns believers against falling prey to covetousness, Luke 12:15. An associate of the apostle Paul urges Christians to avoid earthly practices that begins with compromise and ends by forfeiting your soul, Mark 8:36. While playing the lottery, fantasy sports and making bets with friends seems innocent, if victorious these practices can accumulate ill-gotten gain.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.
The phrase follow the money first appeared in William Goldman’s screenplay All the President’s Men. Since this film, other movie’s has illustrated the corruption and demise that comes along with a hunger and thirst for money. While the optimism for sports betting is currently high, the spiritual consequences for those who indulge in gambling can have lasting affects. After a visit to Atlantic City several years ago, I came face to face with individuals who came to town with money but left broke or homeless in a worst case scenario. Only time will tell if betting on the future was worth the risk. Yet, for now keep your life free the love of money, content with the life that God has given you.