Getting What You Want Out of Life

I always get a big grin when I’m driving on a highway and see the sign: “Freeway Ends.” I get the mental picture of cars flying off the end of the freeway into a deep ravine. Or, perhaps, a calmer image might be all vehicles stuck at a dead end with nowhere to go.

If we knew that’s what the sign meant, we’d stop and turn around.

Getting What You Want Out of Life

(Photo by iofoto, via Vivozoom)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a warning sign that gave us more important directions?

“THIS ISN’T THE ROAD TO GETTING

WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF LIFE”

If we had such a sign—and we believed it true—we’d immediately stop and turn around.

The Word of God gives us that sign. It tells us the results of a certain path. But it also gives us other directions.

It tells you the secret to getting what you want out of life.

Walk the Path of Wisdom without Falling Off

The connection between between the first steps we take in making a decision and its final outcome often seems unrelated.

Walking the path of wisdom or the way of foolishness has domino effects far greater than we can imagine.

How to Stay on the Path of Wisdom

(Photo by Indy Kethdy. CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

For us, a disciplined intake of Scripture certainly promises wisdom. But wisdom offers a course of action, not just a course of instruction. (Tweet that.)

The book of Proverbs reveals the outcome of the pathways we are walking.

And it tells us how to stay on the path of wisdom.

How to Fix Foundation Problems in Your Spiritual Life

Years ago, my grandmother’s 1909 house got a fresh layer of wallpaper. But only weeks later, I noticed in a high corner the wallpaper had buckled, and in some places, it had even split.

Fix Foundation Problems in Your Spiritual Life

(My grandmother’s house, built in 1909)

When I asked her about it she said: “Oh, the house needs foundation work. Every time the seasons change and the wind blows a different direction, the whole house shifts.”

That made sense. For years I shaved inches off most of the doors trying to get them to close. But the repair only lasted until the wind shifted again.

Look closely at the lives of your friends and family. Maybe even your own life.

You’ll see this old house’s problem in vivid display.

Finding the Dead Sea Scrolls Isn’t Enough

Our guide pointed from the road to a rocky outcropping on one of the distant hills.

“This hike is definitely optional,” he warned. “But it’s worth it.”

Qumran Cave 4 interior

(Photo: The interior of Cave 4 at Qumran. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

A few of us brave souls followed, and for the first time in my life, I wished I had four legs.

Our guide scurried over the rocks like a lizard and stopped ahead, halfway up the hill, near the fissure in the rocks to which he had pointed. He turned and stood, arms crossed, one leg over the other, and waited for us. Finally I arrived.

“This is it,” he beamed.

How to Ponder Scripture Every Time You Stop

Not long ago I stopped at a stop sign so intriguing that I doubled back to take its picture. Here it is.

Stop and Ponder Scripture

(Picture I took: Stop and Ponder Scripture)

What a great sign! After snapping the picture, I pulled to the side of the road and watched the next five cars that pulled up to the stop sign. Only one stopped. The rest rolled on through.

Later, I got to thinking about the intersection. “STOP—Ponder Scripture.” The command is there—and at a crossroads many stop at every day. Yet the surrounding neighborhood seems unaffected. They see the stop sign—but not the street sign.

I confess that, at times, I do too.

Temptation’s Lie: The Devil Made Me Do It

More than thirty years ago Flip Wilson kept America in stitches with his television characters “Reverend Leroy,” the friendly, pompous pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” and “Geraldine Jones,” the sassy African-American woman in a miniskirt.

Whenever Geraldine would impulsively buy a dress—or do anything she shouldn’t—she excused her urge by blurting the line she made famous, “The Devil made me do it!”

America laughed at Geraldine for her obviously lame excuse. In fact, to say, “The Devil made me do it,” became the rage all over the country.

A widespread theology exists that seems to be a strange mix between Reverend Leroy and Geraldine. We find ministries with leaders who point to the Devil and his imps for the sins that plague us. For example, one very radical ministry told a Christian woman who visited them that her problems came from a “legion” of demons within her, and in order to get rid of them, she needed to vomit them out right there in church! Others are told they have a “spirit of divorce,” a “spirit of lust,” “neglect,” or “procrastination.” These spirits are blamed for people’s sins, and the solution to these sins then becomes casting out the spirit causing them. Geraldine would be proud.

Frequently the Bible uses the word “spirit” to refer to a demon, often attaching a descriptive word or phrase such as “unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23), “evil spirit” (Acts 19:12-13), “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), and “deaf and mute spirit” (Mark 9:25). Words such as “unclean” and “evil” describe the nature of the spirit itself. But phrases like “spirit of infirmity” and “deaf and mute spirit” describe the particular affliction the spirits cause.

Unfortunately, many people launch from these verses into theological error when they confuse affliction with transgression, naming a demon after their sin.

The Bible never describes the work of demons in the lives of believers directly in terms of immorality. In other words, to say a believer has a “spirit of lust”—as if his real problem is a demon—assumes something the Bible never teaches. The demonic realm can influence a believer’s morality. However, God’s Word describes demonic influence in a believer’s life not as “possession”—or even “oppression”—but primarily as temptation.

So, how should we respond to temptation? We must know and hold fast to the Word of God. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, the Devil again tried to muddle God’s Word, as he did with the woman in the garden. But Jesus not only knew the Scripture, He clung to it—and sent the Devil packing (Matthew 4:1-11).

The best way to counter temptation’s tug is to choose to do what’s right. James 4:7 gives the strategy, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” A number of other great verses include: Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Mark it down as a fact: We will always struggle with temptation in this life. But God has not left us alone in the struggle. We cannot cast out temptation. But we can resist.

We have a great opportunity to glorify Christ by responding with faithfulness in the face of every evil enticement.

Taken from Wayne Stiles, “The Devil Made Me Do It?” Insights (July 2005): 1-2. Copyright © 2005 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide. Snake photo by Ltshears. “The Temptation of Christ” painting by Ary Scheffer, 1854. Public domain. 

Israel Tour Day 5—The Southern Steps and Western Wall of the Temple Mount

We arrived in the holy city last evening to the strains of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing!” blasting through our bus’ loudspeakers.

Coming through the tunnel and seeing the Temple Mount for the first time causes various reactions from those on the bus.

Tears. Cameras clicking. Eyes fixed. Jaws agape. Sniffles. Shouts. And smiles.

I enjoy watching people’s responses. They are always moved at the first sight of Jerusalem . . . yet in so many different ways.

Chuck gave a stirring message this morning on the Southern Steps of the Temple. What could be better than a Sunday morning worship service on the steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? (Except for the Rapture, not much!)

The steps were a place where Jesus would have taught the crowds. Here Gamaliel trained a young Saul, later to become the apostle Paul (see Acts 22:3). Here Peter preached to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost, baptizing thousands in the ritual baths, or mikvot, which still sat next to the steps (see Acts 2:41).

On these steps, we sat in one of the few places where we can say with absolute certainty, “Jesus walked here.”

We also saw the Western Wall—the remaining stones of the retaining wall that surrounded the temple of Christ’s day. The wall—called Kotel in Hebrew—towers 50 feet above the people below and shaded the busy goings-on from the morning sun.

Branches of wild caper and hyssop grow out of the cracks in the wall, bespeaking the fill dirt behind it that Herod the Great brought in to expand the Temple Mount above. The stones pinch in their gaps countless scraps of paper on which people have scrawled their prayers. (Prayers are removed once a year.)

It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and we Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.

But without the heart engaged, our worship becomes as phony as those who don’t know the true God. Blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling or jumping—with no personal relationship with God through Christ, and it’s totally pointless.

God cares far less about our traditions than He cares about His Word in our hearts and lived out in authenticity.

Tomorrow . . . walking the Passion Week of Jesus!

(A neat extra for today: check out the 360-degree views of the Western Wall.) 
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A Good Place to Begin a New Year

From the first verse of Scripture, God revealed how the Earth set the stage for the divine drama of history to take place (see Gen. 1:1). From its formless, void beginning, the Lord fashioned the Earth with intent in its details. From this ground, God made physical man a spiritual being in His image (see Genesis 1–2).

The Lord planted two trees in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 2:8–9). Adam’s physical need required him to make a spiritual choice: From which tree would he eat? Would he obey God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

God originally inspired the book of Genesis for a people about to enter yet another land God prepared. That land would hold the direst of geographical conditions, placing them in a situation similar to Adam’s. Would they obey God’s commands? “I have set before you life and death,” God would tell them, “So choose life” (Deut. 30:19). Centuries later, Jesus also found Himself facing the same temptation in this barren land—and He clung to God’s Word (see Matt. 4:1–10).

Either the Bible will keep you away from sin, or sin will keep you away from the Bible. —C. S. Lewis

Whether in Eden or Canaan or California, our decision remains the same. The land where we live—be it lush or desolate—is the stage on which we display God’s glory. Regardless of our location or influences, God gives us a choice each day from which tree to eat. In every case, life or death comes from our response to God’s Word.

As you commit to spending time in the Bible, commit also to obeying what your Creator reveals each day: “For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life” (Deut. 32:47).

A prayer for reflection:


My Creator, whatever place I find myself this year, my duty remains the same: to choose life by obedience to whatever You teach me in Your Word and thus display Your image wherever You take me in Your world. I devote to You this year . . . and this day. Be glorified in it, O God.

Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), p. 23. Used by permission.

Is the Bible Really God’s Word? [Podcast]

2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21

You’ve probably heard the argument: “Oh you can’t believe the Bible. It’s full of errors and contradictions. Besides, how can it be God’s Word when it’s written by fallible men?” Is the Bible Really God’s Word?

If the Bible isn’t God’s Word, we have no basis to answer any other questions. In fact, existence has no answers. But if God has truly spoken, what implications does that give?

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