Why God Became Flesh

Last year, work began on a new subdivision right around the corner from my house. Bulldozers and graders and other pieces of heavy equipment were out there moving dirt around, carving out new streets, and preparing the lots for the construction of new homes. On weekends, when the workers are off and all the heavy equipment is idle, I’d go over there to look around and check things out. On one occasion, I was over there walking around with my five year old granddaughter (we were actually walking in a field next to the construction site) when we came to an area of high ground that overlooked an entire section of the subdivision. That moment presented me with a teaching opportunity to show her how God sees the entire world, and to teach her that He sees everything all at one time from His home in Heaven. It seemed like such a good way to explain God’s eternal presence to a five year old.

She pointed to an area that was right smack in the middle of where the bulldozers and graders had been smoothing out dirt for a new street and she said to me, “Let’s go look over there.” I told her there was nothing to see over there, that there was nothing down there but dirt. “C’mon, let’s go look.” she insisted. And as grandfathers do, I said “Okay.” and off we went. We walked about thirty or forty feet when something shiny caught my attention down on the ground. I kicked the dirt off of it to see what it was and to my surprise, it was a pair of Leatherman pliers. If you don’t know what Leathermans are, they’re needle nose pliers that have an assortment of blades and other tools that fold up in the handle, kind of like a Swiss Army knife. They looked like they’d been run over by a bulldozer, and probably had been. They were packed full of mud and dirt and the handle was bent up. But with some cleaning and a little tweaking on the metal handle, I figured they’d be serviceable.

When I bent down to pick up the pliers, it occurred to me that God had presented another one of those teaching opportunities. I explained to my granddaughter Jesus was born and came to the earth to pick us up out of the dirt and clean us up, just like I picked up those pliers and planned on cleaning them up. She’s five years old, so I don’t know how much of that she understood. But isn’t that what God did? Did He not come down to earth in flesh just so He could reach down and pick us up out of the dirt we call sin?

When God became flesh, our relationship with Him became much more personal. One way that’s illustrated in the Bible is through the people Jesus healed. Whenever Jesus healed someone, He usually chose to touch that person physically, even though He had the power to heal from afar as He did on many occasions. But most of the time, He reached out and touched people. In the eighth chapter of Matthew for example, a leper knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” And Jesus reached out and touched him and said, “I am willing. Be healed!” And the leprosy left him instantly.

On another occasion, Jesus went to Peter’s house where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. The scripture says when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her immediately. There was the time when a synagogue leader’s daughter died: Jesus took the little girl by her hand and she stood up! He touched blind men’s eyes and their eyes were opened. Jesus could have healed every one of them with His word alone and sometimes He did the when occasion warranted. But it was much more personal when He reached out and put His hands on them, when they were touched by the hands of God.

Even though it was certainly an important part of His ministry during His time here on earth, Jesus didn’t come down to earth just to heal a few broken bodies. He came to heal broken spirits. As personal as it was for Jesus to touch someone and heal them, I think it’s far more personal when a repentant sinner is restored by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think about it: God offers us salvation through the death of His son on the cross! How can it get more personal than that?

Jesus touched broken bodies and healed them. He still touches people’s lives today. He’s touched the hearts of all those who have called on His name and have been saved. Because of His great love, Jesus had to become flesh, so He could reach down and pull us out of the dirt.

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Lessons From Metallurgy

John 14
In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

John 17
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

The purpose of blending or alloying metals is to give the finished material properties and qualities that are not found in the base metals by themselves. Take gold for instance. Pure gold is soft and weak. Jewelry made from pure gold would quickly wear out if not for the addition of other metals that add strength. In order to be made useful for jewelry or for industrial purposes, metals such as copper, silver, nickel, or zinc must be added during the refining process. The result is a material that is far stronger than the base gold by itself.

While pure gold may be attractive to the eye, it has no real strength. Without Christ, the life of the unsaved person may appear to be just fine. We’ve all heard lost people who say, “I’m just fine without God.” But in reality, they have no real strength. Jesus said “I am in the Father and you are in me and I in you.” Think about what our lives were like before we accepted Christ. What were we like? We were weak. We lacked true strength.

A metal that is soft and weak is said to malleable, which means it’s easy to bend and form into shapes. In metal work, this can be a good thing. But when you’re talking about people’s lives, not so much. As it pertains to metallurgy, The World English Dictionary defines the word ‘malleable’ as easily worked or shaped. But malleable has another definition. It also means, able to be influenced. That’s what we were before coming to Christ. We were easily influenced by the world. In that worldly sense, we were ‘malleable’. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans (Romans 12 verse 2): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Metal alloys are engineered to withstand great forces and stresses. Just as different metals are blended together to form a single yet stronger alloy, when we accepted Christ , we became one with Him. And when we became one with Jesus Christ, we were made stronger.

The Apostle Paul wrote about the great difficulties he often had to endure for the sake of the gospel. In his letter to the Philippians, he said he had learned to be content in all circumstances, whether he had nothing or everything, plenty or little. There were forces and stresses acting on his life, just as it is with us. Paul said the secret of living in every situation was knowing that we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength.

As Christians, we need to be aware that we’re always being watched by the world to see how we’ll react in times of difficulty. So when someone asks where you get your strength, when they ask how it is that you’re able to withstand the stresses and forces that are coming your way, simply tell them “I am one with Jesus Christ, and I’m stronger now than I was when I was alone.”

The Dreaded Check Engine Light

In the mid-1980s, cars and trucks sold in the United States made the transition to electronic fuel injection which requires the use of an onboard computer and numerous engine sensors that monitor engine performance so changes can be made to the air/fuel mixture as conditions warrant. The onboard computer also detects any problems that might come up as a result of the failure of one those sensors, or whenever a sensor detects an out of range value, like too much air or fuel going into the engine. When one of those problems is detected, the computer turns on the dreaded and feared “Check Engine” light on your instrument panel, or one that says “Service Engine Soon”. I say dreaded and feared because that light could just as easily say “Get Out Your Wallet”.  It can be a cheap fix, or it can be very expensive.

A few months back, my truck’s Check Engine light came on, meaning that the computer had detected a problem and set a trouble code. A quick scan revealed that it was same code that had caused the Check Engine light to come on some 18 months earlier, code P0174, which is the code for an engine that’s running too lean (too much air in the air/fuel mixture). Up until that time, I’d never had any problems with the electronic fuel injection system on that truck, so when the Check Engine came on back then, I had to do quite a bit of research in order to diagnose and fix the problem. I didn’t know where to start looking. As I discovered, there was a number of possible causes that could set that particular code. The service manuals called for a fuel pump pressure check, a fuel pressure regulator test, an EGR valve operational test, fuel line inspections, vacuum hose inspections, and much, much more. Typically, you start by checking the smallest and simplest things first (i.e. least expensive) when diagnosing these types of problems, and you work your way up from there. Even so, it was still time consuming. Eventually though, the problem was found to be a bad vacuum hose in the PCV system. It had a hole on the bottom side of it which caused the engine to take in too much air and set the trouble code.

When the computer set that same code the second time, I immediately knew where to start looking for the problem. I only had to consult the manual to refresh my memory. And as it turned out, there was another hose in the same general vicinity that had a hole worn in it. It took a lot less time to find the problem the second time around because of what was learned from the previous experience.

The Bible tells us in  2 Timothy 3 that  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  I had to use a service manual to track down and repair a problem with my truck, and it took a lot longer the first time because I had no idea where to begin looking. But the second time I was ready because I had acquired the knowledge I needed to deal with the problem, and applied that knowledge based on experience.

It’s the same with Scripture. The Bible is our service manual for life. I know that might sound a bit trite to some, but I say that because I’ve so often heard it said that human beings do not come with an instruction manual. That’s just not true. Our Creator DID give us a manual. It’s an instruction manual that points us to the way of salvation in Christ and shows us how to live God honoring lives; and it’s a service manual for when times of trouble come our way. And trouble will come. It’s inevitable. Jesus said we will have trouble in this world.

Sometimes, in fact I’d say the majority of the time, our troubles are self-inflicted because of sin in our lives. But there are also plenty of times when we incur problems because of outside influences that we have no control over. Regardless, the Bible is our best resource for dealing with the troubles and problems of life. As we study and apply it, and as we grow in our knowledge of God’s word, the better equipped we become to deal with life’s trials. When a problem comes up or when there’s a decision to be made, it might be that we’re able to recall specific passages that guide us to the right answer. Either that, or we at least know where to turn to in the Bible to find the answer. When that trouble code set the second time, I didn’t have to spend hours poring through the service manual like I did the first time. I knew where to look.

With all that said, did I have to follow the troubleshooting procedures in the service manual? No, certainly not. The end result could have been a costly and unnecessary engine repair, but I could have ignored the service manual altogether and tried to find the solution……my way. I’ve worked in shops where I’ve seen mechanics do just that. I’ve seen them perform thousands of dollars’ worth of unnecessary repairs because they chose to ignore the service manual’s diagnostic procedures, or worse, because they chose to ignore what they had learned through their past experience.  Every day we see people ignoring God’s word and then having to live with the results of their poor choices. They say to themselves, “I’m going to live my life…my way.” “I’m going to fix this problem in my life and I don’t need anyone’s help.” More often than not, the end results are disastrous because they ignored God and tried to go it on their own.

Of course the Bible will not specifically tell you to accept that job you’ve been offered, nor will it tell you to turn it down. It doesn’t specifically tell you which career field you should go into or which college to send you son or daughter to. But the Bible will give you the guidance you need to make those kinds of important decisions. For instance, if that college you’re considering has a reputation for being hostile  toward Christian students, or if that company you’re thinking of going to work for has an unethical track record, there are plenty of passages in Scripture that will help you in your decision making process. It might be that you need to look for another college or place of employment, or you may feel God is leading you to a place where He’s asking you to be salt and light. But unless you’re in the word and in a right relationship with God, there’s really no way to know for sure.

On the other hand, the one thing the Bible does do very clearly is identify sins and attitudes in our lives that need to be dealt with. And when you think about, if our attitudes aren’t right, they will impact the decisions we make.

So from here going forward, I want to issue a little challenge. When faced with a problem, look for the solution in the Bible. When faced with a decision at home, consult the Bible. When faced with a decision at work, consult the Bible. I know, I know, you may be under the gun and you might have to make an immediate decision on some crucial matter. If that’s the case, consult the Bible afterwards to make sure you made the right call. Just consider the possibility that you might have to go back and change your decision. That’s why studying God’s word is so important, so we’ll know what to do when we’re pressed, so we’ll know BEFOREHAND how to respond when an immediate decision has to be made. So let’s make that our challenge, because no matter what decisions we may face, no matter what problems might come our way, we can find guidance and answers in God’s Holy Word.

If I Have Found Favor in Your Eyes……

The words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 9:
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

As I was reading the book of Exodus recently, there was a phrase that caught my attention: “If I have found favor in your eyes….”. It dawned on me that I had seen that phrase before. So I did a little research and found those words repeated several times in the Old Testament. 



When Abraham greeted the three visiting angels in Genesis 18:

If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”

A variation of the phrase appears in Exodus 33 when Moses was speaking with God:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.

 

When Moses spoke with God again after receiving the second set of Stone Tablets in Exodus 34:

“Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us.” 

When Moses cried out to God because of the grumbling of the people in Numbers 11:

“If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

When Gideon answered the calling of God in Judges 6:

If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.”

David speaking to Zadok the priest when he was fleeing from Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 15:

Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.

All the men in those passages; Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and David, were great men of God. Whenever they spoke the words, “If I have found favor in your eyes…”, they were acknowledging God’s authority and at the same time, they were also acknowledging their own imperfections. Each of those men had flaws……….and they knew it. So when they spoke to God (or spoke of God as David did in that passage in 2 Samuel), they knew better than to be presumptuous. In humility and out of reverent submission, they would say to God, “If I have found favor in your eyes…”. 

In spite of their flaws, those great men of God knew how to approach God. But by the time our Lord Jesus Christ began his ministry, people were living in such darkness and their spiritual condition had caused them to become so far separated from God, they had no idea how to find favor in God’s eyes. From reading the gospels, it almost seems like they didn’t even know how to ask. And of course, neither the religious system or the religious leaders of the time were any help.

According to the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders, finding favor in God’s eyes meant performing useless rituals and adhering to an endless list of laws and rules. To be clear, we’re not talking about the pure Law of God that was given to Moses for the benefit of the people. We’re talking about laws that were man made. Those laws had become a burden,  and finding favor in God’s eyes must have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. After all, under a burdensome legalistic system that posed as religion, how can you know when or IF you’ve done enough? So they must have felt like many of us felt at some time in our pasts before we were saved; like all hope was lost. And under that system, all hope was lost until Jesus came.

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, He came to fulfill it. And again we’re talking about God’s law, not the law of the Pharisees. Jesus fulfilled all of the Law’s requirements for finding favor in the eyes of God so that it was no longer necessary to perform useless rituals. Bulls and goats and sheep did not need to be sacrificed on the altar because the blood of Jesus fulfilled the Law’s requirement that there be shedding of blood as atonement for sin. In fact, Jesus made it very simple to find favor in the eyes of God. He gave us only one requirement; that we believe in Him and accept Him as our savior!

Hebrews 4:16 tells us: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

And that’s why the phrase, “If I have found favor in your eyes…..” does not appear anywhere in the New Testament. When we put our faith in Jesus, we also acknowledged our imperfections like those Old Testament saints. We acknowledged our sins and our need for a savior. We acknowledged God’s sovereignty and when we did all that, we found favor in God’s eyes!

The Narrow Gate

From Matthew chapter 7:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

God’s word is truth. And it’s absolute, which means that God’s word is true regardless of what anyone wants to believe. Our culture argues that truth is relative, which is to say that what’s true for you may not be true for me, and vice versa. But if truth is relative, as secularists argue, it wouldn’t be truth at all. The reason the world system has adopted the stance of relative truth is simple. Truth isn’t always easy to hear. That passage from Matthew is a prime example. Jesus spoke those words near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and in plain terms, Jesus said that when everything is said and done, the majority of humanity will spend eternity in Hell.

That had to be a hard truth for many in the crowd to hear. (It’s hard for people to accept today.) Undoubtedly, there were Pharisees and other religious and political leaders mixed in among the crowd, as well as many common people who had been brought up in a legalistic religion which taught that righteousness and had to be earned by keeping the rules and regulations. Many who lived during that tine also believed they would get to Heaven simply because they were descendants of Abraham. They counted on their ancestry for salvation. Regardless of what they may have believed, Jesus turned it all upside down.

When Jesus began His sermon that day, he said numerous times, “You have heard it said……” followed by, “but I say to you….” In other words, Jesus was saying, “Here’s what you were taught by men. Now listen to what you’re being taught by God.” And He proceeded to preach even more truths that were just as difficult to hear. For instance, Jesus said to rejoice and be glad when people insult you. Rejoice and be…..what? Glad?

Here are some more, and I’m going to paraphrase some of these. Even if you never harm a hair on another person’s head, you’re still subject to judgment if you’re angry enough with someone that you think about harming or killing them. (Matthew 5:21-24) I think most of us fall short on that one.

How about this one? Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28) Contrary to what the world tells us today, there is no such thing as a harmless fantasy. It’s not okay to look at another woman and then think about what you’d like to do with her. It might be a woman at your office or a woman who caught your attention at the grocery store. This applies to women as well as men. Ladies, it’s not okay for a married woman to think about having an affair with that guy at the office either. But this is especially difficult for men because of the way we’re wired. For a lot of Christian men, (yes, even for Christian men) this is a constant battle.

Here’s another one. Don’t resist evil people. If someone slaps you on the cheek, you’re to turn the other cheek to that person also. (Matthew 5:39). And this verse from Matthew 5 verse 44 is very similar. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That’s not saying we don’t have the right to defend our families, our lives, or our property from some common criminal who tries to harm us, or who’s trying to break into our homes at 2:00 a.m. I believe we have the right to defend ourselves from criminal activity. In those two passages from Matthew 5, I believe Jesus was talking specifically about suffering for our faith. If a non-believer becomes so upset with you because of your faith that he pops you in the mouth out of anger and frustration, Jesus said not to hit him back. I know, it’s easier to say than it is to do. My first reaction would be to ball up my fist and pick a spot on his jaw, or get him in a Nolan Ryan headlock and start pounding on his head. But think about this: How many times was Jesus struck……….the night He was arrested?

Likewise, if someone persecutes you because of your faith; your boss demotes you or denies a promotion; you’re ridiculed by co-workers or neighbors; Jesus said instead of retaliating, we’re to pray for those people. Again, that’s not easy.

Just from those few passages from the Sermon on the Mount, I think we’re beginning to get a picture of why the way that leads to eternal life is so hard. Those were hard truths to hear I’m sure, and even more difficult to put into practice. And here we are, 2000 years later, and it’s not one bit easier. They’re still difficult truths to hear. In our time, who wants to hear that Jesus is the only way to Heaven? Who wants to hear about Hell and eternal punishment? After all, a merciful and loving God wouldn’t really send anyone to a place as bad as Hell, would He? (Actually, God won’t send anyone to Hell. The people who spend eternity in Hell will be there because they chose to be there when they rejected Christ.) Little has changed. People still prefer the easy way. But like Jesus said, the easy way is the path to destruction, and hard is the way that leads to life.

The lessons Jesus taught are often easier to talk about than they are to put into practice. Put lustful thoughts out of your mind. Don’t retaliate against people who hate you because of your faith. It takes discipline, strength, and courage to live the way Jesus wants us to live. And none of us are disciplined enough, strong enough, or courageous enough to do this on our own. We all know the story of the rich young man who walked away after Jesus said he should sell all he had and give it to the poor. For those who prefer the wealth of this world over God, Jesus explained how difficult it will be for them to enter the kingdom of Heaven. That’s when one of the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The application here is the same. It is impossible to live as Jesus taught by our own strength, discipline, or courage. Those things we must pray for and be granted by God, and only then will it be possible to navigate our way down the hard path and through the narrow gate that leads to life!

Laying Awake at Night

From Micah chapter 2:

What sorrow awaits you who lie awake at night,  thinking up evil plans.
You rise at dawn and hurry to carry them out,  simply because you have the power to do so.

 When you want a piece of land,  you find a way to seize it.
When you want someone’s house,  you take it by fraud and violence.
You cheat a man of his property, stealing his family’s inheritance.

Do any of you remember the names of some of the men involved in the corporate scandals of the past twenty years? Men like Jeff Skilling of Enron, Bernie Ebbers of Worldcom, Dennis Kozloski of Tyco, and many other top level executives of various corporations served prison sentences for crimes ranging from fraud to insider trading and obstruction of justice. (And some are still in prison). Consider also Bernie Madoff who operated the ponzi scheme that is believed to be the most fraudulent financial scheme in history.

None of those men dreamed up their schemes in a single day. No…..they spent months and years concocting their “evil plans” , as Micah put it. This is what the Bible says of such men in Psalm 36:

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.

They’re simply described as wicked and as both of those passages tell us, men (and women too) lay awake at night dreaming up ways to cheat people out of their money and possessions, and they’ve been doing so for centuries. The men involved in the corporate scandals in our day and time worked many a night into the early hours of the morning concocting their crooked schemes according to the Bible, just as men lay awake at night thousands of years ago dreaming up ways to cheat their neighbors out of their land and possessions. So these scandals are nothing new.

But as a result of the growing number of corporate scandals and financial schemes that have bilked people out of billions of dollars, many corporations now require their executives to attend specialized training in ethics. Now stop and think about what that means for a second. In very simple terms, it means they have to attend classes or workshops that teach them the difference between right and wrong. Does anyone see something  fundamentally wrong there? Here you have grown men (and women) who are well into their adult years who have to be told the difference between right and wrong!! That’s basically what ethics training is. I’m sorry, but that’s something they should have been taught at a very early age, not when they’re in their forties and fifties!! They should have learned ethics from their parents, and those lessons should have been reinforced in their school classrooms and at church!

In Deuteronomy 11, God gave this command to the people:

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

That’s Old Testament law, but it’s no less important today that we teach our children about God’s word and God’s law so they don’t become the kind of adults who lay awake at night dreaming of ways to cheat people! But even more important than that, it’s so they won’t become the kind of adults who eventually invite God’s judgment on our nation! Speaking of judgment, I’m not judging any of those men for what they did. God will take care of that. I don’t know anything about their upbringing. Maybe they went to church and heard God’s truth as children, maybe they didn’t. I don’t know if their parents simply neglected to teach them about God, or whether they rejected God later in life as adults. But somewhere along the way, God’s truth and moral values that relate to right and wrong got shoved aside. It’s yet another example of what happens when the people of a nation reject God. When a nation rejects God, it rejects morality. And when morality is gone, right and wrong mean absolutely nothing! And is that not what we’re seeing in America today? Right and wrong are whatever people say it is, and there is no fear of consequences. And we end with otherwise well educated adults who have to attend “ethics” training in order to learn the difference between right and wrong!

I guess some  “ethics” training is better than nothing, but there is no secular ethics training course or ethics seminar that can ever replace the word of God! As a nation, we must stand up for right and wrong based on what God says is right and wrong, not on what we think or feel about right and wrong. And that only happens when our nation returns to the inerrant and unchanging word of God as its foundation! And for our nation, time is growing short. Until America repents, God will not restore our land. And American cannot repent and until you and I and every man and woman in this land repents and turns back to God.

Playing With Fire

When I was in the Navy in early 1977, I was temporarily assigned to the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia for training. By that time, the traditional military style barracks with the huge sleeping area full of rows and rows of bunk beds had gone away, replaced by dormitories similar to what you’d find on any college campus. Each room in our dorm had two sets of bunk beds and they would assign four men to each room. For whatever reason, there were only three of us in our room and as luck would have it, both my roommates were smokers. And as I recall, they also got bored very easily.

One night, one of them got the bright idea to soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and light it up with a cigarette lighter, just to see what would happen (as if he didn’t know). He juggled it for a few moments and then he and my other roommate started throwing it back and forth to each other in some sort of game of flaming cottonball chicken, the object of the game being to see who could hold it the longest without setting himself on fire……I suppose. To be honest, I never quite figured those two out. Anyway, as long as they didn’t hold it too long, no harm done. But if they didn’t get rid of it quickly enough, or if they fumbled it and dropped it on themselves, well, you know the rest! Though I was young at the time, that game never really appealed to me. They singed their fingers more than once and almost caught their clothes on fire a time or two. Since setting myself on fire wasn’t my idea of fun, I left the art of playing with fire to them.

Even though it might have seemed harmless to those two guys, it’s a miracle they didn’t burn down the barracks. There was real danger there that could have gotten out of hand very quickly.  Anytime we play with fire there is danger. That’s true whether taken literally or figuratively and it’s especially true from a Biblical perspective. There are just some things Christians shouldn’t be involved with. There are certain things we have no business dabbling in. To do so is like playing with fire. Solomon gave us one example in the 7th chapter of Proverbs, in verses 6 and 7 where the scripture tells us:

 While I was at the window of my house, looking through the curtain,

 I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense.

 He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house.

 

Solomon went on to describe how the adulteress came out and found the young man and seduced him. I would venture to guess that she did not catch him off guard. He knew full well what he was doing. He played with fire by walking in front of the home of the adulteress woman, hoping for that end result. Solomon later said he was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing that his actions would cost him his life. Solomon even likened the act of adultery to playing with fire when he wrote:

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?

Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?

So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if any of you are a little too close to a co-worker of the opposite gender, if you’re a little too friendly with someone you’re not married to……stop! Stop right now! You’re playing with fire! Jesus said not to even think about it and if a man or woman is too friendly with a person they’re not married to, or if they think there’s no harm in flirting with that person, they’re probably already thinking about it. Put on the brakes.

This doesn’t just apply to the sin of adultery either. It applies to all sin. If anyone thinks he or she can stand with their toes on the line without crossing the line, sooner or later they’ll get burned. It’s just like playing with fire.

The next area where Christians sometimes play with fire is in the study of doctrines and teaching that are contrary to Biblical doctrine. This may not sound like a big deal, but be very careful when engaging in in-depth studies of errant theologies, false doctrines, and false teachings. This is especially true for new Christians, but mature Christians need to be on guard as well. For the most part, Christians should avoid contact with any theology that contradicts the true doctrine of Christ and the Bible, even in the slightest of ways. There are some exceptions of course. A Christian teacher in a Bible college might teach some sort of doctrine or ideology that is known to be false in order to highlight the flaws. Bible college students might be required to study those for the same reasons. But for the rest of us, it’s probably best to avoid playing with that kind of fire.

It’s not that unusual to hear of a Christian, particularly one who’s less mature in the faith, who was led astray by some errant system of theology or by some man made doctrine. Remember, the Bible is always our frame of reference for truth. The best way to spot false teaching and false doctrine is to know the truth. Study the Word. Jesus said in Matthew 24 and elsewhere in the gospels that  “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” Peter wrote in his second epistle: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

 

I’m not a rule maker, so I’m not trying to tell anyone what they can or cannot read. I’m just saying if you do study these things for whatever reason, be cautious, use discretion, and ask God for discernment so that your minds and your faith mind do not become contaminated. There was a reason why God wanted the Israelites to drive out ALL the people who were in the Promised Land. He didn’t want them near the fire. As a general rule, we shouldn’t go near it either.

In the Old Testament, God warned the people of Israel not to consult spiritists or mediums, or people who talk to the dead. As unbelievable as it may sound, there are Christians who play around with Oujia boards and Tarot cards, who consult astrologers, or who check their horoscopes every day. This is yet another area where they are playing with fire. King Saul consulted a medium to contact the spirit of the prophet Samuel after Samuel had died. (1 Samuel 28).  Saul was killed in battle by the Philistines the very next day. God takes this very seriously and that has not changed. We are not to dabble in this area at all.  Satan would love nothing more than to see a Christian putting his faith and trust in something other than God. Tarot cards might seem like harmless fun to some, and others might say that a Ouija board is just a piece of wood. Well, many of the idols the Israelites worshiped were pieces of wood too, and we know how God responded to that! I’ve heard it said that there are people who sit in church and chuckle at and make fun of pastors who bring this subject up, but it’s no laughing matter to God. It’s dabbling in the occult and no Christian has any business whatsoever playing with that kind of fire.

Those are just a few examples. The Bible clearly teaches us that there are many other things we’re to avoid altogether. I could go on and on, citing verse after verse, passage after passage. The point is, it’s best to just put the cotton balls away and put the cap back on the alcohol bottle. Because sometimes, even if you’re playing with just a little bit of fire, you end up burning down your entire house!