Showing posts from January, 2020

If it Can Happen to Kobe, it WILL Happen to You

Last Sunday, NBA legend  Kobe Bryant tragically passed away . A death like that has a way of reminding us; if it can happen to Kobe, it WILL happen to me. There are some odd stories in the Bible. One of the early ones is in Genesis 6. The chapter opens by telling us that as people were multiplying on the face of the earth that there was a notable mixture taking place. The sons of God began to marry the daughters of man and have children with them.  A lot of people debate the exact nature of those marriages. Were those angels intermarrying with people? I don't think so, but whatever it was or wasn't, the Bible doesn't tell us. What the Bible does tell us is the result. Nephilim. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.  Genesis 6:4 What were the Nephilim? They were the stuff of legends "mighty men of

Spiritual Peter Pan

If we don't grow spiritually , there is deficiency and danger. Have you ever had a commercial jingle stuck in your head? One I can vividly remember was an advertisement for  Toys 'R Us . The tagline of the jingle was, " I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys 'R Us kid. "  Many people in the church refuse to grow up. They are spiritual Peter Pans. Hebrews 5:12-6:8 addresses the spiritual Peter Pan. For the sake of the constraints of this post, I will highlight two selections of the text. The first shows his  deficiency  and the second ,  his  danger .  Deficiency You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Hebrews 5:12b-14 The author creates a disturbing scenario. Imagine a person being the age of an adult, but grossly malnourished because

Better Bible Skills

If the Bible seems dull, don't give up. Develop better Bible skills. Have you ever started to learn something that excited you only to find out that it was much harder than to do than you thought? What did you do? I quit. When I was in my mid-twenties, I decided that I wanted to learn to play the guitar.  My musical career came to an abrupt end at  barre chords .  The first few chords came easy. D. Got it. G. No problem. C. Yep. I was playing a few songs and making premature plans to join  Third Day . And then came the F.  The F chord is like playing  Twister  with a guitar. I couldn't do it.  Mac Powell  never called. My instrument ended up in a closet next to those shoes my wife never wears. I quit guitar. The Bible has a lot of F chords. There is a lot of stuff in Scripture that is hard to understand. Don't let it get dull. Build better Bible skills. Hebrews 5:11-14 addresses a group of people the Bible describes as "dull of hearing." About this we have much to

The Expectation of Spiritual Growth

The Bible places upon every Christian a clear expectation for spiritual growth . For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. Hebrews 5:12a In the case of Hebrews 5:12 the clear expectation, "By this time you ought to be teachers" is followed by sheer disappointment, "you need someone to teach you again" the basics. I attended a conference that featured one of my favorite authors,  Erwin McManus .  Erwin planted a church called  Mosaic  in a nightclub in the heart of Los Angeles, California, and they were reaching a lot of people with the gospel. At the time of this conference, Mosaic was a young church that was growing rapidly.  He shared that a challenge of their church was that it lacked spiritually mature leadership. So he prayed for leaders.  It was not long before people who had migrated to L.A. from large cities in the Bible Belt began attending his church. Erwin initially sa

When I Grow Up

As children, we expressed the grand vision for our lives with the words, "When I grow up ." You would then fill in the blank with the audacious dream of an ambitious 8-year-old. At various points in my childhood, I filled in the "When I grow up" blank with dreams such as: drive a garbage truck, play in the NBA, and be an astronaut. As far as the NBA goes, I would have made it if it were not for my average height and athletic ability, poor shooting skills, and limited vertical leap. My NBA dreams were shattered in the 8th grade when I didn't make the cut for the middle school team. I know what you're probably thinking. Michael Jordan was also cut from his 8th-grade team. I was so close. And still, neither the sanitation department nor NASA has offered me a job. Maybe one day. Chances are that your childhood, "When I grow up _ " dreams did not come to fruition either. That's not a failure. The important thing is that you were expressing your inte

Dollars are Decisions

A dollar is not an amount. Dollars are decisions.   In 1 Timothy 6:6-10 Paul gives some solid financial advice about the way we make decisions with our money. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Tim 6:6-10 If you want to get control of spending and change your financial position, practice these Biblical principles when making decisions for your dollars.  Money decisions are not based on amount but affection.  "Now there is great gain in godliness." That statement is not about an amount, it's about a

The Need to Need

What do you need God to do for you today? If you have to think hard about the answer, there's a problem. We need to need. One way to nurture need is to give what you have away. But isn't giving losing? Absolutely not. Your accountant makes calculations based on gains and losses, plusses and minuses. God works with a completely different equation. The only way to gain is to lose. On paper, it won't make sense. But it's written repeatedly on the pages of the Bible. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38-39 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down fo

Work Hard to Give

Most people work hard to have. The Bible says to work hard to give. Paul spent three years working to plant a church movement in Ephesus. As he says goodbye, Paul gives an account of how he handled his financial needs. He did not ask for money. He did what he did by hard work (Acts 20:33-34).  As he closes his tearful goodbye, he leaves them with a final word of instruction. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 In short, Paul tells them to work hard to give. A statement like that is so counterintuitive to our culture's financial strategy. As materialists, capitalists, and individualists, we work hard to have. We give it if we've got it. Why would a person work hard just to give it away? What's a man worth without his wealth? The Man Who Worked Hard to Have Jesus told an interesting story about the failed

Our Joyous, Generous, Giving God

God is a joyous, generous giver. You are never more like God than when you give. For many years as a pastor, I have employed the use of a powerful Bible study program called  Logos . Over the years, I have accumulated an extensive library of digital books and resources. At last check, I was in the 2,600 range.  In preparing for a recent message, I became curious. What does the Bible say about God as a giver?  I entered the search parameters and hit enter. The results were staggering. The search returned references to hundreds of verses. God is quite a giver. Due to the constraints of this devotion, I can only share a very small sample of the results. But it is enough to see how much our God gives. God gives good things - James 1:7. God gives us everything we have to enjoy - 1 Timothy 6:17. God gives us wisdom - James 1:5. God gives us what we need so we can get what we have - Deuteronomy 8:18. God gives us help and strength - Isaiah 41:10. God gives us peace - John 14:27. God supplies

Is it Really More Blessed to Give Than to Receive?

They say it is more blessed to give than to receive? Is it really?  In a  recent experiment, researchers  gave 96 university students $5 each for 5 days. The students were separated into two groups. One group of students were instructed to give their money away. The other group of students was instructed to spend it on themselves. Either way, whether to spend or give, each student was to do it the same way each day. For instance, if one student chose to buy himself a specialty drink in a coffee shop. Another student might put his or her $5 in the tip jar. Either way, the student had to do the same thing each day. The results were interesting. The students reported similar levels of happiness on the first day. But over the next few days, the levels of happiness amongst the students who were spending $5 on themselves began to wane. Amongst those who gave the money away, their level of happiness never faded.  It's not just an experiment, the joy of giving is our experience. We enjoy g

When Life is Good, Do This

The next time life is good, be sure to take something from it. You're going to need it. I like peaches. A few years ago, I planted 3 sapling peach trees in my yard. This past summer, they bore fruit. I harvested 3 peaches! A harvest, indeed!  Compared to a peach that you would find at a fruit stand or in a grocery store, my peaches would be the runts of the liter. They were tiny, but I was so proud of them.  Immediately I went inside, took a knife, and cut a small sliver. I wanted to see how my peaches taste. And, they were actually pretty good. I am now the official owner of a peach orchard!  I'm not going to win any prizes for my infant peaches, but I was happy about it. To commemorate my "harvest", I cut out a seed from the center of the fruit and kept it. Tree #4 may be coming soon to the Branam orchard.  What kind of fruit do you enjoy? Unless it is some sort of hybrid, at the center of it is a seed. One seed has the potential to produce decades of fruit and an e

Dry Makes the Desperate Deep

Do you feel like you are in a spiritually dry place? It's a horrible experience, but you need it. Dry makes the desperate deep.  The Psalmist is in a desperate place. In his prayer for restoration, he recalls a dry place, the Negeb(v) desert.  "Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!" - Psalm 126:4 The Negeb is a  vast desert that comprises about half of the landmass of the nation of Israel . It is one of the dryest places on Earth, averaging only 3 inches of rain per year.  The 3 inches of rain typically comes in a downpour. The desert is suddenly flowing with streams. Once barren soil begins teaming with life. Plants in this region can sit dormant for long periods, but sprout up quickly, bear fruit, and distribute seed.  And this is our desperate desire in the dryness. We want a sudden downpour of blessing to refresh our souls. In the drought, God puts the seeds of hope in the soil of our souls (Rom 5:3-5). His answer to prayer changes our barren sorrow

Why You Should Stay Postive On Social Media

Joy is contagious, so stay positive on social media. Have you ever walked up on some people laughing and then started laughing yourself? And then you ask, "What are we laughing about?"  Have you ever been in a crowded restaurant and a group of people across the room erupt into laughter? The next time that happens, notice how many people in the room start laughing the longer it carries on. And they have no idea why. Joy is contagious.  Psalm 126:2 acknowledges the contagious nature of joy. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." Psalm 126:2 Joy brings glory to God. It also points people to Jesus.  Unfortunately, we gravitate toward the negative. We are wired with a negativity bias ( How to Stay Happy All Day ). According to  Psychology Today , you naturally take more notice of negative things. This is why politicians run negative campaigns, why gossip gets

A Dream Come True

What is something that you would consider to be a dream come true if God did it for you? It could happen. It happened for the person who wrote Psalm 126. The Psalmist was probably a part of a wave of exiles returning to Israel. For the previous generation, Israel's dream came to an abrupt end. The people were unfaithful to God. In judgment, God empowered the Babylonians to conquer and carry them away. Jerusalem was destroyed. The Temple was demolished. Just as Adam and Eve became exiles of Eden, so too did Israel disobey God and lose the promised land. But God promised a day in which the people would return. It is one thing to know WHAT God can do. It's quite another to know WHEN God will do WHAT he has promised to do. That wait can be hopeful and discouraging all at the same time. So the day came. Babylon was defeated, and the ones who now held the keys to the kingdom decided to send the Hebrew exiles home. It was a dream come true. "When the Lord restored the fortunes of

The Seed of Joy in Your Sorrow

Joy is a fruitful seed when sown into the fertile field of sorrow. Psalm 126 articulates the truth of this. The Psalm is comprised of two stanzas. The first one (vv. 1-3) is a dream come true. "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad (Ps. 51:3).  The second stanza (vv. 4-6) takes an unexpected turn. It is a plea for restoration. Gladness is gone. Now is a time of tears (v. 5) and weeping (v. 6).  As fortune is lost. As the dream becomes a nightmare. As gladness is drowned with tears, comes one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 126:5)." Something powerful happens when we sow joy into sorrow. 18-year-old Paige Hunter has battled depression for much of her life. She made several unsuccessful suicide attempts. Fortunately, Paige failed. Thankfully she found help, and her mental state began to improve.  During her recovery, Paige developed sympathy for those struggling with depression and contemp