The Guarantee of a Good Day

What if you could guarantee yourself a good day? Imagine starting the day without dread. What would it be like to go through a day successfully handling situations rather than trying to deal with stress? Think about how much would change if you could guarantee that today would be a good day.

Apparently, we are NOT dealing very well with our day!

Livescience.com reports that two sociologists from Cornell University analyzed 509 million tweets from 2.4 million users in 84 countries and found that our moods fluctuate throughout the day. They found that the happiest tweets of the day occur between 6 AM and 9 AM. After 9 AM our mood begins to decline steadily, and the most unhappy tweets of the day occur from 3 PM to 4 PM.

On a side note, the happiest time of the week to tweet is Saturday morning. The most unhappy time of the week for Twitter users is Thursday night. The happiest Twiter state? Hawaii!

From the data, it would appear that life is ruining our day! If not for work and school (unless you live in Hawaii), today would have been a very good day. But you live where you live. You’ve got to do what you do. You can’t do without it, but it’s hard waking up every day dreading it!

Would you like a guarantee for a good day? Sign me up!

I have discovered five guarantees that will make every day a good day. Now, none of these are guarantees that nothing bad will happen. But I have found these Biblical principles to be so freeing that even when bad things happen, it’s still a good day. Today will be a good day IF:

I don’t have to rely on others to make me happy.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

The first way to guarantee a good day is to answer the question, who is going to make me happy? When we go through the day depending on others to make us happy, we are placing on them an expectation they cannot possibly meet. That kind of unrealistic expectation is a source of anxiety. People aren’t perfect. People can bring a lot of meaning and purpose into our lives, but truth is, God didn’t put them on earth for the sole purpose of making you happy.

When I put God at the top of my list as my ultimate source of happiness, joy is always available (5 Places Joy is Always Available) and He never fails. God invites us, in fact, he commands us, to place the expectation of our joy and happiness in Him. Start your day with Him. If people add pleasure to your day count it a blessing. If they try to ruin your day, you don’t have to let them. You can pray for them. You can let your requests be made known to God. Let Him deal with them! Disobey anxiety and express thanksgiving. Today is going to be a good day!

I don’t need anything other than what I already have to make me happy.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

How much is enough? Only you can answer that question. Truth is, you probably already have “enough” the problem is that you just want more. If we rely on “stuff” to make us happy, that is an approach that is not affordable, sustainable, or practical.

Contentment is a hard lesson to learn, but it is a secret to success that pays dividends. When you begin your day with satisfaction, anything else that may come your way falls into the category of blessing. If you don’t have to have it, you don’t need to keep it. You suddenly discover the joy of generosity. If you lose it, you can praise the Lord because your happiness didn’t depend on it. Be thankful that you had it for the time that you did. You’re going to lose things, but a loss doesn’t have to ruin your day. Learn to be content. Today is going to be a good day!

I don’t have to be perfect to be happy.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

So you’re not perfect. Yeah, we know!

I’m a driven person. I like for things to go well. Unfortunately, I am a big part of that equation and I do a lot of dumb things. I can be having a great day and in 15 seconds mess up the whole thing. When I get frustrated, I carry that frustration into everything else. I am the biggest threat to having a good day.

Forgive yourself. At some point, you and I have to realize that everyone else’s happiness does not depend on us. You and I aren’t God. You and I aren’t everyone else’s Holy Spirit. Last time I checked, God was doing just fine at being perfect. I think I would be way better off allowing God to be God and not behaving as if the whole world depends on me.

Be a perfectionist, but yourself a little grace. There’s nothing wrong with wanting it done right the first time, but having to “try it again” doesn’t have to ruin your day. Forgive yourself. Today is going to be a good day!

I don’t have to understand everything to make me happy.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Life isn’t fair and you probably don’t have it all figured out. Guess what. That’s OK. Truth is, we sometimes get what we don’t deserve. Sometimes you can’t fix it. There will be things that happen that you can’t change. Even still, that doesn’t have to be the end of a good day.

Notice that the verse doesn’t say everything is good. Bad things happen. The verse says that God works things together for good. How does He do it? I have no idea. And guess what, He doesn’t have to answer all of our questions or tell us why. If you read the Book of Job you will read the story of a guy who deserved an answer to “why?” But God didn’t answer Job. He only asked Job more questions.

God is God and I am not. He knows. I don’t have to understand it all. All I have to know is that He is good and He is working it for good. When I trust Him there is an overriding sense of joy that undergirds even the most difficult moments of our day. If I trust God, bad things can happen and it still be a good day.

Your good day doesn’t depend on others. You don’t need more to have a good day. Your good day doesn’t even depend on you (nor does anyone else’s good day). You don’t have to have it all figured out to have a good day. Embrace these four Biblical principles and I guarantee that today is going to be a good day.

I don’t have to sin to be happy.

choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Hebrews 11:25

The Bible acknowledges the pleasure of sin. It is alluring, enticing, tempting. There is something in sin that makes us believe that God is holding out on pleasure.

Sin seems to offer us a very good day, but what sin does not show us is consequence. Before you indulge think of the guilt. Instead of giving in think of the pain your choice may bring to yourself or to others. Sin feels like a good day, but as the Bible teaches, the pleasure is fleeting.

The Bible seems to speak of a paradox as it compares the choice of suffering with God’s people than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. Suffering is better? Of course. Self-denial is not easy, self-indulgence feels good, but picking up the pieces of brokenness leads only to getting sliced continuously on the shards of mistrust, deep hurt, lost time, and severed relationships.

Not having a guilty conscience is a much better day! Seeking the greater pleasure that God offers is a much better day! Sin looks great, but its pleasures are fleeting. If you sin, it may feel good, but you won’t be happy – at least not for long! Stay close and clean to the Lord. Today is going to be a good day!

Other Articles of Interest

5 Places Joy is Always Available

What if I were to tell you that joy is always available? Are you interested in knowing more? I am. If you are reading this post, that must mean that you are as well.

I am starving for joy. I’ll admit that I have not been very happy. I walked through quite a streak of stresses and difficult circumstances over the past 3-4 years and it got the best of me. I’ve been waiting on the next bad thing to happen rather than shaping something good. So I started searching for joy. I found it. In Psalm 16 David shares 5 places where joy is always available.

Joy is always available in God

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 16:1-2

Joy is a reaction. Joy is a response. There always has to be a reason for joy. You can’t fake it.

Joy is not like love in that we can love someone who is not easily lovable. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. But when it comes to joy, you can’t take joy in something that isn’t joyful. Taking joy in something that isn’t joyful is sinful. The Bible uses words like envy, jealousy, covetousness, and drunkenness to describe the misguided notion that a person can find satisfying joy in joyless things.

Joy is Not an Option

What’s even more interesting is that joy is not an option. The Bible speaks of joy about 430 times. The Bible uses the word “rejoice” about 230 times. Did you know that the Bible commands us to rejoice and be glad more than it commands any other thing? That means that just as it is a sin to take a human life, it is a sin not to be happy! That’s a problem if I can’t find joy.

So what makes you happy? Family. Food. Friends. Money. Sports. We all have a shortlist of things that make us happy. But there’s another problem. Those things are not always available or affordable. Then what?

You’re fine with your shortlist as long as there is someone at the top of the list that is always available to give you joy. So David secures his joy. He declares that the Lord is his Lord and that he will find no good apart from God.

Joy is not an option, it is a command. Seeing that the Bible so often mentions joy, we can conclude that God is concerned for our joy.

David does not share his circumstances, but if you know anything of his life you know that he is a man who seemed to surf the highs and lows of difficult situations. Declaring that he seeks refuge in God indicates that there is no joy in his current circumstances and so he turns to the faithful reservoir of joy. God. And that is wise. Since God commands joy He is always available for joy. Seeing that the Bible so often mentions joy, we can take conclude that God is concerned for our joy.

And David is not disappointed. In verse 16 he shares what he has found. “In your (God) presence there is fullness of joy.” That word full means satisfied, saturated. It means that the supply has not been exhausted but that you simply don’t have the capacity for more.

For those who name the name of the Lord, there can be no one else on the top of our list of things that make us happy than God. God commands us to take joy in Him. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” If He commands it, He is available for it. Being the most excellent being in existence He will never fail to give us a reason for joy.

Joy is Always Available in God’s People (vv. 3-4)

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

Psalm 16:3-4

It is no surprise to hear that God is the source of infinite joy. But as a human, I need more than words on paper. I want to see Him, feel Him, and hear Him. I want to experience God.

One of the great doctrines of the Bible is that the church is the Body of Christ. God has chosen to minister His graces to His people through His church. Basically Jesus died for our sins. Rose from the grave. Ascended into Heaven. Gave us His Spirit and essentially said, now you be me on earth. No pressure!

Some of the meanest people I’ve ever met have been in church.

And David has found this to be true. Not only does he have an excellent God, but David has found some of God’s excellent people. The excellent ones are the people who have been affected and infected by God’s joy so much so that David not only finds pleasure in God, but he delights in God’s excellent ones.

Immediately we raise an objection. Some of the meanest people I have ever met have been in church.

The Bible has something to say about this as well.

The Ugly Side of Church

  1. Not all people who claim to be God’s people are God’s people. Unfortunately within the church, there are false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) and fake Christians (Matthew 7:15-23). These people are definite joy killers. They bear no spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22-24). They exhibit no evidence they are indwelt by God’s spirit. They share no witness of Jesus. The Bible says they are there. Identify them, but don’t make decisions based on them. The fact that you can draw no joy from them and that they seek to distract you and destroy your joy should be no surprise to you. These are not God’s excellent ones.
  2. Not everything that is claimed to be of God is from God. Another unfortunate reality of church is that even sincerely saved, spiritually indwelt, regenerate people can exhibit spiritual immaturity. This is true of all of us from time to time. If we are not careful, we get caught up in gossip, accusation, deception, unfaithfulness, and anger. In response to this, we should renounce it and approve what is excellent (Titus 3:8-11). In short, we should seek to quickly end expressions of immaturity and approve joy (1 Peter 2:1-3). It’s especially true that when you are seeking joy in a turbulent time that it is wise to adopt David’s approach to ungodly people and ungodly things in 16:4. I smell blood, and I’m not going to go there! It’s false. It is not of God and it only ends in sorrow. And who needs more of that? Not me!

While it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, don’t fail to look around and find God’s excellent ones. These are most often the people who are not vocal. Often they are not noticeable, but they are excellent. They will pray for you, encourage you, and impart godly wisdom. Since God is an ever-present source of joy, you can take comfort in knowing that there will always be people who have been affected and infected by His joy who will be a delight to you.

Joy is Always Available in God’s Ways (vv. 5-6)

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Psalm 16:5-6

Have you ever wondered “why?” Of course you have. What’s even more painful is when we find no joy in our circumstances and we seem to get no answer from our ever-present God of endless joy. THAT – I do not enjoy!

But notice that joy may be frustrated, but it is not lost. The cup in the Bible is a metaphor for fate. Jesus referred to this in his conversation with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If possible let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39a).” And then comes that beautiful statement of our Savior’s surrender, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

There is no way we could plumb the depths of the reasons for Christ’s surrender, but one of them is certainly cited here in Psalm 16. Notice the language. The Lord does not just give us the cup. God gives us Himself. He is our chosen portion and our cup. The Lord holds our lot. The fact that He holds our “lot” basically means that our fate is not simply left to chance. There is joy in knowing that God’s choices are providential and purposeful. Even more amazing is that we have Him! This is why the Bible speaks so often of the paradox of joy that God’s people find in the midst of sorrow (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, Psalm 30:1-5). It can be said, because God is our cup and our portion that our suffering is not pointless, nor is it joyless.

The Lord does not just give us the cup. He gives us Himself. He is our chosen portion and our cup. He holds our lot. The fact that He holds our “lot” basically means that our fate is not simply left to chance. There is joy in knowing that God’s choices are providential and purposeful. Even more amazing is that we have Him!

The Lines in Pleasant Places

But what does the Bible mean here about the lines falling in pleasant places? This is a reference back to God’s distribution of the promised land to Israel as their inheritance. It is as if he is walking around within the boundaries of his inheritance and finding wonderful things. It is like a man who has just been given land exploring it for the first time and he likes what he sees with every step he takes.

What is interesting about Israel’s inheritance is that it was possessed in obedience. I think this sense of boundaries, or commands is also encapsulated in the word “lines.”

So let’s put it all together. Sometimes you don’t like your circumstances, but you cannot change them. When you don’t like your circumstances you may not think much of God’s commands because you don’t want to do them. But Psalm 16:5-6 tells you that there is joy always available here. How so?

The Journey and the Job

  1. Journey in the command. As the picture of the verse indicates, walk around, take a look. The command may not look like much when you take a look at it, but journey in it. You will find some pleasant places in it. You will find some unexpected beauty there. In God’s commands, there is no regret. There are no foolish mistakes. When certain things DON’T happen, certain things WON’T happen! Think about it! Take joy in the journey of waking rightly with the Lord.
  2. Work the command. Just like Israel had to work the land you have to work the command. It will bear fruit! You will find the joy of God’s preservation in the command. You will experience the bounty of God’s blessing in His commands. Don’t negotiate it, shortcut it, or question it. Just do what God says to do! His ways are not your ways and His thoughts are not your thoughts. He’s God. You and I are not! Work His plan. Do His commands. You reap what you sow! “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy (Psalm 126:5)!” Work it! There is joy within the boundaries of God’s commands. You will never be truly happy until you are concerned with being holy.

Joy is Always Available in God’s Word (vv. 7-8)

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Psalm 16:7-8

I don’t know about you, but I do my worst thinking at night. Sleepless nights are filled with voices. It is at night that my mind replays every criticism, rehearses every doubt, and exaggerates every fear. But David does not hear cursing, he hears the voice of blessing in the night. David has found that joy is always available in God’s Word.

The passage is instructive to us about our approach to God’s Word. If you want to hear the voice of God bring you joy and drown out your critics in the middle of the night then God’s Word must be taken 1) as counsel 2) as instruction 3) to heart. God’s Word is not intended only to be read. The intention of God’s Word is for it to be obeyed. Furthermore, if it is to change me, it must be within me. Psalm 16:7 reflects David’s commitment to Scripture meditation and memorization reflected in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”

I do my worst thinking at night. Sleepless nights are filled with voices. It is at night that my mind replays every criticism, rehearses every doubt, and exaggerates every fear.

And notice that his experience in God’s Word helps him to find that God is not only always before him, but that God is at his right hand. The result is that he will not be shaken.

There is joy in knowing that there is not a single thing you can go through that God is not already there. He is ever before you. God’s Word is filled with stories, prayers, illustrations, and wisdom for every circumstance of life.

There is always joy in knowing that God is always available at your right hand. What does this mean? It is a nod to the ancient warrior who carried his shield in his left hand. This means that his right side is most exposed. Every warrior knows that the person beside you is critical to you. His shield was the cover for your right side! Let His Word be your counsel and His presence be your defense. There is joy always available in God’s Word!

Imagine going to be tonight and instead of hearing criticism, you hear Psalm 16. Take God’s word to heart in meditation and memorization. It will not be long until you do your BEST thinking at night!

Joy is Always Available in God’s Salvation (vv. 9-11)

There is nothing more miserable than not knowing where you will spend eternity. I remember what it was like not knowing. Doubt is crippling. I remember what it was like to be lost.

But did you know that of the 430 plus times the Bible mentions joy, that it mentions most the joy that is found in salvation? There is nothing that can bring a person more joy than knowing God, defying death, and having hope in the resurrection.

If you find a person who says, “I have no reason for joy.” You have found a person who is in Hell already.

David found joy in knowing that the grave was not his end. As humans, we need something to look forward to. David looked forward to leaving behind a life in which we experience only the first-fruits of joy at best and entering into God’s presence where there is endless pleasure and fullness of joy.

If joy is always available in God, in God’s people, in God’s word, in God’s ways, and in God’s salvation and you meet a person who says, “I have no reason for joy,” that is a person who is in Hell already. For a human, created by God and commanded to enjoy God, to have no reason for joy, he is already experiencing the tragedy of Hell minus the flames.

If that is you, I would point you to Christ! Repent of sin. Turn to Jesus today! Today is the day of salvation. JOY IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE!

Other posts that may interest you:

Joy is Always Available (sermon video)

Why the Ladies Love Thomas Rhett

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Love One Another

I am an only child, but I have brothers.

Some brothers are born by blood, but others are born of a different bond. The Bible says that this type of bonded brother is a special relationship. Proverbs 18:24 says that you can have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

How does that happen? It happens when we “love one another.”

Love is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture. Our culture understands love to be emotion and sexual expression. In the Bible love is not sexual expression, it is covenant commitment. Scripturally, love is not an emotion you feel. It is a command you obey.

In 1 John 3:11-18 the Bible tells us to “love one another. The passage then gives us a negative example and a positive exhortation. The negative example is the tragic story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. The positive exhortation articulates the familial bond that love creates. And in these 8 verses, the Bible uses the word “brother” in reference to “love one another”, 7 times. If we love one another we can become more than friends. We can be like family. If we love one another a group of players can become more than a team. They can become a band of brothers.

If we love one another we can be more than friends. We can be family.

But why? Why be brothers? Why do what it takes to love one another? I want to share three reasons from 1 John 3:11-18.

Basic Need (1 John 3:11)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

1 John 3:11

“That you have heard from the beginning.” Love is something the Bible stresses as early as Genesis. The phrase appears 12 times in the New Testament. Love one another is one of the most basic themes in Scripture. It is one of the most shared messages of the church. You have been told to love one another since kindergarten.

But the reason “love one another” is so often repeated is not because it is an elementary theme, but because it is a basic need. In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.

We are in week 4 of the season, game 3. Counting this week’s game we are assured of 8 more regular-season games. We do not want to regress over those 8 weeks. We are committed to progress. We have determined to get better and better together.

But what will make the biggest difference? The weight room is critical. Guys will continue to work at getting bigger, stronger, faster. But in 8-9 weeks, you will not make the same massive gains that you made in the offseason. it isn’t realistic to expect that we will be exponentially stronger and faster by November than we are right now.

In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.

We will continue to practice. The coaches will make adjustments. You as players will feel more and more confident in the schemes. We will get better at playing “our game” but it is unrealistic to think that we will become exponentially better than we are right now at running our offense or defense. There is no way you will advance in the execution of our gameplan in the next 8 weeks than you did over the spring and summer.

But there is something that can make an exponential difference. What is it? Love. A greater commitment to one another will make an exponential difference in the advancement of our team. The plays are important. Strength and speed are critical. But the relationships you have with one another are vital. “Love one another” means that you have not just committed to play together. “Love one another” means that you are committed to each other.

Love means that no one is left on the outside. It means everyone becomes an insider. Love means acceptance, a sense of belonging, loyalty. Where there is love, there is accountability, forgiveness, and justice. Love means that you will defend one another, fight for one another, and make sure you are together. Love means there are no selfies. There are no stragglers. There are no standouts. There are no holdouts.

Learning to love one another will serve you for your 4 years on this team, but it will serve you for the next 40 as well.

You can’t be a team without love. You won’t get married without love. You can’t stay married without love. You can’t raise children without love. You can’t work for someone or with someone without love.

Love is a basic need in every human relationship.

Bad Alternative (1 John 3:12)

1 John 3 recalls a tragic story of two brothers where love was lacking. Cain murdered his brother Abel and John uses this tragedy to offer us a warning.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

1 John 3:12

When people lack love, things go bad.

I have been a part of some bad teams. I’ve seen enough of them. I am not interested in being on another one. Talent is not what makes the difference on a team; love does. You can have plenty of talented people on a team, but if there is no commitment to one another, the team goes toxic.

Antonio Brown asks to be released by the Oakland Raiders.

The most talked about man in sports last week was NFL wide receiver, Antonio Brown. At one time Antonio Brown was the highest paid receiver in the NFL. Since signing that deal he has asked to be released from two teams. The most recent was the Oakland Raiders for whom Antonio never played a meaningful down of football. And then after joining the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown faces sexual assault charges in his first week on the job. Antonio Brown has loads of talent, but Antonio Brown is toxic.

Antonio Brown has plenty of money. He’s the most talked about man in the NFL, but he is probably also the loneliest man in the world. Why? Antonio Brown lacks love.

When you lack love the Bible says that people devour one another, grumble against one another, and lie to one another. When people lack love they tell lies and speak evil of one another. Before joining the Patriots, Antonio Brown left a toxic trail of criticism, deceit, inexplicable behavior, and constant complaining.

And then comes the ironic voice of reason, Randy Moss. Randy Moss is a former NFL great who also had quite a history before joining the Patriots at the end of his career. When asked about Antonio Brown, Moss said,

Whenever Antonio Brown shows up on my phone it has nothing to do with football. The next time I see Antonio Brown on my phone, it’s got to be touchdowns. Football from here on out.

Randy Moss, Washinton Post

People who lack love become 1 story people. Anytime you’re around them it’s “the same old thing.”

For people like Cain and Antonio Brown life is never fair. There are problems wherever they go. The situation is never “right enough” for them. Eventually, they end up wanderers headed nowhere.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who have loads of talent, but lack love. Those people end up toxic to a team. They don’t help anyone. They will not help anyone get better. They can’t relate to anyone. Toxic people are an encouragement to no one. With them, its the “same old thing.”

We need to love one another like brothers. Otherwise, there is a bad alternative.

Special Bond (1 John 13, 16-18)

After telling the story of Cain and Abel John says, “Don’t be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” In this life, no one is immune from hate and hardship. When we go through those experiences, we need brothers. And when people pull together to love one another through hate and hardship, it creates a special bond.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little chilren, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:16-18

Anyone can love. We all need to love. But to experience and express love in the fullest sense, we need to experience the love of Jesus Christ. There is no greater example of someone loving us through hardship and hatred than that of the Son of God laying down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. If you truly want to love one another, first realize that you are loved by God. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith and experience brotherly love like never before!

And if we experience that love, we then can lay down our lives for our friends. We can walk into their desperate needs and be sacrificial for them.

At the outset, I said that I’m an only child, but I have brothers. There are countless men in my life that I know I could call on in times of hardship. There are men in my life that I know will rally around me in difficulty. They love me and I love them. We are brothers.

Last week was the anniversary of 9/11. I spent some time that day watching videos and reliving the story. There was a video shared on social media that retold a story of that day I had never heard. It was the story of the harbor pilots who brought their watercraft to the island to rescue people.

For me, one of the most powerful images in the video is at about the 6-minute mark when it shows the white water trails of dozens of boats coming on the horizon in response to the all call. If you lived through that day you remember that it was a day of terror and confusion. No one knew exactly what was happening or what was going to happen next. And for those boat captains to come charging into a cloud of smoldering death to rescue people – that’s the essence of brotherly love.

When you have brothers. People will come to your rescue.

If we are to be a team that loves one another we will not see people sitting alone. We will not see people standing alone. We will have no standouts and no holdouts. A team of people who becomes brothers for a season will be brothers for the rest of their lives. When you go through hatred and hardship, and you will, there will always be people on the horizon coming for you.

Brothers, love one another.


This post is the manuscript of a chapel talk given before game 3 of the 2019 Christian Heritage Lions Football season.

Pulse by Brian Branam

Check out Pulse, a book developed from chapel talks from the 2016 CHS Lions season.

Turning People into bodies title graphic

Turning People Into Bodies

In this series of posts we are looking at Jesus’ shocking statement concerning lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and gleaning from it 4 ways that pornography short circuits intimacy. In the previous post, I discussed the first way. Pornography short circuits intimacy because to justify it we ask the wrong question. If we ask the wrong question we live the wrong answer. In this post I want to share the second-way pornography short circuits intimacy: pornography objectifies people and turns them into bodies.

With Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-30, he moves the conversation off of the finish line of adultery and moves it onto the starting line of lust. Adultery is the sin of ending up in someone’s bed. Lust is the sin of letting it get started in your heart.

What is lust?

Lust is not noticing that someone is attractive. Lust is imagining what it would be like to have them. Lust is not seeing someone, it is dwelling on them. Lust is misplaced desire.

An interesting thing about the word translated “lust” in Matthew 5 is it is the same word translated as “earnest desire” in Luke 22. The scene in Luke 22 is Jesus preparing to take Passover with his apostles.

And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

Luke 22:15

The same word used to describe a deeply meaningful act of devotion in Luke 22 is used in Matthew 5 to describe a dirty thought that could potentially turn into someone more.

The problem is not desire, but direction. We all have desires. The question is not whether or not you will have them. The question is what will you do with them?

The Prayer You Don’t Want to Pray

A typical early response to a message like this is for someone struggling with lust is for them to want to pray, “Lord, please take away these sexual desires.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t think so! That prayer would be like someone struggling with gluttony to pray, “Lord, please take away my hunger.” The problem is not in the desire. The problem is in the decision.

Sex Drive?

They call it sex drive, but is sex drive really just our desire for sex? It isn’t. Our sexual desires are more complex than just the physical act of sex. If we just wanted sex for the sake of sex, then people hooked on pornography, or people who sleep around, or people in prostitution would be the happiest people on the planet. But they’re not. Why not?

Because in our sex drive there is also the desire to be loved, to be known, to belong, to connect, to be affirmed, to be satisfied, and to be secure. Our sexual desire is one of the most complicated, but deeply meaningful parts of being human.

The problem with lust and pornography is that a desire becomes a demand. A person just wants sex without the messy work of love, communication, building intimacy, trust, connection, forgiveness, and grace.

Maybe your marriage is not so good right now. Maybe the two of you are not getting along. But you still have desires, right? The right way to fulfill that desire would be to reconnect with your spouse. The right way is to work on communication, talk through the issues.

But that takes time and work. So a decision is made. I still have the desire, but the right way is not an easy way. So, that desire becomes a demand. You bypass your spouse. You pull up an image or a video. You lust after a body.

When you bypass the messy work of connecting with your spouse and fulfill your desire through the demand of pornography, you effectively do what they did with the rubber hand illusion (see my previous post). You take one of the most complex desires God has given you and you transfer all of those connections onto something that isn’t real.

That person on the screen has a name. That is someone’s son or daughter. That person has needs and desires of their own, but with pornography you don’t need affirmation, you just need a body. With pornography you don’t give security, you just take an image. With pornography you don’t develop trust, you just click a button.

The person on the screen has no identity, it’s just a body.

You have taken your God-given desires and turned them into demands. The more you do this, the more you like this, and the more you believe you need this. The more you bypass the messy work of fulfilling God-given desires and settle for just making demands; this becomes dangerous! You have short-circuited intimacy and turned a person into a body.

For a great resource on this topic, check out Michael John Cusick‘s book, Surfing for God.

Next Post: Pornography short circuits intimacy because it is a form of idolatry.

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Title blog article D2 Discipline

3D Parenting – D2 Discipline

The first “D” in the 3 D’s of Biblical parenting is DEVELOP. Develop is about creating an environment that consistently reinforces content that helps your child discover who God wants them to be. “Develop” only works if there is discipline.

Discipline

Necessary to the development of a child are boundaries. There must be discipline when boundaries are crossed. When it comes to discipline, many parents consider it begrudgingly. The Bible looks at discipline lovingly.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 13:24

Every parent must remember, you may have a beautiful child, but you are raising a natural born sinner. If you love your child, you will discipline your child.

Many people mistakingly equate discipline with abuse. The Biblical discipline of a child does not put them in any sort of physical danger and is in no way abusive.

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 23:13

Discipline is not manipulation. You don’t discipline a child because he or she annoys you, interrupts you, or frustrates you. As a parent, you discipline yourself before you discipline your child. You should never punish your child out of anger, but out of heartbreak. You also must be careful that the child understands that they have not just done something to disappoint you, but they have ultimately sinned before God. A parent is a servant of God, not His replacement. If we use discipline to point our child toward the Lord, the child will develop a higher sense of accountability. If you help a child understand that they are ultimately responsible before God, not just to you, they will respect God’s authority throughout their lives.

Discipline in Balance

When it comes to discipline we cannot be too soft or too harsh. Proverbs 22:15 says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but that the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Discipline is a positive and a negative. It is exposing wrong and reinforcing right. If folly is truly to be driven from the heart of a child, there has to be a tipping point. Your value has to become their value. If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, that means they innately do not understand why something is wrong. You simply getting angry or disappointed is not discipline. Discipline involves discipleship. Your child is unlearning folly and replacing it with the Biblical values you reinforce.

If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, being their friend won’t help. God has called you to be a parent, not an enabler. A soft parent doesn’t want to hurt or to offend. In doing so, a soft parent only fosters the folly in their child’s heart and the older the child gets the more difficult it is to drive that folly very far!

Your child may not be happy with you when you discipline them, but they will be thankful for you in the end. Hebrews 12:11 says that discipline is painful and not pleasant, but that it yields “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Part of your problem with discipline may be that YOU don’t like it! It should break our hearts to discipline our children, but remember, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for them.!

Discipline is Shepherding

At the heart of discipline is not enforcement, but shepherding. Discipline is not breaking a child. Discipline is about loving guidance with consequence. A parent must realize that discipline is not as much about spanking, grounding, or whatever method you use, as much as it is about connecting with a child’s heart. They have to see that the choice they have made is not a good choice. It is one that has hurt them and others. You as the parent help them through discipline to realize that the world is not all about them.

Discipline cannot be too harsh. In Psalm 103:13 the Bible uses the example of a father’s compassion for his child to illustrate the compassion God has for those who fear Him. If we separate discipline from love and compassion all we have left is physical abuse and emotional manipulation; and that is not at all a loving parent.

For a great resource on parenting and the critical connection that we must make with the heart of our children, see Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

A Safe Place to Fail

Children will fail. Discipline gives a child a safe place to fail. If a parent lovingly disciplines a child he is safe. His folly will not be allowed to forfeit his future. His mistakes will turn into teaching moments. His failures will not destroy him, but disciple him.

Children need boundaries and loving discipline that brings them back when they cross the line. Discipline is like a guardrail on a highway. When you hit them at high speeds there will be a sudden and perhaps painful collision. But think of what a guardrail saves you from. Had you not hit the guardrail you may have ended up in a ravine, wrapped around a tree, or at the bottom of a pond. Guardrails are not pleasant or beautiful, but they are safe. A home without discipline puts a child in greater danger. Discipline brings them back. Loving discipline creates a much safer place to fail.

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bow and arrow warrior

The Point of Parenting Part 2, The Warrior and the Arrow

In my previous post I asked, what is the point of parenting? A great passage in the Bible that I think encapsulates the concept is Psalm 127:4-5.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.

Psalm 127:4-5

An arrow in the hand of a warrior is not effective until it is released. In the same way, the point of parenting is not to keep a child but to intentionally and effectively release him. This is a critical, Biblical principle for parents.

In our society, we are spending inordinate amounts of time and money on coaching, training, clinics, tournaments, recitals, rehearsals, and lessons so that our child can get a scholarship, but we are missing the point of parenting. Your child may win a state championship, but what will become of him once he is released? We have too many men already who were amazing second basemen in high school, who now at 32 can’t get it together at home. And just like Psalm 127:5 says, that’s a shame!

By examining the warrior and the arrow we can better understand the point of parenting.

Equip

I am no archer, but I have done just enough of it to know that there are two pieces of equipment that are critical to the sport; the bow and the arrow.

I remember vividly one of my first introductions to archery at Boy Scout camp back in the ’80s. Allow me to put this in its proper historical context. The movie Rambo, First Blood came out in the ’80s. Every kid that grew up in that decade dreamed of shooting an arrow tipped with a nuclear warhead and blowing up the neighbor’s trash can. The good folks at Skymont scout camp were about to help me release my inner Rambo.

What happened next was a total let down for an 11-year-old. We were marched down to the archery range and handed over to an instructor. Mr. Archery was more like Mr. Rogers than Rambo. And FYI, he had no intentions of blowing anything up. Mr. Archery was all about safety.

Looking back I now appreciate a man’s concern for safety when you are about to put high-velocity sharp objects into the hands of about a dozen awkward pre-teen boys. But when you’re 11, the safety spill seems like overkill. Before he would allow us to even touch an arrow, Mr. Archery lectured us about the parts of an arrow. Boring! But important!

Inspect the Arrow

Like an archer inspects his arrows we must pay attention to our kids. The wording of this article at Eastenarchery.com will PREACH to parents!

Any arrow can become damaged. A damaged arrow could break upon release and injure you or a bystander.

https://eastonarchery.com/warning-use/

Like a damanged arrow, a damaged kid becomes a damaged man or woman who injures others. If you don’t pay attention and do damage to your children, they will break upon release and injure innocent bystanders – ie. the future spouse, your future grandchildren, their friends, etc. Giving attention to your kids now could prevent a lot of damage later!

One of the things missing from parenting in our busy, social media society is attention and inspection. You can’t farm out parenting to a coach. Dance lessons may make your child wonderful in a recital, but your child doesn’t just need dance lessons. They need life lessons. Your children need to hear from you. Children need conversation. Questions. Inspections. Your kids need table talk. They need less phone in their face (and your face). They need your face, your eyes, your ears. Your children need your attention. A damaged arrow can hurt a lot of people upon release! If we are to equip our kids, we must pay attention to our kids.

Load the Bow

Have you ever witnessed a warrior engage in hand to hand combat using an arrow? I hope not! Up close, it is no more useful than a Pixie Stick in a sword fight. An arrow is a long range weapon. It needs speed and velocity to be effective. The warrior uses the bow to create tension to launch the arrow.

Your home is your bow. If your home is to be a place where your kid is equipped to be launched, there needs to be a certain amount of tension. By tension, I do not mean unhealthy and undue stress, but I mean expectation and discipline. The further the warrior draws back the bow, the more velocity he will create to launch the arrow.

Kids need moral, social, financial, familial, and vocational expectations. Your child will have a hard time keeping a job as an adult if he or she has never worked in the home. Are you the one always making Junior’s bed and cleaning his room? If so, his future wife may find that you have sent her a husband who has no tension in the bow.

If your child is proficient at Snapchat, but can’t carry on a face to face conversation with an adult, this arrow will not fly with force. To let a smartphone raise your child is a DUMB move. You will end up with a Bubba in the basement trying to make a career out of tweeting reviews about Netflix.

Your child won’t raise himself. He needs the tension of discipline. Too many parents see discipline as a negative experience, but it is proven to yield positive results. True, your child may not like you for 30 minutes, but they will appreciate you in the end. More on this in my next post!

Having a home of healthy expectation and discipline gives your child the velocity he or she needs to encounter the world as an effective adult.

Aim

An arrow without direction is dangerous. So is a child.

There are a lot of factors to consider when a warrior aims an arrow. He considers the wind, the distance, as well as the target. Where is the most effective place to hit the target? Is it moving or stagnant? Where is it most vulnerable?

If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. This is especially true in parenting. As far as the Bible is concerned, as mentioned in my previous post, Genesis 1:27-28 is our aim. Would you rather have a child who can subdue the culture or would you rather have a child absorbed by it? Like God applied His Word to the chaos and brought it into order, the child you release should be able to apply the Word of God day by day and subdue the earth.

The conditions do not have to be perfect for a warrior to make a great shot. FYI – your child’s life does not have to be perfect for them to become a great kid. And just in case you didn’t realize it, you’re not a perfect parent.

There is no perfect school, coach, teacher, church, etc. A parent who is always propping up a child pointing the finger of blame at everyone else is only teaching the child that the world is not good enough for them. The way this will translate into their release as an adult is that there is no job, spouse, community, church, etc. suitable for you. If you teach your child this you may release a child with a lot of velocity, but he will have no direction. This is a dangerous child. You have raised Cain – literally. Like his Biblical predecessor, he will end up in the land of Nod, an aimless wanderer.

An effective parent helps their child take aim by giving them objectives and a safe place to fail. Let’s try this . . . correct this . . . and try this again . . . Allowing a child to make an F may be exactly what he or she needs to make an A.

Set some goals. Set some direction. Take aim with your children.

Release

At some point the warrior let’s his arrow go. He does so with the intention that the arrow is on target and that it will hit with maximum velocity.

A recent survey by Barna Research found that only 4% of American adults have a Biblical worldview. Amongst professing Christians, only 9% have a Biblical worldview.

A worldview, as the name implies, is the philosophical lens through which you view the world. Your worldview is the filter through which you process information and make decisions. A worldview is critical to a person as he or she tries to process such questions as what is right and wrong? Is human life valuable? What is sexuality? Why are we here?

The problem with many Christian homes is that we are raising children without a Christian Worldview. The end result is that we are releasing children into the world who are way off target.

The end result is that our children are no different than the world they encounter. They have been coddled and controlled in our home when they were supposed to be armed and aimed with a Biblical worldview.

Children need encouragement, but they also need honest conversation and correction. A child who believes he is God’s gift to the world will think that he has no need of God’s grace for the world. We are raising kids who are so amazing that they completely miss Jesus!

If we are to release on target kids who impact our culture with maximum velocity we must become more intentional and truthful in parenting. What does that look like?

A Story of Effective Release

In April attended a Biblical Worldview conference in Washington, DC hosted by Bob Jones University Press. Jeff Keaton, President, Founder, and CEO of Renewanation shared a story about his nephew.

His nephew was raised in a pastor’s home, graduated from a private, Christian high school and is now attending a public college. This young man is currently in an environment in which his faith will be challenged by a secular worldview.

The professor of his freshman English class enjoyed debate and had assigned the students various topics throughout the semester. Jeff’s nephew had done well in all of the debates and had one of the highest grades in the class. The professor was impressed with his skill.

Toward the end of the semester the professor assigned the students a debate on the topic of abortion. The students were able to choose which side of the debate to defend based on their personal views and opinions. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but if there were 28 people in the class, Jeff’s nephew and one other student were the only ones willing to defend the pro-life position. The other student chose to side with Jeff’s nephew, not based on personal convictions, but based on the fact that he needed a good grade and knew that this young man did well.

Jeff shared the concern that his nephew had in the days leading up to the debate knowing that it would essentially be him vs. 26 pro-choice advocates.

On the day of the debate the professor allowed the pro-choice advocates to go first due to the sheer number of people who sided with the position. Jeff’s nephew listened intently taking careful notes. When it came time for his presentation he articulated it carefully and ended with the words, “and for these reasons, abortion is the murder of a baby.”

Jeff’s nephew expected to be rebuffed with harsh criticism. But instead the class was silent. So the professor asked, “Now that the debate is finished, how many of you are pro-choice and how many are pro-life?” Every student who debated the pro-choice position raised his or her hand that they were now pro-life after hearing Jeff’s nephew explain his beliefs.

That’s an arrow released with maximum velocity, well equipped, aimed, and on target. That is a young man who is not absorbed by the culture, but who is affecting the culture. It is a great example of Psalm 127:5b. “He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.”

We need more arrows released like this! How do we parent so that we may raise children like this? Check back for my next post in which I will begin to explore 3 basic principles of Biblical parenting.

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Past Post – God’s Good Reason for Bad Things

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how to get bubba out of the basement graphic

Why is Bubba Still in My Basement? Missing the Point of Parenting

What is the point of parenting? Is it to raise a happy, healthy child? That seems to be a fairly generic goal.

How does one measure success as a parent? Is it GPA, earning potential, athletic achievement, or some sort of moral standard? How do we know if we’ve done well?

The point of parenting is articulated in the 28th verse of the Bible. Even before God rested, He explains the purpose of a parent.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

Gen. 1:27-28

OK, nice Bible verse. So what’s the point of parenting?

  • Image – you are the representative of God on earth. You demonstrate how His Word works in the world and share the blessing that it brings. Your home, as imperfect as it may be at times, is a demonstration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His redemptive power to the world.
  • Multiply – notice the Bible doesn’t say add but multiply. All things being equal, any man and woman can biologically add children, but the word “multiply” means that there is something exponential in the purpose of parenting. Teach your child how to be an image of God and you double yourself. If that child has children who also pass along those values, and so on and so on, what you have done for the benefit of the world is exponential. The greatest contribution you can make to the world is not the business you start or the recognition you receive. The greatest contribution you make to the world according to Genesis 1:17-28 is in the children you send.
  • Fill – what you are for your children doesn’t stay put, it moves. Notice that the verse does not say fill your basement space, but fill the earth. What has happened in your home needs to happen again, in another place. The word “fill” assumes there is an empty space with a need. When we fill the earth with “image-ness” there is less of a void. People tried the stay-put plan with the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). God didn’t take it well. Don’t make your basement Babel 2.0. God was the first father to boot a Bubba out of the basement. The earth left to itself descends into chaos. It needs more images to fill the earth, spread out, and work God’s plan (Gen. 2:5).
  • Subdue – God created the world by applying His Word day by day. In the same way that God applied His Word and brought chaos to order, His images continue to work the earth, day by day, by applying God’s Word bringing an otherwise chaotic culture to order. We need MUCH more of this, don’t we?

So, in short. The point of parenting is to teach a child what it means to be an image of God so that when you release him or her into the world they will continue to apply God’s Word to an otherwise chaotic world and bring it to order.

But Houston, we have a problem; failure to launch.

Failure to Launch

A study published in November of 2016 found that in The State of New Jersey, 45% of young adults aged 18-34 live with their parents, even though they are employed.

The common term for a child’s unwillingness to leave out on his own is “failure to launch.”

I realize that there are a lot of circumstances in life in which a young adult may choose, or need for a time, to live in their parent’s home. Many college students save on the high cost of housing by commuting. I was one of those. My parents encouraged me to go to college by offering to pay tuition. The rest of it was on me. When I realized how much debt I would have just in housing expenses, and then took a look at what they were serving in the cafeteria, I realized that home is a really good deal!

There may be hardships or unforeseen circumstances that require a young adult to shelter at home for a time. There may be mental or physical disabilities that make staying at home a wise choice. But from what I understand of the study, these circumstances are not factored into the 45%. Even if I am making a mistaken assumption and all of these variables are included, 45% still sounds a little high don’t you think?

Life can be difficult and expensive, but I don’t think it is any parent’s dream to raise a capable kid, only to find that at 31 Bubba refuses to leave the basement!

Why am I being so hard on Bubba and his parents?

So what if Bubba is still in your basement? Or maybe he’s a boomerang kid – he moves out but keeps coming back. Am I saying that you are a bad parent? Not at all. I’m not even saying that Bubba is a bad person. Bubba’s first choice may not be for him to be in your basement. Furthermore, I know of some amazing single people who have greatly impacted God’s Kingdom who have lived their entire lives in their parent’s home.

But if you have an adult child who has no plan to launch out on his own and no concern for God’s Kingdom, I do have a question. What’s your release plan?

Surely you are not about to give up on Genesis 1:27 and 28. It’s too great of a vision. I’m not trying to condemn you, but I do want to challenge you. The world has enough people in it that eat Dorito’s, play video games, and binge watch NetFlix. We have some definite void in this culture that needs to be filled. Rise up, don’t give up!

God’s desire is for you to embrace the point of parenting. It will be a blessing to you!

Why are there so many Bubba’s in New Jersey?

Bubba stuck in the basement is not just a New Jersey problem. Failure to launch is becoming epidemic in the American family. Why is this? Perhaps it is because many have missed the point of parenting.

The point of parenting is not to just please our children, but to release them as mature adults. Instead of our homes being launch pads we are instead creating safe, sterilized bunkers in which our kids have everything their heart’s desire, where they are never hurt, never disappointed, never told “no”, and somehow sold on the snake oil that they should never fail.

The problem then becomes that they NEVER leave. Even worse, some parents, never get it! They don’t want to release their children. And YES – this I condemn. It is disobedience and not AT ALL God’s design!

Some parents simply want to control their children no matter how old they are. God has called parents to be equippers, not enablers. If a parent is an enabler, there sits Bubba in the basement thinking he is the center of the world; having no plans to impact the world. This is a child that has been added to the world, but who multiplies nothing. He is a consumer; a proverbial black hole of a family’s resources. He only adds to the chaos, making no contribution to subdue it.

So what if I don’t want a Bubba in my basement?

But maybe that’s not your vision. You don’t want Bubba in your basement. Perhaps you want to be an effective parent who releases an image of God capable of impacting culture and subduing the chaos. So how do we accomplish the point of parenting and raise kids with for purposeful release?

So now that I’ve intrigued some readers and perhaps angered others, let’s offer the proverbial cliff hanger. What’s the answer? I’ll share it in my next post. This week I’ll also address the issue of parents who have done it right, but the child rebels. What then? Stay tuned! Subscribe! Comment, ask questions – let’s have a conversation. How would you explain the point of parenting?

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Check out a past post – God’s Good Reason for Bad Things

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