Did you know that the word “joy” is used 433x in the Bible? Did you know that “rejoice” is the most repeated command in the Bible? Truth is, God is so concerned with our happiness that He commands it! If this is true, joy must always be available.
But joy seems elusive. Joy is an emotional response to an experience. Joy has to have a reason. When it comes to love we are commanded to love even things that are unlovely. The Bible commands us to love our enemies. Joy is different. We cannot take joy in things that are not joyful. In fact, if we take joy in the wrong things, it is sinful. This brings us to one of the most exiting truths of the Bible. If God commands us to have joy, joy must ALWAYS be available!
But where is it? How can I have it? In what can I always take joy? In this message from Liberty, I use Psalm 16 to point to exciting things in which you can always take joy.
An article in a 2016 issue of Time Magazine is entitled, “My Brother’s Pregnancy, the Remaking of the American Family.” A growing number of teens describe themselves as gender non-conforming. This means that they do not believe that their biological sex necessarily determines their gender. Did you know that there are over 100 gender descriptions registered on social media? Where does it end? Is gender determined or decided? What is the Biblical response?
Subscribe to BrianBranam.com and receive the first chapter of my latest book, Pulse, for free.
In one generation moral wrongs have become political rights. How does it happen? The answer is very simple. If you can slide the standard of truth, then you can blur the lines of morality. What is truth?
America is embracing secularism as the prevalent worldview. In secularism, truth is relative. Right and wrong depends on the individual and the situation. But does this worldview really work?
In this message I compare secularisms idea of relative truth to the Biblical worldview and absolute truth. Which is a better way to live?
There are two things every team must have to make it until the end; endurance and encouragement.
We are 3-0. That means every season goal that we have set before us is still in tact. You control your own destiny. We are not depending on “this one to beat that one.” You take care of business and you can win a region championship. That begins tonight. You take care of business, we make the playoff. You take care of business and we advance, and advance, and advance and it gets really exciting.
But no one will be crowned region champion at 3-0. No one has ever made the playoffs at 3-0. No one has ever made it to the dome and played for a state championship at 3-0. No one has ever been crowned state champion at 3-0.
To achieve your goals you have to figure out how to do what you’ve been doing all the way to the end – and that’s a long, long way from here. This is September. Game 4. Game 10 is a long way away. November and December are a long time from now.
You’re going to get tired. You will get weary. You will want to let up. It is very difficult to keep this level of intensity for a long season.
Commitment is like that. You are excited in the beginning. When you envision what could be you are all in. And then comes the grind. It is true of football. It will also be true in marriage, in parenting, in relationships, in recovery, in business . . . Most of the things that really matter are things that it can be said that it is not how you start, but how you finish.
When you feel like letting down you will need endurance. You will need something to keep you going intensely to the end. That something is endurance.
And somewhere along the way something will go wrong. No one ever had a perfect season because everything was perfect. At some point we will face adversity and you will become discouraged. You will begin to lose heart. There will be something in you that wants to give up. It will threaten to drain your joy. It will test your resolve.
It may be in the middle of the game tonight. It may be the middle of the week, next week. It may be a month from now, but it will take something out of you. That is what it means to be discouraged. Courage is removed from you. You don’t want to go on.
In that moment you need to be encouraged. To encourage means to put courage in someone. It will remind you of your why. It will help strengthen your resolve. That’s what encouragement does. Encouragement replenishes lost courage.
Where does that endurance and encouragement come from? The Bible says in Romans 15:5 that God is the God of these very things.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you . . .
There is no question as to who God is. The only question is who we are.
There is no question what God does. The only question is what we will do.
There is no question what God gives. The Bible says in Romans 15:5 that He will “grant you.” The question is as to whether or not you will believe it, receive it, and apply it.
What would it look like for us as a team to believe, receive, and apply the endurance and encouragement of God. The passage goes on to explain.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Interwoven in the explanation is an illustration. If you know anything about music you may be familiar with the word harmony. “You live in such harmony with one another.” Harmony is another line of sound added to the melody. The melody is the main song. The melody is the main notes.
Harmony is other voices added. Harmony sings the same song, but different notes. The harmony is other voices and sounds that add the highs and the lows.
The passage also uses the word accord. “In accord with Christ Jesus.” Accord speaks to the volume of the harmony. Accord speaks of the clear, rich sound that takes place when things come together. Accord is that part of a song that explodes and captures you.
This is not a perfect illustration of the concept, but it helps make the point. In the following commercial, everything in a popular song is stripped away, down to one voice singing the melody. And then, in the end, the the rest of the sound, the harmonies are added and the song explodes in accord.
That together you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to a concert that featured a symphony orchestra. Even if you don’t like classical music, you must go at least once. It is the greatest sound you can possibly experience. If you can hear, an orchestra helps you appreciate why God gave you ears. To hear master instrumentalists performing an amazing piece of music gives the ear all it was designed for by the Creator.
But the beginning is confusing. It is irritating. It is awful.
For about 10-15 minutes everyone is doing their own thing. They are tuning up and practicing. It sounds like total chaos. Here is a sample.
But then the conductor takes the stand. He raises his baton and every instrument is brought silent. There is this pause. He looks over the 30, 40, 50 players to make sure that they are all ready. They tune in to him. And then he moves the baton and wow – it all comes together.
The result is a rich, deep, full sound. The result is an iconic piece of music. The result of it all coming together is masterful.
I hope we have a perfect season as far as records go, but I promise you, this will not be a perfect season. No one ever had a perfect season because it was a perfect season.
You will tire of trying to carry the intensity long-term. You will need endurance in that moment. There will be adversity. It will discourage you. It will take something out of you. You will need to be encouraged. You are going to have to seek out someone who can put things back in.
But when those times come, I can tell you what won’t work. Everyone doing their own thing, won’t work. Allowing factions to develop on the team, won’t work. If competing personalities dominate the team, it won’t work. Allowing pettiness or laziness or selfishness to creep in, won’t work. Pointing fingers won’t work. Quitting won’t work. Losing focus won’t work.
If everyone starts doing their own thing, this team will descend into chaos and we will not only lose games, but we will lose the opportunity to achieve our goals.
Live in harmony with one another. Don’t make it about yourself. Be humble. Be encouraging. See the big picture, not the moment. Win the season, not the argument. Live in harmony with one another.
Look to your leaders. You’ve got great coaches. If you get frustrated, talk to them. Do you need encouragement? Look to them. If you need some motivation to keep going, listen to them. Learn from them. One of the things I have experienced in leadership is sometimes in difficulty and adversity people forget the vision. They forget all of the good things that the leaders have done for them and focus only on the bad moment, not the good of the vision. Live in harmony with one another.
Ultimately, as the passage says, we must look to the God of encouragement and endurance and to Christ His Son who bore the reproach of disharmony and disunity for us (Romans 15:3). There is no amount of human ugliness or suffering you will ever go through that He has not already gone through FOR YOU. Look to Him and live in harmony with one another.
A group of people who look to Him for example, for encouragement for endurance can live in harmony with one another. He can take personalities, adversities, difficulties – He can take those moments when you are so tempted to do your own thing and it looks like it is getting ugly – He can bring it all together in harmony.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through enduracne and through the encouragment of the Scriptures we might have hope.
His Word is His baton. When we look to the Word all of the chaos of disharmony is silenced. Humans are humbled. Our eyes tune in to Him. We wait for the command.
When a group of young men like yourselves humble themselves for the cause of Christ and look to Him – He brings about an epic testimony, an iconic story – He will create a background to this season you will never forget for the rest of your lives.
For the sake of Christ, live in harmony with one another.
A computer scientist and a Google engineer created an algorithm to search the internet and rank the most influential people in history. As resistant as our culture seems to Him, Jesus still ranks #1. There are more websites that reference Jesus, more searches made of Jesus, and more information on Wikipedia about Jesus than any other person in history. What does this mean? It means that people are still interested in Jesus.
There are people in your life who are searching for Jesus and would welcome your conversations about Him. People are not interested in religion. People are not interested in debating your beliefs, but they are interested in Jesus. How can you help the seeker in their search?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These advances in technology are from a fascinating field of study called cybernetics. In short, cybernetics is the merging of man with machine. If you read about this stuff it will either scare you to death or amaze you at how close we are to existing in a sci-fi movie.
One of the side effects of cybernetics is that it is making us take a hard look at what it means to be human. What is it that makes us different than machines?
For instance, as amazing as it is to have a robotic arm that is connected to your thoughts, aren’t you thankful that you don’t do everything you think? Some people would say that they are a lover, not a fighter. I’m afraid that I’m a fighter, not a lover. I’d rather argue than give a hug. That being the case, I’m afraid that if I had a cybernetic arm that responded to my thoughts; there may be some people who get throat punched!
The Difference in Man and Machine
One of the big differences in man and machine is that computers simply carry out commands. Humans have the ability to make an extra decision between emotion and action that keeps unreasonable, annoying people from getting constantly throat punched by maniacs like me.
While there may be something in me thinking “throat punch,” to date I have throat punched exactly zero people (so give me a sticker). This act of self-control comes from the ability you and I have to realize that even though delivering a throat punch is tempting, that doing so would probably make a bad situation even worse. Somewhere between emotion and action comes a correction that results in a much better decision.
It looks like this for computers. COMMAND ———> ACTION.
It looks like this for humans. EMOTION ——> CORRECTION ——> ACTION. That correction is significant! When you omit that middle thought, someone gets throat punched.
While it is one thing to use restraint and refrain from throat punching someone, it is quite another to carry out the 4 correcting commands Jesus offers us in Luke 6:27-28.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Let’s break these four commands down from the standpoint of pure emotional first response.
4 People I’d Like to Throat Punch
Enemy. An enemy is someone with whom there is no peace. This is anyone in your life that you would like to throat punch.
Hater. Don’t be a hater! (throat punch)
Curser. You curse me. I cuss you back. (throat punch)
Abuser. There is nothing to say here. All that is necessary is a well-placed Chuck Norris throat punch.
There are some people I’d like to throat punch. But Jesus won’t let me.
Restraint is one thing, but what Jesus is saying seems ridiculous. He wants me to love my enemy? Why would I do good for my haters? What blessing could I possibly have for someone dog cussing me? What could possibly be left within me that would motivate me to pray for someone who abused me?
I understand that I can’t go around throat punching people, but Jesus is not just telling me to use restraint, but to respond with radical redemptive action toward the worst possible people.
Why Restraint isn’t Enough
Why would Jesus ask us to not just use restraint, but to respond in a radically redemptive way? I think there are two reasons.
Action releases emotion. Just because I refrained from throat punching my hateful, cursing, abusive enemy doesn’t mean I have dealt with the destructive emotion. If you emotionally bottle up, you eventually blow up. Typically we blow up on the very people who don’t deserve a throat punch. We take out our frustrations on family and friends because we feel it is “safe.” We direct our aggravation and frustration at them, all the while they are wondering what is wrong with us. Conversations are filled with slander and gossip about your enemy. True, you didn’t throat punch someone, but are you any better off being toxic at home? We need a redemptive release of emotion.
Redemption is better than revenge. If you hate your haters, cuss your cursers, and abuse your abusers all you’ve done is double the problem. If you simply return destructive action in response to destructive action, what makes you any different than your enemy? I can tell you something Jesus desires of you. He doesn’t want you to be like your enemy. He wants you to be like him.
Now that we understand what Jesus would have us do and why, the next logical question is who? Who can possibly do something like this? Has anyone ever responded to a cursing, abusive, hateful enemy with radical redemptive action. The answer is, YES!
The Bible’s Book of Genesis tells the story of one such person. His name is Joseph and he finds himself in each of the horrible situations Jesus articulates. Amazingly, he also displays each of Jesus’ radical redemptive responses. Joseph had every reason in the world to deliver a cybernetic throat punch to his brothers, but instead, he took action to redeem them.
We will begin to explore this story and how it corresponds to Jesus’ corrective commands for us in the next post.
Catch up on last week’s series of posts – The Bible Says to Give All, But How Can Anyone Afford All?
Subscribe to BrianBranam.com and receive the first chapter of my latest book Pulse for free!