Taking God’s truth
So in the few moments that remain, I want to give to you Satan’s strategy of temptation. First, he sets the trap. Satan strategically sets the trap. To understand this we have to go back to the book of Genesis, chapter three and look at the first time the Evil One set a trap. He talked to a lady known as Eve. Paraphrase a little bit. “Did God tell you that you couldn’t eat any of the fruit?” And Eve responded, “We can eat fruit, but not the fruit off that tree.” Hey, Eve, can’t you look at the fruit in the garden and especially that luscious, sun-kissed fruit on the tree that God told you not to eat? Can’t you just look at it? Come on Eve. Did God tell you that you can’t look at it? Surely you won’t rebel but you can just look at it. Just think about it. Contemplate it. Use your imagination a little bit.”
Satan always starts the trap of temptation in our minds. It always starts in our minds. He comes to you and he comes to me and he might say, “I know that you would not consider stepping over the line, just fantasize a little bit. Just picture it. It is just you. It is just in your brain. No one else will know. Come on. Come on.” He is always taking God’s truth and suddenly twisting it. He sets the trap of temptation. It is a scary thought, isn’t it? The Evil One right now is thinking of ways to take you down and to take me down. He is thinking of traps that he will set strategically for you and me, in the home, around the neighborhood, at the health club, at the office.
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I was overjoyed! I wrote down in my prayer journal for years, “God, give us a child. May he or she be healthy. I dedicate this child before it’s born to you” and on and on I wrote and we E.J., six months old…six months ago, he wasn’t six months when we had him, but six months ago, and we were so excited…the perfect, healthy, baby boy. Almost 9 lbs. The family was there.
The friends. Many of you came by and visited and we were so excited. But when EJ. was three months old, Lisa took him to our pediatrician for just a routine check-up and the pediatrician noticed a couple of discolorations on his skin. Six discolorations throughout his body. We didn’t think anythiting about , but the doctor informed Lisa that he had a symptom of a disease called neurofibromatosis which is a neurological disorder which affects the nervous system.
The doctor said, “He’s perfectly healthy now, but he could live a normal life with just spots on his body or the consequences could be severe, in many cases, fatal”. I was keeping Lee Beth that Thursday afternoon. Lisa walked through the door of our house from the garage and she was pale, and she told me the news and my first words, “What? Why would God do this to me? I’m a pastor. I’ve dedicated my life to the Lord. Why would God do this to us, Lisa?” I said, “Why? Why? Why?” And folks, I’ll be honest with you, this has been the most difficult thing that I’ve ever been through in my life…the uncertainty, the question mark, the suffering.
But over the next couple of moments, I want to share with you what God has done in my life through this suffering because I have great news – the Lord Jesus has deposited some incredible blessings, some beautiful principles into my life concerning suffering.
I ask you are hard question, one I ask myself. Who gets the credit when you are blessed? Who gets the credit? You might say that it’s God, but does He really get the worship, your time and your resources? Does He? God said that Gomer did not know that it was Him who gave her the grain, the new wine, the oil and lavished her with silver and gold. God barricaded Gomer with briars.
But God did something else because Gomer didn’t pay any attention to the briars. God does a second thing when we do not respond to the briar patch. He begins to systematically remove our resources. Gomer scaled down from the Benz to the Bonneville and we are going to discover that soon, she doesn’t have a thing. Hosea 2:9. “Therefore, I will take back my grain at harvest time and my new wine in its season. I will also take away my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.” Think about it.
God barricades us with briars and systematically removes our resources. My mind rushes to that quintessential running man, Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the Ninevites about Him. Jonah refused to do it and began to run from God. He thought that he could outdistance and outmaneuver God. He thought that he could give God a head fake, a spin move, a crossover dribble. He went to Joppa and boarded a cruise ship for a Mediterranean vacation.
You know what God did? He began to barricade old Jonah with some briars. He caused a storm to hit the sea. And the Bible says that even the crew began to freak out. And you know when old salts get scared, you are in trouble. Jonah told them the reason the storm was caused by God was because he was running from Him. Well they just chunked Jonah overboard.
Turn to God when you begin to feel like you are limited, when you hear that warning sign. Turn to God then, don’t wait until you bolt through the electrical charge. Gomer didn’t slow down. She kept going. She began to have some problems. God was still chasing her and loving her. Yet she began to experience some difficulty. And Hosea began to talk to God about the situation.
God probably said, “Hosea, do you know where Gomer is?” And Hosea probably answered, “Yes, Lord, I know where she is and who she is living with.” God told Hosea to go to her and give her some money and some supplies. I also hear God saying that that is what He would do for His children. So Hosea tracked down Gomer’s lover, gave her lover the money and supplies and said, “Please give this to my wife.”
Can’t you imagine her lover as Hosea walked off saying to himself, “What a jerk.” And can’t you see Hosea standing in the distance watching the lover pretend that the money and gifts came from him. Can’t you picture Hosea shaking his head in disbelief saying, “Oh, she doesn’t understand the source of her blessings. She doesn’t get who provided this stuff for her. I wish she knew. I wish she understood the source.” Can’t you feel the pain?
How often in all of our lives do we give everybody and everything else credit except God Himself. We credit networking. We credit our ability and our creativity and our education and who we are. Yet, here we have God standing at a distance like Hosea just shaking His head saying, “They don’t get the source. They don’t understand who it was who gave them the blessing, who elevated them to this level, who provided the corner office. They don’t get it.”
My wife and I have a large dog. His name is Apollo. He is an eleven-month-old, massive bullmastiff. He is pushing about 130 pounds. We have tried various ways and methodologies to keep this dog contained. For the most part he is, but when he gets excited he will pretty much go through anything. We tried a normal fence and he went through that. We tried barbed wire. He went through that. Recently, though, we have gotten creative. We purchased a little invisible doggie fence. You bury it and put a collar on the dog which has shock things on it.
It is not meant to be cruel. When a dog gets near the electrical current, the collar warns him with a repeated beep and he will then back off. But the other day, big Apollo saw another dog and even though the collar beeped, he just bolted through the electrical charge and kept on going.
That is what we do, don’t we? God has us fenced in and our little collar-type deal begins to warn us not to do something. But like Gomer we bolt right through it and keep going. We don’t pay attention to those barricades. And it causes a lot of turmoil and difficulty. And to show you how relevant these stories are, last night after the Saturday night service when we arrived home, our daughter came to us and said that Apollo had been cut. And sure enough, Apollo had a leg wound which was pretty deep.
We got him in the truck and spent the better part of last night at a 24-hour emergency animal clinic, where they repaired the gaping wound. So, be sure to watch out for those fences.
I won’t chase any more. I won’t do anything else.” No. God does something. In fact, God does three things when we run from Him and do not respond to His first level of pursuit. I want to spend the lion’s share of this message talking about the three things God does which reveal His deep concern and passion for you and for me. These are played out in the life of Gomer and her live-sick husband, Hosea.
First, God barricades us with briars. Hosea 2:6. “Therefore…” Any time you have God saying therefore, always ask yourself what it is there for, because when God says therefore, it is something that you had better underline and highlight and circle.
“Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.” God loves you and me enough to make it painful. He loves you and me enough to build a hedge of thorns, to barricade us with briars. He loves us enough to make it difficult, to let us get scratched up a bit. He allows us to go through difficult circumstances so that we will turn back to Him.
The text continues. “She will pursue her lovers but she will not overtake them. She will seek them but will not find them.” Have you ever felt like God has barricaded you in with briars? It happened with Gomer. At first she was tooling around Samaria in the black Benz.
Then she begins to scale down a bit as she gets some miles on her, maybe from a Benz to a Bonneville or something. She feels those briars.
I switched the ball to my left hand and threw it up, Clyde missed it, the ball kissed off the glass through the net. String music. Some of Clyde’s teammates were watching and they began to trash talk him. “Clyde, you are letting this little preacher boy use you up!” Just for a nanosecond I had delusions of leaving the ministry and going into the NBA.
Quickly, though, I was brought back to reality because it was my ball again and Clyde began to guard me. He began to play defense on me. I tried my best moves to shake him. I tried the rocker step. I tried the head fake. I tried the spin move, the crossover. I couldn’t get away from him. I couldn’t even get a shot off. It was pathetic. That’s the way it is with God. We try our best moves against Him. We try the rocker step. We try the head fake. We try the spin move, the crossover dribble. We can’t shake Him.
He is right there. He is omnipresent. And He pursues us with this irrational, otherworldly kind of love. Even though we run from Him, even though we try to outdistance ourselves from Him, God is a God who loves us to such a degree, at such a deep level, that He is always there. And that was the case with Gomer. Even though she was into prostitution, even though she moved from one man to another, even though she was an expensive call girl, God still pursued her. Hosea still pursued her.
What happens though in our lives when we don’t respond to God’s pursuing love? What happens when we don’t respond to God’s gentle touch? What does God do? Does God throw up His hands and say, “That’s it.
We say, “The check is in the mail.” “I’ll see to it myself.” Yet when we articulate those words, most of us don’t really mean them. We rationalize to ourselves that everyone does it, that it is necessary to tell the client or customer what they want to hear.
The Bible calls that unfaithfulness. The Bible calls it lying. And that is the straight up truth. Yet, if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and tell the Holy Spirit that we want to become a man or a woman in the marketplace, the next time you say that the check is in the mail – wham. He is going to give you a body shot. And you are going to find yourself saying that the check is not in the mail, that you won’t be able to deliver the check for another 10 days. Or the next time you say that you will take care of it yourself, the Holy Spirit will nudge you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Then you will say that it will not really be you but someone else in the company.
What would happen if 3,500 people who attend the Fellowship of Las Colinas on a given weekend got serious about keeping our word in the marketplace. What would happen to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and to companies around the world as a result of our honesty and integrity and commitment? If you read anything about business you will see lying and unfaithfulness costs businesses billions of dollars a year.
What a challenge. What a motivation. Become a man or woman who keeps his or her word in the marketplace.
To understand this, we need to understand the difference between ownership and management. Ownership and management. I’ve already told you in Genesis 1:28 God talked to Adam and Eve about management. Think about some other stuff God did.
God created the heavens and the earth. He separated light from darkness. He made a week. What did God say about the week? “One day. Give to me one day. Honor me.” What was God talking about? He’s talking about first things first.
You know Steven Covey [wrote a] great book, First Things First. He didn’t think that up. He stole that idea from God. God’s been talking about that for thousands of years. “First things first.”
God says throughout his word, “Give that first day to me.” What’s the first day? The first day is Sunday. This is the first day of the week. That’s why the New Testament Church began to worship on Sunday, the resurrection day, the first day of the week. We give our first day of the week to God.
Remember when God created the heavens and the earth and he made Adam and Eve, that husband and wife team? God said, “Enjoy, man, enjoy my garden. Enjoy the fruits. Enjoy each other. But,” God said, “there’s this one tree and don’t mess with this one tree. Honor me by staying away from the tree. Honor me with this one day. First things first. And also honor me by not messing around with this tree.”
Remember the children of Israel? They escaped from Egyptian bondage and they were waiting, they were right on the edge of moving into the zone, into the Promised Land. You remember that story? There were ten cities that they had to conquer. God told Joshua, he said, “Hey Joshua, this first city that you’re going to conquer is named Jericho.” And the walls came a-tumbling down. Do you remember that? Do you remember that?
Well, when word got out that Moses, the future Pharaoh, had killed an Egyptian, this future Pharaoh overnight became the ultimate fugitive. He began to run from the law. And then the Bible says that Moses ran to the desert.
So come along and join me because I want to take you to the desert.
Video Starts (Ed is in a desert in Arizona)
Whew, it is hot. I’m in a desert. It is like a hundred and twelve degrees. One minute Moses was the future Pharaoh of Egypt. He had everything going his way. The next moment, the Bible tells us, he was the ultimate fugitive. Where did Moses go? Where did he run to? He ran to the desert, he ran to this barren wasteland. A desert is a wild place. There’s not very much water around and all the plants and stuff, they can mess you up. There are rattlesnakes, hela monsters, which is a poisonous lizard. There are all sorts of things that can mess you up. The desert is also a place where you’re alone. You look up the word desert it means in the Bible “to speak.” God uses desert dwellings in order to speak in our lives. Because I guarantee you many of you here right now listening to my voice are going through desert times right now. Maybe you have just gotten a bad report from the doctor. Maybe you’re going through a health desert. It could be a martial desert or a child-rearing desert. Maybe it could be an emotional desert. I don’t know. Many of us go through deserts. And God allows these deserts. Why? To speak to us.
Well, let’s think about Moses for a second. Moses was in the desert and, not only was he in the desert, he had another difficulty journey ahead of him.