July 22: Sanctity of Sex

Read 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Pop, bang, boom, bow.
25 years ago a musical group from Kentucky Christian University named Audio Adrenaline (winner of two Grammy Awards) released an inspirational CD titled “DON’T CENSOR ME”. “DON’T CENSOR ME” is the title song and the subject is immoral living.
“Pop bang boom pow
kill somebody and you take a bow
Naughty (words), naughty (words)
mouth full of potty (words).
You stretch and you flex
and you swim in your S.E.X.
I try to talk about G.O.D.
why you wanna censor me?”

Audio Adrenaline sang Don’t Censor Me basically because sometimes we do not want to hear God’s plan for sex…one that includes patience and other fruits of the Spirit. It is a timely and extremely relevant message for us all. The scriptures verify that.

“Flee from sexual immorality.” (v.18)
RUN – physically and emotionally. RUN! Turn around and run the other way. Run from lust, temptation, or other ungodly influences that can mislead your heart.

“He who sins sexually, sins against his own body.” (v.18)
The results of sex outside of marriage can be far-reaching. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) are classified as an Ohio epidemic in 2018 by The Ohio Department of Health. Viral STI’s are incurable. Also, Focus On The Family reports that over 53 million abortions have taken place in the USA since 1973.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure… Hebrews
Cohabitation is the state of living together and having a sexual relationship without marriage. In PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, “Does Cohabitation Lead to More Divorces?”, Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D writes: “many studies have found that premarital cohabitation is associated with increased risk of divorce, a lower quality of marriage, poorer marital communication, and higher levels of domestic violence. But there are also studies (although less in number) that refute the negative correlation between premarital cohabitation and divorces.”
So what is it that strengthens a marriage? Is it the immediate gratification of living together? Does the patience of waiting demonstrate the patience needed for a healthy marriage? Is there a risk of an unplanned pregnancy? Is there a risk of just “drifting” into marriage? Is it about finances and saving money for rent, or for orchestrating the “storybook wedding?” Is that a good foundation upon which to build a relationship?

Tom Weckesser

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July 21: Give Life, Don’t Take It

Read Romans 10:5-21

At first glance you might be thinking how does today’s reading have anything to do with our weeklong study on “thou shall not murder.” But take a look a little deeper, and you will find this passage has everything to do with murder. The opposite of murder is giving life, and these verses are filled with a hope in eternity that everyone needs to hear.

As we have studied this week, we have learned murder means more than just taking someone’s life physically. The words you use, the thoughts you think, and the actions you take against someone can all be counted as murder according to the Scriptures. While our next steps out of this study might look different, I believe they will all follow one general theme-give life, rather than take it.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul provides us with some foundational truths that equip us to breath life into the lives of those around us. He reminds us that salvation is as close as our lips and our heart. It is not some elongated process. Salvation is not dependent on our works. Our profession of faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is the one and only way to experience an eternity in heaven.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

When I am driving on Route 8 towards the campus of The University of Akron I need to remember this verse! I need to pray it loud and proud for the drivers who cut me off, and incite my road rage. Rather than admonishing them with words of destruction, my response needs to be a prayer that they are saved, or that someone will share with them the truth of Jesus. This might sound silly, but it’s serious. Words matter. Thoughts matter. Even in the privacy of your car. The position of your heart no matter the time, or place matters to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:2)

I wonder who makes you the angriest? Is it those pesky drivers on Route 8? Or maybe someone you work with? No matter who it might, be my challenge for you this week is this: breathe life into their lives instead of taking it away. As the old saying goes “you can’t fight fire with fire,” just like you can’t hope to change someone’s life if you take it.

-TAB

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July 20: Depression

Read Psalm 42

In speaking about the commandment “you shall not murder”, we do not often look inwardly. However, as James states, sin is a killer of the spirit as well as depression (James 1).

I am no stranger to depression; I struggled with depression and self-mutilation from a young age. The only thing that I found that would kill the feelings I was experiencing on the inside was to hurt myself on the outside. The darkness I experienced was a real darkness where I saw no hope. A month after my 21st birthday, I crept farther into depression and hopelessness and attempted suicide. This, however, is my beginning.

It was in that moment of attempt that the Lord met me more heavily than I had ever experienced before. It was in that moment that He showed me my worth. My life was renewed because of the cross and I began to heal in the following days, weeks, months and now years.

It’s no secret that David also dealt with depression throughout his life, with Psalm 42 being a great example of what he dealt with. In verse 5, David is speaking over himself to look at the One who is mighty and strong. In verse 9, he feels as though the Lord has forgotten him.

When we give into the weight of depression and don’t learn to fight it, it will always feel as if God has walked away, where in reality, our spirit has been persuaded towards darkness and not towards His arms. I love verse 8 and 11; David commands his soul to put his hope in God and that he will continue to praise him.

Emotions are not an indicator of truth. It takes a lot of work to come to a place where you can feel the emotions but open your hands allowing the Lord to comfort and walk with you.

It is up to us to not allow our Spirit to be the victim of our depression.

No matter what you are going through, the emotions you are struggling with, strengthen your mind and heart with His words of love and truth and allow them to soak up the feelings and circumstance, reminding you of the hope in Jesus. He is here to comfort you, He is here to be your refuge. His arms are open; will you run to Him?

KL

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July 19: Words Destroy

Read Proverbs 18:21

I remember it like it was yesterday. I can remember the feeling of being so down on myself. When you play a half of basketball as bad as I just had, there’s no getting around the feeling of disappointment and anger that overwhelms your mind. I had gotten benched to start the second half and that is when my coach came up to me and uttered words that were immediately carved into the very depths of my soul. Little did I know that I was seconds away from completely losing the passion to play the game of basketball which I had dedicated over a decade of my life and countless hours to. I had used him as a reference to play college basketball. Knowing this, he came up to me and said, “You have one half to prove to me that you have what it takes to play college basketball because right now, I don’t think you do.” My heart dropped. I was sick. If he was trying to motivate me, it didn’t work. At that moment, I told myself that I was done with the game of basketball. All the hours in a gym, all those summer weekends playing AAU were gone. Forget it. I don’t want anything to do with it.

This week, we are digging a little deeper into the commandment to not murder. I sincerely hope that you all have this down pat. However in the book of Proverbs, Solomon says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue. In Matthew 5, Jesus says that if you hate someone, it is the same as committing murder in your heart. What about if you allow your hate to overflow from the heart and out of your mouth?

If you haven’t experienced it yet, words destroy. Through them, we have the ability to lift people up to the highest of highs or pummel them into the lowest of lows.

How are you going to use your words?

Is there someone that you need to apologize to? Is there someone that could really use some encouragement that you can offer?

Imagine the impact we would make if instead of using our words for evil, which is so common, we used them to tell others about Jesus? Words destroy…but they don’t have to. They can be the very thing that shows someone the hope they can have in Jesus.

JL

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July 18: “At least I’m not a murder”

As much as it sounds like a terrible oxymoron, I’m a sucker for a “good” murder mystery.  Obviously, murder is anything but “good”.  But, there’s something fascinating about the depths of depravity would lead someone to commit such a horrible act and then try to cover it up.  Plus, I think as human beings we have an innate sense of justice that propels us to see the case solved and closed… or to binge to the end of the season.  
The act of murder is about as heavy and terrible as it gets when it comes to sin… or at least so we think.  I mean who hasn’t had the thought “At least I’m not a murder” when confronted with the reality of our own sin?  It’s just easier to place our sins into a hierarchy of sorts… especially when our own sin seems to be towards the bottom of list. 
I can remember getting in trouble after fighting with my sister as a kid.  My first defense was probably “Yeah, but she…!”  Of course whatever my sister did  to me had to be worse than whatever I did and even justified my actions. 
The problem is that when we elevate the evil of some “big” sins (or the sins of our siblings), we tend to not give proper attention to our own sin.  This is the point Jesus is trying to make in this passage.  Everyone knows that we are commanded not to murder and that those who do are subject to the extreme punishment that they deserve.  In this passage, Jesus is saying that it is not enough to avoid killing people.  We ALSO need to avoid the underlying sinful anger and hatred that we are ALL susceptible to.  It’s sins like this that really reveal the condition of our heart… which is what Jesus is most concerned with.  He wants the way we think about, speak to, and treat others to be as big a deal to us as it is to Him.  He actually commands us to “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  The remainder of our passage today gives us a few ways to apply this truth and challenges us to prioritize reconciliation with those we may have hurt even before we give offering!
So what are your words, thoughts, and actions revealing about your heart today?  Are you leaving a “trail of bodies” by withholding love and grace to others?  Ask God to reveal to you today who you might need to reconcile with.  
Matt Carter
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July 17: The First Murder

Read Genesis 4

Murder carries such heavy connotations as it is reserved for the worst of the worst of mankind. We list names of renowned killers and cringe at the acts they completed. We commonly find ourselves in situations and in order to down play our own selfish acts we say “at least I didn’t murder someone.” This is a tactic to provide justification for our own sin by pointing out a sin that is seen as much worse in human eyes. However, as Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.

In Genesis 4 we are introduced to Cain, who was not the first sinner, but he was the world’s first murderer. Murder was not the initial sin that appeared in Cain’s life, rather it was pride that welled inside of him. As his pride blossomed he had a desire to rid himself of his conceived obstacle, his brother Abel. As he murdered Abel, this was not a solution to his problem, instead the beginning of a life of vagrancy and wandering. Cain solved nothing with his pride, hate, and murder.

You may be thinking, I am no murderer, I am civilized and would never do such a thing. While this is probably true, I want you to inspect your heart. Look into the dark corners of your soul and is the base sin of pride, arrogance, or hate lurking deep in the recesses? Where is your mind when it comes to the person at work that passed you for a promotion? Where is your heart when interacting with your spouse, children, and family? What is your stance when faced with a decision to love or hate? 1 John 3:15 says “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” God calls his followers to a higher standard and simply not committing physical murder isn’t what we are called to. Rather, leaving behind hate and loving in all situations is the expected bar of holiness. This is truly unattainable without God’s help.

As we strive to honor God today, let God control your life. Don’t let hate take over, don’t let pride control your life, don’t murder.

-Jeff Walter

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July 16: Giver and Taker

Read 1 Samuel 2:6

As we are looking into the commandment of “Thall shall not murder”, I often think of the principle that Hannah points out of God being the giver and taker of life.

If you were to ask who my favorite person in the Bible is, I will almost always say Hannah. Her story begins when we open the book of 1 Samuel. What we know of her is that she is baron, loves the Lord (she goes to the temple as God requested of His people) and that she is sad she has yet to have children. Now, we do not know what she says to the Lord in order for Eli to think that she is intoxicated (Chapter one) But I like to think that she was pouring her heart out and being so inevitably raw. Then we find later that her story expands; the Lord gives her a son, Samuel. When Samuel was just a young boy, think three to five, she delivers Him to the service of the Lord, under Eli.

When we enter Chapter 2 of her story, she is not weeping that she has to hand her son over but remembering that God created life within her and begins proclaiming the truth, praise, character and power of the Lord. It’s here we see “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” (NASB)

The Power of God transcends all understanding. His power to bring forth life and allow death is something that we can never fully grasp. As we look at the principle of “Thall shall not murder”, we must remember that the Lord has the final say. He never promised us the “why” in it all.

As some of you know, becoming a parent is a beautiful thing! Our son is our greatest gift and God chose and fashioned him to be ours. He had the decisive notion to give our Mattie to us. Yet, the Lord also allows for us to experience the loss of a loved one before, what we believe, is their time.

We may never understand why He values life and why He allows certain deaths but what we can hold onto is His character, power, and that ultimately, He is a good God, a loving father and a magnificent creator. Instead of asking ‘why’, are you willing to just simply trust Him?

KL

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