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The Oppression of Man


Micah 2:1-2

"Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage."

In the verses above, God pronounced a judgment against the pornographic industry.  God talks about how they devise their iniquity, they "work evil upon their beds" and they practice it because they have the power to do so. Who has given them this power? Those who partake of this wickedness. Everyone who partakes of pornography is contributing to the power of this wicked industry.  

In verse 2, God shows us that this industry will "oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage." The fingers of this sin go very deep in a man's life. It not only oppresses him, but also his house and those who follow after him. God uses a very strong word to describe this horrible sin.  The word God uses is "oppress." The word "oppress" means, "to deceive or defraud someone." In other words, this sin takes something from a man and his house through deceit. It cheats a man and his house and it will never give back to them.  God wants His children to understand that the pornographic industry will not give what it promises, but it will take the joy and innocency from you and your house.  

With the availability of pornography through technology, everyone should be careful to set up safeguards so that it doesn't take from them. Though many think this sin only affects men, surveys show that women are involved in pornography as well.  You need to understand that once you get involved in this wicked sin, it will control you to the point of oppression. There is a reason why this is a billion dollar industry.  With this in mind, some precautions need to be set up.

First, don't have private email addresses that your spouse or parents don't know about. Your spouse and parents should have the password to every email address that you own. Likewise, your spouse or parents should have the right to check your email any time they please without you blowing up. Too many times people who are hiding things from their spouse or parents say, "You don't trust me, do you?" The truth is, you shouldn't trust yourself. If you have nothing to hide, then it should not bother you if your spouse or parents to have access to your email.  

Second, be careful about spending too much time on the internet. Too many people have been lured into pornography by spending too much time browsing the internet.  Know what you are looking for when on the internet, and then get off when you are done. Be careful about spending massive amounts of time browsing the internet.  Furthermore, never go to websites that may be questionable without your spouse or parents by your side.  If you have a question about a website, then don't go to it.

Finally, if you have a problem with pornography, immediately get help.  The longer you allow this sin to oppress you, the deeper its roots will grow in your life. The sin of pornography will eventually control you if you don't get help.  

Pornography is a wicked sin.  Be careful about accepting the lies of this industry.  What they promise they never give.  The only thing pornography will do is take and oppress.  Stay close to God, pray daily and study the Scriptures, this along with the guidelines above will assist you in staying away from this oppressive sin.


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What Makes You Virtuous?


Proverbs 31:10

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."

God asks in the verse above, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" I would like to further this question by asking, who can find a virtuous person? When you look at the word "virtuous", you will probably come up with many different definitions, but the Scriptures go on to describe what the word means. In the verses that follow, God described the "virtuous woman." The description that God gives of the "virtuous woman" is its true definition. Though I could spend several pages talking about each virtue, I believe you can narrow down these virtues into a few categories that make a"virtuous woman." Yet, let me make this clear, as much as we need virtuous women, we also need men of virtue.  If the woman is to be virtuous, then the men ought to lead in each of these categories.  

First, a virtuous person is one who is a hard worker.  Throughout Proverbs 31, you find that this woman worked hard.  She rose early in the morning to be sure that she could get her work accomplished.  You will never become a virtuous person by always getting a full nights rest. I know this isn't popular, but work must be accomplished. When I say hard work, I also mean that you don't avoid tasks that are difficult.  Work is not always going to be easy. Work is not always going to be something that you want to do. A virtuous person will work hard no matter what time they must get up and no matter how difficult the task.  

Second, a virtuous person is trustworthy.  In verse 11, the Scriptures talk about her husband trusting in her. A virtuous person is not one who lies.  Dishonesty is not a virtue! You can sugar coat your lies to appease your conscience, but a lie is still a lie! Virtuous people don't lie to get out of responsibilities.  Virtuous people tell the truth all the time, even if the truth inconveniences them. 

Third, a virtuous person is one who takes care of personal responsibilities.  Throughout Proverbs 31, this woman made sure her responsibilities were taken care of.  When you shirk your responsibilities, you are shirking virtue.  Responsibility is not always going to be convenient, but it must be taken care of.  If you want to become a virtuous person, then you need to become a person who makes sure that all of your responsibilities are taken care of; no excuses given.  

Last, a virtuous person is a prepared person. This woman was not afraid to face life because she was prepared for life.  She was prepared because of her hard work to take care of her responsibilities.  Life will happen for everyone, and the only way you will be prepared for life is by taking time to prepare.  You can't wait and be a person who constantly lives in crisis mode and be a virtuous person. Virtuous people plan ahead for every situation, so whenever a situation happens they are not caught off guard.  

Are you a virtuous person? If God asked, "Who can find a virtuous person," could He look at you and see one? Yes, we need virtuous women, but we also need people in general who are virtuous.  Be the type of individual that when God and society look for a virtuous person, they find one in you.


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Changing Habits


Hosea 12:3

"He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:"

Most bad habits are good habits turned inside out.  When you look at the life of Jacob, he did not change his habits, he just changed how he used his habits. It was how he used his habits that determined whether they were good or bad. For instance, in the verse above it talks about Jacob taking "his brother by the heel in the womb." In the early part of Jacob's life he used the desire to get his way to deceive his brother and father. The verse above plainly shows us in the womb he fought and struggled to get his way.  Yet, in the very same verse it shows us "by his strength he had power with God:" The same habit of trying to get his way was turned to good when he wrestled with God and would not let Him go until he was blessed.  It was how he used his habit that made it good or bad.  

Likewise, most of your bad habits could be used for good if you would choose to do so. For instance, stubborn habits are bad when you choose to be so stubborn that you won't listen to authority or do right when you have been told you're wrong. Yet, you could use the same stubborn habit to stand for truth and not change when others are pressuring you to change.  If you will use the core of your stubborn habits to do right, then you can change your bad habits into good habits.  

If you are going to change your bad habits into good habits then you must first identify your habits. Most people know what their habits are, they just tend to close their eyes to their bad habits. You will never change your habits until you first identify your habits.  

Second, find ways to use your habits for good.  For instance, if one of your habits is selfishness, then use your selfish habits to do good. If you're selfish, you like to get all the good for yourself, so you could use your selfishness to do right so that God can bless you. I know the Pharisees who read this will criticize me, but God used our selfishness to get us to consider salvation. God said if you would get saved, He would take you to Heaven where there are mansions and golden streets. God used your selfishness to get you saved.  Whatever the core of your habit is, identify a way to use it for God.  When you are using your habit for good, then you won't be using it for bad.  

Everybody has bad habits, but those bad habits can become good habits if you choose to use them for God's work. I challenge you to turn your bad habits into good habits.  Though you may still have the habit, you are simply using that habit for good. However you choose to use your habit will determine whether it is good or bad.



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Full of Fury


Daniel 3:19

"Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated."

Nebuchadnezzar nearly made a disastrous decision because of fury.  The only reason why Nebuchadnezzar didn't have the innocent blood of the three Hebrew children on his hands is because God stepped in to save their lives.  Nebuchadnezzar's fury moved him to make bad decisions and to do bad things.  

The word "fury" means, "a storm of anger; rage; madness." In other words, fury is reacting in the heat of the moment. He was furious because these young men made him look bad.  He was furious because his pride stepped in the way. When you study this story, you see that fury did several things to Nebuchadnezzar and it will do the same things to you if you don't control your reactions.  

First, fury changed Nebuchadnezzar's countenance for the worse. Notice it says in the verse above, "...the form of his visage was changed..."Fury causes a loving person to become unloving. Fury causes a gracious person to become ungracious. Fury changes a good person into a bad person. One moment of fury can change the way people will perceive you forever. Therefore, you need to be sure that you don't react in the heat of the moment.  

Second, fury changed Nebuchadnezzar's outlook about good people. In the verse above, Nebuchadnezzar had no problem with these three young men until his moment of fury.  It is amazing how your perception of people changes when you are furious. People who are good people will become bad in your perception because your fury blinds you from seeing how good they truly are. Fury will cause you to disrespect people whom you have respected for years. It can be very embarrassing if you don't control your fury.  

Third, fury moved Nebuchadnezzar to make an unwise, hasty decision. Hasty decisions rarely bring good results. When you become furious, you will make unwise, hasty decisions that you will most likely regret later on in life. In a fit of fury, many married couples leave their spouse only to regret that decision later on in life. In a fit of fury, many children do things to spite their parents only to regret that decision later on in life.  Be careful about allowing your fury to cause you to make hasty decisions.  

Last, fury emptied Nebuchadnezzar of good.  When you're "full of fury" then that means you are emptied of anything else.  You can't be full of one thing without pushing everything else out. When you allow yourself to be filled with fury, you then allow the fury to push any good that you have out of you.  Thus, you do things you will regret.  

Christian, if you are a person who is prone to react, then you are probably a person prone to be filled with fury. Don't let fury fill you.  The best way to overcome being filled with fury is to fill yourself with good.  Just like being full of fury pushes all good out, likewise being full of good will push all bad out.  Fill yourself with good and you will find fury will have no place in your life.


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Growing Your Faith in God


Ezekiel 47:5

"Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over."

One thing you will not avoid in the Christian life are hard times.  Hard times come for everyone.  You can do everything in your power to avoid hard times, but they will eventually come.  The benefit of the hard times is that they grow your faith in God.  While growing your faith you are also strengthening yourself as a Christian.  Therefore, the hard times are good for you.  

In the verse above, you can learn some things about hard times that will be helpful to you as you go through them.  In Ezekiel 47:3-5, Ezekiel talks about a man taking him through the waters. It is interesting to notice as you read these verses that each time he went through the waters they rose to a different level. The first time the waters were at his ankles. The second time the waters were to his knees.  The third time the waters had risen to his loins.  The last time the waters were over his head, therefore he could not pass over the river.  

This illustrates how God grows our faith. First, you will notice that God brought him through the waters. God did not just tell him to do it alone, but God was with him as he went through the waters.  No matter what God allows you to face in life, you will not face it alone, for He will be with you. God is not One Who tells you to do something and doesn't go with you; no, He will always be with you as you go through the waters of trial and endeavors.  

Second, God only allows you to go through what you can handle. Notice that the waters were at the ankles, then the knees, and then to the loins. God is showing us that whatever your faith can handle is what He will put you through. He will not put you through waters to your loins when you can only handle the waters to your ankles.  He only brings you through the portion of the waters that you can handle.  

Third, God gradually grows your faith. Notice that God did not initially bring him to the waters that were over his head, instead He brought him gradually to those waters.  Christian, you don't need to worry about waters that are over your head if you are at the waters that rise to your ankles.  Worrying about something that you are not facing is foolish.  God is with you where you are, and He will grow you to the point when you can face the greater waters of life.  

Finally, you must be willing to grow your faith in order for it to grow. You can know all about how God grows your faith, but you must be willing to step into the deep waters to grow your faith.  Let me ask you, when is the last time you stepped into a big task for Christ? You will never grow your faith by walking on the shoreline. You must be willing to step out into the waters of soul winning, church building, giving, faith promise, God's will or some great task for your faith to grow.  God presence is there to help you through the waters, and He will protect you from getting into waters too deep if you will trust Him.  

I challenge you to step out into deeper waters in some area of your life and watch your faith grow as God leads you through those waters.


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Ezekiel 40:5

"And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man's hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand breadth: so he measured the breadth of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed."

One of the greatest mistakes that I see in churches and people is how they treat the details. When you read the verse above, you see that God is One Who believes in details.  God showed Ezekiel the details of the future temple. You will notice when you read this chapter that God didn't just tell Ezekiel about the temple, but He went into detail about everything in the temple.  When you study the character of God, you will find that He always gives attention to details.  

Your success in life, and every pursuit in which you endeavor, will be determined by how well you give attention to details.  When I was a boy, my mother used to always make sure that I took care of the details.  When I cleaned my room, she went in after me to make sure that I did a good job.  She lifted items off of the dresser to make sure that I picked them up when I dusted.  She checked the top of pictures to be sure I dusted there. Though at the time I thought it was ridiculous, my mother was teaching me to take care of the details. She understood that my future would be affected by how well I gave attention to the details.  

When I preach in churches, probably one of the greatest mistakes I see preachers make is that they don't give attention to the details. I have seen men who have great personality and talent, but don't pay attention to detail and hurt the growth of their church. Any pastor or Sunday school teacher who avoids taking care of the details will struggle in the growth of their class or church.  

Businessmen who don't take care of the details will find their businesses struggling. Many businessmen have gone out of business because they didn't think that the details were that important, only to find that the unheeded details destroyed their business.  

Finances are made or broken by how well someone takes care of the details.  When you think a penny is not that important in your finances, that is when you will find yourself losing money. Every penny and dime is important to your financial success.  

Likewise, your future will be determined by how well you take care of the details. Your life is filled with details that are important to your success. When a Christian disregards the details of the Christian life, he will end up hurting his walk with God.  You must not overlook and disregard the details in life.  If you will treat every detail in life as important, then the one detail that propels you to success will be treated importantly, thus success will be experienced.  

If God believes that every detail is important, then you need to become a person of detail. Don't fall trap to disregarding the details. The best way to make sure that you become a person of detail is to treat everything with importance.  Schedule your life and plan every detail of your pursuits. By doing this you will have a better chance of treating each detail with importance.

A Right Heart

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Checklist of a Right Heart


Ezekiel 36:28

"And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."

When a person desires to get right with God it is always difficult to know how sincere they are, but often their actions will tell if they are sincere. Though you should not judge the motives of people, their actions will tell you a lot. In Ezekiel 36:24-28, God shows us what a person must do to get right and the results of their getting right.  

First, if a person is going to get right with God, they must separate from the old crowd.  Verse 24 says, "For I will take you from among the heathen..." You will notice the first step for Israel to get back to a right relationship with God was separating from the heathen.  You will never get right and stay right with God and still run with the old crowd. I often hear people tell me that the old crowd are their friends.  That may be true, but those friends are the ones who pulled you away from God. You can't play in mud without getting muddy. A person will never be, or stay, right with God when they run with the old crowd who pulled them away from God.  

The second step in getting right with God is confession of sin and avoiding the sin. Verse 28 says, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." You must confess your sins to God in order to be right with Him, but confession alone won't keep you right. You must also avoid the sin's that you were committing. Yes, that is changing your lifestyle to avoid that sin.  

The third step in getting right with God is new desires.  In verse 26, God talks about a "new heart." Once you separate from the old crowd, confess and avoid sin, then new desires will start coming into your heart.  You will notice when a person comes to this step that their thinking process has changed. Their desire for the old is not driving them like their desire to do right. Desires tell a lot about a person.  

The fourth step in getting right is a good attitude. God talks about a "new spirit" in those who get right. If a person still has a bad spirit, then they are not right with God. When you get right, and the load of sin and guilt is lifted, a new spirit of obedience and excitement is immediately found within.  An attitude that wants to do right will immediately come.  A person's attitude reveals their heart.

The fifth step is a tender heart. Here is a step that cannot be manufactured.  God talks about the "heart of flesh." This is a tender heart for the things of God. When people once were never moved about the plight of others, now they become emotional when they see others hurting. This is when you will start seeing tears in the eyes. You can't hide a tender heart just like you can't hide a cold heart of stone.  Preachers can tell in their preaching when someone is cold because they show no emotion.  Nothing ever moves them! A tender heart is a sign of getting right with God.  

The next and final step is a Spirit-filled life that daily strives to live like a Christian.  When a person is right with God, they will live in God's will for their life.  Like the verse above says, they will "dwell in the land" where God wants them to live. When a person is right with God, they want nothing other than to please God in all that they do.  

Go honestly through this checklist and see if you are right with God.  Many times we fool ourselves, but a checklist like this reveals when we are straying from God. If you find yourself failing in an area, then it is time to get right with God and get back to where God wants you to be.

Fight the fire?

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Don't Fight the Fire


Ezekiel 22:22

"As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out my fury upon you."

Years ago I had the opportunity to tour a refining plant and saw the process of making gold pure. It amazed me how many times they put gold through the fire just to get all the dross removed. In the verse above, God mentions the refining process through which He sent Israel. The whole purpose of the refining process was to remove the dross that Israel collected.  Though the refining process was not going to be pleasant, if Israel allowed the process to do its work they would come out for the better.  

Often God has to send His children through the fire so He can make them a better person. Though the fire is never pleasant, it is through the fire that the gold inside of you will be refined. Without the fire, you will never experience the best that God has for you because the dross will hold you back.  Let me give you several observations about dross removal.  

First, dross is a collection of bad habits that have been acquired over time.  The word "dross" means, "waste matter, worthless matter, impure matter, scum that forms on the surface of gold." You can see in the definition alone that God must send us through the fire to remove dross.  

Second, dross must be removed so that you can become what you're supposed to be. Because of your collection of bad habits, you will never be what you could be without them being removed.  If you're not careful, you will collect many habits that are impure, worthless scum that will hinder you from doing for God what you are capable of doing.  Without the dross being removed, you will never reach your potential.  

Third, the fire is for purification. I want you to notice something about the fire; only the valuable go through the fire.  There is no need to put something through the fire that is not going to be used.  You only put valuable ores through the fire to refine them to their purest form. Therefore, if God is sending you through the fire, then He must believe you are very valuable.  

Fourth, even in anger God sends you through the fire to remove dross.  Notice in the verse above that God sent Israel through the fire in fury. Though they were in the fire because of God's anger, the fire would still purify His people.  Likewise, even if God is sending you through the fire in anger, you must realize that He is doing this to make you useful to Him again.  

Christian, don't fight the fires that God sends you through.  Whether these fires are to improve or punish, the fire is still going to purify you. If you don't fight the fires of your life but allow them to help you remove dross that you have collected, then you will see God can use you in a greater way than before the fire. Don't fight the fire, but let it do its purifying work in your life.


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Idolatrous Hearts


Ezekiel 14:3

"Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?"

Idolatry is one of the sins which God hates the most. In fact, the very first of the ten commandments is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3) You would think that everyone would understand the importance of this commandment for God chose this to be the first that He mentioned.  This theme is mentioned throughout the Scriptures and confirmed in Matthew 6:33 when it says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." God wants and commands everyone to keep Him, and Him alone, as the only One Whom they worship and serve.  

If I told you today that in your church your pastor decided to set up idols on the platform for you to serve, you would be angered.  Yet, though you would be angered by this wicked act, it seems that many Christians couldn't care less about the idols they have set up in their hearts. The verse above says, "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their heart..." You will notice that Israel had not set up any actual idols that you could see or touch, but in their hearts they had set up idols which are just as bad and physical idols.  Though you may not have any physical idols that you worship, let me remind you that an idolatrous heart is just as bad.  

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An idol is anything that would be placed above God.  That is why God says in Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first..." God demands Christians to take away the idols in their hearts.  Let me ask you, do you have any idols set up in your heart?  For instance, if anything else brings more excitement and emotion to you than God, then you have an idolatrous heart.  When you get more emotional over politics, sports, money, job, position, recognition, etc., then you have idols in your heart.  When preachers preach error and you continue to follow them, then you have an idolatrous heart.  If anything is of greater value to you than God, then you have an idolatrous heart.  

You must be careful about the idols that can be set up in the heart. I don't think many set those idols up on purpose, simply over time God is pushed aside for other things.  Perform an honest search on your heart today to see if you have any idols that are set up in your heart. If you are not willing to obey God's Word in every instance, then idols have been set up in your heart.  Be sure that your life is idol free.  Just as physical idols that you can see should anger you, likewise the idols that can be set up in your heart should anger you also.  Be careful that you don't allow anything to become of more importance than God.



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Restoration Process


Jeremiah 52:31

"And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the five and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison,"

There is a process that must be taken in order for someone to be restored from sin. Sin is an ugly part of life that everyone must deal with at some time. When sin has been committed, it is very important that the one who has sinned be restored back to usefulness. The whole purpose of the restoration process is so that the one who committed sin can be used by God again.  Let me show you several steps that must be taken in order for someone to be completely restored.  

First, there must be a penalty for sin.  I know this sounds strange, but part of the restoration process is paying for what you have done. Remember, the purpose is to bring them to the point where they can be used by God again. Without a penalty for what they have done, then they will continue to do wrong. Jehoiachin was in captivity for fourteen years before he was lifted out of prison.

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Second, the penalty of sin must end. One of the mistakes many people make is they never end sin's penalty.  If there is no end for sin's penalty, then there is no hope for the fallen to be restored.  If there is no hope to be restored, then there is no reason for someone to follow through the whole restoration process.  

Third, restoration must immediately begin. You will notice that the king of Babylon lifted Jehoiachin out of prison.  Likewise, when someone falls into sin, and they acknowledge their sin, then you must immediately start the restoration process of lifting them out of the prison of their sin.  

Fourth, forgiveness must be exercised.  In verse 33, you will see that forgiveness was exercised when his prison garments were changed.  Your goal in the restoration process is to bring the person to the point that they are not remembered for the wrong that they did, but for the good that they will do.

Fifth, fellowship must be restored.  In verse 32, the king of Babylon "spake kindly" to Jehoiachin. One of the sad results of sin is that fellowship is broken with those whom you love.  Therefore, it is very important that those who have been wronged forgive the offender so that they can continue to go through the restoration process.  

Sixth, relationships must be reestablished. Jehoiachin was able to eat at the king's table daily.  When someone sins, you will never restore them unless you allow your relationship with them to be reestablished.  Part of the restoration process is for the fallen to be able to walk with those who will pull them out because of their influence.  If you continue to shun those who have sinned, then how will they ever be restored?  

Last, position must be available again. Yes, sin forfeits the right for certain positions to ever be held again, but a person who has gone through the restoration process must be allowed to gain position in some area once they have proven that they are not going to commit that sin again.  There must be a goal in sight for the fallen to drive them through the whole restoration process.  

Let me ask you, are you helping people who have sinned to go through the restoration process, or are you condemning them? If you want to be like Christ, then you need to make it a part of your daily life to help restore people back to usefulness.