Slippery Slope

golf-244041_1280I haven’t played golf since I was 18. I didn’t enjoy the game but my dad was a fanatic so, if I wanted to spend time with him it was golf or nothing. I will always remember a Par 3 that turned into a disaster. Only 150 yards but with a water hazard right in front of the green and it was straight into the wind. I hit a beautiful shot straight for the pin and… blonk into the water. I walked up to the edge of the pond and threw my second ball down in disgust. To my horror it hit the hard dirt, bounced once and rolled over the edge toward the pond. Unwilling to lose a second ball I dove for it catching it just before it reached the water. Then disaster struck. I was head down on a slippery slope. I started to slide into the water, up to my knuckles, up to my wrist, up to my forearm. That’s when I yelled, “Dad! Help!” Fortunately he was nearby and dragged me out by my ankles. I’m sure he always had a little chuckle thinking about that incident.

Psalm 40:2 (NIV) promises, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” If you have ever experienced a slippery slope, that is a good promise to have. Ever been on a water park slide? Now there is a slippery slope! Once on you are committed. No turning back. Every one of us was on a greased pole to hell, helpless and hopeless. Then God reached forth His hand to remove our guilt placing it on Jesus, rescuing us when we could do nothing for ourselves.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV) tells us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

I want to focus on verse 15: “Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” In wrestling is being on your back a good thing or a bad thing? In football what if your quarterback is on his back at the end of every play? For a Roman soldier if he was on his back he was in serious trouble. It is essential that a soldier stay on his feet. The movie 300 began the main battle with the massive Persian army pushing against the ranks of the Spartans. They had to stand against a tremendous force.

The Roman soldier had an answer for the slippery slope. The sandals of the Roman soldier had spikes in them to give good traction. His very life depended on them. Those spikes in our sandals are how we have prepared by making the Gospel a part of our soul. If I don’t get it down deep on the inside, when I need it for traction it won’t be there. My sandals will be slick. Does it do any good for me to carry around a pocket full of spikes? No. Just carrying around my Bible is just as useless if I am not working to make it impact the way I live. The devil wants me to fall. 1Peter 5:8 (NLT) warns, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is looking for the Christian whose sandals are slick, unable to help him stand.

A classic example of the slippery slope is in 2Samuel 11. David first decides not to lead his army when they go out to war. Maybe this was irresponsibility or neglect of duty or just laziness, but it led to lust when he saw Bathsheba bathing. The slippery slope took him into adultery, deceit when he called Uriah back to cover up Bathsheba’s pregnancy, and finally murder when he ordered Uriah killed.  Jesus said that a man who looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart (Matt. 5:27, 28). He knew the slippery slope that it could lead to. If we tolerate sin, soon we rationalize the behavior and compromise what we know is right.

Jesus hinted at a slippery slope in the Sermon on the Mount when He said to cut off your right hand or pluck out your eye to avoid sin (Matthew 5:29-30), and Scriptures are filled with admonitions to avoid temptation at all cost.

We may be firm in our purpose and intentions but outside influences start to exercise their impact. 2Kings 11:4 tells us Solomon’s wives turned his heart. Amos 5:14a (NLT) warns, “Do what is good and run from evil — that you may live!” In Hebrews 2:1 (NIV) we further read, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

In Mark 8-22-26 Jesus healed a blind man. He warns the man not to go back into the village, back into the old environment, the old influences that will suck you right back to old ways of thinking and acting. Will I choose to live by what my Papa taught me, or what Uncle Joe told me? Am I going to live by what Oprah says, or Dr. Phil, or Bart Simpson? “Oh, I may watch The Simpson’s, but that’s just for entertainment. I don’t let it influence the way I live.” If I listen to it, even if I don’t consciously follow what it is saying, it is getting into my subconscious and influencing my choices. Even if I depend on what my Pastor says, all can be shaky ground, a slippery slope. I must live by the Word of God.

What examples of “slippery slope” can you think of?

“Yea, I’m having a beer, but I’ll stop at one.”

“I’m moving in with my girlfriend, but we have agreed that we will not have sex.”

“I’m going to the bar with my friends tonight, but I won’t drink.”

“Sure there will be weed at the party, but I don’t use anymore.”

“My friends at the club like to gossip, but I just don’t listen.”

Watch for the but. B-U-T spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

I have the privilege of helping our daughter homeschool our grandkids by teaching science. Recently we were studying friction. We looked at when friction is minimized (Winter Olympics need a slippery slope for bobsled, skiing or snowboarding) and when it is important (braking, steering, even walking). To have spiritual “friction” takes preparation, getting those spikes in our sandals.

Today we’re obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability than swiftness. We want the quick fix, the shortcut but that does not produce character. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 4:18 (NIV): “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Growth is a process.

Life is a series of seasons: seasons of preparation and seasons of trial. There is seed time and harvest time. There is a time to prepare and a time to stand. Now is the time to prepare. Those that are best prepared will stand. “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it.” – T. Alan Armstrong.

We fear change, even if our old ways are self-destructive because, like a worn out pair of shoes, they are comfortable and familiar. My recliner’s worn mechanism can be rebellious; the upholstery is torn in places but I don’t want to replace it. It’s comfortable. I must let go of old ways in order to experience the new.

We can get very comfortable in church, but when we step out into the world, the going can be very slippery. It’s easy to get complacent. “Oh, it’s so nice and peaceful here. I want to stay here forever.” Well, you can’t. Look at the horizon. The dark clouds are gathering. A storm is coming. It’s time to get ready.

Every time I memorize a Bible verse, every time I meditate on God’s truth, I am adding a spike to my sandals. What are some of those verses?

  • I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. (2Corinthians 5:21)
  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8:39)
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation because I am in Christ. (Romans 8:1)
  • I am a new creation; the old things have passed away. (2Corinthians 5:17)
  • This one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and looking to what is ahead I press toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

I want us all to become cobblers, shoe makers. I can’t make sandals for you. We can’t go to the store and gat a pair of “made in China” spiritual sandals. Every morning when I put on my shoes I want to ask, “Are my feet shod with the Gospel?” At night when I take off my shoes off I want to ask, “Did I add a spike to my sandals today?”

Too Close to the Edge

Too close to the edgeDid you realize that all advertising is temptation? In our Bible publishing business, our focus is to tempt our customers to buy our products. Car companies don’t want you to see a block of steel, plastic and glass; they focus on prestige and power and peer acceptance. Beer commercials don’t sell beer, they sell sex. The goal is to stir up fleshly desires, to stir up passion. Have you ever gone fishing? Every lure hides a hook.

James 1:12-15 tells us, “Blessed is _____ if he/she endures temptation, for when he/she has been approved, _____ will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him. _____ should not say when he/she is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God can’t be tempted by evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But _____ is tempted, when he/she is drawn away by his/her own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.”  Notice that it says we are drawn away by our own desires. Sorry, we can’t even blame it on the devil. Temptation comes from what I have allowed in my life; the decisions and choices that have shaped who I am. Satan has no legal right or authority to mess with my life unless I open a door for him.

1Peter 5:8 (NKJV) warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” This implies that he can’t devour just anybody. He is out there roaring trying to impress and scare us but he is also looking for an open door. Ever had the situation where you comment, “Why do we have all these flies in here?” as you swat at the little pests. “Oh, the kids left the door open.” If we leave a door open for the devil, you can be sure he will come in. In Luke 4 Jesus is tempted by Satan. In the end, vs. 13 in The Message says, “The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.” Still today he is lying in wait.

There is the temptation to be complacent. “Hey, I’m a good Christian.” Watch out. 1Cor 10:12 (NKJV) warns, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” We all have those times where we think we can do it on our own, times we don’t want God’s help. “I’m going to do life my way.” When that happens, God says, “Go ahead, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” That is really what the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) is all about. The younger son thinks he knows better than his father, but the father is there to welcome him back when, as NIV puts it, “he came to his senses.”

When we hear a pastor talk about “the flesh” is he just referring to sexual sin? No, it is any area not submitted to God. Anywhere that we allow an un-renewed mind or still live in the old man we are open to temptation. Galatians 5:16 promises that if we walk in the Spirit, we won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh. What am I feeding myself? If I feed the flesh, it gets stronger and stronger. Galatians 5:24-25 tells us to crucify the flesh. A dead person cannot be tempted.

Sin is a counterfeit that is never lasting. Sin is trying to meet my needs outside of God’s will. It can only lead to bondage and destruction. James 1:15 says, “Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” I liken it to a mousetrap. To the mouse, the color of the cheese is so attractive, the smell so inviting. Just a little taste will be so good… WHAP!

In over six years of jail ministry, the most frequent questions I get regard overcoming temptation. Let’s look at some keys to fighting temptation:

  1. Submit to God before resisting. James 4:7 (NIV) tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If I am not first in submission I am trying to go against the devil on my own. Good luck! The good news is we can ask for God’s help. Hebrews 4:16 (KJV) commands, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Our loving Father is not the judge ready to jump on us.  He won’t be shocked.  Wherever we see “grace” we can read “empowerment” and it gives a richer meaning to the verse. “Come boldly before the throne of empowerment”. That is the empowerment to overcome temptation and live in God’s power. James 1:17 (NIV) promises, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
  2. Find the source, the root, the trigger. I call it the pothole, that thing or situation that trips you up. What might be the opportune time for the devil? Failures, rejection, frustration, pride, stress, finances, loneliness? A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak with Darryl Strawberry. He was an 8-time MLB All Star, 4-time World Series champion yet he ended up $3 million in debt and in prison. Here is what he said to me, “I went from hero to zero. I had all the money, all the stuff but I was still asking, ‘Who am I?’ Despite all the success that the world saw, there was no happiness, no freedom. I was hurting inside, but covering it up with drugs. Here is my message: Drugs are not the problem; they are used to mask the problem. Find the root. What triggers you to run to the drugs or alcohol? Don’t be focused on the drugs but be focused on changing behavior, changing environment, changing the pattern and focus of your life, establishing accountability.” That naturally leads us to…
  3. Establish accountability. If I am really serious about making a change, I must establish accountability. If not, I am just playing a game.  When I find myself stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention-failure-guilt, I will not get better on my own! I need someone who will pray for me, encourage me, and hold me accountable. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his/her fellow; but woe to _____ if he/she is alone when he/she falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him/her up.”
  4. Consider the consequences. Imagine your spouse or teenage son coming in and announcing “Good news! The airbag worked perfectly.” “Oh, that’s good…What?” As the late Paul Harvey would say “And now for the rest of the story.” The devil never tells us “the rest of the story.” When have you seen a beer commercial showing a guy puking in the gutter? Or a smoking commercial of a woman in the last stages of emphysema? Or a credit card commercial showing a family struggling to pay their bills at the end of the month? Maybe you can think of other examples. Galatians 6:7 warns, “Don’t be deceived, _____. God is not mocked, for whatever ____ sows, that he/she will also reap.”
  5. Change focus. Change the channel. The goal of commercials is to capture our focus. The battle against sin is won or lost in the mind. Ignoring a temptation is far more effective than fighting it. Rick Warren says, “Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. So when temptation calls you on the phone, don’t argue with it, just hang up!” If my focus is, “Don’t give in. Don’t give in.” what’s going to happen? Most likely I’ll give in. If my focus instead is, “I am righteous in Christ. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. God is on my side. Nothing can separate me from God’s love” then I can live in victory. Colossians 3:2-3 “_____ is to set his/her mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For _____ died, and his/her life is hidden with Christ in God.”
  6. Don’t go too close to the edge. I don’t know how many times I have spoken to people who say they were doing so well and suddenly they fell. Further conversation reveals they were actually trying to see just how close they could get to the edge without falling over. The Bible tells us repeatedly to flee from sinful temptation (1Corinthians 6:18; 1Corinthians 10:14; 1Timothy 6:11; 2Timothy 2:22). Don’t flirt with it, don’t play with it, run! Ephesians 4:27 tells us to give no place to the devil. If drunkenness is a problem, stay out of the bar. If plagued with sexual fantasies, stay out of R rated movies and pornographic internet sites. If the struggle is anger and bitterness, consider what music and TV you are allowing in. Psalms 119:3 (NLT) is a good verse to meditate on: “They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.” And also Proverbs 14:16 (NLT): “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.” That reckless confidence causes them to plunge right over the edge.
  7. Finally, resist the Tempter with the Word. That’s how Jesus did it in Luke 4. “It is written.” Bottom line, I must know who I am in Christ. I am loved. I am forgiven. I am victorious. I am chosen. What verses are in your arsenal?


In junior high one of my favorite hobbies was coin collecting. I had a wide range of coins, several over 200 years old, one was 2,000 years old. Today the collection is tucked away in a safe deposit box but I still enjoy looking at those bits of history. Oddly one of my favorite coins in my collection is in fact worthless. You see, it is counterfeit.

Have you ever been victimized by a con artist? We have a few times in our life: illegally copied software on eBay, a used car that broke down a week after we bought it. They can be pretty slick and very convincing. 2Corinthians 11:14 warns us that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. “Oh, this feels so right.” If I am indoctrinated in the world’s way of thinking, the counterfeit will look just fine.

The worst thing about deception is I don’t know I am deceived. I think I’m right. In fact I am absolutely convinced I am right. Might I be bringing false doctrines? I’ll be the first to admit it is possible! I could be deceived. That is why it is each of our responsibility to go to the Word. 1Thesalonians 5:21 warns “Gill is to test all things, and he is to hold firmly that which is good.”

The world accepts the devil’s counterfeit, but, like a mirage, it disappears. Try to grasp it and it is gone. Satan does not come in a red suit and pitchfork, knocking on your door saying, “I’m the devil. I’d like to come in and destroy your life.” If he did, who would let him in? John 8:44 tells us he is the father of lies. The devil is all trick and no treat. Hebrews 11:25 tells us sin is pleasurable for a season. The trap of sin is like a mousetrap. That cheese smells tasty, the color is so inviting until.. WHAP!

The temptation looks great, it brings immediate pleasure, but Satan twists the truth and hides the consequences. He shows the beginning but not the end. When was the last time you saw a beer commercial showing somebody throwing up in the gutter? The drug pusher highlights the pleasure and peer acceptance but skips over addiction and prison time.

1Peter 5:8 warns us to be sober, be vigilant. The devil is like a roaring lion. He can’t devour just anyone, but if I allow deception, I give him authority in my life. If you have ever gone fishing, you know the bait must hide the hook. Our first line of defense is God’s Word.

John 10:10 gives us Satan’s job description: kill, steal and destroy. You don’t have a friend in the devil. He wants to get you off God’s path. Philippians 3:13-14 encourages us to keep our eyes on the prize.

Jesus’ job description is to bring abundant life here and now. He will influence my marriage, my finances, every area of life. Deuteronomy 30:19 encourages us to choose life. I have a choice. If I don’t like my life, I need to make different choices. Abundant life is always in my connection to Father God. We all know the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The son lost abundant life when he broke connection with his father.

How do we to unlock the door to abundant life?

  1. Live under authority. Pride wants to be in control, but my life must be governed by the Word of God. John 15:4-5 tells us that life comes by being connected to the vine. Apart from God I can do nothing. (vs. 5)
  2. Live within boundaries. The world’s freedom leads to addictions and bondage. Galatians 5:13 warns that we are not to use liberty as an occasion for the flesh. 1Corinthians 6:12 in The Message puts it this way: “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.” Not every choice will benefit my life.
  3. Live in fellowship with God. If I live like the world lives, I will get what the world gets. Galatians 6:8 warns if I sow to the flesh, I will reap corruption. Matthew 6:31-33 encourages us to live in dependence on God not the world.

My wife says I have the body of a god! J…Buddha L The devil wants us to pursue the counterfeit of six-pack abs, a fancy car or a prestigious job title. I may want to think of myself as a handsome, virile stud, but eventually I have to look in the mirror and face the fact that I’m just an old, fat, bald guy. In Christ is where my value lies. I am a son of God. (John 1:12) I am a joint-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) I am seated with Him in heaven. (Ephesians 2:6) I am His workmanship. (Hebrews 2:10) Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) Discover who you are in Christ.

I want to conclude this teaching with a personal experience. I go back to Sunday, November, 5, 2000. I was in morning service when I heard Holy Spirit speak to me. God has spoken to me in visions and images many times but I think this is the only time I have heard a distinct voice. He said, “A big change is coming. Beware of the counterfeit.” Two days later my boss called me into his office and told me, due to restructuring, my job had been eliminated. After 22 years with the same company, at age 54, I was out. The next two months was a lot of applications, interviews and seeking God. Finally we concluded that “the counterfeit” was to follow the world’s security of a steady paycheck, health insurance, benefits, etc. Instead God was calling us to depend on Him and launch out with Your Personalized Bible (originally Personal Promise Bible). I can honestly say I would not have today the relationship I have with my wife, my ministry in the jail and in writing and the worldwide impact of Your Personalized Bible if I had not answered God’s call at that time.

2Corinthians 2:11 promises we are not unaware of the devil’s schemes. God gives us the ability to recognize the counterfeit if we do not think like the world thinks but rather seek Him. Having a counterfeit coin in my collection can be entertaining. Holding on to the counterfeit in other areas can be destructive: beliefs, thoughts, attitudes or friends. It is my responsibility to find those areas and take action or I will suffer the consequences.