Letter to a Grieving Mother

November 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Dear Ms. Smith:

My family and I were sorry to hear about your daughter. I wish I had known her better. My wife and I and our daughters have cried about Sally, and we have prayed for you. I don’t imagine there is anybody besides Jesus who can honestly say they know what you are going through right now. Over the years I have counseled with people whose children have passed away, and sometimes they try to describe their feelings, but it’s not really possible. When I was a small boy my dad would take me fishing and he would get so angry when I didn’t cast the lure properly, because the fishing line would snap back into the reel and cause a huge knot. Sometimes he could get the knot out – through clenched teeth and flared nostrils – and sometimes he gave up and threw the rod down in disgust: it was too tangled. My friends who have experienced the death of a young child sometimes feel sad, confused, angry at themselves, angry at others – even angry at God. Sometimes they feel loneliness, despair, hopelessness, aggravation, numb, or lost – sometimes all of these things at once. Like a big tangled knot of fishing line that can’t be sorted out. Please don’t think that I’m saying that’s what you’re feeling about the loss of your beautiful young daughter. I don’t have any way of knowing what you are going through. But I still want to tell you some things that I know to be true.

When a child is crying and can’t be consoled sometimes the child’s mother will hold the child’s face in her hands. Using her thumbs like miniature windshield wipers, she will wipe away the tears under the child’s eyes. She will look the child in the face and say, “Everything’s going to be okay.” And it helps – it really does. But, the thing is, there will be times after that when the child will cry again. I have no way of knowing if Sally was crying when she went to see Jesus. Maybe she was. But if so, the Bible tells what happened to her next: Jesus wiped away her tears. Jesus did not look like a stranger to Sally. He did not look mean or scary or intimidating or stern. He looked beautiful and comforting and loving to Sally, and He wiped away her tears in a way that made it so that she will never ever cry or be sad or lonely or scared or confused ever again. She knows things we have no clue about right now, and she wouldn’t leave where she is for the world. The words “happy” and “joyful” and “having fun” do not even begin to describe the sublime bliss and peace and excitement that Sally is experiencing for all eternity. She is in the best place in the whole universe, and she will be forever, and it will only get better and better.

When you try to comfort someone whose child has died you are not supposed to say stuff like this. You are supposed to shut your mouth and just be there for them and pray for them. The chances of making a grieving parent feel worse are high, and the chances of making her feel better are miniscule. I’m breaking that rule in writing to you, because I hope you already know the truth, but in case you don’t, I want you to know it. When Jesus told His disciples He was going to be arrested and put to death they were scared and confused. In those days when the government killed a criminal they tortured him publicly and killed him slowly over a period of days. The disciples were thinking, “If they’re going to do that to Jesus, they might do it to us, too.” So here’s what Jesus told them:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:1-3

Jesus was telling them it would be okay. Heaven is real. He really has gone there, and if we have believed the Gospel and placed our trust in Him, we are going to where He and Sally already are. Please make sure you have believed the Gospel and trusted in Jesus.

Sincerely,

Overcoming Shame

November 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Mark, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16 (emphasis added)

The Apostle Paul made a point of stating that he was not ashamed of the Gospel. Why would the Holy Spirit have him say this? Why would you go out of your way to tell someone that you are not ashamed? No one says, I am not ashamed to dunk a basketball, to score a touchdown, or to hit a home run. No one would be ashamed to say that he is the most popular person in his group of friends. He might be humble about it, but he wouldn’t be ashamed. But for some reason there is a tendency to be ashamed when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit and the Apostle Paul realized this, and they wanted us to know that it is a tendency which must be overcome.

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Mark 8:38

Here are three things which might make you ashamed of the Gospel:

1. You don’t know it.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

II Timothy 2:15.

There’s a word for people who talk about things they don’t know anything about: agnostic. Agnostic is from the ancient Greek language, and it means without (a) knowledge (gnostic). When it comes to the existence of God, many people proudly proclaim themselves “agnostic,” when they would be better off using the Latin form, “ignoramus.” If you claim to be a Christian, don’t be a Gospel ignoramus. Learn it. Study it. Think about it. Live it. Then you won’t be ashamed to talk about it.

2. You don’t love it.

Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

II Timothy 2:8-10.

If I showed up at a social function with really bad breath, and someone was kind enough to give me a mint, I would try to thank them for it. I might even mention it to my wife or a friend afterwards, but I’m afraid it would raise my esteem for the person only slightly. However, if the doctor told me my heart was about to stop working, and without a new one I would die, and then someone gave me his heart so I could live, I don’t think I could stop extolling the praises of that person. Why not? Because such an act of self-sacrificial giving would make me love him.

You can see the practicality of this principle at work all the time. Nobody has to twist your arm to talk about your children or your grandchildren, or that game-winning home run you hit way back in high school, or that blockbuster movie you saw last weekend. We talk about who or what we love. It just comes naturally. We need to love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the ways to love it more is to remember the price of your forgiveness and how bad you and I needed that forgiveness. It’s the greatest story ever told, and, through it, you can have a new heart and everlasting life.

3. You don’t believe it.

This is the one that frightens me the most. I’m not saying that everyone who doesn’t evangelize the way we should is not really saved. But I am saying that if you have truly believed the Gospel unto salvation, then you have to realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best thing that has ever happened. And it is true. Jesus Himself said, “…repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) If you believe it, you must tell others who need to hear it – even if it makes you (and them) uncomfortable.

A Fly in the Ointment

November 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 6 Comments
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Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

Ecclesiastes 10:1

The “apothecary” in this verse is what we would call a perfume-maker or possibly even a pharmacist. Ointment was used in Bible times for ceremonial anointing, perfume, and even medicinal salve at times. The popular expression, “a fly in the ointment,” comes from this verse, and it means a hidden defect or flaw in something that otherwise would be beneficial. Sometimes, just a tiny little mistake can cause a great deal of harm.

Can you imagine spending days or weeks perfecting the perfect concoction of spices, herbs, and oils, only to have the whole batch give off a disgusting odor because a miniscule, unobserved fly had landed in it and started to decompose? That’s what a little sinful foolishness can do to your testimony. Trust, honor, integrity, and character – and especially a reputation for wisdom – are things that are built up and cultivated slowly over time. However, they can be lost in an instant. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guard our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears, and let’s keep our Bibles poised like holy flyswatters, always on alert for the tell-tale buzz of temptation.

Getting Busy in Marriage

November 19, 2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

As Christians we do not have to wonder whether or not Satan is going to attack our marriages. There is absolutely no doubt that he will. If he has already attacked your marriage, you know that it is not a pleasant thing – but it is a fact. Thankfully, the Bible is very straightforward in telling us that we do not have to be caught off-guard by his attacks.

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

II Corinthians 2:11

Because we have the Bible, we do not have to be ignorant. I want to be very specific and narrow down what I am talking about here:

1. Because we are not ignorant, we know that he attacks in two ways:
a. As a tempter (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:7)
b. As an accuser (Revelation 12:10; Matthew 12:10)

2. When he attacks as an accuser, he makes two types of accusations against us:
a. Slanderous accusations (John 8:44)
b. Truthful accusations (Zechariah 3:1-5)

3. He makes these accusations against us in two places:
a. In our consciences (I Chronicles 21:1)
b. Before the Throne of God (Job 1)

4. He makes these accusations for three reasons:
a. To destroy our peace – both internally and with God (Luke 22:31)
b. To cause us to doubt God’s goodness and truth (Genesis 3:4-5; Luke 4:3)
c. To paralyze us with fear (Matthew 16:21-23)

When it comes to our marriages he attacks in all these areas, but, according to II Corinthians 7:5, he attacks our marriages more as a tempter than an accuser: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (Emphasis added.)

I like to imagine my marriage as an enclosed area with a well-defined perimeter. Satan wants to breach that perimeter. As a Christian spouse, my responsibility is to protect the entire perimeter, but, Biblically, I’ve been told that I need to concentrate my protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused.

In the Bible, cities were often surrounded by a protective wall with different “gates” which were the entry- and exit- points to and from the city. In marriage, one of these sections of the wall is “communication;” one is “finances;” one is “career;” one is “ministry;” one is “parenting;” and one is “sexual intimacy.” According to the Bible, Satan’s attack is going to be most concentrated at the gate and area of the wall devoted to sexual intimacy.

When I Corinthians 7:5 uses the term “incontinency” it refers to a lack of self-control, and its specific reference is to sexual relations. The previous lesson contained an acronym – “F.I.N.E.” – which dealt with promoting the Biblical ideal for sexual intimacy in marriage:

F.requent
I.nviting
N.atural
E.xciting

I’m sorry to be crude, but when I was in college there was a slang term for sexual relations called “getting busy.” The fact is, if you are not getting busy in your marriage, then Satan is! This is not an easy topic to talk about, but Satan is real. I hate to admit it, but he is stronger than I am. And he is smarter than I am. He’s no match for my Lord and my Best Friend, but if I try to take him on in my own strength, he will sift me like wheat, embarrass me, and chase me right out of my blessings, peace, and assurance, putting me to shame. Recognizing that, here are the first three steps to shoring up and fortifying the defensive and protective wall against temptation in the area of sexual intimacy in marriage:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

In the next lesson we will learn how to recognize Satan in his craftiness.

Servant Movers (Commitment)

November 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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When we talk about someone in a position of leadership in Christian ministry, I prefer the term “servant leader.” This is far from original, but I believe it is apt, because the New Testament paradigm for leading is to lead while, through, and by serving others. The Lord Jesus led by serving, and He was the greatest Servant Leader of all time.

Although we put an emphasis on serving, we must not deny the “leading,” either, and “leading” means “moving.”

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Romans 5:3-4

Biblical patience is more than just a willingness to wait. It contains the concept of “perseverance,” and perseverance is evidenced by commitment. When we persevere in our commitments, we gain the right kind of “experience” and we develop the right kind of character. Our character then governs our conduct.

“Leading” implies that people are following, and leading and following imply that we are going somewhere – or at least that we are moving. “Church” is not just a place to come sit. It should be a place to come serve. After salvation, regular attendance at church is very important, but it should not be the end of your journey. Instead, it should be the place where we meet to restock, to refresh, to prepare, and to train for our journey. A local assembly of believers (a “church“) must be moving. If people in our churches are not going or growing, we who claim to be servant leaders must bear a great deal of the responsibility for failing to lead.

Qualifications of New Testament servant leaders include commitment, character, and conduct. We think of someone who is easily able to influence others or who tends to attract loyal followers as someone who has “charisma,” and this word is actually the Greek word translated as “gifts” in several New Testament Bible verses. I would argue that while the “gifts” of ministry given by God to leaders are certainly important, commitment is just as (and possibly even more) important than the gifts themselves. Gifts by their very definition are things “given.” In other words, they are not earned.

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:

Jeremiah 9:23

Too much focusing on our “gifts” over and above our commitment can lead to boasting in our own “giftedness.” If we are not to boast on our gifts, then on what are we to boast?

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:24

What do we have that is any good at all that didn’t come from God? Gifts will attract followers to the gift-receiver, but Godliness will attract followers to the Gift-Giver. Therefore, being Godly is more important than being gifted. Godliness comes from being committed. Servant leaders are servants who are moving. People can’t follow someone who is going nowhere, doing nothing. That’s not leading.

Next time, I will say more about character and conduct.

Who’s in Charge Here?

November 14, 2012 at 10:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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It can be so tempting… Someone you really care about has experienced a tragedy like the unexpected death of a loved one. It’s not uncommon in situations like this for people to react with extreme grief. “How could God do this?” they will demand to know. In these days of social media, such expressions can find their outlet in very public places. I am thankful at times like these for opportunities to minister in the name of Christ. Jesus Himself knows what it is like to experience pain and sorrow (John 11:32-38; Luke 13:34). Great care must be taken, however, to avoid the temptation to lie about God in an attempt to make someone feel better, or even to protect God’s reputation.

Let’s use the example of a parent who is grieving over the death of his or her young child. Here are some of the common lies that well-meaning Christians use to try to keep hurting people from questioning God’s goodness or even existence:

“This was not God’s plan.”
“God just needed another angel.”
“God is not in control of the earth.”
“Satan owns this world until Jesus comes back.”
“God never causes pain.”

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about these statements is that they are the types of lies that we sometimes euphemistically call “half-truths.” Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), specializes in this type of deceit. Mixing a lie in with the truth makes it all the more palatable.

Here is the truth: God can and sometimes does allow pain and tragedy. The Bible is replete with examples of God allowing the wicked to reap what they have sown, and even sending calamities and death to specific individuals and large groups of people. We don’t like to think of God having the power to spare a young child from death, and then refusing to exercise that power, but we do no service to God when we claim to know His secret counsel, and make a pronouncement that something was definitely not His plan, when in fact we simply do not know.

We also know that the angels are created beings. They exist in reality, but they are not former people who have died and gone to Heaven. The idea – popularized by everything from greeting cards to cartoons – that when people die they don a white gown, receive a halo, and float away on a white cloud playing a harp, is completely unsupported by Scripture. Is it really helpful anyway to suggest that God is lonely or lacking in Heavenly servants so that He sometimes selfishly takes away someone’s child to make another angel? The One True and Living God is not lonely. He is perfect, immutable, and lacks nothing.

Finally, we must beware of the lie propagated by the so-called “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel” movements. Many people tune in regularly to a religious television network called TBN and they have been deceived by the lie that man’s fall in the Garden of Eden gave Satan complete control over this world and locked God out pending Christ’s return. Pentecostals and Charismatics are especially susceptible to this heresy, which says that the way to activate God’s intervention into the devil’s domain here on Earth is to send up our “faith” in the form of “words,” which give God permission to make us healthy, wealthy, safe, or influential. Of course, the wealthy proponents of this false teaching will also tell you that your words of faith need to be accompanied by “love offerings” or “seeds of faith” that begin with a “$.” Again, anyone who buys into this religious Ponzi scheme has not honestly read the New Testament.

Men and women are fallen sinful creatures. Apart from the saving power of Jesus we enslave ourselves to the little “g” god of this world, Satan. But Satan has not overcome God. He has not locked God out of the earth. He has not tricked God nor unseated Him from His sovereign throne. For reasons which we can not fully understand, God allows Satan to operate with some authority in this world (subject to God’s ultimate control). If you know someone who is upset with God for taking someone they love, here are your choices:

1. Leave them alone and pray for them.
2. Pray for them, be there for them, and keep your mouth shut, your ears open, and your shoulder and tissues handy.
3. In a kind, loving, humble way, tell them the truth: God is Lord over all and He is completely in control (I Chronicles 29:11). Satan’s temporary, limited reign on this earth was broken and he was defeated by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-27). Jesus Himself is seated at God’s right hand, and has been given all authority and power over everyone, every place, and every thing (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1:1-3).

And whatever you do, don’t lie about God. He is working all things together for His glory and the good of those whose trust is in Christ Jesus, whether it seems like “good” at the time to us or not (Romans 8:28).

The Other Ten Commandments

November 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Selected Psalms | 4 Comments
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Psalm 105 was probably written after the remnant of the Jewish people returned from Babylonian exile. They needed an encouraging reminder of what God had done for the Jewish people in the past. Many people are familiar with “the” 10 Commandments – from Exodus 20 – although most Christians aren’t as familiar with them as we should be. Here in the first five verses of Psalm 105, though, are what I like to think of as “the other 10 commandments.”

O give thanks unto the LORD (1); call upon his name (2): make known his deeds among the people (3). Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him (4): talk ye of all his wondrous works (5). Glory ye in his holy name (6): let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD (7). Seek the LORD, and his strength (8): seek his face evermore (9). Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth (10);

Psalm 105:1-5 (parenthetical numbers added)

1. Give thanks to the Lord.
2. Call upon His name.
3. Make His deeds known among the people.
4. Sing unto Him.
5. Talk of all His wondrous works.
6. Glory in His holy name.
7. Let your heart rejoice as you seek Him.
8. Seek the Lord and His strength.
9. Seek His face evermore.
10. Remember the marvelous works that He has done, and His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.

How many of these commandments are you keeping?

O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.

Psalm 105:6

In verse 6 God begins to go into the history of His people. We are reminded that Abraham did not choose God – rather that God chose Abraham. “Covenant” is the name of the agreement which God enters into with people whom He chooses.

Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance:

Psalm 105:11

People love to boast about their free will, but God’s will overrides our will.

He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:

Psalm 105:17

Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies.

Psalm 105:23-24

God wanted Joseph in Egypt to prepare a place for God’s people in the time of famine. Ultimately, Joseph accomplished God’s mission, but what happened in between? Joseph suffered. In God’s economy suffering almost always precedes glory.

-God parted the Red Sea – which was glorious. But what came before that? Suffering in Egypt.
-God led His people into the Promised Land – which was glorious. But what came before that? Suffering in the wilderness.
-David was anointed King when he was a boy – which was glorious. But what did he go through before he actually assumed the throne? Suffering.

If you are suffering right now, take heart. God may be preparing you for glory.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

I Peter 5:10

Suffering is the preparation for glory, but suffering is also the climate of fruitfulness. The pains you are experiencing in your life today might be labor pains. No reasonable mother says, “Oh no! I did all that suffering for nine months, and all that suffering for nine hours – and all I got was a baby!” The typical response of a brand new mother – even a worn-out, sweat-drenched, tear-soaked, hoarse-from-screaming mother – is overwhelming joy the instant she sees the fruit of all that labor: her newborn baby.

https://i1.wp.com/www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/images/mom-newborn.jpg

Or maybe your suffering is not as intense. Maybe you feel alone or trapped or depressed. Take heart, God may have you buried in the dark like a seed. A seed dies a type of death and experiences a type of destruction before it springs up into life and light and fruitfulness.

http://poetrydispatch.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/seed2.jpg?w=510&h=408

When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it.

Psalm 105:12

God took Jacob and his family of only about 70, and in Egypt they suffered – but they became a great nation.

He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.

Psalm 105:37

They worked as slaves without pay, but God made sure they ultimately received their wages. If you feel like you are slaving away in life without pay, take heart! If you belong to God, you may not get paid for your labor now, but God will reward you later!

The Addict (Signs of Addiction)

November 9, 2012 at 10:19 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Outcasts of Ministry | 1 Comment
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Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church

Last time we contrasted some of the characteristics of the worldly addict with those of the ministry addict.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

I Corinthians 16:15 (emphasis added)

Now we will look at the signs of addiction:

1. A strong, almost overwhelming urge to engage in a certain behavior

But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing,

Galatians 4:18

It would certainly not be good to be zealous in your affections about crack cocaine. It’s not good to be zealous in your affections about your outward appearance. But it is good to be zealous in your affections about ministry – because ministry is a good basis for addiction. In the world, you are an outcast if you are addicted to the “wrong” thing, and you’re popular if you’re addicted to the “right” thing. But these views of “right” and “wrong” are fleeting and fickle. Sometimes sexual addiction is seen as titillating or a sign of virility – until it ruins someone’s life or someone’s marriage. You might remember the “heroin chic” phase, when the media glamorized the emaciated bodies and dark eyes of runway models who used drug addiction as a means to stay thin.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/head.jpg?w=270

Some addictions seem pretty cool until they go too far and make the addict an outcast. Likewise, an addiction to ministry might cause unbelievers to cast you out – but God won’t consider you an outcast for it.

2. Feelings of low self-esteem

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Philippians 2:3

A drug addict or a compulsive over-eater has low self-esteem because he doesn’t think he’s worth anything. A ministry addict has low self-esteem because he believes that serving Christ is worth everything. The message of the world is “believe in yourself,” but don’t you buy into that vain philosophy! In America we love to talk about our “rights” and entitlements – that we think we deserve as individuals. But that’s a false view of freedom. Real freedom comes when we become so addicted to ministry that we give up our “right” to be first, and esteem others better than ourselves.

3. Drawing away from the normal activities of daily life

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:4

One of the dangers of even seemingly-harmless worldly addictions (that favorite TV show that you just can’t miss, for example) is that we become too entangled with them to have time for ministry. Ask someone who is serving active military duty in a combat zone. A soldier ready for battle at any moment can’t say, “Hold off on the fighting for a couple of days – I just started fixing up my car.” He can’t say, “I just met this new girl and she’s all I can think about right now.” Soldiers have to be focused. They can’t afford to be addicted to “fun” things. A worldly addict may find himself dropping out of polite society because of devotion to his addiction, but a ministry addict is someone who is in the world (which is the battleground of spiritual warfare), but not of the world. Nothing should capture our affection, our adoration, or our attention more than the work of the Lord.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21

4. A feeling of euphoria, or pleasure, while engaging in the addictive behavior

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

Psalm 111:2

The worldly addict gets a physical “kick” out of his addiction. That’s one of the big problems with addiction. Addicts build an immunity and need more and more of the object of their addiction. Many scientists believe this phenomenon is caused by chemicals in the brain. The truth is, God understands our need for pleasure – for a good feeling or satisfaction in the works we do. But Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. One of the quickest ways to grieve the Holy Spirit is by exposing His presence in our bodies to the false pleasure of sinfully carnal pursuits. The worldly addict can never be satisfied, but he can get brief pleasure from feeding the flesh with the object of his addiction. The ministry addict, however, surrenders to the Holy Ghost and takes pleasure in those things in which He takes pleasure.

What’s the one thing that the Holy Ghost really longs to do?

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

John 16:13-14

Glorifying the Lord Jesus is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What can we do to be used by the Holy Spirit to do that?

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

I John 4:11-13

Stephanas ministered to the saints – to other believers. By so doing, he glorified Christ Jesus, and pleased the Holy Spirit of God. The worldly addict seeks a short-lived artificial high, and makes himself an outcast in pursuing it. The ministry addict seeks an eternal lasting pleasure – the pleasure of the Holy Ghost who dwells within him.

Fooling or Ruling?

November 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 2 Comments
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For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

Ecclesiastes 9:12

No one gets out of life alive. Trying to ignore the reality of death does not make it go away. It’s better to face it and then to live with passion and joy. However, you must not think that just because you’ve decided to “give it all you’ve got,” you can predict the outcome. Life is unpredictable. Remember the expression about “the best laid plans of mice and men…
Sometimes our opportunities to do something really, really good will be thwarted.

This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

Ecclesiastes 9:13

The writer of Ecclesiastes says here is an example:

There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

Ecclesiastes 9:14

Have you ever had the opportunity to help someone who was overwhelmed?

Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

Ecclesiastes 9:15

And you actually did it? You bailed someone out even when it was inconvenient for you to do it – or even though you couldn’t really afford it? And then the person you bailed out just forgot about it – didn’t really appreciate it at all?

Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

Ecclesiastes 9:16

Then the next time, when the person you had helped pulled another stunt, or maybe got right back into the same trouble again, instead of coming to you for your proven wisdom, he looked for somebody stronger and just kept ignoring you…

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

Ecclesiastes 9:17

Somebody who was louder and more boisterous than you took your opportunity to really help this person, but instead led him astray. My wife‘s family has an expression: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” There are times when the person who is the loudest, most irritating, or even self-centered winds up taking attention away from those who really need just as much – or maybe even more – attention. Warren Wiersbe‘s way of describing this is to point out that “empty barrels make the most noise.”

Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Ecclesiastes 9:18

Life is unpredictable. Doing what’s right is not always rewarded in this life. One sin can destroy a great deal of good, the way one bad apple spoils the whole barrel. Adam’s one sin turned the whole universe to moral darkness and decay. Our job as Christians is not to be passive, but it’s also not to build up our hopes in short-term solutions. The Christian life is an endurance race. We get knocked down many times, but we get up and keep going, and if God gives us wisdom to run well, we had better help up others who have fallen along the way. Because we know that somehow we’re going to win in the end.

Having a F.I.N.E. Marriage

November 5, 2012 at 11:14 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 8 Comments
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In a previous lesson I looked at some verses from I Corinthians 7, as they relate to remaining single or getting married.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

I Corinthians 7:1-2

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

I Corinthians 7:32-37

Let me sum up the “practical application” of these verses: The temptation of fornication in the form of premarital sex can be remedied by marriage. There is no other legitimate outlet for taking care of those desires.

That is a lesson that we parents must hammer into the souls of our children – even though they may be living in the midst of a generation where they will be the only ones who believe or practice it. We must also hammer into our own souls that physical intimacy in marriage is not a block to fornication or adultery – but that it is a safeguard.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:3-5

For maximum effectiveness, marital intimacy must be F.I.N.E.

F.requent: “Due benevolence” means what is “owed.” You owe it to your spouse to satisfy him or her sexually within Scriptural limits. Failure to do so is fraud – unless it is mutually consensual – and then it must be for spiritual reasons and only for a short time.

I.nviting: Because my body belongs to God, I must keep it healthy. Because – on a secondary level – my body belongs to my spouse, I ought to try to keep it attractive.

N.atural: “Render unto” means it is done willingly – which also means it should not be contrary to emotions. Our emotions must be brought into conformity with truth. God says physical intimacy in marriage is “good,” so we need to believe it is good. If we believe it is good, we will start to feel like it is good.

E.xciting: Although “due benevolence” is a duty, it is not merely a duty.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

I Corinthians 7:9 (emphasis added)

It is “better” to marry than to “burn” when you are engaged to be married. But, once married, it is great to burn. “Burn” means passion and excitement: Song of Solomon-type, exuberant, looking-forward-to-it-almost-all-day-every-day-type passion. I highly recommend a recent movie called Fireproof, which is about “fireproofing” your marriage against divorce. The fires of marital discord are horrible and should be guarded against. “Controlled burning,” though, is something completely different. It is a passionate, mutual burning that is the result of a Scripturally-prescribed fire that you know is going to be quenched within the God-ordained bounds of marriage. This is embarrassing to talk about, but that type of “quenching,” and the physical pleasure attendant to it, is one of God’s greatest temporal gifts to His children. But there has to be fire for there to be quenching. “Better to marry than to burn” doesn’t mean the burning stops after the honeymoon. It means that God has now authorized the burning because there is a safe, God-ordained way to start and stop the fires of passion, and that way is physical intimacy in marriage.

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