Be Careful Little Eyes and Ears

Perhaps you’re familiar with the children’s rhyme, “O be careful little eyes what you see.” The second verse says, “O be careful little ears what you hear.” We might consider these nice words for a children’s song, but these are profound wisdom for adults. As Christians, we live in a culture immersed in godlessness. Music, movies, and literature glorify immorality, vice, violence, and sacrilege. Politicians use lying and deception for their advantages in power and wealth, and because of smoke and mirrors—and some blackmail—many get away with all sorts of crimes and sordid behaviors behind the scenes. Educational institutions vigorously promote secular humanism, where everything is permissible and/or rationalized—except for Jesus Christ and the truth.

For the person who truly desires to draw near to God and grow in his relationship to Christ, “be careful little eyes [and ears]” takes on deeper significance. What we choose to allow our eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to entertain will affect our hearts and behaviors in one way or another. The Scriptures have much to say about these.

Jesus knows how visual men are and how prone we are to entertain lustful glances and thoughts. So serious is this matter, He says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:28-29). Although He speaks hyperbolically, He is stressing to men, “Be careful little eyes what you see. Do what you must to protect yourself from what enters.”

The apostle Paul says we are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This responsibility is made more difficult if one takes into his eyes, ears, and mind those things which are sinful and anti-Christ in nature. 

Elsewhere Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). In another letter he warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy [i.e., ideologies and shifting human reasoning] and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits [or principles]of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Consider what you are allowing your  little eyes to see and little ears to hear. What affect are they having on your thoughts, and what’s funneling down to your heart? Are the things you’re allowing your eyes to see and ears to hear drawing you closer to Christ or pulling you away? Are you allowing pictures and videos to arouse insatiable desires within you? What about the music you listen to? Is it feeding sensual desires or emotions of anger or despair? What about the teachings you’re listening to and the literature you’re reading. Are they amplifying the Spirit’s promptings or muffling His convictions? 

“O be careful little eyes what you see.” Are these just words for children? No, but these are words inviting us to partake of the wellsprings of life. But do we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see?

4 Prerequisites for Spiritual Revival and Awakening

Revival, spiritual awakenings—great moves of God when God pricks the hearts and awakens their consciences, drawing people to new life through His Son Jesus Christ or rekindling embers in hearts that have grown dim. These cannot be manufactured by the gimmicks of men but are done by God alone. Although we cannot produce these, we can acknowledge our need, ask, lean into God, and confess our sins. In His great grace He might respond and do what only He can do.

  1. Acknowledge the need. A sad and tragic reality is that much of those who profess Christ are unaware of the dire need for revival and awakening. Many churches are so busy either trying to build their programs and numbers, or else just simply trying to survive. Sadly, the people of Ezekiel’s day can be descriptive of the church today: “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (Eze. 22:30). There are many who deny the realities of the wickedness of sin and God’s judgment of it. As a result, there is a blindness to the desperate need for revival and awakening.
  2. Be committed to prayer. Throughout history no revival or awakening has occurred apart from prayer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Are we willing to pray?
  3. Dependence on God. Churches today put so much stock in programs, trends, skill, and education but where has honest dependence on Christ gone? Our lack of prayer and crying out to Him betrays our unwarranted self-confidence. Jesus tells us plainly, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
  4. Confess personal sins and sins of community/nation. There are numerous variables to a nation’s peril and calamity, and God’s people are not necessarily guiltless. Nehemiah’s prayer offers some  valuable insight as to how we should pray. “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses” (Neh. 1:5-7). The church must confess her own sins as well as society’s. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecc. 7:20).

There should be no doubt about the church needing revival and our nation needing a great spiritual awakening. Presently there’s not much difference between the world and much of the church. God only knows what He might do if the church got serious about her own sad condition, the dreadful condition of the world, the holiness of God, and the price Jesus paid for our redemption.

7 Hindrances to Prayer

Sound theology teaches us that God is both personal and the Sovereign over the world He created. This being the case, it should come as no surprise that prayer is personal and comes with certain stipulations (as do all relationships). Furthermore, because God is the Sovereign One, He is to be approached as such. This being said, there are several hindrances to prayer to keep in mind.

  1. Sin. God is a God of holiness, purity, truth, love, and justice. Sin betrays these. Unconfessed  sin will hinder one’s prayers. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:2).
  2. Unbelief. One of the greatest hindrances to prayer is unbelief. Unbelief is an affront to God’s existence, character, or capabilities. We’re told that Jesus “did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:58). And James writes, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (1:6-8).
  3. Selfish motives. Prayer is to be more about God’s kingdom and human intercession than self promotion and advancement. James addresses this hindrance explicitly: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:2-3)
  4. Outside God’s will. Sometimes one’s requests are outside of God’s will and plan. For example, Paul prayed three times for God to heal him of his “thorn in the flesh,” yet God denied his request each time, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). God was using this “thorn” to humble and further develop the apostle.
  5. Self-righteousness. Pride has always plagued the human heart, creating the desire to one-up and trample upon others. God abhors such self-adulation and condescension of others—especially wrapped in religiosity. Jesus tells a parable about a self-righteous religious leader and a tax collector praying. The former was thankful he was not like sinners such as the tax collector. The tax collector, however, wouldn’t look up, but beat his chest, asking God to forgive him, a sinner. Jesus explains it is the tax collector who left the temple justified (Luke 18:9-14).
  6. Dishonoring your spouse. This is specifically directed to husbands. The apostle Peter writes, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Men, being disrespectful of your wives and treating them in an un-Christlike will hinder prayers.
  7. Spiritual Warfare. Some hindrances to prayer are spiritual in nature, opposition from the evil one. We get a sneak peak of such a situation in the life of the prophet Daniel (chap. 10). He was a very godly man who had taken time to pray and fast. We learn their was opposition in the spiritual realm.

Persons can pray but this doesn’t mean anything is happening, much like a person shadow boxing. He is beating the air but nothing more. Some have given up praying, saying, “It doesn’t work.” However, prayer is powerful if one follows the instructions and purposes as laid out in the Manual—the Bible. May we approach the living God appropriately and on His terms, and may we remember the true and deeper purposes for prayer. We just might see more incredible moves of God if we do.

Many say, “Christians are all hypocrites” as a reason for not following Christ, but it is not a legitimate one. No one is called to take up his cross and follow after Christians, but Christ alone. One will not find hypocrisy in Him.

What is that to you? You follow me! ~ John 21:22

Jesus did not come to simply love us as we are. His grace was never intended to bring forgiveness just so we can continue in our pride, vanity, immorality, drunkenness, laziness, bitterness, etc. When a person is truly touched by the love and grace of Christ, his or her life begins a process of change. 

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ~ 1 John 2:5-6

Visual Covenants and Taking Thoughts Captive

God takes sexual purity and fidelity very seriously, and these are issues men have struggled with throughout the centuries—including Christians. Even so, when a man of God falls into sexual sin, it is not a “mistake” and it does not “just sort of happen.”

I am not pointing a finger or criticizing those who have fallen. The struggle is real for many of us, and we stand only by grace. Yet, I want to offer some Scriptural help for those who are fighting for purity.

Much of the battle really takes place in the visual sense and in the mind, does it not. As men, we are visual. It is the way we are designed. To say we do not notice attractive ladies is to lie. Furthermore, such initial noticing is not the problem. The problems come when we take legitimate vision and store them into memory banks, then submerge these into the sewage of our lusts. Thus, the problem is not seeing a lady and finding her attractive. This is natural. However, it is the going beyond this into the realm of fantasy that leads men into peril. Before any man falls into sexual sin, he must first go through his thoughts. The entertaining of thoughts does not just happen. Persons make a choice. Godly Job says,

I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? ~ Job 31:1

Job states that he made a covenant with his eyes that he would not stare and lust upon a beautiful virgin. Yes, he notices her, but that is as far as he will go with it.

Jesus says plainly,

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~ Matthew 5:28

Here, the visual has gone beyond mere sight and acknowledgement of attraction. It has morphed into something, now, altogether different. We are warned of the danger of the process of the seed of desire becoming the plant of action.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~ James 1:14-15

We see this very thing played out in the life of King David. It is doubtful that many of us love the Lord the way David did. Still, we read of him:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. ~ 2 Samuel 11:2-4

David did not simply notice a beautiful woman bathing. He gawked until he began to desire, and soon his desire became a burning lust. Before he ever laid with her it was brought to his attention that she was married. No, David’s fall into sexual sin did not come from mere happenstance.

We are told,

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

As men, we are to take control of our thoughts and bring them under the authority of Christ. Just as we are not to violate a woman physically, neither are we to violate her in the dark chambers of our minds. In fact, elsewhere we are told,

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. ~ 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Did you catch that? We are to treat older women as we would our moms, and younger as our sisters, in all purity. Whenever a Christian man falls into sexual sin, never does it just “sort of happen.” It begins by him not treating a woman with the purity and respect he would have for his mom or sister. Thoughts and desires were entertained before any course of action was taken. And, no doubt, God sent numerous warnings  beforehand.

Men, the struggle and temptations are real; however, the flames of passion are not kindled without first dousing desires with fuel then igniting it with a spark. If we are going to walk in moral purity, then it will require effort and responsibility. We must guard our hearts, keep our visual limited, and take our thoughts captive to the obedience to Christ. Furthermore, we must honor the women around us. In Christ, they are most certainly family, moms and sisters. We must treat them as such with all purity.

Walk Worthily of Your Calling

If we are Christians, ones who are truly born again by the work of the Holy Spirit, then we have an obligation to walk (i.e., live) in a manner that is worthy of such a high calling by God. If we are genuinely saved, we must understand what we are saved from, as well as what we are saved to. Furthermore, this salvation is not something any of us achieved because we are so great; no, it is a work of God completely done by His grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Walking in a worthy manner begins with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

The maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is not some false peace, as promised by the United Nations. Also, it is not achieved by simply loving people apart from any confrontation, for we are told,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. ~ Galatians 5:16-17

The desires of the flesh are immoral, contentious, idolatrous, and selfish. In contrast, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

The goal is more than simply having a peaceful fellowship, but that we may “attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to [maturity]” (Eph. 4:13), so that we are not tossed back and forth from every doctrine and teaching from the pulpit or from the university classroom.

Do you think this is irrelevant? There are a number of “preachers” and so-called Christian authors who are promoting teachings that are in direct conflict of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. There are numerous persons who profess the name of Christ, yet who are adopting the teachings of Darwin (Darwinism is not science but intellectual dishonesty, as there is no evidence to support the theory, although schools teach such hogwash as irrefutable fact), Marxism, and the behaviors of Hollywood. But the apostle writes,

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:17-24

It makes no sense, whatsoever, for persons to talk about Christ dying and saving them from their sins, only to continue living in those sins! This is a total misunderstanding of the Gospel message.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~ Romans 6:1-4

The knowledge of Christ is not meant as a means to simply know some cool things about Him. No! The knowledge of Christ is to be transformative by His grace. No, none of us is perfect, this is true. However, we can—and must—certainly grow in our knowledge of Him and to be continually transformed more into His likeness.

Today, if you call yourself a Christian, are you walking in a manner that is worthy of your high and noble calling?

Recapturing the Wonder (Part 2)

I admit, so many church services are simply boring. Mind you, I understand they are not meant to be entertaining, that is not what I mean. But often they are fairly informal, nice, and passionless. Many of the songs seem to be more about how much God loves us than how majestic and awesome (in the truest sense of the word) He is. Many of today’s sermons seem either like a stale lecture or a cheesy pep rally. One will tend to hear about how cool the worship was or the fun event that went on. But how often does one hear, “God was there, today! He got our attention! It was no social club today! No sir!”

Part of the reason, I believe, is we do not go with reverence or expectancy. Furthermore, often we make church about us rather than God. In fact, there are some churches who have taken out references to the blood of Jesus in their hymnals because it is “offensive,” but take out the blood and you cease to have Christianity altogether. But I digress.

The prophet Isaiah got a glimpse of God’s glory and it changed him.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” ~ Isaiah 6:1-8

When Isaiah was in the presence of God, he was not only amazed but he was also convicted of his sin. Furthermore, he did not argue the point that his lips were not unclean. Be certain of this—any time a person is truly in the holy presence of God, he or she will not stand there trying to justify him or herself. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! I am lost!” The Hebrew word for lost is Damah, which means to cease, to be destroyed and left desolate. “This verb depicts a violent end.” [1]

The presence of God shook Isaiah to the core.

In the New Testament we read:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ~ Acts 2:42

It was during this time as the people devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship of believers, the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer that they witnessed astounding moves of God.

The problem today is not that God had ceased to move, bring revivals, etc.; rather, the problem is we have discarded reverence and lost our sense of wonder. When God’s Word declares something as sin, we want to fight with Him about it. We want to make everything about us and what we want, instead of coming to Him with genuine recognition that He is God (hence, we are not). 

One can only speculate as to what could happen if we were to recapture the wonder of the Lord and surrender to Him. 

[1] Spiros Zodhaites, The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG, 1994), 2310.