It is not simply reading the Bible that grows deep roots to faith but contemplating on its truth and the application of it.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. ~ Psalm 1:1-3

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.

Why Study the Word? (Part 3)

For the follower of Jesus Christ, it is important to understand Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of studying the Scriptures. To truly be His disciple, it only stands to reason one will accept His perception of the Scriptures. First, however, a few considerations are in order.

  • The Scriptures read in the synagogues in His day were copies of copies. Jesus trusted   not only the written words of the Scriptures but also the divine preservation of them. 
  • Jesus considered the Old Testament accounts as literal, factual history. That is, He did not interpret the Scriptures allegorically.
  • Jesus teaches that the Scriptures are authoritative, completely trustworthy, and eternal, absolute truth. 
  • Jesus, who is the Word (see John 1:1-3), equates His words to being on par with the authority of the Scriptures.

The following are Jesus’ teachings about the Scriptures.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:44-45 (ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ~ Matthew 5:18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. ~ Luke 16:17

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:27

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ~ John 18:17

We also observe Jesus’ application of the Scriptures in the midst of temptation and spiritual warfare. When He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus repeatedly referred to the Scriptures. Then, when Satan also quoted Scripture, twisting them, Jesus was able to see through the deception because He had studied the Word (see Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

This brings us to the third reason to study the Word: the Scriptures, if we build our lives upon them, will give us a secure foundation. Jesus tells us,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Notice, both the wise and foolish face major storms in their lives; however, it is the wise who have prepared and built on a solid foundation. Friend, is your life being built securely on the foundation of God’s Word?

Why Study the Word? (Part 1)

Spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, Bible study, etc.) are not about having fun and enjoyment but are about transformation, gaining wisdom and discernment, and knowing God. This is a difficult, and sometimes painful, process. For the past fifty years or so the church has tried to compete with the world in entertainment, but take it from one whose obsession was once to be a drummer of a metal band and tour the world, the world will always develop better entertainment and throw bigger parties. However, the world will never excel in love, joy, wisdom, or authentic purpose.

We are told in the Scriptures,

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

We are told to “be diligent” for the purpose of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” If one can rightly handle the Scriptures, he can also wrongly handle them. We are later warned “that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1, NKJV). What will this look like?

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. ~ 2 Timothy 3:2, 4-5 (ESV)

The apostle Paul tells us plainly that those who truly desire to be godly in Christ will experience persecution of various kinds, while evil men and false teachers will increase (see 2 Tim. 3:12-13). Paul goes on to tell us the benefit and the Source of the Scriptures:

You have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Did you catch these? The Scriptures are able to make you wise, and all Scripture is breathed out by God. The apostle Peter tells us in his second epistle,

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

If our faith and devotion to Jesus Christ is genuine, then we must be serious students of His Word. Paul further warns us:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

I believe we have entered this time of which the apostle speaks, as many who profess to be Christians are downplaying, even bringing into question, the Word of God and following after the whims of their feelings and emotions. Many treat the Scriptures like a great buffet, picking the parts they like and refusing the rest. Or else treating them as if truth changes like styles and trends.

There is nothing inherently wrong with entertainment, fun, or feelings; however, it is too easy for us to waste hours amusing ourselves, yet barely give time to God and His Word. Likewise, it is too easy to be swayed by our own feelings while rejecting God’s objective and absolute truth. No, being diligent in studying His Word is not always fun, and it does go against our sinful biases. Nevertheless, as the days become increasingly evil as the Word of God foretells, we must become more diligent if we would become wise and discerning in these perilous times.

Like A Tree Planted by Water

If you desire for your faith to grow, then you must dig into God’s Word. Furthermore, you must not simply read it, but reflect on it, believe it, and respond to what God reveals. Stop living according to the counsel, philosophies, and the ideologies of those who deny, reject, and oppose God and His Word. Truth will become clearer to you, as will the activity of God.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~ Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV)

Pain Accompanies Spiritual Growth

“Lord, use me for Your glory!” Have you ever prayed this? If so, this is an invitation for pruning, and pruning hurts. Furthermore, if you are sincere about such a prayer, the Lord will answer your prayer. Strangely, the way we tend to envision the answer is not at all the way it comes.

A. W. Tozer once penned, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Whenever God uses a man or woman for his kingdom purposes, He will cut away pride, selfishness, hatred, and self-sufficiency.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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 15:1-5 (ESV)

Jesus states several crucial elements concerning our spiritual health, growth, and fruitfulness. First, the Father is the One who brings about growth and fruit. Neither of these are by our own doing.

Second, part of our growth comes through pain. The Father “cuts away” what is either dead or “diseased” (i.e., injurious).

Third, if we truly desire to grow, bear fruit, and be useful to God in His kingdom, then we must abide (dwell in, remain) in Christ and His teachings. This does require a measure of self-discipline on our part.

And finally, Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing, which explains why much of the church is impotent. This is not a criticism but simply a statement. Too often we set our plans into motion, lift a small prayer for blessing, then watch the results fade away like smoke. Hence the reason for pruning—dependence solely on Him.

As mentioned, pruning hurts; yet, this is necessary for spiritual health and bearing fruit. Sometimes when pruning (various trials) comes, persons often think it is because they have done something wrong, as though God is upset with them. But notice what Jesus says: “Every tree that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

“Lord, use me for Your glory!” If you truly desire this, then there will be times of pruning, but do not be disheartened. Just as the Father disciplines those that He loves (see Heb. 12:5-8), so He also prunes the fruit bearing ones who glorify Him. Indeed, pruning hurts, but it is necessary for healthy growth.

When God Is Silent

There, perhaps, is no other indescribable anguish of the heart and spirit than the silence of God—especially for those who have experienced His love, witnessed His power, and can recount times of closeness and answered prayer.

Extended periods of God’s silence and inactivity can truly test one’s faith. Emotions can seem like a turbulent sea, with questions tormenting the mind like seemingly endless waves pounding on the shore. Dark storm clouds block out the light of the sun—and nights are ever darker still.

Such experiences are not uncommon for the people of God. The psalmist writes, 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? ~ Psalm 13:1 (ESV)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ~ 22:1-2

The prophet Habakkuk cries out,

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? ~ Habakkuk 1:2

The prophet Jeremiah pleads to the Lord,

Be not a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. ~ Jeremiah 17:17

In the New Testament, although it was clearly confirmed to John the Baptist that Jesus is the Messiah, after being imprisoned he sent disciples to ask Jesus,

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? ~ Matthew 11:3

Times of divine silence, especially extended periods, causes common questions to arise:

  • What has happened?
  • What did I do?
  • Is God angry with me?
  • Will God speak again?
  • Has God abandoned me?
  • Is God trustworthy?
  • Why?

The reasons for God’s silence varies. Sometimes it is to humble us, and to remind us of our dependence on Him. If we are not careful, we can become conceited and think we are quite “spiritual”. Such pride usually lacks love.

Sometimes God’s silence is due to willful and persistent sin.

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. ~ Isaiah 59:2

Still, sometimes God is silent to stretch and grow our faith. We live in an age in which feelings are exalted. Too often we lean, depend, and even put trust in our ever-changing feelings. However, our faith is to be anchored on God, His character, and His promises.

When experiencing God’s silence, what are we to do? First, we should examine ourselves. Are we refusing to confess and repent of sin (e.g., immorality, unkind words, unforgiveness, idolatry, prayerlessness, etc.)? Second, we need to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. God is unchanging. He remains faithful. Third, and this is the most difficult, we are to continue to trust in spite of our feelings and doubts.

The prophet Micah shared in such experiences, too. He writes,

My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7:8-9 (CEV)

Book Summary: Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World

“Our society is fast-paced, hectic, and distracting. Although the Lord tells us to, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ (Ps. 46:10) stillness, solitude, and quietness are unnerving for many. In fact, a mere two minutes of silence brings on a measure of anxiety for some. We have grown accustomed to, even dependent on, having noise and busyness surrounding us: television, video games, stereos, headsets, ballgames, concerts, exercise machines, and even fans for ‘white noise.’ From having the radio on in the morning while waking up to having a television on at night while getting ready for bed, there is constant noise and distractions to hinder us from healthy times of silence, solitude, prayer, and biblical meditation.”   ~ from the Preface

Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World has a devotional format, but has Christians on the go more in mind. The idea is for persons, when they have a few moments (waiting for a doctor’ appointment; sitting at an airport; waiting for a friend at a coffee shop; or even a busy parent who just has a couple of minutes in a restroom), to help shift their distracted minds and restless hearts on the things of God.  

Some of the subjects include: the person, character, and attributes of God; the person and work of Christ; grace; one’s identity in Christ; warnings of false teachers; the Scriptures; etc. And each meditation ends with questions to ponder on.

There are five articles in the back on: Biblical meditation; prayer, the Scriptures, Grace, and What is Christianity?

The book is a available through Barnes and Noble for $15.99 (softcover). I hope you will take the time to order a copy. I welcome your feedback at: gpproclamation@yahoo.com.

Blessings!

The Emotionally Cancerous Choice and Its Path to Healing

Each of us have been hurt, betrayed, or abused by another at some point in time. This comes with being human, living among other humans, in a fallen world. Nevertheless, the manner in which we handle and respond to our hurts, betrayals, and abuses is vital.  Our immediate emotion is anger. This is a natural response—especially if the wrong done was neither provoked or justified. However, to hold onto anger and the unwillingness to forgive is injurious to one’s own wellbeing.

“Why should I forgive him? He does not deserve forgiveness! I will never forgive him!” How often such words are spoken with gritted teeth. Yet, such words reveal great misunderstanding. Forgiveness is not about letting a person off the hook and acting as though the offense had never happened; rather, it is the freeing one’s own self from a self-imposed prison, and finding healing from an emotional cancer that will grow. As for not deserving, none of us deserves forgiveness, but each of us need it.

The emotional cancer resulting from an unwillingness to forgive can affect a person’s relationship with others—especially if the bitterness towards the unforgiven one is constantly vomited onto others. The refusal to forgive will also strangle inner joy. However, the most detrimental aspect of stubbornly refusing to forgive another is the way it affects one’s ability to hear and relate to God. Here, the pretense of religion can be very deceiving, because a person can believe he is in good standing with God, but completely oblivious to the warnings of the Scriptures.

Jesus says,

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:15 (ESV)

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ~ Matthew 18:32-35

The apostle John writes:

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ~ 1 John 3:15

So, as one can see, forgiveness has much to do with the wellbeing of the one who had been offended. But let’s be honest, many of us have permitted the emotional cancer of resentment to eat away at us. Some who are reading this probably still have not had it “treated.” If we would be healed, then we must be willing to forgive. This form of “chemo” is no easier than the physical kind.

So how does one begin to forgive?

  1. Be honest about the offense and the hurt, as well as the possibility of the perpetrator not being honest about the offense. Your healing is not for the perpetrator but for you. Be honest with God about your feelings, anger, hatred, disgust, shame, etc. Be honest with Him about the pain and turmoil you feel, and take the time to cry.
  2. Ask God for the courage, grace, and ability to extend forgiveness. This might need to be prayed several times. Yet, this process will help flush out some of the infection, so to speak. As you experience the anger, ill-will, etc., confess these. John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  3. Be open and willing to forgive, and leave any judgment in God’s hands. Allow yourself to heal and to move on.
  4. Try not to dwell on the offense. Living through it is quite enough; there is no need to keep reliving it in your mind.
  5. Repeat the steps as needed.

Forgiveness tends to feel counterintuitive, but it really is for the emotional and spiritual health of the forgiver. To refuse to forgive only permits the emotional cancer to grow and spread. Forgiveness and letting go is the only cure. It seems like a cruel irony: the refusal to forgive will not harm the person the grudge is held against, but will cripple and destroy the one holding the grudge. Your willingness to forgive is not for the benefit of the one who hurt you, the benefit is for you. Do yourself well—forgive. You are worth it!

Using Loneliness to Your Advantage (Part 2)

One of the reasons loneliness is so difficult is because we were created for community.

The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18

A helper, companion, and friend. The couple would then have offspring, not only for reproduction but also to create family. Families would become tribes, etc.

However, we know that not everyone is equal in families or societies, regardless how much people say they want “equality.” Even these persons and groups shun and dislike certain persons, whether it’s because of difference of religious or political views, social and economical class, styles or culture, the way persons look, etc. Thus, not everyone has friends or family to hang out with.

With all this said, there are many who do not have family or friends to be with during the holidays. There are others who do, but who feel so disconnected from those around them. Understand, loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Being alone is simply not having people around. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a sense or feeling of being disconnected, rejected, unloved, undesired, unwanted, and/or ostracized by others. 

Strangely, anyone can be susceptible to feelings of loneliness, whether it is one who is considered the “dreg” of society or the beloved captain of a football team. Regardless, the feelings of loneliness are very real and can be destructive if not kept in check.

Another way to use loneliness to your own advantage is to use it to consider who you are and what you desire to be. I do not mean what psychologists call “visualization” (i.e., if you want to be a rockstar, then picture yourself up on stage, etc.). Rather, who are you as a person? What is your temperament? What are your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and passions? What kind of person do you want to be (e.g., kind, compassionate, mean, or obstinate)? What do you want to accomplish or be remembered for?

Times of loneliness can also be times to consider the deeper issues of life: What is truth? Is there a God? What is justice? Does life have meaning? What happens when we die? Too often we can be influenced by the media, teachers, preachers, gurus, emotions, etc. However, it requires times of solitude to genuinely reflect on these issues. These times of pondering can also aid in observing contradictions and logical fallacies. For example, when corrupt politicians try to lecture society on morality and ethics; when university professors deny absolutes, then decry “injustice”; when preachers talk about following God, but then deny His Word; etc.

Most of us will experience rejection of some form, as well as seasons of loneliness. During these times decisions will be made. Will we allow these trials/fires to consume or purify? Will be become bitter or better? Will we permit the experiences to transform us or the opinions of others to conform us?

Loneliness is painful—at times, emotionally excruciating. But it can be a beneficial discipline—even a healthy forging, if we will endure it. If you are presently going through the fires, truly I know it is difficult, and it is years later that I have come to appreciate the value of loneliness. 

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. ~ 1 Kings 19:11-12

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:33