…"But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!" 2Tim. 2:9
Churches are everywhere. So why is it so difficult to find a good one? There are many towns and cities void of even one Bible-teaching, gospel-proclaiming, disciple-making church. There are several reasons good churches are so rare today.
1. Leaders are entrepreneurs, not shepherds.
Recent decades have given rise to an abundance of maverick churches led by entrepreneurial pastors with grandiose visions. They approach the pulpit not as shepherds of God’s flock, but as CEOs executing corporate strategies for their personal brands. That model is a stark departure from the New Testament’s job description for pastors and church leaders, but its popularity is pervasive in U.S. churches and it’s sadly been exported around the world.
2. Leaders prize pragmatism, not preaching.
Another factor that makes finding a good church difficult is the widespread lack of doctrinal conviction and commitment. Postmodernism dictates that we don’t hold too tightly to one truth, one moral standard, or one way of thinking. And as that mindset further infiltrates the church, many shepherds are exposing their own wavering convictions to the very people they are called to protect and defend. Doctrinal statements are altered or simply ignored, as churches prize pragmatism and popularity over faithfully preaching the truth of God’s Word.
3. Pragmatic entrepreneurs do not produce mature disciples.
Finally, many believers struggle to find a church because they are confused about what constitutes a good church in the first place. The prevalence of unqualified teachers and a weak commitment to the truth have left a generation of Christians spiritually undernourished. They sense their need for faithful teaching and caring leadership but they lack the discernment and wisdom to identify such a church. They simply don’t know what to look for.
The quality of a church is inextricably tied to the quality of its leaders. Yet the evangelical landscape is overrun with CEOs, self-help gurus, stand-up comedians, and motivational speakers masquerading as pastors. While the world looks for leaders with skills and charisma, the church must focus on the biblical qualifications for church leaders.
We will discuss what the bible says are the qualifications of a pastor, and what a good church should be.
The period of European history known as the Dark Ages were just that—dark. Mortality rates were exceptionally high. Medical advances could not keep up with the spread of disease. Poverty and illiteracy were pervasive. And on top of all that, the light of God’s Word was monopolized and distorted by the Roman Catholic Church. Only the religious elite had access to Scripture, and most of them manipulated and perverted its message beyond recognition.
That darkness gave way to the Reformation. The Protestant Reformers recovered the gospel and made Scripture accessible to the common man. They rejected the idea of a pope who presumed to speak for God on earth. God spoke through Scripture and the Reformers devoted themselves tirelessly to the labor of making it readily available in the language of the people.
Today, people all over the world can own and study the Bible in their own languages. That great blessing for Christians brings the responsibility to study God’s Word. And from that study, believers have the joy and duty of representing the Creator and proclaiming His message.
Those fundamentals, when incorporated into your study of Scripture, will progressively grow your knowledge of God and yourself, and cultivate a well-rounded biblical worldview. It is in His Word that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in an intimate and saving way. He owns us, knows us, and holds us responsible to know, understand, and proclaim Him on His terms and not our own.
Scripture is sacred and we should treat it as such by carefully handling its truth. Paul exhorted Timothy to study Scripture as a workman “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The tradesmen of Paul’s time needed to carry out their work with precision and great care. Paul was saying that the same sort of approach is needed when studying Scripture.
God instructed Israel concerning that very issue:
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)
In other words, you ought to have God’s Word running around in your mind all the time. If you’re reading a portion of the New Testament thirty times in a row, as previously suggested, it will penetrate and shape your thinking. It should lead to meditation, which takes all the dimensions of study we’ve discussed and molds them into a unified understanding of biblical truth.
The word meditate can evoke thoughts of empty minds and eastern religions. But it is more likely that Hindus and Buddhists borrowed the term from the Bible and twisted its meaning to conform with their false religions. From the time of Joshua’s military conquest of Canaan, we hear the Lord instructing His people to meditate on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). So what does meditate mean? Biblically, it means to focus your mind on one subject.
In Deuteronomy, God tells His people that they should bind His words, “as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals to your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). God says He wants His Word everywhere.
David highlighted the role meditation plays in our sanctification when he wrote the first Psalm. The blessed man is one who meditates both day and night on God’s law rather than seeking counsel in the fellowship of unbelievers (Psalm 1:1–3). It is the key to his perseverance and fruitfulness as a child of God.
Meditation is no less needed today. We live in a culture that continually assaults us with distractions through billboards, television, the Internet, and more. God says that we should keep His Word perpetually in front of our eyes, filling our minds and conversations wherever we go.
Paul clarified what our minds should feed on:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Ultimately, our ongoing relationship with God hinges on sound biblical study. He places monumental importance on knowing, proclaiming, and worshipping Him rightly. And Scripture is the engine driving all of those things. The Dark Ages may have ended, but those who neglect to study and meditate on Scripture shun the light of God’s Word and continue to walk in willful darkness.
“The word that most adequately describes this age is crisis. Political convulsions, national upheaval, racial unrest, rebellion against the existing order and outright revolution are becoming almost normal. We know that tomorrow’s headlines will probably bring some new crisis to our attention.
Many people are asking, “Where is history heading?” A careful student of the Bible will see that God controls the clock of destiny. Amid the world’s confusion, God’s omnipotent hand moves, working out His unchanging plan and purpose; and the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).
Jesus Christ is coming to earth again. It is Christ who is in control, and He will determine the outcome. If the Bible is clear on any point, it is this: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time” (Hebrews 9:28).
What is to be the attitude of the Christian toward the fact of Christ’s coming? One man said to me, “Well, the Lord is coming soon; so what is there to do about anything?”
Such a fatalistic attitude is not the one taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. When He told His disciples of His return to earth, He said, “Do business till I come” (Luke 19:13), and “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (Matthew 24:46).
Dwight L. Moody once said, “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. Its ruin is getting nearer and nearer. God said to me, ‘Moody, here’s a lifeboat. Go out and rescue as many as you can before the ship sinks.’” If the end seemed about to come in Moody’s day (he died in 1899), how much closer must we be to the climax of history?
If there was ever a time when we should man the lifeboats and go out and rescue as many as we can, it is now. That is why we proclaim the Gospel in the strategic centers of the world wherever we can.
We believe this is a day of glorious opportunity to proclaim the saving grace and power of Christ, and to declare the Gospel against the opposition of every false ideology.
George Whitefield, the great English evangelist, said, “I am daily waiting for the coming of the Son of God.” But he did not sit down and do nothing. He burned out his life in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
The prophet Daniel lived in a pagan nation and under the worst possible conditions. He knew that God’s judgment was about to come, but he did not fold his hands and wait for it to strike. He opened wide his windows toward Jerusalem and prayed. And he walked with God.
It would not seem that the reign of Ahab and Jezebel in Israel would have been a good setting for the ministry of a great prophet of God. But Elijah walked with God during that dark period, and he used the treachery of cowardly King Ahab and the clever strategy of the evil Queen Jezebel as a backdrop against which to reflect the glory and power of God.
Crisis times are times when Christ should be proclaimed. Although there has never been a worldwide revival, I believe we may be on the verge of one now. The Spirit of God is making His power felt throughout the world. From Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America, from the islands of the sea and from Australia, there are reports of the activity of the Spirit of God. This is a glorious time to be alive.
I have found that people everywhere, all over the world, will respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we present it simply, with Christian compassion.
There are some who are in deep despair. I receive many letters daily from people who are discouraged, depressed and ready to give up. They are yielding to the pessimism of our times, to the mood and spirit of our day. A man in England wrote, “It’s too late to do anything about the world.”
That isn’t true. All is not lost. We still have the Bible, and “the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9). We still have the Holy Spirit. We still have the fellowship of believers. We still have the prayers of God’s people. We still have an open door to most of the world for proclaiming the Gospel.
There is much to be gained. Remember, Jesus said: “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:43).
I would like to give you three keys that will open doors of usefulness and power for you. The first is the key of humility—humility born of honest self-evaluation. It is essential for all people to realize their own weaknesses, sins and failures. The Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The word for sin here is hamartia; it means “missing the mark, failing, falling short.”
To confess that we are sinners is the most difficult thing for us to do, because we are so proud. We want to feel that we can be good and honorable and decent without any help from God.
But God has declared, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), that means me.
The Bible tells me that I have sinned.
My conscience tells me that I have sinned.
My reason tells me that I have sinned.
Every part of my nature points an accusing finger and cries, “Guilty! Guilty! There is none righteous!”
John Bunyan said, “When I saw John Bunyan as God saw John Bunyan, I did not say I was a sinner; I said that I was sin from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.”
Great prophets were used of God because they were humble. They saw themselves as God saw them and realized the truth about themselves. When you confess with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5), you will stand on the threshold of a victorious life. When you face the fact of your own inadequacy, your own failure, your own sinfulness, you have taken the first step toward gaining a glorious and wonderful personal victory that will carry you through the days of crisis that lie ahead.
The second key is the recognition that God’s standard of a holy life is not attainable by human effort. God is first of all concerned with what you are. What you do is the result of what you are.
There is no way that we by ourselves can generate sanctification. Our sanctification is Christ. There is no way we can be holy. Our holiness is Christ. This caused Paul to write: “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
The third key is reliance on the Holy Spirit. To paraphrase Galatians 5:16—“Walk by means of the Spirit.” In Romans 8:14 Paul writes: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
You cannot live the Christian life by yourself. The Holy Spirit must live in you and express Himself through you.
Paul said, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11).
Sin shall no longer rule or dominate you when you are allowing the Holy Spirit to live Christ’s life through you. It is living by faith, living by trust, living in dependence upon God.
If we look to our own resources, our own strength or our own ability, as Peter did when he walked on the water, we will fail. During these crisis days, we must remember that many stumble along the road of life. We must rescue as many as we can before catastrophe strikes.
God is at work in the midst of crisis. In the midst of the problems, pessimism and frustrations of our day, God is doing His own work. Let us realize that there are certain things we cannot do. Let us be faithful in the things He has called us to do.
Will you surrender totally to Christ? As you look forward to the day when Christ shall return, be up and about your Father’s business—give of your income, spend time in prayer, be faithful in worship, tell others about Jesus Christ—and you will discover the usefulness, the optimism, the confidence, that belong to God’s children.”
Billy Graham 1962
Let me urge you today to become, as Jesus said, “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). Think about what it would mean, what changes you would have to make, what habits you’d have to break . . . most of all, what masks you’d have to peel off.
At Halloween everyone wears a mask or hides their face in some way or another. They talk to you from under the mask. You can’t see their face or eyes, you can’t see the expressions they were making, which would help you to decipher the sincerity they were talking to from.
It’s a funny thing, but when we wear literal masks, nobody is fooled. But how easy it is to wear invisible ones and fake out people by the hundreds week after week.
Did you know that the word hypocrite comes from the ancient Greek plays? An actor would place a large, grinning mask in front of his face and quote his comedy lines as the audience would roar with laughter. He would then slip backstage and grab a frowning, sad, oversized mask and come back quoting tragic lines as the audience would moan and weep. Guess what he was called. A hupocritos—one who speaks from under a mask. That’s the exact word Matthew recorded that Jesus used of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:23, 25, 27, 29).
Servants who are “pure in heart” have peeled off their masks. And God places special blessing on their lives.
The Bible teaches us that God is in three Persons. God is One, but He is manifested in three Persons. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Don’t ask me to explain it—I can’t. It’s impossible for me to explain to you the Holy Trinity. I accept it by faith. God the Father; God the Son, who is equal with the Father in every respect; God the Holy Spirit, who is equal with the Son and with the Father in every respect.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is never to be referred to as “it.” He is a mighty Person, the Holy Spirit of God. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is eternal. The Bible tells us that He is holy. He is referred to in the New Testament alone some 100 times as the Holy Spirit—absolute holiness, absolute purity, absolute righteousness.
The Bible tells us of the work of the Holy Spirit. What does He do? We are told in John 16:8 that He convicts men and women of sin: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Before you can come to Christ you must acknowledge that you are a sinner. You must renounce your sins. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts you of your sin. He makes you feel uncomfortable. He pricks your conscience. He makes you admit that you are a sinner, and then He gives you the strength and the power to turn from your sins.
The Bible teaches that the moment you receive Jesus Christ as Savior, the Spirit of God comes in and gives you new life. For the first time, you begin to live with a capital “L.” There’s a whole new direction to your life because the Spirit of God has given to you the very life of God.
The Bible also teaches us that the Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This cluster of fruit should characterize the life of every Christ-born child of God. We’re to be filled with love, we’re to have joy, we’re to have peace, we’re to have patience, we’re to be gentle and kind, we’re to be filled with goodness, we’re to have faith, we’re to have meekness, and we’re to have temperance. But what do we find? In the average so-called Christian today we find the opposite.
Every person, before coming to Christ, is dominated by one nature—the “old man.” You’re controlled by your ego, your self. The moment you receive Christ as your Savior, that self is put down. Christ is put on the throne in your life, and the Spirit of God dominates your life.
However, self is still there—sometimes hidden, sometimes quiet—waiting for the opportunity and the chance to attack the citadel of your soul and take control again. You have the will as a Christian to yield either to the flesh and live a fleshly, carnal life; or to yield to the Spirit and live a Spirit-filled life.
Which life are you living? Are you living a fleshly, carnal life? Oh, you go to church, but there is no daily walk or fellowship with Christ. There’s not the joy, the buoyancy that you know a Christian should have.
God never meant it to be that way. God meant the Christian life to be on the highest possible plane at all times, bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
I cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit by my own strength. I cannot love, I cannot have joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance by myself. I have no power. But this Holy Spirit, who lives in me since I received Christ as my Savior, is the one who gives me the power to love. He gives me the joy. He gives me the peace. He gives me the patience. He bears the fruit in my life.
You say, “I’m a Christian.” Are you? Well, let’s see what kind of fruit you have produced. Is your life filled with immorality? Is it filled with idolatry? That is, do you have more time for other things than you do for God? Is there hatred? Is there wrath? Is there strife? Is there partying? Is there envy? Is there jealousy?
Now regarding the fruit of the Spirit: The first one is love, and this is the heart of it all, because all of them are wrapped up in this one word: love.
There are three words for love in Greek. In English there is only one. But in Greek, eros is sensual love. Philia is love between friends or the love between a man and wife. And there is one word to describe supernatural love, God’s love for us: agape.
Notice God’s love. You and I were sinners. We were enemies of God. We had rebelled against God. We deserved hell. But the Bible says God loved us anyway with an everlasting love, so that He was willing to give His Son to die on the cross for our sins.
When I see Jesus Christ dying there, the nails in His hands, the spikes through His feet, and the crown of thorns on His brow—when I see Christ suffering and dying—I see the love of God outpoured for us.
If Christ were dying for friends it would be one thing; but He was dying for enemies. The moment you give your life to Christ, the Bible teaches that God sheds abroad in your heart that same love—agape love.
There is not a person who has the ability to love that way unless he or she comes to Christ—unless the Holy Spirit has control of their life. You don’t have the power to love. But when men and women turn to God, God gives them agape love—and then they love their neighbors no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their circumstances.
This is the love that God gives as a gift, and it is produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit who lives there.
Then there’s joy. The summons to rejoice is sounded no less than 70 times in the New Testament. Seventy times in the New Testament it says that Christians should rejoice! Count it all joy, even when you face trials and tribulations and troubles.
There is a vast difference between pleasure and Christian joy. Pleasure depends on circumstances. Many times it requires good health to really enjoy yourself. But Christian joy is completely independent of health or circumstances.
When circumstances are savage, when circumstances are against you, when every modern comfort is withdrawn, there is still the miracle of joy produced by the Holy Spirit who lives within. How many sick people I’ve called on who knew Christ and there was a radiant joy—there was heaven on their faces.
And there is peace. Millions of people would gladly give their right arms to find peace. They would like to have deep, inward, satisfying peace.
You are searching for peace: you long for it. You thought you would find it if you made a lot of money, but you didn’t find it. You thought you would find it if you had sexual experiences, but you didn’t find it.
You thought you would find it if you got drunk, but you didn’t find it. You thought you would find it in getting and accumulating a lot of knowledge, so you got all the degrees you could get, but you didn’t find it. You’ve searched the religions of the world, but you haven’t found it.
There are a thousand ways you’ve turned, trying to find peace, but you haven’t found it. You’ve escaped from reality for a few moments, for a few hours, and then it’s back—the old burden, the old suffering, the old emptiness, the old monotony, the old grind. Give your life to Christ and let Him give you “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
As you yield completely to Him as Savior and Lord—when you come to Christ by an act of faith—He gives you the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of the Spirit. After the Holy Spirit is in you, you must yield to Him to the extent that He controls your life. Then sin will not rule over you. “He who is in you [the Holy Spirit] is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
You say, “What must I do?” By an act of faith you must receive Christ. You must give Him your total life, your intellect, your emotional life. Your will must be bent to His will—surrender, commit, receive. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Give your life to Him! Don’t let anything keep you back! You may never again be this close to the Kingdom of God.
Who doesn’t like being on a victorious team? Victory is something we all want to experience. In fact, I have never met anyone who would choose defeat over victory. Human nature strives for victory. The late Paul “Bear” Bryant, award-winning coach at the University of Alabama, said, “The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.”
Are we willing to endure the training and the vigor’s that will lead us to victory?
What is the greatest and most costly battle ever to take place? Who was the victor, and what was the reward?
The greatest battle ever fought was between good and evil. This great battle took place at Golgotha—also known as Mount Calvary—a rugged hill outside the walled city of Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ was Victor, paying the cost with His blood. The reward was the salvation of human souls.
Jesus had spent three years with 12 chosen men—His disciples. He had walked with them across the plains and through the valleys. He had sailed with them upon the waters. He’d sat with them on the mountains and taught them many things, including this: “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).
This was the very purpose of Jesus’ birth into our world. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. This is why the word Christmas starts with the word Christ.
Jesus gave his disciples a glimpse of what was to happen, but they did not comprehend that the Man they believed to be their King could ever fall into the brutal hands of mere men. They were focused on the Friend they called Master—the One who preached salvation and a coming kingdom, the One whom they believed to be the promised Messiah.
Jesus willingly died on the cross to identify with all those searching for truth. Are you among them? Have you heard what Jesus has said to you from the cross? You were there. I was there. Oh, it’s true that we hadn’t been born yet, but our sins were present that day. It wasn’t just the soldiers, thieves, religious leaders, and passersby who took part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Our sins also nailed Him to the tree.
When Jesus hung on the cross, a great unseen cosmic battle raged in the heavens. And in the end Christ triumphed over all the forces of evil and death and hell, giving us the greatest of all hope—eternal forgiveness.
Though the cross repels, it also attracts. It possesses a magnetic quality. Once you have been to the cross, you will never be the same. The greatest vision of sin is at the cross, where we also see the greatest vision of love.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
This is what Christmas is all about.
If you hear Him speaking to you today, ask Him to forgive you.
Ask Him to come into your life and make you a brand new person.
The one He created you to be when He brought you into this world.
He will do it. He’s just waiting for you. Ask Him now…
People have all kinds of ideas and notions on whom they are to marry, how they go about finding “the one” to marry, and the list of standards and ideals they have for the one they marry. Let’s clear up a few things, shall we?
The bible doesn’t say anything about waiting for your soul mate to get married. It also doesn’t say anything about God having that one special person just for you…although people will argue with me on that one! What it does say is that we are to get or find a spouse—that means you don’t sit and wait for God drop one into your lap.
The only other clear directive to believers is to make sure that the person you marry is also a believer. (See 1Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14.) Notice that scripture doesn’t tell us to marry a person who simply says he or she is a believer. There is a huge difference between the two, but in all honesty, most people don’t get that.
Far too often single people—especially women—will date anyone who claims to be a Christian regardless of whether or not they have any real evidence of action to back that report up. You are not a Christian just because you went to church as a child, or because you attend services on Christmas and Easter. Even sitting in church every Sunday doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in your garage makes you a car. There are signs that you need to look for when trying to evaluate a person’s commitment to their faith. And make no mistake, it is exactly what you should be doing during the dating process.
Does the person actually show the fruit of their proclamation of faith? Does he regularly attend worship? Is she actively involved in a local church body? How often does he read his bible, pray, or fast? Is she a generous giver who volunteers her time, money and also tithes? Or is this person someone who just stamps “Christian” on their life but is not living out the Christian disciplines? Are they impatient, inflexible, demanding and selfish? Do their behaviors reflect the heart of a true believer or do they act no differently than those pagans in the world around us?
You need to really look at the person you are interested in and honestly assess their commitment to self- restraint, denying their flesh, exercising sacrificial attitudes and a devotion to truly following Jesus Christ. Check the fruit. Are they the real deal, or just some facsimile or counterfeit of a genuine believer? Far too often single people will jump into a relationship and get all emotionally tangled with another person who claims to be a believer but in reality, is living like total hell.
They don’t read the bible, pray, give to or even attend a church regularly. Some of these men and women may attend church but are out there living just like the heathens when it comes to dating by freely giving oral sex or fornicating their little brains on the first few dates. Clearly there are those who say they are a Christian, and then there are those that truly live as one.
Singles out there in the dating pool must be more discerning and less duped and dense when it comes to choosing the person they will be yoked to in marriage. Don’t make the common mistake thinking all that matters is what a person says in regard to their faith. This is definitely a time that actions speak louder than words, and you need to see their faith in action.
Most people don’t understand the power of sex. Our culture has poisoned their thinking and they’ve bought the lie that sex is just something you do because it’s exciting and feels good. Most people are totally unaware of the consequences of being sexually involved with another person.
I’m convinced that we are clueless about the ramifications of sex done the wrong way instead of the right way—God’s way. We have to start connecting the dots, folks. How you behave sexually outside of marriage has an impact on sex inside your marriage. It’s an important message that we must get out to our Christian young people.
Dr. Kenneth Ryan has written a great book titled, Finding Your Prince in a Sea of Toads. I highly recommend it for all single women and for parents of teenage girls. The book explains how to date the right way in order to “find a quality guy without getting your heart shredded”. A large portion of it is dedicated to telling young women how to handle themselves when it comes to sex and the importance of doing it right prior to marriage.
Dr. Ryan draws a brilliant analogy that drives home the point of how illicit sex has consequences:
In a classic ridiculous movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which a supposedly horrible beast is guarding a cave. The knights have heard horror stories about its ferocity, having been told, “It has long claws and horrible fangs. It is a hideous monster,” so they approach the cave with great fear and caution. But all they see is a little bunny hopping around in front of the cave. “It’s just a bunny,” the first knight says in a British accent filled with derision. He approaches the cave casually and the bunny leaps to his throat biting and killing the knight. More knights follow and are slaughtered by the fake-looking killer bunny. It is a classic moment in movie comedy.
Sex outside of marriage is like the bunny. It looks like a harmless, fuzzy thing that you would want to cuddle. It looks warm, friendly, and desirable. People who warn against the dangers of sex while single are usually considered radical nuts, out of step with modern times. The derision is similar to that of the knights just before they were slaughtered. Many people hear the warnings about premarital sex and think they are not susceptible to its powers. You are surrounded by movies, magazines, TV shows, and friends who all deal with dating sex as if it is a harmless little fluff ball, nothing but fun. Any negative consequences are ignored or laughed at. Everyone seems to think sex is “just a little bunny” until it is too late.
Far too many people have fallen prey to the fuzzy little bunny of sex, not thinking that it can actually do a ton of damage. This isn’t about condemning people but rather, we need to teach and warn others…especially our young people. You have to talk to your kids and warn them of the potential damage they face and the probability that they will impact their future sex lives when they become sexually active outside of marriage.
People who have had several partners, had all kinds of sexual experiences, used pornography, gotten into masturbation, or ventured into homosexual behavior, etc. have all sorts of imprinting and images stuck in their heads. There are memories and associations in their minds from all they have seen and done. Often people ask me, “Pastor, how do I get rid of these things so that my spouse and I can have a normal sex life?”
Now, this will really depress a lot of people—not that I’m here to depress you all—but the truth of the matter is you may never get rid of these images or feelings. One of the problems we have in Christianity is that because we believe in healing and restoration, people live casually. They think that what they do won’t matter because Jesus will heal it all and make it okay.
The reason so many churches don’t speak out about sexual sin is because Christians think it’s not big deal since once you get saved and ask Jesus to forgive you He’ll just heal it and it will all be gone. But that’s simply not true. Those of you who have been down this path, have you noticed the pictures never go away? You may be serving Jesus for 30 years and be living as pure as the wind driven snow, but sometimes you might be having sex with your spouse and you’ll still remember having sex with someone else. There are woman and men who love their husbands and wives deeply. Yet, if they are honest, they’ll admit that those thoughts still intrude into their minds even years later. They still remember it. A sound, a smell, a touch can all trigger a memory or an image in your mind. It’s not something you can just do casually without repercussions. This is why the bible says, don’t do it!
Paul warns us to flee from sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18 because “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” What he is saying is that you hurt yourself, you sin against yourself and there is damage done to your own mind and body when you do this.
When you go down this path it’s going to be harder for you and at some level, you may struggle for the rest of your life. There is no magic formula or pixie dust or special prayer that you can say to make the residual consequences disappear. I know that people get upset when I say this, but it’s true. It’s like if you commit murder and then repent and ask God to forgive you, He will. You can even ask the victim’s family to forgive you and they will…but you still have to serve your time in prison. Why? Because even though there is forgiveness, there are still consequences. You can ask God to forgive you of your sexual sin and in your standing before Him, it’s like it never happened. But in your body and in your mind there are consequences to that sin.
Scripture tells us we can renew our minds and take our thoughts captive and that is what people who have done these things have to do. Again, I’m not condemning people but trying to point out the importance of telling your kids and our young people about this. They need to know this is a big deal and that they can’t casually have sexual experiences before they’re married thinking they will just forget it all when “the right one comes along”. You don’t forget it. You can be haunted by the images and the experiences for the rest of your life.
Sexual experience are highly imprinting even if you are not serious about it. Your brain and body don’t know that it “doesn’t really mean anything” and that you aren’t serious and just messing around. There is hope and you are not doomed, but it will require a lot of intentionality, a lot of resistance, a lot of energy fighting the thoughts, feelings and temptations because of your past. You can heal and have a meaningful life, but there is no magic wand to wave to make it like it never happened. People who don’t go there, the ones who do sex right in the context of marriage, don’t struggle with these things.
That is why churches need to talk about this. We should all be driven to teach the truth and quit giving the picture that Jesus will just make things all better…especially those who have been down this road and know what I’m talking about. We must start connecting the dots and realize that sex is very powerful and it’s a really big deal outside of marriage.
Remember the analogy…it’s not just a cute fuzzy bunny.
For many severely conflicted couples, divorce seems to promise peace from the infighting, a fresh start, the hope of new love, and a kind of “reset button” for life. Many buy into the idea that ending a marriage is a viable way to solve relationship problems.
Besides, you reason, it will ultimately be better for all, and the kids will make it—kids are resilient. And you won’t have to look for to find voices to side with you. People who love you will give you a biased shoulder to cry on; they want you to feel loved and supported. But don’t be quick to listen to your personal fan club. They are not objective; they are out to protect and rescue you. People like this will always urge you to divorce if they believe you are suffering emotionally in your marriage.
But divorce has been oversold. What most fail to acknowledge is the longstanding pain created by a divorce. Contrary to popular belief, statistics show that after divorce children are not okay. The ‘trickle-down effect” causes them emotional trauma that stays with them throughout life. Also, divorced people are less healthy and less happy, and have a higher risk of substance abuse. Depression is three times greater in women who divorce than in those who do not. And divorce severely lowers one’s standard of living. In fact, if statistics are to be believed, the one sure way you can guarantee that you, your children, and your grandchildren will live at or below the poverty level for their entire lives is simply to get a divorce.
Never mind the religious implications, we should fight for our marriages because divorce sucks. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t eliminate the relational dysfunction evidenced in the marriage. Marriage problems are relationship problems, they are the result of how two people interact with each other. You may abandon a troubled marriage, but you will still bring the way you interact with others along with you. You can run, but you cannot hide who you are.
And what of the pain you feel when you have to deal with your ex-spouse? You may think you’ll be free when you “ex” your spouse, but you will relive the pain and awkwardness of facing that ex at every holiday, every birthday, and every special occasion. Even in divorce, spouses don’t disappear.
Neither do the problems that divorce creates. It will hound you for the rest of your life.
Yes there really is a National Day of Prayer. It’s the first Thursday of every May. What do you do on the National Day of Prayer?
To all those who deny that America was founded on Christian and biblical morals, I have printed the exact message from President Abraham Lincoln’s 97th Proclamation.
Read this carefully and note that this came from the Senate to the President’s desk. Also notice how many times, the entire devotion and dependence on Almighty God is referenced.
March 30, 1863
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State
Our country has changed dramatically since 1863. This was a time when we had a President and other government officials that were leading America by their faith and dependence on Almighty God. We stood out from the rest of the world. We openly and readily proclaimed our devotion and faith. It was nothing that we hid from or denied, and certainly nothing that offended people, as is much the case today.
The Bible was a revered book, whether you believed it or not, people honored it.
Not so today. The Bible is scorned and laughed at as just a story book full of fairy tales that you can’t take seriously, while other religious books are held in the highest regard, and shame on those that would ever bring any type of discredit to them. They may even loose their life if they do.
It’s time that is well over do, that those who claim that the Lord is the One True God, and He is their God, should not stand up, but take to their knees in humbleness and total dependence on Him, to confess the sins of this nation, and fall on the mercy of God, to heal our land and cleanse our nation from it’s evil ways. That God would restore us to wholeness, and once again be that beacon of light, that shines out into a dark world as a source for the kind of freedom, that only God can provide. That truly once again we can be “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.
I started this post with the proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, and I will end it with what God has to say to the nation that follows His ways. May God have mercy on us and heal our land.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.
And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.
Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
The LORD will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.
And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.
And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.
The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them,
and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them”. Deuteronomy 28: 1-14
Are you in anguish over what is going on in America today? Does it go deep into your heart and soul what is taking place in this land of ours? We need people whose hearts have been moved and touched by God, to feel what He feels and see what He sees.
Listen to what David Wilkerson said about anguish, in this short video message. Listen with your heart and not your ears.
There is a great joy to the early struggles of marriage. When people who “make it” talk about the early days of their marriage, they admit it was bittersweet but they say the sweet ended up outweighing the bitter. Researchers agree. In a recent study conducted by a team of leading family scholars headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, researchers found that “two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. In addition, the most unhappy in their marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.
The study went on to say that there is a kind of “divorce assumption” in America. People assume that they will either stay in a bad marriage and continue to be miserable or get a divorce and become happier. But the social science data challenge that assumption. Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no evidence that unhappily married people who divorced were any happier that unhappily married people who stayed married! In no way does divorce reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, increase one’s sense of mastery, or generally improve any of the twelve separate measures of psychological well-being. Even the unhappy spouses who divorced and remarried generally were no happier than the unhappy ones who stayed married. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that unhappy people are unhappy, period—married or not.
Dr. Waite concluded, “Staying married is not just for the children’s sake. . . . results like these suggest the benefits of divorce have been oversold.” It may look as if you will gain ground by eliminating some stresses of a bad marriage, but divorce creates more stresses than people bargain for: the ugliness of a breakup between partners; the reactions of children; potential disappointments and aggravation about custody issues, child support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or both parents; plus the brand new relationships or marriages that also fail to make one happy.
If you are expecting marriage to be nothing but bliss, you will be sorely disappointed. It’s not that there is not bliss to be had—there is; it’s that bliss comes only after blisters. Marital bliss is the result of marital blisters—lots of hard work, where you work till it hurts, sometimes till you bleed. Marriages get happy not because partners get along so grandly, but because they stubbornly outlast the ways they don’t get along. There are all kinds of rough spots to work through when you step into life with another person: financial problems, job reversals, loss and its accompanying depression, child problems, and sometimes even infidelity. These things can destroy. But they don’t have to.
I know there are millions of unhappily married people throughout the world today. Maybe you are one of them. But unhappy marriages are unhappy because most ignore (or are completely oblivious to) the mistakes they are making in their relationships. There is hope for troubled marriages—even if you have become heartbroken and confused. But there is a connection between what you are putting into your marriage and what you are getting out of it.
The mere suggestion that people need to change their own behavior in order to get a better result is often greeted by blank stares. People tend to believe they should have a good marriage for no other reason than that marriage is supposed to be good. They believe they should have a good marriage because that is what they prayed for. They believe they should have a good marriage because. . . .we.., just because.
Someone who went through a divorce said, “I hit a horrible impasse in my first marriage. I felt I was right and she was wrong, so I cashed out. In my second marriage I saw the same things starting to occur that destroyed my first marriage. At first I thought I had made another bad choice in partner, but I decided to change how I was married, not my marriage partner. It turned everything around. I love my second wife, but I also understand now that I could have loved my first wife and not experienced the hell of divorce and the lifelong awkwardness it creates—especially with kids.”
Divorce is not always what you think it is.
Lots of people wish life had an easy button… like the commercial for the office supply store Staples, where you just push the big red button with the word “easy” on it and everything you want just magically happens. But the reality is, there are no easy buttons in life, and that is especially true in Christianity—even though people often think and act like God is the easy button for us.
Frequently, believers will treat God like the magic genie or giant vending machine in the sky. We ask Him to do things just so we don’t have to do it ourselves; then we don’t have to put any work or effort into a situation. Husbands and wives will pray for God to make their marriage better, yet they will continue to invest no time and attention into the relationship. People may be diagnosed with some illness or condition and beg God to heal them and take it away, but they won’t do anything to change their diet, exercise or lifestyle that would improve their health. Students will blow off studying for an exam, yet earnestly pray for God to help them do well on the test. There are people who pray and ask God to bring them a job or a spouse, but never go out and look for one! I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that’s not the way it works.
God will help us. We can ask Him to give us the strength and courage to persevere and do the right things—like dealing with disease, a difficult relationship, or temptation—but He doesn’t just magically fix it or take it all away to make it easy. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with and controlling feelings. Here is one common example that I’ve heard numerous times from men: I’m so tempted to look at other women and pornography and I’ve prayed and prayed for God to take those feelings away. I’ve also heard people say that they are experiencing great temptation with attraction to another person other than their spouse and want God to just “take those feelings away”. Mind you, they don’t want to flee the temptation or stay away from this person or situation. They don’t want to learn to control their feelings—they want the easy button instead. And quite simply, there isn’t one.
Part of being a Christ follower is learning not to be led by feelings. We must learn that feelings don’t determine our behavior or else we will be doomed. Most people think that if they feel it, they just have to do it and that’s why they pray those prayers asking God to “take them away”. They reason that surely humans can’t help what they feel! Sadly, too many people end up being slaves to their feelings and think they cannot possibly manage, control or resist their urges, temptations and emotions. Therefore they believe that the only reasonable and certain solution is for God to just zap them away. Nonsense!
The bible is very clear that we are to fight temptation and that God will help us so we don’t have to succumb. I Corinthians 10:13 says: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV) That means you don’t have to give in, nothing is too much for you to take—despite what your feelings tell you. In the book of James scripture tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from you (4:7). But we don’t want to resist the devil; we want to pray and ask God to make him to go away. These are wrong thoughts and wrong prayers. God won’t do it. He won’t sprinkle you with pixie dust and make it all vanish. We are expected to live by His word and that means we have to do our part in this—never giving up and never giving in. James goes on to say we are blessed when we persevere (1:12 and 5:11)
Every human being is tempted—whether that means you are tempted by visual lusts, feelings of attraction or dissatisfaction, the tendency to be mean and nasty to people, complacency in your faith, food, alcohol, drugs, and the list goes on and on—but that doesn’t mean we are to be condemned for feeling certain things. We are to resist, not in our own will power, because as believers we have the Holy Spirit and the power of the risen Christ at work in us to enable us to stand up to any and every temptation or feeling. The problem is often people equate the want to with the have to, but just because you feel it, doesn’t mean that you listen to those wants or feelings or that you act upon them. And sometimes those “want tos” can be really strong, but they are never greater than the strength we have as Christians. Don’t tell me that your desire to look at porn is more powerful than Jesus!
It’s at times of temptation and struggle that we must rely on the power available to us. That is when it is vitally important to have the word of God in you so are able to quote the truths of scripture that will enable you to combat and fight those urges.** Only then will we be able to break free from being a slave to feelings and not allow emotions to dictate our choices. We must stop thinking we have to be “true and honest to our feelings”. They are the most unreliable and dishonest thing a person could possibly follow. As Christians we must learn to control our feelings and not allow them to control us.
Stop asking and expecting God to do all the heavy lifting, just so you can have it easy and not do the work that it requires.
Remember, Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
A lot of dilemmas that people find themselves in stem from their own choices, actions and behaviors. Maybe they were sexually promiscuous for years, went down the path of sexual promiscuity since they were teenagers, neglected their marriage and treated their spouse horribly, committed adultery, got divorced, entered into a step-family situation…the list can go on. The source or cause of the current issues and problems can be interchangeable, but the same question comes forth. They want to know how they can fix it, undo it and “make it normal”.
Most people want some magic prayer or answer as to how they can make it like it never happened. In other words, how do I unscramble the eggs that I scrambled? They don’t like the consequences of the choices they made in the past and don’t want those consequences to impact the present or future. Here’s the hard truth: We reap what we sow. It’s in The Bible and apparently churches aren’t teaching this to their people outside of the financial context. Preachers will often use the concept in terms of money, yet fail to extrapolate it to the whole of life.
If you never pay attention to your spouse, if you have an affair, if you sleep with a dozen different people and get an STD, guess what? You reap the negative consequences. But, if you spend time with your spouse, stay faithful in your marriage, remain a virgin and live monogamously, you reap the positive consequences. Amazing how that works!
The world never talks about the ramifications of our choices. A point of fact, personal responsibility and understanding cause and effect is a rare thing in the culture of today. Hollywood makes it seem as if there are no consequences to amoral behavior and that as long as you are doing what feels good to you and makes you happy, everything will be fine. But that is a lie. What we do has a direct connection to what we get in life.
Just take a look at our financial condition in our country today.
Here is where many Christians get hung up. They may have done all sorts of things prior to coming to faith, or even as a practicing believer, and they understand the concept of sin and forgiveness. So they ask God to forgive them of their sins and then expect the consequences of those sins to be erased. They misunderstand what it means to be forgiven of sin.
Before God it is as if these things had never happened. He does forgive and remove the guilt of our transgressions and makes us pure in our standing before Him. But the consequences remain for us to deal with. Please hear what I’m saying…can God do anything? Yes! He can remove every memory you have, restore any relationship, heal your mind and body of disease, and every other thing under the sun that we can ask for or need.
And I certainly can give you my best advice on how to live in the situation, deal with your circumstances, cope with the outcomes, manage the consequences and still have a good life. What I can’t do is tell you how to take it all away and make the fallout of your choices disappear because the principle of sowing and reaping always applies.
Paul writes in Galatian 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived:God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
It’s an imperative teaching that churches must pass onto their people and parents must get into their children. Yet, even though Paul warns us, it seems many Christians are deceived.
They operate under the delusion that they can scramble the eggs and then God, or their pastor can unscramble them. People think they can sow poison and destruction in their lives and that somehow there is a magic prayer to say or a magic wand to wave so they reap blessings and goodness. They want to harvest what they did not plant and think that it’s not fair to get anything less than their greatest wishes and desires. Christians think this way because they fail to understand the biblical concept of sowing and reaping sin, and its consequences.
Just look at David, one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history, yet the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, were with him for the rest of his life on earth.
It’s as if they are now sitting with a plate of scrambled eggs and saying, “But I don’t want my eggs scrambled. I want fried eggs. I prayed and asked God to change them into fried. Pastor Mark, make these fried for me, will you?” And here’s the deal. You can’t unscramble them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the plate of eggs. You may prefer, fried. You may long for fried. You may look at the other people sitting at the table enjoying their fried eggs and wish that you could have what they are having. You may think it’s not fair that you get stuck with the scramble eggs. But the bottom line is they are still good eggs. You can eat them, live with them and enjoy them just the same.
It’s important to learn and teach our kids that if you want fried eggs, it’s best not to scramble them in the first place.
Make good choices in your life, and teach your children to do the same. Then you will reap the blessings all through this life.
Understanding is extremely important when it comes to a healthy successful marriage. When you are willing to understand each other, new vision and hope will emerge. You will immediately become energized to work on your marriage, even if it is ripe with trouble. Here is a story that illustrates how everything changes when we understand. How our understanding can effect our willingness to stick to a difficult relationship.
Once there was a boy who lived with his mother and grandfather. His grandfather was not really an elderly man, but he was confined to a wheelchair and had very little use of his arms. His face was badly scarred, and he had a difficult time swallowing his food.
Every day the little boy was assigned the task of going into his grandfather’s room and feeding him lunch. This the little boy did faithfully, but not joyously. It was quite a mess to feed Grandfather.
As the boy grew into adolescence, he became weary of his responsibility. One day he stormed into the kitchen and announced that he had had enough. He told his mother, “From now on, you can feed Grandpa.”
Very patiently his mother turned from her chores, motioned for her son to sit down, and said, “You are a young man now. It is time you know the whole truth about your grandfather.” She continued, “Grandpa has not always been confined to a wheelchair. In fact, he used to be quite an athlete. When you were a baby, however, there was an accident.”
The boy leaned forward in his chair as his mother began to cry.
She said, “There was a fire. Your father was working in the basement, and he thought you were upstairs with me. I thought he was downstairs with you. We both rushed out of the house. Your grandfather found you, wrapped you in a wet blanket, and made a made a mad dash through the flames. He brought you safely to your father and me.
“He was rushed to the emergency room suffering from second-and third-degree burns as well as smoke inhalation. The reason he is the way he is today is because of what he suffered the day he saved your life.”
By this time the boy had tears in his eyes as well. He never knew; his grandfather never told him. And with no conscious effort on his part, his attitude changed. With no further complaints, he picked up his grandfather’s lunch tray and took it to his room.
Once you understand why your husband acts that way, or why your wife thinks that way, it will change how you feel about him or her, though nothing has really changed. Compassion will come with an accompanying perseverance—all because you now understand. I cannot overstate the importance of how everything changes when we understand.
We all go through life hitting some bumps in the road. Sometimes we get a flat tire, sometimes the weather is stormy and dark, but Jesus told us, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
The italics are mine.
In Christ Jesus our Lord we will find peace and rest for our souls. The world and the devil will throw you around and try to get you off the path.
In the world we will have tribulation, but take heart, or be of good cheer, Jesus has already won. The victory is already ours. Satan my be pointing a gun at your head and threatening to pull the trigger, but the gun has no bullets. It’s empty just like Satan’s threats are empty. Ha can’t do anything to you.
We don’t operate toward the victory, we operate from the point of victory.
My friend, that makes all the difference in the world.
Live your life in the victory that Jesus Christ has already secured for you on the cross. You are a winner, and Jesus is now your new Master, and He wants to give you peace and rest.
Listen to this short video from Dr. Tony Evans. I pray it will comfort you, no matter what your situation is.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
Are you weary and heavy with burdens?
Go to Jesus. Take some time away from everything and everyone, and spend some time alone with Him. He’s waiting for you. He wants to lift those burdens from off your shoulder, and He wants to give you His peace. he wants you to lean on Him and rest in His ever lasting arms.
May God help you to do that today.
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All marriages start off very selfishly. When a couple begins dating, it is generally all about each person’s own interests. “I like what you do for me. I like the way you make me feel. When I’m with you I’m happy. You make me feel validated.” At the beginning, marriage really is the ultimate in narcissistic expression. The reason you are getting married is because of what he/she does for you. And it’s the same for the other person. It’s all about me, me, me!
But then you get these two me, me, me people together and something has to give. Marriages where couples are able to make the transition from selfish, me-centered thinking, the ones where the husband and wife realize that they can’t get everything they want, are the ones that make it. The marriages where couples can’t do that…and many people don’t…are the ones that fall apart.
It’s amazing how many spouses are always asking, “How can I make my spouse___________? Fill in the blank with whatever fits.
How can I get my spouse to load the dishwasher the way I want?
How can I get my spouse to do the things I want to do?
How can I get my spouse to keep the house better?
How can I get my spouse to spend less money?
Chores, money, time, attitude…the list goes on infinitely. They may use other words like “get”, “change”, encourage”, “teach”, etc., but the real idea is how do I make my spouse do what I want? These are the people who have not made the shift from the me, me, me and I want, I like, I need mentality to a sacrificial, giving, putting the other first, we way of thinking.
Listen to me. The bottom line is that you can’t make anyone do anything. People will complain that their spouse doesn’t clean the bathroom the way they want, or fold the clothes, or hang the towels, or wash the dishes, the “right” way…which is code for my way!
I’ve got news for you, The Furor, Your Highness—she’s not your slave; and he’s not your slave! Stop being a narcissistic snot! Not everyone gets everything they want. If there is a specific and certain way that you just have to have things done and you don’t like it when your spouse fails to meet your standard, the answer is simple: You do it!
There are areas in our home that I am pickier about, like my office, so I am the one who cleans it. In other areas, it’s my wife who wants things done in a certain way, so she takes care of that. What we don’t do is argue and insult each other all the while insisting that the other person does it my way. I either shut up and let her do it her way, or I do it myself if it’s something that want to have done just-so.
Sometimes you have to give, compromise, do it yourself and hush up. If you constantly fight to win, dig your heels in to have everything exactly the way you want it, when you want it and how you want it, you will lose, but not in a good way.
Sometimes you just have the mentality that “I get to lose.” Deliberately choose to lose. Lose your selfishness, your ego, and your right to be right all the time. Ironically, losers win and winners lose in this one.
by Mark Gungor
Believers often find themselves living in contradiction to the world, and we should. The runaway anxiety and constant fear that grips so much of the world does not have the same hold on us—or at least, it shouldn’t. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at anxiety from a biblical perspective, and examining God’s care and provision for His people, and how that should free us from worry.
Today we’re bringing our Attacking Anxiety series to a close with part three of our discussion on Paul’s prayer that we would know and rest in God’s lasting peace and grace. The apostle wrote, “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18).
A final characteristic of God’s peace is that it is not subject to circumstances. Paul’s prayer was that we might continually enjoy it “in every circumstance” (v. 16). This peace is not subject to anything that happens in the worldly realm. It is not built on any human relationship, and it’s not dependent on human feelings, decisions, or situations.
Rather, God’s peace is built on a divine plan and promise from an unfailing God who will secure you in Himself, and who will do everything for your good. This peace is a product of an unchanging divine relationship, and it is unbreakable, unassailable, and transcendent.
As we noted earlier, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He was saying, “There’s nothing to fear or be anxious about because I’m giving you a divine, lasting peace that cannot be fractured or damaged by the world.” We demonstrate that Jesus keeps His promises when, in the midst of worldly upheavals that would normally tear us up and trouble our lives, we remain calm.
Paul’s great desire was that we enjoy that kind of well-being, which is why he prayed toward that end. His parting wish was this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18). He wanted every man and woman who would ever put his or her faith in Christ to experience the abiding presence of God’s grace.
Grace is God’s goodness or benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). It was in the person of God’s Son that “the grace of God has appeared,” making salvation available to all (Titus 2:11). Once we embrace this saving grace through faith in Christ, we are blessed with God’s grace, enabling us to withstand any difficulty that would tend to make us anxious. Paul described this grace while confessing to a difficulty that brought him great anxiety:
There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. . . . Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians12:7-10)
As believers, we also are blessed with the grace that equips us for divine service. Paul expressed his appreciation for this grace in saying, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy . . . the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Timothy 1:12-14).
Grace is what enables us to grow spiritually in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). In the material realm, Paul appealed to God’s grace in encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous in giving to the Lord’s work: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
God’s grace saves us, helps us cope with our anxieties, equips us for service, and enables us to grow spiritually and to be rich in God. Like God’s peace, it is always available, and there is no limit to it. And again, like God’s peace, the conditions for receiving it are trusting God, forsaking sin, enduring the refining process, doing good, and living by the Word. As we are what we ought to be, God infuses us with His peace and grace. And that has a wonderful way of crowding out anxiety.
I want to close this series on a personal note. Just a few days after preaching a sermon on the peace and grace God bestows on His people, I had an unprecedented opportunity to apply it to my own life: I was notified that my wife and youngest daughter were in a serious auto accident, and that my wife, Patricia, would probably die. Everything seemed like a blur to me, the details frustratingly sketchy—I was afraid she was already dead. During my hour-long drive to the hospital, I had a lot of time to reflect on the severity of the situation. Yet I experienced a deep and steeled peace simply because I knew God had not failed me—His grace was in complete control.
I am happy to report that God spared both their lives, and that Patricia recovered beautifully. If you too rely on God’s grace, He will see you through the most difficult trials.
It’s only through God’s grace that believers can face every circumstance with calm, assured peace. Anxiety does not have to reign in our hearts—we can hold fast to God’s peace and provision through any of life’s storms.
We’ve been looking at the nature of the peace God grants to believers, as explained in Paul’s prayer from the church at Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18.
Not only is that peace divine in origin, but it is also a gift. When Paul prayed, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace,” the word translated “grant” is the verb meaning “to give.” It speaks of a gift. God’s peace is a sovereign, gracious gift bestowed on those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 85:8, a verse you may have never noticed before, the psalmist stated, “I will hear what God the Lord will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones.” God grants peace to those who belong to Him. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). There’s no greater gift for the anxious than God’s peace.
Some, however, will seek relief for their anxieties through a false peace. God is generous to whom He grants His peace, but there is a limit. Isaiah wrote, “‘Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:19-21). He will grant peace to those who come to Him from near and far—those who grew up hearing much about Him and those who heard little to nothing—but those who don’t come to Him, the wicked, enjoy no real peace.
Thomas Watson explains further:
Peace flows from sanctification, but they being unregenerate, have nothing to do with peace. . . . They may have a truce, but no peace. God may forbear the wicked a while, and stop the roaring of His cannon; but though there be a truce, yet there is no peace. The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid; but there is a great difference between stupefied conscience, and a pacified conscience. . . . This is the devil’s peace; he rocks men in the cradle of security; he cries, Peace, peace, when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace a sinner has, is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger (A Body of Divinity [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986 reprint], p.262).
The peace of the wicked is born out of delusion. True peace is the child of saving grace. In a prayer similar to the one that closes 2 Thessalonians, Paul said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Peace is a gift to those who believe.
And God’s peace is the gift that keeps on giving. A less commercial way to express that truth is how Paul said it: “May the Lord of peace . . . continually grant you peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). By adding “continually,” Paul was emphasizing that it is constantly available. The implication is, however, that it can be interrupted.
It isn’t God who interrupts our spiritual peace, but us. We can suspend the flow of peace in our lives by succumbing to our flesh, which is still part of this world. Unless we “walk by the Spirit,” our means of controlling the flesh (Galatians 5:16), we are open season to all kinds of anxieties: the dread of the unknown, the fear of death, the loss of a loved one—and we all can list a string of others.
How does this unfortunate process begin? When we stop focusing on our permanent condition in Christ, who will certainly bring us to glory. And when we start basing our happiness on the fleeting things of the world. Those things by definition will change. Thus, if we get upset when they do, we will spend our lives in distress.
People who can ride through the toughest issues of life and remain calm are not indifferent; they’re just trusting God. What if our ride is a little bumpy? What if we’re feeling troubled, anxious, and fearful? How can we restore the peace? How can it remain uninterrupted?
The psalmist said to himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11). He reminded himself that God was there to help him. We can trust Him because He is trustworthy. He genuinely cares for us.
Long ago, God made it perfectly clear to Israel that peace comes from obeying His Word (Leviticus 26:1-6). The same truth applies today. Peace is restored through obedience. The first step is to turn from sin. Sometimes the sin is the doubt, fear, and anxiety itself, but also it can be an underlying sin that has produced those feelings. Probe your heart and isolate the cause of unrest. Forsake the sin that has been revealed to you and obey God by applying the opposite virtue. In the case of anxiety, that means having faith in God to help you manage life’s details.
Something else that will restore your peace is to accept whatever stresses or challenges God has seen fit to bring into your life. In the book of Job we read:
Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. . . . In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and you will not be afraid of violence when it comes. You will laugh at violence and famine, and you will not be afraid of wild beasts. For you will be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field will be at peace with you. You will know that your tent is secure, for you will visit your abode and fear no loss (Job 5:17-18, 20-24).
If you understand that God is using all the difficulties you face to perfect you, you’ll be at peace. It is not all for nothing. You may not always know why you’re going through this or that, but be encouraged that there is a good reason. Turning to the New Testament, Paul said if you want peace, do good (Romans 2:10). All who do good will enjoy peace. To be more specific, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. . . . And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18). Living according to the Word—according to heavenly wisdom, to God’s revealed standard of righteousness—brings peace.
If you’ve lost God’s peace in your life, you can find it again. Retrace your steps by trusting God in everything, turning from sin and walking in obedience, enduring His refining work in your life, doing what is good, and living by His Word in a righteous way. As Paul said, God’s peace is continually available to you. Avail yourself of it.
Any anxious Christian would love to have this prayer offered on his behalf: “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Those powerful, encouraging words come from the apostle Paul at the end of his second letter to the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18). They serve as a potent reminder of where we can and should turn when anxiety threatens—to “the Lord of peace Himself.”
Peace is commonly defined as the sense of calm, tranquility, quietness, bliss, contentment, and well-being that we feel when everything is going the way we’d like it to go. That definition, however, is incomplete because those feelings can also be produced by a pill—or by alcohol, biofeedback, a nap, a generous inheritance, or even deliberate deception. The reassurance of a friend or someone you love can also produce that kind of temporary peace.
That’s not the kind of peace Paul had in mind. Godly peace has nothing to do with human beings or human circumstances. In fact, it cannot be produced on a human level at all. Any manufactured or manipulated peace is very fragile. It can be destroyed instantly by failure, doubt, fear, difficulty, guilt, shame, distress, regret, sorrow, the anxiety of making a wrong choice, the anticipation of being mistreated or victimized by someone, the uncertainty of the future, and any challenge to our position or possessions. And we experience those things daily.
The peace that God gives is not subject to fluctuations and uncertainties of life. It is spiritual peace; it’s an attitude of the heart and mind when we believe and therefore know deep down that all is well between ourselves and God. Along with it is the assurance that He is lovingly in control of everything. We as Christians should know for certain that our sins are forgiven, that God is concerned with our well-being, and that heaven is our destiny. God’s peace is our possession and privilege by divine right.
Paul defines this peace for us in several ways in 2 Thessalonians 3:16. To begin with, it is divine: “May the Lord of peace Himself . . . grant you peace” (emphasis added). The Lord of peace is the One who gives it. The pronoun Himself is emphatic in the Greek text and underscores God’s personal involvement. Christian peace, the peace unique to believers, comes personally from Him. It is the very essence of His nature.
To put it simply, peace is an attribute of God. If I asked you to list the attributes of God, these are ones that would probably come most readily to mind: His love, grace, mercy, justice, holiness, wisdom, truth, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, and immortality. But do you ever think of God as being characterized by peace?
In fact, He is peace. Whatever it is that He gives us, He has and He is. There is no lack of perfect peace in His being. God is never stressed. He is never anxious. He never worries. He never doubts. He never fears. God is never at cross purposes with Himself. He never has problems making up His mind.
God lives in perfect calm and contentment. Why? Because He’s in charge of everything and can operate everything perfectly according to His own will. Since He is omniscient, He is never surprised. There are not threats to His omnipotence. There is no possible sin that can stain His holiness. Even His wrath is clear, controlled, and confident. There is no regret in His mind for He has never done, said, or thought anything that He would change in any way.
God enjoys perfect harmony within Himself. Our Bibles call Him “the Lord of peace,” but in the Greek text a definite article appears before the word translated “peace,” meaning He literally is “the Lord of the peace.” This is real peace—the divine kind, not the kind the world has. Paul’s prayer is that we might experience that kind of peace. Its source is God and God alone.
Coming soon, Part2
I just love Christmas and all the trimmings. The lights, smell of good food, and the presents under the tree. It’s the season of joy, family and friends gathering together and just enjoying each other. That’s what I love about this holiday season. It’s a time of the year that you see things happen, that only happen around Christmastime.
But it’s hard to think that there are a lot of people who don’t have this kind of Christmas. I know that there are thousands of great organizations out there that are all about helping and giving to people like these, but I think that we have a tendency to really not see nor feel what this really means. It’s one thing, to reach into my pocket, and throw in a couple of dollars into the kettle of the person, who’s standing outside the store ringing that bell, but it’s an entirely different thing when it means me having to get out of my comfort zone, and step into the world of one who is lacking or just all alone.
You see, that is really giving when I have to give of myself, and my time, for the sake of someone else’s needs. Putting myself, my wants, my needs, and my desires all aside, for the opportunity to help lighten the load that someone else is carrying.
It’s always easy to talk about doing this, but when it comes right down to really doing it, I mean getting down into someone else’s world and feeling what they feel, and experiencing what they are experiencing, getting dirty and doing whatever I can to help them with that heavy load that they’re carrying…well that’s not always an easy jump to make.
You see I don’t want to break out of my routine for the holidays. My family and I have always done things in a certain way each year, and I feel that I would be rocking the cart of our family tradition, if I invited them to our Christmas celebration. I mean they aren’t really the kind of people that we hang around with, and what would my family think if I invited them over to our Christmas dinner?
I know that they don’t have that much, and they are in a tough place financially right now, but it’s kind of their own fault. I mean he hasn’t always been good with his money and I think she might have some issues as well.
I am speaking fictitiously, but have you ever caught yourself thinking like that? I know that I have at times, and it’s always just been an excuse that I use when I feel God prompting me to help someone out, or to step outside of my comfort area, and take care of a need that I know I can help out in.
Isn’t that what Jesus did?
He stepped way out of His comfort area, and came down into this muck and dirty planet will call earth, and lived right here with us. He took on the kind of life that we live, except He was without sin.
1John 3:5 “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”
The dirt that we live in everyday had no effect on Him. At anytime He could have said, “I’m out of here, I don’t want to do this anymore,” but He didn’t. He stayed… as a matter of fact He stayed all the way to the end, and when it came time for the bill to be paid, He paid it. You and I couldn’t pay it, so He took the payment that we all had, and He paid it completely. He paid it with His own life, that’s how much He loves you and me.
John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends”…
I was having breakfast with four business associates of mine, the other day, and when the bill came around, one of the guys took the bill and paid for everyone’s meal. That was a very nice think to do, and we all thanked him for that, but I could have paid for my own bill. I had the money, but in the case of my sins, I can’t pay the price for that because I don’t have what it takes. No one has the means to do that…the price is way to high.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God came into our world so that He could pay your way to come into His. That’s His gift to you and me, and to all of humankind. He’s just waiting for you to come and open the present that He has laid out for you today. Open it by asking Him to forgive you, and when you do that, he will not only have your free ticket to come and live with Him for all eternity, but He will also come and live inside of you right now, and start getting you ready to be with Him.
To learn more of God’s incredible gift to you and me, click on “My Christmas Gift From God”
Perhaps you might know someone or you just might happen to maybe see the same person everyday as you commute back and forth to work. They might be in a situation that is not very good, but if God is telling you to stop and talk to them, or maybe go beyond that point that is going to put you out of your comfort area, remember what God did for you. Listen to what God is asking you to do, and help someone out.
Did you know that there are certain chemicals that are released in our bodies whenever we give or do acts of kindness towards others? Try it out for yourself. Help someone out with anything, it doesn’t have to be something big, and see if you don’t feel better after you’re done. You have to have the right attitude, that you are doing this only because you can, and you are getting nothing in return…don’t even tell anyone else about what you’ve done, because that means you would be getting the accolades from everyone you tell. God sees and He knows what you did.
Maybe you can only help them carry that heavy burden for just a short while, and maybe you can’t really take it off of them or out-of-the-way, that’s OK. Do what you can. Jesus said…
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You are never really a fully emotionally mature person, until you can give of yourself and of your time, and put yourself in the back burner of life, so that you can help someone else out, without ever asking or receiving anything in return…when you can do this, you have really done something.
Matthew 25:38-40 “When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”
My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will open God’s gift to you, and then go out and help someone else open theirs.
I wish you and your families a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
May God bless you all.
We finished our last post with Romans 7:24; “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” That was Paul’s cry out from the frustration he was feeling. In his heart and in his mind he wanted to follow after God, but in his flesh he keep listening to beckoning and calling of the sin that was still present.
You’ve come to Jesus Christ and have asked Him to forgive you and cleanse you from the sin that so easily dominates your thinking and your living. You want to follow after Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul, but there is still that ugly old boss that thinks he can still order us around. You hate him and you don’t want to live under his domain any longer.
Chapter six of Romans talks about us being free from the penalty of our sin. We have been set free, not only from the penalty of our sin, but also over the dominance of sin. It has no more authority over us. We have been redeemed, we have been bought back from sin’s domain and we now belong to Christ. We have been adopted into His family by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We can now say yes to God and no to sin.
“So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11
Now for the first time in our lives we can say no to sin and yes to God! The door has been open and we can freely walk into a relationship with the God who created you and me and this entire universe…but sins influence is still there. The battle lines have been drawn. Who are we going to listen too and who are we going to obey?
That’s the battle that we see in Romans chapter seven. Read and re-read it. See if you don’t see the same battle and the same struggle, going on in your own heart and mind, that Paul is describing in chapter seven.
Then we come to the first verse of Romans chapter eight…“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
No condemnation means no judgement. You and I will never be judged for our sin, that penalty was paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He did it once for all of humanity, and if you have become a member of His family, by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, you are set free from the penalty and judgement of your sin. That’s been established and will never change.
But there is a war going on, and the old man still wants to boss you and I around.
Romans 6:4…”just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.”
How do we overcome this struggle and how do we live the victorious Christian life? By the power of the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Take a look at the apostles. They lived with Jesus, they were taught by Jesus, and they even performed great works for God, while Jesus was still on earth, but that was not enough. Jesus told them that it was important that He go away, and that the Father will send them another comforter.
The Holy Spirit means, one sent alongside to help. Despite the teachings and the things that the apostles had learned, they were not going to be able to do anything until the Holy Spirit would come, and make His dwelling inside each and everyone of them.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The word power used in this verse, is the same Greek word used in Romans 1:4. It’s the word dynamis, which we get our English word, dynamite. The dynamite power of the Holy Spirit, would come upon the apostles and enable them to spread the gospel, or good news of God, throughout all the world. In the book of Acts, Christ’s church was born and it still is alive and spreading the truth of God throughout all the world, by the same power that raised Jesus back to life again.
It’s by this same power of the Holy Spirit, in your life and mine, that we can live the new life that God wants us to live. You and I can’t live the Christian life, only God can live His life in and through you and me today.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
How to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit
1) INVITE: Make sure that you have personally invited Christ to be your Savior. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
2) CONFESS: Confess sin to God and ask for His cleansing.“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1John (1John 1:9).
3. YIELD: Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you (empower, control).“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, “be continuously filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 – literal translation). “Holy Spirit, I invite you to take control of my life. I ask you
to be the dominating influence in me. Produce your fruit in me. I can’t do it on my own.” “Holy Spirit, I ask you to empower me to accomplish what is beyond me. Show yourself strong in my life, so that I may bear fruit for God.” “Holy Spirit, teach me how to pray right now. Intercede
through me, Spirit, for you alone know the mind and will of God in this matter.” “Holy Spirit, I need you to help me put to the death the deeds
of the body. I can’t overcome this on my own. Give me the victory today.” “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1Corinthians 6:18).
Only a life lived by the influence, motivation, and power of the Holy Spirit, are we ever going to be walking the victorious Christian life. Which voice are you going to obey? You have a new master and He loves you with a love that no man can understand nor explain. His desire is to live in you and conform you into the image of His son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Peter 2:2 “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow by it.”
John 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
“For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you. ”
“So then,brothers and sisters,we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear,but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:5-17
If you walk around and take a survey of how many people claim to be Christians in our society today, you will get the majority of people claiming that they are Christians. 76% of American adults claim to be Christians today. That is down from 87% who made that claim back in 1990. The decline of people who are involved in organized religions is increasing every year, not just Christianity, but in any kind of organized religion. Times are changing in the world, both economically and in our views about God. When you hit people in the pocket-book, that definitely will get their attention.
After all, the only reason we ever stay in anything is to attain a certain level of change, when or if, that change never happens, we are looking for the first exit we can find. Patience and long-suffering are not character traits that you see very often anymore today.
Many people get involved with God or a church for a specific reason. They are going through a tough time in their lives, a loved one has died, or they are just experiencing some type of loss that they want an answer for and relief from.
All of us view God, and who we think He is, from the influences we had as a kid. Our parents, economic situation, and total environment, all shaped what we think of God today.
I have talked with many atheists and people from other religious back grounds, and the one common thread that flows through them all is their desire for the truth. Nobody wants to be mislead or bamboozled…we want the truth. If that is you, then what I’m about to say is for you.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
This promise was given to those who believed in Jesus. Jesus said to these believers and followers, that if they abide, or continue with him, that would mean that they are truly His disciples. If they are truly the disciples of Christ and they continue on with Him, they will discover what truth is all about, and this discovery will set them free. You want to know truth, then you might want to check out who Jesus Christ is?
Further down Jesus said in John 8:32, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Freedom at last! But are you really free? Many of us find freedom from addictions, a nagging spouse, a job that is dragging us down, but real freedom comes when you know the truth.
For the Christian, Romans chapters, six, seven, and eight, are the hinges of the door that opens to what the gospel and salvation really mean.
Chapter six, we are free from the penalty of sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Romans chapter eight, we are free from the presence of sin. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
But in Romans chapter seven we find a battle going on inside of every single one of us. Paul expressed this battle that wages in us, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:22-24
Ever experience something like that in your Christian life? “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ” Romans 7:15-20
Sound familiar? If you are a child of God, by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then you definitely can relate to what Paul is talking about here. This is the battle of truth that goes on daily in our lives. It’s a constant power struggle over who we are going to believe and follow. Do we follow the sin that has so easily dominated most of our lives, or are we going to yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, that lives inside us, and follow the new person He is creating in us?
What if you had a terrible boss, that no one liked. He was rude and critical and always was yelling at you and ordering you around like you were some incompetent child? He was your boss and you had to do what he said.
One day he gets fired. The office is totally relieved to know that never again will you have to take his orders or do anything that he ever has to say. He’s finished controlling you.
Say you and your spouse are out for a nice dinner. You are really enjoying this nice quiet evening, when in walks your old boss. Just seeing him again makes the hairs on your back stand up. You cower in hopes that he doesn’t see you, but here he comes and he’s walking right over to you.
He walks over to you and he tells you to go over and get him a cup of coffee, and automatically you get up and run to the coffee machine…but wait a minute…he’s not your boss anymore and you don’t have to do anything that he says, remember? He has no more authority or control over you. You can tell him…No! I’m not doing what you tell me to do!
That’s the way it is with sin in our lives. We are the battle ground and Satan and the Holy Spirit are vying for our allegiance. We play a part in all this. Who are you going to go after?
We have been set free, but there is an old master that is not going away. He wants to constantly influence you and me to continue to live life the way we always have, by obeying our sinful cravings and desires.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24
That will be coming in the next article.
The word love has been so tossed around in our world today, that its lost its true meaning. Much like the word, “Christian,” which everyone claims to be, it just doesn’t hold, nor have the same effect on a person when you say, “I love you”. Do you love me?
If we get our meaning of love from Hollywood, you will definitely have the wrong meaning of what love is. People from the movie and cinema world, fall in and out of love so many times, they wouldn’t know love if it hit them in the face like a wet squirrel. To them love is sleeping with the next leading lady of the next movie that I’m in.
Before we discover what love really is, let’s first see what love is not.
Love is not just a feeling that passes over us for a moment and then its gone. Now I’m not saying that love doesn’t have it’s feelings, because it most certainly does. Who doesn’t know and get excited when you experience those warm fuzzy love feelings. It’s all part of falling in love.
Those feelings are never more real and present then when you first meet that very special person. There is something different about this person that you’ve never felt from anyone else before. You not only see them as the most beautiful person in the world, but you do feel that chemical reaction taking place deep down inside.
Notice how many times I said the word felt and feel, because at this very early stage in the love game there are a lot of feelings and emotions that are going on. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re truly in love, nor that this is the right person for you, because all of these kinds of encounters start the same way. It’s what you do in the next few steps that will determine if you have a future with this person or not.
Now what the world and Hollywood teach you do at this point, is jump into bed with this person and have sex. This will determine as to whether you will be happy with them, and if they are the right fit for you. Sex is the means of measure that they take to see if they are really in love. If it’s good sex than they are right for me and, let’s get married. How many marriages, using this philosophy, last in Hollywood today.
Sex and the physical part of a love relationship should never be the determining factor, nor the measuring stick, to see if you’re in love. It should always be LAST thing on the list. Sex is not love.
Once you’ve met someone who you find attractive, sit down with them and talk. Yes, I said talk and listen. Discover who they are, what they like and, what they don’t like. Learn about who this very attractive and intriguing person really is. This is the stage where love’s foundation really starts to form. If you sit and talk for three or four hours and it feels like you’ve only been there for about thirty minutes, you just might be onto something good.
When you find and start to connect with a person on this level, friendship is formed, and that is the solid foundation that love is built on. Do you enjoy being with them? Do you enjoy talking and listening to them? Do you share many of the same things? Now this doesn’t mean that you are going to agree on everything , but you agree on lots more than you disagree on.
The physical part comes in stages. You have to earn the permission of the other person to advance into these physical stages, if you don’t, than you could derail the whole process.
You start by earning the right to even look into the person’s eyes. Think about the level of intensity that this means. There is something physically alluring and intimate when you look deep into someones eyes. If you were to go to the mall and stare at a total stranger, see what kind of results that will bring you. (I don’t advise you to do this)
Next stage is holding hands. After that it’s putting your arm around a person’s waist, and then a very strong bear hold, these are all a part of the physical process that will give you and your partner the strong solid foundation that real love is built on. The kind of love and respect that real love needs to germinate and grow into a strong solid tree, that will last a lifetime for you and the rest of your whole family, that you and your partner will be making together, this is the whole process of falling in love.
If any of these steps are skipped or passed over, there will be consequences to pay. Now don’t fret if you’ve already messed up during this process, who hasn’t? Remember its a process. We all make mistakes and do the wrong thing, but isn’t it wonderful that we have a savior that’s full of mercy and compassion, His love for all of us is new every morning, great is His faithfulness.
I wanted to set these very important steps for all of you to see, whether you are just starting this process or maybe you’ve been in it for quite sometime now. It’s never to late to make corrections and changes that will enhance your relationship.
Love is not just a feeling, it’s a commitment. Once you’ve gone through this process and you’ve married that very special someone, this process doesn’t stop or end. It’s up to you to continue to fan the flames of the passion and the feelings that you started out with.
This is where so many people fail, and why so many marriages end in divorce. We just quit at this point and the other person starts to feel unloved and unwanted. The connection disappears and the long talks that used to last for hours don’t last but one or two minutes, and it’s usually just a set of instructions for something that you want them to do for you.
Have you ever felt unloved? Have you ever lost that person that you so enjoyed being a part of, and now their gone? You’re not alone my friend, because God has felt that very same thing. He knows what you’re going through.
During one of the worst times that Jesus was going through, all of his friends that loved him and had sworn their alligence to him, all ran away and left Him alone. Peter, who was one of His closest friends, even denied that he knew Him. But something took place that would affect Peter and his relationship with Jesus.
Right after Peter denies knowing Jesus, for the third time, Jesus and Peter’s eyes find each other. Remember what I was saying about the intimacy of looking into someones eyes means…listen to what God says about this encounter with Peter.
“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crows, thou shalt deny me three times. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61-62
The word, looked upon, means to “fix your gaze upon”. Jesus locked His eyes with Peter and He looked right deep down inside Peter, with His eyes. He knew what was in Peters heart and He knew what Peter’s real intentions were. As you can see, looking into someone’s eyes has a very deep intimate meaning to Jesus.
It affected Peter so much, that he went out and wept bitterly. The word bitterly means violently. In other words Peter went out and he cried uncontrollably and violently.
Even though everyone ran away and left Jesus all alone, to go through this terrible time… alone, He never stopped loving His disciples. He loved them right to the end.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end“. John 13:1
Jesus, who is the true measure and meaning of what real love is, loved His disciples and He loves you and me right up to the end, that means always and forever. His love never stops.
Now, after all this, Jesus meets up with Peter and the disciples, on the shore, after He was resurrected back from the dead, and He asked Peter a very pointed question. Peter, do you love me?
“This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:14-17
Everyone wants to be loved. It’s the one thing that we as humans, need and have to have, is love. We can’t survive without it. You know what… God wants it too. God wants your love and devotion also. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” If you do Peter than feed My lambs.
Love is not only a commitment but it also is an action word. It will always bring you into action. Just like when you fell in love with your spouse and you talked to them, you spent time with them, and you couldn’t stop thinking about them, because that’s what love drives you to do…take action. It should never stop!
Feelings will come and go, feelings will rise and fall, but real love will never fail…real love will continue to grow and it will last forever. God is real love and He loves us with His real love, but we have left Him, and He feels unloved like He did with Peter.
Did Peter love Jesus, yes he did and Jesus knew that, but there was a teaching period that was going on between Jesus and Peter.
How about you? Do you know what real love is? Has your relationship with your spouse been based on the principles and foundation of the truth of love and the author and creator, who is love…Jesus Christ Himself?
My prayer is that you do. Remember that it’s never to late. Read 1 Corinthians 13 to get the total view of what real love is all about.
May God bless you in your endeavor to find and build on the true foundation of love.