If you stumble into sin, believer, don't give up; don't allow hopelessness to consume you, the deceitfulness of sin to blind you, or the weight of shame to defeat you. In the morning and evening prayer we pray, in part, the following: "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall" (Ps. 16:8
). Christ is
at your right hand, and this fall shall not be final for you; He took the final fall.
Yes, you may feel as though your worst day has cast a shadow over you that will never break to show the light of day, but, happily, you're wrong. God, in Christ, has declared you to be righteous (2 Cor. 5:21
). Of the righteous we read: "for though they fall seven times, they will rise again" (Prov. 24:16
NRSV). You will rise, friend, because Christ will lift you up. He took the ultimate fall in order that you should rise.
No one knows how many times I've had to encourage myself, thinking these thoughts, repeating the words of this post to myself. How I didn't play dead but arose from sin is a testimony to God's sheer grace. This post is as much an exhortation to myself as it is for anyone else experiencing difficulties or tragedies, whether self-caused or otherwise.
What do you do on the worst day of your life? Rise: not because you're inherently worthy of being named righteous. Rise because the one who took the ultimate fall declares you righteous. Rise because, though you sinned, though you deserve the fate of the wicked like the rest of us, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1
But rise, too, because you neither honor the Lord nor serve the body of Christ by remaining fallen. Don't play dead, possum. In Christ you have been made alive (Col. 2:13
). Play dead to your old, sinful nature or past. But in Christ, even when you sin, don't play dead -- don't remain defeated. In Him you are more than one who has conquered all spiritually negative realities (Rom. 8:37
). "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1
You can avoid re-offending others by rising, and thinking healthy, spiritual thoughts: "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8
). All offenses begin with thoughts. We are instructed to destroy arguments raised up against the knowledge of God.
But the apostle Paul also added, "We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle
raised up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5
NRSV, emphasis added). How many thoughts rise up against the reality of God's holy existence and righteous standards? We are taught to destroy such thoughts, to take them captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5
I picture such thoughts as personified. I imagine capturing them, putting them into a prison cell, while Christ stands watch over them as Guard. If I fail to do so, then I may entertain such thoughts, have them affect me emotionally, and then obey them. When I obey them, I sin. "But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved" (James 1:15-16
But when you sin, no matter the degree, take it immediately to Christ. "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9
NRSV). Don't let sin drag you into a hopeless, despondent, dejected place, out of which you feel impossible to escape. By His grace and forgiveness you rise up, and you keep rising up. You don't rise up only once. You will need to rise up every time you fall.
More than that, you will need to rise up every time you think
about a past fall. Such thoughts about your past have a tendency to paralyze you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Paralyzed, you will play dead. No: in Christ you must rise up from the guilt of your past. Though you fall seven times a day, you will rise -- you must
rise (Prov. 24:16
The Lord foreknew every sin you would ever commit when He by grace through faith in Christ saved your soul. You don't ever take Him by surprise by any thought, desire, or action. In Christ He has already declared you holy, sanctified (set apart from the world and for His service and care), and righteous. You don't let Him down because you don't hold Him up.
You are becoming more and more like Christ (Rom. 8:29
), slow as such may seem, and your heavenly Father understands completely all of your eccentricities, particularities, and unique qualities. This is how, you see, you keep on rising. Give your defeats to the One who defeated sin, death, and hell (1 Cor. 15:56-57
; 1 John 3:8
). Give your hopelessness to the God of hope (Rom. 15:13
). Whatever you do, don't play dead, possum, but rise. This post was written by William Watson Birch. You can find the original post with comments here: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/saturday-devotion-dont-play-dead.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
"How do I know when it's God talking to me or the devil?" This is a question that I get quite a bit in my correspondence and conversations with people.
I have met different people who discern God's will or God's voice in curious ways:
- One person told me that the plant on his microwave will blow in a certain direction that tells him the next thing he thinks/hears is God talking to him.
- Another person told me that when he spends time in prayer, he has the window open. If the curtains blow out, the answer from God is yes. If the curtains suck into the window, the answer from God is no.
- Yet, another person told me that when he prays, he stands as still and as upright as he can and while he's praying about a decision, if he leans to the right, the answer is no. If he leans to the right, the answer is yes.
- I have also had people (who were not psychotic) tell me that God tells them answers thru the people talking on the television.
- Another individual told me that he looks for signs. For example, he was contemplating whether to take a job in Wyoming and he saw someone wearing a Wyoming shirt shortly after praying. He wondered if that was God leading.
Jesus had a little something to say about this. He says that wicked and adulterous people are always looking for a sign.
It seems to me that much of what Christians call discerning God's voice amounts to not much more than folk religion. Folk religion is unreflective religious beliefs based largely upon feeings, cliches, devotional literature and "evangelegends."
Folk religion is not God honoring. In my discussions with those five people above, I can assure you that they came up with some pretty goofy ideas about what God was saying. God is clear, He says if anyone lacks wisdom, we just need to ask Him.
As Christians, we now have the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit. We no longer need to consult the urim and thummim.
Nor do we need to cast lots
to make decisions.
However, if you read my post yesterday, I wrote about how the devil tries to remind of our sins and failures. How, do we know when its the devil is giving us a hard time or God's Holy Spirit convicting us of something that needs to change?
The answer is simple. The devil hates you. God loves you. Once you get that concept firmly in your mind, discerning which voice is which becomes less problematic.
Now, I'm not saying that we have the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. I'm not wanting this to be caricatured.
My experience is often it is not the devil speaking to me but it is my own sinfulness getting in the way. My own sin nature speaks to me.
Nevertheless, if you hear a thought that says, "you know, you really are a pathetic excuse for a Christian. You are such a hypocrite, you are so selfish."
Does that sound like a hateful thought or a loving thought? I can tell you that thought either came from your own sinfulness or the devil (or maybe even both). Do you see what that thought does? It cuts you down at the very core of your being it attacks you as a child of God. It's like being blasted with a shotgun.
Now, let's say you hear a thought that says, "you know, you just spoke about how you didn't like that style of worship. Did you consider that worship can take many forms? You need to apologize for what you just said."
Does that sound like a hateful thought or a loving thought? Do you see what that thought does? It is clear and concise. It doesn't attack you as a child of God. It's like a single bullet shot right into your pride.
So, are you seeing the difference? When you have a thought and it feels like you have been blasted with a shotgun, that the thought was so diffuse, you can bet that it's not from God...
God's Holy Spirit is a sniper. He shoots clean and hits his target.
There is no collateral damage.
When the devil speaks, its to entice you away from God. To destroy how you view yourself before God.
When God speaks to you, it's to attract you to Him.
Paul's words ring true when discerning the voice of God, "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
It was kind of a surreal experience.... We had just arrived at our mission in Quito and here I was less than 48 hours later standing at the graveside of a man I didn't know and hadn't even met.
I watched as the gravedigger dug the grave by hand. He would occasionally stop and put his chin on top of the shovel and seem interested in what was going on as he rested. There was hardly anybody there. Just the man's wife, a couple of other people, the pastor, myself and the Ecuadorian gravedigger. Being one of the few English speaking churches in town, the widow called the pastor with whom I served on staff and asked that he do the funeral. I was there as support.
The story of this man's life ended sadly. He was a very successful American businessman who had visited Ecuador frequently and ended up buying some lucrative property in Quito so that he could retire. He had quite a nest egg. His goal in life was to retire with his wife at this property in Quito and live a life of ease and luxury.
What was interesting was that this man and his wife arrived in Quito about the same time my wife and I had arrived. We may have even been on the same airplane. What he hadn't considered, as he grew older, was that his health wasn't as good as it had been in the past. Quito has an elevation of over 9,000 feet (btw - Denver has an elevation of just over 5,000 feet) above sea level. People who visit Quito often come done with Soroche (altitude sickness). The symptoms are very similar to carbon monoxide poisoning. The stress of the Soroche that he was experiencing taxed his body and his heart stopped working.
So, here we have a man who saved his whole life, gathered quite a bit of money and bought some nice property in Quito so that he could retire, and within 48 hours of achieving his goal, he died. From what his wife described, it also appeared that he died without knowing Jesus as his Savior.
Jesus talked about this. He said, "Now what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?"
Jesus, who taught a parable about a man who amassed fortune and trusted in himself, said, "You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?"
Having a goal is not bad in and of itself. However, if your goal excludes God and is just to please yourself, know that you may never reach it. If you do, it won't last forever. Everyone dies.
Then there is reward or payment.Yet, if you have a goal and it includes God and pleasing Him, you WILL reach it.
"Don't store up treasure on earth..."
Make heaven your goal.BE HOLY.BE A MAN
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
We do not take wood or stones and make idols. We do not pray to statues or prepare food for idols to eat.
It is not with our hands but with our imaginations that we carve out little gods to worship. Just like those who carve out idols with their hands, we make little gods out of our fear and ignorance. Our fundamental problem is that we imagine a God that comes out of our human experience. We imagine God to be like the people we have known in our lives. If we have been raised with impossible expectations, we may find ourselves worshipping the god-of-impossible-expectations. If we have been neglected, we may find ourselves in the service of the god-who-does-not-care. Since these gods do not respond to us when we call, we work harder and harder to please them. We try to be good. We try to be religious. But, we can never do enough. In this way we trade the 'glory of the immortal God' for the very dysfunctional images which arise from our experiences with 'mortal men'.
The good news is that God is not the way we expect. The one true God, the immortal God, is a glorious God. God is a compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love and mercy.
Lord, you can see how I cling to my little gods.
I have tried so hard to please them.
But, they are harsh and abusive.
I cannot please them.
But I can't seem to get rid of them either.
They are awful little gods, but they are all I know.
I have grown accustomed to them.
I have adapted my expectations to match their smallness.
I am weary to death of the gods who come from shame, Lord.
I long to worship you, God of Grace.
I long to worship You.
You are the God of Glory.
Give me eyes to see you more clearly today.
Give me a heart that hopes in you.Amen.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
Last week was anti-porn week here at Ironstrikes. I hope that you were able to read about the five topics:1. Porn and sexual satisfaction2. Porn and fake relationships3. Porn and women4. Porn and cruelty5. Porn is insidious
Readers have asked about the Zillman-Bryant study from which these five posts were taken. In the early 1980s, Dr. Doll Zillmann of Indiana University and Dr. Jennings Bryant of the University of Alabama wondered whether continued exposure to video pornography had any impact on people's sexual beliefs and their attitudes towards women. For their experiment, 80 male and 80 female college-age participants were divided into three subgroups, and each group was shown 4 hours and 48 minutes of media.
1. The first group, the “Massive Exposure Group,” was shown 36 non-violent pornographic films over a six-week period.
2. The second group, the “Intermediate Exposure Group,” was exposed to 18 pornographic films and 18 regular films over a six-week period.
3. The third (control) group, the “No Exposure Group,” was shown 36 non-pornographic movies over a six--week periodYou may be saying, "that is an old study, what relevance does it have to today?"
At a 2011 conference, Dr. Mary Anne Layden commented about Zillmann and Bryant’s 25-year-old research. “When this study was done, what was called the ‘Massive Exposure Group" -- seeing five hours of porn over a six-week period -- "I now call that the Friday Afternoon Group."
Her statement is far from an exaggeration. A recent survey of 29,000 people at North American universities, shows 51% of men and 16% of women spend up to five hours per week
online for sexual purposes, and another 11% of men spend anywhere from five to twenty hours per week. What used to be “massive” exposure is now common practice.
Furthermore, the Internet has not only increased the public’s exposure to porn, but has also changed the way it is consumed. Dr. Jill Manning believes Zillmann and Bryant’s findings have greater
applicability in the modern age because Internet porn tends to be more interactive and consumer-driven. Viewers can select exactly who and what they want to see, custom-tailored to their greatest specifications.This week, I will be giving four solid tips in helping to curb your vulnerability to porn.
This post is taken from the booklet, YOUR BRAIN ON PORN
by Luke Gilkerson. The booklet can be found at: http://www.covenanteyes.com/brain-ebook/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Dreams are odd. In dreams we can fly, shape shift, transmogrify, meet people that we admire and also be turned on sexually. There is also a psychological technique called "lucid dreaming" where one learns the techniques to manipulate dreams.
Men, when they are teens, experience "wet dreams" that are usually intensely sexual. So, men have a history from early in their lives of connecting dreams to sexual arousal. Many of the men that I counsel tell me that their dreams often trigger their sexual acting out.
How does one handle sexual dreams? Often they are not under our conscious control. So, are we responsible for our dreams? Are we responsible for our acting out sexually when aroused by a dream? How does one stay pure,
even while sleeping?
You are VERY responsible if you practice lucid dreaming. If you purposely manipulate your dreams, then you will be accountable for such.
However, there are things that one can do to try and keep one's dreams from turning too sexual:
1. Pay attention to what you think about while you are falling asleep.
2. Memorize scripture that you can repeat in your mind while falling asleep. Philippians 4:8
is a scripture that is made for just such an occasion. Proverbs 4:23
and Malachi 2:15
are excellent as well.
3. Pray while you are falling asleep. This is a great time to talk to God.
4. In your prayer, ask God to protect your mind while you sleep. God can do that, if you learn to count on His faithfulness.
5. Pay attention to what you watch on TV, in the theatre and on the internet, especially right before you go to sleep. You may have to take the TV out of your bedroom. Dreams often are an amalgamation of our daily experiences.
6. If you work with a professional counselor, you can dissect your dreams to help understand them a little bit. Even though a dream may be sexual, the core of the dream may also be something that y0u need to confront in yourself.
If you wake up sexually aroused from a dream, what can you do to prevent acting out?
1. Urinate. Many times an erection is simply the result of a full bladder.
2. Read something non-sexual. Opening God's Word and talking to God about what you are physically feeling is way of strengthening your relationship with HIm and beating temptation.
3. Call a member of your accountability group.
4. Take a cold shower.
5. Stay away from TV and the Internet while you are aroused.
6. Do not recreate the dream in your mind. Distract yourself by thinking in a pure manner.
So, even though your dreams are often not under your conscious control, you can control what you watch and think throughout the day. God is faithful. If you ask Him for His assistance in this area, He will help. Also, arousal does not mean that you have to do something sexual. You can choose to act out or you can choose not to act out.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Open Your Heart, Pop Out of Your Rut
Perhaps you've noticed that familiar inner patterns automatically kicks in as soon as you...
- Sense that you're being criticized
- Sense that your spouse is withdrawing from you
- Discover an opportunity to feast on lust
- Worry your partner is lusting after someone else
- Feel disrespected by your kids
- Feel left out by your friends
- Are disappointed in your own performance
- etc., etc., etc.
We cherish our human capacity for resourcefulness and innovation, but how creative do we really permit ourselves to be? So many of our inner responses follow these old tracks created more by our programming than our preferences, by our conditioning than our consciences.
Once we find ourselves in those inner ruts, the behavior patterns we manifest become quite predictable as well. We engage in some version of fight, flee, or freeze. We accuse. We blame. We criticize. We escape. We pull away. We put up a wall. We numb out. We bite our tongue. We pretend we aren't affected.
Our mental ruts have channelled us into behavioral ruts... which then push our loved ones and associates into self-defeating and self-perpetuating ruts of their own. Life becomes a continual round of Emotional Groud Hog Day. New, potentially fresh interactions--sometimes even with brand new people--but somehow they end up feeling eerily familiar. A new day!... but lived in the same old, same old way.
Here is an experiment to try out. It just takes a minute, but when it works the difference can be profound:
- Acknowledge a defensive/protective reaction has come up.
- Notice what you feel.
- Realize that reaction (or part of you) is trying to help.
- Move the reaction you're feeling to your heart.
- Reengage with the situation or interaction in a deliberately open-hearted way.
- Ask God to show you how to handle this reaction and use that reaction to draw you closer to God.
Do it two or three times a day when you feel the gravitational pull of outdated, unwanted emotional reactions. This post is adapted from Dr. Mark Chamberlain. You can find his original post with comments here: http://markchamberlainphd.blogspot.com/2012/07/open-your-heart-pop-out-of-your-rut.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes it feels like our hearts are breaking.
And sometimes we worry that we will lose our minds.
Both our hearts and our minds need protection.
When we let go of the defenses that have protected us for so long, and we allow ourselves to be honest and vulnerable, it sometimes feels like we will 'come apart'. In these moments can find courage in God's promise of protection. God's peace can guard our breaking hearts and our troubled minds.
Notice that God's guardianship of our heart and mind is 'in Christ Jesus'. It is in Jesus that we see most clearly that God is 'for' us. God can be trusted to guard us because God cares about us. It is in Jesus that we see most clearly that God understands the dangers to our hearts and minds. God can be trusted to guard us because God knows from personal experience the dangers we face. It is in Jesus that we see most clearly God's power. God can be trusted to guard our hearts and minds because God has the resources to do what needs to be done.
The peace of God is not a 'blissed out' euphoria that helps us minimize or ignore our problems. God's peace does not participate in denial. This peace is not another Novocain, another 'fix' to alter our mood. It is the gentle guard that protects us so that we can face reality. It is the security that comes from knowing that God pays attention, that we are not forgotten, that God is with us, that we are loved.
Guard my breaking heart today, Lord.
Guard my troubled mind.
Let your peace do its work in me, Lord.
because I am in danger and I need your protection.
Guard me with your peace today.
Guard my heart and mind.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
we discovered that it is possible to have perfect intent. But how does one achieve such? How does one become a slave to righteousness?
Let me offer this illustration. A man wakes up every morning to spider webs in the corner. Day in and day out, he sweeps out the webs. One morning, he wakes up to the realization, “why don't I just kill the spider?”
That's what sanctification is about. It is an instantaneous realization that the way that you have been living your life has been ok but that there is a better way. Sanctification is a change of your intent
. Sanctification is God killing that selfish part of you, setting you aside for His purposes, no longer living for yourself.
Sanctification is a crisis experience but one that grows. Even though he may have killed the spider, he needs to kill any other spiders that move in or other spider webs will appear. This is congruent with the teaching of "work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
Now, you say, "that leads to a danger of a works based salvation." However, James says that faith without works is dead.
In Nehemiah, he told them to work and pray while they built the wall.
A proper understanding of sanctification realizes that any good that a Christian does is only done through the power of the Holy Spirit
This crisis experience of sanctification is a change of the intent
of the heart. God takes that heart that is bent towards self and sin and turns it to pleasing Him, much like your son who is getting you a drink of water. He wanted to please you rather than himself.
In my life, I was saved at six by my mother's aid. At age 17, I was in Las Vegas and watched a man put money into a slot machine. He looked so sad. I remember God distinctly telling me, “do you want a happy Christian life or a sad one?” That was my sanctification experience. That evening, all alone, I prayed that God would use me however he wanted and that I would never turn my back on him. My life after 17 was much different than it was before.
I have had experiences where I hear Satan's voice, “see? All that Christian stuff isn't worth the trouble. Just give it up!” When that happens, I am able, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to remind myself that I had a sanctification experience where I vowed I would never give up on my relationship with God.
My sanctification is entire because not only do I have all of the Holy Spirit (His Spirit is given without measure)
but He has all of me as well! This sanctification is exhibited by the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit. That means once I became sanctified, I received all of the fruit but it was not fully mature at that point. My sanctification needs to continue to grow. The different fruit may grow at different rates but it is all there. My goal, with God's help, is to have all the fruit mature in my life.
So, I still sin. But when I do, I have an Advocate with the Father.
I stop, confess, and move on. I don't beat myself up nor allow Satan to drag me down. The closer I stay to God's Holy Spirit, the shorter my fall when I sin.
Now you know what to do. What are you gonna do?
While you're deciding, that spider is building more webs...BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Jesus tells us that we are to be perfect as He is perfect.
However, being human, it is impossible to be perfect. What do you think Jesus meant by this statement?
Here is a good example of perfection. Maybe it is close to what Jesus was meaning. A piano student practices day and nite on a musical piece until he can execute it without error. His piano teacher would say that he plays “perfectly.”
However, if he hasn't moved on and is still playing the same piece a year later, he is no longer perfect.
Another example. Let's say that you have a son with whom you are gardening in the hot sun. He sees you sweating and obviously becoming overheated. He thinks to himself, “I'll go get dad a glass of water.” He goes into the house and gets a dirty cup out of the sink and fills it with lukewarm water out of the tap without any ice. He carries it by the rim so that his grubby fingers get into the water. He joyfully brings it to you, knowing that it will help your thirst. When he gives it to you, you look inside the glass and notice that the water is not very clean. What do you do at that point? Do you chastise him for bringing you a glass of dirty water? Nope. A loving father would praise his son and gladly accept the water and drink it down. You have a perfect son.
His intent was to please you.
The concept of intent is the key in both of these illustrations. You know the intent of your heart (and so does God). Let's say you do something that you think could be very helpful but someone misunderstands your intent
and believes that you are not a very good Christian.
For example, a Christian brother chastises you for going into a bar. Your intent
, when you went into that bar, was to talk to your friend that is drunk in there. You went in there to take him home and prevent him from further harming himself. Now the Christian chastising you does not know your intent.
However, you do and moreover, God knows. Therefore, you are sinless (perfect)
in regard to your going into a bar, a place where many people would say that a Christian should not be. So, as God told Samuel of David, God looks on the heart.
God looks at our intent.
is to be judged by God only. That's why we have a hard time with this concept, we are looking through human eyes. Some Christians have been taught that “we sin every day in thought, word or deed.” Nevertheless, it is possible to go for a while without sinning. However, it is VERY RARE. If a Christian looks in the mirror and says, “I didn't sin today!” then he just sinned. If you go without sinning, you don't realize it. You don't realize it because you don't focus on sin but on God's righteousness and God's ability to empower you to live a victorious Christian life.
We are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness.
You used to offer your body to impurity and wickedness. However, now, you offer your body as a slave to righteousness which leads to holiness.
So, how do you offer yourself to righteousness?Tomorrow,
we will discover that together.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.