Sunday, November 23, 2014

Are Your Headphones On?

I like this song. It reminds me of the tendency we have to close our eyes to the needs of the world around us, or even close our eyes to our own personal needs. We can be so busy, distracted, or entertained that we leave ourselves starving for the things we really need - love and purpose, which can only be fully satisfied through a relationship with Jesus. And the purpose He gives us is to love others without hesitation.

Headphones by Jars of Clay

I don't have to hear it, if I don't want to
I can drown this out, pull the curtains down on you
It's a heavy world, it's too much for me to care
If I close my eyes, it's not there

With my headphones on, with my headphones on
With my headphones on, with my headphones on

We watch television...but the sound is something else
Just a song played against the drama, so the hurt is never felt
I take in the war-fires, and I'm chilled by the current events
It's so hopeless, but there's a pop song in my

Headphones on, in my headphones on
With my headphones on, with my headphones on

At the Tube Stop, you sit down across from me
(I can see you looking back at me)
I think I know you
By the sad eyes that I see
I want to tell you (It's a heavy world)
Everything will be okay
You wouldn't hear it (I don't want to have to hear it)
So we go our separate ways...

With our headphones on, with our headphones on
With our headphones on, with our headphones on
I don't wanna be the one who tries to figure it out
I don't need another reason I should care about you
You don't want to know my story
You don't want to own my pain
Living in a heavy, heavy world
And there's a pop song in my head
I don't want to have to hear it

You need to reach outside of yourself and your insecurities into the pain of another, but you will have to remove your headphones to do so.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Test In Contentment

Several months ago I wrote a post that mentioned contentment. Recently, the Lord did something in this area of my life.

I began to feel the Lord leading me to pursue a young lady. I carefully switched gears and began investigating this woman. This was not an easy thing to accomplish, but the Lord opened several doors and answered prayers, we're talking freak situations that lined things up perfectly for me to get to know more about her.

She had a lot of what I was seeking in a wife, she lined up with all of my major convictions, seemed to love her family and have a good relationship with Christ. All of this was a long process and I was constantly reminded about how I needed to keep my eyes fixed on contentment in singleness, should it not work out. I sought out the opinion of many godly influences in my life and prepared to  make the call to her father.

I was about to make the call when I began to feel convicted about the fact that I did not have God's clear direction to pursue this woman in particular, only a general OK to begin pursuing marriage. I decided that I wouldn't make the call until I had the Lords clear approval.

I prayed hard about it, surrendering my will, making sure I wasn't trying to twist His arm in this decision.

Thankfully, he did answer that this was the woman he wanted me to pursue. I was very excited and made the call.

At this point, with all of the Lord's involvement in the details, you would think this was going to work out, but what came next was a very simple and clear dismissal of my motion. It was hard to come to grips with this rejection.

What followed was a time where I wrestled to maintain contentment with my life, as it is, and accept, regardless of the reasons, that this pursuit was really over.

In that time I wrote this in my journal,
"Honestly, I feel very melancholy right now. I have so much I want to write about, but my thoughts seem to vanish as soon as they’re grasped. I have been wrestling a lot with discontentment and sorting through lies that come with the pain of rejection. What does God want me to do? Is He showing me something that I am blind to? Is there some great lesson that I should be learning in this trial or is it meaningless?"

Thankfully, He revealed that this whole thing was a test to help me flex the muscle of contentment. Though I still needed to work through some sadness, I was happy to have an answer. I am so glad that I was careful to seek His guidance every step of the way, because, had I not, I would be reeling for an answer that I might never know. If I wasn't sure that it was God's will, then I could believe that it was just some random mistake of my own and the reason why it didn't work is because I was being disciplined.

So now I am back to where I began, relaxing in contentment with where God has me. No stress - God will tell me when it is time to move.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Victory Over Lust - My Testimony

Lust is a very shameful sin. I wish I did not have to give this testimony from my life. I am ashamed of the secret double-life I have lived, but I know that the Lord can use even my weaknesses for His glory and perhaps someone will find this testimony encouraging.

I became a believer when I was seven years old. I was going to a large Baptist church with my family and the guest preacher was stressing how important it was to accept Christ early in life, as opposed to putting it off. I felt a burning in my soul and I knew that I needed to go forward. I went to the altar and prayed the sinner's prayer and I was converted.

Not much change was recognized in my life -  only being seven and having been raised in a good Christian home, I did not have a lot of junk in my life.

My parents made extra money buying run down foreclosures, fixing them up, and selling them at market value. At one point, we were living in an extended stay for a couple of months while the occupants of a house we had just won at an auction got their stuff together and moved out. My whole family of six (at that time) was living in a single room at the extended stay. My parents would often watch the news as we children drifted off to sleep. On this night, my parents fell asleep and the television was left on by accident. That was the night I was exposed to pornography for the first time. I was eleven years old.

I can see how cunning Satan was to be able to get me while I was in the presence of my entire family. How I have wished that I would have had the character to get up and turn off the television. I knew that the program was evil and I chose to watch it anyway.

Fast-forward a couple of years, I had begun to seek out pornography through the internet. I wasn't able to get to it very often, but things seemed to work themselves out for me to have the access I craved.

We were going to a nice church with mostly elderly congregants. The church also had a youth ministry that would pick up young people from nearby trailer parks so they could attend church events with the few youth who were actually a part of the church. It was not good for me to be around so many worldly young men. I had no context for what my life ought to look like. It was easy for me to compare myself to them and feel like I was doing OK.

My dad's job moved us to a different state. We settled into a nice church family. The people were all very serious about their walks with Christ and there were guys my age who I got to hang out with every Sunday. These guys all seemed to live righteous lives so it was refreshing to have a standard to check myself against. I began to focus on outwardly conforming to different rules and ideas that would make me “holy”, or so I thought. I still continued to struggle with pornography, masturbation and everything else that goes with that sin.

Even though I was still struggling with lust, I embraced many rules and standards, and became very self-righteous. It was easy for me to see how other Christians weren't lining up with these standards. I was the epitome of a hypocrite.

I was fourteen when I felt a wake-up jolt of sorts. I had a crush on a girl and I began to see, though I kept my sin hidden, it would surely ruin my marriage one day. I became eager to be free of my sin. I started reading my Bible daily, memorizing scripture, and praying. I became very religious in hopes of beating my lustful desires. I was extra sensitive about where I went and what I watched; I even sold all of my video games.

This course of action had its affect on my life, but it did not help me find freedom.

Four years down the road, I approached this girl's father about entering a courtship with her. We began discussing my readiness over the next few months. It came out that I had a problem with pornography and he began trying to help me.

You would think that having this man keeping me accountable and pushing me on would have solved the problem, but it still took a lot of instruction for me to begin to have some freedom in this area. 

The guidance was working and I was doing great! I went almost a year without giving into lust, but then it happened. I had been doing so well, I thought it was time for me to allow myself to have an iPod Touch. Once I bought it, I let my guard down and searched some things I shouldn't have. Technically, I didn't see anything bad, but my heart was not right in what I did.

The man who was helping me had once told me that freedom will look like walking in a different direction. You were going one way, now you are going the entire opposite way. You might look over your shoulder but overall you are walking in the right direction.

I thought of my “accident” with the iPod as one of those “looking over your shoulder moments." I knew better than to make light of my sin, but I drowned out the guilt and told myself it wasn't that bad.

Less than a month later this man approached me, on the basis of my supposed victory up to that point, with his approval to pursue his daughter.

The courtship began and it was a very happy time. Things seemed to be going smoothly. We did hit a few bumps in the road but overall things were looking up. About four months in we came to a standstill. I felt like God was resisting me. Several of our plans weren't lining up and things were getting messy in my relationship with my parents. I was not thinking clearly and was making plans that were irrational. They had tried to set me straight but I wasn't listening.

One day I was mowing grass with one of our tractors and had uploaded a few sermons to listen to while I worked. I ran out of the sermons I had brought so I checked for anything else on my MP3 player. I found a track entitled "Openness and Brokenness" by Paul and Jenny Speed. I remembered that some friends of ours had sent the track to us several months ago and my mom encouraged me to upload it to my MP3 player. 

I started listening to it and half-way through, it hit me. I knew that I would never prosper as long as I was hiding my sin about the iPod incident. The truth cut so deep and hurt so badly. I cried a lot that day. I knew it would mean the end of the courtship. I knew it was what I had to do if I wanted to really be free. I also knew it was going to be the hardest thing I had ever gone through. I was so convicted though that there was no way for me to move on and forget about what I had heard. I saw so clearly how by hiding my sin, I was setting myself up for future failure and would surely bring pain to my family in marriage.

That weekend I told the man my situation whose daughter I was courting and he came to the conclusion, as I thought was proper, that the courtship should end. Everyone was devastated. I really messed it all up. 

God was with me in my brokenness though, and He strengthened me. He gave me a lot of grace during that time of hardship. What followed was a time of tremendous spiritual growth. I was really feeling good about myself, although often sad over what I had done and what it had cost me.

Several months after the courtship ended, things began to sink in and I became very discontent with my life. As a result, I continued to struggle with pornography and masturbation. I later learned that by breeding discontent and self-pity I was pointing a finger at God for not giving me more or treating me better. In the midst of that mindset, I found it easy to justify sin. After all, I thought, if God is holding out on me, why should I care what He thinks? It's His fault that I am this way. That was my thought process.

I later discovered the root of my discontent was that I had made marriage an idol in my life. I looked at marriage like it was going to solve all my problems. It would give me happiness. it would fulfill me sexually. I would finally have the heart-to-heart intimacy I wanted. Marriage would save me.

After another attempt at a relationship failed, I found myself asking God for direction. I learned that He wanted me to take a break from pursuing marriage and focus on my relationship with Him and finding contentment in my life as a single man. He later verified this by having a stranger tell me a story about his brother who had a time in his life where he didn't pursue marriage, and instead just focused on the Lord. I took this idea as being from the Lord and started exercising contentment in singleness.

During this time I attended several events created by Paul and Jenny Speed of WIT (Whatever It Takes) Ministries.. I learned so much about how I can have victory in my life. I read a book they had recommended, "Reclaiming Surrendered Ground" by Jim Logan. Since reading that book and applying the principles of spiritual warfare, I have had victory over lust.

One of the most helpful things that I learned at WIT and in Jim Logan's book was the concept of intruding thoughts. This biblical concept helped me take a stand against impure thoughts that would come to my mind.

I still have battles. In fact, I have had more seriously intense temptations since realizing I am a free man in Christ. But as God says in His word, there is always a way out. I can now see through the enemy's lies and I don't have to believe that I am a slave to sin, or that I'm hopeless, or that God is holding out on me. I can stand in God's truth and know that it has surely set me free!
I praise Jesus for showing me how to live in victory by following His word and I am forever grateful to the ministry of Paul and Jenny Speed as God used their material to show me what His word had to say about spiritual warfare.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Truth Will Set You Free

It came to my attention last year through an amazing ministry that you have probably heard me talk about, Whatever It Takes Ministries, that I was believing one of Satan's lies

I suppose there are many more lies I choose to believe, but this one has been particularly debilitating. The lie was this: "I don't have anything important to say." I don't know when this lie became a part of who I think I am, but it has been around for a long time.

I can see how Satan has used this to keep me silent when I should speak up. Those of you who have seen me know I am a quiet guy and I don't think all of my quietness is tied up in this lie I was believing, but I definitely see how it has held me back.

I began to unpack what this lie means to me - how I was living and acting with this lie versus how I should be living and acting in God's truth. As Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
I started "preaching" the truth to myself by reminding myself that God has given me a message to spread and my words really do have value, potentially eternal value. Each of us do!

While cultivating the truth in this area of my life, I felt led to fast for awhile. Ironically, the day I began the fast was the 15th anniversary of me letting Jesus into my heart. That felt significant to me as I sought the Lord's will for the next phase of my walk with Him.

It was an amazing fast! I could see God working in my life to show me areas that needing work and directions He wanted me to be moving in. I came away from that fast with two things on my heart:

1. Live in the truth that my words have meaning and value by writing them out in a public place, such as a blog.

2. Take a class on counseling. I began taking level 1 basic training at The Barnabas Center (see sidebar link) and am looking forward to taking level 2 this fall. I do not know how the Lord will use these classes, but I have noticed a great benefit in conversation by using what I have learned. Originally I went into the class with an attitude of "how can I help others with their problems?" but it was funny to begin to see the "log" in my own eye that keeps me from reaching my potential in Christ.

The blog has been nice to keep up and I hope that it has been helpful to some out there, but in the end it has mostly just been an exercise in walking out the new "reality" that I can share what's on my mind. I don't know how long this blog will last but it has been a lot of fun to keep up.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Intruding Thoughts

I have discussed the idea of Satan giving us "intruding thoughts" in an older post (Dealing With Temptation).
In this post I wanted to outline the idea from my own experience.

Once first encountering this concept, that Satan and his demons had the ability to project thoughts into our minds, it was quite transformational in my own life and so I have many instances I can share that would help to flesh out what this really means, to have thoughts put into your head from an outside source.

Now honestly, had someone told me about this a year and a half ago, I probably would have thought they were crazy and that this was something loosely derived from scripture to support a fanatical movement on the fringes of the Christian community.

When my eyes were opened to the reality that this was something well grounded in scripture and not an unknown teaching in the ministries of many prominent pastors, I began to implement this way of thinking about the thoughts in my head and their origination. I can clearly see how Satan blinded me in keeping me from understanding this teaching. I had heard it multiple times, but it never "clicked".

Prior to believing this biblical concept of intruding thoughts, I would often fail to see when I was being tempted or not know how to handle it when it was happening. Because I didn't recognize that it was Satan who was tempting me I failed to "resist" him and just fought the thought by trying not to think about it. You know what that is like. We are never told in scripture to resist temptation, we are told to resist the tempter. If I am trying to resist temptation then guess what my focus is on, the temptation! If, rather, I saw the temptation as being sent from Satan, then I could effectively see that it is him that I should be resisting.

Something that I have recently noticed though is the fact that we can not only be tempted with evil things but with "good" things as well. Recall the temptation of Jesus. One of the temptations was to turn stones into loaves of bread. There isn't anything inherently evil about the action that was proposed. Do we often heed good or even religious thoughts for the wrong reasons? We have to ask ourselves are we being directed by the Spirit or just following whatever thought enters our head.

I am always fighting my legalistic tendencies. One day I was reading a good book and made it to a nice stopping point. I set it down at a convenient spot, next to my bed, and instantly I was confronted with fearful thoughts. I had set the book ON TOP of the Bible! I did not discern what was going through my head very clearly but I am sure that I was being told that somehow, someway, by setting another book on top of my Bible, I was surely in danger of losing favor with God.

Haha! I am sure I am not alone in this experience. Really though, has anyone else noticed how we always have these upside-down pyramid stacks of books with our over-sized Bible at the very top? What are we afraid of? Oh, sure we want to be reverent to the Holy Scriptures but I think we take it too far when we begin acting as pagans of old, afraid of being jinxed by our use or misuse of items. Plain superstition. That is all it is and I would argue that Satan is behind it all. What other ways are we walking fearfully when we could be running, jumping and singing in the glorious freedom we have in Christ!
Perhaps I am alone in this nuttiness, but it serves my point.

On the same note, I recall not too long ago, noticing how someone else had used their family Bible along with other books as a place to set a lamp, "How irreverent", I thought. Tsk tsk tsk. Oh yes, my standard is pleasing to the Lord and so I can look down my nose at these poor irreverent souls.

Satan wins a double victory when he gets us to accept a standard that is not biblical. We fall into bondage to useless rules that we probably won't be able to live up to anyway and then we feel self-righteous about our obedience as compared to other's failure to heed "God's word".

Back on subject; Intruding thoughts are very real and ought to be realized by the valiant Christian.

Recently, I found myself getting angry about something. Moments earlier my mom said something that hurt my feelings and I was reciting all of the ways she was wrong about what she had said. The fact is that my mom didn't really mean for her words to be hurtful, but Satan was twisting them to make me think there was a hidden message she was trying to get across to me. I was fuming, but then suddenly I realized that I was not reasoning properly and I noticed how it had been Satan who was "stirring the pot" of anger and making me feel offended where no offense was meant.

How many other times have I allowed intruding thoughts from Satan to guide my thinking about a certain person or words spoken to me?
I recently heard one friend speak at a conference. She had intruding thoughts that related to violent acts. She would be putting away the silverware and while grasping a knife would have thoughts of killing her family. I know, it sounds awful, but you see there is nothing wrong with having the thought (being tempted) the problem comes when we take the thought as our own, whether we act out on it or not. You see, she was in great turmoil over the fact that she could have such evil thoughts. She beat herself up over receiving temptation because she thought she must be some kind of psycho for ever having the thoughts. This drove her into depression which brought its own set of problems. By God's grace she came to realize that these thoughts were not her own, they were Satan's thoughts that he was putting into her head.

Jim Logan, in his book, "Reclaiming Surrendered Ground" says, "I pity the man who thinks that every thought that enters his head is his own."

Thank you for reading. As I have said, this teaching was revolutionary in my own life. I want to speak out about it because if there are others who are believing the fallacy that everything that enters their head is their own, I want to see them come to freedom. This was huge in my life. Please reflect upon this to see if you might be in the same situation as I and my friend were.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

a thought on guy/girl relationships

I was talking with a friend recently and they said something about guy/girl relationships that seemed very wise. They said that for a guy and a girl to have a non-romantic relationship they both must have maturity, especially in the area of contentment. If that maturity is lacking in one or both of the persons, the relationship will have a possible slant towards becoming romantic, even if it is a poor decision for reasons such as timing, character, or, of course, maturity. Contentment is the key to having godly relationships with the opposite gender.

Anyone have any opposing thoughts on this? Want to add something?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A re-post from Alexander Adventures. Very good perspective.
Someone recently wrote asking for our family's opinion of contemporary Christian music and women wearing only skirts and dresses. Our reply follows: 

Timmy and I (Joy) have a unique perspective on this topic because we are from a denomination that encourages women to wear skirts and considers contemporary Christian music (CCM) to be undesirable for healthy Christian growth. Having been very familiar with those teachings for most of my life, I have observed some things that I'd love to share with you.

My family didn't attend church until I was 11 when my step-dad who was saved but not walking with the Lord decided we'd all go to church for the first time on Christmas morning. A friend of my sister's had been inviting us to her church so we went there. 
We went back the following Sunday and my mom, sister, and I were saved and my step-dad rededicated his life to Christ. What I observed over the next year or so in my parents' transformed lives made an indelible mark on my life. 
Instead of spending Sundays boating and being surrounded by lots of drinking, church was now the highlight of our weekend. 
My step-dad, who enjoyed fixing up cars, bought a passenger van and began a Sunday School route picking up the friends we had invited from school. 
My mom, who I would have described as sullen and borderline depressed, became so full of joy and contentment. She would hum as she worked around the house and she smiled all the time.
As I headed into my teen years, the pull of my flesh was much greater than my desire to walk with God. Although I was always very compliant and didn't ever want to cause my parents any pain, I chose a path of deception and waywardness that broke their hearts. As a result, I was sent to our denomination's Christian school when I was in the 9th grade.
Timmy, whose church it was that we attended that Christmas morning when we were both 11 years old, also appeared to be a good boy but his path was similar to mine in that his heart was more focused on pleasing his flesh than the Lord. His parents sent him to the same Christian school when he was a senior.
It's interesting that we both had very similar experiences when we arrived at the school although we came a few years apart from one another. The chapel services were convicting as the preacher would talk about what they believed turning from sin and setting ourselves apart from the world looked like. Both Timmy and I, at separate times, chose to follow the path they set out for us. We each got rid of our music and did our best to do what the pastor suggested. 
It was the most dangerous time in my entire life. 
I now know what was occurring. My ears were being tuned to the pastor's preferences and standards and deafened to the Holy Spirit and His words to me for my life.
The young adults around us were all in various stages of following the pastor and thinking it was the path to victorious Christian living, falling away from the rules, repenting, then following the rules once again. No one could hear or discern the Holy Spirit's voice. 
I believe the only thing that saved me from ruin was my parents' testimonies. They never did stray from the Holy Spirit's path for them. They would ask God if it was wrong to do this thing or that, and if the Lord said it was not an offense to Him, they would follow God instead of man. They did it with humility and quietness, never flaunting their freedom in Christ, while allowing others to adhere to dress codes and music standards that they believed helped them in their walk. They were in every way non-judgmental of their fellow believers.
Having been in the opposite position of my parents in regard to following the denomination's preferences, I couldn't help but look around, when taught that particular standards are part of victorious living, at the others who weren't abiding by the rules and wonder how they could appear to have a close walk with God. I assumed either they weren't enlightened yet to understand what God "requires" or they were walking in disobedience. 
And that is where the hook is found. In following my church's teachings that are common to my denomination but not necessarily common to the victorious-living Christian body as a whole, I subject myself to the deafening process I described while also developing a sense of pride, albeit unintentionally, because I suppose I am more enlightened than the everyday, simple-minded believer. And if Satan can cause me to be proud, even over living a more separated life, he has the foothold he needs to take me down.

Satan doesn't care what type of bondage he uses to enslave believers. Some are easy prey to the slavery of self indulgence. They can't discipline themselves to deny their flesh so Satan imprisons them in their own bodies as they serve themselves and their selfish desires.

Others aren't as susceptible to a lack of self control so Satan sends a different agent to capture the believer, leaving them just as powerless and useless for the Lord. The bondage is called legalism and it is fueled by what appears to be a fervent desire to follow God in every area of their lives.

We know a group that fit this category well. They were as zealous for the Lord as any group you'd ever want to meet. So much so that they guarded even the guardrail areas of their lives so they wouldn't even come close to falling off the edge. Unfortunately, the extra precautionary measures that they used became the focus of their lives. In time they invested more energy into following their rules than they did pursuing a relationship with Christ. An unintended consequence was that they also became judgmental of the believers who were not adhering to the extra precautionary measures. And that is when Satan took them over - when they became proud of how holy and religious they were.

You know this group of people as well as I do. They are called the Pharisees. In their narrow-minded view of how to live a godly life, they rejected the Author of Christianity. They dismissed Jesus because He didn't follow the rules they had established. Their rules blinded them to the voice of God and they eventually killed Jesus who came to give them real life.

There is a way to know if you are around believers who are leaning toward legalism. Do they accept completely and wholeheartedly someone who says they've studied the scripture, prayed, and sought the guidance of other believers and they have decided the wife and daughters will continue to wear pants and shorts and as a family they will promote CCM throughout their household?

All legalists will accept someone who they feel has not yet reached the enlightened stage. They will even reach out to the outcasts of society to evangelize and help them. But the end point must be conformance to the church's standards. To simply say that the Holy Spirit has led you to a different conclusion will not satisfy the true legalist. He will not consider you capable in your ability to hear from God and will dismiss you as an incompetent believer.

We have observed three primary types of people who are drawn into legalism above a relationship with Christ. The first is the person who truly loves God and is very appreciative for their salvation. They will do anything and everything they can to please the Lord. If they hear of this standard or that, they quickly submit to the pastor's guidelines as they see no sacrifice too big to give for the God who saved them. The second type of believer is one who struggles fiercely to bring their flesh under Christ's control. They see a legalistic church as a prison they enter voluntarily in hopes of it helping them better control their flesh. The third group that we've observed is parents who are fearful that their children will fall away from Christ. These parents are drawn to a church that promotes rule-keeping in hopes that it will come alongside them in keeping their children far from the enemy's reach.
Almost 40 years of observing Christian life in the church has caused us to notice something else recently. Dedicated believers in Christ who truly, wholeheartedly want to serve God, are searching fervently to find like-minded believers. These couples are tired of nominal Christianity and lukewarm churches and they want something more for themselves and their children. 
The families are thrilled to find a good church with high standards, sound preaching, and people who love the Lord. These moms and dads are often first generation genuinely committed Christians whose parents raised them in lukewarm churches. Having come from mediocrity, their search for a truly dedicated group of believers with which to worship is all the more urgent. 

Sadly, many of them are stumbling into the very churches we had to break free from in order to hear Jesus' voice above a man's. But they don't know it. 
This would describe the parents of most of our friends who attended the Christian school with Timmy and I. Their parents were gloriously saved and there was nothing they wouldn't do in sincere gratitude and love for the Lord. The standards didn't phase them. They gave up everything the church suggested would help them live victoriously. They gave it up gladly. Their love for the Lord was forever new and fresh as first generation committed Christians.
However, the second generation - their children - did not fare well. Not having had the dramatic salvation or rededication story of their parents but rather being subjected to the deafening of the Holy Spirit's voice, through the constant practice of equating a victorious walk with God to following man-made preferences, they were left blind and hopeless. The vast majority, actually almost all the students in our graduating class, have completely left the church - completely. No God at all. 
They never could quite measure up to the church's definition of "good" or "holy" and they finally gave up. Some gave up while at Bible college. Some gave up several years and babies into marriages. An entire wasteland of people whose ears were deafened to the Holy Spirit until the enemy's voice was loud enough to lead them into slavery.
May we be wise to the schemes of the enemy - whether they be evidenced in the obvious destruction of a godless, sin-saturated life or the subtle devastation of the legalistic church - as both smell of the pit.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


The recent unraveling of two leaders in the conservative Christian movement reminds me of the susceptibility we all have to subtle sins such as pride. Pride is written all over their stories. Someone could press that it is the very thing that destroyed these men. So they had issues, everyone does. They should have submitted themselves to their brothers in Christ but they chose to keep their problems a secret and act like they had it all together.

What does the Bible say about pride and humility?

Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
    and perverted speech I hate.

Proverbs 15:25
The Lord tears down the house of the proud...

Proverbs 16:5
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Isaiah 57:15
15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Zephaniah 2:3 righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the Lord.

Matthew 23:12
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

James 4:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

It becomes pretty obvious that the Bible has a lot to say about this issue of pride, perhaps more than any other sin. This should help us to realize how serious pride is with God. Many have said that it was the original sin. 

Pride is something we all deal with on some level. We know it is wrong but too often we cannot see how it is working its evil in our lives. The worst thing is that most of us only care when pride shows up. Instead of cultivating humility we are pulling out weeds with no change to the soil of the heart.

It is the hardest thing. My greatest motivation to be humble is my pride. It hurts my pride terribly when it is exposed in front of everyone and so my pride wants to diminish itself. So small that it cannot be seen by myself or others but still alive and present in my every thought and action.

May I suggest that we shouldn't be tied up in shoving down the evidence of pride so much as we should be building humility in ourselves? Isn't our primary reason for battling with pride, pride itself? Maybe not in every case but I know it is true of myself!

How do we cultivate humility?
This section is mostly copied from WIT Alive workbook.

-True humility is vulnerable with others. It isn't hiding its real intentions, afraid it will be exposed. Doesn't care who knows what its done or is doing.

-It takes full responsibility for mistakes. Stops blaming others for its situation. It resists the victim mentality, self-pity.

-Doesn't demand forgiveness. True humility understands that it does not have a right to be forgiven; it is an undeserved gift of mercy.
-It looks for ways to be humbled.

-It takes initiative to makes things right between itself and others.
When was the last time you were in an argument? Did you know that, according to Proverbs 13:10, pride was the cause?
This is all very convicting to me. It is scary how proud my heart really is. I noticed this the other day when someone corrected me for some interactions I had on social media. The person correcting me was saying that what I had done was wrong and instantly I began to think of all reasons why it isn't their business and how I wasn't wrong in what I was doing, thinking "they don't know my heart!"

Later on I was still thinking (stewing) about it. "Don't I deserve some privacy? Sheesh! They're such a busy-body!" And then, it hit me. My inward response was totally based out of pride! I was doing the same rationalizing that Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips used, no doubt, to cover their lack of transparency which led to major moral failure in their lives. 
All of the sudden, I was scared. Wow! I was so close to writing this person's opinions off as being ridiculous when in actuality, this was the very input I need in my life to keep me on the right course. I then came to acknowledge that, perhaps, they were right in their judgments against me, and I needed to cool it. :)

Pride will only lead to destruction. We need to admit our weaknesses and our utter reliance on our brothers and sisters in Christ to point out when we are veering so that we can correct our actions and get back on track.

Praise God that he is working in us to end the reign of pride in our lives.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Second Biggest Change In My Life

WIT Alive in Indiana is coming up next month. Oliver and I will be taking our van and we may have some extra seats if anyone would like a ride. 
Like I have said in previous posts, this conference has been so amazing and the Lord has used it to bring about lasting change in my life. I can easily say that, next to my decision to follow Christ, no other event has changed my life like this conference has. The material trumps the modern-day comfy churchgoer mindset and has given me purpose.

Please prayerfully consider whether the Lord would have you attend this year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Too Good To Be Forgiven

Which category do you fit in? Too good to be forgiven, too bad to be to be forgiven, or so bad that you are glad to be forgiven?

I can identify with all three of the categories. In fact, I have seen cycles of these in my life. I will start out knowing my sin and glad to be forgiven by the Lord, but then, I will begin to feel good about my situation in life and pride will set in. All of the sudden, subconsciously I will be feeling as if I am perfectly fine and don’t need God’s continuous forgiveness in my life. Forgiveness? I got that way back when and have no need of it currently. Sure as rain, I will fall into blatant hard-hearted sin and feel completely worthless.

At this point Satan whispers to me that I am too far gone for the forgiveness God offers. Perhaps I have committed the unpardonable sin. My heart is too hard to repent, therefore I am like Esau who couldn’t find repentance though he sought it with tears (Satan loves to use multiple scripture verses to get at us). I have crossed the line. There is no going back to that wonderful place of relationship with the Lord. I am at the end of my rope, thinking I am too bad to be forgiven. 

That is when I find His grace and forgiveness anew. I relearn that it isn’t based on what I can conjure up emotionally or spiritually - it is just His marvelous grace sweeping over all of my imperfections and shortcomings. And then, I am back where I started. Completely aware of my own need for His forgiveness and totally aware that He offers it freely to me. How wonderful it is to be in that state! 
Sadly, all to soon, I repeat the cycle. May God strengthen my reliance on Him, and help me never to feel secure in my own way of life, but instead, always seeing my need for His grace. 

If I had to identify with just one category listed, in all honesty, it would probably be “too good to be forgiven”. I am always fighting my legalistic nature that is pressing on me and telling me how much better I am than others. I keep all of the reasonable laws down to a tee and those people over there, their standards are way too low, goodness me, how can they even be saved? And those people who have higher standards, well, they're just a bunch of legalists! Woe unto you, Pharisees!

I certainly need a deeper understanding of God’s grace. He who is forgiven much, loves much! If I could only see how grievous my sin is, then I would love God and people much more.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Healing Services

This is an interesting post by Tim Challies. Worth a read.

A Presbyterian Healing Service

At this point, I don't agree with the cessationist viewpoint. I just don't see anything about the spiritual gifts ceasing in the Bible. I feel like the view has been created mostly because of our westernized experience and hence, is read into the Word of God.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Clarity for the thoughts previously posted

 My friend Jonathan suggested I send my post to his pastor, Tim Price. He brings up several valid points that bring much clarity to the thoughts I expressed in my previous post. 

Posted by Tim Price

I read your blog and it doesn’t surprise me that you encountered this kind of response. I’ve encountered the same thing many times with JWs and Mormons, not so much with Catholics who are not generally interested in attracting Protestant beliefs. JWs and Mormons have to harmonize with Protestants as much as possible in order to gain converts. They are trained meticulously to do exactly what you witnessed, i.e. agree with you while holding the broader agenda close to their chests. It’s a method that makes use of the confined space of an argument. You came away from the discussion thinking that you were only dealing with the subject of salvation (the nature of the Gospel) even though, in the background of your mind, you knew there was a broader context, and that, I think, is what disturbs you. At some point, your opponent should have given away his hand, but he didn’t. Part of that is because you should have left the Gospel box and gone for more basic presuppositions. There are two that never fail: Have the opponent define God, and Ask the opponent why he shouldn’t consider YOU a JW/Mormon since you both seem to be in agreement, in other words, Why shouldn’t you assume his evangelical efforts are futile if he sees no reason to believe you are not just like him. The latter reverses the weight of the argument onto him. Neither the JWs nor the Mormons have a Christian view of God so the former requires that they admit to trinitarian and christological heresy. In other words, you have to get control of the argument by dragging them into your box.

I do not suggest ever treating a known cult member as a regenerate Christian for a number of reasons, but primarily because they must repent of their beliefs. You said at one point in your blog, “At the same time, I do not think that saving faith is only found in our evangelical circles. I believe that there are JWs, Mormons and Catholics who have a real saving knowledge of the gospel. I am aware of small factions of Catholics that have a real gospel preached to them.” You use the terms “saving faith” and “saving knowledge seemingly interchangeably and I assume, since you profess deep orthodoxy, that you mean that there is a truth within their system that could be saving. This is partially true and the same can be said for other religions, even very decadent ones. An animistic religion, such as that of the Lakota Sioux, contains very true ideas about the Holy Spirit. The problem is that the truth of it is so admixed with the falseness of the system that one cannot be extracted from the other. It is the pollution that affects the truth, not the reverse (at least in no other way than to morally temper the lie). It is not the lying portion of the system they need to be saved from, but the pollution of the whole system. Everything must be abandoned in order that pure truth may replace the lie. No lie is devoid of truth; man is not capable of constructing anything except by the use of what material God has given. Here’s where one finds himself standing on the Bifrost Bridge... enter C. S. Lewis.

I join those who have great problems with Lewis in this quotation. Judging from his statement in The Last Battle that seeing Tash as Aslan is sufficient for Emeth (which is not coincidentally Hebrew for “truth”) to enter into the Narnian “heaven” — I think I know that Lewis means exactly what he’s saying here, which is essentially universalism. Lewis stands firmly on the Bifrost Bridge between earth (Midgard) and the world of myth (Asgard, which really translates in meaning to “human imagination”, the vault of the world that is within Ymir’s skull). His view of the doctrine of sin is seriously flawed (at least in theory, for Lewis’s public views were never very consistent with his personal experience of salvation.) Lewis’s theory is that Jesus is the “myth become fact” when the reverse is what is taught in Scripture, that the revelation of Christ (the Protoevangelium) became myth. The latter proposition fits the evidence far better and is completely free of Bifrost.

Truth is contained within myth. Paul says as much to the philosophers on Mar’s Hill when he quotes their poets to them, but Paul is not fooled by the scraps of truth they “grasp at” in ignorance, nor is he seeking a table of conference with them. He calls upon them to embrace the resurrection (something they did not believe in) and repent (something they did not believe they needed to do.) He maintained the antithesis and pushed it forward. Evangelism is not a peace-making measure; it is a form of warfare. Paul knew that even though the Greeks had collected a few shards of busted truth, deception and self-deception had done its work on them and shackled them in inextricable delusion. They needed to have their bonds “violently” broken by pure truth and life.

Your quote, “Why do we think people have to be on our side of every issue before they are saved? If we had to embrace even just one facet of the gospel in the fullest sense using our human strength, we could not.” Very true. That is the nature of grace. Understanding always follows faith, never the reverse. “In thy light, I see light” is the starting point of the Christian life. I should say that the fresh convert is about as unchristian in his views as he can be when he has first been quickened from the depths of the world, but the difference is that he is now willing to forsake everything and will willingly let go of anything he ever believed once Truth has demanded it of him. But this is the work of the Spirit and not ours. We must demand that the sinner embrace Truth (the True Gospel), whether he knows that truth or not and that is saving faith... something the sinner does not posses nor is it contained in his deceiving system.

So, when the JW or the Mormon seems to agree on faith, and salvation, and grace, follow those instincts because you know he/she is changing the definitions. Their god is no God, and that defines everything they believe and makes it false... and they know that, which is why they are trying to deceive you. The person you are talking to may not be fully aware of this, but the people who trained him do. Like Walter Martin once said, “Attack the system, not the man.”


I appreciate the views that pastor Price expressed. He really cuts through all of the fluff and bring us back to the Scriptures. Thank you pastor for your input.