Tag Archives: faith

Rachel Held Evans: On Origami and Trust

The news concerning the death of Rachel Held Evans this past weekend has been hard to swallow.   She leaves behind a loving husband, 2 young children, and a family innumerable who have been blessed, encouraged, and loved through her speaking and writing ministry.   She will be greatly missed.

I first met Rachel back in 2010 when were were both actively blogging about faith and the church.  She graciously shared some of my writings on her blog (which was far more popular than mine ) and we met at a few conferences.  When I was moving from seminary back to Tennessee in 2011 we kicked the idea around of starting a church that would minister to the outcasts and misfits – those who had lost faith in the church but hoped God hadn’t lost faith in them.   Sadly, that never transpired.

Over the years we drifted apart but I continued to read her work.   While we didn’t always land in the same place, I always admired her gift with words and her ability to articulate the questions of faith that all of us have or have had and she did so humbly and honestly.   Never did I doubt that she was and is deeply in love with Jesus and her neighbors.   Today, I don’t doubt that that love is only magnified and more truly known.

I’ve been moved by the many tributes written these past few days.   But I’ve also been appalled by comments and posts from many of her detractors. I won’t reference them here as I don’t want to give them life, but they reveal the dark underbelly of the Church at which Rachel devoted much of her time aiming her prophetic voice, and the remainder of her time creating places of grace and healing for it’s refugees.   She wanted them, and us, to know that the church imperfectly reflects the goodness of our Father and that we can trust Jesus to make all things new.

I fell prey to something these last two days, be it my hero complex or simply boredom, to defend Rachel to some of her detractors.   In the midst of this I realized that this is not something Rachel would have done herself, nor expect any of us to do.  Rather, she would likely pray for them, and instruct me to do the same (or teach me how to turn their hate mail into origami).

But it did get me thinking about trust.  When the judgments of those self-avowed defenders of pure religion are stacked up against the grace-filled, humble words of Rachel and her many friends, a blinding, stark contrast is on full display.  The former is only able to give lip service to trust, whereas the latter embodies it in word and deed.  They do this, I think, because they trust not the frame of their religion but the One who frames them in perfect light to the Father.

This came to me as I was singing this weekend the song, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.”   The first stanza goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

As in life, Rachel’s death is also inviting me to trust Jesus.   To trust less in my understanding of Jesus, or my doctrinal purity, or who I agree or disagree with on certain matters but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Yes, no doubt there are important things worth contending over, but may my hope and yours be first and foremost in Jesus – the one who loves us and died for us in the midst of our ignorance and sin.  This trust in the work of this Person, I believe, is what is most important, and making this our business is what I believe will best honor the legacies of both Rachel and our Lord.

Rest in Peace and Power, RHE.

 

Praying for Faith (Resurrection is real, or all this is in vain)

Every Easter this tired trope gets trotted out that it’s not necessary to believe Jesus literally was raised from the dead. It’s fine, these progressive skeptics tell us, to embrace Easter as a beautiful metaphor describing the indestructible qualities of things like hope and love.

One example of many is found in the opinion piece linked above.  Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, says,

For me, the message of Easter is that love is stronger than life or death. That’s a much more awesome claim than that they put Jesus in the tomb and three days later he wasn’t there. For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.

Yes, Ms. Jones.   It would mean that it’s all a lie.   For if Christ is not risen from the dead, all of your preaching and mine is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).   The faith proclaimed in Scripture is not one of sentimentality, it’s object being the stuff that makes up inspirational Hallmark cards.   No.  The faith found in Scripture of which we are compelled to receive is a gift whose object is the living God, through whom we only know what love is because of the life, death and resurrection of his incarnate Son.   It is a faith far stronger than sentimentality and cute slogans.

And it’s a faith that must be contended for.  Within myself, perhaps in each of us, is a wandering heart which all too easily falls prey to cultural accommodation. This is why scripture is replete with commands to guard our heart (and our doctrine) closely.

And so it is that this Easter I found myself praying for faith. Perhaps you, too, would like to join me.

Father, you promised that those who seek you will find you. Open the eyes of my heart today so that I can see you in all your glory. Give me the faith of a child so that I am never outside your Kingdom.

Jesus, I want to believe the improbable and impossible because in you everything exists, and nothing exists apart from you. I want to believe that you were there when all that exists came into being. I want to believe that in the beginning you walked with Adam and Eve. I want to believe that you saved Noah through an ark. I want to believe that you parted a sea to save your people. I want to believe that you caused the sun to stand still, rained bread down from heaven, made water come from rocks, spared faithful men from a burning furnace, and toppled a giant with a sling and a stone.

Jesus, I want to believe that you were born miraculously of a virgin, fed 5000 with meager means, walked on water, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, calmed the storm and raised the dead with your word.

Jesus, I want to believe that you laid down your life willingly to save me from my sins. I want to believe that your Father in Heaven raised you bodily from the grave, defeating sin and death. I want to believe that you now sit beside him in glory, interceding on my behalf and empowering me with your Spirit to destroy the works of the devil in my mind, body and soul and throughout your creation.

Spirit, where there is any doubt in me I pray you would guide me into truth. Give me life not according to my words but Yours. Make me to believe that the desires of God’s heart are to be mine, and that I will never know true joy unless my heart is beating with yours.

Give me childlike faith, Father, and surround me with your true followers who will sharpen me and encourage me to press on till the day we are brought into the eternal home you have prepared for us. Grant me to live each day emboldened by a robust faith that does not fear death because I know I am the child of the Creator of the universe who literally came to earth to give me the opportunity to become his child.

I ask all of this in the powerful, holy name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you now and forever. Amen.

Doubt vs. Certainty

Doubt and Certainty. I’ve been chewing on these words for a few weeks and something I read online yesterday brought them both into sharper focus for me. I have been thinking about the moments in my life where I was the most certain about certain things of God and how those moments didn’t serve me very well. Moments like when I was absolutely certain that there was no hell. Or moments when I was absolutely certain that there was. Moments when I was absolutely certain that no one would be in hell as well as moments when I was certain I knew exactly who will one day be there.  Additionally, there have been moments when I was absolutely certain that God blesses and celebrates gay men and women and moments when I was absolutely certain that God abhorred such unions.

These are just a few examples of things I have believed passionately at one time or another. They are very different from each other but the one thing they all have in common is the tenacity and certainty with which I held those beliefs. It felt good to be certain – to have a side on which I could plant my flag among a community of like minded people who were equally certain that we were right and they were wrong.

I have also had moments – even long seasons – of doubt. In recent months and years I have doubted that God loves me. I have doubted that God is for me. I have doubted that God would want anything to do with me because of choices I had made and habits in which I have gleefully wallowed. I have doubted that my life can be salvaged or that I could be forgiven. I’ve doubted that the church could be a place of healing and restoration, or that she would even welcome me were I to return.

Doubt, coupled with shame, have been my most constant companions for much of the past few years.

I share all that to say this: I think one of the things God is trying to teach me, and the thing I have been chewing on these last few weeks, is that neither one of these places – certainty and doubt – are healthy places for me.  Certainty tends to give root to pride, and doubt tends to give root to hopelessness.   These are not the best God has for me, or for you.  God hasn’t saved me so that I can be certain about certain theological concepts nor so that I might never doubt again. God knows I am human and designed me that way. God knows my weaknesses far better than I and isn’t expecting that I never doubt again or that I never get puffed up with certainty again. But just because he understands me and knows my heart is prone to wander into either of these two extremes doesn’t mean he desires for me to stay there.

I’m grateful that there have been people in my life who encourage and exhort me towards humility when I am certain and trust when I am doubting. It is humility and trust, rather than certainty and doubt, which are the virtues that serve me best in my Christian journey. This is what I am learning.

When people ask me today what my thoughts are about the existence of hell or the posture God has towards gay people, my answer is this: I don’t know. I leave those things to God who I am learning to trust is loving, just, good and true. My job, as I see it, is to love people and embrace them where they are, as they are, for who they are. Rather than try to make them fit my mold I pray that God would see fit to move in their lives in whatever way God sees fit today and that they, and I, be humble enough and open enough to receive it. I am learning that this way works for me far better than the other ways I have tried. I’m amazed to see how the Holy Spirit is capable of enlightening others to the way of Jesus when I just get out of the way and choose to be a friend.

And as for my doubts, I still struggle but I am learning to trust more. The more I sit in circles with recovering addicts like myself and hear people share their own struggles as well as joys around God and life, or how they too doubt God’s love for them at times or have witnessed God’s hand in something as simple as a cup of coffee or a hug, the more I realize that God is with me in ways I have not previously seen or understood. I’m learning to trust that he is with me and that he is someone I can once more turn my will and life over to one day at a time.

Humility and Trust. These are the spiritual realms in which I strive to live but don’t always succeed. When I do get side-tracked and slip into the far more human realms of Certainty and Doubt, I welcome feedback from fellow pilgrims who speak truth into my life and remind me that there is something better than both of those states. They aren’t trying to shame me for feeling that way. Rather, they are loving me by wanting more for me – for reminding me that I, too, want more for me. And so does God. In this way, these friends and reminders are, to steal a phrase from Barbara Brown Taylor, like altars in this world. I don’t always see them or heed them, but when I do, it’s a moment worthy of giving thanks, as I trust this hastily written post serves to do.

Thank you to all of you who have been, and continue to be, altars in this world.

Resolution Wisdom

The text for my sermon yesterday was James 3:13-18, which is about seeking wisdom that comes from above rather than the wisdom of this world.  The wisdom of this world is full of “selfish ambition,” James says.   What could be more true of our resolutions for a new year? Are they not motivated by selfish ambition? This might be why so many resolutions fizzle out after just a few weeks.   When our motives are selfish, when we choose resolutions based on what seems right to us versus what God calls us to do, we disconnect ourselves from the power of God available to assist us in our weakness.  So how can we make wise, godly resolutions? Below are seven things I encouraged my church to consider as they go about making any resolutions, this week or any time.

newyear

Resolution Wisdom

 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  ~ 1 Tim. 4:8

Most of our resolutions revolve around physical things:  lose weight, get in shape, stop smoking, etc.  All these are good things, but Paul says here they are not the best things.   What about making some spiritual resolutions this year?

1. Pray for wisdom with regards to what resolutions, if any, God would have you make.

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ~ James 1:5  

2.  Pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you.

Both 1& 2 acknowledge that the foundation for any and all action we take is prayer.  Jesus said we do not have because we do not ask.  If we will seek the wisdom that comes from above we can be assured God will grant our request.  Before choosing a resolution because everyone else is doing it, or because it seems like a good idea, pray.  Ask God what He wants from you this new year.

3.  Rely on God’s strength to help you.

  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Phil. 4:13 

When we have prayed over what course of action to take, and are convinced we are being obedient to God’s direction, we can be sure He will give us the strength to complete the task.

4. Find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Don’t do this alone.  Find a partner to pray with and encourage you.  Give them permission to ask you hard questions.

5.  Don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further.

  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   ~James 1:2-4

Our setbacks are not reasons to give up but to learn more clearly that our battle is not with flesh and blood but with the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).   When you’ve entered the fight, know that a struggle between your flesh and the spirit is going to happen!   Allow your failures to drive you further to the Cross, your only hope for this life and the next.   (for more on fighting, check out: Are you REALLY struggling with habitual sin?)

6.  Don’t expect instant results.  Be patient.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  • Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Phil. 3:12-14

If Paul, a spiritual giant in my book, still felt he had not reached the goal, why should we expect instant results?

  • “Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society

I love this quote from Eugene Peterson.  His book’s title says a lot in and of itself.   We are conditioned to want everything NOW, instantly, on-demand.   Our growth, both physically and spiritually, happens over the long-haul, through a long obedience in the same direction.    Peterson is saying that we cannot wait for our feelings to dictate our actions.  Rather, our actions dictate our feelings.   You want a better prayer life? Don’t wait until you feel like praying.  Pray!   You want to be more knowledgeable of God’s word?  Don’t wait until you feel like reading your Bible.  Read!

If you sit around waiting to feel like doing anything, you will do a lot of sitting.

7.  Don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory.

  • Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. ~ Psalm 37:5-6

As you begin to find your victories outweighing your failures, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve done something great.   Give glory to God, for whom nothing is impossible.

Questions to consider:  

  • What is one thing about my faith that God desires to grow in 2014?
  • Who will I ask to hold me accountable in this endeavor?  

*Adapted from:  Source: http://www.gotquestions.org, CEO, S. Michael Houdmann 

O Ye Of Fickle Faith

Two days ago I got some news that I wasn’t expecting, which ruined for the moment the plans I was making for myself.   My wife, knowing my concern and sadness, sent me the following text while I was driving to work:

I’m sorry honey!!!  God is in control of our lives even when others make mistakes.  Keep your hope in God.  He knows what is best and when it’s best.   I love you.

The past few days I have been asked by a few friends if I could pinpoint one of the primary differences in my life today as compared to the life of 2 summers ago.   My answer, in large part, is found in the spirit of that text.

God is in control.  Hope in God.   God knows what and when is best.  Trust Him.

It is easy to believe God is in control when things are going your way.   When you wake up to a bright, sunny day, when the coffee is hot and strong, when the car starts and has plenty of gas, when your boss gives you a promotion, when you are healthy, when your spouse is on your side and your kids are being obedient – in all these things we give thanks to God, as we ought.

But what about when there is a raging storm outside, when the coffee pot is broken, when the car breaks down on the side of the road, when you show up to work and are given a pink slip, when you get diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse cheats or leaves and when your kids drive you crazy – in all these things we tend to think God is absent or to blame.

Praise-in-Storm

I confess that I often lack the faith to believe God is in control of all things, that all things work according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11).    I confess that I often lack joy when I face trials of various kinds, which are designed for the purpose of increasing my faith (James 1:1-4).   I confess that when I feel persecuted or tormented I far too often become self-absorbed rather than see this as an opportunity to bear witness to the glory and majesty of God (Luke 21:12-13).

In Mary Beth Chapman’s moving book about hope and struggle through the tragic death of their daughter she shares how they, as a family, had their faith deepened.    While the pain was still very raw, she describes how her husband, Stephen, would go into his sound-proof recording studio in their home and scream at the top of his lungs,

You give and you take away!   Blessed be the name of the Lord!   You give and you take away!  Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

He was quoting Job 1:21.   I had tears in my eyes as I read that for the first time, and again as I type them here.   Why?  Because it’s a faith I find so humble, trusting and vulnerable.    It’s one I see so often lacking in myself, and sadly, in much of the church world.

It is a faith that gives God glory in the midst of the storm, even though, paradoxically, it names Him as the author of it. It’s the faith of Job.   Though he lost everything dear to him, he refused to curse God.    His ruminations over what happened to him neither led him to believe God was absent nor that He was to blame (in a pejorative sense) but rather, God is the author of all things and that He is good and trustworthy.    If God is truly good, and if God is truly in control, then whatever befalls Job is re-imagined through that lens.   This is ultimate trust.  This is ultimate faith.    “Yet though you slay me,” Job said, “I will trust in you” (Job 13:15).     Job knows that life and death occur by God’s hand, according to the counsel of His will, and it’s all good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28).

 
And lest we think this God is archaic, one of some ancient, Old Testament understanding of God, Jesus reminds me that it is the God he knows, and trusts explicitly.   Sent to earth to die a horrible death, he prayed that this cup – one predestined by His Father – be spared him.    The pain he was about to endure he did not attribute to an absent God nor did he blame him, but instead prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”    Like Job, Jesus prayed, “Yet though you slay me, I will trust in you.”

This trust resulted in an Easter miracle.

Granted, this God offends our modern sensibilities of what is “good” and “loving.”   It isn’t one that appeases the masses, or tickles itching ears who long to have their best life now.

My wife remembers all too well the many times she was told by a godly woman that the pain her husband (me) was inflicting upon her were opportunities for her to repent, to run to God, to worship Him.   For years she resisted this counsel, believing instead that if God were love He must be absent, or to blame, or did not love her very much at all to allow this suffering in her life.    She couldn’t stand to hear from women who testified that if she would only trust God, she would one day be giving Him thanks for her afflictions (just like David does in Psalm 119, numerous times).

Today, however, she is doing just that.   As her text above demonstrates, my wife has learned that the faith she thought she had was a fickle one, tossed and torn by the events of any given day.    Today, by the grace and mercy of God, she stands as a Job-like example to me of one who strives to pray, “Though you slay me, God, I will trust you!”

Seeing such faith in action leads me, and I hope you as well, to pray, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24).

Overcoming Addiction; Becoming More Than A Conqueror

This post is part II of my reflections from this past Sunday’s sermon on addiction.    You can read Part I HERE, which addresses the problem of addiction.   Today we will consider the solution.

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Before going further I think it’s important to note that addictions come in all shapes and sizes.   We can become addicted to anything.   Augustine famously wrote, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in Thee.”   How true this is.   When God is not on the throne of our hearts any number of suitors will take his place.

Equally important to note is that addiction is not the problem.   Addiction is merely the symptom of a deeper issue.   Jesus said that it is out of the heart that good or evil flow, so if you find yourself habitually returning to the same sin over and over again then you don’t need a new program or method or counselor to help you get your life straightened out.   You need what Jesus said you – and I – need:  A new heart.

The good news here is that God is still in the business of turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.  He delights in breaking the chains of a sinner whose will is chained at the altar of addiction and idolatry, setting them free “to both will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). 

I know first-hand how difficult it is to come to this realization that our heart’s are desperately wicked and that Jesus wants to make us new, not just better.    If you grew up in the church it is especially hard.   Working against me was a history of being a pastor’s kid, an undergrad degree in bible and theology, a seminary degree, and a number of years serving as a pastor.   With so much religion in my life it was easy to fall prey to spiritual pride, which convinced me I was essentially a good person, that my service to God and others counted for something, and that I just struggled with this “one thing,” but hey, everyone has their “thorn in the flesh,” right?

All of that is a lie which serves to keep us from experiencing the power, freedom and hope that Jesus promises we can have in him.   That power is freely offered to you but will not be fully realized until you accept God’s reality of things.   You are not a good person who occasionally (or often) does bad things but a sinner with a bad heart incapable of ever pleasing, or seeing, God (see Isa. 64:6 and Heb. 12:14).

We need new hearts, and thanks be to God, he is willing and able to give us what we need!

So the first step towards freedom from sin (addiction) is letting go of the pride in us that tries to justify ourselves before a holy God and reckon ourselves as that which God’s word says we are:  A sinner in need of a new heart.

Pastor Tim, in his sermon on Sunday, shared a story from Scripture that has much practical value for us here.   It is Matthew 17:14-21.  The first half of the story is about a man beseeching Jesus to heal his demon-possessed son.  He brought him to Jesus’ disciples first but they were unable to drive it out.   Before healing the boy, Jesus exclaims,

O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?

Jesus diagnoses their generation (and no doubt our own) as “unbelieving” and “perverse.”   Because of these two things, the disciples lacked the power to free this man’s son.  What does it mean to be unbelieving and perverse?

  • Unbelieving is to be not connected to God.

If you are addicted to something then you have something else on the throne of your heart other than God.  God is a jealous God and we are fooling ourselves if we think we can treat his temple (our bodies) casually (1 Cor. 6:19-20).   This is related to the second point…

  • Perverse is to be too connected to the world.

If Jesus’ generation loved the world how much more might that be of us today!   We love the comforts and thrills this world offers us and take little notice of how much of a hold it has on our spiritual lives.  Scripture teaches that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).    God calls us “adulterers” when we put the things of this world before our connection with Him.

And so, Jesus says, it is because we are not connected with God and are too connected with this world that we lack power in our lives to be the victorious, over-coming Christians we are called to be.

The disciples came to Jesus privately in the second half of our story above and ask Jesus why they could not drive out the demon.   Jesus tells them that they lack faith, but also tells us how we can make right the problem of being unbelieving and perverse.  If you are having a hard time driving out your demon of addiction, Jesus says,

This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting

Jesus calls prayer and fasting essential, so lets consider each.

  • Prayer connects us to God

I am ashamed to admit that I was once someone who scoffed at those who advised me I needed to pray more.  They were the sort of people I deleted from my life (mentioned in part I).   Our cynicism towards prayer and it’s efficacy is just one more symptom of our lack of faith and validation of Jesus’ claim that we live in an unbelieving and perverse generation.

However, there is some truth to the critics of “praying more.”    It’s not so much the “more” but the “how” and “why” that matters.   A person can pray 24 hours a day but if they cherish iniquity in their heart (as most addicts still do) or, for you husband’s, if you do not honor your wife and treat her as God commands, then nobody is listening on the other end of the line (see Psalm 66:18 and 1 Peter 3:7.  Also, you may be interested in a post on this blog titled “When God Doesn’t Listen”).

Most of my prayers as a habitual sinner (addict) were about God removing the painful circumstances that my sins have caused rather than submitting to a holy God whom I knew would demand radical heart surgery on me.   When our prayers are motivated by “worldly sorrow” rather than “godly sorrow” we are praying from a place of pride and the result will be further death, not life (2 Cor. 7:10).   The Puritan William Gurnall says of prayer,

Prayer is the main line that leads straight to the throne of God.  By it the Christian approaches God with a humble boldness of faith, takes hold of Him, wrestles with Him, and will not let Him go until he has His blessing.  (The Christian in Complete Armor Vol. I).

We can be assured that the blessing which God desires to bestow upon us is victory over every sin that besets us, including the most pernicious of addictions, for His will for us is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).

  • Secondly, fasting disconnects us from the world.

One of the great benefits of my time at Pure Life was that it forced me to disconnect from the world.   In doing so I realized just how much the love of this world had a hold on me.  I also learned that I would not die without watching TV!   For 7 months I was without radio, TV, internet, magazines, etc.  I fed myself with a steady diet of Scripture, Prayer, Worship and Christian books.

I also took on a weekly habit of fasting for 24 hours from food, something I had never done before that time, nor did I understand it’s benefits.   God used that time where I denied myself food to teach me that I could, in fact, say “NO” to the desires of my flesh.   Without really realizing it at the time I was strengthening my spiritual “muscles.”   Since I knew I could say no to food when my stomach growled I became increasingly confident that I could also say no to lust when it beckoned.   The fruit of the Spirit which includes “self-control” began to take root in my life from the discipline of fasting.

I’ve been home from Pure Life now for over 7 months and have continued my practice of fasting in order to be less connected to the world.   We don’t have a TV in our home save one in the kids room for Ava’s Mickey Mouse episodes.   We listen to Christian music in our home and read Christian books.   My time on the internet is guarded, filtered, and used as needed.   As a family we always went to the beach for summer vacations but this year we opted not to go, as it was a source of temptation.

Jesus said to be radical with sin that threatens to destroy us – to go as far as cutting out the eye or the limb.   If you find yourself being constantly defeated by the same habitual patterns or sins, I can testify that cutting out the many inroads the world has in your life, while adding prayer for the right reasons from a right heart, will destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and you will be more than a conqueror, (Rom. 8:37) just as God said you would be.

*Thanks to my good friend and pastor, Tim Paul, for supplying the bullet points above.   Your sermon really spoke to me, and I pray my reflections upon it serve as a testament to that.