Tag Archives: holiness

Holiness is your calling

Scripture is explicit when it says we should make every effort to be holy, for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).   With so much at stake it’s a wonder we Christians are so muddy in our thinking about holiness.  But this need not be the case.  Do we really believe God is such a poor, even evil, Father that He would call His children to such heights without giving us a ladder?

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I’ve begun reading Jerry Bridges’ classic, The Pursuit of Holiness, and was struck early on by the three reasons he gives for our lackluster appearance on the grand stage (Holiness) to which God has called us.

1. Our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered.

We are more concerned about our own “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God.  We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not  because we know it is offensive to God.

How true! I recall my many years of trying to overcome my addiction to lust and pornography.  I was consumed with a desire to be victorious over my sin primarily because it was messing up my life and the lives of others around me.   In this way I was only experiencing worldly sorrow over my sin rather than godly sorrow.   Paul says the former leads to death, while the latter will lead to true repentance, and life (2 Cor. 7:10).

It was not until I saw my actions as offenses against a holy God that I was able to break free from those chains.  My view of sin changed from being about me and how it hurt me or others to being about God and how it grieved Him.   Bridges goes on to say,

God wants us to walk in obedience – not victory.  Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self.  This may seem to be merely splitting hairs over semantics, but there is a subtle, self-centered attitude at the root of many of our difficulties with sin.  Until we face this attitude and deal with it, we will not consistently walk in holiness.

I can testify to the truth of this and that learning to walk in obedience – in holiness – has with it the blessed by-product of victory over even the most besetting of sins.

2. We have misunderstood “living by faith.”

Walking in holiness is still a walk.   While God has graciously given us a ladder we must do our part and climb it.    Much of our confusion over holiness is that we are lazy, and have conveniently made “living by faith” completely God’s responsibility.   It’s as if we think a magic wand will wave and just make us holy.

Bridges gives a helpful illustration in his preface of the co-operation necessary if we are to achieve holiness in our lives.   Farming, he writes, is a joint venture between God and man.   The farmer knows that without sunlight and rain – forces totally outside his control – his garden will never grow.   But also true is that unless the farmer tills the soil, plants the seed, fertilizes and cultivates he will not have a garden, regardless of how much sun and rain come.   Cooperation between God and man is necessary in farming, and in our pursuit of holiness.

We must face the fact that we have a personal responsibility for our walk of holiness.  One Sunday our pastor in his sermon said words to this effect: “You can put away that habit that has mastered you if you truly desire to do so.”    The Holy Spirit said to me, “And you can put away the sinful habits that plague you if you will accept your personal responsibility for them.”  Acknowledging that I did have this responsibility turned out to be a milestone for me in my own pursuit of holiness.

 

3. We do not take some sin seriously.

Because we do not see God as the offended party over our sin we trivialize our own.   We fall prey to the game of justifying some sin as less egregious than others, making allowance for our own shortcomings because compared to others we think we are doing pretty well.  Would we act this way if we meditated often on how much God hates sin – all sin – all the time?

Scripture says it’s “the little foxes that ruin the vineyards” (Song of Songs 2:15).   Jesus raised the bar exceptionally higher when he said that even the intent of lust was the same as adultery, or even anger towards another was the same as murder (Matt. 5:28).   Yet how often do we go through a day harboring anger, resentment, lust, envy, and greed towards one another, all the while justifying it because we think God doesn’t care that much or will let it slide once He hears our good excuse?

On commenting on the more minute Old Testament dietary laws God gave Israel, Andrew Bonar said,

It is not the importance of the thing, but the majesty of the Lawgiver, that is to be the standard of obedience…Some, indeed, might reckon such minute and arbitrary rules as these as trifling.  But the principle involved in obedience or disobedience was none other than the same principle which was tried in Eden at the foot of the forbidden tree.  It is really this:  Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things whatsoever He commands?  Is He a holy Lawgiver?  Are His creatures bound to give implicit assent to His will?

Are we willing to call sin, “sin,” not because it is big or little, or even because of the harm we reason it may or may not do to self or others, but solely and supremely because God’s law forbids it and we would rather die than disobey?

I believe if we rightly understood these three things we would have a far better grasp on what it means to pursue holiness.   I’m looking forward to the rest of this book where Bridges promises to flesh more of this out.

See yesterday’s post inspired from one of the chapters from this book:  Obedience is the Goal, not Victory.

 

Obedience is the goal, not victory

For much of my adult life I was striving for the wrong goal when it came to dealing with my addiction or my walk with God.   My goal was victory.  Freedom.   My goal was to be free from the thing(s) wreaking havoc on my spiritual, emotional and physical life and that of others.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I prayed for victory over my addiction to pornography.   I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, crying out to God to deliver me from my desires.   I thought that being a good Christian meant that I am to have faith that God could heal me.   I thought I was to “stop trying and start trusting” in God for the victory.   If I did not wake up and feel “free” than it must be because I hadn’t prayed enough or had enough faith.

Maybe you are reading this and feel the same way today.  You want freedom from whatever is controlling you.  You long for – pray for – victory.

It’s not a bad goal.   But I’m convinced it’s not the right goal.

It wasn’t until I learned that God had already answered my prayers and it was now my responsibility to live into those prayers that I began to get some traction in my daily walk with God.   It was when I learned that my goal isn’t victory but obedience that I started to find the freedom for which I had been praying.

Victory is a by-product of obedience.   We will never know the former without the latter. 

Obedience isn’t a word we talk about much.   It means “submission to another’s authority.”   Obedience flies in the face of our natural inclination to put our desires – our flesh – first.

It’s surprising we do not talk about obedience much when Scripture talks about it all the time.   Whether this is because the Reformation did such a bang up job at deterring us from anything that smells of “works righteousness” or because we naturally hate obeying is anyone’s guess.   Whichever our reason, until we take responsibility and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” we will continue to be lukewarm in our Christian walk.

Here are just a few of many directives Scripture gives us which place the onus on us to get to work.  There is that which the Holy Spirit enables us to do (we don’t do this alone or by our own might) but there is much that we are responsible to do.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Rom. 8:13).

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (Col. 3:5)

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Heb. 12:1)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7)

Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Peter 3:14)

If you love me, obey my commandments (John 14:15)

Notice the action words/phrases giving us responsibility:  put to death; throw off; run; submit yourselves; resist; make every effort; obey.

Whenever I feel defeated it is always a result of me being disobedient.   Whenever I feel victorious is always a result of being obedient.

Perhaps it would do us well to stop counting days that we are sober and instead ask ourselves at the end of each day, “Was I obedient today?  Where was I disobedient?   How can I be more obedient tomorrow?”    When we make our goal obedience, victory is sure to follow.

I want to close with some words by Jerry Bridges from his classic, and highly recommended book, The Pursuit of Holiness.

It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are “defeated” by this or that sin.  No, we are not defeated, we are simply disobedient!  It might be good if we stopped using the terms “victory” and “defeat” to describe our progress in holiness. rather we should use the terms “obedience” and “disobedience.” When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me.  We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little.

We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness (80-81).

 

Call upon Me, and I will deliver you

This stretch of days in my devotional book seems to be addressing the need to surrender to God in order to defeat the power of sin in our lives.   Each day is just awesome. I commend this devotional book to you if you don’t already have it.   I’m sharing yesterday’s reading if not for you, than for my own edification.  Typing it out and saving it here helps me.   Blessings.

June 28

Call upon Me…I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. (Psalm 50:15)

Christian man, by grace – that is to say, by the Holy Spirit of God – you have believed, and live.  You are a limb of Christ, who is your life.  But you are a sinner still; always, actually and potentially.  For whatever the presence of the Spirit in you has done, it has not so altered you that, if He should go, you would not instantly revert to unholiness.  Do you, if I may put it so, use your regenerate self in an unregenerate way, meeting temptation and the tendency to sin by yourself alone, with only high resolves, and moral scorn of wrong, and discipline on body or mind?

God forbid we should call these things evil.  They are good.  But they are aspects, not the essence, of the secret.  It is the Lord Himself dwelling in you who is your victory; and that victory is to be realized by a conscious and decisive appeal to Him. “Though Him you shall do valiantly; for He it is that shall tread down your enemies.” (Ps. 60:12).

And is this not proved true in your experience? When, in your regenerate state, you use the true regenerate way, is there not a better record to be given? When, realizing that the true principle is indeed a Person, you resolve and struggle less, and appeal and confide more – is not sin’s reign broken, and is not your foot, even yours, because you are in conscious union with the Conqueror, placed effectually on “all power of the Enemy”?

~ H.C.G Moule, The Epistle to the Romans

Just a word and I am clean

My devotions this morning had me in John 15.  In verse 3 Jesus says something (again) that changes my world.

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Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you (John 15:3).

What an amazing thing it is to learn that just a word from Jesus can obliterate a lifetime of self-seeking, sin, brokenness, waste, shame and guilt.  Just a word can take these filthy rags that I have made of my life and turn it into something beautifully pure, fit for a bride to wear on her wedding day.

The words of God are pure (Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 12:6).   They slice through the heaviness of our world and the baggage we carry and set us free.

IF we will abide in them.  

Keep reading in John 15 and we find the secret of lasting freedom:  Abiding in his words.

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch that withers (15:6)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done (15:7)

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love (15:10)

You are my friends, if you do what I command you.

The words of God are full of if/than statements such as these.   If you will do this, than this will occur. 

Just a word from Jesus can make you clean.   And yet, how often do we run to the “words” of this world to find our nourishment?  How often do we turn to the compulsion of our choice, or the praise of our friends, the words of our family, the advice from the media, or any number of other words in order to get through the day?

If we would but only abide in the pure words of God, the only words which have the power to make us free, we would know life and life abundantly (John 10:10).

What words are you abiding by today?   Whose words are you abiding in?  When we realize that the bible is not full of old words written by dead men but the very words of Life which promise to heal, it will no longer be a chore to read, but a gift we can’t live without.

Just a word and you will be clean.   Read them, and be clean.

What I hope my black children learn from #Ferguson

Your newsfeed probably looks a lot like mine today, with everyone talking about Ferguson.   One post that caught my attention was from a friend sharing a snippet from an email written by an 18 year old student.  It read,

I can’t even describe to you how much it makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I feel hopeless. And powerless…. Because I’m black….I didn’t ask to be black…. I don’t even want to be black anymore.

I’m the proud father of five children, two of which are black.  They weren’t born here but in Ethiopia, and they became part of our family 6 years ago while they were 4 and 5 years old.  They were born into a family and a life that isn’t fair, one that no one would wish upon any child, and they have been brought into a family that I can only hope provides them with love and hope, but as is all things, is far from perfect.   My adopted children can, I think, identify with the sentiment of the girl’s comment above.  Somewhere, somehow, they picked up along the way that their skin color seems to matter to some, if not many, people.   Eli, who is now 11, said to me and my wife not too long ago that he wished he wasn’t “brown.”   In his mind he perceives his skin color to put him at a disadvantage.   Conversely, my three white kids have never wished they were something else.

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All of this got me thinking about what I hope for my kids to learn from all of the recent events in Ferguson.   I know I don’t want them turning 18 feeling hopeless like the girl who caught my attention on Facebook this morning.   Here are seven truths I hope to instill in all my kids – both black and white – in hopes that they will be better prepared to face the harsh realities of life.  This list is far from exhaustive, and by sharing it here I hope I can learn from you how to make what is here better or add something I’m not seeing.

You are beautiful.  You are beautiful because you are a child of God, created to be the object of God’s eternal joy and affection.   Your beauty has nothing to do with the amount of or lack of melanin in your skin.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by God in your mother’s womb.  God doesn’t make junk, and you are one of the treasure for which he died to save.

Be known by your fruit.  Be known for who you are, not what you are.  Don’t waste your life by reducing yourself and everyone else to the color of skin.  Allow, instead, the light that is in you to shine brighter than any color the world can see.   Jesus said that the world would know who belongs to him by their fruit – not what we look like on the outside but by how our hearts respond on the inside.  Choose to be known for the greatness of your character, which is Christ in you.

The world is unsafe and unfair.   We live in a fallen world where not everyone will see your beauty and not everyone will look for, or care about, your fruit.  This same tendency is in you, and me, too.   Sin infects all of our hearts and we should not be surprised when we see it manifest itself in any manner of ways, including racism.   The battle we are waging is not against flesh and blood – or between whites and blacks – but against spiritual realities which are at work in every one of us, regardless of race.   Your battle is with sin, with the spiritual forces at work in this world, and no matter what your skin color, there will always be people who will hurt you, treat you unfairly, not live up to your expectations, even treat you cruelly.   Don’t be surprised when this happens and don’t play the victim when it does.   Jesus, when he was brutally tortured and hung on a cross, prayed for those who sinned against him.   We can and should strive to do the same when people sin against us.   Pray for your enemies, and bless those who persecute you.

Justice.  Love mercy and work for justice.  But do so humbly, walking with God (Micah 6:8).  Pray for peace and stand alongside the oppressed.  But do this not because you dream of a utopian society here on earth but out of obedience to God.  In this way you will not grow discouraged when things do not go as you think they ought.  It may look like your hopes and dreams are being nailed to a cross but you have no idea how God might use your faithfulness.  Remember, the reason Jesus did signs and wonders was not to bring justice to the world but to make the One who is Just known to the world (John 20:31).  Your acts of random kindness and works of justice may never bring about radical social change to our fallen world but it may topple someone’s misunderstandings about God brining about a radical change of heart.

We all need Jesus.  Racism is just one of the many sins you will experience in this life.  Whenever you encounter it, or any other sin, learn to pray.  Pray for the ones committing the sin as well as for yourself, that you would be able to extend the same mercy to them as Christ has to you, even while we were his enemies.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful or set boundaries or even that you must trust everyone.  God never commanded us to trust fallen people or systems.  He commanded us to trust him and him alone and to love people.  It’s OK to feel powerless in the midst of life’s storms.  It is in our weakness that God’s strength can be made known to you in ways you would be unable to see through the delusion of self-sufficiency.  Remember that we are all a mess without Jesus.   Apart from him, we can do nothing.

Live by faith, not feelings.  Feed yourself on the promises of God and in so doing you will live by faith, not feelings.  The enemy of your soul will tell you that you don’t matter, that your life is pointless, that the grass is greener on the other side, that the world owes you, and anything else it might use to cause you to feel justified in grasping upon anything or anyone in order to meet your needs.   On this side of heaven and hell you will everyday be presented opportunities to move towards one or the other, and if your feelings are your only or must trusted guide, hell will be more and more your reality, in this life and the next.

Holiness, not happiness, is our aim.  God’s desire for you and for me is that we become like Jesus.   Jesus, God’s own son, learned obedience through the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8).   If you are to become like Christ, you can and should expect to go through the same things Christ went through.  Jesus promised that in this world we will know trouble.  We can take heart, however, because we know that he overcame the world.  How?  Through humble obedience to the will of his Father.   God wishes to make you holy, and every time you come face to face with rampant sin in this world, as Jesus did, know you do not face it alone, and that in all things, even this, God will work out for the good for those who love him.  What good might that be?  Your holiness.

It would be a mistake to think that I teach this well, or even model it well, all the time.  But I pray that by God’s grace I will grow in each of these truths myself, and my kids would follow suit.   As a Christian, I am convinced that given the option between feeling sorry for my kids (and thereby allowing them to feel sorry for themselves) or pointing them towards the Gospel (even with crooked fingers), the latter is far better, and far more hopeful and empowering.   Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Follow up blog:  What I hope my white kids learn from #Ferguson

Two saying which have changed lives

After talking with a friend this morning I was reminded of two sayings – one a statement the other a question – which have changed my life and the lives of others who have been reading this blog for the past 2 years.   I think they deserve repeating, often.

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They are:

 

1. Jesus didn’t die to make your life better.  He died to make you new.   (2 Cor. 5:17).

2. Is this is a sin too great for Me (God) to deliver you from, or is it a pleasure too great for you to surrender?

Consider these two sayings carefully and their ramifications.

For more on both of these see…

God Wants to Make you New, Not Better

How Would you Answer this Question?

 

 

Get Out of the Spiritual Ghetto

In Matthew 17 Jesus comes upon a man who pleads with him to heal his son.   This boy is an epileptic and the scriptures tell us he “suffers terribly, for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water” (Matt. 17:15).

Falling often into the fire, and often into the water.  

When reading this passage I felt the Lord was saying to me that this is a picture of many people’s Christian walk.   I know it was of mine at one time.   In the margins of my bible next to this verse I have written the words:

Falling into both hell and baptism.   How often I walked in both!

I remember all-too-well the days when I “suffered terribly,” moving back and forth between the realities of hell and baptism, fire and water, porn and confession.  It was a miserable existence, one that played havoc on my conscience and my spirit day in and day out.  For years I stayed there in the middle, bouncing back and forth, indulging in my flesh Monday through Saturday and then pleading for grace on Sunday.    

Fire and Water.  Hell and Baptism.  It’s a miserable way to live.

And the enemy of our souls wants to convince us that this is the place everyone else lives as well or that there is no other home but this.  He causes us to defend ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, minimizing our own sin while magnifying those of our neighbors.   When we get busy comparing ourselves to one another it’s easy to believe the lie that the Christian life is always one of hell and baptism, fire and water.

Steve Gallagher, in his book Living in Victory, describes this life between hell and baptism this way:

What is freedom, and what is bondage?  Many Christians try to have it both ways.  They want the freedom of living their own lives, inviting God’s presence on their terms, but never entering into the life of liberty in the Spirit that God intends for them.  Undeniably lukewarm, they possess the worst of both worlds.  They neither live in horrible, outward sin nor in the wedded bliss of the first love.  Since they love their lives in this world, they will not abandon their lives to Jesus.  Therefore, they do not really get to enjoy the pleasures of sin nor the glorious, overcoming life in the Spirit.  Instead, they live in a dismal, gray world which exists between the two extremes – all under the nice sounding title of “being balanced.”  The reality is they live in a spiritual ghetto (pg. 150).

If you are indulging in both habitual sin and religion, waffling back and forth between hell and baptism, then you are in this spiritual ghetto Gallagher describes.  You are what James called the “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

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The way out of hell is to always look to Jesus.   Paul says we ought to keep our mind on things above, not on things of the earth (Col. 3:2) and that our goal is to become mature in Christ, looking like him, not others (Eph. 4:13).   The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “consider Jesus” and to “look to him” who is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith, so that we might not grow weary or fainthearted as we struggle against sin.  We have not, the author reminds us, resisted to the point of shedding blood like our Lord Jesus had (Heb. 12:1-6).

When I compare myself with others around me, and justify my behavior, desires or sins based on what others are doing then I will never change.   Jesus called this path the “broad way” and said many are on it, and it’s end is death and destruction (Matt. 7:13).   That way is the way of hell.   It is not difficult to find any number of enablers, both in and out of the church, who will tell you, “boys will be boys,” or “you aren’t hurting anyone.”   Worse yet, the devil will gladly tell you what you want to hear, causing you to be proud of yourself that your private sins of lust are not nearly as bad as the public sins of your peers.   This is the broad way that leads to hell.

But when I compare myself to Jesus, always looking to him rather than others, two truths come into better focus for me:

1.  How unlike him I am.

2.  How much I need him to change me from inside out.

When I compare myself to Jesus rather than the world around me I see how much and how often I fall short of the glory of God and deserve judgment while simultaneously, by the grace of God, can know His mercy and love.    That He who knew no sin would die for me who is full of sin is a game-changer.  As the beautiful hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” declares, seeing Jesus pours contempt on all my pride and this love so amazing, so divine, “demands my soul, my life, my all.”

If you find yourself falling into both fire and water, hell and baptism, then you must first repent of your lack of faith (Matt. 17:17) and believe that God desires you to be free from this sin, and has the ability to do it.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and this most certainly includes your enslavement to unholy desires and lusts.   You cannot compare yourself to others any longer but only with the holy, righteous, perfect Father in heaven who bought you with a price and therefore has rightful claim on how you use your body (1 Cor. 6:20).

There is no joy like the joy that comes with knowing that you know that you know that you are walking in purity and in holiness with Jesus Christ.   Yes, it will cost you much, and require a complete transformation of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2) and heart (John 3:7), but it is worth it!  Jesus did not die on a cross for you and I to live in a spiritual ghetto, bouncing between hell and baptism, fire and water, but so that you and I could be new creations (2 Cor. 5:17)!    He whom the Son has set free is truly and wonderfully free (John 8:36)!

Testimony: Resurrection Sighting #2

Here is another testimony, or resurrection sighting,  submitted by a reader.    You can check out yesterday’s HERE.   If you would like to share your story please email it to cjwh74@gmail.com.

HOLY, HEALTHY, HONORABLE RELATIONSHIPS

I was born into a Christian home and accepted Christ into my heat at an early age. Growing up I was mostly surrounded by women which caused me to develop a high need for love and acceptance from men. A need I really didn’t understand until much later in life.

I have learned that all people have a need to be loved and accepted by their same gender and most get that need met very naturally and organically. So much so that they don’t even realize that they have the need, Kind of like the need for oxygen, when you are not receiving air you become acutely aware of it and your need for it and most will do some desperate crazy things to get it.

Fortunately for me those desperate and crazy things did not include physical things. It did however; involve manipulation of friendships, emotional warfare, codependence and dependence. My life circled around me and how I could get my need to be love and acceptance from guys met. Most times it turned out badly and I was left lower than when I started. Only to start again with a new set of friends repeating the cycle until I was once again left alone. It almost always involved my emotional dependence on a single guy.

I like many confused guys hoped that my desires, attraction, and needs would change with prayer and time. Certainly, they would once I got married. I soon found out that the needs marriage fills were quite different than the need I had from guys, I loved and still love Kristi and she has been a rock of grace in this journey. She however, is not and can not be a brother, father or male mentor to me.

In the late 80s, when I discovered just what was happening inside me there where not many resources available. Exodus International was pretty much it. There ministry didn’t seem to fit me as I wasn’t trying to leave the gay lifestyle…. I had never been in it. I knew no one else personally who had the same struggle as me and I didn’t dare tell anyone. But still I needed to figure out all these attractions, desires and deep need for love and acceptance from guys that I had. I felt very alone.

Thankfully, God had a plan… A plan to prosper, not destroy. A crazy plan. He gave me a compassionate and loving wife and friend that would stand with me to the end.

His plan also involved two extended periods of time away from my family. The first one was brought on by Kristi discovering an illicit online relationship along with other online habits. I was asked to leave the house. Well, my belongings were brought to me while I was at work.

During that separation I sought counseling and learned how my high need for same sex love and acceptance had been developed and what it was and what it wasn’t and how to turn it over to God. Kristi and I also attended counseling with a mentor couple and we learned to communicate a little better.

The separation ended and I started to find healthy male friendships. I started to find acceptance among the guys via working out at the gym, and here at church. I had a long way to go but I was finally on the right track.

The acceptance was coming but inside I wasn’t feeling quite like a man or comfortable with my masculinity. So God did the hilarious. He took me away form my family again and I found myself at Army Basic Training at age 41. Not the cure for a midlife crisis I would recommend. Due to good Army training I returned home with new sense of my own manhood and at last feeling like I belonged in a guys world.

So where does that leave me today? I have a wife that loves and supports me. I have three amazing kids that have a heart for bringing others to Christ and living as He demonstrated. And I have a few men that continues to show me the love and acceptance that my heart had longed for so many years.

A friend of mine asked me recently what my focus was. I responded with what God has taught me over the past several years…..

I want to focus on helping people realize that they are made in the image of God and that He can and will meet all of our needs in HOLY. HEALTHY and HONORABLE ways. ALL of our needs, physical, emotional. spiritual., financial. sexual. all of them. He made us with them and knows how to best meet them if we only step back and allow HIM to instead of manipulating our worlds to get them meet in selfish, sleazy and sinful ways.

I’m focusing on bringing people into the Kingdom and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to them when and where conviction needs to be made. By sharing my story and listening to theirs. healing and restoration will happen organically and their relationship with the Creator will be restored.

I know it has been with me.

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Let’s Get Heavy!

I want to be very heavy.

I remember when I was giving over to sexual sin all the time I felt very light.  I did not have any real direction and could be swayed any which way with the slightest push.   The last book I read was always the best book, and anything novel, or new, was king.  When talking to others I was a yes-man, eager to have their approval and liking, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with what they were saying.   The compass of my life was always spinning, pointing in whatever direction my desires for that day led.   When talking with others I was not fully present but easily distracted and lifted away by the slightest breeze.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Weight of Glory,

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Another image of his comes to mind, I believe it’s from The Great Divorce, and I am sure I am not remembering it correctly but the word-picture I recall him painting of our bodies in heaven are such that they are heavy, or weighted, with holy desires and purpose.   On earth we were light and flighty, but in heaven we are solid and immovable.    We are full of the fullness of His glory.

An-Eternal-Weight-of-Glory

I believe God is preparing us to know such weightiness even now, and that we can know it in greater and greater degree, or from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18), as we pursue Christ and His holiness.   Paul writes,

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…  (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

Like I said, I want to be heavy.  Don’t you?   I want this “eternal weight of glory” ever increasing in my inner-man, out-weighing day by day the outer-man which is wasting away.   I don’t want to be tossed to and fro by my fleshly desires which are too weak and fickle when compared to the incomparable glory of God and the treasures He has in store for those who will seek Him and His righteousness first, above all else.

The “momentary affliction” which we must all bear as our “outer-man” dies is worth it!    I pray that God will give you and I the strength we need for today to grow up in Him, and to bear the weight of His glory for the world to see.    Let’s get heavy!

 

Addiction and Spiritual Malpractice

Below is the video of yesterday’s ADDICTION sermon.   It’s a sermon I would never have been able to preach a few years ago.   Why?  Because I was committing spiritual malpractice.

For many years as a pastor I would look at pornography or engage in other lustful pursuits during the week before preaching a sermon on Sunday.    I knew I was committing sin, and felt terribly guilty about what I was doing, but justified it by convincing myself the good I was doing on Sunday outweighed the evil I was doing the other days of the week.   I convinced myself that God can and does speak through donkeys and would bless my efforts despite my habitual ass-likeness.

I realize how outrageous this sounds to many of you.  How can you be so  blind!? you ask.   But this is precisely what sin does to us.  It blinds us to the truths of God.  Paul calls us “darkened in our understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us, due to the hardness of our hearts” (Eph. 4:18).  It doesn’t happen overnight.   The spiral of degradation takes time, dragging us deeper and deeper into it’s grip until the things which seemed so obvious before are now blurry, unclear, and suspicious.    When living in sin the Bible reads less black and white and a lot more gray.

gray bible

Jesus called such practitioners of religion “whitewashed tombs” (Matt. 23:27).   They looked good on the outside but inside their hearts were decaying, ugly, far from God.   They were blind to it, though, just as I was blind to the darkness of my own heart and the effect it had on others.   A blind shepherd cannot lead sheep anywhere good, nor to any place they have not been themselves.   A preacher who is looking at porn on Saturday cannot expect God to bless his or her efforts on Sunday.    We grieve the Holy Spirit, and thus short-circuit the mighty work God wishes to do in our churches when we live under the bondage of habitual sin.

Oh the number of Hail-Mary-Prayers I threw out there on Sunday morning!  Hoping that somehow, someway, God would be pleased to overlook what I had been looking at all week and bless “the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart.”   What a fraud!   Granted, all good things come from the hand of our Father, and it is only because He is rich in mercy that I was not struck down dead in the pulpit and, I pray, I did not make a shipwreck of too many people’s faith (A couple years ago I wrote a letter to my former church, repenting to them for my spiritual malpractice, asking them to please forgive me.  To this day I pray for them and anyone who had the misfortune of sitting under this “blind guide,” that God would bless them and keep them and fill their heart and minds and souls with every good thing.   I praise God today that they have a pastor whom I believe loves Jesus and knows His power to save.  Praise God for answered prayer!).

The truth is, pastors, if we cherish sin in our hearts God will not listen to our prayers (Psalm 66:18).    If our private lives are such that we are not walking in the Spirit but in our flesh then our prayers that God bless our people, heal their wounds, superintend our words, and pour out His Spirit on His church have no guarantee of being heard.   We are committing spiritual malpractice and must repent.   We must cry out to God to give us a spirit of repentance, that He would open our eyes and our hearts so that we might see ourselves in light of His Holiness.   We must cry out that He would soften our hearts so that we can see our sin and how much it displeases God.   When we do this, the scales will fall from our eyes and we will know.    No longer will God and His word be gray to us.    The delusion will dissipate and we will begin to expect God to heal the wounds of His people and pour out His Spirit in a mighty way on Sunday because He has done it in our own hearts every day of the week before.

Pastors, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the state of our churches as they are in this country are signs of God’s blessing.   Many of them stand today only because of God’s mercy.   Jesus died on the cross to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).   If we are not witnessing strong-holds coming down in our churches, then we must not point fingers at them but at ourselves.    What strong-holds are in MY life?   What am I not believing God can deliver me from?   Stop committing spiritual malpractice on yourself and your sheep.    “Repent, and turn again, so that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20).