Christianity 201

June 16, 2016

Losing It

No, I didn’t lose it with somebody, but I heard a story today that got me thinking...

But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control.  (Galatians 5: 22-23)

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless…not quick-tempered… (Titus 1:7)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  (James 1:19)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. (Ecc. 7:9)

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  (Matthew 5:22a)

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry (Ephesians 4:26)

Some of you reading this are fairly even-tempered people. You don’t have a problem with controlling your temper. But for some of us, all types of situations can trigger a rise in blood pressure which results from an undercurrent of anger.

Your trigger might be handling long line-ups. Dealing with bureaucracies. Interacting with service-industry staff. Frustration over your own incompetence in a particular situation.

What gets you riled? Can you avoid those situations? Do other people or family members see you at your worst?

Today’s thoughts continue with an article by Lisa Harper at Christian Bible Studies on a similar topic, righteous anger:

What is “Righteous Anger”?

How can I know whether I’m feeling that or just being a hothead?

I grew up believing anger was a “bad” emotion. So I’ve needed several years of Christian counseling even to admit I get angry, much less to learn I can express those feelings righteously! Thankfully, God’s Word sets clear parameters for getting peeved.

What does God say about this? The bad news for hotheads is that Scripture contains many more verses warning believers against blowing their cool than verses advocating such behavior. The writer of Proverbs connects anger with foolishness: “Fools quickly show that they are upset, but the wise ignore insults” (Proverbs 12:16, NCV). And the apostle Paul recommends letting our heavenly Father fight our battles: “My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: ‘I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, NCV).

Sometimes, however, God allows his people to fuss and remain faithful. Such is the case when King David furrows his brow and huffs:

God, I wish you would kill the wicked!
Get away from me, you murderers!
They say evil things about you.
Your enemies use your name thoughtlessly.
Lord, I hate those who hate you;
I hate those who rise up against you.
I feel only hate for them;
they are my enemies (Psalm 139:19–22, NCV).

Or when Nehemiah gets upset after learning about the wealthy Israelites’ exploitation of the poor: “Then I was very angry when I had heard … these words” (Nehemiah 5:6, NASB).

What’s noteworthy in these situations is that David called down curses on sworn enemies of God, and Nehemiah directed his irritation at the “haves” repressing the “have-nots.” Both men were angry because of ungodly people or activities.

And Jesus expressed anger—at the Pharisees who exhibited such hard hearts (Mark 3:1-5) and at the crass commercialism that sullied the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48)—to convey extreme displeasure over sin. Those reasons are the key to righteous anger.

How does this affect me? As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over sin, too. Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us.

But no matter how reprehensible the people or activities we’re condemning, we still aren’t justified to sin in our responses…

…continue reading the entire article at this link


Going deeper:

 

 

January 28, 2016

Why “I Couldn’t Help Myself” is Often Untrue

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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2 Samuel 3:26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

Earlier today we discovered a new devotional site that some of you might like to join for the current series on 2 Samuel. (You’ll have to backtrack a few days to start at the beginning; we’re going to be in chapter 3 today.)

Read it and Do It is written daily by Tennessee pastor Todd Stevens. Friendship Community Church’s statement of beliefs would make a great devotional here on its own.

As always, read this at source by clicking the title below. To start at the beginning of 2 Samuel, next click the header at the top of his blog’s page, and then scroll down to the start of the series.

Did your parents say these crazy things to you?

READ IT
Today’s chapter: 2 Samuel 3

When I was a kid, my parents said certain crazy phrases to me over and over. I swore I’d never use say of those clichés with my kids. “Don’t make me turn this car around!” “If you don’t stop making that face, it will freeze that way.” “Would you jump off a cliff just because all your friends did?” I think I’ve already said them all to my kids at one time or another.

There is a phrase I also remember my mom saying to me many times when I was angry. “You better just cool your jets, mister. Cool your jets.”

I hated it when she said that. First of all, I didn’t have any jets. Second, if I did have jets, why would they need to be cooled? But I knew what she meant. She was telling me to control my temper. I would get so mad when she said that because I was sure it wasn’t possible. How could I be expected to control my temper when I had every reason to be angry?

Joab felt the same way I did when I was a kid. His brother had been killed by Abner and he wanted revenge. He had every reason to be angry, so why should he be expected to control his temper? He let his anger consume him and got vengeance by murdering Abner.

Although his anger was justified, his actions weren’t. It wasn’t his place to exact justice. David was his king and he alone had the authority to decide whether Abner should be punished. Since David had sent Abner off in peace, Joab was out of bounds to kill him. He should have cooled his jets.

The idea that we can’t control our anger is a myth. Let me prove it to you. Think about the last time you got angry and lashed out at someone. Imagine that just before you lashed out, an angel appeared and offered you a million dollars if you could wait at least 10 minutes before responding in anger. Could you do it? (Please don’t get hung up thinking I’m suggesting this is something an angel would ever do. It’s just a hypothetical scenario…)

Here’s the point: if you could control your anger for 10 minutes for a million bucks, then clearly you could control your anger. Each time you’re in a situation that makes you angry, you can decide whether you’re going to allow your anger to consume you.

Nobody can make you furious without your permission. With God, you can choose to respond to anger in a way that demonstrates His love. Even if your anger is justified, you can still decide to cool your jets.

DO IT
At some point today, things aren’t going to be the way you expected them to be. You’re going to be angry and will have an opportunity to decide how to respond to it. Choose to demonstrate God’s love. Do something kind for someone who has done nothing to deserve it.

How will the situation change because of your choice?

 

November 2, 2015

When to Speak, And When Not To

Several years ago at Thinking Out Loud we linked to Carole McDonnell’s blog; it’s always great to return years and years later and find people faithfully writing.  This piece stood out from a number she’s written over the past months. I later discovered this will be her third piece here at Christianity 201. Click the title below to read this at source.

A soft answer turns away wrath

 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

This is a verse that has saved the lives, reputation, and livelihood of many people throughout the ages. It is found in the Book of Proverbs,  book of great wisdom that is designed to protect its reader from sin, shame, poverty, and death. There is much in Proverbs about anger, and it behoves the reader to take these admonition to heart.

It is generally a part of human nature to defend itself, whether the “self” is right or wrong. It is also generally a part of human nature not to allow one’s self to be intimidated. Humans are also insightful. They can perceive egotistical and subtle human pride in the rebukes, corrections, and scoldings they receive from when certain teachers, officers of the law, pastors or others use or abuse their “authority” to lecture them and triumph over them.  Rebukes can be given at the correct or incorrect time, with the wrong or right attitude, with a desire to help or a desire to assert the rebuker’s pride. Those with power, however, often become so identified with their power that they do not wish to be challenged.

In American culture, there have been many instances of cruelty done by police, slaveholders, financiers, and others in some kind of authority. Sadly, those in power have often won, especially when there was no videotape or fair-minded judge to challenge them. The guilty have often triumphed over the weak even when the laws were fair.

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 4:1, “Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.”

The Preacher also writes in Ecclesiastes 7:17, “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”

Those who believe in God trust God to defend them and to show them when to speak and when to be silent.

The Psalmist writes: “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Psalm 13:2

He also writes: “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”  Psalm 25:2

The Preacher also states, “I said to myself, ‘In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.'”

A victim might or might not get justice inside a court of law, but learning to answer one’s oppressor carefully by “biting one’s lip” can protect one’s life, livelihood and health. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiates 9:4, “There is hope only for the living. As they say, ‘It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!'” The victims of oppression in many countries have learned to survive the unjust authorities over them by knowing when to use gentle –if cowardly– answers. This is how the ancestors of Black people survived during the early days of lynching and perhaps this will be necessary in the modern day when the counterpart of lynching is also prevalent.

October 24, 2014

The Little Foxes

Over a year ago we did a devotional column titled Biblical Foxes, and at the end of it, I added an update recommending a similar column that Ben Nelson had written on the same theme at the blog Another Red Letter Day.  I decided that since it’s been a year, we would return to this topic again.  Click the title below to read this at source. (Note: This is a series on Song of Solomon joined in progress.)

The Trouble with Foxes

Image credit Wikipedia

Let’s recap where we have come in the song so far  – or as they say on TV – Here are some things you may want to know: (you can skip this part if you want – but it might paint the picture for you)

When we started this story of romantic pursuit our maiden (the passionate believer) was in love with the Shepherd King (Jesus) from afar. Her heart cry was “Draw me, and We will run.” At that time she was an admirer. He began to fulfill her request and began to woo her, and they have begun to get to know one another.

When she first begins to get to know Him she realizes that she is a mess. She says “Don’t even look at me – I am filthy on the outside, but because of your attentions I am becoming lovely inside. On the outside I feel like a nasty old desert tent, but on the inside, I feel I am adorned with curtains from the Kings palace. (1:5)

In Verse 6 of the first chapter she confesses that, in order to live out her deep desire to please her new love, she got right to work. I think of this as working in the Church, joining committees, going to meetings, you know the drill.

She got so busy with the work of the Church that she neglected her personal relationship with her Lover, and she began to feel like a failure:

They made me caretaker of the vineyards,
But I have not taken care of my own vineyard. ~ Song of Songs 1:6

Now she has spent time with Him. She pulled back from ministry and began to spend large amounts of time in worship, in personal connection with Jesus, just loving on Him. It’s been a warm and cozy time in her Christian walk.

Then we enter into a season of change. She awakes from her place of worship and see He is not in the room, but rather He is out in ministry, in life, “Climbing on the mountains, Leaping on the hills!” and calling her to join Him in ministry.

This is a frightening prospect for her. She likes her little cocoon of personal closeness to Him. But He reassures her with His declaration of how much He loves her and how beautiful she is.

This is where we come in today:

Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom. ~ Song of Songs 2:15

We find her second self-assessment in the Song, and she is not where she was. She has grown.

Her garden (her spiritual life) is no longer unkempt as it was in 1:6. It has blossoms and is beginning to bear fruit.

Is this the fruit of the Spirit? : “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) These are beginning to show great progress in her life. No longer is she “dark but lovely.” Those around her are beginning to reckon her alive in Christ.

However there are little foxes.

The problem with these foxes is that they sneak around and just as the fruit is nearing maturity, they grab it and spoil the personal harvest she has been walking toward.

They are not the big animals who come in and destroy the vines and trample the vineyard, but just take these vines that are ready to bear fruit, and make them unfruitful.

Our girl is sensing the conviction of the Holy Spirit in her life. It is being stirred up by His call on her to get out of her comfort zone and move out in ministry, and she is afraid. Every time she take a step forward there is a little slipping going on. She is making HUGE progress in her Christian walk, but can’t seem to get fruit on the table.

And it is the little things, the things that are hard to give up.

Do you have little foxes that the Lord is pointing out to you even as you connect with this picture? Are there things that, just as you take a huge step forward in your patience pop up and challenge you and you lose your cool? Then you think, ‘that didn’t look much like Jesus at all.’

Or perhaps there is some little thing you hold on to, that when you were first started pressing into the Lord and intimacy, it did not hinder your massive growth, but now you find you have gotten stuck – plateaued so to speak.

Are you holding on to a liberty that turns out to be a little fox in disguise?

This is true in any area of our lives.

In the past few years I have tried to bring two huge areas in my life into control. I am talking about my natural life here. And it was in getting rid of the little foxes that I found victory.

I am talking about my finances and my weight.

A financial fox might be going to the ATM and then not paying attention to where the money goes. At the end of the month I would see that all the money was gone, but I had nothing to show for it.

And as for my weight – well – my life was beset with foxes all around, donuts, candy bars, 3rds at every meal.

So it is with your spiritual garden. Solomon calls them foxes, Jesus calls them thorns:

And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. ~ Mark 4:18-19

What I love here is that she does not shrug her shoulders and give up, she asks Him for help. Remember this wonderful promise:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:15-16

If you sense the Spirit poking around at some little foxes, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and He will come along side you, and together you can clear out the garden, and enjoy the fruit you have labored for.

Well – I have gone way too long today, and for this I apologize. I suppose I could have broken into two posts. Perhaps you will forgive me and read it over two days.

I am really loving this Song!

December 2, 2013

Ten Occasions When You Should Say Nothing

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This is a recurring theme here. Maybe God is trying to tell us (me) something! This list was compiled by Lina Abrujama at the blog True Woman under the title, Ten Times It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue

I talk too much. Way, way too much.

But God is committed to teaching me when to hold my tongue.

With that in mind, let me share ten situations with you where I’m learning it’s better to refrain from talking:

1. When you have no idea what to say

Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

2. When you’re wrongly accused

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.”

Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

3. When you’re mad

Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

4. When you’re confused about life

Lamentations 3:25–28: “The Lord is good for those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord . . . Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth to the dust—there may yet be hope.”

5. When you wouldn’t want someone else to find out you said it

Luke 12:3: “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

6. When you don’t really mean it

Proverbs 3:28: “Do not say to your neighbor ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.”

7. When you can’t stop yearning for the good old days

Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

8. When you have a lot to do and you don’t like it

Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

9. When the timing is wrong

Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.”

10. When you don’t have anything to say that gives grace

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”

September 20, 2013

Your Soul Will Be Doubly Unbright

Luke 11 23

Luke 11:34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy,  your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Although the original writers were not Christians, I do so much appreciate the musical Godspell because despite some glaring liberties, much of it stays true to the Bible text.  In a song, “Learn Your Lessons Well,” there is a spoken portion that uses an adaptation of the text above from Luke 11, which is paralleled in Matthew 6: 21-23.

In an updated Broadway cast recording of the song posted on YouTube, this formerly spoken word passage was set to music. It almost doesn’t fit the rest of the song, it is so hauntingly beautiful; the section runs from 1:16 to 2:24. (I’d love to see this recorded as a separate entity.)

the lamp of the body is the eye,
if your eye is bad
your whole body will be darkness
and if darkness is all around
your soul will be doubly unbright
but if your eye is sound
your whole body will be filled with light
your whole body will be filled with light
your whole body will be filled with light

Sitting at a computer — where else? — as I type this, the temptation to look at the internet’s dark side is always there.  However, keeping this little song snippet in my mind has served on many occasions to prevent me from going down that road.  And the phrase “doubly unbright” while grammatically questionable, has a way of sticking in your head.

California pastor Shane Idleman at Westside Christian Fellowship writes on this passage in an article titled Overcoming Sin…The Battlefield is the Mind:

The enemy rarely pushes us off the cliff, so to speak. We’re often led down one step at a time, one compromise at a time, one wrong choice at a time. For example, the enemy doesn’t show a young couple the pain and anguish and the years of regret that an abortion brings; he deceives them with the temporary enjoyment of premarital sex and a false sense of freedom from responsibility. If the full story was known beforehand, no doubt different choices might have been made. We’re often not shown the pain that sin brings, we’re enticed by the temporary pleasure.

Galatians 5:17 says that the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what our sinful nature desires, and that these two forces are constantly fighting against each other. As a result, our choices are rarely free from this conflict. In other words, our sinful nature and our new nature in Christ are constantly at war. Don’t be alarmed. The fact that there is a fight confirms the value of our commitment.

A paraphrase of, The Battle Within, illustrates this truth: “A young man, determined to find help for his troubled life, walked to a neighboring church. He told the pastor that his life was meaningless and in constant turmoil. He wanted to make better choices, but couldn’t.

He described the conflict: “It’s as if I have two dogs constantly battling within me. One dog is evil, while the other is good. The battles are long and difficult; they drain me emotionally and mentally.” Without a moment’s thought, the pastor asked, “Which dog wins the battles?” Hesitantly, the young man admitted, “The evil dog.” The pastor looked at him and said, “That’s the one you feed the most. You need to starve that dog to death!”

The pastor realized, as should we, that the source of our strength comes from the food that we choose. What we feed grows, and what grows becomes the dominating force within our lives. Sin never stands still—it either grows or withers depending on whether you feed or starve it.

Which dog wins the battle in your mind? Proverbs 23:7 says, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” And Jesus said that the lamp of the body is the eye. When your eye is good your body will be full of light. When your eye is bad your body will be full of darkness. (Refer to Luke 11:34.) Our thoughts become words, our words become actions, our actions become habits. Who is shaping your thoughts? A daily diet of violence, lust, anger, and depression will fuel those very things in your life.

One of the reasons why men and women struggle with lust or anger is because they feed those emotions continually throughout the day. It’s difficult to avoid illicit sex and outbursts of anger while continually watching movies and TV programs that promote them. As a matter of fact, many cases of sexual violence can be traced directly back to pornography. What we embrace eventually embraces us. “The more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil” (Matthew Henry).

Some may say that being cautious with what we view and listen to borders on legalism (e.g., performance-based religion). Although it can when taken to extremes, I disagree. Entertainment is not merely entertainment; depending on how it’s used, it can be a very destructive influence. The Bible reveals that the devil is the prince of this world (Ephesians 2:2); therefore, you should pay close attention to what you watch and listen to—the force controlling it ultimately controls you. Romans 8:6 says that if our sinful nature controls our mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls our mind, there is life and peace. With God’s help, you’ll begin to control your thoughts instead of allowing your thoughts to control you.

For those who are skeptical about the media’s influence, consider why companies spend millions of dollars on commercials. They obviously understand the concept of “suggestive selling.

In the end, the choice is yours when it comes to what you watch and listen to, but why would you willingly walk into the enemy’s camp? Why would you feed wrong desires and thoughts when they do nothing but war against the soul.

If you’re questioning God’s existence, experiencing violent bursts of anger, struggling with addiction or lust, or continually feeling depressed or discouraged, evaluate your diet of television, movies, the Internet, music, friends, and your thoughts in general. Are they lifting you up, or pulling you down? There is no middle ground—you’re being influenced one way or the other. Are there any changes that need to be made in your life? If so, this is where you start to win the battle within.

Related:

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July 25, 2013

A Path to Conquering Temptations

Temptation

Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV)

Adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

2 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)

Confirming One’s Calling and Election

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Today’s writer is Michael Belote at the blog Reboot Christianity. Although it was directed at men specifically, the principles apply to men and women equally. To read this and many other good articles at source, click here.

The best path for conquering temptations

I recently wrote a post about the need for men to step up and own lust as their own sin, instead of constantly blaming women for the way that the women are dressing. The comments, frankly, followed the typical modern Christian teaching on the subject, pivoting to blame women’s immodesty instead of man’s sinful heart. One commenter was honest enough to just lay it right out there, saying that our goal should be to focus on women’s immodesty because then men “wouldn’t have to” deal with lust at all.

What is interesting is that this debate has brought to mind that there is a larger subject under discussion here: what is the best way to avoid temptations? When faced with any physical temptation (alcoholism, drugs, sex/lust, gluttony), what is the best way to avoid it?

Most commenters seem to be focused (at least in the lust debate) on prohibition–that is, our focus needs to be on removing the temptation. If no temptation exists, then voila, we get no sin!

I find this argument to be wholly without merit, for several reasons:

1.  Removal of all temptation is impossible.

You will never, ever ever, remove all temptation. Even if you are somehow able to get Christian women to switch from a two-piece to a one-piece, you still have all the non-Christian women, you still have immodest one-pieces, you still have advertisements on billboards as you drive, you still have commercials on TV that are inappropriate, you still have magazines that show too much skin, you still have internet access with all of its temptations, etc., etc.

Trying to reduce lust by getting one small segment of the population to cover their stomachs on the three days per year that they visit the beach is ridiculous. It’s like trying to eliminate salmonella poisoning by making sure that everyone born in 1983 stops cooking with eggs: you are picking one tiny portion of a massive population, making one small change to it, and hoping that somehow it will magically change everything else.

We have to wake up, people. Lying to ourselves about our ability to change the culture won’t help us at all. We live in a sin-cursed, depraved world. We always have, and we always will. The world has been filled with sex and violence since long before Jesus and will be until He comes back. We are warriors in Enemy-occupied territory, and our goal needs to be to focus on protecting ourselves, not to focus on the ridiculous notion that we can somehow talk the Enemy into not tempting us any more.

Temptations will be here, and to be honest…even if every attractive Christian woman in the world started wearing old-fashioned bathing gowns, it would not make lust significantly easier in our modern era of internet pornography and lewdness everywhere.

2.  Even if we could remove all temptations, this will not diminish the frequency of sin.

As I wrote about in my book, as long as there is a demand in one’s heart for sin, he will find a way to do it. History is rife with examples. Prohibition of alcohol failed miserably, actually increasing alcoholism as people began to buy cheap moonshine instead of having a beer. Muslim countries where women wear burkhas have brutal rapes too–indeed, there is no statistical correlation between the amount of clothing worn in a country and its lustfulness. Sailors put on a boat for months on end, and prison inmates with long sentences, have “switched” from heterosexual to homosexual (or at least, bisexual) to satisfy their cravings for lust, even though their visual stimuli to women was completely removed.

It is simple supply and demand: as long as the demand exists, the actions will still happen: limiting the supply will only increase the cost someone will pay to perform the sin (either literal money, or a “cost” in personal life).

3.  Even if we somehow removed all temptations (impossible) and that removed all frequency of sin (impossible)…even then, that is not self-control as described in the Bible.

The Bible talks a lot about self-control. Jesus talks about it (Matt 5:27-30), Peter talks about it (2Pet 1:3-5), Paul talks about it (Gal 5:22-23). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and is to allow us to avoid temptations.

Trying to remove all temptations is NOT the same as exhibiting self-control. Let’s use another fruit of the Spirit for example…take any of them. Is it mature to say, “I could exhibit Christian love as long as others were lovable?” Is it mature to say, “I could have joy as long as there was no suffering in my life?” Is it mature to say, “I could have peace as long as we remove any anxiety?” Is it mature to say, “I can be patient as long as I get what I want when I want it?” Is it mature to say, “I can be gentle as long as there is no one making me angry?” Is it mature to say, “I can be good as long as there is no temptation to be evil?” Is it mature to say, “I can be faithful as long as there is no other available choice?”

Of course not! So why is it okay to say, “I can have self-control as long as women don’t dress in a tempting fashion?” Why do we treat self-control differently? We shouldn’t. Just as with the other fruit of the Spirit, self-control must be able to be exhibited in the midst of the temptation, or it is not a discipline at all, and you haven’t grown any closer to Christ in the least.

Does all this that mean I’m saying we shouldn’t also focus on removing temptations? Of course not! Feel free to pray, as Jesus recommended, for God to keep us from walking into temptations–indeed, we should pray for that daily. What I’m saying that removal of temptations is not a necessity to having self-control, and existence of temptations is not an excuse to lack self-control. And further, I am saying that lust is a MUCH bigger problem than just “a natural reaction to immodesty,” and (see the examples I gave in section 2 above) will NOT go away just because we improve women’s modest dress. So we have to stop using immodesty as an excuse, and starting owning the problem–because we will never live in a world free of temptation from lust (or any other sin), until the Lord comes back.  And one day He will fulfill those promises of a world where we have no temptation…but until then, He commands us to learn self-control.

My proposal for men

My proposal is that we do not spend our time hoping that the Enemy will not afflict us with temptations–because that is a losing proposition, and will be until the Lord returns–and instead start donning the armor we need to protect ourselves.

As my boss would say, it’s time for us to “Confront the brutal reality”–and the brutal reality is that, no matter what we accomplish as Christians, in our society we will be tempted, and frequently.

My proposal is that we stop wasting so much energy trying to create a world free from temptation (which we will not achieve), and instead spend our energy creating men who are immune to the temptations.

By far, the most successful program in the history of the world for overcoming temptations is the AA program, which has helped millions overcome crippling addiction. Founded by Christians on Biblical principles, the 12 steps there are a great approach for anyone dealing with any temptation:

  1. Admit that you personally are powerless to overcome the addiction/temptation.
  2. Believe that God can restore you to sanity.
  3. Make a decision to turn your life over to God in this area.
  4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
  5. Admit to God and to others the exact nature of your sin.
  6. Be entirely ready for God to remove these defects of character.
  7. Humbly ask Him to remove your shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all persons harmed.
  9. Make direct amends to as many of them as possible, as long as it does not cause further harm.
  10. Continue personal inventory and when mistakes are made, promptly admit it (usually to a sponsor who has walked the same path).
  11. Seek prayer and meditation to God, asking only for His will and the power to carry it out.
  12. Practice the same by leading others who have the same struggle.

With all due respect, as long as we continue to blame women’s dress for our lustfulness, we fail to go beyond #2 and #4 above–we do not believe that God is capable of removing lust as we are, but rather that temptations must be removed first, and in so doing we are not being “fearless” in our moral inventory.

A final word:  men, I’m not speaking about something that I do not know. I struggled with lust in college, mightily. And the path I walked down–though I didn’t know it at the time–was not far off of the 12-step program. While I still am not perfect, the successes that I have had with regard to gaining self-control in my life (not just over lust, but self-control in general) all began when I admitted that I was the problem, not the world around me. I could gain self-control from the Spirit, and not just hope to never again be tempted.

If you can’t get to that point, then you will never heal. Of course women should make sure they are not tempting men, but that’s an extremely minor part of the problem. And that is why I am so insistent that we stop telling men that they are mindless sex fiends who cannot help themselves if they see a woman in a bikini: it is not true, it is not biblical, and it keeps them from progressing down the path to healing.

October 7, 2012

Surprised By Spiritual Defeat

Today’s teaching is from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick, where it appeared under the title, How Does Satan Defeat Us?

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)   Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Satan is sly. He roams the earth. (Job 1:7) He gets permission to work against God’s servants. (Luke 22: 31). He is a murderer and liar (John 8:44) He is the the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) He brings calamity on property, health and family (Look at the Book of Job). He tempts (Matthew 4:3). He deceives (Genesis 3:13) He accuses (Revelation 12:10). He wishes to devour us.

He uses all his evil tools to get us to doubt. He seeks to have us curse God. He wants us to deny our faith. He wants us to run from him in fear. What hope do we have against him?

Peter knows who Satan is. Peter has been sifted like wheat because Satan got permission. Peter ran, hid and denied his Lord. He knows how it happened. He knows what he said the night before he abandoned his faith. Peter was neither self-controlled nor alert.

Peter was sure that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of it because he knew who Jesus is. He was sure because he had never backed down from a fight. He was sure because he was Peter. He was full of himself. He lacked self-control. Self-control has nothing to do with your conduct when everything is fine. Self-control takes place when you can still think through each thing which happens when your world is upset. It is remaining steadfast when emotions are running high. It is being prepared for the storm.

Peter never expected to come to a moment when he was so outmanned. He intended to fight his way our of any and every situation. He didn’t know what to do when Jesus told him to put up his sword. He ran.

Peter watched from a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. His fear was greater than his convictions. He moved farther away each time he was accused of having been with Jesus. Finally, he severed his connection with Jesus with a curse. His denial was so demonstrative that Jesus heard it. He went out and wept. He was sifted through and through.

Self-control must always be accompanied by being alert. Peter was not alert at the time of Jesus arrest. He didn’t even stay away and pray when Jesus needed him. He had been warned but complacency left him unguarded.

Satan did not have much of a challenge with him. He loves to roan and devour Christians who are neither self-controlled nor alert. He scatters them like fox scatters chickens. Some are eaten but most just run and hide.

We will never be much of a challenge for Satan if we do not prepare ourselves for the battle. We must put on the full armor of God. We must have our time of prayer. We must have our time with God each day. We must look at how Satan is trying to defeat us.

Is he after you? Is he bringing people into your life who are causing you to doubt your faith? Is he bringing calamity in property, family and health to get you to deny God? Is he telling you lies to get you to believe something is not true? Is he turning you against someone or having someone turn against you?

If he isn’t now; he will.

Today is a day to renew our resolve against him. We must stand firm. We must recite and renew our faith in Jesus.

If we don’t, he’ll eat us up.

1 Peter 5:9 (NIV)   Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

~Prentis McGoldrick


Choosing a post from this blogger’s writing wasn’t easy. Here’s another fine article about spiritual wisdom.

March 30, 2012

More Means of Communication Equals More Possibilities for Trouble

Today’s blog tour took me to A Spiritual Oasis which, like this one,  is also on the Christian Blog Top Sites web portal.  The most recent post there by Bill Williams was about three different things, but one of them was very similar to what we looked at yesterday: The things we say, including speech and writing.  Hmmm… is Somebody trying to tell me something?  Actually, I’ve been blessed with the ability to self-edit and be self-controlled, though I will admit to having ‘lost it’ a few times. 

At Spiritual Oasis this post was titled Three Signposts on the Road to Righteousness God Desires.

Why do we have two ears and only one mouth? Perhaps that’s God’s way of saying we should listen at least twice as much as we talk!

The Holy Spirit’s counsel provides some serious thoughts on this matter: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires, (James 1:19-20, NLT). 

The contrast is clear

Listening is a priority. Every one of us should race to listen. For those of us who are constantly rushing to do and say what matters to us, this is no small thing. Still, when it comes to our interactions with others, we are to show up early to hear what they are saying. On the other hand, tardiness is recommended when it comes to our words and wrath. Instead of rushing headlong into a verbal barrage that could easily lead to an angry outburst, we must put the brakes on. Instead of erupting in anger at what others say, we must resist the temptation to do so.

The consequences are immense

If we respond with verbal venom to the things said to us, God’s purposes are not served. If we allow anger to take root in our hearts and act accordingly, God’s will is simply crowded out of our lives. To be sure, there is no justice — no righteousness at all — in the anger of man. We cannot take the travel on the road and reach the right destination. No matter how many times we claim to be concerned about what is fair or right, if human angst animates our actions, the righteous life God desires is far, far away.

The challenge is ever-present

The world we live in is radically different from that of the Lord’s brother James. There are more ways to communicate with one another than ever before. We are exposed to more things that make us want to rant and rave than any generation before us. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some people tweet more words in a day than my great grandmother spoke in a week, maybe even a month. Still, these simple imperatives — three sign-posts leading to the righteous life God desires — are an ever-present challenge for each one of us:

  1. You must all be quick to listen.
  2. You must all be slow to speak.
  3. You must all be slow to get angry.

May God help us all heed the warning and follow the signs.

~Bill Williams

I loved the phrase “race to listen.”   And I loved the observation that there are so many different means of communication at our disposal, and so many things about which to rant and rave.   Clearly, we need this message today more than ever.

September 16, 2010

Sin Is Poised for Attack

Maybe it’s because I’ve been meaning to repost another devotional from Daily Encouragement, or maybe it was just the cat picture (which I’ve also borrowed) but I especially appreciated Stephen & Brooksyne’s thoughts yesterday on the first mention of temptation in scripture…

“Sin’s Desire”

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it'” (Genesis 4:6,7).

Dottie in barn doorOver the past year our sweet little cat Dottie, now nine years old, has had a change of personality.  When making extended trips our neighbors look in on her to see that she has adequate food and water, but last summer she pulled quite a surprise.  After Marion spent time giving Dottie some TLC and reassuring her that her family would soon be returning she then turned her back and walked toward the door.

Suddenly out of nowhere she heard a loud swish and then felt the heavy pounce of a furry animal complete with clinching claws and teeth that clamped like a vice grip on her leg.  Obviously Dottie didn’t want our neighbor to leave and she let her know it in the most unfriendly fashion.  Interestingly she planned her attack when Marion was least expecting it with her back turned away.  Now when she or Doug looks in on our “innocent” little cat they don’t turn their backs. They watch to see that she doesn’t position herself into a crouching position since they want no surprise attack again.

Dottie’s aggressive behavior brings to mind our Scripture text where God warns Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door…”.  It is the first recorded conversation God had with Adam’s descendants and is a timeless truth with perpetual application to each generation. Every believer would do well to heed God’s warning and make this personal application:

“Sin is crouching at my door and Satan wants to have me.”

This is the first record of temptation and sin among Adam’s fallen descendants.  It provides a pattern of how sin works in the lives of all of Adam’s children and reveals the tragic consequences for the transgressor, Cain, and all his family.

As I note the progression I see a caution for my own life as a redeemed believer.  I am again so powerfully reminded of the need to stand firm in my faith. I must call on God for His sustaining grace to resist the sin that results when I give into the daily temptations Satan hurls at us.

“If you do what is right.” God has revealed His will for our lives so we can know the right way.  We have many other Scriptures telling us the right way, “He hath showed thee…” (Micah 6:8); “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21); “This is the will of God…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  Truly His “Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

“Will you not be accepted?” Foundationally being accepted by God begins by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. This is God’s appointed means of beginning to “do what is right.”  Then we pursue the things of God and grow in His grace and knowledge. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).

“But if you do not do what is right.” God’s warnings are expressions of His love. When we violate God’s will as revealed in His Word, we give the enemy a foothold into our lives for further activity and progression of sin.  A grim outcome is revealed in Ephesians describing the latter stages of this progression: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19).  With the flood of evil, pornography and perversions of all sorts sweeping through our world many are at this stage. Deeper and deeper depths of depravity can be expected and the evil acts that accompany it.

“Sin is crouching at your door.” The word for “crouching” conveys the posture of a four legged animal as it prepares to attack its prey. That’s the nature of sin and its crouched position is persistent. We must ever be alert, practice self-control, and stand firm, for our “enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

“It desires to have you.” Sin continues its desire to enslave you and me. A foundational step in overcoming sin is realizing this. You do well to recognize the enemy’s tactic since he desires to have you as well.

“But you must master it.” In the New Testament Paul wrote, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). In the pursuit of godliness we must, by God’s grace, master our sinful nature, something as descendants of Adam we all must do.

We often hear the phrase, “No one is perfect” and, yes, that is true.  Only God is perfect.  But we can be a righteous people if Christ lives in us, if we apply the Scriptures to our lives and commune with God through prayer, and if we resist the “charm” or deceit of our enemy.  Stand firm, my brothers and sisters.  Resist the enemy who seeks to do evil and engage the Holy Spirit who seeks to mature us in the faith.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

June 8, 2010

Giving Up

I found this February post somewhat randomly.   Too many good things in the Christian blogosophere disappear after a few days, and it’s too bad, because there are a number of nuggets of gold in most Christian blogs if you’ve got the time to look for them.

This one is from Sim’s Blog and was written with Lent in mind, a time associated with “giving up” various things…

Give up complaining —— Focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism —— Become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments —— Think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry —— Trust divine providence.
Give up discouragement —— Be full of hope.
Give up bitterness —— Turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred —— Return good for evil.
Give up negativism —— Be positive.
Give up anger —— Be more patient.
Give up pettiness —— Become mature.
Give up gloom —— Enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy —— Pray for trust.
Give up gossiping —— Control your tongue.
Give up sin —— Turn to virtue.
Give up giving up —— Hang in there!

`Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.’ – Matthew 9:13