discernment

Jesus Wants You to Stop Resisting Sin

Resist
Christians should stop resisting sin. A bit controversial I know, but frankly I’m tired of seeing the people I care about wrestle with the intense and forceful temptations that claw for their soul. From the fall of Adam sin has been in our nature. Where was sin just before Cain killed his brother? At the door—knocking… pounding… anxious to come inside (Gen 4:7). Resisting sin makes the noise in our head and the angst in our soul echo all the louder. Why? Because when there is a vacuum in our souls the emptiness yearns to be filled.

Smoking can be a difficult habit to break. Although nicotine cravings only physically stay within the body for about five days, the random urge to smoke can last a lifetime. The reason for this is that it’s a habit set into motion by a trigger—like a time you would typically take a short break from work, stress, or anxiety. A friend of mine told me how he quit smoking: “Instead of lighting a cigarette, I would suck on a blow pop. It tasted better… AND I got gum at the end.” Fairly insightful, no?

Jesus said it this way…

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. —Luke 11:24-26 (NLT)

Many Christians are losing the battle against sin and temptation because they are trying to resist while they still have a vacuum inside. The Bible tells us to resist the devil and he will flee… but not before we submit to God (James 4:7). We are to be filled with the Spirit which, in turn, leaves no room for the enemy.. even if he makes a good case to enter our lives.

Imagine an airplane packed to capacity and someone runs up and says they need to get on the plane because it would make everyone on the plane feel better or less stressed. Considering they were telling the truth… would that really be such a bad thing considering the handful of sweaty first-time flyers nervously talking to the person trying to read next to them?!

“I need to get on the plane so everyone can relax.”

“Sorry, sir, there’s no more room.”

“Please… please let me on. It will make people feel better.”

“Nope… no room.”

“LET. ME. ON!”

“Sorry. Go home now.”

When the vacuum of the human soul is filled with the presence, peace, and love of God, even if we desperately want to give in, we can’t. There is simply no room for the devil. The only way sin can creep in is if we leave the door open, unlocked, or unattended (something I will expound on in another blog).

So, Christian, my advice is this: stop resisting and start replacing. Let your life be so full of God that there’s no room for sin. Go to church, get involved, do daily devotions, listen to music that brings glory to God, think on the cross, meditate on God’s goodness, memorize scripture, nurture healthy relationships, fill the void that the enemy wants to fill. When you start replacing your sinful habits with Godly ones, God will begin to fight your battles for you. You’ll still need to keep your guard up (Eph 5:13, Prov 4:23), but when you turn your energy towards the things of God, He will exponentially multiply your resistance.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. —Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

For further study, read and meditate on Galatians 5.

I love to hear feedback from my readers. If you agree, disagree, or can add to this topic in any way, I want to invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below. If it has been a beneficial read, would you consider sharing it with others on your social network?

*Photo credit by Bahi P under CC License. Title added.

Advertisements

Love Wins, Except When It’s Hidden

Much controversy has stirred recently surrounding Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins which releases today. Some Christians label Bell a universalist for his views, while others defend him—appalled by the mere fact that certain Christians would call out other Christians on their theology. Obviously we should never be mean-spirited in our dialog with any one, especially our own, but is staying silent and allowing what appears to be theological error really what the Bible calls love?

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. ~Proverbs 27:5

The purpose of this post is not to comment on the book—I think Kevin DeYoung already responded gracefully enough in a recent review (read here). What I AM thinking about is how often we define LOVE as some pithy and “let others be who they are” sort of mentality. We live in an individualistic society where a common belief is that everyone’s beliefs are right and to tell someone they are wrong is just… wrong. But this isn’t what the Bible calls love and love like that doesn’t win.

True love is making hard decisions. It’s dying to your selfishness for the betterment of others. Love is not easy, and it certainly isn’t for the weak. Love is passionate. Love is tough and love is humble. Love put Jesus on a cross and held Him there. Love raised Him from the grave. Love runs into burning buildings to save a life. Love tells a child not to touch a hot stove or run into the street. This kind of love makes children cry as they wonder why they can’t get what they want. Love doesn’t hide the consequences and say everything will be okay as someone self destructs.

Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned? ~Leonard Ravenhill

Some people think telling others about hell isn’t a loving thing to do because it involves fear, but maybe it’s fear that really keeps us silent on the subject of hell in the guise of love.

We are called to love others. We share the gospel became we love people. And we don’t share the gospel because we don’t love people. Instead, we wrongly fear them. We don’t want to cause awkwardness. We want their respect, and after all, we figure, if we try to share the gospel with them, we’ll look foolish! And so we are quiet. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost. ~Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Crossway, 2007, p. 27

Love speaks.
Humbly.
If love remains silent… it loses.

When satan pulls an intervention

Three years into church planting and I can clearly see patterns in the way satan attacks a young church (yes, I believe in a literal devil and demonic forces).  I have known these patterns to be true throughout my Christian walk, but lately they just seem so much more obvious.

Recently, we called a 3-day fast at the church.  Lives started changing, there was a stirring in people’s spirits, and new believer’s were excited!  We concluded on a Friday night after prayer meeting with great expectation and passion for Jesus. That was close to a month ago.

Since then some good people have given into compromise, others have lost their passion, and one has even stopped attending service all together.  Don’t get me wrong. The church isn’t in despair or anything, but because we are a church with vision the enemy attacks not so subtly.

So, what exactly happened? Well, there is an old saying that goes like this, “New levels, new devils!” and more often than not it rings true. People sometimes fail to realize, or simply refuse to recognize, that they are in the midst of a spiritual war—a battle for their very soul.

Ephesians 6:10–12, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Look at it this way. When a person is not really living for God, or maybe as a Christian Atheist, the devil really has no reason to wage war against that person. They are simply not a threat. (Though the devil still might choose to mess with an unsuspecting hypocrite if pushed –> Acts 19:13–16.

But when a person begins to align their life with the teachings of Jesus, when they begin to go to prayers meetings and fast, when they put away selfish desires and allow themselves to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit—watch out because the devil will sneak in and try to pull a spiritual intervention (lights dim and the curtain opens)…

As Committed Christian arrives home after a late night prayer and worship  at the church, he opens the door, and there sit his old friends satan and his crew.  A somber chill fills the air.

“Christian we need to talk. Sit down, would ya?”

“What’s this all about?”

“Me and the boys, well frankly, were concerned. We haven’t seen much of you lately.  You’re always at the church or praying in your room with the door closed.  We’ve even noticed you have been skipping some meals lately. You’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. We just feel, you know… it’s time for an intervention.”

“Seriously, satan?!?”

“Yeah. No more church for you buddy.  From now on we are just gonna have to give you some excuse that you can’t go. And prayer… fugettaboutit.  You need your sleep.  You work hard. Don’t worry, we are gonna make everything easy for you to come down off your spiritual high and face reality. We will take it slow, but don’t worry—we will be with you every step of the way, just hanging around to make sure you don’t ever fall down that slippery slope of, ugh, Christianity again.”

To the discerning Christian, the strategies and interventions of satan are obvious in this type of scenario.  When the devil shows up right after we decide to live all out for God, commit to a volunteer ministry or perhaps a 3-day fast, we should see right through it.

Matter of fact, the next time the devil pokes up his ugly mug after you invite Jesus deeper into your marriage, family, relationship, or life just tell him to “go to hell” where he belongs.  Don’t worry, it is Christ-like to tell the devil that—Rev 20:10.

Ephesians 6:13-18 (NLT), “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

If you find yourself getting closer to God remember to stand strong and stay on guard.  The devil might just be waiting in your car, home, or office for the right moment to pull…  an intervention.

How to respond when I feel mistreated

Luke 10:27, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

Loving people is not as easy as it sounds. People can be grumpy, hateful, backstabbing, greedy, prideful, quirky, accusatory, snarky (love that word), or just plain MEAN, but that doesn’t give us reason to return the favor.

2 Timothy 2:23–26, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Jesus calls us the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). We are called to live out the message of the Gospel as we function as divine ambassadors to those around us. In likeness of Jesus, this could mean speaking boldly against the accepted norm or possibly allowing someone to nail us to a cross.

So, how then do we know how God wants us to respond in different situations?

The answer lies in the objective foundation of Scripture. Therein, we find loving others may mean praying for them (Matt. 5:44), asking for or giving forgiveness (Col. 3:12-14), confrontation (Prov. 27:5), or submission (Eph. 5:21). What to do in different situations may vary, so that’s why we not only need the Scriptures, but also the Holy Spirit.

The Scripture guides us. The Spirit leads and empowers us.

One caution when dealing with difficult people or situations is to guard against bitterness and resentment. When we are on the blunt edge of gossip, slander, hate, backstabbing, church divisions and factions, etc… It is fairly easy to give into the bitterness, turn inward, or lash out in defense. At such times, I’ve found the greatest release is to take Jesus example (Luke 23:34) and simply forgive and pray for God to bless those that hurt me.

It’s hard to hear God’s direction in a situation when resentment or bitterness dominates us. Prayer and forgiveness release us to hear the Holy Spirit clearly, which in turn helps us to respond Christ-like in any given situation.

When people bark | Part 1

Whenever I walk by the fence that borders my drive and the neighbors yard, their little Chihuahua sneaks up on me and begins to bark like crazy—swirling in circles and trying to look all tough. For about a year the little rodent made me jump and get what I call “hot nerves” because he always seemed to come out of nowhere and startle me. He really knew how to tick me off.

However, about two months ago something strange happened. Pulling into the drive, I noticed the lil’ noisemaker crouched in the corner of the neighbors yard. Slowly I turned the car off and watched as he stalked closer and closer like a cougar ready to pounce on its’ prey. Cautiously I stepped out from the car and without notice he charged and began his notorious bark-swirls.

Oddly enough, that was the moment I realized that this dog actually likes me.

Sometimes in similar fashion people come at us all the wrong way. For whatever reason, they bark, swirl and continuously catch us off guard. They might try to intimidate us or cause us to react in a negative way. It’s almost as if they find enjoyment in this like the small dog that can make a grown man jump.

The dilemma for us arises when we interpret their “bark” as an attack and defensively react in a negative way. Reacting in a negative way or out of emotion is never a good thing. But how can we react positively if someone is constantly coming at us?

The answer lies in our perspective of the situation.

What we might not realize is that most of the time these people are just lonely and trying to seek attention in all the wrong ways. It’s almost as if causing a reaction from someone (even negative) brings some sort of significance to their life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that this is right or acceptable behavior, but as the recipient of such behavior we must learn to deal with negatives in a positive way as to maintain our own good character.

In the case of lil’ Cujo, I chose to see the barking, swirling and intimidation as his way of playing a game with me. As he tries to scare me, I bring enjoyment to his day. This perspective changed our daily meeting in a dramatic way. No longer do I dread the noisy barks from this taco bell dog, but rather look forward to seeing him because I know deep down, in a twisted way, he loves our time together. If he catches me off guard and makes me jump—he wins. If I spot him sneaking up on me—I win. This perspective might not be based in reality, but it helps me to love the little monster. Sounds weird, I know, but it helps my attitude anyway.

The fact is our perspective matters and makes all the difference! As we challenge ourselves to look for something positive in negative situations or people, we will inevitably change how we react to their barks and swirls. By lightening up and reacting in a more positive way, we can reduce stress and enjoy the interactions with others that we previously dreaded the most.

Proverbs 25:21-22, “If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you.” (The Message)

If someone barks at you today, maybe just smile and compliment them some way in return. I would love to hear your experiences and/or feedback on this. Part 2 of this post will deal with some specific examples of how I changed my perspective in real life situations. Stay tuned….

Church Planting with Bob Ross?

Recently, I was trying to help out my daughter Olathe with some math homework. I was taught a certain method of reaching the answer. She, on the other hand, is learning several methods of reaching the same answer. So naturally when she asked me for help it became frustrating for both of us. Let me explain…

For me it was frustrating because I knew what the answer should be and the method I was taught to get to that answer, but that wasn’t what the teacher wanted. If I persisted to teach her my way, she would not actually get a good grade because she needed to show her work through a different method.

On the other hand, it was frustrating for her because she needed help. Since I wasn’t there in class to hear the method she was supposed to use, I had to try to draw it out of her and then work with what she was telling me, which I was more than happy to try.

As a church planter I often find I don’t know how to accomplish everything the Lord requires of me. Many times I want to ask Bob Ross how to paint a “white, puffy cloud” when God really wants me to learn how to paint a storm in abstract. If all I ever do is paint by numbers, will I ever really learn how to paint? In the end, I might have a decent painting, but never a skill to paint an original masterpiece.

Maybe God is more interested in me learning to hear His voice rather than some easy answer to church growth.

When it comes to church planting, there is no shortage of advice, but there just might be a shortage of church planters that rely on the Spirit to show them the next step.

Glean all you can from other church planters, books and blogs but ultimately take “good notes” in the class of the Holy Spirit and learn how to get the methods and answers needed directly from Him. Then as you receive or hear advice from others, you will be able to sort out the methods that God might be calling you to attempt in your context. The rest… respectfully decline.

Discovery Changes Everything

I have been thinking a lot lately about the art of discovering. Discovery is when you realize the existence or potential of something that already existed. It might be that old song a person recently heard for the first time and now plays over and over again on their iPod. It might be that book that was pulled out from the shelf that just can’t be put down. It could simply be discovering the joy in the loving arms of your child, parent or spouse.

On a greater scale, when we discover the divine in the natural we can rest in the bigger picture that God is in control. Take for example the inspiration of Scriptures. The inspired Word of God wasn’t declared inspired by man or a committee… it just is what it is – INSPIRED. We can only discover or recognize that fact. When we do, the inspired Word of God comes alive to us because our perspective has changed. We now realize it is more than just a book of stories – it is God’s communication with man. This changes everything. God is in the details.

As a Christian, I am learning to discover that God has created, ordained and purposed things around and in me long before I choose to recognize them.

This happens all the time in our relationships. Sometimes, as Christians, in the midst of disagreement with a spouse or when the kids act up, it is easy to forget that they are a gift from God. When we do this, we sew strife. We take the gifts that God has given us for granted as they get lost under busy schedules or selfish ambitions. However, as we begin to rediscover God at work in our relationships, our perspective changes and we find joy and wonder in those we are close to. This changes everything. God is in the details.

Lastly, we can discover God in the midst of confusion, pain, or frustrating circumstances. He has been there all along, but maybe we haven’t taken the time to notice because it seems so crazy.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. -Genesis 25:21-24

Rebekah’s pregnancy was a result of Isaac’s fervent prayer. God answered this prayer, and I am sure this fact was greatly rejoiced over at first. After a season, though, Rebekah felt the strain and the stress of something that wasn’t quite right. I wonder if she was thinking to herself, “If this is an answer from God… what the heck is going on?”

During the strain of a situation it can become easy to forget all that God has done. For Rebekah that moment was pivotal to her endurance in faith. She could have chosen to become bitter at God, forgetting that her situation was an answer to prayer. But, in grand style, the scripture says she went to inquire of the Lord. She knew God was in it and if she could only discover what was going on she could rest in the Lord. God did in fact answer her and she endured this stressful pregnancy until the 9-month season was over.

God is in the details. The art of discovering God and His will can be likened to that book that has been sitting on your shelf for ages. Often you’ve looked past it, sometimes even despised that it takes up so much space. Then, one day you decide to open it and discover a story that invites you on an incredible journey. You grab a latte and sink into that big, comfy chair by the fire. No matter where this story takes you, you are captured. Though conflict arises, you read on knowing that the author is taking you somewhere and this changes everything.

All the while you wonder, “Why didn’t I discover this book a long time ago?”