Stand firm, act like men. Do all in … what?

Yesterday when reading the Bible I came across one of my favorite Bible verses. In 1 Corinthians Paul is trying to encourage the church and he says something that many men’s Bible studies have memorized.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (‭1 Corinthians ‭16‬:‭13‬ ESV)

This is an awesome verse. I can just see someone like William Wallace, a great warrior, standing in front of an army while waiting to be ambushed.

Face painted, looking fierce, walk back and forth in front of his army. Trying to encourage his men and give them the courage to stand through the night he starts to shout. “Be watchful,” he says, staring the men in the eyes as he passes by them in the chill night air. “Stand firm in faith,” he says, “act like men!” Then pulling out his claymore and pointing it towards the direction of the enemy army he yells “Be strong!”

You can hear the strength in his voice and all of the men shout, feeling fearless as they follow this warrior.

This is just such a great passage that really encourages men to stand apart, not to fall, and be warriors. Don’t fall into pornography, it’s a trap! Be watchful of your actions, of what your eyes wonder too. Watch what your family does and stand strong for them. Lead them. Because this is what a man is supposed to do!

And then I read the next verse and it kind of shattered this whole image of William Wallace.

Let all that you do be done in love. (‭1 Corinthians ‭16‬:‭14‬ ESV)

For some reason I just can’t see any strong warrior shouting this at the end of their battle cry. As men, we love to be strong, watchful, courageous. These are qualities we look up to in others and hope to have in ourselves.

But love? That doesn’t describe a warrior. You don’t see Navy SEALS talking about love. So why is Paul putting these statements together?

God obviously thinks that loving others is of supreme importance. Jesus tells us to love our enemie (Matthew 5:44) and tells us that loving God, and loving others, are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Then God gives us the ultimate example of love in the cross, where God did not conquer evil, but gave His only Son to die in the place of those who are rebelling against Him. Why? As John 3:16 says, Because God so loved.

Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t matter how faithful of a follower of God you are, or how awesome of a warrior you are, if you don’t have love and act out of love then you are nothing.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (‭1 Corinthians ‭13‬:‭1-3‬ ESV)

Trying to live our daily lives interacting with so many people is tough. We get short with our spouses because, often times because of pride. We start to get frustrated or angry at our kids, neighbors, or coworkers. And yet these very people are our mission field. We are called to be Christ to them. To love them.

In every interaction, no matter how difficult it is, we are told to love them.

Be strong, Christian brother. Stay strong in faith. Be watchful and ever vigilant. Act like men, and let all that you do be done in love.

The Discipline of Discipleship

US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris v...
US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris visits the 386 AEW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at church we had a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) demonstration followed by some teaching.  It was a great time.  I got some great notes from the speakers.  The first speaker was Carlos Machado who is friends with Chuck Norris, the demi-god that is said to start fire by rubbing ice cubes together, can count to infinity, and has a living grizzly bear as a rug in his room; too afraid to move.  He also did some work on the show Walker, Texas Ranger.

The second was from Victor Marx (http://www.victormarx.com/) who tells the story of his tragic life growing up, and how he fully embraces Romans 8:28 when it says “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  You should really check out his story and documentary.

I will be talking more about these guys and some of the stuff they taught me soon, but for now I want to talk about something that comes from just the foundation of martial arts.

When you hear of martial arts, what do you think of? Fighting? Mr. Miyagi?  Martial arts is not just about getting strong and fighting to beat people up.  It is a discipline; it teaches discipline.

dis·ci·pline

  • training to act in accordance with rules; drill
  • activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
  • the rigor or training effect of experience

The word discipline is a heavy word.  If you want to be really good at something it takes a lot of personal discipline to get good at it.  This goes with anything. Martial arts, musical instruments, carpentry, or programming.

To be good, to be effective, you must discipline yourself. You must work hard, and not just from time to time, but all the time.  These guys that are good at martial arts are good because they do it, every day.  Hours a day of training and dedication to get good.

I can speak from experience with this point, but from the other side.  I have tried to play multiple instruments in my life, and tried various disciplines of martial arts, but for one reason or another (or for one knee giving out or another), I had to give it up.  Sure, I had a couple months of training, but it never became a part of my life.  Nothing that I ever became dedicated about long enough to get good.

I do remember a few things though.  Like how to break some simple wrist holds (if you hold my wrist in just the right way) and I can, with a lot of effort, play part of Fur Elise on a keyboard still, but I’m not good at it.  I did not, or was not able to, stick with it enough to let it become a discipline in my life.

Ever wonder why the followers of Jesus called themselves disciples?

This thought crossed my mind last night while thinking on these things.  Is it a coincidence that these words sound like they have the same root word?

Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ without having the same kind of discipline towards Him that martial artists have in training?

If you have followed this website for any amount of time it is no surprise to you that I am a fan of Leonard Ravenhill.  Leonard Ravenhill was a preacher with a great ministry. He was able to reach people for Christ and encouraged a lot of people to be bold preachers, to be prayer warriors, and to long for personal revival in ones life.

But the ministry he had did not come to him easily, it was not something that he just participated in occasionally and one day something just clicked and he was deeply spiritual.  On the contrary, every part of his life and ministry had the impact it had on others’ lives only because he was disciplined.  It was only because he treated prayer like a discipline that he was effective at all.  His son, David, said this about him.

My father was a powerfully anointed preacher who could bring down the convicting presence of God in a way that very few can. People would begin making their way to the altar even before any type of invitation was given, their hearts pierced by the Word of God. His preaching was superceded only by his passion for prayer. Like the apostle Paul, he carried “the daily pressure of concern for the church.” Prayer was his life. Prior to his death in 1994 he told me he had received a number of requests from seminary students who wanted to come and see him for the sole purpose of having him lay his hands upon them in order to receive his “mantle.” With his typical dry British humor, but at the same time deadly serious, he said, “Everyone wants to have my mantle but nobody wants my sackcloth and ashes.”

Leonard Ravenhill. Why Revival Tarries (Kindle Locations 21-26). Kindle Edition.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 tells us that we are to train in the same way, with the same intensity that an athlete trains.  Not training to run, but to win.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

I remember being amazed during the Olympics that just ended at the athletic ability of each of these athletes.  It never came easy to them, well, maybe for Phelps (just kidding).  They gave their life to their sport, to not just doing a good job at it, but at being the best.  None of them trained for last placed, or trained for the bronze; they trained to win the gold.

The self-discipline required to do that was amazing.  Hours a day at the gym and training for years on end, giving up many of the pleasures of life we enjoy like deserts or watching tv and playing games.  Why did they do it? For a medal and for fame.

How much more, my brothers and sisters, how much more should we be training spiritually to take the gold.  Not for fame and fortune, but to know God, to draw closer to God.  To have more faith.

Faith comes from God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, – Ephesians 2:8

And through reading scripture

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17

It makes us strive to live Holy before God, while Jesus works on completing our faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being a Christian is not a weekend adventure, or morals we consult occasionally, it is a lifestyle of following Christ, a discipline of putting Him first in our life.  In every part of our life.

After all, this IS the call that Jesus gave to those who want to be His disciples.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. – Matthew 16:24

Oh father, please forgive me for the lukewarm attitude I have had towards you.  Help me to have the discipline to put you as a priority in my life every day, and to stop living a life that ignores you.  Father, give me a renewed vision of the goal, and give me an increase in faith.  Only you are worthy of the pursuit of my life.

Amen.

There is Freedom from Porn Addiction!!!

Machew is a guest writer for ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

My Testimony:

I used to be a porn addict from my high school years to my third year of college, 1 year into being a Christian. I found that the more I looked at it, the more it attracted the demonic around me, and the more power it had over me because of my agreement with the enemy for it as an acceptable form of coping with my loneliness and inner pain. I didn’t know that this was why I ran to porn at the time, but later found out as God showed me the huge hole in my heart. When I became a Christian and found out that it was not an acceptable way to cope with this, I found out how much power it had over me. I found myself not being able to stop no matter what I did. I went through 8 months of day and night prayer, non-stop, “God help me! I don’t wan’t to do this anymore!.” I felt ashamed of myself, and like I was the filth of his kingdom. I felt like I was a failure as a Christian many nights and that I should just give up. But I didn’t want to give up without a fight. As time went on it just seemed more and more hopeless that I would ever be free from its lure and control. After 8 months of crying out to God, when I just about had it and felt like I just wanted to give up, God showed up in my room in power, and I fell to the floor sobbing in a fetal position all night long, as God told me:

“Matthew you are my precious son, I have never been disappointed in you, and you have brought my heart so much joy”

I thought to myself: “Is He talking about the same Matthew here?”

God: “Matthew, I have so enjoyed watching you these past few hours, you are the source of so much of my joy. You need to know that there is nothing you can do that can separate you from my Love for you and who you are.”

I realized something that day. The reason I felt so trapped in it was because I believed that my sin still separated me from God, and made me feel like God was turning His face away from me. This was shame that the enemy put on me to convince me that I couldn’t approach God. I found out through an encounter with God that this was not true. I kept hearing, “my blood was enough for you.” But I also kept hearing that voice of guilt trying to get me focused back on everything that was wrong with me. Then I heard God say “Don’t let yourself focus on what the accuser is saying to you, you are my son. The only thing you need to do is to be my son! That is who you are and nobody will take you away from me!”

How the enemy kept me trapped:

The sadistic strategic trap of introspection

I found out that I had to take personal responsibility over what I allowed myself to focus on, and that the enemy only had power over me when I made an agreement with him. The way he kept me trapped was to tempt me, then put this fear on me of sinning so that I would feel powerless to do anything about it, then fall into sin, then he would accuse me of doing it over and over again to make the problem seem so big in my head. Later the enemy would continue to plant fear in me of doing it again. The enemy does this to give you the belief that you are trapped and can’t do anything to get out of it.

A good definition of fear is: faith in a lie. The enemy keeps us trapped in sin by having us fear the sin we feel trapped in, then accusing us of doing it until shame is all over us and the problem is so big in our head that we fear it more. This was the endless cycle that I felt trapped in. God showed me all of this and what the enemy was doing in me and freed me from my addiction. To this day(about 6 years) I have been free from this addiction and live in the victory of Jesus in this area of my life.

The common theme in all of this is: The enemy wants to get you to focus on yourself and everything that is wrong with you(introspection) instead of focusing on God’s acceptance and Love for you, and who you are in Christ. If the enemy can get you to see all the problems you have as really big (using tools like: fear, shame, guilt, thoughts that seem like yours but are really lies planted in your head by the enemy) they soon become bigger in your head than the God that can free you, and he empties you of any faith you have that you can be free. The enemy will always try to manipulate you into a place where you believe you are hopelessly left to deal with your problems by yourself (living under the law, which Paul warns against).

I posted this in the hopes that it would help people on here that are struggling with this. There is victory in Christ over porn addictions, and the enemy is a liar. It is the enemy that tempts us, and our choice to give into it. If the enemy can convince you that you are powerless against his temptation, then you will fall into temptation. But if you realize that the enemy is just trying to intimidate you and is trying to convince you that you can’t resist him, then you can realize there is nothing to fear and lift your sword and give the enemy a good wap on the head, “Get behind me satan!” The enemy knows that you are the one with all of the power over yourself (Self-Control, Galatians 5:22-23), so he works overtime to convince you that you don’t have this power over yourself and that he has power over you. Don’t let him talk you out of your self-control any longer! It is for freedom’s sake that Jesus has set you free (Galatians 5:1).

Believing satan’s Lies Opens the Door the Lies of Undermined Self-Worth:

When you come to a place of hopelessness, the enemy then works to undermine your view of yourself and your self-worth with further attacks of lies about yourself. The enemy will often plant in your head thoughts of how worthless you are and how God must see you as a rebellious and worthless son/daughter. Don’t believe this for a second, they are lies from the pit of hell. God was willing to come to earth and humble Himself in making Himself vulnerable to human weakness by coming as a human (Jesus), and be beaten and tortured brutally, then be nailed to a cross in a brutal death, while everyone was in rebellion and sin against God. While people were mocking Him, spitting in His face, and shoving a crown of thorns down his head, he prayed for the Father to forgive us and died on that cross receiving the full wrath of God for your sin (past, present, and future: Hebrews 10:10). You were worth it to Jesus, for Him to endure all of that punishment and even death! Think of how much worth Jesus must have for you to be willing to go through all of this. Jesus did this all for you, so that nothing could separate you from His Love (Romans 8:38). He did everything that was needed on your behalf for the Father to fully approve, accept, and Love you. The Father now sees you as His perfect, beloved son/daughter.

If you struggle with the lies of little self-worth and/or that you can’t control yourself, repeat these declarations over yourself:

1. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fix myself before approaching God

2. I no longer believe the lie that I cannot control myself

3. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fear the enemy’s temptation to guard myself from sin

4. I renounce all power that the enemy has over me in Jesus Name and no longer believe the lie that he has any power over me

5. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fear sin

6. I break all ties with the spirit of fear, shame, and guilt and say that I no longer give you permission to influence me.

7. I no longer believe the lie that sin has a hold over me.

8. I believe the truth, that Jesus freed me from the slavery of sin through His death on the cross and resurrection. (Galatians 2:20-21, Meditate on Romans 8 carefully)

9. I believe the truth that if I repented and meant it, then I have fully repented for my sin regardless of my past addiction

10. I believe the truth, that because I have repented of my sin, my Father in heaven loves me and accepts me right where I am because of the blood of Jesus over my life.

11. I believe the truth, that because of Jesus’ death on the cross I can approach the throne room of God with boldness to ask for help. (Hebrews 4:16)

12. I believe the truth, that God is very eager and happy to help me anytime when I feel lacking and weak.

13. I believe the truth, that I can freely have the fruit of the Spirit of self-control at anytime and that I do have complete control over myself.

14. I believe the truth that in my self-control, I control me, and I don’t have to allow anyone or anything else to control me.

15. I believe the truth, that I am a son/daughter of God, and that I start out and live everyday seen by the Father as the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:7, Titus 3:7)

The easiest way to give into the enemy’s temptations is to forget who you are as a son and daughter of God. When you don’t remember who you are, and the authority that you carry as co-heirs with Christ, then you will believe the enemy’s lies. You are all sons and daughters of the most High God!

 

Lastly pray this prayer:

Father thank you that you Love me, and you are delighted to help me out of my addiction. I come to you with boldness as your son/daughter and lean into your embrace and power to free me from addiction to porn. I ask you for help in showing me what causes me to run to this porn, and ask you to deliver me from everything that causes this to even have any appeal in my life. I surrender my life to you Jesus and Your power working in me, and invite You to be my main help for me to have the freedom that you paid for on the cross.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen!

Much Love & Blessings,

Machew

Want to be saved? Just raise your hand and repeat after me…

Written by Jon Zenor.

The decision to follow Christ is the most important decision made in your life.  It is that decision where you decide to quit living your life for yourself and to follow Jesus, making him your master. You go where He wants you to go, do what He wants you to do, you stop living the sinful lifestyle that goes against God and you commit your life to Him.

Jesus says that if we want to follow Him it means giving up everything for Him, and to count the cost before you decide to make the journey (Luke 14:25-33).

That is what it means to make yourself a slave of Christ, you make Him your master.  The decision to do this is not one made lightly, and it is not a decision to be made light of.

In 2002 I made a decision to join the U.S. Navy.  This was not a decision I made lightly, I considered it for months beforehand.  I was signing a contract with the government to serve in the military for a minimum of four years. I would go where they told me to go, learn what they told me to learn.  I was theirs.

Our church normally does an alter call, where we invite people who want to give their lives to Jesus to come up front and talk with one of the pastors, to receive prayer and be given some information about what the decision they are about to make really means.  But it wasn’t so on Christmas Eve.

Maybe it was because the Christmas Eve service was so full, maybe for some other reason I don’t know about, but whatever the reason our church decided to take the “short cut to salvation.”  They gave the announcement “If you would like to receive Jesus in your heart just raise your hand.” A few people raised their hands and then the pastor led them in prayer. “Repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

This is one of the sickest common perversions of the gospel in our society today.

What’s the big deal?

You are probably thinking that this is no big deal, it doesn’t matter how they are led to the prayer as long as they prayed.

Why does someone come to Christ?

A person comes to Christ because for one, they realize and believe that He is real, and then they realize they have offended God with how horrible their sin is, and then because of that they repent, turn from their sinful lifestyle to live the way God calls them to live.

and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

The response to realizing God is real and you are in His presence is to worship, and the response to realizing you are a sinful is grief over your sin, and the response to you grieving over your sins is repentance, and the response to your repentance is forgiveness. Forgiveness of all of the sins you have ever committed or ever will commit.

And you are telling me a person went through all of this by simply raising their hand?

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Still don’t see the problem?

So you still don’t see a problem with this way of presenting the gospel?  Let’s have an analogy.

So this guy is standing in front of a group of people seated before him.  He says in a slightly excited tone “I have the winning ticket for the Power Ball lottery! Raise your hand if you want it.”

A few people in the crowd raise their hand.

“Awesome,” the man says, “Just repeat after me and it is yours.”

“Thank you for giving me twenty million dollars and I promise to use it to get my life right.”

The crowd responds, repeating what the guy said, and then after the guy is done talking they all quietly get up and start heading out the door calmly and quietly.

In this scenario, would you say that any of the people being offered multi-millions of dollars actually believed they got the money the guy up front told them they would get?

No, there was no excitement, no change, no commitment to actually follow God.

When a person gives their life over to God, they receive something so much better than all the money in the world, shouldn’t there be some type of response?

The Very Real, Very Serious Consequences

Here is the extremely real, extremely serious consequences of such a gospel message.

You convince people that they are saved, that they have a relationship with God, just because they raised their hand and repeated a prayer during an alter call.

Raising your hand and repeating a prayer does not save you. Cannot.

But now you have a few dozen people who walk out of that church believing they are saved because they raised their hand.  They didn’t even have a pastor talk to them to explain what raising their hand really meant.  But they believe; not in Christ, not in sacrificing their life and carrying their cross before Christ, no, they just believe they are saved.

But belief in salvation does not save you, only a relationship with Christ.

We have a generation of thousands in churches that believe they are saved because they said a prayer once but they have no fruit of the Spirit as evidence, no change in their life. This is why Leonard Ravenhill boldly proclaimed that “the sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than all the taverns in America.”

I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again–and that’s true of England! – Leonard Ravenhill

But it gets even more serious, we have churches full of leadership who think they are saved but have no relationship with God, they serve because they want to do the right thing but when they get to heaven they will just hear “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)

But because all these thousands of people believe they are saved they will go on their life ignoring anybody who may tell them to repent. “I don’t need to repent, I’m already saved!” the person will say to himself.

You have just given a blind man headphones and praise music to make him happy but you never turned him away from the path he is on, a path headed straight for the cliff.  All you did is make it harder for him to hear others trying to warn him over the praise music.

Do you see yet the serious problem here?

What do I do?

If you believe you are saved, it is one of our duties to examine our salvation, to test ourselves to make sure we are saved and not just fooling yourself.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Have you felt that godly sorrow over your sins that leads you to repent?  Do you live a holy life, not because you try to but because God has transformed you?  Do you live your life according to scripture and breath in joyfully every word of the Bible?  Spend some time in scripture analyzing what it means to be saved and see how you match up to it. Repent of the areas you fail in, and pray for strength to help you where you need it, but fist make sure you have that relationship with Jesus.

Holiness is not a Iuxury, it’s a necessity. If you’re not holy, you’ll never make it to heaven. – Leonard Ravenhill

If you are not saved, then there is no better time than right now.  Every sin you commit hurts your relationship with God, drives you farther from Him.  He is the one who created you and despite you turning from Him and living in strict opposition to Him He still sent His only son to die, to pay the penalty of your sins.

Why did Jesus die for you? Because He wants you to be free from sin, He wants you to follow Him and find true joy in Him, and He wants you to share that with others so others can find joy in Christ.

If you want someone to walk you through this you should contact someone at your local church, or call Eternal Truth Ministry at 719-4285-ETM and leave a message and we would love to walk you through any questions you may have.

This is too important of a decision to make to let yourself be fooled, and it is way too important of a decision to put off another day.

Finally, if you are a pastor, preacher, evangelist, or in any position to give “alter calls” then do the right thing, go out to the people, get them alone one on one and pray with them, answer their questions, explain what this decision really is, guide them as they repent and decide to follow Christ.

There is nothing wrong with having someone raise their hand to say they want to be saved, but keep their hands raised until someone can pull them out of the crowd and take them aside.  One on one, make it personal to them.

 

Do you agree with what I said here or do you think I am being overly picky? I would like to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.

Are you being controlled by the subtlety of sin?

“Then let it see the Crystal Shard and destroy it,” Entreri remarked, and he felt a twinge then as Crenshinibon (the Crystal Shard) cried out.

“Why?” Jarlaxle asked suddenly, and Entreri recognized that his ever-opportunistic friend had heard that silent call.

“Why?” the assassin (Entreri) echoed, turning to regard Jarlaxle fully.

“Perhaps we are being premature in our planning,” Jarlaxle explained. “We know how to destroy the Crystal Shard now – likely that will be enough for us to use against the artifact to bend it continually to our will.”

Entreri started to laugh.

“There is truth in what I say, and a gain to be had in following my reasoning,” Jarlaxle insisted. “Crenshinibon began to manipulate me, no doubt, but now that we have determined that you, and not the artifact, are truly the master of your relationship, why must we rush ahead to destroy it? Why not determine first if you might control the item enough for our own gain?”

“Because if you know, beyond doubt, that you can destroy it, and the Crystal Shard knows that, as well, there may be no need to destroy it,” Entreri played along.

“Exactly!” said the now-excited dark elf.

“Because if you know you can destroy the crystalline tower, then there is no possible way that you will wind up with two crystalline towers,” Entreri replied sarcastically, and the eager grin disappeared from Jarlaxle’s black-skinned face in the blink of an astonished eye.

“It did it again.,” the drow remarked dryly.

“Same bait on the hook, and the Jarlaxle fish chomps even harder,” Entreri replied.

This is a scene from a fantasy book “Servant of the Shard” by R. A. Salvatore.  (Hang on with me, I promise I am going somewhere redeeming with this!)

There is a magical item, called Crenshinibon, or the Crystal Shard.  This is an evil item of great magical power, and a mind of its own.  Whoever possesses the item can use its power, but the Crystal Shard uses the promises of power and fame or whatever other weakness the wielder has to manipulate that person and bring him or her under its own control.

Earlier in the book it tried to work through Jarlaxle, making him do things he normally would not do because of the influence of the Crystal Shard.  Eventually he ends up making a crystalline tower, a powerful tower the Crystal Shard needs to make it stronger.

Jarlaxle, determined to be ruled by anything finally regains control, and goes to destroy the tower.  And he starts to succeed.  As the tower starts to fall he feels victorious over the object and then starts to think things.  “Now that I am in control I can destroy the tower whenever I want, so really there is no need to destroy it right this second.  In fact, two towers would be nice.”  Suddenly a second tower appears.

How temptation deceives us

These two events in the book, where Jarlaxle is wanting to destroy the tower and ends up with two towers, and then later on the way to destroy the Crystal Shard decides that you don’t really need to destroy it if you know you can destroy it, both remind me of temptations that we face.

How often have you been trapped in a sin, yet you believe that you have control of it?  You get to the point where you convince yourself that you can quit at any time, and of course since you are in control of when you can quit you decide not to quit.  Who is really in control there?

Just this once

Often times this appearance of control comes in the form of “just this once.”  You will compromise and commit this sin, just this one time.  How often has just this once turned into just one more time?

Anytime it comes to sin and temptation there is no room for compromise, no room for control at all.  The more you think you have control over your sin the more it really controls you.  You say you have control while it has you in chains preventing you from exercising that apparent control.

Joseph gives us the best example of how to deal with such temptation.  Flee.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside – Genesis 39:11-12

Sin has no place in the life of a Christian, no matter how small it may seem.  Finding ways to get away with sin, small or large, will end with sin sinking its hooks deeper into you.

Sure you quit looking at pornography for a day, so you can quit at any time, you convince yourself as you bring up more pictures on your computer.

Or one that has hit close to me, reading your Bible every day.

It is amazing the thoughts that go through my mind regarding the time I know I should spend in the Bible and praying.  I do great reading the Bible every day and then one day I miss it.  The next day I think to myself that I can start reading again at any time, but today is busy, so I will do it tomorrow instead.

The next thing I know a month has gone bye and my Bible has done nothing but collect dust.

You will come up with any excuse to not read your Bible and convince yourself that it is okay because you can start again at any time, yet you don’t.  Your mind will work over time to come up with excuses why it is okay to keep sinning, to keep speeding, look at pictures of pornography, curse, watch a movie you know you shouldn’t – just this once.  Yet if you were really in control of the situation you would have done the right thing in the first place.

Imagine a roller coaster, you are sitting in the car going along the track, with a steering wheel attached. You turn left just as the track turns left and the car goes left, so you think you are in control.  It is not until you try to turn right when the track turns left that you realize you have no control.

The BIble tells us that we cannot have two masters (Matthew 6:24), so we must choose.  Choose now to follow God and to repent of your sin. Do not play games to tempt yourself.  Flee all temptation, God will always give you a way out.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. – James 1:13-15

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

The next time you are debating not reading the Bible, thinking it is because you are choosing not to but can start again after lunch or tomorrow, think about how subtlety the sin will try to control you.

The next time you are thinking of continuing in that sin, whatever it may be, remember that you are not in control of it, but you can flee it.

Faith, Works, and Salvation

Have you ever been so scared by a passage in the Bible that you could not sleep at night?  This has happened to me more than once, most recently by this passage in Matthew.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

Sometimes reading that passage makes me stop and think “Is that talking about me?”  When I die, will Jesus say to me ‘Well done good and faithful servant,’ or will He say ‘Depart from me, I never knew you?'”  This question can be scary, very scary.

For one, you do not want to be doing everything you can to serve God, only to find out you missed out on the most important thing, the treasure that God actually wanted from you.  But also you do not want to go through life thinking that everything is fine, only to reach the final moments and find out your one way ticket to heaven was nothing more than a sham, sold to you by Satan and your betraying flesh.

What it means to be “Saved”

When a Christian says he or she is “saved”, what does that mean?  What is it exactly that we are saved from?

The most obvious answer that comes to mind is that we are saved from hell, to heaven (John 3:16).  But more than that, we are saved from sin, to righteousness – to good and righteous works God has called us to do (Romans 6:18, 22, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 2:10).  But one of the most important things we are saved for, is for the glory of God. That’s right, we are saved so that God can get glory (Romans 15:7, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Philippians 2:9-11).

How many people will be saved?  Not many.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14

Examine Your faith

Salvation is important. It brings God glory, empowers us to do the good work God has for us, and it saves us from the damnation we deserve.  But it is clear that only a few will find it, and many will think they have found it but will be deceived (Matthew 7:21-23).

For this reason Paul tells us to examine ourselves to make sure that we are saved.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. – 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

What Faith is Not

This brings us to a crucial point. The few passages we have looked at so far makes it seem like faith and works are the same thing.  But they are not.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should  boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

This passage shows us there is a difference between faith and works. Faith saves us, not works.  Remember the first passage we looked at, Jesus rebuked people who were doing good works, but lacked faith, lacked a relationship with Jesus.  Jesus said “I never knew you” which shows us that it is the relationship God wants from us, not our works of healing, casting out demons, building churches, or giving to the poor.

Works themselves mean nothing.  Isaiah 64:6 says that our good works are worthless, that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”

Are Works Meaningless?

Those passages make it clear that it is only by faith that we are saved, our works mean nothing.  So are works not important?

Actually, works are crucial to a Christian’s faith.  “Wait a second” you are thinking, “You just said works mean nothing, we are not saved by works and all our good works of righteousness are as filthy rags, how can they, at the same time, be crucial to a Christian?”  It does seem a bit contradictory at first, but dig deeper in to scriptures.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? – James 2:14-20

So we are saved by faith, not by works, yet faith without works is dead and such a faith does not save you… confused yet? Just hang on a little bit longer.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6

This is a cause and effect situation here. What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Which comes first, the faith or the works?

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. – Matthew 7:16-18

And there Matthew sums this all up so nicely for us.  When we accept Christ, when we put faith in Him, something real happens, we are literally changed, transformed, the old person has passed away and a new being is created (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This does not mean that we never sin (that topic will be covered in another article).  The only way we can be sin free is to be in a new body, as long as we are trapped in these earthly bodies we will sin (Romans 7).

But our spirit is made new and the Holy Spirit indwells within us.  It is this which gives us the desires to do good works and gives us the ability to do good works.  Good works do not save us but they are the evidence that we are saved.

Just as a good tree only produces good fruit, a Christian, someone who is saved by faith, produces good works. Not because the works are required for salvation or give us merit at all, but because our nature changes completely.  It is something we can not help.

When I was in college – several years ago – I was a math major. In High school I could do math without a calculator.  I could solve the most complex calculations in my math class with nothing more than an occasional scratch piece of paper, but I could not write to save my life.

Just recently I took an algebra class and struggled through it.  I could not comprehend the math. I barely got a B in Algebra and Trig, and ended up getting a C in my pre-calculus class.  But I aced every one of my English and writing  classes and (so I am told) I write fairly well.

This is an example of my nature changing.  I went from being a math wiz to being a writer.  No amount of work on my part can change what I am.  I can practice and get by at math, but it will not come as naturally as writing does to me now.

In the same way a Christian cannot defy his or her nature.  When we are still stuck in sin we cannot do good works except by our effort, it was a struggle, but now, after salvation, the good works are a natural response, just like breathing.

This shows how it is possible that works are important to our faith and salvation but do not save us, because they have nothing to do with the salvation part, they are just an example of that salvation.

How do I examine myself?

So how then, do we go about examining ourselves?  The only thing I can say is to pray and read the Bible.  Examine your life, your actions, your check book (where you spend your money), your thoughts, everything, against scripture.  Are you living in sin that needs to be repented of?  Are you doing works in the church on a daily basis but missing that relationship with God?  Are you doing good works but feel that it is a burden to you?

Examine yourself, see what is keeping you from having a relationship with God, what is keeping you from the Bible.  Use natural works, the ones you enjoy and are not a pain to perform to see if it is a natural response or something you are (subconsciously) trying to fake.

Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I cannot stress enough how important the word of God is in our seeking God.  Read it every day, even more often in times of examining yourself spiritually.

*Photo by Jon Zenor, Copyright 2010 Jon Zenor Photography.*

Another season to focus on God!

This summer has been crazy with activities for the staff at ETM.  As you have noticed if you are following us on Twitter or Facebook, we had to take the summer off from writing articles, which we were sorry to have to do.

Life is not any less busy during the rest of the year, but most summer activities include a lot of breaks in the normal routine of things, making writing regularly difficult.  But that break is now over.

We have some awesome articles and book reviews coming in the next couple of weeks, so subscribe to our feed, follow us on Facebook, and keep an eye out for those.

Announcements

We are always trying to find ways to improve ETM so we are making a few changes to help move towards that goal.

Staff Down sizing

I hate to start out the announcements on a negative announcement, but that is just the way it goes sometimes.  Several of our staff members have too many commitments between family, school, other ministries, and other real life things to be able to focus much on ETM.  I commend the effort given by all of our staff members to date and welcome them back at any time if the Lord leads them.  Please keep them in your prayers during this busy season of their lives.  Also I ask that you would keep ETM in your prayers that we can continue with the shortage of staff, or that the Lord would bring staff members to help fill the shoes that are now left empty.

Article Frequency

With the fewer people writing articles we will now be releasing a new article every four to five days instead of every three to four.  We hope this schedule will still bring you plenty of quality, Biblical content and will encourage you in your relationship with God.

New Staff wanted!

Given this information it is obvious that we could use some help on staff.  If you have any experience in writing, or want experience in writing articles, we could use your help.  Not just writers either.  Gamers, editors, forum users, we want you all!  Check out the ETM Staff page to view the positions available and what the requirements are, then fill out our staff application to apply for the position.

We do not just want those who are the most experienced or who have the degrees.  Our main area of focus for staff members is first and foremost a dedication and love for God.  Without a daily relationship with Him this ministry is nothing.  Also we want people who are committed to ETM and want to see the ministry survive and thrive.

ETM Christian Gaming

There are several Christians who enjoy playing various online games together in a family-friendly environment that encourages Biblical discussions and pursuing God.  We know games are easy to get wrapped up in and sometimes want extra accountability to stay focused on Christ.  The Bible says “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)  This includes time spent playing games.

In response to this we want to setup a network of Christian guilds, to provide support and tools needed to run their guilds or servers while maintaining Christian accountability and a family friendly environment.

If you are interested in helping us out in this endeavor, please consider filling out an application.  This is a fairly new idea so you can be there and help from the ground up, and take a part in actually shaping how these guilds will work.

A Baby is Born!

The wife of one of our staff members, Sean, is about to give birth to their third child!  Congratulate them on their new bundle of joy and keep them in prayer as they make this transition in their life.

That is all of the announcements for now.  Stay tuned for some awesome and challenging articles that will be published on the site soon.  If you have a Twitter or Facebook account follow us! 🙂

Living Rich with God’s money

In my previous article I addressed some questions that come up when talking about money and saving and what God has shown me about each question. In this article I will briefly explain how I am being led with my money.

The Goal, The Plan, The Purpose

Last year God gave me a goal to work on for finances. He wants me to cut my living expenses by at least 35%. I did not know why or how to do that when I am currently living paycheck to paycheck. This goal has been on my mind since, and I have done what I can to make it happen but without much luck.

Finally, after about nine months of praying over this God gave me the plan (Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) which I just started. I am not fully aware of the purpose of this goal other than to free up the resources God has given me to manage to help others. It is pretty clear in the Bible that this is required of all Christians, to help others with what God provided. Beyond that, I do not know why God wants me to make such drastic changes in my life.

Don’t worry, focus on God

Luke 12:21-24 has some words of warning and advice for us here.

“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

This passage tells me to not worry about your money, God gives and takes away, it is all His. If He chooses to use you for a storehouse for a year or a lifetime, awesome, if not, awesome.

Realize that it is all His, and you are just the steward, realize that money is nothing, focus on a relationship with God, that is what matters. Everything else just gets in the way. Want to save money? Sure, just make sure you are doing it for the Lord and following Him, not trying to make yourself secure. Only God knows the future, you never know what will come up where the money God has given you to manage could be used in a huge way if you were to just save a percentage of it now.

Want to give away every dime and rely on faith for your retirement? Awesome, just make sure it is from God so you are not left broke wondering what happened and God says “I gave you all the resources you needed and the abilities to work, you were not responsible so I took them from you.”

Whatever you do, do it for the Lord.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line, what counts is not how much money you have in savings, how much you make, how much you give away. What matters is your attitude towards God and towards your money.

I know someone who makes a lot of money, and gives a lot of money, yet his life does not show devotion to God. God isn’t pleased with our giving, He is pleased with our obedience to Him through our relationship with Him.

Repent of your greed (we all have it to some extent), and follow God. As you draw closer to Him your desires will become His desires. You will want to save and give away what He tells you because you are close to Him. Just be cautious of the greed and the pride that can sneak in and distract and destroy.

Word of Warning

One last word of warning though. Do not just assume that God wants you to build up wealth and spend money on yourself to live comfortably and have nice cars. In America we have the mindset that we deserve the nice cars, big houses, big screen TVs and game systems. Before you buy anything for yourself, or before you start putting most of your money into retirement, pray, and sure you use God’s money the way God wants you to. God may not have called you to that life of comfort you want to live in.

I say this weeping: Church it’s time to humble ourselves!

2 Chronicles 7:14

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This verse says that if God’s people humble themselves He will heal our land, not the lost or deceived who don’t know any better.  When will God’s people stop arguing and dividing about their pet doctrines?  Don’t you realize that if you need people to agree with you, for you to Love and accept them as a child of God, you are in pride?  What will you say to God when you approach His throne, and people who God sent to you were reprimanded for not agreeing with your doctrine?  Jesus said Love your enemies.  He used the greek word agape in this verse.  Agape is unconditional perfect Love.  This kind of love is described in 1 Corinthians 13.  Do you think you will have any excuse that could possibly justify you not obeying the Lord’s command?

We are talking about real people here, whom God dearly Loves.  Do you not remember how you were saved, how you were a disgusting, filthy sinner, and how God lifted you up and saved you in the midst of being a sinner?  What makes you think God, treats other sinners more harshly?  What gives you the right to push away the beloved of God, for the sake of you being right?  When you get to heaven, is it really going to matter that you defended your doctrine?  Or is Jesus going to want to see that every person who came across your path was empowered to get closer to Jesus, and experienced His Love through you?  When you get to heaven, is it really going to matter that you knew the Bible better than everyone else, or that you knew the King’s heart for the people He Loved and you were moved by His heart?  When you teach about Jesus, do people have to go through you to learn about Jesus, or can they have the relationship that Jesus died on the cross for them to have? Are you leading people to Jesus or to your doctrine?

It’s time for the church to start acting like a real family that actually Loves one another.  We are brothers and sisters despite our differences.  (For those of you who actually need me to say it, I don’t mean mormons or jehovah’s witness)  When you have family over to your house, for example: your actual brother or sister or mom or dad, do you not allow them to come to your house because of theological differences?  Do you constantly berate them for not believing as you do?  Do you find forums online to post on to tell the whole world how wrong your brother or sister or mom or dad is and how they are deceived?  When people talk about your mom or dad or brother or sister, is the first thing that comes out of your mouth a warning about how deceived they are?  No! Of Course Not!  Why do people think church family is any different?  It is something to pray and think about.

This is something I have consistently heard God saying to the church “Stop building your own kingdoms around your doctrine, instead humble yourselves so you can build and expand My Kingdom!  If you seek first and focus on my Kingdom and my righteousness, all of the rest of the things you are anxious about, that I told you to not be anxious about, will be taken care of! ”

Jason Upton – Dying Star

By His Grace Alone,

Machew

Fighting Hypocrisy in the Church

Pastor Francis Chan goes through 1 Corinthians 5, a very difficult pasage about the responsibilites of believers to lovingly confront other Christians about their sin.  To ignore Christians who are living in sin and continue to let them do so is extremely unloving. You do it only because you care more about hurting the persons feelings than saving them from hell.