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.

Is Christianity a blind faith?

Many non-Christians love to point out how Christianity is nothing but a “blind faith”. They say that because God cannot be seen, heard, or touched, we cannot ever know for sure that He exists. Since there is a lack of physical evidence of God, then any rational minded person would never believe in God and, therefore, we just blindly believe what we were told.

Websters defines blind faith as:

belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination

A common way that it is defined is to say that someone believes in something without any evidence. You believe because you are told, and that’s it.

So I have given this subject a lot of thought because it’s important. If God is real, and He interacts with us like the Bible says (i.e. Jesus, the cross), then there should be evidence somewhere that He exists. Or do I believe everything that I believe simply out of blind faith?

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that there are a few things I believe in blindly.

Heaven, for one, is something I have a blind faith in. I have absolutely no proof that heaven exists. It doesn’t affect my life, I can’t reach down and touch the streets of gold and I don’t know anybody who has been there and come back to tell me about it. But I believe in heaven because the Bible says it is true. I do realize the weakness of that argument, so I must continue my search. Is everything I believe about Christianity just blind faith?

Then I thought about angels. There are stories all throughout the Bible about angels. Angels that fight behind the scenes, and even ones that appear to man. But I have never seen an angel, nor have I ever interacted with one. And as they are not part of the natural world you really can’t test for them. So I realized I also blindly believe that angels exist.

But the single most important factor of Christianity to consider is God. Everything hinges around Him. If He doesn’t exist, then my faith is completely worthless and I’m wasting my life on this Earth.

So the question: Do I blindly believe in God?

I have never seen him, never felt Him physically. I have never heard his voice or seen His hand write on my wall. So at first I would say that I do believe in him blindly.

But then I thought about my wife. Do I only believe my wife exists because I see and hear her? Or is there something deeper?

I can’t see God like I can see my wife, but even if I were blind and could never see her I would know she is there. It’s the same with any of the physical senses. I don’t need to hear or feel her to know that she is in my life. I can see the impact that her presence has on me, both in how it changes me and how it changes my environment.

And it’s the same with God.

How, exactly, has God affected my life in such a way that I know He exists? The biggest reason is how God has changed me to be more like Him, which is completely contradictory to my own nature.

There have been times in my life where I have been hurt and betrayed in terrible ways. I was hurt so badly that I swore I would never forgive them. I would even get pleasure from thinking of harm being done to them. This, is me. This is my heart. You hurt me and I couldn’t care less what happens to you.

But that isn’t the heart of God. And as I follow God, He changes me.

If you are not a Christian it is almost impossible for you to understand or believe the change that I’m talking about. I’m not talking about religious change that comes from me trying to follow a book. I didn’t read in the Bible that we need to completely and utterly forgive people and then try my best to forgive these people that harmed me. I wasn’t trying to be a “good” Christian because I read some laws and did my best to follow them.

No, as I seek God and draw closer to Him, He changes me. A change that is very real, and can be explained by nothing other than supernatural power. A change so complete that I’m brought to my knees instantly knowing that I did wrong, and not just knowing what I had to try to do to forgive these people, but instantly I had the ability to forgive them. My heart was changed and it could only happen because of God.

But it goes beyond just a changed heart. I managed to get through high school without falling into any major temptation that is common among teenagers. Not just that, I managed to get through high school without falling into any temptation that I wanted to fall into.

I can promise that I didn’t avoid drinking, drugs, and being intimate with a girl because I had a wanted to be a good little kid. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to be a good kid, but those desires quickly get overruled when you face peer pressure or when a cute girl starts making obvious passes at you.

As I have grown older I have seen how much pain is caused by giving in to such temptations, and I’m so thankful that God gave me the strength to withstand those temptations. Because I know my heart and I know that in my own power, I’m not strong enough to resist temptation.

Pornography is such a problem in our culture today that over 70% of men and 30% of women confess to viewing pornography. Over 43% of all Internet use is for pornography, with related subjects being the most searched for terms on Google and other browsers. [1] [2]

These issues plague not only our culture but our core humanity, and we give in. Because it’s so easy, it’s pleasurable, and because we are increasingly being told that there is nothing wrong with it. In some places that I have worked pornography is talked about openly and it is fully accepted that “everyone does it”. To not partake makes you the weird one.

Yet, by God’s power alone, I have been able to escape these traps or avoid them altogether. Not by human power because someone gave me a list of rules to follow.

I have prayed to God for guidance and seen Him answer prayers. I have seen how God had healed my sister, who had burns all over her body to the point where the doctor cancelled the skin graft operation, after our pastor prayed over her. I have seen friends obsessed with sex in high school turn their lives over to God and their heart became completely transformed. I have seen 2 Corinthians 5:17 in action.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭17‬ NKJV)

And there is even more real evidence of God in my life. I have felt God’s love. I have had my heart broken for things that God’s heart breaks over. I have felt the presence of God when going through tough times. Feelings that are not of me, that don’t exist in my own heart apart from God.

These things are real, not just the attempts of a mere man trying to follow religion and do all of the right things. I know my heart, I know what I’m capable of. And I praise God that He doesn’t just write me off as a lost cause but that He, the maker of the universe, cares about me and helps me. He changes me.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NLT)

So no, there is no way you could ever convince me that God is not real. My faith in Him is not blind.  Because God changes lives.

But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you… (‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭27‬ NLT)

Do you have a story to share about how you KNOW that God is real? I want to hear about it.

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

Stop wasting your breath

As a Christian we know that it is our duty to live for God and not waste our life; it is what we are called to.

But when we think about not wasting our LIFE, that seems like a long term goal with no serious act on today.  I mean, when asked “What do you want to do with your life?” I always instantly think about the future, what I want to eventually do, not what I am doing now.

Our life is a gift from God, but not just our whole life, but every single instance, every breath we take.  There is absolutely nothing we could do to make us take one more breath if God did not allow it.

Think about that for a second.

That breath you just took – and the one you are taking now – is only possible because God is letting you breath.  That’s right, it is not your right to breath, you cannot demand to God to let you breath one breath longer, it just isn’t up to you.

So what are you doing with that breath God is giving you right now?  Are you using that breath to swear? To lie or gossip about others?  Are you using it to do anything negative against a person when you should be trying to lift them up?

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; – Philippians 2:3

If we adopt the mindset that as Christians we are Holy and set apart from the rest of the world, and that every breath we take is meant to bring honor to God meaning with every single breath we should be loving God and our neighbors, if we truly believed that, then how different would our actions be?

We are not called to be part-time Christians.  Jesus died to save us, not just on Sunday, but every day.  And by accepting Him as the Lord of our life that means we say we want to totally and fully put God as the master of every single moment of our life.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind – Romans 12:2

That means right now, with that breath, you should be bringing glory to God by your actions, your words, and your attitude.

If not, then pray that you will start to live out the faith that you proclaim, that God would work through you in some way every moment of your day.

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt throughdeceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24

So stop wasting your breath.   It is the first, and biggest, step to not wasting your life.

Do you really believe?

What we believe, as Christians is crucial.  Faith is what salvation and our relationship with Christ are based on, and faith has everything to do with what we really believe.

So I ask you, do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.  (Genesis 15:6)

Do you really believe in the gospel message, or do you just acknowledge it without having faith in it?  Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.

We can demonstrate the difference between faith and belief with a chair.  You can look at a chair and say you believe that if you sit in the chair it will hold your weight, but you do not really have faith in it unless you go over and sit in the chair.  Only then do you display that you have faith the chair will hold you.

That is a decent analogy, but how exactly does it apply to our faith?  I sit my butt in a pew at church every Sunday, isn’t that showing that I have faith?

My favorite analogy is that of two guys getting onto an airplane.  Both are greeted by a flight attendant addresses them with a smile on her face saying “there is a high probability that this plane will crash during this flight.  You will want these parachutes.”  (At this point I would be getting off the plane personally, but these guys are tough, they can handle the risk.)

So they get on the plane, but only one guy puts on the parachute.  He isn’t scared at all, not hanging on for dear life, he just put on the parachute and went about his business.  The other guy just tossed the parachute in the back of the plane and went about his business.

Now I ask you, which of these guys had actually believed the plane might crash?  The guy who put on the parachute, right?  How do you know he had faith?  It is because of his actions; he acted according to what he believed.

So how do we apply this to our Christian faith? By our actions.  You can tell one who has faith because he acts like it.

Actions of faith

Faith saves us, but only faith that produce actions.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”(James 2:17)

Avoid Sin!

The number one action that shows a person really believes in God is how they live their life; a life of righteousness.

Sin is serious, but we tend to down play, to make it seem like it is really nothing.  To us it may be nothing if we lie, cheat, watch pornography, are a homosexual, have sex outside of marriage, or any other sin. To us, these may seem like nothing, but to God they are horrible!

We can see this all through the old testament.  Read the laws and you will see there are huge penalties (i.e. death) for sinning.  Why?  Because God really hates sin.

The New Testament still talks about how much God hates sin and demands we avoid it.  One passage we will look at is the book of 1 John.

God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:1,4-6)

These passages should make it clear, living for God means we will avoid sin.

Loving God

I really want to focus on verse five of the passage above. “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him.” (1 John 2:5)

We do not avoid sin to gain salvation or impress God, but because we love Him.  I buy gifts for my wife from time to time, not to impress her or try to win her love, but I do it because I love her.  In the same way, we must live our lives absent of sin (as much as humanly possible at least, more on this in a minute).

To understand why this is an act of love towards God we need to understand more of what sin is, or more importantly who God is.

God is perfect, no darkness is in Him, no sin, no blemishes; everything about Him is absolutely perfect.  God is Holy, set apart.  And to sin is to do something contrary to His nature.  Sin is horrible.

Sin is an incredibly disgusting act in the sight of God that goes against His perfect holiness.  Even the best we can do, most righteous deeds, are nothing more than “filthy rags” to Him (Isaiah 64:6).  How much more filthy are our sinful deeds to Him?

Our sin also hurts God.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus was tortured, literally tortured, beaten, and killed, why? Because of our sin.  And you can honestly tell me that you want to choose to live in sin over living for God, and that God is okay with it?

One way we justify this is to separate the act of sin from the person committing the sin.  We say “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  I think Leonard Ravenhill brings a fresh perspective to this topic.

“I don’t believe there is a man on the whole TV that preaches salvation. They preach forgiveness. Forgiveness is not salvation. … “Oh you know the Lord loves you just as you are.” Well then why get changed? Commit adultery as much as you like. He still loves you. Be a cheat, be a liar, be a thief, and be a failure. He still loves you. But there’s a scripture. Isn’t it the Psalms 7… where it says “God is angry with the wicked every day.” I heard somebody quote today “God loves you but hates your sin” that’s bunken. God hates you for committing the sin. Is God going to take your sins and judge them at the Judgment and leave you alone?”

This is why, if we love God, we must avoid sin.  If we don’t then we are just fooling ourselves.

If you are living in sin right now, as in purposely doing something you know is wrong, then you are choosing sin over loving God.  Christians are ambassadors, we take the name of God and we represent Him on this Earth, you are saying that you want Him to be the Lord of your life.  Yet you choose your filthy disgusting worthless sin over Him?

That fact alone has to disgust God greatly!

Living in Sin vs slipping up

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we will ever be perfect this side of heaven, for we are still in these sinful bodies.  What I am talking about is the purposeful, intentional, and continuous choice to sin.

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

The choice to keep looking at pornography, the choice to keep watching those shows on tv that have “questionable” content, the choice to sleep with someone you are not married to.  It is your lifestyle, things you choose to keep on doing.  You cannot have a lifestyle of sin and serve God at the same time.

You Must Make God Number One

To sum it up, you absolutely MUST make God first in your life.  There is no way around it.  Jesus did not die on the cross to save us from sin just to allow us to continue sinning.  He freed us from sin so we could stop sinning, so we could serve Him.

Jesus Freed You From Sin!

Written by Guest Writer Matthew Guillot

So today I realized what an integral part fear plays in temptation. The enemy will tempt you but couple that temptation with the fear of falling into the temptation, and the fear of losing control. The enemy will do whatever he can to convince you that you are incapable of controlling yourself, and once you believe that lie, he has got you right where he wants you. The enemy can continue to bombard you with tempting thoughts and emotions, and because you are convinced you don’t have control over yourself, you are much more pliable to these temptations and to give up because you have lost hope of resisting the devil (fear of the devil, or his ability). Additional thoughts of how “powerful” the enemy is (sometimes intimidation) may also be the focus of his bombardment. This is to prop himself up in your mind to also lead to fear of the enemy, and hopelessness to resist. So ultimately the goal of the enemy is to get you to forget who you are and how much self-control you truly have, and to get you to a place of hopelessness and fear.

If you give into the temptation and sin, then the enemy can accuse you of the sin, making you feel guilty and ashamed. The enemy then starts working on convincing you that you need to keep your distance from God, because God is either upset with you or you haven’t repented enough and need to jump through hoops before God accepts your repentance. The enemy will suggest by thought, hoops from the bible that Jesus said is impossible to do without Him. And because you have convinced yourself to distance yourself from God, you are hopelessly left to your own ability to try to jump through these hoops. The enemy knows this will ultimately lead to you being discouraged more. Another tactic the enemy uses if he can’t get you to try to distance yourself from God, is getting you to focus on yourself. The enemy often uses the tactic of convincing you, that you need to always be introspective and on your guard all the time. If the enemy can get you to try to defend yourself by your own effort, then he knows that eventually (most of the time very soon), he will be able to tempt you again and take you down the all too familiar path to sin. Only Christians who are afraid of the enemy’s temptation or the enemy, find it necessary to always be on their guard. Our protection is our faith in God, not our own ability to guard ourself. (Ephesians 6:16)

If the enemy is able to convince us that we have no ability to control ourselves or resist temptation, or resist him, we fall into guilt, shame, hopelessness and fear; and go down the repetitive cycle of being tempted into sin. And because our own ability to resist doesn’t cut it, the enemy is able to eventually get many people into depression, and even feelings of rejection, loneliness, or neglect from God. The enemy’s goal is either to get us into deeper and deeper depression to commit suicide, or, if he can’t get us to kill ourselves, keep us in a place where we unwittingly choose to keep parts of our hearts from God because of our perceived uncleanliness from our sin (shame) and/or the fear of coming before God.

Romans 6:17-23(NASB)

“17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Notice the contrast Paul uses and the past tense verbs used to describe our past condition in sin and present tense verbs for our current freedom from sin (exception “became” describing something Jesus already did to free us).

What we need to realize is that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for all of our sin once for all. He died on the cross with all of our sin in mind, and nailed all of it to the cross. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that Jesus does the cleansing, not us. It also says Jesus is completely faithful and righteous to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness, not just some of it and and leave us to deal with the rest; ALL! The Bible also states in past tense that Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from slavery to sin.  However, God will not violate your free-will if you choose to put up a wall to keep yourself from God (even just parts of your heart from God), because of your perceived “unrighteousness”. The enemy knows this, and this is why he works hard at this strategy to convince you that you can’t approach God and that you shouldn’t, that you are now unrighteous before God. The enemy’s goal is always to get us to forget the cross, and to not focus on Jesus. The enemy knows that as soon as you let God into the picture, he is toast. This is why the Bible says to first “submit to God” then if you “resist the devil…He will flee.” (James 4:7) Not the other way around.

We are no longer slaves to sin. But Jesus never intended for us to live out this reality by our own ability. Jesus went to the Father to send us a Helper, the Holy Spirit!!! (John 14:26) The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into ALL truth (John 16:13), brings into remembrance everything that God has said and is saying (John 14:26), instruct us in the way we should go (John 16:13, Acts 16:6-10), and give us His (God’s) character and attributes (fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-24). In other words He (God/Holy Spirit) empowers us to live a righteous lifestyle. Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5) You have the ability inside of you to resist the devil every single time successfully and confidently. But it is not your own ability but the Holy Spirit inside you. What is happening when you are operating under the Holy Spirit’s ability (His fruit)? God is letting you operate in character and traits that are not your own, and with the outpouring of His Spirit inside of you they manifest as if they were your own attributes.

It is extremely beneficial over the long-term if we can learn how to operate with His fruit regularly, allowing Him to completely empower us. As we do this our thought patterns completely change because we come to the realization after multiple times that we actually can be free from sin. Once we are convinced of this, our true nature, free from sin can finally come out, without our minds being in conflict with the reality and truth of our freedom. The Bible tells us that Jesus already freed us, but this freedom won’t manifest in our lives until we truly are able to believe it. Unfortunately our carefully enemy-orchestrated experiences tend to tell us otherwise, and it is easy to be convinced that we aren’t really free. The enemy keeps us in his cycle of thought patterns, fear, hopelessness, guilt, and shame to try to ensure that we will never have the perception of ourselves that God has (the righteousness of Christ, perfect, spotless, and without blemish), so that we will never realize the freedom Jesus paid such a heavy price for. This is not to say that we will never sin, but that sin is no longer our compulsion and is supposed to be rare, abnormal, and awkward for us.

If you are saved and still feel like you have the compulsion to sin (sin nature), it is most likely because you are believing a lie about yourself, about your relation to God, or other people. Sin can seem like a viable coping mechanism to those with wounds and pain from past or present offenses. Believed lies from the enemy are always the root of what perpetuates wounds and pain, which is the cause of any Christian’s current desire to sin. Ask the Holy Spirit if you are believing a lie, and ask Him to replace this with the truth, depositing His truth deep in your heart.

Don’t let the enemy keep you in bondage and slavery to sin anymore. Jesus already paid for you to be free!

Much Love,

Machew

When I do not want Jesus to return yet… Time is still running out.

by Jon Zenor

Have you ever had the thought that you wish God would not come back anytime soon?  I have…

Not for any worldly reasons, because I want to stay and enjoy my house or my stuff or do more stuff in the world that I want to do.  Not for anything like that.  But because I want to do more for God before that time.

Well, more specifically because I do not feel like I do much now for God and I want to make my life actually mean something in the eternal realm.

If you do have these same thoughts that I do you have to realize something.  God is not delaying his return until you feel like you are ready.  Jesus is coming back at a set time, and our involvement in the kingdom is not going to hinder or speed things up.

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.  (Matthew 24:36-47)

The facts are this.

Jesus is coming back, could be tomorrow, could be 20 years from now, but soon.  We were saved for a purpose, to glorify God, and God wants us to help those in need, but Satan paralyzes us with every tactic he can throw at us, sin, entertainment, work.

What should we be doing?

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:21-22, 26-27)

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; (Matthew 28:19-20)

We have been given a job to do here, to help those in need, to spread the gospel message.  The more we make ourselves busy with the things of this world, the more we become of this world, the less we will want to do for God.

Face it, doing what God wants us to do we know is the right and better thing to do, but it is so much harder to do.  We all really want to help out those in need, but not during the football game. Maybe after this tv show, or just let me finish this one level in this game.

We all get sucked into things we would rather be doing and it takes us away from the important task we were sent here for.

We do not have long to live

We do not have much time in this world.  Either because Jesus is going to come back soon or because we could die.  James 4 says “what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  Don’t waste that little amount of time we have.

I am convinced that as we get older every day passes by faster and faster.  You plan on doing something you know you should do, but you put it off just one day.  And somehow, before you know it, that one day has turned into a month, then a year is gone, then another year.

Last night I had a dream.  The tribulation was obviously starting, the world breaking out in war and natural disasters, Christianity was outlawed, and I was watching the news unfold thinking of all the stuff that I had the opportunity to do to help others, to witness to others, but now it was too late.

At work the other day we had a conversation about people some of the guys knew, who died or lost their children when they went in the hospital for a very routine procedure (such as a girl getting tubes put in her ears) and ended up dying from it.

We just never know how much longer we have left to do the things we know we should be doing.

But we do know that with every day that passes, we have one less day to do those things.

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.

Flame On – A true story of Tragedy, and God’s provision

“Flame On” is the story of Cooper Jasper, a five year old boy who died in a dune buggy accident, and the story of a family who is fully devoted to God.

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:21

Blessed be the name of the Lord. Can you honestly say that? In times where God gives? Or when He takes away?  In the face of real tragedy in your life, when it seems that your life is over, can you say “Blessed be the name of the Lord”?

The Jasper family had the greatest tragedy that can happen to a family. They lost their only son. The grief that they went through was beyond anything any of us can imagine. But they did not turn to depression or to alcohol or to drugs during this low point in their life like so many others would do. They fell to their knees and worshiped God, drawing on what they knew of God to get them through this tragedy.

I heard this story on the radio first, where “JJ,” Cooper’s father, was talking about how important it was in a tragedy to read your Bible every day and to pray, even though you will not feel like it. And how important having a body of believers around was to them.

JJ also talked about the sovereignty of God. God is in control of everything, all events that happen are put there by God, for whatever purpose He declares, even if we do not know the why. (Rom 8:28) Believing in this sovereignty is extremely difficult during a tragedy, but this family did it. And then they turned this story into a documentary movie.

Flame On illustrates the struggle between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility while examining how faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can take you from the very bottom of despair to victory through tragedy. This film is a “must see” for those grieving the loss of a loved one and will leave you with a peaceful knowledge that we serve a gracious, loving God who gives us light through the dark moments of life.

The movie is called Flame On, and is available to watch for free on their website FlameOn.net. Or you can order the DVD for only the cost of shipping. This is a story that you should watch, because we will all go through tragedy at some point in our life, and knowing how to stay focused on God is necessary.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:6-7