Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘temptations’

Habitual Sins & Failures — The Ones That Won’t Go Away

SOURCE:  /Ligonier Ministries

How Should Christians Handle Besetting Sins?

One of the great Christian classics is a devotional booklet written by Saint Thomas à Kempis called  The Imitation of Christ.

In that book he talks about the struggle that so many Christians have with habits that are sinful.

He says that the struggle for sanctification is often so difficult and the victories that we achieve seem to be so few and far between, that even in the lives of the greatest saints, there were few who were able to overcome habitual patterns. We’re talking about people who overeat and have these kinds of temptations, not those who are enslaved to gross and heinous sin. Now Thomas à Kempis’s words are not sacred Scripture, but he gives us wisdom from the life of a great saint.

The author of Hebrews says that we are called to resist the sin that so easily besets us and that we are admonished and exhorted simply to try harder to overcome these sins. You say, How do we escape these pockets of sin that we have such great struggles with, that we have an honest and heartfelt desire not to commit? If the desire not to do it is really honest and penetrates the heart, we’re 90 percent home. In fact, we shouldn’t be locked into something.

The reason we continue with these pockets of repeated sins is because we have a heartfelt desire to continue them, not because we have a heartfelt desire to stop them. I wonder how honest our commitment is to quit. There’s a tendency for us to kid ourselves about this anytime we embrace a pet sin. We need to face the fact that we commit the sin because we want to do that sin more than we want to obey Christ at that moment. That doesn’t mean that we have no desire to escape from it, but the level of our desire vacillates. It’s easy to go on a diet after a banquet; it’s hard to stay on a diet if you haven’t eaten all day. That’s what happens particularly with habitual sins that involve physical or sensual appetites. The ebb and flow of the desire is augmented and diminished. It increases and fades. Our resolve to repent is great when our appetites have been satiated, but when they’re not, we have a growing attraction to practice whatever the particular sins may be.

I think what we have to do is first of all be honest about the fact that we really have a conflict of interest between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. I think we have to feed our souls with the Word of God so that we can get what God wants us to do clear in our mind and then build a strong desire to obey.

A Prayer for Relinquishing Ownership of Our Battles to God

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

Dear heavenly Father, I’m so thankful to begin this day relinquishing ownership of my battles to you. Your Word is so timely and encouraging. Though you call us into spiritual warfare and give us the appropriate armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as our “shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:4), high tower and safe refuge, mighty Warrior and faithful Deliverer.

I’ll fight, not a disengaged pacifist but as a fully engaged worshiper—”beholding the salvation of the Lord.” I’m never more than a little David facing a formidable Goliath; but with you, that is enough. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you, Father. Fear and discouragement aren’t the order of the day; faith and peace are.

When dark plans and wicked ways threaten; when it seems like evil men and their destructive plots will triumph, let me hear your laughter in heaven, Father. Let me see your already-installed King, the Lord Jesus—for all things are subject to him, all things. Show me the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up my fears (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).

When I’m under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let me see Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus, alone, is my wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31). My boast is in Christ plus nothing, not in anything in me.

When I get pulled into petty fights and relational turmoil, with friends, “brethren, and others, center me quickly by the power of grace, and bring me back to faith expressing itself in love (Gal. 5:6)—the only thing that matters.

When I’m in the presence of systemic evil and extreme brokenness, keep me sane, calm and wise. When my divided heart wages war inside of me, come to me in the storm, Father, and bring your peace that passes all understanding and transcends every difficulty. So very Amen I pray with confidence, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

Fighting Sin Hurts

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Doesn’t it seem good and right to fight against sin in such a way that it physically hurts? To say “no” when everything inside us wants to say “yes”?

And the last time that happened was . . .

Sin takes different forms such as pride, unbelief and lust. It is lust in particular— reckless desire, covetousness, I WANT!—that hurts when taken to task.

Desires that exceed God’s boundaries exist in every human heart. There is always an I WANT! that stalks us. Sex, gluttony, addictions are common ones. Look for anger and you’ll find it. Search your imagination—I WANT is there.

Now imagine saying “no” to these desires in such a way that you would feel something close to actual pain. It hurts but it’s also good. But let’s not stop there.

Imagine something even better. You say “no” and it hurts—then temptation fights back—and you say “no” again. This puts you among the spiritual elite though it is what we expect in the normal Christian life. Jesus went into the desert and said “no” to the tempter in order to demonstrate his messianic credentials and to succeed where we failed. His success grants us new power to fight as, by faith, we are joined to him.

There is a beauty in saying “no” and using those dormant muscles of self-control. And, because it is the Spirit’s power in you, you don’t become a dour ascetic, but discover hints of contentment and satisfaction. These are marks of the Spirit. And with the Spirit’s power, you have undeniable evidence that you belong to your Father. No mere mortal can persevere in a painful battle with renegade desires.

As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25)

Righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. We don’t know what pushed Felix over the edge; it might have been the judgment. We do know that Paul placed self-control among the central features of our human dilemma, and he proclaimed a gospel that offered compelling answers. He argued that self-control was a great gift and was now available to us in Jesus. No doubt he would have emphasized self-control if most of us were sitting next to him too.

Anybody hurting?

If so, no wonder Scripture calls you a holy one, beloved and mighty—you are a delight to your Father.

If so, you have made the power of God known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms—you are a menace to the Devil.

If so, you are blessed. The battle is worth it.

If so, pray that the rest of us would have that same power.

And tell your story.

When looking for porn…begin in the heart

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

Where would you look to locate the primary problem with pornography?

In our culture?

Are you tempted to initially react to the sensual realities of our culture? You should react! You should be concerned! But when you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?

Granted it should be part of the discussion. Certainly it is right to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is wise to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends, by dressing in an appropriate manner.

However, the way they dress should not be the starting point in the pornography discussion.

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

Jesus began the discussion regarding behavioral sins like porn, not with the behavior, but with the heart. In the quote above Jesus tied the behavior (tongue speech) to the heart. He placed the source or the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lip.

Matters of the heart

A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but in his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).

If we do not first attack our physical sin issues at the level of our minds, we will set ourselves up for the very real possibility of that sin reappearing. If we do not put the axe to the root of the tree then there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.

And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the real possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem.

Responding to sin primarily at the level of the behavior will not ultimately work and will lead a person toward despair. All sin, including pornography, must be rooted out where it began. Find the source and you have positioned yourself for God’s empowering grace to extract the sin.

Pornography begins in the heart. Awareness of this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture then he would set himself up as a potential victim of his culture and possibly controlled by his culture.

He would be at the mercy of his culture. He would be a victim, always reacting to his culture-how women dressed or not dressed. His energy, time, and focus would be spent guarding the wrong door.

Granted, porn in our world should be guarded, but that’s not the main door. There is no hope in being a victim. However, if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, then there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s Gospel.

At that point he would be positioned for strength in the battle against lust. He can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make the women of our world dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.

The real issue

Porn is not primarily about breasts and bottoms. There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made us to desire women and in a biblical sense we should be attracted to the opposite sex. However, because of original sin what was intended as love can easily darken to lust.

I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. However, what I want you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, then the source of your lust does not begin with the lady’s breasts or backside.

It begins in your heart. If you are lusting after another woman then you need to address what is going on in your heart first.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. It rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel.

If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem it is not unusual there is the complicating problem of porn.

Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture

Part of the reason it is so prevalent is due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. But the primary reason for porn addiction is because we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men who slip into pornography because it is easy for the mind to be lured away.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)

It is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape and porn is a practical way to get away for a few minutes.

The theater of the mind

Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it does go much deeper than the external benefit and instant gratification. Porn not only finds its source in the mind, but there is pleasure to be found there as well.

Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can beking for a day–in his own mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.

He can make the cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech. He controls their thoughts, particularly their thoughts about him. He controls their actions. He controls their responses to him.

He twists the script in such a way to be affirmed, applauded, and appreciated. The script writer enjoys his one-man show and when he is satisfied he closes the act with a brief moment of physical gratification.

In a real world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do like him–in the theater of his mind, where they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is instant victory.

  • He wins.
  • He’s good.

And he feels good about himself–for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an over-bearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems he can’t seem to control.

Porn becomes his quickie, self-made escape. Like the pot smoker of the 60′s–he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.

The controller is controlled

His continual foray into the cyber porn world creates another problem too. It is like a drug. It’s addictive.

Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when he was going on his little escape adventure. But after several such adventures of lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”

That which he used to control now controls him. He is now an addict and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart.

There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the fix wants him. It calls. It knocks. It crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.

His wife runs an errand to the store. The temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door. He waits. She leaves. Now it’s his time!

Maybe he has some downtime in his frenetic, un-affirming world and he feels the heat rising in his mind. He’s being allured to the computer. The girls are calling. They want him. He gives in. It’s got him! He did it again, but this is the last time, he says.

Porn negates the Gospel

Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ going to His death in order to save people from themselves. This is God’s grandest expression of love and affection for any of us. Our sin needed to be satisfied and the satisfaction came when Christ paid the debt.

Yielding to porn negates this truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the Gospel no longer satisfies. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.

The Gospel is God’s clearest message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, we are reminded there is no length God wouldn’t go in order to rescue our perishing souls.

Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, if the Gospel is rightly applied to your life, then there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The Gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation.

Christ becomes the “escape” for the Gospelized man or woman.

  • Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
  • Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
  • Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.

The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the Gospel is your victory. This must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and you are tempted to find a brief respite in the midst of the chaos, then let me suggest a respite.

It’s Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.

While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed in that text can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is his affections are drawn away from Christ.

The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of someone else other than Christ. The solution for such a person is found in Philippians 2:5-11 as well as other texts.

While that text is made up of words, the idea of the text is life-changing. We must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of this world. Begin the heart cure at this moment.

The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how difficult your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy. The cross of Christ informs your thinking here.

When I am reminded of what He did for me then I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This is Gospel-informed thinking that will have an effect on your behavior.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)

Don’t fight the fight alone

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. –Galatians 6:1-2

As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind of the realities of the Gospel, as understood by the Word of God, another way you can keep from going at this alone is by adding external accountability into your life.

I have recommended through the years Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is a very capable and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week.

With Covenant Eyes you can fight the very real battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek. Let others help you. Let others fulfill the law of Christ. Allow another person into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that then the battle is well on the way to defeat.

God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Lastly, I exhort you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local church. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.

The Internet: The Good Can Be Bad!

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network/Dr. Karl Benzio

The Internet: Good or Evil

Computers and the World Wide Web provide phenomenal opportunities. Connecting with long lost friends, childhood bosom buddies, old teammates, family on the other side of the country or across the ocean, people from church, and friends from mission trips is now incredibly fast, easy, and cheap. So many hearts have been warmed. So much relational, missional, and transformational good has resulted.

But like dynamite, computers and the web can be used for tremendous good … or tremendous evil.

As a psychiatrist, whether in the ER, in my outpatient office, or running a rehab program, I frequently see and hear how the internet has contributed to hurtful communication via email, chat rooms, Facebook, Classmates, texting, etc. Cyberbullying, sexting, pornography, and especially extramarital relationships resulting in infidelity have led to devastating destruction in relationships and families.

Inappropriate communication with the opposite sex via internet happens so easily because of our fast pace. You see, most people have minimal time to calmly and deeply share with spouses on a daily basis. But internet communication gives us unparalleled confidence to speak freely to others because there is no real contact with the other person. We can experiment, re-create ourselves, mislead, or avoid dealing with the hard elements of genuine relationships. These hard elements include real intimacy, accountability, integrity, responsibility, trustworthiness, honesty, conflict management, patience, and toughest of all, forgiveness.

Before you know it, you are writing things you should never write … with a false sense of privacy as you incorrectly assume that what you write will stay a secret between you and the receiver. You have probably heard the advice that you should not type anything, anywhere that you wouldn’t want published in your church bulletin … that you shouldn’t say anything to anyone of the opposite sex that you would not want your spouse to hear you say.

Unfortunately, even though internet affairs have exploded in number, other secret, old-fashioned inappropriate communication falls into the same danger zone. Real relationships are great, but they do take time and work. Taking shortcuts will not only cheat you out of the rewards of relationship, they will also lead to painful, costly, and often disastrous consequences.

Today, give some thought to your use of the internet and other perceived “secret” forms of communication you use with people, but especially the opposite sex. Some involve communication with real people, and some with fantasy people or pornographic sites. Being secretive or sly is a warning bell that these writings or actions should stop.

If you have been writing things you should not, then step back and say, “hold the press.” This isn’t just about writing. This is about the lies your heart has bought into along with a sure path to destruction for you and those around you. Wrong relationships or right ones are your decision, so choose well.

 

Oh my personal God, I ask and pray that You fill me with Your Holy Spirit to strengthen me. Teach me, Father, to remain faithful and true to those I love. Let not the fear of being caught be the deterrent. Rather let it be the pain and suffering my indiscretions create for You, for my partner … and for my own heart and brain chemistry. Above all, let it be the fear of separation from You, and the spiritual harm that sets me on a downward spiral of pain. I pray in the name of the one You sent to dwell in my heart, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love 

Ephesians 3:16-17

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 

Psalm 103:2,5

Lord, Show Me The Way Out

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Thoughts for Today
Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior.

God does not want us to enable others in their wrongdoing. Neither does he enable us when we choose to walk in disobedience to him. He loves us too much to enable us in our wrongdoing. He knows that we will not come to our senses and change our ways unless he allows us to suffer the natural consequences of what we do.

The great thing is that, just like the father of the prodigal son, our heavenly Father is loving us and watching for us. He wants us to come home and will run out to meet us, showering his love, mercy and forgiveness on us when we return.

Consider this … 
Do you need to return? Perhaps you have recently fallen into something you know you shouldn’t do … Your Father is waiting for you.

Perhaps you have been locked into a downward spiral and feel as though there is no way out. God always provides a way. He is just waiting for you to come to him with a repentant heart. His arms are open wide … no matter what you have done. Jesus has already paid the price for your sin. Receive his forgiveness. He loves you unconditionally and is waiting to help you.

Prayer
Father, I am so sorry for what I have been doing. Please forgive me and show me the way out. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Momentary Pleasure: What’s Your “Bowl of Soup?”

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

The Lure of Momentary Pleasure

You probably read the story of Jacob and Esau today and thought, I can’t believe Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. How foolish! But let’s think beyond birthrights and soup. Is there anything of true value that you are trading for something of lesser worth?

In other words, what is your “bowl of soup”?

Have you pursued wealth and a career at the expense of family? Maybe your busy schedule has kept you from spending time with God in His Word each day. Some people become involved in extramarital affairs, trading the well-being of their family for the satisfaction of lustful desires. Others sacrifice their health by consuming harmful or addictive substances, or even by overindulging in food. The list of ways we make foolish, shortsighted choices is endless.

Some of the decisions we make today could rob us of the blessings God wants to give us. When you yield to temptation in a moment of weakness, you’re actually sacrificing your future for momentary pleasure. We can’t afford to live thoughtlessly, basing our decisions on immediate desires or feelings. Since the principle of sowing and reaping cannot be reversed, we need to carefully consider what we are planting. The harvest will come, and we’ll reap what we have sown–and more than we’ve sown.

Are you contemplating anything that could have serious long-term ramifications if you yield to the yearning? A wise person evaluates choices by looking ahead to see what negative consequences could follow a course of action.

Don’t let “a bowl of soup” hinder God’s wonderful plans for you.

How an affair begins

SOURCE:  Andree Seu/World Magazine

A friend of mine told me that now she understands how adultery begins.

She went to a woman’s house to drop off a package as a favor to someone, but the woman was not home. The husband was, and they exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. My friend noticed the carpentry project the man was working on and commented on his artistry. She asked him a few questions about it, and it didn’t take much to encourage him to spill forth for an hour and a half about every aspect of the work. It was fun.

At some point in the conversation, the man made the comment that his wife doesn’t let him go on and on like that about his hobbies. That’s when my friend felt a curious check in her spirit. As she drove home, she thought with a shudder how she had enjoyed the flattery of being told she is a superior listener.

That was a narrow escape. We are warned of these sand traps:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith …” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

This is the substance of life, which you may choose to take seriously or not. The devil is real and is busy. Like one pastor said, “You should see the top of Satan’s desk: It’s covered with overflowing ashtrays, crumpled papers, and half-drunk cups of coffee.” Satan comes in like an angel of light and departs with a fiendish cackle over carcasses strewn in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:5).

I personally know of an affair that started when a married woman I know told a married man I know that she had had a dream about him. That was one foot on the banana peel. It could have been nipped in the bud at that point but was not. Each small subsequent decision sealed their fate, and great was the destruction in the final scene.

Wives, love your husbands well, being their best friends. Husbands, love your wives well. A good marriage is a bulwark against the footholds of the Adversary.

Some “Right” Things Are “Wrong!”

SOURCE: Taken from a devotion by  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Do You Have a Strategy to Resist Satan’s Sweets?

The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert, where he fasted for 40 days and the Bible says Satan tempted Him for the duration of that time. But towards the end, Jesus faced a significant temptation of hunger, a very realistic human physical need.

Is eating to satisfy our hunger wrong? Of course not. But Jesus had been led by the Spirit and had made a commitment to God to fast during this time period. Breaking the fast by putting His desire for food above His commitment to the Father would have been sin.

There are many desires we experience throughout each day that are normal and good: to succeed in a job, to dress nicely, to make or listen to music, to prosper financially and provide for our family, to enjoy shopping, to commit to a relationship, to participate in a ministry, to see someone we miss, to enjoy a skill or hobby we have. And the list could go on.

These things are not wrong in themselves, but they are wrong if they take priority over our relationship with the Lord. God’s plan and God’s leading must always come first.

Jesus responded to the temptation by quoting Scripture. “Man shall not live and be sustained by bread alone, but by every word and expression of God.” In other words, spiritual matters and faithfulness to God are life-sustaining and more important than physical resources could ever be, especially when it comes to meeting our basic needs.

Today, take a moment to think about your life. Is there an area that is taking priority that should not be … that takes up mind space or emotional energy and is pushing God and other important Earthly responsibilities out? Is it causing you to slide backwards in your relationship with God? Is it tempting you to make wrong choices? If so, now is the time to get back on track. As Jesus taught us, turn to God’s Word. Say “no” to the temptation. That choice honors God and is the best thing for you anyway. Develop a concrete strategy to break that hold on your heart.

Prayer

Dear God, I confess there are areas in my life that are causing me to slide in my relationship with You. Fill me with Your Spirit so that I seek and better understand your Holy Bible and allow it to guide me as it guided Jesus. Please help me put your word into action for practical living, and not just a part of my rarely visited spiritual-intellectual library. I pray this in the name of the One who always honored His ultimate priority, Jesus Christ; AMEN!

The Truth

Then the devil said to Him, If You are the Son of God, order this stone to turn into a loaf of bread. And Jesus replied to him, “It is written, Man shall not live and be sustained by (on) bread alone but by every word and expression of God.”

Luke 4:3-4

 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:13,14

All Trouble and Affliction Comes From God’s Hand (Part 1 of 2)

SOURCE:  Bishop Myles Coverdale (by Deejay O’Flaherty)

[Myles Coverdale  (c. 1488 –  1569) was a 16th-century Bible translator who produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English.]

——————————————————————————————-

I Call all that trouble and affliction, whatsoever is reputed to be contrary to the desire and appetite of man’s nature; as the unquiet suggestions of the flesh, the temptations of the devil, sickness of body, a wicked and forward mate in matrimony, to have disobedient children, unkind and unthankful friends, loss of goods, to be deprived of any old liberty or privilege, loss or blemish of name and fame, the malice and displeasure of men, hunger, dearth, pestilence, war, imprisonment, and death. And in this register do I put all kinds of crosses and afflictions, whether they be bodily or ghostly, our own or our friends’, private and singular, or universal and general, privy and secret, or open and manifest, deserved or undeserved.

Every Christian man ought first of all to consider the very root, ground, and beginning, after this wise: that all things, whatsoever God sends, we ought to take and receive them patiently.

For this is once true, that God is our Creator and Maker, and we his workmanship; he is our King, our Lord, and Father; and like as it is not seeming that the pot should murmur against the pot-maker, (Isaiah 45:64, Jeremiah 18) even so is it much less convenient that we should murmur and grudge against God’s will and judgment.

And although trouble and affliction rises and springs oftentimes by the wickedness of enemies, and through the instigation of the devil, or else by some other means; yet ought we never to imagine that it cometh by fortune or chance, without the permission, sufferance, determination, and will of God, but by and with the foreknowledge, providence, and appointment of God.

Ezekiel 28, Job 1, Matthew 10.

Satan Hates You And Has A Terrible Plan For Your Life

The bad news: We have an enemy who actively seeks to destroy us. The good news: In Christ, we have the authority to keep him at bay until his final defeat

SOURCE: Timothy Warner/Discipleship Journal

The New Testament frequently reminds us that we have a spiritual enemy (Mt. 6:13, 2 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 6:10–18, Jas. 4:7). Peter further warns us to be “self-controlled and alert” around this enemy, whom he clearly identifies as the devil (1 Pet. 5:8). But unless we understand who our enemy is and what his tactics are, we give him a great strategic advantage over us.

Who Is Satan?

Just as the Bible nowhere presents an argument for the existence of God, it nowhere gives us an obvious explanation of who Satan is or where he came from. Jesus’ reference to “the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41), John’s account of the war in heaven between Michael and his angels and “the dragon and his angels” (Rev. 12:7), and the possible reference to him in Ezk. 28:14 as a “guardian cherub” have led many to the conclusion that he was a high-ranking angel who rebelled against God and led a group of the angels to follow him in rebellion.

Paul tells us that the coming of the lawless one at the end of this age “will be in accordance with the work of Satan.” This imposter under Satan’s control “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple  . . . proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4, 2 Thess. 2:9). Satan was acting out this ambition to be God when he tempted our Lord to fall down and worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world (Mt. 4:8–9).

We know that Satan will never achieve his goal of being like God, and he knows it. No matter where we put Revelation 12 (describing a vanquished Satan and his angels) in view of the end times, Satan knows that he has a limited time to pursue his diabolical purposes (Rev. 12:12). Yet spiritual warfare is a fact of life as long as this enemy is still loose on the earth and the final victory of the Kingdom of God is in the future.

God allows Satan to retain his power and operate as a part of this world because God’s sovereignty over the world is not in question. God is able to use the work even of this enemy to accomplish His own purposes—to make us stronger rather than weaker.

We can conclude, then, that Satan is a powerful angel who rebelled against God and now sees God and God’s children as his special enemies. The other angels who went along with the rebellion are what we now call demons (Jude 6).

What Are Satan’s Objectives?

Satan’s goals grow out of his jealousy and hatred of God. What does Satan hope to accomplish?

Keep unbelievers in the dark. Satan would like to rule the world. Since that will never happen in the ultimate sense, he has to settle for something less as he deals with people.

For the unredeemed his strategy is to keep them from hearing and receiving the truth of the gospel. Paul tells us that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan tries to keep them from even hearing the message. If an unbeliever hears but does not understand, Jesus tells us that “the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (Mt. 13:19).

Render believers spiritually ineffective. Believers are in a position to bring glory to God by their very lives, and that’s something Satan is committed to prevent. In the Ten Commandments it’s clear believers are not to “take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7, NAS). God’s intent was far more than to prohibit the use of His name in oaths or curses. He was saying we should not be called “children of God” and then not live in a manner that points others to God. We are not to take the name of God on ourselves by saying we are His children and then not reflect His character. That’s why Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink [the most basic functions in life] or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”(1 Cor. 10:31).

Peter says Satan’s aim is to “devour” us (1 Pet. 5:9). The root meaning of the word devour is “to swallow.” Satan will try to get us so swallowed up in worldly and self-centered living that we “fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23).

Hinder the work of God in the world. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that he had attempted to come to them many times, but “Satan thwarted us” (1 Thess. 2:18, NAS). In Ephesians 6 Paul characterized Christian life and ministry as struggling against the demonic powers in the world. He clearly implies that if we do not use the spiritual armor and weapons provided for us, the enemy will press the attack and keep us from carrying out our Lord’s marching orders. Even when we are operating on faith, as Paul did, we are not spared the heat of the battle. Paul suffered many things (2 Cor. 6:3–10, 2 Cor. 11:23–33). Though much of his suffering came at the hands of human opponents, I believe Paul would have seen it as part of the battle with supernatural forces.

What Are Satan’s Tactics?

The more an army knows about the strategies and tactics of an enemy, the more effective it will be in combat with that enemy. Paul indicated that in his warfare with Satan he was not “unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). Unfortunately, the Christian army today is often quite ignorant of Satan’s schemes and becomes easy prey. What are some of Satan’s basic warfare tactics?

Deceit. Jesus said that when the devil lies he speaks out of his very nature (Jn. 8:44). He first appears in the Bible in Genesis 3 using deception to lure Adam and Eve into sin (see 2 Cor. 11:3). In Rev. 12:9, (NAS) he is called the one “who deceives the whole world” (see also Rev. 18:23, Rev. 19:20, Rev. 20:10).

If a person is openly attacked, he can defend himself. If he is tempted, he can make a choice. But if he is deceived, he doesn’t even know anything is wrong. In 2 Tim. 2:24–26 Paul says that some people in the church who were opposing the truth were in “the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” He also indicated that the way out of that trap is the truth (v. 25).

Satan will deceive us about how powerful he is. Many people ascribe power to Satan that he doesn’t have, simply by fearing even to talk about him. Satan then will capitalize on this fear by attacking us—usually when we’re alone, when it’s dark, and when we’re in a weakened condition.

Satan also deceives us by offering us power to deal with the problem areas of our lives. People in all parts of the world, including what appears to be a highly secularized Western world, carry good luck charms, consult psychics and fortune-tellers, go to practitioners who use magic to heal diseases, consult with spirits claiming to be from people of past ages, consult the alignment of stars, and engage in a multitude of other activities we call the occult. Satan promises power but delivers only enough to keep his victims coming back, and he charges a very high price in the form of bondage in some area of a person’s life.

Satan also deceives us about spiritual truth. Paul tells the Corinthians, “I am afraid that just as Eve wasdeceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). He wrote to Timothy: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).

The two most foundational truths that come under attack are the character of God and the identity of the believer as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person’s concept of God is perverted, his concept of what it means to be a child of God is affected. This sometimes takes the form of blaming God for all the bad things that happen in life. It also takes the form of believing we have to reach a certain level of perfection before God will accept us. Since people may not live what they profess but will always live what they believe, success in spreading these wrong beliefs gives Satan an inroad in the most foundational area of our lives—our hearts (Prov. 4:23).

Accusation. Satan is also called “the accuser of our brothers” (Rev. 12:10). He accuses us to God and he accuses us to ourselves. God convicts us of sin by showing us how to deal with it through the Cross. Satan accuses us to discourage us and make us want to give up. He will sometimes put an evil thought in our minds and then say, “And you say you are a Christian—look what you’re thinking!” I’ve talked with ministers and missionaries who’ve struggled with this. It’s one of the reasons Paul tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).

Capitalizing on weakness. A standard modus operandi of Satan is to find a weakness in our lives and intensify it to a compulsive level (2 Cor. 10:3–5). Weaknesses such as the effects of trauma or a dysfunctional family or wrong patterns of thinking may open the door for his involvement. Satan doesn’t fight fair. He’s ruthless in his attacks, and God’s protection is not automatic just because we are His children.

Oppression through demonization. In demonization, a demon holds some measure of control over a person. This relationship has often been called demon possession, but that is a misleading term and, if used at all, should refer only to the more extreme forms of demonic control over unbelievers.

Satan’s henchmen, the demons, seek to establish strongholds in people—both Christians and non-Christians (2 Cor. 2:10–11, 2 Cor. 10:3–5, Eph. 4:27). Symptoms such as an inability to grow spiritually, compulsive thoughts or behaviors, and undiagnosable or untreatable physical symptoms may indicate a demonic stronghold. So do the more classic symptoms of superhuman strength, different voices, and an inability to cope with everyday life. A truly Spirit-filled believer will not be demonized—not because an evil Spirit cannot be where the Holy Spirit is (God is omnipresent) but because that person is appropriating the spiritual power and authority available to him as a child of God (Lk. 10:19, Eph. 1:19).

Oppression through demonized physical objects. God made it plain that His people should not bring certain religious objects into their homes. They were, in fact, to detest them and burn them (Deut. 7:25–26). Evil spirits can use such objects as a medium to come to people (Deut. 32:17, Ps. 106:37, 1 Cor. 10:19–20). For instance, a missionary child suffered severe nighttime disturbances until a ceremonial dagger hung in his room was removed and destroyed.

Physical affliction. Satan may also attack the physical body (Job 2:7, Mt. 9:32–33, Lk. 13:16, 2 Cor. 12:7). Sometimes physical attack is the result of doors we open to the enemy through our own sin, as in the case of a woman who had undiagnosable fevers and pain that moved about in her body. When she confessed and renounced her participation in occult practices, the fevers and the pain left with no recurrence.

Our Victory over Satan

It’s easy to focus too much on what Satan can do and be intimidated. Instead, we should focus on our resources in Christ so we can meet Satan’s challenges with confidence.

The decisive battle in spiritual warfare was fought and won by Christ at the Cross and the Resurrection. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). The writer to the Hebrews affirmed this victory when he said, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Colossians 2:14–15). Our faith is in the victory of Christ and in our relationship to Him.

Luke gives us an interesting glimpse into the process many go through to learn of their spiritual authority over Satan. In Luke 10, he tells of Jesus sending seventy-two disciples out to practice what He had been teaching them. When they returned, they said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Luke 10:17). They seemed somewhat surprised at this. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I think He was saying their ministry had all the authority of the Kingdom of God behind it. To make it more explicit He said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you” [this does not make you some special group of privileged, gifted disciples],”but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” [being a child of God gives you this authority] (Luke 10:18–20).

John McMillan, in his little book The Authority of the Believer, compares our authority to that of a policeman. A policeman’s authority does not reside in his own identity but in his position as a representative of the state. It doesn’t matter whether he’s one week out of the police academy or a twenty-year veteran. As policemen, both have the same authority.

So it is with the believer. It’s not one’s giftedness or age; it is being a child of God that gives us spiritual authority. Even a young child who knows the Lord can ward off the attacks of the enemy in the name of Jesus.

We are at war whether we like it or not. The only question is whether we can say with Paul “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7) by being “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” taking our stand “against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10–11).

Lord, Why Can’t I Change?

The Necessity of a Renewed Mind

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Have you ever vowed to put an ungodly habit behind you, only to fall again soon after? Feelings of guilt can lead to a renewed commitment to never do something again. But the very next day, the cycle repeats itself as we give in to the same temptations. Our defeat leaves us wondering, What’s wrong with me? Our despair at repeated failure produces a sense of hopeless resignation and confusion. We want to know, Lord, why can’t I change?

All of us have experienced the problem of wanting to honor God and yet reverting back to old, sinful ways almost immediately. Isn’t the Christian life supposed to be more liberating and victorious than this? After all, the Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Why, then, does habitual sin take hold of us? Wasn’t Christ supposed to change all this? If we are new creations, why do we still act like old ones? We feel as stuck as a ship run aground.

So how do we shake free from our sinful behaviors? First, we need to examine the way change occurs in the Christian life. Salvation is an instantaneous work of God, which happens the moment we receive Jesus as Savior. But from that point on, we enter a continual process of transformation called sanctification. The Lord’s goal is to mold us into the image of Christ, but this process requires our cooperation. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). If we neglect this responsibility, we’ll find ourselves struggling with the same issues over and over again. But if we submit to the Holy Spirit, He’ll exert His influence in every area of our lives. Old sinful habits will pass away and be replaced with new godly behavior.

The path to transformation

Becoming the people God created us to be is an inside-out process. Because our thoughts govern each area of our lives—emotions, decisions, actions, attitudes, and words—any lasting transformation must begin with the mind. If all we want is to modify our conduct, we’ll never experience long-term success. What we need is a new way of thinking.

This can be accomplished only by what the Bible calls renewing the mind(Rom. 12:2). It’s not a sudden transformation but a lifelong process. At the moment of salvation, the Lord doesn’t erase all our negative and sinful thought patterns any more than He automatically removes our physical imperfections. If you had a scar on your arm before you received Christ, most likely you will still have it afterward.

We are all a reflection of whatever we’ve been thinking throughout the years. From early on, we are taught to respond to situations in a certain way, with a particular response pattern, and this impacts every area of our lives. In some cases, we can see how people’s expressions reveal the way their minds have developed throughout their lifetime—etching continuous worry, pain, and guilt on their faces.

Take a look in the mirror. Do you see the joy of Christ in your eyes? Or are the destructive effects of sin betrayed by your appearance? The good news is that whatever your thoughts have been in the past, God can teach you to think differently. He gives His Spirit to lead you through a process that produces real healing and lasting change.

Where thoughts originate

So, what triggers negative thought patterns? The Lord has given us physical senses so we can interact with each other and our world. The capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is an amazing gift from God, which affects how our thoughts develop and what we think. However, because we are continually being influenced by the fallen world around us, we don’t always use these abilities in a way that honors Him. We experience a sight, sound, smell, flavor, or touch that gives us momentary pleasure and we begin to think, What would it be like if I…? This begins the downward spiral—our senses trigger thoughts, which elicit destructive patterns of behavior.

James 1:14-15 explains, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” That is why we must be discerning about what we listen to and watch. It is also why the apostle Paul tells us to lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted, and instead be renewed in the spirit of our minds—to put on the new self which is created in God’s likeness (Eph. 4:22-24).

A second source of sinful thoughts is from the Enemy of our souls. Have you ever been thinking about some plan or task, only to have a vile, ungodly idea pop into your mind? You may wonder, Where did that come from? These are Satan’s attempts to distract us with his ideas and twist the truth, inciting us to disobey God. His purpose is to destroy our character and lead us astray.

The way we respond determines whether we fall to his enticements or stand strong against him. Will we, as Paul says, dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute” (Phil. 4:8), allowing our minds to be transformed by these things? Or will we take the bait?

No matter how our minds are bombarded by unwanted temptations, we must remember that as believers, we do not have to be enslaved by sin. We are not helpless victims, but sons and daughters of almighty God. We have within us the Holy Spirit—a positive, powerful influence that is mightier than the Enemy can ever hope to be. Because we are indwelled by God’s Spirit, we have the power to extinguish the Enemy’s flaming arrows (Eph. 6:16). We are also able to know the mind of Christ, take our thoughts captive to Him, and have victory over every temptation.

How your mind is renewed

God calls us to be watchful and guard our minds at all times. If we don’t, worldly values and purposes will subtly creep in and influence our lives. Whenever we allow ourselves to be conformed to the world, the Enemy gains a foothold in our thinking. And the more we yield to those thoughts, the stronger his hold becomes.

We must wisely choose which thoughts we will accept and which ones we’ll reject. It’s not enough just to resist the Enemy’s lies; we must also deliberately fill our mind with truth from God’s Word. Jesus used this technique when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He countered each challenge with Scripture, saying “It is written . . .” When we are ready with a verse that refutes one of Satan’s falsehoods, we have the most powerful spiritual ammunition possible.

So consider: How diligent have you been about guarding your mind? Have you permitted the world to influence your thoughts? Or are you allowing God’s Word to shape your reasoning and values? You cannot coast through the Christian life. An unengaged mind is an open invitation for sin. If you’re distracted, having trouble praying or reading the Bible, your thoughts are not where they should be.

Perhaps you feel as if you’re the rope in a tug of war between God and sin, constantly being pulled in two opposing directions. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Rather, confess and repent as quickly as possible (1 John 1:9). During those times, remember that you are engaged in a long process, and that you cannot renew your own mind. Trying harder and making promises to God will only discourage you, because in your own strength, you will never be able to change. True transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit—and it takes time. Therefore, submit to His leading, heed His warnings, and obey His voice.


Four Requirements for a Renewed Mind

  1. Fill your mind with Scripture—focusing on the Lord’s character, ways, and commands.
  2. Resist temptation and flee from it by understanding the thoughts and feelings that trigger a sinful response in you.
  3. Check the source of your thoughts—are they from God, your flesh, the world, or Satan?
  4. Rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to resist sin and break free from its bondage.

Begin today

As believers, we can expect this process of transformation to continue until we reach heaven; however, the important issue is that we begin today.

Just as your area of struggle began with one act of yielding to temptation, so your path to victory can begin with one act of submission to God. Through the power of the Spirit, start saying no to thoughts that don’t belong in a believer’s life. At the same time, say yes to appropriate thoughts. When you fill your mind with truth from God’s Word, you’ll gain discernment and be able to more readily identify the thoughts and feelings that cause you to sin.

As you persevere in choosing which thoughts to allow, the bondage of sin will diminish and your mind will be renewed. This transformation, which began internally, will now be worked out externally as behavior changes. When you think right, you’ll act right. Areas of your life that you were powerless to adjust on your own will be refashioned. And Christ’s victorious life will be beautifully demonstrated through you so that others will see and be drawn to Him.

We’re all prodigals: Isn’t it time to take the long road home?

Have you given in to temptation … again? Your heavenly Father eagerly awaits your return to Him.

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Penelope Stokes

Carey is running scared.

Four years ago she grew tired of Church Life, weary of a religious system that boxed her in and made her feel as if she never quite measured up. She couldn’t stand it any more, couldn’t bear up under the weight of condemnation pressing down on her. She rebelled.  And she ran.

That is, she tried to run.

She tried to leave her faith behind. She quit praying, substituted the Sunday paper for Sunday worship, left her Bible to gather dust on a forgotten shelf. But God, it seems, has not let go of Carey. She is haunted by the memory of her former closeness with the Lord. The deep longing for the intimacy she knew with Him at the beginning still exists. She tries to ignore it, but it just won’t go away.

God is drawing her back. I know, because she told me.

Runaway

Carey’s story makes me think of a morning long ago—nearly forty years—when I ran away from home. I was four, and old enough to know better. It wasn’t an act of rebellion or a desire to leave my parents forever; it was, rather, a choice for adventure.

The boy came along on his bike, invited me to ride with him, then pedaled off down the road, across the forbidden railroad tracks, through the forbidden woods, down to the forbidden creek. It was a glorious, heady, wonderful, time-arresting experience—until I realized that the sun was setting. My parents would be furious.

In my child-mind, I could see my father’s face and hear my mother’s voice. I would probably get the spanking of my life. So I did something really stupid—I stayed out even later.

It never occurred to me, at that moment, that plans for punishment had probably long since vanished from my parents’ minds. They only wanted me home, safe, back in their embrace and protection again.

Just as God wants Carey home.

The Lost Child

We are all prodigals, you and Carey and I, although some of us have forgotten our distant Prodigal roots and taken on the role of Elder Brother. We are all Lost Souls, broken and bewildered, in need of the saving embrace of a loving, waiting Father.

But when we have sinned (and sinned, and sinned again, even after promising to change), we sometimes forget, in our shame and despair, how much God longs for us simply to come home to Him.

To help us remember, Jesus told a story (Lk. 15:11–32):

There was a man who had two sons. One, the elder, was an obedient, compliant boy who always did what Daddy told him to do. The younger, an impetuous and reckless type, demanded his half of the inheritance and roared off into the sunset on his Harley-Davidson, headed for the bright lights of the wicked city.

The tale is a familiar one, repeated countless times in different ways. It is the age-old story of God’s people wasting their spiritual inheritance in disobedience—the wild and visible life of immorality, or the hidden rebellion of spiritual pride.

But usually, whatever our sin of choice, we end up where the Prodigal landed. Having spent everything, and having no spiritual reserves against the famine in the land, we wind up in the pigsty—hungry, lonely, and despairing.

My days among the pigs will forever be burned into my memory. For years I led a double life. On the outside, I was a competent Christian leader, sought out for Bible teaching and counseling; on the inside, I was a lonely, love-starved child, splintered by doubt and guilt and self-reproach. I faced temptations that I could not resist, and every time I sinned, I fell further into the pit, increasingly convinced that God could not, or would not, forgive me this time. I bargained and bartered, promising God that I would never, ever do it again. But I always did.

Then, while floundering in the mire, I discovered a wonderful truth in Jesus’ story of the Lost Son. The Prodigal, even while he was still a prodigal, was always, always, a son. He belonged to his father, no matter what he had done, no matter how low he had sunk. That truth gave me hope, and the motivation to respond as the Prodigal did: “I will arise and go to my father.”

When the Prodigal started for home, he had no way of knowing what his father’s response would be. He prepared a pat little speech: “I am not worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”

But his father wasn’t interested in explanations; he didn’t even ask where the boy had been or what he had been up to. He didn’t demand an accounting of the inheritance. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Lk. 15:20).

The Prodigal never got to give his speech; he had come home, and that was enough.

The Waiting Father

In the story that Jesus told, we see the depths of the son’s degradation and the infinite measure of the father’s love and acceptance. But we aren’t told what went through the boy’s mind as he made the long trek home. We aren’t told, but we can guess.

If he was anything like me, no doubt he felt the acid churning in his stomach as he plodded along the homeward road. He probably had envisioned himself returning in triumph, rich and famous, and the utter indignity of his condition shamed him.

I imagine him stopping at a roadside rest, trying to wash the stench of the pig- sty out of his clothes, hoping somehow to make himself a little more presentable. But it was a futile effort. He could still smell himself. There was no doubt that his fall would reek in his father’s nostrils.

Perhaps, more than once, he thought about turning back, trying again to make it on his own—this time, to make his father proud of him. But there was nothing to go back to, nothing but famine and despair and a lifetime of slopping hogs. At last he saw the clear light of reality: There was no place to go excepthome to his father.

And for all his preparation, I’m sure his mouth went dry when he saw his father in the distance. For heknew what he had done, and there was no getting around it.

I imagine that the Prodigal might have felt this way, because it is the way I feel when I have sinned and turned my back on God’s love. Ironically, I resist throwing myself upon the grace of God because I feel I don’t deserve it. I haven’t been good enough. I have repeatedly committed those chronic sins—the very behavior patterns I promised to change. I haven’t proved myself worthy.

And so, instead of running to my Father’s arms, I drag my feet—as the Prodigal might have done, as Carey is doing now—ashamed and humiliated, searching desperately for a way to clean myself up before I have to face Him. The trip home becomes, not a journey to a joyful reunion, but a long march toward a dreaded judgment.

But if I look at the Waiting Father, I see a different picture entirely. He doesn’t pace up and down, angry, waiting for my return so He can attack me with accusations. Every day He stands in the road, shading His eyes against the sun, watching for my familiar figure to come around the last turn.

And when at last He sees me, shuffling along reluctantly and muttering my memorized confession to myself, He runs, with His arms open wide, to sweep me up in an embrace of complete forgiveness and reconciliation. He doesn’t care what I look like; He takes no notice of the stain of sin and the stench of the pigs. The Lost One has come home, and that is enough.

God waits for you, Carey, with tears of love and welcome in His eyes, longing to see you round the corner and stumble up the road into His arms. He is ready to forgive you, clean you up, dress you in righteousness, and celebrate the long-awaited feast of reconciliation. Jesus Christ, the Son who sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of your sins, has paid the ultimate price to bring you home.

Run to Him, Carey. Arise, and go to your Father. Run home. He is waiting. And He loves you.

Suffering: When God Is At The Bottom Of It All

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at Counseling Solutions

Suffering is an expected, normal life for Christians living as aliens. God knew this and according to 2 Pe 1:3 we know that, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

Samuel Rutherford on Suffering—

“You will not get leave to steal quietly to heaven, in Christ’s company, without a conflict and a cross.” –Samuel Rutherford

“O, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace of my Lord Jesus.” –Samuel Rutherford

“Why should I be alarmed at the plough of my Lord that makes deep furrows on my soul? I know he is no idle husbandman; he purposes a crop.” –Samuel Rutherford

“I hope to over-hope and over-believe my troubles.” –Samuel Rutherford

Temptations—

  • Do you make too much of planet earth?
  • Do you over-think or over-worry your problems?
  • Do you live as though this life is it?
  • Do you strain (push) relationships further than God ever intended?

(Without a proper view of suffering, from God’s perspective, and if we do not embrace our alien status (we’re not of this world), we will strain our relationships. Rather than being a Gospel-centered, Gospel-shaped, and Gospel-motivated Christian, who is merely passing through this world to a better world, we may aggravate our relationships with others, rather than serve them.

I have found that when I am suffering and not dealing with my suffering very well, then the people in my immediate circle suffer the most. However, I have also found that when I am suffering and appropriating God’s grace in the moment, then His name is made great and others are inspired by our great God, who is working through me.)

Charles Spurgeon on Sovereignty—

When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths [of the doctrine of election] in my own soul—when they were as John Bunyan said, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown all of a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.

One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me,

How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord?

The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself,

How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures.

How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.” — Charles Spurgeon

Solution: No matter what you are going through remind your soul to anchor itself on this truth: God is at the bottom of it all. That which he has begun, he will see to the glorious end! (Philippians 1:6) He is working in you His good purposes, which is to conform you to His most beloved Son.

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