Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Becoming Strong Or Receiving God's Strength?

  Often I will hear or read the words (usually in the context of someone going through a trial) 'be strong', or, 'you are so strong'. Sometimes it comes out like this, 'stay strong'. It may have a tinge of flattery with it (ex. 'you are such a strong person'). But my question is this; does God want us to become strong in our difficulties, or does He want to become our strength in hard times?
   Certainly, there are many verses where we are instructed to be strong. If a situation will come up where our faith could falter, God tells us to 'be strong'. The epistles tell us that God wants to strengthen us to do His work. "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy..." Colossians 1:11 ESV. I don't really have a problem with that because God strengthens us in order for us to serve Him. God wants us to be strong in our faith. But, does God use circumstances to make us stronger? I think sometimes this is the case, however, there is a difference between God strengthening us in our faith and God using circumstances to make us stronger.
   In 2 Corinthians 12, we read about Paul's struggle with his thorn in the flesh. He asks God 3 times, to take it away, and God doesn't. Instead, God provides His grace in Paul's weakness. God becomes Paul's strength. Why? Because God doesn't want Paul to become proud. He leaves Paul in his weakness, and God Himself becomes Paul's strength.
  It is the same for us today. Rather than God putting us in circumstances so that we can become stronger, God wants us to see our weakness and turn to Him for our strength. If it were the other way around, we could easily become independent of God. God would make us stronger and we would rely less on Him. I believe this is a universal problem we all have. It is called, 'self-sufficiency'. It teaches us that if we are really good Christians, then we become stronger in our difficulties. It is true that we grow in character through hardships and are changed, but its our faith that should become stronger. We have this inherent belief that eventually we can be on our own. We compare God as our Father, to our parents in this type of thinking. Parents work with their children until the children become adults or are ready to be on their own. That is the goal of parenting, but with God, the parenting is different. Even if God blesses us to have a relationship with Him for 80 years, we do not grow independent of God as we grow older. In fact, we grow closer to God and recognize our need for His strength and help.
  So, God becomes our strength when we need to be strong. God doesn't give us difficulties so that we can become stronger and become more independent of Him. Next time you read a consolation message from someone telling the grieving person to 'stay strong' or 'you are so strong', remember that the grieving person needs God's strength during that season of his or her life. Something to think about.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two Reasons Why People Don't Fear God Today

   I have and idea of two reasons why people don't fear God today. Of course, there are possibly many more reasons, but I shall just talk about these two reasons and try to explain them clearly.
  One thing I have noticed, is that people know basic rules. In many areas, they know the difference between right and wrong. Parents teach their children what is right and wrong. Many families have their own version of what is right and wrong. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but if you don't clarify the difference between something being wrong, and something that 'Christians' shouldn't do, it sends a wrong message to the child, and he or she becomes confused on what the Gospel really is.
  Let me give an example. Many parents in fundamentalist homes will teach their children that it is wrong, or sinful to drink. If the parents explain what it is that is wrong with drinking and why we don't drink, it can be a helpful tool to the child. But if we teach the child that it is wrong to drink, and that Christians don't drink, then we can communicate to them that responding to the Gospel involves abstinence from drinking. So, the Gospel could look like, 'Come to Jesus. Repent of your sin. Stop drinking, and you will be saved'.
  Is it good to drink alcoholic beverages? Not in order to get drunk. We make a doctrine out of it though, by coming up with conclusions like, 'the water Jesus turned into wine was really turned into grape juice'. There is no substantiation to this assertion, and it should not be used to prove that Christians shouldn't drink. The real question always comes back to the same issue; What is it that you love? Addiction to drinking is a problem and God can set people free from it. But if we make abstinence from drinking a criteria for being a Christian, we have added to the Gospel. We are adding a work to the finished work of Christ for our salvation.
  But even further, what ends up happening is this; A person who has been taught that Christians don't drink, will find himself or herself in situations where drinking will be available. Here is the crux of what I think happens that causes people to lose their fear of God; They take a drink, and guess what? Nothing happened. Lightning bolts didn't come down and zap them. They continued to drink and still nothing happened. But what happens in the person's thinking? He or she now assumes that if God were really there, then He would have punished them for their drinking, but since He didn't punish them, then I guess its ok to do wrong things. We have just lost our fear of God when that happens.
   The other reason ties in with this as well. I have struggled for years to figure out what is wrong with this picture. It happens every time I go out in the car. We happen to live in a neighborhood that is right by a university, so we have a lot of young adults driving, that don't pay attention to rules. There is always someone that has to go faster than the other fast drivers. It is not uncommon for people to go 10-15 miles over the speed limit here. I used to think, they would get caught easily, and get a hefty ticket. But, in reality, that rarely happens. I hardly ever see cops giving out tickets. No one fears the law, when it comes to speeding. There's no consequences for going way over the speed limit. The authorities that are supposed to be doing their job, aren't there. Consequently, people lose respect for authority, and fear authority less, and fear God even less. God has boundaries, even if we can't see them, and there are consequences for breaking them. But if we never experience consequences for our wrongdoings here, we have a hard time understanding that there will be consequences for everything we do on earth, whether we pay for them now or in eternity.
   We might not see God working in the things we do, but He is still at work. Deism is not a valid belief system. God is actively involved in everything that goes on in this world. When we get a glimpse of Him, our hearts change, and we don't want to do those wrong things anymore. Even when we struggle with being free from those things, God is still our vision and hope. The Bible admonishes us to 'not become weary in well doing'. The goal is to see God, with the spiritual eyes He gives us, and be changed in His Presence. Only when we see God will we fear His name.

How Would You Respond if You Were In This Situation?

  I have a question for you to answer. There is no right or wrong answer at this point, but it is provided to make you think. Situations like this could happen in the future. What are the alternatives?
  "You own a print shop. You try to cater and serve your customers well, and have a fairly good reputation. Someone places an order for 100 imprinted T-Shirts. What they want printed is something blasphemous. Maybe they want something printed like, 'Jesus is just one of many gods'. What would you do?" What would you do if you are just a worker at the company? Would you quit if you were assigned to accommodate this order? What if you were the owner of the printing shop? Would you turn away this order, or would you just do it hoping that they would never reorder anything like this? What are your thoughts?

Friday, September 13, 2013

How You Can Gauge Your Love For God

   The greatest command in the Bible is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.
  It is amazing to note that when I explain the 10 Commandments to people, and ask them about their love for God, almost always, the person says that they love God. I ask them a few questions to probe a little deeper. What I want to do is have them look at their own hearts and see that they really don't love God. I am talking mainly about people I have been explaining the Gospel to, whom I know by talking with them, that they don't understand the Gospel. But there is a gauge you have that can help you determine your love for God.
   All the 10 Commandments are based on the two commandments above; Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. The way you can tell if you love God is simple; Do I love my neighbor? Do I love those around me? Do I love those in my family and my friends? Do I love those who are ungrateful to me, even when I serve them? Do I love those on my street?
   One reason this is hard for people to understand is because we don't have an accurate understanding of the word, 'Love'. We think of love as something that makes us happy. It serves us. We love ice-cream or Chinese food. We love chocolate and coffee. Those are things that serve us and we enjoy, but technically we don't 'love' them as the Bible defines love.
  The Bible describes what love looks like. In 1 Corinthians 13, we find a true description of love. Some words that describe love are; patient, kind, rejoices in truth, believes all things, bears all things, endures all things, hopes for all things, and never ends. Some things that love is not; boastful, arrogant, envious, rude, insisting on its own way, irritable, rejoices at wrongdoing, resentful.
  The Golden Rule is very good also, in helping us to understand about love. We treat others the way we want to be treated.
  So, when we love others (even the unlovable) we are showing our love for God. Conversely, when we don't love others, it indicates our hearts do not love God. We can fool ourselves all we want, but the fruit of our lives indicates what is going on inside.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My Response To Mrs. Hall's Blog Post

   I was on Facebook the other day, and one of my Facebook friends posted a message geared toward teenage girls. I went to the post and read it. It was a beautiful blog post written by a lady named Kim Hall, and it was about an experience she had when opening some pictures on the internet from teenage girls who were posing and taking pics that were intended to be sexual provocative and what would happen if her sons were to view those pictures.
  When I commented on this the other day, I checked the box to receive follow-up comments. Maybe I shouldn't have done that because my email box is overflowing with comments and I don't have time to read them right now.
  Most of the comments are positive, and I am greatly encouraged. I am impressed with the fact that a mom took some time out to lovingly point out to the teenage girls, what they were doing, and how these pictures were not appropriate for young men, such as Mrs. Hall's sons, to look at. I know how easy it is to find sexually explicit pictures on the internet. One email server I had didn't have a spam filter and I would go through hundreds of emails every day and saw a lot of things I never saw before!
  But I would like to comment on a few things that are happening with Mrs. Hall's blog post. There are a few people sending in nasty comments. Some are trying to accuse Mrs. Hall of hypocrisy, because there is a family picture posted which shows a family with sons who aren't wearing shirts. They aren't wearing shirts because they are at the beach. Men don't normally wear shirts on the beach anyway, but people are complaining because she has this picture posted while pointing out the error of the teenage girls posting their scantily clad nightwear on the internet.
  There are a couple of things to keep in mind, that I want to bring up here when reading the original post by Mrs. Hall, and the comments that follow.
  1. Boys respond differently to sexual impulses than girls do. Men are visual. Girls generally are turned on by touch or emotion, and are not as visually affected. That is why there is magazines like Playboy. That is why men struggle with porn on the internet. They are visually stimulated.
  2. The subject of rape and victimizing has come up. Rape is a different subject than porn. Men don't see a sexually explicit picture then go off and rape a girl. The root of rape is anger. It has different causes than porn and has to be handled differently.
  3. A picture of sexually explicit woman doesn't cause a man to rape a woman, therefore, a woman who has been raped is a woman who has been victimized and it is not her fault that she was raped. This is important to remember because some of the commenters are reading into Mrs. Hall's blog thoughts that suggest that she is saying that when a woman is raped, then it is her fault because she suggested it by sending provocative pictures on the internet. Like I said above, rape and porn are two separate subjects and rape has to be dealt with gracefully, and with sensitivity by a skilled counselor, pastor or caregiver. Commenters are in ignorance when they get these two issues confused.
4. Teenage girls do know what they are doing. They are intentionally putting these pictures on the internet, probably in order to get attention. I am sure that they do not understand the full response that could come their way. They might be doing this in order to get attention, but there are dangers involved that they might not be aware of, such as pedophiles or those scouting out potentials for the sex-slave trade.
5. We can, and should train our young men to be careful as to what they see. We want our young men to have godly desires and pure hearts. We would like for them to have to desire and the strength to not open a Playboy magazine if its in front of them. BUT, we have to remember that men are visual and they will remember visual impressions that they see. If a man is sitting in a park, and a woman goes past him dressed in a sexually provocative way, he will be affected. We can say, all we want to, about the man controlling himself, and that he probably will do. But, it is not fair to him, to have something come in front of him in his view that he didn't ask for. It will affect him. Women are responsible for the way they present themselves in public. I can give you personal examples of this, of things I now regret that I did in the past. If these pictures that Mrs. Hall is talking about happen to be on Facebook or in her's son's emails, it is not fair to the sons for these girls to send pictures that they will see. Yes, they will, by God's grace, have self control. But they will be stirred in a sexual way that they won't be able to fulfill.
6. We have two different standards that people are coming from. We have God's word (which we are all subject to, whether we like it or not) and we have the culture's standard. Many of the commenters are coming from the world's standard and viewpoint and are responding in a way that the world responds to things like this. The culture assumes that we can do whatever we want and as long as I am not hurting anyone then I can do whatever I want. So, when Mrs. Hall points out something that violates God's standard, the culture gets upset. They call Mrs. Hall names and say she is judgmental. They say she has a double standard. They have stereotyped her and are making all kinds of assumptions that really aren't there.
7. On the subject of judging. This is the most misunderstood subject the world uses when trying to defend their ability to continue in wrongdoing. The subject originally comes from Jesus' words recorded in Matthew 7. Jesus starts by saying 'Judge not, lest you be judged'. This has been taken to mean that a person can do whatever he or she wants, but don't you dare come to that person and tell them of the consequences of their wrong doing because you are 'judging' them. Judging in the Bible has more to do with faultfinding in others and using other's weaknesses to exalt ourselves. I was amazed to see how many people are criticizing Mrs. Hall and telling her that she is arrogant and that her sons are going to be doing sexual activities whether she likes it or not. Again, they are pointing out her 'double standard' because of the picture she posted of her family at the beach, with her sons wearing only shorts.
      I applaud Mrs. Hall for what she has done. We need to take a stand for what is right and valuable. People today have not been taught about sowing and reaping. We have also not been taught about eternal perspectives. We live for today, and what is easiest, most convenient, and what makes us happy right now. We don't realize that there are consequences for everything we do, whether small or significant.
   A question we can ask ourselves, that will help put things into perspective is this; Would I be doing the same activities I do every day, if Jesus were in the same room as I am? How would things change if I knew that Jesus was coming to my house this afternoon? Something to think about...

Here is the url for Mrs. Hall's blog:
FYI - If You're a Teenage Girl
(I noticed that she took off the pictures of the family at the beach and replaced them with other pictures of the family).

For a good example of the culture's response to Mrs. Hall's post, go to:
Huffington Post Response To FYI Mrs. Hall's Blog Post
(Was she really 'shaming' the girls or was she just talking frankly to them?)

Sanctification or Justification - Both are Important - Both are Separate Issues

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you."
From 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV

   I'm not going to elaborate a whole lot on this because I think the verses speak for themselves. However, I do see some professing Christians confusing sanctification and justification, and in so doing, actually condone lawlessness. They seem to think that the only issue between God and man is salvation and everything in the Bible relates to the act of salvation. Instructions on what to do, or not to do seem to be designated to what must be done or not done in order to receive salvation. Many of these people understand the hypocrisy of the churches that have a bunch of rules, which don't really have anything to do with anything. For example, I was listening to a man, probably a pastor of a mainstream denomination, teaching why it is wrong for the church to have musical instruments. He basically concluded it was wrong to have instruments in the church because none of the apostles used them, and, the verses in the Old Testament about using instruments, well, that was the Old Testament, and didn't apply to today. 
   There is a well-known and beloved woman Christian artist who actually came from this type of background. Sadly, this woman holds a low standard of purity when it comes to men/women relationships. She has made many comments about flirting and sexual innuendoes when it comes to those kinds of relationships. One of the things she believes in is that God created marriage for a man and woman to enjoy each other to the fullest. If a person is not happy in their marriage, then she recommends getting out of the marriage. She herself has done this as she was married and had a family, but was not happy in the marriage, so divorced her husband. Then she remarried another man and is starting all over again. She is still widely respected, not only for her music, but for her spiritual standing. 
  But could it be that this woman really saw the hypocrisy of the church she grew up in? Could it be that she saw the stupidity in a doctrine that has no basis in anything whatsoever, and perhaps has swung the pendulum in the other direction? If God really isn't into legalism, I guess the other way is the correct way to go to respond to God?
  No, God saves people by grace. It is a free gift from Him. We are not saved by being morally upright. But when we are saved, we have the power and desire to live a holy life. We don't have an excuse or reason to live sinfully or selfishly anymore. That is the way sanctification works. We are saved, but we are saved in order for God to be glorified. We are saved to present the power of God to the world. God is not glorified when we stay in our sins. He is not glorified when we turn lawless. It doesn't defend the doctrine of grace when we live immorally. 
   God will freely forgive us when we repent. We have to want to be forgiven, and if we continue in sin, we really don't want to be forgiven. But in that case, we believe in a God who is ok with our continuing in sin. Then we have to ask ourselves if we really do understand the Gospel. Have we really been saved in order to bring glory to God, or are we saved only so we can escape hell? Something to think about.