Friday, June 25, 2010
The Apostle Paul experienced this through his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). He asked God to remove his thorn, and God said “NO,” so that he might experience spiritual strength through human weakness.
One thing I have often seen, particularly in men, is that God will bring them to brokenness, but once the circumstances start getting better they go back to pride and self-reliance. Therefore, I believe God wants our brokenness to be much more than just circumstantial brokenness. Instead, He wants us to live in constant brokenness.
Constant brokenness is when we are constantly aware of our weaknesses, human limitations, and propensity toward sin that we walk in constant awareness of our desperate need for God. Even when the initial circumstantial difficulty is lifted, we still walk in brokenness. Less in less do we need circumstantial difficulty to make us dependent on God’s power.
However, when the circumstantial difficulty does come our way, by the sovereign decree of God, then we will be able to say with Paul, “That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
This is a very practical and helpful exercise to do when faced with uncertainly about a decision.
Here is how the Proverbs’ Challenge works: whenever you are faced with a major decision, read through the entire book of Proverbs and ask God to give you a “word of wisdom” in what to do. Preferably read the entire book of Proverbs in one sitting. For the average reader this takes about two hours or less. Before you begin to read, ask God to give you wisdom and fill you with His Spirit. Draw a line down the middle of a page, with the choices of your decision on either side (i.e., take the new job, stay where I am).
As you read through Proverbs, record in the appropriate column the verses that seem to speak to you about that choice. Now, be careful here: at the end of your reading, it does not mean that the column with the most verses is God’s “word” to you. Instead, go back and read all the verses you placed in each column and ask God to have one of them “jump off the page” telling you what His will is for you.
I have done this seven times in my life, and all but one time God has used it to speak a direct word of wisdom to me. I look forward to hearing how He uses this in your life. Please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Recently I completed a thirty-mile hike on the Appalachian Trial (AT) with my twenty-year old daughter, Catherine. The AT is a 2,175 mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine over mountains, hills, beautiful streams, and fourteen states. My father has hiked the entire trail; I have now completed 227 miles; and this was Catherine’s first time hiking the AT. I have not hiked the AT in over seven years, thus forgetting how difficult and tiring it is. However, I see many parallels between a hike like this and the Christian journey. I will give nine ways in which hiking the AT is like our walk with God:
1. Don’t hike alone. It is much more enjoyable with someone else. The first day of our hike, Catherine and I met a young woman who was hiking alone. I asked her if she had it to do all over again, what would she do different, and she responded, “I would find someone to hike with me.” God made us to need others, and our maturity in Him will be greatly enhanced as we are in intimate fellowship with others. “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more, as you see the Day approaching” (Hebr. 10:24-25). “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
2. Progress takes perseverance. To make progress on a hike, and especially to get to the places of excellent views, requires hard work and perseverance. There were many times on this hike when I wanted to give up. I got tired, had sore feet, and a few times wondered when the top of the mountain would ever come. But once I made it to the top and looked out on the magnificent view, it was all worth it! In the same way, spiritual maturity takes prayer, Bible meditation, resisting temptation, obedience, and keeping on keeping on! “Do not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
3. Always have a weapon. For this hike I carried a gun, and I did so for several reasons: snakes are not uncommon on the trail; there were reports of a bear that had torn into five hikers’ packs within the past few weeks; and there have been a few killings on the trail over the years. I felt much safer having a 40 caliber Glock strapped to my side. In our walk with God, we face a variety of oppositions as well, namely the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Therefore, we should always have in our heart the weapon of God’s Word, and be sure to put on the full armor of God each day. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the Devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11).
4. See people’s needs along the way. One thing I enjoy about hiking is the many interesting people you meet. On this particular hike, we encountered some heavy situations. One man told me he was hiking because his wife had just informed him she wanted a separation. Another man told me of how he had come back early from serving the Army in Panama, only to find another man living with his wife. Then his second marriage ended because his wife did not want to live with a man who kept getting deployed. He was now in his third marriage. Oh, how our world is full of hurting people. They are all around us, every day, if we just take the time to be interested in peoples’ lives . . . and listen to their stories. The song I hear on Christian radio challenges me: “Give me Your eyes for just one second. Give me Your eyes that I might see . . . "
5. Take breaks to rest and enjoy the journey. Some hikers are so intense about making the miles each day, they forget to stop and “smell the roses.” I made sure to notice the plants, flowers, smells, and views. I even took pictures of small flowers along the path. Catherine and I had no problem stopping and resting when we needed it, because we often got tired. Catherine developed nine blisters on her two feet. Ouch! I am now forty-nine years old, and felt every bit of my age on this hike. I have no problem admitting my need for rest. God wants us to rest in our walk with Him. We need to schedule into our lives those things that will help to recharge us. Jesus said, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).
6. Follow the map. We had an excellent map showing us where to find water, the locations of shelters, and the exact mileage to various points of interest. As long as we stuck to the map, we did fine. Had we taken a side trail, we could have gotten lost. In the same way, following Christ means we must follow the map of God’s Word. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).
7. Make good use of water. This hike reminded me of how important water is to life. We needed water to drink, bathe ourselves, cook our food, and wash our clothes. A pure flowing mountain stream was like pure gold to us on the trail! One night we were able to camp right by a beautiful stream. Therefore, we pretty much had everything we needed! It is no surprise that Jesus calls Himself the living water. We need Him for everything! Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘streams of living water will flow from within him’” (Jn. 7:37).
8. Do your part and trust God’s sovereignty. We certainly had to prepare our packs, plan well, bring the right supplies, etc. but at the end of the day, we chose to rest in God’s sovereignty over the weather, the bears, our bodies, and the people we came in contact with. In the same way, with God we do our part (i.e., obey, trust, pray, witness, etc.), and we rest in His sovereign control. Being a strong Calvinist (which I am!) is not only biblically sound, but immensely practical. We can trust that everything entering our life has first been sifted through the loving and sovereign will of God. “The mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs His steps” (Prov. 16:9; NASB). “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
9. Keep the goal before you. Our goal was to make it from Springer Mountain, GA to Neels Gap, GA—thirty miles. Having this goal made our progress more enjoyable and our destination more anticipated. As our bodies got more tired, our minds were hopeful as we got closer and closer to the end. Finally, when we reached Neels gap and the little store where we could buy some goodies, we were quite excited. In the same way, God wants us to look forward to our final destination and reward of heaven. What a great destination we have to look forward to. No amount of suffering or hardship on earth is ultimately comparable to eternity with God in heaven. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the eternal glory that will be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). God wants us to live with an eternal perspective, fixing our eyes on Jesus, for whom one day we will see face to face!
Catherine, the best part of the hike for me was being with you! You are great company and an amazingly tough hiker. I love being your dad and friend.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Recently I (David) put Randy Alcorn’s article from an old Leadership magazine titled “Consequences of a Moral Fall” on my blog. In this article, Alcorn gives a long list of possible consequences if he were to have an affair. He said he found it helpful to review this list any time he felt particularly vulnerable or tempted to sin.
After reading my blog, Lisa Grant (who has her own blog for parents of teens) asked if I knew of such a list for teens who struggle with sexual temptation. I told her I did not, but we should come up with one together. Thus, this blog that Lisa and I are writing together.
Every day, teens must manage the transition from childhood impulsivity to adult self-control. Raging hormones and societal or peer pressure only add fuel to the fire in the area of sexual temptation.
When I (Lisa) counsel young Christian women, I advise them to develop a list of standards before they begin dating. This might include situations to avoid, how far they will go, and how they plan to keep themselves accountable. The list below would be additionally helpful to carry on a date, serving as reminders of the potential fallout of giving in to temptation.
CONSQUENCES OF SEXUAL SIN FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
If I have premarital sex or go too far with someone, here are some possible consequences of that act:
1. Possible pregnancy and all the responsibilities that come with having a child, as well as possibly affecting my future education and career.
2. Experiencing a guilty conscience.
3. Weight of responsibility for causing another to sin.
4. Having a difficult time erasing the sin from my memory. God forgives and forgets my sin, but I will never forget.
5. Developing a “soul tie” (an unhealthy emotional and spiritual attachment) with the person I am intimate with. It’s like giving away a piece of my heart, and I will never get it back.
6. The danger of giving myself to someone who has not made a life-long commitment to me.
7. Probably needing to tell my future spouse at the time of engagement and the embarrassment that comes from this.
8. The possibility of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, which, if not cured, could be passed on to anyone else I have relations with, including my future spouse. Remember, when I have sex with someone, it is as if I am having sex with everyone they have had sex with.
9. The loss of a special wedding night.
10. Once married, the regret that I was with someone other than my spouse.
11. The poor example and possible cause of hindrance to all my friends who learn about this. There may even be a loss of friendships.
12. Causing disappointment and shame to my parents, as well as loss of trust.
13. Damaging my credibility with younger siblings or others who look up to me.
14. Loss of dignity and regard for self.
15. Most importantly, it will hinder my relationship with God – as all sin does.
Let us be very clear - if you have already fallen into sexual sin, there is forgiveness and healing available through the blood of Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, can cleanse at the deepest level. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “He who conceals his sin shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes it shall find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
There will still be consequences for your sin, but your relationship with God can be fully restored, and you can be given a fresh start. Often, it is additionally helpful to share your struggle with a trusted friend who can help you through the healing process. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Finally, as you seek to move beyond your sin, remember that you cannot do it in your own power. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit each and every day if you want to live in obedience to God and resist the many temptations that will come your way.
May God bless you as you remain in the one true love, the love of Jesus Christ.