“Unshakable” Valentine’s Day Sale!
Hello Everyone! Just a quick little post to let you know that my book, “Unshakable” is now going on sale for Valentine’s Day! It will be 25% off until February 14th only on Lulu.com. It makes a very sweet gift for a daughter or friend who might be suffering from the “single-blues” this year, to encourage them, and to let them know that they’re loved. Or, guys, it could make a wonderful gift for your girlfriend that will be a blessing long after the chocolate is gone. ;o) Single or not, this book is sure to strengthen, challenge, and encourage whoever receives it. It gives practical, yet largely forgotten ways to re-ignite that genuine & deep love for the Lord….and gives insights into the subtle deceptions which have consumed today’s culture, and how to avoid its snares.
Why I Have Given Up The World
Why I Have Given Up the World
1) The world and all of the things in the world are worthless.
- Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
- I have found that all of the things of the world; its glitter and baubles of enticement are worthless. The TV shows only bring empty and fleeting entertainment and hours of wasted time. The lusts of the world don’t satisfy, and only end in pain and disappointment. The mountains of books promising happiness by such-and-such new method only give a short-lived surge of excitement…until you realize that happiness is much harder to grasp than the book made it sound. The blasting music only drowns out the sweet songs of the birds and separates us from our friends and family. The careers we so highly esteem can be good and can be used for good, or (and most of the time this is the case:) will sap all energy and time from you as the money you make evaporates and your kids grow up and you’re still in the same rut, just living to pay the bills. The gadgets all do the same thing: help you waste more time with things that don’t matter – only, the latest ones look cooler, and of course you must spend more money to always have the hottest new gear. The car gets dented or breaks down, and you end up being enslaved to it – sinking more money into it than it’s worth for repairs, insurance, gas, upgrades, etc.
- All the things of this world, when pursued themselves just for the sake of having them or doing them sap all life, joy, and fruitfulness from our lives. They are unfruitful and deadening. It’s the never-ending cycle of so many lives, and I have tasted of these things and lived my life in the pursuit of them and found them sorely lacking – as have many others.
- So why then do so few people turn from them? Why do so many continue to waste their lives always wishing and hoping to do something different and worthwhile, but they remain enslaved to all of the utterly unfruitful works of darkness?
- Because of fear. Most of these people do not trust God’s goodness and ability to sustain them enough to actually take a step like quitting the job or giving up the TV. They are afraid they’ll be left destitute or homeless, or that they’ll just be bored etc. The devil tells us all these things because he knows that the moment we start actually seeking the Lord and desiring to serve Him, there will be good fruit…and he wants none of that to happen.
- Also, many people just love the thrill that movies or a new car or a new boyfriend give them, and they don’t actually want to give up those things. They assume that spending time with the Lord are boring, or too hard, or that it’s just not as “exciting” or “fun” or “rewarding” as reading the latest romance novel or being able to buy the things they want as soon as they want them etc.
2) The world and all of the things in the world are death for our souls.
- Romans 8:5-8 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
- 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
- I didn’t realize it at the time that I was participating in many worldly things (and, for the most part, enjoying it), but my soul was shriveling up inside of me. Spending time with God was pretty low on my priority list (though I wouldn’t have said it), and there were many days when I never got around to it because I was too busy doing other things, or there were days when I just skimmed over a chapter of the Bible or spent a few minutes in prayer because I felt like it was my “duty”. Deep inside, I wanted to be a “good Christian”, but was so frustrated that I never seemed to be really “connecting” with God or gaining insight into the Bible. I couldn’t seem to understand it. But now, looking back, I can see that it was because I was so distracted by so many other things – things that seemed “fun” or “important”…movies, books, music, personal goals, dreams, ideas, projects, friends, etc. I couldn’t connect with God because I was connected to so many other things. I couldn’t live for God rightly because I was living for everything else, and putting everything else first, just like the world said I should. My spirit was dying, and it got to the point where I didn’t even try to fight against the passions of my flesh anymore because they had become such a part of me that to kill them seemed like it would have been killing me, myself. And it would have been, because I had become those things and began finding my identity in them instead of in Christ.
3) The Lord Himself asks us to give up the world in order to serve Him; he knows its perils and dangers. And the world goes directly against everything God is and everything He stands for; we cannot be both friends with God and the world.
- 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
- Luke 14:33 says, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
- Luke 18:29-30 says, “And he said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
- James 4:4,8 says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wished to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God….Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
- I know Jesus’ heart, and that it is completely good. He knows that I can’t fully serve Him if I’m distracted by worldly things, and He knows that if worldly things get a grip on me, they will slowly pull me down the way of destruction. I’ve seen that process happening in my own life already (and the lives of many people I’ve met), and I do not want to become “lukewarm” or indifferent to the things of God. And, personally, I don’t want to have anything to do with anything that is opposed to God or which hurts Him. I’d much rather be His friend than a friend of the world, who people of the world highly esteem…and if I have to choose, I’m choosing my Savior and King. I don’t want to base my life and efforts around things that will just pass away – I want to invest in eternal things. I want to be Jesus’ disciple, and if that means renouncing all of my worldly comforts, then that is what I must do, and nothing less. For the sake of Christ and to be near Him, nothing is too great to surrender. And if He asks it of me, I know if must be for my good, even if I don’t fully understand it yet.
4) What you sow, you will reap.
- Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
- If I am daily imbibing the dregs of worldly media; if I am filling my mind with songs that speak of sinful lusts and passions as being good and acceptable and attractive, if I am watching violent movies with anger and hatred and revenge emanating from them , or if I am watching movies where mocking God or mocking morals or praising immorality or making a joke out of vulgarity is accepted…then what will be the result? This is the result (and I am not speaking hypothetically): My mind will be filled with all of these things all day long, even if/when I go to spend time with the Lord, these things will make themselves comfortable and quite at home in my thoughts. And not only will these things take root in my heart, but they will begin to cloud my sense of God’s standards, and I will begin to do, say, and accept things that I wouldn’t have before. Things become fuzzy, and sin begins to become acceptable in small (or sometimes not-so-small) doses. If you put garbage into your heart, garbage comes out.
- But I desire to be wholly God’s, to have a pure heart, and to act in a way that is a delight to His heart. I want thoughts and songs and quotes about Him and His beauty and holiness and goodness to fill my heart and mind. So then, what must I do, if what I sow, I will also reap? I must turn from all that is contrary to God and a distraction from Him, and instead, begin filling my mind with what is pure and beautiful and worthy of praise in God’s eyes. If I want to reap eternal fruit, I must sow to the things that are eternal…and if I don’t, I shouldn’t be expecting to reap any eternal fruit – it’s as simple as that.
5) Nothing in the world compares to knowing and serving Christ, and seeing the glories of His kingdom!
- Paul says in Philippians 3:7-9a, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”
- Matthew 13:44 says, “‘The kingdom of heaven in like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’”
- When you begin to look at everything apart from Christ as rubbish, and gladly give up all that you have and that you had previously treasured in order to gain Christ and the surpassing worth of knowing Him and the beauties and delights of His kingdom, it just all makes sense. It makes sense when you have tasted of the fullness of Christ. It makes sense when you have gotten a glimpse of the treasures of His kingdom and the Celestial City. When you have drunk of the pure, clear, cool, refreshing springs of Living Water, how can you go back to the slimy, polluted cesspool of the world and drink from it?? And why would you want to? I have come to see and know for a certain that the glories of Christ far surpass any shallow, man-made adventure film or mystery novel or popular band or pile of paper money. None of it comes even close to the beauty and life and joy found in my Lord – and even on my worst day, His companionship is sweet beyond words, and I gladly leave all of it behind if I might gain more of Him, and even if that were the only reason, it would be enough.
6) I have been preceded by amazing men and women of God who have given all – even their very lives – for the Lord. Who am I to think I can obtain this treasure of greatest worth by clinging to all my fleshly desires and just “sliding in” to heaven? Let it not be so!
- Hebrews 12:1-4 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
- How can it be that so many great men and women have gone before me – both in Biblical times (many who are listed in Hebrew 11) and throughout more recent years (thing of the martyrs of the early church, the martyrs in China, Adoniram Judson, Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, the Goforths, Brother Yun, etc etc) who have given up everything for the sake of the Lord, for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of their eternal treasure….and yet we think we can have to Lord and all of our idols and personal comforts too; that we can have an earthly mound of treasure and fulfilled desires and still expect to find an eternal inheritance waiting for us, that we really cared nothing about until our dying day? These men and women have given up homes, families, comfort, personal dreams, worldly esteem, health, time, and even their lives for the Lord, and in order to not forsake His name, and in order to make His name known to others…and yet, we expect to be able to slide into heaven still holding onto our flatscreen TV and our perfect careers, where we have made a name for ourselves in the world.
- What does God think when he sees us whimpering over not being able to give up our Twilight books, or our favorite pop band to serve Him and/or spend more time with Him, when He sees all the martyrs and those who, at this very moment are being tortured because they love Him so much that they would give up anything and everything before they would every even think of renouncing Him? And yet, we renounce Him for far lesser things every day. And what about the great cloud of witnesses who had the faith to trust God and do His will no matter what the personal cost was – what do they think when they watch us clinging to every last straw of the world that we can? Their hearts must be torn in pieces, because they have loved the Lord with such a deep love, that to see our pettiness must cause them great pain.
- For this reason, I count nothing too much to give for the sake of following the Lord.
- “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
- There may be many who argue against me and who say these things aren’t really important or necessary to follow Christ…or those who simply love the world too much to even consider what I’m saying as true. But as for me, this is the only way. The Lord is my life, and serving Him is all that matters to me in this life. He alone I have chosen to serve, and I, by His grace and strength, will not go back or turn aside to the world. How can I when I have beheld His beauty? I will not look back.
Addendum to “Through the Fire”
Last night I was able to go outside and spend a really nice bit of time with the Lord, as I gazed at the moon and enjoyed the warmth of the air. I started meditating on part of Psalm 8, which I had read in the morning, which says,
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (vs.3-4)
And I began pondering the huge expanse of the universe and how the earth itself is not even equal to a pinprick in the midst of the vastness…and then there are a couple billion people inhabiting the earth – and we are so small in comparison – and then if you single out just me, in the midst of ALL those people, on the huge earth, in the infinitely MORE huge universe…well…I began to feel kind of insignificant and small. And I asked God, “Why? Why did you create me? Why did you create humankind; such small, frail creatures inhabiting a planet in the floating in space?”
There was a short silence, and I sat there on the fence, as the soft glow of the moon silhouetted the branches around me, and an owl hooted in the distance. Then I felt like He whispered to me, “I am preparing a bride for myself, to spend eternity with me. A bride I can cherish, and who can delight in me forever.”
Then it suddenly dawned on me that, if I am truly aware of what serving God means, and what it could mean giving up….and if I am truly surrendering my desires to the Lord…then something should replace it. And that something is the Lord. And He must become my greatest love. My first love. I was created to love Him. And as I sat there cloaked in the darkness, bathed in the light of the moon, my heart was bursting with love for Him, and delight in His presence and goodness, and I just asked Him to sit down beside me, and walk with me…and I ended up spending twice as much time outside as I had intended to, just because I didn’t want to leave His side.
“I am my Beloved’s and he is mine!”
I was able to relate this sudden realization with the experience of the other day which I wrote about in my previous blog post, and that just made it all the more sweet and special. God loves me and is there right beside me every moment of every day. He cares for me even more than any earthly person ever could, and He can change me and fill me with true joy and peace and love.
When we give up one thing to the Lord, He fills that place with His Spirit, and more of Himself. It’s not a dismal thing; it doesn’t leave us with a great emptiness…because when we give something to the Lord, He can then bless us and fill that place which used to be taken over by”other things” with Himself.
Hunger and Thirst
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” ~ Matthew 5:6
This is just going to be a short post. (That’s unusual, I know…) My church has just started doing a study through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Tonight we just focused in on the first few verses of Chapter 5 – the “beatitudes”. They are all so good to meditate on. But one in particular caught my attention. And, if you haven’t guessed it already, it’s the one I quoted above.
I guess I was firstly just a bit (okay…a LOT) convicted by it, because, this past week, I’ve been making so many other things a priority before my relationship with Christ. And it’s not just my lack of prioritizing that bothers me. It’s the fact that I haven’t been hungering and thirsting after Christ. I haven’t been living as if He were my very source of life…as if I cannot fully function without Him. I am slowly dying inside without Him.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” What is hungering and thirsting? It’s first of all, recognizing your need. Instead of wondering why you’re feeling dizzy, or why you have a cramp, or why you can’t talk, you have to recognize that it’s because you need more food – more water. When you recognize that, your desire for it grows, because you know that you need something, and what it is you need. I know when I’ve been super hungry or so thirsty that I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think about anything else…and the only thing that really caught my attention was the object of my longing. When we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, it becomes the only thing that really matters to us. The all consuming passion of our heart. So…hungering and thirsting is essentially “groaning” after something (I have to use that phrasing, because it makes the following quote sound cooler. ). Charles Spurgeon said, “You may judge a man by what he groans after.” What do you “groan” after…or “hunger and thirst” after? Would people be able to tell that you are a Christian if they looked at your “menu”?
And it’s here that the second part of the verse sunk in: “…for they shall be satisfied.” There’s so many things that we can chase after in this world that we can think will fill us up, and satisfy us…and like I said earlier, I have been chasing things that may look delightful on the surface, but can’t quench my thirst, or fill me up. You might compare it to giving a starving child in Africa a bag of cotton candy, and then walking away. It’s a very sad picture, but it’s what we do to ourselves over and over again. None of these things can satisfy us. And when I pursue other things before God in my day, thinking they’re somehow more important (which is absurd to step back and think about; writing a book is somehow more important than the Author of life, and the creator of speech??), I don’t find the satisfaction and joy I think they should be bringing me…because that can only come from spending time with Christ.
So to sum this up (and I’m sorry for lying at the beginning…haha…this didn’t end up as “short” as I had planned – and I hope it’s made some kind of sense, since it is almost 2:30am here…), we essentially have a promise from Jesus here. IF we “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, THEN we “shall be satisfied”. And God always keeps his side of the deal. We can’t keep “our side” on our own. You’ve probably already figured that out the hard way. We are weak creatures…and we need help. Praise God that He has sent His Holy Spirit to help us, and He is always alert when we cry out for help! At any time, we can ask the Holy Spirit to renew our hunger for the Word and deepen our Thirst for the Living Waters, and He will. But…don’t use your weakness as an excuse to keep chasing after the wrong things.
Hungry? Do something about it.
Fix My Eyes
I was inspired to write this post by a post someone else wrote a while ago about what inspires them, and what points their eyes to God and the gospel.
So often we can get distracted by day-to-day tasks, that we overlook what’s most important. I think it’s good to know what things have the ability to direct our eyes to God so that we can be more diligent in seeking out those things. It’s also good to know what things have a tendency to distract us from God and from what’s really important so that we can put prayer and intentionality into avoiding those things. Making a list might help you out. It may go something like this:
What Gives Me a Greater Hunger for God/Worship of God/Passion for God?
- Spending time in my Bible and prayer each morning.
- Listening to sermons.
- Reading almost anything by John Piper.
- Sovereign Grace music
- Reilly’s music.
- Certain Matthew West and Brandon Heath songs (“The Light of Eternity”, “The Motions”, “Give Me Your Eyes”, “Love Never Fails”)…and certain other songs.
- Biblical Fellowship with friends and family.
- Watching a sunset, a thunderstorm, birds in flight, sunshine and blue skies etc; lots of things in nature overwhelm me with God’s goodness.
- Looking back over different parts of my life and seeing the wonderful tapestry being woven by God. One reason I like to journal.
- Seeing God’s hand in others’ lives.
- Adjusting my heart to be thankful.
- Seeing others’ passion.
- Meditating on truth.
- Verses and reminders of God’s goodness etc around the house.
- When something happens that has no other explanation than God.
- Excellent blog posts.
What Robs Me of That Hunger/Passion/Worrship?
- Getting up too late in the day.
- Skipping my Bible Times in the morning.
- Spending too much time online.
- Reading too many fictional books and not enough truth.
- Being cut off from my godly friendships/godly conversation for too long.
- Too much idle talk.
- Being more consumed with earthly treasures than heavenly ones.
- Listening to too many love-songs or songs that don’t point directly to God.
- Movies with no real purpose.
- Too much day-dreaming and not enough living in “the real world”.
- Distractions, distractions, distractions.
So what about you? Evaluate your life and heart. What things have the power to pull your gaze away from God? What things cause you to overflow with love for Him? How much are these things in your life, and how can you change things so that more of your time is spent with your eyes on your Maker and Savior?
Praying with Scripture
I’ve been sort-of postponing writing any new posts until my blog was done being re-designed (especially since, with the new design, I wanted to introduce a bit of a new direction for my posts)…however, that isn’t happening as quickly as I had originally hoped. So, in the spirit of patience, and just accomplishing something instead of postponing it indefinitely – here is a portion of what I read in the Bible today, along with something I read of John Piper’s after a friend mentioned it to me Saturday, as well as something from George Muller that someone else emailed me today (and, yes – they’re all connected).
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” Ephesians 5:16-18
“Prayer is not some small thing. It is not some marginal thing. It is not some incidental thing in the Christian life. Prayer is at the heart of why God created the universe. You may have the modern, secular notion that the universe is really about great galactic events and supernovas and remarkable expanses of time and space and energy. But in reality the center of the created universe is man created in the image of God. And the meaning of man in the image of God is to display God’s glory. And the way God delights to display his glory in man is by being depended on through prayer.
If you want to walk in prayer all day long, you will need to linger in prayer in times of quiet communion with God.
Consider praying in concentric circles from your own soul outward to the whole world. This is my regular practice. I pray for my own soul first. Not because I am more deserving than others, but because if God doesn’t awaken and strengthen and humble and fill my own soul, then I can’t pray for anybody else’s. So I plead with the Lord every morning for my own soul’s perseverance and purification and power.
Then I go to the next concentric circle, my family, and I pray for each of them by name.
Then I go to the next concentric circle, the staff and elders of Bethlehem. I name them all by name.
Then I pray for you, Bethlehem Baptist Church. And then I go out from there to different concerns and groups at different times: our missionaries, our denomination and its schools, the Baptist General Conference, Evangelicalism in general and the church around the world, especially the suffering church. The wider circles include the city and the state and the nation and the cultural and social issues of the world.
You can’t pray for everything every time. So there need to be differences. And your heart will dictate much of your burden. Some days one family member or one staff member or one crisis in the church or the world will consume most of your time. But if you have a pattern – like the concentric circles – you won’t spin your wheels wondering where to start.
That’s the first thing I would say in answer to the ‘how’ question [of prayer].
The other is to pray Scripture. The prayer time and the Bible meditation time don’t have to be separate times. It would be best if they were not separate.
If you ask, What do I pray for myself and my family and my church and the missionaries and the city and the nations, the answer is pray Scripture. God’s Word reveals God and his will. What you want for yourself and those you pray for is more of God and more of his will. As you see him in his Word, pray that God would make this seen and known and loved in the lives of the people you pray for. And as you see his will, pray that God would cause it to be done in the lives of those you pray for. ‘Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.’
Be intentional about this, but don’t be too self-conscious. Contrived prayers seem inauthentic. If we are so self-conscious that we try to craft our prayers with interesting turns of phrase, we will lose the power and reality of prayer. But do try to pray specific Biblical values for people, not worn out cliches and trite generalities that have no spiritual depth.
For example, if you want to pray for somebody, pray the beatitudes: Father, grant that John would recognize his poverty of spirit. Let him mourn for his sins and not be indifferent or unconcerned for his own soul. Work a meekness into his heart. Grant him to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Give him the heart of a peacemaker and a reconciler. Make him pure and keep him pure, O Lord. And if you will for him to be persecuted, give him grace to count it all joy and to remember that his reward is great in heaven.
Praying like this will be mighty in the Spirit, because it is the Spirit’s own Word and the Spirit’s own will that you are praying.
The third thing I would say about how to pray is that praying in groups is important to build into your life. Families, pray together. Small groups, pray together. Ministry groups, pray together.” - John Piper
“The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord blessing upon his precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.
The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer.
When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation.
The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart.” - George Muller
May God bless your prayers as you seek Him through His Word.