Friday, December 30, 2011

The Lessons of 2011

For the last post of the year I like to tell you some of the things I have learned over the past 12 months.  Here is the final entry for 2011! See you next year! Happy New Year!!!


1.       Be Persistent –
This year many of the successes have been due to persistence and perseverance. We received our IRS non-profit after many months of hard work and diligence. I honestly had no idea what I was doing, but by the grace of God and the incredible help of fellow Counselor Rick Thomas I completed the paperwork and our Counseling Center received approval.

This is very important for those we will minister to in the future!

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 (NASB)

2.       Be Encouraged
This year I have been surrounded by many wonderful people who have encouraged me in the ministry.  They have also become my friends.  When I was discouraged for lack of progress they reminded me of God’s faithfulness and at times were a literal cheering section. Our Counseling Center continues to see more people from the community and word about the sufficiency of His Word to address the problems of life is spreading. I end this year very encouraged.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thess. 5:11 (NASB)

3.       Be Forgiving
I have continued to learn much about forgiveness in God’s classroom this year. Being involved with worldly-minded people brings many chances to extend forgiveness.  I had the most incredible opportunity to demonstrate the grace and forgiveness of Christ that has been given to me.  My own unworthiness in being forgiven became glaringly obvious in a new and fresh way (through a complicated set of circumstances) and I found myself in the position to forgive as I have been forgiven.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8 (NASB)

4.       Contentment
The Lord has blessed me with a measure of great contentment in this year. Whereas the beginning of my life here was fraught with strife and difficulty, this year I found contentment in whatever condition I was in.  Contentment doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer or have trials, but that in the midst of them I was content.  I was able to rest in God and His plan for my life even when things appeared to be out of control.

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 1 Cor. 10:9-10 (NASB)

5.       Gratitude
This more than anything else has been the theme of the year for me. I am incredibly grateful for the enormous blessings the Lord has brought into my life this year. I am also thankful for the hardships! Hardships allowed the Christ-life in me to shine brightly as I continued to serve others in spite of difficulties that came my way.

I gained a new daughter-in-law this year, and this too was something to be grateful for. With all the weddings this year we spent a lot of time with our families. I watched my Dad turn 90 and be honored as a WWII Veteran.  God is often working where we do not see Him…

My husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in February, and in August re-covenanted our marriage on Mt. Evans (at 14,000 feet!) in Colorado in the presence of a few dear friends. He is still my best friend, and I am so very happy and blessed to be his wife.

I am also thankful for my reading audience. You continue to come to this blog to learn about the sufficiency of Scripture to address the problems of life and you are telling your friends to come and check it out too! May the Lord bless you!

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Cor. 9:10-15 (NASB)

What’s next….

2012 will bring some opportunities for traveling. I will be getting some sorely needed input at a conference in February, heading to sunny Florida to speak at a few conferences in March and teaching a women’s conference in Romania this November.

There are several writing projects in the works, and those are slated for completion this year.

Our counseling hours will be increasing both in person and via Skype in the coming months.

I also have some very exciting news that I will share with you in the coming weeks so stay tuned!! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Question of the Ages

I am often asked by my counselees, “Why am I here?”

The simple and straightforward answer to this question could change your life: We are here to glorify God.

Glorifying God happens when the focus of life changes from living for my pleasure and glory to living for His pleasure and glory. It demands that my heart change from a “me” centered focus to a God-centered focus.
In order to accomplish this goal, changes must take place. The first change that must take place is in the heart itself.  Change requires action on two frontiers: the first is the renewing of the mind through the memorization and internalization of Scripture.  In order to know what needs to change from a biblical perspective the Word of God has to enlighten us.

Then we need to take the action step of putting the truth of the Word into practice. Making application of the Scriptures to life is a critical component for if you know the Word and do nothing with it, what benefit is there in that?

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:26 (NASB)

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 (NASB)

Putting the Scriptures into practice can involve what Jay Adams calls radical amputation; cutting off anything that leads you to sin and putting it away from you. I know a man who has the television removed from his hotel room before he arrives because the television is a point of stumbling for him. He cuts off his access to the television which is not a bad thing to do. However, if you only stop wrong behaviors how does that affect the heart and in some cases, your eternal destiny? It has to go beyond that!

Remember that I have told you before that the heart that is set on self is focused on what is most important to me, what I want, and what I desire.  The heart focused on self might place happiness and what makes me feel good ahead of the needs of others.

These goals reveal the heart of an idolater, and if the desires go unmet the person will often sin in response to being denied.  The idolater is also willing to sin to get them what they want. The pursuit of the fulfillment of their hearts desires is more important than the glory of God.

We satisfy the itch of the heart. There is no room for God in this equation.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting to the Root of Critical Judgments Cont...

We continue today examining the roots of critical judgments.

An ugly face of uncharitable judgment is prejudice; believing that because someone is a different gender, race or nationality than you that they are somehow inferior. Some people just can’t stand the reality that we are all from Adam and Noah, we are all one people; red, black, brown, tan, and white. Prejudice says my race or gender makes me superior to you. It is ugly.

A bitter person is also looking for the worst in others. Bitterness is a result or fruit of unforgiveness. We like to justify hanging on to hurts and wounds. Somehow we think we will make them pay by holding on to things. Bitterness makes us hard and callous, and does not hurt them one bit.

I have had more than my share of bitter women in counseling over the past 15 years, and once that hardness sets in, it is so difficult to turn those thoughts around! It becomes habit to always look for the thing to rank on, to be suspicious of, and to nag about. I often challenge the bitter wife to decide when enough is enough. How much more is her husband going to have to pay before she is satisfied? What exactly does he have to do for you to forgive? And you know what? She rarely knows because the bar keeps being raised. When he jumps todays hoops tomorrows will be higher. That is wrong, uncharitable, and unloving.

A lack of love is the ultimate in critical judgments. When there is much criticism there is little genuine love. The one who is criticized is forever trying to earn the love of the other. Always trying to measure up, but never quite making it.

Conversely where there is love, or where love abounds, there is a willingness to let the other person be human, make errors and think the best of them in the process. (1 Cor. 13:4-7; 1 Peter 4:8). Love thinks the best of people. Love thinks that even if things are hard today, next week after he or she has grown some they will be better. Love lets us make mistakes, and blunders and keeps on loving! When that love is all new and fresh, you don’t care if the toilet seat is up- again or the tube of toothpaste is squeezed in the middle or the end! Why is it that these things grate on us so after a while?

Why do we stop believing good about each other so easily? Sometimes it is because they have broken their word to us over and over. We are afraid to trust again because we don’t want to be hurt again.

The radar is on high and we are watching and waiting for anything that looks suspicious. If you have been burned, and someone has violated your trust- husband, child, friend- it won’t be easy for you to think the best of them. But you have to try!

God is eager to help us change and God is the only one who can change us. The unbeliever needs to place their faith and trust in Jesus for salvation first, and then when the Holy Spirit indwells that process of sanctification begins.

Because of Jesus, we are able to not sin. In His death and resurrection he conquered sin, and made available to us the possibility to do so as well! One day we will be free from sin! It won’t be on this earth, but while we are here we are to be ridding ourselves of what we once were (dead in our trespasses and sins) and taking on the characteristics of Jesus Christ. The process of sanctification is becoming more and more like Christ, ridding ourselves of sins like bitterness and jealousy and critical judgments.



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting to the Root of Critical Judgments

I trust you were blessed by the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!

I have some further thoughts on the subject of being judgmental. Prior to Christmas I was blogging on the topic of critical judgments. If we are to deal with this problem biblically, we must address the heart. We must get to the root of critical judgments.

You must realize that the main root of these judgments is the sin of pride. Pride tells you that you are better than others. Pride tells you that your behavior is better, that you would never (of course) stoop to doing or saying some of these things you observe in others.

Pride says, “If you want to be good you must be like me, think like me, act like me because I am the model.  If you do not think I am the model, I will tear you down; I will cause others to think poorly of you by gossip and slander.”

Pride can also reveal itself in the inclination to believe that “I alone understand the truth about things.” I think that my beliefs, convictions, theology, and doctrines are true, and I look down on anyone who disagrees with me (Gal. 5:26). Many legalistic thinkers fit in this category.

The prideful person may also be very self-righteous. They are never wrong, and even if by some miracle you are able to prove they are wrong they are still right. Admission of being wrong just does not seem to be a part of them. They argue and dig in and rant and rave to prove their point.

Pride leads to the sin of selfishness. It is all about me, all the time and in every way.  

Another issue that is related is fear of man (insecurity).  They believe, “I must be well thought of!”  “I must be the one looked up to.”  “I am smarter than you are.” 

A person who is not secure in their identity in Christ, or who has lived a life of man pleasing can be critical. The thinking is that the best defense is a good offensive position. This leads them to be attacking in their judgments because they want to get the jump on you.

Jealousy can be another fruit or result.  A jealous person will be very critical of others because they do not want others to be seen in a better light then they are. If you recall the story of Joseph and his brothers in Gen 37 they were all insanely jealous of Joseph. They hated him because his father loved him more and treated him differently, and because Joseph had dreams in which he was lord over them. Their pride and jealousy overcame them and they threw him into a pit and left for dead but then as a second thought, they sold him as a slave. The sons of Jacob were jealous and it drove the m to hate their brother.

Did you ever stop and think about self-pity being an aspect of uncharitable judgments and pride? This might sting a little but consider this: a person who struggles with self-pity is thinking in their heart that they should not be treated this way, or this bad thing should not have happened to them. They do not stop to think that by saying that, they are elevating themselves over others. What they are truly saying is that they are too good or important to be in this mess, it should be you because you are only you and not as good as them. Think about that next time you are tempted to be self-pitying…

The next time I will continue with the ugly face of uncharitable judgments, and how to resolve this problem biblically. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Tradition Continues...

For those of you who are unable to read the story of the TRUE reason for Christmas. It is not Santa, or reindeer, it is the historical and factual Birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Jesus is the Savior of the whole world. 


May you find Him...


From the Bible, God's own Word: 
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is £Christ the Lord. 12“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14    “Glory to God in the highest,
    And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:1 through Luke 2:20 (NASB)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Luke and Matthew

Dear Friends,
I am blessed to be spending time with my Dad  and the rest of my family these next few days as we celebrate the Lord's birth this Christmas season.  I am posting the Christmas story, compiled from the 4 gospels. Many readers of the blog are from countries that the Bible is not readily available and they do not have their own copy of God's precious Word.  Because we cannot have a risen Savior without a birth, I am posting in two parts His story for His glory! Merry Christmas! 

26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37“For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26 through Luke 1:38 (NASB)

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18 through Matthew 1:25 (NASB)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maranatha!

I am surrounded by all the business of Christmas. My tree is lit, the lights are in the windows, the cookies and candy are ready, the gifts are under the beautiful tree. All day long people have been asking, "Well, are you ready for Christmas?" I have been answering, "Yes, I am ready."

I hope you are ready in the same way I am ready. You see, twenty-seven years ago a very important event took place in my life at Christmastime. I was a very worldly and unhappy person back then. I was in a bad way, a miserable marriage, and loaded down with debt and sins.  I used material things and alcohol in an attempt to soothe my empty heart and to fill up the lonely hours of my life. As a result of those very bad decisions my life was a complete wreck and I despaired of living any longer.

I knew who God was, despite my previous attempts to deny Him. I knew believed in Him, and I thought (hoped) I could do enough things to make up for the bad things I had done in my life so at the end I would get to go to heaven. I did not understand much more about God than Jesus had to die on the cross because I was a bad person. I never gave it much more thought than that. I prayed religious prayers, I did my religious duty (when I felt especially guilty) and went to church on Christmas and Easter and even some times in between.

I was encouraged to read the Bible by a friend who had recently "gotten saved." Now, I was pretty sure I didn't want anything to do with that whole business, but I knew I needed something because I thought my life was just not worth living.

As I began reading in Matthew I was fighting for every word because none of it meant much to me. The genealogy was difficult, and the Christmas story I knew...but I kept reading. I was just about ready to quit when I came to Matthew 7.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:7-11 (NASB)

In whatever mysterious way the Spirit moves upon the heart of a person, those were the words He used to begin the transformation of my heart from one of stone to one of flesh. I recall reading and re-reading them and finding that they were so appropriate for me. I was most certainly evil, and I knew how to give good gifts to my child. I also admitted to myself that I was seeking something, I just wasn't sure what- until that moment.

In just those brief moments of time everything changed. Everything changed! I changed! And suddenly I prayed to God as I never had before, asking Him to save me from my sins, and my feeble failing attempts to be good. I asked Him to give me the Holy Spirit, and to give me the gift of eternal life. I changed in an instant from one who was lost to one who had been found by God; from one who was God's enemy to one who was God's child!

So, yes, yes, yes!! I am ready for Christmas! I am ready for the return of Jesus Christ! Oh come! Oh come Emmanuel! Maranatha!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Common Sense in Judgment

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt 7:1-5 (NASB)

When a judgment must be made the above passage tells us 2 things must be done first: First, you must take responsibility for any contribution you may have made to a problem. What is your responsibility here? How have you offended? Have you been clear or could you have been misunderstood?

Second, you must make a diligent effort to “see clearly,” that is, to accurately understand what someone else has done and why he or she did it. See the issue from their point of view. If you were on the receiving end of someone’s judgment, what would you want? Do you wish that others would think good of you, give you the benefit of the doubt? Listen to your side of the story before coming to a conclusion?

You cannot gloss over your own faults, assume facts, speculate on motives, or jump to conclusions about others.

Think of how many conflicts could be averted this way. Think of how many relationships could be salvaged in families, at work, in churches if we would just look for reasonable ways to think the best about each other! Jesus tells us to love one another and treat one another the way we would want to be treated.

But like all other principles in Scripture, we must be reasonable and use common sense when making charitable judgments. The principles in God’s Word are interconnected and one does not stand in opposition to another. There are times in our attempts to be charitable in our judgments we err on the side of blindness to sinfulness.  There are limits to charitable judgments. Anytime you have clear proof that something is sinful or wrong you can and must legitimately confront the person. That is the biblical way to handle it.

Giving the benefit of the doubt does not mean that we ignore clear and obvious evidence that things are not as they should be. It does not love and it is not charitable to ignore the brother or sister who is involved in sin. You must still investigate the matter, ask questions and get reliable information about the issue. Then you may come to a conclusion.

I often get women who come for counseling without their husbands. The women don’t want the husband there because they wish to “stack the deck” in their favor. They want to tell me all the rotten things he does without his being there to defend himself.

When this happens, I tell her that while I understand her marriage is not perfect, I cannot listen to her run the guy into the ground. It is unfair to him to allow her to go on and on about his flaws and faults without being there to challenge or correct what is being said about him. I will invariably have the woman turn to Proverbs 18:13, 15 and explain to her that I need knowledge about the situation from both points of view. I want to be able to make a righteous judgment and I can’t do that without all the information.  I explain that if I were to form a judgment about her husband without all the information I would be a fool. It would be unrighteous of me to draw a conclusion about him this way.

It would be an un-charitable judgment of this man who I never even met! I point to this final verse- Proverbs 18:17 The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. (NASB)

This rather seals the deal with this kind of thing because it doesn’t get any clearer than this. She may sound completely reasonable; have all the right arguments, make a great case for her being a princess and her hubby a real drip. But remember I am only getting one side of the story! If I meet him I may learn all about how princess is really quite the wicked witch at home.

Think about how you would want to be confronted. Approach the person humbly and present the statements you want to make as questions instead of telling the person what they are thinking.

Actively listen to their responses to your questions! You may learn that you are wrong, and that your assumptions were off base. Questions give a person the change to clarify and sometimes they realize that something they did say came across wrong or was unclear. You are giving them the chance, every opportunity to make it right.

If you discover as a result of your questions that what you suspected was correct you will have the opportunity to help the person toward repentance, or to make it right, or do the right thing.  (Gal 6:1-2, James 5:19-20).  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Charitable Judgments

Love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love always looks to righteousness. Love always seeks to find the good and honorable thing about the other. 1 Cor. 13:5-7

We are continuing to look at criticism and judgments of others. One thing’s for sure, neither of these things ended with the recording of Scripture. We make rules all the time that we conclude are biblical because they are loosely based on something we read and have taken out of context. For women, these things are often about dress, hair, or makeup. If I always wear skirts and you don’t I am better than you. If you wear makeup and I don’t then you are not as spiritual as I am. I cut my hair and you don’t so you must be a holier person than I am.

Another area we judge each other is how we educate our children. I can say that I have witnessed those who homeschool being a bit haughty toward those who don’t homeschool. (As a former homeschool parent I can say this with all honesty.) I have seen it and heard it myself. Those who have their children in Christian or private education judge those who put their children in public school. Those who have their kids in public school may judge those who educate their children at home or private school! Please understand that each parent educates their children in the way they think is best. There is no call for judging others on this frontier!

Do you judge the woman who doesn’t return your emails or phone calls? Do you assume they are avoiding you? Do you stop to think they may be ill or been called out of town on emergency? Might they be overwhelmed with responsibilities and just not have the time to call or write?

God wants us to judge charitably.

Instead of being critical in our judgments, God want us to judge charitably. What does this mean? The church has historically used the word “charitable” as a synonym for the word “loving.” This has resulted in the expression, “charitable judgments.” When we are making a charitable judgment we are choosing to believe the best about others until you have the facts to prove something wrong or sinful is going on.

Making a charitable judgment is a loving act. It means you are willing to consider the best about someone rather than the worst. Making a charitable judgment means that you are willing to look at other possibilities or reasons for certain behavior or attitude a person has.

When I was younger my parents used to say “give them the benefit of the doubt.” Choose to postpone judgment if you don’t have facts, and then see if you can get factual information about the situation. As you information gather, be sure and go to the source too. And I might also add- keep the matter between you and those directly involved.

For example, if you are that person who brought an idea to the church leaders that they rejected; rather than assuming that your idea was rejected for personal reasons or because they are just too lazy to consider it, exhibit wisdom and look at the situation from God’s point of view. Search Scripture for passages on the roles and duties of pastoral leadership, how the church body is to respond to the leaders, and then what to do if you have a problem with them. Decide to think the best rather than the worst. See if you can arrange a meeting with the leaders who made the decision and ask questions about their reasons for it.

This is not just being nice; it is an aspect of obedience to God! We are to demonstrate love toward others whenever possible. This is walking worthy of our calling as Christians (Eph. 4:1). Demonstrate humility and gentleness, patience, show tolerance for one another in love, and be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Being a peacemaker!

Paul said “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB)

Paul sought to imitate Christ in his life, and the same is to be said about us. If we are in the process of being transformed into His likeness then our lives ought to show it, right?

Would Jesus judge in your circumstance? Would He assume something was true or would He ask questions (as was His style?) Ironically even when He knew something was true about someone (Judas) how did He treat them? Was He rude, gossipy, and vengeful? No He was not. He said He was here to do the will of my Father, and that means He was not making uncharitable judgments.

Love always thinks the best. This is the essence of charitable judgments. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Criticism or Judgment?

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Matt. 7:1-5 NASB)

We began looking at this last time. This subject of judging others is one that bothers and confuses many people so we are taking an extended look at it. As I said last time, we are sure it is wrong to judge, but we are not sure what that means. And yet, we are all aware that it is necessary to judge other people. We find ourselves doing it all the time, sometimes without even realizing it.

It is important to understand what the Bible means when it says we are not to judge others. Are there occasions when it is necessary and right to pass judgment on another person for what he says or does? What must we understand to be biblical in this crucial area?

The first thing we must know is that judging is necessary, but dangerous.

We are called upon to make various kinds of judgments about church and faith related issues all the time. This is less judgment than evaluation of ability and spiritual maturity. When our criterion for this evaluation is biblical it is not judging in the worldly sense of the word.

However, as Jesus pointed out, we have a natural tendency to judge in the wrong way. This is not to say that we should not be fruit inspectors, carefully discerning and evaluating the words and actions of other people to discriminate between truth and lies, right and wrong. When I observe a counselee who says they want change, and they have been instructed in the process of change, yet they continue to live as before, I can reasonably conclude that they may not be truthful.

Sometime we make critical judgments and expect others to conform to preferences we hold that are extra-biblical. Our problem is that critical judgments come all too naturally. In my flesh, I have no trouble deciding what is wrong with people! My family will tell you I can tend to be critical and I have to be careful not to be this way.

This critical spirit comes to us as a result of our sinful nature. A part of the sin package we are born with is a natural desire and tendency to sin. We are hard wired to be critical, judgmental, negative and condemning. We see this revealed throughout the Bible. The Old Testament offers many examples: After the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh returned to their allotted land and built an altar by the Jordan. When the other tribes heard about the altar, they assumed the worst and rashly assembled their troops to go to war against their brothers. Fortunately, before a battle began, those who had built the altar were able to explain its legitimate purpose and avoid bloodshed (Joshua 22:10-34).

In 1 Samuel, we read how Eli the High Priest made a hasty, critical judgment of Hannah as she prayed (1 Samuel 1:12-17).

Even King David made critical judgments. David passed judgment against an innocent man (Mephibosheth) and turned all of his property over to a false witness because he did not wait to hear the other side of the story (2 Sam. 16:1-4; 19:24-30).

We also see this pattern continue in the New Testament. When Jesus was doing miracles and healing the blind, the Pharisees stubbornly closed their eyes to the good he was doing and interpreted his actions in the worst possible way, saying that he was actually serving the devil (Matt. 12:22-24).

In Acts 21:26-29, we see that Paul meticulously followed all of the Jewish customs as he prepared to come into the temple. Even so, the Jews assumed the worst, jumping to the conclusion that he had defiled the temple and should be stoned. There are several more I could list, but I think you get the idea.

Our judgment about making judgments is not only impaired toward the negative, we also have a tendency to make mistaken positive assessments!  We can be impressed by things we ought to criticize. Paul commented on this to the Corinthians:

For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.  2 Corinthians 11:4 (NASB)  (See also 2 Timothy 4:3, Galatians 1:6-9)

Criticism and judgments of others didn’t end with the recording of Scripture. We make rules that we conclude are biblical because they are loosely based on something we read and have taken out of context. We will pick up on this aspect of judgment next time.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Righteous or Unrighteous Judgments

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Matt. 7:1-5 NASB)

The subject of judging others is one that bothers and confuses many people. We are sure it is wrong to judge, but we are not sure what that means. Even people who know very little about the Bible are quick to quote, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (see Matt. 7:1).

And yet, we are all aware that it is necessary to judge other people. We find ourselves doing it all the time, sometimes without even realizing it.

Have you ever been judged? I have. There have been a few times in my life where people have assumed things about me that were not true. A snippet of this or that plus a fruitful imagination and away we go!
Sometimes the one standing in judgment of you is so self-righteous that you can never measure up to their perfectionistic standards.  Other times, things are going on that need attention and no one is willing to step up and address it out of fear of judging someone unjustly or of being accused of doing so.

It is important to understand what the Bible means when it says we are not to judge others. Are there occasions when it is necessary and right to pass judgment on another person for what he says or does? What must we understand to be biblical in this crucial area?

The first thing we must know is that judging is necessary, but dangerous.

We are called upon to make various kinds of judgments about church and faith related issues all the time. For instance, is a man or woman qualified to be a Bible study teacher or small group leader? Do they have the spiritual maturity for such a position? Is the young man ready to be a deacon, or an elder in the church? Is she ready to lead the women’s ministry or does she need more growth?

These judgments ought to be made. They are less judgment than evaluation of ability and maturity. When our criterion for this evaluation is biblical it is not judging in the worldly sense of the word. Much of what we pass off as biblical criticism is nothing more than critical judgments of things we don’t like about people. This is where judging becomes dangerous. My husband says we tend to think along the lines of “that if I do something you don’t do, that makes me better than you.”

John Macarthur says, “When an individual or a group of people develop their own standards of religion and morality, they inevitably judge everyone by those self-made beliefs and standards.”

We have a natural tendency, as Jesus said, to judge in the wrong way. And He makes it clear in the Matt. 7 passage.

These verses focus on the negative aspect of a self-righteous, judgmental spirit. When our little group develops our own standards of religion and morality, we will inevitably judge everyone by those self-made beliefs and standards. We begin to look for the worst in other people.

What also happens is we stop looking at ourselves, and begin to elevate ourselves above others- we become prideful as we lower our opinion of others.

Yes, this is a very important topic for us to examine. More than I can get in just on posting. More on this next time! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Am I Here?

I am often asked by my counselees, “Why am I here?” The simple and straightforward answer to this question could change our life: We are here to glorify God.

Glorifying God happens when the focus of life changes from living for my pleasure and glory to living for His pleasure and glory. It demands that my heart change from a “me” centered focus to a God-centered focus.
In order to accomplish this goal, changes must take place. The first change that must take place is in the heart itself.

Change requires action on two frontiers: the first is the renewing of the mind through the memorization and internalization of Scripture.  In order to know what needs to change from a biblical perspective the Word of God has to enlighten us.

Then we need to take the action step of putting the truth of the Word into practice. Making application of the Scriptures to life is a critical component for if you know the Word and do nothing with it, what benefit is there in that?

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:26 (NASB)

Putting the Scriptures into practice can involve what Jay Adams calls radical amputation; cutting off anything that leads you to sin and putting it away from you. I know a man who has the television removed from his hotel room before he arrives because the television is a point of stumbling for him. He cuts off his access to the television which is not a bad thing to do. However, if you only stop wrong behaviors how does that affect the heart and in some cases, your eternal destiny? It has to go beyond that!

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 (NASB)

Remember, I have told you before that the heart that is set on self is focused on what is most important to me, what I want, and what I desire.  The heart focused on self might place happiness and what makes me feel good ahead of the needs of others.

These goals reveal the heart of an idolater, and if the desires go unmet the person will often sin in response to being denied.  The idolater is also willing to sin to get them what they want. The pursuit of the fulfillment of their hearts desires is more important than the glory of God.

We satisfy the itch of the heart. There is no room for God in this equation. 

There is also no room for God in the equation when the only goal of a person with problems is to feel better. So often I find that people make their focus in counseling that of feeling better or happy. Receiving “good counseling” is equated to what they feel like emotionally during the counseling process. They believe that if their emotions are good, then counseling has been successful.

This is a tragic mistake! What I hope to help the counselee to see is that these desires to feel happy or good are what lead them to sinful actions and attitudes. With happiness as the motive, all too often the problems that brought them to counseling reappear and their sorrow deepens to hopelessness because the goal of the counseling is off-base.

Yes, the goal of all discipleship counseling is change, but not change in circumstances or change in feelings. The goal of biblical counseling and discipleship is heart level change that brings about a life that glorifies God. This means God’s priorities become our priorities; and these changes in priority take place in the inner man before they are evidenced in behavior. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Radically Changed

Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

Before we can change what we do, we have to come to believe or think differently, and that requires a renewing of the mind; in essence, a change of heart. We have to begin to believe that some of the things we think about, desire and do are sinful.  Then we have to want to change those things and we have to want to be changed.

Furthermore, we have to understand that we cannot change ourselves. We cannot think enough positive thoughts to change our heart; we cannot be propped up with enough positive self-talk or self-esteem to be changed.

The only way a person can truly be changed is by the Holy Spirit as He makes known to us the Word of God. The Word of God must be read and engrafted in the heart.

As the Word is read, the Spirit makes it alive in us. Our minds are changed by what is read, our hearts are changed by what is read and as our heart is changed we begin to experience a desire to change our actions.

Unless the desire to change comes from within, from the heart it will not last. Unless the change is based on the Word of God it is humanistic and temporary. We can see this in the failure of the multiple methods of the self-help movement.

When mind change begins to take place we see our sin differently. We begin to see it through Godly eyes and our heart is grieved by the things our flesh desires. We realize there are some things that must be eliminated right away because they do not glorify God. In addition, the consequences of continuing in these habits of the heart can be devastating.

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30 (NASB)

Do you understand that certain problems must be dealt with radically? Of course, I am not advocating self-mutilation or self-harm. The point I am making is that the alcoholic, makes a commitment to cease drinking and remove everything from his or her life that tempts them to drink. It can also mean a commitment to detoxification and the cleansing it provides.

For the pornography user, it means safeguards and accountability for computer usage. It may mean driving a different way home from work least one is tempted by the adult video stores on the former route.

This is called Radical Amputation and it includes doing whatever it takes to stop the destructive behavior. Of course you must also understand that the reason you desire to sin it in the first place is that the heart is wicked. What guides and motivates our heart is what will change our actions and the resulting fruit. When our heart is set on pleasing “self,” our thoughts and actions are not naturally going to be like God’s.

When our thoughts, beliefs, and desires are set on glorifying God, there will be appropriate actions and God-honoring consequences.

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God-who chose you to be his children-is holy. For he himself has said, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NLT)

The first and the great work of a Christian is about his heart. Do not be content with seeming to do well in “outward acts” while your heart is bad, and you are a stranger to the greater internal heart duties. Practicing holiness brings glory to God. Glorifying God should be the goal of our life. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

After the Gospel- Of Next Importance

Other than the Gospel, there is no greater message for me to carry to those who desire to make changes in their lives than the message of heart change for life change.

What I teach those in our training classes is that the more comfortable the counselor becomes the greater the temptation to use your own wisdom in “ministering” to the counselee.  I want to remind you that we cannot do this and expect to counsel biblically because we have no wisdom of our own, at least little which is worth having.

Our counsel and our wisdom must come from the Word of God for it is the authority for the Christian; it is what sets us apart from our secular counterparts. The Word reminds us of our low position and His lofty one; as we study and apply it to our own hearts and lives we experience changes that enable us to give hope of change to others.

When helping a person in the process of change, the most critical aspect of change is showing a person the importance the heart plays in life and in behavior.  If we are to impart any wisdom to our counselees it has to begin with the understanding that the heart of man is wicked beyond all understanding.  

We strongly believe that the only way real true change will take place in a person’s life is through the change of heart. We cannot offer a person any means of change other than that which takes place in the heart and mind.

Attempts at behavior modification may be effective either in the short or long term for some people, but unless the person comes to believe in their heart that change needs to take place the change will not stick.
The Bible has much to say about the heart. Over 500 times the Bible speaks of the heart, so it must be important! Interestingly enough, it does not use today’s fluffy emotional terminology to describe the heart.  In many cases the Bible uses thought provoking imagery to lead us to understanding and right conclusions about the heart.

Look at this verse:
As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man. Proverbs 27:19 (NKJV)

What does this mean? As water acts like a mirror and shows what we look like on the outside, the heart reflects and reveals what we are like on the inside.  This is news to many people and scary news at that!

Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 (NIV)

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”  Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV) 

For my purposes here today, I am going to look at the evil that comes from the evil stored up in his heart, how the mouth is the revealer of the heart, and how we can gain much insight from these truths.

Whether you realize it or not, listening to what a person says will give you a huge clue as to what is going on in their heart.  Because heart change is centered on conviction by the Scriptures, we must look to God’s view of the heart found in Jeremiah 17:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

Because of this great propensity toward sin we are able to deceive even ourselves as to how wicked we are. Have you ever stopped to think about what that really means? We like to comfort ourselves with self-deception that says we aren’t really all that bad.  We don’t think of ourselves as a Charles Manson, a Jeffrey Dahmer, or an Aileen Warnol. None of us are mass murderers or prostitutes; we have not done anything on par with those kinds of people.

But we have all, every one of us- been angry enough to want to kill someone. We have committed murder in our hearts many times over (Matt 5:21) in our anger and rage.

You may not put yourself in the class of Hugh Hefner, or Larry Flint, but anyone who has ever lusted after someone has been equally as immoral in their heart as they are in their actions.  Actions, by the way, that reveal what fills their heart.

If this surprises you, it shouldn’t.  A person with a proper theology of man will understand that the heart is evil and wicked. (The problem is that so few have good theological teaching anymore!) The deceptiveness of the heart is what helps us to deny that we are “that bad” and helps us to lie to ourselves about how good we are.  It helps us to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think of ourselves. It encourages us to be prideful and self-serving and self-indulgent.

Is it any wonder that we struggle with heart change?

To add to all this, the deceitful heart is bent on satisfying “me,” having my own way, living life for my pleasures, with “me” at the center of my universe.  If we are honest with ourselves, we may see that we have some of the sin habits found in the following passage:

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things that defile the man... Matthew 15:18-20a, NASB

And, if we are honest with ourselves, we will begin to realize we tend to minimize our sinful heart attitudes. This leads to some of them becoming respectable sins as Jerry Bridges says. Angry outbursts and gossip and lies become non-issues in the heart, so they become non-issues in the life. 

So as we read Jesus’ words, we see our biggest problem lies within our own heart. Even after salvation, the basic nature of the human heart is still self-willed and blind to its own corruption and propensity toward sin.  We describe ourselves and others as having “a good heart” but honestly nothing could be further from the truth! 

The heart of man is unbelievably wicked and sinful; to such a great degree that we are unable to determine how bad it really is because it lies to us! It is like the color black trying to discern how black it is. The heart is where greed and envy and love of self are located. 

Our heart’s are set upon pleasing self above all. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Truth Paths to Change

Have you struggled with an inability to change certain behaviors?  I know some people who try to change their behavior through attending 12-step or other support groups. I would also say that there are others who try going to church and becoming involved there. Many achieve a modicum of success or abstinence for periods of time but eventually return to their old behaviors.

They become frustrated with themselves and their inability to “stay in recovery” and some will say things like, “(blank) didn’t work for me.”  Unfortunately, some include God in their failure.

You must realize that no “self-help” program will change the heart; all they do is teach you how to modify your behavior, but that is only going to bring about temporary or temporal change.

We have the ability to make a mental decision to abstain from habits. The person who bites their nails, overeats, or spends money, indulges in sexual immorality, drugs or alcohol and stops by a force of their will white-knuckle flies.  

The change in behavior will last only as long as resistance to the flesh holds out. It is sometimes described as white-knuckle flying; hanging on for dear life to “recovery” and always waiting to fail.

But once the self-determination to abstain gives in, and the desires of the heart take over, the change is finished and the behavior resumes despite all the good intentions the person started out with.

This is because the heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) and we are incapable of changing our own hearts.

Only the gospel of Jesus Christ understood and applied to the heart can begin that change! The repentance that takes place in the heart of change must come from a conviction that the activity a person is involved in does not bring God glory.

It is important to understand here, that the change in the behavior of the immoral person is not necessarily the goal; the goal is to understand that sinful behaviors come from a sinful heart, and this does not glorify God.

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Westminster Confession

Change must in every case, cease to be about “me” and become about God and His glory! This must happen in the inner man before it is evidenced in behavior.  Repentance comes as the heart is affected. We see this is true because where there is no heart change there is no repentance.

Oswald Chambers says this, “Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God…conviction of sin, the marvel of forgiveness and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the for forgiven man who is the holy man, he proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was, by God’s grace. Repentance always brings a man to this point: I have sinned.  The surest sign God is at work is then a man says that and means it. Anything less than this is remorse for having made blunders, the reflex action of disgust at himself.”*

*Oswald Chambers  My Utmost for His Highest

Friday, December 9, 2011

Born to Worship

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2 (NASB)

We were born to worship. We have been created to worship God, but our sinful lusts have driven us to worship and idolize the things of the world. Anything that means more to you than God does, is idolatry.

If the things and people you hold onto are intended to meet your needs and make you feel better they may be idols of your heart.  Many of our desires are not wrong but they can become idols because they often come to mean more to us than living life to glorify God. 

A simply definition of idolatry is when you are willing to sin to get what you want.

Are you willing to sin to get relief from pain, to be happy, or to attain any of the other feelings mentioned above? If having your felt needs met has become so important to you that you are willing to violate God’s Word to have them, then you have crossed the line from desire to worship.

You will know that your desires have become idols when you think on them so often, and desire them so deeply that the focus on them leaves no room for worship of God. Your focus is concentrated so much on gratification of self that being gratified is all that matters to you.

The person who is described as having a sexual addiction is really an idolater. Their self-focused desire is fed by ads in magazines, on billboards, and on television that leads them to believe it is not okay to feel sad, unhappy, or “bad.”

When someone with an addiction of any kind comes to us we help them to see that what they are really dealing with is an issue of idolatry.  This gives them hope right from the start because we are not telling them they have a medical disease that cannot be cured or something they need a pill or some sort of treatment for, they have a sin problem!

We are always quick to remind them that Jesus died for sin, even theirs. There is no unforgivable sin, and while some of their activities have been very unsavory their sins are not beyond the grace of Jesus Christ.

The person who struggles with idolatry of any kind must have a heart that is affected by the gospel for change to take place.

A gospel –centered approach to sexual immorality is all about change! The heart must be completely affected by the gospel and changed by the Word of God. The person must be willing and the heart must be willing to repent for there to be victory over sexual sin.

On the basis of who we are in Christ, we can stop any talk of continuing to live as a slave to sexual sin, and excusing sexual sin.  Because of Christ and who we are in Him we are to live that position, and practice personal holiness of the heart that overflows into our actions.

If a person desires to continue to live in sexual sin, and they don’t desire to honor God then they don’t understand the gospel! They don’t understand that it is impossible for a person who understands their identification with Christ and IN Christ to live as a slave to their desires any longer (Rom. 6:3-14).

Since Christ was sinless and took our sin debt upon Himself and then placed His righteousness upon us, He has abolished all the claim sin ever had on us.

This also means that in this union with Christ we have a new life- His life and we are capable of manifesting HIS righteousness. We won’t have righteousness of our own, but we have HIS righteousness and His power and His ability to live as though we are dead to sin, and alive in Christ!

We have no excuse to live under the dominion of sin when we understand the gospel, for we are all ABLE to reveal the new life within us that we have in Christ.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:12-13).

Those who are in a situation either as a participant in sexual immorality, or as the spouse or parent of someone who is, you already know you cannot successfully threaten, beg, or plead with them to change.
The reason behavioral therapy for sex addicts fails is because there is no change of heart. You can tell a person how to change all day long, and for a while the person may be able to control their urges. But unless the heart of the person is completely affected and changed by the Word of God and repentance is applied to the heart for change, there will be no victory over sexual sin.

The thoughts of the sexual idolater must change from my wants, desires and lusts to, “How can I glorify God?”

They must retrain their brain to ask questions like, “How would God have me respond to these thoughts and desires I am having?” and  “How would God be glorified in my heart and life in spite of how I feel right now?”

And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. Titus 2:12-13 (NLT)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:14 (NKJV)

Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. 1 John 5:21 (NLT)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Heart of Sexual Idolatry

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age… Titus 2:12-13 (ESV)

A person who is involved in fornication (sex outside of marriage) has the same problem as everyone else involved in sin- a heart that is focused on self.  The heart of a fornicator believes that their physical needs must be met, that because they have a sex drive and it is “awake” that it must be satisfied.

The old line, “if you love me you will” is often spoken by the manipulator who is only thinking of themselves. The other person, usually a girl will want to prove her love for him and go along with it. She doesn’t realize that he is not thinking of her at all, he thinking only of himself.

In this age, women also pressure men for sex and the peer pressure on them to be sexually active is immense so we cannot paint with a single color anymore.

The heart set on self doesn’t care what the Bible says or what they learned in church about purity. They are discontent to wait for marriage and want what they want when they want it. Fornicators are taught to believe that everyone is doing it, that no one is abstinent anymore and it is unrealistic to think that two people can have a relationship that does not include sex before marriage. They buy the lie that there is no hard in fornication because they are going to be married anyway so what's the harm?

I would suggest to you that a man who is willing to violate his morals and pressure a woman to fornicate- well he might not be the best choice for a godly husband or leader.

The heart of the adulterer is also set only on themselves. Their beliefs and desires are about fulfilling their perceived needs and having their selfish desires met.

Simply put- it is all about them.

They may proclaim they are not in love anymore or are confused and in the process throw out the window the covenant they made before God. There is little to no thoughts of the One Another’s of Scripture, and how to live for their spouse; their life is centered on, “What can you do for me?”

Often the adulterous heart is confused and stormy. They are seeking peace and comfort in another person and they may find it temporarily but it is not long lasting because unless the heart changes, these same thoughts, beliefs and desires will come back again.

Are you seeing the pattern here? All these hearts we looked at are run by the god of Self.

The sexually immoral person is an idolater. Each of us struggles with the horrendous sin of idolatry on a daily basis. As Galatians 5 tells us, idolatry is a desire of our sinful nature. It is reflected in our choices; our words, our use of time, what or who we spend our money on, and where we spend it.

There is no coincidence that Gal 5:19 lists sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure right off the top. They are thoughts, beliefs, and desires that spring out of idolatry.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group. Galatians 5:19-20 (NLT)

Idolatry is not only bowing down to statues, it is anything that means more to you than God does. It is manifested when getting what you want has become more important than what God desires for you. Anything that you love, desire, or serve more than God is an idol of the heart.

We were born to worship and we have been created to worship God, but our sinful lusts have driven us to worship and idolize the things of the world.

More about that next time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sexual Immorality- A Matter of the Heart

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  1 Cor. 6:18 (ESV)

The number one topic plugged into search engines that leads people to the blog is sexual immorality of one kind or another. How about this for a shocker- immorality is not just for men any more. Women are also struggling in growing numbers with many of the same issues men do, and for the very same reasons.

These are matters of the heart.

Why is it that some people are not gripped by all sins to the same degree? What separates us? What makes one person what the world calls an addict, and the other a casual consumer? One day, science may have an answer, but to date there is nothing scientific that proves there is anything medical going on inside the body of an addict that makes them different than anyone else. What each of them has in common, is that their actions are revealing what is going on inside, in the inner man, what the Bible calls the heart.

Many Christians involved in sexual immorality genuinely want to stop. They know it is wrong, and when they are not tempted they want to stop. They also are disgusted by their behaviors when they are able to think about them objectively.

They have periods of what I call white knuckle flying- they determine not to connect to the internet, or pass by that store on the way home from work, or they disconnect their cable TV.

These are certainly a part of what needs to be done, but these actions address the fruit of the problem, the end result of what is really a much deeper issue, because sexual immorality is an issue of the heart. The heart is the biblical word used to describe the inner man. The heart is the immaterial, non-flesh part of you that includes your thoughts, beliefs, and desires, mind, feelings, intentions, will, and emotions.

The person that struggles with sexual immorality and sexual sin is revealing what is going on in the control center of their life.  When a person is involved with sexual immorality, it is because their heart is focused on themselves.

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:45

 "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slander.” Matthew 15:18-19

When a person indulges in sexual immorality it is because their heart is focused on having their perceived needs met. The heart is set on self, getting what “I” want, doing what feels good to me, and fulfilling my desires.  The thoughts, beliefs and desires are the most important thing to them, and for the one who struggles with sexual sin, their thoughts are focused on gratifying their immoral desires, or lust.

The motives are to satisfy their desires, and they believe they must do this. Their thoughts flow along the lines of I must satisfy this ache, this longing, and I also believe I am not hurting anyone in this process.

Depending on my upbringing, I may also believe that pornography and masturbation are ok and acceptable solution to meet my needs.  All that is important to them is to have these things met and whether they realize it or not, they are placing the desires of their own heart above everything else.

When a person begins to live for the desires of their own heart a cascade of sin begins to take place. When the desires obeyed are those involved in sexual immorality we can easily see the results. Little thought is given to the damage there are doing to their conscience in this process.

All that seems to matter is satisfying the lust of the flesh.

Romans 1 is about refusing to honor God as God and the consequences of unrighteousness and ungodliness. In context, it is applicable to the unbeliever; however, we can still watch the same downward spiral take place in the lives of believers who indulge in various aspects of sexual immorality.

          They did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies
          They deliberately chose to believe lies
          Acted on shameful desires
          Women indulged with sex with one another
          Men burned with lust for each other did shameful things with other men

If you think these activities are not going on among Christians, especially teens and young adults you are mistaken.  While God never abandons the believer, He does allow us to experience the consequences of our behaviors. Even in the area of sexual immorality.

Having counseled people who were involved in an immoral relationship they inevitably say to me that they can’t believe what they have done. That they never thought they could sink so low. The heart that is focused on self does not set out to be so depraved, but as my sweet husband says, “Sin always takes you farther than you ever want to go.”

These actions that you see are results. They are not the cause of the problem; they are what flow over from the heart of man into their lives. Every perverted and immoral action began as a thought, the thought was fueled by a desire or a belief, and the desire or belief began in the heart. 

There is more here than can possibly be said in one post. I will continue next time.