Tag Archives: Monday Morning Momentum

The Trouble with Lust & Your Brain

MMM-2014The Hook

The first time I looked at porn, I was about 10. I didn’t realize how “hooked” I was until I tried to “quit” 20 years later. Lust’s deep claws don’t let go of you, me, any of us, without a fight. Winning a personal war against porn & lust is made up of daily battles against a ubiquitous foe. You don’t have to look for lust – you have to “watch out” for it. Worse, your eyes aren’t always an asset.

How Does Your Brain Work?

Here’s how your brain processes images: “see, desire, move”. That simple. You see the lady walk by with too little shirt and too much skin. It’s .3 seconds from the time you see until you sense a desire to “go, get it/look at it/devour it!” and only .5 seconds from “see” to voluntary movement. That leaves only .2 seconds for what scientists call “veto power”. Scripture commands we veto, or “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

What goes on in your head during that .2 seconds?

Veto-Power

In mine, there’s a quick, very heated exchange between Spirit, soul, and flesh. The Spirit loudly barks “danger”. The surrendered soul replies, “taking evasive action”. While the flesh calmly nudges: “Relax. Besides, didn’t she look like Diane Lane? What if you could get her autograph for your wife? Dude, look again!

Scripture tells us to “flee” sexual immorality. So, flee, right? Just “bounce your eyes” away from temptation: a good technique that helped me get free early in my sobriety. But, technique without transformation leads to “trip ups”. Why: God wired our brains with a response – dopamine – an internal reward system. When you dwell on something “lustworthy”, your brain enjoys a shot of dope. It chemically “thanks” you. It doesn’t discriminate on moral grounds, rather it says – “That was good. Get… me… more.

Two Track Mind?

The brain’s also designed to do two things really well – maximize reward, minimize danger. It’s adept at making a crucial “snap judgment” (often called “approach – avoid” or “friend or foe”) immediately classifying incoming information as welcome or threatening. In an “approach” or “toward” state, you “let your guard down”. In an “avoid” or “away” state, guard goes up. Tell them that the next time they accuse you of having a one track mind!

The Lie:

A few weeks ago at a public pool, I turned to face one of my toddlers. Behind her stood very busty woman wearing not quite enough bathing suit. When I say “not quite enough suit”, I mean more of her was visible than she intended and than is permitted at a public pool. Out of ruthless desire to guard my own purity, I spun my head in the other direction. Bounce your eyes, right? Not so fast… Immediately, the flesh came up with a lame line… lie: “Can you believe what she’s not wearing? You should tell her what’s publicly visible. Look again!” Temptation wants to convince you that “flee” is not necessary, that what you see is not your foe and it’s okay to let your guard down.

Thanks be to God, I pressed the “veto” button. But, you know what I noticed? Somewhere over the past decade plus, God had made one thing clear in my mind: temptation is not your friend. Can I tell you how I know? Because for the next half hour of pool time, I could sense my brain was in a state of heightened alert, as if I knew temptation was just using this probably perfectly nice and decent woman to snag my eye and mind. No, it wasn’t her intent – she just needed to get her kid in and out of the pool and talk to her husband a few times. But, it was clear I was not to trust my inner dopamine-seeking-desire to have another look. Follow? Have the lifeguard relay the embarrassing truth to her, fine – but a married man guarding his purity and sobriety is not the guy to directly address her unless he’s going to do it with one hand over his eyes. #awkward…

Why Me?

I’m not telling you this to impress you with how spiritual I am. I am telling you this because I’m only 12 years sober and, maybe out of pride, I don’t ever want to have to say “I’m 1 year sober… again.” You follow? Porn addiction burned me pretty bad. Thirteen years ago, I came to Christ and He gave me a new heart with new desires, but there are still images & memories stuck in the cracks of my mind that I can’t “unthink”. I don’t want you to go through a long, arduous recovery process or miss out on the best He has for you. So, please – listen to medon’t let your guard down. Instead of giving in to that convincing voice, ask this question: what is it about that second look that’s going to enhance my purity?

A Prayer for Us:

Lord, keep us clean in our hearts, minds, and especially eyes. We know lust is aggressive and the world we live in is a “target rich environment”. Left to ourselves, we can talk ourselves into anything. Please, help us gird up the loins of our minds and keep our hearts set on things above. Help us spot our enemy, call it like it is, and walk the clean walk.
in it with you,

AP

Saving Jesus from Mr. Banks

MMMSquareOne Thing I Learned About Mary Poppins…

Interesting that Ron Dunn would be leading a deep dive into the 10 Commandments at One Th1ng the same week I watched “Saving Mr. Banks”. I just might not have seen the connection between this movie and the second commandment, had God not juxtaposed these two events so closely.

No big spoiler here – if you’ve read the title of the movie, you know “Saving Mr. Banks” is a statement of identity for Mary Poppins. It’s what she was created to do: save Mr. Banks. The movie covers two stories in parallel: the childhood of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the 1960s collaboration between Walt Disney Studios that gave birth to the big screen film. So, what does this have to do with the Ten Commandments, much less you and I?

So, What:

Thanks, for asking. Let me dive into the “you and I” part first and the Commandment part should become pretty obvious along the roadside.[Spoiler?] As Travers’ father’s alcoholism began to take its toll on her father’s health and her mother began to break down under the stress, her aunt enters the picture – on whom she’d later base the beloved Poppins. But, this Mary Poppins – to save the family from utter destruction. But, while this Poppins could offer help to Travers’ beleaguered mother and siblings and limited care to her dying father, she couldn’t save her father from the damage already done. The story left me wondering how much of our adult lives we often spend trying to right childhood wrongs. Travers, who loved her father’s whimsical imaginations, apparently shut her self off from all childhood fun, save that which she wrote about in her books.

Mary Poppins was sent to save Mr. Banks since her own aunt could not save her own dad. In other words, Travers created for herself a savior who would make all things right that she could not…

I know, that’s a little heavy for Monday Morning Momentum, isn’t it?

Good News…

Not for the Christian. For those who are in Christ, we understand God as the loving father far better than Travers’ faulty dad. Our Sovereign Father doesn’t have an alcohol problem or a bad temper at work, and He appreciates whimsy far more than even Colin Firth can revel in. Because He loves us now, and Israel long before us, He gave the command to worship no rival gods. The second commandment warns us not to even dream up our own physical representation of Him, because such things always fall short, and will consequently leave us only temporarily fulfilled and unsaved from our greatest need. The Disney story shows Travers reaching a final, cathartic salvation when she sees her father figure, Mr. Banks, alive and well and frolicking with his children – eventually flying kites they repaired with money her own father would have made her invest.

Who Made Your God?

Though she may have experienced temporal justice, without a true Savior, she’d never truly know the good of a perfect and loving Heavenly Father.

Do not act like the other nations…Their ways are futile and foolish.
They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
They decorate it with gold and silver
and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
so it won’t fall over… such gods,
for they can neither harm you nor do you any good. (Jer. 10:2-3,5)

If Travers spent much of her adult life writing, forming a savior decorated with earthly wisdom, silvery songs, and fancy on pages her typewriter hit like hammer and nails, she’d have created a god that could only save her from the wrongs of her childhood. Easy mistake: even the disciples often mistook Jesus as one who would merely save them from the oppression of Rome and earthly princes. They would scatter at His death because they missed the fact that He died to save them, save Travers, save all of us, from something far greater – a future eternity separated from God. Ironic that Mary Poppins would be so famous for quoting that “some people cannot see past the tip of their own nose…” Her man-made idol’s power went only so far.

The Good News:

In Christ, you have a Savior – capital “s” – who does not promise you mere temporal justice. Things done to you or not done for you in childhood may not be reconciled this side of heaven. But, one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will reign with Him in glory. Wrong will be made right. The wicked will be cast off. And, those who are cleansed by the atoning work of Christ will not gloat over this, rather rest in the peace and joy that only a Savior created by God can promise.

So, Lemme Askya

Is there anything – a situation, a relationship, a deal, an ideal – that you’ve created in your life to fix what didn’t happen or didn’t happen as well as you wished in childhood? Any temporal problem you’re striving and striving to save yourself from while God is calling you to set your eyes on the greater problem of eternal salvation? Do as Moses did – crush the idol to powder and feed it to the Israelites… Okay, maybe not the second part. But, repentance for this is simple – “Lord, I’ve bowed down to a god that can scarcely save me from my own past. I want a God who can save me from my future.”

 

in Christ,

AP

My “Dirty Little Secret” or, “How to Properly Offend Others”

MMMSquareWhat I Remembered at the Daddy Daughter Dance…

I have a dirty little secret. It mostly only comes out at parties and weddings, but Friday night my firstborn and I attended our very first “Daddy-Daughter Dance” and it reared its ugly head: I can’t dance to save my life. Not that I don’t try… I used to think I was pretty good. I believed in my reputation of being a “great dancer” until a look of near panic came over my then fiancee’s face when we were at a wedding together. One look at my “interpretation” of the moves and she immediately thought: “Oh, NO! He’s a MESS on the dance floor!While I was initially offended at her opinion, I eventually faced reality. Not an ounce of rhythm in this dancer…

She’s now my wife of nearly 7 years. But, she who has all the moves still doesn’t understand how I can know so much about music yet be so “white” and clumsy on the dance floor. Having a ton of knowledge and doing the right motions, doesn’t mean you’re doing them with soul. It’s different to “know about” rhythm than to “have rhythm”. Wouldn’t you agree?

Jesus had a hard time with the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other religious types of His day because many of them were so caught up in their religious moves – outward behavior – that they didn’t realize they had no soul… Pharisee [Hebrew parûsh’] means “set apart”. And, I really believe that these guys started out in the same good place many of us do when we first come to know how holy God is and how utterly sinful we are apart from Him. I learned this in 2001 and immediately wanted to be “clean” in His presence. The problem for the Pharisees is that the ones Jesus was confronting had become so caught up in the moves – the external behavior – that they neglected the proper attitude of the heart: soul… rhythm… love for God and others.

They were Chris Brown in their minds… Montgomery Burns in their hearts… Therefore, Ed Grimley in their moves.

In the Sermon on the Mount beginning in Matthew 5, Jesus essentially tells thousands in attendance that the Pharisees, etc., had all the right moves in God’s eyes, yet no rhythm. How do you think they felt? Offended to know they had no rhythm? They had boiled a relationship with God down to a list of behaviors that demonstrate piety, but were devoid of it. In fact, throughout His interactions with them, Jesus exposes some of them as using God’s name and God’s law for their own gain. “Selfish ambition” is a drive for “progress” devoid of love for God and love for others. But, when it shows up in our own mirrors, ouch. Hurts to find out you’ve got all the right moves and no rhythm… Offensive.

Lately, I’ve heard a number of people talk about being “radical for God” or being “offensive for Jesus”. Most of them, are well meaning – out of devotion to God, and love for how the truth of Christ offends “those who are perishing”, they say offensive or radical things. Their initial hope is good: wake those who are slumbering to the love of God and the atoning work of Christ. However, there is a fine line between offending those enslaved by sin with the truth that can set them free, and being offensive just for the sake of offending.

How to Properly Offend?

We are in grave danger of walking in the Pharisees’ shoes when we seek to offend merely for offendings’ sake. The Lord didn’t offend merely to be countercultural and offensive. But, exposing “inconvenient truths” about deeply held convictions will offend those who do not have “ears to hear” constructive criticism. Jesus only offended with the “you ain’t got no rhythm” truth so that He could teach them “the unforced rhythms of Grace“, rooted in love for those who have all the right moves with the wrong heart and soul. Agape love – the kind of love that God offers us through Christ – is the kind that seeks to elevate others at our own expense, not vice versa. This is the proper starting point for offending others – aim with restoration in mind.

White Boy SyndromeSo, Lemme Askya…

Before you say one more thing to that guy who’s a hypocrite at work, before you send that private Facebook message, before you send that Tweet – are you seeking to offend only to be offensive or because you’d love to see the hypocrite transformed by the Truth, set free by the Lord, and welcomed as your brother/sister in Christ?

Much love (and a whole lot of rhythm),
AP

Guess Who Wants to Steer You Away?

Wolf Watching

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)”

MMM-2014

Paul was clearly warning the elders at Ephesus that men bent on their own fame and agenda would come swooping in as soon as he left town to draw them away from the simplicity of the gospel. Paul broke down the gospel into two very simple principles a few verses earlier: “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a freedom bigger than many of us are prepared for. It’s so big, in fact, that in the flesh, it’s very easy to drift away from it. Enter, wolves.

Many had already picked up pieces of the gospel and tried to co-opt it for their agenda, taking grace alone and adding to it works. Some said that to follow Christ one would have to first become a Jew via rites and rituals including circumcision. This would have drawn them closer to men, not God (you’ve got to be one of us before you can be one of His). Paul outright condemns this practice and explains in later letters that it’s grace and grace alone via repentance and faith. Repentance turns us away from sin and faith knits us in to God.

More Hope in the Midst of the Comparison Game

MMM-2014Recap

Previously, we took a look at how the comparison game clutters the field of our minds with shame, doubt, and fear.  Shame, doubt, and fear only take hold when we fall into the familiar rut of man centric thinking (woe is me, look what’s happened to me, why me?) rather than God-centric thinking. Through our troubles, God’s primary purpose and outcome for us is that we would know Him better. (See Eph. 1-16-19) Wallowing in shame, doubt, or fear can quickly become an obstacle to the main thing: knowing God and being fully satisfied in Him.

Roll your eyes and say “whatever that means”, please. But, I struggle with this, myself. In fact, I’m rolling in the deep of it right now.

When things don’t turn out the way we planned or those around us seem to have it all going for them there’s either a gap between expectation and reality or hope and reality. Either way, it’s an unpleasant gap that seeks to wedge itself between us and our Creator. I submit that the best bridge over this gap isn’t jumping into the canyon of anxiety or shame or doubt, but to span the canyon through proper mourning.

What’s So Proper About That?

Huh? “Proper” mourning? Does that mean, putting on your best “Downton Abbey” accent and weeping to your Puppah? Perhaps. But, as we look at some of the greatest mourners in history we find they didn’t ignore the gap or chide themselves “real Christians don’t fall all to pieces over small stuff.” We’re not called to fall to pieces over small stuff. But loss without mourning is self defense. Self defense is self deception. Job lost everything and his friends said nothing more to him for three days than harmonizing with his sobs. Jesus sweat blood in the garden. And, Nehemiah tore his clothes, wept, fasted, and prayed. All of them started with a proper attitude of mourning by simply calling out the gap for what it was.

“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)”

Mourning helps us to know God because it first acknowledges His sovereignty and second, empties our inbox of the demon of minimizing. Granted, these giants of the faith were mourning pretty massive gaps. But, saying  “it’s really not a big deal” is tossing dirt in your inbox. Can you imagine? I’ve had a lot of different things in my inbox (even right now), but dirt? I can’t even think of a reason to put dirt there. And, that’s exactly what minimizing the gap does. We weren’t meant to hang on to ungrieved loss, un-mourned gaps between hope and reality or expectation and reality. It’s totally out of place and eventually spills out of our inbox, contaminating our workspace and the floor where we step.

Empty-Inbox-LgEmptying Your Inbox

I’m big on clearing out clutter. I work on it regularly and even teach it. But, because this is the kind of clutter I can’t see, it takes a little more intentionality than “control, alt, delete”. Sometimes, I have to pull over (even literally) and admit that my disappointment is even worth the time with all I have going on. But, I know while a spoon full of dirt won’t upset my whole inbox, I’m a fool to let pounds and pounds of dirt accumulate for very long.

Proper mourning begins with proper attitude like Jesus, Nehemiah, Job, even David had – calling the loss by name without minimizing, denying, blaming, or excusing it. From there, processing it is like a really important phone call with God.

It can go like this: repeat after me – “God, it’s me [again]. I’m a little [anxious/ashamed/fearful/disappoointed] about x. This isn’t how I planned it. This isn’t what I wanted. Show me more of who You are in the midst of disappointment. Turn my disappointment with this moment into an appointment with You. I’m listening.” And, then, seriously listen. You’ll never catch a revelation on the run. Nehemiah had a lot to mourn about – so he fasted, wailed, and communed with God for days. Your situation may be much less consequential and thus warrant far fewer tears and skipped meals. But, it’s no less personal [pause…] nor valid.

It’s your inbox. Let’s clean out the clutter, shall we?in Christ,

AP

The 16 Best Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $5 – Monday Momentum

NOTE (02.11.2013): The Seasons of Life Ministries website will be down for a few more days this week while we transfer everything over to WordPress. The blog will stay live, hopefully without any interruption, throughout the process. If you need anything that typically comes from our site – resources, pdfs, giving, “contact us”,”That Day” inquiry, etc., reach out via Facebook at on.fb.me/SEASONS.

Same Old Problem
     Hate me if you want, but I’ve already bought my wife’s Valentine’s gift this year. Figuring out what to get is often the hardest part, isn’t it? Sourcing it can be a lot easier once the “big” decision has been made. Shopping on Amazon meant I didn’t pay shipping – I mean, who wants to pay shipping? Who wants to pay for anything, right? Can’t we just have the perfect inspiration weeks in advance and get what she wants for free?

     Not a chance. Everything has a price – either now or in eternity. True? So, when I say “under $5”, I don’t mean these gifts won’t cost you anything, I mean there’s no money involved. 

     Really?

     Just crack open your bible to 1 Corinthians 13.4. I know, you’re mad at me, because you think I’m pulling a fast one on you. Read on. Trust me for a moment, here. “Love is patient.” Stop. How’s that going for you right now? Now, I’m aware there are 15 more qualities of love that follow, but let’s just start with this one.

     I’m not always patient. How about you? Why is it that we’re most impatient with the people closest to us? The easy answer is this: “they should know better not to get in the way of our agenda”. The harder answer is this: we’re never going to get over this hump (or whichever other of these 16 qualities) on our own. In fact, everything Paul talks about up to that point, even in the previous chapter, is an act of God via the Holy Spirit.

What the Self-Help Books Won’t Tell You:
     “Try harder” is practically the mantra of the secular humanist movement. “Try different” is the second commandment of the same. But, what God has given us is something far more powerful, far more helpful, and far more lasting than mere “man up, get up, do it again”. The Holy Spirit has been given to us not only as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:14), but as a helper to walk with us (Greek: paraclete). 

This Year, Give God a Try
     Love is the first mentioned “fruit of the Spirit”. Implication – love can’t be “mustered”. It’s an act of the will, but it’s only present in its true, 1 Corinthians 13 form by… the… Spirit. So, what if everyday, we paused with our bible, played “tap the bible app”, or just got really silent and recited that verse, but with a hook – “Lord, grow me patient, grow me kinder, kill my boasting…” What if we did that with a long, silent pause in between each of the 16 qualities? 

     Do you know the voice of God? Do you know the convicting, yet not condemning sound of the Holy Spirit answering your question – “Where have I been impatient, unkind, boastful, etc.?” God doesn’t provide the Holy Spirit to crush us, but to come alongside us and lock arms with us as we walk through every challenging season of life. 

     What would the fruit of this labor look like? What do you think your love for your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, co-workers, overbearing supervisor, or enemy look like if you spent just ten minutes bringing that question before the Lord and waited in silence for the answer? “Lord, where have I been ___?”

     Give the gift of honesty before the Lord and repentance to those around you this year. It’ll cost you some time, deep introspection, reliance on the Lord, and less than $5 every time.

in Christ,

AP

Be a VIP at the Biggest Super Bowl Party Ever!

NOTE: Late this afternoon, we will begin publishing the transcript of Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s keynote address at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. For now, please enjoy this week’s installment of Monday Morning Momentum in a Minute.
AP

“But, if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 2 Peter 1:9”

     When we lose touch with the massiveness of the sins we’ve been forgiven, we’ve become nearsighted and blind. You and I are “eternally opposed” by the enemy, be it Satan, our old sin nature, or the world and their common MO is to keep us so focused on present circumstances and worries of what is yet to come that we are just that: nearsighted and blind. The result – discouragement, ineffectiveness, and “unproductiveness”.

     This morning, I was interrupted on several occasions by each one of our three toddlers and even a few requests by my wife. When you crave uninterrupted time in the word like I was craving it this morning, “interruptions” can easily become the objects of your wrath. Knowing I couldn’t unleash my full fury on my bride or these three precious children, my brain followed the natural pecking order – “point your anger somewhere else”. In this case, it was inward. In other words, rather than exploding at my wife and kids, I chose to be discouraged. I had become short sighted.

     Ever been there?

     The beauty of my folly, or should I say the God who saves me from my own folly, is that ten minutes later, my wife encouraged me with this very verse:
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1.10-11)



Don’t Be Tardy to the Party…

     Imagine for a moment, the scene outside the Oscars or the Super Bowl – the atmosphere is rife with celebration and anticipation of the imminent event. The air is charged with excitement, with everyone looking forward to great moments of victory for someone(s) who will be honored very soon. But, this isn’t the Oscars and the crowd is far larger than all of the Super Bowls combined. 

     It’s THE biggest party EVER – the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) and the day we all get to meet Jesus face to face! And, that’s not all… You hear your name announced in 4-D Dolby Pro Logic 10.1 Infinisound. At the mention of your name, Jesus and the billions in attendance all shout “WELCOMMMMME!!!!” in unison. Balloons fall from the ceiling of heaven, a warm blizzard of confetti flies in your face, choirs of angels sing and Chris Tomlin (God’s worship leader) plays power chords on his 50-string guitar. You are given a VIP welcome to the biggest party EVER!!! Whoop-whoop!!!

     Would that not be “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom”?

Be Encouraged
     This is the target we have to keep our eyes on. This is the target I’m praying right now that God keeps my eyes on. It is so easy to become discouraged, ineffective, and unproductive when we are caught in near-sightedness. Lift up your eyes – look far into your past to see all the sin Christ has lifted you out of. Lift up your eyes – look into the future where a rich welcome awaits those who choose not to forget that we have been cleansed from our past sins.

Nobody Likes a Nag – Monday Momentum in a Minute

Discipline your son, for in that there is hope;
    do not be a willing party to his death. (Prov. 19:18, NIV)”

     The most dangerous addicts are the ones who don’t know they have a problem. They endanger themselves and those around them by either their ignorance or their denial.
 
     This morning, I was talking with one of my mentors – a guy who knows the God of the word and the Word of God. He’s a very savvy business guy and I’m honored to have his voice speaking into my life. We were chewing on the topic of clutter. We agreed that an upcoming talk I’ll be doing about clutter could really hit some guys hard. My concern wasn’t just that it hit guys hard, rather that it hits the guys who need to hear it.

What’s Irrelevant?
      When a man hears that another man will be giving advice or wisdom regarding clutter, chances are strong that he’ll mark it irrelevant if he doesn’t see himself as having a clutter problem. I don’t see you nodding your head in astonishment… Of course not – it’s obvious – and you probably already know firsthand the value of accountability. So often, it takes an outside eye to “yasar” (chasten, admonish, discipline) us when there’s sin in our blind spot. But, who wants to be a nag? Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? Who wants to be a Nathan to David?

     When we don’t have ears to hear that we’re overweight, drinking too much, looking too long, etc. what’s required is a father figure to save us from our own folly while there is hope. Blind spots are funny like that… you never see them coming. David didn’t and it cost him a mighty man named Uriah and a son who was born to die.

     But, sin always brings consequences, often brings collateral damage, and failure to point out sin in others’ lives doesn’t have to be about being a nosy Christian with nothing better to do. If you chasten me not to have one more drink for the road, you may save more than just my life – you might save your neighbor’s kid’s life who just got his license and doesn’t see me coming until it’s too late.

     Jude tells us to “snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” James ends his letter to the 12 tribes with this: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20, NIV)”

Be Encouraged
     So, what do we do? Do we risk being called a “nosy Christian” or do we speak up? The fine line we are encouraged to cross is the one between having nothing better to do and looking out for the safety, well being, and life or death of those around us. Check your motive – are you seeking to feel better about yourself or truly concerned for saving your brother/son/other “from death”? If there’s danger lurking at the end of their sin, be a nag… and be alive.

Much Agape,
AP


Beg Like Jesus Commanded

“…let no sin rule over me. (Psalm 119:133)”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

     I wonder what Jesus’ audience thought about this statement. After all, the Pharisees had been teaching people to obey the law of Moses and then some for what seemed like forever. For Jesus to say this in the about the same breath as “poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:2)” must have seemed a bit strange: He had already begun to unfold the wrapper of grace, was He now exposing more law as the gift?

Or, was it much simpler than that?

     Whether Psalm 119 was written by David or Ezra, it is clear that the author’s heart was broken, wrecked, and shattered for the Lord. As we read through v 131 and 133 we hear from a man who opened his mouth, panting for God’s word. Jesus makes it clear throughout the Beatitudes that sincere and pure devotion to God isn’t about the outward behavior, rather a heart desperate for God, dependent on Him, that propels us to outward behavior.

A resume rich in church activity doesn’t necessarily indicate a beggar’s heart for God. Only the poor in spirit have room for God in their hearts.

     As we enter week 2 of the fast, there are times when our flesh begs for old forms of satisfaction: “comfort” food, entertainment, and other forms of self comfort rather than on the God of all comfort. Jesus’ statement from Matthew 5.8 is clear – you can’t have both. These lesser gods have not only stolen our full devotion from God, but deprived us of experiencing the God who sent us “the Comforter”. Why would we want anything less? Because it’s wrapped in a more tangible, sleek package and available with free shipping or for instant download?

     “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1.27)”

    Question yourself as you pray – “What in the world is polluting me, Lord? What has my heart leaning even the slightest degree away from You? What can be done about the condition of my heart that would make me hate “even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh (Jude 1.23) and bring me to a place where I pant for Your commands?

     How can any sin “rule over” us if our hearts are that hungry for God?

Be Encouraged
    God sent us the Comforter to do just that – comfort us. Let us call on Him today with hearts that desire not God’s blessings, but the God of all blessings. Surely, His blessings will follow, but we cannot manufacture a heart desperate for Him. This is a work of God and it must be begged for. Would you be willing to beg God for this?

In Christ,

AP

The Answer to the Empty Feeling – Monday Morning Momemtum

What’s Got Your Eye?
     This year, as our church-wide fast began, I felt compelled to dig into Psalm 119. Glad I did.

“Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;    preserve my life according to your word. 
(Psalm 119:34-37)”

It’s All About Value
     Free Chapel embarks on a corporate, 3-day “water only” followed by 18 days of “Daniel Fast“. I never truly realize how valuable something is to me until I don’t have it. You? Yeah, I value water. MAN, I value food! Unfortunately, I have an addiction – refined sugar. That’s one food I value above all others. I’ll eat refined sugar products – desserts, cereals, candy, desserts to a gluttonous level – often to control my mood rather than for my stomach. Sugar is nowhere on the Ten Commandments, but abuse of any substance is idolatry and begs the question: “why would anyone want to delight in anything less than Jesus?” For me, it’s a rival god, it’s nutritionally worthless and it’s killing me and my potential with my own fork/spoon/hand

     Not everyone struggles with food addictions, but we all struggle with something. In the past, I’ve tried to manage my refined sugar addiction by behavior modification: “don’t”, much like I used to try to manage my addiction to pornography. Knowing that, Lord willing, this year I will celebrate 12 years clean from pornography, I understand that defeating that demon wasn’t about behavior modification, it was about hating the sin and surrender to Christ… oh, and a supernatural act of the Spirit, no? 

     When we come into alignment with what God values, we begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates. Selfish ambition is gradually replaced with God-ambition. When it comes to food, I need a double dose of love for God and a dose of hate for what is worthless. What’s your rival god? What are you using to fill that familiar empty feeling? What do you occasionally value more than God and His plan for your life?

Filling in the Blank

John Woodall will kick
off a transformational
conversation at
ONE TH1NG this Friday.

     We all have a blank spot in us, an ache, a God-sized hole in our hearts that we try to fill in with lesser solutions: accomplishment, material gain(s), sex, drugs, etc, things that at the judgment seat of Christ will be exposed for their true value – worthless. Side note: If you’re a man in the Alpharetta/Cumming area, you don’t want to miss John Woodall at ONE TH1NG this Friday morning at the Cabernet Restaurant at 7AM. He’ll be talking about the ache – an ache that in a Genesis 3 world, refuses to be healed until Christ returns. 

     In the meantime, the Psalmist points out the relationship between life and things: it is the nature of worthless things to suck the life out of us rather than to preserve our life. And yet, we chase after this stuff, often to the exclusion of the life giving plan that the life giving God has for us. Selfish ambition always finds us knocking on the door of stuff that is utterly worthless in God’s eyes. “Can you please fill in my blank?”

     In fasting, I am constantly reminded that I am blessed with opportunities to clean out the clutter that clogs my heart – literally and figuratively. The challenge is keeping it out. Behavior mod is a short road leading back to square one. Only a transformed mind and surrendered heart will do. 

Experience True Life
     Today, I encourage you to give up food or something incredibly valuable for more than 48 hours. You know your idols and rival gods. Pick one, but try food first. Then, pray as the psalmist did that God will help you keep your eyes and heart delighted in Him and away from things that are ultimately worthless in His economy. 

     May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you, sanctify you, and transform you into the image of Christ you were designed to be from the start.

in Christ,

AP