Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Correct Context of Pleasure

“This is the great lost truth of the Christian faith, that correction of Judaism made by Jesus and passed on to us: the goal of morality is not morality—it is ecstasy. You are intended for pleasure!” ~ John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire

One of the great lies that people have believed from the beginning is that true pleasure is found outside the boundaries of morality. Too often we believe that pleasure is found by breaking the rules and living for the moment.

The morality God has given us in the Bible and in our conscience, seems to stand in the way of our having a good time. The party mentality isn’t just something new invented by students on college campuses, but it had gone back thousands of years. So many people have given their lives away to the party in an attempt to live the “good life”.

Too many people in our culture morality is seen as God’s attempt to keep us from having a good time. Morality tells us not to get drunk or high. Morality tells us that sex should be between a man and a woman, and then only within the bounds of marriage. Morality says to be a servant to other people, even though it will mean the sacrifice of both your time and money. Morality seems dull compared to the party.

How we can experience pleasure by doing the right thing?

Ravi Zacharias talks about this issue in his book Cries of the Heart. He wrote; “For true pleasure the price is paid before it is enjoyed. For false pleasure the price is paid after it is enjoyed” (p. 142).

There is no doubt that illicit sex and pornography bring pleasure to people. After all if there was no pleasure then people wouldn’t participate in them. The high of drugs, which include alcohol, gives people pleasure, which is one reason people continue to use them even in the face of negative consequences. These are temporary pleasures that end up enslaving us. God created us to experience pleasures to add joy to our lives, not to enslave us. (Tweet this)

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

It Begins with Jesus

Very few people are completely satisfied with who they are. I think many people would like to make at least minor changes to their lives. When we consider our lives it is easy to find flaws that we would like fixed.

This is why we make New Years Resolutions because it means that we can start with a clean slate. We hope we can whip ourselves into shape so we can be happier with the person we have become. Yet, it seems, the older we get the more cynical we become with trying to change our lives.

We have tried many times before only be be met with failure time after time. Reality hits us right in the face. Our strength, self-discipline, and wisdom all fail us. Rather than becoming new people we discover the old person gains a stronger hold on us.

I want to encourage you. We can be transformed. It is very possible for you and I to become different people. We can become the people God created us to be. In other words we can experience life the way it was meant to be lived.

Erwin McManus wrote:
Transformation is both the miracle of God and the stewardship of man. Godliness is a result of divine activity and human action. God promises to do what we cannot do ourselves, and He commands us to do that which He will not do for us. There is both miracle and responsibility. 
Stand Against the Wind, p. 46

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

God Uses the Bad

Spiritual formation is not a pleasant walk in the park. Maturity of faith and being conformed to the image of Jesus is difficult. It doesn’t magically happen and it isn’t the result of faithful church attendance. 

 Spiritual formation is the result of surrender and discipline. We daily surrender our lives to Jesus and we discipline our lives through study, prayer, fasting, service, community, and worship. Through surrender and discipline we find ourselves on the path of spiritual formation.

Once we are on the path of spiritual formation we discover that numerous obstacles begin to block our way. This makes sense since Satan is opposed to God’s restoration project, and so he will do everything in his power to derail it. That means he will come after you and me.

Satan will throw out the net of fear to keep us from obeying Christ’s call on our lives. Satan will sit the trap of temptation to catch us in sin so we are not free to follow Jesus. Satan will dig the hole of guilt so we will fall in and be overwhelmed with shame rather than living in the grace and forgiveness God has promised in Christ Jesus.

If this is your experience I have good news for you! God uses Satan’s obstacles as opportunities to make us better people! Just as Joseph told his brothers; “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil” (Genesis 50:20; NLT), we can be certain that God will redeem the bad in our lives to bring about good. God is so powerful that He can turn evil into good!

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Monday, February 17, 2014

God's Promise of Life

{Isaiah 1:18-20; ESV}
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

One of the wonderful promises God has made to us is that He will remove our sin and make us new. Let me put it another way: God will redeem our lives!

God will take all the junk, the sin, the pain, and the tragedies and exchange them for eternal life. This promise speaks to the heart of many people because we want our lives to have weight to them.  We want our lives to matter!

At this moment many of us feel like our lives are being wasted. The consequences of sin hold us in bondage and the addictive nature of sin has turned us into people we don’t want to be. Our hearts come alive when we discover that God promises to change this reality.

There is another side to this coin. God has promised to help us, to re-create us, and to take away our sins, but He also expects us to accept the help and redemption that He offers. The key to receiving God’s help is faith. Faith is not just about having a belief in God, but it is trusting God. I like to say that belief + action = faith.

See more at Paul's Ponderings: Experiencing God's Promise of Life 


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Desire to Produce

Woven within the masculine spirit is the desire to produce. Men need to be productive in order to give their lives meaning and purpose. This is why some men spend time creating through writing, carving, or inventing. It is why other men spend time building things like tables, hot rods, or houses. This is why some men spend time growing gardens, raising animals, or planting trees. It is why other men spend time restoring old houses, antique furniture, or rusty cars.

Men need projects that are both fulfilling and rewarding. It is essential for men to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

We live in a culture where many jobs no longer offer men the opportunity to produce. There are numbers to be crunched and PowerPoint presentations to be put together, but real productive work is missing. This reality eats away at the spirit of a man. Men require productivity.

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Slavery of Sin

Take a moment and think about what John Maxwell and Jim Dornan wrote in their book Becoming a Person of Influence; “Slaves is the right term to describe people who lack integrity because they often find themselves at the whim of their own and others’ changing desires” (p. 32)

The movie version of The Lord of the Rings has made J. R. R. Tolkien’s story accessible to thousands of people who would never bother with actually reading the story. One of the characters that people seem to identify with is the character Gollum. Gollum is a pitiful creature because he has been corrupted by the power of the One Ring. The Ring consumes Gollum’s life, and there is nothing he can do to break free from its power.

This is how Colin Duriez describes Gollum in The J.R.R. Tolkien Handbook:
“In The Lord of the Rings a once-hobbit who bore the marks of long centuries underground guarding yet possessed by the One Ring which he called ‚ ‘my precious’, and which he had deluded himself into thinking was a birthday present to him” (p. 106).

The possession of the Ring had changed Smeagol to Gollum, from a Stoor Hobbit to a pitiful creature. The Ring may have granted Gollum unnatural long life, but it also physically changed him. Worse than the physical change was the control the Ring had on Gollum’s desires and dreams. They were twisted and corrupted so much that all Gollum could think about was to regain possession of his “precious”.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Trust God with Your Life

{James 1:1-4; ESV} 
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

 It is no secret that life is filled with heartbreak, disappointment, tragedy, and an assortment of other troubles. We understand that God has not promised us an easy life. We are also aware of His ability to use the junk of our lives to mature our faith and transform us into the people He created us to be. The reason we should find joy in our suffering, is because God redeems our pain to make us new creations.

Yet, we also know that this is easier said than done. When our lives are going smoothly, or at least manageable, we can say, “I trust God no matter what happens.” It is easy to trust to God when things seem to be easy.

 When the clouds descend and the storm hits often our trust in God disappears. If we are not careful we may even begin to question God's heart. We may even begin to question His existence.

 How do we encourage each other in the midst of trials without sounding like a cheerleader? You know the person who says, “Just try a little harder. You can do it. Hang in there.” That type of encouragement is worthless. It is like trying to encourage a guy with a compound leg facture to get up and run a marathon, “You can do it. I am in your corner. I will pray for you.” We would recognize such behavior as cruel, and rightly so, because the problem isn't a lack of effort but a broken leg.

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