Junk Food is the Porn of Our Diet

fgyekt1e6hc-brandon-morganMy last post explored the spiritual side of food addiction, diet, and weight loss. In my case, my relationship with food and gluttony had reached a point where it was sinful. I suspect I’m not the only one in this boat. What we often mistake as a simple struggle with health and exercise is often a spiritual battle. God’s Word says:

12For Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).

We often make the mistake of thinking weight loss, health, and fitness are merely physical battles when they are actually spiritual. When I was sick with diabetes and high blood pressure, I was often depressed which inflicted spiritual damage on me that went beyond the physical. I believe the enemy knows this. If Satan can attack us through food addiction, gluttony, weight gain, and lethargy, he knows it will eventually impact us spiritually and damage our relationship with God.

Satan is known as the deceiver (Revelation 12:9). His modus operandi is to take the good gifts of God and twist them into something sinful. He does it with sex all the time. What was meant to be a gift from God to a man and his wife has been twisted into pornography, adultery, rape, promiscuity, and deviance — the same is true with food. Food was meant to be a good gift from God and consumed with thanksgiving to the One Who Provides. In my life, however, it became twisted. I became addicted to fast food and junk food. I became a glutton. My physical being began to suffer, which led to my mental being suffering, and ultimately my spiritual relationship with God was damaged. Point for Satan.

Junk Food is to Food what pornography is to sex. When we settle for an unhealthy relationship with our food and choose fast food and junk food over the healthy and nutritious foods God has provided us, we are buying into Satan’s lies.

We have to recognize this fact. We have to see the spiritual side of the issue if we hope to overcome it. If we attack our struggle with weight loss and food addiction in a way that is purely physical, we may enjoy temporary success. It may even look like we’re winning the battle but, if I’m being honest, I’ve seen many people beat obesity and food addiction only to form a sinful and unhealthy relationship with fitness and health. Both issues are flip sides of the same coin and can damage us spiritually.

Once we recognize our battle is a spiritual one, we must fight it spiritually. That passage from Ephesians continues:

13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:13-17, NIV).

If weight gain, food addiction, gluttony, and obesity is a spiritual attack, we better fight it spiritually. If not, we have no chance to truly beat it.


Note: I am currently reading through a devotional plan called Food is Not The Enemy: Overcoming Food Struggles using the YouVersion Bible app on my phone. The Scripture referenced in this post coincides with the devotional. I highly recommend it.

Food and Diet as a Spiritual Issue

1rm9glhv0ua-brooke-larkGenesis 9:3 “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

1 Timothy 4:1-5 “… deceiving spirits …. Order [people] to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I have had a long and complicated relationship with food. My weight has fluctuated greatly throughout my adult life ranging from as high as 390+ pounds to as low as 178. I do not have a healthy relationship with the food I eat.

In 2015, I was diagnosed with a very bad case of Type II Diabetes to go along with the high blood pressure I was already being treated for. I weighed in at 368 pounds and, at 45 years old, things looked a little bleak. My health issues were exacerbated by mental and spiritual issues. I knew my diet and weight had become sinful. And I was deeply depressed as a result. So I confessed to some close Christian friends that my gluttony was a spiritual issue and I prayed for God to help me make a change.

Throughout 2015 and 2016 I began dieting and exercising more. Cycling and running became staple exercises for me and my body responded well. I’ve lost weight (more on this later) and was taken off all my blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol medications. But I must confess that as I write this in January of 2017, I still don’t have a healthy relationship with food. I have tried nearly every diet out there. I did Weight Watchers. I have abstained from carbs, eaten an all-clean and natural diet, and even drank buttered-coffee while fasting from all foods in an attempt to get control over my gluttony.

Nothing has really worked.

I still struggle mightily. This morning I weighed in at 282 pounds. My lowest weight in 2016 was 249 pounds so I’ve gained some weight back over the winter … and I am frustrated. I feel like I’m standing at the crossroads. Either I’ll get a handle on this now or I’ll gain all my weight back … and I refuse to gain my weight back.

I am keenly aware that, for me, my weight is a spiritual issue. I cannot regain control of my food addiction without leaning on God Almighty. I am turning to Him in prayer and asking Him to speak to me through His Word. Today’s passages from Scripture suggest that a healthy relationship with food is one that partakes of “everything that lives and moves” and “all the food that God created” provided it is eaten with thanksgiving to the One Who Provides.

These passages leave me with some things to ponder and pray about. What types of food can be considered “provided by God”? Certainly, these passages suggest a person should eat from all food groups both plants and animals; but what about pizza or rich, decadent desserts? Did God provide these types of junk food or are they too tarnished by the hands of man?

As I ponder and pray over these questions, one thing is for certain. Whatever I eat, will be eaten in thanksgiving to God. I will stop and acknowledge Him before I put any food in my mouth. I will praise Him for supplying my needs and ask for His strength to help me moderate my food intake.

One thing is for certain … food and diet is a spiritual issue.

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Note: I am currently reading through a devotional plan called Food is Not The Enemy: Overcoming Food Struggles using the YouVersion Bible app on my phone. The Scripture referenced in this post coincides with the devotional. I highly recommend it.

Obedience is Not Optional

“To God’s elect … who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood…” (1 Peter 1:1-2 NIV emphasis mine).

mo9vkbg5csg-ben-whiteThe above passage is rich with theological implications. It contains trigger words that light the Bible student’s heart on fire such as ‘elect’ and ‘foreknowledge’. It also mentions each member of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit. However, when I read it this morning three other words grabbed my attention …

“… to be obedient …”

Why were God’s elect chosen according to the foreknowledge of God? To be obedient. Too often, Christians see obedience to God’s Word as optional. We tend to pick and choose the passages we’ll respond to. I’m not talking about the things we rule out after careful study and exegesis. It’s a truth of Scripture that not all commands within its pages apply to Christians today (hint: think shellfish!). What I’m talking about are the no-brainers — commands to worship God with all our heart, soul, and strength; to love others, worship together, and to be holy in all our conduct. We tend to pay attention to commands such as this when it’s convenient to do so, but the moment things get rough or difficult we abandon them.

When reading 1 Peter this morning I wrote the following words in the margins of my Bible:

Obedience is not optional. 

That phrase — obedience is not optional, is my new mantra. I will repeat it when things get rough. I will repeat it on the days I don’t feel God’s presence in my life. I will repeat it on those days I’m not feeling particularly Godly. Obedience is not optional!

It’s hard to justify disobedience when God’s Word says we were chosen to be obedient!

 

 

Today’s Thanksgiving Run

So I stepped out my door this morning with the intentions of heading to the gym to get a treadmill run in, but I discovered the temperature outside was a little warmer than I expected at about 40 degrees. So instead of the gym, I hit my usual running path. I’ve been running inside too much lately, so I was thankful that the weather here in Ohio cooperated and gave me the opportunity to do something different.

I started off with a warm-up walk to shake the dust off and ease into my activity. My goal was a shorter run at a little faster temp than my longer ones … I ended up with a two mile run that dipped down to a 14:00-15:30 pace for it’s duration; which, though slow for most runners, is up tempo for me. So I had a good time. But, it was fitting that on this day of Thanksgiving I found myself praising and thanking God that I was able to run and get outside. There are times I get so focused on the task of losing weight and discouraged by minor setbacks that I forget to just be thankful for all God has done for me. Last year, a run on Thanksgiving Day would have been the furthest thing from my mind. When I was a hundred pounds heavier and beset with high blood pressure and diabetes, I couldn’t run. So I’m thankful God has given me the opportunity to change that. He truly has blessed me.

morningrun
Thanksgiving, 2015

I was also thankful this morning for the beautiful sky God painted. I was the only one on the path this morning so I felt like I was sharing the sky with Him alone. It’s a sky that I wouldn’t have noticed had I stayed in bed … so I’m glad God gave me the nudge out the door this morning.

My beagle Sadie

I’m thankful for other things as well. My wife, children, and church family are more than I could ever ask for. My little grand daughter Molly is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I even find myself thanking God for my beagle who, believe it or not, was an answer to my wife’s prayers. I am thankful for a God who has extended me grace, mercy, and forgiveness when I didn’t deserve anything but judgement. It is a testament to His character that I have been given a chance to live in the shadow of Jesus Christ. And I am thankful for everything He has blessed me with in the process.

Is my life perfect? Nope. I still screw things up from time to time and it seems like I fall short in some way every single day. But God is helping me focus on the blessings in my life and to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Sometimes, I tend to make the obstacles in my life bigger than my God … and that needs to change. I want God to be the biggest thing in my life so that all my troubles seem smaller.

My goal is to take the Apostle Paul’s advice:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

My prayer is that this spirit of Thanksgiving becomes my daily attitude from this point forward. It is also my prayer for you.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

An Argument for Older, Mature Pastors

stanley
Pastor Charles Stanley

A few years ago a young man knocked on my door and invited me to his church. I was a little surprised, because of his young age, to discover he was the lead pastor of his church. I must confess that my initial reaction was negative. I remember thinking to myself that I could never follow a pastor as young as the man standing on my porch. I’ve often thought of that encounter and even repented a bit for my initial reaction. Scripture is rife with stories of God using the young and old alike and I’ve come to learn that, in His sovereignty, God can call and use whoever He sees fit. Perhaps I was a little jealous that such a young man had discovered His calling early in life while I was still struggling to determine my own.

But there are advantages to a pastor who has some years on him as opposed to one who is young. At the top of that list has to be an awareness of one’s dependance upon God. Age has a way of teaching us about our own limitations. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that nothing I’ve accomplished for the Gospel was accomplished in my own merit or in my own strength. I have developed an awareness of my own weakness and sinfulness that makes me appreciate God’s grace all the more. That same awareness should be present in a pastor. In his book, What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All Steve Brown writes the following:

Did you ever think that grace (i.e., God’s unmerited favor) is attracted to sin? That’s what the apostle Paul said: “The law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). 

Older, more experienced, pastors tend to be more aware of their weaknesses and their sin and because of that awareness grace abounds. A friend recently shared stories about a rehabilitation ministry he is involved with for recovering addicts. Essentially, addicts are placed in a secluded monastery where the grace of Jesus Christ is liberally applied to their wounds. The stories that come out of this ministry are beautiful because their sins are often so great that grace is multiplied. It’s the same for a pastor who is aware of his own sin – grace is multiplied.

Age, mistakes, regret, persecution, trials, and even sin have a tendency to mature a growing Christian. James puts it this way:

“2 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” (James 1:2-4, NASB). 

Granted, even a young pastor can possess the kind of spiritual maturity I am writing about, but young or old, this maturity is an essential quality in a pastor. The expectations we place on our church leaders tend to get things upside down. We want our pastors to be beacons of perfection. We want them to be the most holy, most perfect, and least sinful members of our church; yet when I think about the pastors that have taught me the most I discover they are the ones that know first hand the cost of their own sin and appreciate the grace it took to place them in the pulpit. Should pastors strive to be holy and provide an example for us to follow? Absolutely. But I don’t want a pastor who has simply read about trials – I want one that knows first-hand what I’m going through and can relate to my problems. Heck, if Jesus can relate to our temptations, shouldn’t our pastors?

“15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Our leaders need to remember their sin and remember the grace that conquered it. The Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament penned these words:

“15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). 

Paul went on to set the standards required of our pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

“3 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Above reproach, a one woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted, gentle, peaceable, not greedy … there’s a reason these qualifications are written in the present tense. I don’t want my pastor to nurture any addictions, or to be angry, or to have a wandering eye … but if he can tell me about a time when his life failed to meet those qualifications and then tell me how Christ intervened in his life with grace … that’s the gospel! That story of redemption is going to resonate with me and give me hope … because I’m a sinner too.

I suppose I’m not arguing for physical maturity as much as I am spiritual maturity. We see pastors fall all the time. Ministries, families, and churches are far too often ripped apart because we’ve put someone in the pulpit that wasn’t spiritually mature and lacked an appreciation for the gravity of their own sin and the grace it took to conquer it. To reference Paul one last time, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9) and unless a person understands that, they have no business in the pulpit.

 

 

Book Review of Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You by Steve Brown

3freeLet me preface this review by saying I loved this book, but I would not recommend it for everyone. Why? I think new or young Christians may be confused by the rhetoric employed by author Steve Brown. Make no mistake about it, Brown is presenting some solid doctrine. His book is is all about grace. He is an advocate of eternal security and writes to convince his audience that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross frees us from the cost of sin once and for all and there is nothing we can do in our own power to earn or lose salvation. My concern is not necessarily in Brown’s doctrine or theology, rather, it is in his presentation. Brown says and writes things that seem to be inflammatory. Consider his title – “Three Free Sins” – the connotation is that because Christ has paid for our sins, they cost us nothing and are “free.” While this is might true on the surface, anyone with a working knowledge of the gospel knows there is greater depth required to unpack and explore such an assertion. Brown has his reasons for packaging his message the way he does, and I believe they are noble reasons, but I fear his message may get lost in its packaging.

A surface reading of this book suggests Brown may be pushing the heresy of antinomianism on his readers. He’s not, but I get the feeling he enjoys being viewed as a heretic. As I read his words, though I was digging what he said, I kept asking myself why he seemed to be intentionally walking that fine line. The answer come’s when Brown answers the question, “Why don’t you write and teach in a normal way?” His answer is as follows: “I’ve tried to say it in a normal way. Nobody listens. So I decided to be … as outrageous as God was in his giving of himself for us.”

So there you have it. In a way, Brown is right. I only read his book because of the provocative title. However, while I appreciate and agree with his message, I fear his method may be confusing to some.

Christianity’s Gift to the World

thinkingI’m currently reading a book by Steve Brown titles What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All. Brown’s books are wonderful. Like me, he is a conservative Christian who believes in the inspiration of Scripture. Doctrinally, I think we are fairly similar. Yet, his writing takes you to new levels of reflection. The first time I read anything by Brown I remember thinking to myself that he was either a heretic or a genius – and it took me a while to figure out which. I’ve settled on genius. Brown writes in a way that is provocative. It’s like he is intentionally picking on the scabs conservative Christians walk around with. What he says makes you angry until you slowly start to realize it’s not Brown that is angering you, but rather God’s Word. And faced with that realization, there is nothing left to do but repent.

Basically, Brown makes me think. I’m sure some people find him annoying – some may have even settled on heretical – but I appreciate him. Here’s a quote from What Was I Thinking? that I currently can’t get out of my mind:

“Our gift to the world is not one of anger, judgment, or condemnation. Our gift to the world is to find where the Holy Spirit is creating beauty, speaking truth, and manifesting goodness—and when we find it, to identify it, enjoy it, affirm it, and get involved in it” (p. 64)

It’s that’s first sentence that has stuck with me … “Our [Christians] gift to the world is not one of anger, judgment, or condemnation.” Too often, that’s the face we present to world around us – anger, judgment, and condemnation. When, in reality, the Church should be an extension of God’s gift to the world – grace, mercy, and salvation through His Son.

Brown makes the further point that because of our anger and disgust with the world around us, Christians often retreat to the Church. We take safe haven in our churches and our Christian subculture because we are convinced that’s where the Holy Spirit is. We do it because it makes us feel safe yet our safety comes at the expense of the culture around us. We create a divide between the sacred and the secular and then refuse to cross it for fear of sacrificing our own righteousness. But it’s important to understand that this divide is man made. From God’s perspective there is no “secular”. The gospel of John makes that clear:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

All things came into being through Him. It’s this fact that gives God the authority to speak into the hearts of every man and into the core of every situation. It’s that fact that gives Jesus the authority to forgive our sins. It’s that fact that gives God the right to determine that salvation must be accomplished according to His plan rather than our own. It’s that fact that is the foundation of grace. And when we retreat in disgust from the world around us and take refuge in our Christian subculture we are failing to take that gift of grace to the very people that need it the most. Jesus understood this. That’s why He hung out with sinners. That’s why He said,“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Even the Great Commission, our marching orders from Christ, instruct us to take His message of grace to the world, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). 

When Christian present nothing to the world but anger, judgment, and condemnation and then retreat back to the safety of our own Christian subculture, we are forfeiting the one gift we have to give the world. It is imperative that Christians refuse to forfeit our input and voice to the culture we live in. Music, arts, literature, science … all of these things stand to benefit from the input of Christians.

If we want to deliver Christ’s grace to the world, we must be engaged in the world. Jesus once prayed for His disciples, “14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15, emphasis mine). Notice that Jesus didn’t pray for His disciples to be taken out of the world; rather, He prayed that they be kept safe from the evil one as they engaged the world for Him. 

Christ’s prayer should be the strategy of the Church. Rather than withdrawing from the world and drawing imaginary lines between the secular and the sacred, we should engage the world. We should deliver Christ’s gospel to the sic and refuse to sacrifice our voice while tending to our own safety.

Genius.

Are You Lucky or Blessed?

image from genius.com

On the way home from work the other day, driving through a dense morning fog, I turned left without seeing an oncoming car. The car was coming at me pretty fast and, thanks to the fog, I didn’t see it until it was right on top of me. A collision seemed pretty imminent, but the cars missed each other by only a matter of inches.

That event has caused me to reflect on matters of luck verses matters of blessing.

Immediately after narrowly missing the other car I began praising God and thanking Him for sparing me from the accident. In my past life, I would have reacted differently. Before I was a believer, I would have attributed my good fortune to simple luck. However, I now know better. Proverbs 16:33 provides a solid principle for believers concerning matters of luck:

“The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.”

It’s every decision is from the Lord. From our limited vantage point, it may seem like we’re rolling the dice, but God is in control of the results. I’m not suggesting that God controls every roll of the dice during our game of Monopoly, but it is important for us to remember that the results of our dice roll is a matter of His providence or control. If I roll double snake eyes, it is only because he directly caused it to happen or because he allowed it to happen. Either way, God is in control. All things are a matter of God’s active or passive will.

When we attribute our good fortune to luck, we are failing to recognize God as the source of our blessings. In Christ, however, we know better. When we praise God for our good fortune it reflects a significant change of heart.

This is a pretty easy concept to grasp when we consider our good fortune but it becomes a little more difficult when we consider the bad things that happen to us. When something that seems bad enters our life (a job loss, relationship issues, disease, etc) it is still a matter of God’s providence. He has either caused it to happen or has allowed it to happen.

They key question we need to ask God amid such circumstances is, “Why?

James, the half-brother of Jesus, offers this thought:

“2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). 

When a Christian faces a significant event in life, be it a blessing or a trials, she should understand that God is in control of all things … and this understanding should have a huge impact on our response! When faced with good or bad fortune, we should seek God’s counsel and ask Him how we are to respond and grow and what we are supposed to learn from the situation.

I’ll conclude my thoughts with more from James Chapter 1 as it seems to apply well:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously andwithout reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). 

 

 

 

Lessons from Genesis: Mastering the Sin in Our Lives

cain-and-abel1So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:3-7, NASB).

Both Cain and Abel made offerings to the Lord, but there was something critically different in those offerings. Of Abel, it is prominently said that his offering was “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Gen 4:4); he brought the best part of his flock as an offering to God. The same can not be said of Cain’s offering. Cain simply brought an offering with no regard or seemingly any consideration of the quality of the offering. When God rejected Cain’s half-hearted offering, Cain became angry and his countenance fell. Cain’s anger and bitterness were of his own making and God tells him so:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:6-7).

Had Cain simply done well and made an offering from the best of his crops all would have been fine. There would have been no cause for his anger and resentment. It was in that moment of Cain’s half-hearted devotion to God that sin took its advantage. According to God, when you’re not doing well sin is crouching at the door. Peter put it this way, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). When we’re neglecting our devotion to God Almighty, we are running the risk of allowing our emotions, bitterness, and circumstances to get the best of us. In Cain’s case, he allowed his sin to blossom into murder. But God tells us there is another way. We can master our sin. How? By doing the right thing to begin with.

God’s Word says if do well our countenance will be lifted up. This advice is amazing in its simplicity. If we want to guard against our sinful inclinations we should focus our lives and order our lived around the God who gave us life. This is the simple kind of advice that can apply to our spiritual walks in countless ways:

  • Is your prayer life suffering? Pray more.
  • Not spending enough time in the Word? Open your Bible more. 
  • Neglecting fellowship with other believers? Go to Church more regularly. 
  • Sin getting the best of you? Devote your life to God and live your life well according to His instructions.

It seems so simple yet we tend to disregard it. We moan and groan when our spiritual lives aren’t where we want them to be, but we don’t examine our lives to see if we are living as we should. All Cain had to do was repent and devote his life to God. He could of had a change of heart and brought an acceptable offering to God, but he chose instead to allow his anger and resentment to grow and blossom.

God’s Word tells us how a person devoted to God should live their life. If we do well, our countenance will be lifted up. We are not helpless in the face of our sin. We can live our lives proactively, according to God’s Word, and master the sins our enemy puts in our path.

We should live like Abel … not like Cain.

Read other posts in Lessons from Genesis.

Cussing Christians: What's the Big Deal?

cussing
credit patheos.com

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that can be easily observed by simply plugging into to any form of social media. People have grown more accustomed to using and hearing foul language. Words that were taboo just a few years ago are now quite common place. And this trend has even begun to surface in some Christian circles. Heck, Mark Driscoll once made a name for himself as the cussing pastor (something I think he now regrets) and I’ve witnessed other Christians actually defend the use of foul language (warning: link contains foul language). It seems cussing is becoming more and more common place with Christians, especially the younger generation. This is a trend that needs to stop.

Before I examine the issue I should share my own battle with my tongue. I’ve worked in a prison system for over twenty years. As you might expect, prison culture sports its own, distinct colloquialisms – and most of them aren’t very pleasant. You would almost have to invent a new cuss word to find one I haven’t used or thought in my lifetime. When I first became a Christian in my early thirties, cussing was a major issue for me and had a big impact on my spiritual growth. I began to notice that I would only cuss when I was at work. I was fine at church, home, and other places, but at work I instantly reverted back to my old self. The problem reached critical mass one night when I slipped up and cussed in front of a coworker I had been trying to witness to. He responded in shock and said, “I thought you were some kind of big Christian or something!” In the blink of an eye it took me to utter one foul word, my entire testimony was damaged. And I suspect it remains damaged with that guy to this day. I knew then that I had to change and with God’s grace I have. God has given me the experience and the wisdom to know better, but I also know that old guy is still inside of me just waiting to rear his ugly head should I be angry enough. I share this with you so you will know where I’m coming from. I’m not speaking down to anyone … I’m speaking from experience.

What does the Bible say about cursing? It is obvious from Scripture that God considers words important. Think about this for a second, God spoke the world into existence! I once wrote an entire post about the power of God’s spoken word. I challenge you to read Genesis 1 and count how many times God speaks. God spoke into existence light, water, ground, vegetation, the atmosphere, birds, water creatures, and land creatures. I think it’s safe to assume His words impacted our world with their importance. And then God chose to inspire mankind to write the Bible, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Of all the ways God chooses to communicate with us, His primary vehicle is the written word. Words matter to God and they should matter to us! 

Our words are important and they leave a mark of the people we are speaking to. Ephesians 4:29 makes it clear we should carefully consider the words we speak, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” In other words, we should build people up with our language rather than tear them down. Not every thought that enters our sinful minds should be spoken. The Apostle James spoke the clearest on this issue:

With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

When we curse men and women who were created in the likeness of God we are disrespecting the God who created them. The same God who values the spoken and written word. Quite frankly, this notion should trump any right we have to use foul and inappropriate language. God’s word says that even when we must confront someone with the truth we should do it in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Christians who justify foul language and insist on using it are putting their own needs ahead of God’s Word and God’s people. Romans 12:2 instructs us not to conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and when it comes to using foul language Christians need to renew their minds, quit conforming to the language of the world, and stand apart as God’s people.

When Christians cuss it instantly reveals certain facts about them:

  1. They evidently spend little time in God’s Word.
  2. They spend little time in prayer.
  3. They value fitting in with the culture more than they do obedience to God.
  4. They take little time to consider their words before they speak them … a trend that inevitably spills into other areas of their life.
  5. Their faith hasn’t changed them at all. People will not believe the Gospel has saved us if we haven’t allowed it to change simple things like our language.

We will not reach a dying world with inappropriate and foul language. It is time for us to stand apart from culture and become more like Jesus than the world.

Related Posts: The Power of the Spoken Word: The Voice of God