2/23/11

Choices with Eternity in View

I love this old tombstone in Indiana. It reminds us, with a finger pointing to the sky, that "We shall meet again," if we are believers in Christ. I have to confess that I have a love for old tombstones like this one.

One of the dearest tombstones I've ever seen is at the grave of Life Action Ministries founder Del Fehsenfeld, Jr
. (which I showed in an earlier post), because its words reflect his legacy: "He knew God. He loved God. He walked with God. He believed God. He lived and died for the Glory of God. 2 Chronicles 16:9."

My friend, Dr. Ken Nichols, has a ministry built around the word "ALIVE" ~ Always Living in View of Eternity." He counsels people and equips them to deal with the problems of life, focusing on the Word of God, and offering wisdom from an eternal perspective.

Linda Dillow, an author I have long admired, has a new book out that I am reading. In What's It Like to be Married to Me?, a statement early in Dillow's book grabbed my heart. In her chapter on regaining a biblical perspective of marriage, she writes, "To live your life with the end in view is to align your daily and secret choices with this picture. It is to examine each part of your life ~ what you do today, tomorrow, next week, next year; how you choose to spend the time with your lover [husband] ~ in the context of the whole, of what really matters most to you... God wants us to be eternal people." *

Dillow suggested, in helping wives decide how they can determine what is important in relation to their marriages, that they consider their own funeral. Right before your burial, "What would you like your husband to say about you after many years of marriage?" she said. "What character qualities would you like him to have seen in you?" The exercise, Dillow said, will help women realize their deepest values about who they want to become as wives.

The exercise also works in regard to examining a life worth living.

I love the words on Leonard Ravenhill's tombstone: "Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?"

I have long maintained that the best way to cooperate with God in His goal to make us like Christ (1 John 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:49) is to examine our hearts in the light of God's Word and eternal values ~ to align our hearts with His in our attitudes and choices. We need a clear vision of the character of Christ and why He died. We need to understand how our Lord's character should translate into our everyday decisions.

Dillow's comment and Ravenhill's gravestone remind me that life is short. The great missionary, C.T. Studd, once wrote in "Only One Life":

"... Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last...."

What does this mean to you? To me, it means that because life is so short, I need to value time more and not waste it. I need to embrace the words of Ephesians 5:15-16: "Be very careful, then, how you live ~ not as unwise, but as wise ~ making the most of every opportunity...."

Whether the topic is relationships, marriage, career, parenting, habits, or any other portion of our lives, we need to weigh our choices in light of eternity. What makes a difference from that perspective? If all that lasts into eternity is the Word of God and human beings, what does that say about our choices and priorities? The older I get (and the nearer to the day of my funeral), the more I am aware of the importance to be careful and buy up opportunities to live for God.

Friend, are you living with eternity in view, with God's heart and eternity in mind in all your choices and priorities today?

* Linda Dillow, What's It Like to be Married to Me? (David C. Cook, 2011), p. 30

2/16/11

It Begins with a Lie

"Police in Radnor, Pennsylvania, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine.

"The message, 'He's lying,' was placed in the copier. Police pressed the copy button each time they thought the suspect wasn't telling the truth. Believing the 'lie detector' was working, the suspect confessed!" *

When I (Dawn) think about lies, I immediately think of a best-selling book. More than 600,000 copies of books published by Revive Our Hearts radio host and teacher Nancy Leigh DeMoss have been sold, and her signature book is Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free.

Nancy wrote that "every act of sin in our lives begins with a lie. We listen to the lie; we dwell on it until we believe it; finally, we act on it."

That sin might, at first, seem like "a little matter." But we sin again. And we sin repeatedly until a "groove" has been worn in our hearts. We now have a sinful pattern." Before we realize what has happened," Nancy writes, "we are in bondage. A sinful stronghold has been established....

"Every area of bondage in our lives can be traced back to a lie." **

I thought about that this week. Can that be true? Every sinful habit I have began with a lie? How can that be? But the more I thought about it, the more I saw that it is indeed true. It usually begins with just listening to things that aren't true ~ not monitoring what I allow into my mind through what I read or view.

The enemy is clever getting us to believe a lie, isn't he? (John 8:44) He makes sin seem so appetizing. And then, we lose our sensitivity and perhaps can't even discern between what is right and wrong.

But we can move from bondage back into freedom. Nancy explains how:

First, she said, "Identify the area(s) of bondage or sinful behavior." 2 Peter 2:19 says, "A man (woman) is a slave to whatever has mastered him (her)." So I have to ask, where am I not living in freedom as God's child?

Second, "Identify the lie(s) at the root of that bondage or behavior." That's a little harder, because the root may be hidden. Lies take root in the mind. Nancy offers forty common "lies" that women believe, and once a lie takes root, it won't produce healthy fruit!

Third, "Replace the lie(s) with the Truth." The truth is our weapon to deal with the enemy's deception in our lives. We uproot the lie, and plant truth. Every lie must be countered with the corresponding Truth, so we can be set free (John 8:32). And freedom can come!

For example, because of some circumstances in my childhood, I believed the lie, "I'm not worth anything." What I believed about myself determined many of my choices, and certainly, my attitudes. But the Truth is, I am so valuable to God that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for my soul. Once I saw the Truth, I had the choice to embrace what God says rather than continuing to believe the enemy's lie about being worthless. My emotions bucked for a while, but as I continued to speak Truth to my heart and act on it, my emotions gradually fell in line. When the lie surfaces again, Truth sends it packing (Galatians 5:1).

What's your tough area of sin? Is there a lie at the root?

Yank out that lie and replace it with truth!

* http://www.basicjokes.com/djoke.php?id=5467

** Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free ( Moody Press, 2001), p. 40

2/9/11

From Pity to True Compassion

When I interviewed Noel Brewer Yeatts for an article in the Christian Examiner, I wasn't all that surprised by her interest in missions. After all, her father, Vernon, is a seasoned missionary veteran, the founder of World Help; and Noel told me, "Everything I know about missions and ministry I have learned from my dad."

What did surprise me is how this beautiful young woman is so passionate about encouraging women to be loud and bold in fighting the injustices in the world like human trafficking, and standing up to make a difference in regard to global poverty, the need for clean water, and the struggles with HIV/AIDS. Noel wants to empower women to change the world with ideas for simple, practical involvement.

Her message isn't a pep talk as much as an impassioned, urgent plea. Noel moved out of her own comfort zone while on a special trip to Brazil as a teenager. The needs of a little boy named Nildo broke her heart, and she realized that she might not be able to save all the children in the world, but she could do much to change the life and future of that one child. Like her dad, Noel said she wants to accomplish at least one thing each day "that will outlive me and last for eternity."

Noel is vice president of World Help, and president of "causelife" ~ a movement to provide clean, safe water wells in Africa and Central America ~ but she also oversees unique "Tour of Hope" events throughout the country, helping women learn in a few hours how to wrap their arms around needs and solutions. An outreach for all ages, Tour of Hope is action-oriented and inspires women of faith to step out boldly and with purpose.

Does your heart ache at the injustices in the world? I know mine does! Do you wonder if there's any way you can help? Tour of Hope is designed to move women from pity to true compassion.

Compassion acts, and this is an outlet that truly does make a difference.

Last year, the tour visited churches in Maryland, Georgia, and Texas. And now, Tour of Hope is coming to San Diego County on February 26th at Sonrise Community Church in Santee, California (I plan to go). Then it will move on to Ridgefield Church of the Nazarene (Ridgefield, Washington) on March 26th. (Register here.)

The free event includes a motivating message by Noel and other speakers, musicians in an unforgettable worship experience, and a marketplace with hundreds of handmade items from all over the world. I heartily encourage every woman near these cities to go. Take your women's group. Who knows ~ God may start a new movement of compassion in your church!

How will you make a difference?

2/1/11

Four Walls (Against 'Besetting' Sins)

"Oh man, I did it again." Ever say that? Ever pray it? "God, I can't believe it... I did it again." If it were not for the grace of God, we'd all be in big trouble.

Heb. 12:1-2 (KJV) speaks of a sin that so easily can "beset us." Most newer Bible translations use the words "entangle" or "ensnare." But the wider definition of "beset" is to be attacked from all sides (hemmed in and surrounded). To be "beset" also is to be troubled persistently and harassed. Certainly, all of these definitions are true of temptation.

Whether the besetting sins are those that arise from within our hearts (our own flesh), or are sins that come from choices we make as we deal with the world system or our enemy, Satan, Paul says we are to lay them aside - to throw them off. But even this strong apostle confessed that it is not easy (Romans 7:19).

Besetting sins differ from person to person, and they can seem like a huge typhoon sweeping over us, something we can't control. Sometimes that typhoon comes from outside us in the form of constant nagging temptation to do wrong in our area of weakness. Other times, it is a private sin, known only to us and God. In any case, we ignore the persistence of a besetting sin to our peril. While it may seem a little thing, or we rationalize away its power over us, a besetting sin can lead to great moral compromise or failure.

It is important to understand that everyone wrestles with something, even the most noble saints. We see glimpses of the struggle in the life of David (2 Samuel 11-12). Remember his struggle with roving eyes? His adultery with Bathsheba that led to murdering her husband? And how about Moses? (Exodus 2:11-14). His explosive temper got the best of him and he ended up murdering, too. In fact, I'm wondering if every besetting sin might lead to murder ... not the slaughter of a human, but the killing off of something good that God has for us.

A besetting sin might even come to us "looking good," but yielding to our desires can drive us away from God. When we live in a backslidden condition, we are in dangerous territory, easy prey for the enemy, and susceptible to wallowing in our besetting sin like a pig in mud.

Christians in leadership roles can become defeated cowards when they harbor a besetting sin. They may tend to excuse others sins, because they are living in defeat themselves. Ruled by a sin, they are more like victims than victors - even if no one else knows. Sin weakens the warrior and strips the saint of joy in ministry. When David's and Solomon's besetting sins took over, their enemies rose up in triumph (Various stories in 2 Samuel 10-15; 1 Kings 11).

So how do we deal with our besetting sin/s? I like to think of this strategy as Four Walls to guard our hearts. [Note: I do not believe there is a simple formula, but this framework helps me deal with besetting sins, and perhaps it will help you, too.]

The first wall is a powerful choice to obey God as our Master (Lord). While this principle is not addressed in Hebrews 12:1-2, clearly, no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We must understand that God must have the final say in all things. We do not have the right to choose our own way, but rather, we choose to live with God's ways and commands in mind. He is our Father, but He is also our King. Because we don't live in a government system with royalty, perhaps Americans don't understand that concept well. The truth is, God is our sovereign - the ruler over all things. That should be reflected in the Christian lifestyle.

Which leads us to the second wall. There must be a desire - a desperate hunger - to live in holiness. But before we "put on," we have to "put off" (Ephesians 4:22-24). We have to loathe our sin (hate it). We must see sin as God does. If someone offered you a beautiful cookie, laced with just a smidgen of manure, would you eat it? Heavens no! Yet we offer God our lives, laced with our pet sin or besetting sin, and expect Him to be pleased. Except for the mercy and grace of God through Christ, we cannot stand in His presence for a second. There are no exceptions. So we gladly embrace salvation. But why are we not as eager to deal with sin once we are His?

I'm not going to mention any particular sins, because I believe God speaks directly about the things that displease Him - the things that are unclean [or even "doubtful," because whatever is not done in faith is sin (Romans 14:23).].

We are to be holy, because He who called us is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Sometimes we say we want to make holy choices, yet we cherish a secret desire or fondness for our besetting sin because it brings us pleasure or some other perceived benefit. Or we rationalize our besetting sin away, making excuses for it - "That's just the way I am." We really don't want to give it up. We may fool ourselves, but not God. He sees our insincere petitions for change and deliverance.

Wouldn't a better prayer be that God will enable us to surrender wholeheartedly so that our inner desires are changed? Incomplete surrender usually results in a compromised heart.

All of us have sinned and fall short of God's glory and righteousness (Romans 3:23). When we receive Jesus' sacrifice for our sin, we are declared righteous. And then the sanctification process begins - God making us more like His son. From that point on, the Father uses His Word, and the Holy Spirit convicts, to make us sensitive to the "weights" (hindrances to our holiness that feed our bondage) and "besetting sins" (sins that have taken hold of our hearts).

We tend to overlook or patch up our sins, or perhaps explain them away as psychological weaknesses. When we do that - when we live in disobedience and spiritual compromise - is it any wonder we have a culture full of guilty, depressed people? But when we cooperate with the Spirit and confess our sins, we are forgiven and can move on to spiritual growth. But we have to get honest. We can't secretly cherish or rationalize our sins, blocking what God desires to do in us and through us. Until we bow to our King and desire to live in holiness before Him, we cannot run the race "marked out for us" (Heb. 12:1), at least, not to the glory of God.

Wall three in our strategy to overcome besetting sins is found in verse 2. We fix (focus) our eyes on Jesus. He is our model of holiness. He is the "pioneer and perfecter" of faith (NIV), showing us how to live to please the Father.

We have only to examine how Jesus dealt with the Tempter to see the power of the Word of God in overcoming temptation (Luke 4:1-13; Matthew 4:1-11), and we need to read, study, memorize, meditate on, and use the scriptures in our battle against besetting sins (Psalm 119:11). Deep, lingering prayer and fasting are two other disciplines Jesus used in the battle against temptation - tools we can use, as well.

As we focus on Jesus, we also see the love He has for us. Love motivated His entire life.
Jesus understands our struggles, tempted as we are, but He will never condone our sin. Love motivated Jesus to redeem us, reclaim us, and restore us to the Father. In light of that love, how can we continue to sin against God's grace (Romans 6). We must embrace His love, and follow in His steps.

Wall four? We consider Christ's death on the cross as the model for our own "death" to sin. Verse 2 says endured the cross with joy. He knew the ultimate result - glory with the Father at the right hand of His throne. So, too, when we die to self and sin (Romans 6, again), we not only receive eternal reward (Romans 12:21; James 1:12), we glorify our Father who is in heaven.

Can it be that simple?
Again, I'm not suggesting a "magic formula," but rather, a reminder that we need to examine our hearts and move into the victory God has designed for us. There are other things that help (Bible study, prayer, accountability, biblical counseling, etc.), but the Four Walls are a good starting point.

  • Do we surrender to God's claim on our lives - His Lordship?
  • Do we pursue holiness with no shadow of compromise?
  • Do we focus on and study the life of Jesus as our example?
  • Do we die to self and sin?
In any of these areas that we lack faith or commitment, we may see a breaking down of the walls that guard our hearts, so if we are wise, we will make choices with God's heart in mind.