Archives For Struggles

Something you have been struggling with lately and you need help and encouragement with or how God has given you victory

The website J.C. Ryle Quotes shares the following from a tract Ryle wrote entitled “Christ in the Sick Room”.

Sickness is meant…

1. To make us think–to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body–an immortal soul–a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery–and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.

2. To teach us that there is a world beyond the grave–and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.

3. To make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?

4. To make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.

5. To send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.

6. To make us pray. Too many, I fear, never pray at all, or they only rattle over a few hurried words morning and evening without thinking what they do. But prayer often becomes a reality when the valley of the shadow of death is in sight.

7. To make us repent and break off our sins. If we will not hear the voice of mercies, God sometimes makes us “hear the rod.”

8. To draw us to Christ. Naturally we do not see the full value of that blessed Savior. We secretly imagine that our prayers, good deeds, and sacrament-receiving will save our souls. But when flesh begins to fail, the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, a Mediator, and an Advocate with the Father, stands out before men’s eyes like fire, and makes them understand those words, “Simply to Your cross I cling,” as they never did before. Sickness has done this for many–they have found Christ in the sick room.

9. To make us feeling and sympathizing towards others. By nature we are all far below our blessed Master’s example, who had not only a hand to help all, but a heart to feel for all. None, I suspect, are so unable to sympathize as those who have never had trouble themselves–and none are so able to feel as those who have drunk most deeply the cup of pain and sorrow.

Summary: Beware of fretting, murmuring, complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise – a good and not an evil – a friend and not an enemy. No doubt we should all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows better than we do how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a “need be” in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world, are often lessons which we should never learn elsewhere.

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Question

jordantmoody —  August 21, 2012 — 3 Comments

How do you balance the work of the church and the work of the gospel?

And when does church creativity become lack of trust in the gospel?

If we piggyback the work of the church onto the message of the gospel, we don’t enhance the gospel. it is just fine without us; it doesn’t need us. — Matt Chandler The Explicit Gospel

Are the ways of Old Evangelism dying and moving onto other motives and methods?

How do you do it (Evangelism)?

” In fact, have you noticed how fewer people are coming to Christ these days in our church? In my opinion, that’s because we’ve been trying to convert people the old way, a way that doesn’t work any longer. People aren’t feeling guilty about their sins, and they’re not interested in hearing about forgiveness because they don’t feel the need to be forgiven. And furthermore, as I’ve tried to emphasize, they’re not impressed with our truth because they’ve got their own truth that they believe to be just as good.”

So what are you telling us? That there’s no more evangelism? Ted asked.

No, I’m not saying that at all. But there may be new ways to evangelize and to do church. The old way is becoming obsolete and ineffective.”

– page 65-66 from Who Stole My Church by Gordon MacDonald

 

1. What do you think?

2. What are the new ways to do evangelism?

3. How do you go about it if you are a traditional church moving into the 21st century?

I would love some feedback and help. 

Doubt

bobbyemberley —  July 22, 2012 — 2 Comments

There is a song that has come out in the past year or so by Laura Story entitled “Blessings.” It has been a tremendous encouragement to many people I know. The lyrics are as follows:

We pray for blessings

We pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We gravitate towards this song because of its inspirational nature. It brings us face to face with the healing, protection and comfort we all lack but desperately need. Then it gives us the answer.

But what if we hear this song and wonder if it’s actually true? What if we think of our own problems and hardships as we hear this song, and it causes us to become cynical? What if raindrops are simply raindrops? What if tears are wasted? What if a thousand sleepless nights lead simply to despair?

I would like to submit that while this response certainly isn’t ideal, it has been the response of Christians throughout the Bible, and it does not necessarily signify a lack of faith.

  1. Abraham responded this way.

In Romans 4 he is set up as an example of faith. Romans 4:19-20 says, “19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”

Yet, let’s go back to the passage in Genesis that this account refers to. When it seemed impossible for Sarah to give him a son, Abraham turned to his servant Hagar in order to have a child (Gen. 16:1-6). When God told Abraham again when he was 99 years old that he was going to have a son, Abraham fell on his face and laughed (Gen. 17:17).

2.    David responded this way.

In a numbers of psalms David questions God. He struggles to trust, and he doubts God’s protection, power and provision. Frequently, David follows his discouragements with an inspiring discourse on God’s faithfulness. Yet, in other psalms David doesn’t come back to reassure himself of God’s character. He begins and ends in doubt and questioning. Perhaps he fell asleep with no assurance and awoke feeling no better. Whatever the case some psalms don’t end on the mountaintop, or even on the plain; they end in the valley.

3.    Peter responded this way.

 At one point in Jesus’ ministry when he was teaching some hard truths, many in the crowd of people who had been following him began to desert him. Jesus turned to the 12 disciples and asked them whether they were going to walk away as well. Peter responded by saying, “To whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.” His response did not indicate he knew all the answers and had everything figured out. He simply knew he couldn’t walk away.

I think any one of us would be honored to have our name included in this brief list of men. Abraham, David and Peter, all great men of the Scripture. Yet, they all responded in doubt and questioning at some points. We could even extend the list to include many others: Job in his affliction, Paul and his thorn in the flesh, the father who believed but needed help in his unbelief.

What do these responses tell us about doubt? They tell us we are safe simply being ourselves before God. Even at low points when songs and biblical truths should encourage us but fail to do so, God accepts us. He listens to us, and we remain in his care. They tell us that if the Bible sets up these men as examples of faith despite their doubt, then our doubts do not exclude us from having faith. Indeed, for some certainty and faith is most acutely forged in the fires of doubt. For some, it can be no other way.

Internet pornography is the tip of a very large iceberg. But lurking beneath the water line, there are Internet temptations that don’t get the same press pornography gets. Yet they are just as scandalous and wage a silent war on our souls.

Free from Porn but Not from Lust

Brian Gardner spent years hiding his dark secret from those he loved—his wife, his friends, his fellow church members. One muggy night in June, Brian’s friends invited him over to talk. As he walked in, he immediately noticed an air of sobriety: something was wrong. As they sat in the backyard one of his friends skipped the small-talk and started in: “Brian, we think you have a problem, and we want to ask you. Are you using pornography?”

The conversation that ensued tore open Gardner’s secret: he was hooked on porn. This began a process that lasted years for him: coming clean to his wife, finding accountability, and receiving some strong counsel to help him get to the root of his obsession with porn. It was a long road, but it paid off in the end.

Now, years later, Gardner is passing on to others what he knows. He leads the Sexual Integrity groups for his church. He counsels and mentors other men who struggle with lust. He has even written a book about what he has learned: Porn Free: Finding Renewal through Truth and Community.

But Gardner knows the personal battle isn’t over: while he may not be looking at blatant pornography anymore, lust is still lodged in the heart, and the Internet is still a minefield of temptations.

We asked him what the danger zones are, and he didn’t rattle off just a list of predictable men’s websites (Maxim or Esquire or Sports Illustrated). What danger zones did he mention? Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Amazon. Vimeo. Pinterest. Flickr. Tumblr. Some of the most popular and most used websites, Gardner says, are often the most compromising.

What’s a “Gray Area”?

“To me there is no such thing as a ‘gray area’ website,” says Fred Stoeker, co-author of the best-selling Every Man’s Battle series. “The pictures are either sensual or they are not. If they are, they are black. If they aren’t, they are white.”

Stoeker’s litmus test is Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” An otherwise benign website with a sensual advertisement is not “gray” in Stoeker’s mind: it is a spot of black on a white page. “I don’t think very often in terms of gray areas,” Stoeker reports. “When we look at something sensual, whether looking up into the window of Victoria’s Secret store at the mall, or looking at a picture on the MSNBC homepage of Britney Spears performing in her tawdry outfits, even these aren’t gray areas. Sensuality is sensuality, and it will take you down and trip you up.”

The same wash of pleasure chemicals hit the brain while looking at sensual images as when we look at pornography, says Stoeker. “It doesn’t matter if she is nude. That same chemical reaction happens in the eyes and limbic centers of the brain.” To a sexually wired brain, “gray” is just another shade of black.

The Gray Areas of the Heart

Those in the trenches helping other men overcome lust and other sinful habits know the secret: the dividing line between black and white is often not the type of content found online, but how we interact with that content.

Brian Gardner shares his own experience of a common problem with Facebook. “My niece is an actress in LA and has lots of friends in the fashion business. Here’s a picture of her on her Facebook profile at an after-party from a show that she did. There are two beautiful young ladies with her, smiling at the camera. I click on one of their names, and it turns out that she’s an underwear model, and has pictures from her portfolio on her Facebook page.”

Brian then asks himself the penetrating question: “So why did I click on her name? I didn’t know her, and don’t think we can really be friends, but I was curious. Of course, my curiosity had nothing to do with her as a person, but as a beautiful young woman.”

For Gardner, his concern isn’t splitting hairs over the definitions of what is sensual. His concern is the state of his heart. This is the same advice he gives the men he teaches in his Sexual Integrity classes. “The question any man has to ask himself is ‘why?’ Why am I so interested in the beach pictures from the last college retreat? Why am I curious about what lies behind that link?”

In this sense, the difference between black and white isn’t necessarily the image on the page; it is in our own hearts and motives. Visitors to any image-rich website should remember to heed the ancient proverb inscribed at Delphi: “Know thyself.”

The Image Intrigue

“Plausible deniability.” This is biblical counselor Alasdair Groves’ concern about so-called gray areas. “I’m just Googling something harmless—the kind of thing that if you saw me type it in to the search box you wouldn’t think much of it. But I’m inwardly aware that it might turn up some racy or explicit results, and I’m trying to pretend that’s not why I’m doing the search.” Groves says this is typical activity for someone who used to look at porn but has experienced some personal growth and self-control in his or her life. These hidden motives are evidences of a heart that wants to have its cake and eat it, too.

Jeff Fisher, founder of PornToPurity.com, calls these “Yellow Light” behaviors. Red Lights are clearly defined boundaries. Green Lights are safe zones. But Yellow Lights are heading in the direction of a Red Light behavior. Fisher gives several examples of this:

  • Surfing online, hoping to find images, but not “technically” clicking on them
  • Not clicking on a link, but going to a place where pop-ups or images are present
  • Watching a romantic comedy hoping to catch a glimpse of something
  • Going to IMDB.com, watching trailers and searching for actresses bios
  • Looking at safe searches on Google Images, but hoping to find stray sexy pictures

All of these can be Yellow Light behaviors.

The Diversion Deluge

Moreover, not all so-called gray areas have to do with lust or titillation.

According to a recent survey from Pew Internet, people are far more likely now than ever to go online for no particular reason other than to pass the time or have fun. Nearly three quarters of online adults say they use the Internet this way. This is almost double what it was 10 years ago.

Why the upsurge of recreational Internet use? Pew suggests three new trends are contributing to this: (1) the rise of broadband connections, (2) the increasing use of online video, and (3) and the explosion of social networking. These have been major shifts in digital culture over the last decade, and they have caused many to ask: How much is too much?

“A potentially gray website is any that would promote or encourage isolative behavior and/or alternative realities,” says Les Fleetwood, Pastor of Connecting and Equipping at Stonebriar Community Church. Fleetwood believes social networks can become this for some people. “I say ‘potentially’ because these things are morally neutral, but if a lot of unguarded time is spent with them, they can become morally detrimental.”

“I think Facebook—and really any social site—is endless babble and ranks up there with porn as an indulgence,” says Lawrence Arledge, an engineer with Texas Instruments. Those who sit cloistered in their homes and spend too much time connecting online are lonelier now than ever, says Arledge. As a society, he says, we are still learning how to make Facebook into a useful tool and not a low-productivity time-consumer. “The social implications of letting such sterile interactions dominate one’s life are not fully known.”

This does not mean social networking always leads to anti-social and isolative behavior. For many people it rarely does. Rather, researchers say we should be on guard about our “hyper-networking” tendencies: When does time online consume my mind in a way that it starts to hurt my face-to-face relationships? Since 2007, there has been a sharp drop-off in the amount of face-to-face time families spend together in Internet-connected households, according to the 2010 USC Annenberg Digital Future Study. In the first half of the decade, family face-time in Internet-connected homes has dropped from 26 hours per week to 18 hours by 2010.

“The real enemy is fantasy—the state of hypnotic fascination that monopolizes my time and prevents me from engaging in productive activity and real relationships,” says Nate Larkin, founder of the Samson Society. “And almost any website can serve that purpose.”

The Gaming Gambit

While violence is usually the hot topic when discussing the benefits or detriments of video games, online and console gaming can lead to other moral compromises.

“Online gaming is especially seductive,” says Nate Larkin. “Millions of young men are abandoning reality in favor of an imaginary world where they can experience the illusion of success.” For Larkin, a gaming obsession is not a harmless diversion. “There are few things more painful than hearing a wife’s despair over her marriage because her husband is so hooked on gaming that he refuses to engage in real life.”

Additionally, sexual content in video games are also compromising areas. Even if one steers clear of the sexually charged minigames in Dragon Age or Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto, one still has to contend with the bare midriffs and revealing outfits of animated female protagonists. “For teens I mentor, they mention online gaming sites a lot as being problematic,” say Michael Leahy, author of Porn Nation.

Even online games without sexual content can still include sensual advertisements for other websites. Men “get their engines going” over sensual images like this, says Fred Stoeker. “There is a residual effect that keeps their sex drive at a high idle and keeps them prone to falling.”

Accountability for the Gray Areas

So-called gray areas, says Brian Gardner, are extremely common for men who have broken free from pornography in their life. When the battle over pornography is won, says Gardner, the sin in our hearts picks a small battle to win. “If sin can gain a foothold there, it can take back its territory in small nibbles. The goal is the same, however, we must remain watchful over compromise.”

“People who are doing well in accountability groups are learning to talk about the Yellow Light behaviors,” says Fisher. ”When I started checking in my Yellow Light behaviors with other men, I hit another level of seriousness in my purity journey.”

For men like Jeff Fisher, Brian Gardner, and Nate Larkin, using Internet accountability programs is one vital way this is done. Covenant Eyes Accountability rates and categorizes web addresses using six age-based ratings, from E (Everyone) up to HM (Highly Mature). When accountability partners receive someone’s regular Internet use reports, they can make sure to pay attention to the “grayer” ratings, such as MT (Mature Teen) and M (Mature). This raises the moral stakes of Internet purity.

“If I’m avoiding pornography but wasting hours on YouTube or Facebook or Pinterest or a even a galaxy of theological websites, I’m still wasting my life,” says Larkin, “and a good accountability partner will call me on it.”

Issue 20 | May 2012 | More in this issue: Guarding Kids in Sexualized Culture | Living Strong with Integrity