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The Price of Peace – Part Two

The Bible is quite clear about how we can cultivate and enjoy God’s peace, as well as how we can lose it. When we worry and fret over what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what someone else thinks of us, or how jealous we are of others, inner peace remains elusive. Scripture tells us, “Worry weighs a person down, an encouraging word cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25 NLT).

Whenever technology increases our worry, whenever it helps us fragment our attention and compartmentalize our hearts, it also kills our peace. We worry when we rely on our own abilities rather than trust in God. But His Word tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

When we lack peace, we live stressed and afraid. We’re always wondering when the next problem is going to pop up, the next conflict arise, the next crisis hit. Even when things are good, we hold our breath, constantly expecting that other shoe to drop. (It always does, right?) It’s hard to be whole-hearted in our pursuit of God when our thoughts are polluted by worry and anxiety. Instead, we should, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Now is a great time to be brutally honest.

Are you addicted to something on line? Looking lustfully? Spending uncontrollably? Surfing endlessly? Playing continually? Gambling consistently? Scrolling incessantly?

Tell the truth.

While it’s never going to be fun or easy to kick an online addiction, you’ll be surprised how quickly your peace will be restored once you surrender the problem to God. Because if you’re serious about pursuing God’s healing, He’ll meet you wherever you are.

So if you find yourself overwhelmed with virtual temptations, remember that God isn’t surprised. He knows what you face, and He’s already made a plan to help you find freedom. Paul offers us this amazing promise: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Don’t miss the power of these words. 

God will provide a way out.

What’s your way out? I don’t know. It could be something dramatic. But be honest. You are a sharp person. If some small tweak would have fixed your problem, you would have done it a long time ago.

You way out may be confessing to your spouse, your best friend, your small group, or your pastor. It might be deleting an app and making sure you can’t get it again. You might need to lay down your phone, iPad, iPod, Kindle, Kobo, computer, television, and anything else so you can’t get to anything you shouldn’t see. I don’t know what you need to do. But chances are you have a pretty good idea.

God promises to give you a way out.

James tells us, “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

If you want to be a man or woman of integrity, then maybe it’s time for you to submit to God like never before. That’s where you start. Then with Christ’s power, you can resist the devil and all his e-temptations. Tragically, so many people do just the opposite. They resist God’s promptings and give in to the temptations of the evil one. But that won’t be you. And it won’t be me.

Instead we will live with online integrity leading to holiness and righteous living. Because our lives are not about us. We will not gratify the self-centered lusts of the flesh because we’re born of the Spirit. We will not allow God’s loving trust to slide into the quicksand or popular opinion sink us into lower standards. We will guard our peace. We won’t allow how we use tech to rob us of our purpose, passion, and power.

As we pray, God will give us wisdom to set up pleasant boundaries and safeguards to keep temptations as far away from us as possible. And when we are tempted, we know that Jesus has already given us an escape route.

We will seek Him, see His way out, and take it.

We have His power to overcome sin. We have His Spirit to lead us into righteousness. We have His presence to keep us pure.

We will be whole.

We will be complete.

We will know the peace of the Lord. 

The Price of Peace – Part One

When you think about it, no one stumbles into righteousness. People fall into sin every day. But no one just falls into holiness. It requires making deliberate, prayerful choices and walking an intentional path. Which bring us around to thinking of the peace that being right with God brings into our life. When we are born again, we finally have peace with God (Romans 5:1) as the war is over. And then as we walk with Jesus we have the inner peace that passes all understanding just as He promises.

However, there is a stress point here in our lives. Because of modern technology we see this peace that is specific to being a believer destroyed by the constant need (or what we think is a need) to respond to every sound that our phones and laptops make when messages are being received. 

Peace is a funny thing. We tend to think of it as the absence of conflict, the period between wars and military battles where opposing sides at least pretend to get along. (Does that remind you of some marriages?) Whether it’s “peace and quiet” longed for by a stay-at-home mom with young children or something negotiated among world political leaders, we all tend to think of peace as this quiet, calm, serene state of being.

But in the Jewish culture, the word peace, shalom, has a much richer, fuller meaning than just “getting along” with everybody. In fact. Shalom is one of the underlying principles of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that Jews consider foundational to their history. Shalom means not only the kind of personal peace we often crave but also a harmonious environment and a sense that everything’s right with the world.

Shalom is about living out the fullness of who God created you to be and enjoying the abundance of blessings God showers on you. This kind of peace includes a feeling of confidence and blessing because you know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. It also encompasses a sense of security, an ability to relax and not have to try to control everything because you’re able to trust in God’s goodness as well as His plan. What’s interesting is that peace, shalom, cannot be earned like a paycheque after a week’s work. It comes as a free gift if we’re just willing to receive it. 

We all say we want more peace, but I wonder if we recognize what we do that often robs us of God-given peace. Like checking our email obsessively because we’re afraid we’ll miss something, when we should be enjoying time with God, our family, or a close friend we’ve been missing. Or like responding to emails to make sure everyone views us as the hardworking, super-efficient people we are, when we should be focusing on more important priorities. Like killing time surfing for an hour or so because we are avoiding a difficult conversation. Like obsessing over the latest hot app game when we should be playing with our kids. Like numbing the paining of life by clicking to the “wrong sites” for a lustful escape from reality.

Here’s what many people miss: when we misuse technology, we’re robbing ourselves of the peace we so desperate crave, because even the momentary escape is followed by waves of intense guilt. We want to numb the pain, but on the other side of our binge, the pain is still there, only worse. We love the momentary distraction, but then reality screams at us and our responsibilities pile up. We love the thrill of the lust, but the fear of getting caught haunts us and robs us of sleep and peace. Like a person dying of thirst who gulps salt water, that which is supposed to satisfy only intensifies our need. So life goes on as usual. More stress. More anxiety. More worries.

And less peace.

Everyone talks about being so busy and longing for more rest, but not many of us are willing to guard our integrity by unplugging and protecting our personal peace.

One way to measure the peace in your life is to think about your level of satisfaction and contentment. Are you always striving for more, trying to keep up with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers? Or can you appreciate the enormous blessings you’re enjoying today — a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a family to love, friends to enjoy, a car to drive, and a job that provides income?

I’m convinced that our peace (or the absence thereof) is directly tied to what we focus on each day. We don’t need a lot of specialized knowledge or superhuman will to achieve peace. We simply need to keep paying attention to what we are doing with our time. If we’re focused on escaping the pain of life, avoiding problems, and trying to control our image to the rest of the world, then we won’t have much peace. And the more we seek to surf porn, feed a shopping or gambling addiction online, or envy others for all they appear to have online, the more miserable, restless, and anxious we’re going to feel.

Guaranteed.

More next time….

Technology Has Changed How We Relate – Part Two

 

Blog of September 7, 2020

We are looking at how technology has changed how we relate to others in our day and age. Last time we saw two of three major changes:

1> The term “friend” is evolving

2> We’re addicted to immediate affirmation

Let’s continue our look and see number three…

3> We have the power to do friendship on our own terms

Not only do many of us have more virtual Friends than real friends and are addicted to immediate gratification in connecting with others, we face another downside to social media: the power to define relationships on our own terms. Let me explain what this means. Let’s say my friend texts me. I have some choices, don’t I? I can read his text right away, or I can read it later. I can reply as soon as I read it, or I can reply later. I can even choose not to reply at all.

I have complete control over what I do — or what I don’t do.

If another friend posts a picture on Instagram, I have the power to determine several things. For example, is his picture Like-worthy? Is it worth the extraordinary inconvenience of double-tapping my finger on it? Or should I just scroll right on by? If this is another of his stupid cat pictures, you can probably guess what I am going to do. A dog picture. Different.

I am in total and complete control of these friendships; I manage them from a distance. If you are my online friend, I’ll show you only the parts of my life that I want you to see and tell you only what I want to tell you. If I don’t want to respond to the things you choose to show me, I’m not going to. If you post too many pictures of your product, or too many duck-face selfies, or too many “inspirational quotes” that the person you credit may or may not have actually said (because you can’t be bothered to check), or too many pictures of your cat making duck faces, I will unfollow you. We are in control of on-line friendships. And that control is changing how we manage our relationships.

Friendship doesn’t mean what it use to mean. 

I can’t speak for you, but to be really honest, I have to admit that the more I dabble on social media, the more I realize I’m delaying the personal interaction I crave. I have also never been more connected and yet feel so alone.

The author of Hebrews says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Wouldn’t it be amazing to get together with other followers of Jesus and discuss this topic? We could start with, “Guys, how can we become so aggressive in how we show love to one another that other people really stop and think, ‘Hey, these people must be Christians. Have you seen the way they love one another.?’”

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 12:25). 

Really let that sink in: “Let’s not neglect our meeting together.”

“Let us not neglect our meeting together.”

“Let us not neglect our meeting together.

Have we fallen out of this practice?

If this passage isn’t enough to convince you, think about friendship in the context of your Christian faith. Think about what Jesus said: “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). Isn’t that powerful? Jesus promises us that whenever we come together with other believers in His Name, we will experience His real presence in a supernatural way. Does that mean you con’t experience His presence when you’re alone? Absolutely not! You can. It’s just something more, something special, something powerful happens when we come together with other believers to seek God. When you join hands with someone, when you join your faith together and go before God on His throne, you experience His power and presence together in very real ways (Acts 16:25-26).

Something supernatural happens when we join together with other believers and lift up holy hands before our God to worship Him (Exodus 17:10-13). 

Something supernatural happens when we join together with other believers and, as believers have done for centuries, open up God’s Word and read it aloud together (Nehemiah 8:1-12).

Something supernatural happens when we unite our faith and passionately seek God together in prayer (Acts 12:11-14).

Presence is powerful!

Think about it this way: God didn’t shout His love from heaven. He showed His love on earth. He stripped Himself of all heavenly glory and became one of us. God became flesh in the person of Jesus. Even one of Jesus’ names, Immanuel, literally means “God with us.” He came and lived with us, He loved people others rejected. He poured His heart into people who the religious community said were not worthy. He hung out with — and even ate with — tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.

Presence is so powerful. So why do so many of us settle for on-line relationships and neglect the old-fashion way of having friends; actually meeting with them one-on-one, face-to-face?  

Technology Has Changed How We Relate – Part One

I was away on my annual holiday for three weeks in July. And, every morning over my first cup of coffee I wrote a group text to everyone in my home church. Most were not aware that I was away and not at home in my office. It led me to think and briefly research how technology is changing the way we relate to the people in our lives. As we explore these ways, consider how each applies to your life and how you are using technology and social media to relate to others. 

1> The term “friend”is evolving

It used to be that when someone said another person was a friend, you understood exactly what they meant. A friend was someone who shared common interests or bonds, someone you enjoyed being around, someone you did life with. But it’s not that simple anymore, is it? Now a friend can be someone you’ve never met IRL (in real life). Friends can be people who follow what you post on social media. If they follow you, and you don’t follow them back, that’s one kind of friend. If you follow them, but they don’t follow you, that’s another kind of friend. And if you both follow each other, that’s yet another kind of friend. 

Currently, the average Facebook user has 338 friends. But surveys indicate that the average person has only two friends they consider to be close. As shocking as that statistic is, there is one that is even sadder: 25 percent of people in North America today say they have zero close friends! The struggles are real. Does it really matter that you have 338 Facebook friends if you have no one to share your life with? And I’m not even talking about the kind of friend who listens as you pour your heart out or share your latest struggles, Many people no longer have friends they can hang out with or who can drop by unannounced as a welcome surprise. (When was the last time you did that to someone, or they did it to you? Doesn’t it sound intimidating?) Technology supposedly saves us time, yet we seem to have even less time — at least for really relating to people. We have lots of online interactivity, but that doesn’t mean we have any personal intimacy.

Friends just doesn’t mean what it used to.

2> We’re addicted to immediate affirmation

Let’s say you were at home alone back in the old days (ten years ago), and you started feeling a little lonely. What would you do? You might pick up the phone and call a friend. You might even make arrangements to get together. You might walk outside and visit with your next-door neighbour. Any of these were reasonable choices, and they were all pretty easy, right? Apparently, they just weren’t easy enough.

What do we do today when we feel lonely? Text a friend, post an update, or share an old favourite picture. If you’re feeling really creative, we’ll surf for items to pin to Pinterest or make a new YouTube video. We might take a picture of our homemade chocolate chip cookies (gluten free, no GMO, hand-whittled, and carved from organic cocoa) and share it on Instagram. Or we Vine or Tic Tok a little clip about being bored.

Then there’s my favourite. If we’re really bored and lonely, we always have ourselves. That’s right, we can snap a selfie, right there on the couch. It we’re really motivated, we might even go into the bathroom and fix ourselves up a little first, then snap a selfie in the bathroom mirror. We tousle our hair, puff out our lips (duck face), and tilt our heads, snapping picture after picture, trying to get the light just right, determined to achieve a ‘perfect’ shot. We might even go as far as to wear our trendiest clothes, find a local you-wish-you-knew-where-I-was ally, and let the self-timer rip.

But we don’t have to stop there. We can touch up the photo, tweak the lighting a little more, maybe use a filter. We are nowhere near perfect, but we can manipulate images, apps, and filters to create an image of ourselves that’s perfect for the moment. And don’t forget the all-important caption. Is it inspirational? Clever, but not too obviously clever? We can even add a Bible verse for extra ‘Likes.’ Once all is in place we can post it. Then we can compulsively check our updates, hoping to hit the ‘Likes’ jackpot. 

Even if you don’t hit it big, we may score some fun comments. You know, things like: 

    • “Lookin’ good!”
    • “Love that shirt! Where’d ya get it???”
    • “omgosh amazing *swoons*”
    • “where r u? Totes adorbs!! [sexy, smiling emoji]”

We often get immediate feedback. But the problem with this kind of immediate feedback, this quick affirmation, is that it’s addicting. Even when we know it’s shallow, even when we don’t believe the sender is sincere in their flattery, we still love receiving it. To be fair, it’s not our fault. Scientists say that receiving positive affirmation like this release dopamine, a chemical in our brains that gives us a kind of euphoric feeling, a little rush. Just like similar drugs, we can get addicted to that high.

If you don’t believe me, consider the last time you posted a selfie and didn’t get much response — at least in the first hour. Do you remember having an empty feeling and thoughts like these running through your mind?

    • “Where is everyone? What’s up with that?”
    • “How many have clicked on it? Did they ‘Like’ it?”
    • “Who ‘Liked’ it?”
    • “Why didn’t she ‘Like’ it? She never ‘Likes’ my pictures. I’m going to stop ‘Liking’ hers. Just keep that up sister, and you’re gonna get yourself unfollowed.”

Many of us are addicted to immediate affirmation. What is this addiction doing to us? How is it affected our relationships?

Sociologists call all this “deferred loneliness.” We’re trying to meet some short-term need, but in the process of meeting this need, we’re deferring a deeper, longer-term need. We are meant to have deep, sometimes difficult feelings of loneliness to motivate us toward the kinds of contact with others that meet our deepest, long-term needs. Every time we seek instant affirmation, we ignore our basic human condition of loneliness and the opportunity of loneliness that drives us toward real friendship, real intimacy, first with God and then with others.

So our addiction to instant gratification can stunt our relationships. We’re living for ‘Likes,’ but we’re longing for love. 

More next time …

Bad Eyes – Good Eyes

Jesus told us, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34 NKJV).

This really hit home recently while I was ministering in Southern California. My glasses were not sitting right on my face (I had dropped them) and after prophesying over a pastor he came up and asked if he could adjust them. His full-time job in Seattle was working with eyeglasses … he was a church planter. He had travelled many hours to be at our meetings. I so appreciated him correcting the fit of my glasses as then I could see properly out of my progressive lenses. 

My eyesight is not as poor as some people’s. But when my glasses fit properly I can read with a lot more ease and catch details that I otherwise miss. Just as people go to an eye doctor to get glasses or have surgery to give them better eyesight, we’re not stuck with our current life paradigm. We can choose a better one!

The word paradigm come from the Greek and is, in a general sense, a reference to a set pattern or way we see the world – not in terms of our physical eyes but in terms of our assumptions, beliefs, and overall perspective. It’s what we might call our mind’s eye.

This is what Jesus was referring to as He explained the eye as the lamp of the body. He was saying that the eye can be good or the eye can be bad, and the condition of our eye affects what we see or don’t see, what we experience or miss out on. If our eyes are good, it’s like turning on a lamp inside of us. We brighten up in our spirits because we’re living with a greater awareness of God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. 

The opposite is true about bad eyes; they miss seeing the good. They may or may not take in darkness, but they definitely don’t take in light. What they don’t see is not what they are incapable of seeing but typically what they are not trained to see.

In a similar way, the only thing that’s different between a negative person and a positive person is what they “see.” Two people can grow up in the same home with similar life experiences, and one will be negative about life and the other will be positive. Even though they have been surrounded by the same environment and have the same parents, what they see and the way they see it is different.

Negative people are not bad. Pessimistic people are not ignorant. In fact, oftentimes negativity is a trait of people who are highly informed in what they call reality. When passing along their perspective, they will tell you, “I’m not being negative; I’m just being real!” And they are being real in what they are aware of and educated in, which is the “life is hard” reality. They have taken pages of notes and have the data to support the fact that life is not a gravy train!

When people are deeply educated in the “life is hard” reality but undereducated in the “God is good” reality they lean towards the unfavourable possibilities versus seeing the possibilities of something good. The reason these people can get stuck in their negativity is that they have accepted that the “life is hard” reality (paradigm) cancels out the “God is good” (paradigm) reality.

I have found that anyone, even people highly aware of the “life is hard” reality, will become authentically optimistic when they educate themselves in the “God is good” reality. You don’t have to deny the realities associated with life being hard to see the realities associated with God being good!

When you look through ‘good eyes’ you see, recognize, and accept that there is a problem and life is difficult. But, you first see it as a challenge and an opportunity to see God move and do something amazing and supernatural. You rise to the challenge that the reality offers to you. You accept the negative reality as something God knew was coming and has prepared you to handle. His grace being more than sufficient. So, both ‘good eye’ and the ‘bad eye’ see the same reality … but the ‘good eye’ sees it as an amazing opportunity for God to show Himself strong in the situation and for them to learn and grow in their walk of faith as a believer. 

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part Three

We have been looking at the need for decent and mature friends in our individual journey of life. These are the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential…

    • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
    • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
    • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

We have looked briefly at the friend who will challenge you and help to bring the best you to the surface and forefront. And, a friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith. The third type of friend that we must have is one who will tell us the truth – the whole truth, God’s truth, the truth that brings a reality check. And the more successful you become, the more you need this person in your life and, oddly, the harder they are to find.

King David discovered this the hard way. During the season when kings were suppose to be at war, David decided to stay home rather than go to battle. One night he was out on his rooftop when he saw his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing outside her house. His selfish lusts spoke louder than his wisdom, so the king sent someone to bring the woman to him. What’s interesting is that whomever King David sent to get Bathsheba had to know that she was married to Uriah, one of David’s closest friends and one of Israel’s greatest war heroes. But since the messenger was on the king’s payroll (and he might have been afraid of losing more than just his job), the guy did exactly as he was told. He summoned the woman to the king’s palace. And if you don’t know the story well. One thing led to another, and Bathsheba ended up pregnant.

Recognizing that this could become a scandal, David tried to get control of the situation. He called he husband home, figuring Uriah would sleep with his wife and then assume the baby was his. But when Uriah refused to enjoy intimacy with his wife while his men were still on the battlefield, David changed his tactics. He issued the order to move his friend to the front line where he was sure to be killed. And he was.

Unfortunately, everyone in the king’s court was too afraid to tell David the truth. So God sent a man who cared enough to help David see the way back to the right path. The prophet Nathan met with David and told him a story that went something like this. “Once upon a time there were two men. One was very rich and the other was very poor. The rich guy had an unlimited number of sheep and wealth. The poor guy had almost nothing and only one lamb, who was almost like a pet to him and his family. When the rich man had a guest come to town, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it butchered for a meal.”

When David heard this story, he was beside himself with anger. David ranted, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6). Fortunately, Nathan loved David enough to tell him the truth. “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man’” (2 Samuel 12:7). That was enough to jolt king David out of his denial and bring him to his knees in repentance before God. 

Many people around us tell us the things we want to hear, rather than helping us to see the truth. And the more successful we become, the more difficult it is to find people who have our best interests at heart. That’s one reason we must connect with people who love us enough to be blatantly honest. In other words, a true friend. 

David’s son Solomon wisely said, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT). 

When was the last time a friend loved you enough to give you an open rebuke? Has someone loved you enough to offer helpful correction? If not, you might be missing one or two very important relationships that could help you grow, thrive, and succeed. Everyone needs people in their lives who will candidly tell them the truth. Maybe you need to connect with someone who’s willing to show you what you need to see so you can become the person you’re suppose to be.

Winding up the three blogs…

Which kind of friend do you need most in your life right now? Someone who helps you be better? Someone who helps you draw closer to God? Or someone who tells you the truth about yourself?

Is one person’s name popping into your head right now? Someone you could consider getting to know better and sharing your need for this kind of connection? If not, ask God to provide the right person at the right time, that friend who can help you grow closer to Him and to make decisions leading you in a divine direction.

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part Two

We started looking at the need for decent and mature friends in our individual journey of life. These are the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential…

      • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
      • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
      • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

We looked last time at the friend who will challenge you and help to bring the best you to the surface and forefront. Let’s look today at a friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith.

This second friend can help you find strength beyond yourself in the midst of temptation and weakness. Jesus as Samuel helped David see that God wanted to do more in his life than he ever imagined, a guy named Jonathan helped David find strength in God when he needed it most. David was chosen to be the next king, but God didn’t promote him to the throne immediately. God still had a lot to do before He replaced Saul with David. First, David became a war hero winning the hearts of thousands. David was so effective on the battlefield that women danced in the streets singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). You can just imagine how jealous that made an already insecure king. Feeling threatened by David’s rising popularity, King Saul plotted to take his life. David was forced to flee to the mountains to hide from the raging monarch’s posse.

There, in David’s darkest moments, God sent him an unlikely friend to help him find spiritual strength. King Saul’s own son Jonathan recognized the error in his father’s ways and stood faithfully by his friend David. Here’s how Samuel describes the courageous show of support: 

“While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.”

I love that simple phrase, which describes so clearly one of the key ways Jonathan served David: he “helped him find strength in God.” There may not be a more valuable gesture one friend can make to another than pointing them toward God, encouraging them to seek His power, loving them toward God’s unending strength.

This friend is someone who will listen and care. Not always giving you the answers you are seeking for. But, there to listen and have your back as you struggle through the issues that you face in life. They are not an ‘answer man.’ They are not there as ‘Mr. Fix-it.” They are there to listen, to care, and to help you see what God is doing and where He is taking you in the situation you are facing and the current spot in the journey that you are on.  

This friend will be praying for you and with you. They will be a safe place for you to recover, refocus, and regroup. They don’t judge. They simply love, support, and encourage you.

So, who helps you find strength in God? If you don’t have anyone, it’s time for you to connect with someone who can help. God already has that person ready for you. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help., It’s a sign of wisdom.

Healing For Today

This week Ralph will be posting a new teaching on “healing” as understood under the New Covenant.

Jesus is The Healer and He continues to touch and heal people today. However, there are so many different beliefs regarding divine healing today in the Church. Many of them are not biblical.

So, there is a desperate need to go back to the basics and see what the New Testament really does say and what it teaches and promises regarding healing for the believer and the non-believer today.


This can be a very emotional topic as so many loved ones need a healing touch from God. So, we will be looking at the scriptural basis for healing today so that we know what the truth is regarding this powerful ministry.

Posting will go up this weekend. An audio copy as well as a full text of the teaching content.

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About a Christian View of Homosexuality

Introduction:

So, the other day I headed out to the bank and then to the drug store and post office to do some messages and catch up a bit on some office work.

As I entered the bank I was faced with – it was rather loud and obvious so confronted by – a huge presentation celebrating the diversity we have in Canada and focused on Pride month. 

June has been designated the month where we recognize this segment of our national population. 

June has been designated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride month. 

June is now focused on this segment of society in most nations of the world even those that have yet to recognize “gay rights”

Then, entering the drug store there were large posters pointing to this month’s special focus and special sales, of course. 

And, again, at the post office. 

And, again, in most email specials coming into my in-box (Hollister, Abercrombie-Finch)

I am not against having a month to draw attention to all the issues within society regarding this segment of the population. 

And, I think it is good to come to know the history behind the movement and discover all the less-than-humane treatment that this group has suffered at the hands of governments and people (society) in general.

I believe, as well, that we need to take a look at how the Church has treated those who are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. 

We don’t have a very good track record either historically nor in the recent past. In some cases, even today they are not understood or treated in a loving manner by the Church.

Some segments of the Church have elevated this lifestyle – and the Bible does consider it behaviour that is not in line with God’s plan – to the category of major sin.

It is the sin that the Church is targeting, emphasizing, and condemning. 

However, I believe that it is simply one of many sins and that in God’s eyes all sins are equal (James 2:10). 

So, homosexuality is no worse nor better than drunkenness, divorce, gossiping, abortion, or dishonouring your parents. 

Yet, we have elevated this one specific sin to a special place and taken aim at it while ignoring many of the other sins very evident and rampant in the Church and in society.

I believe that Jesus loves sinners. And so should we. 

I believe that Jesus accepts sinners just as they are because He knows that if they begin to walk with Him that He will change them. 

I believe that we should accept them as well – unconditionally. 

I believe that Jesus forgives all sins (except blaspheming the Holy Spirit) regardless of the gravity of the sin or what the sinner is involved in. 

He loves unconditionally, He accepts us just as we are, and He forgives us totally.

That is what I call The LAF Principle. 

And, we would do well to remember that this is how God treated each one of us who call ourselves believers. 

And, that Jesus expects us to do unto others what He has done unto us. 

We are to treat others in the same manner that He has treated us.

I believe that if we were to actually do this we would embrace all sinners and simply love, accept, and forgive them.

We would not separate one sin and make it the BIG ONE for today. 

We would, as God obviously does, simply see sin as sin and love the sinner regardless of the sin.

This means we do not judge those who are in sin – recognizing the sin in our own life helps us not to judge others. 

This means we must not be critical of others and the lifestyles they choose to live. 

This means we must not reject them because Jesus died for them just as He died for us. 

This means that we, the Church, must welcome all sinners and not fall into the traditional denominational tendency of having big and little sins – mortal and venial sins. 

Sin is sin and Jesus died for the forgiveness of all sin no matter how big or small, significant or insignificant we may consider them.

This means we must stop the “us and them” mentality

We are all sinners and no matter what the sin is we are all saved by grace and faith. 

We must welcome all sinners without categorizing the sin and declaring one worse than another. 

This means we must learn how to love, accept, and forgive. And, in doing so, learn how to no longer judge, criticize, and reject. 

We are in what is called a “culture war” as society and the culture changes. 

The battleground of this culture war is homosexuality and same-sex marriage 

This battle has been going on for almost 50 years and it is a war that we, Christians believers, are losing. AND, it is mostly our fault. 

Partly, we have our approach to the issues have caused there to be two camps – we and them

Partly, we have not wrestled with the biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage

I am all for open discussion on this important aspect of life, sex, and marriage

But, to debate the issue seriously and truthfully, we must seek an honest picture of what our opponents actually believe 

Working from what we think they believe is neither helpful nor respectful.

We need to talk with them – listen to them

And, we need to have a good grasp on the truths that inform and make up the traditional, biblical Christian belief.

Let’s look briefly at the basic Christian beliefs involved in this “culture war”

  1. All humans are simultaneously sinful and loved.

All people, regardless of their story, are deeply and unconditionally loved by God, each created with profound dignity and worth, not one more than another. 

This is more than mere religious happy talk — it’s truth whether one is gay, straight, or otherwise. 

But, all people are also stricken with a terminal illness: sin. 

Everyone. 

No exceptions

And, sin is sin

Our sin demands our repentance and needs forgiveness, and God’s love and grace are where we find both. 

This is basic Christianity and the great equalizer of all people.

2. Jesus wasn’t silent on homosexuality.

Some claim Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and therefore is neutral on the topic. 

Not true. 

Jesus shows us that to understand sexuality, marriage and the sexual union, we must go back to the beginning and see how God created humanity and the purpose for creating things the way He did (See Matthew 19 and Mark 10.) 

Jesus holds up the creation story in Genesis not as a quaint Sunday school lesson, but as authoritative — reminding us that God created each of us male and female, each for the other. 

And the sexual union that God created and ordains is for husband and wife to come together in physical union, one flesh.

3. There is only one option – marriage between a male and a female

Both Jesus and all of scripture approve of no other sexual union then that between a husband and wife. 

This is the uncontested historical teaching of Judaism and Christianity, and it is not something that true Christianity is free to adjust with the times. 

Yes, concubines and multiple wives are found in the Bible, but doesn’t make them “biblical.” 

In fact, they violate the Genesis narrative Christ points us to.

4. Male and female complete God’s image on earth.

It is not just mere “traditionalism” that makes man and woman the norm for Christian marriage

When God said that it “is not good that the man be alone” (Genesis 2:18) He wasn’t lamenting that Adam didn’t have a buddy or was just lonely. 

He was saying that the male could not really know himself as male without a human “other” who equally shared his humanity but was meaningfully distinct right down to every bit of her DNA. 

The same is true for her in Adam. 

In both Jewish and Christian belief, both male and female become fully human in their correspondence and contrast with one another. 

This does not happen solely in marriage, but it does happen most profoundly and mysteriously in marriage.

5. Sex is indeed about babies.

It is a new and culturally peculiar idea that human sexuality is all about intimacy and pleasure, but not necessarily babies. 

Babies and reproduction matter. 

And sure, while not every male/female sexual engagement is toward having a baby — intimacy and pleasure matter as well

But, having babies has been the overwhelming norm and desire in nearly all marital relationships throughout time. 

It is a fact that same-sex unions will result in a human cul-de-sac. 

Heterosexual union reaches into and creates the next generation. 

To establish a sexual relationship without any interest in or openness to babies is contrary to God’s intention for such relationships.

6. Children have a right to a mother and father.

Every person ever born can track his origin to a mother and a father. 

There are no exceptions, including those artificially produced. 

This was the first command God gave to the first two humans: to come together and bring forth the coming generations of new divine image-bearers. 

Nearly all cultures in all places in the world at all historical times hold as fundamental that every child should be loved and raised by a mother and father. 

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes a mother and father as a basic right of every child.

7. Same-sex attraction is not a sin.

To be human is to have a disordered sexuality. You do. I do. Everyone does. 

We all have some manner of sexual drive that compels us to disobey God’s design for sexuality. 

But, while temptation is universal, it’s different from sin. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, but did not sin 

(Hebrews 4:15). 

Sexual sin is giving in to that desire in either mind or body. 

Faithful Christians cannot avoid temptation, but it strives to resist and master it with God’s help. 

Many are indeed same-sex attracted, but live obediently within a Christian sexual ethic. 

It can be difficult, as it is for heterosexuals who are required to live in celibacy. 

Christianity requires that we each subject our desires of the flesh and soul to our faith commitment 

And countless same-sex attracted believers do so willingly and joyfully.

8. Sexual intimacy is not a right.

Every Christian has limitations placed on his sexuality. 

For married Christians, it is exclusive to one’s spouse. 

For single, engaged, and divorced Christians, it is abstinence, no exceptions.

 Is it unfair for so many to be forced into a life that cannot know the wonder and beauty of physical intimacy just because marriage is not an option for them? 

Is it fair for a Christian to be stuck in a loveless marriage? 

Christians have long understood that fairness is not really the question. 

Sex is not a right, but a gift — and the Giver knows what is best for us.

9. Rewriting God’s rules is never an option.

One of the marks of a Christian is his or her desire to be obedient to Christ’s teaching. 

Certainly most of us would like to rewrite the scriptures to make life easier. 

I would change where Christ says that lust is the same as doing the deed…that lusting in the heart is the same as jumping into bed with a person

Christianity is a demanding faith. 

The scriptures define and change us, not the other way around. 

A biblical sexual ethic does not, indeed cannot, change with the times.

10. People are more than their sexuality.

To identify people by their sexuality is to reduce people to their sexuality. 

Every individual is so much more. 

A person’s inherent and undeniable value is rooted in his membership in humanity, not his specific sexual orientation

And standing up for a person’s rights based on their sexual preferences, desires, relationships, and behaviours – is simply not right because people are more than their sexuality

So, the Christian faith has a view of sex and sexuality based on God’s Word and the main points are:

1. All humans are simultaneously sinful and loved

2. Jesus wasn’t silent on homosexuality.

3. There is only one option – marriage between a male and a female

4. Male and female complete God’s image on earth.

5. Sex is indeed about babies.

6. Children have a right to a mother and father.

7. Same-sex attraction is not a sin.

8. Sexual intimacy is not a right.

9. Rewriting God’s rules is never an option.

10. People are more than their sexuality.

Revelations Not Resolutions

We are approaching the start of a new year….

It seems to me that time is moving more quickly than it ever has before

Or, that I am simply moving a little slower than I use to

Maybe it is that time sure does fly when you are having fun…

But then life is not always a lot of fun

As believers, when we look at the start of a new year we should have inside of us a renewed sense of hope Read more