By Vicky Montaie
In Psalm 119 there are eight words used continuously. Law, Word, judgment, Testimonies, Commandments, Statutes, Precepts, Word.
Law- Teach or direct.
Word- God’s revealed word to man .
Judgment- being judge by our words and works.
Testimonies- Word for witness, signifies loyalty to the term of the covenant made between you and God Commandment- authority of what God said, His orders.
Statues- The written word of God and authority of His written word; declaring His authority and power of giving us law.
Precepts- Points to clear instructions of the Lord, as of one who cares about detail.
Word- God has spoken, commanded, and promised.
Our true happiness comes from knowing the bible not just searching scripture when we are in need. As Christians, as disciple’s, our focus should be on having a personal relationship with God through reading His word, and everyday living. We must come to God un-defiled, that’s where the true blessing comes from. Once you walk in God’s word, we will know the true blessings of living and enjoying an un-defiled life. We should be familiar with this saying, ”we are all sinners in our own way.” Let me seek to illustrate this. Our sins can cause us unhappiness; and the reason we may sin as much as we do, is that ( I hope you ready for the truth) we do not know the bible well enough; apart from being instructed by God. We as people do not know how to achieve happiness on our own. When we abide by the word of God, we become happier, enjoy life more and we become content. Psalm 119 gives us clear picture of the importance of why we should read, and mediate on the Word of God, and how crucial it is to our lives.
Want to learn more? Read this article on True Freedom
Lets continue to chat! Feel free to leave a comment or a questions. Remember to keep it Christ-like, we are all in process and we need to demonstrate grace and love.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him,“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Jesus as well as the other new testament writers are very pointed in the area of true freedom. I think we have this jilted idea of what freedom is. Personally if we are going to look at the area of freedom I think that we have to dive into the area of sin. In Genesis chapter 4 ‘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.’ Sin wants nothing more than to be our master.
We are under a curse and the only cure or freedom from that curse is found in belief and obedience to Christ Jesus. We must become slaves of Christ and His righteousness rather than slaves of sin and death. Sin sucks, that’s the short of it. Sin has a way of controlling and destroying our lives faster than we can fathom or imagine, yet we run to our sinful desires. Why do we long to be enslaved to that which kills us rather than enslaved to that which gives us life? This is a question that has haunted me as I look at my life and my failures. I hate sin and I certainly hate what sin does in my life. I have watched the destruction for many years now and it continues to perplex me. Why do I fail? The simple or Sunday school answer is, because I’m a sinner. The deeper issue is… because I’m a sinner.
If I believe in Jesus Christ then I am to continue in His word, and it is that very truth that will set me free. Seems simple enough, but for some reason this freedom has alluded me over the years. In my walk, God has continued to make it clear to me that I have a tendency to look at the wrong source. As a result, I often feel a sense of condemnation because I look to keep the law perfectly, I use the law as a checklist and so when I fail, I feel awful, beat myself up and don't experience the new life I have in Christ. I have had many conversations with people that feel similar and I am learning and growing out of this mentality. We are to look to Jesus and what He has accomplished, it is His work and not ours that has the power to save.
Read the book of Galatians to get the scope of what I am talking about here.
The law is a tutor, it puts our sin on display, and demonstrates that we fall short of the glory of God. Jesus fulfilled the law, and freed those who believe in Him from the yoke of slavery that is the law (keep reading lest you be confused). What an interesting thing for God to do. I mean think about it, He set a standard in which we could not keep in order to show us our need for redemption, how brilliant is that!!! God used His standard to show us our need for Him. Perfection (holiness) is the standard, and we fall short of God's glorious standard (Romans 3:23). All of us admit we are not perfect, no one is and as a result we need to be given perfection in order to meet the standard. Check this out. Jesus, God in the flesh, came and lived a perfect, sinless life, He kept the standard. Then because sin requires death, Jesus took the death that you and I so rightly deserve, so that who so ever shall believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, those who put their trust in Jesus go from death to life. In Jesus we now meet the standard. He stood in our place, and as a result those who believe (which means to be about His business, to follow Him if you will) in Him now meet the standard because of Him. He is in us, and we are in Him. This is why it is good news.
If we understand the gospel (the good news), than this will be a motivation to strive after the things of God. I want to be abundantly clear about something so please read the next paragraph carefully.
So if you believe in Jesus now what? Is it okay to sin? Do you have a new life that allows you to continue to do what you want because you are under grace? Paul writes this in Romans 6; “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”
For some, this may be old news, and very obvious. For others, it may be a most freeing piece of information. In my life this has become a crucial point. As I live out my life for Christ I realize that I am going to fail, I am not perfect, I am not God. I also realize that, I am to strive for Christ likeness, I am to strive to be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect, and I am to cultivate a deeper relationship with God. The key point in this is that it’s not because I have to do those things but because I get and want to do them.
Obedience is not a check list, it’s a desire.
I received an encouraging message from my good friend Dexter. His wife Vicky had taken some time to breakdown Psalm 119. If you have the time, take a minute and give this short article a read. True Happiness.
Let's chat! Leave a comment/question and as always, let's represent Christ well and have loving, Christ-centered conversation!
"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2
Maybe you are like me. When I fail, when I sin against God, I beat myself up exponentially, and I pour heaps of condemnation on myself. I tend to think that I am the worst person in the world, that I am not qualified to do anything as it relates to ministry, and I find myself depressed. More often than not this depression or view of myself translates to a poor attitude, and I become easily frustrated, one failure tends to lead to another. Maybe you don't experience this, it is my hope that you don't. I have a tendency to be extremely hard on myself, I demand perfection and unfortunately, I'm not perfect and won't be on this side of eternity. I so often feel like I let God down because I am not perfect.
How arrogant can I be? How prideful can I be? How easily can I be deceived into thinking that I can and should be perfect, and even worse, that I can do it in my own strength. How silly a thought.
Why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus live a sinless life only to be crucified for the sins of mankind? Why did God raise Jesus from the dead? Why did God give us His Word? Why does God place His Spirit inside the believer? Why does God take the time to point out what needs to go in our lives and help us correct it? The reality is, the answer to all of these questions boils down to the holiness of God, the depth of His love, the reality of sin and our desperate need for Him.
Now before I am taken to task or considered a Graceist (all grace, no need to change or strive after the things of God because I am His and I can do as I please etc.), I fully believe that we should be striving after the things of Christ and that as Jesus stated "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Here is the thing though, we are in all in desperate need of God's grace and though we are to strive after the things of Christ we are not going to be able to do it on our strength, and we are to learn from God's grace that which we would learn from discipline. This is a life long process that God is working out in your life. One of my biggest problems in all of this has to do with my past and my earthly father. I was never good enough, I was a failure and there was no grace. I have a tendency to place the characteristics of my earthly father on my Heavenly Father and this is a grave error. See when I fail, I immediately hit what I stated earlier in this article because my earthly father would tell me these things and the enemy whispers them in my ear (or at least those seeds have been planted). It is very hard for me to understand, and receive, God's grace. I constantly think I am letting him down and I am a disappointment . The reality is that when God called me and adopted me into His family, He knew/knows my issues, my ins and outs, my flaws, my strengths, etc. because He is God, He is my creator, He is my Father.
I for one am tired of hating myself for what Christ died for. He died and rose so that I may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10) as my faith is in Him. I am saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). I am in desperate need of Jesus, I cannot do this on my own, I absolutely cannot, no one can.
Praise God for what is shared in His word that we have an advocate in Christ Jesus. When we fail, instead of beating ourselves up, we need to run to Jesus. John 3 states that those who practice the truth come to the light, and this demonstrates that God is at work in that persons heart (John 3:17-21). We have an extraordinary blessing as believers in Jesus, our debt is paid, we are free in Christ. I need to remind myself often that I am not alone, that the Spirit of God resides in me and I am covered by the blood of Jesus, and Christ has provided a family of believers to walk with so that we may do life together, united in Him.
May we be a people that run to Jesus and cling to Him, always. The Scriptures below are ones that I often meditate on and pray through, I hope that you find them encouraging.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10
"Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:13-14
I would love to chat more about this, leave a comment and lets chat! God bless!
Below is my new single Blind.Sight. This song is a bit of my testimony as well as dealing with some of the realities I stated in the article above. The chorus is simply "I'm so sick of myself, sick of my sin, oh Lord I need Your help, I'm thankful that You, see Your work through, You finish what You start"
I hope you enjoy what you hear!
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When we enter into the unknown we have a tendency to worry, and often, that worry leads to unrest, and unrest often turns to panic. As believers in Jesus we know two things concerning this world, we will face tribulation and have trouble, but in Jesus we can have peace because He has overcome the world, and we belong to Him. Unfortunately, we tend to focus on our circumstances more than the one who is greater than them. We tend to focus on the negative and find ourselves in cycles that are hard to break. One of my favorite sections of Scripture is Philippians 4:4-8, let's take a look at it...
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
There is a lot to unpack here but the long and short is this; no matter your circumstances, rejoice in the Lord always (Paul is writing this from prison after being arrested for sharing the Gospel). Be anxious for nothing but rather pray, reflecting on all that God has done and making your request known to Him. I love this next part, when we truly rest in Him, when we reflect on all He has done and we have made our requests known to Him, the Word states, the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. A question that we need to look at is this, do you/we trust Him? If we trust Him than we know He hears our prayers, and that He is more than capable of handling our lives and the lives of others. When we trust Jesus, we will have peace even in the midst of the hardest of circumstances. The section goes on and it is important. As a people who have a tendency to jump to the negative, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us to focus on what is true, right and pure. This is important. Instead of the negative, we are to dwell on that which is true, God's Word, His promises, and all He has done in our lives and throughout history. When we dwell on these things, we are hard pressed to focus on the negative or our circumstances, we will have oriented our thoughts on Jesus and who He is. I unpack this all a little bit more in one of my podcasts.
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8
If we seek to find peace in anything other than Jesus we will continue to find ourselves wanting. It may last for a moment but it will certainly be fleeting and change as your circumstances do. As believers in Jesus we are built on the Rock, so that when the storms come (the trials of life), and they will, we will not be shaken but will stand firm on the Rock. The world is watching, they want to see if you truly believe what you say you believe. May we be a people that show others the peace we have in the midst of the chaos and that Jesus is who He says He is.
Below you will find a song from AJM Family member Dexter Montaie. Not only is this song fantastic, the message is even better. You will have the chorus ringing through you head, and this is a good thing as you sing "Pray about it all" over and over. May we be a people who aren't anxious about anything but rather we pray about it all and trust God with our lives!
Let's keep the conversation going, what are some of your favorite verses as it relates to peace, rest and trusting Jesus? Leave a comment and let's chat. God bless!
One day I came home and my wife handed me our newborn and said "war, I have been to war, this is harder." My wife has served in the Army & the Reserves for 21 years, she has been in situations I have only read about or watched in movies. Stephanie was a medic, she was in the thick of it helping those who had been wounded in battle, she has some intense stories, things she lived through. When she handed me our child and said those words I knew that it had been a rough day. Our first child came into the world screaming and didn't seem to stop for the first 8 months of his existence. I honestly wish that last statement was an exaggeration, it's not. Many of our friends thought something was wrong with him because he would not stop crying. After about 6 months Stephanie had a hunch and that hunch proved correct, things began to change for the better. During those first 8 months sleep was a hot commodity. I thought that sleep and Bigfoot had a lot in common, both claimed to be real, there was supposed evidence and yet neither had been found. Stephanie and I met in December of '14, were engaged that February, married in August. and found out Stephanie was pregnant in October... Things moved quickly for us, we knew that God was at work. God made it clear to both of us that we were to be married, and it was our prayer that we would have children quickly, God honored that prayer. We hoped to have children quickly because Stephanie and I are both on the older end of the spectrum (we are still young in our minds but in the realm of child birth we were on the older end) and we hoped to have a family. We now have 3 beautiful boys whom we love dearly and are blessed to be their parents.
The reality, this is war. Stephanie didn't realize it when she said it, and the context in which she said it is different than what I am about to share but never the less, this is hard and we are at war. As a husband and a father, I have learned that I need to fight for my family. I am beginning to learn what it means to lead my household. God has continued to draw things out in my life that need to go (selfishness, pride and being slow to anger/frustration being the primary), and He is teaching me how to love and lead well. This is a process and I am thankful for the process. One of the biggest eye opening things from me came out of a book called "Parenting" by Paul David Tripp. He was unpacking the fact that we are ambassadors of Christ and that we need to have that mindset when we are parenting our kids. When I read this, a light bulb went off. I am an ambassador of Christ, what I say and do is as a representative of Christ and His Kingdom. After reading it I experienced what I call "the weight of family". As a husband and a father I have a responsibility to love my wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5) and to raise my children up in the way they should go so that they may not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Neither of those are small things, and they require work, time and energy, and lots of it. Add the fact that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare and the picture comes into focus. As husbands (and wives), our primary objective is to follow Jesus, He is our leader and as we follow Him we will seek to honor and worship Him with our lives. Obedience is worship (Romans 12:1-2). You want to be a better husband, seek Jesus. You want to be a better father, seek Jesus. You want to be a better employee/worker, seek Jesus. You want to be a better son/daughter, seek Jesus. I think you get the point.
There is so much to unpack and discuss on this topic and so this article is one of many to come but may we see our role as husbands and as fathers, as ambassadors of Christ. Everything we say or do should be pointing our spouse and our children to Jesus. This even includes our failures. Am I showing my family that when I fall short (and I do often) that God is at work, that His grace abounds and that I am learning. On the same note, am I demonstrating/giving that same grace and forgiveness to my wife and my children as they fall short? We are all in process and all in desperate need of Jesus, may we lead with this in the front of our minds and seek to honor Him by how we serve and love our families.
I would love to continue this conversation, what are somethings that you have learned as a husband/wife or as a father/mother? Leave a comment and let's chat! Until next time, God bless!
Nothing compares to God's love. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and oh how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! When we reflect on God's love, when we meditate on the gospel, and when realize just how much God has done in our lives, we can't help but fall on our face. God's love drives us to our knees. When we fully understand our need for Jesus every second of every day things begin to change in our life. Jesus stated in John 14:15 that "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." 1 John 4:19 states that "We love because He first loved us." When we reflect on God's love it is going to begin to drive us to deeper dependence and obedience to Him, which is going to drive a deeper love for our Lord. As our love for God grows our life is inevitably going to change, we are going to begin to look more like Jesus. As our minds are renewed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the reading, and dwelling on God's word, we are going to fall more in love with Jesus. To quote Dexter Montaie's song "God's love is everything." This is no small statement, and it need not be missed, as God's love truly is everything. It was through love that God sent His only Son, and it was love that drove Jesus to the cross (a love first for the Father and His will), and that love is further expressed through those whom believe and follow Jesus. God's love is everything, in fact, God is love (1 John 4:8). God's love should drive us, it should flow from us as believers. I often share this when speaking on evangelism "God's love for us fuels our love for God, and our love for God fuels our love for others."
There is so much to unpack here as it relates to God's love but if you have taken the time to read this, first, thank you, and second, take a minute to reflect on the love of God. Meditate on what God has done for you, and allow that to motivate you, to drive you deeper into His word and seek to be more like Christ daily. I was moved by Dexter's song "God's Love", give it a listen, pay attention to the lyrics and enjoy! God bless!
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory." Colossians 3:1-4
It is so easy for us to get wrapped up in the things of this world. We are constantly being bombarded with countless temptations and worldly desires that want nothing more than to feed our flesh. Sadly, we tend to give into these desires more often than we care to admit. I think people have this idea that when you come to Christ your life is going to be rainbows and butterflies and everything is going to be peachy. This couldn't be further from the truth. Life seems to get harder at times. We find ourselves in the midst of a battle we new nothing of before our lives were transformed by Jesus. There are so many scriptures that speak to putting our old selves to death and walking in the newness of life only found in Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17 "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" We are to hold this in tension with the fact that we are in process and as Paul stated "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16
The more I grow in Jesus the more I learn that so much of this boils down to what we are focused on. If we are focused on Jesus, if we are focused on God's word and we are focused on doing what God has called us to do, things change. I can know in my mind that I am a new creation in Christ but am I working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12)? Do I have a Kingdom mindset? Do I hunger and thirst after the things of God? Do I long to see people redeemed and come to know the Savior? Do I seek to flee from sin? Am I praising God for His grace and the advocate that I have in Jesus (1 John 2:1-2)? Do I learn from grace that which I would learn from discipline? Do I long to know God more? Am I fully dependent on Him or do I seek to control everything? Do I trust God with my life? These are important questions for us to meditate on and for us to answer. It is a prayer for myself but also for all of us as followers of Jesus that we take Him seriously and we take Him at His word. It is my desire to have a Kingdom mindset, and to be fully devoted to Jesus. The good news is that the more I pray this and the more I seek Him in and through His word, the more I see this change in my life and the more I get about His business.
How about you? Where's your focus at? Where do you need to grow? Are you Kingdom Minded?
This article was inspired by a song written by Old Man Xero. The song challenges us to really think about what it means to follow after Jesus and to take Him seriously. Our lives will reflect what we truly believe and our faith in Jesus should be permeating our entire lives. You really should give it a listen and pray that God do a mighty work in your heart as well as your brothers and sisters across the globe. Let's Go!
Have something to add? Leave a comment below, lets chat! As always, God bless!!
The Pharisee card, I have seen it used a lot these days and it is breaking my heart. Unfortunately, most of the time the card is being played it is played as sort of a Christian trump card intended to discredit the person it is being played against, this can be very problematic. We see the Pharisee card being played in conversations that challenge our previous held beliefs or ideas, and instead of engaging in Christ honoring conversation we assume the person is being Pharisaical and we dismiss them as not having anything to offer us, so we shut them down by calling them Pharisees or Religious Leaders. I want to look at the Pharisees for a minute and dive into how they were responding to Jesus and His disciples. As a bit of a disclaimer, this may be hard to swallow because it should challenge us to look at how we respond to people when they challenge the things we believe.
Lets state the obvious first, the Pharisees were self-righteous hypocrites. Sadly, this is where we tend to stop and often why we use the Pharisee card out of context and incorrectly, and we certainly don't apply the card to ourselves because we are not self-righteous hypocrites (please insert any level of sarcasm you see fit). There is so much more to this picture than meets the eye, and this is where we can find our self acting like the Pharisees if we are not careful. The Pharisees refused to listen to the truth of God's Word, they refused to admit that they might not have it all figured out, they refused to examine the claims of Jesus, the figured they had all the answers and no one could tell them otherwise. With that, when Jesus brought them a truth claim about Himself or the Scripture they rejected it immediately, they had already come to the conclusion that they were right and He was wrong. This is where we can be much like the Pharisees. When a brother or sister brings something to us or challenges something said or that we have held on to as a belief, instead of examining if what they are saying is true, we reject their claims, and we seek to discredit them, this is exactly what the Pharisees did. We as people have a problem when the facts don't align with our previously held beliefs and with that, we have a couple of options. We can either approach the topic presented with an open mind and an open Bible examining the claim(s) that is being made, or we can cling to our presuppositions and assume the person is wrong and dismiss what they are saying. In my mind, the first approach is the wise approach and the more Biblical approach. (Now, there are certain doctrines that you are going to rightly cling to, for example; Salvation through faith alone, the person of Christ (the hypostatic union (two complete natures, Jesus was fully human and fully God during His time on earth), and others.)
We look an awful lot like the Pharisees when refuse to examine a claim being brought to our attention. Even if the person is way out of bounds in their thinking, we should still be willing to hear them out, take the time to examine the Biblical reality of the claim and have a conversation. The problem is that that option is harder, longer, and requires our attention and time, it is way easier for us to dismiss things. I am reminded of a time when I was young in my faith and a buddy of mine whom I had come to trust had shared that the music I was listening to was problematic and certainly didn't glorify God. My initial response wasn't the kindest, I thought in my mind that they were some religious nut and I said "music is just art, it's fine for me to listen to these things." That friend shared a series called "They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll" by Good Fight Ministries with me, and I didn't want to watch it. I thought it was just going to be some over the top, crazy religious stuff that was seeking to condem me for my listening habits. However, because I had come to know this brother in Christ I chose to watch it. The video series was 10 hours long and after the first half of video 1 I was wrecked, I was in tears and I realized I was wrong, God did a mighty work. Later that week I gathered up all my music and I threw it in the dumpster, it took everything for me not to jump in and fish it all out but I knew that God had made it clear that it needed to go. My point is this, my previously held belief was that my music was fine, but in reality, it wasn't and through careful examination of my buddies claim according the to the Word of God I saw that I was wrong. I could have fought for what I thought was right, I could have called him a Pharisee, I could have dismissed him or sought to discredit him but instead I reluctantly listened, and examined the claim and my life changed as a result.
One of the hardest things for us to do as humans is to admit when we are wrong, or to entertain the possibility we could be wrong or even deceived.
We need to be teachable and realize we aren't always right, and that it is possible that we can be deceived and go around thinking we are right when we are in fact wrong. It is important for us to study, to examine the evidence and when we are wrong, we need to adjust. Sadly, with the way the Pharisee card is being used today, Jesus, the disciples and especially Paul would be likely to be called Pharisees, that should trouble us and shake us awake.
The final thing I will mention about the Pharisees is not an item that is spoke about much but it is so important!! The Pharisees were heretics, they were false teachers, this also plays greatly into their self-righteousness and rejection of the Truth. The Pharisees were more concerned with what the Tradition of the Elders taught then they were what the Word of God taught. They were more concerned with what the Talmud had to say then the Word, they were teaching and holding people to extra-Biblical material, that is not okay. I wont spend much time here but just know it is important and maybe do some study on it, you might be surprised what you find.
The bottom line is this, before you play the Pharisee card examine your heart, examine your thoughts, examine the claims, and make sure you are properly using the card. There are for sure times when playing the Pharisee card makes sense, however it is not as often as you think and unfortunately we have abused it's usage. May we be careful to examine what is being said by our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we don't agree with them we need to have the conversation in love, not ascribe motive or intention to them, and always represent Jesus in all situations, even the ones where it makes sense to play the card.
We would love to hear from you about this, please leave a comment and continue the conversation, and as always lets keep the conversation Christ-centered and Christ-like. Thank you so much for taking the time!!
Finding a healthy balance is never easy.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
When I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God has a pretty clear order of how things should look in our life and we as fallen creatures sure do a good job of muddying the waters. All of us are guilty at times of having our priorities out of wack. We can get so caught up in different things that other important parts of our lives get lost in the shuffle and this can have detrimental consequences. We are all too familiar with the grind between work, family, our hobbies, our goals, our hopes to provide a better life for us and our family, etc... None of those things in and of themselves is bad, but how we manage them is where it can get tricky and sometimes turn a good thing into a bad thing quickly.
As believers in Jesus we know in our minds that we are to put Christ first always, He is to be the reason we do what we do. So many of us believe that we are called to certain things and so we pursue those things with great vigor, sometimes we pursue them so intensely that other things that God has directly called us to, suffer. I was very specific in naming this article as most who will read it are aspiring Christian artists. We can feel so deeply that God has called us to make music that we tend to rearrange the order of our life. I am going to be real honest here... Not everyone who makes music and thinks they are called to make music for Jesus are in fact called, and even if you are, it doesn't mean you are destined for the big stage. (Check out the article "You May Be Highly Successful and Not Even Know It." ) I feel very much called to make music for Jesus but I also know that my calling in that is not to be a CHH star, I am okay with that, in fact it is very welcomed. Do I strive to make the best possible music I can for Jesus, yes, you bet I do! Do I want people to listen to the music I make, absolutely! Am I going to sacrifice the other things God has called me to do in my life for the sake of the music I believe He has called me to, 1000% NO! I have seen it happen, and if I am honest, I have seen it happen in my own life, where people (myself included) get so caught up in one thing, that other vital pieces to their life/calling take a back seat. I have watched marriages falter because people are so wrapped in their musical calling that their spouse feels neglected and it causes nothing but problems.
My hope in writing this is to help.
If you believe you are called to music ministry, praise God, what you do with that calling and how you handle the other areas of your life that are equally (if not more) important (i.e. your wife, & kids is you have them), is vital. If you are married than your spouse is your number one priority. We can say this all day but is it reflected in how we live our lives? We can say we love our wife/husband all day but our actions are going to be what they see and hear. Those of us who are married need to be vigilant in this area, we must genuinely put our spouse first, always (Note: Your relationship with God should be first and if we are putting Him first we will take seriously the call to put our spouses first in the area of human relations). Read Ephesians 5. The next layer of this is if you have a child or children, they are next in line before anyone or anything else. I have learned all of this the hard way as I continue to wrestle with my own selfishness. I have seen my selfishness have such a negative impact on my family to the point where it was so clear that I was doing it wrong. This is why I take this so seriously, there is much at stake and the way we live matters. Love God, Love your Spouse, Love your Children.
Finish this article at www.tentmakermusic.com
Pornography addiction is no small thing, and for many men and women the struggle is real. Pornography addiction can leave a person feeling broken, desperate, isolated and simply put, imprisoned. For those struggling with this addiction they are constantly being told that there is hope and that freedom available but they never seem to be able experience it and as a result they feel even worse. The truth of the matter though is that there is in fact hope, there is a way to experience freedom from this bondage. I started watching pornography when I was 9 years old, I always knew that it was something I shouldn't be watching but I began to crave it. By the time I was a teenager I was a full blown porn addict, and I was also beginning to have actual sexual experiences which heightened the watching of porn. This carried well into my adult life. I came to Christ when I was 27, I had many addictions prior to my turning to Jesus from drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, to sex and pornography, and when I came to Christ, 4 of those things immediately dealt with. I stopped smoking, doing drugs, drinking, and I stopped engaging in sexual activity. For some reason the one that stuck around was the pornography. It had become a way of life for me, it was normal and I couldn't stop watching it. In the beginning of my walk I would seek to hide it as I felt ashamed but then in reading the Gospel of John I came across John 3 verses 20 and 21 which state "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” These verses shook me, I had to ask myself the question, "am I practicing the truth and coming to the Light or am I hiding my sin?" Clearly I was hiding my sin. This convicted me and I began to reach out. I kept my circle tight but I made sure that I had a couple guys I could share my struggle with, and this began the process of me getting the help I needed to walk in the freedom that Christ offers.
Lets get into some practical steps on how to deal with pornography addiction. (Please note that though they aren't directly listed in the steps below, fervent prayer and Bible study are a must in and through this process.) (Also, this blog will be a little longer than normal and that's okay!)
Step 1, Admit you have an issue and need help. This might seem obvious but pride can be a beast and a lot of times we think we can handle these issues on our own. Porn addiction is not an issue that you can handle by yourself, it will require the help of the Holy Spirit and the help of the body of Christ. This is so vital to beating this addiction!
Step 2. Have a couple people that you can openly talk to about your struggles, your failures and your successes. There are a few things to draw out here that are important to mention. Fist, again, our pride can be a beast. If we have those people in our life we need to make sure we exercise the option to contact them and not only contact them but contact them before and not after a failure. This point is so important because it is often the hardest. We get embarrassed or we think they will be mad at us for struggling, or we just messaged them a couple of hours ago, or the day before etc... The enemy is crafty in these moments and our flesh starts to take over, we need to get out ahead of things before they get out of hand (and if we are honest they can get out of hand quickly). You need to have people in your life that will walk through this with you and that you can be open and honest with. I tell my friends that I am accountability partners for that even if I don't pick up leave a message or text me, I will respond and know that I will ask so they will have to answer, I tell them that I expect honesty as that is what they will get from me, and I want them to walk in the victory they have in Christ.
Step 3, Have an escape plan. This follows step 2 as they go hand in hand. This plan should be known by your accountability partners as they are a key part of the plan and holding you to the plan laid out. This plan should include contacting your accountability partners, prayer, Bible reading (specific Scriptures that you have found powerful or remind you of Gods goodness), something or a series of somethings you can do instead (this is where having a hobby is huge, for me it is writing or making music, this helps me focus on something different and is very helpful). If you are alone, sometimes you might have to leave the house and go somewhere public or just get in your car, crank some worship music (or just Christian music in general) and just drive. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a great verse to memorize for those that struggle with lust or pornography "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." This is a fantastic verse to remember, it's one of those verses that removes our excuses. Do we believe and trust that God is faithful and that He will show us a way out so that we can endure the temptation(s) before us? Think of it this way, if you were in a burning building you would do anything and everything to get out, to save your life. You wouldn't just sit in the middle of a room and say "well the building is burning so I guess I am just going to sit here and die." You would fight for your life. I would like to develop this illustration a bit. Let's say that the fire represents temptation and allowing it to consume you would represent you sinning. God gives us an ax in one of those glass cases that says "break glass in the event of an emergency." Jesus is always our exit, we need to choose Him rather than sit in the temptation, allow it to consume us and rebel against Him. Jesus died so we may have life, in Him we have victory over sin and death, we fight for our life by choosing Jesus in the moments when we feel the weakest. This brings me to step 4.
Finish this Article over at www.tentmakermusic.com
Joe Bragg is the Ministry Director for Kalamazoo Youth For Christ. Joe also has the awesome privilege to lead the youth ministry at his church, where he was previously the Executive Pastor. Joe and his beautiful wife Stephanie have 3 wonderful boys, a shaggy dog and a cat that thinks he's a dog. Never a dull moment!