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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Purity 375: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Purity 375 03/25/2021 Purity 375 Podcast

Good morning.

Today’s photo comes from our friends’ recent stay in Port Charlotte Florida and displays a small dock and its surrounding water view.  It may seem to be a simple photo, but I think there is a lot here to consider. 

First of all there seems to be a trick of light or something going on here, because the dock seems to divide the scene into two distinct moods or environments. The right side of the dock seems darker. Not only are there more clouds on this side but the waters also seem to be darker or murkier as well.   The left side has clearer skies, and the waters seem bluer.  I would say that this phenomenon is a good example of how our perceptions of the same place can varying from two different points of view. 

Two people can look at the same scene and have two very different experiences.  I would say that the hope that comes from knowing the love of God and having His presence in our lives would allow us to see life with a view that is clear, light, and hopeful, like the left side of this dock.

The left side of the dock, the side that is brighter, also has thriving vegetation which would reflect the fact that when God is in our lives there is a real potential for growth. The view of life without God is one of hopelessness and death.  With God we know that although we may be aging and passing away every day, we are growing ever closer to Him and that He is providing us with everlasting life, which we can glory in, here and now.    

I also love the fact that the dark side of the dock, has a man-made sign that says, “End of Ramp”.  Man’s view is that life is limited.  It also reflects a warning that is born out of fear that comes from the lack of assurance that one has from a relationship with God.  Man says, “you can go this far and no further”. Man tells us to be careful because of the possible dangers of stretching those limits.   With God anything is possible, and He assures us that we can go beyond the limits if we trust in Him.   There are no warnings on the bright side of the dock.  Knowing we are with God; we live in freedom and are not concerned over the opinions of men.

The length of the dock can represent a few things too.   The length of the dock can represent the length of our lives. The dock seems to go so far and then end.  Those with faith know that we believe in the unseen, that which lies beyond the scope of our five senses.  When we enter into our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, we accept the new everlasting life that God has for us even though we can’t see all the details of where it will take us.      

The dock could also represent our spiritual path. When people contemplate pursuing the spiritual path with God, they often view it as some long arduous journey through barren places. 

Our life of faith could be viewed as a journey of a thousand steps I suppose but the thing about our journey that starts with the single step of accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, is that we reach the destination the second we turn to God.

Somehow we have arrived without earning it. Somehow we have made it home even when we can feel we have miles still to go.  Somehow we have a companion when we can feel all alone. 

In Christianity, our new eternal lives are realized the moment we step on the path.  Walking the path will make us stronger and will take us places we never thought we would go but we never have to worry that we won’t make it to our final destination. 

We’re already there. The joy of our faith is not in getting to our final destination but in welcoming others to join us and to share the love of God with everyone we meet along the way.    

It’s Thursday, and as I prepare to continue to teach tonight about the path of discipleship, I encourage my friends and all who may see or hear this message to take steps in their relationship with God.

In today’s day and age, the spiritual path of life through faith in Jesus Christ is definitely the path less travelled, but believe me when I tell you, that taking it will make all the difference.


This morning’s meditation verse is:

Psalm 23:3 (NKJV)
3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Today’s verse comes from one of the most well-known Psalms in the Bible: Psalm 23! Verse 3 speaks of our deep intimate relationship with the Lord and His faithfulness.   

Not only are we saved when we come to place our faith in Jesus Christ, our souls are restored.   Our salvation restores our relationship with God so we are reconciled with Him, but our souls are the seat of our mind, will, and emotions.  Our relationship with the Lord restores those aspects of our experience.  

When we first come to God, or when we go back to Him after wandering from His path, our guilt, shame, fears, and anxieties are put to rest as we are given the assurance of His acceptance and His love.  

The way to maintain that restored feeling in our souls is to walk in the path of righteousness that God puts before us. The word of God teaches us the way that we should live our lives and as we walk in those ways by faith we can experience the peace that comes from living a righteous life that is in harmony with God.    

Instead of constantly going our own way and having to be restored, we have been given the power to walk in His paths of righteousness. 

He is leading us into those paths of righteousness “For His name’s sake”.  That means that God is putting His reputation on the line.  He knows that He has given us the power to overcome and that if we follow in His paths that we will be able to experience a righteous life because He is faithful.   

So if your soul needs restoring, go to God in prayer, ask for forgiveness, and then make a commitment to follow Him into the paths of righteousness that He wants to lead you into.  He is faithful to lead you into your new life. So, Follow Him.      

I invite all to mt4chritst.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

 

Today we will share from Dr. June Hunt’s Biblical Counseling Keys on “Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Breaking Free & Staying Free.

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Dr. Hunt’s books for your own private study and to support her work:

III. Causes for Being Chemically Dependent

Josh Hamilton's life is spinning out of control like a wildly thrown pitch. He's caught in a chaotic cycle of failed drug tests, baseball suspensions, trips to rehab, periods of sobriety, baseball reinstatement, and then ... another relapse.

Following one reinstatement in May 2003, Josh hammers a home run over the center field wall ... proving he's still got what it takes to soar to the top. Some baseball buddies later invite him to go drinking. Josh declines ... goes out alone ... and gets trashed.

"I did it on purpose," Josh says. "I just couldn't come to grips with how to deal with the life. I remember a couple days after that, I showed up for early hitting knowing I had failed a test. I sat in the dugout with hitting coach, Steve Henderson. I looked at the pitcher's mound and the field and I just said, 'This might be it for me.' I started to cry."

Josh's worst fear is realized ... at least for awhile. He is banned from baseball for three lonely years. Decidedly, drugs dictated his life — indeed, sin (anything outside of God's will) had mastery over him. Yet one of the earliest warnings in the Bible states ...

"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
(Genesis 4:7)

A. What Causes a Chemical Dependency?

Josh's ban from baseball only heightens his dependency on drugs. He likens the "highs" to the adrenaline rush after throwing a runner out at base ... or hearing the crowd roar after he hits a home run. Yet now he is in exile and in great emotional pain. No longer can he hit a homer and naturally produce the adrenaline high, so instead he takes drugs and chemically induces the high. Josh soon finds himself in life-threatening situations ... like writing a $2,000 check to a menacing drug dealer, a check that he knows will bounce.

Ultimately, Josh's father-in-law bails him out on his 24th birthday, and Josh forever remembers that night as "the night from hell."

As his heart became darker, Josh found himself stumbling time and time again. ...

"But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble."
(Proverbs 4:19)

The Cycle of Addiction

Most people don't begin their lives being dependent on substances, but they become dependent through repetition — by repeatedly using a substance to satisfy some unmet need. Here's how the cycle typically progresses:

  • Past Pain ... provocation for using drugs

·    — "My heart is aching because of what happened in the past."

"Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief" (Proverbs 14:13).

  • Mood-altering drugs ... seeking a temporary solution to emotional pain

·    — "I don't like these feelings — I just want to feel better."

"How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?" (Psalm 13:2).

  • Addiction ... abusing mood-altering drugs on a regular basis

·    — "I have to have more ... to medicate my pain."

"When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" (Romans 6:20-21).

  • Violating values ... breaking your internal moral code by using drugs

·    — "I don't care what I have to do to get it — I need it!"

"Our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord's dwelling place and turned their backs on him" (2 Chronicles 29:6).

  • Guilt ... being convicted about your wrong attitudes and actions

·    — "I know what I did wasn't good — it was bad."

"My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear" (Psalm 38:4).

  • Shame ... feeling you are no good, worthless, hopeless

·    — "I know I'm no good — I'm just bad."

"I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame" (Psalm 44:15).

·    — "I hate feeling this shame, so I need some drug to help me feel better."... And the cycle keeps going.

Once drug use is established, a cycle develops that is common among those who abuse drugs. It's a vicious cycle that entraps and enslaves... but it's a cycle that can be broken!

Escaping Emotional Pain

Question: "How can I stop using drugs in an attempt to escape the pain from my childhood?"

Answer: Face the facts of your past pain. Take the necessary steps to stop making decisions based on your emotional pain, including your desire to escape and feel differently. Previously, you coped in ways that are now controlling you. Those ways, however, are not lasting solutions. Because your painful emotions are responses to your thinking, begin with these action steps ...

  • Evaluate your painful thoughts (write each one down).
  • Redirect them toward God (tell Him what was so painful and release each pain to Him).
  • Get help. Talk to a friend, counselor, pastor, coach, or other trusted person in your life.
  • Get support. Meet with others who have similar issues or addictions.
  • Choose to forgive each person who has hurt you (release each one to God). Forgive even if you feel the other person doesn't deserve it. Unforgiveness hurts you, not the unforgiven one.

The more you release your past pain to Him, the more He will bring about healing.

Remember these words from the Psalms ...

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3).

Pain Management

Question: "I began taking prescription medication to manage chronic pain and now my doctor won't refill my prescription. I can't function without this medicine. Does that mean I'm addicted?"

Answer: People who struggle with physical pain often need medication to alleviate their suffering. Certainly, the goal is to lessen the dose until medication is no longer needed. At times, however, those who have been injured in an accident or those who suffer a chronic disability may need to use stronger and longer pain management therapies. Does your situation fit into either of these two categories, or are you relying on medication to escape more than just physical pain?

Ask why your doctor won't approve refills for you. If necessary, seek a second opinion. But also honestly ask yourself these questions to determine if your dependence on pain medication has developed into a full-fledged addiction. If you discover that you are addicted, seek help immediately.

  • Have you tried unsuccessfully to wean yourself off medication?
  • Is your pain tolerable without medication but you still yearn for another dose?
  • Are you truly unable to function without medication, or are you obsessed with taking the next pill?
  • Is your need for the medication more than physical ... is it also psychological or emotional?

If you inappropriately use medication as an escape rather than as a tool for healing, consider this warning given in Scripture to Egypt ...

"But you try many medicines in vain; there is no healing for you."
(Jeremiah 46:11)

A Case Against Drinking Alcohol

Question: "Is there any objective data apart from the Bible or cultural morality that supports a case against drinking alcohol?"

Answer: Yes, while numbers can change from year to year, the following statistics from recent research within the United States prove to be quite sobering.

  • Up to 57% of domestic violence incidents involved alcohol use.
  • The 3rd leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. is alcohol abuse.
  • Nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities are alcohol related.
  • Up to 37% of convicted murderers abused alcohol at the time of their crime.

If you are trying to quit drinking, consider reading the following passage every day to strengthen your stand and to reinforce your resolve. ...

"Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise."
(Proverbs 20:1)

Personal Conviction

Question: "Why do people have a personal conviction to abstain from alcohol?"

Answer: Several reasons exist for why many people choose not to drink. Aside from a biblical perspective, some simply choose to avoid alcohol and drugs altogether because they have seen the ravages of these habits on others.

While the Bible does not prohibit the consumption of all alcohol, it does give us warnings, as in Proverbs 20:1.

Second, the Bible gives us the "stumbling" argument: the concern that someone might stumble because of our example. Since people tend to be followers, if we drink alcohol — or do drugs — those who follow our example could stumble, and their lives could be harmed because of following in our footsteps. According to the apostle Paul ...

"It is good not to eat meat [sacrificed to idols] or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble."
(Romans 14:21 ESV)

Tobacco Product Statistics

Question: "What facts could help someone not smoke cigarettes or use tobacco?"

Answer: Tobacco smoke contains more than 200 known poisons. Those who smoke two packs a day shorten their life expectancy by eight years.

Tobacco...

  • Is the most common cause of lung cancer
  • Is a major cause of hardening of the arteries, causing strokes and most heart attacks
  • Is a major contributor in mouth and throat cancers, which can disfigure a person for life
  • Produces chemicals that erode the lining of the stomach and cause gastric ulcers
  • Produces carbon monoxide, retarding the growth of a fetus and increasing the risk of premature birth and infant death
  • Increases the risk of bladder cancer
  • Contributes to emphysema, making breathing difficult and causing death
  • Contributes to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for men

Many lead by example and choose not to smoke. The Bible says ...

"'I have the right to do anything' you say — but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything' — but not everything is constructive."
(1 Corinthians 10:23)

Smoking

Question: "What does God think about smoking?"

Answer: Smoking is an attack on the physical body because it causes sickness, disease, and, for some, early death. But salvation is not contingent on whether or not you smoke. Romans 10:9-10 says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Our Redeemer designed us to walk in freedom — not to be fixated on a defeating habit. His plan for our lives is good... but if our lives are shortened because of this vice (or any other), we will miss His opportunities of reaching out and touching the lives of others — and all the plans He has for us. So as the apostle Paul says ...

"I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship."
(Romans 12:1)


Biblical Counseling Keys - Biblical Counseling Keys – Biblical Counseling Keys: Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Breaking Free & Staying Free.

----------------------------more tomorrow-------------------------

 

God bless you all!

 

Join our Victory over the Darkness Discipleship Class via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154) and Google podcasts (https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkLnBvZGJlYW4uY29tL210NGNocmlzdDI0Ny9mZWVkLnhtbA%3D%3D

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship 

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