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Showing posts with label Friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friendship. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Overcoming 101 - Saying Goodbye and Getting Over “The Hump” - Purity 908

 


Overcoming 101 - Saying Goodbye and Getting Over “The Hump”  -  Purity 908

Purity 908 12/07/2022 Purity 908 Podcast

Purity 908 on YouTube:



Good morning,

Today’s photo of Bell Mountain from the shores of Chatuge Lake comes to us from a friend who shared this scene from Hiawassee Georgia on social media back on November 27th.   This particular friend’s travels have been highlighted often on the blog and its been a while since I have used any of his “stuff” but I wanted to let them know that “I see you, brother” and to thank him for his generosity in sharing his experiences with his friends.  

Well, it’s Wednesday again and I share our adventurous friend’s photo of Bell Mountain today to visual represent our arrival at the first “hump day” of December and to highlight the enduring quality of friendship and the personal mountains of adversity that we have to face in life on the path of Christian Discipleship.   

In all honesty, I have never personally met the photographer of today’s work. I made his acquaintance on social media a few years ago and have been following him ever since.  His journey, that I can see, has been an epic one.  From our view of his life, we have “seen” him retire and move from his home in Hillsdale in Upstate NY to hop around all over the place, settling for a time in Kentucky, Florida, and now North Carolina. And even though those were the states he has set up “camp” for a while, he has traveled to all the nearby places in between.  The only thing that hasn’t changed is his faithfulness in sharing the things he sees along the way.  If I am ever at a loss for the photo of the day, he is someone I can look to and can usually count on to have something to “use”.  So, thanks Fred, God bless you and your travelling spirit.   

Friends are people we can count right. Friends are people that we have a bond with that can endure separations and time.  As a CFMA, an encourager, for Freedom in Christ Ministries and as a former teacher, and the last director, of Celebrate Freedom my former church’s, now defunct, recovery ministry.  I have made a lot of friends through the years.  I have increasingly and continually found my freedom in Christ through the years  and since 2015, the year I went into recovery, I have been sharing the message of the hope for a new life of peace and abundant joy that is found through faith in Christ alone.

I have encouraged and walked with a lot of people on the path of Christian Discipleship and unfortunately as I keep walking and talking with God I eventually am separated from their company.  As a facilitator of the Freedom in Christ course, I meet new people and walk with them for 12 weeks or so and then have to wish them well as our paths divert.  However, I consider all the people I have known through my old church, and the people I have met through recovery ministry, and the volunteer work I do at Freedom in Christ ministries as my bothers and sisters in Christ, but also as my friends.  While we may have parted company, for whatever reasons, I still consider them to be my friends no matter how long we have been separated. As I leave the people I meet on the path of Christian Discipleship, I leave with the encouragement that they reach out to me to keep in touch or if they need or want to talk.  

With my two household existence, and my secular and ministry work, my availability is something that is hard to pin down on a regular basis, and let’s face it, if you are walking in the Spirit, the Spirit will move you to places you don’t expect! But I always encourage the people I meet along the way to reach out to me periodically or if they are in need because I want to be a friend they can count on.  

We in the body of Christ need each other.  I know how lonely this road of following the Lord can be and I want to be thought of as someone who is faithful to encourage others who decide to pick up their cross and follow the Lord.  

So Monday morning, an old friend from the past reached out to me to confess that he wanted to talk. I was running out the door to work at the time and suggested they just text me or record a voice message to give me a heads up to tell me what was going on and I would respond in kind later.   But they sheepishly replied to never mind and wished me a “Merry Christmas”.   

So as I was driving down the highway, the Holy Spirit indicated to me to reach out and call them.  My new car likes to highjack my phone and I still don’t quite understand how it works. So I reached out and eventually figured out how to speak though my car and learned that my friend had made some bad turns, suffered the consequences of poor decisions, and wanted some advice about what to do.   

Part of my friend’s testimony though revealed to me the root issue of all his problems: his rebellion.  We walked together for a time in the past but we separated because he went against several of his friends’ advice and got involved in a relationship that proved to be toxic. He also hid his relapse in drug and alcohol use.  He has been running ever since and predictably everything has become a huge mess.      

In his statements to me, in asking for help mind you, he was trying to establish his rights and his freedom to “have a beer” at the end of the day and was lamenting over the how he has been misused or wrongly accused  by the state and the other people in his life.  In essence, he was making the claim that he could do what he wanted and that he was a victim of circumstances.  While he was asking for help, he seemed to deny that he was the problem.   

So what do you do? Agree with him and tell him “the world sucks” or “Yeah, you do what you want!” I don’t think so!

I reminded him of how when he was clean and sober, he was thriving in life and I told him flat out that he had to “say goodbye” to the past, say “goodbye” to the beer, and to start following the Lord again.  I told him that there simply is no other way but the Lord’s way and that half measures don’t work. If he wanted true freedom and peace, he had to follow the Lord and do His will.   

Amazingly, he thanked me and said that he knew that he could count on me to “tell it like it is” and he made the decision to start following the Lord again.  

He has texted me over the last couple of days and says he  feels better and he indicates that he is going to change his story from being a cautionary tale to one that tells of a turn around and a new life of victory.   

I sent him a YouTube video of Bethel’s King of My Heart and an encouraging word to let the Lord rule his heart, just this morning.  

It doesn’t cost a thing to send him an encouraging word but I know just how valuable it is to have a friend in your corner when you decide to “climb that mountain” of problems that you have to overcome when you decide to be real with God and follow where He leads.      

I’m not sure what will happen with my friend but I am praying that he stays faithful to seek the Lord and to surrender his will to God.  It’s hard going on this path of Christian Discipleship but if you keep walking and talking with God, you’ll get over that hump and eventually you will leave the darkness of you old life behind as the Lord will fill your life with meaning and purpose that will just happen to lead you on a journey that never ends whose road is paved with peace, love, and joy.  

So turn it around and follow the Lord into all He has for you.  He did it for me and He is faithful and trustworthy to do it for you, too.     

 

  

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verses is:

Isaiah 59:2 (NLT2)
2  It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

 Today’s verse speaks of the spiritual reality of how our sins disrupt the harmony of our relationship with God. 

As born again believers who have put our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, nothing can separate us from the love of God or break our relationship with Him.   But when we come into a covenant relationship with the Lord through Jesus Christ, there is an expectation that you are going to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk” of a Christian disciple.   It is expected that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ that we repent. We are expected to turn from our sinful and selfish ways and to start living our lives according to God’s will and ways.  

So what happens, when we don’t?   Well it feels like God has left us because our sin separates us from fellowship with Him.  we don’t experience His presence or blessing because WE have walked away from Him by sinning.  

One of the principles of prayer is to be “right with God” if we expect to have our requests heard and fulfilled.  Today’s verse indicates our prayers won’t “be heard”, fulfilled, because of our sin.   

But the good news is that God will hear us and be with us the moment we repent. Our fellowship with God is re-established the moment we confess our sins to Him and ask for His help. 

So don’t treat your faith like some game where you can “sin-confess”, “sin-confess”, Instead be faithful to never leave the Lord’s side by turning from sin and walking where He would direct you.     

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship

Chapter Ten

The Body of Christ

The first disciples lived in the bodily presence of and in community with Jesus. What is the significance of this fact, and in what way does this community still exist for us? Paul states that through baptism we have become members of the body of Christ. This statement sounds very strange and incomprehensible to us, and thus requires a thorough explanation.

It tells us that those who are baptized are still meant to live, even after the Lord’s death and resurrection, in the bodily presence of and community with Jesus. For those who belong to him, Jesus’ departure does not mean a loss but rather a new gift. For the first disciples the bodily community with Jesus did not mean anything different or anything more than what we have today. Indeed, for us this community is even more definite, more complete, and more certain than it was for them, since we live in full community with the bodily presence of the glorified Lord. Our faith must become fully aware of the magnitude of this gift. The body of Jesus Christ is the ground of our faith and the source of its certainty; the body of Jesus Christ is the one and perfect gift through which we receive our salvation; the body of Jesus Christ is our new life. It is in the body of Jesus Christ that we are accepted by God from eternity.

Since Adam’s fall God sent the divine word to sinful humanity, in order to seek and accept us. This is why we have received God’s word, to reconcile our lost humanity with God. God’s word came as promise and as law. For our sake God’s word became weak and lowly. But human beings rejected this word, refusing to be accepted by God. They offered sacrifices; they performed good works which God was supposed to accept in their stead, thereby letting them go free.

Then the miracle of all miracles takes place. The Son of God becomes a human being. The Word became flesh. The One who had dwelled from all eternity in the Father’s glory, the One who was in the form of God, who in the beginning had been the mediator of creation so that the created world can only be known through him and in him, the One who was very God (1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6ff.; Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:16; John 1:1ff.; Heb. 1:1ff.)—this One takes on humanity and comes to earth. He takes on humanity by taking on human qualities, human ‘nature’, “sinful flesh,” human form (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6ff.). Now it is no longer only through the word of preaching that God accepts humanity, but also in the body of Christ. God’s mercy sends the Son in the flesh, so that in his flesh he may shoulder and carry all of humanity. The Son of God accepts all of humanity in bodily form, the same humanity which in hate of God and pride of the flesh had rejected the incorporeal, invisible word of God. In the body of Jesus Christ humanity is now truly and bodily accepted; it is accepted as it is, out of God’s mercy.

When contemplating this miracle, the early church fathers insisted passionately that while it was necessary to say that God had taken on human nature, it was wrong to say that God had chosen a single, perfect human being with whom God would then unite. God became human. This means God took on the whole of our sick and sinful human nature, the whole of humanity which had fallen away from God. It does not mean, however, that God took on the individual human being Jesus. The entire gospel message can be understood properly only in light of this crucial distinction. The body of Jesus Christ, in which we together with all of humanity are accepted by God, has now become the foundation of our salvation.

The flesh borne by Christ was sinful flesh—yet borne without sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). Wherever his human body is, there all flesh is being accepted. “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” Only by bearing all our infirmities and sorrows in his own body was Jesus able to heal the infirmities and sorrows of human nature (Matt. 8:15–17). “He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.” He bore our sin, and was therefore able to forgive sin; for in his body our sinful flesh had been “accepted.” This is why Jesus accepted sinners (Luke 15:2): he bore them in his own body. In Jesus the “acceptable (δεκτόν) year of the Lord” had dawned (Luke 4:19).

The incarnate Son of God was thus both an individual self and the new humanity. Whatever he did was at the same time also done on behalf of the new humanity which he bore in his body. He is thus a second Adam, or the “last” Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). For Adam too was both an individual self and at the same time the whole of humanity. Adam also bore the whole of humanity in himself. In him all of humanity has fallen; in “Adam” (which in Hebrew means “human being”), humanity as such has fallen (Rom. 5:19). Christ is the second human being (1 Cor. 15:47) in whom the new humanity is created. He is the “new human being.”

It is only with this perspective in mind that we are able to understand the nature of the bodily community which the disciples enjoyed with Jesus. The bond between Jesus and the disciples who followed him was a bodily bond. This was no accident but a necessary consequence of the incarnation. A prophet and teacher would not need followers, but only students and listeners. But the incarnate Son of God who took on human flesh does need a community of followers [Nachfolgergemeinde] who not only participate in his teaching but also in his body. It is thus in the body of Christ that the disciples have community. They live and suffer in bodily community with Jesus. By being in community with the body of Jesus they are placed under the burden of the cross. For in that body they are all borne and accepted.[1]

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

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes 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). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

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

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 213–215.


Saturday, July 9, 2022

Finding and Sharing a Good Place - Purity 779


Finding and Sharing a Good Place - Purity 779

Purity 779 7/9/2022 Purity 779 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a lakeside campfire at sunset comes to us from friend who shared this scene on social media back on July 2nd to describe their “current situation”.  And even though my friend didn’t disclose their location or any other thoughts on their current situation, we can assume from the setting and the fact that they shared it that their current situation was a good one. And knowing that my friend is pretty laid back and nonchalant, I am assuming that they wouldn’t mind that I share it to emphasis two points as we go into the weekend.  The two points that I want to share are that:

1.    life can be good, pretty general right?, and that

2.    when we discover something that can make life good, we can’t be blamed for sharing it.  

Some of the comments to my friend’s photo, shared with good natured sarcasm I hope, revealed jealousy, envy, or accused them of bragging about their current situation but I think my friend’s silent message was not just bragging about their current situation, although it could be!, but was simply sharing the fact that they were in a “good place” and it could even have been a mild encouragement and hope that their friends would find a good place too.  

Like I said, I think I know my friend’s heart, a little bit, so I think their photo was shared with good intentions and so I am taking a leap of faith trusting they won’t unfriend me and demand that I remove their photo from the blog. 

This old friend was one of my old work friends from the early days of my current career and our paths separated about 12 years ago, maybe sooner.  We were both in our 20’s, had the same job, and spent some time with others from the office hanging out and drinking. We were work friends that have gone separate ways but they still hold a fondness in my heart because of the good times we shared but also because this friend, along with a few others from our “work friend group”, showed me great kindness by unexpectantly appearing at my infant son’s funeral to give their condolences.  

Their showing up at my son’s funeral was a small but significant way in which they showed their care and friendship to me and while I would never hold someone’s not showing up at a funeral against them, we remember it when others show up when we are at our lowest.   

I myself am not the best friend when it comes to that, going to funerals.  I struggled with the specter of death in my earliest childhood. In my first experience with death, at my maternal grandmother’s funeral, while my brothers were openly weeping and were torn up emotionally, I tried to joke and cheer them up, I guess, in part because I was uncomfortable with that raw emotion of pain that comes from loss.  So rather than surrender to the grief, I coped by trying to lighten up the situation.  Maybe I was just being pragmatic…I had been sad for awhile and grandma was still dead…  so let’s move along? I don’t know. 

But after that first experience, I kept the throws of grief from invading my experience when someone died. I was rather matter a fact about death, and chose to focus on the living and lightening the mood, maybe by trying to show that life was still good?  Again, that’s the way I coped with death I guess.  

Of course, with the loss of my sone in 2002, that coping method got derailed as there was just no way to make light of that loss because it shook the foundations about how I thought life should go.  And although I only knew him for a few months I deeply loved my son, Holden. 

So, without any real faith in God, I was angry, depressed, drunk, and lost for a few years until I started searching for meaning, and eventually was pulled out of the darkness of a life full of error, when I heard the message that saved my soul.  

Unfortunately, I am still not good with grief.  After he death of my son, the trauma made me more matter a fact about the death of others.  And if the person was advanced in years, forget about it.  If my infant son could die, why not them?

That’s the way life goes.  People die and life goes on. And it does, that is true, but I would like to emphasize that somewhat pragmatic, and perhaps cold response in the face of death, was before coming to Christ…

Now I know just how valuable our lives are to God. He sent Christ to die for us. And before we die He wants us to have peace with Him, through faith in Christ alone, so we can go to a “good place” for all eternity with Him.

And I also know now that grieving for others, and with others, is okay. As good as life is, there is a time to grieve, as the word of God tells us. We need time to process the trauma of the losses we suffer. 

Jesus wept when Lazarus died.  The guy with the most insight into the spiritual realities of life and death, wept. He grieved with Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters. And as much as it pained Jesus to delay his arrival and to allow Lazarus to die, He suffered the pain, heart ache, and trauma of the loss of His friend because Lazarus’ death and resurrection would be used to give glory to God and to reveal that Jesus was the Messiah, The Son of God and God the Son

In John 11:25-26 (NKJV) , Jesus says to Martha, and to all of us:
25  …, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
26  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

If you’ve read this blog before or heard my podcast, you know that I believe this! And I want you to know that you can believe it too. Jesus is trustworthy and through Him we can be forgiven and receive a new everlasting life.

While I’m still not a “funeral guy”, although I did attend the wake of another co-worker’s brother a few years back because I considered them a good friend, I do share my condolences and pray for my friends who suffer losses and grieve because I know about the pain of loss and I know that God grieves right along with us, as He is always close to the broken hearted and seeks to heal us through Jesus.  

So, I may have gotten off track a little but the two points I wanted to make was that life is good and that we should share the things we discover that make it good.   

Through His creation of this world and man, God has given us the power to create good circumstances and to experience love for our partners, family, and friends. As we share life together, even if it is just for a season or two, we are bonded together by our common experiences and interests.  We grow closer together in love and can really know that life is good. And it pains us when we lose those we have walked through life with, but the pain of loss doesn’t take away the goodness we have known in the past or the fact that life can still be good even in the midst of our struggles.   So point one: Life is a gift from God, and it is good!

And as for point two, as we enjoy this weekend, it is my prayer that my friends find themselves in a good place and find ways to experience the goodness of life.  While we all can have different ideas of what makes a good life, we can still respect each other’s opinions on what we could do to experience life’s goodness.  So if you like the ocean, the forest, the mountains, or the cities, go to wherever and do whatever that reminds you that life is good.

I encourage you to share those with us. They inspire us to do similar things and they bring us joy when we see our friends are in a “good place”.   

But before I go, as indicated above, I would encourage everyone who reads or listens to this message to find the “good place” and to experience the goodness of life that the Lord has for you through faith in Jesus Christ. 

A relationship with God through faith in Christ will bring us to a “good place” beyond this life but will also give us the ability to experience the goodness of God in the world of the living.  So start your walk by trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or just keep walking in talking with God, if you already know Him.  

It is in going back to God, continually, that we can repeatedly find that we are in a good place and that the experience of the goodness of life can be something we know every step of our walk from here to eternity. 

Have a great weekend and God bless you all!

 

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT2)
6  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
7  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

 

Today’s Bible verses speak about the spiritual realities of our position with Christ in the heavenly realms through our union with Christ and that we are evidence for God’s incredible kindness and grace.   

Our walk of faith has us in Ephesians 2 again! I was moved to share Ephesians 2:8-10 on Thursday and our resource had us share Ephesians 2:4-5 the same day. And now we are “filling in the blanks” as our resource has us sharing the verses that bridge the gap between those sets of verses.  So I take this “coincidence” as an indication that God wants us to know about His grace and our secure position with Him.  

Today’s verses assure us that somehow, spiritually, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms! 

One of the items on the Who I am in Christ list that I use as part of my regular spiritual practice is “I am a citizen of heaven” drawn from Philippians 3:20.  Ephesian 2:6 makes the list too “I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms”.  

These statements point to the fact that part of our identity is that we are ALREADY in heaven, in a sense.  We are connected to Christ and while we are not physically there yet, God wanted us to know through the Apostle Paul’s letters that somehow in a way we can’t fully understand, we are already there! We are already in heaven!!

While that can make us wonder “how can this be”, we should rejoice!

And not only is our “good place” and future and present reality an absolute certainty, God will also use all of us – all of our stories – all of our lives – as evidence for His amazing grace and kindness. 

His grace was so amazing that He saved me, He saved you, and He saved so many others that are nothing like you or me. 

No two life journeys are the same but when we make peace with God every detail of our lives will be part of a story that highlights the love of God that was displayed through the things He has brought us through and that He has provided us with.

We get to play a part in God’s grand narrative and our lives in Christ give Him glory! 

So rejoice over your present and future place in heaven and go out there and see what’s next in a life that will bear witness to the kindness and grace of God.

 

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

They Are Part of Satan’s Kingdom

Paul’s teaching on the powers called for a significant change in outlook for many of his gentile converts. In popular belief, and especially in magic, they were accustomed to thinking there were “good” and “evil” spirits. In magic it was important to know the names of good and helpful spirits who could be called upon to help and provide protection from evil spirits.

In line with the Old Testament, contemporary Judaism and the teaching of Jesus, Paul taught that there was one primary figurehead of evil, Satan, who commanded a host of “spiritual forces of wickedness.” Paul would not have accepted the various distinctions between good and evil spirits made by his gentile converts in their pre-Christian experience. All the spirits called on and revered in magic, astrology and the pagan cults were evil and “demonic.”

Satan, or the devil, is “the god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4). While God is ultimately sovereign since he is the creator of everything that exists, Satan has been allowed to exercise a great amount of evil activity on the earth. John recorded Jesus calling attention to the devil’s present authority by describing him as “the prince [archōn] of this world” (Jn 14:30; 16:11). While Satan’s authority is not absolute, neither is it trifling. He wields all kinds of destructive influence over all levels of life and exerts his greatest hostility against God’s redemptive purpose in and through the Lord Jesus Christ

According to Paul, Satan holds unbelieving humanity in his captivity. He “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4). Even at the end of his apostolic career Paul’s convictions had not changed. He regarded those opposing the ministry of the gospel as having fallen into a trap of the devil “who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26). Elsewhere he described Satan’s activity as holding unbelievers in “slavery.” Prior to the work of God’s redemption the Galatians “were in slavery under the basic principles [stoicheia] of the world” (Gal 4:3). At this point Paul brought into view Satan’s powerful assistants who carry out the same malignant purposes as their leader. In Ephesians Paul described the captivity in terms of unbelievers being “dead” in their transgressions and sins. This was when they followed “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:1–2).

Through blinding, holding captive, enslaving and keeping people in the sphere of death, the work of Satan and his powers runs counter at every point to the loving, reconciling and life-giving purpose of God in Christ. Satan has a multiplicity of schemes to defraud and take advantage of people even after they become Christians (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:11). Although his character is dark and evil, he often presents himself in a very positive light to further his deceitful work (2 Cor 11:14).

They Are Involved in the World Religions

The gentile converts to Christianity faced a very important issue: What kind of perspective were they now to have on their former gods and goddesses? How were the worshipers of Dionysus, for instance, to view their god now that they were Christians? Was he truly a god, but of a somewhat lesser stature than the one God? Or, was he merely a stone image who represented no real divine being?

Paul specifically addressed this issue in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 8 and 10). Two questions faced the Corinthian church, which elicited the apostle Paul’s response. They were concerned with (1) whether they could eat a meal in the temple of one of the local gods, and (2) whether it was permissible to eat meat that had previously been sacrificed to a god or goddess.

There was a difference of opinion among the Corinthian believers on both of these issues. It appears some of the more confident Christians, knowing that an idol has no real existence (8:4), had no scruples with going into an idol temple and eating a meal (8:10). The result of such action, however, was the spiritual demise of other Christians. Seeing their more assured fellow believers exercise this freedom gave the “weaker” Christians the courage to do the same and eat food offered to a god (probably in one of the temples). A crisis of conscience plagued the weaker Christians, with some returning to idolatry. It is very likely that this situation was not merely a potential problem Paul was trying to forestall, but that a few from the Corinthian church had actually returned to their pagan worship.

Since Paul was understandably very concerned about this situation, which was “destroying” (8:11) some of these precious believers, he set forth a lengthy argument advocating that the Corinthians should completely cut their ties with the pagan temples, and that the stronger believers should be willing to waive their right to eat idol food out of sensitivity to the conscience of weaker Christians.

One of the central features of Paul’s argument is that there is a demonic character to non-Christian religions. He agreed with the informed Corinthians in principle that an idol has no real, independent existence (8:4). For the Christian, he concurred, there is no God but the one true God; the pagan deities—Apollo, Isis, Sarapis and the rest—are so-called gods. Nevertheless, Paul went on to affirm some kind of real existence for these gods, noting, “indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ ” (8:5). In one sense he did believe in the existence of other “gods” and “lords,” but in a qualitatively different way than those who worshiped these beings. Paul will later contend that the images represent demons (10:20–21) and not true divinities; they are not to be thought of on the same level as the one God. In another sense, however, they are real gods and lords in that they are subjectively believed to be such by those who worship them; they are “real” to their worshipers. Also, for the “weak” Christians at Corinth, these gods were still quite real in their “conscience” or in their “awareness.” Their “intellectual conviction that there was only one God had not been fully assimilated emotionally.”12 The convictions of their hearts had not caught up with their cognitive understanding. We cannot underestimate how difficult it must have been for people accustomed to believing in the reality of many gods suddenly to transform those years of deeply entrenched religious conviction into a monotheistic framework. The fact that these pagan gods really are “nothing,” however, does not make them any less dangerous.

Paul later contended that there is a close connection between idolatry and demonic activity. He argued, “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons” (10:19–20). In Paul’s mind there are indeed supernatural beings associated with pagan idolatry—the powers of darkness! In the span of two verses Paul used the word demon four times. He saw demons as the actual recipients of the sacrificed meat (10:20). By eating and drinking in the pagan temples, the Corinthians were drinking “the cup of demons” and eating at “the table of demons” (10:21). In essence they were having “fellowship” (koinōnia) with demons, a fellowship that should be reserved for their relationship to Christ alone (1:9). Communion with the Lord Jesus at his table should completely replace participation at the table of demons. For Paul, then, there was an intensely demonic character to pagan religions in general.

For Paul this position was not at all novel. It represented the established position of Judaism. Moses’ song of praise to God, reflecting on the idolatrous behavior of the Jews while they were in the wilderness, proclaims, “They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God” (Deut 32:16–17). This attitude toward idols is reflected elsewhere in the Old Testament and in the Judaism of the New Testament period. Jewish belief closer to the time of Paul is well illustrated in a second-century B.C. Jewish document, which, at this point, comments on the idolatry of the sons of Noah:

And they made for themselves molten images, and everyone worshiped the icon which they made for themselves as a molten image. And they began making graven images and polluted likeness. And cruel spirits assisted them and led them astray so that they might commit sin and pollution. And the prince [of these demons], Mastema, acted forcefully to do all of this. And he sent other spirits to those who were set under his hand to practice all error and sin and all transgression, to destroy, to cause to perish and to pour out blood upon the earth. (Jubilees 11:4–5)

Another Jewish document, dating just prior to the time of Christ, connects idolatry to witchcraft and the demonic: “I have much grief, my children, because of the lewdness and witchcrafts and idolatries that you will practice against the kingdom, following mediums, soothsayers and demons of deceit” (Testament of Judah 23:1). The Testament of Naphtali speaks of the Gentiles exchanging the worship of the Lord for idolatry, which is also connected with the demonic: “The Gentiles changed their order, having gone astray and having forsaken the Lord and they followed after stones and sticks, having followed after spirits of deceit” (Testament of Naphtali 3:1).

In a similar way when Paul wrote to the Romans, he indicted the Gentiles for exchanging the worship of God for a lie. In his eyes they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:23). What he said to the Corinthians in no way contradicts his statement to the Romans. Paul went beyond describing pagan gods as lifeless images to affirm that Satan and his powers of darkness have used these non-Christian religions to hold humanity in bondage.

It is perfectly clear why Paul urged the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (10:14). By maintaining any kind of involvement with the pagan temples, the Corinthians were exposing themselves to powerful demonic activity and compromising their allegiance to the one true God. Some were being “destroyed” by this involvement (8:11). Those with “knowledge” among the Corinthians failed to take into account the extremely dangerous influence of the hostile powers of darkness that were so closely linked to the non-Christian religions. Their baptism and observance of the Lord’s table did not guarantee immunity from the treacherous activity of the demonic powers. Likewise, neither were the people of Israel immune to the deadly effects of idolatry, in spite of the fact that they too had been symbolically “baptized” and had consumed “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” (10:1–12).

Paul did make a distinction between eating in pagan temples (which he regarded as participating in idolatry) and eating in a private home food that had once been sacrificed to a god (10:23–33). For the latter case, sensitivity to weaker Christians should guide the stronger Christian; idolatry was no longer the issue. Paul, on the one hand, advised them to “eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience” (10:25). Yet, on the other hand, he urged restraint to the person who, by eating the meat in the presence of another (weaker) Christian at the home of a nonbeliever, may offend the conscience of that weaker Christian (10:27–29).

There is much to learn from Paul’s handling of this situation at Corinth that is vitally relevant for the church today, especially as we minister to people from a background of various forms of pagan worship. Gordon Fee provides a very fitting description of its relevance:

Those who have been involved in the rescue of drug addicts and prostitutes, e.g., or of people involved in various expressions of voodoo and spirit worship, have an existential understanding of this text that others can scarcely appreciate. Many such people must be forever removed from their former associations, including returning to their former haunts for evangelism, because the grip of their former life is so tenacious. Paul took the power of the demonic seriously; hence his concern that a former idolater, by returning to his or her idolatries, will be destroyed—that is, he or she will return to former ways and be captured by them all the more, and thus eventually suffer eternal loss.

One of the main principles that guided Paul’s reaction to the Corinthian situation was the conviction that demons animate idolatry. For Paul idolatry consisted of worshiping any handmade image. It involved worshiping and serving anything other than the one true God. Participating in idolatry included everything attached to the service and worship of the gods. For the Corinthians this involved eating in the pagan temple.

By extension the operative principle for us today is that all the various non-Christian religions represent a special manifestation of the work of the powers of darkness to deceive people and turn their attention away from the one true God.[1]

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

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes 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). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTxjSNstREpuGWuL0bF3U7w/featured

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

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 


[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 92–98.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Light in the Darkness – Bringing Friends to Holy Ground - Purity 563


 A Light in the Darkness – Bringing Friends to Holy Ground - Purity 563

Purity 563 10/30/2021   Purity 563 Podcast

Good morning

Today’s photo of a peaceful scene on the shores of what I suspect to be Lake George in up state New York comes to us from what was day 1 of an extended “girlfriends’ getaway” weekend as a pair of ladies decided to set apart time to enjoy one another’s company and to celebrate nearly 30 years of friendship.  Over three decades, there can be a lot of struggle and changes in our lives as we journey through life, but true friendships transcend time and distance and because of the brevity of our lives should be cherished and celebrated.   

Well we made it to through another work week and as it is Halloween weekend it is my wish that my friends enjoy the time they have over the next two days to rest, relax, have some good old spooky fun, if you’re into that, and to enjoy the company of family and friends as the moth of October expires on Monday.    

Halloween has dark aspects to it but as a child, and an adult, I celebrated by going trick or treating, dressing up in costumes, and going to parties and despite my ignorance and the demonic undertones that surround the 31st day of October, I somehow by the grace of God survived.  

So although I would warn against being a part of any seances or occultic activities, like I would any other day of the year,  I would also remind well-meaning Christians that condemn any celebrations of Halloween that the day is also Reformation Day and the revelation of the doctrines of grace that resulted from Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg should remind us of the supremacy of Christ over the powers of darkness and should encourage us to be a light for the gospel even on Halloween and that we should use the opportunity to make new friends that desperately need Christians in their lives.

The testimonies of people coming to faith in Christ because of a Christian friend are vast and instead of pushing people away with restrictions, we should be purveyors of the peace and joy that the Holy Spirit brings to our lives and attract people to the One that can set them free from sin and death.  Jesus came to give us life more abundantly and to set the captives free.  So shine a light in the darkness and be friend whose liberty in Christ gives you the power to bring the gospel of hope every where you go.  Because of the Holy Spirit in us, every where we go is holy ground.   

As it turns out my new friend on the other side of the Atlantic just happen to compose a new poem about the hope found because of Jesus and I thought that it was a good reminder of the “treat” that we have to give out on Halloween and every other day of the year. The poem is from Philip Hand, who hails from Manchester in the United Kingdom and is entitled:  

Holy Ground

To be rich in your heart feeds your soul

lifts your life and should be  your goal.

To be in love with tender loving kindness

will bless your heart and heal your blindness.

All it takes is one step 

one that you won't regret once the savior you have met.

A step of faith into the light

out of this eternal night.

I was blind but now I see

eternal love lights the way for me.

Lord unify our hearts, tear our borders down

when we are on our knees, this place becomes holy ground.

-       Philip Hand

Thank you, Philip.  So whether you spend time this weekend with friends you have known for nearly 30 years or that you have only known for a short time through social media, rejoice in your friendship and rejoice in the new life of hope, peace, and joy that you can enjoy in all seasons with the friend that you can have in Jesus.  


Today’s Bible verse is drawn from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.  

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Psalm 37:4 (NLT2)
4  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Today’s verse is a conditional promise that is fulfilled with a transformative relationship with the Lord.

This verse can very well be misapplied as one of the “gimme” verses of the prosperity gospel.  “Does not the word say, He will give you the desires of your heart?”   Well I desire a whole lot of fortune and fame and a brand new car!   Survey says? XXX  

When this verse is misapplied to material goods and prosperity as an expression of an immature believer’s wanton avarice,  I am tempted to share:

Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)
9  "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

But to be honest, I hesitate to share Jerimiah 17:9 because that verse doesn’t apply to Christians, although it is used ad nauseum in churches today to chastise believers for their periodic or habitual sins.   While Christians can and do sin, we have been transformed and given new spiritual life, and a new heart, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ.  

The problem is that many Christians fall into Satan’s trap as identifying with their sin instead of their Savior. 

To “delight in the Lord” is to love Him and obey Him.  Our delighting in the Lord should bring us to repentance and the renewal of our minds and hearts to be more aligned with the Lord’s ways and will for our lives.   When we “delight in the Lord” our hearts are changed from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh and our desires are changed.  

These “new desires” that come from delighting in the Lord are the “desires of the heart” that God will gladly give us.   Our heart’s desire to be progressively conformed to the image of Christ through faith and by walking in the Spirit is something that the Lord will give us.   

So stop praying to get what’s behind door # 2 or curtain #3, for worldly desires, and instead desire to know the Lord more and to be more like Him.

God’s will for our lives is our sanctification and when we that is our desire, we can be assured we won’t get “zonked”!

Although we were once were desperately wicked, we have been made righteous though our faith in Christ and adopted into God’s royal family and God the Father has good gifts for His kids who seek His heart and ask for His desires for us.    

 

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

Today we continue sharing from June Hunt’s Dating: Secrets to Great Relating When Dating  

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase June Hunt’s books for your own private study and to support her work. If you need this title you can find it online at several sites for less than $5.00:

C. How to Have a Transformed Life

Deborah doesn't date anymore. Deborah doesn't date any less, either. The truth is, Deborah doesn't date at all anymore.

At one time, Deborah's dating card consistently stayed full. But after she begins to take her walk with the Lord seriously, her social life drops off dramatically. Staying busy with church activities, she barely misses dating. But she does long to have someone special in her life...and she'd like to marry someday.

A friend in her Sunday school class tells her that she should pray about it. Her mom tells her to be patient and keep trusting the Lord. Her sister tells her she should just keep following where the Lord leads and look to see whom He brings alongside her and go from there. So Deborah waits—maybe not patiently—but she waits.

Volunteering to help with the church carnival, Deborah notices the young man in the booth next to her. As they each interact with the kids playing games, she sees that he's kind and encouraging to the non-athletic participants and sweet and helpful to the little ones. He's polite and gracious to the parents...and when he smiles, she notices his eyes light up too. She likes his laugh...and he really is cute!

Another pair of volunteers come to relieve them from their posts, and not a moment too soon because Deborah's fingers are freezing! Her "next door" neighbor/volunteer smiles and says, "Hi. I'm Sam. I couldn't help but notice that you're cold. Could I interest you in joining me for a cup of hot cocoa?" Deborah chuckles as she answers, "Thanks, Sam. I'm Deborah and I'd like that very much."

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

Whether you've never dated or you are just starting to date after becoming single again, dating can, and should, be a fun and enjoyable experience. If you're emotionally and spiritually prepared to begin forming dating relationships, you could come face-to-face with a jarring reality: No one on your horizon is eligible to date. Rather than lowering your standards for the sake of stirring up interest or considering those who once would have been out of the question, use this opportunity to grow in your relationship with Christ....

"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)

Reaching the Target: Transformation!

 



Target #1—A New Purpose: God's purpose for me is to be conformed to the character of Christ.

"Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29).

  • —"I'll do whatever it takes to be conformed to the character of Christ."

Target #2—A New Priority: God's priority for me is to change my thinking.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

  • —"I'll do whatever it takes to line up my thinking with God's thinking."

Target #3—A New Plan: God's plan for me is to rely on Christ's strength, not my strength, to be all He created me to be.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13 NKJV).

  • —"I'll do whatever it takes to fulfill His plan in His strength."

My Personalized Plan

My identity is in Christ, not in another person. To overcome the need for a significant person of the opposite sex to validate me and to give me a sense of worth, I will live according to who I am in Christ. I will remember what God says in His Word—every true Christian is a complete person of immeasurable value and worth in Jesus Christ. God created me to have my identity in Him. I can find meaning and purpose in Him, not in a dating relationship. Since the truth sets me free, wrong thinking only keeps me in bondage. Therefore, I will transform my thinking by renewing my mind.

I will remember what God says is true about me. I will stay focused on deepening my intimacy with Him and realize the depth of His love for me.

Who I Am in Christ

  • I am loved.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love" (John 15:9).

  • I am totally accepted.

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7).

  • I belong to God.

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Romans 8:16).

  • I am never alone.

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged" (Deuteronomy 31:8).

  • I am complete in Christ.

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

  • I have all the confidence I need.

"The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught" (Proverbs 3:26 ESV).

  • I have the mind of Christ.

"Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).

  • I have a purpose in life.

"The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever" (Psalm 138:8 ESV).

  • I am made pure in Christ.

"All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure" (1 John 3:3).

  • I have victory over sin.

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).

As I open my mind and heart to the truth in God's Word, I will ask the Lord to reveal to me the messages I received and believed that led me to think I am somehow incomplete or lacking without having someone of the opposite sex in my life. Once I identify these messages, I will renounce them as lies and realize the truth that sets me free....

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)

Prayer of My Heart

The Lord knows my situation. I will put Him in charge of the timing and pace of my dating life. I will make this the prayer of my heart:

"Heavenly Father, I will...

  • Refuse to be desperate to find someone to date,
  • Wait on Your timing and person(s) to date,
  • Not lower my criteria to evaluate a prospective date,
  • Use this time to listen intently for Your voice to lead me,
  • Focus on what I have, not what I don't have,
  • Be grateful for Your unconditional love for me,
  • Remember that I am not alone, unloved, or forgotten,
  • Not put my life on hold until I begin to date,
  • Look for ways to bless others."

"But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content." (Psalm 131:2)

Meeting the "Right" One

Question: "How do I know when I've met the 'right' person?"

Answer: Instead of asking, "Is this the right person for me?" why not ask, "Am I becoming the right person?" Being the "right person" is about coming to a relationship with love to share, not about finding love and validation in another person.

If you come from a full place in your life, it becomes much easier to discern whether someone is empty inside, and you will be less likely to be attracted to that person. If you continually learn about yourself—are growing emotionally, socially, and spiritually, and taking responsibility for your own feelings of safety and security, worth and winsomeness—you will not be attracted to someone who is closed and controlling or who just wants to be loved but not give love in return.

It takes time to know whether someone is the "right" person for you. To discover if the person you're dating is who they say they are, you need to see them in a variety of situations and settings. How a person handles conflict is one of the best ways to see the "real" person. A "right" person is open to learning from conflict, not just wanting to win and be right.

Other characteristics to watch for in "Mr. Right" or "Ms. Right" are...

  • Closely matched levels of emotional and spiritual maturity
  • Commitment to lifelong marriage
  • Capacity to care for and empathize with others
  • Common interests and values
  • Compatible long-term goals
  • Comparable health and fitness goals
  • Common money management practices for saving and spending
  • Chemistry—at least a basic spark of attraction

"Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments." (Psalm 119:66 NASB)

Is Marriage for Everyone?

Question: "Does God intend for everyone to marry?"

Answer: Not necessarily. While marriage is ordained of God and most people do get married, the apostle Paul was obviously called by God to remain single. In 1 Corinthians 7:8, he said... "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do." Both singleness and marriage are good in God's sight. But the reason Paul encourages singleness is that there is less distraction from the things of God for the single person.

"I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:35)

Contentment

Question: "How should I respond to people who keep telling me I need a boyfriend when I am content being single?"

Answer: People may want you to have a boyfriend for any number of reasons.

Generally, they mean well. Try to guard against taking offense at their opinion. A safe response might be to tell them you appreciate their interest and concern, but you are actually quite content in focusing on being the person God created you to be. Explain that you have a full life and then ask if there is something they see in you that causes them to think you need someone in your life.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6)


Biblical Counseling Keys: Dating: Secrets to Great Relating When Dating.

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

 

Join our “Victory over the Darkness” or “The Bondage Breaker” series of Discipleship Classes 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). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

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