Christian Abstinence Under Fire: How Media And Entertainment Can Attack A Pure Mind

Single Woman Battling-page1Have you ever been at the point, as a single Christian, where you’ve prayed for deliverance from lustful thoughts only to find yourself still battling them? Many Christian singles battle in mind, heart, and body with unwanted lust. This blog is actually an excerpt from a chapter in A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation:

(You may notice my use of “we” and “us” in isolated situations. When I addressed single women, as a married woman, I often wrote “we” “us” because of the battle that we as believers are in together – to uphold one another in one way or another.)

Chapter 8

Overcoming Sensual Temptations

V. 15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. V. 16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. V. 17. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof. But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. – St. John 2:15-17 (KJV)

Media, Sex, And Entertainment

Sisters, we live in a world today that parades a totally different interpretation of sexuality. And it’s outside Biblical parameters. You can see that already. You can see how the entertainment industry and its media have decorated immorality. In fact, if in the flesh, we can barely recognize when something is wrong because we are so entertained.

The movies and television shows are so interesting – not the sex itself all the time, but the plots around the sexual content. Because we want to know whether So and So will live or die, whether our favorite couple will withstand their problems, or whether So and So will find her long lost son, we watch the lust-filled show and its accompanying sexual content. We watch movies that involve obstacles preventing a woman and man from getting together. Well, when they finally get together during these plots we, the viewers, are so glad that we watch their “love-making” scenes with no heed to our convictions. We’re so glad Sue and Dew are finally together. We say, “Oh, how sweet!…Aw!” We even cry.

Now, even commercials throw hard bodies in our faces tempting us to drool over these men on our screens. Advertising campaigns, such as billboard ads and magazine ads, now display models in compromising positions. The world is demonstrating now that they do not care what you’re trying to protect your kids from – let alone your adult eyes.

Entertainment is a very common weakness for most of us who belong to Jesus. We like fun and pleasure. But God wants us to discern those choices of entertainment that subtly place us in the devil’s territory where we are presented luring, enticing, convincing opportunities to commit sins that we can possibly fail to recognize under the world’s camouflage. Sin is becoming too familiar because it’s too common and appealing. It looks too good, it sounds too good, and it is too hilarious if we try to resist it in our flesh alone.

It happened to Samson. He took a liking to activities that were not God’s will for His children. As a result, he disobeyed God as he revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah. In fact, Samson laid his anointing on the line when he told her where his strength lied. When he awakened from his sleep after a few times before with his strength, he knew the last time that the Lord’s Presence was no longer with him, as his hair had been shaven off. You can read this story in Judges 13th thru 16th chapters.

Examine Samson’s life and the areas where he chose to be entertained. He flirted with what displeased his Lord. In doing so, he diluted his sensitivity toward his relationship with God. Each time a believer flirts with ungodly activity, such as compromising movies, sensual music, and ungodly company, he or she becomes less sensitive about living a holy lifestyle before the Lord. Those temptations out there are so dressed up that, continually viewing them from our living rooms with multiple channels from which we can choose, we become permissive to ungodliness.

Samson did not transfer himself from faithfulness to sinlessness overnight. From the time when he received the knowledge of God’s Presence in his life to keeping company with Delilah, Samson had taken himself through a gradual process that made sin feel more and more comfortable to him. It had to start somewhere. He had already kept company among the Philistines where he had met his wife. Gradually, Samson had maneuvered his way into those territories where he did not belong.

Likewise, we are not tempted to commit fornication just sitting at the dinner table or by simply mingling with our friends. A process has to begin in order for the devil to do a number on a sister. (That’s why Paul warns that we are not to give place to the devil. – Ephesians 4:27 James admonishes believers that we are to submit ourselves to God, resist that devil, and know he will flee from us. – James 4:7)

The devil has compelled and tempted us by what we find entertaining, usually through beautiful love stories. To us, love scenes are so sweet. He has introduced us to sensual music that depicts fornication with melodies and beats that just take our breath away. (The melodies and beats themselves many times are not the problems. But they are hidden behind sensual words.)

Then, the devil has sent these men in our directions – even in our churches. (I’m talking about to many of the active Christian women in the churches.) Some of us have met men and begun dating them with good intentions. The men themselves may have had good intentions. With no plan to fornicate, a woman will still have those entertainment seeds planted in her mind and heart. Fornication just doesn’t seem so bad because it’s so familiar. (At least you’re not conducting yourself like you’ve seen other women on the television screen. Right? Let yourself come to the point where you can recognize the devil’s many angles of justification – just to get you to fall out of the will of God.)

Well, that’s the end of that section in my book. The entire book is far more thorough with a number of different topics for single women in Christ. But I thought this section might also help with the battles with mere thoughts. These thoughts creep into the mind because of seeds that have been planted. In our society, the main way they are planted is through inappropriate and blatantly rebellious entertainment. Behind entertainment, there is a wide range of media that promotes it while they shamelessly challenge Biblical convictions. So, if you’re ever wondering why you’re battling so much despite the prayers that you’ve sent up to the Lord, remember to take heed to His Word as you pray.

Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good manners. – I Corinthians 15:33

Marriage Vows Under Fire is a series of Christian romance novels that address marriage as well as courtship. In a real world of real issues, the story lines are contemporary without vulgarity and profanity. The romance is sweet as any cloud 9 journey with humor, suspense, and drama. And the message of the gospel is clear in the midst of a story of couples, to which many of us can relate.

For more information on all my books and to engage in other good books, products, and services, visit MillennialEdge.net.

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Patti Chiappa’s Beautiful Scars Is A Humbling Read That Enforces Beauty

By Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation

Beautiful Scars gripped my heart while I read it. Throughout this autobiography, Patti Chiappa tells her memoir like she’s writing to her friends and many pen pals. It’s a very personal and engaging story. She tells it very conversationally yet with many beautiful depictions and pearls of wisdom. She uses colorful language in the purest but most candid sense.

Reading about her life protecting her brother and delighting in love stories about elder family members, there should be no surprise that Patti’s focus in her story leans heavily on her family. Her tendency towards selflessness is outlined in several occurrences in her story and is an undertone in her book. The beginning somewhat reads more like a biography about her parents. As a heroine of her past and as the author telling her story, she shares what could be a spotlight in her testimony. She describes her family as a very defining part of her life and (her parents, brother, champion paternal grandparents, and eventually her husband) as a circle of retreat from a cruel world that entrapped her.

The book is a revelation of how people we assume we can trust (such as relatives, teachers, principals, and police) can show their human sides to the point where you’d doubt there is humanity in them. And when forgiveness and peace in Christ occurs, the perception about all the dirt that occurred matures to her glimpse of God’s “master plan”, as she describes it. She is clear, even throughout horrific points, that God’s angelic interventions and her faith founded on Him helped her overcome those human-imposed living nightmares. And the love of Christ also helped her overcome her overall challenge with the existence of the drug dealers and bullies who made up the grim world she lived in and had to endure as an innocent school girl.

Her childhood growing up under loving, caring parents was a heartfelt testimony to read. As a parent, I felt heart-broken for the difficult choices both her mother and father had to make for their family’s survival. The horrific conditions of their many challenges in the ghetto contribute to one of the several tear-jerking aspects in Patti’s story.

I don’t want to give any spoilers in this review. But I have to provide this angle:

At almost midpoint of her memoir, Patti stops the pace of her story to point out that she feels she has to give other victims a voice. (An example of her selfless undertone as author.) While the pace breaks, it’s so timely and so true. She does just that, describing a terrifying occurrence that (further) scarred her view of herself and others.

If you are looking for a story in a humble voice, saying, “I can relate to your pain,” this is it. And the story of the hand of God strengthening and healing for a purpose, that is not comprehensive to the natural mind, speaks throughout the pages of this book. This book can be purchased as an ebook or printed book and can be ordered through any major online bookstore.

For more information about Patti Chiappa, visit sassyangels.wordpress.com.

The Second Installment Of Marriage Vows Under Fire eBook Series Released

Marriage Vows Under Fire 2A recent press release from PR Web for Marriage Vows Under Fire, Summer Love Series 2.

(Also, be sure to check out Marriage Vows Under Fire, Mega Series 1.)

African-American Christian author, Lanette Zavala, of Houston, Texas is now aiming for her third installment after the release of Marriage Vows Under Fire, Summer Love Series 2. An inspirational romance that centers around the interracial marriage of its main characters, Natalie and Joseph Reyes, the ebook series is accompanied by a holiday book signing tour that the author has launched.

Like its first mega series (subtitled Gold Bands In The Fire), this second installment has been released to captivate Christian readers who are drawn to contemporary and ethnically diverse storylines. Natalie and Joseph Reyes continue to juggle the drama of everyone else’s lives while trying to strengthen their marriage that is strained by outside distractions. Escaping growing problems at home with her husband, Natalie opens the door of a strange connection between her brother and her executive assistant in the workplace.

Tony Taylor and Amelia Conrad contend for an open vice-president position at Millennium Fashion House. One of the required challenges for the job is to transform homeless kids and inner city high school misfits into classy models for the family-owned company.

The no-nonsense Amelia may have the ambition to successfully win the vice-president job. But her cut-throat perfectionism is no match for her softening heart toward the rough inner city teenagers with whom she has to work – and her secret love for Tony.

When there is a high-profile career to achieve versus the unlikely fulfillment of her dream to win the handsome bachelor’s heart, there should be one choice to make. Business. But her heart’s desire for the man, who rejected her in the past, risks her goal to defeat him as a contending executive.

Tony struggles with his own developing feelings toward the tyrant whom he had long ago learned to shun as a person. But right within their competitive environment, he notices Amelia’s sweet change toward the poor community he loves. A popular player among women with desires for status and everything that comes with it, he can’t understand why he can’t get Amelia out of his mind.

Centered by a host of other developing relationships within their circle of friends, Amelia and Tony reflect on a bitter past as an obstacle that stands between them. Theirs is a complicated love story between two people who don’t want to be in love – at least, not with each other for reasons neither is willing to mention.

The story continues in Marriage Vows Under Fire, Face-Off Series 3, due to release by December 2013.

Visit my page on the Marriage Vows Under Fire eSeries for more background.

The Roles Of Each Spouse When One Has Hurt The Other

By Lanette Zavala, author of the Marriage Vows Under Fire romance series ebooks and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation

God called marriage to be the most intimate relationship that any two people can have with each other on Earth. In fact, the Lord reminded us that two married people are actually one in His eyes. (Matthew 19:5) This is why husbands and wives are so incredibly impacted by the conduct of the other spouse. If a spouse goes on a spending spree, the other will feel the financial impact in a household that relies on a meticulous budget. If a spouse engages in an inappropriate relationship with someone, the betrayal can deeply wound and haunt the other spouse.

Forgiving Spouse-page1Forgiveness, which is an attribute of a true follower of Jesus Christ, is vital to marriage. Since I’ve been born again, I don’t remember one year going by without hearing or reading a message on forgiveness at least three times within that year. Many times the message of forgiveness is delivered with urgency because even a believer can battle (during the spiritual warfare that we are in) with unforgiveness, until the wrestle is over in our victory. (II Corinthians 10:3-6)

While there is no condemnation to believers in the faith of Jesus Christ, we are always reminded with a common passage in God’s Word telling us in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So, for this reason, again, this message is often an urgent reminder within the Body of Christ.

Unfortunately, the message of forgiveness can also be very arrogantly thrown out at those who are struggling with offenses that have occurred. The attitude of “get over it” has often attached itself to forgiveness-related passages in the gospels by many of us in our own need to conveniently forget and move on unchanged within our hearts. With access to grace that a believer has, we sometimes tend to require our spouse’s grace within favorable timing and comfort to a degree that we don’t really realize we ourselves are withholding by imposing that very attitude of “forgive me, move on, and leave me alone about it, you-bitter-ole-thing-you.”

As in any other relationship (brotherly or neighborly), spouses experience offenses. But in marriage, there are potentially more opportunities for offenses because of the time two humans spend together – many times through trial and error. Each is in a vulnerable position, though it is safe in this faith. When an offense occurs between the two, Jesus instructs both – one to be the forgiver and the other to be the pursuer. (“Forgiver and pursuer/aggressor” are just titles that I’ve labeled while identifying them reading the passages in God’s Word.)

Jesus’ Instructions To An Offended Spouse, The Potential Forgiver

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:23-35 of the essential nature of a forgiving heart. He gave the parable of a man who owed his master a large debt and, in the face of consequence for not being able to pay it, he begged for a pardon from that debt. And the master released him of it because he was moved with compassion. This same man, who was released from this great amount of debt, was able to walk away in this liberty and found in his path a man who owed him a debt that was smaller than his own pardoned debt.

In his anger for the money that was owed to him, the man put his hands around his debtor’s throat and demanded his money back. When the money could not be paid, he had his debtor thrown into prison. Well, somebody informed his master about what had happened. As a result, the master became angry and had this hypocrite thrown into prison for the past large debt.

Jesus explained that, likewise, if we are unwilling to forgive others for their sins against us, the Father will not forgive us. He used such a scenario to explain His point in order to convey that our many sins against the Father have been far greater than any sin another could do against us.

We were born into a fallen species called humans, as we all know. Humans have a nature to sin against God. Sin is such a familiar word, that many in our generation are desensitized to its actual affect and disgrace in the eyes of an infinitely perfect God. We had a nature that is so offensive to the Lord, that we were headed in the direction where the tempter of sins is himself destined to go. This place is the lake that burns with fire and brimstone where all, whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, are to be thrown by Whom the human mind cannot grasp as being yet and still a just God. (Revelation 21:27)

This just God knew the outcome of humans who had no Savior that would be acceptable before the Father. So, in His love for the world, He sent His only Begotten Son as the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. In Romans 5:7-9, Paul taught, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Jesus).”

God’s compassion for us and His forgiveness for us is far greater than we can ever imagine. Also, our sin, our offense, against the holy, blameless, just God Who sacrificed His Son for us (one evidence shown when Jesus asked His Father on that cross, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?”), is far greater than any sin anyone has done against us because, in order to save us from our sins, He went to the distance of giving His only Begotten Son as the Ultimate Sacrifice.

Our own sins can remind us why we should forgive anyone. If we are willing to forget our own sins (sin being the very act that offends God and separates us from Him) and love ourselves despite our knowledge of our sins (which are all against God), do we not have love also to forgive others with the love we have for ourselves as the guide on how to do so? When Jesus told us “love your neighbor as yourself”, He really was not telling us to love ourselves first in order to love our neighbor. Such an encouraging angle, but just so out of context.

Jesus was pointing out (paraphrased in other words), “Because y’all love yourselves, you have a first-hand and very likely unfailing guide to refer to on how to love your neighbor.” Think about it. Even if you beat yourself up over a past mistake or offense, you won’t miss too many meals. You won’t let yourself go thirsty past forty-eight hours if you can help it. You’ll feed yourself and drink water or something like it. If you’re cold, you’re going to warm yourself. If you’re hot, you’re going to find out how to cool your body. If there is no other way, you will at least love yourself to this minimal extent. And Jesus knew to use such love as a sure measurement on how we are to love others.

Thus, Paul wrote in Romans 12:20, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” James and John also pointed out in each of their letters, along this same message with James’ actually on showing faith, that there is no way to show love toward someone if the opportunity to minister to their basic needs is neglected. (I John 3:16-18)

So, while the opportunity to offend our spouse is more likely to occur because of our closeness and vulnerability, as explained, the opportunity to forgive is also very likely in the life of a true believer because God transferred that forgiving nature into us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Jesus’ Instructions To An Offender, The Potential Pursuer or Aggressor of Love

At one point in my life, it would have surprised me to learn that Jesus’ message for two people, one from whom an offense came while the other one harbored anger about it, did not stop with a message addressing the offended person. Between those two people, He instructed the offended to become the forgiver but also addressed the offender to become the pursuer. In fact, the pursuer is instructed to become the initial aggressor of love.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV), “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” For the spouse who has offended the other, there is no room for any arrogant entitlement, as we can see reading this verse. (My husband of eighteen years rarely harbors anger and has made the role of pursuer primarily easy for me when I’ve done something wrong toward him.) But if he communicates to me or sends out unspoken vibes concerning some sin I committed against him that he’s been struggling to forgive, I am instructed by my Lord to address that issue in order to reaffirm my love for my husband and even to help him forgive me .

The Lord knew that having an attitude of entitlement is far easier than denying self through self-examination to the point of bearing the offended’s burden with what may be an unrecognizable heavy matter. In a form of arrogance (many times unintended), we can so easily harbor the thought, “I don’t have to pursue him/her. If he/she can’t forgive, it’s no longer my problem because God forgave me already.”

Do not require unconditional love from your offended spouse within the same heart that is failing to show unconditional love in a different way. You’re basically telling the person that he or she owes you beauty for your ashes. But God is the One to Whom we take our ashes to receive the beauty though the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, if you take your ashes (the offense you committed against your spouse – even as that offense has been forgiven by God) and you impose those ashes on your spouse (setting up a standard of expectation that requires a beautiful response to a possibly unapologetic offense – or synthetic apology – you’re going to come out of the dispute smelling like ashes.) God did not tell us to go and impose those ashes on that vulnerable person.

Instead, God told us to go first be reconciled to that brother who has something against us before we take a gift offering at the altar. What makes us a possible aggressor of love is because aggressive love may be the extent required to win back that spouse’s comfort with us. And if we neglect this passage for our own comfort, for our own determination to move on with some pseudo-peace that we’ve defined for ourselves, and for our own facades that we like to publicly display sometimes, then we fail to obey one passage while sitting back and comfortably watching our spouse fail to obey the other passage about the same past issue. So, who’s really walking in obedience here? Neither.

Jesus is showing us how to step up, as the past offender, and show love to the point where we are willing to ensure both of us in the marriage are obeying God. Galatians 6:1-2 tells us, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

When My Husband Left Me At The Gas Station To Go Gather Coins For Unpaid Gas…

Bible PagesBy Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation

“Why won’t my husband just listen to me?” It was the question that screamed in my head and the one I screamed out loud.

                It was back in 1996 or 1997. Back then, there were still gas stations around that would allow customers to pump first and pay afterward. But I never felt right about it. Something always set wrong in my mind about my husband taking advantage of that convenience. I’d tell him all the time, “We are too broke to be so presumptuous at the pump. Pay upfront, Pookie!”

                But he knew what he was doing. That’s what he’d insist about everything. Then, one day, as I was waiting for him inside the car, he approached the passenger window and gestured for me to roll down our manual window. Right there, he broke the news to me. “Do we have any money in your purse?” It was like asking me if I had a hammer in there, as times were financially rough on us during our first seven years of marriage.

                “I have to leave you here while I rush home to get some cash,” he told me in an urgent tone. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. But he was serious. We had no money to pay for the gas that he had pre-pumped. I was so mad that I didn’t know what to do. But all I could do was get out of that car and wait right there at the gas station until my husband could return to get me with the payment we owed.

                I knew exactly where he was going to get some cash. In our bedroom, we kept a large milk container of coins. He went to empty it and brought back heaps to pay for the gas. Seeing him hand all that change to the cashier, I know today, I felt a little stronger about one concern over the other. This moment, I can’t quite remember which thought I had: “I am so embarrassed in front of all these people.” Or, “Now, we’re really broke.” Deep down, I think I did feel a sense of gratitude to the Lord, though not to the extent I should have, because the gas station was less than five minutes from our townhome.

                Riding away from that filling station, as we called it at the time, I couldn’t help complaining, “If you had only listened to me, this never would have happened!” I think that’s the statement many of us as wives use in frustration when our husbands’ decisions to turn a deaf ear to our voices result in some form of chaos that seemingly impacts us (the wives) far greater.

                And what can we do about it? Are we trapped to live as some tool of security for bad judgment? After all, the Word of God tells us to submit, be quiet, obey our husbands, and live a life of ministry before a husband (if he doesn’t believe) without a word. When problems occur, a wife can feel very powerless if our roles are conveyed to us out of context for the advantage of a wayward husband.

                So, what is a woman to do? I think most of us who have lived well into adulthood as believers in Christ can agree that the first thing to do after seeking the Lord in prayer, which is ongoing, is relate to our husbands during their times of failure. And I realize, now while I’m calm, that they really need us to relate to them during those times. This has been one of my biggest challenges.

                When this man has messed up hugely, making me the bull’s eye of his thrown-off decisions, I don’t want to relate to him. There hasn’t been one time that I’ve wanted to do that, I don’t think. But, thinking back over eighteen years of marriage, I can pinpoint a number of incidents that have qualified me to relate to him.

                From the many times, I can remember one time when I became frustrated with a problem occurring in our home, which was out of both our control at that point, and left for another city over two hours away with our two youngest children in our minivan. I just up and left for the weekend to retreat. It was an impulsive decision that came from a place of a spoiled outlook. But more than impulsive and spoiled, it was crazy. That van had too many miles on it and had not been serviced.

                On the way back to home from our little trip, the van broke down. I thank the Lord we were still in that city when it broke down. I managed to putt-putt the van just barely into the service lot of the dealership that makes its model. We also experienced God’s mercy to get a rental car right there on site and drive it home.

                My husband wasn’t mad. Well, he did experience some frustration when he had to drive to the city days later to return the rental car and to tow the van back, as the dealership was going to charge too much to repair it. My decision certainly cost us more than some change for the car rental, towing, and repairs – not to mention the inn and other expenses attached to the trip. And yes, I was well outside our budget.

                Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” It’s so easy for me, still, to look at my husband and anybody else for their shortcomings and forget about the baggage that I bring on board. But if I’m spiritual (discerning, in-tune with what the Word says about a matter, and walking in the love of Christ), I have the goods necessary to give a calm word of wisdom where it’s needed. I have the goods to intervene in a matter if I’m guided by the Lord. (Long ago, I could have asked him, “Before you pump, where’s the money? Just take a look in your pocket because my purse only has a few baby items and an empty corn-purse.”) As a spiritually in-tuned wife, I have the insight to pray right there on the spot – in the face of whatever is happening.

                And Paul says that, as I perceive these circumstances Biblically, meaning as I can Biblically perceive my husband or anybody else making an adverse decision or sinning, I should consider my own vulnerability to poor judgment or sin. If not, temptation is even more likely to occur. I Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “When a man (a person) thinks he stands, let him take heed, lest he fall.” In other words, I’ve got to consider the tendency of the flesh with a willingness to allow myself to be cleansed, even if I don’t see anything wrong with myself at that point because I see myself as “standing”. In that moment, I must take heed. To what? To God’s cleansing Word. His Word to cleanse the lives of those whom I can correct, rebuke, or publicly charge out a rebuttal? No – no correcting or rebuking just yet. Correction comes after self-examination. Certainly, if openly rebutting, doing so in self-denial, not lifting ourselves up. Social Media makes that very easy to do. (Of course, opportunities to correct another person come for us to act upon in the spirit of meekness as Galatians 6:1 says.) But first thing’s first. First, I am to take heed to God’s Word as a cleansing for myself – in the face of someone else’s fault, including my husband’s. How haughty of an attitude I have had recognizing his faults when I saw myself as “standing”!

                Have I mastered this admonition? Not by a long shot. Have I experienced it? Oh, yes – from both my husband’s and my part in a very few situations. By the grace of the living God, Who gives guidance that I accept, we were able to do so.

                Any frustrated spouse could ask, “Surely, you can’t think this method, this adherence to one or two passages in the entire Bible, is the cure-all for every problem within my marriage that relates to unfairness and frustration.” No. But there will never be a time when, seeing the fault of someone else, we are exempt from self-examination and heeding to the Word for ourselves.

                As for wives submitting and living to be meek, it’s a reference to I Peter 3 that I often have to re-visit with much prayer. As believing wives, let’s do so for ourselves – search the Word in prayer, that is. And let’s pray for one another as well as for our husbands, who are held by God to a greater accountability than any hard-head could ever fathom. And if he could fathom the degree of accountability, he’d pray more than the wife does. So, we pray.

Devotions By Sandy

Bible Pages

Hi Sisters!

Every day of the week, and most weekends, I receive an encouraging devotional message via text by Sandy Geraldo. I plan to share many of those texts here and hope that they are a blessing to you, too!-lz

 

Tuesday 2/26/2013 Devotional

How often do we disappoint ourselves. We have such high hopes and pure intentions but inevitably, we find ourselves burnt out with the burdens of life. The messiness of life can leave us feeling exhausted not only physically but also spiritually, in our very souls. We all need renewal and it begins with the compassion of God and a heart ready for change. When the two are put together, we find a new beginning, a soul refreshed, and life revived.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” 2 Cor. 4:16

 

Thursday 3/14/2013 Devotional

There is no one like the mighty God we serve! Only He can go before you and make every crooked path straight and every rough place smooth! Only God can turn a set back into a set-up! God is faithful! His faithfulness will never fail you!
“O Lord God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty O Lord, and Your faithfulness surrounds You.” Psalm 89: 8

 

2/27/2013 Devotional

God’s promised to never leave or forsake us. He said His Word is a lamp unto our feet, and that He would give us hidden treasures in the secret places in darkness. Nothing is ever waisted with God not even our hurts or pains. He’s promised to turn what the enemy meant for evil around for your good.
” When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through the rivers of difficultly, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

God’s Goodness Is Challenged By Unbelievers

On a Friday in February, a very profane atheist threw a lot of Bible verses at me to challenge the goodness of God. He brought up verses from the Old Testament questioning why a good God would support His prophets and David who declared and carried out death on people (including children) in the name of the Lord. This is often a question from even Christians. (And this atheist claimed to have once been a Christian for 29 years.)

God’s goodness is often misinterpreted when there is an examination of scripture without yielding to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. In St. John chapter 14-16, Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit, referring to Him as the Comforter. Reading God’s Word will continue to tune a Spirit-filled believer in with the Holy Spirit’s voice and direction. One verse proving this is John 14:26 where Jesus said in the latter part of the verse that the Holy Spirit would bring back to our remembrance what Jesus said.

Before I write an explanation on God’s Law under the old Covenant compared to His Law being fulfilled through Jesus Christ under the new Covenant, I would like to point out why an unbeliever will never be able to comprehend God’s Word:

You Must Be Born Again

St. John 3:3-7

(3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

In order for a person to be born again, that person must first die to self. He or she must face a grave reality that his or her current life of sin, resulting in complete separation from God, will lead to eternal damnation. A person must be willing to bury his or her old self, never to be resurrected in any way. There is no admirable or commendable trait, that ever received honor, worth holding on to from the past person who was separated from God.

This burial is symbolic. But it is also so relevant to the person’s life that this person no longer lives for the self that has been buried.

As the old person is buried, the new person is “risen” into a life abiding in Jesus Christ through faith in Him as Savior and Lord – Whose body was the Ultimate Sacrifice that paid the penalty of our sins. By His love and grace, the Father gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to finish the penalty of our sins at the cross. Only those who believe by faith on Jesus Christ (Who is God the Son, being God’s Word Himself) have salvation through this grace given to us.

Any rejection of God’s Word is indication that a person has not believed by faith on Jesus because, again, Jesus is the Word of God (St. John 1:1, 14). According to St. John 1:12, God gave us power to become His children when we receive Jesus Christ  for Who He is (being the Word of God Himself, being the only begotten Son of the Father Who gave Him as the Ultimate Sacrifice that pays the penalty for sin which separates man from God, being Savior of those who believe by faith, and being our Lord Who sanctifies his believers by His cleansing Word – St. John 15:3, St. John 17:17 and Ephesians 5:26). This is what it means to be born again.

And a born again person has become a new creature (II Corinthians 5:17). But just because the born-again person is a new creature does not mean that the transformation stops there. There is ongoing growth. (For no moment can I figure out why so many Christian bloggers out there rebuttal the preaching of obedience to God’s Word and change when Paul hammered on it in his epistles as follow-up to the lovingly firm teachings of Christ Himself.)

Yes, when you are born again, you do genuinely desire and care about changing continuously to reflect His Word in your very life – from your secret places in fear of Him to your public places for His glory. Sometimes you change joyously – fully motivated. Other times you change by the rebuke of God’s Word directly or indirectly through fellow believers. Sometimes you struggle and battle your flesh down until there is subjection of that flesh to an obedient spirit, which is willing to submit to God. This is the life of a born-again believer.

A person who is not willing to deny himself in the manner of becoming born again (St. Luke 9:24) will not comprehend the Word. Even if this person decides to go through the motions of believing, he or she will not be a born again believer without the true faith as defined by God’s Word. That’s why Jesus said that you cannot place new wine into old wineskins. That old wineskin will burst because it cannot contain the new wine. Translated to our lives, a new lifestyle in Jesus Christ cannot be contained in the heart of a person who has not been born again. This is a problem among many atheists who believe that they were once Christians. This is the problem with the atheist who challenged me in February. He thought he actually was a Christian because he went through the motions for twenty-nine years. And he’d probably challenge me head-on that he was sincere. A person can definitely sincerely go through the motions – and show a number of fruits pointing to still being the old creature:

Patting himself or herself on the back for his or her good deeds done in the name of Jesus;

Becoming more knowledgeable in God’s Word for the purpose of proudness and boastfulness as opposed to knowing it for the pure desire to know and obey the Lord;

Going to church to pacify God as opposed to going for the totality of why He called His believers to assemble;

And doing other fruitless gestures from a heart that’s not actually converted.

If the new lifestyle is in the old heart that was never buried, the person can certainly go before the Lord and ask for that change by believing on His Word by faith. Be willing to give up yourself. Give up what you personally think about overall life. Give up what you think God ought to do or allow. Give up what you desire that opposes God’s Word. Give up what would glorify you. Give up your personal thrones – regardless of what position you may hold in life. (If you’re great in position like a prince, become like a servant and see yourself as deserving of the same punishment as any sinful penniless mugger on the streets.) Give up your personal methods of obeying God in exchange for His Word alone. Give up yourself running your own life for His Lordship. And bury that old person you’re giving up in order to raise up as a new person in Jesus Christ.

[There are many preachers right now who are persecuted for preaching Lordship messages because bloggers think Lordship messages like this take away from grace. But don’t define grace just by reading a few isolated verses. If you read it all (Matthew 4:4), you will learn even greater grace and grace encompassing a deeper encounter than someone’s surface explanation of it, keying in only on isolated passages.]

In St. Matthew below, you will notice that Jesus spoke to crowds in parables. He explained to His disciples why He spoke in parables. There are seeing eyes, hearing ears, and perceiving hearts that just are not going to comprehend God’s Word. The gospel is hidden to those whose hearts are “waxed gross” (v. 15) This means they are closed-minded to His Word. In fact, in that verse, Jesus said that these people have closed their eyes. Closing our eyes is a deliberate action.

It is human nature to see what we want to see, to hear what we want to hear, and to shut our hearts to anything that we do not really want. This is what happens to those who do not truly want the gospel. This is what happened to atheists who read the Word and then got upset. They are unable to perceive It as It is.

Am I saying that a believer understands all of the Word? No. A believer is willing to shut his or her own understanding up and remain open to the Holy Spirit’s teaching of God’s Word – primarily through quality time in the Word alone with God and secondarily through messages by teachers who are truly teaching God’s Word without twisting It.

[There will be times of disagreeing with the delivery of the Word. But a person abiding in Christ will discern who is truly submitted to the Lord as a teacher or preacher. As a non-Calvinist, I can receive the teachings by Brother Paul Washer and Dr. Voddie Baucham. And as a non-Arminianist, I can receive teachings by Leonard Ravenhill, who was labeled as one and was well-received by Brothers Washer and Baucham. (Neither John Calvin nor Jacob Arminius were crucified for us. I Corinthians 1:11-13)]

Receiving God’s Word in private and from one God’s true ministers means not receiving it with private interpretation of the Word to suit our own agendas but studying and meditating on It as we seek out the Spirit’s revelation of It. And believers with the attitude of little children, in their humility and lacking self-reliance, are able to seek Him this way and find through Him the meaning of His Word.

St. Matthew 12:3-23

(3) And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; (4) And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: (5)  Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: (6) And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. (7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: (8) But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. (9) Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (10) And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (12) For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (17) For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (18) Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. (19) When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (20) But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; (21) Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (22) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (23) But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Notice that the disciples went to Jesus apart from the crowds to ask questions. You can see this throughout the gospels. They listened to the messages and the parables and later went to Him inquiring of the meanings. Jesus will allow you to read or hear His Word. But do you have within your heart such desire for Him that you will seek out the meaning, without applying your own meaning? Are we willing to say, “I know nothing. But He knows everything.” Most people who are intellectual and highly acclaimed can’t make that statement. They just don’t believe that each individual, including themselves, know nothing. And for some, it would be easier to conclude that than to say that an invisible God knows everything.

I Corinthians 1:18

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

For anyone who has ever doubted, pondered, or even been confronted by a believer the way I was by the atheist, I hope my above explanation can help shed light on salvation and the cleansing of God’s Word.

The Law Under The Old Covenant

The atheist who challenged God told me that God is evil because of the many circumstances where His prophets and kings (such as David) were allowed to declare and carry out the deaths of people, including children.

Before I answer his accusation, let me say this up front in fear of Almighty God: I’m not about to excuse or pamper anybody who wants to challenge God in any way. About to feel like an insensitive heel (which I often feel like) I once had to meditate on the Lord’s Word about empathizing with anybody who was angry with Him and I received no check in my spirit to empathize, though I am to lovingly minister to anyone feeling that way. So, for anybody who would blatantly curses God and call Him evil, I offer no empathy whatsoever. But I offer His Word. I don’t even agree with hogwash popular statements that say, “You must forgive God.” He is not a man that should be seen as ever needing our forgiveness. That is grave presumptuousness that should not be taught by us who believe. Here’s my reason why: His Word in Isaiah 45:9 says, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?”

So, having pointed that out…

Those who lived under the old Covenant were living under the Law before it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They were also living under the Law before grace was given through Jesus Christ. Certainly, Israel and many people who lived for God received a foretaste of His grace. But the penalty of sin was accomplished in the blood Sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. Then, came the new Covenant, through which we can go to the Father through Jesus Christ alone by grace on His part and by faith on ours. His grace encompasses forgiveness and a close walk with Him by baptism in the Holy Spirit for Gentile believers along with Jewish believers.

In the Old Testament, sins and opposition from pagan nations were confronted with serious penalties – many times to the point of death as consequence on people of all ages. Even if there were exceptions to death, consequences were grave as in the case of David’s sin with Bathsheba (which did result in death of three sons and rape of a daughter), plagues in Egypt that eventually led up to the drowning of soldiers in pursuit of the released Hebrew slaves, and the captivity of Israel’s children in Babylon. Sins committed at all ages, regardless of how minor the human heart can perceive the sin, had to be answered because of the serious offense that sin is in God’s sight.

God hates sin. This is misunderstood by the atheist who pointed out that Elisha spoke death in the name of the LORD on the children making fun of his baldness. From that point, two female bears devoured those children. From what we see as smallest to greatest sins, the wages of sin (all sin) is death, while the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23). That gift, the life of Jesus Christ, was born to a virgin years upon years after Adam had brought sin (and the penalty of it) upon human beings.

Sin, which the Lord so hates, must be answered. It cannot just float undealt with. God just did not accept that as something that He would allow. (He gave His only begotten Son for this reason.) So, to see sin answered in the Old Testament appears incredibly harsh to the natural mind. In II Samuel 6:5-12, even David was upset when the Lord smote Uzzah for touching the ark of God in order to stable it as it was being carried. But God had already instructed Israel on how the ark of the LORD was to be handled. To handle it outside the parameters that the LORD had set required the penalty of disobedience explained as “error” in the King James Version of the Bible.

When the atheist brought up Elisha’s encounter with the children, speaking death on them in the name of the LORD for mocking him, all I could tell him was that Elisha did not qualify to die for us on the cross. We can certainly look at the acts of righteous people in the Old Testament and become disturbed. We could also become disturbed by God sending punishment –even to the point of death – on all who those righteous people opposed. Again, one of God’s reasons for this is because the wages of sin is death.

Why the psalmists, prophets, and kings declared death and destruction on their enemies is because, for only one reason that I can see, the grace to come was not experienced fully by them as we experience grace under the new Covenant. Grace received can be grace given. If the people of God did not experience full grace, they were unable to distribute it fully. This is what I see in the Word.

The Law Fulfilled Through Jesus Christ Under The New Covenant

The disciples James and John tried that harsh-type of retaliation which had been carried out by those in the Old Testament and got nowhere with Jesus. In fact, Jesus rebuked them.

St. Luke 9:51-56

(51) And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (52) And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. (53) And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. (54)  And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? (55) But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. (56) For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

These disciples were aware of the penalties of sins demonstrated in the history with which they were familiar. So were the Pharisees familiar with the penalties of sins. And they tried carrying out death on sins, too. Remember they tried to stone an adulteress until Jesus calmly told them that whoever was without sin could cast the first stone. Jesus taught us grace through His Word, demonstrated it, and mandated it once His time had come to teach and do miracles. Then,  He crossed us over into that grace at the cross.