That moment of peace That calm in the storm When you think of the release And the racing thoughts form.
Bombardment out of the air Twisted wicked in your mind Seemingly out of nowhere True thoughts left behind.
Urging you onward To carry through. Filling you with the wrong word “Do what you must do.”
Call upon the angels Cry out to God above He’ll rescue you from this painful Moment with His love.
Doubled down the attack Dark forces reconvene Throwing you off track With thoughts in between Darkness and light The wrong and the right Confusion settles in Temptation within Deep the battle rages Into the night.
“No one will miss you You’re being dramatic.” “That is not true.” In between is static. The battle is erratic. “You’re not strong enough Life’s too rough” Thoughts are automatic.
“Be still” You hear Breaking your will And killing your fear. Chaos ensues Evil hates to lose. Raging darker deeper Evil is a sleeper Who gets worse towards the end Willing to send The darkest thoughts ever deeper Down you descend.
“Be still” You hear again “This is not My will” You feel insane These voices in your head The battlefield not red With blood Only strewn with broken dreams.
You wake up Unstable as hell Tears erupt Shaking a hallow shell Of a man who once was standing Long before he fell. Finding your Foundation You rise Stronger for the next invitation The demons will devise.
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11b-13
A few months ago a sermon on these verses whacked me over my head.
Contentment eluded me for my entire life. I had spent years familiar with these verses but never finding the meaning. Here was someone (Paul) saying he had learned to be content in every circumstance.
Wait. What? How? How was Paul content when he was low, hungry, and in need? Was he bluffing?
I could understand his contentment in plenty. I was frequently quite settled when things were going well, but when times were hard I freaked out, often disastrously.
What was Paul’s secret?
We often hear that last verse quoted as though it were some kind of good luck charm. But “I can do all things” isn’t pertaining to some feat of strength or passing a test. In context it’s so much more.
The secret to Paul’s contentment was his faith in Christ. Instead of depending on his ever changing circumstances for his peace he depended on the solid foundation of Jesus. Jesus never changes. There is no fluctuation in the love of Christ, unlike the other things we put our faith in.
A lifetime doesn’t seem to be enough to grasp this concept. Even though I tried to be content in Christ as all good Christians should be, I didn’t see my idols. For many years I was plagued by anxiety because this or that wasn’t right in my life. I experienced long periods of want. Instead of trusting God and being content, I allowed these periods to devour me. Anxiety and fear ran my life.
Only recently did I discover that I made idols out of so many things. And everything failed me one way or another. Instead of rightly seeing the things I had and desired to have as gifts from God, I made them into demands. When I didn’t get my demands, I became a poster child of discontent. This discontentment then proceeded to destroy many of those good gifts.
It took losing the most important thing in my life (my biggest idol) to show me the power of my idols. It took months of floundering and grasping for that idol to wake me up. I had depended on something temporal, something delicate. When it broke and went away, it almost broke me.
I was drowning but those verses hit me like a lifebouy. Paul depended on Christ, and Paul made it through excruciating suffering. Not only was I made aware that what I had lost was an idol, but I realized that all of those things which had driven my anxiety were idols as well: financial security, steady employment, well behaved kids, a clean house, sex, intimacy, friendships, my pride, etc. All of these things had failed me at times and because I had depended on them I was always left staggering.
Christ never fails. He never gives up on me. He never stops loving me. Even when I run towards my idols He always pulls me back into the fold. When I lean on Him I am never left staggering. It took going through hell to teach me this, but when I started to grasp it I felt a peace like I never have before.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt or have days of discouragement and discontent. I am still going through this trial. I am still suffering. At times I feel like a train is sitting on my chest. It’s hell. I still want to restore what was lost (it is a good thing in and of itself, when properly esteemed). But I am content. Christ is sovereign, God is working for my good and His glory. I don’t have to flail or kick against His Providence because I know it is perfect.
When I am lonely or struggling with thoughts of suicide (I am ashamed to even admit this) or wasting away in pain I can call on Him and He restores peace to my soul. I can read His word and find comfort in His promises, as well as instruction on how to handle difficult people and circumstances. I can know that no matter what happens to me I am secure in my salvation. I may suffer and even die, but my eternity is secure.
Perhaps “I can do all things” means “I can endure all things”. No matter what God gives or takes away in His Providence, we can be sure that if we (like Paul) rest in Him we will endure. If we call on Him when in trial or despair we can find real comfort. When we obey His law and trust in His word we can handle any circumstance that comes our way.
The other day, I was listening to an episode about prayer on Ligonier’s “Renewing Your Mind”. The speaker, R.C. Sproul, mentioned that prayer is a lot like a love letter. He said the even though God already knows about our life, we should be excited to pray and tell God all about it.
This made me wonder, why aren’t more people who claim to love God giving Him love letters in their prayers?
I then realized that many Christians don’t pray at all. Perhaps much of what prevents them from praying is a lack of real joy in their life.
They prefer to be stoics.
People are told so often not to let their emotions control them and dictate their actions that they often assume it’s safer not to have any feelings. They think “Don’t let your emotions rule you” really means stop having emotions at all.
Should emotions rule us and dictate everything we do or say? No, we should certainly apply logic and rational thinking when making decisions. But should emotions have some influence? Perhaps.
I think it’s unbiblical to say we shouldn’t have our emotions influence any of our actions. In the Bible there are numerous examples of people weeping, soaking their beds in tears, and rending their clothing in mourning. In the Gospels we have Jesus flipping tables. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” got angry and showed it. The people of the Bible were very emotional and their actions certainly displayed it.
I think the modern (or not so modern, honestly) tendency to stoicism is very unbiblical. We were created to feel. God Himself has emotions, and strong ones at that. Part of being created in His image is the ability to emote.
Most of Fruits of the Spirit are emotional. For example, what is joy if not happy? What is joy if not exuberant? We should let joy influence us. Especially in our prayers.
There are many out there who say that happiness is not something we should strive for. I think this is hogwash. We should feel nothing but happy knowing that the God of creation loves us, cares about us, provides for us, and even died for our sins. If nothing else, we should strive to be happy about those facts.
That happiness ought to be reflected in our prayers. We should be excited to pray because God is listening. He values and loves the prayers of His saints and wants us to come to Him with our burdens and worship. We should be glad to give Him our love letters of prayer, because his love gives us great joy.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have been reading “Philosophy 101”. I say reading, but it’s more like slugging through. Sometimes I blank out and realize I have “read” three pages and have no idea what just happened. I go back and re-read and realize, yes, this was in fact a bunch of nonsense.
It doesn’t stick because most Philosophy is pure nonsense. I used to joke that Philosophers were just people who stated the obvious in a profound way. Having read the summaries of a few of them now I see that many of them state complete absurdity in a profound way. It’s the “profound” that makes them “philosophers” and not “asylum patients”.
Reading all of it does stir the old noggin. My head is now filled with so many questions, queries, and concerns. I feel like Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph. D. from Yellow Submarine: “Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time. So much to know!”
Concerned that maybe my brain is just too old to process all the material I picked up a book I read years ago: RC Sproul’s “The Consequences of Ideas”. It’s almost like light switches were clicked on. Sproul is far superior in explaining the various philosophers than ol’ What’s His Face. It reads as smooth as butter, no re-reading needed.
But man has my mind been chugging. We are all influenced by the environment we grow up in, the people we choose to be around, and the general culture at large. Is it possible to invent one’s own personal philosophy? More importantly, is it possible to find a real, workable philosophy in Sacred Scripture? What is God’s philosophy? What is man’s? Where do these mesh?
I am relieved when I read or hear someone else coming to conclusions I have reached on my own or with a little help from books. Or maybe I was just influenced long ago and it’s only now coming back to my memory once refreshed by a re-read. I feel this relief frequently reading this book. All of it is coming back to me, with new-ish conclusions and a ton of dots connected.
I haven’t finished either book yet, but it is striking to see the differences between Christian philosophers and the Ravings of Mad Men. When one is hopeless all he can do is promote hopelessness. When one believes in nothing all he can do is promote absurdities. It’s only through belief in the true and living God can men come to any reasonable philosophy about truth and meaning.
Sometimes you just have to scrap an entire blog. My original title for this was “Happiness As a Goal”. But I’ve renamed it and rewritten it. And then rewrote it again. And then renamed it again.
So here it is, after a ton of editing:
I have struggled with the concept of wants and needs for a while. God gives us everything we need, so everything we don’t have we don’t need, right? And if God doesn’t give it to us and we don’t need it, it’s sinful to want it, right?
For a long time I felt that contentment meant being completely satisfied with what you have. This means that any desire for something one doesn’t have is discontentment and therefore sinful.
This was my train of thought: It is a sin to be discontent, to be content means you don’t want anything, you are satisfied with what you have. Therefore to want is to be discontent, therefore to want is to sin. Furthermore, God gives us everything we need, if we don’t have it we don’t need it. If we don’t need it we just want it, and wanting anything is a sin.
From the last three paragraphs you can see why my life has become kind of messy. I have shoved down a lot of desires and drives mistaking them for sin. This has made me a bit of a limp noodle. If wants and desires are inherently sinful what’s the point of trying? After all, you’re going to get what you need.
But then I realized that the Bible clearly talks about wants.
“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2b-3
James does not condemn his audience for asking for things.
In 1 John we read this: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
One only asks for things if one wants something. Since asking is not condemned, wanting is not condemned. I was wrong to think merely having wants was sinful. God clearly wants us to want things that are in accordance with His will and to ask Him for them. Asking is encouraged, and we are to do it with confidence.
Ultimately I don’t have to feel shame or guilt for wanting things (or experiences, or good feelings). But I do have to ask the question “is this in accordance with God’s will?”
Probably the easiest way to determine this is to ask the questions “Do I want this purely for selfish gain? Does my desire ultimately serve others and/or bring glory to God?” If the answer to the first is no and the answer to the second is yes then I am free to ask and to pursue what I want.
This whole train of thought has further implications, obviously. This is me after all. I can’t keep anything too simple. Keep checking back and I will try to further expound on these thoughts in other posts as I get to them.
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There’s a new craze going on. People are going “KonMari” on their homes and tidying them up. Lives are changing, with every cymbal flourish and Marie Kondo Coo, rooms are being magically transformed from dumps to habitable spaces.
I knew nothing of this show until it started appearing in my newsfeed. Then my wife watched it…
My wife has spent literally the last ten years trying to KonMari our house without knowing she was doing it. She has emptied her closet onto the bed several times and whittled down the clothes to a manageable number. She has sought to create spaces for the objects that she loves to be on display to bring joy to her house. She emptied and rearranged kitchen cabinets, she disposed of piles of things that no longer meant anything to anyone (and a lot that she still loved).
But because of me, this labor was in vain. I am a hoarder, or at least a recovering one. I have held onto papers and books and random objects from my youth for odd and unhealthy reasons. It’s been a process, slow and painful (yet cathartic), to get rid of my stuff and only keep what really makes me happy.
So seeing the craze, and hearing my wife’s reviews, I decided I should watch a few episodes myself and see what it was all about.
First off, skip the first episode unless you want to know why the rest of the world dislikes Americans. Stereotypes exist for a reason, sadly. The one upside to the episode is that it normalizes breastfeeding.
But episode three was great (we accidentally skipped episode two), especially for us, because we live in a smallish house with seven people in it. Seeing another family downsize from a huge space to a tiny space was uplifting and gave me some hope for this household. Plus they were just so dern wholesome. The kids were polite and the parents well spoken. They seemed like normal people trying to get by, just like most of us.
There was another episode with a couple just like us, the wife (in our case, me) just couldn’t bear to get rid of her clothes, books, and miscellaneous items. We had to laugh because if we didn’t laugh we would cry. This woman said many of the things I do. It was humbling to see someone else do it. She kept things for various reasons, usually utilitarian in her mind. I completely understood what she was saying. And her husband? The words he spoke could have been stolen from my wife’s mouth.
So what do I think of Marie Kondo?
Well, first off, she seems like an absolute sweetheart. She doesn’t come into her client’s home like a wrecking ball, deriding them for having stuff. Instead, she sweetly reminds them of some pretty common sense stuff like you’re all in this household together, so you have to work as a team to keep it tidy and only keep what brings you joy. Common sense frequently escapes me, so her reminders were well needed.
Other shows of this genre show you “horrible” people and build up drama around their horrible addiction to materials. They literally guilt you into cleaning up your house, because only “horrible” people live in messy houses. Not “Tidying Up”, this show shows you average people who are just trying to get themselves out from a completely relate-able situation. It’s feel good TV.
People will mock Marie because of her Shinto beliefs, saying she does odd things like “waking up books” and greeting the house. Sure, there is a bit of superstition involved, but that doesn’t make everything she does incorrect. Watching her talk about her beliefs got me to thinking, what is the correct way for Christians to think about the objects in their house?
So many Christians in America just go along with the materialism of our culture. We buy stuff we don’t need, we collect things with no intrinsic value, we hoard and take pride in our displays of wealth and blessings. Most of us are able to keep our material possessions manageable, but there are more than just a few of us that are drowning in them.
Wealth is not bad. Having material possessions isn’t sinful. Buying stuff you don’t need or having collections are not intrinsically bad behaviors. But, like all things we do, we should examine our motives and the effects the behaviors have on our lives and the lives of those around us.
Watching the show encouraged me to ask myself a few questions:
Does my home or the objects in it hinder my ability to share the Gospel?
I can’t share the Gospel when I can’t invite anyone in to my home. My home is an extension of my life, and the best way to spread the Gospel is to let others into it. But I am too embarrassed by my chaos to let others in.
Does my home reveal a lack of self-control, a Fruit of the Spirit?
My home definitely reveals some lack of self-control. There are places for things, but things are not put away. Clothes are not put in hampers, dishes are lost in far corners, the tables are used as catch-alls. Habits are not maintained.
Is there peace in my home, or is it chaos?
There is no peace. While training to be a bus driver I was told that having a clean bus actually encourages good student behavior. This is obvious even in my home. My kids aren’t bad, but clutter stresses them out and can lead to grumpiness, sloppiness, and laziness. How much more relaxed would they be if they knew where their stuff was? How much more willing would they be to keep up with their chores if they didn’t have to shift around mounds of stuff?
What does my mountain of stuff and my inability to get rid of it say about what me and what’s important to me?
What’s more important to me: this stuff that I’ve been dragging around for years, or the health and well being of my family? Stuff, or my ability to have friends over to share my life? Stuff, or my ability to do the things I love instead of wasting my time moving sand dunes of clothes and papers around?
Do these objects rob me or members of my family of joy, also one of the Fruits of the Spirit?
Joy is the one thing that Marie brings up more often than her love of tidying. Objects can rob us of our joy. Mountains of material possessions can drag us into depressing and awful places.
We should only keep what brings us joy. We should not hold on to the stuff that robs us of joy or inhibits our ability to share the Gospel. We should use our home to bring joy to others. Keeping a house full of clutter often means keeping a home empty of friends.
Go check out the show, then go KonMari on your house, you won’t be disappointed.
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If you pay any attention to the modern world you’ll notice a buzzword floating around that might be a bit confusing for literalists like me. When I hear a term I pick apart it’s meaning just to be sure it’s being used correctly. Probably the most overused buzzword floating around right now is “social justice.”
Recently there was a meeting headed by John MacArthur to come up with a Christian response to the term. The group came up with a 14 part “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel”. I plan on combing through it over the next few days and give a good summary of what I agree with and disagree with. From my initial scanning I will say I am not totally sold on it.
The more I research the term the more nebulous it’s meaning. Just like the term “toxic masculinity“, the definition of the term “social justice” seems dependent on one’s political beliefs.
What’s my definition of “social justice”?
The “social” part is not hard to understand and for the most part I think people use it correctly. It’s pretty hard not to. “Social” just refers to people. The term clearly refers to how we treat people.
The “justice” part is much harder to understand.
“Justice” is defined by the Google as: “just behavior or treatment”, “the quality of being fair and reasonable”, “the administration of the law” which is somewhat helpful, if we can define “just”, “fair”, and “reasonable.”
“Just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair” which seems clear right? It’s also defined as “(of treatment) deserved or appropriate in the circumstances.”
So who decides what is fair? Fairness is a rather subjective thing. “Deserved” is also a relative term, especially in this day and age of entitlement nonsense.
These definitions are pretty cut and dry when speaking in legal terms. When a civil violation or a criminal action takes place fairness and a deserved retribution can usually be pretty easy to parse out. In “Social Justice” however, fairness and deserts can mean just about anything.
That leaves us with “morally right” and “appropriate in the circumstances”.
As a Christian, I have a basis for the moral treatment of others in scripture: “Treat others as I would have them treat me” “Love my neighbor” and “love my enemy”. To be socially just I must take pains to ensure I am loving those around me. Add “appropriate to the circumstances” and this becomes a slightly more difficult task.
Social justice as a Christian requires a great amount of discernment and attention to individuals. We cannot approach the subject as the pagan world does with blanket platitudes and government programs. We have to be involved with individual members of all classes, races, genders, religions, and whatnot.
To be just we must know what our neighbor deserves (love, first and foremost) in their individual circumstances. We must treat our enemies with love, understanding that they may deserve different things than our family or neighbors (again, they deserve love, but tempered with caution).
Social justice is a silly term for Christians to use. We have had the golden rule for millenia, why use such a trendy buzzword?
I’m just going to keep on treating others with love and kindness.
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As I mentioned the other day, Calvinism is one of the managery of topics that has been pinballing around my head the past few days or so. This is probably the shortest stream of thought, so it’s going to be the first topic I cover.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with a lot of theology this will probably not make much sense, I’m writing to an audience that I assume knows the subject matter. If that isn’t the case I would recommend you do some research before boring yourself with me.
I was going to post a screenshot of the conversations I had over the weekend with some very angry anti-Calvinists that sparked the whole thing, but for some reason the guy with the original post has disappeared. Kinda suspicious methinks.
Anyway, the post was basically something along the lines of “Calvinism makes God into a monster!”
I of course took exception to this. The Doctrines of Grace do not make God a monster. Quite the contrary, they put particular emphasis on the grace of God. The fact that God saves anyone should humble us.
What really got my blood boiling though was the accusation that Calvinists are preaching a false gospel. We are, I was told, “demonic” and “leading millions to Hell.”
There is a temptation in rhetoric to tell people that they simply don’t understand your position. I see it all the time and I have definitely been guilty of it. But I see it as a cop out. If your opponent doesn’t understand you, it’s probably because you (or your compatriots) have not adequately stated your position. So I avoided that strategy and instead inquired about what the true Gospel is.
For his credit he did state the answer correctly. But when pressed to tell me how Calvinism is preaching a false gospel he throws down the John 3:16 trump card.
It’s always funny to me when Arminians throw down John 3:16. Like Calvinists disagree with it or something. Apparently because we believe salvation is limited to the Elect, we must think that Jesus was lying when he said “whosoever believes will have eternal life.”
I do believe that “whosoever believes” will be saved. I just believe that only the Elect will be that “whosoever”.
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Is not incongruous with:
“whosoever believes in Him shall be saved.”
Those who He foreknew and predestined are precisely the same people who believe. Check, Arminians.
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This was in a Facebook group I’m in. Most people got the joke. One guy commented:
“What exactly is this meme saying?
Why is the woman abandoning her God given role as mother “for the next few days”?
Why is the father being regarded by both women almost as a boyfriend?”
My response was “you gotta be trolling.”
But looking at his timeline I really don’t think he was. His posts show that his worldview assumes men and women were created exclusively for distinct “roles”, women to pump out babies and stay with them constantly until they are capable of pumping out their own, and men to go out of the house most of the time to till the fields and provide the means to buy food (which definitely falls into the woman’s role). These roles are rigid and unbending.
I’m not completely opposed to the idea of roles. In any organization, such as a family, division of labor is helpful to ensure that all jobs are taken care of.
But implicit in this guy’s worldview is the idea that men are incapable of raising children. The fact that a woman would “abandon her God given role” and leave her children in the incompetent hands of their father is appalling. We all know men don’t have the capacity to nurture. We know their attention spans are way too limited to ensure the kids get all that they need to survive.
Implicit in this worldview is the concept that fathers are nothing more than babysitters when they take responsibility for the care of their children. If this guy had his way, the mother would never be out of the child’s presence. The father would will never be left out of his league watching the kids for a few days, let alone a few hours.
Maybe I am being uncharitable. Maybe this guy is a great father. Maybe he lets his wife “abandon her role” and go out occasionally. I don’t know.
All I know is I take exception to the idea that men are useless for raising children. I reject the notion that fathers are babysitters and the jokes about them needing “rescue” and being incompetent.
This guy may not have understood the meme, but I think most of us got the point loud and clear.
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If you read Wednesday’s post, you might have also discovered that The Transformed Wife has many cringe worthy articles, way too many to respond to. But one post has got me particularly heated up.
It wasn’t the “risqué” image she chose, or the standard nonsense about how men are so visual and women are not. It wasn’t the usual “women need to be ashamed of their bodies and cover them completely so that men can’t be enticed by them” lines that got me riled.
That stuff is old hat. I have addressed the Modesty stuff before. The main points of the post were not at all shocking or new to me.
What was shocking was the very first comment:
“…Lori that picture for this blog post is one that could cause a brother to stumble. She is an example of what not to do. Would you please consider changing the image for one of a Godly-attired sister whose dress and shoes and pose will not lead a man who comes here seeking guidance for his wife astray? My husband Jeb is so thoughtful in finding materials that will help me grow (your book!) But he was a little shocked and surprised, and asked me to share his thoughts.”
If the image above gets you off, I sincerely hope you never leave your house or browse through any website. The amount of skin and shapeliness I see on a daily basis would send you running for the nearest restroom. Sorry to be a bit crude, but really dude?
If you can’t handle high heels and a little bit of calf, you probably aren’t taking every thought captive. You’re thinking with your penis, not your brain.
We need to stop this nonsense about how women are just a bunch of enticing objects that we can’t help but covet and lust after. We need to quit telling women that God made them a little too good and that we just can’t stop ogling them and making them into objects.
I thought the men going to her site seeking guidance for their wives were the Godly ones? These are supposedly the most self-controlled, upright, and good men out there. These are no men of the streets. And yet apparently they crumble at the site of some legs.
I am not saying that men don’t stumble. Men stumble over all sorts of things, sexually and otherwise. Men can literally make anything into something sinful. If women knew what could possibly make a man stumble she would never leave her bed (although even that in some men’s imagination can be twisted into something depraved).
What I am saying is that men need to grow up. Men need to stop whining about every good looking woman being a stumbling block to them. We need to stop seeing women as objects and start seeing them as beautiful image-bearers of God. We need to stop the limp-wristed weaker brother nonsense and start holding ourselves and others to a higher standard. We should expect men not to lust instead of assuming that they just do. No man has to sin, he chooses it because of wickedness.
So, Jeb, stop being weak, stop thinking with your penis, take your thoughts captive, and kill your sins.