Poetry Saturday—He Leads Us On

Count Nicolaus Ludwig von ZinzendorfHe leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.

He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o‘er clouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on. —Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf

10 Benefits From Suffering

Horatius BonarCommenting on one of the opening passages in Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, Horatius Bonar shares ten benefits to Christians who will cling to God during times of suffering.

“The meaning and use of trial:

  1. It shows God to be in earnest with us. He does not let us alone. He takes great pains with our spiritual education and training. He desires fruit and progress.
  2. It assures us of His love.
  3. It draws us to prayer. When one member suffers all the others suffer with it. As soon as it is said, ‘such a brother or sister is in sorrow,’ all who hear of this begin to pray for the afflicted one. Thus sorrow becomes a magnet which attracts the prayers of the church.
  4. It knits us in sympathy to the whole body.
  5. It teaches us sympathy with brethren.
  6. It brings us into a mood more receptive of blessing. It makes our spirits tender, it softens our hearts, it makes our consciences alive, it empties us of adverse influences.
  7. It makes us prize the Word.
  8. It shuts out the world.
  9. It bids us look up.
  10. It turns our hope to the Lord’s great coming.”

Break Free From Porn—5 Quotes That Will Help You

The Porn CircuitThe Porn Circuit is a great book to make you aware of the dangers of pornography. You can read my full book review of this free downloadable book here, and check out the first set of quotes I shared by clicking here.

Here are some additional quotes specifically to help you break free from the hold pornography has on your life.

Your #1 strategy … LEARN TO HATE PORN!

Hate what it does to you, to your relationships, and to those involved in sex trafficking because of the porn industry.

#2 … Create some positive activities you can do when you’re tempted to look at porn.

“The prefrontal cortex is the decision-making logical part of the brain, and each time that a person resists temptation and each time a positive habit is reinforced, the prefrontal cortex gets stronger. That means a person’s willpower grows and the cues and cravings for porn use grow weaker.”

“This approach (of introducing positive habits) makes plastic sense because it grows a new brain circuit that gives pleasure and triggers dopamine release which, as we have seen, rewards the new activity and consolidates and grows new neural connections. This new circuit can eventually compete with the older one, and according to use it or lose it, the pathological networks will weaken. With this treatment we don’t so much ‘break’ bad habits as replace bad behaviors with better ones.” —Dr. Norman Doidge

“Whatever rewarding activity is pursued, it needs to be an activity that is reoccurring. Building new rewarding neural pathways requires time and ongoing repetition:

  1. Neurons that fire together wire together. Repeating a pleasurable activity instead of the compulsive activity, such as porn use, forms a new circuit that is gradually reinforced instead of the compulsion.
  2. Neurons that fire apart wire apart. When a person refuses to act on a compulsion, like porn and masturbation, it weakens the link between the activity and the idea that it will provide relief.”

#3 … Start using the 3-second rule.

“When watching TV, walking through the mall, or driving past billboards, temptation can strike when least expected. Many therapists recommend using the 3-Second Rule, which involves three steps:

  1. Alert: Realize that you see something inappropriate. It may only take a split-second to recognize a tempting situation.
  2. Avert: Close your eyes or look away. These first two steps should be instantaneous.
  3. Affirm: Give yourself a mental high-five to congratulate the effort. Say to yourself, ‘I saw that by mistake, and I quickly looked away. I’ve been clean for (xx number of days) and I’m going to stay that way.’”

3-Second Rule

#4 … Don’t forget to watch out for H.A.L.T. times.

“Physical care is vital to vigilance. HALT is the acronym often used by therapists to remind people of when they can be most vulnerable it stands for: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Simply going to bed on a regular schedule to get a good night’s rest can help one’s brain be more focused on positive habits and more alert to fight temptations. Not only eating but also eating well can improve mood and feelings of well-being. Regular exercise keeps the mind more focused, the body feeling great, and improve sleep.”

Craig Groeschel On Online Gossip

#strugglesI love technology! I love how social media and my iPhone can keep me in touch with family and friends. But one of the dark sides to this easy access to technology is the ease with which people can gossip—or even slander!—people publicly online. In his book #struggles, Craig Groeschel has some good counsel for avoiding gossip.

“God is crystal clear on how He feels about gossip. Solomon said, ‘There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him…a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community’ (Proverbs 6:16, 19). What a perfect way to describe a gossip: ‘A false witness who pours out lies,’ and someone who ‘stirs up conflict in the community.’ God hates that.”

“The people being gossiped about hate it, and God hates it. So before you post, comment, or link, consider three sets of questions to keep yourself gossip-free online.

  1. Is what I’m about to say helpful or hurtful? Will this build others up or tear them down? What’s my intention behind what I’m about to type? [Ephesians 4:29]
  2. Am I making private matters public? Am I about to share something that would be better handled privately? [Proverbs 11:12-13]
  3. Am I permitting—maybe even encouraging—others to gossip? It’s not only wrong to dish it out; it’s also wrong to eat it up. Notice that this verse [Proverbs 17:4] doesn’t say that only gossipers are wrongdoers. No, it says wrongdoers are also those who ‘listen to gossip.’ It’s not just wrong to spread gossip; it’s wrong to consume it. Why? Because what you permit, you promote.”

You can read my review of #struggles by clicking here. I have also posted other quotes from this book here and here.

Confession: I Struggle With Being An Atheist

ITLWYou see, I love my day to be highly organized. I like to get to all my meetings on time, and then have them run smoothly and efficiently. I like to setup my To Do list, and then methodically check off each item as I go through my day. I like to be in charge of my day.

I am an atheist.

I’m the one calling the shots. I set my agenda. I determine my day. I decide who to see and what project to accept.

There was a guy that Jesus talked about who did the exact same thing. This guy thought to himself and talked to himself all about his plans. Seriously, in just three verses he says me/I/my a dozen times (Luke 12:17-19)!

But God said, “You fool!” The word for fool means without mind. He didn’t mind his mind. He thought the thoughts he wanted to think, without ever consulting anyone else. Not even God.

Jesus made prayer a priority every day (Mark 1:35). What do you think He prayed? Do you think He said, “Here’s what I’m going to do today, and I want You to bless it, Father”? No way!

When Jesus taught us to pray He said, Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:9-13). Not only did Jesus pray this way, He lived this way too. He didn’t do a single thing unless His Father directed Him to do it (John 6:38), and He didn’t say a single word unless His Father directed Him to say it (John 12:49).

The problem is not going into my prayer closet to meet with God in the morning, the problem is thinking I can leave God in the closet as I go about my day! That is atheism!

The Apostle James gave us this sound counsel: Instead of making my plans all on my own, I should say, “If the Lord wills, this is what I will do today” (James 4:13-17). And wise King Solomon said I shouldn’t lean on my own thoughts when planning my days, but lean onto God, and then watch to see how He will direct my life in the right way (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I’ve begun writing I.T.L.W. on the top of my daily calendar. It’s my reminder to say, “If The Lord Wills” this is what I will do today. And if something else comes up, I quickly acknowledge that God is directing my path where He needs me to go.

Your Kingdom come means my kingdom has to go. Your will be done means my agenda takes a distant second.

If you’re feeling stressed about your schedule, that should be your reminder to pray: “God, what do you want to have done here.” Silence the atheistic thoughts that sound like, “I have to get my list done.” Stop and pray right there on the spot.

Here’s the full video of my message on this topic—

We will be continuing our series called Practical Prayer this Sunday. If you don’t have a home church in Cedar Springs, please come be our guest. Or you can tune into our live broadcast via Periscope.

Poetry Saturday—Preventing Mercies

IMG_4992The sorrows, that to us seem so perplexing,
   Are mercies kindly sent
To guard our wayward souls from sadder vexing,
   And greater ills prevent.

To save us from the pit, no screen of roses
   Would serve for our defense,
The hindrance that completely interposes
   Stings back like thorny fence.

At first when smarting from the shock, complaining
   Of wounds that freely bleed,
God’s hedges of severity us paining
   May seem severe indeed.

But afterwards, God’s blessed springtime cometh,
   And bitter murmurs cease;
The sharp severity that pierced us bloometh,
   And yields the fruits of peace. —Hugh Macmillan

11 More Quotes From “#struggles”

#strugglesCraig Groeschel nailed the tension between technology and relationships in his timely book #struggles. He doesn’t advocate getting rid of technology, but he does make a great case for not allowing technology to diminish our flesh-and-blood relationships. You can read my review of #struggles by clicking here. Below are some more quotes that caught my eye from this book.

“The highest percentage of consumers of pornography our children aged twelve to seventeen.”

“We have access to many opportunities online that—without accountability—can turn technological blessings into curses.”

“Over time and with repeated use, technology is eroding both our moral beliefs and our commitment to acting on what we believe. According to one study, ‘Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of young adult men and one-half (49 percent) of young adult women now believe that viewing pornography is acceptable.’ … Times have changed. But that doesn’t mean morality should.” 

“If you want to live in a way that honors our Savior—if you want to follow Jesus in a sin-saturated, selfie-centered world—then you will have to be different. … Our convictions must be guided by God’s timeless principles, not by the ever-eroding popular opinion on whatever happens to be acceptable now.”

“Most people I know you don’t plan to ruin their lives. I don’t know anyone who thinks, ‘If I can connect with an old boyfriend on Facebook, I can totally wreck my life. I can almost guarantee an ugly divorce full of expensive lawyers helping us fight over custody rights for the kids. I can devastate my husband and drop a nuclear bomb of pain into my kids’ lives. And I can spend the next years of my life trying to forgive myself, rebuild my life, and regain my name.’ No one plans like that, but these things happen every day. Same with pornography. I don’t know a single man who wanted to crush the wife he loves when she discovered his ‘little secret.’ But one glance followed by another click often leads to an addiction that seems impossible to overcome.”

“When you think about it, no one stumbles into righteousness. People fall into sin and every day. But no one just falls into holiness. It requires making deliberate, prayerful choices and walking an intentional path.”

“Here’s what many people miss: when we misuse technology, we’re robbing ourselves of the peace we so desperately crave, because even the momentary escape is followed by waves of intense guilt. We want to numb the pain, but on the other side of our binge, the pain is still there, only worse. We love the momentary distraction, but then reality screams at us and our responsibilities pile up. We love the thrill of the lust, but the fear of getting caught haunts us and robs us of sleep and peace. Like a person dying of thirst who gulps salt water, that which is supposed to satisfy only intensifies our need. So life goes on as usual. More stress. More anxiety. More worries. And less peace.”

“Now is a great time to be brutally honest. Are you addicted to something online? Looking lustfully? Spending uncontrollably? Surfing endlessly? Playing continually? Gambling consistently? Scrolling incessantly?”

“If you are checking multiple times a day to see what people are saying about you, let’s call that what it is: idolatry. If your identity comes more from who follows you, who Likes you, what they say and what they think about you rather than who God says you are, it’s time to take this issue to God.”

“When our minds are idle, we’re not thinking about anything meaningful, and when we’re not intentionally living, it can be so easy to shift into neutral. When we don’t have a specific destination in mind, any road will do. And if our time and our resources aren’t precious, if we’re not doing anything important, it can be so easy to just pick up our phone, unlock the screen, and wonder aimlessly through cyberspace, wasting our time and our thoughts.”

“Maybe it’s time to power down and take a cyber Sabbath. Maybe it’s time to remember what life is like without your phone, tablet, or laptop. Maybe it’s time for your soul to rest.”

You can check out the other quotes I shared from #struggles by clicking here.

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