Use Your Common Sense

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‘God blesses everyone who has wisdom and common sense.’ Proverbs 3:13 CEV

The key to success lies in doing the right thing at the right time. Theologian Tryon Edwards said, ‘Have a time and place for everything, and do everything in its time and place… you’ll not only accomplish more, but have far more leisure than those who are always hurrying.’ If you’re tired of living with constant stress, theology professor Dr Howard Hendricks draws our attention to four major sources:

(1) Saying yes to far too many things. Dr Lewis Sperry Chafer once said, ‘Much of our spiritual activity is little more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.’ All our ‘going and doing’ fails to address our core emptiness.

(2) Not stopping to recharge our batteries. We dutifully pull out our day planner and fill the spaces between activities. But let’s not fool ourselves; avoiding overlapping activities isn’t planning. As a result, we’re a stressed-out, short-tempered crowd, commuting between poorly planned activities that add little to our spiritual well-being.

(3) Failure to enjoy what we accomplish. ‘A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.’ (Proverbs 13:19 NKJV) With always too much to do, we dash off to the next obligation, often without finishing the previous one or taking time to stand back and savor a job well done. No wonder we worry that our existence seems meaningless.

(4) Owing more than we can repay. Next time you’re faced with a credit card purchase—wait! Don’t necessarily say no. Just present your so-called ‘need’ to God and see what He says about it. If you’re serious about developing your spiritual life, use your common sense and put these four principles to work.

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (5)

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‘The Lord looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

Pastor and author John MacArthur says: ‘Jesus’ exposition of the law is a devastating blow against the lie that image is everything. Secret sin is especially abhorrent because:

(1) God sees the heart. In fact, if we realized He’s the only audience we’d be less inclined to write it off. It’s folly to mitigate sin by keeping it private… it’s double-folly to think you’re better than others because you sin privately… and it’s the height of folly to conceal it. “He who covers his sins will not prosper.” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV)

(2) Sinful thoughts originate from the same source as sinful deeds. When Jesus said hatred carries the same guilt as murder, and that lust is essentially adultery, He wasn’t saying there’s no difference in degree… He was saying that a lustful person has no right to feel superior to a fornicator. The fact that somebody thinks such thoughts proves they’re capable of immoral acts, and someone who hates his brother already has murder lurking in his heart.

(3) Hypocrisy compounds hidden sin. Why? Because it means covering it up. Jesus called hypocrisy “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1 NKJV) because it compounds itself like leaven. It sears your conscience and paves the way for other character-damaging sins… When somebody tries to tell you appearances are everything—don’t buy it! Your secret life is a litmus test of your character: “As he thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7 NASB) If you want to know who you really are, look at your private life. Then gaze into the mirror of God’s Word and let Him disclose and correct the thoughts and intents of your heart.’

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (4)

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‘You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Psalm 32:5 NLT

David said, ‘I confessed all my sins to You… And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘If you’re tired of pretending you have it all together, it’s time to act. For too long Christian women in particular have believed they’re the only ones dealing with shameful issues, agonizing regrets, and skeletons in their closet. Once we open up to God, ourselves, and others, we experience exhilarating freedom and peace. A woman wrote to me: “I had an abortion when I was eighteen. Nobody knows. For years I marked the date on my calendar and grieved for the child nobody knew about, and the young woman who bore the guilt alone. No more! Now I know I’m not alone, and for the first time in my life I truly believe God is bigger than my secret—and He’s willing to forgive.” Secrets only hold power when they’re hidden. Once they’re revealed in the light of God’s love they lose their control. However, there are some things to consider before opening up to someone:

(1) If that person repeats things others have shared in confidence, guess who’s up next for discussion?

(2) Beware of someone who’s apt to offer unsolicited advice, then take offense when it’s ignored.

(3) Stay away from somebody who tries to “fix” you, and tells you not to worry about your secrets.

Instead, look for someone who:

(a) has good sense and knows when to “back off” and/or move forward when you’re upset;

(b) is up-front about their own struggles; (c) is quick to listen and slow to speak; (d) undergirds their words and counsel with Scriptural truths.’

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (3)

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‘You will rebuild those houses left in ruins for years.’ Isaiah 58:12 CEV

Lie number two: God won’t use you now. Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘Women long to have their lives count for something more eternal than their jean size, or updated qualifications on a CV. Yet many times we judge ourselves by these superficial standards. Think of all the times you’ve gazed in a mirror and despised the woman staring back at you; times you’ve bought into the lie that because of your failures God can’t use you. I’m living proof that He can and does use us despite our past mistakes. David said when “I confessed my sins… You forgave my guilt.” (Psalm 32:5 NCV) The worst sins in Scripture can never drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love, if you confess them and seek forgiveness. God’s truths can dispel the enemy’s deceit.’

Take hold of His promise that you will rebuild the ruins of your life. (Isaiah 58:11–12) ‘Lie number three: When people find out what you’ve done, they’ll never love, understand, or forgive you. Some you considered friends may leave… It happened to me… Friends dropped me when they learned the depth of my messes. And I once dropped a friend after learning some uncomfortable details about her life. Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family (see Proverbs 17:17). I wasn’t faithful to my friend, but Jesus always is. Time and again He promised never to leave us.’

Even ‘if we are not faithful, He remains faithful, because He cannot be false to Himself.’ (2 Timothy 2:13 GNT)

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (2)

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‘You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.’ Proverbs 28:13 GNT

Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘The “father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV) wants us to believe there are things we’ve done that can make God’s love for us end. And on occasion I’ve swallowed three of his favorite lies. Lie number one: You’re the only person who ever did that. Few things can send me down the road of condemnation and guilt like anger issues… While outwardly I came across as “together”, I knew the verbal and physical boundaries I crossed behind closed doors. I confessed to friends, hoping to hear I wasn’t alone. But there was dead silence, and the enemy whispered, “I told you nobody else had done those things. You’re beyond help.” I believed this until God drew me back to Bible truths I learned and believed since childhood. (a) If I confess my wrongs, He’ll forgive me time after time. (b) If I allow Him, He’ll change my thought patterns and strengthen me to do what’s right. (c) And even if I fail, Jesus remains faithful; it’s impossible for Him not to… Three years later… before a packed audience, I told hundreds of mothers where I’d been, and assured them they weren’t the only ones who’d said, done, and thought whatever they were currently beating themselves up about. Women lined up to speak to me. Some stood quietly with their heads bowed. Others fought to maintain their composure as the enemy’s lies were exposed and defeated… I never grow tired of hearing another person say, “Thanks for being honest!” The Lord has shown me I’m not the only one who’s done the things I’ve done.’ Now that’s real freedom!

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (1)

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‘There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.’ Luke 12:2 NKJV

Inspirational speaker Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘I tend to be a stealthy sinner—a cloistered screw-up. Most of my life I’ve managed to fly under the radar… to keep 99.9 per cent of such things hidden. As someone who attended church and appeared to manage a happy family, I avoided glaring attention to the shadow-side of my life—but at great cost. Lying about my spending led to financial problems in my marriage. Covetousness robbed me of friendships and contentment. The teenage anger that sent me reeling in fits of self-mutilation, exploded years later in outbursts of abusive anger towards my children. And when alcohol beckoned during periods of loneliness and depression, I heeded its call. Maybe you’re thinking, “So, you’ve told us a few secrets from your life—they don’t compare to mine.” Seeing who has the most horrifying secret isn’t the point; we need to embrace the truth that we aren’t alone in our secret places… Confession for confession’s sake easily turns into tabloid moments like daytime talk shows. It’s not enough to spill the beans. Genuine confession leads to radical forgiveness that’s only available through Christ. It covers whatever we’ve done, no matter how bad it is. Jesus knows our secrets and they can never stop Him from loving us. They can, however, create a barrier between us and the shame-free life He desires for us. We confess our sins so we can find redemption, rescue, and eternal life. We share our secret places with trusted friends so we might know the reality of divine healing through flesh-and-blood relationships with those we love.’

Nurture Your Children

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‘Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ Ephesians 6:4 KJV

We keep being shocked by stories of children killing teachers and other children in school, and then turning the gun on themselves. Two boys, aged twelve and thirteen, beat a man to death outside a convenience store just for the pleasure of watching him die. Another boy shot a man sitting in a car at a stop sign. When asked why, he replied, ‘Because he looked at me.’

What is causing this? Easy access to guns? Hours spent watching violent videos? Those may be factors. But after extensive research, scientists are concluding that violent behavior is often related to early childhood abuse and neglect. When a baby spends three days or more in dirty nappies, or when children are burned, beaten, or ignored, their blood is filled with stress hormones—cortisol and adrenaline among others. These hormones bombard and affect the brains of those children. So for the rest of their lives they will not think and feel what others do. They actually lose the capacity to empathize with those who suffer. The same research has concluded that babies and young children are incredibly vulnerable between birth and three years of age. If their families don’t protect them, love and care for them, society will pay a terrible price for it in years to come. The Bible uses the word ‘nurture’. It means to love, protect, encourage, compliment, and try to bring out the best in your child.

Why Go To Church?

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‘Christ loved the church.’ Ephesians 5:25 NIV

The story’s told of a mother, who woke her son one Sunday morning and said, ‘Get up—you’re late for church!’

He replied, ‘I don’t want to go. I’ve no friends there, the music’s awful, and the sermons are boring!’

The woman replied, ‘You’ve got to go—you’re the pastor!’

Seriously, why should you go to church? Because ‘Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.’ (Ephesians 5:25–27 NIV)

Pastor and President Emeritus of Taylor University Dr Jay Kesler gives us five reasons for going to church:

(1) It’s the only organization that still deals with issues like salvation, death, judgment, grace, purpose, Heaven and hell.

(2) It adds value and dignity to human life. We live in a secular culture that contributes to our sense of inner worthlessness. The church counteracts this negative message by preaching God’s love and acceptance. (3) It provides a moral and spiritual compass.Society has revised, resisted, and rejected absolutes, embracing relativism, but the church stands on the timeless bedrock of God’s Word. (4) It’s where you find compassion, healing, and community. There—we’re all on par. There—God’s Spirit is working to knit us together as believers, guaranteeing us all ‘access… to the Father.’(Ephesians 2:18 ESV) (5) Unlike other institutions, it has motivated the most lasting, unselfish, essential, courageous endeavors on earth. Things like missions, schools, hospitals, food pantries, rehab centers, and orphanages. Why go to church? Because Jesus loves the church—and so should you.

Learning From The Prodigal Son

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‘Father, I have sinned.’ Luke 15:18 NIV

The prodigal son didn’t get into trouble until he left the safety of his father’s house. Jesus pointed out four things about him:

(1) ‘He wasted his substance.’ Satan is a fraudster. If you heed his call to come out and play, you’ll end up losing the very substance of who you are and what God’s called you to be.

(2) ‘He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country.’ Want to know where you are spiritually? Look at who you hang out with and take advice from. Who do you call; who calls you? Solomon writes, ‘My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.’ (Proverbs 1:10 NIV)

(3) ’He began to be in want.’ Something’s wrong! In his father’s house he never missed a meal, now he’s eating what pigs eat. He’s trying to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Are you doing that? David said, ’The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’ (Psalm 23:1 NAS) Who’s that promise for? Those who live in the safety of the sheepfold and stay close to the Shepherd.

(4) ‘He came to himself.’ When his elevator could not go any lower he decided to get off. Mercifully, he still could. Some never can.

The Bible says: ‘Today, [not tomorrow] if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’(Hebrews 3:15 NIV) It wasn’t too late for the prodigal—and it’s not too late for you. The moment he changed his prayer from ‘give me’ to ‘forgive me,’ His father opened His arms, welcomed him home and restored him to son-ship. And God will do the same for you, if you let Him.

Overcoming Your Fears (3)

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‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’ Hebrews 13:6 NIV

Let’s look at two more common fears:

(1) Fear of not being good enough. It’s not about being as good as others; it’s about being yourself! Stop comparing yourself to other people and instead spend your time discovering your God-given strengths. You were born for a purpose, and that purpose may be unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.

(2) Fear of not being accepted. This is one of the greatest sources of loneliness in society today. And the internet hasn’t solved the problem because deep down we all long for intimacy, not information. You’d be surprised at how many people go home to an empty house, eat dinner for one, watch television, and climb into bed alone. Even when we’re surrounded by a crowd we still feel isolated—like an island in the middle of the sea. But, in truth, it doesn’t have to be that way—particularly if you’re a member of God’s redeemed family. The key to being accepted is to reach out and accept other members of your spiritual family. When you allow them into your private world, you’ll find they welcome you into theirs. Take a look at your life today. Nobody’s looking, and the person who’ll benefit most from it is you! Insecure people can be the most difficult to reach because they’re desperate to hide what they perceive as inadequacies and failures. If you need the help of a professional counselor, doctor, or pastor, reach out and get it! You owe it to yourself! Rise up today and say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid of rejection, or of not being good enough.’