You mentioned recently in a post that you have been a believer for only a few years.   Didn’t you go to a church since you were a child and prefess your faith as an adult?  How can you say that you have been a believer for only a few years?  Can you explain?

Certainly.

CREST-TransparentI grew up in a non-denominational church.  I was a good boy.  I made sure I didn’t do bad things…well I didn’t do really bad things anyway. And because I was determined to be a good boy, and mostly succeded, I didn’t really understand the gospel.  Jesus died for my sin, I understood that in my head, but in my heart, I didn’t really need forgiveness.  My Christianity was a religious moralism, a Pharisaical law keeping. I was trained in the church, and did what was expected of me. After graduating from White Rock Christian Academy, I took a year long “spiritual development” course, where we learned the doctrines from various branches of Christianity, the history of the church, and of course I got baptised because that was expected of me.  Now don’t get me wrong. I believed in God.  I knew there was a higher power, but for me, “church” was really just about my friends and singing songs and having a good time. And God was a mere doctrine…something to be debated and dissected in late night conversations with my mom.  I treasure those conversations, but I did not really believe.

WENDY'S RESTAURANTS OF CANADA - Oh Poutine! Grab your forksIn that spiritual development course, Pastor Takeda introduced us to Reformed theology.  I had no clue what it was, or that there were even Reformed Churches.  This new theology appealed to my intelligent side.  I began to study it. I fell in love with it.  I dove into reading books by JI Packer, CH Spurgeon, RC Sproul, and others. It was at that time I met a girl while working at Wendy’s, she was really cute.  She must have thought I was cute too. Since we got married.  Turns out she went to this Church called the Canadian Reformed Church (CanRC).  Since she was all I could think about, all the time, I began attending  her church once a week. I even skipped out on misions trip because I could not bear to be away from her. Funnily enough my first service was in the afternoon after I was baptized in the morning at my old church.  As we got more serious, I joined the CanRC full time. I left my old church for a girl.  I can admit that now. I began meeting with my new pastor, Rev.  C. Vanspronsen, once a week for one on one catechism training.  And did I take full advantage, I loved learning – I still do.   After being examined by the elders, and passing the test ( I loved passing). I professed my faith in the CanRC.

We got engaged.

We got married in the Church.

Had our first child in the Church.

We baptized her in the Church.

We went to bible studies in the Church.

Want to talk doctrine?  I knew doctrine: Lutheran, baptist, charismatic, cesstionist, reformed, Weslyan, I loved it and I was fascinated with it all.

I tried starting outreach groups for single parents, and homeless.  I was active in bible study.  I wanted to be a pastor, because I thought it would be great to get paid to study. Isn’t that a great reason?

Then my dad got sick.  He was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I dove into the Heidelberg catechism for comfort, because that is what it is about!  I wrote him a poem based on Lord’s Day one.  I prayed. I did what I was supposed to do.

6273794148_3c1d2fe7c5_zWhen my dad died, I blamed God.  I became discontent with the church, and began skipping worship services.  I was empty. I turned to other things to fill the void. I frequented smoky bars. Got lost in video games.  Got drunk on booze.   Got lost in fantasy and porn.  Movies, parties, whatever I could find to fill the void I indulged in. Our marriage began to suffer – obviously.  We found out we were pregnant, and being discontent with life, we thought it was good time to start fresh. Once our first child was born, we packed up and moved from Surrey to Chilliwack.  I thought the grass must be greener!   In Chilliwack I continued on my destructive path.  I grew depressed. I isolated myself from everyone. I grew apart from my wife and my friends and family. Darkness was my only friend.  I went to church only when I had to do parking lot patrol or usher.  I was angry all the time. I hated life.  When the elders would come to visit, I put on a show that everything was fine.  But I was dead inside.  My marriage was on the rocks.  As I climbed down the cliff deeper into my selfishness and sin, I lost my grip, fell and hit rock bottom.

When I hit  I thought that was it.  God hates me.

Soon after, I picked up my Bible.  I was broken.  I hated myself.  I remembered the words of Jesus, so I turned to the book of Matthew:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

So I prayed.  I asked for something, I am not even sure what…But I wanted to know if God loved me. I told him that I was seeking Him, I asked him to let me find him.  I prayed this for a number of days or weeks.  Then one day, after I prayed, I read the words of Isaiah 53 and Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

And the words of verse 8 were like a baseball bat between my eyes.  While we were yet sinners…Christ Died…for us…

For us…

For me…

For me…

He died for me…

I went for walk and contemplated all that I had read. And then it was real. I fell to the ground.  I was unable to stand.  I felt a presence that I can only describe as pure holiness.  It was so illogical that while it was happening I thought to myself, “No way is this happening…” But it was so strong, so overwhelming.  I dropped my Bible. All my sins, all the selfishness, all the hatred I had committed was present in my mind, I could not turn and run even though I wanted to… I was frozen in place and I vomited.   I hated everything about myself and I wanted to die in the presence of that holiness.  I cried out, “I believe that Jesus died for me…please save me!”

In an instant, the presence of holiness was gone and in its place was what I can only describe as pure comfort. Peace. It was like a warm glow in my soul. All the guilt was gone.  All the shame was gone.  Jesus died for me.  I finally understood all that doctrine.  I finally understood all that theology.  It was no longer just a head knowledge, but heart knowledge. I praised God for the first time in my life.

Now, to be honest, I do not know for certain what my experience was. If I test it against scripture I wonder if it was it my own emotions getting the better of me at a time of despair.  I would like to believe that God met me in a special revelation, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that I really believed for the first time in that moment. And I know what is revealed in his word. God brought me low and convicted me of sin.   Was it a conversion experience?  I am not sure.  What I do know, is that God is good. He let me go down that path. He knew what he was doing. When I hit rock bottom, I was slammed head first into Jesus Christ.  In the midst of despair, in my sorrow and distress, Jesus died for me. The one through whom and for whom all things had been created died for…me….and for you if you believe!

You asked how I can say that I was not a believer?

In a small nutshell..that is how.

I have been Christian in name almost my entire life, but I have been a believer for only about 6 years.  Some say it is a “Road to Damascus” style conversion, but I beg to differ…it started long before that moment. When I look back I can see God leading,  shaping, and moulding me.  Through experiences, through the opportunity to study about him, through the countless sermons I heard, through my mom, through my old pastors and my current one, through mentors and friends, through many of you as well.  It has been a painful process, and this journey is not over! And we are all walking the road together.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for challenging me.  Thank you for your prayers!

The story of how I came to believe is actually not about me at all.  It is all about Him. Give all the glory to God.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

 

molson_canadian_bottle_landscape

Before you read this, please know that this is just where I am at in my spiritual walk. Is it possible I am wrong?  Of course it is.  I am not telling you to follow suit. I can usually tell which posts will be controversial before I write them and I have done my best to avoid that kind of controversy.  I did not see this one even being read, let alone having people attack me.  Comments are closed.

I don’t drink Moslon Canadian often, but when I do, I do enjoy it.  Usually it is with friends while watching a hockey game, or on a very hot summers day.  It just goes down so nice.  Crisp, and I get to be patriotic when I drink it.  I am Canadian afterall.

This morning at our men’s prayer group someone brought up that Molson Canadian breaks the third commandment.  So what is the third commandment?  Well we read in Exodus 20:7:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

That is pretty serious, God will not hold anyone guiltless who takes his name in vain.  So what is the name of God?  Well we can look at a number of names, God, Jesus and so on, but the most common name in the Bible is one that is not even properly translated into English. Whenever we read the word “LORD” in capital letters, we know that is the name of God. In Hebrew, the word translated as LORD had four letters—YHWH—and has been pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. The Jews revered this name so much that they would never say it, for fear of breaking the third commandment. So whenever they came to this name when reading, they pronounced the word “adonai” which means “my lord.”   And King James followed suit. Because of this, most of the English versions since the King James Version have done the same thing. They translate the proper name “Yahweh” with “LORD” in all caps.

YHWH occurs 6,828 times in the Old Testament. I didn’t count it, but more than a few reputable sources indicate this is the case. To put it in perspective, that’s more than three times as often as the generic word for “God,” either Elohim at 2,600 or El at 238. What this reveals to us is that God is not some divine being distant from us, but he desires to to be known as a specific name.  YHWH is God’s proper name.

So what about Molson Canadian?  They have not said LORD, or YHWH, or Adonai…so what is the big deal? Well we need to go to Exodus 3: 13-15 to truly understand what the name YHWH means.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

When Moses asks God what he should tell others what his name is, notice that God gives three answers, in verse 14 God says, “I AM WHO I AM.”  Again in verse 14 God says, “I AM has sent me to you.”  Finally, in verse 15 God says, “Yahweh . . . has sent me to you . . . this is my name for ever.”

Now, what is the slogan of Molson Canadian?

It is not “I am Canadian.,”  if it was, I would not have a problem.  The slogan?  It is, “I am.” 

molson

So if a beer were to have a slogan like “OMG”  I know a lot of Christians would get upset.  In fact many would boycott and protest. What about a beer that uses a name that is written 3 times as many times as “god” in the old testament? I know some people will roll their eyes at this, and that is your problem. For me, I will not be drinking this beer any more.

I prefer German lagers anyway…

 

This post is a bunch of random thoughts I have had about the pipe organ. Disclaimer – please do not take this seriously. Although where there is smoke…

When chatting with a  friends about the praise and worship evening at our church or about church music, the topic of the Pipe Organ usually comes ups. Then the topic of other instruments in worship came up.    In fact the Pipe Organ comes up in conversation about once every couple of months among the “25-40-ish” crowd I hang with, sometimes in the negative, sometimes in the positive, but always about it’s future in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Organists are an endangered breed of people, soon there will not be enough skillfully trained accompanists play the instrument.

The Organ: My First Impression

Here is my first impression of the Pipe Organ  as a young man.  I walked into the Maranatha Canadian Reformed Church in Surrey for the first time when I was 19 or 20 years old.  I knew that my girlfriend’s Church was more traditional than the inter-denominational evangelical charismatic church I grew up in.  That church often had a full band complete with guitars, drums, piano, and trumpets to accompany the singing of Ruch Mullin’s Awesome God on most Sundays. And as far as I knew, all protestant churches had full bands to lead singing in worship… the organ?  That was for Roman Catholic Monasteries. As I walked up the side walk from the parking lot in what I thought was my Sunday best–my 90′s grunge Christian style DC Talk fanboy garb–was not going to cut it with all these black suits and below the knee length dresses staring at me–the music that grew louder as I walked closer to the entrance was both solemn and deafening.

“A Pipe Organ?” I thought to myself, “Is my girlfriend Roman Catholic?”

I smiled at her, clutched her hand, and we entered the doors of the old A-frame building.  The ushers were nice, they smiled and welcomed me in to the building. I was handed a piece of paper  and I crossed the threshold into the sanctuary…and there it was…the Pipe Organ.

Surrey_facade

I had never seen one before and there it was, blaring triumphantly in all its majestic shininess.  The organist must have had all the stops pulled out that day! Placed at the very front, up above the pulpit, sitting on a pedestal, given the highest position in the sanctuary, it reminded of the golden Buddha in the temple my Chinese neighbours used to go to.

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Now before you get mad at that statement, remember this was just my first impression coming from the outside.  I have grown to appreciate the Pipe Organ when it is played well.

The Regulative Principle

I like the guitar and piano. I enjoy singing the latest Matt Redman or Casting Crowns song at the top of my lungs – it is not a pretty sound at all.   And I do it often – when I am alone. I used to write little worship songs and praise choruses that I would sing to God by myself as I clumsily pawed at my 6 string guitar.  It helped me to “feel” the presence of God. But how I feel about a song, or how I feel about an instrument does not really matter. And how I feel, or what I think, about the organ is really irrelevant.  The Canadian Reformed Churches, and Reformed Churches in general, have always held to the regulative principle of worship.  The Regulative Principle simply says that we are not to worship God in any way other than how he prescribed in his Word.  And you can read what we believe about that in the following links:

Belgic Confession Article 7

Belgic Confession Article 32

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 96

Instruments in Church History

 According to R. Scott Clark, historically, musical instruments are not noted in Christian worship until the 7th century.  That’s at least 600 years of worship services with no instruments and its not because they were not invented, they just were not used.  If we jump ahead almost a 1000 years we see that along with the 5 extra sacraments, stained glass windows, indulgences, and priestly vestments among other things, the Reformers included the pipe organ on the list of Roman Catholic  Corruptions.  While Martin Luther approved, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli vehemently opposed the use of the Pipe Organ in the worship service. According to Churchmusic.ca:

After the Reformation of the 16th Century, many protestant churches in Europe followed the tradition of the early Christian church and threw out all instrumental music. But as a new element in the worship services vigorous congregational singing of the Psalms was introduced, led by a lead singer while the organ kept silent.

Organs were owned by the government and were played regularly on weekdays, when the church was normally open. Before and after the worship services the organ was played as well, because the organist was employed by the city and not the church. However, he was urged to play Psalms instead of secular melodies.

The lead singers had a hard time keeping up with sometimes a few thousand people, singing with all their heart. Therefore, in the 17th Century the assistance of the organists was required in most churches, to lead the singing of the congregation.

Wait.  

What?

They had lead singers before pipe organs?  I thought that was a new invention…?

tumblr_m8sq32E5Re1qzxlbnFast forward a couple hundred more years and most churches now have lead singers – again. And a lot of Churches (even Reformed ones) are using guitars and pianos and drums and have worship leaders with tattoos singing songs like Ten Thousand Reasons. I wonder what Calvin and Zwingli would think of worship leaders like Dustin Kensrue (pictured at left) from Mars Hill Church?  I mean he is probably the most “reformed” of the “worship leaders” out there. I enjoy his music it peppered with Calvinistic soteriology … Check out his song Grace Alone Here.

Wow. Sorry…I digress.  Random thoughts indeed. :)

Today

I have seen a piano and a trumpet used in my church’s worship before, so we have used other instruments than just a Pipe Organ.   The two camps in the Canadian Reformed Churches seem to be “organ only” and ” we need to throw the baby out with bath water” … I mean, “other instruments.”  

Organ Only Arguments

Here are the arguments I often hear in favour only using the pipe organ:

1. Using other instruments will lead to people “performing,” and performing has no place in the worship service. I agree that performing has no place in the worship service, but is there not a danger in a highly skilled organist “performing” instead of accompanying?  Perhaps if we just cover the organist with a big curtain…

2. The organ is the most complete instrument. It has rich tones and many voices. I agree.  But it is also the most expensive instrument. And it requires a lot of training to play properly. I have no idea what the value of an organ is, but I assume that it costs at least as much as a 5 piece band. In the past the Pipe Organ was sometimes seen as a kind of status symbol, Churchmusic.ca notes: In some situations an impressive organ with an marvelous Baroque façade would not only be great for accompaniment, it also displayed the prosperity of the city.

3. If we start using other instruments, then we’ll be different from other churches in our federation, we’ll lose our unity and that is a slippery slope to pluriformity. Uh. Wait. What? How did you get to this argument?  There is a huge difference between unity and uniformity.  Unity is beautiful. It is good and biblical and builds up.  Uniformity can be dangerous.  Pluriformity has nothing to do with this topic…it has to do with doctrine and church government…

Get rid of the Organ and bring in other instrument arguments

1. The pipe organ is from another era, it is time to get with the times.  By that logic then we should get rid of the Psalms as well…they are pretty old.

2. No one can play the pipe organ anymore.  That’s not true.  They are just few and far between.

3. Using contemporary music and instruments we will appeal to outsiders.  We shouldn’t be changing to appeal to outsiders.  We should be changing, if we do, to glorify God.  We need to bring the gospel to outsiders not play guitars for them.

4. Psalm 150!  Psalm 150!  Psalm 150!  Ok.  OK.  I get it.  Although, you should realize that the pipe organ was not invented until well after the psalms were written.  I am sure the Israelites would have set up and taken down a Pipe Organ along side the tabernacle if it was invented…

I appreciate a well played organ and I understand why it is used in worship in our churches.  I know that the organ lovers and the guitar lovers are going to butt heads here. How about this? How about we record the organ music onto some MP3′s and play it over the speakers?  We could sell the organ to put a down payment on the nursery reno we desperately need here in Chilliwack.

No?

At the end of the day, I do not go to church to be entertained.  I do not go to hear music.  I do not go to feel good.  I go to worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to hear the preaching of the Word.  If that involves singing “a Capella” or accompanied with an organ, piano, trumpet or a guitar, lute or tamborine – I do not really see the difference.

I would love to hear some thoughts on this that come from outside the circle of friends I have.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading my random thoughts.  I should clarify that while I did some research into this, this article is in no way complete or meant to persuade anyone of anything, it is meant to be light – I needed to amuse myself.

One Christian Dad:

Food for thought. I admit that I listen to a a number of sermons through out the week. I have never considered that to be wrong, since I attend a local congregation and hear the preaching of the word in corporate worship.

Originally posted on The Reformed Reader:

Listen Up!: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons (This is a repost from two years ago – July, 2012)  Christopher Ash’s Listen Up: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons is a helpful pamphlet aimed at giving Christians some lessons on listening.   This book is only thirty pages long and written at a popular level, so any Christian could benefit from it.  In it, Ash gives seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening and he even talks about listening to poor sermons.  I won’t list every point out here, but I do want to mention #4 and give some edited excerpts from it.

Hear the sermon in church.  The normal place for preaching is the gathering of the local church.  We are to hear sermons as a people gathered together; they are not preached so that we can listen to them solo later.  There is nothing such as ‘virtual church.’  [The people of God] are gathered by…

View original 439 more words

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“Do you have kids?”

That was how I attempted to break the awkward silence while working with a new co-worker on a humid Saturday evening.  Actually, it is how I start a lot of conversations with people I don’t know, it tends to create a common ground.  If they have kids I can relate – if they don’t, I can relate.  You should try it…but I digress.

Her response was not one I expected.  She told me how many kids she had, 3, and then proceeded to tell me how she was married for 14 years and that her ex had abused her.  She is now a divorced, single mom struggling to make in on her own. She then asked if I was married, I said yes.  And we talked for a long time as we patrolled the bowels of the old hospital building.

Her intrigue was apparent, when I had mentioned that I have been with the same person for 18 years (5 years of dating and 13 year of marriage). She asked if we ever had marital problems, and how we deal with them.  I asked her if I could “get religious” for a moment, too which she said, “Of course.”

My response was simple, a bit awkward, and went something like this: Marriage, I believe, is supposed to be a picture of Jesus and the Church. What I mean is that the Church is Jesus’ bride.  That is what the Bible teaches.  And so often the bride of Jesus, the church, the people who make up the church, they fail.  They sin.  They screw up.  They screw up so bad that any judge would say that divorce is justified.  Yet… Jesus doesn’t divorce us, he simply says, “I forgive you.” Over and over and over. So as a husband I try and look to Jesus’ example.  Jesus didn’t abuse his bride.    He didn’t belittle her.  The Bible teaches that Jesus, even though He was her head and her king, served her.  

He could have told her to bow, yet he bent down.  

He could have caused her to suffer, yet he suffered for her.  

He was in his right to kill her, yet, He died for her.  

So for my wife and I, we believe in a complementarian relationship rather than an egalitarian relationship.  I know that is really not popular in today’s liberal society, but hear me out. We believe that my being a husband does involve “ruling over the house” – but not in an authoritative way.  Not in a domineering way.  Rather it means that the husband is to rule in a servant way.  You see, my role a husband is to serve my wife as Jesus served the church.  To provide for her in every way; financially, spiritually, emotionally, and if needed, I must also die for her. And likewise, my wife is too also serve me.  If I am honest, she could have left me many times and been justified in the eyes of the world.  But we each look to Jesus example, and when we are weak, we look to the cross and find our strength in Him to serve each other in love. We have a view of marriage that is foreign to most people today, but in our view, we find hope, we have true love, and we find the strength to deal with each other’s weaknesses…

The look on her face was priceless.  It was a strange smile with a touch of astonishment and unbelief. We talked for about an hour about marriage and the gospel before we had to deal with work stuff.  I hope to talk with her again.  In the meantime, please pray that the gospel of Jesus would penetrate her heart and soul and that the holy spirit would work new birth and faith.

SDG

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“I am unable to get my [particular addiction this person struggles with] under control.  I repent but keep going to it.  How many times will God forgive me?  I am enslaved to this but the Bible says I cannot be enslaved if I am free in Christ.   I need help. Do you have any advice?”  ~ John V

So often we tell the sinner to “Just stop sinning and repent.” And when he returns to his sin again, his shame grows more and more as he starts to think that Jesus doesn’t care for him because if He did then He would have completely removed this thorn. I hear you.  Yours is a constant refrain that I hear from Christians of various backgrounds, “Maybe I am lost.  Why can’t I just get over this?” I have been there myself.  “Why can’t I get over this?  Why are you not helping me God?”

And when a struggler hears the advice like,

Just stop!

Repent!

Try Harder!

He tries.  He knows that he has to stop.   And he knows that they are correct, he does need to stop sinning.  He does need to repent. And he wants to just stop. But he is broken, addicted, crushed…And it is true that Jesus can simply zap your struggles away, but he may not do that.  He may instead use your struggles and addictions to draw you closer to him. For those who don’t like calling any sin an “addiction” because making sin a disease implies excusing the behaviour of the person…I hear what you are saying.  I totally get it.  We should never excuse sin. So, when we speak of particular sins as an addiction, we should never excuse the sinful behaviour.  The behaviour is still sinful and rooted in sin. And addiction never starts off as an addiction.  It starts as an idolatrous sinful behaviour repeated over and over until it becomes a compulsion that the addict can no longer control.  The idolatrous root is fed and nourished, and ultimately the root becomes a big tree bearing it’s sinful fruit….be it alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, porn addiction, coffee addiction, or any other addiction. 

“How many times will God forgive me?”  Let’s look at Matthew 18.  When Peter asks Jesus how many times He should forgive his neighbour, Jesus said not 7 but 77 times! God is gracious and expects us to be as well. If we are expected to continually forgive, that is evidence of how gracious God is. We read in Ephesians 2:8 that grace is a gift from God. The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 that when we sin, the Spirit will convict us to a godly sorrow, but he doesn’t condemn us because, as it says in Romans 8 – there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is Grace.  God will continually forgive you, if you repent and return to the cross of Christ.  However, Paul tells us that grace never should be used as an excuse to sin.   So if we abuse this grace, by not fighting against our sins, or if we downplay sin and simply say that we are weak, or we are addicts, and so give in to our addictions, it is then that we tread on dangerous ground. There is a difference between living in sin or accepting it as our lot in life, and fighting against an addiction that we keep falling into.  Sin is sin, and it must called out and rebuked as such, but do not be anxious of your salvation if you are repentant, even if you keep stumbling.  Christ is stronger than your weakness.

 Do you have any advice?  

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Just stop…I mean…Confess and repent.  This is a concept that I needed to grasp with my heart, not just my head: I am in Christ, which means that I am forgiven all my sin.  There is no more guilt.  There is no more shame for those who are in Christ. That is the beauty of the gospel. I had to accept this promise from God.  We confess our sin to God and to those whom we have sinned against, we repent.  To repent means turning from sin – stopping the behaviour –  and turning to God.  And that is where most of us have the problem…we repent and swear to never engage in the behaviour.  But the battle wages on and many of us give up instead of continuing to repent.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, ~ Acts 3:19

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~ 2Peter 3:9
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. ~ Proverbs 28:13

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Feed on the Word of God. King David said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin.”  Memorize scripture, because scripture is where the Lord speaks to us.  If we have it memorized then we have “hid it in our hearts” and any time temptation arises, the Word of God, which you have hid in your heart, will begin to speak. Try memorizing psalm 1 and proverbs 7, 1 Corinthians 10:13 to start.  Oh and if you want to hear God audibly, I also have the answer for that.  Read your Bible out loud. :)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word ~ Psalm 119:9

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ~ Psalm 119:11

The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. Psalm 37:31

My son, keep your father’s commandment,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
    tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
    when you lie down, they will watch over you;
    and when you awake, they will talk with you. ~Proverbs 6:19-22

mentorshipSeek real fellowship for accountability and mentorship.  After the Lord brought me out of bondage to sin, and I was brought to saving faith, I went out and got me a mentor! What better way for a baby Christian to grow than by learning from a spiritualy mature person? Find someone to ask you the hard questions, who encourage you, rebuke you, and point you to the cross; I also  had a pastor who took me under his wing who mentored me in spirituality and life. We need to surround ourselves with Godly people and rid ourselves of the bad influences.  Paul even said, “be imitators of me.”  Find a Godly person and imitate them.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ~ Proverbs 13:20

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:33

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

 

 

Be an active participant in your sanctification.  Whoa!  Wait! Slam on the Reformed brakes! Only God can sanctify us!  Yes you are correct. But we are not to be idle or passive in our sanctification. Yes, our sanctification is worked out in us by God alone, but  Jesus told us in Matthew 5:27ff that in response to sin, particularly sexual sin, we are to wage war on it with drastic measures.  It is better to cut off your hand and gouge out your eye he says…that sounds pretty drastic to me.   So pick up that axe and cut down the tree, then grab that shovel and start digging to expose the root of the sin.  It won’t be easy, it will be hard, and there will be scars. If yours is more than a bad habit and has become an addiction, you will most likely need professional help or a 12 step group.

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. ~ 1 Timothy 2:21

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 1 Thess. 4:3-7

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23

So in regards to being an active participant in your sanctification, you may also want to:

Avoid evil attractions. Do not expose yourself to evil attractions.  Those people, places, and things that tempt me to sin I avoid.  Know yourself, and stay away from those things that take your mind off Christ and tempt you to sin.  So if your computer tempts you to sin – get rid of it or get filtering software like K9, or get accountability software like covenant eyes, and have your internet activity reports sent to your pastor or a mature Christian friend.  If driving past the liquor store on the way home from work causes problems for you – go the other way! If you have a Facebook friend who continually posts “selfies” of herself in her swimsuit…maybe it’s time to un-friend her or stop using Facebook. TV a problem?  Toss it out. If money causes you to sin, have all your spending scrutinized by a deacon or your pastor.  If being alone causes you to sin, find a mature Christian friend who you can call day or night if your wife is out of town, or if you are out of town on business and so on.

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~   Matthew 5:30

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Ultimately,  we need to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus.  You have a personal relationship with him, engage in that, cultivate it.  As reformed believers we place so much emphasis on being a part of the covenant that sometimes we forget that we are not just a people of God, but that you and I are personally redeemed by Jesus and have a personal relationship with him. That is where the battle is won. The most powerful motivation for holiness in my life comes from knowing God, having a real relationship with Jesus.  I am not saying I don’t sin anymore, but after I believed, I found that sin did not have the same hold over me that it once had. So I implore you… get to know your Saviour. Read your Bibles and pray.

 

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

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The demographic that this article is aimed at is fairly small.  The fathers of daughters.

Since I am a daddy to two young girls, I have been thinking about them growing up, and meeting a man, and falling in love and getting married. Yes that may seem premature, since they are 8 and 4…but is it really too early to think about? Here is a tough question for us fathers of girls.

Would you want your daughter to marry a guy like you?

Think about that.  How do you treat your wife?  Other women? Your daughter?

Guys, it is very likely that one day we will be walking our daughters down the aisle and giving them away to another man. The thought terrifies me!  And our actions in her life from a young age will have a huge influence on the choice she makes for a husband. Think about it.  Who is it that will have the greatest influence on our daughter’s understanding of how a man should treat his wife?

Well that is us.

If you are never home, or if you belittle your wife, if you do not provide emotionally – spiritually – financially, if you mock her, if you cheat on her, if you lead her away from the cross instead of toward it, what do you think that does for your daughter’s view of a husband?  And on the flip-side, if  you read the Bible and pray with your wife, encourage her, support her,  and lovingly serve her in a manner consistent with God’s plan, what do you think that will do for your daughter’s view of a husband?

If we do not live the servant headship that we are called to in Ephesians 5, how will our daughters ever know the type of love she deserves from her future husband?  Guys we play a massive role in who our daughters will choose to marry.  So we had best consider this.

By the time my girls start dating…shudder…they will already have inscribed in their hearts how a man should treat a woman, because of how I treat their mom. If I have not lived the biblical example, I should not be surprised if they marry a less than godly man. My desire is to have my daughters long for a man after God’s own heart.

How can I help to form my daughter’s hunger for a godly man?  Well to be honest, I am not the best husband out there.  Far from it.  So I have to get better in these areas as well.  But here are some things that we can do.

  1. Personal devotions.  Seriously.  It all starts with your own relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t have personal devotions, you should start.  How do you plan to lead your daughters to the cross if you don’t know the way yourself?  Have them in private, but also let them see you read the Bible alone.  Let them see you pray alone.  I am not saying be fake, but don’t hide it.  Make it a part of who you are.  You want them to marry a man of prayer don’t you?  Then make it a part of your life.
  2. Have family dinners together everyday if possible.  NOT in front of the TV…just saying…but around the table.
  3. Not only eat together but have family devotions as well.  NOT just a Bible reading and a rote prayer… but really study the Word together and ask for prayer requests from your family. Involve them in family worship. In your family prayers, often thank God for you wife, and ask for the wisdom and strength to be a good husband and father – and do this in front of the children.
  4. Spend time with our wives. After dinner, choose our wives over the TV or the computer, or the smartphone, or retreating to the garage or the man-cave.  Choose to date our wives over spending another evening at our friends house, or the bar, or always working late (sometimes you have to work late… I get that – but check your priorities).  Have couples devotions.
  5. We need to be affectionate with our wives.  Hold hands when you are walking.  Put your arm around her. Kiss her. Cuddle with her on the couch when you watch TV.
  6. Affirm our wives.  Encourage them.  Support them. Praise them. Listen to them. Take an interest in their likes, and hobbies.   Be their friend.

There are many other things we can do, for instance we can model love to our daughters as well, by spending time with them, taking them on daddy dates, tucking them in at night, showing appropriate affection to them, praying with them, affirming them, encouraging them and demonstrating the kind of man to them that you hope their husband will one day be.

But for the purpose of this article let’s focus on the list.

Consider the consequences of the opposite actions. Rarely having personal devotions. Never eating together as a family.  Never having family devotions. Never praying in front of and with your family.  Never spending time with your daughters or wife, or when you do you are always distracted. Always working late. Never being affectionate with our wives, or worse, abusing them.  Never affirming, encouraging or praising your wife, or worse, belittling, mocking, and emotionally abusing them. Do you think this is a good model for our daughters?  Do you think that your daughters will have a good grasp of what to look for in a man?

Probably not.

Sometimes godly men have daughters who marry men who are not godly, that can happen.  So do not be hard on yourself if that happens, godly man. As a dad, I want my daughters to choose wisely when it comes to finding a husband, and even though I will not have the final say in whom she marries, I will have a large part to play in the sort of man she looks for. None of us is perfect.  I get that.  I fail as well.  But what is the overwhelming influence in your life? Are you consumed with the Lord?  Do you desire to be a godly man?  Are we men of prayer?  Would you want your girls to marry a man like you?

I know there is a lot more that can be said on this topic.   So, what are your thoughts?

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.