When Starving is Good

In a message on Galatians 5 preached many years ago, John MacArthur noted that one proven way to kill something is to starve it. Now that may sound cruel, but MacArthur wasn’t referring to physical humans or even to animal;. he was referring to “the desires of the flesh;” about those propensities and inclinations to do what “I WANT” that are inside the heart of every human.

In Galatians 5, Paul draws a sharp contrast between what he calls “the desires of the flesh” and “the fruit of the Spirit.” It’s really a very simple image to grasp. In the heart of every Christian there is an ongoing conflict between what God desires (the Spirit) and what I desire (the flesh). Paul says plainly that these are “against” one another and “opposed” to one another (ESV).

If you’re a Christian, then you obviously desire the Holy Spirit to ‘come out on top’ in this fight with the flesh. Perhaps you’ve noticed in your own life that the “fruit of the Spirit” (5:22) has given way to the “works of the flesh” (5:19). How do you give God’s Spirit His rightful place in your heart? After all, verse 24 of Galatians 5 says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Take MacArthur’s advice: starve it.

It’s simple, really. Whatever you feed will grow and live. Whatever you starve will wither and die. The reality is that too many professing Christians are feeding the desires of the flesh, and too few are sowing to the Spirit. If you’ve read this far, stop now for just a moment and think. Decide if there are things in your life that you know are feeding the desires of your flesh.

Inevitably, you came up with something. The best thing that you can do – the thing that will honor God and build your faith – is to get rid of whatever thing is feeding the desires of your flesh. Even if it is of great personal cost, do what is right and count it as the cost of discipleship, remembering the words of our Lord:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26, ESV)


Quantity Yields Quality

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: it’s not the quantity of time that matters, it’s the quality of time.

Well, there is a gold nugget of truth in that statement, but how does one find a gold nugget? Likely by spending a lot of time mining for gold. In our day and time, there is a prevailing sentiment that we can manufacture or conjure “quality time.” I believe this is mistaken, and here’s why:

The moments of greatest quality often catch us by surprise. If you’re a parent, think about how many times your plans to connect as a family have been spoiled because your children didn’t share your desire for quality family time. The point is this: quality time happens in the course of quantity time. This is why we can’t put “quality time” in our schedule and just expect it to happen.

This principle can likewise be applied to time spent in prayer. We cannot come to God in prayer haphazardly and sporadically and expect to have times of effective, fervent prayer. E.M. Bounds said it this way: Read more…



Things Above

The first few verses of Colossians 3 are verses that help clarify our identity as Christians, while also giving clear and simple instruction for the believer.

[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (ESV)

Verses like these help the Christian answer the question, “Who am I?” Let’s be honest, we all have conception of who we are as individuals, and even an image of who we’d like others to think we are. But for the Christian, there is a definitive answer to this question: we are those who are in Christ.

In Colossians 3:1, Paul makes a rhetorical conditional statement: “If then you have been raised with Christ…”. In other words, ‘you Colossian believers have been raised with Christ, and because this is the case, you should “seek the things that are above.” And really, we could answer the question, “Who am I?” in just this way. We are those who seek the things that are above because we have been raised with Christ. Read more…



The Secret of Contentment

In Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul delivers the seminal passage on Christian contentment. Paul asserts that he is, in a sense, never “in need,” because he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (4:11).  The average man, such as I am, is not hard pressed, on a strictly intellectual plane, to comprehend this contentment of Paul’s. It might go something like this: Well yes, I suppose that if Paul always considered himself to stand in need of nothing, he would therefore have been satisfied with whatever he happened to have. However, when I move from this intellectual exercise to putting myself, as it were, ‘in the Apostle’s shoes,’ the scenario makes little sense to me, and might even seem irrational. For instance, how can a man who has nothing claim, with any credibility, that he is content? And how can this same man assert that, in times of abundance, he maintains the same degree of contentment, neither more nor less? Read more…



What is the Kingdom of God? (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about what Moore (and earlier Ladd) called the “already but not yet” view of God’s kingdom. In his chapter on the kingdom of God (in Onward), Moore attempts to navigate between two extreme view of God’s kingdom: 1) God’s kingdom is only ‘here and now,’ and 2) That God’s kingdom is only future.

We must avoid taking a strict “The kingdom is here and now” view because it is not in keeping with God’s stated plan. Only God can establish His kingdom on earth, and He said He would do so, in the future and in His timing. It is not, in a sense, ours to establish. At the same time, we must avoid taking a strict “The kingdom of God is future” view because this, too, is contrary to Jesus’s own commands. For example, we are told by Jesus to “seek first His kingdom.” So what does this mean? Among other things, it means that we are to live our lives, not as if this life is the end, but rather in light of God’s coming future kingdom. This is one reason that we do not “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2), because “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20).  We experience and seek the kingdom of God here and now by living lives that display the future reality of God’s rule and reign over all things. We live within the tension of the kingdom of God being Already-But-Not-Yet. Moore explains: Read more…



What is the Kingdom of God?

In our Wednesday evening life group, we’ve been working through Russell Moore’s book, Onward (reviewed here), which to say the least, challenges what many think of as status quo among theologically conservative evangelicals with regard to how the church should engage with the wider culture. One of our more interesting discussions centered on Moore’s chapter on the kingdom of God. I was pleased that Moore spent a good chunk of space on this, as it has always seemed to me that this is one of the more foggy areas of Christian belief. That is, when someone uses the phrase ‘kingdom of God,’ it is not often clear what exactly is meant. Even a quick study of what various Christian denominations believe about the kingdom of God (as a biblical and theological concept) will reveal that there is no consensus about what exactly it is. And even more befuddling is the myriad of practical implications that stem from one’s definition of ‘kingdom of God,’ and how strikingly different some of the conclusions are. Read more…



I’ll Never Get Over It

Patty-1If you know me, you know that I talk a lot.  Someone said to me recently as I interrupted the conversation again “you should start a blog.”  Another lady overheard and surprisingly chimed in with “Oh yeah, I would so be on it”.  “Really?” is all I could think.  I just assumed that most people would rather me finally shut up than to actually want to hear more.  My second thought was that I barely know how to find a blog to read, much less write one.  So, I’ll at least start with a blog post!

Over the past year, I had the privilege to go on three short-term missions trips to Haiti. These were actually the first missions trips I had ever been on so I am not sure what the norm is for how to feel after they are over (and I have never been normal anyway) so keep that in mind if you choose to read on.

Many people have heard bits and pieces about the trips and may think, “Here she goes on again about that Haiti.  Shouldn’t she be over that by now?”  To that I will quickly respond that while I completely understand that hearing about something over and over again can be deemed as “boring” as the train ride at GatorLand (per my granddaughter’s observation), I can only say that my prayer is to NEVER get over my experiences in Haiti.

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How can I erase images in my mind of one of the most beautiful terrains that I have ever seen with mountains on one side and crystal blue ocean on the other, but in between the two, pure poverty of the type that twists your soul inside out?  How can I forget such a stark contrast between God’s exquisite creation showing His glory and the devil’s stamp of a beaten down fallen world?  I do not know how.  I realize that many reading this have had other experiences throughout their lives on short-term or even long-term mission trips in other parts of the world, but this was my first enlightenment.  Maybe somewhere out there is a blog on “how to get over experiencing a third world country” but since I am new to the blogging world and missions trips, I surely have not read it and honestly have no plans to search for it. (Remember my prayer is to NOT get over it.) However, I have read four books about Haiti during the timeframe of this past year in hopes of understanding some of what I saw.  Consequently, I did learn that Haiti is amongst the poorest of countries in the Western Hemisphere and its history is almost unbelievable.  Between Haiti’s struggle for independence as a nation of slavery to the constant corruption of governments and the tragedies stemming from tropical storms and earthquakes, it is a miracle that it still exists.  And, try as we might as a non “third world country” to render aid, it has often made things worse instead of better and the resources rarely fall into the hands of the majority of the people who desperately need it most.

Since their national religions in the past have consisted of a mixture of Voodoo and Catholicism, it is not difficult to understand why most of Haiti not only lives in abject poverty but also a state of spiritual darkness and hopelessness.  Many people adhere to the philosophy of “Why bother with Haiti anymore? Haven’t they received enough financial aid that hasn’t made a difference?”  While I can truly understand their thoughts, I keep reminding myself of the truth that shouts louder “with God all things are possible.”   And, surely, Christ even meant helping Haiti.  But, the help must most certainly include the only truly life-changing entity and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ and not just consist of having more money thrown at a desperate, confused and hopeless people.  They must hear about Jesus, while seeing His love in action.

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I ask that you will continue to pray for Haiti and ask God how He would have you be involved in reaching the people of this country and joining Him in making the impossible the possible in a place that is so close to us yet is so extremely far from the type of world in which we live.  We have the hope that they so desperately need, that is, Jesus Christ the hope of the world.

In the near future, there will be a presentation on Olivia’s trip to Haiti during a special service dedicated to sharing what God has done through Flint Hill already in Haiti and upcoming opportunities to be involved with in the future.  For now, please pray!  There is a fierce spiritual battle going on for the people of this country.  It is a very difficult country to minister within.

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Just recently, the child that we sponsor in Haiti wrote us a letter.  In that letter, she, being just a ten-year old little girl, asked that we would pray that God keep her alive.  After being in the country, I can understand why she would ask us to pray for that. Before I went, I would have never been able to comprehend that prayer request.  I can barely wrap my mind around life as the children experience it in Haiti. Can you for one moment fathom that being the prayer of your child or grandchild?  I pray God will never allow me to “get over” it!



Conquered

Last evening, our Couples Life Group had a very helpful discussion about one’s view of human nature and its relation to stress and anxiety. Because we were short on time, there were a few items that I chose to skip over in the interest of getting to the end of the material for the night. One of those items is the poem “Invictus,” (Latin for “unconquered”) by William Ernest Henley; a poem which captures modern man’s view of the self as autonomous, self-reliant, and even defiant toward God.

Out of the light that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate:
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

In response to “Invictus,” Dorothy Day composed a poem which she called, “Conquered.”

Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be,
For Christ – the Conqueror of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under the rule which men call chance,
My head, with joy, is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears,
That Life with Him and His the Aid,
That, spite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and will keep me unafraid.

I have no fear though straight the gate:
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate!
Christ is the Captain of my soul!



Romans 8:13 – How do I “put to death” the deeds of the body?

This entry is less of an article and more of a combination of notes and observations related to Romans 8:13. It’s not long, but I hope you find it helpful.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. ~ Romans 8:13
  •  “put to death” is the equivalent to “”consider dead” (F.F. Bruce, Romans, pg. 156)
  • This phrase is paralleled in Romans 6:11 – ”consider yourselves dead…”
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ~Romans 6:11
  • Another parallel to Romans 8:13 is Galatians 5:24
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~ Galatians 5:24

Observations:

The mindset of the believer should be that of being dead to sin. On the one hand, we must affirm and declare that we have attained victory over sin through Jesus (and in the Spirit) and live as such; and on the other hand there must be both a conscious reliance upon the Holy Spirit and a consistent plea to God in prayer to continue bringing about the already-but-not-yet reality that we boldly proclaim: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Practically speaking, victory in consciously resisting temptation to a particular sinful act (which is the fruit of the inward work of the Spirit) brings a new layer of confidence that I am indeed dead to sin. It is important to give God the glory for resisting sin, lest we become deceived and believe that we have some measure of righteousness in ourselves, apart from God.

As we walk in obedience to God’s commands, and commune with God in prayer, we are taken beyond mere intellectual belief in the statement, “I am dead to sin.” Something great and life-changing happens: We experience the reality of being dead to sin. This, in turn, compounds the growth of our faith and confidence in God.

The converse of this is failing to “put to death the deeds of the body” – or in other words, indulging the deeds of the body; that is, gratifying our natural desires without restraint. This leads to self-deception, hardness of heart, and unbelief. Sin and rebellion always precede unbelief. As J. Budziszewski put it:

It’s a funny thing about us human beings: not many of us doubt God’s existence and then start sinning. Most of us sin and then start doubting His existence.”

So, dying to sin is necessary and  irreplaceable if one wants to fellowship with God, sense His presence, and live a life of peace and victory that honors the Lord.



What is Orphan Care?

One of the new ways to serve the Lord here at Flint Hill Baptist is by becoming a part of the brand new Orphan Care Ministry. Several weeks ago we had a ministry launch luncheon, and learned a bit about how we can go about serving orphans in various circumstances in a Biblical and holistic way.

At the word “orphan” people can sometimes throw their hands up. Hit the door running. Click away in fear that somebody is going to wave pictures of sad little cute kids in their face and pressure them to adopt.

The truth is, it’s easy for people to disregard orphan care ministry as something that is someone else’s assignment. “I don’t feel called to adopt, or take kids in through foster care, or go on mission trips, so then orphan care isn’t for me.” People feel uncomfortable with orphan care because they think that’s all there is to it: adopting, fostering, or going on short term mission trips.

And orphan care DOES include those things, but as a whole, orphan care is so, so much bigger than those tiny (though significant) little boxes.

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Orphan care is caring for the world’s most vulnerable children in a lot of different ways, including:

-adoption

-foster or respite care

-child, birthmother, and/or family sponsorship

-short or long-term mission trips that focus on orphans

-adoptive or foster family support

…and so on. But while orphan care may look different in different contexts, orphan care always seeks the same aim. Orphan care ministries and orphan advocates must always ask the question, “What is best for the child?”Biblical orphan care focuses on the needs of the child and asks very difficult questions, such as whether the better solution for a specific child in need is a sponsorship program and not adoption. Maybe for another child in a different situation the best thing is adoption. The circumstances of every child must be examined in order to determine the best type of care they need.

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Orphan care is not:

-exclusively focused on international adoptions and orphanages

-establishing the institutional care of children

-encouraging families to abandon their children

We will never know what is best for the child until we invest significantly in the lives of those we seek to help. We must be able to see and understand the systems they will enter upon adoption or foster care, the actual families who will care for them, and the churches that will seek to serve them. This is what is meant by a holistic approach to caring for orphans. It’s seeing the big picture of the care and compassion that goes into providing relief for orphans in distress.

Why do we do orphan care?

Orphan care is hard, and it’s really messy, but it is the Lord’s command for the Church. Why do we spend our time and resources to do the emotionally and physically draining work of caring for the neediest among us? The answer is simple. We reflect the person and character of God when we seek out the orphan. We do orphan care because caring for orphans is Gospel work.

“God has called us to be a defender of the defenseless because that is who He is. We are returning worship to God when we show His character to the world by championing the cause of the least of these.” –Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton

The Bible is clear that caring for orphans is not reserved only for those struggling with infertility or who have amassed a tremendous amount of wealth. Being involved in caring for the world’s orphans is a commandment given to every Christian. It is a Gospel-driven command to the Church!

What are some practical ways to get involved with Flint Hill’s Orphan Care Ministry?

  1. Pray about serving as a leader in the ministry.
  2. Become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for a foster child. These are people who help make phone calls and track paperwork for foster kids, serving as advocates to make sure that child’s papers are being moved through the system. Often times CASAs make a huge impact on children without ever meeting them! If you have time and a phone and a little tenacity, you can be a CASA.
  3. Adopt or support those who are – through funding, awareness, and even supporting an adoptive family by attending trainings with them.
  4. Support birth mothers through Lifeline Village.
  5. Family sponsorships through Haiti Collective, Compassion, World Vision, etc.
  6. Foster care
  7. Respite care to support full time foster parents
  8. Supporting foster and adoptive families by joining a WRAP team (more on those in a future post)
  9. Participate in short or long-term mission trips that focus on care for orphans.
  10. Read Altar84’s Woven book to pursue more in-depth study about what Scripture teaches about caring for orphans.