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Posts tagged ‘Epistle to the Ephesians’

Rick Joyner: 2014 Is a Roller Coaster Year.


 

Rick Joyner
Rick Joyner

When I prayed for this coming year, I was shown a roller coaster. This means we will have ups and downs this year. I realize that hardly takes a prophet to predict, but the encouraging thing about this vision was that the ride ended at the highest point. We’re going higher this year! So don’t be discouraged by the dips. Hang on, and know that we will be going up again soon.

Our prophetic friend Bob Jones told us several months ago that it was going to be a very hard winter. I think this one has already qualified for that. As I am writing this in South Carolina, it is 8 degrees outside. I don’t remember it ever being that cold here. However, the great thing is that spring will certainly follow. The point is that we must hang on during any dips or hard times. They will come to pass, but they will pass! As Winston Churchill once said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” Keep going.

The roller coaster I saw was very rickety. It did not seem that it could make it through another turn or the ups and downs. It held together, though. I love roller coasters, but this one was not the kind I would get on voluntarily. We don’t have a choice; we are on it. Even the strongest systems of this world are very shaky, and most can only make it through another day because God is holding them together. He is doing this for our sakes, so we should never stop praying for them.

A Glistening Train

In the vision, there was a platform at the end of this roller coaster ride. It did not look any stronger than the roller coaster, but as we walked across, it became stronger and stronger. On the other side, there was a beautiful, brilliantly glistening train, which we boarded. It was the most beautiful and well-appointed train I’ve ever seen.

However, as I boarded, I saw that when it left the platform, it would enter a long, dark tunnel that I could not see the end of. Even so, the tunnel was going up, and this was a powerful, mountain-climbing train.

We’re going up. It may be dark and a bit scary for a while, but we are going higher. That was the end of this vision.

Trains often speak of training in dreams and visions. We may still be on a rickety old roller coaster, but the vehicle that is going to take us to where we must go will be training. This speaks to me of Ephesians 4—the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry. Even though it may take a while for us to see where we’re going (the long, dark tunnel) we will be going up. This is the vehicle that will get us to where we must go.

The City God Is Building

It is the nature of the faith walk not to be able to see where you’re going, but you should know what you’re looking for. The one who started the walk of faith, Abraham, did not know where he was going, but he did know what he was looking for—the city that God is building, not men.

The cities that men have built are impressive, but once you see what God is building, you can no longer be impressed with anything man is building. It takes revelation to see what God is building. John saw Babylon until he was carried to a high mountain. Then he saw the New Jerusalem, which is the city that Abraham saw. It is still being built. Being a part of it is the highest calling we can have. Do you see it?

As we see in the book of Revelation, the New Jerusalem is the bride, the wife of the Lamb. As Don Potter recently remarked, it is an amazing thing how a bride can look like she is in shambles just minutes before the ceremony. However, in those last few minutes, she comes together and emerges so beautifully and so perfect that you know you have witnessed a great miracle.

This may well be just the way it happens with the bride of the Lamb. We may look like a disaster right up to the end and then, miraculously, we come together without spot or wrinkle. Never give up.

Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries and is the senior pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church. He is the author of more than 40 books, including The Final Quest, A Prophetic History, and Church History. He is also the president of The OAK Initiative, an interdenominational movement that is mobilizing thousands of Christians to be engaged in the great issues of our times, being the salt and light that they are called to be. Rick and his wife, Julie, have five children: Anna, Aaryn, Amber, Ben and Sam.

One-Upping the Digital Age.


But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
John 14:26

Recommended Reading
Joshua 1:8 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua%201:8&version=NKJV )

Today there are numerous ways to have ready access to the Bible. Most people have multiple printed Bibles, and more versions are available on the Internet. We can also access the Bible from our smartphones, digital music players, pads or tablets, and computers (not to mention CDs and DVDs). While the digital revolution has helped multiply copies of God’s Word, there has been an unintended negative impact on an important spiritual discipline related to the Bible: Scripture memorization. Why memorize something that you can call up anytime, anywhere on a digital device?

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio.aspx?tid=email_listenedevo )

It was different in the biblical era. Copies of Scripture were extremely rare, especially in the Old Testament. For that reason, it was necessary to memorize the text mostly through listening. And when we hide God’s Word in our mind and heart (Psalm 119:11), we have one-upped the digital age. Whatever you have memorized is available for the Holy Spirit to use at a moment’s notice as a doctrine, a reproof, a correction, teaching, or comfort (2 Timothy 3:16).

Yes, the digital age has many benefits. But it is still up to us to put God’s Word in the one place where it is always available: in our mind.

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Ephesians 4-6

By David Jeremiah.

Why a Man Gives a Woman His Heart.


man holding heart
(© elenaleonova iStockPhoto.com)
Amazingly, a man’s hunger for respect is more right-on than I ever realized. At work, my husband receives kudos for a job well done. His paycheck and bonuses verify his skill and dedication. John also works hard to provide for and protect his family.
Respecting John is admiring his work, hischaracter and his care. It’s telling him I appreciate these things and admire him for the man he is. It’s not talking bad about him to my friends or even behind closed doors. It’s “talking him up” at home and in front of others and not second-guessing his ideas. It’s honoring his opinions and decisions (which is tough, especially when my opinion differs!).
Basically, it’s my job as a wife to go against society and their “liberated thinking” and figure out how to respect my husband unconditionally and honor him.
But what does respect have to do with lifetime commitment? Everything. After all, why would a woman want to stick with a man she can’t respect? And why would a man want to stay around when he is treated as the one messing up all the time? (Marriage is more than this, of course. We made acovenant before God, and God has called us to commit for life. But just think how we can transform ourmarriages and our generation when we strive to follow this principle.)
Of course, God always knew what we’re just starting to understand. Check out Ephesians 5:33: “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV).
Yet unconditional respect, it seems, is something that generations of women have forgotten how to do.
It’s not that we wives purposefully set out to sabotage our marriages, but this is what lack of respect does. We tell our husbands we want them to be spiritual leaders and the head of the house, but then we make all the decisions or question the decisions they do make. (Ouch! I’ve done this too many times to count.)
If we’re going to strive for “forever,” we need to think of the ways we can make this thing last. This is part of the work and the planning. A good question to ask is: How can I show my husband the respect he desires?
In an effort to show my respect, I try to remind John I believe in his capabilities, take time to understand his point of view and affirm his accomplishments. John appreciates it when I stop what I’m doing to give him a pat on the back when he’s manicured the front lawn, cleaned the garage or built a set of bookshelves. When I first started doing it, I felt like a mom talking to a 3-year-old: “Great job, honey.” But from his smile, I quickly learned he was energized by my praise.
The amazing thing is that when you do look for ways to show respect and you do work at it, your needs are met too. Because your husband is getting what he needs, he pours out his love in return.
Emerson Eggerichs, in his book Love and Respect, calls this the Energizing Cycle: “Her love motivates his respect. His respect motivates her love.” I can confess: Being in this cycle is indeed energizing … and fun!
So why is respect still a foreign word even to those of us who know its power? This is a hard one, since many times we weren’t raised seeing it lived. To put it in a more culture-friendly term, another word forrespect is admiration. And this is how Dictionary.com defines them both:
Respect: -noun. Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.
Admiration: -noun. A feeling of wonder, pleasure or approval.
What would a man give for a wife who respects and admires him? I’ve seen this lived out … his whole heart.
Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

Tricia Goyer has written more than 35 books, including both novels that delight and entertain readers and nonfiction titles that offer encouragement and hope. She has also published more than 500 articles in national publications such as Guideposts, Thriving Family, Proverbs 31, and HomeLife Magazine.

Why is Reading the Bible so Important?.


Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not readwhat David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (1 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!

Taken from “A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind” by Desiring God Ministries (used by permission).

John Piper

Called to be ambassadors…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“We are therefore Christ‘s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
-2 Corinthians 5:20

Jesus’ goal during his time on earth, and still today, is to create clones of himself. Paul, especially in Ephesians, Romans, and Corinthians says, “We are the body of Christ.” We may think that’s a metaphor, but the early church really believed that we filled the role of Jesus until his return and that God was actually in our skin. God, who used to feel distant and far away on a cloud somewhere, because of Christmas, now that same God dwells in your body. Wherever your body goes, so does Jesus go. Because of that, you carry with you a responsibility to live like Jesus, to love people – especially your enemies, those who hate you, and those who say evil things about you – and to do good. You’re called to live a different kind of life, one that’s remarkable.

That’s not just an encouragement but also a responsibility – to be called ambassadors. We’re called the temple. We’re called all sorts of things to show that wherever your body goes, so does Jesus go. Wherever your body is, if you’re a believer, Jesus is there, too. This means that, as you live your life like Jesus to people around you, they experience Christ. When people experience love, they experience God. When you put your hand on the shoulder of someone who’s suffering, you say, “I’m there for you,” and he or she experiences Jesus, not just you. When you say to someone, “I love you and I wish you the best,” or you bless someone with a gift, or you speak an encouraging word, or you pray that Jesus is blessing them, they experience Jesus encouraging them. It’s because of those relationships that people are able to experience Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to be an ambassador of your love to others. Help me welcome all I meet into a relationship with you. Amen.

Reflection: How have you served as an ambassador of Christ?

How to Get Caught Up in His Glory.


Supernatural graphic
Don’t settle for a visitation from God. Learn how to live in His glory.

For years, my heart longed for more than just a temporary visitation of God’s presence in a church service or private prayer time. Momentary encounters were not enough. I wanted visitation to becomehabitation.

In time, God began to answer my heart’s cry, and I learned that when we prepare a place for His glory in our hearts He will show up at the most unexpected moments. This is because God longs to fill us with His Spirit on a continual basis. He wants us to live in His glory.

Scripture bears out this truth. Jesus told His Father: “The glory which You gave Me I have given them” (John 17:22). The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

He encouraged the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). And he exhorted the Galatians, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

As we learn to walk in the Spirit we develop a continual awareness of God’s presence. After all, we are the house of God and His glory has taken up residence in us. We just need to train our spirits to be in constant communion with the Holy Spirit.

One night I ran out to the supermarket to pick up some things. As I was walking through the parking lot I was praying and worshipping in the Spirit.

Suddenly I became aware of God’s presence with me. I thought we were going to have a revival meeting right in the frozen foods aisle. I was caught up in His glory buying ice cream!

This is the place God desires us to live. Not in the supermarket, of course, but in His glory 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where we are physically or what we are doing. It’s the place where our spirits are in unbroken fellowship with God.

How can you dwell in that place? The daily choices we make determine how much of God’s presence we live in.

During my 20-year journey of walking with the Lord I have found that He often brings me back to one simple truth: Find out what pleases His heart and pursue that with all my heart.

On my desk is a stone plaque that reads, “The man who walks with God always gets to his destination.” I read this every morning when I wake up. It is a constant reminder to make the right choices during my day so that I will walk with God and achieve the destination He has set for me. I know that as long as I am walking with Him, nothing will be able to block the flow of His blessing in my life.

I have often found that it is the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make that can have the greatest impact on our spiritual lives. Small choices lead to big choices.

We guard the habitation of God’s glory in our lives by making the right choices. We choose what conversations we listen to, what words we speak, what attitudes we have toward others, what thoughts we meditate on, what people we hang around, what we look at, what we tolerate in our hearts of the spirit of the world.

We make the choice to have an attitude of worship, to resist temptation and to pray in the Spirit at all times. And most of all, we choose what boundaries we establish in our lives.

Just as God called Moses to set up boundaries around the base of the mountain to keep wild beasts from breaking through into the glory, so we need to set godly boundaries in our lives to protect God’s presence (see Ex. 19:23). We need to know what things grieve His heart and make the decision to avoid those things at all cost.

Setting up godly boundaries will not only help you to walk in the Spirit but will also guard the place of God’s habitation in your life. You will move from momentary visitations to a lifelong habitation as you prepare a place for His glory in your heart and consistently make godly choices. In the process, theHoly Spirit will help you to walk with Him and will become your closest friend.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Matt Sorger is a prophetic revivalist who ministers internationally through conferences, healing revival services and miracle crusades. His passion is to see people transformed through the preaching of God’s Word and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Find out more at mattsorger.com.

Tell me a story…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
-Ephesians 5:1-2

We are meant to be living memories. We are meant to be living reminders. And we’re meant to remind people of Jesus. We’re meant to remind people of our values. We’re meant to remind people of our stories because our stories give wisdom, guidance, insight, blessings to others.

Have you ever met somebody that reminded you of Jesus? I have. I’ve met a few of them. There’s something wonderful about these people. They could talk to you about the baseball game yesterday and, somehow, you feel like you’re talking to Jesus.

There are some people that have such depth in their eyes, you can see into their souls. There’s such warmth to their spirits that you can’t help but be drawn into their presence and want to be around them all the time. There are some people that if you just spend time with them, you will be a different person.

This is the kind of person God wants us to be. He wants you to be a living reminder. And the main way that you can change lives, affect lives, and bless lives around you is to remind people of your story – yes even the bad ones – and of your values, and your wisdom gained from living life with Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me be share my story. Let my story be a witness of your love in my life. Amen.

Reflection: As you serve as a living reminder of God’s love and redemption in your life, what story do you tell?

Spiritual War, Spiritual Battlefield.


Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir … and they were defeated.
2 Chronicles 20:22

Recommended Reading
Ephesians 6:10-20 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%206:10-20&version=NKJV )

When enemies of Judah came against her, King Jehoshaphat called the people to fast and pray. And he led the prayers, beginning with praise: “O Lord God of our fathers, … do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations … ?” (2 Chronicles 20:5-6) He went on with further praise before making a simple request: “O our God, will You not judge them?” (verse 12a) And he concluded: “Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes  are  upon You” (verse 12b).

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio.aspx?tid=email_listenedevo )

There is only one being who would motivate a massive attack on the people of God: Satan (1 John 5:19). Regardless of what Jehoshaphat knew about spiritual warfare, he did the right thing. Instead of looking at the enemy, he put his eyes on God: “Our eyes are upon You.” The majority of his prayer was spent in praise to God, a minority in requests (Matthew 6:8). When Paul concluded his instructions on spiritual warfare, he said to pray “with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).

Spiritual warfare is won in the spiritual realm — and begins with prayers of physical praise.

Let earth and heaven combine, angels and men agree, to praise in songs divine the incarnate Deity.
Charles Wesley

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Acts 22-23

By David Jeremiah.

The Nine Guys Who Missed Thanksgiving (1 of 4).


Series: The Optimism Factor
Pastor Chris Brown
Luke 17:11-19

A QUESTION AND AN OBSERVATION:
Luke 17:11-14

- What does it take to get you to use your “Master” Card?
Luke 17:13

- Obedience always precedes God‘s blessings.
Luke 17:14

GRATITUDE: IT’S WAY MORE THAN AN ATTITUDE!

1. It’s a decision and an action.

Luke 17:15, Philippians 4:4-7, Colossians 3:17

2. It’s an act of humility.
Luke 17:16, Deuteronomy 8:11-17

3. It draws us closer to God.
Luke 17:12 and 16, Psalm 100:4, James 4:7-10, Romans 1:21

4. It’s God’s will.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:19

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE:

TAKING IT HOME
1. We’ve all found ourselves at some point falling into the trap of not showing gratitude just as the nine lepers did. Which of the following gratitude roadblocks could most likely become a barrier for you?
- Not realizing all I have been given
- Taking for grant …

Conquering Lust.


Gary Smalley

Lust makes us think that having some person we don’t presently have would make us happier. Often that person is simply a figment of our imagination. Even if the person is real, we often attach character traits to him or her that are not real. Usually our lust focuses on sexual involvement. We imagine someone who is terribly fond of us and who prefers our presence and intimacy over anyone else’s. We imagine that if we had such a person to hold in our arms, it would be exciting and wonderfully fulfilling. This is a terrible deception, for we forget or ignore the devastating consequences of living out our imaginations.

Sensual imaginations reveal our selfish desire for stimulation. Unchecked, sensual stimulation actually increases the desire. We see this exhibited in several ways. For example, one of the primary reasons people smoke or consume alcohol or drugs is to stimulate their physical senses. As a person continues in this selfish frame of mind, the desire grows until he or she needs regular and increasing doses of stimulation.

Psychiatrist Gerald May observes that God created us to attach to him. All humans have a God-given, built-in need to attach to God in a meaningful way. When we ignore God, we instead try to attach to his creation—people, things, and career. This is where all types of addictions are formed.

Even if we feel we’ve conquered lust, the emotion can strike when we least expect it. One friend discovered this when he spoke at a Christian conference. Dick’s wife was in the final months of pregnancy, so they were not as sexually active as usual. While several hundred miles away from home, Dick suddenly found himself infatuated with a woman attending the conference. She was attractive and seemed to enjoy his company. But while admitting his normal sexual drive was heating up, he also knew that yielding to that desire would bring at best only a very temporary satisfaction. He came face-to-face with his own selfish desire to be stimulated and realized that the devastating long-term consequences to his ministry, to his wife and kids, and to his relationship with God would far outweigh any momentary pleasure. That knowledge helped him control his physical drive, which took about forty-eight hours to subside.

The motivation behind extramarital affairs seems to be very different for men and women. Men tend to lust for physical release or conquest, viewing women as challenges for satisfying their sexual drives. Women, on the other hand, tend to involve themselves in affairs because of their deep need for communication and a meaningful relationship—a deep need that is not being met.

Recently we’ve seen a huge increase in affairs on the Internet. These affairs don’t need to be consummated to cause a serious threat to a marriage. Many women find themselves more comfortable talking with a stranger in a chat room than to their own husbands. Many men enjoy the power they seem to have counseling a woman by means of an impersonal computer rather than face-to-face. In too many cases, men and women let their imaginations go wild in these relationships.

How can we use lust to strengthen our relationship with God?

First, by recognizing the basic motive behind this emotion. Lust is not serving a person in love; it is viewing a person as an object to be used. This happens even within the marriage relationship. With Norma, I had to realize that I was violating God’s law by trying to use her for my own happiness rather than loving her by serving her needs.

Second, lust can reconfirm our awareness that God — not another’s body, not even our mate’s — is the source of our fulfillment. As pleasurable as sex can be, it can never substitute for the lasting joy and satisfaction of knowing God.

Third, in the midst of lustful thoughts, as an act of our will, we can pray something like this:Lord, I know there are times when I wish my mate acted sexier. And there are even times I have entertained thoughts about being in the arms of another person. All the advertisements on TV have tried to convince me it would be exciting. But right here and now I continue to trust you to energize my life and provide all I need. I am willing to rest and wait in your faithfulness. I don’t even know all I’m trying to gain from these lustful thoughts, but you know, and I know you’ll meet my needs as you always have.

Because God knows our thoughts, we can share them with him and admit that we don’t understand. That’s what Paul instructs us to do in Romans: [God's] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but … he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

What practical help can we offer those stuck in the quicksand of lustful desire? Some try to struggle out of the grip it has on their lives through visualization, masturbation, or regular participation in sexual activity. But the more we struggle, the deeper we sink. If no one is available to pull us out, the one way to escape from quicksand is to relax, lie back in the sand, take a deep breath, fill your lungs with air, and allow your limbs to float to the top. We can take similar action with lust by not fighting our thoughts and desires and instead ask Jesus to perform what he promises to do release us from bondage. He can supernaturally pull us out as we rest in him.

If no one is available to pull you out of quicksand, you can still escape by slowly moving your arms above your head, putting them slightly into the sand, and swimming slowly to the edge, as if doing a slow-motion backstroke. Experts say it may take several hours to swim just a few feet. But freedom is as close as the bank. When battling lust, we can do the same thing by persistently looking to Jesus for strength and patience.

I have known men stuck in the mire of lust who didn’t make it to freedom for several months. It may take a year or more for some to swim to freedom. Day after day we must reconfirm truths given to us by Jesus. God promises he is faithful to answer the requests of his children. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). And, If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you (John 15:7). Real freedom comes from abiding in a close relationship with God and from allowing God’s Word to become alive in us. The Bible urges us to live a life of love …. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:2-3). And, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). It is God’s will that we experience freedom from lust, so we can stand in his line daily, knowing it is just a matter of time before he will bring us freedom from sexual slavery.

Once we’re free from the quicksand, we’re usually weak from the effort. Here are four ways to regain strength and remain strong so we don’t fall back into the mire:

First, rehearse the negative consequences of sexual involvement, even in the midst of lustful thoughts. Remember what it feels like to be trapped. The consequences are far more than we can mention here, but they include enslavement to passion (see Galatians 5:1); reinforcement of our self-centered tendency that diminishes genuine expression of love; callousness of our soul (see Ephesians 4:19); and, of course, the possibility of catching a sexual disease. In other words, the truth and life of God are darkened within us when we engage in unrighteousness (see Romans 1:18-32).

Second, memorize sections of Scripture that deal specifically with sexual freedom. After memorizing them, persistently ask God to make your life consistent with these verses. Start with Galatians 5:1-14, Ephesians 5:1-6, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.

Remember, when we read God’s Word, we don’t read it for what we can do by our own efforts. Don’t think, I need to start living more by this or that law. Rather, read God’s Word and see his commandments as what you’ll look like as you continue to abide in Christ. If you love me, you will obey what I command, the Lord says (John 14:15). Keep your focus on loving, knowing, and abiding in him and watch him enrich and strengthen your life.

Third, for men especially, beware of the anger/lust cycle that often develops. Many men experience their most severe times of lust after a struggle or problem at home or at work. If we fail to make things right after a disagreement or confrontation, we may be setting ourselves up for temptation, because such encounters leave us feeling depressed and inadequate. Because none of us likes to feel bad about ourselves, we look for something to perk us up, to make us feel powerful and important again.

Sexual stimulation can have a temporary euphoric effect. Like alcohol or drugs, it can bring about a heightened sense of self-worth until the shame and reality of our actions bring us crashing down. Some men who never take a drink or try drugs submit to a life of erotic escapades that is every bit as addictive and deadly. Sin always takes you further down the path of destruction than you want to go.

Writing in the book of Proverbs, Solomon has sobering words for those who use any form of lust actual sexual encounters, fantasy, or pornographic pictures to make up for feelings of anger or low self-worth: For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword (Proverbs 5:3-4).

Giving in to lust does not break the anger/lust cycle; it only intensifies it. Now we are not only angry and depressed about our problem at work or at home, but we are also angry about our lack of self-control. And on top of our shame, those of us who are Christians also have the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin.

Genuine repentance is a biblical solution, but getting furious with ourselves and vowing it will never happen again do little good. In fact, when we browbeat ourselves (a way of punishing ourselves so that God won’t, or so that he will let us off the hook), we actually dig a deeper rut for ourselves and set ourselves up for our next lust fix.

Unless we truthfully deal with the anger/lust cycle and admit it is signaling that a relationship needs repair or that we need the help of a Christian friend or counselor, we may continue in the downward spiral for years. This vicious circle of sin can cause even Christians to spin so fast that right seems wrong and wrong seems right. But returning to Christ’s healing is always the answer.

Finally, realize that for most people the gaining of freedom from lust is a long-term process, especially for those who have developed a habit of immoral thoughts and actions. You might consider starting or joining a support group for those who struggle in this area. This can be a men-only or women-only group who testify as to how God has produced freedom and who encourage and support one another in memorizing and meditating on Scripture. These folks also hold each other accountable, pray with each other, and talk honestly about their entrapment. Much healing can come just by confessing our weakness and praying for each other: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Al meets regularly with several other men in a discipleship group. Once he returned from a business trip and reported that his hotel room had a cable movie station. He watched a PG-rated movie, then started to watch a sexually explicit film but caught himself and turned it off. However, he expressed concern about handling temptation on an upcoming ten-day trip. One of the members asked Al to develop a plan for using any of the time that was not being spent in meetings, which he did.

On his return Al had to give a report. Near the end of the trip he had found himself seated next to a single woman at an athletic event. The thought entered his mind, You could take her out for dinner and no one would ever know. Rather than allow time to entertain the thought any further, he left the game early. Knowing he was accountable to men back home helped him resist temptation because he knew they would ask him how he did. Accountability is good, but remember that it doesn’t replace the most important solution God’s grace doing its work in us.

I have focused on the sexual aspects of lust because it is so out-of-control in our society. But other forms of lust such as craving sweets, overeating, and stimulating the senses through drugs and alcohol can be just as damaging. The thoughts I’ve shared can apply in any area of sensual temptation that robs us of life.

What error messages appear most frequently in your life? Jealousy, envy, or lust? Take the time necessary to deal with those emotions.

Excerpted from the book Joy that Lasts.

© Copyright 2003 Smalley Relationship Center

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