Happy 2014

I don't make resolutions, but this is my prayer for the New Year. Maybe it will guide your new year too.

"Father, I so thank you for the season of fruitfulness You have given me, but I am asking for a double portion next year.
Would You give me a double portion of grace to shower on those around me?
A double portion of humility, kindness, and love that my flesh would not taint Your work.
A double portion of wisdom and knowledge to share with a despairing world.
A double portion of lost souls that You allow me to bring into Your kingdom.
A double portion of contentment that Your joy might be evident in me regardless of my circumstances.
A double portion of spiritual gifts that would broaden my borders and reach those otherwise unreached.
A double portion of ability that my writing would continue to impact hearts around the world for your glory.
A double cleansing of my heart that I might remain a clear channel through which Your rivers of living water can flow.
Double my opportunities to deliver Your message to those desperate for hope.
And above all, may a double portion of Your Holy Spirit be upon me that I might serve you better.
Your supply for all my need is limitless so I will thank you in advance for everything you are bringing me next year.
In Jesus' name, Amen."

Inner Peace

The world places a priority on inner peace, and it offers thousands of suggestions to those who seek “peace of mind and soul.” Usually, the gurus of inner peace point to oneself as the source of peace. There is much talk of meditation, finding an “inner light,” and chakras. If we need any help from outside of ourselves, worldly wisdom says, it will come in the form of a “spirit guide” or perhaps some crystals or herbs. The problem with such advice, besides the obvious endorsement of witchcraft, is that it completely ignores the source of true peace—the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible has a lot to say about peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Paul refers to “the God of all peace”. The term peace is often used as a greeting and a benediction (see Luke 24:36). So what exactly is peace, and how can we have “inner peace”?

A word often translated “peace” in the Bible actually means “to tie together as a whole, when all essential parts are joined together.” Inner peace, then, is a wholeness of mind and spirit, a whole heart at rest. Inner peace has little to do with external surroundings. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He had also told His followers that “in this world you will have many troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). So peace is not the absence of trouble; it is the presence of God.

Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When the “God of all peace” comes to live inside a believing heart, He begins to produce His own characteristics in that life. Inner peace comes from knowing that circumstances are temporary and that God is sovereign over all. Peace comes from exercising faith in the character of God and His Word. We can have peace in the midst of challenges when we remember that “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can choose peace rather than give way to fear and worry. Inner peace resulting from a relationship with God allows us to keep things in proper perspective. We can accept difficult situations on earth by remembering that our citizenship is in heaven.

We are commanded to “live in peace” with others, as far as it is up to us. To live at peace means we interact with those around us in accordance with our own wholeness of mind. Our reactions to circumstances can bring peace to an otherwise chaotic situation. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). And James 3:18 says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” God’s desire is that we who know Him learn to live in peace within ourselves first. Then we can radiate that peace to others, bringing calmness and wisdom to tense situations, and in so doing be lights in the world.

Alcoholism and the Bible

Alcoholism is just one of many addictions that can take control of someone’s life. Because its effects are obvious, drunkenness can appear to be a worse sin than others. However, the Bible makes no such distinctions. It often equates the sin of drunkenness with sins we would consider “less important,” such as envy and selfish ambition (Galatians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 6:10). It is easy to pass judgment on someone who is falling-down drunk, while secretly excusing sins of the heart that God considers equally repulsive. The right response is to view people as God sees them and agree with Him that we are all sinners in need of saving.

The Bible is clear that drunkenness is sin (Isaiah 5:11; Proverbs 23:20–21; Habakkuk 2:15). Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is interesting that this verse contrasts the power of alcohol with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is saying that if we want to be controlled by the Spirit of God we cannot also be controlled by alcohol. The two cannot simultaneously hold sway. When we choose one, we eliminate the influence of the other. As Christians, we are to always “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25; Romans 8:1, 14). So drunkenness for a Christian is never an option on any occasion because there is no occasion when we should not be walking in the Spirit.

Alcoholism is a form of idolatry, as is any addiction. Anything we are using besides God to meet or medicate deep heart needs is an idol. When we rely on ourselves, someone else, or something else to meet our needs for value, worth, or significance, we have erected an idol that takes the place of the real God in our lives. God views it as such and has strong words for idol worshipers (Exodus 20:3; 34:14; 1 John 5:21; 1 Corinthians 12:2). Alcoholism is not a disease; it is a choice. God holds us accountable for our choices (Romans 14:12; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Hebrews 4:13).

Followers of Christ should strive to love their neighbors as themselves, regardless of the problems or addictions those neighbors may have (Matthew 22:29). But contrary to our modern idea that equates love with tolerance, real love does not tolerate or excuse the very sin that is destroying someone (James 5:20). To enable or excuse alcohol addiction in someone we love is to tacitly participate in their sin.

There are several ways Christians can respond in Christlike love to alcoholics:

1. We can encourage the alcoholics in our lives to get help. A person caught in the trap of addiction needs help and accountability. There are many Christ-centered recovery programs such as Celebrate Recovery that are helping thousands of people break free from the chains of addiction.

2. We can set boundaries in order not to in any way condone the drunkenness. Minimizing the consequences that alcohol abuse brings is not helping. Sometimes the only way addicts will seek help is when they reach the end of their options.

3. We can be careful not to cause others to stumble by limiting our own alcohol use while in the presence of those struggling with it (1 Corinthians 8:9–13). It is for this reason that many Christians choose to abstain from all alcohol consumption in order to avoid any appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV) and to not put a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Since alcohol in its many forms has such a negative association in our culture, the potential for causing offense in weaker Christians is great. We must weigh our freedom against the possibility of causing others to sin or confusing unbelievers who associate alcohol with their own sinful lifestyles.

We must show compassion to everyone, including those whose choices have led them into strong addiction. However, we do alcoholics no favors by excusing or justifying their addiction. Jesus said we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13). Even though the context of His statement is money, the same principle applies to anything that controls us other than God. We must do everything we can to help people break free of whatever sin stronghold binds them so that they can serve and worship God with their whole heart.

Who's Your Nathan?

Sometimes we get too big for our britches!

Even those whose hearts belong to God can get off track to the point where God cannot reach them. He dials; nobody answers. But another wonderful thing about God is that He doesn't quit trying.

David was called "a man after God's own heart." He was God's hand-picked king and spoke with Him face-to-face. David wrote many of the inspired Psalms and was a mouthpiece for God Himself.

But he got too big for his britches.

He turned a stubborn face against the Lord and followed lust instead. One lust led to another until David had innocent blood on his hands. But still he refused to hear God.

So God came at him another way. He used the prophet Nathan. Only when confronted with God's words from another person would David listen.

God does that with us, too. Even when we have heard from God, we know His voice, and we follow Him, we can get off track. We get too big for our britches. We start following our own ideas, lusts, opinions, and desires. We start thinking for ourselves rather than seeking God's thoughts. And we get off into the ditch.

Sometimes even then, we turn our stubborn faces away and keep trying to make it right our own way. But God doesn't give up. He keeps trying. And sometimes he uses other people.

Has God sent a Nathan to you? Has someone spoken God's words right into the middle of your sin? Some people get angry at the Nathan who dared point out their error. 

One thing David did right when shown his sin was that he repented. On the spot. He allowed God's truth to penetrate and demolish the tower of cards he had built and he turned it around. He fully owned what he had done and stopped it. That's called repentance. David repented before the Lord and humbly took the discipline he deserved.

You have a choice when your Nathan confronts you. You can stiffen up in self-righteous anger, or you can follow the righteous example of a man after God's own heart. You can repent, accept the discipline you deserve, and move on to be everything God wants you to be.

Keep an eye out for your Nathans. God sent them.