Next Meeting Information

Next Meeting: May 17, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Obeying God and Knowing God

Good stuff here from the Pirate Monk guys in thinking about last week's post on obedience.

"Jesus said if you love me you will obey my commandments. And so I often think if I want to love God more, practically speaking, all I have to do is be more obedient. As long as I don't do (fill in the blank) or as long as I do (these five things) I am in "The Zone" and I'm obeying God. Obedience becomes just my own man-made construct. And if that is how I am going about feeling better about loving God, then this really doesn't have anything to do with God..this is really just about me.

What Paul says is I want to know Christ. Forget all these other duties; loving God will be the most natural by-product of knowing him more. Once I know God more, as I draw close to him more, those are the times where sin actually looks distasteful to me."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Week 2 Video: Strategies

A few strategies are included in this week's video from the Conquerer DVD series.

Do any of these strategies seem ridiculous? If so, perhaps that is the strategy you most need to try. One action suggested in this video deals with access to the internet, especially before bed. I know that, for years I kept my phone beside my bed. I never questioned whether I might put it in another room...or even out of arm's reach- in an effort to maintain purity. The phone location was defensible. I mean, I needed it for an alarm clock! On a more practical level, the mere presence of a cell phone is known to adversely affect the quality of sleep.

The same could be said for any of these. Does the idea of signing a covenant of contention seem corny? Or the idea of taking the SAST seem a bit overkill? And while we don't force anyone to implement any of these strategies, realize that if you are reading this blog and these steps seem ridiculous to you, don't dismiss them out of hand.

The point is, Jesus says twice in the book of Matthew "If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out." Almost every time I have heard an exposition or commentary on that passage-almost in the same breath- the statement is followed by clearly, Jesus wasn't being literal!

Or was he? Because in reviewing my failure to mortify sin, I see a history of rather comfortable mortification. That is, I will put sin aside as long as it doesn't cost me anything or inconvenience me too greatly. 

As Spurgeon wrote: Better to be but a maimed believer than to be an accomplished unbeliever. Better that thou lose an eye, or lose a hand, than lose thy faith in God and his word.

Or Calvin wrote: Christ must employ an exaggerated form of speech expressly because men allow themselves too much liberty. It might be thought that Christ pressed too severely on men, and therefore he anticipates complaints. However difficult, or severe, or troublesome, or harsh, any commandment of God may be, no excuse ought to be pleaded on those grounds, because the justice of God ought to stand higher in our estimation, than all that we reckon most precious and valuable. You have no right to object to me, that you can scarcely turn your eyes in any direction, without being suddenly drawn away by some temptation: for you ought rather to part with your eyes, than to depart from the commandments of God. 

Or Ligon Duncon in his sermon God's Law vs Human Tradition

The Lord Jesus is saying that sin must not be pampered; it must be put to death. And notice that He uses the most graphic language:"Tear out your right eye" and "cut off your right arm." Mortification is not passive. This is a striving against sin. The Lord Jesus is calling on us to wage war against this sin in our hearts and in our lives. It must be flung aside immediately and decisively.

What does that mean? It means that that book which is causing you to think thoughts that you ought not think needs to be turned aside from. Perhaps it needs to be burned. It means that that film which is titillating your heart, your mind it needs to be turned aside from. It means that social relationship that we have begun to develop and we sense the inappropriateness of the action that we have with another, it needs to be turned aside from. 

Believers should know that we are no match for this temptation. What are we to do as believers when faced with this temptation? There are several things which we should be prepared to do. First, we must immediately resort to Christ. We must be absolutely dependent on Him. Human resources cannot match this desire. We must have desire for Christ which exceeds our desire for the pleasure of the flesh. That means going to Him in prayer. That is the first step back to Christ. Our first step is back into His arms because the desires that are building in us are so powerful that they can be matched by no desire except a supernatural desire implanted into our hearts. 

[Then] we must deal with the real cause of our sin. If there is an occasion which is causing us to stumble, we must not come back to God and negotiate with Him by promising Him to read our Bible more and pray more as long as we can keep going back to that occasion of sin. Obedience knows no negotiation. When we see an occasion for sin, the Lord Jesus says, "Don’t go back and read your Bible and pray more, you cut off your right hand. If that is an occasion for sin, don’t put yourself there." He further more says that we must do this decisively and immediately. It requires drastic action. 

If you are in the grip of this sin you know how hopeless it is to struggle against. Let me tell you that very hopelessness is your greatest hope because if you have learned that you are hopeless against this sin, you have just learned that there is no hope in you. Only hope in Him and in Him alone. Now Satan will be saying to you, "If I confess this sin Christ will reject me," and Satan will be saying to you, "If you confess this sin they (the church) will reject you." I assure you these are lies. Christ's arms are open wide, His peoples' arms are open wide, and there are few men in here who cannot sympathize and empathize with this temptation. Put aside the obstacles of Satan and come to Christ. The only way you will ever overcome this temptation is in the arms of Christ, who will give you a greater desire that the flesh can ever fulfill.

Hope to see some of you this week for our meeting. Information is at the top of the screen.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Midweek Nugget

Enjoyed this section from Nate Larkin:

I have found that for short stretches of time I can convince myself that I am being faithful to God if I define faithfulness in terms of only one behavior. If I decide that holiness consists of not drinking, for example, I can feel pretty good about myself as long as I don't drink. Even though I treat drinkers with contempt and sin against love in a thousand other ways, I can swagger through the streets and parade into the temple with my head held high, noisily thanking God that "I am not like other men."

Self-righteousness, however, is a double-edged sword. If I have reduced holiness to a single behavior, then I am standing on one leg. One slip and I am nothing again, absolutely useless. Either way, the commandments of the gospel mean nothing to me. I do not hear "Love your wife" or "Love your enemies" or "Love your neighbors as you love yourself." I only hear "Don't drink."

God, in his grace, has used addiction to shatter my moralistic understanding of the Christian faith and force me to accept the Gospel. I am not a faithful man. That's why I need a Savior. I cannot live victoriously on my own. Thats why I need a Helper and brothers. I cannot keep my promises to God--the very act of making them is delusional-- but God will keep his promises to me.

As a Christian, I am perpetually reduced to the role of supplicant.  No more can I offer God a bargain, his favor in exchange for my faithfulness, or go toe-to-toe with him, demanding payment for years of service. But when I approach him humbly, as a restored prodigal son, he responds with overwhelming generosity to my request for aid.

No fancy prayers are required. In fact, God finds fancy prayers repugnant. He loves it, however, when I acknowledge my need and my belief in his benevolence with a simple one-word prayer: Help.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Shame and Guilt

Last week we discussed "wounds" and how they lead to an identity of shame and guilt. If you weren't able to attend last week's meeting your assignment was to define for yourself the terms: embarrassment, guilt, humiliation and shame. It was also to write on a notecard Philippians 1:6 and then on the back of that notecard write your own paraphrase of that verse.

Last week, we heard the explanation of guilt and shame in our Conquerers DVD in terms of a football analogy. Guilt was defined as "you stepped out of bounds" while shame is "no matter what you do you can't get the ball in the end zone."

Below is a discussion of guilt versus shame from the Pirate Monk Podcast.

In this clip, Ramon Presson describes the two main sources of a man's shame: a sense of 1) weakness and 2) failure. He reports that the mindset of a man becomes "I didn't just fail...but rather, I am a failure" and therefore the natural flesh tool becomes "powering up" rather than understanding that the person of Christ is already strong and that were are liberated as we find our identity in Christ. 

I really relate to the conversation about countering the narrative playing in our individual minds. When we get isolated, our inner thoughts become the only source of audio in our life. I tell myself "I am a failure" and subsequently I begin to believe that I must, indeed, be a failure. 

But Jesus says: "If you knew the truth, the truth would set you free" and in his reinstatement of Peter answers him in a very different way: 

Shame over past failures and sins can haunt and inhibit us in many ways. And Satan seeks to steal and destroy our faith by shoving our failures in our face. But Jesus intends to redeem us completely.
When Jesus chose you to be his disciple, he foresaw your future failures as sure as he foresaw Peter’s. We may not want to believe that we could deny Jesus by engaging in a sin that contradicts everything we believe. We must remember what Jesus said to Peter before his failure: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter was going to sin — miserably. But Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus’ prayer was stronger than Peter’s sin, and it’s stronger than our sin too. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 

And Jesus is the great restorer of failures who repent. Jesus had said to Peter “when you have turned again [repented], strengthen your brothers.” And there on the beach he again gave Peter the greatest invitation any of us can receive on earth: “Follow me.”

The failure was to be left behind, there was kingdom work to do, and eternal life to enjoy.

Peter’s failure did not define him. And ours will not define us. They are horrible, humbling stumbles along the path of following Jesus, who paid for them all on the cross. And Jesus specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength for his church.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sinclair Ferguson on Joseph's Multicolor Puzzle

You can listen to Sinclair Ferguson's Four Corners of the Jigsaw Puzzle here. Below is a quote from that sermon.

Genesis 50:20:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

"One of the things I notice with Christian people is that often they seem to find themselves shunted off the highway of usefulness and fruitfulness. They are put on a dead end street, and they are discouraged and disappointed. What are you to say to them?

You are to say: God has brought you into this in order that the traffic of his purposes may move on, until you will be in the right place at the right time, but at that point a very different person, having been transformed by your difficulties and trials. Then, God will make you fruitful for his Glory among His people.

Do you wonder what the future holds for you? He is doing something in you, in order that you may be in the place where through you he will do something for others. You see, afflictions are like frosty weather on garments; they change the hue and they bleach them white. God works in our circumstances. Samuel Weatherford said "There are some graces that grow best in winter."

And Jesus is the musical conductor of our lives who knows the score perfectly. Years and years ago--we have three boys and a girl-- and my little girl wanted to go see the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. And the night she was going, my wife was sick, so I had to go to Edinburgh and watch. (I think I was the only person in the audience who didn't know that at some point in that musical, Pharaoh turns into Elvis Presley. I let out such a guffaw of astonishment that it was about six months before my daughter would admit that she had seen it. )

But our seats we had were right at the very front of the audience. And so, we were in the rare position of being able to see all the action on the stage as well as all the music being played in the pit underneath.

And I've never forgotten the way the conductor came in: He came to his little podium--most of the audience couldn't see this--but I saw him take out of his pocket a little packet of M&Ms. He opened the packet and put them in this little cup that was beside the podium. And, he began to conduct and every so often--very causally--he would pick up an M&M.

There was all this drama going on the stage...but the conductor was unfazed. He knew what he was doing because he already knew the score.

Now, I'm not suggesting that God is unmoved by the afflictions of our lives. That He is in heaven eating M&Ms. But, when evil is set against him, He who sits in the heavens laughs. He holds them in derision, because he knows the score. And the reason he knows the score is because he is not only the conductor...but he is the composer.

Do you remember Cowper's hymn? Its called "Light Shining Out of Darkness":

Deep in unfathomable minds of never failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs and works his sovereign will. 

Or to put that in the better words of our Lord Jesus, in a slightly different context: Do you remember when Peter protested that Jesus was washing his feet? Our Lord Jesus said something to him that surely applies to the whole of our lives: "Peter, you do not now understand what I am now doing. But afterwards you will trust me."

Its one thing to have your lenses crafted Biblically, so that you understand what God does. But that is not a substitute for trusting him personally. And so wherever you are...its even possible that you are here today partly because you know a Christian who has gone through circumstances that are appalling to you and it has puzzled you. You say "Why should he/she, who is such an outstanding Christian, go through this?"

And you are learning through this passage, that perhaps you are the reason. Because the Lord is drawing you to himself through him/her to bring you to Christ."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Footsteps and Signposts

I used to hate journaling. I thought it was a crutch. Looking back, I realize that I was actually just terrified that somebody might stumble across it and read the truth about me. I always liked the thought of owning a fancy Italian leather-bound journal...I just didn't want to write anything in it.

Regardless, at one of my especially low points, I stumbled across a podcast on mindfulness that seemed...well, a less desperate form of journaling. It was a simple plan for daily self-reflection: Each evening take five minutes and write down three positive things that happened to you and one thing you could have done better that day. 

That's it.

It was less important what was remembered--it might be a cup of coffee, a certain song on the radio, a conversation with a co-worker. Rather, the goal was to remember that life was taking place around you, whether you realized it or not. 

One of the great epiphanies that I have had in my journey to recovery is realizing that pornography has a frightening ability to turn you inward. And when you are only looking inward, its amazing what you miss around you. Plus, being aware helps you to be non-reactive.

I'm so thankful now that I stumbled across that podcast. Because I now have a progress report from various places on my journey. The "three up, one down" journal eventually expanded to a daily check-in with myself. Later, it became a quote and Bible memory repository and finally a hybrid prayer journal. Looking back, these entries are signposts from my journey and they are precious to me. 

I remember finishing the Covenant Eyes 40 Day Challenge and one of their summary points has stuck with me. These points on your journey must be footsteps, not monuments. Because a footstep says "I was once here" while a monument says "this is the furthest made it."

If you are looking for a good place to start this journey, I recommend checking in with yourself first. You might include a memorable verse or quote. 

In the end, I purchased an cheap spiral-bound journal from Walgreen's. It looks industrial and the pages smell like chemicals. Its perfect. Below is one of my signposts from January 2017:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...For surely he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler. 
-Psalm 91: 3

"O backslider do not despair. Wanderer, though thou hast been, hear what the Redeemer saith: Return, O backsliding children; I will have mercy upon you. 

But you say you cannot return, for you are a captive? Then listen to the promise- Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler. Thou shall be brought out of all evil from which thou hast fallen. He has loved thee and will not cast thee away. He will receive thee and give the joy and gladness."

-C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Two Roads, Two Rooms

John Lynch is a pastor at Open Door Fellowship in Phoenix and author of My Worst Day and The Cure. In this allegory, he portrays the battle of Trusting God versus Pleasing God as two roads and two rooms. The rooms that we inevitably encounter are either the "Room of Good Intentions" or the "Room of Grace." If you have 45 minutes the full video is formative and well worth your time.

If you're like me, you have worn a mask in the room of good intentions for a long time. Something John references in his talk was shared with me recently when discussing my own journey: We can gain respect from behind a mask. But no one tells you that when you wear a mask, only the mask gets to receive love.

John has adapted these and many of these points in his book The Cure: What if God isn't who you think he is and neither are you. There he writes about the Room of Grace:

What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more In the telling of it? Those in the Room of Grace are in the process of being freed to live beyond preoccupation over their next failure. They're trusting who God says they are, instead of adding up their behaviors to prove their godliness.

You can listen to John discuss the Room of Grace in this clip from the UndoneRedone podcast below.

Soundcloud: John Lynch from UndoneRedone

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Nate Larkin Testimony

Nate Larkin is a former pastor and founder of the Samson Society. His boldness and sense of community is a huge inspiration for this group. Watch his powerful testimony in the clip above. Below is a quote from his book Samson and the Pirate Monks which you can purchase here.

He writes:

Deep within my DNA, apparently, lies the conviction that I have been put on earth to do huge things, spectacular things, and that by virtue of my destiny I occupy a privileged place above the common run of humanity. It is an attitude that expresses itself in strange ways, such as a reluctance to stand in line and wait my turn, or fill our forms, or follow rules. Rules, after all, are for ordinary people and I am a special case. My grandiosity manipulates every situation to achieve its own ends, and does so shamelessly.

Oddly enough, I am also prone to bouts of self egomaniac with an inferiority complex. These are the two faces of my pride, and both of them cajole me to greater effort. They tell me that I must justify myself by doing more. They say that I must get more at-bats and that I must hit the ball harder and farther. I must do great things for God.

My friends tell me something different. They remind me that I am merely part of a team. I am unique, they say, but only in the way that every snowflake is unique. We are different, but not so easily distinguished. We are all composed of the same stuff. We all fall to the ground and we achieve our most captivating beauty  in community.

When I listen to the stories of my brothers, I find to my surprise that they are telling my story too. A friend shares his weakness, and I am strengthened by it. Another shares his experience, and it fills a hole in my own. As my ego deflates and I take my rightful place within the created order, I feel the joy that comes from living as a worker among workers, a man among men.

...The city of God is being built, and it is being built one brick at at  time. A game with a child. An honest conversation with a friend. An evening with a  spouse. A phone call. An admission. An apology. A disclosure. A small fidelity.

One brick at at time.

Points of Departure

Day One.

How many times have we all said that before, right? 

If you have found your way here, we're glad. Its a very good place to start. This blog is intended to be an outpost. It is a forward operating base placed in enemy territory and stocked with resources to prevent a counter attack from the enemy. Think of it as a way of taking back the internet. Our goal is to have videos, podcasts and links that will encourage you. 

But for my first post, we begin where I began when this journey started for me, when someone gave me a copy of J.I. Packer's excellent book Knowing God. I immediately encountered this section...namely because it was in the introduction. For the record, I did make it farther than the introduction, although that hasn't always been the case with my Christian book scholarship. 

I hope this will frame the goal for this blog. I have taken a little creative license at the end which I hope you will permit:

In A Preface to Christian Theology, John Mackay illustrated two kinds of interest in Christian things by picturing persons sitting on the high front balcony of a Spanish house, watching travelers go by on the road below. The "balconeers" can overhear the travelers' talk and chat with them; they may comment critically on the way that the travelers walk; or they may discuss questions about the road, how it can exist at all or lead anywhere, what might be seen from different points along it, and so forth; but they are onlookers, and their problems are theoretical only.

The travelers, by contrast, face problems which are essentially practical- problems of the "which-way-to-go" and "how-to-make-it" type, problems which call not merely for comprehension but for decision and action too.

Balconeers and travelers may think over the same area, yet their problems differ. For instance, in relation to evil, the balconeer's problem is to find a theoretical explanation of how evil can consist with God's sovereignty and goodness, but the traveler's problem is how to master evil and bring good out of it. Or in relation to sin, the balconeer asks whether sinfulness and personal perversity are really credible, while the traveler, knowing sin from within, asks what hope there is of deliverance. 

Now this a blog for travelers, and it is with travelers' questions that it deals.