Keep on Swimming. . .

everyday life inside the fishbowl

Learning to Love God’s Word, Psalm 119-style

open bibleHave you ever read Psalm 119 and felt guilty that you don’t love God’s Word like the psalmist? Or have you ever thought–Wow! I wonder what it’s like to feel so passionate about the Bible?!

(Or do you just skim through that chapter anyway when it comes up because it is so. incredibly. long–especially when you were just able to breeze through 117?)

Here’s a taste of the psalmist’s love of and dependence on God’s Word in Psalm 119:

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all day. (97)

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (103)

I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. (127)

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. (129)

I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. (131)

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. (148-149)

Do you feel that way about God’s Word?

I have been in that place where I know that God’s Word is good. I know that it is helpful. I know that I should read it. And so I read.

But I did not necessarily “open my mouth and pant, because I long” to read God’s Word.

But now I do. I can truly, honestly say, “Oh how I love your law!” “How sweet are your words to my taste.”

What changed?

Ever since having children, I have struggled–as most moms do–with squeezing in quiet time. For me, I know that if I don’t get that time in the morning, it’s just not going to happen. That is the time I also tried to exercise, after which I would read my Bible. Getting up early is challenging enough, but getting up early to exercise–something I’ve traditionally not enjoyed–was not motivating, even though I knew I’d read my Bible after.

A few months ago, I decided that I needed to adjust my schedule. I decided to exercise a few times a week during the kids “quiet” time. (I’m actually more motivated to do this now, because my husband bought me a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and I listen to audiobooks off my library app. I actually look forward to this now!)

This has allowed me to save my morning quiet time for time with the Lord. I prepare my coffee every night, and I have 45 minutes to 1 hour at least 5 days a week to read. Because I enjoy my quiet time, and because I’ve grown in my love for and desire to read God’s Word, I have been extremely motivated to get up. I have not intentionally slept through my alarm once!

I say all this to explain the practical changes I had to make in order to prioritize having a consistent time with the Lord. Once I had this time, I actually had the time to do more than read a few verses, a psalm, or the proverb of the day.

I found the time to thoroughly study individual books of the Bible.

I truly believe that this is what is key to loving God’s Word. Reading God’s Word is good. But studying God’s Word with a heart to know it fosters a vibrant love and desire for God and His Word.

Think of the things you really love. How did your love for that thing, hobby, study, or person develop? It likely did not just pop up in your heart. You invested time, energy, and interest in it.

Love for God’s Word is not necessarily a natural instinct for a believer either. You must invest time, energy, and interest in it as you would anything else.

I would go further and say that we should invest more time, energy, and interest in what truly brings life to a believer, God’s Word. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 when he says,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Do you really believe that?

Studying God’s Word takes work. It takes more time and mental energy than simply reading through some verses. Obviously there are those days, when that is all one may have time for. But knowing God’s Word requires studying it. And studying God’s Word fosters love for God’s Word.

In the future, I will post some tips on how to study God’s Word and some resources for doing so. Just know that studying God’s Word does not require a seminary degree, a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, or even access to a commentary. It requires a Bible, pen and paper, and a heart that recognizes that

Your testimonies are wonderful;

therefore my soul keeps them.

The unfolding of your words gives light;

it imparts understanding to the simple.

I open my mouth and pant,

because I long for your commandments.

(Psalm 119:129-131)

 

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

 

Advertisements
2 Comments »

Worthy Word Wednesday: Pornography: How It Works and How to Reverse Its Effects (Part 2 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog.The below article is  helpful in understanding what has typically been perceived as a male problem. However, the fact is that many women view or read pornographic material as well. The below article is one my husband wrote for his men’s Bible study, so it is geared toward men, but I’m sure that much could apply to women ensnared in this sin as well. Last week I posted part 1 about how pornography works. This week we look at how to reverse its effects from a biblical perspective. You can find the original article here.

staring-eyesHow to Reverse the Effects of Pornography: A Biblical Perspective

As helpful as it is to understand the physiological process of how pornography works, God gave us His Word to correct and instruct us on any matter, let alone the topic of sexual sin (cf. 2 Tim 3:16–17), and beyond this, Scripture has a great deal to say about the topic of sexual sin. This is not to say that it would not be useful to some degree to do physiological studies that would yield suggestions for battling porn. It is to say, however, that God’s Word already explicitly addresses the matter of how to handle sexual sin, so why would we run elsewhere first for answers?

What follows below is a brief look at the greater biblical means of reversing the effects of porn. It would certainly help to give a detailed examining of many texts on the topic of sexual sin, but for the sake of brevity, these texts must be assumed within the broader framework of what follows below.1

The work of God in salvation begins a definitive work in us whereby we progress in our sanctification and thus desire all sin, porn included, less and less over time. We must avail ourselves to God’s many means of grace so that we increase in our affection for Him and thereby diminish our desire for porn. What follows are a few points to explain these thoughts more fully.

Repent of sin and Believe in the Gospel

Seeking and deriving pleasure from pornography is sin. As with any sin, one must understand Jesus Christ as fully God and man who lived a perfect life and sinlessly died for the sin of all mankind (Rom 5:8–10; 2 Cor 5:20–21), including sin that involves pornography. All those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ find forgiveness and cleansing in Him (1 John 1:8–9).

Die to sin and live to God in Christ Jesus

The work of salvation includes having died to our former way of life and being no longer dominated by the power of sin (Rom 6:5–6). The reign of sin in our lives has been definitively breached and broken. At the point of salvation and thereafter, we progressively put away what remains of sin and live unto righteousness by the power of the Spirit (Rom 6:6; 8:13; Gal 5:16–26).2 We will certainly do so because God continues His work in us until Christ’s return (Phil 1:6). As we grow in our affection for God, our desire for pornography will diminish.

Put the Pornography Away

“Sexual immorality, impurity, passion”—it is these things that we must “put to death” immediately (Col 3:5). To actively sin through pornography while claiming to have fellowship with God is to walk in darkness, lie, and not practice the truth (1 John 1:6). Along with our salvation [i.e., as one who has been saved], we [you] must get rid of your porn. Throw out your magazines and videos, clear your internet favorites, and get rid of all your pornography, whatever form it may be.

Lead Yourself Not into Temptation

Not only must we get rid of our porn, but we must also put up checks and balances that keep us from engaging in this sin again. Just as we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” so also we must “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). It is not sin or legalism to do what it takes to keep yourself from sinning again. Get a filter for the internet on every device, have an accountability partner, and do whatever it takes to keep yourself away from porn.

Equip Yourself with God’s Word

We have all we need for “life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” open bible(2 Pet 1:3). This knowledge of God is found in His Word and comes to us through personal study and preaching. It is through Scripture that we may be “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17). Memorizing and meditating upon Scriptures immediately applicable to pornography are particularly helpful activities that will equip you to do battle against your sin. As David said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).

Change Yourself through the Church

The ministry of the saints to one another grows us toward a “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13; cf. 4:11–16). The church and its individual members spur one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24–25) and provide an accountability to one another that brings about admonition and discipline when necessary (Matt 18:15–18; Rom 15:14). Our interaction with one another pushes us away from sins like engaging in porn, and the saints and the assembly admonish us to stop such sin if present.

Intentionally Renew Your Mind

In whatever you do with the time that would have been given to pornography, “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17), and “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Since you have previously given yourself to sensuality through pornography to some degree, you should likely be all the more mindful to do things that intentionally renew your mind unto righteousness and holiness in order to diminish the effects of your previous habit (cf. Eph 4:17–24). Such renewal could be through listening to sermons, reading Christian literature, or meditating directly on Scripture.

Conclusion

Perhaps we could tread lightly and suggest that salvation and progressive sanctification undo the physiological effects of pornography over time. The satisfaction one knows from salvation and its fruit and whatever concurrent dopamine release there may be along the way may just leave pathways created by iFosB that help to motivate righteous habits in time. Meditation upon one’s redemption and its practical outworking may give a joy whereby the brain says, “This feels good; let’s remember how to get back there.” Perhaps the former pornographer finds himself eventually thirsting not for porn but for God because his joy in Him is so much more fulfilling than what he once received from porn. Could this not be so?

Whatever the exact physiological description of the joy of our salvation may be, as we have seen, we can actively choose by God’s power to abstain from sexual sin. We find our joy in Christ, and though we struggle to put away what remains of our sexual sin, whether involving pornography or something else, we do so with the hope that all our spiritually destructive cravings will one day be changed and we will no longer want porn again. Our “Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20–21), and “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). May we strive to be now what we shall be then, like our Savior Jesus Christ, with no addiction to porn, and living for the glory of God.

  1. For further study, however, see Tim Challies,Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn(Adelphi, MD: Cruciform, 2010); Erwin Lutzer, Winning the Inner War: How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2002); and Edward T. Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave : Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001). 
  2. For a theology of definitive and progressive sanctification, see Anthony A. Hoekema, “The Reformed Perspective,” 59–90, inFive Views on Sanctification (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987); John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 141–50. 

 

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

Leave a comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday:  Pornography: How It Works and How to Reverse Its Effects (Part 1 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog. This article was originally posted here. The below article is  helpful in understanding what has typically been perceived as a male problem. However, the fact is that many women view or read pornographic material as well. The below article is one my husband wrote for his men’s Bible study, so it is geared toward men, but I’m sure that much could apply to women ensnared in this sin as well.

 

staring-eyesIntroduction

Pornography is defined as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement,”1 and it is obvious that pornography is an epidemic in our society. It is imperative that we as Christians understand this epidemic and equip ourselves to live righteously in its midst.

It should be clarified at the outset that the activity of researching this topic leaves one overwhelmed by the myriad of resources that have been written in reporting on and responding to this epidemic. Moreover, when one’s habit of study is not in the field of medical science, there is a certain hesitation and humility that comes from leaning so much on the words of others. It is not my intention to misunderstand or misrepresent the sources cited below. Nonetheless, what follows below is one man’s meager attempt at examining how pornography works and how to biblically reverse its effects for his own sake and the sake of those who listen.

A 2006 study indicated that the US spends an annual $13 billion on pornography, and $3 billion of that total is for pornography through the internet.2 Pornography has become so mainstream in our world today that free porn has led to a 50% decline in porn revenue worldwide since 2007.3 In other words, porn is so common that it is abundant and free. Why even pay for it? Just look at how this epidemic affects society today:4

  • $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second.
  • 28,258 internet users view pornography every second.
  • 372 internet users type adult search terms into search engines every second.
  • A new pornographic video is created every 39 minutes in the United States.
  • There are 4.2 million pornographic websites, which is 12% of all

The average age of seeing porn for the first time is 11 years old.5 One study suggests 1 out of 5 teenage men view pornography “every day or almost every day.”6 The Washington Post reported, “According to a report commissioned by Congress, some 70 million individuals visit pornographic Web sites each week; about 11 million of them are younger than 18.”7 Proven Men Ministries hired the Barna Group to conduct [a] survey of a representative 1,000 adult men in the US in 2014. Reportedly, “Approximately two-thirds (64%) of U.S. men view pornography at least monthly,” and sadly, “The number of Christian men viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average.”8

Temptation lurks in every corner. Are you part of those statistics? If so, do you realize what porn does or has done to you? How do you reverse its effects?

How Pornography Works: A Physiological Explanation

Porn Gives Instant Pleasure

Men receive sexual pleasure by the mere sight of explicit pornography. The pleasure received from this experience is similar to taking a drug. This similarity is described in this way:

“Once we got a peek into the brain . . . our understanding of how addictions work changed. It turns out, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs have more in common than you might think. Sure, on the outside, some are poured into a glass while others are lit on fire and smoked. But once they’re in the body, they all do the same thing to the brain: flood it with a chemical called dopamine. That’s what makes them addictive. And porn does the exact same thing.”9

As mentioned, pornography pleasure[s] through the release of dopamine, “a chemical that makes you feel good.”10 One article describes dopamine and similar chemicals released by one’s body in this way: “They help us feel pleasure and to bond with other people, and they motivate us to come back to important activities that make us happy.”11 The means whereby dopamine will “motivate us to come back” to the activity that produced its release is by its relation to the protein iFosB. One article explains,

“When a person is aroused by porn, their brain releases a chemical called dopamine that makes them feel pleasure. As the dopamine goes through their brain, it leaves behind a pathway created by a protein called iFosB (pronounced delta fos b) that connects feeling aroused to looking at porn. Basically dopamine is saying ‘this feels good; let’s remember how to get back here,’ and iFosB goes to work building a brain pathway to make it easier for the person to do that again. When this happens with healthy behaviors it is a good thing, but when it happens with unhealthy ones it can lead to trouble.”12

Putting these thoughts together, the instant and overwhelming pleasure of pornography motivates the user’s behavior to repeat this experience and to do so in [an] addictive manner.13

Porn Is Never Enough and Leaves You Wanting More

How does this addiction take place? Despite the instant pleasure that pornography provides, this pleasure wanes over time. The pornographic experience must be enhanced in order to achieve the same level of pleasure again.14 Here is a description of this addictive process:

“Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. But since the brain gets overwhelmed by the constant overload of chemicals that comes with consistent porn use, it fights back by taking away some of its dopamine receptors—which are like tiny ears on the end of a neuron that hear dopamine’s message.

“With fewer receptors, even if the brain is putting off the same levels of dopamine in response to porn, the user can’t feel dopamine’s effect as much. As a result, the porn they were looking at doesn’t seem as arousing or exciting, and many porn users go hunting for more porn or more hardcore porn to get the effect the old porn used to offer.

“As a frequent porn user’s brain acclimates to the new levels of dopamine flooding through it, regular activities that would normally set off a burst of dopamine and make the person feel happy aren’t strong enough to register much anymore, leaving the user feeling down or uneasy whenever they go for a while without looking at porn. That’s one reason why pornography can be so addictive.”15

As the user becomes addicted to pornography, this “addiction damages the part of the brain that helps you think things through to make good choices—the brain’s limit setting system.”16 The cumulative effect is that, as the user feeds his addiction to porn, he is less and less able to choose to break his addiction.17 Moreover, he seeks out more and more sensational pornography as his addiction continues.

In our advanced technological setting, one has the ability to feed this addiction all the more. As one author describes it, man cell phone“Thanks to the Internet, porn now mixes the most powerful natural dopamine release the body can produce with a cocktail of other elements—endless novelty, shock, and surprise—all of which increase the dopamine surge.”18 Princeton University professor Dr. Jeffrey Satinover describes this situation accordingly:

“With advent of the computer, the delivery system for this addictive stimulus has become nearly resistance-free. It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes. It’s now available in unlimited supply via a self-replicating distribution network, glorified as art and protected by the Constitution.”19

Porn and Its Behavioral Effects

A porn user’s behavior is affected by his seeking more porn, and porn of such a nature that allows him to feel the same pleasure as in his previous pornographic experiences. As the addiction increases, other activities in life decrease in their significance to the user and fall by the wayside in order to feed the addiction to porn because the use of porn is more fulfulling. This addiction can often lead to the use of personal funds for more sensational porn.20 Eventually, even the most pleasurable of pornographic experiences will begin to wane, and the user’s addictive behavior may lead to acting out upon what he has seen. Of the many examples that we could give, Dr. Satinover gives two:

“Since the 50s, as pornography became mainstreamed and pushed the envelope of normal sexual conduct, law enforcement reported that sex crimes mimicking comparable acts were being inflicted on women and children.”21

“Testimony from victims and police commonly finds pornography to be an on-site-sex abuse manual.”22

In general, one could say that the rapid production of more and more pornography over the past years is a behavioral illustration of the fact that no porn is ever enough. For the individual, computer usage increases (desktop, mobile, etc.), family relationships disintegrate (especially with one’s spouse), the act of sex loses its original pleasure, infidelity increases, etc.23 People involved in romantic relationships with the user feel “hurt, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, lonely, isolated, humiliated, jealous, and angry.”24

A Biblical Understanding of Enjoying Pornography

Seeing the physiological description of how porn works and giving an all-too-brief survey of its effects can leave anyone discouraged and wonder if a remedy for this epidemic even exists. Indeed, there is such a remedy, but let us not forget to look first at the survey above through the lens of Scripture.

Biblically, lusting after another person is sin in and of itself (Matt 5:28). Both the production of pornography and the enjoyment of such are also acts of sin. Sexual pleasure is to be enjoyed with one’s spouse alone (Gen 2:24; Heb 13:4), not through producing pornography for the enjoyment of others or being the one to enjoy it.25

For the user of pornography, it should be added that lust often leads to acting upon such lust. As one is tempted as lured and enticed by his own desires and these desires are provoked by porn, one may just act upon such desires, leading to spiritual death (James 1:14–15). Remember that for David, looking was not enough, especially when it is relatively easy to act upon these desires (2 Sam 11:2–5). And for the one who acts upon such desires, there will be consequences for his sin that will never go away (cf. 2 Sam 12:7–15; Prov 6:33).

Next week I’ll conclude with “How to Reverse the Effects of Pornography: A Biblical Perspective.”

  1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.11th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2003), s.v., “pornography.” 
  2. CovenantEyes, “Pornography Statistics: Annual Report 2014.” Online: http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/. Accessed 14 Jan 2015.  
  3. Ibid.
  4. All statistics in this list come from “Internet Pornography Statistics.” Online: http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html. Accessed 15 Jan 2015. These statistics stem from a study conducted in 2006. 
  5. “Internet Pornography Statistics.” 
  6. Covenant Eyes, “Pornography Statistics: 250+ facts, quotes, and statistics about pornography use (2013 Edition),” p. 15. Available online: http://blog.clinicalcareconsultants.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/porn_stats_2013_covenant_eyes.pdf.  This study consisted of 813 students from six schools in the US. 
  7. The Washington Post, “Protecting Kids Online.” 1 Jul 2006. Online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19307-2004Jun30.html. Accessed 16 Jan 2015. The author of the present paper could not find a copy of this study for himself, and the online article did not give this source a detailed citation. 
  8. Proven Men Ministries, “Pornography Use and Addiction.” Online: http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey/pornography-use-and-addiction/. Accessed 15 Jan 2015. For a helpful report on multiple surveys on this topic throughout the world, see Mike Genung, “Current Porn Statistics.” Online: http://www.roadtograce.net/current-porn-statistics/. Accessed 15 Jan 2015. The statistic given above differs somewhat from a report by Luke Gilkerson, “Get the Latest Pornography Statistics.” 19 Feb 2013. Online: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/. Allegedly, “Regular church attenders are 26% lesslikely to look at porn than non-attenders, but those self-identified as “fundamentalists” are 91% more likely to look at porn.” 
  9. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Addictive.” August 8, 2014. Online: fightthenewdrug.org/porn-is-addictive/#sthash.X4KlqVYZ.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  10. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Changes the Brain.” August 8, 2014. Online: fightthenewdrug.org/porn-changes-the-brain/#sthash.wZ9K17FU.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  11. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Like a Drug.” August 8, 2014. Online: fightthenewdrug.org/porn-is-like-a-drug/#sthash.MaGHW4LD.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  12. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Addiction Escalates.” August 8, 2014. Online: http://fightthenewdrug.org/porn-addiction-escalates/#sthash.9Oy50nDL.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  13. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Like a Drug.” 
  14. Albert Mohler, “Hijacking the Brain – How Pornography Works.” February 1, 2010. Online: http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/02/01/hijacking-the-brain-how-pornography-works/. Accessed 26 Jan 2015. 
  15. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Changes the Brain.” 
  16. Ibid.
  17. For empirical research on this conclusion, see Macrina Cooper-White, “Watching Porn Linked To Less Gray Matter In The Brain” (2 Jun 2014). Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/porn-less-gray-matter-brain_n_5418607.html. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  18. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Like a Drug.” 
  19. Jeffrey Satinover, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities.” Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space, November 18, 2004. Online: http://www.ccv.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Judith_Reisman_Senate_Testimony-2004.11.18.pdf. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. Satinover is quoted in brief in the previously referenced article as well. 
  20. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Addiction Escalates.” 
  21. Satinover, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities.” 
  22. Ibid.
  23. Covenant Eyes, “Pornography Statistics,” pp. 9–10. 
  24. Ibid.
  25. I would add that pornography within the confines of marriage is unwise at best, if the question must even be asked. It allows one spouse to engage in sexual pleasurewithout the other spouse, even though the absent spouse is “present” in the form of pornography. Also, watching videos of one another engaging in sexual relations or doing so while actually engaging in sexual relations with one another would seem to distract one another from the pleasure God intended to be derived from solely enjoying one another. Moreover, what if someone were to inadvertently stumble on such pornography? When does one choose to dispose of such pornography? Will the children or others have to identify and dispose of this pornography when their parents pass away (cf. Gen 9:22)? What if they, like Ham, have the perverse desire to look on the nakedness of their parents? Yet still, what if an older couple watches videos of themselves when they were young? Is that really seeing themselves for who they are in the present? The proliferation of technology creates many interesting questions for sexual ethics, but perhaps it is best to let “one flesh” mean as much today with respect to technology as it did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

1 Comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: How Much Exercise is Healthy?

tennis-shoesI don’t usually post about exercising, but I just read a tidbit I wanted to share, especially with any of my fellow exhausted young mommas. I am doing some reading in order to complete my nursing continuing education requirements for my license renewal. The following quote is taken from “Cardiovascular Diseases: The Leading Cause of Death in Women” by Jassin Jouria, M.D.

“The typical recommendation made by the Surgeon General of the United States, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine is to exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes on most days. An alternative option is to exercise vigorously for a minimum of 20 minutes 3 days a week[.] Exercising regularly improves mood and can help lower a high resting heart rate. It also lowers blood pressure and relieves stress.”

I love the addition of the alternative option–20 minutes vigorously for 3 days a week! This is doable! In fact, a workout that I have found that meets these qualifications is Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred (warning for any male readers: this link takes you to the Amazon page, which shows the dvd cover with Jillian Michaels immodestly dressed). In fact, I have been doing this workout 3 days a week lately, and though hard work, it is nice to be done in only 20 minutes.

So, take heart, fellow moms of littles. One hour a week of vigorous exercise is not only doable but heart-healthy! And, if you are discouraged because of the sporadic nature of your exercising, here’s another note of encouragement from the article:

It has been noted that even short bouts of activity favorably affect the risk profile of individuals who are otherwise inactive.

Now, quit reading blogs and go exercise. . . 😉

Leave a comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: Is It a Sin to Skip Church? (Part 2 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog. This article was originally posted here, another blog to which he regularly contributes. You can read part 1 here.

churchLast week, I gave one of two reasons that we should meet with our local church on Sunday, the Lord’s Day: we should meet together every week with our local church because it was clearly the pattern of the churches in the New Testament. Here’s reason number two.

Second, we should meet together every week with our local church because this setting is essential to provoking one another to love and good works.

I realize it is unpopular in an entertainment-driven culture to say that we must meet with our local church every Sunday unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise (e.g., working in health care, law enforcement, necessary travel, etc.). Sunday is part of one’s weekend and seems conducive to so many creature comforts that we could enjoy instead of meeting with the brethren. However, from Hebrews 10:24–25, I would firmly state that it is imperative for believers to gather with the assembly. Here’s the text:

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)

The command begins with “let us consider” (κατανοέω, katanoeō), a “hortatory verb” (i.e., a verb of command) that commands the readers to give careful thought to something.1 Specifically, their careful thought is to consider “how to stir up one another to love and good works,” a phrase which pretty much speaks for itself. The late Rodney J. Decker explains that this command then “follows with two explanatory participles that illustrate (both negatively and positively) how this exhortation is to be obeyed.”2 Negatively, the believers were to sir one another up to love and good works by not neglecting to meet together.3 Positively, the believers were to sir one another up to love and good works by encouraging one another. It would seem that the first participial phrase implies the setting for the second phrase to follow. Believers were to encourage one another by having gathered together to do so.

Apart from examining the grammar of these two verses, it is helpful to examine other details as well. First, consider the assembly. The ESV translates the noun “assembly” (ἐπισυναγωγή, episunagōgē) with an infinitive phrase that indicates its function, “to meet together.”  Quoting John Owen, A. W. Pink points out that the author of Hebrews uses synechdoche, that is, he refers to part of something in order to refer to the whole. By referring to the assembly, the author of Hebrews refers to all that is included in one’s overall worship of Christ.4 At the same time, it is clear that the physical gathering of the assembly is particularly in view. The nature of the believers’ meeting together (ἐπισυναγωγή, episunagōgē) is indicated by the following phrase “as is the habit of some.”5 In other words, the assembly habitually assembled (every Lord’s Day), and some had made it a habit to abandon this assembly.

Second, consider the reason for meeting together. The Day was approaching, which I assume to be the day in which Christ comes again.6 Quoting Decker again, because the day was approaching, “They dared not cease attending the meetings of assembly (though some had already done so) but should place an even greater priority on such interaction and mutual encouragement.”7

Third, consider the verb “to neglect.” The use of “neglect” (ἐγκαταλείπω, egkataleipō) elsewhere suggests that neglect is not a strong enough translation of this verb. Just before His death, Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; cf. Mark 15:34). Demas loved the present world and thus deserted Paul (2 Tim 4:10). When Paul stood to defend himself and the gospel, all had deserted him (2 Tim 4:16). To neglect the assembly was to intentionally abandon the assembly, a clear indication that such an individual doing so lacked the desire to provoke others towards love and good works. Conversely, to neglect the assembly could indicate the lack of desire to be provoked by others towards love and good works as well.

Considering this verb further, what may have been significant about this verb in a letter written to the Hebrews is that this verb often described Israel’s abandonment of God in the Greek translation of the OT. The use of this verb could have thus been an implicit warning in and of itself not to go the way of Israel who abandoned God time and again.8

Some Practical Thoughts

In this study of Hebrews 10:24–25, I found some practical thoughts by some of the authors to be helpful on personal and pastoral levels.

First, the focus of this command is not for people to be at a service so that they can hear the sermon. Timothy R. Nichols says this: “In the assembly, they are to exhort each other. The verse does not say, ‘Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, but listening to teaching.’ Teaching is vital, but the assembly the author of Hebrews has in mind is one where believers are encouraging each other—this is at the very least a major part of the activity.”9 Indirectly, one could say that “the exhortation” (1 Tim 4:13) by an elder could be a part of the exhortation of Hebrews 10:24–25, but the focus is clearly on how each member exhorts one another. This thought should provoke us to be more thoughtful as to how [we] can better facilitate the “one another” aspect of the assembly each Lord’s day so that we can stir one another up as Hebrews 10:24–25 commands. Simply walking into an auditorium, sitting in pews, and walking out leaves much encouragement to be desired.

Second, neglecting the assembly shows that believers lack a proper desire to love and be loved and to encourage and be encouraged. Simon J. Kistemaker says this: “One of the first indications of a lack of love toward God and the neighbor is for a Christian to stay away from the worship services. He forsakes the communal obligations of attending these meetings and displays the symptoms of selfishness and self-centeredness.”10 To this, Paul Ellingworth adds that the ability to provoke one another to love and good works “cannot be sustained unless members of the Christian community meet to encourage and exhort one another.”11 Missing a Sunday here and there without good reason may not be the worst sin in the world, but it does betray a degree of self-centeredness to enjoy something other than stirring up the people of God towards love and good works. If this neglect persists and becomes a habit, it could lead to abandonment altogether.

As the author of Hebrews says, let us encourage one another, in the assembly, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews(PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2010), 369.
  2. Rodney J. Decker, “The Exhortations of Hebrews 10:19–25,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 6(2002): 57. See also David L. Allen, Hebrews (NAC 35; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2010), 518. Allen calls all of Heb 10:24–25 an “imperatival idea” that contains a command which “is modified in v. 25 by two contrasting present tense participles.” The same is said by O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, 370. “Not neglecting to meet together,” says O’Brien, is one of “two contrasting expressions that explain how we can stir one another up to godly living.” Hebrews 10:25 is not the command proper, but it is clearly a part of the command in Hebrews 10:24. For this reason, some refer to Hebrews 10:25 as a command in and of itself without even referring to Hebrews 10:24. See, e.g., Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed.(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 1066. In discussing worship as an activity of the church, Erickson says only this of Hebrews 10:25: “The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers not to neglect the assembling of themselves together as was the habit of some (Heb. 10:25).” Taking Hebrews 10:25 as an imperative of sorts is also  echoed by Thomas Kem Oberholtzer, “The Warning Passages in Hebrews Part 4: The Danger of Willful Sin in Hebrews 10:26–39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (1988): 411. He states that “the readers were encouraged to do four things,” one of which was to “not forsake their assembling together (10:25).”
  3. William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13(WBC 47B; Word, 1998), 290. Lane states, “The reason the meetings of the assembly are not to be neglected is that they provide a communal setting where mutual encouragement and admonition may occur.”
  4. Arthur W. Pink. An Exposition of Hebrews(Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1954), 594.
  5. Allen, Hebrews, 518–19. Allen gives a helpful survey of commentators’ conclusions concerning the meaning of ἐπισυναγωγή (episunagōgē).
  6. See F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 259–60.
  7. Decker, “The Exhortations of Hebrews 10:19–25,” 61.
  8. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text(NIGTC: Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: Eerdmans, 1993), 528; Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, 370.
  9. Timothy R. Nichols, “Beyond the Pulpit: Two Ways Ordinary Believers Minister to the Church,” Michigan Theological Journal 10 (2004): 36.
  10. Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Hebrews(NTC 15; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker: 1984), 290.
  11. Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 527.

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

Leave a comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: Is It a Sin to Skip Church? (Part 1 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog. This article was originally posted here, another blog to which he regularly contributes.

churchI should rephrase the question to be more precise – is it a sin to intentionally schedule something unnecessary in place of the assembly of believers?

I realize that much could be said for the descriptor “unnecessary.” Some must miss church for necessary reasons. Their occupation is to save lives, uphold the law, etc. I could go on, but, for the purpose of keeping this article relatively brief, I will leave it at that.

My answer would be yes, it is sin to intentionally schedule something unnecessary in place of the assembly of believers. I make this conclusion for two reasons.

First, we should meet together every week with our local church because it was clearly the pattern of the churches in the New Testament.

The first churches met every week on Sundays, a precedent that we as believers are to follow today. Luke began his description of a trip by Paul to Troas in this way: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, he talked with them” (Acts 20:7). If Luke’s description of Paul’s activities at Troas were representative of what took place in churches in general, the early assembly of a local church typically included the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of God’s Word.(1)

Similarly, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to make a collection for him according to how he had previously instructed the Galatian churches (cf. 1 Cor 16:1): “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Cor 16:2). Paul expected them to meet on Sundays and could instruct collections accordingly. Though the collection he commanded may have been of a more private nature at first,(2) the command to do so was for the purpose of not collecting funds as a gathered assembly when Paul stayed with the church.(3) Collections aside, 1 Cor 16:2 assumes Christians would assemble on the first day of the week.

My simple point from these two examples(4) is this: if the NT description of the early churches was to meet on Sunday every week, I think it is fair to say that we should do the same today. But, you may say, that’s only a description and not a prescription. Descriptions only go so far, and I grant this point. But, what is helpful is that Scripture also gives a command that pertains to the weekly assembling of believers as well. And that will be a matter to discuss in my next post.
________________________________________
1. John B. Polhill, Acts (NAC 26; Broadman & Holman, 1995), 419.
2. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 813.
3. David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 753–54.
4. A third text often brought into this discussion is Rev 1:10. John is described to have a vision on “the Lord’s Day,” which is likely a reference to the first day of the week on which the Lord Jesus rose from the grave (cf. Matt 28:1).

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

1 Comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: Chosen to Serve {Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives}

pastorsfamilybook

 

Another of the (many) books that I am in the midst of reading is one written for pastoral families, The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by a pastor and his wife, Brian and Cara Croft. So far, it has been challenging and encouraging. I wanted to just share one snippet of encouragement for other pastors’ wives:

“Remember that God did not place you in this position accidentally. He has chosen you to be at your current church, with your husband, doing the things you are doing. Know that you are exactly where God wants you to be, whether or not you feel qualified today. Embrace this truth. Grow to love it. And trust that God is using you as the wife of a pastor for his purposes and glory” (p 92).

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

Leave a comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: Book Recommendation ~ Women of the Word

photo (8)I have become increasingly passionate in the last couple years about people–particularly women–learning how to study the Bible. It is so frustrating and sad when I see the level of biblical illiteracy that exists among Christians, particularly Christians who have been believers for many years. It seems that many people, especially women, are content to read devotionals, a Proverb-a-day, or topical readings about women in the Bible. The thought seems to be that deep study of Scripture should be left to the pastors and other theologians who have had some sort of higher training.

Lately, however, I have become more convinced than ever how important it is for every believer to know the Word. As I combat my own sinfulness, as I seek to view life through a biblical worldview, as I seek to evangelize the lost, and as I (most importantly) seek to know who God is and what he wants me to know, I have realized that we need to know all of Scripture. And we need to know it well.

Although taking a hermeneutics (principles of biblical interpretation) class would be nice, most people do not have this luxury. What then are we “plain folk” ( 😉 ) to do?

Jen Wilkin, a Christian author, speaker, and blogger, has written a great book to discuss this very issue, called Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. She writes in her introduction:

This book intends. . . . to teach you not merely a doctrine, concept, or story line, but a study method that will allow you to open up the Bible on your own. It intends to challenge you to think and to grow, using tools accessible to all of us, whether we hold a high school diploma [or not!] or a seminary degree, whether we have minutes or hours to give to it each day. This book intends to change the way you think about Bible study (p. 18).

In chapter 1, Jen discusses the need to turn around a couple ways we view Bible study. We first need to “let the Bible speak of God” (p. 23). Secondly, we need to “let the mind transform the heart” (p. 28).

In chapter 2, she lists several methods of Bible reading that are unhelpful (if done exclusively) for true biblical literacy:

  • The Xanax Approach: reading whatever passage that seems to deal with whatever problem I currently have
  • The Pinball Approach: reading whatever passage I randomly open
  • The Magic 8 Ball Approach: randomly pointing to a verse to make a decision
  • The Personal Shopper Approach (a.k.a. the Topical Bible Study): gives only a partial, non-cohesive understanding of Scripture
  • The Telephone Game Approach : reading books about the Bible
  • The Jack Sprat Approach: only reading the parts of Scripture that are easy, interesting, or seemingly applicable

Chapters 3-7 discuss what Jen calls the Five P’s of Sound Study: Study with Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process, and Prayer.

In chapter 8, Jen walks her readers through how to study, using the book of James as an example.

Chapter 9 concludes with some wise words to women who are teachers or whom the Lord could use as teachers.

I highly recommend this book to women who are looking to really know God’s Word. Hopefully this is the desire of every woman. May our love for God be evidenced by our desire to know him!

(Jen has some excellent resources on her blog the beginning of wisdom as well. Our ladies’ group at church is nearly done with her 1 Peter Bible study, and we have thoroughly enjoyed it!)

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

Leave a comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: A Prayer for My Pastor (& Husband)

woman_prayingBeing married to a pastor, especially a senior pastor brings many challenges (and blessings) to a marriage and family. My husband has been a senior pastor for a year and a half now–the most challenging time in our lives, our marriage, and our family.

What are some of the things that make pastoring (thus marriage to a pastor) so difficult? Here are a few:

 

  • A pastor (and his family) are growing sinners saved by grace–just like every other Christian. Yet, the pastor must get up 1-3 times a week (and more, when you include counseling) and tell other Christians how the Bible calls us to live, act, feel, think, etc. Talk about humbling and so discouraging when you are faced with your own sins!
  • A pastor can rarely get away from his work. Work=church=personal social interactions=kids’ friends=wife’s friends. My former pastor used to quote another pastor who answered the question, “When do you work?” with “I wake up in the middle of it.” So, so true (assuming, however, that your work hasn’t kept you from sleeping because you are so burdened about something).
  • A pastor’s burdens are his (and God’s) alone. A pastor knows many of the burdens of most of the people in his church. He cannot share this compilation of burdens with anyone within the church, including his wife. It is often a heavy burden to bear.

There are many other challenges, some varying on the location, size, and make-up of individual local churches. While we have faced many challenges, these difficulties have grown us in innumerable ways. They have stretched us personally, interpersonally, and as a couple.

These difficulties, though, have sometimes made it difficult for me to pray for my husband. Oftentimes I just don’t know how to pray, because–as I mentioned above–I don’t even know the issues that are burdening or discouraging him. I just know he needs my prayer.

So, one day, I sat down and read the book of Second Timothy. I compiled a list of ways that Paul (a veteran pastor) exhorted or encouraged his young friend and fellow pastor, Timothy. I realized that these embody the very struggles of a pastor. Thus, these are very specific ways I could pray for my own pastor and husband. (I framed a copy of this for him for Christmas this year!)

  1. I pray that you would fan into flame your gifts with courage, love, and self control (1:6-7).
  2. I pray that you would not be ashamed of the Gospel, but rather suffer for it by God’s power, the same power that saved you (1:8-12).
  3. I pray that you would be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1).
  4. I pray that you would pass the Gospel on to faithful men who will then teach others (2:2).
  5. I pray that you would share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2:3).
  6. I pray that you would have a single-minded desire to please God (2:4).
  7. I pray that you would obey God’s rules in order to succeed (2:5).
  8. I pray that you would work hard, holding to the promise of blessing (2:6).
  9. I pray that you (especially in times of suffering) would think and meditate on these things (#5-7), knowing that God will give you understanding (2:7).
  10. I pray that you would remember the Gospel, namely Jesus Christ, the One who is risen from the dead (2:8).
  11. I pray that you would be moved to endurance by the truths of the Gospel (2:10-13).
  12. I pray that you would zealously pursue God’s approval by correctly handling Scripture (2:15).
  13. I pray that you would avoid irreverent babble (2:16).
  14. I pray that you would flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2:22).
  15. I pray that you would avoid foolish and ignorant controversies; rather than being quarrelsome, I pray that you would be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently endure evil, and correct opponents with gentleness, for some might repent (2:23-24).
  16. I pray that you will understand that there will be times of difficulty with sinful people who have an external appearance of godliness yet deny the Gospel; I pray that you would avoid these people (3:1-9)
  17. I pray that, despite persecution, you would continue in what you’ve learned in Scripture, knowing that it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. I pray that you would be competent and equipped for every good work (3:10-17).
  18. I pray that you would preach the word, in season and out of season. I pray that you would reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching–especially in a time when people won’t endure sound teaching but rather find teachers who suit their own fancy and wander from truth to myths (4:1-4).
  19. I pray that you would always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry (4:5).
  20. I pray that you would be encouraged by Paul’s example of one who has fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, and received a crown of righteousness (4:6-8).
  21. I pray that the Lord be with your spirit. I pray that grace be with you (4:22).

Amen.

Tomorrow starts a new year. Why not resolve to pray for your pastor at least every week? This would be such an encouragement for your pastor (and husband, if applicable). I know my husband has been so encouraged.

Know also that God answers prayer! These prayers are not simply ways to encourage your pastor/husband. But they are requests to a God who can and does answer the very requests that we ask of Him for another. God can use the very trials of pastoring to grow a pastor in greater Christlikeness through our prayers!

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

 

 

Leave a comment »

Worthy Word Wednesday: “Keep Calm and . . . ” :)

Moms, need I say more? My son even has the giraffe, “Spot,” whom he carries around. Also required, however, is the blanket that is wrapped securely without any body parts below the neck showing around the giraffe! 🙂

Happy Wednesday!

3 Comments »