7 Necessary Tactics to Beat Porn Addiction

How do you beat porn addiction? For the man or woman who has been fighting this battle for the long time, often its seems like there’s no hope in sight. When we want to change, what practical defenses can be put in place that make for lasting change?

This article is an excellent resource for fighting porn addiction. Click the links in each heading to read more about each strategy.

http://www.covenanteyes.com/2014/10/03/7-necessary-tactics-beat-porn-addiction/

When My Soul Feels Bleh

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.”  (Psa 42:5-6 ESV)

The verses above were not from my morning Scripture reading. I wouldn’t be writing this post if they had been. Because my morning reading was from Jeremiah 49-50 (following The Gospel Transformation Bible reading plan). Those chapters, full of pronouncements of judgement upon Ammon and Edom and Babylon, might be inspired but I didn’t find them very inspiring. So what do we do when our private times in God’s Word are not inspiring? Feeling “bleh” is not a new thing for Christians. Nor is it abnormal. That’s why I quoted from Psalm 42 above: it’s one of my favourite passage in which the Psalmist recognizes his soul feels bleh, or worse, despairing, and he turns back to God to fuel his joy. “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…”

This morning, as I struggled with feeling bleh, I was reminded of of something I had read from John Piper just a few days earlier. You see, Piper showed that we can find motivation to meditate on the Scripture when we acknowledge our desperate need for God, repenting of our sin. So, aware of my sin and my need, I sit down and open the Bible to study the words of life. Great. What then? If we leave it at that, we just end up with knowledgeable souls that still feel bleh. The next thing Piper mentioned we need to do is pray. Commune with God over what we read; meditate prayerfully on the promises we find centred in Christ throughout the Bible so that we hope in Him. But what I remembered about what I had read in Piper’s book was from the life of George Mueller, who had himself realized that Bible reading and prayer by themselves were not sufficient to cure his soul from spiritual boredom. When he discovered this, he made it his goal to have his soul “become happy in the Lord.”

Here’s the whole excerpt from John Piper’s book. The same book I quoted in my last post. The credit and source is at the bottom.

GEORGE MUELLER’S EXAMPLE
George Mueller is noteworthy for his great faith in the work of his orphanages. In his autobiography, he has a section entitled, “How to be Constantly Happy in the Lord.” He complains how for years he used to try to pray early in the morning and found that his mind wandered again and again. Then he made a discovery. He records it like this:

The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.

The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . Before this time my practice had been at least for ten years previously as a habitual thing to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, while meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began, therefore, to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning early in the morning.

The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious word, was to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul.

The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me that food for my soul as the object of my meditation.

The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation and that my inner man almost invariably is almost sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not a happy state of heart.

Now that God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for the inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as everyone must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.

By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I have ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!

From “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader“, by John Piper. (Desiring God, 2014.)

Four Steps to Spiritual Leadership

The older I get the more frustrated I am with my own spiritual immaturity. It is this immaturity which has been the cause of many mistakes in my ministries as a pastor, and much grief in my personal and family life. This immaturity grasps and strives for the things I want—to have it my way. God has been patiently revealing this weakness to me, and for a few years now He has been faithfully leading me to address the things that keep me from growing and maturing. But over the past few days, thanks to a now-retired, seasoned and mature Christian leader by the name of John Piper, I’m able to see more clearly than ever how to overcome my own spiritual immaturity and grow in the spiritual leadership I believe God has called me to exercise.

Last week, just before my family and I headed off for a week in the sun at Greenbay Bible Camp, I downloaded a new e-book by John Piper titled, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader, and sent it to my Kindle to read by the lake. This is a wonderful little book! The first part of the book was very helpful to me especially because of the way Piper so clearly identifies “that sequence of events in the human soul that must happen if anyone is to take the first step in spiritual leadership.” He starts with the goal of spiritual leadership: that others will glorify God. Then he works backward from the goal to show how the spiritual leader becomes the kind of person through whom others come to glorify God.

I found it helped me take hold of these ideas by putting them in the reverse order: four steps, if you will, to becoming a person who helps others glorify God. In other words, and not to be too simplistic, “Four Steps to Spiritual Leadership”. (I recognize that a great deal more can and must be said about spiritual leadership. But as Piper puts it, these things are essentials that must be true of every spiritual leader, and should be true to some degree of every Christian.) So here are my “four steps”, taken from Piper. I hope you find these helpful as I do. If these are helpful to you, follow the link at the end to go and download Piper’s e-book for yourself and see what else he has to say about the outer qualities of a spiritual leader.

  1. Acknowledge your helplessness
    A spiritual leader, by acknowledging his helplessness and desperation, becomes motivated to spend time with and be open to the Word of God. “Once we are humbled to the point of desperation, we will be open to reading the doctor’s prescription.”
  2. Meditate on and pray over God’s Word
    A spiritual leader, by meditating on God’s Word, “especially the preaching of the person and work of Jesus, in whom all the promises of God have their yes,” is moved to trust God. As we experience God, through meditating on the Scripture, nourished in our souls by the insights He gives us into the Word, and led to respond in prayer, we are moved to put our confidence in Him through Jesus, and to repent of self-confidence and self-reliance.
  3. Love both friend and foe by trusting in God and hoping in His promises
    A spiritual leader has faith that leads to love. He has “strong confidence in the sovereign goodness of God to work everything together for his good. Otherwise he will inevitably fall into the trap of manipulating circumstances and exploiting people in order to secure for himself a happy future which he is not certain God will provide.” This person is then enabled to begin to love others in a genuine way. Not self-serving, but looking to the interests and needs of others.
  4. That others will glorify God
    A spiritual leader “brings other people to glorify God by being a person who loves both friend and foe.” When we are gripped by the reality of God’s promises to work everything together for our good, our hearts are protected from vulnerability to fear, greed, or pride and freed to show supernatural contentment and love. Spiritual leaders like this will be powerfully transformed in how they live their lives in service and love to others, and that transformation will be visible to people around them. “…Then the world will have to admit that the one who gives us hope and freedom must be real and glorious.”

Adapted from “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader“, by John Piper. (Desiring God, 2014.)

Preaching that Pressures for a Decision

Scanning Facebook last week I saw a post from Monergism Books featuring an essay by local theologian, J.I. Packer. I sent the link to my Instapaper account to read later on my Kindle. (Yes, I’m a nerd.) I read the essay this morning. It’s one of the best things I’ve read this year so far.

Packer writes in his intro,

In 1955, I gave a paper entitled “Puritan Evangelism.” It was meant as a contribution to the current debate on evangelistic methods. In it, I showed how the Puritan approach to the task of winning souls was controlled by the knowledge that fallen men cannot turn to God by their own strength, nor is it in the power of evangelists to make them do so. The Puritan position was that only God, by His Spirit, through His word, can bring sinners to faith, and that He does this, not to our order, but according to His own free purpose. Our evangelistic practice, the Puritans would say, must be in accord with this truth. Modes of action which imply another doctrine cannot be approved.

The Puritan position seems indubitably biblical, and, as I partly showed in the paper, its implications are of great importance for the reforming of inherited evangelistic traditions today. It implies, to start with, that all devices for exerting psychological pressure in order to precipitate “decisions” must be eschewed, as being in truth presumptuous attempts to intrude into the province of the Holy Ghost. It means, further, that to abjure such devices is no loss, since their use can contribute nothing whatever to the effectiveness of evangelistic preaching. Indeed, it will in the long run detract from it; for while psychological pressures, skilfully handled, may produce the outward form of “decision,” they cannot bring about regeneration and a change of heart, and when the “decisions” wear off those who registered them will be found “gospel-hardened” and antagonistic. Such forcing tactics can only do damage, perhaps incalculable damage, to men’s souls. It follows, therefore, that high-speed evangelism is not a valid option. Evangelism must rather be conceived as a long-term enterprise of patient teaching and instruction, in which God’s servants seek simply to be faithful in delivering the gospel message and applying it to human lives, and leave it to God’s Spirit to draw men to faith through this message in His own way and at His own speed.

I’m a young preacher at 42—only about a dozen years in pastoral ministry so far. But I’ve had some chance to observe the impact of my preaching in various places over these formative years. I think I can safely say that those sermons in which my own soul was most captivated by the glory and love of Jesus are the most fruitful sermons. Those sermons in which I attempted to pressure my hearers to some change or application I had in mind are probably my least effective sermons. As the Spirit taught through Paul, transformation comes by hearing with faith. Transformation comes by seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ through the message of the Gospel. May that be what our hearers hear when we pastors preach Sunday in and Sunday out—“in season and out of season”.

Read the rest of Dr. Packer’s essay here.

A Trinity of AntiChristian Prejudices about Jesus

I love this quote from G.K. Chesterton, which I ran across today in my reading. Here it is for you to ponder and enjoy (don’t do one without also doing the other!).

I have given an imaginary triad of such ordinary anti-Christian arguments; if that be too narrow a basis I will give on the spur of the moment another. These are the kind of thoughts which in combination create the impression that Christianity is something weak and diseased. First, for instance, that Jesus was a gentle creature, sheepish and unworldly, a mere ineffectual appeal to the world; second, that Christianity arose and flourished in the dark ages of ignorance, and that to these the Church would drag us back; third, that the people still strongly religious or (if you will) superstitious—such people as the Irish—are weak, unpractical, and behind the times. I only mention these ideas to affirm the same thing: that when I looked into them independently I found, not that the conclusions were unphilosophical, but simply that the facts were not facts. Instead of looking at books and pictures about the New Testament I looked at the New Testament. There I found an account, not in the least of a person with his hair parted in the middle or his hands clasped in appeal, but of an extraordinary being with lips of thunder and acts of lurid decision, flinging down tables, casting out devils, passing with the wild secrecy of the wind from mountain isolation to a sort of dreadful demagogy; a being who often acted like an angry god—and always like a god. Christ had even a literary style of his own, not to be found, I think, elsewhere; it consists of an almost furious use of the A FORTIORI. His “how much more” is piled one upon another like castle upon castle in the clouds. The diction used ABOUT Christ has been, and perhaps wisely, sweet and submissive. But the diction used by Christ is quite curiously gigantesque; it is full of camels leaping through needles and mountains hurled into the sea. Morally it is equally terrific; he called himself a sword of slaughter, and told men to buy swords if they sold their coats for them. That he used other even wilder words on the side of non-resistance greatly increases the mystery; but it also, if anything, rather increases the violence. We cannot even explain it by calling such a being insane; for insanity is usually along one consistent channel. The maniac is generally a monomaniac. Here we must remember the difficult definition of Christianity already given; Christianity is a superhuman paradox whereby two opposite passions may blaze beside each other. The one explanation of the Gospel language that does explain it, is that it is the survey of one who from some supernatural height beholds some more startling synthesis.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy  (1908; new edition, Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2001), 221-222.

Lord, Liar, Lunatic or Legend?

ARE YOU AFRAID TO DOUBT YOUR DOUBTS?

It is pretty standard for University professors to instil in their students a robust scepticism about what Christians believe regarding Jesus Christ. For a long time, Christian thinkers have responded with the so-called, “trilemma” problem (see below). But this defense does not actually address the most common criticism today of the Bible’s accounts about Jesus: that it is merely “legend”. I came across an excellent article today which gives a thought-provoking answer to the “Jesus as legend” hypothesis.

The author of the now famous Narnia children’s books, C.S. Lewis, once wrote about the various ways in which people can dismiss the descriptions of Jesus Christ in the New Testament documents called, “The Gospels”. This is what he wrote, and has come to be known as “Lewis’ Trilemma”:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

(Source: Mere Christianity, London: Collins, 1952, p54-56)

Now to respond to the claim that the Jesus stories are the product of legend, Tom Gilson has penned this excellent article. He extends Lewis’ Trilemma to become a “Quadrilemma: Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend.” If you are a person who is highly sceptical about whether Jesus was who the Bible describes, then you should only read this article if you are ready to have your doubts shaken. If you like the feeling that your doubts about Jesus are unassailable, do not click this link.

I first read about Gilson’s article on the Gospel Coalition website,  in a link to this post by Daniel B. Wallace.  After reading Gilson’s article, I wholeheartedly agree with Wallace, that this is indeed, “a provocative and, I might say, Lewis-esque piece of writing”.

Thank you Mr. Gilson.

Happy Independence Day Israel!

I am a Christian, and a non-Jew (Gentile). I know some Christians whose dispensational theology leads them to a blindly romantic zeal about the State of Israel today. And I know some Christians whose reaction against that sort of dispensational, superficial reading of the Bible leads them to at best, apathy, or at worst, anti-Semitism in their attitudes toward the State of Israel. But it is nonetheless worth running the risk of offending anti-Semites to congratulate Israel on its birthday. 66 years ago, after 19 centuries of homelessness and persecution all over the globe, the Jewish people declared independence over a tiny sliver of land in the Middle East. This new country became a homeland and refuge after the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust and nearly successful genocide. Israel has fought bravely and well for the survival of the Jewish people in the 20th century. Happy Independence Day Israel!

Do Infants Go to Heaven?

This question comes to mind for lots of people, but most painfully for those parents who have just lost a child. Pastors get asked this question fairly often: “Will my daughter be in Heaven? How do I know?” As a pastor, even while my first instinct is to provide comforting words for grieving people, my commitment is to accurately teach the truths of the Bible. Because comforting words that are not true are not a great comfort in the end.

I have for a long time held the position that God graciously saves every baby, every young child who dies, and that, yes, they will in Heaven for eternity. I have usually based this understanding on two biblical passages, one which implies this truth, the other which seems to confirm it.

  • Deuteronomy 1:39, Moses recounts that because the people of Israel refused to trust in God to enter the Promised Land, God therefore decreed that the whole generation would die off in the wilderness—but not the children: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.”
  • 2 Samuel 12:23, David says about his infant son, “…Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

The first passage seems to imply that God does not hold young children or infants accountable for sin. In this case even young people under 20 years old! (Num 14:26-35, especially verse 29) The second passage shows that David fasted when he thought perhaps God would reunite him with his son. Then when the baby died, his hope of reunion remains, but not until he himself dies. This passage seems to confirm the principle implied in Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Having said that, I have often thought it would be better to have a stronger, more sure encouragement for believer troubled by infant death. I was so pleased to read a recent article by Dr. Al Mohler and Daniel L. Akin, entitled “The Salvation of ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?” I’m thankful for able theologians like Mohler and Akin. In this article they confirm the teaching of the principle expressed in God’s grace to the children of Israel, but they go much further and provide a solid, biblical framework for the confident hope that children who die are chosen by God to inherit eternal life.  Click the link above to read their article. And I hope that next time someone asks me,“Do children who die go to Heaven?”, I will now be able to give a more solid, more comforting, more biblical answer.

An Exposition of Daniel 8

One of my online endeavours is a website called Historicism.com: a resource for people who want to understand Bible prophecy from the historicist perspective, what has been called, “the old fashioned Protestant view”. For several years, I’ve been receiving requests for help on interpreting some of the details in a difficult passage, Daniel 8.  So over the past couple of weeks I finally bit the bullet and carefully worked my way through the passage then wrote up my conclusions in little paper creatively titled, “An Historicist Exposition of Daniel 8”. I decided to also post it on this blog in case it might be helpful to some.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

The prophecy contained in Daniel 8 is a difficult prophecy to make sense of without extremely careful attention to the details of wording and the details of the history which this prophecy describes through the use of symbolism.

The first symbol, occupying verses 3-4, is a ram with two horns. In verse 20, the angel, Gabriel, explains the interpretation of this symbol–that the ram represents the Empire of the Medes and the Persians (Medo-Persia to historians).

The second symbol, in verses 5-8, is a goat with a large, single horn. Subsequently, the horn is broken off and replaced by four horns in its place. In verse 21, Gabriel explains that the goat represents the Empire of the Greeks, and the prominent horn is its first king–known to historians as Alexander the Great. Verse 22 adds that after Alexander, the empire will be split up into four kingdoms. History shows that this was settled after the Battle of Ipsus in 301BC where Seleucus, Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus were the final successors to Alexander’s empire, founding kingdoms of their own.

…Verses 9-12 describe the third important symbol, another horn, which grows out of one of the four kingdoms which succeeded Alexander’s empire. It does not replace one of the kingdoms; it grows out of it. In verse 23, Gabriel explains that this will be another kingdom that emerges “at the latter end” of the kingdoms of Alexander’s four successors.

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[click here for a pdf copy of the whole exposition]